Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Los siete pecados capitales de la crisis

Fuente: Steve Breen

Los reyes filosofos de la FED

Brad Delong comenta la causa de la crisis:

"The current financial crisis has its roots in Greenspan's decision to keep interest rates very low in 2002 and 2003 to head off the danger of a deflation-induced double-dip recession, and his subsequent decision that the costs of cleaning up after a housing bubble were likely to be less than the costs of the high unemployment that would be generated by a preemptive attempt to pop a housing-speculation bubble. Two years ago, I would have said that Greenspan's judgment here was correct. Six months ago, I would have said that his judgment was probably correct. Today -- in the middle of the largest nationalizations in history -- I can no longer state that Greenspan made the right calls with respect to the level of interest rates and the housing bubble in the 2000s."

El articulo tambien resume la historia de la banca central y la economía política de la FED vs congreso vs ejecutivo en Estados Unidos.Lo extraño es que no veo llamados a cuestionar los poderes de la banca central. Solo piden mas regulación para los bancos, mientras reconocen que la causa estuvo en las acciones de la FED!

Que la banca central debe tener mucho poder se ha convertido en un tabú incuestionable. Y esta crisis parece que no va a cambiar eso.

Esta es la introducción al articulo:

"Ben Bernanke is the closest thing to a central economic planner the United States has ever had. He bestrides our narrow economic world like a colossus. Unelected (he was appointed by President George W. Bush and confirmed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate) and unaccountable (unless the Congress decides that it wishes to amend the Federal Reserve Act and take the blame for whatever else goes wrong with the economy), he is responsible only to his conscience -- and his open-market committee of himself, the other six governors of the Federal Reserve Board, and the 12 presidents of the regional Federal Reserve banks. The fate of the economy in the next administration depends far less on the president than on this moral-philosopher-prince to whose judgment we have entrusted a remarkable share of control over our destiny.

How did an ivory-tower academic whose specialty is the details of the Great Depression get to this position? What does he do all day? How did so much power come to rest in a single institution, a single individual? The current system is the product of a century and a half of evolution in the role of a central bank, on both sides of the Atlantic, through a series of accidents and crises. For a generation, the idea of social democracy -- with government ownership, control, and regulation of at least the "commanding heights" of the economy -- has been in retreat. But in the middle of this market economy is an immense island of central planning: the Federal Reserve.

In normal times, the Fed -- not the market -- decides what the short-term interest rate is. The interest rate is perhaps the key price in the economy. It is the price at which we trade wealth in the present for wealth in the future. When the interest rate is low, our focus is on the future: Businesses and consumers borrow and invest. When the interest rate is high, our focus is on the present because distant-future promises of cash are not worth very much in today's dollars. You might think that if there were ever a decision we would leave to the market and the aggregated preferences of millions of individuals, it would be the terms on which we trade present comfort off for future wealth. But we don't. We leave that decision to the discretion of the philosopher-prince Bernanke and his committee. And in extraordinary moments like the September Wall Street crisis, when the flow of funds through financial markets dries up, we leave the decisions of which banks to nationalize, which to close down, which to forcibly merge, and which to rescue and on what terms to our financial overlords in the Eccles Building on the National Mall."

Vale la pena mencionar que Delong es democrata, trabajo en la administración Clinton y se considera de centro o centro-izquierda. Su articulo no corresponde a la típica visión libertaria, pero estada carga del realismo político que le falta, diría yo, a la mayoría de economistas.

Termina con este parrafo:"Cicero said that the problem with his political ally Cato was that he thought they lived in the Republic of Plato while they really lived in the Sewer of Romulus. It is either our curse or our blessing that we live in the Republic of the Central Banker."

Creo que los modelos de algunos economistas seguro tambien funcionarían bien en la republica de Platón, el sistema de los filosofos reyes que planifican la sociedad.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Graficas del dia

Declinacion de la produccion de petroleo en la era Chavez:Declinacion de la produccion de petroleo en la era Chavez:

Grafica del origen de la estructura de deuda que condujo a la crisis:

Europa y la crisis

Los europeos han quedo culpa al supuesto "capitalismo salvaje" de los gringos y su supuesta "falta de regulacion" por el origen de la crisis.

