Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog » How Wall Street is making its billions:

Because of the Collapse of 2008 financial reforms, the big investment banks are able to borrow money from the U.S. government at 0 percent interest. Then they can turn around and buy short-term bonds that pay 2 or 3 percent annual interest. Now they’re making 2 percent on whatever they borrowed. They can use leverage to increase this number, by pledging some of the bonds that they’ve already bought as collateral on additional bonds.

I asked if they were taking any risk in order to earn this return. “If interest rates went up to 20 percent, even though the bonds are short-term, the price of the bond could fall enough to make the trade a money-loser.” (Though since the banks are too big to fail, they would simply be bailed out with additional taxpayer funds.)

What kind of bonds are they buying? Are they investing the money in American business? “No, they are mostly buying Treasuries.” So the money is just being shuffled from one Federal bank account to another, with each Wall Street bank skimming off $1 billion per month for itself? “Pretty much.”

12:34 AM