This week The IRA will be at the MBA Secondary Market Conference & Expo, as always held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. The 8th floor reception and bar is where folks generally hang out. Attendees should not miss the panel on mortgage servicing rights at 3:00 PM Monday. We’ll give our impressions of this important conference in the next edition of The Institutional Risk Analyst.
Three takeaways from our meetings last week in Paris:
First, we heard Banque de France Governor Villeroy de Galhau confirm that the European Central Bank intends to continue reinvesting its portfolio of securities indefinitely. This means continued low interest rates in Europe and, significantly, increasing monetary policy divergence between the EU and the US.
Second and following from the first point, the banking system in Europe remains extremely fragile, this despite happy talk from various bankers we met during the trip. The fact of sustained quantitative easing by the ECB, however, is a tacit admission that the state must continue to tax savings in order to transfer value to debtors such as banks. Overall, the ECB clearly does not believe that economic growth has reached sufficiently robust levels such that extraordinary policy steps should end.
Italian banks, for example, admit to bad loans equal to 14.5 percent of total loans. Double that number to capture the economic reality under so-called international accounting rules. Italian banks have packaged and securitized non-performing loans (NPLs) to sell them to investors, supported by Italian government guarantees on senior tranches. These NPL deals are said to be popular with foreign hedge funds, yet this explicit state bailout of the banks illustrates the core fiscal problem facing Italy.
And third, the fact of agreement between the opposition parties in Italy means that the days of the Eurozone as we know it today may be numbered. The accord between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League Party (Lega) of Silvio Berlusconi marks a deterioration in the commitment to fiscal discipline in Europe. Specifically, the M5S/Lega coalition wants EU assent to increased spending and cutting taxes – an explicit embrace of the Trumpian economic model operating in the US.