With the EFSF, Italian and Spanish debt all creeping higher in yield today and a disappointing Italian auction, we take a deeper dive into the mechianics of the EFSF and the paradoxically weak impact it may have as sovereign risk deteriorates. The [EFSF] idea works well when people aren’t thinking there is a real chance of default, but as that increases, the EU may wish they had stuck to their original plan of having raised 440 billion of cash that they could lend directly. Basically, if the markets deteriorate, the first loss protection, is worth more, but provides less leverage.
Wondering how it was possible for Q3 GDP to post such a substantial beat yesterday driven by a surge in Personal Consumption expenditures? Wonder no more: in the last quarter, the US consumer literally tapped out, bringing their savings rate from a 2011 high 5.3% in June to 3.6% in September, after the BEA reported that while spending increase was in line with expectations at an unsustainable 0.6%, income was just barely above unchanged at 0.1% on expectations of 0.3% confirming that as far as the economy is concerned, the consumer is just getting worse and worse off. This is the lowest number since the depression started back in December 2007! The only problem is back then it had been lower and was rising in anticipation of the fallout from the Great Financial Crisis, this time it was modestly higher and is now plunging. Very soon deleveraging Americans, whose homes are getting cheaper by the day, will have no savings left to use for useless trinket purchases. How does GDP "grow" then?
German Constitutional Court Halts EFSF Approval, Issues Temporary Injunction On Further Bailout DecisionsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/28/2011 - 08:24
The German constitutional court has already played a substantial role in the country's participation in the European bailout. Back in September when noting the first participation of the court in the European rescue machinery we noted that "giving the Bundestag’s Budget Committee the final say over the use of the bailout fund is welcome from a democratic point of view, but will add another element of uncertainty to the eurozone crisis. However, so far the Budget Committee has consistently taken the government line on the bailout, albeit reluctantly, and it remains to be seen whether it dares to exercise its new power." It appears the court has once again decided to step up only this time not in a favorable light, after, as Spiegel reports, that the court has "issued a temporary injunction banning the nine-person committee in the Bundestag from taking any decisions on the deployment by EFSF of German taxpayer money." In addition to this, the Court also put the whole German fast-track approval process in jeopardy after it expressed "doubts about the legality of a new panel of lawmakers set up by the German parliament to reach quick decisions on the release of funds from the euro bailout mechanism." This is hardly the ringing endorsement the EURocrats needed to hear from the only power in Europe with the funds to keep the EMU together.
- Chinese vice finance minister said details on the expansion of the European bailout fund is still unclear, adding that purchases of EFSF bonds are not on the G20 agenda. Also, EFSF’s Regling said he does not expect to reach a conclusive deal with Chinese leaders during his visit to Beijing
- The German Constitutional Court halted the use of a special parliamentary committee that was recently created to decide on changes to the Eurozone’s bailout fund in emergency situations
- Meanwhile, a German senior coalition lawmaker said the Constitutional Court's decision means the EFSF secondary market bond purchases will be de facto impossible until a verdict, as Bundestag plenary cannot meet confidentially
- Lacklustre BTAN auctions from Italy dented appetite for risk
Earlier today Italy had an extended bond auction in which it sold 3, 6, 8, and 10 year bonds. The auction did not go quite as planned. The reason: far less than the maximum €8.5 billion target was raised, all the Bids to Cover slid and all the yields soared with a particular emphasis on the 10 Year BTP which everyone is following with great interest as it sternly refuses to trade inside of 6% despite all the worthless promises with the word "trillion" in them, lobbed in Italy's general direction from Europe, which knows too well that if the Italian bonds complex goes, so does the rest of Europe. As Reuters summarizes: 'Italy paid the most since joining the single currency to sell new 10-year debt on Friday in the first euro zone bond auction after European leaders agreed new steps to tackle the debt crisis. The auction yield on Italy's March 2022 BTP bond rose to 6.06 percent from 5.86 percent a month ago." So... when is the next "Italy bailout" summit?
The reason why the EURUSD took a big step lower in the past minutes is because Fitch has come out with a note in which it has assigned an AAA rating to the amended EFSF program. That in itself is not an issue, what is however, to the market is the announcement that a 50% Greek haircut would be an event of default. That said this is not to be confused with an ISDA determinations committee ruling that CDS has been triggered: we now know this will never happen and is the reason why basis trades across the board are exploding as all sovereign CDS is effectively being unwound. Regardless, the market does not seem to be liking the fact that someone's head is not stuck in the sand. Fitch also adds that it is critical that ECB carry on bond purchases, something which neither the ECB nor Germany have agreed to. It also adds that Greek PSI deal is a necessary step, and that the effectiveness of the summit deal depends on details. This is important considering Greece was barely able to get 85% acceptance in its 21% proposed haircut. The 50% will be even more interesting. Fitch concludes that the market is likely to see further market volatility. That is a given.
