When back in August, Europe declared a short selling ban of any financials (here we are willing to channel Romney, and make a $10,000 bet with anyone that said ban will never be lifted), and which as we predicted has had no favorable impact on bank stocks which have since tumbled, we suggested that the next step will also be the final one: the passage of laws prohibiting sales of any kind. As usual we were partially joking. And as so often happens, we are about to be proven right again. As the FT reports in its headline article today, whose gist is simple enough, that Europe is on the verge, it is the tactically-placed final paragraph that is of particular curiosity. It says the following: "Speaking on the fringes of a start-of-year retreat of her Christian Union lawmakers in the city of Kiel, Ms Merkel said she would consider calls from her party colleagues for legislation to bar institutional investors such as insurance companies from selling bonds when ratings were downgraded, or fell below investment grade." Allow us to recopy and repaste the key part: "legislation to bar institutional investors such as insurance companies from selling bonds."
For anyone convinced that yesterday's S&P two notch downgrade of Spain to A is the last one for a while, we have some bad news: in Q4 Spanish unemployment soared by the most since the Lehman collapse, hitting what new PM Mariano Rajoy called an "astronomical" 5.4 million. This compares to 4.978 million people unemployed at the end of Q3 2011. Since the official number is not yet public and will be released on January 27 we will take his word for it. In which case it becomes clear that in Q4 the Spanish economy experienced a Lehman-like collapse, losing more than 400K people, or the most since the bankruptcy of Lehman brothers. In percentage terms this means that Spanish unemployment rose by a ridiculous 2%, or from 21.5% to 23.3%, in one quarter! And since Spain is a country of the Keynesian persuasion, we can only assume the number includes a whole bunch of meaningless birth/death and seasonal adjustments, but we'll leave it at that. Incidentally, it means that by the time the mean reversion exercise, with cost-cutting and what not is complete, Spanish unemployment will be well north of 30%, and 2 out of 3 people aged between 16 and 25 will be out of a job, if ot more. It also begs the question just what the real unemployment picture in the US, which lately has put the Chinese Department of Truth to shame, would be if reported on a realistic, unadjusted, and not "workforce contracted" basis. The chart below shows you everything you need to know.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Milan Finanza on Saturday, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said that he could lose up to $5 billion from the firm's exposure to the PIIGS countries. As Reuters reports, "Dimon said the bank was exposed to the five countries (PIIGS) to the tune of around $15 billion. "We fear we could lose up to $5 billion ... We hope the worst won't happen, but even if it did happen, I wouldn't be pulling my hair out," he said. Dimon said Europe was the worst problem for the banking sector. "But the EU and euro are solid even if the states will have to be financially responsible and do all they can to develop common social policies," he said." While it is admirable of JPMorgan to disclose some of its dirty laundry, as this was a topic that received hardly any mention in the firm's prepared quarterly release, and is predicated surely by the fact that its Basel III Tier 1 Common of $122 billion dwarfs this possible impairment, there are some questions left open. Such as what happens if and when Greek CDS, now most likely before March 20, were triggered? And the logical follow up - what happens when Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, and who knows who else (Hungary?) follow suit and decide that a coercive restructuring is actually not suicidal, even though it most certainly is once a given threshold is reached. In other words, how long can Europe tolerate the same two-tiered sovereign debt market that S&P warned about so explicitly yesterday? Finally what happens to JPM's Tier 1 Common when the European dominos impact not only the directly exposed PIIGS nations, and specifically their bonds, but all those other banks, insurance and reinsurance companies, whose current viability makes up the balance of JPM's remaining $117 billion in Tier 1? Because in its essence, stating that JPM is "fine" even if Europe were to collapse is analogous to Goldman telling Congress it would collect on its AIG CDS if and when the CDS market were to implode absent the government bailout of AIG, which itself was accountable for over $2 trillion of the entire CDS market itself.
