The Treasury's prepared statement is out 25 minutes following the S&P planned downgrade, which only those who don't get inside information were surprised by.
- US Treasury's Miller says S&P negative outlook underestimates ability of US leaders to come together to deal with US fiscal challenges
- Both political parties now agree it is time to begin bringing down deficits as a share of GDP.
- US economy is strengthening as it emerges from recent recession.
But the comment of the day comes from Hugh Johnson (no seriously): "This is tape bomb. It doesn't come as a complete surprise to the markets however seeing it in black and white print it is going to shake the market up for sure. You see the dollar down a bit, gold getting bid...and a break of 1298 on the S&P could send it to 1285 in the course of the week."
The negative outlook on our rating on the U.S. sovereign signals that we believe there is at least a one-in-three likelihood that we could lower our long-term rating on the U.S. within two years. The outlook reflects our view of the increased risk that the political negotiations over when and how to address both the medium- and long-term fiscal challenges will persist until at least after national elections in 2012. Some compromise that achieves agreement on a comprehensive budgetary consolidation program--containing deficit reduction measures in amounts near those recently proposed, and combined with meaningful steps toward implementation by 2013--is our baseline assumption and could lead us to revise the outlook back to stable. Alternatively, the lack of such an agreement or a significant further fiscal deterioration for any reason could lead us to lower the rating.
In a very unstunning development which would expose all those Greek and EU proclamations about a solvent Greece for another relentless barrage of lies, it appears that Germany is now resolved to not only restructuring Greece (and with certain Greek bonds trading around 60 the market has effectively thrown in the towel), but has provided a timeframe in which this should occur: "German government sources said on Monday Greece will likely restructure its sovereign debt before the end of summer, putting a time frame to recent speculation that sent the euro to its lowest in two weeks. "Decisive voices within the federal government expect that Greece will not make it through the summer without a restructuring," one high-ranking coalition source told Reuters. "That does not mean that the federal government is striving for (a restructuring) but such a step will probably not be avoidable," he added, echoing views from other coalition sources." Supposedly the thinking in Europe is that banks should have built up a sufficiently large capital buffer to where the permanent impairment of Greek senior debt will not lead to another bank run. The question however is how well has Europe considered any other unpredictable consequences, which by definition, are "unpredictable." Recall that the financial system nearly ended after the Lehman bankruptcy following the freeze in money markets: a side effect that nobody had expected at the time. What will happen this time around when Greece becomes the first "Lehman" in the sovereign realm, and just how many trillions will have to be invested to undo "unforeseen" consequences?
- Debt Ceiling Increase Is Expected, Geithner Says (NYT)
- Zhou Pledges More Tightening as China Raises Reserve Ratios (Bloomberg)
- Fed to Signal End of Monetary Easing (FT)
- Finnish Populist Party Surge Clouds EU Bailout (Reuters)
- Glencore worth up to $69 billion (Reuters)
- Libyan Rebels Gain Ground in Fierce Fight (WSJ)
- Capitalism is failing the middle class (Reuters)
- Inflation in China Poses Big Threat to Global Trade (NYT)
Summary of results:
- Citi Q1 revenue USD 19.7bln vs. Exp. USD 20.54bln; this is a whopping $5.7 billion drop from the $25.4 billion in Q1 2010. So much for revenue growth.
- Q1 EPS USD 0.10 vs. Exp. USD 0.09
- Q1 tier 1 capital ratio 13.3%
- Q1 tier 1 common equity ratio 11.3%
- Q1 net credit losses declined 25%
- Q1 Loan Loss Allowance drops to $36.6 billion from $48.7 billion year over year.
- Total deposits $865.9 billion compared $827.9 billion a year prior
- And the kicker: Q1 reserve release was $(3.37) billion on $4.2 billion profit from continuing operations. In other words, absent accounting gimmickry the company would barely have been profitable
Europe is not the entity facing a funding crunch this morning. Just out from Reuters:
- LIBYAN REBELS UNLIKELY TO EXPORT MORE CRUDE UNTIL PRODUCTION RESUMES - OIL OFFICIAL
Which means that Gaddafi has now managed to isolate and send the Libyan rebellion, armed with a central bank before they even had a constitution, on the road to insolvency. Which also means that should CIA efforts wish to be successful, especially in light of recent inability by NATO to continue the air superiority campaign due to lack of munitions, America will have no choice but to either directly provide funding to rebels, or puts marines directly on the ground: both moves which will likely not do much for the president's popularity rating.
