quinta-feira, 20 de setembro de 2007

Show me the Money

Um pouco da história das "corridas aos Bancos", que diga-se durante o padrão-ouro, eram o mecanismo pelo qual precisamente a moeda preservava a sua qualidade, ao punir os Bancos que a punham em causa.

O processo é simples de descrever:

1- Banco abre negócio
2- Os primeiros depositantes "depositam" 10 moedas de ouro e recebem 10 recibos de depósito (notas)
3- Um empresário pretende de crédito 100 moedas de ouro
4- O Banco fabrica 100 recibos de moedas depositadas falsas, concede o crédito e entrega os recibos ao empresário.
5- Passam a existir 110 recibos de depósito de moedas de ouro, contra os quais o Banco apenas tem 10 moedas de ouro(!!) - "reservas parciais"
6- Um dia, os detentores de recibos de 11 moedas de ouro lembram-se de levantar as moedas de ouro.

7- O Banco só tem 10 moedas. A palavra espalha-se e "irracionalmente e em pânico" (sempre o comentário dos economistas, banqueiros, etc) vão tentar levantar as suas moedas de ouro, de acordo com o contrato implicito no recibo (notas).

A confiança numa entidade depositária ou é total ou nenhuma. Por isso as corridas aos Bancos quando surge a mínima das dúvidas.

Fraude é a única palavra de que me lembro (efeito jurídico) para qualificar este processo. Entretanto outro efeito agora económico é o facto do investimento do empresário ter sido feito sem o processo económico assegurar-se que existiu poupança real para o suportar, assim como em termos de preço a taxa de juro será óbviamente muito menor do que a que seria se tivesse de convencer os detentores de 100 moedas de ouro...reais.

"The Guardian : Show us the money

The run on the Northern Rock building society is nothing new. As long as there have been banks there have been crises of confidence - and some were truly spectacular, as Jon Henley reports

A large crowd waits outside the Farmers and Mechanics Savings Bank in Minneapolis in the US in the 1890s. Photograph: Minnesota Historical Society/Corbis

It may come as no consolation to the depositors of Northern Rock who queued so patiently outside their local branches, but they are far from the first victims of a banking panic. In fact, the words "banking" and "panic" have been linked for just about as long as financial institutions have existed. No less an authority than the top US investment bank Lehman Brothers, for example, blames the start of the western world's first identifiably financial crash and subsequent bank run on the moment when some incompetent and unimaginative corporate bean-counter in the accounts department of the Holy Roman Empire decided it would be a fun idea to debase its coinage. And that was in 1622.

Then there was Holland's 1637 tulip bubble, during which a single tulip bulb could briefly fetch six times the average wage or, if you were very lucky, a six-bedroomed piece of prime real estate beside one of Amsterdam's premier canals (one particularly precious speciemen, the Semper Augustus, was apparently once sold for 6,000 Dutch florins at a time when a tonne of butter cost 100). You would have thought, too, that Britain's South Sea Bubble of 1720 might have taught us all a few lessons about exaggerated claims of future returns and fevered, easy-money speculation, but of course no: after losing a terrifying £20,000 on the venture, even Sir Isaac Newton was induced to observe that he could "calculate the movement of the stars, but not the madness of men".

Again, according to Lehman Brothers, the 18th century saw 11 banking and financial crashes and the 19th another 18, including American banking crises in (to keep things brief) 1819, 1837, 1847, 1857, 1873, 1884, 1890 and 1896. There were a healthy 33 such storms in the 20th century, chief among them the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Japanese financial turmoil of the 1990s. All, to varying degrees, have caused considerable distress to investors and savers large and small. Stuffing the lot under your mattress may not be such a crazy notion after all.

Victorian banking crisis

By the late 19th century, the City of London and its banks - huge, hierarchical, top-heavy, complacent - seemed all but unassailable. But they were not. In 1866, for example, the bill broker and discount banker Overend, Gurney & Co collapsed with debts of £11m, a breathtaking sum at the time. The company's directors were promptly tried for fraud, but not before they had triggered a financial crisis that saw some 200 other companies, including many smaller banks, go out of business. In 1878, the City of Glasgow Bank also collapsed, its £5.2m "deficiency of capital" reportedly ruining all but 254 of its 1,819 shareholders. These misadventures did, however, have the beneficial effect of prompting our nation's leading financial institutions to behave with a shade more financial responsibility, notably by doing their accounts, underpinned by the establishment of the Bank of England as a lender of last resort.

The panic of 1907

This was a big American crisis during which the stock market lost half its value, the economy fell into recession, banks and trust companies suffered countless and catastrophic runs and the National Bank of North America collapsed. It was sparked, apparently, by a decision by a few New York banks to retract loans but soon spread nationwide and eventually led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System, America's central bank, in 1913. For a number of reasons we do not pretend to understand, it appears that a key player in the crisis was a Mr F Augustus Heinze and his splendidly named Knickerbocker Trust Company, whose dodgy dealings in the financial and commodities markets helped precipitate a stock market crash. The end of the American economy as we know it was, however, averted by one JP Morgan, who sorted the problem out by organising money transfers between the banks, setting up international credit lines, and buying up cheap shares in fundamentally healthy outfits. He did quite well out of it.

The Wall Street crash

The grandaddy of all modern financial disasters began with a frantic flurry of selling (more than 12m shares) on Black Thursday, October 24 1929. Trading slowed somewhat over the next few days, but a sudden slump in share prices gave it second wind, and on October 29, Black Tuesday, the world's foremost capital market crashed, with investors selling a total of 16,410,030 shares, a number not exceeded until 30 years later. Some $14bn was wiped off the value of the New York Stock Exchange in the first day alone, obliging unhappy NYSE clerks to work until 5am the next morning to record all the transactions. By 1933, some 11,000 of America's 25,000 banks had gone bust (although most of the big boys, the Morgans and Rockefellers and Lehmans, survived) and millions of investors were ruined, 11 of them famously jumping from upper-floor windows of Wall Street as the scale of the catastrophe - and of their own losses - became apparent. This was a crash so enormous, so profound, that it marked the end of one era and the start of another; the Roaring Twenties came to a close, the Black Thirties began. Over the next few years, America's jobless total climbed to 13m and millions lost their homes in the Great Depression. Stock prices were still 75% below their 1929 peak as late as April 1942, and it took the market as a whole a quarter of a century to recover.

The Wall Street crash, you may not be surprised to learn, followed a decade-long speculative boom during which millions of investors piled into the stock market and borrowed to buy more. Rising share prices prompted more and more people to invest and more and more banks to lend more and more, creating a classic economic bubble. By the time the end came, brokers would lend you as much as 60% of the face value of the shares you wanted to buy. To those with a little knowledge of economics, this may sound alarmingly familiar. Also familiar may be the fact that the American president of the day declared it would be inappropriate to intervene.

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