Eurozone

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Think Tank: Cyprus 'Saved'; But At What Cost?





The most positive aspect of last night’s deal was that a deal was reached at all, and that some steps have been taken to counter moral hazard. However, overall, this is a bad deal for Cyprus and the Cypriot population. Cypriot GDP is likely to collapse in the wake of the deal with the possible capital controls hampering the functioning of the economy. The large loan from the eurozone will push debt up to unsustainable levels while the austerity accompanying it (along with the bank restructuring plan) will increase unemployment and cause social tension. There is a strong chance Cyprus could become a zombie economy – reliant on eurozone and central bank funding, with little hope of economic growth. Meanwhile, the country will remain at the edge of the single currency as tensions increase between members with Germany, the ECB and the IMF now looking intent on a more radical approach to the crisis. The eurozone took this one down to the wire. But late last night, after a week of intense back and forth negotiations, a deal was reached on the Cypriot bailout. Below we lay out the key points of the deal (the ones that are known, there are plenty of grey areas remaining) and our key reactions to the deal.

 
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The Morning After





All eyes should remain focused on Cyprus today, especially since there is no data being reported elsewhere. Financial markets closed Friday on a positive note, as an agreement on Cyprus appeared to be taking shape and a minor relief rally across most asset classes overnight vindicated hopes of a positive outcome as details of the detail were announced overnight. More clarity is still required on some aspects of the agreement (deposit and bondholders) but the fact that the national parliament does not need to vote again should stop the deal from unravelling as it did last week. Whether this is enough to restore confidence and prevent a possible cautionary deposit flight from Cyprus remains to be seen.

 
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"Cyprus Is The Homage Europe Pays For The Denial Of A Systemic Crisis"





Three months ago, Yanis Varoufakis explained Europe's bogus growth pact and the papering over the cracks that was being done by the IMF and ECB, "The idea here is that, yet again, the Eurogroup-ECB-IMF alliance is not ready, politically, to reveal the truth to its various constituencies." He was, obviously, correct. This weekend, in a brief BBC Radio interview (below), as Cyprus erupts and brings the European circus back into town, Varoufakis exclaims, "every bailout agreement, beginning with Greece’s in May 2010, seems less logical and more toxic than the previous one." In three minutes, the Greek economist illustrates how the leaders are laying waste to the supposed pillars upon which the European Union was founded.

 
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Four Feckless Features Of A Post-Cyprus Europe





The calmness of the financial markets in the face of the deteriorating Cyprus crisis in the past week has been remarkable. Although Cyprus is tiny enough to be completely overlooked in most circumstances, its economy and banking system have characteristics similar to other, much larger, eurozone countries. Cyprus is certainly at the extreme end, but an over-leveraged banking system, with insufficient capital and reliance on foreign funding, is familiar territory in the eurozone. But while Cyprus is at an extreme, four of the features of the reported deal are setting unfortunate precedents for the future. If the reported deal is done to keep Cyprus inside the euro by Monday, we can expect to hear, very loudly, that this is a unique case, and that the unfortunate features of this settlement cannot be extrapolated to any other future circumstances. Let us hope not. If nothing else, it would certainly demonstrate that the eurozone still has much work to do before the crisis is fully under control.

 
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With Russia "Demanding Cyprus Out Of The Eurozone" Here Is A List Of Possible Russian Punitive Reprisals





As has been made abundantly clear on these pages since the breakout of the latest Cyprus crisis, the Russian policy vis-a-vis its now former Mediterranean offshore deposit haven-cum-soon to be naval base, has been a simple one: let the country implode on the heels of the Eurozone's latest humiliating policy faux pas, so that Putin can swoop in, pick up assets (including those of a gaseous nature, much to Turkey's chagrin) for free, while being welcome like the victorious Russian red army saving Cyprus from its slavedriving European overlords (a strategy whose culmination Merkel has very generously assisted with). Curiously there had been some confusion about Russia's "noble" motives in Cyprus (seemingly forgetting that in Realpolitik, as in love and war, all is fair). We hope all such confusion can now be put to rest following the clarification by Jorgo Hatzimarkakis, the German Euro deputy of Greek origin, who told Skai television on Sunday morning that Russia did not want Cyprus to stay in the eurozone.

