Today's Unprecedented Swiss Bank Intervention Driven By Massive Capital Flight From Germany To Switzerland; Result Was Euro Surge
Earlier today we disclosed what were not one but several massive central bank interventions in the Euro-Swiss Franc exchange rate. The intervention was large enough to push the rate up by 300 pips, a gargantuan amount in a world where applied leverage is often in the thousands. The amount of capital required to achieve this was likely unprecedented. Yet what bothered us was why would the SNB so glaringly intervene in the FX market not once but three or even more times. Thanks to the Telegraph we find out that the reason was a massive €9.5 billion capital flight from Germany into Swiss deposit accounts just this morning, according to BNP. Unfortunately for Germany this is only the beginning of capital reallocation from the country into neighboring Switzerland. And the technical bounce in the EUR today was in fact an even greater sign of weakness: in fact, as the IMF's Tim Kingdon pointed out, the money run in Club Med banks last week resulted in a massive €56 billion of interbank lending as the move from the periphery to the core accelerated. Now that the next stage of the run is from the core, Europe will very soon find itself with depleted depository capital very soon. Because if money is fleeing Germany, it is certain that France, Italy and the UK can not be far behind.
Below, is a chart we posted earlier of the record Swiss National Bank intervention.
And here are more details on today's unprecedented move from Evans-Pritchard:
The market is left asking what skeletons are lurking in the cupboard," said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. The short ban follows a report by RBC Capital Markets that circulated widely in the City accusing German banks of failing to come clean on 75pc of their €45bn exposure to Greek debt.
German lenders have the lowest risk-weighted capital ratios in the world after Japan. They were slow to rebuild safety cushions after the sub-prime crisis, and now face a second set of losses on Club Med holdings. Reporting rules have let Landesbanken delay write-downs, turning them into Europe's "zombie" banks.
Even so, nothing adds up in this BaFin episode. Germany acted alone, prompting a tart rebuke from French finance minister Christine Lagarde. "It seems to me that one should at least seek the advice of the other member states concerned by this measure," she said. Brussels was not notified. The deep rift between Berlin and Paris has been exposed again, leaving it painfully clear the European Montary Union still lacks the fiscal and governing machinery of a viable currency union.
Far from stabilising markets, BaFin's move set off a nasty sell-off in credit markets. Markit's iTraxx Crossover index – measuring risk in mid-level corporate bonds – jumped 57 basis points to 586. Markit said BaFin had caused liquidity to dry up in "febrile conditions". The Libor-OIS spread watched for signs of strain in interbank lending widened further.
If the purpose of BaFin's action was to drive wolfpack "speculators" off Greece's back, it failed. Yields on 10-year Greek bonds rose 37 basis points to 7.918pc. What it showed is that CDS contracts barely matter. The issue is whether "real money" investors such as the Chinese central bank are willing to buy Greek and Portuguese debt.
The short ban set off instant capital flight to Switzerland. BNP Paribas said €9.5bn flowed into Swiss franc deposits in a matter of hours on Wednesday morning.
The Swiss central bank intervened to hold down the franc. This caused the euro to shoot back up against the US dollar after an early plunge. The euro had already bounced off "make-or-break" technical support at $1.2135, the 50pc "retracement" of its entire rise since 2000, but any rally is likely to be short-lived.
The commentary by BNP currency chief Hans Redeker is priceless, if for no other reason than to indicate to what great degree the great ongoing experiment to prevent the disintegration of the EU is an improvisation at every single step. As such, it is only a matter of time, before a fatal mistake is executed and the whole thing falls apart, despite the best intentions of European bureaucrats.
"As a German citizen, I wish to apologise for the stupidity of my government," said Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas. He said the CDS ban deprives reserve managers of a crucial hedging tool for non-securitised loans and will scare away global investors needed to soak up Club Med bonds.
"The European market is likely to become utterly dysfunctional. Just as the market showed signs of stabilisation with real money starting to buy euros, the Germans have destroyed this glimmer of hope," said Mr Redeker. "The BaFin ban is a desperate political move by a government battling for survival. Angela Merkel needs the support of the Left so she has given in to a witch-hunt against banks and speculators."
As for talk of disintegration, we know that Europe was hours away from implosion as recently as Friday.
Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said deposit data from the ECB shows that there was a "major run" on Club Med banks in the second week of May. Some €56bn of interbank lending facilities were withdrawn, probably as citizens in the South switched funds to banks in the eurozone core. Bank reliance on the ECB lending window jumped by €103bn – or 22pc – in a week.
"It was extreme and very sudden, probably on Friday afternoon. The eurozone was undoubtedly in peril," he said.
The question raised by BaFin is whether underlying damage to the eurozone banking system runs even deeper than feared.
If one considers that Libor keeps crawling higher, and that the Libor reporting dispersion between the European and foreign banks in the BBA USD panel is almost back at record wides, we are fairly certain that the answer to the last question is a resounding yes.