"September will undoubtedly be the crunch time," one senior euro zone policymaker said. "In nearly 20 years of dealing with EU issues, I've never known a state of affairs like we are in now," one euro zone diplomat said this week. "It really is a very, very difficult fix and it's far from certain that we'll be able to find the right way out of it."
“If the ECB continues like this, it will soon even buy old bicycles.”
We discussed the use of Game Theory as a useful tool for analyzing Europe's predicament in February and noted that it was far from optimal for any (peripheral or core) sovereign to pre-emptively 'agree' to austerity or Eurobonds respectively (even though that would make both better off). This Prisoner's Dilemma left the ugly Nash-Equilibrium game swinging from a catastrophic break-up to a long, painful (and volatile) continuation of the crisis. Recent work by BofAML's FX team takes this a step further and in assigning incentives and from a 'do-not-cooperate' Nash-equilibrium between Greece and Germany (no Greek austerity and no Eurobonds) they extend the single-period game across the entire group of European nations - with an ugly outcome. Analyzing the costs and benefits of a voluntary exit from the euro-area for the core and periphery countries, the admittedly over-simplified results are worrying. Italy and Ireland (not Greece) are expected to exit first (with Italy having a decent chance of an orderly exit) and while Germany is the most likely to achieve an orderly exit, it has the lowest incentive to exit the euro-zone - since growth, borrowing costs, and a weakening balance sheet would cause more pain. Ultimately, they play the game out and find while Germany could 'bribe' Italy to stay, they will not accept and Italy will optimally exit first - suggesting a very dark future ahead for the Eurozone and with EUR tail-risk so cheap, it seems an optimal trade - as only a weaker EUR can save the Euro.
While the EUR was soaring, and Spanish bond yield were (very briefly) plunging in the past 48 hours, the reality behind the scenes was very different than what was blasted publicly in the headlines. Namely, Spain was on the verge of requesting a full blown sovereign bailout, one which would see it become the next country after Greece, Ireland and Portugal to fall under the Troika's control. From Reuters: "Spain has for the first time conceded it might need a full EU/IMF bailout worth 300 billion euros ($366 billion) if its borrowing costs remain unsustainably high, a euro zone official said. Economy Minister Luis de Guindos brought up the issue with German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in a meeting in Berlin last Tuesday as Spain's borrowing costs soared past 7.6 percent, the source said. If needed, the money would come on top of the 100 billion euros already agreed to prop up Spain's banking sector, stretching the euro zone's resources to breaking point, and Schaeuble told de Guindos he was unwilling to consider a rescue before the currency bloc's ESM bailout fund comes on line later this year." So why the sudden attempt to talk up European risk in the last two days? Simple - Germany did not agree to fund Spain's bailout. Which meant it was suddenly up to Europe's apparatchiks to jawbone markets into cooperation. "De Guindos was talking about 300 billion euros for a full program, but Germany was not comfortable with the idea of a bailout now," the official told Reuters."
Following two days of desperate attempts by the ECB to talk down record peripheral bond yields without any actual action, it is only logical that while Merkel is on holiday, we get a third day of talking to buy some time purely thanks to rhetoric and jawboning, before the Chancellor comes back and spoils the party. Sure enough, here it comes via French Le Monde, whose host nation knows very well that after Spain and Italy, France is next:
- ECB PREPARING TO BUY SPANISH, ITALIAN DEBT, LE MONDE SAYS
But while the cat may be away, the Bundesbank has decided to take at least some matters into its own hands:
- BUNDESBANK SAYS IT HASN’T CHANGED STANCE ON ECB BOND BUYING, REMAINS OPPOSED TO FURTHER BOND BUYING BY THE ECB
Then just to confirm that nobody in Europe has any clue what is going on and its politicians are now just making things up on the fly, we get this:
- HOLLANDE-MERKEL TO SPEAK BY PHONE AT 1 PM ON HELP: LE MONDE
And the logical response:
- STREITER SAYS `DOESN'T KNOW' ABOUT MERKEL-HOLLANDE CALL
Sigh - when one sees such relentless lies and confusion what else can one say but... "Europe."
