More than 80 institutions with collective assets under management of over $8 trillion attended the event and were polled regarding macroeconomic matters and their outlook for various asset classes. Gold is seen as one of the assets likely to outperform again in 2012 due to risks posed to the euro and longer term risks for the dollar. Those polled by UBS were also positive on emerging market debt. Both asset classes, gold and emerging market debt, were the top pick of 22.5% of the assembly – thereby accounting for 45% of the votes. On gold’s role as a reserve asset, the importance reserve managers attach to the yellow metal has slipped back to 2009 levels, with about 14% having the opinion that it will be the most important reserve currency in 25 years. This marks a decline from the past two years’ surveys wherein over 20% viewed gold to be the most important reserve currency.
The announcement by the UK Treasury and BoE to take co-ordinated steps to boost credit and with the central bank re-activating its emergency liquidity facility has resulted in a sharp move higher in UK fixed income futures. GBP swaps are now pricing in a cut of 25bps in the base rate by the end of this year and following on from Goldman Sachs, analysts at Barclays and BNP Paribas are now calling for an increase in QE next month. The new measures have seen the likes of Lloyds Banking Group (+4.3%) and RBS (+7.0%) outperform the more moderate gains observed in their European counterparts. Meanwhile in Europe the focus remains on the possibility of co-ordinated action from the major central banks. However, it would seem more realistic that any new measures will likely come after the Greek election results are known and once ministers have conducted their G20 meetings. Given that there is an EU level conference call this afternoon scheduled for 1500BST the likelihood of rumours seem high but as the wires have indicated already these conversations are purely based upon co-ordination ahead of the meeting which is usual practice. The yields in Spain and Italy have been a lot calmer so far with the 10yr in Spain at 6.88%, off the uncomfortable test of 7% seen yesterday.
While by now virtually everyone around the world is intimately familiar with the nuances of Greek electoral law, knows the names of Greek politicians better than of those at home, and is all too aware of the broader media propaganda that unless Greece does as the banks demand the world as we know it will end, one aspect of the Greek collapse into hell has gotten lost: the complete failure of the Greek healthcare system. As the following Reuters report shows, regardless of the outcome on Sunday, it just may be too late to preserve the future of Greek sickcare, and with that, of the entire population: "The country's state hospitals are cutting off vital drugs, limiting non-urgent operations and rationing even basic medical materials for exhausted doctors as a combination of economic crisis and political stalemate strangle health funding. "It's a matter of life and death for us," said Persefoni Mitta, head of the cancer patients' association, recounting the dozens of calls she gets a day from patients needing pricey, hard-to-find cancer drugs. "Why are they depriving us of life?"" They are depriving of you of life, Persefoni, because in old times, when a given country was enslaved, there was a specific aggressor that the people could revolt against. Now, when the slave-master is debt, and thus one's own desire to live beyond their means, it is far more difficult to look in the mirror and to revolt against what one sees. Which is why, one day at a time, the Greek civilization will continue to suffer the terminal consequences of infinite debt serfdom, until finally, after two thousand years, it no longer exists.
- Greece is Relevant: Central Banks Warn Greek-Led Euro Stress Threatens World (Bloomberg)
- Greece is very Relevant: World Economies Prepare for Panic After Greek Polls (Reuters)
- ECB's Draghi flags euro risks, spurs rate cut talk (Reuters)
- And as usual, beggars can be choosers... Hollande Urges Common Euro Debt, Greater ECB Role (Reuters)
- Wait and flee - Electoral uncertainty sends the economy into suspended animation (Economist)
- The EU Smiled While Spain’s Banks Cooked the Books (Bloomberg)
- Osborne’s £100bn Plan for UK Economy (FT)
- Two Cheers for Britain’s Bank Reform Plans: Martin Wolf (FT)
- BOJ Holds Policy Ahead of Greek Vote with Eye on Global Markets (Bloomberg)
- China Hits Back at U.S. Criticisms at WTO (Reuters)
Now that all the rage is now just the NEW QE, but global coordinated NEW QE, it would make sense to observe the impact the last three episodes of quantitative easing, QE1, QE2 and Twist, have had on the market. And more importantly, whether such impact is rising, dropping, or staying the same. Well, as the following chart from BofA shows, we may be lucky if there is any favorable impact on risk assets following the announcement of more easing, and incidentally perhaps global easing is what is necessary (if not sufficient) now that the devaluation of the US dollar has become an exercise in futility. Because it now appears that only an absolute currency devaluation would work, not a relative one. What is another way of saying this: a global devaluation of all currencies relative to some benchmark... say gold. Most importantly, the only question now is how long before the entire "global intervention rumor" is faded, and what happens when the market realizes that suddenly, Syriza not winning the Greek elections is the downside case as it would mean no coordinated central bank intervention. Great job central planners - you have just shot yourself in the foot once again.
