Quantum Pranx

ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Bank of America

As the world crumbles: The ECB spins, the Fed smirks, and US banks pillage

with 2 comments

by Nomi Prins
Posted November 21, 2011

OFTEN, WHEN I TROLL AROUND WEBSITES OF ENTITIES LIKE THE ECB AND IMF, I UNCOVER LITTLE OF STARTLING NOTE. They design it that way. Plus, the pace at which the global financial system can leverage bets, eviscerate capital, and cry for bank bailouts financed through austerity measures far exceeds the reporting timeliness of these bodies.

That’s why, on the center of the ECB’s homepage, there’s a series of last week’s rates – and this relic – an interactive Inflation Game (I kid you not)  where in 22 different languages you can play the game of what happens when inflation goes up and down. If you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s also a game called Economia, where you can make up unemployment rates, growth rates and interest rates and see what happens.

What you can’t do is see what happens if you bet trillions of dollars against various countries to see how much you can break them, before the ECB, IMF, or Fed (yes, it’ll happen) swoops in to provide “emergency” loans in return for cuts to pension funds, social programs, and national ownership of public assets. You also can’t input real world scenarios, where monetary policy doesn’t mean a thing in the face of  tidal waves of derivatives’ flow. You can’t gauge say, what happens if Goldman Sachs bets $20 billion in leveraged credit default swaps against Greece, and offsets them (partially) with JPM Chase which bets $20 billion, and offsets that with Bank of America, and then MF Global (oops) and then…..you see where I’m going with this.

We’re doomed if even their board games don’t come close to mimicking the real situation in Europe, or in the US, yet they supply funds to banks torpedoing local populations with impunity. These central entities also don’t bother to examine (or notice) the intermingled effect of leveraged derivatives and debt transactions per country; which is why no amount of funding from the ECB, or any other body, will be able to stay ahead of the hot money racing in and out of various countries.  It’s not about inflation – it’s about the speed, leverage, and daring of capital flow, that has its own power to select winners and losers. It’s not the ‘inherent’ weakness of national economies that a few years ago were doing fine, that’s hurting the euro. It’s the external bets on their success, failure, or economic capitulation running the show. Similarly, the US economy was doing much better before banks starting leveraging the hell out of our subprime market through a series of toxic, fraudulent, assets.

Elsewhere in my trolling, I came across a gem of a working paper on the IMF website, written by Ashoka Mody and Damiano Sandri,  entitled ‘The Eurozone Crisis; How Banks and Sovereigns Came to be Joined at the Hip” (The paper does not ‘necessarily represent the views of the IMF or IMF policy’. )

The paper is full of mathematical formulas and statistical jargon, which may be why the media didn’t pick up on it, but hey, I got a couple of degrees in Mathematics and Statistics, so I went all out.  And it’s fascinating stuff.

Basically, it shows that between the advent of the euro in 1999, and 2007, spreads between the bonds of peripheral countries and core ones in Europe were pretty stable. In other words, the risk of any country defaulting on its debt was fairly equal, and small. But after the 2007 US subprime asset crisis, and more specifically, the advent of  Federal Reserve / Treasury Department construed bailout-economics, all hell broke loose – international capital went AWOL daring default scenarios, targeting them for future bailouts, and when money leaves a country faster than it entered, the country tends to falter economically. The cycle is set.

The US subprime crisis wasn’t so much about people defaulting on loans, but the mega-magnified effects of those defaults on a $14 trillion asset pyramid created by the banks. (Those assets were subsequently sold, and used as collateral for other borrowing and esoteric derivatives combinations, to create a global $140 trillion debt binge.) As I detail in It Takes Pillage, the biggest US banks manufactured more than 75% of those $14 trillion of assets. A significant portion was sold in Europe – to local banks, municipalities, and pension funds – as lovely AAA morsels against which more debt, or leverage, could be incurred. And even thought the assets died, the debts remained.

Read the rest of this entry »

Banking’s Titans finally get their comeuppance

leave a comment »

by Rick Ackerman
Posted September 14, 2011

WITH BANK OF AMERICA’S RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT THAT IT PLANS to lay off 30,000 workers, the Great Recession has finally spread its shadow over a sector of the economy that had seemed inured to hard times.

