Market-top economics could be an entire university course, if people cared enough about such phenomena. Most only consider the signs of a market top months or years after a crash when some unyielding economics researcher puts the pieces together. As human-beings we have developed an uncanny ability to rationalize what we know to be bad news and convince ourselves, "This time is different," despite the fact that it usually never is. In a previous article we provided analysis on economic/equity decoupling (cognitive dissonance) and showed that the economy as we know it cannot persist--we are either due for a literal gap-up in leading economic conditions, or we are due for a serious correction in US equities. With today's 5.4% slip in existing home-sales, let's go with the latter.
There was yet another European Union summit at the end of June, which (like all the others) was little more than bluff. Read the official communiqué and you will discover that there were some fine words and intentions, but not a lot actually happened. The big news in this is the implication the ECB will, in time, be able to stand behind the Eurozone banks because it will accept responsibility for them. This is probably why the markets rallied on the announcement, but it turned out to be another dead cat lacking the elastic potential energy necessary to bounce. Meanwhile, Germany, meant to be the back-stop for this lunacy, is losing patience. It has become clear that the agreements that arose out of the June summit were not agreements at all. The questions arises: How can the Eurozone stay together, and if not, how quickly is it likely to start disintegrating? And where does the exchange rate for the euro fit in all this?
There is a strange delayed reaction between the initial exposure of weakness in the financial system and the public’s realization of the truth, sort of like Wile E. Coyote dashing off a cliff in the cartoons only to continue running in mid-air above the abyss below. It is a testament to the fact that beyond the math, there is an undeniable power of psychology in our economy. The investment world naively believes it can fly, even with the weight of endless debt around its ankles, and for a very short time, that pure delirious oblivious belief sustains the markets. Eventually, though, gravity always triumphs over fantasy…
You may recall that the PSI (Private Sector Involvement) was a one-off event as heralded again and again in the Press by every political leader in the European Union. This proclamation was thundered from the rafters, held up like a banner by the ECB and trumpeted by every Parliament in Europe. The message was clear and rolled out like a red carpet for bond owners, “This will never happen again.” Amazingly, or perhaps not so, is the length of time that “never happen again” took to dissipate. The European Union and the European Central Bank are now signaling a change of position as tax payers always trump the owners of bonds and I fear one more example of this is about to be shoved down our throats. Mr. Draghi’s recent statements are all but a fait accompli in my opinion and you may expect some definitive announcements very soon. The situation is even more grave than this however as the question of “seniority,” already a distressing issue, is also going to be re-addressed and I think recalculated in some very non-conventional ways so that an owner of senior debt in European sovereigns and European banks will find himself behind an eight ball with absolutely no control and in serious jeopardy.
During an economic boom, exuberance finds itself lodged in all types of industries. When profits soar, so does the public’s disregard for prudence. And as tax revenues rise, politicians can’t help but give in to their bread and butter of buying votes. In the case of a credit-expansion boom fueled primarily by fractional reserve banking and interest rate manipulation through a central bank, the boom conditions are destined toward bust. Liquidation then becomes necessary as the bust gets underway and malinvestments come to light. What the city of Scranton has in common with San Bernardino, Detroit, et al. is that its dire fiscal condition is due to one thing and one thing only: benefits promised to unionized workers, and, it appears, "the salad days of the government employee are coming to an end, as they have already in Greece, Italy and Spain." To those sick and tired of the tax-eater mentality that is destroying the very core of society’s productive capacity and moral base, those days can’t come soon enough.
“Converting a state bailout into a speculator bailout” and other acidic confrontations in the escalating disaster of disagreements in Germany
In what has become a typical pattern; Europe has a summit, everyone says this, that, their own variation of that and the other to appease their citizens and it is not until days later that some sort of reality begins to be released to the Press. Not only has this become the pattern but it generally comes over the weekend when the markets are not open and when no one is paying much attention. It is a purposeful scheme and useful I suppose for dampening effects and it allows the bliss to continue. In the meantime there is no ESM in place, only $65 billion left in the EFSF after Spain and Cyprus are funded and the German Constitutional Court declared over the weekend that there would be no ruling on the ESM until September 12. The Golden Rule lives on; “He that has the Gold rules.”. For those that believe in the usefulness of firewalls, which would not include me, you are now staring at bricks to build dollhouses and it is not just the flank but the center that is fully exposed and vulnerable. This is Vichy reborn and Anschluss déjà vu and the takeover of Poland just accomplished on a different battlefield. The weapon is money and not armaments and while the stench is more polite the demand for victory has not lessened.
The debate on how to deal with false or misguiding campaign speech is neither new nor likely to be resolved soon, but as Europe’s economic crisis continues to deepen, and as social and political tensions rise, elemental questions of democracy once limited to seemingly distant European Union institutions are now spilling over to national governments. In the case of Spain, broken campaign promises coupled with the notion that Brussels and Berlin may have de facto hijacked the national political process are seeding the ground for an imminent political crisis. Indeed, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s systematic adoption of policies that are in complete breach of the promises which took him to power only a few months ago are casting doubts on the legitimacy of his political leadership.
Something interesting happened on the way to the detail-free bailout of Spain's insolvent banking system (which may or may not see senior bond impairments depending on just how big of a capitalization hole the ECB, not some fringe blog, sees). We got details. To wit, from Dow Jones:
The European Union loan to Spain will have a 30-year maturity, an interest rate of 2.5% and a 10-year grace period, reports ABC in its Monday Internet edition, without citing any sources.
