The G-8 Summit. What a kick. Why do they hold these meetings?
The declaration is an embarrassment. Here we lay it bare for what it is... Polemics. Boilerplate. Sophistry. Subterfuge. Empty promises. Oxymorons. And more…
This week we bring back Alasdair Macleod, publisher of Finance and economics.org, because, as he puts it "every horror that we discussed last time we spoke is coming about". Especially scary since our previous conversation with him was less than three weeks ago... Today's interview continues building on his excellent synopsis from last month that detailed the origins of the Eurozone crisis. The fundamental shortcomings warned of at the Euro's creation in 1997, combined with the excessive sovereign debts run up since then, have finally expressed themselves at a scale too large to be contained any longer. Today, Alasdair details in-depth the huge and serious challenges facing Greece and the major Eurozone countries, and the likely impacts of the fast-dwindling options left remaining. He sees no happy ending to this story, no outcome in which serious pain and permanent behavior change can be avoided. And for those looking for shelter from the unfolding economic storm, he sees few options besides the precious metals (which he believes are severely under priced at the moment):
The big banks are getting restless. Nowhere is this more evident than in the latest just released letter from Citi's European Credit Strategy, literally a letter to Europe's trio of leading politicians, which follows hot on the heels of yet another recent Citigroup missive from Willem Buiter, which was largely ignored in the noise, yet which made it all too clear that when all else fails, it is the Chairman's sworn duty to paradrop money. Because if anyone, it is the banks that know that if things aren't fixed (they aren't), it is up to the central banks to do something to prevent the vigilantes from forcing the politicians hands, as they did in the summer and fall of 2011 (which will not provide a long-term fix, but at least allow bankers to hope that the next collapse won't take place before bonus season). As Citi says, "Until the gravity of the situation is made clear, until the self-reinforcing mechanisms that already seem to be in motion are understood, we don't see how the solutions, the answers, and the certainty that market craves can be brought to the table." Which simply means that things are about to get much, much worse as it will be up to the markets to bring the world to the edge of collapse once again, just so Europe, with the help of the Fed of course, once again is forced to get over the political bickering and prop up risk assets, in yet another iteration of "this time it's different", even though it isn't. Sure enough: "Our impression is that markets will need to act as the proverbial 'attack dog', forcing the issue on the political agenda. We can't escape the sense that it is probably politically easier to let the markets run loose for the time being to make it apparent that further intervention is needed. But 1000bp on Crossover is much closer than you imagine." In other words, Citi just gave the green light for the bottom to fall from the market just so Europe's increasingly impotent political elite does something, anything. Look for many more banks to sign off on the same letter.
In the Eurozone
Some look at today's FaceBook IPO flop, the ongoing market rout, and the situation in Europe with disenchantment and disappointment. We, on the other hand, view it with hope: because more than anything, the events of the past few days show that the truth is getting out - the truth that capital markets simply can not exist under the authoritarian rule of central planners, the truth that the stock market is a casino in which the best one can hope for a quick flip, and finally the truth that our entire socio-economic regime, whose existence has been predicated by borrowing from the uncreated wealth of the future, and where accumulated debt could be wiped out at the flip of a switch if things go wrong in the process obliterating the welfare of billions (of less than 1%ers), is one big lie.
In the middle of the European crisis last fall, EUR-USD cross-currency basis swap spreads were on the tip of every trader and media-personality's tongue as the critical means for providing banks with access to short-term USD liquidity was ratcheting lower and lower. This means the European banks were willing to pay a higher and higher premium to be able to offload their EUR funding into USD funding. With LTRO funding now faded and perception of the sustainability of European banks becoming dismal, US banks are charging ever higher rates for Eurozone banks to borrow. What is more worrisome is that with the relative liquidity of USD assets, it would appear that the widening in the basis swap spread means the European banks have run dry of money-good USD collateral to unwind. This repricing of USD liquidity costs (now at 4 month highs and increasing rapidly) suggests that the Fed-provided swap lines could get a fresh calling to save the day and/or just as we have noted so many times in the past, the collateral squeeze continues to be the critical part of Europe's demise (and thus negates anything but absolute monetization by the ECB as a solution for the banking system).
With a lack of European data, markets have remained focused on the macroeconomic issues throughout the morning. European equities have seen mixed trade this morning, starting off sharply lower following Moody’s downgrade of 16 Spanish banks late last night. Equities have been observed on a relatively upwards trend as market talk of asset reallocation into stocks from fixed-income has somewhat buoyed sentiment, however this remains unconfirmed. The news that Spanish banks are pressing regulators to reinstate a short-selling ban on domestic banking stocks has also helped keep negative sentiment towards Spanish financials at bay, with Bankia dramatically reversing recent trends and seen higher by around 25% at the midpoint of the session...The chief of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has said volatile conditions in global markets have caused the wholesale funding market for Australian banks to freeze, a further sign that the European turmoil is taking its toll on global markets.
