Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Crude Oil Price Trend Forecast 2016 Update - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Will Deutsche Bank Crash The Global Stock Market? - Clif_Droke
3.Gold Price In Excess Of $8000 While US Dollar Collapses - Hubert_Moolman
4.BrExit UK Economic Collapse Evaporates, GDP Forecasts for 2016 and 2017 - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Gold Stocks Massive Price Correction - Zeal_LLC
6.Stock Market Predicts Donald Trump Victory - Austin_Galt
7.Next Financial Crisis Will be Far Worse than 2008/09 - Chris_Vermeulen
8.The Gold To Housing Ratio As A Valuation Indicator - Dan_Amerman
9.GDXJ Gold Stocks - A Diamond in the Rough - Rambus_Chartology
10.Gold Boom! End Game Nears As Central Banks Buying Up Gold Mining Companies! - Jeff_Berwick
Last 7 days
Why Trump Lost, Hillary Won the 1st U.S. Presidential Debate - 29th Sept 16
Is a Dollar Crash Imminent After the Senate Overrides Obama Veto on Saudi 9/11 Bill? - 29th Sept 16
2017: Gold and Silver's Year of "Public Recognition" - 29th Sept 16
Did Trump Win the 1st US Presidential Election Debate? - There's Something Happening Here... - 29th Sept 16
FED Goes from ZIRP to NIRP! - 29th Sept 16 - Chris_Vermeulen
Here’s Why You Should Be in Cash Right Now - 28th Sept 16
The Fed Put a 50% Tax on Your Retirement Plan - 28th Sept 16
Massive Chinese Debt And Why They Are On A Gold Buying Binge! - 28th Sept 16
Stocks Commodities and FX Markets Waiting Technically While Fundamental Data Neutral Poised - 28th Sept 16
This Commodity Has Perked Up its Investors' Portfolios - 27th Sept 16
Charting the Continuing Gold Market Correction - 27th Sept 16
Stock Market Crash and Recession Indicator Warning: Extreme Danger Ahead - 27th Sept 16
Financial Markets and FX Setups 27th Sept - 27th Sept 16
Crude Oil, Forex and Stock Market Trend Forecasts - 27th Sept 16
Why There is Trump - 27th Sept 16
Save Up to 70% in Shopping Expenses for Daily Items - 27th Sept 16
Gold’s Moving Averages and Long-Term Outlook - 26th Sept 16
September Stock Market - The Not So Silent Demise of Deutsche Bank - 26th Sept 16
SPX sell signal confirmed - 26th Sept 16
SPX is testing the next level of support - 26th Sept 16
Outrageously Entertaining US Presidential Campaign Final Stages - What Happens Next? - 26th Sept 16
BoJ, FOMC and Where To Now? - 26th Sept 16
Stock Market New All Time Highs Next - 26th Sept 16
Why Trump Will Win US General Election 2016 Prediction Forecast - 26th Sept 16
Martial Law Rolls Out Across the US As Jubilee Nears - 26th Sept 16
Stock Market More Correction Likely - 25th Sept 16
US Presidential Election Forecast 2016 - Trump Riding BrExit Wave into the White House - 25th Sept 16
US Economy GDP Growth Estimates in Free-Fall: FRBNY Nowcast 2.26% Q3, 1.22% Q4 - 24th Sept 16
Gold and Gold Stocks Corrective Action Continues Despite Dovish Federal Reserve - 24th Sept 16
Global Bonds: Why Our Analyst Says Things Just Got "Monumental" - 24th Sept 16
Where Did All the Money Go? - 23rd Sept 16
Pension Shortfalls Could Be 4X To 7X Greater Than Reported - 23rd Sept 16
Gold Unleashed by the Fed - 23rd Sept 16
Gold around U.S Presidential Elections - 23rd Sept 16
Here’s Why Eastern Europe Is Doomed - 23rd Sept 16
Nasdaq NDX 100 Big Cap Tech Breakout ? - 23rd Sept 16
The Implications of the Italian Banking Crisis Could Be Disastrous - 22nd Sept 16
TwinLakes Theme Park Summer Super 6 FREE Return Entry for Real? - 21st Sept 16
Has the Silver Bullet Run Out of Fire Power? - 21st Sept 16
Frack Sand: The Unsung Hero Of The OPEC Oil War - 21st Sept 16
What’s Happening With Gold? - 21st Sept 16
Gold vs. Stocks and Commodities, Pre-FOMC - 20th Sept 16
BrExit UK Inflation CPI, RPI Forecast 2016, 2017 - 20th Sept 16
European banks may be more important than the Fed this week - 20th Sept 16
Gold, Silver, Stocks and Bonds Grand Ascension or Great Collapse? - 20th Sept 16
Mass Psychology in Action; Instead of Selling Gilead it is Time to Take a Closer Look - 20th Sept 16
Hillary - Finally Well Deserved Recognition for Deplorables - 20th Sept 16

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The Power of the Wave Principle

Why the Cyprus Depositors Savings Theft Could Set Banking Back 300 Years

Stock-Markets / Credit Crisis 2013 Mar 19, 2013 - 11:25 AM GMT

By: Money_Morning

Stock-Markets

Martin Hutchinson writes: Even by the standards of the EU bureaucracy, raiding the private deposits of Cyprus' banks is spectacularly foolish.

For a measly $5.8 billion euros, the EU has now put the entire Eurozone on edge-not to mention the entire global economy.


It revolves around something as simple as trust. And as a former banker, I can tell you that there's no substitute for the belief that your deposits are safe and sound.

It's a thin line and once it's been crossed it's nearly impossible to repair.

Now savers in Spain, Italy and elsewhere in the Eurozone are left to wonder about the safety of their own accounts.

Here's why savers everywhere should be concerned...

