The Ticking Time Bomb That Are The Spanish Cajas

Tyler Durden's picture

Even with Spain's Cajas, or savings banks, completing the country's most aggressive sector restructuring in history, after nearly 90%, or 39 out of 45 merged or participated in some form of "cold fusion" and benefiting from the financial assistance of the Spanish central bank, there has been precious little written about the actual holdings of this most aggressive lender of mortgage to Spain's 20% unemployed population. Until today: a new report by CreditSights' David Watts indicates that investor worries about the Spanish banking system are very well founded and likely underestimate just how bad the true situation actually is. In "Spanish RMBS: Insider Caja Loan Books", Watts concludes that the Cajas are likely hiding losses on home loans by taking
non-performing mortgages out of securitized pools. Absent this unsymmetrical onboarding of risk, the overall deterioration of the broader pool would have become ineligible as collateral in ECB refi operations. In essence, Watts says, "by buying the loans out of the mortgage pool, the cajas would be taking those weaker loans onto their own books." This implies that the 3.7% serious delinquency rate reported by the cajas is in reality far higher, and likely "underestimates their potential losses." And what's worst: as ever more delinquencies mount courtesy of austerity, and the Cajas run out of cash to constantly buy up the weakest performing loans, all of Spain is about to lose ECB collateral access to its hundreds of billions in securitized RMBS, completely locking the country out of any access to liquidity, even that of the ultimate backstop, the European Central Bank.

Spain's cajas are notoriously secretive about the state of their loan books. Which is why CreditSights took a bottoms-up approach, looking at a sample of 143 Spanish residential mortgage-backed
securities collateralized by 136 billion euros ($170 billion) of loans,
of which 45% was originated by cajas.

In an attempt to better understand the stresses that Spanish mortgages are under, we use Spanish RMBS investor reports to assess loan performance and compare how Caja-originated loans compare to those extended by the larger, more-diversified Spanish commercial banks such as BBVA and Santander. The performance of mortgages within caja-securitisations is noticeably weaker than for Spain's commercial banks.

As CreditSights points out, the outstanding balance of securitized Spanish resi mortgages is estimated to have reached €168 billion, representing 15.3% of all mortgage lending in the country. Yet taking advantage of ECB generosity to take on all sorts of worthless assets on the left side of the ledger supporting the euro, "even with investors globally taking a much more sceptical approach to RMBS following the US subprime crisis, issuance of RMBS in the Spanish market has remained relatively strong as issuers have retained deals primarily to use as collateral against ECB open-market operations." In essence, the ker structural difference between the US and Europe can be summarized in the previous sentence: while US banks were at least smart enough to know they need to offboard RMBS associated risk to even dumber investors, in Europe, it was the ECB which for many years running was the backstop, thus preventing the need for prudent risk management. The end result: the collapse of the Spanish deposit savings system.

The chart below shows the dramatic surge in RMBS retention at about the time the subprime market in the US blew up. The primary "beneficiary" of this stupidity - the cajas.

As to the reason why the cajas are avoided like the plague by virtually everyone, the chart below says it all: while everyone was enjoying the credit fuelled binge on the way up (very much as the US was), the reversion has yet to catch up with reality. The truth is that even as the quarterly change in lending has plunged, the property price index is massively higher than where it should be currently. Once the benefits of record low Euribor and other artificial props finally expire, look for Spanish real estate prices to literally plummet destroying not just the local banking system, but that of the entire interlinked European financial system.

And a quick detour into Spanish CMBS. Watts explains: "As a percentage of GDP, Spanish household sector has debts of 85% and housing-related debts equivalent to around 65% of GDP. Indeed, including loans for residential development (commercial real estate lending), total housing-sector related lending is equivalent to 104% of GDP, nearly double where it was in 2003. That means that we estimate that Spanish property developers have debt equivalent to almost 30% of GDP." This is simply another massive risk overhang that the banks never offloaded, and has so far flown very successfully beneath the radar. Yet unlike RMBS, the ECB does not accept CMBS as collateral against refi ops, leading one to scratch their head why the banks were so stupid in this particular case.

CreditSights has this last warning to add on Spanish development loans:

Given the US experience with development loans and the fact that much of this developer-related lending was no doubt focused on the worst affected markets - retirement and vacation properties - we think these loans are probably performing more poorly than the ordinary residential mortgage lending that we track within our RMBS sample. As a result, our sample may understate the true scale of problem loans within the Spanish banking sector.

Worried yet?

As to the actual results of CreditSights broader analysis of , the chart below summarizes that as the deterioration in Spanish unemployment accelerated, delinquencies remained somewhat flat, primarily courtesy of a collapsing Euribor rate. As we have pointed out recently, now that the LTRO has matured, Euribor and Libor have only one way to go: up.