The current crisis of the Eurozone is a result of the imbalance of economic power between the core and the periphery but once one understands the non-economic and completely political strategy that is occurring, comprehending the at-times-incredible decision-making (or lack thereof) is at least easier to digest. Stratfor's Adriano Bosoni provides a very succinct description of everything you wanted to know about Europe's 'situation' but were afraid to ask in under 240 seconds.
- From March 13: Fitch upgraded Greece's credit rating by one notch to B- following a successful debt swap finalised this week that erased some €100 billion from the country's crippling debt
- From May 17: Fitch Ratings-London-17 May 2012: Fitch Ratings has downgraded Greece's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'CCC' from 'B-'. The Short-term foreign currency IDR has also been downgraded to 'C' from 'B'. At the same time, the agency has revised the Country Ceiling to 'B-'. The downgrade of Greece's sovereign ratings reflects the heightened risk that Greece may not be able to sustain its membership of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The strong showing of 'anti-austerity' parties in the 6 May parliamentary elections and subsequent failure to form a government underscores the lack of public and political support for the EU-IMF EUR173bn programme.
It would be laughable if it wasn't so... nevermind, it is laughable.
While the financial noose tightens....
European cash equities are in the red across the board at the midway point, as the bourses fail to reverse the trend of the past few sessions. With data points very light today, participants continue to focus on the macroeconomic themes as speculation regarding a Greek exit maintains focus. A medium-term maturity Spanish bond auction slightly eased fears, selling to the top of the indicative range, however the appearance of solid demand was countered somewhat by limited supply and sharply higher yields across all three lines. Following the auction results, EUR/USD saw some modest support and the Bund exhibited slight weakness, but this was short-lived as the macroeconomic concerns took over once more. Unexpectedly, the 3-month Euribor rate fixing came in with its first increase since December last year, prompting some selling pressure on the Euribor strip. This move was retraced as it was rumoured that one bank had not submitted a rate due to the Ascension Day market holiday across certain European markets, prompting the incline.
Well, my hat is off to the global central planners for averting the next stage of the unfolding financial crisis for as long as they have. I guess there’s some solace in having had a nice break between the events of 2008/09 and today, which afforded us all the opportunity to attend to our various preparations and enjoy our lives.
Alas, all good things come to an end, and a crisis rooted in ‘too much debt’ with a nice undercurrent of ‘persistently high and rising energy costs’ was never going to be solved by providing cheap liquidity to the largest and most reckless financial institutions. And it has not.
Canary In The Gold Mine: In Historic Move, Japanese Pension Fund Switches To Gold For First Time EverSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/16/2012 12:36 -0400
As US weak hands keep piling out of gold whether to make space for the Facebook IPO tomorrow, or just to load up on paper currencies in advance of central banks printing much more, two things have happened: China is now on its way to becoming the biggest source of gold demand, surpassing India, but more importantly as of hours ago, in a truly historic move, "Okayama Metal & Machinery has become the first Japanese pension fund to make public purchases of gold, in a sign of dwindling faith in paper currencies." Not our words: the FT's.
Just as we predicted moments ago, and as Dutch Dagblad warned overnight:
- ECB STOPS MONETARY POLICY OPERATIONS TO SOME GREEK BANKS AS RECAPITALISATION NOT IN PLACE -CENBANK SOURCES
The beginning of the end? Or just more political posturing? In the meantime, EURUSD tumbles.
In one of the most fascinating psychological shifts, there has been a massive shift in the perspective of the Greek electorate since the election two weeks ago. Almost as if the size of the actual votes for Syriza, the far-left anti-bailout party, gave citizens 'permission' to be angry and vote angry. The latest opinion polls, as per Credit Suisse, show the center-right New Democracy party crashing from 108 seats to only 57 as Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues soar from 52 seats to a hugely dominant 128 seats. Is it any wonder the market is pricing GGBs at record lows and 'expecting' a Greek exit from the Euro as imminent given the rhetoric this party has vociferously discussed. On the bright side, the extreme right Golden Dawn party is seen losing some of its share. As UBS notes, "expressions of frustration in debtor countries have their analogue in creditor countries as well. No one is happy with the status quo." Still, how Europe's political leaders address voters' grievances will go a long way to determining the fate of the Eurozone and, quite possibly, the course of European history in the 21st century. Europe's politicians will undoubtedly prevaricate and deny. The troika will, with minor modifications, probably insist on 'staying the course'. Yet it seems to us that ignoring clear voter demands for change might well be Europe's worst choice.