Irish variable rates March 2009

Here are the variable rates on offer at present from Irish lenders

AIB variable 2.79% ICS variable <50% LTV 2.90% BOI variable <50% LTV 2.90% AIB LTV 50-80% 3.00% EBS variable 3.13% Halifax LTV<50% 3.15% KBC (12mth disc.std.var) 3.98% Haven variable 3.7% PTsb LTV<80% 4.1% PTsb LTV>80% 4.2% NIB variable 4.23% Bank of Scotland 4.23% First Active 4.5% Ulsterbank 5.4%

These variable mortgage rates are as of March 2009 ranked according to prices.

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The Criteria Crunch

We have just been informed that one the lenders we deal with are only getting through applications received by the 4th of March, that is a near 20 day delay on new applications they are considering. Why the backlog? Has the market suddenly recovered? Are they being flooded?

No, rather it is a case that in banks nearly everybody has been enlisted to work in ‘collections’ and the staff were taken from every other department, in particular the ‘new business’ section. The bank we are talking about today merged their direct channel with brokerage so even going via a branch makes no difference, the whole company has only four working underwriters.

So inasmuch as the credit explosion saw too many resources being thrown at lending and the expansion of same, the crunch is doing the exact opposite by overshooting the mark in the reduction of resources. For a publicly quoted bank to be 20 days behind means that the market is facing yet another hurdle in reaching its rational level. Lending hasn’t frozen, people are …

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Why wasting the talent of 400,000 people is a mistake

With unemployment expected to reach 400,000 it tells you one thing instantly: among the group you will have a cross sector encompassing every facet of society. Scientists, builders, finance workers, bus drivers, fast food employees et al will stand shoulder to shoulder in the dole queue, likely with little or no interaction because, quite frankly, unless you’ve signed on before then you know not the frustrating depression that comes with it.

So what could we do? Does it even make sense to allow such a waste of talent? If we have a state that pumping money into the system so that we can be saved from ourselves then should this extend into how we think about welfare? I would say the answer is yes.

There are many people who have lost jobs who probably didn’t love what they did to begin with, obviously they love it more than the dole but if this is the case then why not use this juncture to help them pursue something that …

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GO TO JAIL! Do not pass go, do not collect €200 million

The talk of ‘Economic Treason’ and calling for the heads of every banker are sadly starting to gain more and more traction, all of this is happening without concrete evidence thus far of exactly ‘who’ we are chasing and ‘for what’ specifically, largely the financial leaders greed is central to accusations of wrongdoing, and while greed may not be morally acceptable to right thinking individuals it is not actually a crime.

The FT recently had an article showing that executive pay misguided but that it didn’t make them criminal by nature, stupidity is an ‘equal opportuntities’ trait. It is important that every person in finance is not villified for what was something that all of society played a part in.

One question nobody is asking is ‘what part did I play in this?’, as a brokerage we are culpable, as a consumer I am personally culpable and as a citizen I will be paying for mistakes made on both …

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How you are already paying for nationalization

With one bank totally nationalised and others due to get recapitalised any day now it is time to ask ‘Who is paying, or going to pay for all of this?’. And the answer is in short – the tax payer, it’s just a matter of when and how.

One interesting conversation I had today was with a banking colleague (and I don’t have many friends in the bank system!) who asked me this ‘How can some banks offer deposit rates that are so far above the money market?!’. I told him that this offer existed because of the margins being charged on their lending.

His belief was that they are effectively selling government bonds via their deposit function, the state can either capitalise them -and doing so goes on the official record- or they can be propped up with deposits paid in by the public for high returns, however those returns may eventually have to be paid for by the state and thus, ultimately, by the taxpayer.

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Short selling, what is it? What does short selling do?

Most of us are familiar with the idea of being able to buy and then sell a share, normally this is referred to as going ‘long’ in other words you feel it is a good share and you want to hold on to it. The opposite of this is where you sell and then buy which is going ‘short’, in other words you don’t think the stock is good and you don’t want to hold on to it so you borrow it and sell it today, buy it tomorrow (and dispose again to the original owner) and your position is set by the difference.

In a short sale a drop in the price makes you money because (for instance) if you sold today at $3.00 and bought back at $2.80 then you made 20c per share. If however, the price goes up to say $3.20 then you have to make up the difference. This is before we get into other areas like options or any derivatives. An easy …

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Some past market performance figures

Naturally past economic cycles don’t tell us exactly what will happen in the future, but as Mark Twain once said ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme’. And for that reason it is worth looking at some key figures from the past, showing that often the gains in bull markets are all found at the cusp of a bear market.

The stock market generally reacts before consumers and the real economy do and equally it will generally see recovery before them as well. Taking a view of the 20th century markets we can see the following:

In the recession of 1926 to 1927 the market increased by 41%. The years of 1933 to 1937 saw some of the most impressive gains ever in the S&P 500. The eight month recession of 1945 saw markets rise 19.5%, the eleven month recession of 1948-49 saw the markets go up 15.2%. Again in 1953-1954 the ten month recession ended with a market that rose 24.2%.

Any reader will note that much of these ‘gains’ did …

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