The Real Dark Horse - S&P's Mass Downgrade FAQ May Have Just Hobbled The European Sovereign Debt MarketSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2012 - 19:55
All your questions about the historic European downgrade should be answered after reading the following FAQ. Or so S&P believes. Ironically, it does an admirable job, because the following presentation successfully manages to negate years of endless lies and propaganda by Europe's incompetent and corrupt klepocrarts, and lays out the true terrifying perspective currently splayed out before the eurozone better than most analyses we have seen to date. Namely that the failed experiment is coming to an end. And since the Eurozone's idiotic foundation was laid out by the same breed of central planning academic wizards who thought that Keynesianism was a great idea (and continue to determine the fate of the world out of their small corner office in the Marriner Eccles building), the imminent downfall of Europe will only precipitate the final unraveling of the shaman "economic" religion that has taken the world to the brink of utter financial collapse and, gradually, world war.
There is a little for everyone in Marc Faber's latest appearance on CNBC. The infamous boomer (and doomer) believes (as we do) that today's downgrades are less significant for stocks (at least until the realization that banks and more importantly insurance companies are about to be cut as well - keep a close eye out on Allianz and Generali (of ASSGEN fame) - it is not incidental that they are abbreviated to A&G, just one letter away from our own AIG) as it is largely priced in but the equity market's rally of the last few weeks (with its lack of breadth and volume) is strongly suggestive of a bear-market rally (as opposed to the decoupling bull market that so many hope for). His view quite simply is that the ECB has undergone a backdoor monetization and without this the EUR would be significantly stronger especially given the huge short-interest (though he sees the trend for EUR is down). Some highlights include: EUR weakness may help exports but the debt servicing costs of major European firms with huge US denominated debt wil suffer greatly, most European nations should be CCC-rated, nominally European stocks will outperform and holding quality dividend paying companies is preferred, valuation is practically impossible given ZIRP, and finally noting the irony, the worse the global economy gets (and the Chinese economy suffers), the more money printing will occur lifting nominal equity prices while real economies stumble and standards of living drop, so hold gold.
Not sure why they felt the need to wait until 430 since most of it was leaked already. Germany back to stable outlook is good. Austria and France chance EFSF but guess that is what LTRO is for. Italy and Portugal would be in trouble in the real world but so long as ECB views them as money good the countries and banks can keep printing money (sorry use LTRO). Roughly in line with expectations. I think the need to redo the EFSF and ESM concept is an issue that will need to be digested. Is BBB+ for Italy and junk for Portugal enough to cause some collateral provisions to be triggered or force some sellers? I don't think it will in any meaningful way but needs to be watched. I'm surprised Belgium got by but then again it is a rating agency.
The post-European-close rally-monkey was in full force today, with somewhat average (though NYSE volume is 30% lower than last January's average!) volumes in stocks, as ES (the e-mini S&P 500 futures contract) made it almost back to unchanged in a post-cash-close squeeze (on notably lower than average trade size). However, close-to-close, the cost of protecting equity and credit (in options volatility, implied correlation, and CDS) all rose (underperformed) significantly. It seems everyone believes everything bad (event-wise) is priced in but perhaps they are missing the reality of mundane macro data and earnings.
Today's worst kept secret just hit the wires, as S&P announces that it has officially downgraded France
- FRANCE CUT TO AA+ FROM AAA BY S&P, OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
- "we believe that there is at least a one-in-three chance that we could lower the rating further in 2012 or 2013"
- "we believe that a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating,"
One notch, but the negative outlook means a future downgrade is likely.
Presented with little but incredulous comment as the net short-interest speculative commitment of traders in EUR futures breaks to yet another record with no squeeze in sight yet...
Americans have been conditioned for three generations to expect the Savior State to "do something" during downturns to "make it right." The idea that systemic problems are now beyond the reach of the Federal government does not compute; there must be something the government can do to "fix" everything. This notion that the Central State is effectively omniscient and all-powerful is central to the belief system of Americans now. The concept that the government cannot fix the problem, or that government central-planning has made the problem worse, is anathema to everyone conditioned to believe government intervention will "save the day." The basic reality is the Federal government has already pulled out all the stops in the past four years to "make the economy recover," and all its unprecedented actions have accomplished is to maintain the Status Quo via unsustainably gargantuan borrowing, spending and backstopping. If we scrape away the rhetoric and bogus statistics, at heart the current fantasy that the U.S. has "decoupled" from the global economy and will remain an island of "permanent prosperity" in a sea of recession boils down to this belief: the Federal government "won't let us stay in recession." In other words, it's within the power of the Central State to make good every loss, guarantee every debt, maintain the Empire, solve every geopolitical challenge and find technological or military solutions to potential energy shortages. All we need is the "will" to force the government to use its essentially unlimited power to "fix everything." A people conditioned to this expectation will have great difficulty accepting that their government has already done everything possible, and that these stupendous debt-based expenditures are simply not sustainable going forward. Some problems are not fixable by more government intervention; indeed, government intervention in the marketplace is like insulin: the system begins to lose sensitivity to Central State manipulation and intervention.
