Three months ago, in exchange for the ECB's expansion of its sterilized monetizations of bonds to include Italian BTPs, allegedly the only backstop that has prevented Italian bonds from experiencing an all out collapse to date, Italy was presented with a list of strict "austerity" demands, among which were spending cuts, higher revenues and labor reform. Since then none of these has occurred... or will occur, simply because Berlusconi has no control over the government, yet neither does anyone else, although everyone in the local government enjoys having a scapegoat for the total chaos. It appears that the ECB has just made it clear that the status quo is about to end, unless Italy does in fact push with something. And unlike other cases, where politicians on both sides of the table are happy to spout rhetoric while knowing well that nothing will change, in this case, courtesy of Italy largely untenable debt profile in which €166 billion in debt and interest are due in 2012, the ECB will have no choice but to play hard ball. Reuters has just confirmed that, reporting that The European Central Bank often discusses the possibility ending the purchase of Italian government bonds if it concludes Italy is not adopting promised reforms, ECB Governing Council Member Yves Mersch said. "If we observe that our interventions are undermined by a lack of efforts by national governments then we have to pose ourselves the problem of the incentive effect," Mersch said according to extracts of an interview with Italian daily La Stampa to be published on Sunday. In other words on Monday the market will have to not only digest the implications of what the implications of the Greek vote of confidence are (last we checked G-Pap is still PM, and likely will be for quite a while), but also what happens now that the ECB has issued an ultimatum to Berlusconi to get his house in order. The problem is that he can't. Not without stepping down, that is. At that point the Italian pseudo stability that everyone has been taking for granted knowing full well it is nothing but an illusion, will fall and expose all the rot underneath. At that point we will truly see just how "hedged" all those Primary Dealers are, who have perfectly offsetting short positions to all their longs.
Yesterday, in what is the worst-phrased and most misleading press release to ever come out of the CME, the exchange issued a notice that going forward all Initial margin would be equal to Maintenance margin. Our gut interpretation was that "Unless we are completely reading it incorrectly, it is nothing short of a margin call for tens if not hundreds of billions worth of product." Judging by the broad response, our initial reaction is what a prudent, logical human being would assume: after all, it is precisely the undercollateralization of customer accounts, and general underfunding at MF Global that is what brought that particular company down. Well, we wrong wrong. The CME, it appears has taken a page right out of the European playbook, and less than a week after an exchange-cum-Primary Dealer collapsed due to excessive risk taking, the CME has followed up its vague press release from yesterday by inviting even more risk in lowering the initial margin. Why is this a cause for even greater concern? As the CME itself says, "Initial margins are set to provide an additional buffer against future losses in the account" - so going forward that buffer has been reduced by about 30%. But what is the reasoning provided by CME: "The intent and effect of these changes is to decrease the size of any margin calls resulting from the bulk transfer of MF Global customers to new clearing members, not to increase them." So basically the CME is implicitly putting all of its existing and current clients and customers at further risk by onboarding the accounts of those clients who, like lemmings, held on to their MF Global accounts until after it was too late. Because while the lower Initial margin may apply to MF accounts, it will also apply to any Tom, Dick and Harry beginning Monday, who will suddenly see a 30% reduced gating threshold to put on a position. Any position, no matter how risky.
Guest Post: The Collapse Of Our Corrupt, Predatory, Pathological Financial System Is Necessary And PositiveSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/05/2011 - 13:01
I was recently challenged by a contributor to write something positive, and so I decided to write about the single most positive outcome of the current financial crisis in Europe: the complete collapse of the corrupt, predatory, pathological global banking sector and its dealers, the central banks. Exploring why this is so reveals the insurmountable internal conflicts in our current financial system, and also illuminates the systemic political propaganda which is deployed daily to prop up a parasitic, corrupting, pathologically destructive financial system. Our first stop is modern finance itself. Modern financial "products" and "instruments" are often highly complex and abstract, but the entire edifice can be distilled down to this: the system is based on the assumption that all risk can be hedged, and the difference between the initial position's yield/gain (i..e. placement of capital at risk for a gain) and the cost of hedging the risk of the wager to zero can be skimmed from the system risk-free. That is the entire system in a nutshell, and we can immediately see the advantages of this system over traditional Capitalism, where risk can be hedged but never to zero, and the return is correlated to the risk taken on.
