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Euro Stock - Part Two - is for Equity

by ChrisCook
Fri Nov 25th, 2011 at 04:40:06 PM EST

Debt which cannot be repaid, will not be repaid, and my proposal to the ECB is simple: forget debt and issue Stock instead.

For several hundred years, sovereigns financed and funded themselves and their nations by issuing IOUs, often in the form of split wooden tally sticks. The creditor was given the 'Stock' as a receipt and as a credit token redeemable in payment of taxes, while the Sovereign retained the counter-stock or foil.

From 1660 onwards, the UK began to issue interest-bearing redeemable Stock.  These credit instruments paid interest periodically to the holder and became very popular with long term investors, representing the lowest risk and most solid income stream available.

Several classes of such Stock were issued and in 1752 these were consolidated into what became known as Consolidated Stock or Consols.  Further issues were made and in 1888 these were all brought together by Chancellor Goschen's Conversion as the redeemable 2.5% Consols which remain in existence to this day, since unless long term  'risk free' rates fall below 2.5% the Treasury will not redeem them.

The point is that even though Consols are said to be part of the National Debt there is - unlike with virtually all other Treasury Gilt-Edged Stock ('gilts') - no dated debt obligation to repay them, although the government has the right, as though these were 2.5% redeemable preference shares in UK Plc.

Which is, of course pretty much exactly what they would be if the UK were a 'Joint Stock Company' where the collective Stock had been divided up into £1.00 shares.

Euro Stock
My proposal for a temporary resolution of the € crisis - pending a transition to a sustainable basis for the € of which more anon - is for the ECB to announce that it will issue a few trillion € in Stock.

Technically, the proceeds of this ECB Stock are used to buy Stock issued by EU Treasuries which in turn enables them to buy back their unsustainable debt. The outcome is simply that the ECB would exchange Stock for EU debt at the market price of the debt.

The ECB would apply a coupon of (say) 2.0% pa and this would have several outcomes:

(a) EU nations' funding costs would be slashed, which in turn would mean that this modest return would be more likely to be paid; more secure; and lower risk, justifying the lower return;

(b) The intractable issue of the massive overhang of  € short term sovereign debt refinancing would become irrelevant;

(c) There would be a single pool of liquidity at periodic Stock Exchange auctions on the ECB web-site, instead of a pool of debt fragmented by rate of interest; issuer, date and trading platform;

(d) Sovereign credit default swaps - which are distinctly problematic anyway - would be dispatched to the dustbin of history where they belong

Qualitative Easing
So, in true Bulldog Drummond style, when that master of derring do was completely and irretrievably in the s...t.........

......"with a leap and a bound he was free".

An issue of ECB Stock would enable what is essentially a debt/equity swap which affects the quality rather than the quantity of credit. This Qualitative Easing gives a short/medium term breathing space for the transition to a sustainable long term basis for the €.

But that is another story........

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Hi Chris, this indeed makes a lot of sense, I wasn't awere of this sort of instruments and useful they can be. I woundn't mind investing part of my meager portfolio into € Stock.

The question is: are they willing to do anything to avoid the collapse? We seem to be just weeks away from a sovereign default and the ensuing run on banks. We could well continue discussing these matters, if the will doesn't exist among the leaders of the Council and the ECB to bring things back on track it may all be pointless.

I wonder if some of our leaders don't actually want a collapse. A sort of financial Pearl Harbour that may provide the impetus for a revolution (whatever it may be). That being the case, they may be underestimating the disruptive consequences of a bank run, from there to empty shelves and social break down may be just a little step.

Vencit omnia veritas.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Sat Nov 26th, 2011 at 01:26:30 PM EST
Still contemplating your proposal. A few questions:

  1. What would make these instruments attractive for investors?

  2. Where tallies exchangeable? Or would they just pay interest to the individual registered at Exchequer?

  3. In your proposal € stocks would be exchangeable, right?

  4. How would € stocks deal with the monetarist craze, presently personified by the irreducible Chancellor Merkel?

Vencit omnia veritas.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Sat Nov 26th, 2011 at 02:02:48 PM EST
With question 4# I meant to refer to the fears of having smaller states indebting themselves to infinity.

€ Stock itself would not expand money supply, only the interest on it could. Monetarists needn't be worried about this.  

Vencit omnia veritas.

by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Sat Nov 26th, 2011 at 02:46:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]

(a) Security of income - the only risk apart from liquidity risk (finding a buyer) is non-payment of the income, and the fact that no capital is repayable means that the funding requirement is minimised; hence Stock funding is affordable; hence it is more likely to be paid; hence it is lower risk; hence a more modest return is justified......

(b) Liquidity - instead of lots of different debt in terms of interest rate; term; trading platform, you have a single pool of liquidity of Stock units. Investors also know that even if other investors won't buy them, tax-payers will, for redemption against tax.

2/ Tallies were bearer instruments. Whoever held them could redeem them against taxes due. There was no interest no tallies, other than whatever discount was factored into the issue price.  

3/ Yes. They would be a hugely liquid asset class exchangeable on a Stock Exchange (where the term came from eg Joint Stock Companies)

4/ € stock is essentially fiat € money sold wholesale at a discount. € notes are paper tallies of a kind.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Nov 26th, 2011 at 03:39:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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