The incredible reality that so many Cypriots woke up to this weekend (after the late Friday NY time announcement of their deposits taking a haircut to save their precious banking system) has spurred the citizenry to take to Twitter to vent their anger and frustration. As we asked just as few days ago - has the European Spring begun, perhaps it is time for someone to launch social media guillotines as the 'elites' seem happy to say "let them eat Lokmades (Cyprus Cake)"...
It's all Greek to us, but with the FX market set to open in an hour, and with the recently-elected Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiades set to speak at 7 pm local, we are confident quite a few may be interested in what they see in a live webcast from what has become Ground Zero in the latest European risk-flaring episode (especially with at least one protest already scheduled outside of the Cypriot parliament at 3:30 pm tomorrow).
Politics aside, the bottom line is that the Rubicon has been crossed, and deposits have now been forcefully confiscated in what Europe promises to be a standalone case. What is certain, is that nobody will wait to find out how long it takes before Europe's class of increasingly more desperate and ill-meaning despots is found to be have lied once more (as it has about everything else since the start of the European crisis). And while the mainstream media will be focused primarily on Europe in the coming days, as BCG and we have warned, the topic of "wealth taxation" is now front and center, and it stars not only Europe, but the US as well. The question then becomes: what does the funding structure of the US private depository institutions look like, and is there any possibility of Cyprus "wealth tax" recurring on the other side of the Atlantic. To answer this question, we present the summary layout of the consolidated US depository system, which according to the Fed's December 31, 2012 Flow of Funds report had a grand total of $15 trillion in assets, and a matched number of liabilities, of which 72%, or a total of $10.9 trillion was in the form of deposits. So, if the US was to go the Cyprus route, and begin impairing balance sheet liabilities to remark assets, there would be precious little space (with just $4.3 trillion in total other funding liabilities), before one would need to start eating into the deposit base, should Congress decide to implement a very "fair and just" financial asset tax in the US next.
A short trip across the sea from the debacle occurring in Cyprus and it appears the tension is rising up in Greece once again. It is well known that Golden Dawn 'nazi' party won a surprising and disconcerting number of parliamentary seats at the last election, and the massively unstable size of Greece's youth unemployment continues to spell trouble; but, now Greece's most popular sport - soccer (football) - is infected by the increasingly nationalist fervor. As Fox reports, national soccer player Giorgos Katidis has been banned for life from playing for Greece after giving a Nazi salute while celebrating a goal this weekend. Cited as "a deep insult to all victims of Nazi brutality," the striker took to twitter (@GiwrgosKatidis) to proclaim his innocence of the meaning of the gesture (you decide in the image and clip below) - right arm extended and hand straightened - adding that he detests fascism. The question now is - when does the Cyprus soccer team play next? as it seems the peripheral European nations are starting to wake up to the Union's reality and the haircut is the next catalyst.
"Has Europe bazookaed itself in the foot? Even if we avoid a negative outcome this week, events in Cyprus invite broader questions about the region’s commitment, repeated ad nauseum since June to ‘break the feedback loop between sovereigns and banks’. The IMF warned as recently as Friday that the Euro area lacked an effective deposit guarantee framework (before agreeing to a haircut that adroitly proves its point). The Cypriot package reinforces the fact that existing deposit guarantee schemes are only as strong as the sovereign which backs them; something which is unlikely to go unnoticed in the rest of the region (although we think specific contagion risks are limited near-term). Other EU member states will likely be affected, there are significant numbers of UK depositors in Cypriot banks, some of whom the UK has now promised to protect (with echoes of the Icesave situation), and some potential contagion channels may not be obvious. It is notable that German policy-makers have been insisting on Cyprus’ significant ‘systemic relevance’ over recent days while pushing a package that may test it."
For those who read the previous article on the topic of last minute chaos and confusion in Cyprus, and Europe, it will come as no surprise that the previously scheduled Monday bank holiday (aka Green Monday) has been extended into Tuesday. So prepare to not be surprised. "The Cypriot cabinet has declared Tuesday a bank holiday, for fear of capital flight, and this may even be stretched to Wednesday, as depositors are certain to withdraw huge sums from the Cypriot banks after the haircut imposed." So, if the official name of the March 18 holiday was "Green Monday", will the March 19th ad hoc holiday be called "Red Tuesday"? Inquiring minds want to know.