JPM's head economist Michael Feroli just joined the bandwagon of other Wall Streeters in cutting Q4 GDP, trimming his prior forecast of 3.5% to 3.0%. However, as this is backward looking, it is largely irrelevant if confirming what we already knew: that the economy was certainly not growing as fast as the market implied it was (yes, the manipulated market is not the economy, no matter how much the Fed would like that to be the case). A bigger question is what should one expect from the future. Yes - an in vitro future, isolated from the daily rumor mill of what may or may not happen to the French rating tomorrow or the day after. It is here that there is nothing good to expect: 'we think growth will downshift from 3.0% in 4Q11 to 2.0% in 1Q12. Looking beyond the first quarter, we expect a growing private domestic sector will contend with a fading drag from the external sector and a persistent drag from the public sector." Yet where JPM falls short, is its optimistic view on the private sector. As David Rosenberg showed yesterday, the ratio of negative to positive preannouncements just hit a multi-year high, with the primary culprit being the strong dollar. Unfortunately for Feroli's bullish angle, the private sector will not do all that well at all if the EURUSD remains in the mid 1.20s or falls further. In fact, corporate earnings will likely be trounced, which in combination with everything else that JPM lists out, correctly, could make the second half of 2012 a perfect storm for economic growth, an event which Obama's pre-electoral planners are all too aware of. What is the only possible recourse? Why more QE of course. The only unknown is "when."
Five years on, the powers that be have just released the transcripts of the Fed's FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) meetings from 2006. Putting hindsight economic analysis aside, you quickly realize more than anything else: the committee is full of burgeoning comedians! Commentators have already highlighted the "humor" of the FOMC meetings, but it is really over the top at times. There are periods where Greenspan seems only capable of speaking in witty quips. That's right, the FOMC was laughing all the way to the top!
Remember the cold war: evil Empire, 5 year plans, Lada cars, etc? It may very well be back, this time over the simple matter of a few million barrels of crude per day, after Russia was found to be quietly supplying an embargoed Syria with ammunition, in violation of a weapons embargo. Reuters reports: "A Russian-operated ship carrying a cargo of ammunition has reached conflict-torn Syria after being temporarily halted during a refuelling stop in Cyprus, sources in Russia and Cyprus said on Friday. A source in Cyprus, where the ship made an unscheduled stop for refuelling late on Tuesday, said the ship had given written assurances to authorities its destination would not be Syria but Turkey. It was allowed to sail a day later, whereupon it dropped off conventional tracking systems, switched course and reached Syria on Thursday. "It had bullets. There were four containers on board," a Cypriot official told Reuters." And here the plot thickens: we now have some war mongering deepthroat somewhere in Leningrad, pardon, St. Petersburg: "The ship was carrying a dangerous cargo," the source at St. Petersburg-based Westberg Ltd. said by telephone on condition of anonymity. "It reached Syria on Jan. 11th." Needless to say, the US is not very happy that Russia is doing precisely what it warned a few months ago it would do: namely protect its sphere of influence especially in light of the ever-encroaching NATO aspirations (yes, provocations go both ways as Ron Paul has long been warning): "The United States said on Friday it had raised concerns with Moscow over a Russian-operated ship that has arrived in Syria and which sources said contained a cargo of bullets. "With regard to the ship we have raised our concerns about this both with Russia and with Cyprus, which was the last port of call for the ship, and we are continuing to seek clarification as to what went down here," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said." Looks like the escalation in the Straits of Hormuz is about to shift to the backburner as we finally go back to where the real tension is and always has been: between West and East.
It only took a few years, but we can finally move from A to B:
- ITALY CUT TWO LEVELS TO BBB+ BY S&P, EU OFFICIAL SAYS
Somehow ItBBB+ly doesn't quite have the same ring to it... Oh well, it will still work as pristine collateral with the ECB.