Thank you Angie for confirming what we all knew: that absent the help of the 950% debt-to-GDP levered UK, the European experiement is over.
- MERKEL SAYS 'WE NEED GREAT BRITAIN IN THE EUROPEAN UNION'
Well, uh, fingers crossed and good luck with that.
Forget farce. Forget tragicomedy. Frankly, we are out of words to describe what is happening in Greece, Europe, and, actually - the world. Luckily, Kathimerini has just the headline, and associated story, to help us through this moment of verbal crisis. In one year this headline will be appearing in all insolvent countries (pretty much all of them), who will have pledged all of their sovereign assets as cash collateral, promptly used up by creditors to pay their interest payments using "escrow accounts" which make the debtor nation merely a fund flow intermediary with a seasonally unadjusted beggar-to-population ratio of 100%.
Back in July of 2011, when we first predicted the demise of the second Greek bailout package, even before the details were fully known in "The Fatal Flaw In Europe's Second "Bazooka" Bailout: 82 Million Soon To Be Very Angry Germans, Or How Euro Bailout #2 Could Cost Up To 56% Of German GDP" we asked, "what happens tomorrow when every German (in a population of 82 very efficient million) wakes up to newspaper headlines screaming that their country is now on the hook to 32% of its GDP in order to keep insolvent Greece, with its 50-some year old retirement age, not to mention Ireland, Portugal, and soon Italy and Spain, as part of the Eurozone? What happens when these same 82 million realize that they are on the hook to sacrificing hundreds of years of welfare state entitlements (recall that Otto von Bismark was the original welfare state progentior) just so a few peripheral national can continue to lie about their deficits (the 6 month Greek deficit already is missing Its full year benchmark target by about 20%) and enjoy generous socialist benefits up to an including guaranteed pensions? What happens when an already mortally wounded in the polls Angela Merkel finds herself in the next general election and experiences an epic electoral loss? We will find out very, very shortly." Alas, it has not been all that very "shortly", as once again we underestimated people's stupidity and willingness to pay the piper of a crumbling economic and monetary system. But our prediction is finally starting to come true. Spiegel has just released an article, which encapsulates what well over 50% of Germans think, who say that the time to let Greece loose, has come.
While it is hard to call that any 3 year paper issuance, which prices at 0.347%, or the second lowest in history, and just wide of the When Issued, a weak auction, this is precisely what happened, as today's $32 billion 3 Year Notes saw a big drop in the Bid To Cover to 3.302 from 3.729 previously, but more importantly saw Direct Bidders account for nearly two thirds of the total takedown, responsible for 63.8% of the entire allotment. This was the highest Primary Dealer allocation in three years, since January 2009, when the PDs were parking cash in the short end in droves as the equity market was imploding. Troubling was that Indirects took down just 27.7%, or tied with the lowest since 2006. And as a reminder, the PDs will take any and all paper they receive, and promptly flip it in the back hole of the shadow market's repo engine for something close to 100 cents on the dollar. Which means the real interest from end buyers for ZIRP-covered paper is getting less and less. Just as Bill Gross predicted. In other news, the US liquidity trap is alive and well.
The Fed is doing everything it can to push people out the risk curve, and in particular is encouraging the hunt for yield in credit products. A lot of people are arguing that “credit” is cheap. That spreads are high and offer a lot of value. That may even be true, but the problem is that most retail investors don’t own bonds on a spread basis, they own them on a yield basis. The ETFs are all yield based. The mutual funds are all yield based. The argument might be that “corporate credit spreads” are cheap, but people aren’t investing in corporate credit spreads, they are investing in corporate credit yields, and that strikes me as very dangerous. The yields are being held down by operation twist. The treasury has anchored the short end and continues to shift money to the long end, keeping those yields low, for now. What happens when that ends? And keep in mind that credit almost always grinds tighter and gaps wider with little to no warning. When the shift from concern about not getting enough yield to concern about how much notional I can lose always seems to catch the market by surprise.
Deja vu. All over again. And again. And again...
