28 02, 2022

Karen Petrou: What’s to Come as SWIFT Sanctions Take Hold

2023-04-04T14:58:10-04:00February 28th, 2022|The Vault|

A few years back, I gave a speech at SWIFT’s annual meeting knowing little of what it did beyond the speakers I was invited to join.  While the meeting was in a cavernous conference center, the off-hours discussions in magnificent chateaus were small, serious, and — at least for me — insightful as to the awesome power of a seemingly-simple “messaging system”.  Now, of course, the world knows why Swift matters– indeed, Vladimir Putin is taking this so seriously that we’re all reminded of the literal meaning of the “nuclear option.” Putin is right –America’s “soft” economic power gives it a weapon of formidable might.

Will it backfire?  One of the questions I’ve repeatedly gotten over the weekend is whether U.S. banks can withstand market disruptions now or under even greater stress if sanctions expand to still more Russian banks and thereafter also to those still doing business with them.  In short, there is no doubt that banks in the U.S. will withstand near-term stress and even less-resilient ones in the EU and Japan will do the same.

The reason for this is the demonstrable certainty that central banks will intervene to ensure dollar liquidity across the world and financial-market liquidity wherever it seems threatened.  Unlike 2008 and 2020 when Fed windows were opened too wide and too long, this geopolitical crisis is of no financial firm or central bank’s making. What all this new money might do to already-bloated financial markets is yet to be known, but central banks …

21 01, 2022

Karen Petrou: Few Financial Fall-Out Shelters If Russia Invades Ukraine

2023-04-24T11:51:21-04:00January 21st, 2022|The Vault|

Perhaps nothing says as emphatically that market valuations are divorced from reality as the fact that equity and bond markets are essentially ignoring the increasing risk that Russia invades Ukraine.  Investors have grown used to shrugging off geopolitical risks – see just the brief chills after Russia’s previous invasions of Crimea and Georgia as cases in point.  But this time is different because this time Ukraine is a critical link in Europe’s energy supply, macroeconomic stress in Europe will have immediate global repercussions, and Vladimir Putin is making it more than clear that this time he’s not just playing around with minor nations he thinks of as vassal states.  This time, he will go to the economic map if he believes the Western response to his invasion might pose too much risk to Russia’s economy and his popularity and there’s no reason to doubt him.  As a result, I hope Treasury and the Fed are keeping a careful eye on the Treasury market and global payment system, not to mention on the cyber-security on which core market infrastructure rests.  The threat is all too real.

Treasury has long known that the “nuclear option” when it comes to economic sanctions is denying Russia access to any financial institution with any kind of domicile in the U.S. or any point of access to the U.S. payment system topped off by SWIFT sanctions blocking Russian access to the global payment system.  If Treasury fires these high-powered missiles – and it’s likely to have …

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