Black Magic Solvency

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Soros puts clean and concise words to what many of us already mutter to ourselves manically while in line at Shake Shack: "...the banking system as a whole is basically insolvent...." How often have we muttered these same words in chant-like monotony, invoked the talisman of the Chapter of Seven and waited for intervention to intervene? Alas, our pleas (and yours) had thusfar been ignored. We tried everything. We even gave that creepy Idol from the Hawaiian burial grounds to Dan Loeb for "good luck," hoping he might trigger a larger financial correction, but even though he wore the damn thing around his neck all day, all he did was have a mild accident during the surfing contest.
Well, no more trafficking in creepy idols and curses for us. The mad Hungarian did the heavy lifting for us:

He added that the system that has allowed the United States to spend more than it earns has to be reformed. "That is coming to an end and it will not be allowed to recur. There will have to be some change."

Way to rain on our picnic, György.
Soros says U.S. banks "basically insolvent" [Reuters]


JPMorgan's Voldemort Probably Isn't That Magical

John Carney has hilariously convinced a bunch of people that JPMorgan whale-wizard Bruno Iksil could actually be running a synthetic bank on top of JPMorgan's actual bank. The theory, propounded to him by a mysterious trader and sort of supported by an old PIMCO client note, is that Iksil was tasked with hedging JPMorgan's inflation risk and did so by putting on a trade that was (1) long TIPS (for the inflation) + (2) long [write protection on] CDX (for the yield). Now I will tell you a thing, which is that I hedge my inflation risk by being (1) long TIPS (for the inflation) + (2) long MegaMillions tickets (for the yield),* but nobody calls me Voldemort. Here is Doug Braunstein's theory about Iksil: On a conference call with analysts, Braunstein said the positions are meant to hedge investments the bank makes in “very high grade” securities with excess deposits. (J.P. Morgan has some $1.1 trillion in worldwide deposits.) Braunstein said the CIO positions are meant to offset the risk of a “stress-loss” in that credit portfolio. He added the CIO position is made in line with the bank’s overall risk strategy. What can that mean? Presumably the sensible view to take from this is that this is actually part of a "stress-loss" hedge; the CIO is short (bought protection on) a lot of shorter-dated corporate credit and funds it by being long (selling protection on) a lot of longer-dated (5-year) corporate credit, so as to be relatively DV01-neutral but long jump risk. This has the advantage of (1) actually hedging a stress loss in high-grade short-term corporate securities, (2) fitting in with the relative lack of noise in the CIO portfolio,** (3) being what people have told Bloomberg he was doing, and (4) being what JPMorgan has actually said it's actually done in the CIO during the crisis. So it's probably true no? But it's fun to pretend! If you pretend Carney is right you can have one of two views.*** One is Izabella Kaminska's, which is "sure, I guess this is a hedge, but boy is it a mysterious one." You can buy this if you have - as she does - a pretty postmodernist view of what a hedge is. I do too, mostly.