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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Michael Panzner warns again of systemic risk

Michael Panzner continues to warn of a possible financial earthquake. His 17 May article in Seeking Alpha (see my link list) quotes the NY Fed Reserve President as saying "consolidation of global financial firms, increased leverage and increased complacency all have raised the risk of a systemic shock" - what I'd call the BBC syndrome (big, borrowed heavily and complacent about system risk).

Bigness is no guarantee of security, rather the reverse - think of hedge fund Long Term Capital Management, or indeed the Titanic; on borrowing, the bears have warned until they are hoarse; and complacency has been fostered by increases in the money supply.

Perhaps the complacency is the most dangerous part. People like Michael Panzner and Peter Schiff are like the architect in the 1974 movie "Towering Inferno", worried about a potential disaster because of bad wiring; but the warnings are ignored because there's extra profit in trimming security.

It's noteworthy that the Fed Reserve President, Timothy Geithner, was addressing his remarks to a conference on derivatives, which according to Mr Panzner are another source of instability in the world economy. Derivatives use highly complex mathematical tools, but as far as I can make out their purpose is simple: to see how near to disaster you can go without crossing the line. In other words, trimming security.

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