Facebook investors are about to get unliked...
The devil is in the details and we finally have the Spanish Bank rescue details. The cost is not mentioned. We do not know the cost of the borrowing or how long it will last for. That ultimately will be key. Short dated, high coupon loans will not help much. Long dated, low coupon loans will help. The seniority issue doesn’t seem too bad but reading the documentation it looks like it must have been extremely contentious as it can’t help but say it is going to Spain time and again where it was unnecessary. The other reason the seniority doesn’t look too bad is because it doesn’t look like much money will get doled out. The timing seems far too long. This is a political fix and one where they live in some bankers world rather than a traders world. We are VERY concerned about the long timeframe for implementation. The immediate availability of €30 billion is good, but as TF Market Advisors' Peter Tchir confirms, we have our doubts that it will be distributed. However, as we noted earlier, even if fully implemented there would be well under EUR200 billion by year-end anyway and now with the German Court stalling implementation further, the devil in the details may just be overwhelmed by the god of reality.
A land grab shrouded in a banking takeover, wrapped in a financial crisis "rescue." As always, insiders get first dibs. (And, yes, there is an MF Global connection.)
While the Spanish government feverishly attempts to wrap up the country’s euphemistic financial system reform, the ever-expanding black holes, multiple balance-sheets restructuring with infinite amounts of public funds and reiterated calls for the need to further consolidate financial institutions seem to be setting up the stage for a self-fulfilling prophecy of Mayan proportions. Hopefully, this time around, we can learn from the not-so-ancient Mesoamericans’ hard-learnt lessons of the dangers implied in the state breaking the rules of free market capitalism when bailing out institutions and interest groups at the taxpayers’ expense. If we don’t, at least the endgame should not take anyone by surprise.
From the BBC: "Facebook has started testing a system that lets users pay to highlight or promote posts. Facebook said the goal was to see if users were interested in paying to flag up their information." That’s their plan? That’s Zuckerberg’s big idea? Get users to pay to post premium content!? Did the well-circulated hoax that Facebook planned to get users to pay for use just turn out to be true? If they proceed with this (unlikely) it seems fairly obvious the world would say goodbye Facebook, hello free alternatives. The truth is that Facebook is a toy, a dreamworld, a figment of the imagination. Zuckerberg wanted to make the world a more connected place (and build a huge database of personal preferences), and he succeeded thanks to a huge slathering of venture capital. That’s an accomplishment, but it’s not a business. While the angel investors and college-dorm engineers will feel gratified at paper gains, it is becoming hard to ignore that there is no great profit engine under the venture. In fact, the big money coming into Facebook just seems to be money from new investors — they raised eighteen times as much in their flotation yesterday as they did in a whole year of advertising revenue. For an established company with such huge market penetration, they’re veering dangerously close to Bernie Madoff’s business model.
While Charlie Munger has so far to comment on the 24K content of made in the basement tribalware, he and his partner have made quite a few other statements on items ranging far and wide, during the annual Berkshire Omaha convention, which year after year represents the annual pilgrimage for thousands to a crony capitalist Mecca, and which with the passage of time, has become increasingly more irrelevant. Why? Because with a $58 billion bet (on $37.8 billion in cash and equivalents) that asset prices will go higher, it is rather clear on what side of the 'bail out' argument, and its 'all in' fallback: central planning, Warren Buffett sits.
May had arrived in Spain. It was not, however, the May of years’ past but a Spring that was somehow devoid of warmth and of joy. The flowers had begun to blossom but they were gnarled, deformed, as if the land was reflecting the mood of the people. It seemed as if the Devil had arrived in Spain and, having conducted his Inquisition, was loosening various punishments upon the country based upon the confessions that he had witnessed. The Cathedrals appeared to have been defaced, the bones of the Saints were pocked with mildew and the once dazzling Crosses in the churches were inlaid with some type of worm that had not been seen before. Sadness, like a thick band of fog, had descended upon the coastline and it moved inward untouched by any wind or plea to God for Salvation. The malfeasance of what Spain had brought upon herself was about to be bourne and the hope of any other conclusion was now but a faint prayer remembered in our winter memories. The Piper has arrived from Hamelin; and Spain, like so many before her, will be forced to pay.
