China capital curbs reflect buyer’s remorse over market reforms

Last year the reformist head of China’s central bank convinced his Communist party bosses to give market forces a bigger say in setting the renminbi’s daily “reference rate” against the US dollar. In return, Zhou Xiaochuan assured his more conservative party colleagues that the redback would finally secure coveted recognition as an official reserve currency […]

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Capital Markets

Mnuchin expected to be Trump’s Treasury secretary

Donald Trump has chosen Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary, US media outlets reported on Tuesday, positioning the former Goldman Sachs banker to be the latest Wall Street veteran to receive a top administration post. Mr Mnuchin chairs both Dune Capital Management and Dune Entertainment Partners and has been a longtime business associate of Mr […]

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Financial system more vulnerable after Trump victory, says BoE

The US election outcome has “reinforced existing vulnerabilities” in the financial system, the Bank of England has warned, adding that the outlook for financial stability in the UK remains challenging. The BoE said on Wednesday that vulnerabilities that were already considered “elevated” have worsened since its last report on financial stability in July, in the […]

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China stock market unfazed by falling renminbi

China’s renminbi slump has companies and individuals alike scrambling to move capital overseas, but it has not damped the enthusiasm of China’s equity investors. The Shanghai Composite, which tracks stocks on the mainland’s biggest exchange, has been gradually rising since May. That is the opposite of what happened in August 2015 after China’s surprise renminbi […]

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Hard-hit online lender CAN Capital makes executive changes

The biggest online lender to small businesses in the US has pulled down the shutters and put its top managers on a leave of absence, in the latest blow to an industry grappling with mounting fears over credit quality. Atlanta-based CAN Capital said on Tuesday that it had replaced a trio of senior executives, after […]

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Categorized | Banks

Barclays: life in the old dog yet

Posted on November 30, 2016

Barclays, a former basket case of British banking, is beginning to look inspiringly mediocre. The bank has failed Bank of England stress tests less resoundingly than Royal Bank of Scotland. Investors believe its assets are worth only 10 per cent less than their book value, judging from the share price. Although Barclays’s legal team have a mountain of work in hand, little relates to recent alleged misdeeds.

Those incurable optimists on Threadneedle Street envisaged a severe world recession, a financial shock and, for all we know, plagues of locusts. Barclays undershot its main 7.8 per cent target for equity as a proportion of risk-weighted assets in the war games, even after projected dividend and coupon cuts. However, the bank would have weathered the apocalypse by half a percentage point after hybrid bonds converted to equity.

Despite the skinniness of that margin, the Old Lady did not require chief executive Jes Staley to rework his numbers, a process that might have raised the possibility of a cash call. He apparently got credit for an anticipated one percentage point increase in headline capital, currently 11.6 per cent, reflecting the sale of shares in Barclays Africa and a noncore asset rundown. Just as well. He got no credit at all for any ability to lift capital in a crisis through managerial ability.

These days, central bankers are immune to the charisma of Barclays bosses. The City, which is more impressionable, has warmed to Mr Staley. His vision of a bank and a credit card business serving corporate and retail clients on either side of the Atlantic has coherence. The shares have been lifted by enthusiasm for Wall Street banking following Donald Trump’s presidential win, pricing them at a substantial premium to former glamour stock Lloyds.

Most of the misconduct issues Barclays now enumerates at the back of results statement are of mature enough vintages to merit the title “legacy” too often applied to anything bank bosses feel embarrassed about. Analysts expect steady step-ups in profits over the next few years. With an investment bank in the mix, the real numbers will be volatile. But the mood around Barclays is better than it has been for years. Give the old dog a stroke. There’s life in him yet.