With Greece preparing to go to the polls this weekend for the second time in a little over a month, BAML's credit strategy group addresses three potential outcomes of the election on a number of asset classes. While they do have concerns about all of the possible post-election scenarios they do not necessarily lead to an exit from the eurozone, at least not in the very short term, and some of them could even lead to an initial market rally that could temporarily strengthen the euro. Their analysis focuses on the near-term (four-week) market implications and assumes that neither Spain nor Italy will have a sovereign crisis during this time frame, though those concerns will likely persist. The three scenarios are: Base case (high probability): election result allows Greece to form a pro-EU government; limited European policy response; Bull case (low probability): election result means Greece does not form a pro-EU government; substantial ECB & European policy response; and Bear case (low to medium probability): election result means Greece does not form a pro-EU government; limited ECB/ European policy response. The one-month asset price response for rates, credit, equities, FX & commodities are detailed below.
There are five problems that need to be resolved within the European crisis and Credit Suisse provides a scorecard for the progress towards these 'risk factors'. The key issues are: growth, peripheral current account balances, solvency of the insolvent, ring-fencing the insolvent, and mutualization of government debt; but what is more worrisome is that while they have raised the average score to 2.0 out of 5 (from 0.6 out of 5 in Nov' 2011), it has not budged now in four months. The lack of growth, fiscal tightening, continuing insolvency concerns and excess leverage in the private sector, and de minimus deleveraging in Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland leaves the vicious circle of progress on the European scorecard much harder from here.
While we await the Moody's downgrade of the Spanish banking system, which we can only attribute to a lack of outsourced Indian talent, since three banks are now rated higher than the sovereign, Moody's decided to give a little present to our Dutch readers by downgrading 5 of their biggest banks: Rabobank Nederland, (2 notches to A2) for ING Bank N.V., (2 notches to A2) for ABN AMRO Bank N.V. (2 notches to A2), and for LeasePlan Corporation N.V. (2 notches to Baa2). The long-term debt and deposit ratings for SNS Bank N.V. were downgraded by one notch to Baa2. And yes, this means that the US banks (looking at your Margin Stanley) are likely next.
With Greece taxing nearly 90% of the price on a pack of cigarettes, perhaps a far more reliable indicator of sovereign health (ironically) than rating agencies is just how much in sin tax a given country withholds. If that is the case, France really should be worried. Also: don't be surprised if the next sauna you go to has a Starbucks outlet.
Lower growth expectations and higher risk premia on peripheral European assets have weighed heavily on the EUR since the sovereign crisis began in late 2009. But, as Goldman's FX anti-guru Thomas Stolper notes, we have not seen evidence of a net capital flight crisis out of the Euro area that would have led to disruptive EUR depreciation (yet). Much of the reasoning for the relative stability is the Target 2 system and the high degree of capital mobility in European capital markets which have enabled the rise in risk aversion to be expressed by internal flows (as well as repatriation). With this weekend's election (and retail FX brokers starting to panic), it is clear that the interruption of these internal channels may well lead to a disorderly capital flight and a full-fledged crisis in flows. Stolper outlines four potential catalysts to trigger this chaos (which is not his base-case 'muddle-through' scenario) as we already noted the huge divergence between implied vols and realized vols indicate the market is starting to price in more extreme scenarios and safe-havens (swissy) are bid.
Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others besides have fallen into the trap of bribing their electorates with promises that become ever more unsustainable. In each of these states, expectations have been created that cannot be met and that cannot now be undone. This is surely a recipe for social unrest. These will not be the only countries to succumb to failure. The national debt, the unaffordable long-term cost of social security, health care and a myriad other entitlements and the mounting evidence of the insolvent state point to the same outcome for the UK and the US. Failure is ensured; the more pressing question is, what happens next?
In browsing the last seven months of video commentary that Charles Biderman, of TrimTabs, has produced, he is clear on one thing, "nothing has changed". With an 'admittedly rigged' stock market now at the behest of global central banks and the slow-motion train-wreck in Europe seemingly approaching the end of its can-kicking-road, Biderman is frustrated by the inane financial media's perpetual belief that we are 'a grand plan' away from a return to the way the world was before the crisis began - "We are not!" Wages and salaries in the US continue to stagnate with a $100bn per month deficit as he is incredulous at the belief that we can go on printing $1.3 trillion to produce $250 billion in spending each year. The US economy will double-dip when the Fed's attempt at rigging the stock market and economy is no longer perceived as viable and as the paisley-wearing pontificater expects both inflation (inevitable with CB printing) and deflation (big banks, European and EM equities thanks to the interventionist policies of the global central banks), he suggests gold as a core holding.