As part of the broadly bipolar risk [ON|OFF] market stampede, Spain probably could have picked a better day to attempt to sell €4.7 billion in bills than just after the weekend when the market realized there is no way out for Greece than default. Alas, it did not, and the result was not pretty. Per Reuters: "Spain paid substantially more to issue 12- and 18-month Treasury bills on Monday compared with last month as uncertainty hovered over a Portuguese bailout and speculation intensified about Greek debt restructuring. The sale was at the low end of the Treasury's target range of 4.5 billion to 5.5 billion euros ($6.51 billion-$7.95 billion) and comes ahead of a closely watched long-term debt auction on Wednesday of bonds maturing in 2021 and 2024." Specifically, the Spanish Treasury was forced to pay 2.77% for its €3.5 billion 12 month Bill, 64 bps more than the 2.128% paid in a comparable auction in March, and making matters worse was a tumble in the bid to cover from 2.4 to 1.6. The weakness was mirrored in the auction of €1.2 billion in 18 month notes, which priced at 3.364%, up 93 bps from last month, with the BTC tumbling from 3.5 to 2.0. And one can wonder what the outcome would have been had the Fed or other central banks not been selling puts on the Spanish curve (because if he is doing it off the balance sheet in the US, there is nothing really preventing Bernanke from taking his curve manipulation tour global). And yes: Spain is next. "Investors are turning their attention to Spain as the next weakest link in the euro zone chain after Portugal said it would seek aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, the third to fall after Ireland and Greece."
Homebuilder sentiment and a few speeches from Fed officials. In general week to be quiet as market begins holiday wind-down.
And so we see another tipping point in action: while absolutely nothing has changed in the fundamentals of Europe's insolvent peripherals, today, for the first time since early January, we are seeing an absolute bloodbath in the risk gauges of the European periphery. As the PIIGS list below shows, spreads are surging, and while it is no surprise that Greece is now trading north of 1200 bps following a weekend full of Greek default chatter, the important observation is that Spain and Italy are once again in the default mix.
- Portugal 615 (+15) - officially insolvent
- Italy 156 (+13)
- Ireland 588 (+21) - officially insolvent
- Greece 1225bp (+89) - officially insolvent
- Spain 250 (+16)
$1 Billion of Gold Bars Taken Delivery Of By Pension Fund Due to Risk of COMEX Default and ShortagesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/18/2011 - 06:59
Concerns that the sovereign debt crisis may be entering a new phase and the risk of contagion has seen peripheral eurozone bonds fall sharply and the euro fall against major currencies and gold today. Sovereign debt risk, global inflation concerns, geopolitical risk, disappointing European earnings and concerns about Japan's coming reporting season have seen equities weaken and new record nominal highs for gold and silver (all time and 31 year). Greek bond yields have continued their relentless march higher and have risen above 14.07% (10 year) and Portuguese debt (10 year) has risen to a euro era record over 9.27%.Spanish and Irish debt are also under pressure this morning. Gold is increasingly being seen as the superior currency in a world of trillion dollar and euro deficits and bailouts. Indeed, the printing and electronic creation of billion and trillions of the major paper currencies is increasingly making gold and silver the currencies of last resort. One of the largest pension funds in the world, the University of Texas Investment Management Co (which manages the endowment for the Texas teachers pension fund), has realized this and has put 5% of the pension fund into gold bullion (see news). The fund has previously expressed concerns about the counter party risk in ETFs. However, the reason given for opting for taking delivery of 100 oz gold bars in a warehouse was that if the holders of just 5 percent of COMEX futures contracts opted to take delivery of the metal, there wouldn’t be enough to cover the demand leading to a COMEX default. The risk of a COMEX default increases by the day and appears to be moving from the realms of the “conspiracy theory” to that of “of course we knew it would happen, it stands to reason and was inevitable.” A COMEX default would have serious ramifications for the dollar and all fiat currencies as it would further erode trust in central banks, fiat currencies and today’s monetary system.
