Presented with little comment as JPMorgan, Citi, and Morgan Stanley (and JEF) are now down year-to-date (after being up 35-40% just a few weeks ago) and catching up to the credit reality that we have been so vociferous about...
David McWilliams (of Punk Economics) begins his latest excellent discussion by conjuring Clint Eastwood and noting that when it comes to the Fiscal Compact in Europe "they are pissing down our backs and telling us that it is raining". The Fiscal Compact will NOT strengthen the Euro but in fact by cementing the austerity agenda into law it will make the political environment even more unstable. The Irishman goes on to discuss why Europe is imploding as he insightfully notes that "financial panics do not cause the destruction of wealth, financial panics merely tell you the extent to which wealth has been destroyed by reckless speculation". The realization that current account deficits and not budget deficits were always the problem in Europe which leaves the fiscal compact akin to a doctor prescribing chemotherapy for heart disease. McWilliams explains why France has seen such a change and why the fiscal compact has nothing to do with the Euro but is all about reassuring the German electorate that they will be protected from the consequences of a monetary union that they were bounced into in the nineties; as they are terrified of 'Peripheraid' - the constant drip-drip feeding of German cash to the periphery. Critically, driving to his final discussion of how the Irish should vote on the referendum - remembering that the German elites want a Federal Republic of Europe and that the entire union is in the midst of a massive negotiation - he lays out in cartoon simplicity why Germany is stuck with a massive personal interest in 'cleaning up the EU neighborhood'. Ireland should not give up cheaply in the referendum 'poker match' as all nations try and figure out who the sucker at the table is. Must-watch clip to comprehend the 'game' occurring in Europe and how it is changing very recently.
We have discussed the probability (around 50%) and possibility of a Greek exit from the Euro ad nauseum; how the post-election anti-austerity rage is bringing the world to a new realization that this is probable not possible and the widespread risk aversion of this event is much more of a global event than local - no matter how many times you are told how small Greece is. Critically, as BofAML notes, it is the systemic threat of an untamed banking and sovereign crisis in Europe which makes multiple-sigma events less 'tail' and more 'normal'. With money due to run out at the latest by July, new elections mid-June (that show massive support for the anti-bailout party), and the impacts on the real economy, exchange rate and inflation fears, and default and ECB balance sheet implications; it seems there are also strong incentives to keep Greece in. However, there is a political line of compromise and austerity that will be hard to cross for both parties which, if it failed - and it doesn't have much time - would mean a very fast 'ring-fencing' would need to occur for this not to thermonuclear with the three main channels of volatility transmission to the rest of the world being: banking and finance, trade, and confidence - all three of which are active already with Asian trade (and banking exposure) seemingly under-appreciated in our view with Singapore dramatically exposed with a stunning 60%-plus of GDP tied up in European bank claims.
The fact that GM's "stunning" car sales have been in no small part driven exclusively by its eagerness to stuff dealers with unsold inventory, aka channel stuffing, is well known to Zero Hedge readers - we have been covering the subject for over a year now. What we did not know, yet what in retrospect is so glaringly obvious, is that the GM ploy of fooling the dumbest sellside analysts and investors all the time has now gone global. And while channel stuffing may have worked for a while, it is now starting to bite back. Bloomberg reports: "Chinese dealers are struggling with the rising number of unsold cars that’s threatening to deepen price cuts, according to the nation’s biggest automobile dealers’ association. Dealerships for Honda Motor Co., Chery Automobile Co., BYD Co. and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. carried more than 45 days of inventory as of the end of April, exceeding the threshold that foreshadows debilitating price cuts, Su Hui, vice president of the auto market division at the state-backed China Automobile Dealers Association, said in an interview yesterday. Unsold cars are crowding dealer lots in cities from Guangzhou in the south to Xi’an to the west,” Su said in a phone interview yesterday from Beijing. “It’s like a contagious disease that will spread." Wait, so Channel Stuffing is... bad? And if 45 days of inventory "foreshadows debilitating price cuts", then what should GM with its 86 days of full vehicle days supply in the US say?
