May 13th, 2012
Now that Europe is all the rage again, below we again summarize the key Euro-centric events through the end of the month, as well as all the sovereign bond auctions to look forward to (we use the term loosely). Finally, the squid summarizes the key events in the past week as well as the expected global catalysts in the next several days. Somehow we get the impression it will be all about the unexpected developments in the next 168 hours, especially with Spain, Italy, France and Germany coming front and center with a boatload of bond issuance as soon as 9 hours from now...
Anyone who worked in finance in the decade before Glass-Steagall was repealed knows that prior to Gramm-Leach-Bliley the megabanks just took their hyper-leveraged activities offshore (primarily to London where no such regulations existed). The big problem (at least in my mind) with Glass-Steagall is that it didn’t prevent the financial-industrial complex from gaining the power to loophole and lobby Glass-Steagall out of existence, and incorporate a new regime of hyper-leverage, convoluted shadow banking intermediation, and a multi-quadrillion-dollar derivatives web (and more importantly a taxpayer-funded safety net for when it all goes wrong: heads I win, tails you lose). I fear that the only answer to the dastardly combination of hyper-risk and huge bailouts is to let the junkies eat dirt the next time the system comes crashing down. You can’t keep bailing out hyper-fragile systems and expect them to just fix themselves. The answer to stupidity is not the moral hazard of bailouts, it is the educational lesson of failure. You screw up, you take more care next time. If you’re bailed out, you just don’t care. Corzine affirms it; Iksil affrims it; Adoboli affirms it. And there will be more names. Which chump is next?
In a development that would make Dostoevsky turn in his grave, we learn that the first three casualites of Fail-Whalegate have been identified.
Today's Meet The Press PR damage control campaign orchestrated on behalf of Jamie Dimon by the fawning press was just another attempt at redirection, in which a faux contrite Jamie Dimon promises that as a result of being '100% wrong' about his prior "Tempest in a Teapot" description of the Bruno Iksil debacle, he has learned his lesson, and in tried and true American fashion deserves a second chance. The rest was filler. What was not said is that the entire business model of the modern US banking edifice, where due to the Net Interest Margin limitations imposed by ZIRP, is one of prop trading as being a glorified hedge fund is the only way the banks can generate a rate of return above their cost of capital. What was also not said was the glaring lies by Blythe Masters from a month ago who swore up and down to CNBC that JPM does not engage in prop trading. What was also not said is that contrary to "conventional wisdom" where a few prop traders have been sacked (most likely due to not taking enough risk) prop trading is alive and well across Wall Street, even if it has been largely rebranded as 'flow trading' - just as the high freaks are scrambling to come up with a new name for HFT because that will make all the difference. What was also not said, nor discussed, is why anyone would trust or invest in these money center banks when their balance sheets are so opaque, even their CEOs flip flop within a month of what is really happening, with accounting standards so poor, that nobody can figure out what they are investing in, and why Mark-to-Market is still halted (Aren't banks finally quote unquote healthy?). Finally, the most important thing not said, was Glass-Steagall, the one law whose overturning allowed the commingling of deposits and hedge fund activity courtesy of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, hilarious called the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. If America is to have even a remote hope of returning to normalcy, Glass-Steagall has to be reinstated. Which is why nobody brought it up on MTP: neither the anchor who is accountable to an organization which needs the status quo for advertising revenues, nor the hungry for TV exposure senator, nor the DCF-expert access journalist. Nobody.
Here is the 3-point plan:
- Renounce all debts denominated in the euro, i.e. a 100% writedown.
- Accept the U.S. dollar as the national currency of Greece.
- Engage in a transparent national dialog and reach a consensus about taxation and the role of the state in the Greek society and economy.
We might add a fourth point: renounce scams and kicking problems down the road rather than addressing them directly, sweeping dysfunction under the rug, etc.
Germany is interested in the EU as a political entity, NOT the Euro as a currency. With that in mind, as well as Merkel’s recent political struggle, the stage is set for a possible exit from the Euro on the part of Germany.
