Yes, Ms. Yellen…There Will Be Another Financial Crisis

Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair, recently stated;

“Will I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? No, probably that would be going too far. But I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will.

That is a pretty bold statement to make considering that every one of her predecessors failed to predict the negative consequences of their actions.

Will there will be another “Financial Crisis” in our lifetimes?

Yes, it is virtually guaranteed.

The previous “crisis” wasn’t about just “an asset gone bad,” but rather the systemic shock caused by a “freeze” in the credit markets when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Counterparties evaporated, banks froze lending and the credit market ceased to function.

Credit, not the stock market, is the “lifeblood” of the economy.

Of course, it is all good now because the Federal Reserve says so with Ms. Yellen placing a great amount of faith in the Federal Reserve’s own carefully constructing, and recently released results, of “bank stress tests.” Interestingly, EVERY bank passed with flying colors. In other words, the Millennial generation has now passed the baton of “Everybody Gets A Trophy” to the banking sector.

“Test results released by the Federal Reserve show that the 34 institutions under scrutiny have enough capital to make it through the two scenarios regulators posed — one akin to the financial crisis and another entailing a shallower downturn.

Under the scenarios, the banks tested ‘would experience substantial losses.’ However, in total, the institutions ‘could continue lending to businesses and households, thanks to the capital built up by the sector following the financial crisis.’

In the most severe scenario, bank losses are projected to be $493 billion. In the less severe, the losses were put at $322 billion.”

This passage of the “test” by every bank, of course, is based on several faulty assumptions including:

  • FASB Rule 157 is still repealed allowing banks to mythically mark bad assets to “face value” which makes balance sheets stronger than they appear. So, how do you know what “toxic assets” still exist?
  • There is roughly $2 Trillion of excess reserves supporting banks which will evaporate IF the Fed actually commences with shrinking their bloated balance sheet.
  • The worst case scenario only accounted for a “doubling” of the unemployment rate, or 8.6% from current levels, despite the fact we have an exceptionally low labor force participation rate and a surge to more than 10% is quite likely in the next recession.
  • With more leverage in the system than at any point any previous history, and banks inextricably linked to the financial markets, just how sensitive are the tests to another “worst case scenario?”

What was NOT included in the test was another “Financial Crisis” scenario which SHOULD be the baseline of the stress tests to begin with. Unemployment rates of 15% or more, asset price declines of 50% and default rates of 20% or greater on outstanding debt should be the baseline by which you stress test financial systems against another systemic shock.

The Federal Reserve is once again engaging in very faulty thinking by believing the system will operate normally during a more severe economic scenario. It isn’t just the losses projected on the banking sector in terms of defaulting loans that are the problem, but also the collapse in the asset markets when defaults ramp sharply as recessionary pressures build. Most assuredly, lenders will immediately shut off access to capital leading to another “freeze” in the credit system. (Not to mention the sharp losses in market capitalization due to share price declines.)

Here is why Janet Yellen is wrong in believing another “Financial Crisis” can’t occur.