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Lessons to be learned from the Stress Test : Inthon

The Stress Test results were revealed last Friday after much anticipation.  The test and broadcast of the results were quite telling and there are several things we can learn from this.

My initial reaction of skepticism was confirmed when many reputable bloggers (with their own capital on the line) expressed similar qualms over the weakness of government’s test.  The two short articles I have quoted are well worth the read.

A former FX trader, “Dude”, suggests that the test is direly lacking real-world stress. He cites much more dire scenarios, which the government has not tested:

1) China didn’t show up at a Treasury Auction and bond rates jumped 3-5%
2) China started dumping US$s on the open market and our exchange rate dropped 10%
3) The Fed, under such conditions, had to raise the Fed Funds rate by 5% quickly
4) An act of war or natural disaster struck one of the big coastal cities, putting it entirely out of commission thus pushing GDP down 6-10% quickly

Admittedly, the Treasury is more interested in a longer view than I was, although given the highly leveraged derivatives positions, they might be well served to also inquire about substantial, discontinuous price changes.

I’m troubled that they don’t test for what the past suggests is possible.

What if Unemployment goes to 30% as it did in the 30s?

What if Inflation falls to -5% or rises to 12%?

What if Fed Funds goes to 17% as it did in the early 80s?

What if we can’t roll-over our foreign held debt, as has happened to most nations which have run up as large an external debt position as ours?

Karl Denninger at Market Ticker mentions:

According to The Fed’s “More Adverse” scenario prime delinquencies will reach 3-4%. Note that the PRESENT serious delinquency rate on Fannie’s credit book for single family homes is at 3.15%.  Nowhere in the “mainstream media” (e.g. CNBC, etc) has this been mentioned but it is literally right in your face while reading the Fannie quarterly report.

If we accept the above as true, we must logically draw one of two conclusions.

  1. The government knows that the stress the system could endure could be much worse.  They have decided to deliberately ignore or discount this data to assuage our fears and not report the full truth to us.  In other words, they are knowingly lying to us.  If this is in fact the case and if the government is trying to deceive us, Geithner, Bernanke and Obama should be held responsible for the misdeeds, regardless of political party.
  2. The government is ignorant of these facts that other individuals have adroitly discovered.  This would mean they are not the most intelligent or conscientious leaders to be running our financial system.  They are not fit to be in charge and should be removed as soon as possible, regardless of political party.

Takeaway:  There is a simple theme we can learn from the stress test and it comes from Buddha.  He says:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Ben Bernanke has made statements such as:

“It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve – nor would it be appropriate – to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions.”

(Freddie and Fannie) “…will make it through the storm”, “… in no danger of failing.”,”…adequately capitalized”

We’ve had a $700 billion bailout and numerous corporate-welfare financial programs (CPFF, TLGP, PPIP, CPFF, TARP, etc.).  Fannie and Freddie have been nationalized.

Karl Denninger has published his remarkably accurate predictions publicly (2008, 2009) and stood by them.  People might think you’re a fool for believing a blogger, rather than an MIT-educated expert.  Look at the evidence and track-record and decide for yourself. Just because someone is a popular leader (religious, business, political) or has a popular title doesn’t mean they are any more thoughtful, intelligent or honest than someone without popularity.

For more on the crisis, read here.

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