Gone are the days when rating agencies couched the big fat inconvenient truth in big words and wordy phrases like "Selective Default" (predicated upon 90% acceptances of effective bond tender offers, which as has now become clear is not happening) when discussing Greece. French-owned Fitch let the genie out of the bottle this morning when it announced that it now expects Greece to "probably default" (as in the real deal, not some transitory paper definition), "but not leave the Eurozone." In other words, we have replaced one wishful thinking (partially default) with another (full default, but partial implications). Because unfortunately as most know, there is no charter precedent for keeping a bankrupt country in the EU and currency union. Which means eurocrats are now scrambling to not only lay the liquidity groundwork for a Greek bankruptcy (which they did last week with the global USD liquidity lines, which also conveniently lay out the timing for such an event) but also changing the laws furiously behind the scenes to make sure a Greek default does not violate some European clause, which it certainly will. All of this ignores the fact that the financial aftermath of a Greek default will hit the credibility of the ECB more than anything else. How bureaucracy can provision for that we are not too clear.
There has been a sharp increase in risk aversion with the euro and stocks internationally falling sharply due to concerns about the coming Greek default and the real risk of contagion in the Eurozone. The euro got off to a rocky start in Asia, falling to fresh six-month lows against the dollar and a 10 year low on the yen as downside momentum picked up after several key technical levels gave way recently. Gold could see weakness today due to dollar strength and the possibility of margin calls for leveraged players on the COMEX. However, bargain hunting bullion buyers are present at these price levels and gold is likely to be supported above $1,800/oz. While dollar strength would normally result in gold weakness it is very possible that both the dollar and gold could rise together in the short term. This would result in gold making sharper gains in pounds, Swiss francs, euros and other fiat currencies. France’s largest banks by market value, BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA and Credit Agricole SA, may have their credit ratings cut by Moody’s Investors Service as soon as this week because of their Greek holdings. Officials in Merkel’s government are debating how to shore up German banks in the event that Greece defaults. Merkel is due to hold talks on the debt crisis with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso today. The risk of contagion in the Eurozone sovereign, banking and entire financial system is very real and will result in continuing safe haven demand.
For those struggling under the deluge of relentless newsflow out of Europe, here are the key events to look for over the next month, courtesy of CitiFX Wire. Readers can take advantage of the weekend which will be calm until late Sunday morning after which it won't be calm, to familiarize themselves with the hurricane that is headed straight to global capital markets.
Once is fine, twice - passable, three times - eh... But when one has missed forecast after forecast after forecast as many times as Greece, one wonders what the hell is going on. Earlier today we got confirmation that what everyone with half a brain (obviously this excludes the apparatchik idiots in Brussels) had been expecting had come to pass, namely that the Greek economy has completely imploded. Per Reuters: "GDP contracted at an annual pace of 7.3 percent in the three months to June, from 8.1 percent in the previous quarter, according to seasonally unadjusted figures by statistics agency ELSTAT, while unemployment stayed near record highs. "Domestic demand is incredibly weak, exports do not benefit from global economic growth ... A 2011 deficit of 8.5 percent to 9 percent doesn't seem implausible," said Ben May, a London-based analyst at Capital Economics. Unemployment fell slightly to 16.0 percent in June, helped by seasonal tourism jobs. But it remained close to a record 16.6 percent it hit the previous month, well above its 11.6 percent level in June 2010. And as rumblings from everywhere confirm, most notably from Greek 1 Year bond yields which are pennies away from 100% (i.e. one doubles their money if Greece does not go broke n the next 365 days), and Greek CDS which now predict a virtual certainty of bankruptcy, Europe has had enough of being used as a liquidity source over and over. Because as speculated ever so often, Greece (and now Italy) realized that the balance of power in Europe is entirely with the broke nations: after all what will Brussels do: blow itself up by kicking Greece out? As a result, Greece continued to promise and promise while doing nothing. Well, it appears that Europe is now about to test just what happens when Greece is kicked out. According to sources Greece will either be kicked out of the Eurozone by the end of the year or will be insolvent in the next 4 months. Either way, things are about to get truly exciting. And unfortunately, what Greece is doing by leeching of the Eurozone is precisely what the US is doing by "leeching" of the (temporary) dollar reserve standard. As Greece is about to find out, all good things come to an end. Soon after, America will also discover that those 4 week Bill yields of 0.000% will be a much cherished memory.