European markets started off on a quiet note with thin volumes as equities drifted lower and fixed income gradually made gains, however newsflow rapidly picked up as commentary from the ECB President Draghi picked up wide attention. The ECB President was very upbeat on the Eurozone’s future, commenting that the bank will do whatever is needed to preserve the Euro, fuelling the asset classes with risk appetite across the board. European equities as well as the single currency erased all losses and the Bund moved solidly into negative territory. As such, EUR/USD is seen comfortably back above 1.2200, with both the core and peripheral bourses making progress. In the wake of the moves, attention is particularly being paid to Draghi’s comment that if monetary policy transmission is affected by government borrowing, it would come within the bank’s policy mandate. As such, much of the focus now lies firmly on next week’s policy decision from the ECB.
When you can't act, you talk. Sure enough, here we go again:
- DRAGHI SAYS ECB WILL DO WHATEVER NEEDED TO PRESERVE THE EURO
- DRAGHI SAYS THE EURO IS IRREVERSIBLE
- DRAGHI SAYS YIELD DISRUPTING POLICY TRANSMISSION ARE IN ECB REMIT
- DRAGHI SAYS SHARING SOVEREIGNTY ON EU LEVEL TO COME
- DRAGHI SAYS LAST EU SUMMIT WAS MOMENT OF RECOGNITION
And of course the weak hands cover until they realize Draghi just said absolutely nothing, as at this point everything is in Germany's hands. And not only has Germany not said anything, and won't until September when the constitutional court will approve or deny the ESM, but in fact they have been saying overnight that Spanish bonds are not eligible for EFSF purchases. In the meantime, Europe has devolved from a continent of coordinated action to coordinated jawboning.
- Greece now in "Great Depression", PM says (Reuters)
- Geithner "Washington must act to avoid damaging economy" (Reuters)
- Moody’s warns eurozone core (FT)
- Germany Pushes Back After Moody’s Lowers Rating Outlook (Bloomberg)
- Austria's Fekter says Greek euro exit not discussed (Reuters)
- In Greek crisis, lessons in a shrimp farm's travails (Reuters)
- Fed's Raskin: No government backstop for banks that do prop trading (Reuters)
- Campbell Chases Millennials With Lentils Madras Curry (Bloomberg)
Russia and the southeast Asian countries are analogs for Greece, Spain, and Cyprus, with no particular association between their references within the timeline. The timeline runs through the Russian pain; things begin to turn around after the timeline ends. This is meant to serve as a reference point: In retrospect it was clear throughout the late-90s that Russia would default on its debt and spark financial pandemonium, yet there were cheers at many of the fake-out "solution" pivot points. The Russian issues were structural and therefore immune to halfhearted solutions--the Euro Crisis is no different. This timeline analog serves as a guide to illustrate to what extent world leaders can delay the inevitable and just how significant "black swan event" probabilities are in times of structural crisis. It seems that the next step in the unfolding Euro Crisis is for sovereigns to begin to default on their loan payments. To that effect, Greece must pay its next round of bond redemptions on August 20, and over the weekend the IMF stated that they are suspending Greece's future aid tranches due to lack of reform. August 20 might be the most important day of the entire summer and very well could turn into the credit event that breaks the camel's back.
Strength is fading. Parity is visible. Reform is the only option. European markets are tumbling and the euro has slipped to record lows against several major currencies. The market is in reaction mode responding Spain and Greece in the headlines.