So back to the split between caja-originated mortgage versus those issued by the large banks, Watts confirms that there is a material underperformance when it comes to Cajas: "the most obvious takeaway is that mortgages originated by cajas have been running at higher delinquency levels than mortgages originated by Spain's commercial banks for at least the part four years." The chart below demonstrates just how much worse the Cajas books' are, even based on doctored public data, than banks:

The key question posed by Watts, and whose answer is truly troubling, is the following: what is driving the volatility in the caja's mortgage performance. The explanation offered: "we believe this phenomenon might be partially explained by the removal of delinquent mortgages from Spanish RMBS pools by the originating bank during the first and second quarters of 2009. Mortgage repayments exhibited a dramatic rise during this period. The average repayment rate on securitised caja-mortgages rose by 360 bps from 6.7% in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 10.3% in the first quarter of 2009."

And the punchline that should shut up "all is well in Spain" apologists once and for all:

We understand that both cajas and Spanish banks have been supporting their RMBS by buying some delinquent mortgages out of the pool. Buying mortgages out of the pool will reduce delinquency rates and will also boost repayment rates - to the RMBS, the loan is considered to have been refinanced by the caja. Issuers are not obliged to provide such support to their RMBS transactions but the rise in delinquencies may have threatened ratings on retained deals, meaning that they would have become ineligible as collateral in ECB refinancing operations. By buying the loans out of the mortgage pool, the cajas would be taking those weaker loans onto their own books. That means that the current 3.7% serious delinquency rate (the orange line on the right-hand chart above) may flatter the performance of the cajas' mortgage books and underestimate their potential losses.

CreditSights concludes with a somewhat much somber bigger picture analysis:

A further decline in interest rates has for the moment allowed the aggressive levels of leverage not to implode, despite falling Spanish wages and rising unemployment. Indeed, Spanish mortgages are performing only slightly worse than UK prime loans and are performing considerably better than UK-performing loans.

But behind those ostensibly reassuring numbers lurk weaker performance in caja loan books and the prospect of substantially weaker performance on non-mortgage lending (i.e., loans to property developers). What's more, if Spanish government austerity packages have knock-on effects for Spanish household incomes, most obviously as a result of reductions in public-sector wages, then this level of mortgage indebtedness will become less sustainable and would no doubt precipitate further rises in delinquencies.

And the most dire side-effect of an avalanche of increasing delinquencies, and the resultant inability of the cajas to mask the deterioration by buying back all the worst-performing loans, would be the loss of ECB access. In the meantime, the cajas would get destroyed as they already are the proud owners of the very worst loans available: "Any mortgages that cajas have been purchasing out of their RMBS loan pools could have been artificially reducing the level of bad loans in RMBS while simultaneously undermining the quality of cajas own assets" CreditSights concludes.

Our own conclusion is simpler: got STD CDS yet? And yes, at 264 bps, Spain CDS is cheaper than a deserted Salamanca hotel.

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Cheeky Bastard's picture

Beautiful piece; completely agree.

Re: ESP and ESP related CDS; it would be a good buy [if you can afford it] since the CSAs for ESP debt are probably a bit more stricter than for other "core" EUR countries, and even if ESP debt is d-graded by only one notch; under the current ISDA/CSA structure it would provide a reasonable "event[not CE just E]" in which CC could be deployed.

That or you just trade the spread; whatever; 264 is too tight for Spain. I have no idea if swaptions are available for single name sovereign, but OOM put with a strike price of above 400 [say for Sep/Oct] could net a significant gain. Well, hedging that OOM put with buying at 264 now would be smart.


Careless Whisper's picture

I wish I could understand what you just said, cause it's probably very insightful.

RockyRacoon's picture

Ummmm.   Me too.

Well, hedging that OOM put with buying at 264 now would be smart.

Count me out of the "smart" camp.  Sure would be better to be able to trade all this funny paper than lug all this silver and gold around.   I'm just working harder, not "smarter".

Paladin en passant's picture

ESP="Spain" in Spanish

OOM= Out Of the Money [puts]

The CDS lingo I could dangerously guess at, but I don't swim in that pond.

Hdawg's picture

Little point, before you can book the end game profit they will have outlawed all profitable shorting derivatives and you could actually lose money on the forced unwinds.

Stick to the basic's the only way to play until we reset.

Cheeky Bastard's picture

Thank you for your "informed" advice.

But, as with everything else; I will do it my way.

And no; absolutely not one single thing you wrote in your comment will happen. Not one.

Gully Foyle's picture

Spain, fuck em.
I've watched Benidorm.