In the middle of the European crisis last fall, EUR-USD cross-currency basis swap spreads were on the tip of every trader and media-personality's tongue as the critical means for providing banks with access to short-term USD liquidity was ratcheting lower and lower. This means the European banks were willing to pay a higher and higher premium to be able to offload their EUR funding into USD funding. With LTRO funding now faded and perception of the sustainability of European banks becoming dismal, US banks are charging ever higher rates for Eurozone banks to borrow. What is more worrisome is that with the relative liquidity of USD assets, it would appear that the widening in the basis swap spread means the European banks have run dry of money-good USD collateral to unwind. This repricing of USD liquidity costs (now at 4 month highs and increasing rapidly) suggests that the Fed-provided swap lines could get a fresh calling to save the day and/or just as we have noted so many times in the past, the collateral squeeze continues to be the critical part of Europe's demise (and thus negates anything but absolute monetization by the ECB as a solution for the banking system).
We may already be in Fimbulvetr, the winter of winters, and it is a cold wind that whips across the European plains blown in from the Southern climes high up into the Alps and then down into the cities of man. In Norse mythology this was a three year event and the creaking of the ice can be distinctly heard if only you listen. Many will not listen, this one can predict, and the clothes that will be worn will not protect the unhearing from the freeze which will surely come. But you and me, we have gazed long for the riders of the North and seeing them; we are prepared.
Back in August 2011 Europe ushered in the totally idiotic idea of reinstating a short selling ban in financial stocks. We predicted at the time that the result would be a sheer disaster: "To those who may have forgotten, on September 18, the SEC banned the shorting of all financials here in the US. Below is a chart of the carnage that ensued... The same chart is coming to Europe first. End result: 48% drop in under a month." Sure enough, a week later we were right: "European banks are already unchanged compared to the day of the ban and in France they are now negative! What next: selling is illegal or "Speculation" is a felony? We expect to find out soon..." Why do we bring this up? Because according to Spanish daily Cinco Dias this last sugar high recourse of a collapsing system is soon coming back to an insolvent European country near you. From MarketWatch: "Spanish stocks rebounded from a sharp opening loss on Friday lifted by gains across the banking sector and led by a 26% rise for Bankia SA ES:BKIA +26.37% after a media report on a possible ban on short selling of banks. The IBEX 35 index defied losses across Europe to gain 1% to 6,596.40. Spanish daily Cinco Dias reported Friday, citing banking sources, that banks in the country want market regulator, CNMV, to reinstate a ban on short selling of domestic banking stocks."
With a lack of European data, markets have remained focused on the macroeconomic issues throughout the morning. European equities have seen mixed trade this morning, starting off sharply lower following Moody’s downgrade of 16 Spanish banks late last night. Equities have been observed on a relatively upwards trend as market talk of asset reallocation into stocks from fixed-income has somewhat buoyed sentiment, however this remains unconfirmed. The news that Spanish banks are pressing regulators to reinstate a short-selling ban on domestic banking stocks has also helped keep negative sentiment towards Spanish financials at bay, with Bankia dramatically reversing recent trends and seen higher by around 25% at the midpoint of the session...The chief of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has said volatile conditions in global markets have caused the wholesale funding market for Australian banks to freeze, a further sign that the European turmoil is taking its toll on global markets.
Now that the consensus seemingly is one that a Greek exit is inevitable, there was only one missing step: an actual New Drachma currency, not in When Issued, electronic 1s and 0s format, but real, based on cotton and linen. It appears UK banknote printer De La Rue is now on top of that. From Reuters: "De La Rue (DLAR.L) has drawn up contingency plans to print drachma banknotes should Greece exit the euro and approach the British money printer, an industry source told Reuters on Friday. The news comes as EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Friday the European Commission and the European Central Bank are working on an emergency scenario in case Greece has to leave the euro zone - the first time an EU official has confirmed the existence of contingency plans." Now as noted earlier, the "emergency scenario" was promptly denied by the EC, but as of now nobody has denied the drachma printing yet, which in the world of Venn Diagrams is the "big one."
Gold rose for its 2nd day on concerns that Europe’s debt crisis is growing and the yellow metal is once again seeing increased demand as a safe haven asset. Fitch's downgrade of Greece's credit rating sent the euro to a 4 month low against the dollar and investors wonder if Greece will be able to continue in the EU fiscal union. The gold price jumped over $30 yesterday its most since January, and news from a US report on manufacturing in Philadelphia showed contraction for the first time in over 2 quarters. Moody's Investor Service downgraded 16 Spanish banks yesterday, including Banco Santander, the euro zone's largest bank. All the banks' long-term debt ratings were decreased by at least one grade and some suffered three-grade cuts. This is just days after Moody's downgrade of 26 Italian banks on Monday. Spain's banks like those in other EU countries (PIIGS) have been left with a sea of bad loans after the real estate bubble burst and investors see a state bailout as extremely difficult in light of the country’s limited public finances.