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商业 - 金融

新一轮金融危机潜在导火索不完全名单

Stephen Gandel 2013年05月02日

到底哪些因素可能会触发新一轮的金融危机?美国监管机构最近列出了一份清单,利率,借贷,闪电崩盘,中国经济放缓等等因素都赫然在列。但这份清单最触目惊心的地方在于——它的长度。

    大到不能倒。利率。借贷。降价出售。闪电崩盘。高风险贷款交易。伦敦银行同业拆借利率(Libor)。网络攻击。欧洲。日本。中国。

    疯牛病没有进这份名单。

    上周四,美国金融稳定监管委员会(Financial Stability Oversight Council,简称FSOC)这个在金融危机后由美国多个银行业监管部门组成的超级委员会列出了他们认为最可能触发下一轮金融危机的一些风险因素。这张清单最令人吃惊的地方或许在于它的长度。

    光这一点就足以动摇人们对2010年通过的美国银行业监管法案——多德-弗兰克法案(Dodd-Frank)的信心了。这项法案获准近三年后,可能摧毁金融体系的种种因素看起来一点也没有减少。

    不过,我们在编制列表方面似乎有了改进。除了给出这一名单的美国金融稳定监管委员会,美国财政部(Treasury Department)也有一个新的研究部门,专门关注金融创新可能带来的问题。美国消费者金融保护局(Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)详细列出了银行业务的高危领域,最近列出的是汽车贷款。几个月后,美国金融稳定监管委员会还将公布“大到不能倒”的金融公司名单。这些在行业内具有重要地位的金融公司如果有一家倒闭,就可能损害到美国经济,甚至可能引发另一场危机。

    问题是列出这些名单到底有没有帮助。

    上周四列出的金融风险名单中最大的一个问题是“大到不能倒”。美国金融稳定监管委员会的报告称,如果假定大银行遇到麻烦的话能够获得政府救助,大银行或许能增加融资,同时降低融资成本。增加融资可能导致银行承担过多的风险。

    问题是美国政府似乎并没有认真对待这类风险。美国财长雅各布•卢在这个问题上一直保持着沉默。其他财政部官员也试图淡化这个问题。四月底,美国财政部高级官员玛丽•米勒表示,让大银行能获得较低融资利率的理由可能有很多。大银行的风险可能低一些,它们进入美国金融稳定监管委员会名单当然不是因为这个原因。

    利率上升也出现在了美国金融稳定监管委员会的名单中,表明这个现象似乎确实值得忧虑。摩根大通(JPMorgan Chase)的杰米•戴蒙在最近的致股东年度信函中表示,为抵御利率上升冲击,这家银行放弃了相当一部分收入。假如利率像1994年时那样上升,戴蒙表示,摩根大通能赚50亿美元。

    虽然这个风险因素列在名单中,但监管部门似乎并不是很担心。美国金融稳定监管委员会表示,收益率问题看来确实有一些深远的影响,利率突然上升可能导致银行亏损。但它认为风险不大,还表示,当前银行业的资本金比过去增加了,这是实际情况。但这并不意味着银行业已经有了足够的资本金。

    美国金融稳定监管委员会表示,他们也担心最近高风险债券的发行量增加,特别是将杠杆贷款打包出售给投资者的CDO。但他们相信目前CLO的风险看起来比金融危机之前要低。这种说法似乎忽略了最近的一些报告,报告称CLO中超半数贷款对投资者几乎毫无保障,这个比例高于金融危机发生之前。

    Too big to fail. Interest rates. Borrowing. Fire-sales. The Flash Crash. Risky loan deals. Libor. Cyber attacks. Europe. Japan. China.

    Cattle plague was not on the list.

    On Thursday, the super council of bank regulators put in place after the financial crisis put out a list of their best guesses as to what could cause the next financial crisis. Perhaps the most surprisingly thing about the list was how long it was.

    That alone should be enough to rattle your faith in Dodd-Frank, the banking regulations that were passed in 2010. Nearly three years later, the list of things that could blow up the financial system doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.

    What we do seem to be better at is making lists of risks. Beside the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which put out the current list, the Treasury Department also has a new research group that studies financial innovations for potential problems. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau details areas where banks could be ripping people off, most recently auto lending. And in a few months the FSOC is about to disclose the financial firms so important that a failure of one of them could hurt the economy and possibly cause another crisis, which is another list.

    The question is whether all this list-making is helpful.

    One of the biggest issues on yesterday's list of financial risks is too big to fail. The council's report says big banks may be able to borrow more and cheaper if there is an assumption that the government will bail them out if they get into trouble. That extra borrowing money could result in banks taking on excessive risk.

    The problem is that the government itself doesn't seem to be taking this risk seriously. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has been mum on the subject. Other Treasury officials have tried to downplay it. Last week, Mary Miller, a top Treasury official, said there could be a number of reasons big banks get lower lending rates. They may just be less risky, which is of course why they ended up on the FSOC's list.

    Rising interest rates, which also shows up on the FSOC's list, does seem like a concern. JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon in his recent annual letter to shareholders said that his bank was giving up a significant amount of income in order to protect itself from rising interest rates. If rates were to rise like they did back in 1994, Dimon said JPMorgan (JPM) could make $5 billion.

    While it's on the list, regulators don't seem as concerned. The FSOC says that there does appear to be some reaching for yield and that a sudden rise in interest rates could causes losses at the banks. But it dismisses the risk by saying banks have more capital than they used to, which is true. But that still doesn't mean banks have enough.

    The FSOC says they are also worried about the recent increase of issuance of riskier bonds in particular collateralized debt obligations, which are deals that package up leveraged loans and sell them off to investors. But they also say that CLOs seem less risky than they did before the financial crisis. That seems to ignore recent reports that say more than half of the loans in CLOscarry few protections for investors, which is higher than before the lending bust.

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