September 16, 2016

What’s perceived safe could be much more dangerous than what’s perceived risky. Why is that so hard to understand?

Sir, Gillian Tett, responding to “Why on earth would anyone buy a bond that yields a negative interest rate?” includes in the answer: “desperation” (they cannot think of anywhere else to park their funds) or “regulation” (they have to buy bonds to comply with financial supervision rules or investment mandates)” “The alchemists who turn negative yields into profit” September 16.

And then Ms. Tett explains interestingly how “some investors have found ways to make those negative yields pay” with “the rather esoteric corner of finance of dollar-yen cross currency swaps”.

But, if “government intervention to reinvigorate stagnant economies has left markets so peculiarly distorted” is the search for profit opportunities derived from distortions more important than eliminating the distortions?

I ask, because in all these years Ms. Tett has been unwilling to touch, even with a ten-foot pole, one of the most fundamental sources of distortion, namely the risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

That piece of regulation, by focusing on the ex-ante perceived risk of bank assets, and not on the ex-post risk for the banking system conditioned to how banks manage those ex-ante perceived risks, is loony and dangerous. As an example it allowed regulators to come up with a risk weight of only 20% for AAA to AA rated assets, while placing one of 150% on the so much less dangerous assets like the below BB- rated.

Sir, am I wrong to think an anthropologist should be able understand this?

@PerKurowski ©