Instead of sticking to selling short-term, LTRO covered debt, Spain was so desperate to show it has capital markets access that this morning it tried selling bond due 2014, 2017 and 2019 with a maximum issuance target of €3 billion. It failed to not only meet the target, but to price the €1.074 billion in bonds due 2017 at anything less than an all time high (6.459%) as a result sending the entire curve blowing out wider, and the 10 Year above the critical 7% threshold again, for the first time since the June Euro summit, whose only function was to give a positive return for the fiscal year to such US pension funds as Calpers and New Year. In summary: Spain sold 2.98 billion euros of short- to medium-term government bonds on Thursday in a sale at which borrowing costs rose and demand fell. The average yield at a sale of 1.07 billion euros of five-year bonds rose to 6.46 percent compared with 6.07 percent at the previous auction of the debt last month. Investors' bids were worth 2.1 times the amount offered for the five-year paper versus 3.4 times at the last auction, and 2.9 times for the seven-year bond. The average yield at the seven-year sale rose to 6.7 percent from 4.83 percent.
There was yet another European Union summit at the end of June, which (like all the others) was little more than bluff. Read the official communiqué and you will discover that there were some fine words and intentions, but not a lot actually happened. The big news in this is the implication the ECB will, in time, be able to stand behind the Eurozone banks because it will accept responsibility for them. This is probably why the markets rallied on the announcement, but it turned out to be another dead cat lacking the elastic potential energy necessary to bounce. Meanwhile, Germany, meant to be the back-stop for this lunacy, is losing patience. It has become clear that the agreements that arose out of the June summit were not agreements at all. The questions arises: How can the Eurozone stay together, and if not, how quickly is it likely to start disintegrating? And where does the exchange rate for the euro fit in all this?
As Messers Frank and Paul take on the Bernank this morning, we reflect on the four easing options that the illustrious fed-head laid out in a statement-of-the-obvious that still managed to get the algos ripping. As Goldman notes, his prepared remarks were terse (and lacking in 'easing options' discussion) - cautious on his outlook, concerned at Europe, and fearful of the 'fiscal cliff' - but his response in the Q&A were a little more revealing as he laid out his choices: asset purchases, discount window lending programs, changes in communication about the likely path of rates or the Fed balance sheet, or a cut in the interest rate on excess reserves. We discuss each below but note, just as Goldman believes, that while we think that a modest easing step is a strong possibility at the August or September meeting, we suspect that a large move is more likely to come after the election or in early 2013 (and not before), barring a very rapid further deterioration in the already-cautious near term Fed economic outlook (which we assume implicitly brings the threat of deflation).
Despite the world and their lemur believing that, with a self-referential EUR100 billion bailout (loan) for its banks and a ponzi guarantee scheme for its insolvent regions, all will be well and more debt fixes too much debt, Spanish 10Y yields are back near 7% and spreads over 575bps. The reason - simple - the backbone of their credit-fueled economic growth has crumbled and is now crumbling faster. As the FT reports today, Spain's housing and banking sectors continue to deteriorate, grim new government data showed Wednesday, providing the latest indication that the country's economy remains caught in a protracted recession. House prices declined at the fastest pace since the start of the crisis in the second quarter, the public ministry said, and bad loans increased for a 14th month in a row, the Bank of Spain reported. What is more worrisome is that in spite of a bank rescue plan (that is obviously tyet tto be implemented), bank deposits saw a record decline shrinking 5.75% from a year earlier. The vicious cycle of rising borrowing costs and continued economic recession prompted the International Monetary Fund earlier this week to predict that the downturn will last into next year. "This government can't decide between a good and a bad choice," Mr. Rajoy said. "This government has to choose between the bad and the even worse."
Citi, Bank Of America, And JPMorgan Enter Lieborgate: Congress Expands Libor Probe To Big Three Domestic BanksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2012 20:40 -0400
When the Fed released its "trove" of materials confirming that the Fed indeed knew that the Barclays was manipulating its Libor submissions (amusingly explained by Ben Bernanke before Senate today that "the employee had no idea what Libor is in that case"), few were surprised, but more were confused why the congressional inquiry focused solely on the Fed's interactions with British Barclays, instead of focusing on the three domestic banks that were part of the BBA's USD Libor fixing committee.Sure enough, the 3 US banks on the USD Libor fixing committee were just dragged into the fray: "Representative Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican and chairman of the oversight and investigations panel of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee said he intends to request correspondence between the Fed and the three U.S. banks on the Libor-setting panel, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp., according to a congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not yet public."