Connect with us

Markets

US climate finance is approaching a leapfrog moment

Published

on


The writer, a Duke University professor, was a deputy US Treasury secretary and governor of the Federal Reserve

The US has long been criticised for lagging behind the rest of the world on tackling climate change. But with the Federal Reserve having recently joined other central banks to support the Paris climate goals and an engaged new administration on the horizon, 2021 could be a chance for the US to leapfrog into global leadership by embracing the potential of America’s complex financial regulatory system.

The agencies that comprise this system, and their mandates from Congress, are each different. But the existing mandates of the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission and others each can support a predictable transition towards a sustainable economy.

When former Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned about the financial risks of climate change in 2015, he was an outlier. Since then, central banks and financial regulators outside the US have understood the severe risks climate change poses to financial stability and are moving ahead.

The BoE promised mandatory climate-risk disclosures; Sweden’s central bank divested bonds issued by big polluters, and the European Central Bank began to demand better climate risk management from the banks it supervises. Their progress has won praise. But without all the US regulators pulling together, it does not add up to the decisive action that will be needed. 

Now change is in the air. At long last, the Fed has acknowledged the risk climate change poses to financial stability and joined the Network for Greening the Financial System — the international “club” of central banks and bank supervisors working towards pre-emptive responses to the risk. And as Americans assess the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic and other environmental disasters, their resolve to think differently about mitigating the costs is growing.

This is the time for the US to use its financial regulatory apparatus (which includes the Fed, the SEC, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and others) to support and guide the market’s need for a reassessment of asset values.

In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the US developed new and potent monetary policies to open up new routes to credit and stabilise the financial system. When disaster loomed, we broke open the jar of untested policy interventions and tried them. Our national character is optimistic; our policymakers know how to take action.

I sit on the newly established Regenerative Crisis Response Committee, a diverse group of economic thinkers. The RCRC is filling that jar with ideas that will allow US financial agencies to lend the strength of their diverse mandates in solving overlapping economic, health and climate crises. It starts by making sure our financial markets can price in climate change risks. This means financial groups must learn to measure and disclose exposure to climate risk. Momentum is growing: this year, Bank of America, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley all committed to do so.

Climate Capital

Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here 

Next, financial supervisors will need to know how to act on this information. Supervisory adjustments will have to take climate disclosures into account and the Fed will need to use climate risk data to make decisions on asset purchases. Rating agencies will need to know what it means to incorporate climate risks, so market pricing reflects the cost of climate risk. Fiduciary duty rules, too, may need to be reimagined and accounting standards clarified.

Finally, the Fed should monitor the extent to which their purchases and programmes allocate capital to companies with promising technologies that generate demand for a durable economic recovery, rather than doubling down on harmful technologies that are destined for obsolescence. More flexible and low-cost lending to credit unions and community development financial institutions across the US would provide those most affected by climate change with access to capital to mitigate its impact.

As the world struggles to make up for its lack of preparedness for the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 is the year to reimagine capital as a tool for accelerating and smoothing the transition to a world of net-zero carbon emissions. American monetary policy and financial regulatory policy can focus on a climate-durable recovery and the US agencies responsible for these policies can add to the early momentum of their global counterparts.



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Markets

Earnings beats: lukewarm reaction shows prices are stretched

Published

on

By


Investors are picking over first-quarter results for signs of economic recovery and proof that record market highs can continue. Stock markets have only been this richly valued twice before — in 1929 and 2000. Bulls hope strong corporate earnings and rising inflation can pull prices higher still. But pricing for perfection means even good results can be met with indifference.

L’Oreal illustrated this trend on Friday. The French cosmetics group stated that sales in the first quarter of the year rose 10.2 per cent. This was a better performance than expected. Yet the announcement sent shares down by around 2 per cent. Weak cosmetics sales were seen as a veiled warning that consumers emerging from lockdowns might not spend as freely as hoped.

Online white goods retailer AO World, a big winner from pandemic home upgrades, also offered a positive update this week. In the quarter that marked the end of its financial year, sales were £30m ahead of forecasts. But even upbeat commentary from boss John Roberts could not stop shares slipping 3 per cent.

Banks are not immune. Their stocks have outperformed the market by 7 per cent in Europe and 12 per cent in the US this year. But stellar Wall Street results were not enough to satisfy investors this week.

JPMorgan Chase, the biggest US bank, smashed expectations for the first quarter. Even adjusting for the release of large loan loss reserves, earnings per share beat expectations by 12 per cent because of higher investment banking revenues. Bank of America earnings also rose thanks to the release of loan loss reserves. Yet shares in both banks ended the week down. Goldman Sachs had to pull out its best quarterly performance since 2006 to hold investor interest.

On multiple metrics, stock valuations look steep. On price to book, banks are now back to the pre-crisis levels recorded at the start of 2020. Living up to the expectation implicit in such valuations is becoming increasingly hard.

Lex recommends the FT’s Due Diligence newsletter, a curated briefing on the world of mergers and acquisitions. Click here to sign up.