Investment consulting, mortgages, mergers and acquisitions and the rest of banking’s most lucrative concessions have fallen into a more or less permanent funk, and so the banks are faced with the prospect of earning their money the hard way – i.e., through ruthless cost-cutting, and via fees on checking accounts, credit cards and other transaction-based services.

How dull! Embarrassing, even, since financial bigwigs who were pulling down seven-figure bonuses just a year ago thanks to the Federal Reserve’s extravagant bailout terms, will now be fighting to earn their base pay by nickel-and-diming their customers to death. Imagine a loan officer having to concern himself with something so mundane as a local businessman’s request for money to finance inventory.

We feel sorry for the many bank employees who are about to lose their jobs, especially since they face such bleak prospects for re-employment. With respect to the fate of banking’s top brass, however, it’s going to be hard to hide our schadenfreude if a few of these prodigious paper-shufflers wind up living out of shopping carts. Ditto for securities traders at the big banks, for they have turned the markets into a giant casino, exploiting mathematically arcane opportunities that have absolutely nothng to do with the business of making, buying and selling real things.

In recent years, stock and bond markets have almost completely decoupled from the real economy – so much so that they will probably have to collapse into ruin before honest markets can re-emerge – markets that serve the real commerce of the real world.  The epic fraud of financial markets reached its apotheosis with high-frequency trading, a tactic that uses computer-driven algorithms to exploit bid/offer spreads that exist for mere nanoseconds. Because these trades can move no more quickly than the speed of light, it is necessary to execute them on servers that sit on the trading floor rather than on microprocessors associated with distant satellite feeds.  How long could that game go on?

September 2011: 25 signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button

leave a comment »

from The Economic Collapse
Posted August 30, 2011

MOST OF THE WORST FINANCIAL PANICS IN HISTORY HAVE happened in the fall. Just recall what happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008. September 2011 is about to begin and there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button. Wave after wave of bad economic news has come out of the United States recently, and Europe is embroiled in an absolutely unprecedented debt crisis. At this point there is a very real possibility that the euro may not even survive.

What is causing all of this? Over the last couple of decades a gigantic debt bubble has fueled a tremendous amount of “fake prosperity” in the western world. But for a debt bubble to keep going, the total amount of debt has to keep expanding at an ever increasing pace. Unfortunately for the global economy, sources of credit are starting to dry up. That is why you hear terms like “credit crisis” and “credit crunch” thrown around so much these days. Without enough credit to feed the monster, the debt bubble is going to burst. At this point, virtually the entire global economy runs on credit, so when this debt bubble bursts things could get really, really messy.

Nations and financial institutions would never get into debt trouble if they could always borrow as much money as they wanted at extremely low interest rates. But what has happened is that lending sources are balking at continuing to lend cheap money to nations and financial institutions that are already up to their eyeballs in debt.

For example, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 40 percent. Investors don’t trust the Greek government and they are demanding a huge return in order to lend them more money.

Throughout the financial world right now there is a lot of fear. Lending conditions have gotten very tight. Financial institutions are not eager to lend money to each other or to anyone else. This “credit crunch” is going to slow down the economy. Just remember what happened back in 2008. When easy credit stops flowing, the dominoes can start falling very quickly.

Sadly, this is a cycle that can feed into itself. When credit is tight, the economy slows down and more businesses fail.  That causes financial institutions to want to tighten up things even more in order to avoid the “bad credit risks”. Less economic activity means less tax revenue for governments. Less tax revenue means larger budget deficits and increased borrowing by governments. But when government debt gets really high that can cause huge economic problems like we are witnessing in Greece right now. The cycle of tighter credit and a slowing economy can go on and on and on.

I spend a lot of time talking about problems with the U.S. economy, but the truth is that the rest of the world is dealing with massive problems as well right now. As bad as things are in the U.S., the reality is that Europe looks like it may be “ground zero” for the next great financial crisis.

