If those in charge are still confused why the general population is not very "appreciative" of the banker social substratum, the following example should provide some color. Following the ever greater public bailout fund black hole that Spain's Bankia has become (first of many zombies), we now learn that one of its financial directors, Aurelio Izquierdo, will be entitled to €14 million in pension and termination benefits. Supposedly in compensation for running the bank straight into the ground after just one year of operation, and lying fabulously about its financial performance, in the process suckering in thousands into investing their hard earned cash so that oligarchs such as Aurelio can promptly retire to a non-extradition locale. And this, dear powers that be, is why the general public continues to scratch its head at how it is remotely possible that incompetent crony capitalists get paid tens of millions for blowing up their firms, while everyone else is stuck footing the soon to be soaring inflation bill (because print they must, and print they will).
All you need to read and some more.
Despite closed US stock markets today, FaceBook stock still managed to decline, while Europe dipped yet once again on all the same fears: Greece, Spain, bank runs, contagion, etc. Shortly Europe will reopen, this time to be followed by the US stock market as well. While in turn will direct market participants' attention to a shortened week full of economic data, which as Goldman says, will likely shape the direction of markets for the near future. US payrolls and global PMI/ISM numbers are expected to show a mixed picture with some additional weakness already fully anticipated outside the US. On the other hand, consensus does expect a moderate improvement in most US numbers in the upcoming week, including labour market data and business surveys. As a reminder, should the Fed wish to ease policy at its regular June meeting, this Friday's NFP print will be the last chance for an aggressive data-driven push for more QE. As such to Zero Hedge it is far more likely that we will see a big disappointment in this week's consensus NFP print of +150,000. Otherwise the Fed and other central banks will have to scramble with an impromptu multi-trillion coordinated intervention a la November 30, 2011 as things in Europe spiral out of control over the next several weeks. Either way, risk volatility is most likely to spike in the coming days.
- Merkel Prepares to Strike Back Against Hollande (Spiegel)
- China to subsidise vehicle buyers in rural areas (Reuters) - what could possibly go wrong
- Bankia’s Writedowns Cast Doubts on Spain’s Bank Estimates (Bloomberg) - unpossible, they never lie
- Shares in Spain's Bankia plunge on bailout plan (AP) - oh so that's what happens when a bank is bailed out.
- SNB’s Jordan Says Capital Controls Among Possible Moves (Bloomberg)
- Greeks Furious Over Harsh Words from IMF and Germany (Spiegel)
- Tehran defiant on nuclear programme (FT)
- Finally they are getting it: Greece needs to go to the brink (Breaking Views) - of course, Citi said it a week ago, but it is the MSM...
- OTC derivatives frontloading raises stability concerns (IFRE)
- Wall Street Titans Outearned by Media Czars (Bloomberg)
In any economy, “capital” is real wealth which has not been consumed. The production of new wealth is dependent on the supply of capital goods or factors of production - above all the tools essential to the task. A capitalist economy is impossible without a further form of capital - a medium of exchange or money. But money does not produce goods, it facilitates their exchange. Any money will do that, but SOUND money provides a still more important service. It allows for economic calculation. And without a reliable form of economic calculation, it is impossible to discover whether a given process of wealth production is viable or not. A SOUND money allows for the reliable calculation of profit or loss in any enterprise. By doing that, it acts to minimise the loss of real wealth by directing new capital into profitable uses and diverting it from uses which do not pay their way. This is the only process by which any nation can become prosperous. It is entirely short-circuited when the common denominator in all economic calculations - money - is produced by edict and not by effort. It has long been known that it is impossible to “create” wealth out of thin air. It has long been held that money and wealth are synonymous. It is now a tenet of market faith that when it comes to creating money out of thin air - literally anything goes. The contradiction is as glaring as it is ignored.
