The Greek CDS auction has not yet taken place, nor has one quantified how many Greece-guaranteed orphan bonds with UK-law indentures have to be made whole (at a cost to Greece of course, no matter how much Venizelos protests), and somehow the world is already moving on to bigger and better risk strawmen. Because if one sticks their head in the sand deep enough, it will be easy to ignore that European banks have gradually over the past year or quite suddenly (as in the case of Austrian KA Finanz) taken about €100 billion in now definitive losses on their Greek bonds and CDS exposure. Luckily, just like in the US, there is now over $1.3 trillion in fungible cash sloshing in the system, allowing banks to 'fungibly' fund capital shortfalls and otherwise abuse every trace of proper accounting, when it comes to a post-Greek default world. The problem is that none of this actually solves the fundamental insolvency issues plaguing the 'old world', but what it does do, is force the accelerated depletion of an aging and amortizing asset base. That's fine - as Draghi said the ECB can "always loosen collateral requirements even more." So while we await to hear just who will sue Greece and Europe, and how much cash will have to be paid out to UK-law bondholders (before the Greek default is even remotely put to rest), here is a listing of what Bank of America (recall - BofA is the one bank most desperate to remove any lipstick from the pig due to its need for more QE) believes will be the biggest risks to its outlook going forward. In order of importance: 1) Oil prices (remember when a month ago we said this then ignored issue may soon hit the very top of investors worry lists?), 2) Europe; 3) US Economy; and 4) China. That about covers it. Oh and massive debt issuance supply too as well as the even more epic straw man that is this Thursday's stress test. Remember: stress tests will continue until confidence in the ponzi returns!
When it comes to reporting the news, Reuters ability to get the scoop first may only be rivaled by its ability to "spin" analysis in a way that will make a normal thinking person's head spin. Such as the following piece of unrivaled headscrathing titled "The good news behind oil prices" whose conclusion, as some may have already guessed, is that "the surge in crude oil is looking more like a harbinger of better days." Let's go through the arguments.
"It Ain't Over Till It's Over": Empirical Observations On Who The Next Occupant Of The White House May Be And WhySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/28/2012 21:44 -0500
It is appropriate that as a post-mortem to tonight's GOP primary, which according to initial reports has Romney as winning both Michigan and Arizona, we have ConvergEx' Nick Colas providing an extensive summary of the factors in favor and against both the presidential incumbent, and the challenger, and in doing so handicap the possibility of election victory for either Obama or the Republican candidate, whoever he may end up being. As Colas says, 'it ain't over till it's over' - "As the battle for the 2012 Presidential election begins to pick up speed, we read a flood of reports that President Obama is a lock for reelection. And just as many that he is destined to be a one-termer. Those who believe that the winner of the 2012 election will be Republican claim that the keys to Obama’s downfall will be unemployment, skyrocketing oil prices, and increased federal spending. However, according to historical data and some political science theory, it looks like Obama has a pretty good chance of staying in the White House.... The GOP isn’t out of the race yet, but it’s up against some strong historical opposition." And while we would agree that all else equal Obama likely is a shoo-in, never before will there have been a full blown debt ceiling crisis in a repeat of August 2011 in the weeks and months leading into the election - that factor alone, in our humble opinion, could end up being the swing variable that pulls the otherwise ironclad victory away from Obama's clutch, and explains why the GOP caved so quickly on the payroll tax extension which will add $100 billion in debt, and force a debt ceiling breach ahead of November, as was first predicted on Zero Hedge. That, of course, and runaway oil: should crude continue its relentless surge, which it will if QE3 occurs, or an invasion or Iran becomes reality, Obama can kiss another 4 years goodbye.
In a 60-36 vote, Senate just passed the payroll tax extension, previously voted through by Congress. From Reuters: "The U.S. Senate on Friday passed legislation extending a tax cut for 160 million workers and long-term jobless benefits through December, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign the measure into law. The Senate approval by a simple majority vote followed the House of Representatives' approval earlier on Friday. The legislation, which also extends current payment rates to doctors through the Medicare health care program for older Americans, will add $100 billion to the U.S. deficit and is aimed at further stimulating the economy." As a reminder, all this means is that a repeat of the debt ceiling fiasco is now virtually assured before the presidential election as discussed here, which explains the GOP's willingness to pass this through as fast as possible with no offsetting spending cuts. As for the benefits of $1000/taxpaying household, the recent rise in gasoline prices has already offset those. One can only hope that crude prices are as susceptible to successful central planning intervention as all other assets, or else many more extensions will be needed before the year is over.