At this point the EU essentially has three choices. It can choose much deeper economic integration (which would mean a huge loss of sovereignty), it can choose to keep the status quo going for as long as possible by providing the PIIGS with gigantic bailouts, or it can choose to end of the euro and return to individual national currencies.

Any of those choices would be very messy. At this point there is not much political will for much deeper economic integration, so the last two alternatives appear increasingly likely. In any event, global financial markets are paralyzed by fear right now. Nobody knows what is going to happen next, but many now fear that whatever does come next will not be good. The following are 25 signs that the financial world is about to hit the big red panic button….

#1 According to a new study just released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

#2 Will Bank of America be the next Lehman Brothers?  Shares of Bank of America have fallen more than 40% over the past couple of months. Even though Warren Buffet recently stepped in with 5 billion dollars, the reality is that the problems for Bank of America are far from over. In fact, one analyst is projecting that Bank of America is going to need to raise 40 or 50 billion dollars in new capital.

#3 European bank stocks have gotten absolutely hammered in recent weeks.

#4 So far, major international banks have announced layoffs of more than 60,000 workers, and more layoff announcements are expected this fall. A recent article in the New York Times detailed some of the carnage….

A new wave of layoffs is emblematic of this shift as nearly every major bank undertakes a cost-cutting initiative, some with names like Project Compass. UBS has announced 3,500 layoffs, 5 percent of its staff, and Citigroup is quietly cutting dozens of traders. Bank of America could cut as many as 10,000 jobs, or 3.5 percent of its work force. ABN Amro, Barclays, Bank of New York Mellon, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Lloyds, State Street and Wells Fargo have in recent months all announced plans to cut jobs — tens of thousands all told.

#5 Credit markets are really drying up. Do you remember what happened in 2008 when that happened? Many are now warning that we are getting very close to a repeat of that.

#6 The Conference Board has announced that the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index fell from 59.2 in July to 44.5 in August.  That is the lowest reading that we have seen since the last recession ended.

#7 The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index has fallen by almost 20 points over the last three months.  This index is now the lowest it has been in 30 years.

#8 The Philadelphia Fed’s latest survey of regional manufacturing activity was absolutely nightmarish….

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased from a slightly positive reading of 3.2 in July to -30.7 in August. The index is now at its lowest level since March 2009

#9 According to Bloomberg, since World War II almost every time that the year over year change in real GDP has fallen below 2% the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession….

Since 1948, every time the four-quarter change has fallen below 2 percent, the economy has entered a recession. It’s hard to argue against an indicator with such a long history of accuracy.

#10 Economic sentiment is falling in Europe as well. The following is from a recent Reuters article….

A monthly European Commission survey showed economic sentiment in the 17 countries using the euro, a good indication of future economic activity, fell to 98.3 in August from a revised 103 in July with optimism declining in all sectors.

#11 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now an astronomical 42.47%.

Read the rest of this entry »

Too big to fail? Ten banks own 77% of all U.S. banking assets

leave a comment »

from The Economic Collapse
Posted July 18, 2011 

BACK DURING THE FINANCIAL CRISIS OF 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out. The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill. Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.

Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger. Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage. They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time. None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed. In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners. Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented. This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis. While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000. By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide. Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power. Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions. In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding. The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow. For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding and has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again. The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again. Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money. In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it. Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

Read the rest of this entry »

Hacker Group Anonymous brings peaceful revolution to America: will engage in civil disobedience until Bernanke steps down

leave a comment »

by Tyler Durden
Originally posted Zero Hedge, March 12, 2011

THE WORLD’S MOST (IN)FAMOUS HACKER GROUP – Anonymous – known for effectively shutting down their hacking nemesis security firm (with clients such as Morgan Stanley and, unfortunately for them, Bank of America)- HBGary, advocating the cause of Wikileaks, and the threat made by one of its members that evidence of fraud by Bank of America will be released on Monday 14 March, has just launched communication #1 in its Operation “Empire State Rebellion.” The goal engage in “a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience” until Ben Bernanke steps down and the “Primary Dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy effective immediately.