Oh regional Indian's picture

I like how short our attention spans have become. Scroll down and see how Greece has practically disappeared. Now it's Spain, Spain, Spain. Soon, Italy, Italy, Spain's implosion a foregone conclusion?

Then the UK, then the final frontier. You Yes Yay!

But timelines are really tight now.


King_of_simpletons's picture

Greece apparently has come out of the other end of the wormhole.

Good things are happening in the world of magic.

Oh regional Indian's picture

Laughed when I read the piece you linked.

Magic indeed. With a furious greek pop standing between reality and the gobbermint fantasy.


Carl Marks's picture

In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world. 
Federico Garcia Lorca 

Atomizer's picture

CDS is a tear drop away

Top 10 CDS Positions


The Chameleons-- 'P.S. Goodbye'



Another distraction in the works. Bigger players are going to try to fuck you over. Be careful.

Muir's picture

Thanks TD.

Read the whole piece, a surprisingly easy informative read.

Misean's picture

It's a good thing Spanish banks are more betterer solvent than German banks....

papaswamp's picture

So what you are trying to say is the Sanish banks are more betterer?

LeBalance's picture

but not 3x, please. /meow!/

Miss Expectations's picture

I think we've identified the fat finger everyone talks about.

buzzsaw99's picture

Benron and Fannie will buy them!

Careless Whisper's picture

unfortunately spain drank the green kool-aid. they have since admitted that the green economy has put them in ruins.

anywho, let's not get all negative, so props to an original spanish talent and an honorable mention to a hot italian:



VK's picture

Blatant Market Manipulation on Display, interesting, though nothing new but more blatantish apparently. (Karl Denninger)

RobotTrader's picture






Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

Let me take you down, cuz I'm going to Capitulation Land

Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about!

Capitulation Land forever!

Muir's picture

This week should be very interesting.

ratava's picture


Arius's picture

we are in this together....there is one worldwide interconnected financial system.

watching the House of Cards the other day on CNBC; there is an interesting episode with the small town in Norway who bought worthless CDS from New York...They thought by investing they could have money to open a new school, build a new fire department etc.  however, they lost all their money (not sure but millions)... the main question is what do you do now?  The town major replied that after losing all that money it was simple they closed the school, fired half of fire department and cut their budget....they did not go the government with their hands out and expect them to pay for their mistakes or because were taken by the big banks in new dont see this in America...i wonder why?

somehow, people blame someone else and none even imagine paying the price...its always fuck Spain or Greece until it hits home and then all of a sudden you will see another side....yeah well hopefully it never does...lets hope or even better lets just stuck our head on the sand at least we will not see it and in our mind we are okay...i think this is the main thing some people dont want to see the whole truth...anyway happy fourth!

Pensatulla's picture

The green-economic model is not going to work because it's attempting to replicate the oil-fired economic model. That's like having an oil-fired economy attempt to replicate a feudal economy, which is happening in much of the 3rd World.

The green-economy is probably only suitable in outer-space; NASA uses solar panels on orbitting spacecraft succesfully and the Mars rovers outperformed every expectation.   

brushfire's picture

so because solar power is used with success by NASA in space, it's not suitable for earth? not sure about that one. at IBM in the 70's the top brass thought that computers would have no role in the lives of everyday people. even very smart people get it very wrong sometimes. saying a solar or green economy cannot work is a pretty arrogant statement that belies a lack of imagination.

Pensatulla's picture

I'm talking about attempting to replicate the oil economy with solar power. We live to drive cars, consume, build suburbs. Oil has many advantages in this: cars start when it's cold, it's transportable, high btus's, immense capital formation. When we try and replicate this model with solar power and wind turbines we come up short every time. The green technologies can't compete in energy output, they have to be subsidized, they end up causing massive environmental damage. Green technologies are not meant to function according to the dictates of an oil economy. They need a different economic paradyme. One example is in outer-space. Another might be in self-contained high-tech communities (universities, perhaps). Islands are also ideal.

Manipulism's picture

because you have to end this growth-thinking(interest-thinking)

New_Meat's picture


"The green-economic model is not going to work because it's..."

you meant to say "thermodynamically inefficient and doesn't pay for itself in almost all circumstances".

Run the numbers, even with Gov't subsidy.  Better yet, look at sunk costs examples like Spain and Denmark.  Consider cost of keeping the grid alive.  Consider the "greenhouse gas" and pollution inherent in cycling coal units.

for example, but there are many others.

- Ned

declineNfall's picture

am surprise you havnt taken a more in depth look at the the german sparkasse (local credit unions).

implied govt garantees, lots of non performing loans, major conflicts of interest and local govt intervention and encouragement on lending practices, no profit on lending.

far more exciting than the (relatively) solid cajas


hellboy's picture

Brilliant, thanks for the write-up!!!

herry's picture

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