 
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Eurogroup Meeting On Cyprus Begins In Brussels





A few moments ago, no bailout proposal in hand, no parliamentary discussion having taken place, and certainly no votes having been cast, the Eurogroup sat down with Cyprus' president Anastasiades, in order to preserve the "democratic" theatrical facade of European decisionmaking. Here, to keep up appearances that  Cyprus' opinion is even remotely relevant, Europea's unelected leaders will do what they does best - make a closed door decision affecting the lives of millions of people, which ultimately have one purpose: to preserve the crumbling edifice of the Eurozone project (so carefully preserved in the past few months with superglue, scotch tape and empty promises) and of course the jobs and livelihoods of a few unelected EUrocrats. A preview of this elaborate song and dance ritual is below from Kathimerini. It will be next followed by an even more elaborate song and dance from the Eurozone finance ministers, which will then finally go back to Cyprus, where a decision will likely have to be reached ahead of the Asian FX market open, or all that late Friday "Cyprus is saved" enthusiasm will evaporate in a GETCO millisecond.

 
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What If Cyprus Left The Euro





As we recently discussed, many euroskeptics are pushing Cypriot lawmakers to default, devalue, and decouple from the Euro - understanding that the short-term pain of such a move will lead to much more sustainable gains afterwards. But BofAML raises the question of what damage (and required response) would occur in the remainder of the European Union should Cyprus leave (or be pushed ). Unlike some EU leaders suggestions, BofAML suggests the contagion and growth impacts could last a decade; but it is the policy reaction of the ECB that is most crucial to understand and how it may rapidly lead to a German decision on debt mutualization (or not) that should be most concerning.

 
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Michael Pettis Asks "When Do We Call It A Solvency Crisis?"





Up until just a week or so ago, the euro, the market seems to be telling us, has been saved, and peripheral Europe is widely seen as being out of the woods. Thanks to the ECB - who are willing to pump as much liquidity into the markets as it needs - it seems rising debt levels, greater political fragmentation, and a worsening economy somehow don't really matter and it is impolitic to sound pessimistic. But is peripheral Europe really suffering primarily from a liquidity crisis? It would help me feel a lot better if I could find even one case in history of a sovereign solvency crisis in which the authorities didn’t assure us for years that we were facing not a solvency crisis, but merely a short-term problem with liquidity. A sovereign solvency crisis always begins with many years of assurances from policymakers in both the creditor and the debtor nations that the problem can be resolved with time, confidence, and a just few more debt rollovers. The key point is that bankers are not stupid. They just could not formally acknowledge reality until they had built up sufficient capital through many years of high earnings – thanks in no small part to the help provided by the Fed in the form of distorted yield curves and free money – to recognize the losses without becoming insolvent.

 
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If Cyprus Really Wants To Be The Next Iceland...





Given Cyprus' contentious relationship with the Eurozone... Perhaps it will consider going the full monti and taking a page out of the full Iceland playbook

 
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Former Cyprus Central Bank Head And Senior Fed Economist: "The European Project Is Crashing To Earth"





Back in August 2011, one of the most prescient European (ex) central bankers, Cyprus' very own Athanasios Orphanides was optimistic, but with a caveat: "I am optimistic that with the right actions and effort by all we will pull through this," Orphanides told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister Kikis Kazamias. They were Orphanides' first public comments since warning authorities in a July 18, 2011 letter that Cyprus ran the risk of requiring an EU bailout unless urgent action was taken to shore up its finances." Two years later, following endless dithering and pretense that just because the ECB has stabilized the markets, all is well, and "action was being taken" when none was, Cyprus is beyond the bailout stage - it is now quite literally on the verge of total collapse. This is also why Orphanides, who recently quit as Central Banker of Cyprus following a clash with the new communist government (and was replaced by a guy named Panicos), no longer is optimistic. "The European project is crashing to earth,” Athanasios Orphanides told the Financial Times in an interview. "This is a fundamental change in the dynamics of Europe towards disintegration and I don’t see how this can be reversed.

