While hardly discussed broadly in the mainstream media, the top news of the past 24 hours without doubt is that in addition to losing its fiscal sovereignty, and numerous other things, the Greek population is about to lose its gold in a perfectly legitimate fashion, following amendments to the country's constitution by unelected banker technocrats, who will make it legal for Greek creditors - read insolvent European banks - to plunder the Greek gold which at last check amounts to 111.6 tonnes according to the WGC. And so we come full circle to what the ultimate goal of banker intervention in the European periphery is - nothing short of full gold confiscation. So just how much gold will be pillaged by the banker oligarchy (it is amusing how many websites believe said gold is sacrosanct by regional national banks, and thus the EUR is such a stronger currency as it has all this 'gold backing' - hint: it doesn't, as all the gold is about to be transferred to non-extradition countries)? As the World Gold Council shows in its latest update, between all the PIIGS, who will with 100% certainty suffer the same fate as Greece (which has shown that unlike during World War 2, it is perfectly willing to turn over and do nothing) there is 3234 tonnes of gold to be plundered. And likely more as further constitutional amendments will likely make the confiscation of private gold the next big step. how much does this amount to? At today's prices this is just shy of $185 billion. Of course by the time the market grasps what is going on the spot price of the yellow metal will be far, far higher. Or, potentially far, far lower and totally fixed as the open gold market is eventually done away with entirely in a reversion to FDR gold confiscation and price fixing days.
- IMF Official: 'Huge' Greek Program Implementation Risks In Next Few Days (WSJ)
- European Banks Take Greek Hit After Deal (Bloomberg)
- Obama Urged to Resist Calls to Use Oil Reserves Amid Iran Risks (Bloomberg)
- Hungary hits at Brussels funds threat (FT)
- Bank Lobby Widened Volcker Rule Before Inciting Foreign Outrage (Bloomberg)
- Germany fights eurozone firewall moves (FT)
- New York Federal Reserve Said to Plan Sale of AIG-Linked Mortgage Bonds (Bloomberg)
- G-20 Asks Europe to Beef Up Funds (WSJ)
- New Push for Reform in China (WSJ)
To all those who stayed up until 6 am local time yesterday to hear Europe announce that the Greek deal is done, Europe is fixed, and that a pot of gold was found at the end of the rainbow, our condolences. Sorry, no isn't. Following up on our earlier post about the potential of UK-law bondholders to once again scuttle the deal, here comes none other than the IIF's Charles Dallara who basically says that the fate of Greece, the Euro, and the Eurozone, are in the hands of Greek creditors as we have been cautioning all along. And after all why on earth would hedge funds who just lost over 70% of their recoveries bear a grudge whatsoever...
As markets replay the same identical reaction to the same identical Greek news that we saw back on July 21, 2011 (and we all know where that went), something else entirely and more troubling is going on behind the scenes. Because as the world was transfixed on regurgitated news out of Greece, which will without a shadow of a doubt end up with a far worse 2020 debt/GDP scenario than the IMF's downside case per the sustainability report (first posted in its entirety here on Zero Hedge last night, and which assumes just a 1% decline in Greek 2013 GDP), China just escalated currency wars into outright trade wars. Because as China Daily reports, "Chinese exports are set to get a tax boost." Translated: even as China pushes the CNY higher in infinitesimal and irrelevant increments to appease US Congress, it has just taken out the trade stimulus bazooka. Why? "Export tax rebates will be increased this year in response to an export decline triggered by the European debt crisis. The move, which Commerce Ministry officials said will be implemented when the time is appropriate, will be the first increase since 2009." Still think Europe is fixed? China's answer: nope.
Those who have been correct about the crisis in recent years question whether a new Greek government will stick to the deeply unpopular program after elections due in April and believe Athens could again fall behind in implementation, prompting lenders to pull the plug once the eurozone has stronger financial firewalls in place. The much used phrase "kicking the can down the road" underestimates the risks being created by European and international policy makers. Some have rightly warned that we will likely soon run out of road. Rather than "kicking the can down the road" what politicians in Europe, in the U.S. and internationally are actually doing is "kicking a giant beer keg down the road". The giant beer keg is the continual resort to cheap money in the form of ultra loose monetary policies, QE1, QE2, QE3 etc, money printing and electronic money creation on a scale never seen before in history. The road is our modern international financial and monetary system. The risk is that attempting to kick the giant beer keg down the road will lead to many broken feet and a destroyed road. A European, US, Japanese and increasingly global debt crisis will not be solved by creating more debt and making taxpayers pay odious debts incurred through massively irresponsible lending practices of international banks. The likelihood of continuing massive liquidity injections by the ECB next week and in the coming weeks will help keep the opportunity cost of holding bullion the lowest it has ever been and likely contribute to higher bullion prices especially in euro terms in the coming months.
