Category Archives: leverage

5/1/20: EU’s Latest Financial Transactions Tax Agreement

My article on the proposed EU-10 plan for the Financial Transaction Tax via The Currency:

Link: or

Key takeaways:

"Following years of EU-wide in-fighting over various FTT proposals, ten European Union member states are finally approaching a binding agreement on the subject... Ireland, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus – the five countries known for aggressively competing for higher value-added services employers and tax optimising multinationals – are not interested."

"The rate will be set at 0.2 per cent and apply to the sales of shares in companies with market capitalisation in excess of €1 billion. This will cover also equity sales in European banks." Pension funds, trading in bonds and derivatives, and new rights issuance will be exempt.

One major fall out is that FTT "can result in higher volumes of sales at the times of markets corrections, sharper flash crashes and deeper markets sell-offs. In other words, lower short-term volatility from reduced speculation can be traded for higher longer-term volatility, and especially pronounced volatility during the crises. ... FTT is also likely to push more equities trading off-exchange, into the ‘dark pools’ and proprietary venues set up offshore, thereby further reducing pricing transparency and efficiency in the public markets."

14/12/19: Governance and Government Debt

What I am reading this week: a new paper via EFMA, titled "Governance and Government Debt" by João Imaginário and Maria João Guedes, available here:

The paper looks at "the relationship between Worldwide Governance Indicators [a proxy for governance quality] and Government Debt in 164 countries for the period between 2002 and 2015." Using fixed effects (FE) and generalized method of moments (GMM) models the authors show that "governance quality is negatively and statistically related with government debt. For Low Income countries was found evidence that better governance environment is associated with lower public debt levels."

More specifically, "for a set of 164 countries on a period between 2002 and 2015, ... estimation results for FE model suggest that Control of Corruption (CC) and Voice and Accountability (VA) indexes are negative and statistically significant on influencing government debt. In part, this result confirms our Hypothesis 1 that better governance quality is associated with lower levels of public
debt." But the study also shows that these 'global' effects are predominantly driven by the presence of low income countries in the full sample. The authors find that "the link between good governance quality and government debt reduction is more evident for Low Income countries."

As a caveat, the authors do find that overall higher score in the World Governance Indicators Index (as opposed to specific sub scores) has a negative and statistically significant impact on the levels of government debt, so that overall higher measure of governance quality is associated with lower government debt for the High Income economies. The magnitude of this effect was reasonably large, as well.

1/9/19: Priming the Bubble Pump: Extreme Credit Accommodation in the U.S.

Using Chicago Fed National Financial Conditions Credit Subindex (weekly, not seasonally adjusted data), I have plotted credit conditions measurements for expansionary cycles from 1971 through late August 2019. Positive values of the index indicate tightening of credit conditions in the economy, while negative values denote loosening of credit conditions.

Since the start of the 1982 expansionary cycle, every consecutive cycle was associated with sustained, long term loosening of credit conditions, which means the Fed and the regulatory authorities have effectively pumped up credit in the economy during economic expansions - a mark of a pro-cyclical approach to financial policies. This trend became extreme in the last three expansionary cycles, including the current one. In simple terms, credit conditions from the end of the 1990s recession, through today, have been exceptionally accommodating. Not surprisingly, all three expansionary cycles in question have been associated with massive increases in leverage and financialization of the economy, as well as resulting asset bubbles ( bubble in the 1990s, property bubble in the 2000s, and financial assets bubbles in the 2010s).

The current cycle, however, takes this broader trend toward pro-cyclical financial policies to a new level in terms of the duration of accommodation and the fact that it lacks any significant indication of moderation.