Sin embargo, se sabe ya que los bancos alemanes estan sobreexpuestos a deudas de paises como Islandia o España, fuertemente golpeados por la crisis.

Y se ha sabido que los bancos europeos tambien estaban fuertemente endeudados y eran unos de los grandes clientes de AIG.

Los derivados y la crisis

Mucho se ha escrito en las ultimas semanas sobre el uso y abuso de los "derivados" como una de las causas de esta crisis. Y naturalmente varios analistas y expertos han salido a pedir que sean fuertemente regulados.

Sin duda, los derivados de credito, una forma de seguros, conocidos como "Credit Default Swap" o CDS (por sus siglas en ingles), han sido uno de los principales elementos de esta crisis. Para un excelente resumen del tema, ver esta pagina.

Sin embargo, como lo explica este articulo, la mayoria de estos derivados de credito, excepto los relacionados con las hipotecas han funcionado bien y su rol como "gestionadores de riesgo" no deberia ignorarse:

"The amount of blame laid at the feet of the derivatives market never ceases to amaze me. True, the sheer size of the derivatives market, and the fact that it grew faster than regulators could handle, raise legitimate concerns. But financial products are not solely to blame for the current situation (severe financial crises occur without them). Further, the markets for most financial derivatives (excepting mortgage-backed CDOs) are not in serious peril. Felix Salmon wrote an eloquent defence of how the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market has functioned and continues to function quite well.
Products like CDS provide invaluable transparency for the debt market. The problem, as both Mr Salmon and Mr Merton point out, is that these derivatives hedge risk. This makes investors feel safer, and just as people wearing seat belts drive faster and those with four-wheel drive become more likely to drive in the snow, a financial safety net encourages some investors to take on more risk than might otherwise be their preference.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. It encouraged people to invest in developing countries, which gave those countries the capital necessary to build infrastructure and expand markets. Which brought many people out of poverty. But it also meant some foolish and foolishly large investments were made. Blaming the financial derivatives for the crisis is like blaming the seat belt or four-wheel drive for the accident. Should we limit automotive safety innovations, because they encourage risky driving?"

El problema de los derivados en esta crisis esta basicamente circunscrito a los relacionados con hipotecas. No deberia olvidarse que esta crisis se origina por una caida de precios en el sector inmobiliario.

No es esta una crisis de derivados. Es una crisis del sector inmobiliario, altamante dependiente de las tasas de interes, que se extendio al sector financiero y luego al sector real.

Sobre el origen de la crisis

Explica el NY Times: "The roots of the credit crisis stretch back to another notable boom-and-bust: the tech bubble of the late 1990’s. When the stock market began a steep decline in 2000 and the nation slipped into recession the next year, the Federal Reserve sharply lowered interest rates to limit the economic damage.
Lower interest rates make mortgage payments cheaper, and demand for homes began to rise, sending prices up. In addition, millions of homeowners took advantage of the rate drop to refinance their existing mortgages. As the industry ramped up, the quality of the mortgages went down.
And turn sour they did, when home buyers had to leverage themselves to the hilt to make a purchase. Default and delinquency rates began to rise in 2006"

A pesar de entender los problemas de politica monetaria relacionados con la crisis, ni el NY Times ni ningun medio masivo pide cambios institucionales en la FED.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hecho del día

" The most common economic criticism of the Soviet bloc has long been its failure to use incentives. This is a half-truth. As Hedrick Smith explained in "The Russians", the party leadership used incentives in the sectors where it really wanted results:
Not only do defense and space efforts get top national priority and funding, but they also operate on a different system from the rest of the economy. Samuel Pisar, an American lawyer, writer, and consultant on East-West trade, made the shrewd observation to me that the military sector is “the only sector of the Soviet economy which operates like a market economy, in the sense that the customers pull out of the economic mechanism the kinds of weaponry they want.. . . The military, like customers in the West . . . can say, ‘No, no, no, that isn’t what we want.’”"

