Next On The Downgrade Docket: Belgium

Tyler Durden's picture

With so much of the attention once again focused on Europe's periphery (which somehow the efficient market could not be bothered with for about 4 months, even though it was all there, staring people in the face all along), it may be time to recall the Europe's core is just as troubled as everything else. Some may recall that back on December 14, S&P came out with a bit of a stunner (which in retrospect looks rather tame following the now forgotten warning on the US Debt): "And so European contagion is back as S&P, now clearly with a mandate
to remind that Europe is in a heap of trouble every month or so, puts
Belgium on Outlook negative, saying that it is basically just a matter
of time before the country loses its AA+ rating. The bogey: 6 months,
which likely means that around May of next year, just like a year prior,
we will see the same fireworks out of Europe, only this time not from
Greece, but from the very heart of what is left of a solvent continent.
"If Belgium fails to form a government soon, a downgrade could occur,
potentially within six months.  Should a government be formed but is, in
our opinion, ineffective in its fiscal stance or devolution, we are
likely to consider rating action within two years.
" Well, it is now 6 months later, and Belgium still has no government. Time to pull the switch?

Bloomberg chimes in on the imminent downgrade of the world's longest anarchy:

“There’s a downgrade looming,” said Michael Leister, a fixed-income analyst at WestLB AG in Dusseldorf. “The market appears to have become really complacent regarding the issue. This may become an issue again if a downgrade is to come.”

Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis, which forced Portugal this month to follow Greece and Ireland in accepting a European Union-led bailout, has overshadowed the political standoff in Belgium triggered by inconclusive elections last June. A strengthening economic recovery has helped  shrink the deficit, though reducing the debt will require political resolve.

“It’s hard to convince investors in the market that you’re going to tackle your debt problem when you don’t have effective leadership or a team in place that could introduce such measures,” Leister said.

Will the Belgian downgrade impact its, and other peripheral bonds?

While Leterme has been unable to pass meaningful spending cuts, Belgium’s bonds have beaten those of most countries in the region this year. The debt is little changed, the third-best among the 11 major euro-denominated nations tracked by Bloomberg and the European Federation of  financial Analysts Societies. German debt lost 1.2 percent in the period, the indexes showed,with Greek securities losing more than 11 percent.

“At the moment, the market’s giving Belgium the benefit of the doubt,” said Peter Allwright, head of absolute rates and currency at RWC Partners Ltd., a London-based asset-management company that oversees about $4 billion. “The perception is that Belgium has time. It’s a developed market with a wide distribution, and investors are happy to hold onto the securities.”

The extra yield, or spread, on Belgian 10-year bonds over German bunds has fallen from a euro-era high of 144 basis points to 109.5 yesterday. That compares with an average of 86 for the past year.

“The possible influence of the political situation on spreads has been compensated for by the Belgian fundamentals, which have continued to improve since the beginning of the year,” Anne Leclercq, director for treasury and capital markets at the Belgian debt agency, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We plan to issue 34 billion euros ($49 billion) this year. We have now done 53.4 percent.”

One thing is certain: the downgrade is coming:

Five months after S&P set its deadline, there has been little progress in resolving the impasse between the country’s French-speaking and Flemmish political forces, raising the risk of a rating reduction that could further boost the country’s borrowing costs.

Belgium has been without a fully-empowered government for 331 days since an inconclusive election in June. Its political class -- led by Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, the top vote- getter in the Dutch-speaking north, and Socialist Elio Di Rupo, the winner in the French-speaking region -- has been unable to break the deadlock and forge a coalition.

Of course, in communist central planning, ponzi runs market:

Foreign ownership of the nation’s bonds and treasury bills increased to 71.2 percent from 59.6 percent in the past decade, according to central-bank data.

“A rush for the exit by foreign investors is a key market risk,” Leister said. “We have seen with other peripheral markets that they’re the first to rush out of the door. This could repeat itself, in the same direction, maybe not in the same magnitude.”

Look for much of nothing to happen when yet another warning sign is promptly digested by the market as the proletariat of central bankers sell a few more Treasury puts to make the market believe all is well for as long as possible.

h/t Mike

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GottaBKiddn's picture


Finally someone sheds a little light on the smelly EU capitol.



bank guy in Brussels's picture

Whatever one's opinion of the EU, Brussels is one of the most delightful and pleasant capital cities in which to live in the entire world. And it's the most affordable national capital in all of Western Europe. Lovely city, actually, just a little scruffy due to bohemian authenticity, but with many charms and great food and drink, a lot of fine architecture and welcoming cafés wherever you turn.