Open Europe Briefing On What The German Constitutional Court Ruling Will Mean For The Eurozone CrisisSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/05/2011 14:14 -0400
While today's market action is merely a reaction to pent up negative news over the weekend, all attention now moves to this week's most critical binary event: the much anticipated German Constitutional Court's vertdict on Eurozone bailouts. While a ruling that destroys the eurozone is unlikely, there are quite a few interesting nuances that may come out of the main event on Wednesday. For those who are unfamiliar with the story here is a critical briefing from Open Europe. "On 7 September, the German Constitutional Court will deliver its keenly anticipated verdict on the eurozone bailouts, following several challenges against the rescue packages of Greece, Ireland and Portugal in addition to complaints against the ECB’s bond buying programme. The Court will almost certainly approve the bailouts, fearing that any other decision would spell disaster for the euro. In order to protect its reputation, however, the Court could well demand more influence for the German parliament and lay down additional constitutional red lines – possibly including restrictions on joint debt liabilities in the eurozone – in return for approving the bailouts. Any such limits would hugely complicate any move towards a fiscal union in the eurozone. Injecting more parliamentary democracy into the eurozone crisis is clearly a good thing, but it will also further limit EU leaders’ room for manoeuvre when dealing with the crisis, which in turn could increase market uncertainty. Unfortunately for the ECB, under such a scenario it would once again be forced to pick up the responsibility of lender of last resort, as the EFSF will be too inflexible and unresponsive to play that role."
You know those movies with the bomb set to a timer ticking down to øø.øø where the sweaty hero nervously cuts one wire at a time while holding his breath and then at øø.ø1 he stops the bomb? Well Europe is like that except that the bomb goes off and kills everyone.
German Coalition Partner CSU To Propose Bankruptcy Procedure To Kick Out Chronic Eurozone Debtor NationsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/28/2011 16:51 -0400
The news out of Europe just keeps getting worse. While earlier we described how the squabbling within Merkel's own party could scuttle her political career, not to mention hopes for ongoing German funding of European bailouts, next we learn that she has not only outright rejected Finland's demands for loan collateralization out of Greece (which would in turn make Greece a selective Debtor In Possession lender, or, in other words, a prepack bankruptcy candidate 101), a move which Finland will likely balk over and very likely unilaterally exit from the second Greek bailout (remember that whole "Greek Bailout #2 is Dead on Arrival" from June 5?), but what is worse, according to Der Spiegel, tomorrow CDU coalition partner CSU will likely propose several "explosive ideas" which not only reject a common "economic government" for the eurozone (thereby slapping Sarkozy fully across the face), but also consider "creating a bankruptcy procedure to kick out of the euro countries that aren't willing to stick to the debt limits laid out in the euro zone's Stability and Growth Pact." In other words zero steps forward, and as many steps back as it takes to get us to before not only the July 22 Greek bail out, but all the way back to the beginning of the year. Only this time, the market is fully aware that both Italy and France are also on the hook: that can not be unwound with any paper.
Update: sure enough, here is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard with his own perspective on just this topic, which is oddly comparable to Zero Hedge's: "Mrs Merkel's aides say she is facing "war on every front". The next month will decide her future, Germany's destiny, and the fate of monetary union."