The EFSF reminds me of the tooth fairy – there are those who believe because they are told it will work, and those who try to figure out how it will work, and come out on the non-believer side. This week, we are supposed to start seeing some real details, although they are already down-playing that. The prong that lends money to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, so that they can pay back the people who lent them money in the first place, should be pretty straightforward. Borrow money in the markets, lend it to those countries, those countries pay the banks that own their debt, so that those banks can buy more EFSF bonds, the next time EFSF has to lend money to the PIGs to pay back the banks to free capacity to buy EFSF bonds – straightforward doesn’t mean it isn’t bizarre....So the EFSF is offering €250 billion of binary CDS in some form to entice the market to buy €1 trillion of Spitaly paper. I think Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are too far gone (the bonds trade at such a low % of face) that first loss protection does little to help them get new deals done. The first prong will have to suffice for them. While the bulls are all eagerly anticipating this tide of liquidity they are ignoring the fact that the EFSF pulled a deal this week! They were supposed to do €5 billion of 15 year bonds, which became €5 billion of 10 year bonds, which became €3 billion of 10 year bonds, which because a statement saying the deal was pulled because of market conditions. For clarity, these are straightforward, non-leveraged, EFSF bonds, where 3 similar issues already exist, and the deal was pulled! I am sure it was a matter of price, but still, how well does that bode for their bigger and far more convoluted scheme?
It appears we may have hit a modest coalligned snag:
- GREEK MAIN OPPOSITION LEADER SAMARAS REPEATS CALL FOR ELECTIONS
- SAMARAS SAYS PAPANDREOU REFERENDUM GAMBIT MADE MATTERS WORSE
- SAMARAS SAYS PAPANDREOU REFERENDUM GAMBIT BLOCKED 6TH TRANCHE
- SAMARAS SAYS ASKED FOR TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT
- SAMARAS SAYS ASKED FOR PAPANDREOU TO STEP DOWN
- GREEK PRESIDENT TO SEE GREEK MAIN OPPOSITION LEADER TOMORROW
So according to Europe a cabinet between the socialists and the right wing populist LAOS (to be politically correct) is still considered satisfactory? And even if G-Pap does step down, which we still believe is highly improbable, who will be he replacement? Say hello to L-Pap, the lateset Fed puppet in Europe
Earlier today we received the following email from a reader: "RBS systems are down today - ALL of them. I asked whether they knew that HSBC was down yesterday - replied yes - I suggested that they might do well to make an announcement to stop people from getting the right idea 8). The reason for the outage was given as "an update which did not go as expected" Some update - took out ALL their systems I was told. Pongs worse than the old Billingsgate fish market." We now have confirmation this is the case. From BBC: "RBS and NatWest customers have been unable to check accounts online because of problems caused by maintenance work, the Royal Bank of Scotland has said. Problems arose after the maintenance work went wrong and meant account balances were not updated overnight. Some accounts have not been credited when they should have been and there have been problems for some customers making withdrawals from cash machines. In a statement, the bank apologised for "any inconvenience caused". The Royal Bank of Scotland hopes to resolve the issue within hours." We find it odd how not only one but two banks are down on a Saturday, the same day that is incidentally Bank Transfer Day. So: who will be doing "maintenance work" next?
Update: Here is the full two page list
Yesterday, when Jefferies CEO Richie Handler issued his 3rd, and probably not last, public promise that "the firm is fine", he also promised to release granular level detail of every single European holding it has via a complete CUSIP dump. To wit: "These are fragile times in the financial market and we decided the only way to conclusively dispel rumors, misinformation and misplaced concerns is with unprecedented transparency about internal information that is rarely, if ever, publicly disclosed,“ said Richard Handler, Chairman and CEO of Jefferies. “Later today, after the markets are closed in Europe and we have completed our inventory control accounting, we will post on our web-site our day-end, CUSIP-level holdings in the securities of these countries. We care for our clients, shareholders, bondholders and employees and want to allay any concern that may have arisen. As was the case yesterday, the facts about our sovereign debt exposure and other matters are straightforward and easily understood. We encourage all market participants and interested parties to review our public filings that contain extensive disclosure of the nature, extent and financing of our assets. Our firm stands on a solid foundation of over $8.5 billion of long-term capital and we look forward to continued success." This was yesterday. Now, we can only assume we simply are unable to navigate the company's news release section quite efficiently, because it is now tomorrow, and all those clients, shareholders, bondholders and employees of the firm are quite curious just why the firm still has not released what it has promised. Just as they are curious why the firm's public net European exposure fluctuates materially in 48 hours.