El texto viene de este articulo sobre el comunismo.

Hay algo extraño en este argumento y es es que no queda claro porque los líderes del partido no querían realmente resultados en toda la economía.

De todas formas, lo mencionado en este texto, asumiendo que es cierto, es un hecho sorprendente.

Según el autor del articulo, los datos vienen de: "Hedrick Smith, The Russians (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974), pp. 312–313."

Aqui esta la página web del libro en Amazon. Y aquí hay una reseña del libro.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lucha de clases en elecciones de Estados Unidos

"Voters who make $60,000 a year or less favor the Democratic party while those who make more are fairly evenly divided between both parties. Investors favor the GOP, 43% to 42%, while those who do not invest favor the Democrats, 53% to 31%.

y tambien de genero:

"Men now favor the GOP by a 43% to 41% margin, while women continue to show big support for the Democrats, 49% to 36%."

El dato mas interesante es este:

"Voters who work for the government favor the Democrats, while entrepreneurs support the Republicans."

Aquí esta el enlace.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Como funcionan los bancos

y porque dependen de la existencia de un banco central en una relacion simbiotica o de dependencia total?

La explicacion esta en este articulo.

En estos tiempos de crisis financiera nada mejor que entender la raices del "problema bancario" y porque la existencia de un banco central se ha vuelto un tema de prohibida discusion.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cual fue el impacto de la desregulacion en la crisis?

"As for the evils of deregulation, exactly which measures are they referring to? Financial deregulation for the past three decades consisted of the removal of deposit interest-rate ceilings, the relaxation of branching powers, and allowing commercial banks to enter underwriting and insurance and other financial activities. Wasn't the ability for commercial and investment banks to merge (the result of the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed part of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act) a major stabilizer to the financial system this past year? Indeed, it allowed Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch to be acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, and allowed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to convert to bank holding companies to help shore up their positions during the mid-September bear runs on their stocks.
Even more to the point, subprime lending, securitization and dealing in swaps were all activities that banks and other financial institutions have had the ability to engage in all along. There is no connection between any of these and deregulation. On the contrary, it was the ever-growing Basel Committee rules for measuring bank risk and allocating capital to absorb that risk (just try reading the Basel standards if you don't believe me) that failed miserably. The Basel rules outsourced the measurement of risk to ratings agencies or to the modelers within the banks themselves. Incentives were not properly aligned, as those that measured risk profited from underestimating it and earned large fees for doing so.
That ineffectual, Rube Goldberg apparatus was, of course, the direct result of the politicization of prudential regulation by the Basel Committee, which was itself the direct consequence of pursuing "international coordination" among countries, which produced rules that work politically but not economically. International cooperation, in case you haven't heard, is exactly what the French and the Germans now say was missing in the past few years."

CHARLES W. CALOMIRIS en el Wall Street Journal

Para una explicación mas detallada del rol de las regulaciones de Basilea II en la crisis, leer aquí.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

El costo de los rescates....

La deuda de los Estados Unidos llega a 10.2 trillones (el PIB del pais es aprox. 14 trillones).


Como funciona el gobierno....

Paul Krugman ganó el premio nobel de economía ayer. Así que se me dió por leer su autobiografía. Dado que krugman es un economista keynesiano y entusiasta del Estado de Bienestar, los programas sociales y la regulación, nunca me imaginé encontrar esta perla:

"After a little while, however, I began to notice how policy decisions are really made. The fact is that most senior officials have no idea what they are talking about: discussion at high-level meetings is startlingly primitive. (For example, the distinction between nominal and real interest rates tends to be regarded as a complex and useless bit of academic nitpicking). Furthermore, many powerful people prefer to take advice from those who make them feel comfortable rather than from those who will force them to think hard. That is, those who really manage to influence policy are usually the best courtiers, not the best analysts. I like to think that I am a good analyst, but I am certainly a very bad courtier. And so I was not tempted to stay on in Washington."

Dada estas experiencia por qué insisten en darle mas poder y funciones al gobierno? Por qué insisten en que el gobierno es la solución a todos los problemas de la sociedad?