Now here's the thing: anyone who has ever looked at a balance sheet, and actually happens to be familiar with terms such as priority, seniority, guarantee, and subordination, will notice something rather peculiar. Namely that only idiots of the nth degree will claim that a 30 year 2.5% bond is pari passu, or equal in right of subordination - precisely what those unelected technocrats in Europe have been repeating day after day since various European summits - with a 10 year at 7%, which is where the Spanish debt actually clears the market. In other words, sorry - there is something here which gives the bailout debt implied seniority. And here is the punchline: if the Spanish bailout debt does not trade like a pari passu piece of debt, it means that it is... i) not pari passu, and that it is ii) priming, no matter what any so-called pundit with a newsletter to peddle, may claim otherwise. Period. End of Story.
In a few moments we will post a critical analysis by David Korowicz, titled Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross- Contagion: a study in global systemic collapse, arguably one of the best big picture overviews of the New Normal in systemic complexity, which considers the "relationship between a global systemic banking, monetary and solvency crisis and its implications for the real-time flow of goods and services in the globalised economy" and specifically looks at how various "what if" scenarios can propagate through a Just In Time world in which virtually everything is connected, and in which even a modest breakdown in one daisy-chain can lead to uncontrolled systemic collapse via the trade pathways more than ever reliant on solvency, sound money and bank intermediation.To wit: "For example, when the Federal Reserve Bank of New York commissioned a study of the structure of the inter-bank payment flows within the US Fedwire system they found remarkable levels of concentration. Looking at 7,000 transfers between 5,000 banks on an average day, they found 75% of payment flows involved less than 0.1% of the banks and 0.3% of linkages."
As Euro area policymakers continue to ‘muddle through’ the crisis, everyone's favorite FX Strategist - Goldman's Thomas Stolper, summarizes the decline in the EUR so far as due to slower growth and easier monetary policy, together with growing EUR short positions. Of course, the root cause of both developments is the political crisis in the Euro area. The uncertainty about the stability of the institutional framework of the Euro area forces front-loaded fiscal tightening, which in turn damages growth. In response, the ECB eased policy more than expected, while the Fed, did not ease as much or as early as many projected. Despite today's ecstacy in EURUSD, Stolper believes the EUR is unlikely to strengthen materially as long as this situation persists especially as the potential for the ‘fiscal risk premium’ to rise on the back of daily headlines that are dominated by disagreement and dispute remains. In an effort to clarify his thinking, Stolper identifies eight key issues that will determine the outlook for the Euro. Most of them relate to the Euro area crisis. The most interesting ones are possibly the timing of a recovery in the periphery, the ability of France and Germany to develop a common vision for further integration, and the evolution of fiscal policies in major economies outside the Euro area. He concludes that the risks in the near term remain substantial.
It seems every week there are new acronyms or catchy-phrases for Europe's Rescue and Fiscal Progress decisions. Goldman Sachs provides a quick primer on everything from ELA to EFSM and from Two-Pack (not Tupac) to the Four Presidents' Report.
It seems increasingly the European leaders themselves (absent the self-referential peripheral political paeons) are getting the joke in Europe. Following Buba's Weidmann's rational comments this morning (via Bloomberg):
- *WEIDMANN SAYS CAN'T SOLVE EURO CRISIS WITH EVER BIGGER FUNDS
- *WEIDMANN BANK FINANCING (Bailout - kicking the can) COULD WORSEN WITH EURO CRISIS
Now, Poland's deputy finance minister is pulling back dramatically from their desire to enter the European union:
- *POLAND PLANS `OPPOSITE OF ACCELERATION' IN EURO DRIVE: DOMINIK
- *POLAND SAYS EURO-AREA STABILITY IS NEW CRITERION FOR EURO ENTRY
It seems there is some rational thinking occurring in Europe - no matter how algos react to recycled headlines.
The global economy is an entangled affair, make no mistake in your calculation here, and the numbers from around the globe are telling and will affect both the U.S. bond and equity markets. Much of the financing for the Emerging Markets was provided by the European banks and as they pull back and reorganize based not just on Basel III but based upon problems of the sovereign where they are domiciled the situation exacerbates. Two of the world’s financial axises are slowing and troubled and to not think that this will not affect America will lead you to conclusions causing you to play the Great Game badly. What did the meeting of the European Finance Ministers accomplish; not much. They nodded to the Spanish banks and agreed to inject $30 billion by the way of the sovereign, increasing the debt of Spain, with veiled promises of a new ESM fund which would lend money directly to the banks at some point in the future and this point is highly subjective depending upon to whom you listen. The Spanish claim within days or weeks while the Germans indicate it may be sometime next year. There is now a “maybe-maybe” timeline in Europe for almost anything as the weaker nations prod the stronger nations for more money.
Despite the ongoing barrage of pronouncements out of Europe on a weekly if not daily basis, discussing the imminent launch and even more imminent success of the ESM, the reality is that many questions remain: such as will Germany just say nein again today, in the constitutional court's verdict, especially after the President asked Merkel over the weekend why it is that Germany has to keep bailing out Europe, a proposition which no longer impresses about 54% of the German public. More importantly, even though the debate over the explicit subordination of the ESM may be resolved (it never will be as the bailout funding will always be implicitly senior to general bondholders no matter how many pieces of paper are signed), a bigger debate now emerging is just who will guarantee the bank losses. Below, we answer that question, and virtually every other outstanding one, courtesy of this DB analysis, which removes most of the lack of clarity surrounding the European bailout mechanism. Yet the main axis of inquiry in our opinion is different: what is the timetable of funding rollout. Because as DB explains, "It follows that from July to October, the ESM can only lend about EUR 100bn. If that is committed to Spain, there is nothing left in the ESM until October. Any other intervention before October would have to be under the EFSF." In other words, assuming a smooth acceptance of the ESM today by the German court, and no further glitches, the best case scenario is one which provides for funding to Spain... and there is no other cash until virtually the end of the year under the ESM, whose implementation is staggered as the chart below shows.