Swiss Shocker Triggers Gigantic Losses For Banks, Hedge Funds And Currency Traders

Trading - Public DomainThe absolutely stunning decision by the Swiss National Bank to decouple from the euro has triggered billions of dollars worth of losses all over the globe.  Citigroup and Deutsche Bank both say that their losses were somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars, a major hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December has been forced to shut down, and several major global currency trading firms have announced that they are now insolvent.   And these are just the losses that we know about so far.  It will be many months before the full scope of the financial devastation caused by the Swiss National Bank is fully revealed.  But of course the same thing could be said about the crash in the price of oil that we have witnessed in recent weeks.  These two “black swan events” have set financial dominoes in motion all over the globe.  At this point we can only guess how bad the financial devastation will ultimately be.

But everyone agrees that it will be bad.  For example, one financial expert at Boston University says that he believes the losses caused by the Swiss National Bank decision will be in the billions of dollars

The losses will be in the billions — they are still being tallied,” said Mark T. Williams, an executive-in-residence at Boston University specializing in risk management. “They will range from large banks, brokers, hedge funds, mutual funds to currency speculators. There will be ripple effects throughout the financial system.”

Citigroup, the world’s biggest currencies dealer, lost more than $150 million at its trading desks, a person with knowledge of the matter said last week. Deutsche Bank lost $150 million and Barclays less than $100 million, people familiar with the events said, after the Swiss National Bank scrapped a three-year-old policy of capping its currency against the euro and the franc soared as much as 41 percent that day versus the euro. Spokesmen for the three banks declined to comment.

And actually, if the total losses from this crisis are only limited to the “billions” I think that we will be extremely fortunate.

As I mentioned above, a hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December just completely imploded.  Everest Capital’s Global Fund had heavily bet against the Swiss franc, and as a result it now has lost “virtually all its money”

Marko Dimitrijevic, the hedge fund manager who survived at least five emerging market debt crises, is closing his largest hedge fund after losing virtually all its money this week when the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly let the franc trade freely against the euro, according to a person familiar with the firm.

Everest Capital’s Global Fund had about $830 million in assets as of the end of December, according to a client report. The Miami-based firm, which specializes in emerging markets, still manages seven funds with about $2.2 billion in assets. The global fund, the firm’s oldest, was betting the Swiss franc would decline, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private.

This is how fast things can move in the financial marketplace when things start getting crazy.

It can seem like you are on top of the world one day, but just a short while later you can be filing for bankruptcy.

Consider what just happened to FXCM.  It is one of the largest retail currency trading firms on the entire planet, and the decision by the Swiss National Bank instantly created a 200 million dollar hole in the company that desperately needed to be filled…

The magnitude of the crisis for U.S. currency traders became clear Friday when New York-based FXCM, a publicly traded U.S. currency broker, and the largest so far to announce it was in financial trouble after suffering a 90-percent drop in the firm’s stock price, reported the firm would need a $200-$300 million bailout to prevent capital requirements from being breached. Highly leveraged currency traders, including retail customers, were unable to come up with sufficient capital to cover the losses suffered in their currency trading accounts when the Swiss franc surged.

Currency traders worldwide allowed to leverage their accounts 100:1, meaning the customer can bet $100 in the currency exchange markets for every $1.00 the customer has on deposit in its account, can result in huge gains from unexpected currency price fluctuations or massive and devastating losses, should the customer bet wrong.

Fortunately for FXCM, another company called Leucadia came riding to the rescue with a 300 million dollar loan.

But other currency trading firms were not so lucky.

For example, Alpari has already announced that it is going into insolvency

Retail broker Alpari UK filed for insolvency on Friday.

The move “caused by the SNB’s unexpected policy reversal of capping the Swiss franc against the euro has resulted in exceptional volatility and extreme lack of liquidity,” Alpari, the shirt sponsor of English Premier League soccer club West Ham, said in a statement.

“This has resulted in the majority of clients sustaining losses which exceeded their account equity. Where a client cannot cover this loss, it is passed on to us. This has forced Alpari (UK) Limited to confirm that it has entered into insolvency.”

And Alpari is far from alone.  Quite a few other smaller currency trading firms all over the world are in the exact same boat.

Unfortunately, this could potentially just be the beginning of the currency chaos.

All eyes are on the European Central Bank right now.  If a major round of quantitative easing is announced, that could unleash yet another wave of crippling losses for financial institutions.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

One of Europe’s most influential economists has warned that the quantitative easing measures seen being unveiled by the European Central Bank (ECB) this week could create deep market volatility, akin to what was seen after the Swiss National Bank abandoned its currency peg.

