March 5th, 2012
Okay, we don’t know if that is a good translation of Dead Bank Walking into Portuguese, but we didn’t think zombie banks was sufficient. As Portugal's sovereign spreads have risen by 200bps in the last 3 weeks and now trade at a wholly unsustainable 1200bps over Bunds, we thought it worth looking at how large (and under-capitalized) the Portuguese banking system was. Perhaps more critically just how zombified they were with regards to their Central Bank liquidity needs - the picture is not encouraging. As tensions continue to mount internally, it seems the LTRO's lull should be used to wipe out the weak banks or recap the less-than-dismal banks as that is the only real firewall. With the Greek PSI/restructuring dangling in the dust, it seems increasingly likely (as the IIF just noted) that Portugal is next and imminent given market pricing, despite the 'uniqueness' of their Hellenic neighbors.
In 2011 it was Europe's turn to baffle everyone with bullshit. it still is, but now it has added China (whose Services ISM printed both below and above 50 depending on which data one uses, whether Markit or HSBC), and the US, as it is now the turn of the Services ISM to beat expectations and print at 57.3, on expectations of 56.0, and higher than the prior 56.8 - this beat comes just as the market was expecting a major drop in the aftermath of the big manufacturing ISM miss (Goldman was well below the consensus on today's number), and appears to have printed where it did just to keep the confusion about the true state of the US economy in place as Bernanke vacillates whether or not to proceed with QE3 and when. Curiously, the most important subindex ahead of this Friday's NFP data, the employment indicator, showed a decline from 57.4 to 55.7, just to make an NFP beat all that much more 'surprising.' That said, as Bloomberg's Joe Brusuelas notes, this data is stale and does not reflect the recent gasoline price shock, which as of today has regular has at a 2012 high of $3.767, compared to $3.503 this time last year. Elsewhere, and in keeping with the Mfg ISM data, US Factory Orders slid 1.0% on expectations of an unchanged print from last month's 1.4% increase. Finally, stocks are completely unmoved on all of this data.
Another day, another reminder that all those who listened to "pundit" calls for loading up on Greek 1 year bonds which hit 100% for the first time ever in September of last year, are now broke to quite broke. As of this morning the Greek 1 Year Bond has just passed 1000% and was down to just 20.5 in cash terms, further making the case for a Greek redefault in just over a year, as pre-petition bondholders make it abundanatly clear they don't expect to collect much more than one cash coupon in the "fresh start" country. In other news, Greek CDS just hit a new all time high of 77 pts, and the basis package is at a record of 98.5. It appears that the IIF fearmongering has not stopped all those who wish to have a basis package going into Thursday from doing just that (because for the cheap seats, CDS prices go up when there are more buyers than sellers).
Having spent this money, your next concern becomes avoiding popular outrage as sooner or later folks will find out that this money was practically given away and that everyone else got a raw deal. Let’s say that you just spent a large sum, to the tune of several trillion Dollars, bailing out various businesses that were literally run into insolvency by shortsighted and greedy business practices.
Readers know that among the things the we find most meaningless in the New Normal are those anachronisms known as 'charts' - after all when it comes to central planners exclusively running the market, this has never occurred before in history at this level. Yet the impact of technical analysis should not to be discounted, as it does create a self-fulfilling prophecy (far weaker than the impact of marginal liquidity but it is there nonetheless), in which case today's note from Art Cashin may have an impact on risk appetite. Or not - all it takes for any bout of selling to end is a sideways glance from the Chairsatan and we see a 20% surge in risk in the next few months on nothing but a whisper of a new multi-trillion liquidity injection.
While everyone was busy ruminating on how little impact a Greek default would have on the global economy, the IIF - the syndicate of banks dedicated to the perpetuation of the status quo - was busy doing precisely the opposite. In a Confidential Staff Note that was making the rounds in the past 2 weeks titled "Implications of a Disorderly Greek Default and Euro Exit" the IIF was doing its best Hank Paulson imitation in an attempt to scare the Bejeezus out of potential hold outs everywhere, by "quantifying" the impact form a Greek failure. The end result: "It is difficult to add all these contingent liabilities up with any degree of precision, although it is hard to see how they would not exceed €1 trillion." In other words, hold out at your own peril. Of course, what the IIF does not understand, is that for hedge funds it is precisely this kind of systemic nuisance value that makes holding out that much more valuable, as they understand all too well that they have all the cards on the table. And while a Greek default could be delayed even if full PSI was not attained by Thursday, it would simply make paying off the holdouts the cheapest cost strategy for the IIF, for Europe and for the world's banks. Unless of course, the IIF is bluffing, in which case the memorandum is not worth its weight in 2020 US Treasurys.