Prudent institutions aren't waiting around until the dominoes fall--they're buying the underlying assets so they can meet their CDS obligations. That's the only way not to topple into insolvency when the default causes CDS to be recognized as due and payable. In this light, it's no wonder stocks have been rising. If even a modest percentage of CDS are tied to stock indices, then those deleveraging their derivatives positions must acquire the underlying assets. They can no longer count on all counterparties paying off as promised, and so they are raising cash and buying the underlying assets needed to make good their obligations. The whole thing is a farce, just like The Producers. The moment the default is recognized, then all the CDS become due and payable, and it will only take handful of failed counterparties to bring the entire system down. No wonder the Eurocrats and central bankers are twisting everyone's arms to accept a 70% loss--the alternative is a Greek default and the collapse of the banking cartel's profitable scheme. It is beyond absurd--what is a 70% loss but default? When banana republics default, their bondholders don't necessarily absorb a 70% loss. yet now, to "save" the despicably parastic shadow banking system and the "too big to fail" financial institutions, a default cannot be called a default: it is a "voluntary haircut." Greece, please do the world a favor and openly default--right now, today. Declare a default and pay nothing. Force the shadow banking system to recognize a default and bring down the entire rotten heap of worm-eaten corruption.
Since the start of the year, global markets have been apparently buoyed by the understanding that Draghi's shift of the ECB to lender-of-last-and-first-resort via the LTRO has removed a significant tail on the risk spectrum with regard to Euro-banks and slowed the potential for contagious transmission of any further sovereign stress. In fact the rally started earlier on the backs of improved perceptions of US growth (decoupling), better tone in global PMIs, and potential for easing in China and the EMs but it does seem that for now the ECB's liquidity spigot rules markets as even in the face of Greek uncertainty, as George Magnus of UBS notes, 'financial markets are most likely to defer to the ECB's monetary policy largesse' as a solution. Both Magnus and his firm's banking team, however, are unequivocal in their view that the next LTRO will unlikely be the last (how many temporary exceptions are still in place around the world?) and as we noted earlier this morning, banks' managements may indeed not be so quick to gorge on the pipe of freshly collateralized loans this time (as markets will eventually reprice a bank that holds huge size carry trades at an inappropriate risk-weighting) leaving the stigma of LTRO borrowing (for carry trades, substitution for private-sector funding, or buying liquidity insurance) as a mark of differentiable concern as opposed to a rising tide lifts all boats as valuations reach extremes relative to 'broken' business models, falling deposits, and declining earnings power.
They expect a EUR300bn take up of the next LTRO, somewhat larger than the previous EUR200bn add-on - but not hugely so - as the banks face a far different picture (in terms of carry profitability) and yet-to-be-proven transmission to real-economy credit-creation that will make any efforts at a fiscal compact harder and harder to implement as its self-defeating austerity leave debtor countries out in the cold. The critical point is that unless the market believes there will be an endless number of future LTROs, covering the very forward-looking private funding markets for banks, then macro- and event-risk will reappear and volatility will flare.
The other other John Taylor (not the FX trader, nor the guitar player, but the "Taylor Rule" discoverer, which is at the base of all Fed monetary decisions), spoke on Bloomberg TV, and his message was certainly a far less optimistic one than that conveyed by the man charged with putting his rule into practice. "We could get into a situation like Greece, quite frankly. People have to realize it is a precarious situation. The debt is going to explode if we don't make some changes." What changes does Taylor recommend? Why the same that Bill Gross warned about yesterday - that ZIRP4EVA means a liquidity trap pure and simple, and the Fed needs to start rising rates: "the Fed has bought so much of the debt that people don't know how they're going to undo that. They pledged to have interest rates at zero until 2014, but people are saying how can they possibly do that when the economy picks up. This uncertainty had lead people to sit on all this cash. I think if the Fed gets back to the policy that worked pretty well in the '80s and '90s, we would be in much better shape." Ah yes, but the one thing, and only one thing that matters, and that is not mentioned at all, is what happens to the stock market when the Fed officially sets off on a tightening path. Actually make that question even simpler - will the drop in the S&P will be 30%, 40%, or any other greater mulitple of 10% thereof, considering that as we noted previously, the Fed and the other two central banks alone have injected over $2 trillion in just over a year. And about $10 trillion in the past 5. Calculate what the removal of this liquifity would do to stocks...