“There was so much capital flight in anticipation of the QE to Switzerland, that the Swiss central bank was unable to stem the tide, and there will be more effects of that sort,” the President of Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Hans-Werner Sinn, told CNBC on Monday.

As I have written about previously, we are moving into a time of greatly increased financial volatility.  And when we start to see tremendous ups and downs in the financial world, that is a sign that a great crash is coming.  We witnessed this prior to the financial crisis of 2008, and now we are watching it happen again.

And this is not just happening in the United States.  Just check out what happened in China on Monday…

Chinese shares plunged about 8% Monday after the country’s securities regulator imposed margin trading curbs on several major brokerages, a sign that authorities are trying to rein in the market’s big gains. It was China’s largest drop in six years.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea what is coming.

They just trust that Barack Obama, Congress and the “experts” at the Federal Reserve have it all figured out.

So when the next great financial crisis does arrive, most people are going to be absolutely blindsided by it, even though anyone that is willing to look at the facts honestly should be able to see it steamrolling directly toward us.

Over the past couple of years, we have been blessed to experience a period of relative stability.

But that period of relative stability is now ending.

I hope that you are getting ready for what comes next.

We Are Watching The Greek Banking System Die Right In Front Of Our Eyes

Money is being pulled out of Greek banks at an alarming rate, and if something dramatic is not done quickly Greek banks are going to start dropping like flies.  As I detailed yesterday, people do not want to be stuck with euros in Greek banks when Greece leaves the euro and converts back to the drachma.  The fear is that all existing euros in Greek banks would be converted over to drachmas which would then rapidly lose value after the transition.  So right now euros are being pulled out of Greek banks at a staggering pace.  According to MSNBC, Greeks withdrew $894 million from Greek banks on Monday alone and a similar amount was withdrawn on Tuesday.  But this is just an acceleration of a trend that has been going on for a couple of years.  It has been reported that approximately a third of all Greek bank deposits were withdrawn between January 2010 and March 2012.  So where has all of the cash for these withdrawals been coming from?  Well, the European Central Bank has been providing liquidity for Greek banks, but now it has been reported that the ECB is going to stop providing liquidity to some Greek banks.  It was not announced which Greek banks are being cut off.  For now, the Greek Central Bank will continue to provide euros to those banks, but the Greek Central Bank will not be able to funnel euros into insolvent banks indefinitely.

This is a major move by the European Central Bank, and it is going to shake confidence in the Greek banking system even more.

There are already rumors that the Greek government is considering placing limits on bank withdrawals, and many Greeks will be tempted to go grab their money while they still can.

Once strict currency controls are put in place, the population is likely to respond very angrily.  If people can’t get their money there is no telling what they might do.

We are reaching a critical moment.  Many fear that a full-blown “bank panic” could happen at any time.  The following is from a recent Forbes article….

The pressing problem isn’t a splintered legislature that may balk at delivering the reforms that the IMF and European Community are demanding in exchange for the next tranche of bailout money. It’s a disastrous, old-fashioned run-on-the bank. “For a year, Greeks have been sending their savings from Greek banks to foreign banks,” says Robert Aliber, retired professor of international economics from the University of Chicago. “Now, the flood has reached a crescendo.” Indeed on Monday alone, outflows from the Greek banks reached almost $900 million.

These banks would have collapsed already if not for the support of the European Central Bank and the Greek Central Bank.  This was described in a recent blog post by Paul Krugman of the New York Times….

But where are the euros coming from? Basically, banks are borrowing them from the Greek central bank, which in turn must borrow them from the European Central Bank. The question then becomes how far the ECB is willing to go here; is it willing, in effect, to lend enough money to buy up the entire balance sheet of the Greek banking sector, given the likelihood that this sector will be left insolvent by Greek default?

Yet if the ECB says no more, Greek banks stop operating — and it’s hard to see how they can be restored to operation except by ditching the euro and using something else.

That is why the announcement that the ECB is cutting off funding was so dramatic.  The ECB is starting to pull back and that is a very bad sign for the Greek banking system.

For the moment, the Greek Central Bank is continuing to support the Greek banks that the European Central Bank is no longer providing liquidity for.  A Reuters article explained how this works….

The ECB only conducts its refinancing operations with solvent banks. Banks which fail to meet strict ECB rules but are deemed solvent by the national central bank (NCB) concerned can nonetheless go to their NCB for emergency liquidity assistance (ELA).