Nothing appears as ugly as unmasked raw propaganda, or seems as fashionable as well-crafted deception. Yet, the catwalk for both forms of propaganda is one and the same, deception wearing the most titillating togs provided by the top fashion house, the House of Public Relations. And the deceptive PR isn’t limited to multinational firms or businesses in general; it is part and parcel of our daily existence, having infiltrated most if not all institutions, totally poisoning politics, and eroding away whatever little honesty might still be left in our elected officials. During the past century we have seen the transformation of the raw epithet known as propaganda, and all its implied vilification, to that of an accepted social science with full academic accreditation, unashamedly sitting at the same table with all reputable and time-honored professions. We, members of society, have swallowed lock, stock and barrel the presumed need by notable individuals and institutions to receive help from specialized professionals to show us all the good things about them, their positive contribution to society. But much of what we get is tainted with deceit.
When the prospect of a nation being unable to roll over a paltry few Euros of maturing debt is enough to galvanise the entire financial world into monetary excess exceeding anything imaginable as recently as late 2007, one must conclude that the markets are skating on the thinnest ice in their entire existence. But skate they are.
What a difference a quarter makes: back in Q4 2011, in light of the imploding global economic reality, the only recourse equity bulls had to was to point out that corporate profitability was still at all time highs, and to ignore the macro. Fast forward a few months, when Europe's economic situation continues to deteriorate with the recession now in its second quarter, China's home prices have just slumped for a 4th consecutive month (forcing the PBOC to do only its second RRR cute since November), Japan is, well, Japan, yet where the US economic decoupling miracle is now taken at face value following an abnormally high seasonal adjustment in the NFP establishment survey leading to a big beat in payrolls and setting the economic mood for the entire month (with flows into confidence-driven regional Fed indices and the PMI and ISM, not to mention the Consumer Confidence data) as one of ongoing economic improvement. That this "improvement" has been predicated upon another record liquidity tsunami unleashed by the world's central banks has been ignored: decoupling is as decoupling does damn it, truth be damned. Yet the bullish sentiment anchor has flip flopped: from corporate profitability it is now the US "golden age." How long said "golden age" (which is nothing but an attempt to sugar coat the headline reality for millions of jobless Americans in an election year) lasts is unclear: America's self-delusion skills are legendary. But when it comes to corporate profit margin math, things are all too clear: the corporate profitability boom is over. As Goldman points out: with the bulk of companies reporting, in Q4 corporate profits have now declined by a significant 27 bps sequentially, and an even more significant 52 bps excluding Apple.
And just a little bit more on yesterday's story of the day, which a few recent journalist grads took as positive having absolutely no clue about the very basics of a simple restructuring process, and in turn fed it to the 18 year old math Ph.Ds who program FX trading algos that ran away with it in the form of a 150 pip gain, when in reality it was all negative. As the WSJ reports, the only sane person in Europe, did get it: Bundesbank's Jens Weidmann "voted against the proposal, according to a person familiar with the matter." As we expected. Why? Go back to our story on subordination and what it means as the ECB creates an ever more junior class of bond holders. For those who hate long sentences, the WSJ gets it right this time: "The move could rankle investors and turn them away from the peripheral euro zone bond market, blunting the impact of a possible approval of a Greek aid deal and plentiful cash from the ECB." Of course, those who don't react to idiot headlines, and every upticks courtesy of algobots, knew that long ago. But in this stupid market, it takes hours, if not days, for the progressively dumber investor base to comprehend what is going on.
A well-known bond expert just blasted the following summary of today's "market positive" and supposedly just completed ECB bond swap: "THE EQUITY MARKETS MAY RALLY ON THIS NEWS BECAUSE THEY ARE FOCUSED ON A DEAL GETTING DONE BUT ANYONE IN FIXED INCOME SHOULD NOW CONSIDER RETCHING UNDER THEIR DESKS AS WE ALL JUST TOOK ONE OF THE BIGGEST SCREWINGS OF OUR LIVES THAT MAY WELL NOT BE A SINGULAR EVENT."
It is no secret to those who follow the daily nuances of global monetary policy that the primary reason for Europe's deplorable fate has little to do with liquidity, and everything to do with an ever diminishing base of money-good assets, which in turn is a solvency problem when run through the cash flow statement and balance sheet. Need an explanation for the ever declining collateral thresholds by the ECB? There it is: assets in Europe are generating ever lower returns, which means that an ever lower inverse LTV has to be applied to them by monetary authorities in order for the asset holder to get some return. And with trillions in incremental cash needs, before all is said and done, the ECB (and various regional central banks, as was discussed last week), will be forced to accept virtually anything that is not nailed down as collateral for 100 cents on par (not amortized) value. Yet while observing the symptom is simple, the diagnosis is much more difficult. In other words, why is Europe's asset base getting progressively worse. Courtesy of Goldman we may have found the answer. As the following chart shows, the average age of assets in years in Europe, has just hit a record high. The implications of this are substantial, and explain so very much about the core problem at the heart of the European quandary.
