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商业 - 金融

华尔街再现金融危机风险!

Nin-Hai Tseng 2012年04月23日

华尔街的健忘是出了名的。新近出现的4个迹象显示,风险已重返金融业。这让人不禁怀疑,之前是否真的发生过金融危机。

美国国际集团故态复萌

    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。

    2008年,联邦政府通过一笔价值1,823亿美元的紧急救援资金,拯救了大厦将倾的美国国际集团,但这家公司现已偿还了“山姆大叔”的这笔贷款。今年到目前为止,该公司股价上涨了近32%。如今,财政基础更为坚实的美国国际集团似乎正在闲庭信步般重回风险领域。

    这家保险公司正在投资美国公寓市场——最近,房租的上涨正驱使一大批海外和美国投资者抢购多户型房产。美国国际集团现在的赌注或许不如金融危机爆发前那般令人叹为观止。《华尔街日报》指出,该公司的房产投资组合曾经包括一处位于佛蒙特州的滑雪别墅群,上海的数栋写字楼和位于东京的一座购物中心。

    但规模较小的投资可能成为大手笔投资的前奏。尽管如此,美国国际集团重新投资房产这一事实无论如何都具有某种象征意义。这家依然由美国政府持有70%股权的保险公司仍然清楚地记得金融危机和随之而来的经济衰退那段暴风骤雨般的岁月。

使用自有资金大手笔下注

    在2007年—2008年金融危机之后的几年中,自营交易已变成一个肮脏的字眼。以竭力阻止自营交易而著称的美联储前主席保罗•沃尔克声称,用自有资本进行大宗交易的公司在这场危机中扮演了一个重要角色。

    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。

    沃尔克规则是《多德-弗兰克金融改革法案》(Dodd-Frank Act)的一部分,这项法案限制获得政府支持的银行从事冒险行为,它在次贷市场崩溃引发自大萧条以来最严重的金融危机之后才获得了通过。

    到目前为止,还没有人称摩根大通或这位交易员的行为不当。尽管如此,如此巨大的“风险容量”让人不由得想起危机爆发前几年的情形。它清楚无误地说明,华尔街爱冒风险的偏好一直存在。

次贷债券重现华尔街

    这些曾经引爆美国房市的有毒住房债券现在显然再次成为了市场的宠儿。正如《华尔街日报》所报道的那样,一些由次级贷款支持、在危机前发放给借款人(其信用历史参差不齐)的不良债券价格今年已经出现了两位数百分比的增幅。

    金融危机期间,投资者基本上避免购买此类债券。这些债券的复苏显示,投资者的风险偏好正在回归。

 

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.

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