Well the Euro fix is in. Whether it works - that is another question. But the fix is this: European banks can borrow unlimited amounts for three years to buy Euro government debt. The debt often yields 5 percent. The money costs 1 percent.
The Government debt has - at least for the moment - a very low (mostly zero) risk weighting for capital adequacy purposes so the return on regulatory equity is more than adequate.
Now of all the things you want to be - top of the list these days has got to be a trader at a dumb bank paid a percentage of income earned at bonus time. Massive return on equity. Unlimited funds to employ. Christmas. Indeed a lifetime of silly-seasons all at once courtesy Super Mario.
Of course your bank is not just going to sign over the 20 million check. You are going to have to bamboozle them for that. After all, the European Government Bond carry trade patently risks capital and the risk management department should charge you mega-bucks for that capital. Indeed the risk management department probably should do more than that and stop you.
At Goldman Sachs (where they are quite tight) the risk management department would stop it dead. Contra: at MF Global certain senior Goldies employees demonstrated how Goldies traders without Goldies risk management behave.
But even at MF Global the risk management department knew what was going on.
So dear traders seeking large bonuses: how do you complicate it beyond the feeble minds of your local back-office? You can do complex things with government bonds - strips, interest rate swaps and all sorts of high-fallutin maths that comes from them.
You might not believe me: remember Joseph Jett who misstated profits and risks at Kidder Peabody (then part of General Electric, now buried in UBS). He reported enormous profits and took home an $8.2 million bonus. Jett operated entirely in Government bonds and their derivatives.
So what are you waiting for? The complexity of the stuff you can trade - all dependent on the above ECB provided carry - is enormous. And surely you are smart enough to run rings around the kids in the risk management department.
Wall Street has proven that complexity and cheap money are the road to riches. Now, dear European traders, is your time.
Hop to it boys. You got a Christmas card to collect.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Posted by John Hempton at 1:56 PM
The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Hempton. Mr. Hempton may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Hempton's recommendations. The commentary in this blog in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. In fact, it should not be relied upon in making investment decisions, ever. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author. In particular this blog is not directed for investment purposes at US Persons.