CDO

Frontrunning: February 22

  • Obama Administration Said Set to Release Corporate Tax-Rate Plan Today (Bloomberg, WSJ)
  • Greece races to meet bail-out demands (FT)
  • IAEA ‘disappointed’ in Iran nuclear talks (FT)
  • Hilsenrath: Fed Writes Sweeping Rules From Behind Closed Doors (WSJ)
  • Fannie-Freddie Plan, Sweden FSA, Trader Suspects, CDO Lawsuit: Compliance (Bloomberg)
  • Bank of England’s Bean Says Greek Deal Doesn’t End Disorderly Outcome Risk (Bloomberg)
  • Greece Second Bailout Plan an ‘Important Step,’ Treasury’s Brainard Says (Bloomberg)
  • Shanghai Eases Home Purchase Restrictions (Bloomberg)

Nomura's Koo Plays The Pre-Blame Game For The Pessimism Ahead

While his diagnosis of the balance sheet recessionary outbreak that is sweeping global economies (including China now he fears) is a useful framework for understanding ZIRP's (and monetary stimulus broadly) general inability to create a sustainable recovery, his one-size-fits-all government-borrow-and-spend to infinity (fiscal deficits during balance sheet recessions are good deficits) solution is perhaps becoming (just as he said it would) politically impossible to implement. In his latest missive, the Nomura economist does not hold back with the blame-bazooka for the mess we are in and face in 2012. Initially criticizing US and now European bankers and politicians for not recognizing the balance sheet recession, Koo takes to task the ECB and European governments (for implementing LTRO which simply papers over the cracks without solving the underlying problem of the real economy suggesting bank capital injections should be implemented immediately), then unloads on the EBA's 9% Tier 1 capital by June 2012 decision, and ends with a significant dressing-down of the Western ratings agencies (and their 'ignorance of economic realities'). While believing that Greece is the lone profligate nation in Europe, he concludes that Germany should spend-it-or-send-it (to the EFSF) as capital flight flows end up at Berlin's gates. Given he had the holidays to unwind, we sense a growing level of frustration in the thoughtful economist's calm demeanor as he realizes his prescription is being ignored (for better or worse) and what this means for a global economy (facing deflationary deleveraging and debt minimization) - "It appears as though the world economy will remain under the spell of the housing bubble collapse that began in 2007 for some time yet" and it will be a "miracle if Europe does not experience a full-blown credit contraction."

$10 TRILLION Liquidity Injection Coming? Credit Suisse Hunkers Down Ahead Of The European Endgame

When yesterday we presented the view from CLSA's Chris Wood that the February 29 LTRO could be €1 Trillion (compared to under €500 billion for the December 21 iteration), we snickered, although we knew quite well that the market response, in stocks and gold, today would be precisely as has transpired. However, after reading the report by Credit Suisse's William Porter, we no longer assign a trivial probability to some ridiculous amount hitting the headlines early in the morning on February 29. Why? Because from this moment on, the market will no longer be preoccupied with a €1 trillion LTRO number as the potential headline, one which in itself would be sufficient to send the Euro tumbling, the USD surging, and provoking an immediate in kind response from the Fed. Instead, the new 'possible' number is just a "little" higher, which intuitively would make sense. After all both S&P and now Fitch expect Greece to default on March 20 (just to have the event somewhat "priced in"). Which means that in an attempt to front-run the unprecedented liquidity scramble that will certainly result as nobody has any idea what would happen should Greece default in an orderly fashion, let alone disorderly, the only buffer is having cash. Lots of it. A shock and awe liquidity firewall that will leave everyone stunned. How much. According to Credit Suisse the new LTRO number could be up to a gargantuan, and unprecedented, €10 TRILLION!

Gold vs Gold Stocks - Goldman Releases "2012: A Gold Odyssey? The Year Ahead..."

As one can glean from the title, in this comprehensive report by Goldman's Paul Hissey, the appropriately named firm deconstructs the divergence between gold stocks and spot gold in recent years, a topic covered previously yet one which still generates much confusion among investor ranks. As Goldman, which continues to be bullish on gold, says, "There is little doubt that gold stocks in general have suffered a derating; initially with the introduction of gold ETFs (free from operational risk), and more recently with the onset of global market insecurity through the second half of 2011. However, gold remains high in the top tier of our preferred commodities for 2012, simply because of the extremely uncertain macroeconomic outlook currently faced in many parts of the world. The official sector also turned net buyer of gold in 2010 for the first time since 1988, and has expanded its net purchases in 2011." And so on. Yet the irony is, as pointed out before, that synthetic paper CDO, continue to be the target of significant capital flows, despite repeated warnings that when push comes to shove, investors would be left with nothing to show for their capital (aside from interim price moves of course), as opposed to holding actual physical (which however has additional implied costs making it prohibitive for most to invest). Naturally, this is also harming gold stocks. Goldman explains. And for all those who have been requesting the global gold cash cost curve, here it is...

