The Bank of Japan Creates a State-Led Monopolistic Banking System

by Taiki Murai and Gunther Schnabl[*]

In the second half of the 1980s, 13 Japanese city banks climbed into the group of the world’s largest banks, boosted by a domestic speculation boom. With the bursting of the Japanese financial “bubble” in the early 1990s, a gradual decline followed. Since then, the Japanese city banks have been driven by Japanese monetary policy into a concentration process, which has produced new giants without increasing efficiency. Continue reading

The Crisis in the EU

by Jerry O’Driscoll

I addressed the Greek situation and the wider EU debt crisis in an op ed in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, November 2nd (“Why We Can’t Escape the Eurocrisis”). It is also posted today on the Cato homepage. I explain the linkages between the US and the EU, particularly among financial institutions.

Banks within the EU finance the deficits of their governments. It is not just that Greek banks buy Greek sovereign debt, but French banks lend to Greek banks. And French banks buy the bonds of the Italian government. US banks lend to EU banks. Less well known, US money market funds hold a good amount of debt issued by EU banks. And the Fed is backstopping dollar funding of EU banks.

Sovereign defaults over there will have a big impact over here. And, then, there is our own public debt problem. And it is not just public-sector debt that afflicts both economies, but, to varying degrees, excessive leverage in the household and nonfinancial corporate sectors.

Last night, Judge Napolitano interviewed me for a segment on “Freedom Watch.”

The Judge was interested in not only the economic issues, but also political issues.

The lead segment was with John Allison, former CEO of BB&T, who decried the crony capitalism that is at the root of the crisis here and there. It was enjoyable to hear a former banker denounce rent seeking by banks. He even used the word “rents.”

Why We Need More Speculators

by Chidem Kurdas

Greek prime minister George Papandreou demands a crackdown on credit default swaps. It’s easy to see why politicians bring up wicked speculators whenever some economic hardship shows up. It’s an old game to put the blame on others to deflect it from yourself.

Middlemen have been successfully pilloried for millennia. Ancient Athenians, faced with rising prices, hauled grain merchants to court some 2400 years ago. Could it be that throughout history speculators have messed up markets, hoarding wheat in ancient Athens and trading dodgy derivatives on post-modern Greek debt?

Indeed, they can become a problem if there are only a few of them. Continue reading

Four Reasons Why The EXIT Will Fail

by Andreas Hoffmann and Gunther Schnabl*

With central bank balance sheets and government debt levels exploding, discomfort about future inflation arises. A discussion about the appropriate exit strategy from low-interest rate policies has started. The standpoints of central banks are different. The ECB seems more decisively in favour of an early exit. The Federal Reserve discusses the technical aspects rather than an early timing (see Mario’s earlier blog entry). The Bank of Japan is said not to exit earlier than in five years. What situation are we facing? A return to monetary policies that are neutral to inflation and bubbles is unlikely for four reasons: Continue reading