 
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Cyprus Deposit Levy Vote Delayed, Will Go "Down To The Wire" As Up To 70% Deposit Tax Contemplated For Some





While GETCO's algos were poised to set off a buying tsunami yesterday the millisecond a flashing red headline hit Bloomberg with even the hint or suggestion that Cyprus is fixed, we said to sit back and relax because Cyprus "will get no resolution today, or tomorrow, and may at best be resolved on Sunday night following yet another coordinated global bailout, (although our money is on a last, last minute resolution some time on Monday when Cyprus is closed but the European markets are widely open)." As it turns out, we were right, following reports by major newswires that the vote on the deposit levy will only take place (if at all) on Sunday night, after the Eurozone finance ministers' meeting on Sunday. The reason for the delay? Deciding how to best bring the news to Russian, and other wealthy depositors, that not only will they not have access to their funds for a long, long time, the ultimate haircut on what they thought was safe, easily accessible cash as recently as a week ago, may be a stunning 70%!

 
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The Harder They Come, The Harder They'll Fall...





Markets are remarkably schizophrenic about where risk is flowing... and where it isn’t.  For example, ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes, the CBOE VIX Index is up from 12.3 a month ago to a close of 14.0 yesterday. And other risk assets such as Emerging Markets, U.S. Small Caps, Energy names, and developed economy international stocks all show higher 'VIXs' over the same 30 day period.  But... and it’s a big 'But'... just as many sectors/asset classes in our tracking universe show declines in their 'VIXs'.  The most pronounced are domestic Consumer Discretionary, Utilities, and Tech names as well as precious metals and High Yield Corporate bonds, where Implied Vols are 6-17% lower this month and in most cases are at/near 52 week lows.  If you are looking for spots where volatility might make a comeback, these are good places to start. This market reminds us of an old joke: Question: What do you call a person who is both ignorant and apathetic? Answer: I don’t know and I don’t care.

 
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Cyprus Officially Passes Capital Controls Into Law





While it is unknown if the Cypriot parliament will agree to, and enact into law, the Troika-demanded deposit haircuts, after the shocking vote of mutiny against Merkel earlier this week that saw not one politician vote for the Europe suggested deposit tax levy (and even the ruling party abstained), a vote which will once more take place tomorrow, moments ago Cyprus became the first Eurozone country to officially implement governmental capital controls into legislation. At this point it had no choice: whatever happens with the deposit haircut, or with everything else, it is now inevitable that the local Cypriots will do all they can to pull as much money from domestic banking system as possible following the complete loss of faith and trust in banks, which is why the government had no choice but to intervene with its own "controls." Sadly, this marks a milestone in the development of the Eurozone - it's all downhill, and accelerating, from here.

 
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Cyprus Shifts To Plan 'DD' (Douple-Dip The Large Depositors)





It seems that the Cypriot government is going full circle on its plans to save its nation and its people. As UK Think Tank Open Europe notes, "it now seems we have come all the way back round to the deposit levy as a solution in Cyprus. Overnight, the EU/IMF/ECB Troika rejected the plans for a Cypriot solidarity fund, particularly one based on pension assets and gas reserve revenues (which German Chancellor Angela Merkel specifically spoke out against)." The new - Plan 'D' - (Plan A - Haircuts; Plan B - Beg Russia for Bailout; Plan C - Solidarity Fund) appears to be moar haircuts and double-dip on the large depositors (seemingly what Brussels wants anyway). Plan 'D' - a restructuring and bigger deposit levy (a 12.2% tax on deposits above €500,000 or a 9.46% deposit on deposits above €100,000 would yield the necessary €3.5bn) - "may amount to trying to burn the larger depositors twice," as the plan to shift bad assets to a bad bank (along with the large uninsured depositors) and wound down (meaning 20-40% losses) and still face the initial large-deposit-tax - leaving the Russians large depositors with 50%-plus losses. As the FT notes, "that may make sense in the medium term, but in itself does not create new money"

 
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Union: One Survived; One May Not





One of the most interesting issues of what has happened in Cyprus is where was the problem three weeks ago? There was not a mention, not a hint of anything that was wrong. All of the banks in Cyprus had passed each and every European bank stress test. The numbers reported out by the ECB and the Bank for International Settlements indicated nothing and everything reported by any official organization in the European Union pointed to a stable and sound fiscal and monetary policy and conditions. The IMF, who monitors these things as well, did not have Cyprus or her banks on any kind of watch list. In just two weeks' time we have gone from not a mention of Cyprus to a crisis in Cyprus because none of the official numbers were accurate. Without doubt, without question, if this can happen in Cyprus then it could happen in any other country in the Eurozone because the uncounted liabilities are systemic to the whole of Europe.

 
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