Belgium is the 5th richest country within the EU in terms of per capita income, it will be quite okay, quite meriting the 'benefit of the doubt' re economic evaluations.

Like Canada, Belgium has a perpetual conversation about 'breaking up' along language lines ... like Canada for the last 45 years or so. Belgium's dialogue about this is at an intense point now, like it was in Canada in the 1990s ... it won't happen, partly because of the economic complexity of Brussels, claimed by both language groups and with strong but different ties to both ... Belgians will work things out eventually ... There's nothing wrong with having a country where regional identity is stronger than the national one.

The general European Union debt and banking system issues are great ones ... but Belgium is only sort of a 'median' in that problem mix ... Belgium is an awfully sweet place in many ways, and I am sure it will remain so whatever happens in terms of general banking and currency calamity.

jtaskinen's picture

I lived in three occasions in Belgium. Have to say that it one of the most disgusting places I have ever been.

Very dysfunctional, arbitrary and bureacratic. I am happy not to be anywhere nearby.

A non-country like Belgium is a perfect place for EU, they fit together like a fist and a glove

Sudden Debt's picture

It's not because you couldn't got laid in belgium That belgium sucks.
I bet your just to ugly and stupid to pick up à girl.

jtaskinen's picture

Pretty are Belgian?

Belgian males are smelly, but at least women do not have a bush under arm as in Germany.

kaiten's picture

Next time you go to Belgium you need to try some hotels as well, not just searching the trash. It will be less smelly, also.

Ah, and dont forget to leave your arrogance at home.

falak pema's picture

What has me in fits is to hear these arguments that generalize national traits... I love doing it but its to laugh at myself not at others... It gets really funny when it is said in all seriousness...Then we are in xenophobic hunting the Apache.

MarketTruth's picture

Belgium is not just smelly, it is also has a very large concentration of **pedophiles**(!). Add to that, Belgium is a dirty, ugly city you would never want to take the family. As for their financial stability, it is in fact worse than many here could imagine.

American Dissident's picture

"Belgium is a dirty, ugly city you would never want to take the family"  Seriously - NO - S E R I O U S L Y!  Yikes!

Sudden Debt's picture

Detroit is your city of choice right?


magpie's picture

This is bullish, it's only municipal debt right ?

Hephasteus's picture

You should say no Belgium is EXTREMELY dirty and extremely ugly. Play up your strong points.

MarketTruth's picture

best bet, you can go visit Belgium and report back. Be sure to bring the kids :)

pazmaker's picture

I thought Belgium was a country not a city?

MarketTruth's picture

Apologies for typo (thank you Typo ZH Police), yes it is a country. One that i hope to NEVER be doomed to spend time within. This is echoed by my family and friends, who each had separate visits to Belgium over a period of time and each experienced this ugly country.

Sudden Debt's picture

Are you That Chinese Guy who's Chinese restaurant was shuttle down because of THE filth?

We don't hate Chinese people. Only THE dirty once.


And your family.

And those rats you kept in you basement and You call friend

kaiten's picture

He just had to let it out somewhere. Now he feels better. Ehm ...

Nnthnt1's picture

Belgium just does a better job in keeping statistics of crimes& it is less (read not) patriotic and thus strategic in hiding news about its pedophiles..

What people don't understand is that Belgian debt is majorly held indoors. Moreover, Belgium is a net creditor nation. I hope ZeroHedge readers understand what that means.

Seasmoke's picture

that could be a hard one to kick the can down road any more.....time may be up !

Jim Lahey's picture

Short waffles bitchez!

Aengrod's picture

Burn Brussel BURN we the PEOPLE want to see your BURN to ASH!

Zero Debt's picture

Is this just a lot of noise S&P is instructed to make to distract the attention from the dollar?

Ethics Gradient's picture

That only works if you can only hold one thought in your mind at a time. If that's the case, you probably shouldn't have anything to do with finance of any sort.

Zero Debt's picture

Those relying on ratings are more likely to be single threaded decision makers

Josh Randall's picture

I concurr - the unspoken currency war is is in full swing with the US throwing more sand in the EU's face by bad rapping their situation.