Today, the US total debt rose by $32 billion touching on a new record high of $15.392 trillion. As a reminder this is just the beginning: as we noted yesterday, according to the president's own budget total US debt is now expected to surpasses the greatest and final debt ceiling of $16.4 trillion just around September, and likely sooner with the addition of the $160 billion in additional debt needed to fund the extension of the Bush temporary yet perpetual tax cut through the end of 2012. So while we know that total debt to GDP is already over 100% and unlikely to ever decline back to double digits, thus putting into question the marginal utility of debt to generate further economic growth, another just as important question is what is the incremental utility of tax revenue relative to debt issuance, i.e., is America now issuing more debt than it is collecting from tax revenues: a step which would further cement its status as a banana debt republic. The chart below should provide some comfort in that regard. In fiscal 2012, starting October 31 through today, the US has collected $677.6 billion in withholdings taxes, while issuing $601 billion in debt over the same period of time. In other words, for now at least tax revenues are running 12% above debt issuance. Alas, considering that according to the president's own budget there is another $1 trillion in debt issuance over the next seven and a half months, we have a very distinct feeling the red line will cross the blue line yet again, and quite soon at that. Naturally, a logical question arises: why not just do away with taxes entirely and have all US capital needs be debt funded? After all, all that "saved or created" tax money would be used to buy bonds or better yet, iBonds, or something just as silly. And the USD would never, ever, lose its status as reserve currency...
You're not answering my question, I asked a simple question. You're the director of the OMB. I just asked a simple question, will it spend more or less?
"Uh, Marriner Eccles: We Have A Problem" - Obama Predicts He Will Breach Debt Ceiling Two Months Before ElectionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/14/2012 11:19 -0500
In light of the epic fiasco from last August, when the US debt ceiling hike became a 2 month televized affair, culminating with the GOP caving, but not before the S&P downgraded the US (and in the process breaking the US stock market), Zero Hedge has long been analyzing the chronology of future debt breaches, as with the presidential election in November, what happens in the months and weeks ahead of it as pertains to the number one problem facing America - its lethal debt addiction - will be by far the biggest weakness of Obama's campaign. This is something we believe the GOP has finally understood, and they want a full replay of last August's insanity, to remind America just how broke (and broken) this country is. Yet it turns out all of our analyses have been for naught (if 100% correct). Because it is none other than President Barack Obama who has been kind enough to point out, that on September 30, 2012, or in just over 7 months, total US debt subject to the limit will be, wait for it, $16,333,900,000,000. Why is this an issue: because the final debt ceiling that Obama has been afforded with automatic Senatorial roll overs (even as Congress theatrically votes these down), is $16,394,000,000. In other words, with two months ahead of the election, the US will have a de minimis $60 billion in debt capacity. And since the implied burn rate is $133 billion/month this means that the United States will be in full blown debt ceiling hike chaos just as the final electoral debates take place. And one wonders why the GOP rushed to green light Obama an additional $160 billion in debt issuance. If indeed the $160 billion in new debt is added, the US may not even last to September before Tim Geithner is forced to start plundering G-fund and other retirement accounts. It also means that two months of America in a debt ceiling breach situation will deal a dramatic blow to Obama's reelection chances as the last thing the US population will want is a replay of last summer.
Two weeks ago when discussing the latest lunacy surrounding America's exponential curve #1 also known as its debt balance, we suggested what the GOP election strategy should be: "[if] the debt ceiling becomes a sticking point at the election, Obama's chances of reelection plunge. Which makes us wonder - will Republicans grasp that the paradox of defeating Obama is precisely in giving him a carte blanche on all the stimulus programs he wants? Because if Congress approves another $200, 300 or even $400 billion in stimulus pork (the only thing better than one Solyndra? One thousand Solyndras!) the Treasury will drown in the need to raise hundreds of billions more, and will in fact hit the ceiling well in advance of the elections. As for the stimulus projects themselves, they will crash and burn just like all centrally planned endeavors, and actually result in a far worse outcome than if they had never been attempted. [Because] the best way to finally get back to a fiscally prudent regime? Why go to town, of course." We were delighted to discover that our policy anti-recommendation has finally been adopted. Because as the WSJ reports when it comes to the latest payroll tax extension we find something quite stunning: "House Republican leaders said Monday they would introduce a bill extending the payroll-tax break for the rest of the year without finding spending cuts to offset the program's cost. The proposal marks a major shift for Republicans, who previously had insisted that the costs of extending a trio of provisions expiring at the end of the month be offset with spending cuts." That's right - no offsetting spending cuts. Which means one thing - much more debt. How much more? At least $160 billion much. Which means that the debt ceiling discussion will hit not in November as we speculated previously, but potentially as soon as September.
