THIS is the fate that awaits the European banking system. Every single EU bank has leveraged itself based on financial models that consider sovereign bonds to be “risk free.” Moreover, EVERY EU bank is leverage to the hilt based on its OWN in-?house assessment of the riskiness of its loan portfolio.
We are in the last innings of a very bad ball game. We are coping with the crash of a 30-year–long debt super-cycle and the aftermath of an unsustainable bubble. Quantitative easing is making it worse by facilitating more public-sector borrowing and preventing debt liquidation in the private sector—both erroneous steps in my view. The federal government is not getting its financial house in order. We are on the edge of a crisis in the bond markets. It has already happened in Europe and will be coming to our neighborhood soon. The Fed is destroying the capital market by pegging and manipulating the price of money and debt capital. Interest rates signal nothing anymore because they are zero. Capital markets are at the heart of capitalism and they are not working.
While most will be following what appears to be an almost certain Hollande victory in the French presidential runoff elections tomorrow (InTrade odds around 10%), it is very likely that the Greek election will have a greater acute impact on the political and financial facade of Europe, especially in the short term. As we noted in what we dubbed our first (of many) Greek election previews, the biggest problem facing the new political regime will be its near certain inability to form a coalition government (with just 32.6% of the vote going to PASOK and New Democracy) that does not undo most of what has been achieved through popular sweat and tears over the past 2 years to assist Europe's bankers in transferring what little Greek wealth remains to fund the insolvent European bank balance sheets. This in turn could begin the latest cascading contagion waterfall, which coupled with an anti-austerity drive emanating from a newly socialist France will threaten to topple Angela Merkel's carefully constructed European hegemony.
There is hardly any more long-suffering investor in this market than anyone who has held the stock of that worst of breed American bank: Bank of Countrywide Lynch (BAC), which following the worst M&A transaction in history, namely its purchase of Countrywide, has found out that one does not pay billions for hundreds of billions in contingent liabilities, which will manifest themselves in tens of billions in putback claims against the underreserved bank over time. But all that is now known, grudgingly, after being pointed out here back in 2010, and when all is said and done, BofA will be finished, with the contingent liability pool spun off in a special purpose entity which files for bankruptcy, while the equity remaining at the successor entity will be worth pennies on the dollar. The question is what are the catalysts that get the bank there. Luckily, yesterday the bank itself highlighted what the key driver to put events in motion may be, after it disclosed that should the bank be downgraded, which it will be as Moody's has warned, it would need to post up to $6.2 billion in collateral: an amount which would cripple the bank's liquidity, and send its stock plunging as visions of AIG resurface, and concerns about a toxic downward spiral emerge.
Fraud ... What Fraud?
Munch's "The Scream" may be all the rage today, but to Jim Grant, in his latest interview on Bloomberg TV, the record price paid for the painting is not so much a manifestation of modern art as one of modern currency: "This is the flight into things from paper" . Thus begins the latest polemic by the Grant's Interest Rate Observer author whose topic is as so often happens, the Federal Reserve (for his latest definitive expostulatin on why the Fed should be disbanded and why a gold standard should return, delivered from the heart of Liberty 33 itself, read here). The world in which we invest is a world of immense wall to wall manipulations by our friends in Washington. And people get off on Goldman Sachs because it has done this and this, it is pulling wires... The Federal Reserve is the giant squid of squids, it is the vampire squid of vampire squids."
There are two forthcoming dates which will set the direction and strength of the tide and certainly have a marked affect upon the ventures. They are this Sunday, May 6, when both the French and Greek populace will decide on who is running their government and then on May 31 when the Irish have their refrendum. At the least one must be thankful that there are Democracies that are working and that no group of Generals or some thug is making the decisions. Forthcoming we visualize many Socialist demands such as Eurobonds being made and Germany standing alone in the corner and refusing to fund which will make for all kinds of volatile markets. The bigger crisis though, we fear, will be when Germany says no to funding some grand Socialist idea. The problem is the size of the economy. The German economy is 25% of the American economy and it is going to get down to a matter of capital and what Germany can afford without being downgraded and a European Union without a AAA rated Germany is a very different affair both for the EU’s debt structure and for the Euro. In June the Fed’s Operation Twist comes to an end. There is no new stimulus plan on the table in either America or in Europe now. This means that the last four years of monetary easing and living off of that which has been printed is coming to an end. The consequences of this, historically, have been declines in the equity markets.