The Anonymous manifesto:

  • We are a decentralized non-violent resistance movement, which seeks to restore the rule of law and fight back against the organized criminal class.
  • One-tenth of one percent of the population has consolidated wealth in unprecedented fashion and launched an all-out economic war against 99.9% of the population.
  • We are not affiliated with either wing of the two-party oligarchy. We seek an end to the corrupted two-party system by ending the campaign finance and lobbying racket.
  • Above all, we aim to break up the global banking cartel centered at the Federal Reserve, International Monetary Fund, Bank of International Settlement and World Bank.
  • We demand that the primary dealers within the Federal Reserve banking system be broken up and held accountable for rigging markets and destroying the global economy, effective immediately.
  • As a first sign of good faith we demand Ben Bernanke step down as Federal Reserve chairman.
  • Until our demands are met and a rule of law is restored, we will engage in a relentless campaign of non-violent, peaceful, civil disobedience.
  • In our next communication we will announce Operation Empire State Rebellion.

Glorious Chairman Ben – our free advice to you: change your e-mail password…

Fear, Inflation and Debt

with one comment

by Greg Hunter
Originally posted March 2, 2011

USAWatchdog.com

YESTERDAY, GOLD HIT FRESH ALL-TIME HIGHS at $1,432.10 an ounce. Silver hit a 31 year high, closing at more than $34.50 per ounce. Oil nearly touched $100 per barrel, which is the highest it has been since September 2008. What’s going on? Part of the price spikes are, no doubt, due to riots and rebellions in the Middle East, but it is also the world’s awakening realization America’s crushing debt will never be repaid in real money.

The U.S. needs to slash its budgets, but finding politicians on Capitol Hill with the nerve to make deep cuts is elusive, to say the least. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported, “The Republican-controlled House is on course to pass legislation cutting federal spending by $4 billion and averting a government shutdown for two weeks. And Senate Democrats say they will go along… Republicans want to slash more than $60 billion from agency budgets over the coming months as a down payment on larger reductions later in the year, but are settling for just $4 billion in especially easy cuts as the price for the two-week stopgap bill.” (Click here for the complete AP story.)

Over in the Senate, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee asked questions of Fed Chief Ben Bernanke about the state of the economy and raising the debt ceiling.  It currently stands at $14.3 trillion.  Senator David Vitter said “the biggest” problem the nation faced was “reaching our debt limit… sometime between late March and May.” Senator Vitter asked Mr. Bernanke, “Would it be better to increase the debt limit and go along our merry way on the present fiscal path or would it be better to increase the debt limit and at the same time pass meaningful budget reform?”

I really do not see how cutting $60 billion is “meaningful reform” when PIMCO’s Bill Gross said two months ago on CNBC, “We have a deficit in the $1 trillion plus arena, which means we must borrow at least a trillion dollars additional a year in order to fund the deficit.  And, so, the debt ceiling currently at $14.3 trillion, which is 95% of GDP, has to go up by another trillion or so every 12 months.” (Click here to read more about raising the debt ceiling.)

Bernanke responded to Senator Vitter’s question by saying, “Clearly, the latter. You want to make sure the debt is paid, interest is paid, and meaningful budget reform is highly desirable. I’m just concerned that there could be a significant probability that we would not raise the debt limit, and that would cause real chaos…This is money we’ve already borrowed. These are commitments we’ve already made to contractors, to senior citizens and so on…”

Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. Uncut disrupts service at Bank of America

with 2 comments

by Lucia Graves
Originally posted in Huffington Post, Feb 28, 2011

DEMONSTRATORS POSING AS LIBERAL Tea Party members disrupted service at banks across the country on Saturday, in an effort to spotlight the gimmicks multi-billion dollar corporations use to avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Self-organized through anti-austerity movement U.S. Uncut, regional captains helped organize demonstrators at more than 40 different branches of Bank of America. The newly-minted group was inspired by an article published recently in The Nation by Johann Hari: “How to Build a Progressive Tea Party.” Hari writes:

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind … Instead of the fake populism of the Tea Party, there is a movement based on real populism. It shows that there is an alternative to making the poor and the middle class pay for a crisis caused by the rich. It shifts the national conversation … This may sound like a fantasy – but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. As recently as this past fall, people here were asking the same questions liberal Americans have been glumly contemplating: Why is everyone being so passive? Why are we letting ourselves be ripped off? Why are people staying in their homes watching their flat-screens while our politicians strip away services so they can fatten the superrich even more?

