Omgaan met onzekerheid

De hele crisis in de financiële sector blijft verbazen. Het stutten van de banken met geld blijkt maar een beperkt effect te hebben. De basis functie van de banken, het uitstralen van vertrouwen is geschaad. Ondanks de strengere eisen door Risk management afdelingen, SOX, IFRS en stringente eisen kunnen in wezen gezonde bedrijven omvallen.
Het is allemaal een kwestie van vertrouwen. Het vervelende is dat dit een begin kan zijn voor een wereldwijde recessie.  De financiering wordt nu al lastiger dus dat gaat zeker effecten hebben op het consumentenvertrouwen en de investeringsbereidheid. Dit zal weer leiden tot grote saneringen.
Gelukkig is de arbeidsmarkt nog redelijk overspannen en heeft dit nog geen direct effect op de werkloosheid maar ik kan mij niet voorstellen dat we zonder kleerscheuren hier door heen komen.
Al eerder is door Nouriel Roubini (ook wel door anderen Mr. Doom genoemd) dit scenario op 5 februari dit jaar geschetst.

Hij schetste de 12 stappen tot Financial melt down, we zijn ergens in stap 11.

1. this is the worst housing recession in US history and there is no sign it will bottom out any time soon…

2. losses for the financial system from the subprime disaster are now estimated to be as high as $250 to $300 billion. But the financial losses will not be only in subprime mortgages and the related RMBS and CDOs. They are now spreading to near prime and prime mortgages as the same reckless lending practices in subprime …were occurring across the entire spectrum of mortgages;…Also add to the woes and losses of the financial institutions the meltdown of hundreds of billions of off balance SIVs and conduits;..And because of securitization the securitized toxic waste has been spread from banks to capital markets and their investors in the US and abroad, thus increasing – rather than reducing systemic risk – and making the credit crunch global.

3. the recession will lead – as it is already doing – to a sharp increase in defaults on other forms of unsecured consumer debt: credit cards, auto loans, student loans…

4.  while there is serious uncertainty about the losses that monolines will undertake on their insurance of RMBS, CDO and other toxic ABS products, it is now clear that such losses are much higher than the $10-15 billion rescue package that regulators are trying to patch up. Some monolines are actually borderline insolvent and none of them deserves at this point a AAA rating regardless of how much realistic recapitalization is provided…The downgrade of the monolines will also lead to large losses – and potential runs – on the money market funds that invested in some of these toxic products. The money market funds that are backed by banks or that bought liquidity protection from banks against the risk of a fall in the NAV may avoid a run but such a rescue will exacerbate the capital and liquidity problems of their underwriters…

5.  the commercial real estate loan market will soon enter into a meltdown similar to the subprime one…And new origination of commercial real estate mortgages is already semi-frozen today; the commercial real estate mortgage market is already seizing up today.

6. it is possible that some large regional or even national bank that is very exposed to mortgages, residential and commercial, will go bankrupt. Thus some big banks may join the 200 plus subprime lenders that have gone bankrupt. This, like in the case of Northern Rock, will lead to depositors’ panic and concerns about deposit insurance. The Fed will have to reaffirm the implicit doctrine that some banks are too big to be allowed to fail. But these bank bankruptcies will lead to severe fiscal losses of bank bailout and effective nationalization of the affected institutions…

7. the banks losses on their portfolio of leveraged loans are already large and growing. The ability of financial institutions to syndicate and securitize their leveraged loans – a good chunk of which were issued to finance very risky and reckless LBOs – is now at serious risk. And hundreds of billions of dollars of leveraged loans are now stuck on the balance sheet of financial institutions at values well below par (currently about 90 cents on the dollar but soon much lower). Add to this that many reckless LBOs (as senseless LBOs with debt to earnings ratio of seven or eight had become the norm during the go-go days of the credit bubble) have now been postponed, restructured or cancelled. And add to this problem the fact that some actual large LBOs will end up into bankruptcy as some of these corporations taken private are effectively bankrupt in a recession and given the repricing of risk; convenant-lite and PIK toggles may only postpone – not avoid – such bankruptcies and make them uglier when they do eventually occur…

8. once a severe recession is underway a massive wave of corporate defaults will take place. In a typical year US corporate default rates are about 3.8% (average for 1971-2007); in 2006 and 2007 this figure was a puny 0.6%. And in a typical US recession such default rates surge above 10%….Corporate default rates will surge during the 2008 recession and peak well above 10% based on recent studies. And once defaults are higher and credit spreads higher massive losses will occur among the credit default swaps (CDS) that provided protection against corporate defaults. ..If losses are large some of the counterparties who sold protection – possibly large institutions such as monolines, some hedge funds or a large broker dealer – may go bankrupt leading to even greater systemic risk as those who bought protection may face counterparties who cannot pay.

