Stock Market Wealth


by | Stock Market Wealth

When This Bubble Pops,
Most Will Lose Fortunes

I’ve been fortunate to have visited 45 countries in my 37 years on this planet, but one remote island that I am eager to set foot upon and explore, still eludes me and it is Iceland.

My plan is to wait until my wife gives birth (she is pregnant!) and then to plan the best way and optimal season of the year to make it our first post-birth vacation.

Iceland is a small country, with only 320,000 inhabitants and a GDP of about $20bn, the equivalent of what the Treasury department pays to its lenders in interest payments for the next 13 days!

It’s a majestic region, and the only country where Europe’s and America’s tectonic plates meet above water. You can literally have one foot in Europe, while the other is in America.

Their democracy is stable, with few crime cases, low unemployment, clean air and renewable energy sources and, up until the year 2000, a nationalized banking system.

In order to modernize and to fully join the west, a massive deregulation experiment took place in the 2000’s, as Glitnir, Kaupthing and Islandsbanki, the country’s three largest banks, were privatized all at once.

In the five years that followed, these entities, which had never conducted business outside of the country, borrowed $120bn dollars!

At the time, these banks’ outstanding loans were 10 times the size of Iceland’s economy!

The local stock market rallied 800%, due to the currency in the system with home prices rising by 100%, all the while the banks drove depositors to switch from savings to money-market accounts, which banks can speculate with.

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    In 2007, accounting giant KPMG gave Icelandic banks a big thumbs up and U.S. rating agencies gave them a AAA (triple A) rating.

    In 2008, the whole debt structure collapsed and government bailouts became the strategy that most countries chose, in order to deal with the systemic failure of financial institutions.

    Wall Street’s and the financial sector’s deregulation era started back in the early 1980s and brought about the Savings & Loans crisis (that cost the economy $124bn), the tech speculative mania (in which banks were fined heavily for facilitating and profiting from) and, of course, the 2008 Great Financial Crisis.

    What did the banks and insurance companies do wrong?

    In a nutshell, they leveraged their depositors’ purchasing power (their savings and assets under management), in order to both market riskier and more complex financial products (derivatives, credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities), all for the purpose of generating bigger gains, without any self-enforcement or restraint and without much government regulation and very little oversight.

    The biggest problem was the incentive system!

    Regulators, finance ministers, treasury secretaries, lobbyists and high level enforcers were getting courted by the financial sector’s high compensation and lucrative bonuses. For example, one third of Iceland’s regulators moved to work for banks, after their terms had ended.

    Today, where is all of this debt?

    The banks’ balance sheets are better than ever and so are the insurers; the problem isn’t with the financial sector anymore. The gains were privatized and went to the bankers, while the losses were nationalized and were paid by us.

    Right now, debt is out of control on a sovereign level; that’s a major concern, since the public can’t bail out its own government due to the size of the obligations. This means the next crisis will result in real losses {that can be papered over and kicked down the road}, ones that leave lenders s**t out of luck and all of the pension funds are neck deep in bonds, so watch out!

    Best Regards,

    Lior Gantz

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