Source link

Continue Reading

Markets

Barclays criticised for underwriting US private prison deal

Published

on

By


Barclays has attracted criticism for underwriting a bond offering by the US company CoreCivic to fund the building of two new private prisons, in a new dispute over Wall Street’s relationship with the controversial sector.

The UK-based bank said two years ago that it would stop financing private prison companies, but the commitment did not extend to helping them obtain financing from public and private markets.

About 30 activists and investors, among them managers at AllianceBernstein and Pax World Funds, have signed a letter opposing the $840m fundraising for two new prisons in Alabama, which was due to be priced on Thursday.

The signatories said the bond sale brings financial and reputational risk to those involved and urged “banks and investors to refuse to purchase securities . . . whose purpose is to perpetuate mass incarceration”.

Activists and investors who pay attention to environmental, social and governance issues have sought to cut off companies that profit from a US criminal justice system that disproportionately incarcerates people of colour. As well as raising ethical issues, many also say such financing may be a bad investment because legislators are increasingly calling for an end to the use of private players in the prison system.

While Barclays is not lending to CoreCivic, activists and investors attacked its decision to underwrite the deal, which is split between private placements and public issuance of taxable municipal bonds. The arrangement is “in direct conflict with statements made two years ago” when the bank announced it would no longer finance private prison operators, according to the letter.

Barclays said its commitment to not finance private prisons “remains in place”, adding it had worked alongside representatives from the state of Alabama to finance prisons “that will be leased and operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections for the entire term of the financing”.

CoreCivic said the Alabama facilities will be “managed and operated by the state — not CoreCivic. These are not private prisons. Frankly, we believe it is reckless and irresponsible that activists who claim to represent the interests of incarcerated people are in effect advocating for outdated facilities, less rehabilitation space, and potentially dangerous conditions for correctional staff and inmates alike.”

Barclays’ 2019 commitment to limit its work with private prison companies came as other banks, including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, also said they would stop financing the sector.

Critics said they were not sure why Barclays is differentiating between lending and underwriting.

“You’ve already taken the stance, the right stance, that private prisons and profiting from a legacy of slavery is bad,” said Renee Morgan, a social justice strategist with asset manager Adasina Social Capital, one of the signatories of the letter. “But then you’re finding this odd loophole in which to give a platform to a company to continue to do business.”



Source link

Continue Reading

Markets

Hedge funds post best start to year since before financial crisis

Published

on

By


Hedge funds have navigated the GameStop short squeeze and the collapse of family office Archegos Capital to post their best first quarter of performance since before the global financial crisis.

Funds generated returns of just under 1 per cent last month to take gains in the first three months of the year to 4.8 per cent, the best first quarter since 2006, according to data group Eurekahedge. Recent data from HFR, meanwhile, show funds made 6.1 per cent in the first three months of the year, the strongest first-quarter gain since 2000.

Hedge fund managers, who often bet on rising and falling prices of individual securities rather than following broader indices, have profited this year from a rebound in the cheap, beaten-down so-called “value” stocks and areas of the credit market that many of them favour. Some have also been able to profit from bouts of volatility, such as the surge in GameStop shares, which turbocharged some of their holdings and provided opportunities to bet against overpriced stocks.

“We’re going into a market environment that is going to be more fertile for most active trading strategies, whereas for most of the past decade buying and holding the index was the best thing to do,” said Aaron Smith, founder of hedge fund Pecora Capital, whose Liquid Equity Alpha strategy has gained around 10.8 per cent this year.

The gains are a marked contrast to the first three months of 2020, when funds slumped by around 11.6 per cent as the onset of the pandemic sent equity and other risky markets tumbling. However, funds later recovered strongly to post their best year of returns since 2009.

This year, managers have been helped by a tailwind in stocks and, despite high-profile losses at Melvin Capital and family office Archegos Capital, have largely survived short bursts of market volatility.

It’s a “good market for active management”, said Pictet Wealth Management chief investment officer César Perez Ruiz, pointing to a fall in correlations between stocks. When stocks move in tandem, it makes it more difficult for money managers to pick winners and losers.

Among some of the biggest winners is technology specialist Lee Ainslie’s Maverick Capital, which late last year switched into value stocks. Maverick has also profited from a longstanding holding in SoftBank-backed ecommerce firm Coupang, which floated last month, and a timely position in GameStop. It has gained around 36 per cent. New York-based Senvest, which began buying GameStop shares in September, has gained 67 per cent.

Also profiting is Crispin Odey’s Odey European fund, which rose nearly 60 per cent, having lost around 30 per cent last year, according to numbers sent to investors.

Odey’s James Hanbury has gained 7.3 per cent in his LF Brook Absolute Return fund, helped by positions in stocks such as pub group JD Wetherspoon and Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group. Such stocks have been helped by the UK’s progress on the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, which has raised hopes of an economic rebound.

“We continue to believe that growth and inflation will come through higher than expectations,” wrote Hanbury, whose fund is betting on value and cyclical stocks, in a letter to investors seen by the Financial Times.

Additional reporting by Katie Martin

laurence.fletcher@ft.com



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending