It’s all about de risking the bank’s balance sheet. It’s so difficult to decide when bankers really make money because the financial instruments they use are so complex. And look how many dodgy securities they are sitting on at the moment.

So what’s a poor banker to do to improve matters? How about selling some of these securities to a brand new offshore company, and lending the company the money to buy them? It gets over the following problem: you have to write down your securities if you don’t think you’re going to collect on them, and that makes a hit on profits, and worries people. But if you have lent money on a house for example, as long as the repayments are still being made, even if the house is in negative equity, you don’t have to write it down on your balance sheet. so if I were a banker, I would be delighted to sell a dodgy asset and get a loan in exchange which I don’t have to write down.

And this is what has just happened. Barclays had just sold $12 billion worth of securities to a brand new company and lent it just about all the money to buy them. It’s bought itself some time. Banks need all the time they can get at the moment.

What does it mean to us? Well, the bank gets a bit safer. That’s good. But if the bank has lent its money to this company, it can’t lend it to us. So credit has just got a little bit more difficult, and a little bit more expensive all round. and that means that the value of assets you buy with this credit is likely to fall to prop up the price of the assets that Barclays now don’t think they will collect on. this deal was done under very, very favourable terms to the lender. Not the actions of a bank that thinks that its assets are worth what it paid for them.

Anyone think that the recession is over?