A value-at-risk model basically works like this. You have some stuff, which is worth X today. Tomorrow it will be worth X + Y, where Y ranges from more or less negative infinity to positive infinity. Y is a function of a bunch of correlated random variables, rates and credit and stock prices and general whatnot. You look at a distribution of moves in those variables and take (usually) a 2-standard deviation daily move; if 95% of the time rates move by -10 to +10 basis points, your VaR model will assume a -10bp or +10bp move, whichever is bad for you. You take the 95%-worst-case, taking into account correlation etc., and tot up how much you’d lose in that case. Then you write that number down and feel a bit better, since you’ve sort of implicitly replaced “we have $X today and will have some number between negative and positive infinity tomorrow” with “we have $X today and will have some number between ($X – VaR) and positive infinity tomorrow,” though of course the first statement is true but unhelpful and the second is not true and also unhelpful.
But that aside! You get your VaR from a distribution of your variables, but the obvious question is what distribution. A good answer would be like “the distribution of those variables over the next three months,” say, for quarterly reporting, but of course that is only a good answer because it begs the question; if you knew what would happen over the next three months you would, one assume, always end those three months with more than $X and this VaR thing would be moot or moot-ish.1
So instead you look at things that you think will allow you to predict that future distribution as accurately as possible, which is epistemically troubling since VaR is a measure of how inaccurate your predictions might turn out to be. Anyway! You pick a distribution of variables based on the sort of stuff that you always use to estimate future distributions in your future-distribution-estimating business, which could mean distributions implied by market prices (e.g. option implied vol) but which seems to mostly mean historical distributions. You look at the last N days of data and assume that the world will be similarly distributed in the following M days, because really what else is there to do.
Picking the number of days to use is hard because, one, this is in some strict sense a nonsense endeavor, but also two, the world changes over time, so looking back one year is for instance rather different from looking back four years. Here is how different: Read more »
I don’t have much insight into Citi’s earnings but I do enjoy the reporting of them. When a car or Facebook company reports earnings you basically ask questions like “how many cars or Facebooks did it sell?” and “how much money did it make on each one?” and those questions are kind of answerable and their answers give you a sense of how you should feel in your heart about the company. When a bank – like, a bank bank – reports earnings you can ask “how many mortgages did it sell?” and “how much money did it make on each one?” and those answers will be useful to you too, though there will be murky liquidity and valuation overhangs that will reduce their usefulness.
If you asked those questions of Citi, you might or might not get answers that might or might not be useful, but you’d be hard pressed to translate them into the headlines on Citi’s earnings. Big banks are not primarily engines for selling products and collecting a margin on them; they are bundles of accounting decisions, and this is never more apparent than at earnings time. This is pretty far removed from economic activity in the world:
Citigroup Inc.’s third-quarter profit fell 88% as the bank took charges tied to the value of its debt and the sale of a stake in its brokerage joint venture …
Others chose to emphasize economic activity in the world, at the cost of, y’know, GAAP: Read more »
When the financial crisis hit, financial services employees could have easily decided that patronizing strip clubs, alone or with clients, was an expense that had to go. Spent a few more hours on YouPorn and, when there were particularly substantial fees at stake, offered an enthusiastic hand job in the back of the cab after dinner. But guess what? Wall Street didn’t stop hitting up strip clubs and, on the contrary, redoubled its support. So much so that one gentlemen’s club in particular would like to express its appreciation. A little thank you, for always being there to shove 20’s in g-strings. Read more »
Deutsche Bank had two weird little bits of gun-jumping news today, one good(ish), one bad (just bad). The good news is that Deutsche Bank has decided that it wasn’t manipulating Libor too much:
A Deutsche Bank internal probe has found that two of its former traders may have been involved in colluding to manipulate global benchmark interest rates but there was no indication of failure at the top of the organization, three people close to the investigation said.
So … great? Those two Deutsche Bank traders can look forward to possible jail, but the buck stops with them: the board-appointed probe has exonerated the board. Ha ha ha you say, but why not? Jailable Libor manipulation by traders seems conceptually distinct from approved-by-the-Fed-and-BoE Libor manipulation for the perceived good of the financial system, and while the former is worse for the traders and submitters the latter might be worse for the top officers. At Barclays, at least, senior people were not intervening to pick up half a basis point here and there on swaps trades, but they were intervening to make themselves look pretty in the eyes of markets and Paul Tucker. And now they’re gone! At Deutsche, we don’t know what this report says, but there’s at least fake statistical evidence that DB didn’t systematically skew Libor one way or another, suggesting that the einzigen Badapfel* theory might be true, or true enough for the board not to fire itself, which is a lower bar.