But this emergency liquidity assistance is not intended to be a long-term solution as a recent Wall Street Journal article noted….

The ECB’s emergency-lending facility isn’t intended as a long-term fix. National central banks must get approval each month that they want to let their banks access the facility from the ECB’s governing council, which can veto use of the program.

If Greece installs an antibailout government that reneges on its austerity promises, it would almost certainly be cut off from ECB funding.

The truth is that we are heading for a financial tragedy in Greece.  If the flow of money out of Greek banks intensifies, the Greek banking system might not even be able to make it to the next election in June.  This point was underscored in an article that was authored by renowned financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

Steen Jakobsen from Danske Bank said outflows are becoming unstoppable, not helped by open talk in EU circles of `technical’ plans for Greek withdrawal.

“This has a self-fulfilling prophecy built into it and I don’t think we can get to June. The fuse is burning and the only two options now are a controlled explosion where Germany steps in to ensure an orderly exit, or an uncontrolled explosion,” he said.

So what should we expect to see next?

Well, James Carney of CNBC says that he believes that it is inevitable that Greece is going to have to implement currency controls in order to slow the bleeding….

It looks increasingly likely that Greece will have to implement controls to prevent capital flight and a banking collapse. To my mind, the only real question is when this will occur.

The widespread talk about Greece possibly leaving the euro zone is likely to trigger withdrawal of bank deposits and other financial assets, by those who fear they might be redenominated into a drachma that would be worth far less than the euro.

The Greek government may soon announce a limit on the amount of money that can be withdrawn on a single day.

The Greek government may also soon announce a limit on the amount of money that can be moved out of the country.

Those would be dramatic steps to take, but if nothing is done we are likely to watch the Greek banking system die right in front of our eyes.

A Greek exit from the euro seems more likely with each passing day.  Such an exit would have a devastating impact on the Greek economy, but it would also dramatically affect the rest of the globe as well.  The following is from a recent article by Louise Armitstead….

The Institute of International Finance has estimated that the global cost of a Greek exit could hit €1trillion. When Argentina defaulted in 2001, foreign debtors lost around 70pc of their investments.

That is a big hit for such a little country.

So what would it cost the globe if Spain or Italy left the eurozone?

That is something to think about.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to steamroll down the same road that Greece has gone.  According to the Republican Senate Budget Committee, the U.S. government is currently spending more money per person than Greece, Portugal, Italy or Spain does.

We are spending ourselves into oblivion, and we are heading for a national financial disaster.

Unfortunately, most Americans are totally oblivious to all of this.

Instead of getting educated about the horrific financial crisis heading our way, most Americans would rather read about why Jennifer Lopez is leaving American Idol.

But those that are listening to the warnings will be prepared when the storm hits.

Things in Europe look really, really bad.

You better get prepared while you still can.

Prophets Of Doom: 12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders About The Horrific Economic Crisis That Is Almost Here

We are getting so close to a financial collapse in Europe that you can almost hear the debt bubbles popping.  All across the western world, governments and major banks are rapidly becoming insolvent.  So far, the powers that be are keeping all of the balls in the air by throwing around lots of bailout money.  But now the political will for more bailouts is drying up and the number of troubled entities seems to grow by the day.  Right now the western world is facing a debt crisis that is absolutely unprecedented in world history.  Europe has had a tremendously difficult time just trying to keep Greece afloat, and several much larger European countries are now on the verge of a major financial crisis.  In addition, there is a growing number of very large financial institutions all over the western world that are also rapidly approaching a day of reckoning.  The global financial system is a sea or red ink, and when we get to the point where there are hundreds of ships going under how is it going to be possible to bail all of them out?  The quotes that you are about to read show that quite a few top financial and political insiders know that things cannot hold together much longer and that a horrific economic crisis is coming.  We built the global financial system on a foundation of debt, leverage and risk and now this house of cards that we have created is about to come tumbling down.

A lot of people in politics and in the financial world know what is about to happen.  Once in a while they will even be quite candid about it with the media.

As I have written about previously, Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse.  If things go really badly, things could totally fall apart in a few weeks.  But more likely it will be a few more months until the juggling act ends.

Right now, the banking system in Europe is coming apart at the seams.  Because the global financial system is so interconnected today, when major European banks start to fail it is going to have a cascading effect across the United States and Asia as well.

The financial crisis of 2008 plunged us into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

The next financial crisis could potentially hit the world even harder.

The following are 12 shocking quotes from insiders that are warning about the horrific economic crisis that is almost here….