I recall the early days of the Greek crisis when everyone asked why Greece was so important because it is such a small country. I responded that they had a total of $1.1 trillion in debt (sovereign, municipal, corporate, bank and derivatives) and I remember the blank stares. Now, if the newest bailout goes through, they will have more than $1.3 trillion in debt and while they could not pay the initial amount they certainly cannot pay any larger amounts so that it can clearly be stated that what is going on is the central banks of Europe and the ECB/EU lending money to Greece only as a conduit to pay back their own banking institutions. If you object to my math here recall that as the private sector involvement reduces the notational amount of sovereign debt but that the Greek banks are also going to be lent money so that the decrease in sovereign debt which excludes the ECB/EIB and IMF debt is not the headline bandied about in the press. So we have the hard date of March 9 when either the threshold for the exchange is met or not, the imposition of the CAC clause or not, the next “Question” to the ISDA if the CAC is triggered asking if there has been a credit event to trigger the CDS contracts, the possible consequences of a CDS trigger, the decision on the bailout funds by the EU and finally the March 20 hard date when Greece must make its bond payments or default. Regardless of your opinion, it may now be stated precisely, that there is a lot of risk on the table and on that basis alone I would assume a quite defensive position until this all gets played out. The risk/reward ratio is now strongly slanted towards Risk.
In what should come as a surprise to nobody, German banks have announced that they will accept the terms of the Greek PSI whose outcome is due on Thursday. Because as Reuters points out, German banks already have had the time and opportunity to park the bulk of their Greek exposure with the failed German bad bank, which is explicitly funded by the government (thus making the cost to the German government even higher): "While Greek sovereign debt owned by German lenders has a face value of roughly 15 billion euros ($20 billion), in most cases they have already written down that value in their books by about three quarters. FMS Wertmanagement, the biggest creditor with an exposure of nominally more than 8 billion euros, will accept the deal, a person close to the lender said on Monday. FMS, the bad bank set up to hold the toxic assets of bailed-out former bluechip lender Hypo Real Estate, is to formally decide on accepting the debt cut later this week, the person said." German banks... German banks... where else have we seen this today? Oh yes: "Die Welt said that more than half of the 800 lenders that tapped the ECB's 3Y LTRO last week were German, consisting mainly of small savings and cooperative banks." Thank you Jim Reid - so while Bundebank's Jens Weidmann huffs and puffs about the LTRO, it is his own banks are the biggest beneficiaries, in no small part to hedge against Greek exposure. But yes - at least following the absorption of tens of billions in intermediary capital via a variety of channels, German banks can now accept a 70%+ haircut, even if they continue to complain about it in the process: "Commerzbank, which had originally invested almost 3 billion euros in Greek sovereign bonds but has written down its exposure to 800 million, said last month it had little choice but to take part in the bond swap. At the time, chief executive Martin Blessing said: "The voluntariness (of the Greek debt swap) is about as voluntary as a confession at a Spanish inquisition trial."" The Spanish Inquisition appears to have won yet again.
European equity indices are exhibiting signs of risk averse behaviour, with financials and basic materials performing particularly poorly. This follows weekend reports from ECB sources that the central bank does not believe voluntary participation in the Greek debt swap deal will be sufficient, and the CACs will have to be invoked. Markets are also reacting to the weekend press from Germany, claiming the Troika believe Greece will require a third bailout of around EUR 50bln by 2020, however these reports were denied by a German spokesman earlier in the session. European Services PMI data released earlier in the session fell below expectations, compounding the already cautious market behaviour. European Banks have parked a fresh record EUR 820bln with the ECB overnight, showing further evidence that the LTRO has loosened liquidity constrictions in the continent. Commodities are making losses ahead of the North American open following overnight news that China have made a downward revision to their GDP target for 2012. Spot gold is trading down around 0.9% and WTI and Brent crude futures have been making a loss for most of the session so far, however oil has made positive movements in recent trade. These negative movements in commodities are also weighing down upon the commodity-linked currencies, with AUD particularly making losses on the session.
