European Central Bank
The money for Greece has not yet been wired, and already a deeper dive into the previously released Troika report shows what is glaringly obvious to anyone who follows the actual collapse of the Greek economy: that the country is already on course to miss its budget targets for the immediate future (for insane EU assumptions on what the Greek economy should look like through the lens of a Eurocrat, see our chart of the day). The Telegraph reports: "Athens has probably cut spending enough to bring its primary deficit down to 1.5pc this year as agreed. But "current projections reveal large fiscal gaps in 2013-14" according to a leaked draft report by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its report, the troika said Athens will have to impose further fiscal cuts of as much as 5.5pc of GDP to meet next year's targets." And while Europe may be terminally fixed, translated this means that the aborigines of the southern colony of Bavaria Sachs will see their wages cut even more, and even more people will be unemployed soon just to appears the first lien debt holders. This in a country of 10.8 million where just 36% of the population works. So Greece, which today received a rare bit of highly irrelevant but good news, when Fitch became the first rating agency to upgrade the country's credit rating from Default to B- (even as its new bonds saw their yield surge to 19% on the second day of trading), will in a few short months be forced to once again deal with even more consequences of being the proud recipient of the inverted European bailout, whereby the country's gold is used to fund Eurobank capital shortfalls.
Portugal is near guaranteed to default/restructure, so why is everybody so tolerant of so-called "smart people" saying otherwise? OK, let's do this math thingy...
There has been a lot of talk lately about “seasonal adjustments” and what they actually mean and do for the data. Reporting today’s forecast in “seasonally adjusted” terms would not be incorrect. Seasonality isn’t bad, and is useful in many ways, but so is the raw data and trying to figure out if the adjustments make sense or need to be modified a lot due to the particular circumstances at the time (like great warm weather). The markets are almost all doing well so far this morning, aside from European sovereign spreads which continue to leak wider (Spain now +20bps post-Greece and Italy +24bps).
Today, almost every financial journalist that is published in the mainstream media prefers to be steered by their controlling interests into being a “cleaner”, scrubbing clean the facts and hard evidence of every financial crime scene and of inherent risks that lurk everywhere, and instead, opting to present a rosy, unrealistic, fantasy outlook of stock markets and the global economy.
Balestra Capital: "If Government Programs Were Cancelled, The Economy Would Collapse Back Into Severe Recession"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/12/2012 19:52 -0500
While hardly an opinion that would be questioned around these parts, it is still good to see that even some of the smart money shares our views about the Schrodinger Economy ('alive' and 'dead' at the same time, depending if the BLS or anyone else is observing it) and we are not totally insane vis-a-vis one-time, non recurring government bailouts, which just incidentally have become perpetual and endless: "The Federal government has manfully stepped up to fill the gap left by consumers who have been forced to retrench and who are trying to repair their finances by paying down debt and increasing their savings. So the next question has to be: Is this recovery self-sustaining or is the economy still on life support, held together by periodic massive liquidity injections and ultra low interest rates, and accompanied by a dangerous, if not reckless, expansion of government debt? We think that if government programs were canceled, the economy would collapse back into severe recession." And here Balestra's Chris Gorgone explains quite astutely why anyone betting on a decoupling or perpetual USD reserve status may want to reconsider: "the U.S. is no longer in complete control of its own destiny. We exist now in a world of increasing correlation in the arenas of economics, finance, trade, politics, etc. What happens in Europe, China, the Middle East, etc. will have major impacts on American economic, political, and social outcomes. The world is changing rapidly. The old rules that so many investors rely upon may no longer apply the way they did during the great growth years after World War II." Alas, this too is spot on.
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!
Folks, this is a DE-pression. And those who claim we’ve turned a corner are going by “adjusted” AKA “massaged” data. The actual data (which is provided by the Federal Reserve and Federal Government by the way) does not support these claims at all. In fact, if anything they prove we’ve wasted money by not permitted the proper debt restructuring/ cleaning of house needed in the financial system.
While LTRO may have slowed the need for immediate asset sales and larger deleveraging in European banks, the two most significantly worrying trend concerns remain front-and-center - those of deposit flight and lending cuts. The latter remains a concern for the BIS, who note in their recent report, that lending curtailment by European banks focused primarily on risky (non-sovereign) and USD-denominated (EM mostly) debt as banks sought to reduce risk-weighted assets (RWA) to meet Basel III capital rules. It would appear though that banks remain in deleveraging (asset sale) mode, in anticipation of the end of ECB facilities down the road, which will become increasingly troublesome given the encumbrance of so many of their assets already by the ECB itself. What is most concerning though is the dramatic and accelerating deposit outflows from not just Greece but Italy and Spain (which just happen to be by far the largest 'takers' of LTRO loans). In other words, as more and more deposits outflow from these two major sovereign nations' banking systems (notably to Finland, Germany, and Luxembourg apparently), the only way to fund bank liabilities (as long as the interbank market remains dead - which is likely given everyone's self- and projected-knowledge) will be the ECB.
