Show me the money

The long awaited results of the US administration’s stress tests for US bank will be announced on May 7th. There have been various rumours and speculation about the details in terms of the extent that banks will require further capital injections and indeed which banks will need such injections. Ahead of the announcement I thought it would be an interesting exercise to look at the potential equity needed in the global financial sector.

Some light on this was shed by the IMF’s recent release of the Global Financial Stability Report in which the fund increased its total estimates of global writedowns to over $4 trillion. The most recent estimates of financial sector writdowns suggest that institutions are only about one-third of the way there.

In other words there is still a considerable amount of writedowns on toxic debt left to be undertaken. The IMF estimated further writedowns in the US in 2009 and 2010 at $550 billion, $750 billion in the eurozone and $200 billion in the UK.

Moreover, they estimate that financial institutions will require $500 billion of additional capital in the US, $725 billion in the eurozone and $250 billion in the UK just to raise the ratio of common equity to total assets (a measure of leverage) to 6%. Even these estimates may prove conservative. After all, the IMF has raised its estimates of total writedowns several times already and will likely do so again. These figures do not even include the need for other financing which when added amounts to around 60% of Bank’s total assets.

The bottom line is that even with all the money that is being provided to financial institutions at present it will be highly unlikely that they will be able to raise sufficient capital if the IMF’s estimates are anything to go by. Consequently balance sheets will contract sharply and deleveraging will continue.  Governments will be forced to provide support for a long time to come and the end result will be either outright nationalisation or alternatively bankruptcy for some institutions that are deemed not too big to fail.  Worryingly the risks are skewed on the downside, especially if the economic recovery is a weak one which I believe is highly likely to be the case.

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