It will come as no surprise that the Spanish 'experiment' with the euro is not going well. Spain now relies more heavily on the ECB than at any time and today's bill auction sums up all that is wrong about our financial markets when an event that absolutely should be expected to be a non-event (a sovereign nation selling a small amount of short-dated debt) becomes a catalyst for algorithmic excess. In perhaps the greatest analogy for today's auction, Micheal Cembalest pronounces "throughout my career, central banks having to buy or finance sovereign debt to avoid a debt crisis was like going to the prom with your sister: there’s something very unnerving about it, even though it looks normal from a distance." It did not take long for the honeymoon following LTRO2 to end and despite today's exuberance, Italian and Spanish equity markets (as well as financial credits) have collapsed as Spain's sovereign risk has skyrocketed. While Spanish bank holdings of Spanish govvies, ECB lending to Spanish banks, and Spanish credit risk are surging so is one other much more worrisome fundamental trend - that of corporate non-performing loans. Dismissing the dichotomous relationship between consumer and residential delinquency calmness relative to unemployment's explosion (much as the market has in its pricing of bank stocks), the JPM CIO remains underweight Europe arguing that while contrarian calls are often the most profitable, this time being underweight European equities is the gift that keeps on giving.
We all know that central banks and governments have been actively intervening in markets since the 2007 subprime mortgage meltdown destabilized the leveraged-debt-dependent global economy. We also know that unprecedented intervention is now the de facto institutionalized policy of central banks and governments. In some cases, the financial authorities have explicitly stated their intention to “stabilize markets” (translation: reinflate credit-driven speculative bubbles) by whatever means are necessary, while in others the interventions are performed by proxies so the policy remains implicit. All through the waning months of 2007 and the first two quarters of 2008, the market gyrated as the Federal Reserve and other central banks issued reassurances that the subprime mortgage meltdown was “contained” and posed no threat to the global economy. The equity market turned to its standard-issue reassurance: “Don’t fight the Fed,” a maxim that elevated the Federal Reserve’s power to goose markets to godlike status. But alas, the global financial meltdown of late 2008 showed that hubris should not be confused with godlike power. Despite the “impossibility” of the market disobeying the Fed’s commands (“Away with thee, oh tides, for we are the Federal Reserve!”) and the “sure-fire” cycle of stocks always rising in an election year, global markets imploded as the usual bag of central bank and Sovereign State tricks failed in spectacular fashion.
I continue to see articles in the media claiming that Europe’s problems are solved. Either the folks writing these articles can’t do simple math, or they don’t bother actually reading any of the political news coming out of Europe.
I know many of you are thinking “the ECB or Fed could just print money.” That answer is wrong. If the ECB chooses to do this, Germany will walk. End of story. They’ve already seen how rampant monetization works out (Weimar). And if the Fed chooses to monetize everything to hold things up, then the US Dollar collapses, inflation erupts creating civil unrest, interest rates rise killing the banks, US corporations and the US economy… all during an election year.
The irony is not lost on us that Bloomberg is reporting that KA Finanz, an Austrian bad-bank supported by the Austrian government, faces as much as a €1 billion need for funding to cover its exposures to Greek CDS (coughcreditanstaltcough). In a statement this morning, which we noted in a tweet, the bank noted "activation of the CDS with an assumed loss ratio of about 80% would mean an additional provisioning charge of EUR 423.6 million". KA Finanz's total amount of Greek CDS exposure is around EUR1bn. What is shocking and should be of great concern is that we have been led to believe that very little net cash will change hands on the basis of the $3.2bn net aggregate market exposure. This was based on the now false premise that variation margin was maintained and transferred throughout the process (as we note below from recent IMF filings). What appears to have happened is that dealer to dealer variation margin has been, let's say, less rigorous as perhaps all collateral was netted up across all exposures (or simply ignored on the basis of government backstops). The far bigger question then is: are banks simply marking ALL sovereign CDS at par, and not paying off cash to other dealers? Remember it only takes one counterparty in the chain to turn net into gross and quality collateral seems tied up a little right now at the ECB (or with margin calls).
The German criticism of a mess they themselves have enabled (and benefit from via peripheral current account deficits funded via TARGET2 as shown previously here) at the ECB continues, and following public protests by Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann about recent ECB activity, it is the turn of former ECB executive board member Juergen Stark to take center stage. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine, warned that following the massive expansion in the ECB's balance sheet, in which it is clear to anyone that the ECB will accept used candy bar wrappers as collateral, that "the balance sheet of the euro system, isn't only gigantic in size but also shocking in quality."
Re: LTRO2, banks, CRE and the oppurtunity to see just how much free really costs...