Hardly a week passes without some washed out, discredited legacy media outfit bringing up the "China will bail out Europe" rumor from the dead if only for a few minutes, just so the robots which have now shifted from stocks to the EURUSD, ramp the currency higher and stop out the weak housewife hands. So while we know what the wishful thinking within the status quo (and those who wish to receive its advertising dollars) is, here is the reality. From Reuters which translates China's Financial News: "Chinese banks and companies in the northern port city of Tianjin have cut their exposure to Europe as the euro zone debt crisis festers. In a recent survey of 53 banks and 15 firms done by the local foreign exchange regulator, 11 banks said they had cut or stopped trade finance for European countries with high debt risk, suspended derivatives business with European banks, cut or stopped lending to foreign peers, particularly those from Europe, the newspaper said." Isn't this a little contrary to an atmosphere of mutual goodwill if not mutual bail outs? "They also reduced the issuance of euro-denominated wealth management products as a weakening euro resulted in negative earnings last year. The pullback by Chinese companies comes as European leaders have appealed to the Chinese government to support debt bailout funds. Although Chinese leaders have expressed confidence in European nations, they have also refrained from making firm financial commitments, urging Europe first to take further steps on its own." But why is Tianjin important: "Europe is Tianjin's second-largest exporting destination only after the United States. But local exporters are trying to sell more domestically or venture into emerging markets to cut their reliance on the euro zone, the newspaper said." Great work Europe: by slowly going broke, you are implicitly promoting the development of the Chinese middle class. And for that general act of goodness for humanity, well Chinese humanity, we salute you.
Five days ago, when Ben, or as he is also known, "CTRL+P", was talking before congress, gold soared as soon as the Chairman opened his mouth, hitting +$15 in minutes. Sure enough, Ben's open mouth is once again a gold bug's best friend, with gold jumping by a nearly identical $14 in the 30 minutes since the Senate version of Bernanke's testimony started today. Keep talking Ben, keep talking... And just wait until Ben starts printing again, to match the ECB's imminent second LTRO.
Remember when back in September 2010, David Tepper moved the market by nearly 2% when he told a stunned world that he is "balls to the wall" stocks because no matter what happens, stocks can only go higher (a ludicrous proposition in any other universe except perhaps for this one where the "Greenspan Put" has since been replaced with the "Bernanke Guarantee"). He did out perform the market that year. The next year he lost over 3%. Why? Was it because the Fed did not go through with promises of LSAP (even though it did engage in QE3 curve shifting by ZIRPing the short end in perpetuity, and buying 91% of long-end issuance). Or because the master can only create alpha when the puppet is flooding the market with liquidity. Whatever the reason, the Pavlovian creature known as the market, has been salivating for LSAP version 2012 since the beginning of January, courtesy of bearish remarks by the Chairman. And yet Tepper has yet to make a guest appearance on CNBC to discuss why the "balls" may make a repeat appearance next to the "wall." Because, as Morgan Stanley's Mike Wilson explains, instead of focusing on the means, investors should consider the end: "I think QE3 will end just as badly as QE2" and "I would feel better if earnings and economic growth were accelerating like during QE2. But they aren’t." Sure enough, one glance at the chart below explains not only why this time QE will be different actually applies, but also why when it comes to comparisons to Japan, the US may be lucky if ends up in the same condition as Japan, when the probability is one of a far worse outcome...
Update: it appears that the Guardian clip is from June when tempratures were a little warmer. That said, today's developments will likely not end in a very different fashion. For today's "riot" developments, follow kathimerini.
In a sad but entirely unsurprising turn of events, the people of Greece are indeed beginning to realize the dead end of their situation and what the politicians are about to do to them (sadly they also are not frontrunning the latest bevy of BS rumors out of Greece which have lifted the EURUSD by 110 pips on the same rumor rerun we have seen over and over and over and over and over and over and... so on ad inf). As the entire country strikes, the UK's Guardian notes that protesters in Athens are once again clashing with police as violence erupts outside the Greek parliament. After 30 years of Keynesian imbalance, is it any surprise that social unrest would once again erupt as austerity impositions are force-fed to a nation who recognizes the almost entire lack of benefits accruing to them from another Troika bailout.
While Bernanke's prepared remarks to the Senate today will be identical to those given to Congress last week, the Q&A session will be different. One notable difference will be Bernanke's take on the "huge jobs number" which was not public last week. He will likely be put to task to answer if and why he still expects QE when the economy is supposedly improving (on the back of a collapsing labor force, yes it makes no sense, don't ask us). We wonder what his non-answer answer will be to that one. Also we wonder if like last week, when answering Congressman Flores, he admits that the ECB collateral certification process is much better than that of the Fed when it comes to issuing cash under the discount window.