Weil's View on Finance, P.M.: Delay-and-Pray Economics
Hello, View fans. Now on to your annotated afternoon links.
The Federal Reserve's punch bowl has grown to the size of an oil tanker, but the economy remains generally lousy. Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said he told Chairman Ben Bernanke last week that the Fed's decision not to taper "would increase uncertainty about the future conduct of policy and call the credibility of our communications into question." New York Fed President William Dudley, who favored the decision to maintain the central bank's current pace of bond purchases, said he believes "the economy still needs the support of a very accommodative monetary policy." Meanwhile, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart asked if America is "losing its economic mojo" and said "there is some evidence to the affirmative." So, as usual, lots of talk, and no sign yet that the central bank has any idea how to stop quantitative easing without trashing the financial markets.
Save money for retirement, or you could end up like this man
Carol Hymowitz of Bloomberg News had a terrific (and extremely sad) story about a 77-year-old former executive who used to earn six figures and now juggles two part-time jobs, one of which is flipping burgers and serving drinks at a golf club grill for a little more than minimum wage. He didn't save enough money when he was working. This increasingly is becoming the new face of retirement -- people who don't get to do it.
He says "pretend and extend," I say "delay and pray"
Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Munchau says Angela Merkel's re-election will lead to more of the same in the euro area: "My guess is that crisis resolution will increasingly take the form of what banks would call `pretend and extend.' You extend the maturity of the loans, reduce the interest rates and pretend your credit is still whole. It lacks transparency and it is undemocratic. In the eurozone crisis, the logical limit would be to extend the maturity of the loans to infinite and reduce interest rates to zero. They will probably stay clear of this limit but the net present value of the loans will have to fall. So there will be a third Greek program, a second Portuguese program, and then fourth and third programs respectively. Everything will be revolved. Nothing will be resolved."
Why no punishment for JPMorgan higher-ups?
Accounting blogger Francine McKenna wonders why no current or former senior JPMorgan Chase & Co. executives were sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission over the London Whale trading scandal. She's not alone, of course. "There are at least five different sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley law that could be used to punish JPM individuals, if the Department of Justice and SEC have the will," she writes. She counts the ways.
Whatever the accounting rules are, bankers will game them
Here's another take on the Financial Accounting Standards Board's proposal to change the rules for recognizing loan losses, so that lenders would be required to book losses more quickly. Clifford Rossi, in an article for American Banker, says "such a change will not eliminate the alchemy of the loan loss reserve process," although he calls it a step in the right direction. "Make no mistake: It comes with a great deal of subjectivity, model risk and confusion for investors trying to draw comparisons of loss reserves across institutions."
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)