Hari evokes the spirit of UK Uncut – a movement made up of British citizens, who, in the face of brutal budget cuts, have sought to shame corporate tax dodgers through public demonstrations – and suggests Americans follow suit. U.S. Uncut is doing just that; though many members of the group have disowned the title of Tea Party, telling HuffPost that while they were inspired by the article in The Nation, they do not want to be identified as an opposition group.

Saturday marked the group’s first coordinated event.

“Billionaires got bonuses, bailouts and tax cuts, too – the least they can do is pay their fair share of taxes,” said Ryan Clay, a 28-year-old media analyst who helped organize the U.S. Uncut demonstration in Washington, DC. “I got inspired, other people got inspired, we met online, and we’re working through social media to really bring these abhorrent facts to the public.”

A rally in San Francisco drew scores of protesters to a branch of Bank of America at Union Square; dressed in ordinary street clothes, they filed into the bank one by one, getting in line to speak with the tellers. Each of them carried a fake check from Bank of America made out to “The United States c/o Tax Paying Citizens,” for $1.5 billion. The sum would cover all the bank’s unpaid taxes on its 2009 earned income of $4.4 billion, demonstrators said.

Only a few people had presented their fake checks to the tellers before the bank temporarily closed for business; protesters were peacefully escorted out of the building by the police. Once on the street, however, they stayed put and kept handing out fake checks, which had facts about corporate tax avoidance written in fine print on the back, as fliers. “Two-thirds of all U.S. corporations do not pay federal income tax,” the fliers said. “Bank of America is the largest bank and the 5th largest corporation in America.”

“People seemed more eager to accept these fliers and actually read the information they contained than what one would usually expect from handouts with political messages,” said Leslie Dreyer, 32, a resident of Oakland, Calif., who came up with the idea of using checks as props. “When asked ‘would you like a check for 1.5 billion to cash at any BoA?’, they were amused and intrigued enough to ‘read the fine print.'”

A Bank of America spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Many of the largest corporations in the country have mastered the art of evading taxes, booking expenses in the U.S. and profits in low-tax countries. A list compiled by Forbes shows that Bank of America was far from being the only multi-billion dollar corporation to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars in earnings in 2009; it is also not the only bank to spark angry demonstrations this week.

On Wednesday morning, New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams marched into a Park Avenue Chase bank to denounce the bank’s failure to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. HuffPost’s Laura Basset reports:

After denouncing the bank to a cheering crowd and calling its executives “bloodsuckers” for accepting bailout money and refusing to help the suffering homeowners they “preyed on,” Williams was stopped by security guards at the door and told the branch was closed. The mob then chanted “open the door” until Williams was let in, at which point he closed his account.

Williams told HuffPost that when campaigning in New York City, he met at least two people on every block with mortgage troubles. He said he doesn’t want the bank to use his money to “further deteriorate the community” he represents, especially in light of chief executive Jamie Dimon’s recent $17 million bonus.

“It’s incredible what these banks are making people go through,” he said. “It’s disgusting. They’re like bloodsuckers, just sucking the lifeblood out of communities and refusing to help out. I understand that people need to get paid to get the best and brightest and these bonuses help with that, but you can’t do that and then not assist the community and then get a taxpayer bailout to the tune of billions of dollars. That’s just greed at its worst.”

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Too Big To Fail?

The Bank of America Plaza is a skyscraper located in Midtown Atlanta. Standing in at 312 meters (1023 feet), it ranks as the 20th tallest building in the world.

It is also the tallest building in the United States outside of Chicago and New York City, and the tallest building in any US capital city. It has 55 stories of office space and was finished in 1992, when it was called the NationsBank Building.

 

 

 

 

Spire of the BoA Plaza: There is a large pyramid-like spire at the top of the building, most of which is covered in 24-karat gold. This causes the spire to glow at night like an orange Christmas tree.