Not entirely surprising following the outlook changes for Germany, France, UK, and Holland but still an intriguing move right before Draghi's big unveiling: Moodys maintains AAA rating but shifts to outlook negative.
Moody's believes that it is reasonable to assume that the EU's creditworthiness should move in line with the creditworthiness of its strongest key member states considering the significant linkages between member states and the EU, and the likelihood that the large Aaa-rated member states would likely not prioritize their commitment to backstop the EU debt obligations over servicing their own debt obligations.
Interestingly they also note that a further cut could occur due to: changes to the EU's fiscal framework that led to less conservative budget management...
Tomorrow the Battle of Frankfurt begins. Make no mistake in your thinking as America ends its holiday weekend; it will be a battle and there will be bodies littering the field of engagement. Spain and the rest have aims, plans, schemes if not hopes and ambitions in direct opposition to Germany and her side. The outcomes prayed for are a demand for money and a resistance to those demands. The pleas of Spain are about to be answered; first from the ECB and then from Germany’s acceptance or rejection of the Draghi plan. The “Game of Muddle” will be ended and real answers to real insistences will be given. It all comes down to this; money and how much of it and under what circumstances and whether the nations with capital are willing to hand it to their neighbors and watch their credit ratings, their own cost of funding, their standards of living decline to a mean for all of Europe.
- Romney Promises to 'Restore' U.S. (WSJ)
- Dirty Harry Makes Surprise Appearance (WSJ)
- It has always been about the gold: Time for eurozone to reach for the gold reserves? (FT)
- EU Plan Said to Give ECB Sole Power to Grant Bank Licenses (Bloomberg)
- More attempts to marginalize Germanty: Brussels pushes for wide ECB powers (FT)
- Justice may be blind but it has geographic limits: Apple Loses Patent Lawsuit Against Samsung in Japan (BBG)
- ECB Said to Use Greek Myth for Security on New Euro Banknotes (Bloomberg)
- Alberta deficit set to triple on slumping oil prices (Globe and Mail)
- Reid's ties to China-Nevada solar plan draw ire (Reuters)
- Bernanke may hint at QE without boxing Fed in (Reuters)
- Berezovsky loses against Abramovich (FT)
- Spain Considers Bankia Re-Capitalization Without EU Money (Bloomberg)
Several recent releases of data bring the problem into focus; a sharp focus. In Germany, once thought to be almost invincible and somehow outside the recession that is raging in Europe, the crisis is just beginning - but it is clearly indicated by the newest data which shows that Germany has begun the descent down the rabbit hole with the rest of its brethren. Germany is now trapped; having lost control of the situation - first by the way the game has been played; and second by the limitations of her capital. We suspect you will soon find a politician in Germany who is opposed to the policies of Ms. Merkel and who will rise to power based upon "Germany for the Germans". All of this is also defined by a very warped time-line. The problems are now, the recession is now, the economic difficulties are now and the solutions that have been proposed are one to three years out. Germany is in the box and we are afraid that it is now Frau Pandora and not Frau Merkel who owns the key.
- Merkel Adviser: Unlimited ECB Bond Purchases Would Violate Mandate (Dow Jones)
- Illinois' credit rating downgraded after pension reform failure (Chicago Tribune)
- Correspondence and collusion between the New York Times and the CIA (Guardian)
- ECB action prospects underpin Italian bond auction (Reuters)
- Ryan puts down calculator, picks up bullhorn (Reuters)
- Barclays Names New CEO (WSJ)
- Barclays’s New CEO: Analysts React (WSJ)
- September Offers 15 Days to Cement Crisis Solutions (Bloomberg)
- Iran's Nuclear-Arms Guru Resurfaces (WSJ)
- Rocket blasts off to put NASA radiation belt probes into orbit (Reuters)
- Citi to Settle Suit for $590 Million (WSJ)
- Swiss-Style Latvian Banking Hub Thrives on Ex-Soviet Cash (Boomberg)
It's been a while since the ridiculous "China bails out Europe" rumor made the scene: in fact, the last time we can find with definitive confirmation was back in September of 2011, just before the bottom fell out of Europe, and when the FT, based on "anonymous sources" tripped over itself to report that "[insert European country] is in talks with China to buy bonds, assets." Sure enough, now that Merkel came, and saw, but hardly conquered Beijing, it is the turn of China's Wen Jiabao to add his 10 pips to the EURUSD rumormill: Reuters reports: "China is prepared to buy more EU government bonds amid a worsening European debt crisis that is dragging on the world economy, Premier Wen Jiabao said, in the strongest sign of support for its biggest trading partner in months." Naturally, considering how often this rumor (re)appeared in the past it will be excusable if nobody but the dumbest vacuum tubes fall for it this time, especially considering that the Chinese economy itself is going down in flames faster than the October Iron Ore contract. And lest there be any confusion, China's commitment is about as definitive as a Best Buy LBO "preunderwritten" with a Jefferies highly confident letter: "China is willing, on condition of fully evaluating the risks, to continue to invest in the euro zone sovereign debt market, and strengthen communication and discussion with the European Union, the European Central Bank the IMF and other key countries to support the indebted euro zone countries in overcoming hardships," [Wen] said after meeting Merkel." Ah, conditional aid. The kind that gets Mario Monti to break out the petulant ex-Goldman child act and refuse to leave the Belgian catered dining room until the beggees succumb to his technocratic platitudes. Needless to say, we'll believe China's "continued" investment in Europe when we see it.