On Friday, we gave the skinny on some of the more amusing and/or aggressive key assumptions in the president's 2013 budget. Now hear the TOTUS, as presented via the president.
A New York City story
Obama Revises CBO Deficit Forecast, Predicts 110% Debt-To-GDP By End Of 2013, Worse Deficit In 2012 Than 2011Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/10/2012 13:54 -0500
While we have excoriated the unemployable, C-grade, goalseeking, manipulative excel hacks at the CBO on more than one occasion by now (see here, here and here), it appears this time it is the administration itself which has shown that when it comes to predicting the future, only "pledging" Greece is potentially worse than the CBO. WSJ reports that "President Barack Obama's budget request to Congress on Monday will forecast a deficit of $1.33 trillion in fiscal year 2012 and will include hundreds of billions of dollars of proposed infrastructure spending, according to draft documents viewed by Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. The projected deficit is higher than the $1.296 trillion deficit in 2011 and also slightly higher than a roughly $1.15 trillion projection released by the Congressional Budget Office last week. The budget, according to the documents, will forecast a $901 billion deficit for fiscal 2013, which would be equivalent to 5.5% of gross domestic product. That is up from the administration's September forecast of a deficit of $833 billion, or 5.1% of GDP." Where does the CBO see the 2013 budget (deficit of course): -$585 billion, or a 35% delta from the impartial CBO! In other words between 2012 and 2013 the difference between the CBO and Obama's own numbers will be a total of $542 billion. That's $542 billion more debt than the CBO, Treasury and TBAC predict will be needed. In other words while we already know that the total debt by the end of 2012 will be about $16.4 trillion (and likely more, we just use the next debt target, pardon debt ceiling as a referenece point), this means that by the end of 2013, total US debt will be at least $17.4 trillion. Assuming that US 2011 GDP of $15.1 trillion grows by the consensus forecast 2% in 2012 and 3% in 2013, it means that by the end of next year GDP will be $15.8 trillion, or a debt-to-GDP ratio of 110%. Half way from where we are now, to where Italy was yesterday. And of course, both the real final deficit and Debt to GDP will be far, far worse, but that's irrelevant.
Did Pelosi and Bachus draw straws about who was going to be subject to a congressional ethics investiation based on their insider trading?
Will A be the new AA+? Perhaps, if the S&P follows through with its latest threat. Bloomberg reports that, "the U.S., lacking a plan to contain $1 trillion deficits, faces the prospect of another rating cut in six to 24 months depending on the outcome of November elections, according to John Chambers of Standard & Poor’s. America has had an AA+ rating with a negative outlook since Aug. 5 when the New York-based unit of McGraw-Hill Cos. stripped the nation of its AAA ranking for the first time, citing the government’s failure to agree on a path to reduce deficits. The U.S. has a one-in-three chance of another downgrade, Chamber said today during an S&P sponsored Webcast. “What the U.S. needs is not so much a short-term fiscal tightening, but it has to have a credible medium-term fiscal plan,” said Chambers, managing director of sovereign ratings." Too bad the US doesn't even have a fiscal plan what it will do tomorrow, let alone in the "medium-term" courtesy of the most deadlocked political system ever. As for "credible" - forget it. And as was shown, if the first US downgrade from August 5, 2011 broke the US stock market, we can't wait to find out how the Citadel-controlled, FRBNY-blessed stock market will deal with this particular event. In other news, we are still waiting to hear from Moody's on both the US and France.
Over the past week we have repeatedly exposed the BLS' shennanigans to both keep the headline unemployment rate suppressed and to generate an upward bias in the market courtesy of a "bigger than expected beat" of expectations. Granted, various semantics experts continue to scratch their heads in attempting to explain a collapsing labor force when even Goldman's Sven Jari Stehn just predicted that it will drop to 63.1% by the end of 2012 (and 62.5% by the end of 2015). Funny then that the US will have no unemployment left when the participation rate drops to 58.5%. And no, the "population soared argument based on revised data" doesn't quite cut it when the bulk of said surge not only did not get a job, but was not even counted toward the labor force. Yet what the biggest flaw with all these arguments that vainly (and veinly) attempt to defend the US economy as if it is growing, is that they focus exclusively on the quantity of jobs, doctored or not, and completely ignore the quality. We have decided to step in and fill this void.
No, don't worry, no new taxes.