Last week's manufacturing ISM was a big disappointment, making a mockery of Wall Street expectations, and of course its biggest permabull , Joe Lavorgna who came 10 standard deviations above the final number. Will this weakness continue today? If yes, it is merely a loophole for the Chairman to use at the next FOMC meeting and further goose the market. If not, it likely means that Friday's NFP number will see a record 'adjustment' fudge factor with payrolls soaring well above the consensus, on a last ditch effort to get the economy to sustain a virtuous cycle. Unfortunately when one takes away the $2 trillion punchbowl injected over the past 6 months into the global economy, this is impossible.
Citigroup have said that they believe that gold will rise to $2,400/oz in 2012 and by $3,400/oz in “the coming years”. However, Citi’s Tom Fitzpatrick warned of price weakness in the short term and said there is a “real danger” that there may be a correction to $1,600/oz which would provide an even better buying opportunity. Citi are also cautious near term on oil and silver. Production of gold in Australia slid again last year, despite gold fetching higher nominal prices than ever before. According to gold experts, Surbiton Associates, 264 tonnes of gold were produced last year, two tonnes less than in 2010. The 264 tonnes equated to about 8.5 million ounces and ensures that Australia remains a major player in gold, with only China producing more last year. The United States was the world's third-biggest producer with 240 tonnes. Australia's gold production was well below the nation's production peak in the late 1990s. This further suggests the possibility of peak gold production. Of the world’s four biggest gold producers (China, Australia, the U.S. and South Africa), only China has managed to increase gold production in recent years and this Chinese gold is used in China to meet the rapidly growing demand for gold jewellery and coins and bars as stores of value in China.
- China cuts 2012 growth target to 7.5 percent, stability key (Reuters)
- Freom the Fed scribe himsef - Fed Takes a Break to Weigh Outlook (WSJ)
- Greek bond swap deal rests on knife-edge (FT)
- Lenders Stress Over Test Results (WSJ)
- China to Curb Auto Production Capacity, Promote New-Energy Car Development (Bloomberg)
- China military spending to top $100 billion in 2012, alarming neighbours (WaPo)
- Warning: A New Who's Who of Awful Times to Invest (Hussman)
- EU to push quota for women directors (FT)
- Romney Advances As Obama Gains (WSJ)
- Saudi Aramco Raises Oil Premium for April Sales to Asia, U.S.; Cuts Europe (Bloomberg)
Futures Slide On Euro Service PMI Miss, Lower China Growth Target, New Irish Bailout, ECB Deposit Facility SurgeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/05/2012 07:14 -0500
That red color on your screen this morning is not a failure in the green pixel channel but an indication of three main things. First, European composite PMIs came in at 49.3, down from 50.4 in January, and below the preliminary print 49.7 released on February 22. The main reason was the slide in the Eurozone Service PMI which printed at 48.8 on expected 49.4. This included a deterioration not only in the peripheral countries but in the core stalwarts France and Germany too. Elsewhere, China reduced its growth target to 7.5% this year, the lowest goal since 2004. The government will also aim for inflation of about 4 percent this year, unchanged from its goal in 2011. China also announced that it will target a deficit of 800bn CNY for 2012, a rather surprising change from its previous stance. Rounding out the dour note is a Moody's announcement that Ireland is likely to need a second bailout when its current aid program ends, rating agency Moody’s warned today, and that it too may need a PSI just like Greece. Then again, scratch may and replace with will. From the Irish Times: "In its weekly credit outlook report, Moody’s also warned a No vote in the upcoming fiscal treaty referendum would bar Ireland from receiving further funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The agency predicted the Government would have to rely on the ESM for additional funding after the existing bailout program expires in 2014. "We expect Ireland to face challenges regaining market access in 2013 and it will likely need to rely on the ESM, at least partially, when the current support programme expires,” it said." As a reminder, if Ireland proceeds with a referendum on the Fiscal compact, and the referendum fails, it will have no ESM support, and thus no second bailout potential. Finally, the ECB deposit facility usage soared to an all time record of €821 billion overnight, confirming that the LTRO 2, contrary to some wrong analysis, is not being used for Carry trades at all.