The bad news is that DB announced today that it expects to announce crummy earnings next week, to the tune of EUR1.0bn/700mm of pre/after-tax net income in 2Q2012, down from 1.8/1.2bn in 2Q2011 and off ~30% from analyst estimates. This puzzled me not so much in earnings being down – what else is new, new normal, etc. – but in that we’re getting a sneak preview a week before earnings. Why do that? Read more »
You can’t possibly care about GS earnings can you? “Beat Diminished Expectations” is an elegant summary. FICC looks anemic relative to JPM and C but as Glenn Schorr of Nomura pointed out on the call some of what those guys call FICC Goldman calls “Investing & Lending” and an important principle of selling financial services generally is that non-comparability helps you so good work Viniar!
Good work Viniar generally; my favorite bit was when Schorr asked about all the recent partner departures and Viniar said basically that they were making up for lost time what with all the partner non-departures over the last four years, when it was a “tough economic environment, a tough reputational environment,” and partners – well they were so “completely loyal” that they just couldn’t leave GS in the lurch at trying times like those. This tickled me because, boy, don’t you wish you were a Goldman partner? In my line of work, when nobody was hiring and if they were hiring they weren’t hiring Goldman alums because Goldman was a vampire squid sucking the stuffing out of muppets, staying at Goldman until conditions improved was just simple pragmatism and nothing to be proud of: if you can’t get a job elsewhere, and you need a job, it stands to reason that you keep the job you’ve got. But once you’re making ten bucks a year the same behavior is the height of loyalty: since you don’t need a job anywhere, you show that you’re unbowed by the bad job environment and Goldman’s tarnished reputation by continuing to draw your partner paychecks. That seems right actually, and I promise you that I will grow many delightful moral qualities if you pay me $10 million a year. Read more »
I have nothing particularly useful to tell you about Citi’s earnings – they were good, yay, well done Vik, one day maybe you’ll be able to pay a dividend – so let me ask you some useless things. My favorite useless thing is DVA, which is the thing where if you are a bank you “lose” “money” when your credit improves and you “make” “money” when your credit gets worse, which is in some ways the opposite of right though also not, like, totally away from reality. Citi suffered thereby for its virtue:
Citigroup reported improved first-quarter earnings on Monday, with steady growth in the bank’s globe-spanning consumer businesses and a rebound in investment banking from a poor previous quarter.
Net income was $3.4bn in the first quarter compared with $3.2bn a year earlier as revenue grew just 1 per cent to $20.2bn. Those measures exclude the impact of so-called “debt valuation adjustments” – an accounting rule that makes companies take gains or losses from swings in the price of their own debt. On a reported basis, including DVA, Citi’s net earnings were down at $2.9bn.
So three useless thoughts/questions for you on that:
JPMorgan had a … quarter, whatever, goreadaboutit. Top and bottom-line beats with revs up and net income down y/o/y. And JPMorgan’s investment bank had a … you’d have to say pretty good quarter, with fees still not where I’d like to see them as a former fee-getting banker but with FICC bouncing back nicely from last quarter.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has transformed the bank’s chief investment office in the past five years, increasing the size and risk of its speculative bets, according to five former executives with direct knowledge of the changes.
Achilles Macris, hired in 2006 as the CIO’s top executive in London, led an expansion into corporate and mortgage-debt investments with a mandate to generate profits for the New York- based bank, three of the former employees said. Dimon, 56, closely supervised the shift from the CIO’s previous focus on protecting JPMorgan from risks inherent in its banking business, such as interest-rate and currency movements, they said.
Some of Macris’s bets are now so large that JPMorgan probably can’t unwind them without losing money or roiling financial markets, the former executives said, based on knowledge gleaned from people inside the bank and dealers at other firms.
Har har har. Much of my admiration for Jamie Dimon comes from the fact that JPMorgan more or less does what Goldman is always accused of doing, and more or less gets away with it, so it’s nice to have proof that JPMorgan is Just A Giant Hedge Fund Masquerading As A Bank. And the story is juicy; I loved the description of Macris as “always ha[ving] off-the-wall ideas, but in hindsight sort of smart ideas,” which golly I have met people like that and I wouldn’t necessarily trust them with all my cash. Read more »