Tuesday, 25 May 2010


That sound when it follows the words "I bet you can squeal like a pig" remains the ultimate "bloke" nightmare, but being much more mature and sensible I discovered another one today blethering to a mate about a friend of his who bought a super-deluxe newbuild top of the range 2 bed built on reclaimed land city-centre flat 6 years ago and is currently looking at being down 60 grand on what he paid for it if he could actually sell it.

Doing the math(s), that’s a horrendous loss. Like going by the Halifax seasonally adjusted all house prices quarterly Scottish house price index, yer man could have bailed out at the start of 2008 and made a 52% gain or alternatively at today’s prices a 34% one. Instead, the reality is he’s sat on a big loss, which implies house price index averages are a pile of shite and housing economists paid by banks as useful as a single, soggy piece of bog roll when you’ve a bad dose of the skits.

The real point of course is that the bloody obvious is bloody obvious for bloody obvious reasons and that the bloody obvious routinely prevails over the medium to long-term; charging however many hunner grand for some shite build quality effort yuppie high rise with 15 en-suites and an all in one dining, kitchen, study, activity-den, entertainment cubicle built on a former sewage works will never stack up.

So that’s the British reality for hundreds of thousands of poor sods, except right now it’s Spain that’s catching the eye. Given the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) perspective that developed, this was only to be expected – having bet against Greece, right now yer bog standard currency and sovereign debt speculator is thinking right who is next?

Portugal is probably getting a free pass for the time being simply because its so obscure and its national economic and property market statistics are such a fucking joke no one has a clue as to what is happening there. Spain on the other hand is getting humped because it’s a more advanced economy and because, lets be honest, we all knew they had what will probably turn out to be the mother of all property bubbles (which will probably prove bad for Portugal in due course because in yer average financial mind Portogual is a bit like Spain isn't it?).

Until recently a few things were mitigating that “fact”. One was the willingness of the European Central Bank to accept the dross the Spanish banks had on their books in exchange for liquidity to an extent that would have raised a European competition commissioner’s eyebrows mad-style if they had a fucking clue as to what that actually meant (Santander taking over various UK banks being a fucking obvious example of the kind of things this advantage contributed to). Another stems from the debate last year as to whether Spanish banks openly reported on their property lending losses and impairments with various arguments saying no chance those lying bastards are lying like bastards.

The cool thing here of course is that all the justifications for the current kneejerk reactions are based largely on sentiment, but tarted up as being the result of some kind of in-depth analysis. Which is a nice idea, but if Spanish banks do take a more “lax” approach to their reporting than banks elsewhere, then no detailed analysis is possible. Oh and the ECB keeps schtum about a lot of support it provides banks and no one knows what bank regulation will precisely entail. Hence when some city talking head pops up on the channel 4 news and starts saying things like "we need to look at the fundamentals here", "rebuild a thin capital base", "over-exposure","double-dip", "delicate balancing act" and "look carefully at next quarter's results" its all a shower of shite.

It would be nice, lovely even to dismiss this all as the work of a shower of nasty greedy short-selling gits who should be Tobin-taxed til they go ""Weeeeeeee!”, then rustle a copy of the Guardian furiously in the general direction of the Square Mile. Except, the UK budget cuts now underway are to preserve the current view the self-same financial markets/speculators have of the UK. And with hindsight the £6bn worth of cuts just announced are going to feel like a tickle. Lovely, except while Greece was getting humped because the government borrowed to spend too much, now a lot of the panic is about government spending cuts tipping specific national economies into recession.

Given this "game" is fucking up more and more lives and will continue to do so, if it can't be won, perhaps the rules should be changed?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Johnny Bag

Time was the word "Johnny" prompted oodles of teenage giggles, smirks and condomn references, but no any longer it seems.

Via the power of a google image all I get is pics of Johnny Knoxsville and/or Depp. Fuck that American cultural imperialism shit, what I want is the chance of associating the Financial Services Authority's treatment of Johnny Cameron with condoms. Is that bad of me I wonder? Well it could be worse I could be the FSA.

