Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Makes No Sense: LIBOR By Bank

Everyone knows there is something very screwy about LIBOR, with opinion ranging from it's way too high to the opposite. We also have been quite vocal in our opinion of the TED Spread but that's irrelevant for the time being. Lately we have been looking at the most recent BBA data for the 3 month LIBOR submission by bank and while the average is 1.122%, the range is quite wide: 1.04% at the tight end to 1.204% at the wide. What confuses us is that the banks that submitted the lowest rates are the ones that have the most governmental independence, notably BofA and JPM, while the other end of the range is represented by pseudo nationalized banks such as RBS, in which the UK government recently acquired a 70% stake, and UBS, which had all of its bad assets swept by the Swiss National Bank in exchange for a loan (read more about the Swiss model here).

The implication is that with more governmental involvement or even virtual nationalization, the cost to lend to another bank creeps higher, when compared to entities such as BofA and JPM which still, at least theoretically, carry all their bad assets on their books. This intuitively is very confusing as the cheapest LIBOR should come from the nationalized entities, that have a full governmental backstop.

So while LIBOR's moves in itself have been very puzzling lately, the components of LIBOR and their relative values provide an additional layer to the puzzle.
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