European Credit Crunch Hits Broad Economy As M3, Private Loans Collapse

The primarily sovereign credit crunch in Europe, which has resulted in part due to the ECB's disastrous, and since reversed decision just like in 2008, to hike rates early in the year, only to go ahead and not only cut but expand its balance sheet by a record EUR 800 billion in the past six months, has finally started trickling down to the corporate, and more importantly financial levels, where as was just reported today, the broadest monetary aggregate, the M3, rose by a only 2.0% in November, dropping by a whopping 60 bps from October (keep in mind this is a huge amount on a number that is in the tens of trillions), which happened to be the biggest annualized contraction change since 2009. What is worse, and what confirms that the daily "near default" state Europe finds itself in every single day has sent shockwaves of uncertainty around the continent, is that the loans to private businesses grew at just a 1.7% rate in November, a plunge from October's 2.7% and missing expectations of 2.6% by a wide margin. Said otherwise, corporate credit (far more important than its sovereign equivalent) is being turned off. And as has been widely discussed without credit flowing, there is not only no growth, but the threat of imminent economic depression. Lastly, that this has happened even as the ECB's balance sheet has risen from EUR 1.9 trillion to $2.7 trillion in 6 months is truly humiliating from Trichet as none of the money he injected into the banks has made it to the broader public, and instead all has been used to prop up Europe's failing banks, something we know all too well here in the US.

Why The UK Trail Of The MF Global Collapse May Have "Apocalyptic" Consequences For The Eurozone, Canadian Banks, Jefferies And Everyone Else

Reposting by popular demand, and because everyone has to understand the embedded risks in this market, courtesy of the shadow banking system.

In an oddly prescient turn of events, yesterday we penned a post titled "Has The Imploding European Shadow Banking System Forced The Bundesbank To Prepare For Plan B?" in which we explained how it was not only the repo market, but the far broader and massively unregulated shadow banking system in Europe that was becoming thoroughly unhinged, and was manifesting itself in a complete "lock up in interbank liquidity" and which, we speculated, is pressuring the Bundesbank, which is well aware of what is going on behind the scenes, to slowly back away from what will soon be an "apocalyptic" event (not our words... read on). Why was this prescient? Because today, Reuters' Christopher Elias has written the logical follow up analysis to our post, in which he explains in layman's terms not only how but why the lock up has occurred and will get far more acute, but also why the MF Global bankruptcy, much more than merely a one-off instance of "repo-to-maturity" of sovereign bonds gone horribly wrong is a symptom of two things: i) the lax London-based unregulated and unsupervised system which has allowed such unprecedented, leveraged monsters as AIG, Lehman and now as it turns out MF Global, to flourish until they end up imploding and threatening the world's entire financial system, and ii) an implicit construct embedded within the shadow banking model which permitted the heaping of leverage upon leverage upon leverage, probably more so than any structured finance product in the past (up to and including synthetic CDO cubeds), and certainly on par with the AIG cataclysm which saw $2.7 trillion of CDS notional sold with virtually zero margin. Simply said: when one truly digs in, MF Global exposes the 2011 equivalent of the 2008 AIG: virtually unlimited leverage via the shadow banking system, in which there are practically no hard assets backing the infinite layers of debt created above, and which when finally unwound, will create a cataclysmic collapse of all financial institutions, where every bank is daisy-chained to each other courtesy of multiple layers of "hypothecation, and re-hypothecation." In fact, it is a link so sinister it touches every corner of modern finance up to and including such supposedly "stable" institutions as Jefferies, which as it turns out has spent weeks defending itself, however against all the wrong things,  and Canadian banks, which as it also turns out, defended themselves against Zero Hedge allegations they may well be the next shoes to drop, as being strong and vibrant (and in fact just announced soaring profits and bonuses), yet which have all the same if not far greater risk factors as MF Global. Yet nobody has called them out on it. Until now.

