We have been rather vociferous in our table-pounding that even if a Greek PSI deal is achieved (in reality as opposed to what is claimed by headlines only to fall apart a month later), then Greece remains mired in an unsustainable situation that will likely mean further restructuring in the future. JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest agrees and notes that Debt/GDP will remain well above 100% post-deal but is more concerned at the implications (just as we noted earlier in the week) of the process itself including ECB preferred credit status, retroactive CACs (law changes), and CDS trigger aversions. In his words, the debt exchange is a bit of a farce and we reiterate our note from a few days ago - if this deal is so close, why is the 1Y GGB (AUG 2012) price trading -8.75% at EUR 28.75 (or 466% yield) and while longer-dated prices are rallying (maybe bear flattener unwinds), the moves are de minimus (-17bps today on a yield of 3353bps?) as selling pressure is clearly in the short-end not being rolled into the long-end as some surmise.
- The Fed's HFT price manipulation code stolen? U.S. Charges Programmer With Stealing Code (Reuters)
- One million homeowners may get mortgage writedowns: U.S. (Reuters)
- In MF Global, JPMorgan again at center of a financial failure (Reuters)
- China's Money Rates Slump After PBOC Injects Money (Reuters)
- Athens closes in on bondholder pact (FT) - or not
- Hedge Funds May Sue Greece If Loss Forced (NYT)
- China Said to Weigh Easing Constraints on Banks as Growth Slows (Bloomberg) - But wasn't a rate cut already priced in on Monday?
- Obama Under Attack Over Keystone Rejection (FT)
- Chinese Economy Heads for Soft Landing in 2012 (China Daily) - don't really expect "China Daily" to tell you otherwise
- Brazil Cuts Interest Rates Further to 10.5% (FT)
- India to Launch $35bn of Public Investments (FT)
Update: the NYT chimes in, just to make the point all too clear: "Hedge Funds May Sue Greece if It Tries to Force Loss"
Five minutes before market close yesterday, Bloomberg came out with an "exclusive" interview with Marathon CEO Bruce Richards, who may or may not be in the Greek bondholder committee any longer, in which the hedge fund CEO said that the Greek creditor group had come to an agreement and that the thorniest issue that stands between Greece and a coercive default (and major fallout for Europe) was in the bag, so to say. To which we had one rhetorical comment: "Well as long as Marathon is talking for all the possible hold outs..." As it turns out, he wasn't. As it further turns out, Mr. Richards, was just a little bit in over his head about pretty much everything else too, expect for talking up the remainder of his book of course (unsuccessfully, as we demonstrated earlier - although it does beg the question: did Marathon trade today on the rumor it itself spread, based on information that was material and thus only afforded to a privileged few creditors, especially if as it turns, the information was false - we are positive the SEC will be delighted to know the answer). Because as the supposed restructurng expert should know, once you have a disparate group of ad hoc creditors, which is precisely what we have in the Greek circus now, there is nothing even remotely close to a sure deal, especially when one needs a virtually unanimous decision for no CDS trigger event to occur (yes, ISDA, for some ungodly reason, you are still relevant in this bizarro world). Which also happens to be the fascination for all the hedge funds, whom we first and then subsequently repeatedly noted, are holding Europe hostage, to buy ever greater stakes of Greek bonds at 20 cents on the dollar. Because, finally, as the FT reports, the deal is nowhere in sight: "Several hedge fund managers that hold Greek debt have said they have not been involved in the talks and will not be agreeing with the “private sector involvement” (PSI) deal – which centres on a 50 per cent loss on bondholders’ capital and a reduction in the interest they receive... Even members of the committee concede the process is unlikely to succeed in time for the crunch date: a €14.5bn bond repayment falling due on March 20." But, wait, that's not what Bloomberg and Bruce Richards told us yesterday, setting off a 100 point DJIA rally. Time to pull up the Einhorn idiot market diagram once again.
One reason for the severity of the financial crisis, and the losses incurred by banks, is that bankers and financial analysts were using linear tools in a non-linear, highly complex environment otherwise known as the financial markets.The models didn’t work. The problem we face now as investors will end up being existential for some banking institutions and sovereigns. Our (uncontentious) core thesis is that throughout the west, more debt has been accumulated over the past four decades than can ever be paid back. The question, effectively to be determined on a case-by-case basis, is whether bondholders are handed outright default (which looks increasingly like the case to come in Greece) or whether the authorities, in their understandable but misguided attempts to keep the show on the road, resort to a policy of inflation that could at some point easily spiral out of control. As Rothbard wrote, “The longer the inflationary boom continues, the more painful and severe will be the necessary adjustment process… the boom cannot continue indefinitely, because eventually the public awakens to the governmental policy of permanent inflation, and flees from money into goods, making its purchases while [the currency] is worth more than it will be in future.” “The result will be a ‘runaway’ or hyperinflation, so familiar to history, and particularly to the modern world. Hyperinflation, on any count, is far worse than any depression: it destroys the currency – the lifeblood of the economy; it ruins and shatters the middle class and all ‘fixed income groups;’ it wreaks havoc unbounded… To avoid such a calamity, then, credit expansion must stop sometime, and this will bring a depression into being.”
The Greek PSI is once again (still) hitting the headlines. Here is what we think the most likely scenario is (80% likelihood). Some form of an agreement will be announced. The IIF will announce that the “creditor committee has agreed in principle to a plan.” That plan will need to be “formalized” and final agreement from the individual institutions on the committee and those that weren’t part of the committee will need to be obtained. The headline will sound good, but will leave a month or so for details to come out. In the meantime every European and EU leader (or employee) with a press contact will say what a great deal it is. That it confirms that Europe is on the path of progress and that they are doing what they committed to at their summits. That will be the hype that will drive the market higher (or in fact has already done so). However, the reality (as we noted earlier in Einhorn's market madness chart) is that this still leaves hedge funds to acquiesce (unlikely) and furthermore focus will switch to Greece's actual debt sustaianability post-default (yes the d-word) and as we are seeing recently, Portugal will come into very sharp focus. If they cannot bribe and blackmail and threaten their way into something they call PSI, then we will see Greece stop making payments, and then the markets will get very ugly in a hurry.
As headline after headline suggest that the PSI deal is getting closer and the market appears to be pricing in that headline-driven excitement, we cast a very skeptical eye over the performance of Greek bonds today. Short-dated GGBs, the August 2012 issue for instance, would be expected to rally if the deal was close (or even anticipated by the market) but instead, this 8-month bond traded to new record low price (and obviously therefore record high yields of 421%) today with quite a significant drop from EUR31.5 to EUR30 on the day. Further out, the 5Y GGB is the cheapest-to-deliver and is trading at EUR18.75/23.25 (quite a spread), down more today, and still well below an approximate EUR32 take-out. While there may have been some unwinds in the cash-CDS basis today, it seems to us that the greek bond market is absolutely not expecting a PSI deal and therefore risk-on rallies on the back of this (a debt reduction that will still leave Greek debt unsustainable) seem overdone at best (unless the IMF can cajole the US Congress to untighten its wallet some more - and even then, its not the solution Greece needs).
Last week we heard from Nomura's bearded bear as Bob Janjuah restated his less-then-optimistic scenario for the global economy. Today his partner-in-crime, Kevin Gaynor, takes on the bullish consensus cognoscenti's three mutually supportive themes in his usual skeptical manner. While he respects the market's potential view that fundamentals, flow, valuation, and sentiment seem aligned for meaningful outperformance, it seems actual positioning does not reflect this (yet). Taking on each of the three bullish threads (EM policy shift as inflation slows, ECB has done and will do more QE, and US decoupling), the strategist teases out the reality and what is priced in as he does not see this as the March-2009-equivalent 'big-one' in rerisking (warranting concerns on chasing here).
The world's biggest primary silver miner, Fresnillo, had flat silver production in 2011. Output is only expected to remain stable in 2012. African Barrick Gold said on Wednesday fourth quarter gold production fell 11% and missed its annual production targets. Despite price rises seen in 2011, gold and silver mining is remaining static contrary to claims by gold bears that higher prices would lead to increased production and therefore increased supply. Geological constraints may be impacting mining companies ability to increase production of the precious metals. Standard Bank has said it lowered its average 2012 gold price forecast by 6 percent to $1,780 an ounce, but continues to expect prices of the precious metal to touch new highs in the latter half of this year. "We maintain that gold will reach new highs this year but, given our dollar view, we believe that these highs will be reached only in the second half of 2012," the analyst said in a note. Standard Bank expects the U.S. dollar to gain strength, especially against the euro, over the next quarter. A few other banks have recently lowered price forecasts for gold, including ANZ and Credit Suisse – however the majority remain bullish on gold’s outlook for 2012.
