Greece

Guest Post: Why Mr. Dijsselbloem Is Right And Cyprus Is A Template For The Eurozone

Far from being a unique situation, the fragile exposure of unsecured depositors across the Euro zone is the norm; and their fragility was further increased in the last twelve months thanks to policies created by the same authorities who now refuse to honor their promise of a banking union, and instead impose capital controls, which have effectively destroyed any credibility on the safety of capital in the Euro zone. However, even if one accepts my view, the unintended outcome begs the following question: Why was there cheap money available for subordinated debt holders to cash out, but there is none now to protect the savings of depositors?

When Will Deposit Haircuts Take Place In Other European Countries?

When all is said and done, what happened in Cyprus over the past two weeks, is nothing but the culmination of re-marking the "assets" in the country's financial system (which as noted previously, were a preponderance of worthless Greek bonds and countless other non-performing loans), long priced at assorted "myth" levels, to a long overdue reality. As a result of delaying resolving the mismatch between non-performing assets and liabilities for years, the resolution was one which saw some €16 billion of the total asset base impaired, which in turn necessitated the impairment of billions of deposits: the primary liability funding the Cypriot financial system. Furthermore, as a result of the "Freudian Slip" by the Eurogroup's new head earlier this week, we know that Cyprus will be the template for all future bank resolutions, which seek to avoid a government vote and proceed to restructuring the banking sector a la carte, by liquidating bad banks and impairing liabilities to the point where the balance sheet is once again viable (however briefly). The bottom line is that at its core, it is all simply a bad debt problem, and the more the bad debt, the greater the ultimate liability impairments become, including deposits. Which means that the real question in Europe is: how much impairment capacity is there in the various European nations before deposits have to be haircut? Thanks to Credit Suisse we now know the answer.

Is The Collapse Of Cyprus Due To This Man?

Pinning the blame for the collapse of the Cypriot banking system (and the country itself) on the shoulders of one man may seem harsh but Laiki Bank's chief risk officer Dimitris Spanodimos represents the tip of the spear of mass delusion that encompasses most (if not all) of Europe. Cypriot banks had been swamped with deposits courtesy of their cozy relationship with Russia and this left them with, in Spanodimos' words, "comfortable liquidity and capital position to deepen selectively some highly profitable and highly promising client relationships." In short, they had so much excess that they had to invest it somewhere and given the regulators light tough (which gave the banks a clean bill of health through 2011), they bought Greek government debt and extending huge amounts of mortgage loans (in Greece and Cyprus). So, as the WSJ reports, while everyone else was purging, Spanadimos had swallowed the red pill and decided his banks' gorging on extremely risky investments was tolerable - until of course the EU pulled the plug with the haircuts from the Greek bailout. These losses, and the need for new capital, is why Cyprus needed a bailout - so who is to blame...

Europe's Collapse Of Confidence In One Chart

Those who were transfixed by whether Cypriots would rumble and unleash their anger at the €300/day dispensing ATMs formerly known as bank branches this morning, may have missed what probably was the most important monthly chart coming out of Europe - that showing aggregate money (M3) growth and, far more importantly, loan creation. Those who did pay attention will know that in February M3 grew quite obediently in a Eurozone flush with cash, this time by a respectable €15 billion, or 3.1% y/y, after €37 billion in January (of which, however a whopping €47 billion was M1 so the balance actually declined). Of course, this was the easy part: creating money via various central bank conduits has never been the issue: the concern has always been getting that money into private consumer hands through loan creation. And it is here that things just keep on getting worse by the day. Because in a continent in which there is no confidence whatsoever: no confidence in the banks, no confidence in the financial system, no confidence in end demand, no confidence in any reported data, no confidence that one's deposits won't be confiscated tomorrow, and last but not least no confidence that a sovereign nation won't just hand over its sovereignty to the Troika tomorrow, nobody is willing to take on additional loans and obligations. This can be seen in the dramatic divergence between European money creation (blue line), and the bank lending to the private sector (brown), which is at or near an all time record year over year low. So much for restoring confidence in Europe.

Cyprus - The Answer Is Uniastrum

It's funny how things are done in Europe. Nothing is as it seems. Then everything is orchestrated to try to get you to believe what they want you to believe. The Cyprus fiasco is one good example. The Dutch FinMin broke ranks and spoke the truth; there is now a template in Europe for financial bail-outs which include losses for bond holders and depositors. The ECB had almost all of its members deny that there was any template. Then Spain denied, Portugal was on the tape so many times yesterday denying that you thought it was the newest Cadillac commercial and then virtually every other country in Europe had somebody in the Press with their own denials. "One-off" was the word of the day and the giant European propaganda machine worked well into the night. The problem is the way these things work. The reporters, from any news agency, are handed out stuff from the government. They have to publish it. There is no choice. But why are the Russians not quite so upset as they were at the beginning of the crisis. The answer to this question is Uniastrum bank...

Another Overnight Levitation Ramp

The BTFD mantra is alive and well in a market, where futures overnight briefly dipped to a low of -0.5% only to be set to open at record high, following the biggest one day drubbing in China in months, where the Shanghai Composite closed -2.82% after new rules were issued by the Chinese banking regulator to limit the expansion and improve the transparency of so-called “wealth management products”. The products, which are marketed as higher yielding alternatives to bank deposits, are often used to fund risky projects including property developments, short-term corporate lines of credit or for speculative purchases of commodities and have been identified as contributing to the rise of shadow-banking in China’s financial system. As Deutsche reports, Fitch estimates the total amount of outstanding wealth-management products was around 13 trillion yuan at the end of last year—equal to about 15% of total banking-system deposits. Japanese equities were also weaker overnight (Nikkei –1.3%) and the yen is 0.3% firmer against the dollar after BoJ Governor Kuroda told parliament that he has no intention of buying foreign bonds because doing so could be seen as currency intervention. Finally, South Korea informally entered the currency wars after it slashed its GDP forecast from 3% to mid-2%, announcing it would use "interest rates" to boost growth, which naturally means use of monetary means and directly challenging the BOJ.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

So, one has to ask one’s self… if the ECB (along with the IMF and Germany) has thus far failed to manage, let alone solve, Greece’s problems (a country which comprises only 2% of EU GDP and whose bond market was just €350 billion), how is it now going to solve those of Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus, and Slovenia all at once?

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

 

The big news out of Europe is whether or not Cyprus will be a template for future bailouts. Having seen that issues like personal property, rule of law, and democracy got thrown out of the window in Cyprus as soon as things got hairy, investors and depositors throughout Europe are panicked as to whether they will be targeted next when the next European Domino starts to fall.

 

Breaking: Greece

Greece has re-entered a bear market. Its stock market, after seven months of exuberance has dropped 20% in the last month. Greek government bonds are also in trouble as the no-brainer trade is now at three-month lows (with its price also down 20% from just a week ago). It would seem that 60% youth unemploymet may actually mean something once again...

"We Are Not Making This Up"

The Dutch Finance Minister chaired the meeting on Cyprus. He was the one that directed the entire affair on Cyprus and the template that he revealed was first denied then admitted, then denied by the ECB and confusion reigned supreme. Now here comes the first pig; the representatives of the Eurozone finance ministries released a document this morning stating that Cyprus was not the template for future bail-outs. I suppose it was initially written in German and translated into English however they must have forgotten to translate it into Dutch. This is because when the Dutch Finance Minister was asked about this document, and he is the Chairman of the Finance Minister group remember; he said he knew nothing about the document. I am not making this up. My imagination is good but not this good. The good news this morning is that we already know which country is going down next. That country is Luxembourg.