It took Europe two years to go from Acropolis Now to Akropolis Adieu.
Another weekend, another stunner in local European elections, this time as Merkel's CDU gets a record low vote in the state elections of Germany's most populous state North Rhein-Westphalia. According to a preliminary projections by ARD, the breakdown is as follows:
- CDU: 26%
- Pirates: 7.5%
- FDP: 8.5%
Good news: no neo-nazis. Bad news: record defeat for the Chancellor. And the bext news for twitter fans: Angela_D_Merkel ist aus. Hannelore Kraft: in.
Republican Delegates Can Ignore Any “Committment” to Vote for Mitt Romney, and Can Instead Vote for Ron Paul If They WantSubmitted by George Washington on 05/13/2012 11:41 -0400
Free to Choose ...
- How do you define market risk?
- Do you take fixed price positions?
- Are you exclusively a hedger or do you “optimize” your assets?
- Do you have a risk policy?
- How do you monitor trading/hedging limits?.
Now that the Greek exit is back to being topic #1 of discussion, just as it was back in the fall of 2011, and the media has been flooded by groundless speculation posited by journalists who have never used excel in their lives and are merely paid mouthpieces of bigger bank interests (long live access journalism and the book sales it facilitates), it is time to rewind to a step by step analysis of precisely what will happen in the moment before Greece announces the EMU exit, how the transition from pre to post occurs, and the aftermath of what said transition would entail, courtesy of one of the smarter minds out there, Citi's Willem Buiter, who pontificated precisely on this topic last year, and whose thoughts he has graciously provided for all to read on his own website. Of course, take all of this with a huge grain of salt - these are observations by the chief economist of a bank which will likely be swept aside the second the EMU starts the post-Grexit rumble.
As suspected, yesterday's report that the Troika may be caving on Greece appears more and more as a red-herring trial balloon, leaked by the Greek press without substantiation, and which sought to lighten the tension ahead of a trading week which is already looking rather askew. Because not even a full 24 hours later, Germany fires right back with an article in the Spiegel which not only anticipates the Grexit, but what happens the day after: namely that Greece would receive further aid from the EFSF if it exited the euro. It also notes that the EFSF aid to service bonds would continue. Greece would continue to get aid as EU member as every other member state. While it is unclear if this article is in response to the WiWo piece we noted yesterday which tried to quantify the costs of a Greek impact, and which has now ominously been picked up by Die Welt, in which Germany was finally starting to get worried about the hundreds of billions in sunk costs should Greece exit, the punchline here, needless to say, is not only the contemplation of a Greek exit but that Greece would be "all taken care of" even as the newly reintroduced Drachma lost a few hundred percent in value every day as Greece stormed its way back to FX competitiveness. Spiegel's punchline: "This is to the consequences of a possible €-egress will be mitigated." Hopefully the market agrees.
A few live ones for you...and Happy Mother's Day Zero Hedge Mamas!
Europe is heading for a showdown and in a number of places; that much can be acknowledged with certainty. The first, and perhaps the most important, is the stand-off between France and the European Commission. The EU budgetary office is demanding that France reduce its deficit to 3.00% for 2012 while the projection is for 4.50% so that the Commission is threatening France with large fines. Mr. Hollande ran his campaign upon a reduction in the retirement age, more generous pensions, shorter work hours and more governmental spending so that the budgetary miss is likely to be larger than forecast; somewhere around 5.2% in my estimation. France then finds itself, one way or another, with a larger budgetary deficit and if the EU then imposes fines and sanctions Paris may thumb its nose at Berlin/Brussels in what could be a rather nasty affair with unknown consequences. Mrs. Merkel in one corner and Mr. Hollande in another slugging it out will not make for harmonious relations. Then there are the issues of Greece and Spain and the Socialist reaction is bound to be very different than the Austerity imposition as demanded by Germany. Jawohl!
Someone has to take the other side of the JPM debate. I'll try.