What is fraud except creating “value” from nothing and passing it off as something? Frauds interlink and grow upon each other. Our debt-based money system serves as the fraud foundation. In our debt-based money system, debt must grow in order to create money. Therefore, there is no way to pay off aggregate debt with available money. More money must be lent into the system to make the payments for old debts. This causes overall debt to expand as new money for actual people (vs. banks) always arrives at interest and compounds exponentially. This process is called financialization. Financialization: The process of making money from nothing in which debt (i.e. poverty, lack) is paradoxically considered an asset (i.e. wealth, gain). In current financialized economies “wealth expansion” comes from the parasitic taxation of productivity in the form of interest on fiat lending. This interest over time consumes a greater and greater share of resources, assets, labor, and livelihood until nothing is left.
Many lessons are available to learn from the Greek debt crisis. Several more are probably to come as the intended and unintended consequences of what the Europeans have done begin to infect the bond markets. I point this morning to the vast differences now between the ownership of American debt and European debt and, as the immediate effects of the LTRO begin to wear off, several dawning realizations that I think will cause European debt to gap out against American debt regardless of the yields of Treasuries.
- Greek Bailout Payment Set to Be Approved by Euro Ministers After Debt Deal (Bloomberg)
- China Trade Deficit Spurs Concern (WSJ)
- Sarkozy Makes Populist Push For Re-Election (FT)
- ECB Calls for Tougher Rules on Budgets (FT)
- As Fed Officials Prepare to Meet, They Await Clearer Economic Signals (NYT)
- PBOC Zhou: In Theory 'Lots Of Room' For Further RRR Cuts (WSJ)
- Latest Stress Tests Are Expected to Show Progress at Most Banks (NYT)
- Monti Eyes Labor Plan Amid Jobless Youth, Trapped Firemen (Bloomberg)
While hardly expecting anything quite as dramatic as the default of a Eurozone member, an epic collapse in world trade, or a central banker telling the world that "he has no Plan B as having a Plan B means admitting failure" in the next several days, there are quite a few events in the coming week. Here is Goldman's summary of what to expect in the next 168 hours.
Since the much-heralded 3Y LTRO program was envisioned and enacted, we have been clear in our perspective that while this appears to have signaled a removal of downside (contagion-driven) tail-risk for banks (and implicitly to sovereigns), the market's perceptions are once again short-termist. Missing the 'unintended-consequence' for the 'sugar high' is the forest-and-trees analogy that we have seen again and again for the past few years but we worry that this time, given the sheer size of the program, that the ECB has got a little over its skis. By demanding collateral for their bottomless pit of low-interest loans, the ECB has not only reduced banks' necessary deleveraging needs (and/or capital raising) but has increased risk for all bond-holders (and implicitly equity holders, who are the lowest of the low in the capital structure remember) as the assets underlying the value of bank balance sheets are now increasingly encumbered to the ECB. Post LTRO, Barclays notes that several banking-systems (PIIGS) now have encumbered over 15% of their balance sheets but LTRO merely extends a broader trend among European banks (pledging collateral in return for funding) and on average (even excluding LTRO) 21% of European bank assets are now encumbered, and therefore unavailable for unsecured bond holders, ranging from over 50% at Danske (more a business model choice with covered bonds) to around 1% for Standard Chartered. As the liquidity-fueled euphoria starts to be unwound, perhaps this list of likely stigmatized banks is the place to look for higher beta exposure to the downside (especially as we see ECB margin calls start to pick up).
While AIG FP often made the contracts look like insurance products, the banks were very careful to make sure that the products were “credit derivatives” because they needed the regulatory capital relief provided by them. Didn’t the Fed at some point get concerned about the counterparty exposure to AIG FP? Isn’t counterparty risk something that the Fed is responsible for monitoring (or the ECB in the case of foreign banks)? When the Fed let MS and GS become bank holding companies and get the ability to use Fed lending programs, didn’t they ask about the AIG FP exposure? Goldman, which always claimed it was hedged, must have had a massive short position in AIG CDS to be hedged – again, no one at the Fed noticed this? CDS may be unregulated, but when virtually every big financial company in the world has large notionals on with AIG, huge mark to market gains on those positions, no collateral from AIG, and big shorts in AIG CDS, couldn’t someone do their job? This should have been noticeable in 2007!
While usually prepared to rant and rave about how misleading the SA numbers, this month, Lee can't.