Cyprus Parliament To Delay "Rescue" Vote Due To Lack Of Support, Despite ECB Pressure For Pre-Trade Open DecisionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/17/2013 - 09:19
The painfully shortsighted Cyprus bail-out, pardon bail-in (also known as wealth tax to those who are actually doing the in-bailing), plan is going from bad to worse. Because in addition to all the previously discussed macro-implications, all of which are adverse and have the full potential of destabilizing the Eurozone once more and lead to bank runs across not only the periphery but the core as well, especially by offshore (read Russian) depositors, there is now a risk that the entire hurriedly-cobbled together "plan" may be on the verge of failure as it may not get a majority vote in domestic ratification. Today, at 4pm local (2pm GMT) the Cypriot parliament was scheduled to meet to vote through and ratify the tax levy plan, presented as a fait accompli at least by the Eurozone FinMins. A few hours ago, this meeting was delayed until 4 pm local on Monday "after signs lawmakers could block the surprise move.... If [parliament fails to ratify the bail-in], President Nicos Anastasiades has warned, Cyprus's two largest banks will collapse." And so the late hour scramble to procure enough vote to pass the depositor impairment begins as the alternative is simply "or else."
There once was a time when it was fair to say that Alan Greenspan was the biggest living contrary indicator of all time. Long before he became known to a wider audience, in early January of 1973, he famously pronounced (paraphrasing) that 'there is no reason to be anything but bullish now'. The stock market topped out two days later and subsequently suffered what was then its biggest collapse since the 1929-1932 bear market. That was a first hint that stock market traders should pay heed to the mutterings of the later Fed chairman when they concerned market forecasts: whatever he says, make sure you do the exact opposite. The reason why we feel he must be relegated to third place is that since then, arguably two even bigger living contrary indicators have entered the scene: Ben 'the sub-prime crisis is well contained' Bernanke, and Olli 'the euro crisis is over' Rehn. Admittedly it is not yet certain who will be judged the most reliable of them by history, but in any case, when Greenspan speaks, we should definitely still pay heed...
As the President of Cyprus proclaims to his people that "we' should all take responsibility as his historic decision will "lead to the permanent rescue of the economy," it appears that the settled-upon 9.9% haircut is a 'good deal' compared to the stunning 40% of total deposits that Germany's FinMin Schaeuble and the IMF demanded. This action, his statement notes, enables the rescue of 8,000 banking sector jobs and ensuring the liquidity of the banks, "allowing the economy to proceed decisively to a new beginning." Ekathimerini reports," this is the first time in the eurozone that a levy has been imposed not on the interest of bank accounts but on the capital itself," and was the only way to bridge most of the the gap between the EUR17bn Nicosia needed and the EUR10bn the ESM was offering, though tax on interest in Cypriot banks will also rise to 20-25%. It is the 40% haircut requirement that concerns us the most as clearly going forward that means other nations, starting Monday (or Tuesday given national holidays) see deposit outflows surge, as the willingness to take such steps is now painfully clear.