Mixed Results As Spain Sells More Bonds Than Expected, But Pays Up As Yields Again Spike - Analyst ViewSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/03/2012 06:38 -0400
Traders were watching Spain cautiously this morning which at around 4 am Eastern sold €2.52 billion of three- and five-year government bonds, in its first bond auction since Standard & Poor's cut its sovereign rating by two notches last week. The results were mixed because while more than the maximum range of €2.5 billion was sold (on solid total demand of €8.07 billion) or €2.52 billion, Spain paid up for the privilege, with yields rising across the board, reaching just why of 5% for the 2017 bonds and more importantly pricing with tails to secondary market prices, confirming that the trend in rising yields at primary issuance is very much unsustainable. This in turn caused the EURUSD to get spooked and slide to overnight lows, a move not mimicked by broader equity futures which this morning are again in a world of their own, and now simply await to see if the Initial Claims number later will be far worse than expected in order to soar.
Every quarter as part of its refunding announcement, the Office of Debt Management together with the all important Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee, which as noted previously is basically Wall Street's conduit telling the Treasury what to do, releases its Fiscal Quarterly Report which is for all intents and purposes the most important presentation of any 3 month period, containing not only 70 slides worth of critical charts about the fiscal status of the country, America's debt issuance, its funding needs, the structure of the Treasury portfolio, but more importantly what future debt supply and demand needs look like, as well as various sundry topics which will shape the debate between Wall Street and Treasury execs for the next 3 months: some of the fascinating topics touched upon are fixed income ETFs, algo trading in Treasurys, and finally the implications of High Frequency trading - a topic which has finally made it to the highest levels of executive discussion. It is presented in its entirety below (in a non-click bait fashion as we respect readers' intelligence), although we find the following statement absolutely priceless: "Anticipation of central bank behavior has become a significant driver of market sentiment." This is coming from the banks and Treasury. Q.E.D.
Gold’s London AM fix this morning was USD 1,661.25, EUR 1,253.02, and GBP 1,024.70 per ounce. Yesterday's AM fix was USD 1,662.50, EUR 1,256.61 and GBP 1,021.44 per ounce.
Silver is trading at $30.85/oz, €23.37/oz and £19.10/oz. Platinum is trading at $1,570.00/oz, palladium at $677.60/oz and rhodium at $1,350/oz.
Something funny happened when last August CNBC hired access journalist extraordinaire Andrew Sorkin to spiff up its 6-9 am block also known as Squawk Box: nothing. At least, nothing from a secular viewership basis, because while the block saw a brief pick up in viewership driven by the concurrent (first of many) US debt ceiling crisis and rating downgrade, it has been a downhill slide ever since. In fact, as the chart below shows, the Nielsen rating for the show's core 25-54 demo just slid to multi-year lows. And as NY Daily News, the seemingly ceaseless slide has forced CNBC to start panicking: "CNBC insiders tell us executives at the cable business channel are “freaking out” because viewership levels are down essentially across-the-board, particularly with its marquee shows, “Squawk Box” and “Closing Bell." “Their biggest attractions have become their biggest losers,” says one TV industry insider familiar with the cable channel’s numbers. According to Nielsen ratings obtained by Gatecrasher, from April 2011 to April 2012, “Squawk Box” is down 16 percent in total viewers and 29 percent in the important 25-54 demographic bracket that advertisers buy." Yet is it really fair to blame the slide of the morning block's show on just one man?
In yet another 2011 déjà vu moment, Europe’s bank funding window is slamming shut again (the catalyst that brought the 2011 Euro crisis vintage to its heights). Nowhere is this more evident than when comparing monthly debt issuance in the first 4 months of 2012 to the previous two years. Sadly, even despite taking place while the LTRO effect was front and center, Europe still was unable to match prior year debt. Fine, the skeptics will say, this simply means that there is less debt maturing and thus less need for new issuance… And the skeptics would be wrong. As charts two and three demonstrate, this is broadly correct for only 4 countries, of which 3 still have their own currencies (coincidence). The balance is a sorry sight, with Germany, Spain and Italy seeing nearly EUR100 billion in net unrolled redemptions just Year to Date alone! As UBS very poignantly points out, “It is difficult to see this as anything other than contagion from the latest variant of the euro crisis.”
If last week was Europe's days of hope, even as the continent was again breaking, predicated by the utterly ridiculous such as a successful Bill auction, a weak Spanish Bond issue, somehow spun by the propaganda crew as good despite pricing at an utterly unsustainable interest rate, and various German confidence indicators which soared to multi-year highs, today is the bitter hangover. Where to start...