Update: Based on unofficial statements by the CME, it appears that the exchange has gone the way of inviting more risk by lowering Initial to meet existing Maintenance margin across the board. We will likely only know for certain on Monday. We suppose the proposed explanation will be to minimize margin exposure for onboarded MF positions. Of course, that this is very much counterintuitive at a time when risk is spiking and vol readings per SPAN are soaring, and instead is inviting even more risk, is apparently irrelevant to the exchange.
The most important news announcement of the day was not anything to came out of Cannes (as nothing did), nor from Greece (the merry go round farce there continues unabated). No, it was a brief paragraph distributed by the CME long after everyone had gone home, and was already on their 3rd drink. It is critical, because not only is this announcement a direct consequence of what happened with MF Global several days ago, but because also it confirms one of our biggest concerns: systemic liquidity is non-existanet. We confirmed interbank liquidity in Europe was at an all time low earlier today, and can only assume the same is true for US banks. But what is very disturbing is that this is just as true at the exchange level, where it appears the aftermath of the MF collapse is just now being felt. What exactly was the announcement. Unless we are completely reading it incorrectly, it is nothing short of a margin call for tens if not hundreds of billions worth of product. Because as of close of business on November 4, today, the CME just made the maintenance margin, traditionally about 26% lower than the initial margin for specs, equal. For everything. Which means that by close of business Monday, millions of options and futures holders will be forced to deposit billions in additional capital to the CME just so they are not found to be margin deficient, and thus receive a margin call. Naturally, since it is very unlikely that this incremental amount of liquidity can be easily procured in one business day, we anticipate the issuance of hundreds of thousands of margin calls Monday, followed by forced liquidations of margin accounts across America... and the world. Just like when Lehman blew up, it took 5 days for Money Markets to break. Is this unprecedented elimination in the distinction between initial and maintenance margin the post-MF equivalent of the first domino to fall this time around?
Is Wall Street confused by this latest act of political treachery by G-Pap who had promised to collaborate with the New Democracy opposition only to back out in the last minute (just as he backed out of his promise for a referendum) and end up in a coalition government with the socialists and the far right? You betcha. Courtesy of Reuters, here is the knee jerk reaction by so called experts who see this as either bullish or bearish. The bottom line is that until G-Pap actually does something he has previously promised to do, he will continue to lie and cheat in order to simply remain in power and soak up Europe's funding (which is of course used merely to repay Europe).
Update: Greek Parliament Begins Voting on Papandreou Confidence Motion
The latest out of the Greek parliament, where G-Pap is proving he is not a man of few words, is that he will commence with the formation of a new government tomorrow, and in which he hopes to have a leadership position.
- PAPANDREOU TO BEGIN TALKS TOMORROW WITH PARTIES ON GOVERNMENT
- PAPANDREOU SAYS NEEDS TO AGREE TARGETS, TIMETABLE FOR ACTIONS
- PAPANDREOU TO DICSUSS POSTS, PEOPLE, EVEN HEAD OF NEW GOVT
- PAPANDREOU TO PROCEED WITH NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT
- GREEK NEW GOVERNMENT MUST PURSUE OCT. 26 PACT, PAPANDREOU SAYS
- PAPANDREOU SAYS NEEDS TO AGREE TARGETS, TIMETABLE FOR ACTIONS
- PAPANDREOU WILL SEE PRESIDENT TOMORROW
And more such can kicking. In essence the prime minister, whose family has ruled Greece for generations will do anything to pass the vote of confidence, and then will most certainly usurp power once again, saying that it is for the country's stability that he be in charge at least until the 7th bailout tranche is paid, then 8th, then 9th, and so forth.
As a follow up bonus from the Artemis presentation earlier, we present this chart which answers the age old question: what is the true value of money? It does so in quite a literal fashion, and explains why Kyle Bass is such a fan of nickels...
Credit markets were far less sanguine into the close than equity markets as ES managed to get back to day session highs (and beyond). IG and HY credit markets closed much nearer their lows of the day and while broad-based risk assets rallied off the morning lows, the late day surge in stocks was entirely idiosyncratic! HYG outperformed HY while HY secondary bonds were much more balanced (net buying to selling) today than in recent days. It certainly appeared credit market participants were much less comfortable holding into the Greek vote and uncertainty of the weekend than equity players. The USD was noisy all day but rallied into the close (as the EUR drifted back under 1.38) and Gold trod water as oil managed a modest rally while silver and copper lost more ground on the week. TSYs rallied only modestly today with the belly outperforming as we saw major duration reduction in corporate bond trading on the day as the long-end was net sold. VIX rose modestly into the close, disconnecting from stocks - like every other asset class.