Yesterday, it was Thomas Stolper who capitulated on his latest incursion into the field of 0.000 batting, when he closed his long EURUSD reco (only for the EUR to jump today of course). We can hardly wait for him to announce he is again long the EURUSD for the clearest EUR short signal possible. That said, it still left outstanding the Goldman Russell 2000 recommendation noted here previously. Sure enough, in the aftermath of yesterday's return of risk with a vengeance, Goldman is taking steps to make sure it locks in at least some profits on its RUT 2000 target of 860 by hiking the stop to 810 from 765. The reason? "What has clearly changed in the past week -- and the catalyst for this "leash tightening" -- is that European sovereign risks have reemerged, with continued near-term support for Greece now much more uncertain than we or the markets had previously assumed. With the amplification of these hard-to-assess risks emanating from Europe, and data continuing to support our main thesis, we think that protecting the gains at this point with relatively tight stop is prudent" But why if Europe is suddenly fixed, on the completely meaningless news that the ECB is funding Eurozone central banks with magic money on their Greek bond losses, even as the actual debt notional is not changing at all. At this point, we doubt we are the only one who no longer care.
A&G's AIG Moment Approaching: Moody's Downgrades Generali, Cuts Megainsurer Allianz Outlook To NegativeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/15/2012 20:58 -0400
For a while now we have said that the very weakest link in Europe is not the banks, not the ECB, not triggered CDS, and not even the shadow banking system (well, infinitely rehypothecated Greek bonds within a daisychain of broker-dealers, which ultimately ends up at the ECB at a negligible repo discount, that could well be the weakest link - we will have more to say about this over the weekend) but two very specific insurers: Italy's mega insurer Assecurazioni Generali, which at last check had more Greek bonds as a % of TSF than anyone else, and Europe's biggest insurer and Pimco parent, Allianz, which is filled to the gills with pretty much everything (for more on Generali, or as we like to call it by its CDS ticker ASSGEN read here, here, here, and here). Well, Moody's just gave them, and the entire European space, the evil eye, and soon the layering of margin calls upon margin calls, especially if and when Greece defaults and a third of ASSGEN's balance sheet is found to be insolvent, will make anyone who still is long CDS those two names rich. Assuming of course the Fed steps in and bails out the counterparty the CDS was purchased from.
What is better than a one-front European war on insolvency? Why two-fronts of course. But not before many "soothing" words are uttered (no really). From Reuters: "Portugal's international lenders arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday to review the country's bailout, with soothing words of support likely to dominate as Europe gropes for success stories to counteract its interminable Greek headache. As the euro zone's second weakest link, Portugal's ability to ride out its debt crisis will be key to Europe's claim that Greece is a unique case. Despite a groundswell of concerns that Portugal - like Greece - may eventually have to restructure its aid programme, the third inspection of Lisbon's economic performance in the context of its ongoing 78-billion-euro rescue should make that contention clear. "The review will be all about peace and harmony," said Filipe Garcia, head of Informacao de Mercados Financeiros consultants. "The important thing for Europe is to isolate Portugal from Greece, to put it out of Greece's way in case of a default or even an exit from the euro." That makes sense - after all even Venizelos just told Greece that the country is not Italy. And if that fails, the Don of bailouts, Dr Strangeschauble will just give the country will blessing to use a few billion in cash. Oh but wait. It can't. Because as as we pointed out in late January, and as the market has so conveniently chosen to forget, Portugal, unlike Greece, has simple, clean and efficient negative pledge language in its non-local law bonds. Which means "no can do" to any additional bailouts under its current capitalization. Which may very well mean that Portugal is stuck with its existing balance sheet unless the country succeeds in doing an exchange offer which takes out all UK- and other strong-protection bonds. All of them. And as Greece has shown, that is just not going to happen.
While the government propaganda machine chugs along and tells us to move along, there is nothing to see in the plunging labor participation rate, it is just 50 year olds pulling a Greek and retiring (fully intent on milking those 0.001% interest checking accounts, CDs and 3 Year Treasury Bonds for all they are worth - they are after all called fixed "income" not "outcome") there is more than meets the eye here. Yet while we will happily debunk any and all stupidity that Americans actually have the wherewithal to retire in droves as we are meant to believe (with the oldest labor segment's participation rate surging to multi-decade highs), there is a distinct subset of the population that migrates from being a 99-week'er to moving to merely yet another government trough - disability. Art Cashin explains.