Next shot to be fired by the EU in retailiation will be innuendo that US has some other catastrophic tumor of it's own (ie. muni bond collapse, failed baks, Fannie/Freddie bailout redoux, etc..)


nmewn's picture

Lawsuit bitchez!

Oh regional Indian's picture

THAT is the EU dilemma right there.

It is headquartered and governed from a country without a government.

Fractally priceless.


Don Quixotic's picture

Belgium has been on the brink of fracturing into two countries for a while as it is. They've been front-running the EU for years.

Buckaroo Banzai's picture

Man, I wish we could go 6 months without a federal government. Lucky Belgians.

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

The US didn't have a budget last year, does that count?

nmewn's picture


Lights were on, nobody was home.

TheTmfreak's picture

Nobody has been home for a long time. Probably ripe for buglarizing... oh wait.

nmewn's picture

I would have to agree...hang on to your silver ;-)

RobotTrader's picture

I'm sure this piece of bad news will be bought along with everything else the last 6 months.

Seems like Wall St. thinks "Well, can't get any worse, I might as well buy stocks!"


Don Quixotic's picture

Does that mean there are very few marginal buyers of equities left or way too many... markets have been irrational so long I can't even tell where we are in the cycle any more.

American Dissident's picture

Ahh Belgium aka LIBTARDIA - Just another of World Governments many rotten teeth.  Soon they will all be rotten.  Beware the implant falsies...

Gordon Freeman's picture

What a pathetic joke...

"Foreign ownership", heading for the exits?  WTF is that?  How does that work?  There's nowhere to go!

As Mauldin puts it, this is Endgame--everyone's in the same leaky boat.  The way it works, for the time being, is everyone takes a turn being the "problem", dutifully reported by the MSM propaganda machine, so it looks for awhile that the others  are in comparatively good shape.  It's like a bunch of lepers picking on the one with the gonorrhea...


Mercury's picture

The very existence of the state of Belgium should be put on outlook negative.

Gotta love how the epicenter of the world government movement (which no doubt overlaps significantly with the "Diversity"  movement) can't figure out how to organize their tiny, boring (with apologies to Bank Guy in Brussels) country so that their two main ethnic groups don't kill each other over the right way to make a pancake.

Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Belgium, if my memory serves me correctly, has the highest debt/gdp in the world.  It is time they consider nationalizing their chocolate industry.

American Dissident's picture

Prefer the Chocolatiers in The Land of the Money Whores myself.  Nestle crapola excepted of course.

S-hai High's picture

running at around 100%, not quite as bad as Japan, Greece, Italy... but still pretty poor. Their saving grace is that the govnt deficit is only around  -4%, which is low by warzone... sorry, 'eurozone' standards

web bot's picture

I'm sure Nigel Farange will have something to say on this...

Dick Darlington's picture

I think Nigel called Belgium a "non-country" when he was mocking the guy who has an appearance of a bank clerk. Wait, who was that? Oh, yes, it was Mr Van Rompuy, the so called president of EU counsil. Nice to be a president when you don't even have to get elected.

Aengrod's picture

Nigel rulez, and Brussel should burn in fire. Fire of damnation along with whole EU.


Greets from IRELAND.

camaro68ss's picture

Im sorry Tyler but do you really think "goverment" will make thinks better if Belgium had one. When was the last time goverment actually did something good for the people, besides the trillions its pissed away to bail out its buddys.

I think belgium is better off with out a goverment regardless of down grade


Al89's picture

We assume the EU doesn't want a weaker currency. How is it good for Germany for their exports out of the EU to be costing so much. Likewise the US wouldn't want the DXY to continue dropping like a stone, to go through the 2008 lows and for the erosion of value to potentially turn into a disorderly collapse.

This song and dance coming as QE2 winds down provides further reason to think we will see a $ rally and the end of the inflation trade. It will buy some breathing space ($ strength and commodity price wise) for QE3 and the monetisation of US debt to continue.

Rally could be fairly strong given how 1 sided the long EUR/USD bet had become. I also spotted the SocGen piece on the breakdown in the Greek CDS/EUR correlation. Watch out for Belgium and surging Spanish/Italian CDS spreads (+6% and +7% respectively).

Then again what do I know. EUR/USD will probably be trading at 1.6 soon and the Bernank might skip the deflation part entirely and just skip right on to (hyper)inflation.