9. the “shadow banking system” (as defined by the PIMCO folks) or more precisely the “shadow financial system” (as it is composed by non-bank financial institutions) will soon get into serious trouble. This shadow financial system is composed of financial institutions that – like banks – borrow short and in liquid forms and lend or invest long in more illiquid assets. This system includes: SIVs, conduits, money market funds, monolines, investment banks, hedge funds and other non-bank financial institutions. All these institutions are subject to market risk, credit risk (given their risky investments) and especially liquidity/rollover risk as their short term liquid liabilities can be rolled off easily while their assets are more long term and illiquid. Unlike banks these non-bank financial institutions don’t have direct or indirect access to the central bank’s lender of last resort support as they are not depository institutions. Thus, in the case of financial distress and/or illiquidity they may go bankrupt because of both insolvency and/or lack of liquidity and inability to roll over or refinance their short term liabilities. Deepening problems in the economy and in the financial markets and poor risk managements will lead some of these institutions to go belly up: a few large hedge funds, a few money market funds, the entire SIV system and, possibly, one or two large and systemically important broker dealers. Dealing with the distress of this shadow financial system will be very problematic as this system – stressed by credit and liquidity problems – cannot be directly rescued by the central banks in the way that banks can.

10. stock markets in the US and abroad will start pricing a severe US recession – rather than a mild recession – and a sharp global economic slowdown. The fall in stock marketswill resume as investors will soon realize that the economic downturn is more severe, that the monolines will not be rescued, that financial losses will mount, and that earnings will sharply drop in a recession not just among financial firms but also non financial ones. A few long equity hedge funds will go belly up in 2008 after the massive losses of many hedge funds in August, November and, again, January 2008. Large margin calls will be triggered for long equity investors and another round of massive equity shorting will take place. Long covering and margin calls will lead to a cascading fall in equity markets in the US and a transmission to global equity markets. US and global equity markets will enter into a persistent bear market as in a typical US recession the S&P500 falls by about 28%.

11. the worsening credit crunch that is affecting most credit markets and credit derivative markets will lead to a dry-up of liquidity in a variety of financial markets, including otherwise very liquid derivatives markets. Another round of credit crunch in interbank markets will ensue triggered by counterparty risk, lack of trust, liquidity premia and credit risk. A variety of interbank rates – TED spreads, BOR-OIS spreads, BOT – Tbill spreads, interbank-policy rate spreads, swap spreads, VIX and other gauges of investors’ risk aversion – will massively widen again. Even the easing of the liquidity crunch after massive central banks’ actions in December and January will reverse as credit concerns keep interbank spread wide in spite of further injections of liquidity by central banks.

12. a vicious circle of losses, capital reduction, credit contraction, forced liquidation and fire sales of assets at below fundamental prices will ensue leading to a cascading and mounting cycle of losses and further credit contraction. In illiquid market actual market prices are now even lower than the lower fundamental value that they now have given the credit problems in the economy. Market prices include a large illiquidity discount on top of the discount due to the credit and fundamental problems of the underlying assets that are backing the distressed financial assets. Capital losses will lead to margin calls and further reduction of risk taking by a variety of financial institutions that are now forced to mark to market their positions. Such a forced fire sale of assets in illiquid markets will lead to further losses that will further contract credit and trigger further margin calls and disintermediation of credit. The triggering event for the next round of this cascade is the downgrade of the monolines and the ensuing sharp drop in equity markets; both will trigger margin calls and further credit disintermediation.


Over Luddo Oh
Luddo Oh, bedrijfseconoom, heeft meer dan 20 jaar advieservaring in het begeleiden van organisaties met een financieel vraagstuk. Zijn specialisatie ligt op het snijvlak van financieel management en strategie. Hij adviseert klanten in de industrie, financiële en zakelijke dienstverlening. Hij heeft diverse projecten uitgevoerd op het gebied van reorganisaties, overhead doorlichtingen, fusies, benchmarking, kostenreducties, cost management, performance management, businessplanning en scenario analyse.

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