美国国际集团（AIG）由于在美国房地产市场投下重注而濒临破产不过是几年前才发生的事情。《华尔街日报》（The Wall Street Journal）本周报道称，如今，这家保险公司正计划重返美国房产投资领域。
但就在华盛顿争辩“沃尔克规则”的实施细则之际，绰号“伦敦鲸”的摩根大通公司（JP Morgan Chase）交易员布鲁诺•伊克赛尔的行为使银行是否在使用自有资金承受过度风险这一问题进行的激烈讨论进一步升温。这位交易员囤积的信用违约掉期（CDS）空头头寸大得惊人，实际上是在赌一组公司的信誉将会改善，而不是恶化。对冲基金经理和证劵交易商表示，这些交易的规模足以影响市场指数，类似于用自有资金进行赌博。
AIG gets back in the game
It was only a few years ago that American International Group (AIG) nearly went bankrupt as a result of outsized bets on the U.S. housing and real-estate market. Today, the insurer is planning to return to U.S. property investing, The Wall Street Journal reported this week.
In 2008, the federal government rescued AIG through a $182.3 billion bailout, but the company has since repaid Uncle Sam. Its stock has risen nearly 32% so far this year. Now on firmer financial footing, it seems as though AIG is easing its way back into risk.
The insurer is investing in the U.S. apartment market – joining the plethora of foreign and U.S. investors that have recently been snapping up multi-family properties as the price of rentals rise. AIG's bet might not be as grandiose as its pre-financial crisis days, given, as the Journal notes, its portfolio once included a Vermont ski village, office towers in Shanghai and a Tokyo shopping mall.
But smaller investments could lead to bigger ones. And the fact that AIG has resumed property investing is nevertheless symbolic. The insurer, which is still 70% owned by the U.S. government, is still fresh in the memories of those tumultuous months of the financial crisis and the recession that followed.
Big bets with bank cash
Propriety trading has become a dirty word in the years following the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker is known for trying to put a stop to it, arguing that firms making big trades with their own capital played a key role in the crisis.
But as Washington wrangles over implementation of the Volcker rule, JP Morgan Chase (JPM) trader Bruno Iksil, nicknamed the "London whale," has been fueling debate over whether banks are taking excessive risks with its own funds. The trader has amassed big positions in credit default swaps, effectively betting that the creditworthiness of a group of companies will improve and not deteriorate. Hedge-fund managers and dealers say the trades are big enough to move indexes and resemble proprietary bets.
The Volcker rule is part of the Dodd-Frank Act, which sets limits on risk-taking by banks with government backing and was passed after the collapse of the subprime mortgage market triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
There's no suggestion so far that JP Morgan or the trader acted improperly. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear the appetite for risk reminiscent of years prior to the crisis is ever present.
Sub-prime mortgage bonds are back
Those toxic home loans that essentially blew up the U.S. housing market are apparently back in vogue. As The Wall Street Journal reported, prices of some distressed bonds backed by subprime loans issued before the crisis to borrowers with spotty credit histories have seen double-digit percentage gains this year.
During the financial crisis, investors essentially avoided such bonds. Their resurgence signals that investors' appetite for risk is returning.