After reading their statement I discover that "the FSA will not take disciplinary action against Cameron. The FSA has not made any findings of regulatory breach against Cameron and he has not made any admissions."

I.e. yer man will never, ever take up a permanent job in any sort of financial servicies firm ever, but for reasons the FSA will never, ever elaborate upon.

Fuck, that was predictable. So here we go blah de blah, the FSA is claiming an easy scalp via all sorts of lawyer to lawyer compromises wherein we'll do this if you do that, and he'll do a bit of the other, but just keep schtum about it all.

Fucking stinks if you ask me. The decent thing, the respectable thing would have been to state why yer man isn't fit, clarify what he did wrong and take some punitive action. Doing so would have clearly articulated some prinicples that could then be applied to all the other actual/former executives currently sat besides their swimming pools lapping up their early retired for monumentally fucking-up gravy.

Instead what we got was an outcome that sees the FSA pretend it's hard, while avoiding having to do anything else, letting it remain what it is and always has been - the banking sector's bitch, byatch.

As a 19th May P.S. - as someone pointed out to me today this arrangement wherein yer man can do consultancy work and what not means he could possibly pop back up somewhere, which given he'd already been kept out two jobs suggests this new, formal arrangement could actually prove more generous than his previous treatment.

October 29th P.S. so there you are then, the FSA were being total bitches cos yer man is back in gainful employment (as is him that ran Northern Rock, her that ran HBOS and it that ran Northern Rock. Thank god all this top flight executive talent isn't going to waste at a time when we need the private sector to create jobs. Shame all their former employers are all laying people off. Bunch of vile cunts really.)

Friday, 14 May 2010

Back of a fag packet blues

I fucking hate government statistics. Yeah sure Eurostat is a fuckin’ nightmare to use compared to the Office for National Statistics webpage and that’s despite the latter being run out of Wales, but then saying AIDs is worse than incurable diarrhoea isn’t saying much either give or take the mopping.

But, yeah government statistics combine all that’s bad about stats – they’re freely available to be sure in an open government style, but in such convoluted ways they’re a pain in the arse to get hold of (hmm, lets put a PDF with detailing what the tables are here and the actual spreadsheet with the numbers in it waaaaaaaaaaay over there under that rock). Added to this is their general incomprehensibility; theres the jargon that means so much to civil servants without a life that no one else understands and the different versions of the truth with clear as mud footnoted explanations as to why table 5.2b and table 5.2d, which appear to be about exactly the same thing, convey totally different messages. Then you fire in political shenanigans, the most obvious being including say PPP financed spending alongside actual, honest to god government capex so as to produce a much bigger, headline grabbing total and basically I can’t be arsed with it all.

Other than now. That the banks will need their bale out extended was one election secret, however that Britain, regardless of who won the election, is gonnae have to fuck shit up when it comes to public spending was the real big, big biggie.

So according to John Kay there is a hole in the region of £50bn to £100bn a year needing filled. Now that is a big hole and one the following back of a fag packet calculations are based on. To put this in context total managed expenditure (I think this is what public spending is called now, I could well be wrong) in 2008/09 was £630bn, so that’s 8% to 16% being spent on filling a hole rather than public services.

Except the £630bn figure includes £31bn p.a. spent on public sector debt interest. So lets knock off that cos you know those lenders have got to get paid (plus rising cost of servicing increased government debt is a useful proxy for future economic growth and the associated increase in tax revenues). Then there’s the various forms of government spending that are sacrosanct, like health and education, which according to table 5.1 of the “PESA 2010” accounted for £110bn and £83bn of TME respectively (See? Its fucking gibberish).

So if debt cost and spending on health and education can’t be changed, that means the £50bn to £100bn a year needed to fill the hole has to be lopped off the remaining £407bn worth of spending. Ouch! Allova sudden we’ve gone from a 8% to 16% to a 13 to 25% reduction in public spending on more specific things, which is seriously harsh.

