We have laid out in great detail over the past few months the contagious paths, game-theoretical endgames, and transmission channels that would occur should a nation (Greece for example) leave the Euro. Yet the covered matter is not simple, which is why sometimes the best representation is the visual one. The Financial Times has outdone themselves with the best graphical (and audio walkthrough) representation of this process. From the collapse of the domestic banking system (and its possible social implications) to the creation of a new 'local' currency absent foreign capital aid, to the obvious 'who's next?' question that leads inevitably to exaggerated bank runs across other weak European nations and ultimately more pressure on already weak economies to exit the Euro - hastening a wholesale Euro-breakup. Eurocalypse now indeed.
Earlier today we were delighted to predict precisely what the script of the European headline flow would be now that the only thing that matters is instilling the fear of Chairsatan in the Greek people, who are so confused that 75% of them wish to keep the Euro, but 80% wish for austerity to end - two mutually exclusive events. We outlined the daily event flow for the next month as follows:
- Europe releases definitive rumor that everyone is preparing for a Greek exit full of bombastic jargon and details of how Greece will be annihilated if it does exit the EMU;
- Immediate election polls are taken;
- If "anti-memorandum" Syriza support is not materially lower, rumor is promptly withdrawn for the day, only to be unleashed the next day with even more bombastic end of world adjectives describing the 9th circle of hell Greece will enter unless the Greek people vote "for" the pro-bailout parties, "for" the Euro, and "for" a perpetuation of the status quo;
We got the first confirmation of precisely this a few short hours later.
With Europe hitting the skids, EURUSD at multi-year lows, and the US equity market down a whopping (and terrifying) 9% from its March highs, it seems the market remains increasingly hopeful that this time will not be different in that the Central Banks of the world will print and save us once more. As a reminder we suspect the ECB can't (collateral is non-existent for the most needy sovereigns/banks) and won't (Germany and the AAA-Club vehemently opposed to losing this game of chicken), China won't (inflationary concerns), and the BoJ won't (after checking to the Fed post-downgrade last night as it appears they recognize the limit). This means, the world has pretty much checked to The Fed - but with TIPS yields a good distance from his precognitive threshold for deflation-avoidance and with the S&P 500 at 1300 still, we suspect the hope is premature. And if performance anxiety is affecting all those long-only managers who are are just now unwinding their P.A. over-allotment to Facebook, we estimate (based on QE1 and QE2) that the S&P could trade down to 1100-1150 before we see Ben step in to save the world - which by the way is only early December 2011 lows. How quickly we lose perspective and anchoring bias takes over when a market rises magically for months without any looking back.
Our entire society is in a downward social and economic spiral. We are just at different levels of decay (Dante’s circles of hell). At the current pace it won’t be long before I’m writing about the 50 States of Squalor. It is virtually impossible to reverse a decline that has been underway for the last three decades. We sold our souls to Wall Street and chose a debt financed illusion of wealth over productive savings and investment which would have led to real wealth. Our choices are reflected in the continued deterioration and decay along West Chester Pike and the squalor that is West Philly. Grey and decay will carry the day. The words on the Statue of Liberty should be revised from, ”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, to “we have become your indebted, materialistic, obese, aging masses yearning for the government to protect and sustain us as our once great nation decays.”
As a nation, we have chosen this path. We made the choices and now we will suffer the consequences.
PIMCO vs GARY SHILLING - ROUND 1
As we noted last week, the EURUSD cross-currency basis-swap - or European bank's most desperate way to fund itself in the absence of any further ECB aid, a lack of collateral, and no interbank-lending (trust #fail) - is flashing a warning light. Today that light went ultraviolet. For maturities beyond the LTRO (greater than 3Y or so) the current level of stress is greater than at the end of November last year which was the trigger for the globally coordinated central bank response. 3Y basis swaps are now back above 70bps (below -70bps) and near record lows - signaling a real desperation for term funding among European banks - as we explained here. Translated: central bankers are now calling each other and planning; the only question is what they can do this time: last time the FX swap margin was cut from OIS+100 to OIS+50 bps. Now what: interbank lending at no cost? - Thank you Uncle Ben.