#1 George Soros: “Financial markets are driving the world towards another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences. The authorities, particularly in Europe, have lost control of the situation.”

#2 PIMCO CEO Mohammed El-Erian: “These are all signs of an institutional run on French banks. If it persists, the banks would have no choice but to delever their balance sheets in a very drastic and disorderly fashion. Retail depositors would get edgy and be tempted to follow trading and institutional clients through the exit doors. Europe would thus be thrown into a full-blown banking crisis that aggravates the sovereign debt trap, renders certain another economic recession, and significantly worsens the outlook for the global economy.”

#3 Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, global head of securities services at UniCredit SpA (Italy’s largest bank): “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”

#4 Stefan Homburg, the head of Germany’s Institute for Public Finance: “The euro is nearing its ugly end. A collapse of monetary union now appears unavoidable.”

#5 EU Parliament Member Nigel Farage: “I think the worst in the financial system is yet to come, a possible cataclysm and if that happens the gold price could go (higher) to a number that we simply cannot, at this moment, even imagine.”

#6 Carl Weinberg, the chief economist at High Frequency Economics: “At this point, our base case is that Greece will default within weeks.”

#7 Goldman Sachs strategist Alan Brazil: “Solving a debt problem with more debt has not solved the underlying problem. In the US, Treasury debt growth financed the US consumer but has not had enough of an impact on job growth. Can the US continue to depreciate the world’s base currency?”

#8 International Labour Organization director general Juan Somavia recently stated that total unemployment could “increase by some 20m to a total of 40m in G20 countries” by the end of 2012.

#9 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “It is an open secret that numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

#10 Alastair Newton, a strategist for Nomura Securities in London: “We believe that we are just about to enter a critical period for the eurozone and that the threat of some sort of break-up between now and year-end is greater than it has been at any time since the start of the crisis”

#11 Ann Barnhardt, head of Barnhardt Capital Management, Inc.: “It’s over. There is no coming back from this. The only thing that can happen is a total and complete collapse of EVERYTHING we now know, and humanity starts from scratch. And if you think that this collapse is going to play out without one hell of a big hot war, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

#12 Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI: “When I call a recession…that means that process is starting to feed on itself, which means that you can yell and scream and you can write a big check, but it’s not going to stop.”

*****

In my opinion, the epicenter of the “next wave” of the financial collapse is going to be in Europe.  But that does not mean that the United States is going to be okay.  The reality is that the United States never recovered from the last recession and there are already a lot of signs that we are getting ready to enter another major recession.  A major financial collapse in Europe would just accelerate our plunge into a new economic crisis.

If you want to read something that will really freak you out, you should check out what Dr. Philippa Malmgren is saying.  Dr. Philippa Malmgren is the President and founder of Principalis Asset Management.  She is also a former member of the Bush economic team. You can find her bio right here.

Malmgren is claiming that Germany is seriously considering bringing back the Deutschmark.  In fact, she claims that Germany is very busy printing new currency up.  In a list of things that we could see happen over the next few months, she included the following….

“The Germans announce they are re-introducing the Deutschmark. They have already ordered the new currency and asked that the printers hurry up.”

This is quite a claim for someone to be making.  You would think that someone that used to work in the White House would not make such a claim unless it was based on something solid.

If Germany did decide to leave the euro, you would see an implosion of the euro that would be truly historic.

But as I have written about previously, it should not surprise anyone that the end of the euro is being talked about because the euro simply does not work.

The only way that the euro would have had a chance of working is if all of the governments using the euro would have kept debt levels very low.

Unfortunately, the financial systems of the western world are designed to push governments into high levels of debt.

The truth is that the euro was doomed from the very beginning.

Now we are approaching a day of reckoning.  We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, but the bubble is ending.  There are several ways that the powers that be could handle this, but all of them will lead to greater financial instability.

In the end, we will see that the debt-fueled prosperity that the western world has been enjoying for decades was just an illusion.

Debt is a very cruel master.  It will almost always bring more pain and suffering than you anticipated.

It is easy to get into debt, but it can be very difficult to get out of debt.

There is no way that the western world can unwind this debt spiral easily.

The only way that another massive economic crisis can be put off for even a little while would be for the powers that be to “kick the can down the road” a little farther by creating even more debt.

But in the end, you can never solve a debt problem with more debt.

The next several years are going to be an incredibly clear illustration of why debt is bad.

When the dominoes start to fall, we are going to witness a financial avalanche which is going to destroy the finances of millions of people.

You might want to try to get out of the way while you still can.

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