Today, lots of people woke up in shock and horror to what happened in Cyprus: a forced capital reallocation mandated by political elites under the guise of an "equity investment" in insolvent banks, which is really code for a "coercive, mandatory wealth tax." If less concerned about political correctness, one could say that what just happened was daylight robbery from savers to banks and the status quo. These same people may be even more shocked to learn that today's Cypriot "resolution" is merely the first of many such coercive interventions into personal wealth, first in Europe, and then everywhere else. For the benefit of those people, we wish to point them to our article from September 2011, "The "Muddle Through" Has Failed: BCG Says "There May Be Only Painful Ways Out Of The Crisis", which predicted and explained all of this and much more. What else did the September BCG study conclude? Simply that such mandatory, coercive wealth tax is merely the beginning for a world in which there was some $21 trillion in excess debt as of 2009, a number which has since balooned to over $30 trillion. And with inflation woefully late in appearing and "inflating away" said debt overhang, Europe first is finally moving to Plan B, and is using Cyrprus as its Guniea Pig. For those who missed it the first time, here it is again
It is difficult to describe the weekend bailout package to Cyprus in any other way. The confiscation of 6.75 percent of small depositors' money and 9.9 percent of big depositors' funds is without precedence that I can think of in a supposedly civilised and democratic society. But maybe the European Union (EU) is no longer a civilised democracy? This is a breach of fundamental property rights, dictated to a small country by foreign powers and it must make every bank depositor in Europe shiver. If you can do this once, you can do it again. Depositors in other prospective bailout countries must be running scared - is it safe to keep money in an Italian, Spanish or Greek bank any more? This is a major, MAJOR game changer and the fallout will be with us for a long time to come. Market reaction? it must be very good for gold - and for safe-haven countries like Switzerland and Singapore. This is full-blown socialism and I still cannot believe this really happened. Be careful out there...
Short answer: we don't know.
We do, however, know something we have been pointing out since early 2012 - when it comes to the funding strcuture of European banks, there is a dramatic difference between the US and Europe. In the US, as we showed most recently two months ago, the Big Three depositor banks (JPM, Wells and Bank of America, excluding the still pseudo-nationalized Citi), have a record $858 billion in excess deposits over loans. So what about Europe? Here things get bad. Very bad. So bad in fact that we covered it all just one short year ago. What is the reason for this? Well, as readers can surmise based on what just happened in Europe, it once again has to do with deposits, and specifically the loan-to-deposit ratios of European banks. Because if the US has an excess of deposits over loans, Europe is and has always suffered from the inverse: a massive excess of loans (impaired assets) compared to the most critical of bank liabilities - deposits... One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that in a world in which European loans are massively mismarked relative to fair value, and where bad and non-performing loans are an exponentially rising component of all "asset" exposure, it will be the liabilities that are ultimately impaired. Liabilities such as deposits.
This is the third and last of three articles we are posting on the price suppression of gold. In the first article we showed that, under mainstream economic theory, the suppression of the gold market is not a conspiracy theory, but a logical necessity, a logical outcome. Mainstream economics, framed by the Walras’ Law, believes in global monetary coordination which, to be achieved, necessitates that gold, if considered money, be oversupplied. The second article showed, at a very high (not exhaustive) level, how that suppression takes place and how to hedge it (if my thesis is correct, of course). Today’s article will examine the systemic impact of this suppression and test the claim of the gold bugs, namely that physical gold will trade at a premium over fiat/paper gold, commensurate with the credit multiplier created by the bullion banks. (Hint - it is)
While offering up some 'hope' that the unprecedented tax on Cypriot deposits will not spark "massive" contagion (due to the ECB's "promise"), it appears from this summary of sell-side opinion on this weekend's European developments that the sell-side is starting to panic... it would appear the European credit markets, that have been so skittish in recent weeks (especially the financials), had it right all along? whocouldanode? It seems, as the head of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, no less, said: "The lesson here is that the EU's single-market rules will be flouted when the Eurozone, ECB, and IMF say so."
China’s economic model, which has delivered a genuine economic miracle over the last 30 years by lifting more people out of poverty than ever before in human history, is increasingly tapped out. While the authorities have been talking about rebalancing the economy since at least 2006, BNP Paribas' Richard Iley notes that China’s macroeconomic imbalances have become progressively more extreme. The economy now has an investment share of ~48% of GDP, which, Iley explains, no other economy has been able to reach, let alone sustain. Unsurprisingly diminishing returns are increasingly apparent. Largely uneconomic investments in sectors already suffering overcapacity, such as real estate and steel, continue to accelerate, fuelling exponential growth in energy consumption and producing increasingly unbearable levels of pollution as we discussed here. Despite the long-term gulf between reform rhetoric and concrete action, ‘hype’ at least continues to spring eternal.