UPDATE: EURUSD at 1.2578 - back to July 2010 levels
EURUSD just broke back below 1.2600 (1.2597 lows) which takes it back to August 2010 lows and well on its way to the 1.20 levels that the current Fed and ECB balance sheets would imply - as we pointed out just two weeks ago. EURUSD remains notably below the swap-spread implied valuation as once again liquidity and credit risks get priced into the cross.
For the past several months, worse was better. Today, better is worse, after the release of April new home sales, which printed at a seasonally adjusted 343K annual rate, on expectations of a 335K print, or an increase from the April print of 328K, since revised to 332K. The mean and median price rose by 5.1% and 4.9% respectively. In non SAAR terms, this represented a total of 33K units sold in April, even as the units Under Construction and Completed were flat or declined, respectively. Sadly, this better than expected number, only meant that just as the market was getting quite gung ho on more QE in the aftermath of the ongoing European collapse, the good news pulled the rug from under the market, and the result was a plunge in virtually all risk assets. As for the big picture, and how much of the 11K increase really matters as the actual series continues to plumb all time lows, we leave it to readers to decide.
Courtesy of Reuters, we now have a handy, bookmarkable interactive chart for everyone's convenience to keep track of this data. And while we still believe the actual result will be meaningless, as a coalition government, either pro or against bailout, will be unformable, we are certain that the second we read that Syriza support is waning (one day, only to surge the next), the EUR, courtesy of its record short interest, and all related risk assets will soar. Keep a close eye on this chart.
Building on yesterday's discussion of the lack of an integrated banking system and credible lender of last resort in Europe, UBS appears to have gone thermonuclear this morning. Their lengthy article 'What If Greece Goes?' outlines the contagion risk from an 'orderly' exit as markets, international trading companies, and bank depositors will all anticipate the consequences likely resulting in economic disorder. Their remains a great deal of complacency about the ability of firewalls to prevent this - but as they note - should bank runs begin, even a pan-European deposit guarantee scheme will not stop rational depositors extending bank runs instead of gambling on the probability of policy-maker actions. Laying out Greece's options (renegotiate austerity or default), UBS summarizes the situation more profoundly: "Integrate Or Die" as without a Euro confederation (in their eyes), continental Europe will cry 'havoc' once again.
Europe's game of chicken, all of which is geared to one simple thing - to spook the Greeks into voting for pro-bailout powers, and against Syriza - has now officially entered the Twilight Zone. In the latest episode of what can now simply be described as the world's most entertaining yet terrifying mutual assured destruction showdown, because should Greece leave, the destruction, at least in the short-term, will impact both Europe and Greece, although Greece will recover far, far faster as the standard of living there has already been crushed (which incidentally is the primary reason why Europe has lost control over the situation: without the carrot of welfare state promises, a Ponzi regime is meaningless), we learn that on Monday a Eurogroup Working Group held a teleconference in which officials "agreed to prepare for individual contingency plans if and when Greece exits." Here is the problem - the contingency plan can be summarized in one word: panic. Because absent a full blown coordinated monetary intervention, Europe's individual states are completely powerless, and they know it. Sadly, and this is where the farce and charade are complete, the Greek people know it too. As a result, this little adventure, leaked subsequently to Reuters, loses all utility. But we expect many more such escalations from Europe: after all we have nearly a full month before June 17: plenty of time to crush the market in order to get a reaction out of the Greek voters, European politicians and ECB bankers, just as Citigroup suggested. Only issue is, the more Greek voters are prodded into a corner, the more likely they are to simply snap.
We have already posted this fantastic timelapse in the past on various occasions, but it is always worth putting things in Europe in their proper context, such as this 1000 years of "Old World" history summarized in 3 minutes. Many say the European experiment will end if Greece votes the 'wrong' way on June 17. Somehow, after watching the below, we doubt it.
Whether it is the EU running to the G-20, nations in Asia, the IMF or Spain and Italy and their brethren calling for Eurobonds the distinction is easily made; you pay or you pay or you pay because I cannot. That is the cry in the wilderness as politely, very politely, quite politely everyone says, “No thank you.” The curtain is going down on the show and the normal pleas are being made to keep the spectacle in operation but the pocketbooks are closed and Germany and the rest are not going to bet the family farm when the final act draws nigh. The Elves in the boulders cackle and the “invisible people” move on and sigh as the ending of one more chapter is inscribed in the Book of Life.