The thing here though is politics is going to start playing a disgusting part; not politics in the sense of principled opposition to shit like trident, although there’s scope for that, but politics in the sense of pork-barrel plays to specific constituencies.

My favourite example of this was the mince over reopening the auld Waverly railway line that ran from Edinburgh right though one of the LibDems Scottish electoral heartlands and on down to Carlisle. Anyhow, so there’s the LibDems in power with Labour in the Scottish parliament and allova sudden the LibDem transport secretary was able to announce in 2007 that preparatory work for reopening the line were underway. Except 2007 was the same year the SNP formed the Scottish government and lawks a lawdy, reopening the Waverly line subsequently got delayed and delayed and delayed as cheucters more likely to vote SNP started getting more taxpayer funded Gaelic things and individual bridges linking their crofts to the nearest subsidy claim form office, cos you know how we’ve got to preference to the point of subsidising one way of life over all others.

So aye, applying that bloody obvious insight – politicians will try and look after the people who voted them into power – to the current situation, I’d guess when it comes to the targeted 13 to 25% hack backs in spending we’re due over the next however many years those regions, locales and demographic groups that don’t vote LibDem or Tory, don’t vote at all or else vote on the basis of being predictably thick, will get humped. As a starter for ten I’d rather no be a child or an elderly disabled or unemployed bod living in the West of Scotland from next year onwards.

A 16th May P.S. to the above is that the pork barrel stuff will be all about government capital spending on ships and shit. As for everything else it seems like middle income bods are gonnae get clobbered left, right and centre by various VAT,NI and income tax rises and freezes and also get excluded from as many benefits as possible e.g. no more from tax credits or nursery vouchers and say the end of unverisal child benefit and what not if household income is over 40 grand a year or something, the staggered introduction of all which will progressively knock thousands off people's disposable incomes and further ghetto-ise the benefit system. Lovely.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


The only debate on the economy during the election that got any profile was the shite over national insurance, which amounted to c.£7bn in potential government revenues. That was it for the most part.

Back in the real world the British banking system is being propped up by £320bn worth of emergency funding that starts to unwind next year. As someone who works in banking I’ve clearly got a distorted view as to which is the more important matter, but even allowing for that I still think £320bn is more important than £7bn. So there.

If the £320bn isn’t renewed i.e. if the government and Bank of England don’t keep Britain on the hook for all that dosh the British banking system will collapse. End of. Given that either/or scenario, the funding will be renewed, but perhaps the terms, conditions, duration and cost of that support was something worthy of political debate, even by bigots?

The other thing is what are banks actually doing in response to the basic challenge they have of HUGE balance sheets they’re having difficulty funding. They can respond to this in a number of ways. One is all the problem loans are called up, the loss taken and the assets taken as security then sold on at a loss, shrinking their balance sheets (and associated funding requirement) in the process. Or they can try and pile into areas that generate the cash needed to rebuild their capital bases, but don’t increase their balance sheets, examples here being as much advisory work as it’s possible to advise on. Third, they can raise the margin between what they pay to borrow and charge to lend; this does swell balance sheets, but more profitably, helping them rebuild their capital bases and reassure potential funders that they are indeed A-OK and worth taking a punt on.

Splitting out the forest from the trees for a mo, each of these options has obvious ramifications over a 1 to 5 year period. The first runs the risk of an asset fire sale as things like shopping centres and office blocks all over Britain are put up for sale at the same time; as prices crash construction firms and developers have no incentive to start employing people to build more things. The second saw some interesting shit recently when RBS took on some blerk with close links to Vladimir Putin to help its push into Russian investment banking, reminding me of a Woody Allen quote for some reason - “The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won’t get much sleep”. Finally, as the current state of the savings and mortgage markets makes horrendously clear, the third option is already well underway to the detriment of people reliant on savings income and those wanting to buy or build houses.

But, aye, back to the election and the stuff that matters, I mean wots that all about eh? Cumming over ‘ere taking our council houses, getting jobs, paying our national insurance, ours mind, not theirs etc., etc. ad nauseum.