Desperate governments call for desperate measures. Unfortunately for us, citizens often end up paying for the mistakes of their governments. That’s not how it should be but, sometimes, that’s how it is. If and a when a government is no longer able to meet its obligations, capital controls, broad wealth confiscation measures, and other extreme burdens are often considered. Spanish bond yields just fell to their lowest levels in history but does that mean that your money is safe there? Absolutely not. It means that investors are complacent, not that Spain’s political risk has diminished. Portugal is in the same boat. While its borrowing costs continue to fall, its prospects for economic growth and its financial position continue to worsen. If you’ve got assets in Portugal then now would be a good time to contemplate how safe they really are. Unless you like bail-ins, that is.
When one thinks "recovery", some of the images envisioned include a healthy labor market (not one saturated by part-time, low wage jobs), rising earnings (not wages that have stagnated for years and in real terms are at Lehman levels) and a vibrant housing market in which new home buyers enter with confidence, and where mortgage loans are abundant and available to qualified creditors. One certainly does not imagine a housing "market" dominated by Chinese, Russian and Arab monely-laundering oligarchs, where half of all transactions are "all cash", and where, as Fannie Mae just reported, the number of Americans who said "now is a good time to buy a home" plunging to 64% - the lowest print in survey history!
- Off balance sheet vehicles? Check
- Conflicted bank "research" recommending muppets buy stock while soliciting banking fees from same stock? Check
- Hoping to sell debt on to muppets? Check
- Chinese corruption? Check
- State bailout of failed bank? Check
Update: The official and black-market Peso has collapsed further today to new record lows.
It is actually quite sad to watch the continued downfall of Argentina's economy under the inept ministrations of its government. The only good thing that can possibly come from this is that it will set yet another example for others so they may avoid making similar mistakes. Unfortunately the example is being set on the backs of the country's citizens, who are seemingly forced to live from crisis to crisis. Politicians rarely pay the price for their atrocious policies, and we are quite sure Ms. Kirchner and her cronies have feathered their nests in ways the average citizen cannot even dream of (most recently, corruption allegations have caught up with Ms. Kirchner's vice president. Rampant government corruption has long been a hot topic in Argentina under Ms. Kirchner's rule). It is not as though Argentina didn't have great potential. If only politicians would leave its economy alone and stopped inflating the currency into oblivion, the country could easily and quickly regain its former prosperity.
After spending time in Argentina, BofA's Marcos Buscaglia is concerned... The perception of many locals is that the risks of an economic/currency crisis before year-end have increased significantly. This compares to a view they had before of a muddle-through till the 2015 presidential elections. Policy decision-making is ever more concentrated, and the administration has radicalized, but the severe economic downturn will change political incentives in 2015, in BofA's view. With the official peso rate at record lows once again, the black-market Dolar-Blue tumbled to over 14/USD - a record low indicating dramatic devaluation ahead (which of course, sends ARS-denominated stocks surge to record highs).
The zombification of corporate America is nowehere more evident than the yield-starved demand that has enabled companies with the lowest of the low credit ratings to raise debt capital and stay alive far beyond their 'natural' lifespan. As WSJ reports, investors are gobbling up some of the riskiest debt from junk-rated European companies at the fastest pace in years. The riskiest tranche of that debt - so-called second-lien, or junior, loans - amounts to $3.3 billion, almost double the amount raised at the same stage last year and the most over the same period since 2007. The reason is simple - Central Banks - "If you have more demand than supply then you end up with a loosening of terms and potentially more leverage and more aggressive structures." This is 'mal-investment' writ large, and at least as bad as during the 2007 bubble.
- Ukraine accuses Russia of invasion after aid convoy crosses border (Reuters)
- Hunt for Foley’s Killer Spans Old Policing and Tech Tools (BBG)
- U.S. Probe Examines GM Lawyers (WSJ)
- Argentina accuses U.S. Judge Griesa of "imperialist" attitude (Reuters)
- Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm (Reuters)
- Geneva Banks Break 200-Year Silence to Unveil Earnings (BBG)
- Richest Jailed Putin Foe Says Ukraine Fears Sparked Prosecution (BBG)
- Disclosure of Failed Attempt to Rescue James Foley Is Criticized (WSJ)
- Execution of U.S. journalist reveals the changing business of war coverage (Reuters)
With the FOMC Minutes in the books, the only remaining major event for the week is the Jackson Hole conference, where Yellen is now expected to talk back any Hawkish aftertaste left from the Minutes, and which starts today but no speeches are due until tomorrow. And while the Minutes were generally seen as hawkish, stocks continue to levitate, blissfully oblivious what tighter monetary conditions would mean to an asset bubble, which according to many, is now the biggest in history. And speaking of equities, US futures climbed to a fresh record high overnight on just the right mix of bad news.
With the impasse over the latest Argentina default going nowhere fast, late last night president Kirchner stunned its creditors when she announced what amounts to a cramdown plan for holdouts, in which all bonds would be stripped of their existing indentures and converted to local law bonds. Or, as some would call it, a "scorched earth" transaction that burns all bridges, and goodwill, with the international creditor community and likely leaves Argentina unable to access global capital markets for the foreseeable future.
If structural reform is impossible as a result of lobbying (i.e. the political capture of governance and regulation) by vested interests that profit handsomely from these broken systems, collapse is the only "fix" left.
- Gunshots, tear gas in riots over shooting of black Missouri teen (Reuters)
- Russia sends big aid convoy to Ukraine, West sounds warnings (Reuters)
- Maliki Bid to Block Successor Escalates Crisis in Iraq (BBG)
- Poor German data pushes euro toward 9-month lows against dollar (Reuters)
- Derivatives Reincarnate Boosting Debt Wagers in New Era (BBG)
- Israel Says No Gaza Talks Progress as Hamas Warns on Truce (BBG)
- Traders brace for research crackdown as easy money dries up (Reuters)
- U.S. Bank Profits Near Record Levels (WSJ)
- Unproven Ebola Drugs Are Ethical to Use in Outbreak: WHO (BBG)
- Caesars’ CEO Loveman Says No Qualified Bidders for Revel (BBG)
Bank of England plans to make bondholders and depositors bear the cost of bailing out failing banks has led Moody’s to downgrade its outlook on the UK banking sector. Depositors in some Cyprus banks saw 50% or more of their life savings confiscated overnight. Moodys largely ignored, as did much of the media coverage of their report, the real risk that bail-ins pose to people’s life savings and companies capital, the likely negative impact of this on consumer sentiment and employment in already fragile economies.
Despite Krugman's “Mission Accomplished” Announcement, the Giant Banks Are Worse Than Ever
There is a war being conducted out there in the financial markets. A war between debtors and creditors, between governments and taxpayers, between banks and depositors, between the errors of the past and the hopes of the future. How can investors end up on the winning side ? History would seem to have the answers. We would argue today that central bank bubble-blowing has made the entire market high-risk, with a broad consensus that with interest rates at 300-year lows and bonds hysterically overpriced and facing the prospect of interest rate rises to boot, stocks are now "the only game in town". If history is any guide, the identity of the losers seems to be self-evident.
By now it is well known that Argentina has been declared in default by the major credit rating agencies. However, the default is really a sideshow to Argentina's real problem, which is a profligate government financing its spending increasingly via the printing press, while publishing severely falsified “inflation” data in order to mask this fact. Inflationary policy is and always will be extremely destructive. In the developed world, a situation like that observed in Argentina has so far been avoided, but that doesn't exactly mean that central banks in the industrialized nations are slouches in the money printing department. Their actions buy us what appear to be “good times” by diverting scarce resources into various bubble activities, but in reality they impoverish us.