European Central Bank
2012 is proving to be the 'Year of the Central Bank'. It is an exciting celebration of all the wonderful maneuvers central banks can employ to keep the system from falling apart. Western central banks have gone into complete overdrive since last November, convening, colluding and printing their way out of the mess that is the Eurozone. The scale and frequency of their maneuvering seems to increase with every passing week, and speaks to the desperate fragility that continues to define much of the financial system today.... All of this pervasive intervention most likely explains more than 90 percent of the market's positive performance this past January. Had the G6 NOT convened on swaps, had the ECB NOT launched the LTRO programs, and had Bernanke NOT expressed a continuation of zero interest rates, one wonders where the equity indices would trade today. One also wonders if the European banking system would have made it through December. Thank goodness for "coordinated action". It does work in the short-term.... But what about the long-term? What are the unintended consequences of repeatedly juicing the system? What are the repercussions of all this money printing? We can think of a few.
An explicit contagion path chart, since you probably won't get info like this anywhere else...
“Ms. Katseli, an economist who was labor minister in the government of George Papandreou until she left in a cabinet reshuffle last June, was also upset that Greece’s lenders will have the right to seize the gold reserves in the Bank of Greece under the terms of the new deal.” The Reuters Global Gold Forum confirms that in the small print of the Greek “bailout” is a provision for the creditors to seize Greek national gold reserves. Reuters correspondents in Athens have not got confirmation that this is the case so they are, as ever, working hard to pin that down. Greece owns just some 100 tonnes of gold. According to IMF data, for some reason over the last few months Greece has bought and sold the odd 1,000 ounce lot of its gold bullion reserves. A Reuter’s correspondent notes that “these amounts are so tiny that it could well be a rounding issue, rather than holdings really rising or falling.” While many market participants would expect that Greece’s gold reserves would be on the table in the debt agreement, it is the somewhat covert and untransparent way that this is being done that is of concern to Greeks and to people who believe in the rule of law.
While the bulk of tangential themes in Albert Edwards' latest letter to clients "The Ice Age only ends when the market loses hope: there is still too much hope" is in line with what we have been discussing recently: myopic markets focused on momentum not fundamentals ("It's amazing though how the market can get itself all bulled up and becomes convinced that we are the start of a self-sustaining recovery. And funnily enough there's nothing more likely to get investors bullish than a rising market"), short-termism ("One thing you can say for the market is that it has an extremely short memory"), and that so far 2012 is a carbon copy of 2011 ("One thing you can say for the market is that it has an extremely short memory. Let us not forget that the performance of the equity market so far this year is almost exactly the same as we saw at the start of 2011 (in fact the performance has been similar for the last 5 months"), his prevailing topic is one of hope. Or rather the lack thereof, and how it has to be totally and utterly crushed before there is any hope of a true bull market. And just to make sure there is no confusion, unlike that other flip flopper, Edwards makes it all too clear that he is as bearish as ever. Which only makes sense: regardless of what the market does, which merely shows that inflation, read liquidity, is appearing in the most unexpected of places (read Edwards' colleague Grice must read piece on why CPI is the worst indicator of asset price inflation when everyone goes CTRL+P), the reality is that had it not been for another $2 trillion liquidity injection in the past 4-6 months by global central banks, the floor would have fallen out of the market, and thus the global economy. In fact, how the hell can one be bullish when the only exponential chart out there is that of global central bank assets proving beyond a doubt that every risk indicator is fake???
Credit indices are virtually unchanged in Europe and here. Stocks futures are virutally unchanged in Europe and here. I still see no evidence that the ECB has redeemed its old bonds and received new bonds (the amount outstanding on old bonds should show up as being reduced once the exchange is done - it is is probably just that the trade hasn't settled, though with CAC documentation proceed in Greece, it would be curious to see what happens if the ECB's exchange isn't done when the CAC is implemented).