The Chinese Stock Markets are returning to the lows of 2009 and the Europe is mired in a recession. The American Stock Markets are not far off their highs and we do not think this will continue. Mark Grant is quite negative, for all kinds of reasons, about our equity markets now and would be taking profits and returning to the more assured bets of getting yield from bonds and not from dividends. A dividend may be reduced or cancelled by the wave of some Boards’ hand one afternoon while senior debt cannot be cancelled without the company or the municipality going into bankruptcy so that the top of the capital structure is far safer than relying upon dividends for income. In the next sixty days we are faced with Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and ECB issues that are quite serious both economically and politically. You may think what you like but there is a lot of risk on the table; of that you may be assured. When someone says, “Buddy can you spare a dime” we would like to be the one being asked and not the one doing the asking. It is here where we stand and wait.
The first shot in the fingerboning wars (a key step up from mere jawboning) has barely been fired following Draghi's earlier OpEd in Zeit (posted here in its entirety), when the Bundesbank already had its response ready for print in the form of yet another interview with its head, Jens Weidmann, who says nothing new or unexpected, but merely emphasizes that no matter how loud the chatter, how empty the promises, or how hollow the bluffing, Germany's response continues to be, especially after today's higher than expected inflation across the country, 9, 9 and once again, 9. Perhaps the most notable part of the interview is Weidmann's comparison between the ECB and the Fed, and why one is allowed to monetize bonds, while the other shouldn't be: "The Fed is not bailing out a cash-strapped country. It's also not distributing risks among the taxpayers of individual countries. It's purchasing bonds issued by a central government with an excellent credit rating. It doesn't touch Californian bonds or bonds from other US states. That's completely different from what we have in Europe....When the central banks of the euro zone purchase the sovereign bonds of individual countries, these bonds end up on the Eurosystem's balance sheet. Ultimately the taxpayers of all other countries have to take responsibility for this. In democracies, it's the parliaments that should decide on such a far-reaching collectivization of risks, and not the central banks." Of course, when the wealth of the status quo is at risk, such trivialities as democracies are promptly brushed by the sideline...
When jawboning is stuck on max, and mere talking and exortations to just "believe" lead to no incremental benefit for PIIGS bonds and the leve of the Dax, what is a central planner to do? Why start, er, fingerboning, and write extended missive on the future of one doomed utopian vision or another. Sure enough, the former Goldmanite has just released the following Op-ed in German Zeit, titled, "The future of the euro: stability through change", which contains this piece of sheer brilliance: "The ECB is not a political institution. But it is committed to its responsibilities as an institution of the European Union." The European Union which is first and foremost a... political institution.
Europe and the world are eagerly awaiting the decision of Germany’s Constitutional Court on September 12 regarding the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the proposed permanent successor to the eurozone’s current emergency lender, the European Financial Stability Mechanism. The Court must rule on German plaintiffs’ claim that legislation to establish the ESM would violate Germany’s Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Nobody knows how the Constitutional Court will rule on these objections. It is good that the Court’s decisions cannot be forecast, and even better that the Court cannot be lobbied or petitioned. The European Union can be based only on the rule of law. If those in power can break its rules on a case-by-case basis, the EU will never develop into the stable construct that is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity.
The data out from Spain this morning should be one serious wake-up call for anyone exposed to Europe. The fourth largest economy in the Eurozone is getting hammered and for anyone that has doubted that they will need a full scale bailout; think again. The numbers are a disaster. One year ago the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $71.53 billion from the European Central Bank. In the last figures available, July, the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $530.8 billion (an increase of 86.5%) from the ECB either directly or through the Target2 funding which impacts the Bundesbank and Germany quite directly. In other words Germany is now at a huge risk which is not just their 22% ownership of the ECB but a direct and full risk of impairment or default by Spain in the Target2 funding provided by the Bundesbank.
Although the supply and demand factors do not seem to support the current price levels, there are plenty of other events to sustain and add premium.
Iceland Shows the Way
The entire global financial "recovery" engineered by central banks and Central Planning is based on the absurd notion that if we spread unpayable debt over the entire body politic (be it a nation or regional entity such as the European Union) then that distribution will somehow make the debt payable and the phantom assets real. The debt remains unpayable and the assets (collateral) remain stubbornly phantom. As for adding more debt (selling Eurobonds, Treasury bonds, etc.), please note the diminishing return on additional debt: it is now negative.... Diminishing returns define the flailing financial system: the return on petrocapitalism is declining (how many barrels of oil or equivalent does it take to extract and process one barrel of shale-derived oil?), the return on more debt has turned negative, the yield on "saving" bankrupt States is marginal, and so on: spreading insolvency to the taxpayers does not magically create solvency, it only distributes insolvency to every nook and cranny of the economy.
All the debt remains painfully real; it is only the collateral that is illusory.