European Central Bank
After yesterday's report that two Greek banks had suffered sufficiently material deposit withdrawals to force them to apply for the unpopular and highly stigmatizing Emergency Liquidity Assistance program with the ECB, now the other two of Greece's largest banks have also succumbed to reserve depletion after the Greek bank run appears to have gone viral. As Greek Capital.gr reports, now all four Greek banks have requested ELA assistance from the ECB.
DRAGHI PRESENTED QE PLAN TO SCHAEUBLE, MERKEL, SPIEGEL SAYS
Once again the clear preference for holding Swiss Francs over Euros was evident today as EURCHF re-collapsed from over 1.02 to under 0.9750 now. Overnight news from Greece suggesting bank runs are under way was then added to as Bloomberg reports, Greece is set to run out of cash by mid-year if it can’t break the deadlock over its rescue program, according to two international officials. Now, in the final "FU" to Greece, following Wolfgang Schaeuble's earlier comments that Greece does not have a debt problem, Der Spiegel reports after the European close that ECB QE will not include Greek bonds due to their low rating... but will see national central banks buying own-country debt.
"The first lesson is never trust a central banker when he or she makes a commitment or gives guidance..."
"In our portfolios with currencies, we have been short the CHF on the grounds that it was an expensive currency which we expected would experience capital outflows as European growth normalized. We were surprised by the sudden removal of the peg. Although the CHF real effective exchange rate is lower than during the European crisis of 2011, it has actually appreciated in recent months. We exited a substantial portion of our CHF short today and are monitoring the situation closely."
The bad news is that as we also speculated, and as Greek officials tried to cover up as usual, the Greeks have resumed doing what they do best any time their country is facing a grand crisis: walking to the bank and withdrawing what little deposits they have left. Or rather running to the bank. Which brings us back to the topic of the Emergency Liquidity Assistnace, which as Kathimerini reported moments ago, at least two Greek systemic banks have reportedly resorted to, indicating that the liquidity situation in Greece is once again as dire as it was in the depth of the European collapse.
Success, we’re constantly told, breeds success. And success breeds stability. The way to avoid failure is to copy successful people and strategies. The way to continue succeeding is to do more of what has been successful. This line of thinking is so intuitively compelling that we wonder what other basis for success can there be other than 'success'? As counter-intuitive as it may sound, success rather reliably leads to failure and destabilization. Instead, it’s the close study of failure and the role of luck that leads to success. In the macro-economic arena, we think it highly likely that the monetary and fiscal policies of the past six years that are conventionally viewed as successful will lead to spectacular political and financial failures in 2015 and 2016. How can success breed failure? It turns out there are a number of dynamics at work.
And to think so many otherwise very bright people still don't get it.
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Gold has surged 7.2% already in January, outperforming gold in dollars which is up 4.8%, and building on the 12% gains seen in 2014. Market participants are increasing allocations to gold in order to hedge a ‘Grexit’ and risks posed by euro money printing.
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Germany could end up in a position where it would be constitutionally bound to leave the euro area, warns the IFO economic institute's Hans-Werner Sinn, which would force "somebody to give in and that would be the ECB." Sinn blasts the looming decision of ECB QE as an excuse to help weaker nations, exclaiming, as Bloomberg reports, "the risk of deflation is just a pretext for quantitative easing, for hammering out a bailout program for southern Europe."
In what appears to be a desperate attempt to boost confidence in a failing financial system taken right out of the 2011/2012 playbook, over the weekend the National Bank of Greece had its latest "subprime is contained" moment and loudly announced that "the situation with deposit outflows from the country was under control" as it tried to reassure markets ahead of a Jan. 25 snap election, reports Kathimerini. And while Greek deposits may or may not be "running" one thing is certain: with an increasing probability they may not have a "continuity-promoting" government in less than two weeks, Greeks tax remittances to the government, which were almost non-existent to begin with, have ground to a halt!
Every couple of years the same identical European drill repeats itself: 1) Greece makes loud noises as it approaches an election, 2) Europe says it couldn't care what the outcome is and that Greece should stay in the Euro but if it exits it won't be a disaster, 3) the ECB reminds everyone of the lie that it is not preparing for Plan B (it is) despite holding on to over €100 billion in "credibility-crushing" Greek bonds, 4) panicking Greek banks say the deposit outflow situation is completely under control (adding that "The Bank of Greece along with the European Central Bank are monitoring closely the developments and intervene whenever this is necessary," which is code word for far more familiar, five-letter word), and meanwhile 5) all non-Greek banks quietly start preparing for the worst case scenario. So far this time around, we had everything but step "5". We do now.
The entire theory of monetarism is coming undone in spectacular and empirical fashion, which leaves the entire status quo exposed. All that is left in defense is the same old refrain of “it wasn’t big enough.” That’s great for those in the ivory towers blinding themselves to the reality of a lost generation of Italians, Spaniards, French and now even Germans; a listing to which even the FOMC is worried may yet add Americans. Why anyone ever expected a different outcome is due solely to unrepentant ideology, since these central banks are following almost exactly the Japanese “model.”
Despite stressing time and again that the ECB cannot dictate policy within individual nation states in Europe, Reuters reports Draghi's henchmen are playing 'bad cop' to Germany's 'good cop' for now as they threaten the withdrawal of Greek financial system funding if reforms are not carried out post election. Greek stocks are falling once again (led by the banks) and default risk has soared, with 5Y CDS +250bps at 1555bps.