Scandal: Greece To Receive "Negative" Cash From "Second Bailout" As It Funds Insolvent European BanksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/22/2012 12:15 -0500
Earlier today, we learned the first stunner of the Greek "bailout package", which courtesy of some convoluted transmission mechanisms would result in some, potentially quite many, Greek workers actually paying to retain their jobs: i.e., negative salaries. Now, having looked at the Eurogroup's statement on the Greek bailout, we find another very creative use of "negative" numbers. And by creative we mean absolutely shocking and scandalous. First, as a reminder, even before the current bailout mechanism was in place, Greece barely saw 20% of any actual funding, with the bulk of the money going to European and Greek banks (of which the former ultimately also ended up funding the ECB and thus European banks). Furthermore, we already know that as part of the latest set of conditions of the second Greek bailout, an 'Escrow Account" would be established: this is simply a means for Greek creditors to have a senior claims over any "bailout" cash that is actually disbursed for things such as, you know, a Greek bailout, where the money actually trickles down where it is most needed - the Greek citizens. Here is where it just got surreal. It turns out that not only will Greece not see a single penny from the Second Greek bailout, whose entire Use of Proceeds will be limited to funding debt interest and maturity payments, but the country will actually have to fund said escrow! You read that right: the Greek bailout #2 is nothing but a Greek-funded bailout of Europe's insolvent banks... and the Greek constitution is about to be changed to reflect this!
After months (it seems like years) of trying to avoid a CDS Credit Event, it looks like one is inevitable. The Greek 5 year CDS is at least 70 bid which may be the highest ever. The game plan seems to be that Greece will put in retroactive CAC laws. The PSI will come in below 100%. Greece will trigger the CAC clauses on the Greek bonds, and we will get 100% participation in all those bonds, and we will get a Credit Event. The interesting part is that depending on what they manage to do with English law bonds, the only bonds outstanding (not in the hands of the central bank only bonds, and troika loans) will be the new bonds. If they start CAC’ing each bond, it is possible that there will be no existing bonds outstanding left. Settlement would be based on the new bond (yes, ISDA has a Sovereign Restructured Deliverable Obligation clause – Section 2.16 of the definitions). With the amortization schedule in place (and not including any value attributable to the GDP strippable warrants), I get that the new bonds would trade at 30% of par with a yield of just over 13%. I would be careful paying up for CDS here, because settlement will be against these new bonds, not existing bonds if every old bond is CAC’d. And given the attitude out of Greece late yesterday, and harsh IMF demands, we may well see that.
January's hopium catchphrase of the month was that Europe's recession would be "technical" which is simply a euphemism for our Fed's beloved word - "transitory." Based on the just released Euroarea PMI, we can scratch this Euro-accented "transitory" addition to the lexicon, because contrary to expectations that the Euroarea composite PMI would show expansion at 50.5, instead it came out at 49.7 - the manufacturing PMI was 49.0 on Exp of 49.4, while the Services PMI was 49.4, on hopes of expansion at 50.6, which as Reuters notes suggests that firms are still cutting prices to drum up business and reducing workforces to cut costs. This was accompanied by a overnight contraction in China, where the flash manufacturing PMI rose modestly from 48.8, but was again in contraction at 49.7. We would not be surprised if this is merely the sacrifice the weakest lamb in the pack in an attempt to get crude prices lower. So far this has failed to dent WTI much if at all following rapidly escalating Iran tensions. What is curious is that Germany and France continue to do far better than the rest of the Eurozone - just as America has decoupled from Europe, so apparently have Germany and France. This too is surely "sustainable."
To be or not to be (in the Euro), that should be the question on the Greek people's minds and not whether 'tis nobler to suffer the slings (fiscal occupation) and arrows (sovereignty destruction) of an outraged 'fiscally fascist' Troika. As Rodney Shakespeare so eloquently explains in this Russia Today interview, the projected trajectory of the debt/GDP for Greece is nonsense and are simply 'manipulations that justify the banking occupation of Greece'. In words that should ring true to any reader of the Bard, Rodney goes on to highlight the terrible plight that is to come to generations of Greeks citing the 'whole thing as a fraud'. The brave and highly inventive Greek people can succeed if they are not forced to bailout the banks and instead leave the Euro; dismissing the office of the financial fascists that will soon occupy the nation. Strong (and emotional) words describe why the IMF/EU/ECB bloc is so keen to maintain the status quo that is clearly crumbling at their feet as perhaps they would do well to remember the final words of this Hamlet soliloquy: 'be all my sins remembered'.
