With low and negative yields, why do so few have the confidence to invest in real capital projects? Easy money has given rise to stock dividends and buybacks but it seems that investors would much rather lose money over a 10-year horizon than invest in building dams, repairing pipes, creating better grids and starting new businesses. A new monetary order must replace the existing one, and as soon as possible.
The Bank of Ireland is set to become the first domestic financial institution to pass on the European Central Bank's negative rates to customers for placing their money on deposit with the bank. The Bank of Ireland, which is 14% owned by the State, has informed its large corporate and institutional customers that it plans to charge them a negative rate of -0.1% for deposits of €10 million or more starting in October 2016.
Ulster Bank, which is owned by UK lender Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) - Get Report , has already introduced negative interest rates for a small number of large corporate clients. Ulster Bank has products priced off the back of Euribor, a European interbank lending rate, which is at an all-time low and had turned negative last year. These interest fees being charged by the bank do not apply to SMEs or to personal customers.
Additionally, as Bloomberg reports, Royal Bank of Scotland, which is Great Britain's largest taxpayer-owned lender, stated that some of its biggest trading clients must pay interest on collateral as a consequence of low central bank interest rates. Some of the bank's institutional clients will need to pay interest on funds pledged as collateral when trading futures contracts. The changes for sterling and euro futures and options trading will probably affect about 60 large clients.
"Due to the sustained low interest rate environment, RBS will now be passing the cost of holding such deposits onto a limited number of our institutional clients," the bank said in the statement. RBS said it had previously applied a 0% floor to the overnight rate charged for collateral required by clearinghouses for future traders.
Ironically, unlike Europe, the U.K.'s rates are (still) positive, even though the Bank of England recently cut the interest rate to an all-time low of 0.25% as it unveiled that it would resume monetizing government and corporate bonds. It may soon cut rates to negatives.
While the RBS move affects only a subset of business customers, some lenders in Europe, where both the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank have kept interest rates below zero for months, have been charging a wider array of customers in order to hold their deposits.
"What you're seeing is there have been a few banks in Germany and a couple in Switzerland which have started to charge for deposits; importantly, it's to corporate customers, or very wealthy people," Andrew Lowe, an analyst at Berenberg, told the Financial Times. "You are likely to see the UK banks follow suit, in particular if rates fall further," he added. "Everything that applies to Europe applies to UK banks as well.
After a certain period of time passes, you can bet it will also apply to less than "very wealthy people."
The RBS charges would apply to clients who trade futures and options and, therefore, hold cash on deposit as collateral. He said customers were being encouraged to put their cash into bonds, instead, so as to avoid the cost.
Customers who hold money at banks are slowly beginning to get squeezed and charged fees. What does this mean? To me, I feel it's going to be negative on the banks and their share prices as investor slowly move away from those banks and/or spread their money to other asset classes to avoid paying interest to a bank to hold their money.
Banks have it really bad, if you ask me. They are not making much interest on the capital they hold for clients, and charging customers to hold money is a sure way to lose some of their biggest clients and income.
The financial sector has never recovered from the 2008-to-2009 bear market in stocks, and with, potentially, another bear market just around the corner, bank stocks could be in for a massive bout of selling.
Where could a large chunk of investors' capital flow? Precious metals is one of the places, though many other greater opportunities are slowly unfolding, and its just a matter of time before we take advantage of them.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. Chris Vermeulen is full-time trader and research analyst for TheGoldAndOilGuy Newsletter.