Weil on Finance: Taper Tea Leaves
Happy Monday, View fans. Here’s a look at my breakfast reading today.
Few things in financial journalism are more amusing to read than dueling stories about Federal Reserve monetary policy. Jon Hilsenrath of the Wall Street Journal says “Federal Reserve officials are closer to winding down their controversial $85 billion-a-month bond-purchase program, possibly as early as December, in the wake of Friday's encouraging jobs report. Binyamin Appelbaum says “Federal Reserve officials are in no hurry to retreat from their bond-buying campaign to stimulate the economy and are likely to postpone any cuts to the program until next year, according to public statements by Fed officials and interviews with some of them.” Reminds me of the old days when Alan Greenspan was in charge of the Fed, and nobody could tell what the heck he was saying, which was what he intended.
The scandal at the Vatican Bank
This is a great piece of reporting by Rachel Sanderson of the Financial Times. Here’s the gist: “The reforms now under way at the Vatican have come about in part because of the pressure brought to bear by banks such as Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan and UniCredit, all of which found themselves in the sights of regulators because of their business relationships with the Holy See.” This factoid helps explain the roots of the bank’s problems: “As much as 25 per cent of the bank’s business is done in cash – a feature that regulators said raised red flags for money laundering.”
This mortgage-finance story has a familiar ring to it
Jumbo adjustable-rate mortgages are soaring again, writes Kathleen Howley of Bloomberg News: “A decade ago, jumbo ARMs helped fuel the housing bubble by letting buyers qualify for homes they only could afford at the low rates before they reset. Banks approved mortgages based on the assumption that house prices would keep rising and the loans could be refinanced before higher costs kicked in. When home prices stopped climbing in mid-2006, both jumbo and conventional ARM borrowers began defaulting in higher numbers, contributing to the collapse of the mortgage market that in turn led to the most severe financial crisis in decades.” Nice quote here from a loan officer in San Francisco named Richard Lepre: “People have decided that whatever happened in 2008 is not going to happen again.”
China’s government touts the bright side of smog
The South China Morning Post of Hong Kong recaps an article from one of China’s nationalist newspapers that says smog on the battlefield “can serve as a defensive advantage in military operations.” On the other hand, last month the Morning Post had an article about how China’s smog had gotten so bad that it threatened the police’s ability to use surveillance cameras to spy on people in major cities. So this attempt at spin by one of the Communist Party’s mouthpieces looks like a reach.
Could any criminal really be this stupid?
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested three construction workers in South Florida who allegedly were trying to scam the FBI.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)