FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Crisis in Dubai

by MIKE WHITNEY

The default in Dubai is not the beginning of Financial Meltdown 2.  Don’t look for dominoes here. Yes, it does raise serious questions about the vast debt-overhang in emerging economies–particularly East Europe. But, this is not a "sovereign default" in the strict sense, nor is there any great risk of contagion. Oil-rich Abu Dhabi is loaded with liquid assets, possibly as much as $800 billion. They could pay off Dubai World’s measly $60 billion debt without batting an eye. But Abu Dhabi wants to send its wastrel younger brother a wake-up-call by forcing Dubai to restructure its debt. That means that banks, bondholders and contractors will have to take a haircut, which is not surprising given the abysmal condition of the commercial real estate market.

Dubai World owners were caught up in the same heady debt-fueled commercial construction-binge that swept across the United States. The problem can be traced back to lax lending standards and low interest rates. Now demand has fallen off a cliff and credit is getting tighter.   Dubai World can’t roll over its debt or meet its obligations. That’s what typically happens when credit bubbles bursts.

On Thursday, Bank of America analysts issued a statement:  “One cannot rule out — as a tail-risk — a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets in the same way that Argentina did in the early 2000s or Russia in the late 1990s.”

This is nonsense. There will be no sovereign default. Abu Dhabi is not going to send global markets into a nosedive to save a few billion dollars. B of A is blowing smoke. Oil has already slipped $3 per barrel since the crisis began. There will probably be a tentative resolution by the time the markets open on Monday. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t important lessons to be learned from this latest financial calamity. There are.

First, it illustrates that the financial crisis is not over—households, businesses and countries are still deleveraging. This ongoing process will slow spending and increase defaults, bankruptcies and foreclosures. Government guarantees and stimulus programs will not reverse prevailing trends.  More incidents like Dubai World should be expected. These "credit events" will disrupt the recovery and spur greater risk-aversion which will push stocks downward.

Arnab Das of RGE Monitor sums it up like this: "We’re bound to see a rise in risk aversion.  The Dubai situation signifies that although the major central banks around the world have stabilized the financial system, they can’t make all the excesses simply disappear. We still have to work out those balance sheet stresses. The recovery is proceeding, but significant challenges still lie ahead.” (Bloomberg News)

Second, when these incidents take place, there’s likely to considerable collateral damage from the unregulated insurance policies (credit default swaps) which underwrite the bonds. These CDS derivatives are not sold on a public exchange so no one knows who holds them, in what amount, or whether the issuer has sufficient capital reserves to pay off claims. We should expect a repeat of AIG over and over again (although smaller) until the system is either regulated or CDS are banned. The bottom line, is that the current financial architecture is not designed to work; it is designed to make a handful of speculators very rich. These speculators own congress, the White House and the financial media, which is why there has been no meaningful change in regulations.

Dubai is not Argentina. There will be a resolution and contractors will get paid, although not "in full." There will be losses. Big losses. But no contagion.

News of Dubai’s payment "standstill" roiled global markets where investor confidence was already thin. The dollar and yen strengthened and US Treasuries surged. The "flight to safety" is making it doubly hard for the Fed to reflate asset prices. Dubai-like credit events make investors jittery and they pull in their horns. That extends the slump and deepens the recession.

If the Dubai crisis drags on, the dollar will get stronger and the flourishing carry trade will crash. That means that the maxed-out banks (which are heavily invested in high-risk positions) will get clobbered once again. That’s the nightmare scenario.

The Fed has wrapped its arms around the financial system and provided unlimited guarantees on trillions of dollars of dodgy collateral. Even so, that might not be enough.

This just in….

Monday update:

Nov. 30 (Bloomberg) — The United Arab Emirates’ central bank eased credit for lenders and said it “stands behind” the country’s local and foreign banks as they face losses from Dubai World’s possible default….. Banks will be able to borrow money from the regulator for half a percentage point above the three month local benchmark interest rate, the Abu Dhabi-based Central Bank of the U.A.E. said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

“This is a timely pre-emptive move from the central bank," Ahmet Akarli,  an economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in London said in a note to investors. The central bank is “ensuring that local markets are operational” and banks “have access to ample liquidity.” (Bloomberg)

Government-Sachs to the rescue, right on cue.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

More articles by:
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail