Friday, November 25, 2011

Contagion: "Interventions and bank queues in Eastern Europe"

This is a couple days late but I wanted to have it on the blog as a personal bookmark.
I keep thinking about something that one of America's best autodidactic historians said in one of her worst books:*

A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated that it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?
-Barbara Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, 1984

The blog first used it in 2008's "The Guns of August: Russia Breaks Ties With Nato; Sends Carrier to Syria; Surrounds Georgian Port" which I intro'd:
In Barbara Tuchman's history of the build-up to World War I, the themes that came through the strongest was how inexorable the process was. And how many opportunities to stop it were blown.
For some months I've had an edge-of-consciousness feeling that comes out of my (limited) understanding of that summer 94 years ago...
referring to one of her best books, "The Guns of August" which garnered her some hardware.

Anyhoo, here's FT Alphaville:

Reuters is reporting that Poland’s central bank stepped into the spot market for the fourth time in less than three months on Wednesday to help support the zloty versus the euro, which was once again nearing levels last seen in 2009.
But the Bank’s intervention seems to be ever less detectable in terms of price trends:

Investors are generally worried about Poland’s and the wider region’s exposure to a European recession, as well as squeezes on banks and credit due to the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone.
Develeraging by eurozone banks in Eastern Europe is already having negative effects across the region.
On Wednesday there were reports of queues forming outside Latvia’s Krājbanka (H/T @finansakrobat), as per this YouTube clip:

Bloomberg had reported on Tuesday that as much as 100m lati ($191m) may be missing from the bank.
The shortfalls come on the back of the liquidation of Lithuania’s Bankas Snoras, according to the report. Depositors were told on Tuesday that they would only be able to withdraw as much as 50 lati from ATMs starting on Wednesday for the next two to three days, depending on how the Lithuanian government proceeds with Snoras....MORE
*I'm not kidding about the "Self-taught" stuff. She taught herself Old French so she could go to the original sources while writing A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century.
This is probably a good place to put on my happy face and note "Tuchman's Law":
Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening, on a lucky day, without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman's Law, as follows: "The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold (or any figure the reader would care to supply)."