EUR Tumbles: S&P About To Put Europe's AAA Club (Including Germany, France And Austria) On "Creditwatch Negative"

Here it comes. From the FT: "Standard and Poor’s has warned Germany and the five other triple A members of the eurozone that they risk having their top-notch ratings downgraded as a result of deepening economic and political turmoil in the single currency bloc. The US ratings agency is poised to announce later on Monday that it is putting Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, and Luxembourg on “creditwatch negative”, meaning there is a one-in-two chance of a downgrade within 90 days. It warned all six governments that their ratings could be lowered to AA+ if the creditwatch review failed to convince its experts. Markets have been braced for a potential downgrade of France but few expected Germany’s top rating to be called into question. With regard to Germany, S&P said it was worried about “the potential impact (...) of what we view as deepening political, financial, and monetary problems with the European economic and monetary union.” Standard and Poor’s has warned Germany and the five other triple A members of the eurozone that they risk having their top-notch ratings downgraded as a result of deepening economic and political turmoil in the single currency bloc." How this critical news was leaked, we have no idea. However, what is important is that now may be a good time to panic, unless Allianz has another CDO Quadratic plan up its sleeve...

Scramble From European Insurers Accelerates: ASSGEN, Allianz CDS Soar

Less than two weeks ago, when reporting on the news that Fitch has finally woken up to the reality that European insurers, already massively pregnant with European bonds, are the next shoe to drop, something we have been saying since 2010, we said, "For once, Fitch took the words right out of our mouth, and in the process reminded us that the time of the stupendously named ASSGEN CDS (357 bps, +41 today) is here (for our previous coverage on Generali, read here, here and here)." We also added: "And just because we like to live dangerously, we believe the time has come to knock on the door of the grand daddy of all: Pimco parent, German uber-insurer Allianz, where the crisis will eventually hit like a ton of anvils if and when things really get out of control." Here is the first trade update, 12 days later: Generali is 100 bps wider, Allianz is 40 bps. So as traders stock up on even more default protection to the companies which are certainly not too big to fail (ALZ used its trump card with the EFSF as CDO squared idea... and failed), we urge them whatever they do, to not tell Bill Gross to look at the soaring default risk of his parent company.

Fitch Says Italian Insurers Can Not Pass Sovereign Losses => The Time Of ASSGEN, ALZ CDS Has Come

For once, Fitch took the words right out of our mouth, and in the process reminded us that the time of the stupendously named ASSGEN CDS (357 bps, +41 today) is here (for our previous coverage on Generali, read here, here and here). And just because we like to live dangerously, we believe the time has come to knock on the door of the grand daddy of all: Pimco parent, German uber-insurer Allianz, where the crisis will eventually hit like a ton of anvils if and when things really get out of control. ALZ CDS + 12 at 136. Going much wider. After all, recall that the deus ex machina of the EFSF as a CDO Cubed came from, that's right, Allianz. So now that it has failed, guess who has the most to lose... If we had more time we would attach the recent Credit Sights piece on ALZ here, but we don't: we hope readers can track it down on their own.

Tranched EFSF - Or TARP Lite

The EU is getting closer to having two actual alternatives for EFSF on the table. Partial Protection Certificate (PPC) - the goal of which is to reduce coupons on bond issues - and Co-Investment Funds (CIF) which create a levered vehicle for purchasing/supporting secondary bonds. CIF’s seem to have a better chance of working, though they will require not only cheap EFSF money at the first loss part of the capital structure, but also some “dumb” money at the senior part of the capital structure.  If they get enough of that, they can create some compelling value for “mezz” investors. This is not TALF.  TALF was a much better deal for outside investors.  The range of assets the investor could choose from was broad.  Most fund managers believed they were “cheap” but couldn’t come up with the capital to invest, or handle the downside. TALF was a great opportunity.  CIF’s may create some interesting opportunities, and are at the very least flexible enough, that investors could have a discussion, but they are nowhere near as appealing as TALF was.