Having hit its highs in the pre-open, equity markets drip-drip-dripped lower all day, retracing their late-day exuberance relative to credit markets and broad risk-assets by the middle of the afternoon. Even financials had given back almost all of their post 230ET ramp yesterday but then - IT happened again. Italy's Monti made the same technocrat-fed comments as yesterday and financials take off again leading stocks higher (only to come back 10 minutes later and back-pedal on his hard facts). This time though - was different. Yesterday's rumor-ramp added 2.5% to XLF (the financials ETF) but this time it only managed to spur a 0.5% gain before the effects faded. Coincidentally - the ramp pushed ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures) up to VWAP where sure enough we saw heavy volume with large average trade size step in to briefly stall the rally - which then managed to push on to near the day-session's highs (but notably all on its own again). ES very much repeated the same pattern as yesterday but with lower average trade size still - ending the day exuberant but on its own. The USD kept pushing higher though - with the divergence with stocks now very large - (as EUR leaked lower - even as AUD rallied on the rumor-ramp) but this USD strength did not weigh as angrily overall on commodities today. Late Europe rumors of another LTRO pushed stocks up and dragged gold and silver up rapidly but they all gave it back by the close. With the USD up 1.5% on the week, Oil, Copper, Gold, and Silver are in the same currency-driven range between down 1.25 and 2% on the week - perhaps suggesting yesterday's plunge in PMs has seen a short-term end to the liquidation factors (though for how long). Into a long weekend, it seemed volume remained decent enough but once again average trade size was very low (suggesting little conviction here and/or algos giving pro-size exits). Treasury yields rose all day (ending higher by 3bps or so) pulling back to near Tuesday's closing levels. VIX tracked down to 21.5% (losing less than 1 vol on the day) and is once again cheap relative to credit/equity's view.
Bank Regulatory Capital has been in the news a lot recently - between the $1+ trillion Basel 3 shortfall, the Spanish banks with seemingly their own set of capital issues, or JPM's snafu. There has been a lot of discussion about Too Big To Fail (“TBTF”) in the U.S. with regulators demanding more and banks fighting it. After JPM's surprise loss this month, the debate over the proper regulatory framework and capital requirements will reach a fever pitch. That is great, but maybe it is also time to step back and think about what capital is supposed to do, and with that as a guideline, think of rules that make sense. Specifically, regulatory capital, or capital adequacy, or just plain capital needs to address the worst of eventual loss and potential mark to market loss. Hedges are once again front and center. The only "perfect" hedge is selling an asset. This "hedge" is also a trade. The risk profile looks very different than having sold the loan and the capital should reflect that.
While we were told during the PSI process that all was fixed and that Greece now had breathing room to cut spending and meet its TROIKA-mandated targets on the road to glory, it appears - just as we said it would - that things have got worse (much worse). In the 44 trading days since the PSI deal was struck, Greek government bonds are down over 44% in price - trading below 12% of par today for the first time ever. So much for Greylock's "no-brainer", "trade of the year" eh? Did equity markets signal an expectation of hope and change even as the government's largesse was priced into its debt? Not so much - the Athens Stock Exchange index is down an incredible 35% since 3/22 - back at 22 year lows! Where is the Greek Whitney Tilson when we need him most?
Peripheral stock indices underperformed in early trade, with banks under considerable selling pressure amid renewed tensions in credit markets. Wave after wave of poor data from the European PMIs and the German IFOs placed shares under further pressure and talk of macro names selling EUR/USD weighed on the pair. As a result, in the fixed income space, the German 2/5 spread traded at levels not seen since December 2008. However as the session progressed, stocks staged a decent recovery, which coincided with unconfirmed market talk of an asset reallocation trade, together with talk of Asian real money accounts buying French OATs, which in turn prompted sharp tightening in FR/GE 10y bond yield spread. This also supported EUR/USD, which after coming close to making a test on the 1.2500 barrier is now trading little changed. In other news, the ONS reported that the UK economy shrank by 0.3% in the first three months of the year, more than previously thought. The downward revision was due to a bigger contraction in construction output than previously estimated. Despite this, FTSE in the cash has persisted, and is the strongest performing index in Europe today.