RANsquawk European Morning Briefing - Stocks, Bonds, FX etc. – 18/04/11
Ah, April 15th! I want you to consider that the date means absolutely nothing to 47% of US households as they will pay zero in federal income tax. Yes, state, property and sin taxes still get them, but we are seeing a disturbing trend towards a tipping point where fewer than half of us pay any sort of income tax. Five years ago it was 40% who paid no income tax. By 2012 this could be the first election in which the majority of voters will be able to vote themselves more government largess paid for by a minority of taxpayers. We may soon have to re-jigger the American Revolution’s familiar rallying cry into: “Representation Without Taxation!”
The early Finnish votes are in and it does not look good for Portugal. As Reuters reports, Finland's anti-euro True Finns made huge gains in an election on Sunday, raising the risk of disruption to an EU bailout of Portugal. The right-leaning National Coalition topped the ballot, gaining just over a fifth of all votes. Party leaders will start talks soon on forming a new government. The problem is that as the anti-euro moniker indicates, the True Finns are pretty much hell bent on vetoing the Portugal bailout which means the ongoing annexation of Europe's periphery by Olli Rehn is about to finish (and yes there is a finish-Finnish joke in there somewhere). Per Marketwatch: "Early results Sunday from Finland’s parliamentary elections suggest the anti-EU bailout True Finns party will hold the second-most number of seats and could even be part of a coalition government. Such an outcome may mean the EU’s planned bailout of Portugal is vetoed by Finland, a move that would roil the euro-zone markets. With half the votes counted the True Finns were on 19% support, and on course for 41 seats, tied with the Social Democrats and one seat less than National Coalition Party’s predicted 42-seat haul, the BBC reported. Finland is the only euro-zone country that requires bailouts to be approved by its parliament. Strong gains by the True Finns could derail a planned rescue for Portugal." What this means is that Goldman Sachs' European analysts will be scrambling all night to come up with loophole to European law that will not result in an epic plunge for the European currency, as apparently not even that sage among sages, Thomas Stolper, whose 2010 batting average of 0.000 made his contrarian calls manna from heaven in the past year, could anticipate this Black Swan. We will keep you informed of all the sell-side spin as it starts trickling in.
The economic chaos will likely lead to a Republican landslide in the 2012 election. A Boomer Prophet with a reputation for fixing financial disasters (aka Mitt Romney) would be given a mandate to fix the economic system. All generations will realize that generational promises made cannot be fulfilled. People of a libertarian mindset, like me, will not be happy with the turn of events. In a chaotic scenario, the Federal government is likely to assume even more power than they have today. The American people will be fearful and angry. If the financial criminals on Wall Street are brought to justice, the chances of a unified populace will increase. A drop in everyone’s standard of living would be acceptable, as long as the rich shared equally in the burden. If the super wealthy oligarchs retain their power, a fracturing along class lines would become a distinct possibility. Social unrest, riots, and violent protests along the lines of the current situation in the Middle East could develop. Then a question of military use against the civilian population becomes paramount to what would happen next. Amidst the financial chaos will be the ever present peak oil issue. The increasingly high prices and imminent shortages of supply will exacerbate the pain for the American people. The current War on Terror is really a cover for keeping American troops in the Middle East as a forward vanguard to keep the oil flowing. The U.S. consumes 7 billion barrels of oil per year and will use all means necessary to keep it flowing. With a Boomer Prophet leader invoking American manifest destiny, it is likely we will intervene to protect Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait in the name of democracy. A terrorist incident in the U.S. would provide convenient cover for further intervention in the Middle East. As with most wars the unintended consequences will overwhelm the best laid plans of politicians and generals. Further U.S. intervention into an already exploding Middle East will likely spur a larger conflict between Islam and Christianity. Ground zero could shift to Europe as millions of Muslims have settled there and will not react positively to western powers siphoning oil from Islamic countries in the name of Christianity. History has taught us that Fourth Turnings end in all out war. The outcome of wars is always in doubt.