Yesterday the short squeeze in the EURUSD brought the pair to within pips of Citigroup's revised stop loss of 1.4260 even as it got even more bearish on the European currency, setting a new target of 1.3150. Today the bank's FX strategists continue their onslaught, stating in a note that wonders how long the Euro-love will last that "The post-summit EUR rally is driven by a continuing squeeze in short risk positions and unwinding of worst fears of financial contagion, rather than improvement in cyclical fundamentals." Here are their full thoughts on why the time to short the pair, and thus the entire EURUSD-driven market, lower.
- Sarkozy Sees More Budget Cuts to Save France’s AAA Rating as Growth Slows (Bloomberg)
- EU Crisis Deal Buys Time for Greece: Papandreou (Bloomberg)
- California Proposes to Curtail Workers’ Benefits (WSJ)
- FINRA brokerage oversight group misled regulators, SEC charges (WaPo)
- Greece Will Leave Euro Even With Pact: Rogoff (Bloomberg)
- Italian banks cool to demand for more capital (FT)
- EU Crisis Resolution Critical to Obama 2012 Bid (Bloomberg)
While we have become used to the most 'important' thinkers, book-talkers, and self-aggrandizers gracing the pages of various mainstream media outlets with op-eds, we were somewhat surprised when the FT posted Barack Obama as El-Erian's replacement this evening. His thoughtful prose provides little of substance but does highlight the fact that self-hypnosis and surrounding one-self with a willing crowd of yay-sayers can make any disaster seem soluble. Presented with no snark, we suspect readers will enjoy his perspective on saving the world, on making austere domestic plans create jobs in a balance sheet recession (our wording), and the obvious jab at the Chinese.
Foreigners Sell Second Largest Amount Of US Bonds Ever In Past Week, Record $93 Billion In US Paper Sold In Past 2 MonthsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/27/2011 - 20:56
Two weeks ago when we reported that there had been a record consecutive week dump of US Treasury paper in the Fed's custodial account, as reported by the weekly H.4.1, we made the assumption that this was China preemptively selling US paper. Well, that may or may not have been the case, but it was only part of the full story. We have now learned that Europe, and especially Germany has been just an active seller of sovereign bonds, most certainly including US paper, in recent weeks. As FAZ reports, the head of Commerzbank Martin Blessing has been dumping all bonds in his possession, primarily PIIGS paper, but also US and German ones. He does add the clarification that this has been a complicated project as there has been a buyer's strike (and with the CDS extinction it will only get more difficult as there is no natural hedge remaining), and his dumping has certainly not made things easier. Now as we all know by now, when starting a panic exodus, one has to be first, be smarter, or cheat. Here we will add a fourth one: or sell US paper. After all the demand for this is nearly insatiable, or so the neo-Keynesians out there will have us believe. Well, in the last week, someone used our definition. According to today's update in the H.4.1, the total amount of securities held in the custodial account for foreign official and international accounts just plunged by $20 billion, of which $19 billion was attributable solely to Treasurys: the second largest weekly dumb ever. And since this total number includes both Treasurys, which are used for political purposes, as well as Agency securities, which don't really serve much in terms of a diplomatic statement but are great at shoring up liquidity, one can assume that the relentless selling in all types of US paper has had one purpose only: to generate capital. As the third chart shows, that amount is substantial: in the last 8 weeks foreigners have sold a unprecedented $93 billion across the custodial account bringing it to $3.392 trillion, the lowest since March 2011! So the next time someone asks where European banks are finding emergency liquidity now that commercial paper, money market and Libor Markets are all dead, you will have the answer.
Update: and the hits just keep on coming, first Fitch and now... MF GLOBAL CUT TO JUNK BY MOODY'S... "At the end of the second quarter, MF Global's $6.3 billion sovereign risk exposure represented 5 times the company's tangible common equity. Moody's said the downgrade reflects our view that MF Global's weak core profitability contributed to it taking on substantial risk in the form of its exposure to European sovereign debt in peripheral countries." But other major US banks have no exposure whatsover right? Oh wait...They're hedged... Through "CDS".