You Can’t Spell Tooth Faeries Without EFSF

The EFSF reminds me of the tooth fairy – there are those who believe because they are told it will work, and those who try to figure out how it will work, and come out on the non-believer side.  This week, we are supposed to start seeing some real details, although they are already down-playing that.  The prong that lends money to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, so that they can pay back the people who lent them money in the first place, should be pretty straightforward.  Borrow money in the markets, lend it to those countries, those countries pay the banks that own their debt, so that those banks can buy more EFSF bonds, the next time EFSF has to lend money to the PIGs to pay back the banks to free capacity to buy EFSF bonds – straightforward doesn’t mean it isn’t bizarre....So the EFSF is offering €250 billion of binary CDS in some form to entice the market to buy €1 trillion of Spitaly paper.  I think Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are too far gone (the bonds trade at such a low % of face) that first loss protection does little to help them get new deals done.  The first prong will have to suffice for them.  While the bulls are all eagerly anticipating this tide of liquidity they are ignoring the fact that the EFSF pulled a deal this weekThey were supposed to do €5 billion of 15 year bonds, which became €5 billion of 10 year bonds, which became €3 billion of 10 year bonds,  which because a statement saying the deal was pulled because of market conditions.  For clarity, these are straightforward, non-leveraged, EFSF bonds, where 3 similar issues already exist, and the deal was pulled!  I am sure it was a matter of price, but still, how well does that bode for their bigger and far more convoluted scheme?

The First-Loss Insurance Providing EFSF Is A Truly Unique Vehicle

Following this morning's busted issuance, it seems appropriate to take a deeper dive into the first-loss insurance that EFSF issuance may provide. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the €250 - €275 billion EFSF first loss insurance facility is starting to take shape. The amount of exposure that the EFSF can take in any form and retain the AAA rating is capped at €452 billion Euro – the amount of guarantees provided by the AAA entities. It looks more and more like the EFSF guarantees will be used in 3 different ways.  A portion will be used to raise money to meet commitments already made to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.  Another portion will be allocated to provide additional capital to banks.  Finally, a portion will be used to back first-loss insurance and we note that the EFSF First-Loss Insurance Program is like Nothing We Have Ever Seen Before. Why we have wound up at the stage that issuing binary options on sovereign debt is a good solution, I don’t know, but since we are there, it might as well be done as well as possible.

Bob, At His Bearish Best, On "Fudge, Fantasy And Fiction" - "My Target For The S&P Remains 800/900"

And now for some good old fashioned Bob Janjuah, albeit with proper grammar (damn you Nomura proper English sylesheet... damn you to hell): "No change. Deeply bearish with respect to global growth, and on a secular basis I am very strongly risk-off – my 2012 target for the low in the S&P500 remains 800/900, with the risk of an "undershoot? to the 700s. See my last note for details/targets. I would highlight only my view that the global policy making community, based their "actions? over the last month, are doing a wonderful job in meeting my 2012 "target?. Namely that, in 2012, the current set of developed markets (DM) policymakers will be exposed as "emperors with no clothes on?, and their policy choices over the last few years will be seen as the central problem, rather than as some mystical bazooka solution which can somehow reconcile the chasm between a lack of growth and productivity on the one hand, and the enormous debt and debt servicing costs and unsustainable entitlement culture costs that we face in the DM world on the other." And for the shorter-term: "The implication therefore is that in 2011, the October equity lows MAY NOT be the lows for the year. So based on what I can see now, and with a S&P500 1310 “stop loss” as mentioned above, I am now looking for another major risk-off phase between now and year end, with a December target for the S&P500 back down in the 1100s for sure, and possibly even the low 1000s." In other words, Bob as we love him best: nearing his all time bearish zenith... Or nadir, depends on one's perspective.

S&P Issues Statement On EFSF, Says "Almost Certain" European Governments Would Support CDO

The first kicker in the just released S&P statement on the revised and AAA-rated EFSF is the following: "In our opinion, there is an "almost certain" likelihood that the EFSF's 'AAA' rated member governments would provide timely and sufficient extraordinary support to the EFSF if needed." So, uh, S&P is determining the fate of trillions worth of securities on the basis of a hunch, a whim, if you will. A strong one, but a hunch nonetheless. Swell. And the second kicker:  "If we lowered the ratings on one or more of the 'AAA' rated member guarantors, we would also likely lower the ratings on funding instruments that the EFSF had issued before the date of the downgrade, if the lower ratings on the member guarantor were to lead to less than 100% 'AAA' rated coverage for the relevant EFSF funding instrument." This, in the parlance of our times, is known as a springing downgrade, which sets off the kind of cataclysm that only AIG could achieve once the investing community realized it had a rating-based collateral schedule. So once again the fate of the free world depends on FrAAAnce. Swell2.