The new Crony Crapitalist Utopia...
As Greece Deems 66% CAC Bondholder Acceptance Sufficient, Has It Threatened To Scuttle Its Bailout All Over Again?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 14:41 -0500
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Greek threshold for "successful" CAC passage is now expected to be just 66%, far below the 95% discussed yesterday. Says the WSJ: "The Greek government is aiming for a minimum participation of least two-thirds of bond holders in a planned debt exchange, a finance ministry official said Tuesday, with a formal offer on the exchange expected to take place by the end of this week. The deal, which aims to erase some EUR107 billion from Greece's debt burden, is part and parcel of a related EUR130 billion loan deal agreed to by euro-zone finance ministers in the early hours of Tuesday." As was extensively explained in our subordination piece from January, this is the number of bondholders that have to agree to the Collective Action Clause, which if passed successfully, would avoid a CDS trigger as it would be then deemed voluntary by ISDA who are more than happy to avoid any type of contagion causes by CDS triggers - they are after all a banker-owned organization. We ignore how a 66% participation rate is anything but a majority, let alone supposedly consensual. There is a bigger issue. And unfortunately by the Greek's actions, it shows they are in process of abrogating even more contractual rights in the form of foreign (UK-Law) covenant agreements. Either that, or the country is about to pay par to all UK-law bonds, both outcomes that threaten to put the entire second bailout in jeopardy.
The ECB needs to convert its bonds so that they can be addressed separately. So far, there is no indication on Bloomberg, which gets its bond information from trustees, that this has been done. The outstanding amounts of existing GGB and Greece (Greek and English law bonds) hasn’t changed. Greece has to implement a retroactive collective action law. With some luck, they will implement that, before the ECB actually converts their bonds. As we’ve written before, both of those actions are likely to be challenged. There are many concerns: that the PSI is such a mess, or that Greece continues to erode, or some governments fail to support the deal, and it gets cancelled and Greece actually doesn’t pay any of its bonds. Somehow no one in equity land or fx land seems to believe a failure to pay can occur, but I think bond values here, show that the credit markets are far less convinced that the can has been kicked.
With the hopes and dreams of every long-only manager and beta-chaser now resting on the broad shoulders of nominal-wealth-creators at the European Central Bank and its LTRO 2 offering, today's news from Reuters that 'powerful members of the ECB's council are privately hoping demand will fall well short of the EUR1tn that many expect' confirms their hope that it will be the last. Critically, as we have discussed before, markets are becoming used to the pump and will expect endless LTRO (especially given the moves in bank stock prices - while credit has underperformed significantly in the last week or two) and central bank sources tell Reuters 'they are worried that banks will become too reliant on ECB funds'. This is exactly the unintended consequence we warned about as the banks will become less incentivized to lend and create credit to drive the real economy (even as the nominal economy - or equity market) surges. The implicitly hawkish stance increasingly being taken by the ECB as Weidmann warns of the 'too generous' supply of cheap/free-money should prompt concerns that the ECB will close the liquidity spigot sooner than consensus hopes and as is evident from last April/May's tightening and the exuberant expectations priced into stocks for more printing, perhaps credit's recent weakness signals that asset prices are overdone here (especially as there is no sign of credit creation in the real economy and ECB reserves continue to rise).
It is hard to read the document without a sense that the Troika is no longer “helping” Greece, but running Greece. You think they would have chosen not to specifically use the phrase “permanent presence on the ground in Greece” given the connotation of “boots on the ground”. Then there is the focus on the “escrow” account. Why is there a need to pre-fund each quarters debt service payments. Add to this the Eurosystem 'profit' distribution, the PSI and CA changes, and the NCBs not charging interest on GGBs? We will now see what the market has “priced in” but we think it has priced in too much, and there will be roadblocks to this deal going through, with PSI in particular being a potential problem.
The day dawns with a deal for Greece that is full of smoke and mirrors; lies and deceptions. It is a deal pretty much as expected and, as I have said before, now the realities are going to be confronted. Europe has spun the agreement and the Euro has rallied some and the S&P futures are up but the next few weeks, I am afraid, will hold some serious disappointments. The page turns today because now we are about to confront not what is told to us but the actuality of what has been presented to us and just what will happen as a result.