Bloomberg has just broken that MF Global has likely just entered a terminal deathwatch after not only tapping its credit facility, but aslo exhausting it. From Bloomberg: "MF Global Holdings Ltd., the futures broker run by Jon Corzine, drew down its revolving credit lines this week as the firm reported its biggest quarterly loss and had its credit ratings cut, said three people with knowledge of the matter. The New York-based company exhausted its revolving lines, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the move wasn’t disclosed. MF said in an Oct. 25 investor presentation that it had $1.3 billion in unused revolving credit facilities, without giving a date for the tally." This development means that instead of an M&A assignment as many were attributing the retention of Evercore bankers to (despite the dreary presence of David Ying in their midst), Jon Corzine's firm was far more likely focused on salvaging anything of value. However, now that traditional M&A is out of the picture (nobody in their right mind will pay anything close to market value for a company without cash), it is quite likely that the firm's bondholders, who most likely also have collateral exposure with MF global, whose plight started following the disclosure of extensive European exposure and which was downgraded to junk today by Fitch, will pull all liquidity and instead opt for a debt for equity conversion either in court or as a prepack. What is probably the biggest take home here is just how much of a capital drain European exposure (and we are confident MF was "hedged".... just like Morgan Stanley) can become, and how quickly a firm can become completely insolvent. As a reminder, the firm reported $710 million in cash as of June 30. Obviously all of that cash must have been burned through if the firm also not only tapped but exhausted its $1.3 billion in revolvers in the past quarter (which have rating associated rate step ups, which don't take too kindly to a junk rating). Net result: $2 billion in cash (or about 9 times its makret cap) burned in 4 months primarily due to "hedged" European exposure.
When reporting on the announcement of the math-free deus ex machina bail out that was announced last night, which nobody still has any grasp over, but it had a "trillion" in there somewhere so that alone sent the market scurrying, we suggested that it would take about 24-48 hours for reality to start settling in. It may have been considerably less. As the Telegraph reports, "A trillion euro bail-out to save the EU’s single currency is in danger of unraveling after Germany’s central bank warned that the rescue measure was too dependent on the high-risk deals that caused the economic crisis." So what did the Bundesbank do to send tremors that threaten to fracture the brittle nanometer ice-plated facade under which the most tempestuous riptide in European history is contained? Well, first it appears to have used a calculator, something nobody else in the European Council seems to be capable of. Second, it realized that heaping leverage upon leverage to fix a problem, something even a five year old (non-Ivy league trained) would tell you is lunacy, may not be the best approach to fix the problems at hand. "The concerns were led by Germany’s powerful central bank, which expressed fears that a plan to leverage a €440 billion eurozone rescue fund to amass a “fire power” of €1 trillion, or £880 billion, resembled the risky finance methods that triggered the crisis in 2008. Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank, sounded the alarm over the plan to “leverage” the fund by a factor of four to five times without putting any new money into the pot. He warned that the scheme could be hit by market turbulence with taxpayers left holding the bill for risky investments in Italian and Spanish bonds." Does that mean that the "ironclad firewall" is neither "ironclad" nor walls off any fire? Especially since neither the object (Germany) of the bailout nor the subject (Greece) appear to have any desire to go along with the deus ex?
As Europe flails helplessly in the waves of insolvency, its leadership has tossed it a life preserver. Too bad it's plutonium, and will take Europe straight to the bottom. Plutonium is of course one of the most toxic materials on the planet, and the "rescue" cooked up by the EU leadership is the financial equivalent of plutonium. Stripped of propaganda and disinformation, the "rescue" boils down to this: something for nothing. In essence, the EU is claiming that its illusory "something for nothing" magic will turn lead into gold. Abracadabra....oh well, close; it's heavy, it's metallic--oops, it's plutonium. No wonder France was so anxious for the ECB to crank up the euro printing press: they wanted-- just like everyone else involved--something for nothing. The best way to understand the EU's current situation is to imagine an astoundingly dysfunctional family of deep-in-denial-addicts, screaming co-dependent parents, and grown-up grifters acting like spoiled brats, all trapped in a rat-infested, flooded flat that's had the gas turned off for lack of payment--and there's a plutonium life preserver glowing in the knee-high water. Admittedly, this analogy is imperfect, but it does capture the essential psychology of the end-game being played out.
After today's ridiculous move in the market, which brings back memories of either August 2007, March 2008, the reaction after the Tarp vote (the successful one), August 2011, when the market gyrated by 400 points on a daily basis, and many more bear market rallies, we hope to restores some semblance of normalcy by presenting the following series of clips all from Hugh Hendry speechs at the LSE's Alternative Investments Conference earlier this year. Must watch, because when everyone loses their mind, listening to some common sense is the best remedy.