In one of his most passionate speeches (which says a lot), UKIP's Nigel Farage, on the May 9th celebration of the Euro, tells his European Parliament colleagues of his grave concern at the recent elections - which are very reminiscent of the elections in Germany in 1932. He warns that Europe faces the very real prospect of mass civil unrest and even revolution as the Euro project itself could even be the cause of (in it perfect irony as the initial solution to) a rebirth of national socialism in Europe. Farage pulls no punches but in three minutes provides a clear picture of just how concerned anyone who is not merely a head-in-the-sand status-quo muddle-through'er should be with regards Europe: "It is a European union of economic failure, of mass unemployment, and of low growth"
Just because the market is totally insane, the fact that the upsized $24 billion 10 year priced at the lowest yield on record, or 1.855% (just inside of the 1.86% When Issued): a glaring indication of fleeing from all risk and into safe-ish collateral in a world of reyhpothecated junk, will likely send stocks higher. The fact that the bid to cover came at 2.90, or the lowest since November's 2.64 will be ignored. In terms of the internals, the Dealers took down 45.5%, Indirects: 38.7%, and Directs 15.8%, all more or less in line with average. The algos will now process the headline, be completely confused, and buy the S&P even as total US debt crosses $15.7 trillion.
There has been much speculation about how the Greek endgame will play out, but precious little from the perspective of Germany. Until today. Courtesy of a three part series from Handeslblatt (here, here and here) we now know precisely what the next steps are as visualized by Europe's piggybank, which now is telegraphing it is set to cut Europe's most wayward child loose.
The dulcet tones of Jim Grant provided much food for thought on Tom Keene's Bloomberg Radio show this morning. While the interest rate observer did not change his tack on the extreme experimentation of world's central banks, he did have some new perspective on the incredible moral hazard (or unintended consequence) that is being created. One of his main criticisms is the incredible arrogance and conceit of a central banking system that believes it can see the future and thwart things before they come to pass, as he notes "I blame the central bankers for confusing the black art of central planning with the traditional art of central banking". He fully expects more easing by the Fed and its friends as he awaits their response to this latest stumble in the markets but what is most evident to him is that "The Fed owns the stock market" since they have financially repressed all investors into risky assets they now have been forced to have a moral responsibility to keep us safe in those assets - incredibly! The Fed is more likely than not to intervene with still more money-printing in any effort to keep this bubble afloat. What Jim focuses on is the morality in economics and the current immoral policies that have very bad consequences.
As we pointed out yesterday when we correctly summarized that "Spain Appears Unsure What A "Bank Bailout" Means", we said "Spain is to require its banks to set aside more provisions (between EUR20 billion and EUR40 billion) in an effort to overhaul the country's financial sector. This additional need for reserves (or provisioning) puts yet more pressure on the banks' balance sheets as it comes on top of the already EUR54 billion that has been set aside from February. Interestingly the EUR20-40 billion still falls dramatically short of Goldman Sachs' estimate of an additional EUR58 billion that is needed to cover reasonable loss assumptions. We can only assume that the game is to create as large a hole as is possible without tipping the world over the brink and then fill it with the state funds a la TARP (as Rajoy has indicated will be the case)." Well, as it turns out there was no ulterior motive behind the stupidity which is merely ad hoc improvisation of the worst kind that we saw back in Greece in the summer of 2011. Because according to IFR, not only is the bailout going to be woefully insufficient, but also, will be a 100% dud, as "Spain is likely to offer some banks the chance to opt out of some of the reforms set to be announced on Friday following heavy lobbying from the industry, according to two people familiar with discussions." In other words an insufficient bank sector nationalization, which will affect on some, but not those who actually need it, in what is now so clearly just another exercise (think stress test) to give the impression that the Spanish banking system is solvent. In the meantime, absolutely nothing will happen with the hundreds of billions of underwater mortgages carried by the big banks, which will merely fester until they finally become the Fed's problem.
What we have is a Central State and an economy that has borrowed and squandered trillions of dollars on consumption and malinvestment in unproductive "stranded" assets. The debt and risk pile up, while the labor that results from consumption is temporary and does not create wealth or permanent employment. Figuratively speaking, we're stranded in a McMansion in the middle of nowhere, a showy malinvestment that produces no wealth or value, and we're wondering how we're going to pay the gargantuan mortgage and student loans. Debt and the risk generated by rising debt create a death-spiral when the money is squandered on consumption, phantom assets, speculation and malinvestments. Sadly, that systemic misallocation of capital puts the job market in a death spiral, too.
Remember that very disappointing Q1 GDP print of 2.2%? Well, Goldman just dragged it even lower.