Every time we discuss the futility of the nth bailout of [Greece\PIIGS\Europe\the Euro] we make it all too clear (most recently here and here) that the trade off between Germany onboarding ever more peripheral financial risk in one after another all too brief attempt to prevent the implosion of European capital markets and its currency, is not only a relentless creep higher in German default risk (and lower in the German stock market, as August has so violently demonstrated) but increasing political discontent, which after claiming countless political regimes across the world, has finally settled down on one that truly matters: that of German chancellor Angela Merkel. And as Reuters reports, Merkel's disappointing response to an ever escalating set of crises, both domestic and international, means that the beginning of her end (and by implication of the Eurozone, and of the Euro) may be as soon as September 23, when the vote over the expansion of the latest and greatest European bailout lynchpin, EFSF, will take place.
Winston Churchill defined appeasement as “feeding the dragon hoping he will eat you last.” As the eurozone banking crisis has morphed into a sovereign debt crisis, it is worth reconsidering the wisdom of appeasing the bond market in an attempt to stave off the possibility of default.
USDCHF Plunges To Record Low Following Generali CEO Comments Eurozone Faces Risk Of Breakup, Flight To Safety ResumesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/05/2011 10:43 -0400
Yep. Europe again. Following comments from Generali's CEO Giovanni Perissinotto based on a transcript from a conference call earlier that the Eurozone is at risk of breakup (something which everyone knows, but nobody dares to say, especially not anyone whose CDS is trading in lockstep with those of Italy), the USDCHF just plunged to fresh all time lows. And so all the goodwill created by the robotic buying on the NFP headlines is gone.
Mini Flash Crash Following CDU Statement Eurozone Leaders Have Excluded Boosting Volume Of EFSF Sends ES Down 30 PointsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/05/2011 10:12 -0400
After soaring by over a hundred points, the DJIA subsequently plunged in a flash crash type move after Reuters carried headlines saying that the CDU budget expert said that the Eurozone leaders have clearly excluded boosting the volume of the EFSF (and the plunge has nothing to do with any ridiculous rumor of an S&P downgrade - the S&P would be sent into exile if it dared to defy Obama at this point in his debt ceiling hike victory lap). The plunge was further exacerbated by a previous interview on CNBC with Olli Rehn in which he was pressed for details on the EFSF which he naturally would not provide as obviously Germany is still not onboard. And as everyone knows, without a €1.5 trillion expansion in the SPV monetization mechanism known as the EFSF, Italy is doomed. The result: a 30 point plunge in the ES showing once again that when it comes to flash crash risk, it is once again all about Italy and insolvent Europe in general.
Gold is marginally higher against most currencies today and is trading at USD 1,614.40, EUR 1,130.50, GBP 990.08 and CHF 1,294.50 per ounce. Gold is flat against the dollar but remains just less than 1% from the record nominal high reached yesterday ($1,628.05/oz). The euro is under pressure again today and gold is 0.7% higher against the euro and is just less than 1.5% away from the record euro high of EUR 1,144.80/oz reached last Monday. Investors were made nervous by comments from chemicals major BASF, which said it saw global economic growth slowing as it posted weaker-than-expected earnings, sending its stock down 4.9%. Siemens AG, Europe's largest engineering conglomerate, warned that global economic risks were increasing and posted below forecast results. Its shares fell 1.3%. The Dow to Gold Ratio has again turned down suggesting gold may continue to outperform U.S. stocks and the DJIA, in particular, in the coming weeks. The long term target of below 2:1 remains viable.
The only real solution to the Eurozone end-game is massive debt forgiveness and the resulting destruction of "too big to fail" banks, and a return to national currencies, which will enable structural imbalances to be resolved via currency devaluations. This will of course destabilize the German export economy; but that is inevitable. "Extend and pretend" is an endgame, not a fix.
There is only one section of the proposed European Bailout draft statement that is relevant to traders: Section 7, bullet 3 which says: "To improve the effectiveness of the EFSF and address contagion, we agree to increase the flexibility of the EFSF, allowing it to intervene in the secondary markets on the basis of an ECB analysis recognizing the existence of exceptional circumstances and a unanimous decision of the EFSF Member States." Everything else is noise. Europe just legalized its own Plunge Protection Team and off balance sheet Quantitative Easing program with one signature. Good luck trading in this, or any, market which even the politicians now admit is nothing more than a central banking policy tool.