Sunday 21 September 2008

Were the short sellers to blame?

It seems very unlikely. Apparently they comprised 3% of the participants during Wednesday's collapse of HBOS shares.

Adopted Domain lays bare the economic ignorance at Holyrood:

Why did HBOS go down? If you listen to the Holyrood debating chamber led by the SNP, the recent blamestorm pointed almost unanimously toward the short-sellers - the spivs and the speculators - who took a one way bet against the public purse. Andy Cochrane and Holyrood Chronicles are surprised to see politicians from all the main parties lining up to have a populist dig at the short sellers, with the exception of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, who seemed to be the only one with any financial literacy whatsoever. This, despite the fact that many of the same short sellers who allegedly brought down HBOS, will have lost a great deal of cash when the market rebounded at the end of last week, largely led by financial stocks.

The act of shorting stock does not bring banks down, a lack of trust in the business model does. It seems much more likely to me that the fact the growing perception in the city that HBOS had become too dependent on the wholesale money markets, just like Northern Rock, and the fact that it had the biggest exposure to the bust balloon UK property market, may well have been much bigger factors in their demise. Yet no criticism from Labour, the SNP, the Tories or the LibDems on the management of HBOS. And Gordon Browns solution to the crisis? Make a yet bigger bank.

I wonder whether MSPs really are as financially uninformed as they appear to be. Perhaps they just hope that spouting off about "spivs" will appeal to the electorate, no matter how nonsensical that theory may be. I have the horrible feeling that they really are ignorant and that doesn't make me too optimistic about what the political class will get up to in the future. Needless-to-say there's no evidence of any greater sophistication at Westminster.

As for HBOS itself, here's a marvellous quote from today's Mail on Sunday. It's about HBOS chairman Lord Stevenson:

Awarded the CBE in 1981 and made a life peer in 1999, he likes to describe himself as "an unreconstructed 1960s Guardian-reading liberal."
If Stevenson had been an unreconstructed 1860s (Manchester) Guardian-reading liberal none of this would have happened.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David Farrer
See Sunday 28th for the big picture. As far as HBOS is concerned, they seem to have gone too far into mortgage lending that was funded by the wholesale money market. Like Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley, but not to such an extent. 
I must say that HBOS branches look a bit like children's toyshops these days. My Clydesdale branch still looks boringly conservative. Like a bank actually - hopefully a good sign.

28 September 2008, 12:25:23 GMT+01:00
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David said there was a lack of trust in the business model... so I guess, the board is to blame.

24 September 2008, 16:29:26 GMT+01:00
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Who was to blame then, David?

24 September 2008, 15:04:14 GMT+01:00
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Andrew Duffin
It seems to me that Wee Eck was exactly right in saying that BoS had been brought down by Spivs. 
What he seems not have noticed is that the Spivs were in the boardroom, rather than the stock market.

23 September 2008, 13:58:08 GMT+01:00