Back in the middle of March, when all was sunshine and unicorns in the post-LTRO world of recovery and another sustainable recovery, we were vociferous in our noting that nothing has been fixed and LTRO3 is not coming. Sure enough, here we are a few weeks later and the encumbering stigma that we were the first to point out (and call Draghi out on) is now wider than at any time since the LTRO program began with the banks that took LTRO loans now trading wide of pre-LTRO levels (fully stigmatized despite all that extra liquidity). Today saw the Stigma spread between LTRO and non-LTRO banks jump its most in 2 months to over 160bps (its highest in almost six months). There is however a troubling conundrum facing the ECB. The banks that need another LTRO (or liquidity) no longer have performing collateral to pledge and other banks that would like liquidity will not take it since they now understand the encumbrance and stigma that is attached to that decision. The ECB is snookered (and so is it any wonder that Draghi is playing for time) and perhaps this is why we are seeing the EUR leak lower against the USD as markets anticipate some more direct monetization mandate-busting action by the ECB (shifting the Fed/ECB balance and implicitly the flow between the two that we have also pointed out as critical). Either way, there is no LTRO3 coming anytime soon and together with this morning's jumps in liquidity funding costs, the vicious circles are ramping up again in Europe.
Remember the headline frenzy from last summer. It's baaaaaaaack. From Athens News:
A shocking and possibly groundbreaking turn of events. According to Net television, Pasok head Evangelos Venizelos has agreed to sign a letter related to the memorandum with Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras. What that letter will say is as yet unknown, but Net are standing by their sources. The temperature in the coalition room just spiked up.
This could go either way: if spun as pro-bailout, expect a 100 pip surge in the EURUSD. If not - don't, especially if it turns out to be an "agreement" with changes any of the terms of the Greek bailout, something Germany will not take too kindly to.
The latest out of the doomed continent:
- EURO ZONE DEBATING DELAY OF EUR5.2B MAY 10 PAYMENT TO GREECE - DOW JONES
- SOME GOVERNMENTS CONCERNED ABOUT MAKING A PAYMENT TO GREECE AMID POLITICAL TURMOIL
And so the check bounces, which is ironic, because as we repeatedly explained, the Greek bailout is not about Greece: it is merely to allow Europe to bailout its banks via ECB and Troika funded interest payments and using Greece as a passthru vehicle. Luckily, that particularly aggravating farce may soon be ending.
Update: Here we go - SPAIN TO NATIONALIZE BANKIA LATER TODAY - ABC
The reality is Greece is largely noise. Greece will eventually leave the Eurozone, but not this month. The hardliners inside Greece will realize they need some time to organize. The markets will have spooked the hardliners outside of Greece that they should play nice for a little bit, because forcing Greece out now won’t do them any good whatsoever. With Greece largely a sideshow at this stage, the attention is really focused on Spain and Italy. The fact that Greece might lead the way out of the Euro is having a big impact on these countries. That realization combined with the already obvious problems at the sovereign and bank level caused markets to sell off. The Spanish 10 year bond is back above 6%, dropping 20 bps today, which is a significant move. As we wrote about last Friday, there are no natural buyers, so this move occurred in an illiquid market. There is more room to run, but moves in Spanish and Italian bonds are already starting to have a less direct impact on stocks than they did earlier in the morning.
Three things are occurring in European liquidity markets that should send shivers down the spines of the most ardent bulls or believers in the status quo muddle-through scenario. First, 3-month LIBOR is waking from the dead having risen today after weeks of flat-lining in its irrelevant manner. Second, Deutsche Bank was the main driver of today's uptick in 3-month LIBOR (joining UBS as the only other bank in the LIBOR family post LTRO2 that has raised its willing offer rate for short-term liquidity). And third, most importantly, 3-month EUR-USD basis swaps (that expensive but anonymous market-based investment vehicle to find USD funding) have exploded with their biggest deterioration in five months pushing the premium that banks are willing to pay to receive USD over EUR to its highest in almost 4 months. So while Draghi suggests that we wait to see the effects of LTRO filter through to the rest of the real economy, once again he is clearly incorrect as banks are now desperately seeking liquidity (USD-based in this case) with short-term swaps only having been worse in the middle of the crisis last Fall and UBS and Deutsche Bank willing (or forced) to pay up for short-term money.
Gold hit a 4 month low today despite deepening worries that the political upheaval in Greece may sink the country into chaos and endanger the euro zone's efforts to end the debt crisis – possibly leading to contagion and or a monetary crisis. Some decent demand from South East Asia has been reported at the $1,600/oz level and there are also reports from Reuters of a “semi-official buyer of gold” emerging “on dip below $1,600/oz”. Gold’s weakness yesterday may have been again due to dollar strength and oil weakness - oil is now below $97 a barrel (NYMEX). It may also have been due to wholesale liquidation which created a new bout of "risk off" which has seen global equities and commodities all come under pressure. However, gold’s weakness yesterday was also contributed to by more unusual trading activity. As trading in New York got underway, there was an unusually large bout of selling with some 6,000 gold futures contracts sold in minutes and this led to gold's initial $10 fall to the $1,615/oz level. Momentum driven algorithm trading may have then led to follow through selling and the initial sell off may have emboldened tech traders to sell more leading to the falls below $1,600/oz.
The following note from Caris & Co. on HLF (which launched Herbalife in September at a Buy and a $75/share PT) has got to be the worst sell side note in history. The catalyst, according to the firm: what David Einhorn may or may not say. Now that is true value added. Next up: Goldman goes long IBM because it flipped heads.