The Problem With the Cyprus "Bailout"
Like Ireland and Iceland, Cyprus has a banking sector that's not only shaky but is far bigger than its overall economy, with deposits of around $90 billion, or five times its GDP.

Unlike most banking systems, more than half of those deposits are in large chunks of over 100,000 euros ($128,000), the limit of Cyprus' deposit insurance. Indeed, about $20 billion of Cyprus' deposits are held by the Russian mafia.

Since Cyprus' president Nicos Anastasiades didn't want to shut down the island's attraction as a money haven and playground for the Russian jet-set, he agreed to a deposit tax of 6.7% on deposits up to 100,000 euros and 9.9% on deposits above 100,000 euros, to satisfy the EU's demand of 5.8 billion euros ($7.2 billion) part of the bank bailout.

But like most schemes designed by politicians and EU bureaucrats, this one has huge flaws, including the fact it angered Russian president Vladimir Putin. Even at this level, with much of the money coming from Cyprus' modestly well-off citizens, Putin described it as "unfair, unprofessional and dangerous."

But the main flaw isn't about Putin. It has to do with the idea of deposit insurance itself.

Under a separate scheme introduced by the EU after the 2008 financial crash, deposits under 100,000 euros are insured by the Cyprus government.

Of course, the "tax" on deposits is a supposedly clever way to get around this without the Cyprus government itself defaulting. However, all this little trick does is call into question deposit insurance throughout the EU and, indeed, worldwide.

That's why this tiny country, with a population of only 800,000 and $17 billion in GDP, has roiled the world markets-- it attacked the central principle of deposit insurance.

After all, if governments can just seize deposits by means of a "tax" then deposit insurance is worth absolutely zippo.

Meanwhile in Cyprus, there were a number of alternatives to breaking this underlying bond of trust. The banks have some bond debts outstanding, which certainly should have been written down before the deposits were attacked. In fact, the tax is an attempt to avoid this, and should be resisted on that ground alone.

Instead, because the large deposits are so big, you could raise the required 5.8 million euros simply by a 15% tax on large deposits - but that would make Putin REALLY angry (he personally may or may not have money in Cyprus, but lots of his friends do).

They could also write down Cypriot government bonds, but because the banking system is relatively so huge the write-off would have to be a big one. To get 5.8 billion euros it would take more than a 50% write-down.

In the big picture, Cyprus doesn't matter much, unless EU incompetence and the recalcitrance of its own politicians makes it leave the euro altogether, in which case that currency unit yet again faces the prospect of break-up.

Who Can You Trust?
But in this case, the effect on global deposit insurance systems is much more important.

Deposit insurance was first invented in the United States during the Great Depression as a means to reassure savers about the solvency of banks, a third of which had just gone belly-up. It worked beautifully. Americans trusted the federal government (at least, they did back then), so once deposit insurance was in place savers came to have complete trust in the banking system.

Unfortunately, that same trust had a very bad effect on the banking system itself.

From leverage ratios of $4-5 of assets to $1 of capital in the 1920s, banks leveraged themselves ad infinitum, having leverage ratios of $10-12 of debt to $1 of capital in the 1970s, and up to $30 of assets to $1 of capital in 2008.

Even today, after de-leveraging, J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), in many ways the most solid of the big banks, had assets of $2,359 billion at the end of 2012 and tangible equity of only $146 billion -- or a ratio of 16.2 to 1. As recently as 2010, JPM's leverage was 19.3 to 1.

At those levels you can see the dangers that kind of leverage presents.

In fact, I counseled the National Bank of Croatia to this effect, when they were designing their deposit insurance system in 1996-97, advising them to have insurance covering only 90% of deposits. Unfortunately the politicians in the Croatian parliament overruled us, so Croatia now has the same damaging 100% insurance as everywhere else.

So the depositor today ends up with the worst of both worlds. He can't rely on the banks not to go bust, given their current absurd levels of leverage (which are of course encouraged by Ben Bernanke's money printing). On the other hand, now there's a question of whether he can rely on deposit insurance either.

If these worries become really serious, it will be devastating for the world economy. Small savers will take their money out of banks and resort to household safes and a shotgun.

If savers no longer have a solid place in which to put their money, we will have undone the financial revolution of the last 300 years, and returned to a world in which Samuel Pepys didn't trust the local goldsmith, so buried most of his wealth in the back garden. Needless to say, that won't do much for small business - the entire flow of finance will seize up altogether.

The solution is to do away with deposit insurance, forcing banks that want to attract depositors to hold $1 of capital for every $4-5 of assets, at most.

Eliminating Ben Bernanke and going back to a gold standard will probably be necessary too-even though that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

But if politicians continue behaving as badly as those who designed the Cyprus bailout, the gold standard will be the only economically viable alternative.

With this "bailout" all the EU has done is open up a Pandora's Box.

Source :http://moneymorning.com/2013/03/19/why-the-cyprus-bailout-could-set-banking-back-300-years/

Money Morning/The Money Map Report

©2013 Monument Street Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Protected by copyright laws of the United States and international treaties. Any reproduction, copying, or redistribution (electronic or otherwise, including on the world wide web), of content from this website, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of Monument Street Publishing. 105 West Monument Street, Baltimore MD 21201, Email: customerservice@moneymorning.com

Disclaimer: Nothing published by Money Morning should be considered personalized investment advice. Although our employees may answer your general customer service questions, they are not licensed under securities laws to address your particular investment situation. No communication by our employees to you should be deemed as personalized investent advice. We expressly forbid our writers from having a financial interest in any security recommended to our readers. All of our employees and agents must wait 24 hours after on-line publication, or after the mailing of printed-only publication prior to following an initial recommendation. Any investments recommended by Money Morning should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Money Morning Archive

© 2005-2016 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife