As 'news' breaks of over 80% participation in the Greek PSI deal and the apparent optimism that this is somehow a good thing, we note that our analysis of what would happen from two months ago was exactly spot on. As the FT reports, "financial markets were already betting Greece would default again in the future. Grey market “when issued” pricing for the 20 new bonds were ranging from 17 to 28 cents on the euro, a highly distressed level, according to indicative quotes", which just happens to almost perfectly coincide with our view:"Which means that according to a generic bond yield calc, the price on the fresh start bonds post reorg will be... 17.9 cents of par, or immediate losses of over 80% the second these bonds break for trading from par." Given grey market bond and CDS pricing, this would imply a 98% probability of Greece redefaulting within the next few years.
Even With Back Dated Deals Featuring Only One Party, One Can't Escape Greece's Problem Shared By Much Of The EUSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 03/08/2012 14:34 -0400
Even With Back Dated Deals Featuring Only One Party, One Can't Escape Greece's Problem Shared By Much Of The EU. Let's look at some nasty consequences...
Since Draghi's second savior LTRO, European markets have been flip-flopping gradually lower. These four charts do not seem to suggest a market that is confident about tail-risk containment, sovereign firewalls, or an orderly restructuring by Greece. Sovereign spreads are broadly higher (Spain, France, and Portugal the most), CDS spreads are underperforming (as protection is sought and CDS seen having value as a hedge), non-financial and financial credit is notably weaker, LTRO Stigma remains notably wide, stocks are broadly lower, and the EURUSD is back at 'fair' with its swap spreads (removing its over-pessimism). There has been no change in the price trends for UK-law versus Greek-law GGBs (i.e. noone believes this is over) and even if it were, a renewed focus on growth is hardly a market positive given lending trends and macro prints in Europe recently.
As we hear from one government spokesperson after another that the Greek PSI deal is 'going well' which appears to us to be a misnomer as either its done or its not, we note that the price for the Greek CDS-Bond basis topped Par today for the first time. While there is some noise in this (and extremely wide bid-ask spreads), looking at the ask on the bonds and the bid on the CDS which measures more accurately the price at which basis traders can exit the trade (though liquidity is challenging), it would appear that some hedgies are ringing the bell on this trade and covering at better than Par levels. While we would have expected some basis traders to hold through the event horizon, it makes little sense to look a gift horse in the mouth as the trade has met its 'theoretical' limit (and beyond in fact as the add-ons from EFSF and GDP warrants leave some extra on the table). The point is that the basis (the price of buying a Greek bond and fully hedging its 'default' risk) has peaked, implying a credit event is 100% priced in suggesting CACs are on their way later today (despite current 'news' reports'). If the Greeks really have the needed participation then we would expect to see CDS dump tighter as everyone scrambled out - even to the 45% upf that some think 'new' CDS should trade at, this is not occurring.
With less than 4 hours until the Greek PSI deadline (8pm GMT), the time to start spreading rumors has arrived. Sure enough, courtesy of Reuters:
- SENIOR GREEK GOVT OFFICIAL SAYS TAKE-UP IN DEBT SWAP EXCEEDED 75 PCT LATE LAST NIGHT
Needless to say this conflicts with what all other media reports on the topic in this latest headline frenzy. Then again, in the game of the Schrodinger PSI, where the quantum participation state is 0% or 100% depending on whether one collapses the Lie function, the only sure thing is that there will be a Dead Schrodinger Cat bounce before the CAC is triggered shortly and the market tests just how firewalled it is to a Greek CDS trigger.
Today is supposedly the day. The initial deadline for Greek PSI will occur later today (unless of course it is extended somehow - but will be released here) and while CAC activation (and hence eventual 90% participation) is the consensus most likely outcome for bonds under Greek law (but not for all bonds under English law) - which the market appears to be very comfortable with given overnight trading - there are still risks, as BofA notes, that a number of low risk but high impact events unfold with extremely negative connotations. Clarifying expectations and market implications, it does seem that while BofA is a little more sanguine than us on this initial deadline, that the market's complacency is extremely high.
European stock futures have trended higher today in relatively light volumes as the market awaits key interest rate decisions (BoE & ECB) and with the deadline for the Greek debt swap deal looming. The latest talk this morning has been that the participation in the PSI deal has been well received and coupled with speculation of a Chinese RRR cut overnight and stops tripped in the E-mini S&P and Eurostoxx futures earlier this morning, contributed to a large portion of the move higher. As a consequence, the USD index has weakened (-0.5%) which has lifted the EUR/USD pair back firmly though the 1.3200 level to the upside and Brent/WTI crude futures are seen higher ahead of the NYMEX pit open. Looking ahead we await the ECB press conference as well as the latest jobs data from the US due at 1330GMT.
- Investors help Athens over bailout hurdle (FT)
- Greece Moves Closer to Swap (WSJ)
- U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers (WSJ)
- China offers other Brics renminbi loans (FT)
- Court Challenges EU on Bank Downsizings (WSJ)
- QE blamed for surge in pensions shortfall (FT)
- Tang: Open to adjusting dollar trading band (WSJ)
- U.S. Report to Warn on Cyberattack Threat From China (WSJ)
Following a busy overnight session, which saw a surprise announcement out of the Brazilian Central Bank cutting rates more than expected, and confirmation of the deterioration in the Japanese economy where January saw a record current account deficit, today we have already seen the Bank of England proceed as expected keeping its key interest rate unchanged (at 0.50%) and QE fixed at GBP325 billion. The ECB is next with its rate announcement, expected to keep things on hold. Yet the mood of the morning is set by speculation that the Greek debt swap may see a sufficient participation rate for the PSI to go through, even if that means CAC activation, as somehow a Greek default is good, and only an "out of control" bankruptcy would be bad. That coupled with renewed expectations of more QE, sterilized or not, and hopes that tomorrow's NFP will be better than expected, as somehow the Fed will pump money even if the economy is "improving", is all that is needed to send the post-roll ES contract to session highs nearly 1% higher than yesterday's close.
The European Central Bank's recent LTRO programs have effected a significant increase in the amount of encumbered assets -- those pledged as collateral in repo transactions, central bank funding operations, and covered bond issuance as lenders increasingly demand over-collateralized borrowing arrangements to protect against credit risk -- on balance sheets across the pan-European banking system.
An engineer, a biologist and an economist are washed ashore on a desert island. After a few days without food they are starving. Eventually, they stumble on a can of beans on the beach. They spend a few minutes considering how they might feed themselves. The engineer is the first to speak: "We could hit the can with a rock until it opens." The biologist counters, "We could suspend the can in a seawater solution and wait for erosion to work its magic." The economist is last to contribute: "Let's just assume we have a can-opener." OK, so it's not the funniest joke in the universe. But it has the ring of truth.
Remember, just last week Bernanke told Congress that no more QE was coming. Also remember that the Fed has been largely using verbal and symbolic interventions to prop up the market rather than actual money printing or new monetary policies (Operation Twist 2 only shuffles the Fed balance sheet; it doesn't actually inject more money into the system).
We shared our thoughts on the implication for more possible QE, sterilized or not, earlier, as did the market: why is risk higher, and with it the threat of inflation, if the Fed is doing perfectly innocuous sterilized easing? Maybe because it does not matter if the Fed intervenes sterilized or unsterilized, as long as the Fed intervenes, period? Now we present the knee jerk reaction of several Wall Street experts, all of whom are about as confused about this development, which is neither here nor there in terms of actually achieving any of the Fed's goals, as we are.
Update: yup. It's Jon "Mouthpiece" Hilsenrath all right. This is nothing but a test to gauge if the market will ramp on the clarification that future QE may be sterilized. If market ramps regardless, the sterilized clause will be ultimately eliminated. Full story link.
While we have yet to see the actual report, almost certainly emanating from Jon Hilsenrath, it appears that the QE3 rumormill has started, initially with speculation that the Fed's activity will be merely "sterilized" or more Twist-type purchases, unclear however if in TSYs or also in MBS. Via the WSJ:
- Fed Officials consider "sterilized" option for Future bond buying
- Operation Twist Reprise, QE Other Options For Fed Bond
- Still Unclear Whether Fed Will Launch Another Bond-Buy
As a reminder, yesterday we said that according to the EURUSD, the implied market expectation is for a $750 billion QE out of the Fed. However, that is for unsterilized balance sheet expansion. If the Fed goes ahead and does not grow its balance sheet (hence "sterilized"), it may well be EURUSD, and thus risk, and gold, negative, as no new money will enter the market for actual speculation. Which perhaps is precisely what the Fed is planning, as every incremental dollar now goes into Crude first, and everything else later. In other words: this is a very big risk off indicator as no new money will be available to pump up stocks!