The ballot box and economics textbook are on a collision course around the world, and we thought Nic Colas' (of ConvergEx) analysis of what behavioral economists call The Ultimatum Game was worth a refresher. That’s where two strangers divide a fixed sum of money, with one person proposing a split and the other accepting or rejecting it. It’s a one-shot deal, so the proposer tries to work out the minimum amount required to get the other person to go along. Classical economics says that a $1 proposal out of a $100 pot should work, but in real life (and this study has been done everywhere from the rainforests of South America to the bars of Pittsburgh) it takes 25-50% offers to win the day. Nic found three recent updates to the Ultimatum Game that each speak directly to the current political state of play in Europe and the United States. One shows that proud people (or those led by nationalist-minded politicians, perhaps) need higher offers in order to accept a split. The second shows that the Game works even for small amounts. The last – and the first such study we've ever seen from a mainland Chinese university – shows that worries over social status complicate the already difficult mental calculus of "How much is enough?" Classical economics would say – and you will hear a lot of policymakers echo – that the Greeks should take whatever deal they can. Something is better than nothing. However, all the lessons of the Ultimatum Game studies point to an entirely different conclusion.
For those who feel like spreading rumors about European deposit insurance, please do. But at least have some sense about what it would entail. European banks already have the highest loan-to-deposit loan-to-deposit ratio in the world. This means they are massively more levered, roughly 3x more, the US banks. In other words, deposit "encumbrance" is already absolutely maxed out. Think the ECB can credibly backstop Europe's €11 trillion deposit market, with Germany's agreement? Good luck.
Our entire society is in a downward social and economic spiral. We are just at different levels of decay (Dante’s circles of hell). At the current pace it won’t be long before I’m writing about the 50 States of Squalor. It is virtually impossible to reverse a decline that has been underway for the last three decades. We sold our souls to Wall Street and chose a debt financed illusion of wealth over productive savings and investment which would have led to real wealth. Our choices are reflected in the continued deterioration and decay along West Chester Pike and the squalor that is West Philly. Grey and decay will carry the day. The words on the Statue of Liberty should be revised from, ”Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, to “we have become your indebted, materialistic, obese, aging masses yearning for the government to protect and sustain us as our once great nation decays.”
As a nation, we have chosen this path. We made the choices and now we will suffer the consequences.
A quick look at the Fresh-Start Greek Government Bond (GGB2) complex shows that as of this morning it has tumbled to fresh all time lows across the curve, and now trades at a more than 50% loss to the March PSI conversion price. The reason for this dump is not so much on fear of a Greek exit, but once again a reflection of precisely what we expected would happen, and as explained in our January Subordination 101 post. Last week, the fact that a PSI hold out, holding English-law bonds managed to get par recovery while all the other lemmings have so far eaten a nearly 90% loss, has sparked a realization among all the other hold outs that since they have covenant protection, they should all demand the same treatment. And indeed, another one has stepped up, only this time not a holder demanding par maturity paydown, but one who has read their bond indenture and was delighted to find the words "negative pledge." As Bloomberg reports "a holder of Greek bonds that weren’t settled in the biggest-ever debt restructuring said he’ll demand immediate payment unless the government posts collateral against his investment. Rolf Koch, a private investor who says he holds 500,000 Swiss francs ($528,000) of the notes due in July 2013, argued that he’s entitled to equal treatment with Finland, which made getting collateral a condition of contributing to Greece’s second bailout. He wrote to the paying agent, Credit Suisse Group AG, invoking the bonds’ so-called negative-pledge clause, according to the text of a letter seen by Bloomberg News."
We have not been shy to point out the potential (and now proven) flaws in the Euro experiment (here, here, and here for example) over the past year or so but UBS reminds us that while most people remain fixated on the absence of a fiscal transfer union in so large a monetary union (to offset incidents of inappropriate monetary policy) as Eurobonds and Federalism come back to the fore; it is the second flaw - the absence of an integrated banking system (backed implicitly by a credible lender of last resort) - that should be getting front-page headlines. As Niall Ferguson noted at Zeitgeist this morning, "Structural reforms will work but will not work this week" and in the meantime, TARGET2 balances grow out of control and the longer the 'problem' remains, the worse it becomes leaving an implicit infinitely supported firewall as the only interim solution. While most who foresaw the Euro as implicitly leading to federalism were right, it seems the link to a German dominance (of ECB rulings and general fiscal and monetary decisions) has been the ultimate outcome. While an integrated banking system would do nothing to change the relative competitiveness or growth issues that plague Europe, the 'essential' internal capital flows would be sustained. Is this sort of integration a realistic prospect? The politics is not especially propitious.