Late night media is abuzz with two reports, one from the NYT and one from The Telegraph, which unfortunately confirm Credit Suisse's decision to ignore the Greek situation entirely due to openly contradictory news.
- From The Telegraph: Greece prepares to give way to banks to secure debt deal
- From The NYT: Greek Premier Says Creditors May Be Forced to Take Losses
Which, of course, is the oldest trick in the book - when in doubt, leak opposing news, in this case whether or note the Greek default will be coercive or not, in hopes the good news trumps the bad, and nobody notices.
While his diagnosis of the balance sheet recessionary outbreak that is sweeping global economies (including China now he fears) is a useful framework for understanding ZIRP's (and monetary stimulus broadly) general inability to create a sustainable recovery, his one-size-fits-all government-borrow-and-spend to infinity (fiscal deficits during balance sheet recessions are good deficits) solution is perhaps becoming (just as he said it would) politically impossible to implement. In his latest missive, the Nomura economist does not hold back with the blame-bazooka for the mess we are in and face in 2012. Initially criticizing US and now European bankers and politicians for not recognizing the balance sheet recession, Koo takes to task the ECB and European governments (for implementing LTRO which simply papers over the cracks without solving the underlying problem of the real economy suggesting bank capital injections should be implemented immediately), then unloads on the EBA's 9% Tier 1 capital by June 2012 decision, and ends with a significant dressing-down of the Western ratings agencies (and their 'ignorance of economic realities'). While believing that Greece is the lone profligate nation in Europe, he concludes that Germany should spend-it-or-send-it (to the EFSF) as capital flight flows end up at Berlin's gates. Given he had the holidays to unwind, we sense a growing level of frustration in the thoughtful economist's calm demeanor as he realizes his prescription is being ignored (for better or worse) and what this means for a global economy (facing deflationary deleveraging and debt minimization) - "It appears as though the world economy will remain under the spell of the housing bubble collapse that began in 2007 for some time yet" and it will be a "miracle if Europe does not experience a full-blown credit contraction."
A triptych of greece, cement and resolutions.
The German industrial elite talks about exiting the Eurozone.... And to heck with Greece.
Bloomberg Reports That Greek Private Creditor Deal Near, At 32 Cent Recovery, According To Hedge Fund InvolvedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/17/2012 16:26 -0500
Last year it was bank posturing, coupled with Germany and the rest of the Eurocore countries, when it comes to Greece. Now it is the hedge funds. Bloomberg has reported that the Greek private creditors have "reached a deal" with Greece on existing debt which "would give creditors 32 cents per euro", or a 32% recovery according to Marathon Asset Mgmt CEO Bruce Richards, who until recently was a bondholder, but recently has been rumored to have dumped his holdings, which makes one wonder why or how he is talking for the creditor committee. Of course, with Greece now a purely bankruptcy play, we expect various ad hoc splinter "committees" to emerge, coupled with an equity committee as well (yes yes, we jest). Bloomberg reports also that Richards is "highly confident" a deal will get done. Nonetheless, the Marathon CEO expects Greece won’t make the €14.5 billion ($18.5billion) bond repayment scheduled for March 20. However, he does see a deal with creditors to be in place before then. For now the Greek government has declined to comment. We fully expect the IIF's Dalara to hit the airwaves shortly and to make it all too clear that the implied 68% haircut is sheer lunacy. Naturally, should this deal come to happen, we can't possibly see how Portugal, Spain or Italy would then sabotage their economies just so they too can enjoy 68% NPV haircuts on their bonds. Finally, even if Marathon likes the deal, all it takes is for one hedge fund hold out to necessitate the application of Collective Action Clauses which would blow the deal apart, create a two-tiered market, and effectively create the perception that the deal was coercive.
When yesterday we presented the view from CLSA's Chris Wood that the February 29 LTRO could be €1 Trillion (compared to under €500 billion for the December 21 iteration), we snickered, although we knew quite well that the market response, in stocks and gold, today would be precisely as has transpired. However, after reading the report by Credit Suisse's William Porter, we no longer assign a trivial probability to some ridiculous amount hitting the headlines early in the morning on February 29. Why? Because from this moment on, the market will no longer be preoccupied with a €1 trillion LTRO number as the potential headline, one which in itself would be sufficient to send the Euro tumbling, the USD surging, and provoking an immediate in kind response from the Fed. Instead, the new 'possible' number is just a "little" higher, which intuitively would make sense. After all both S&P and now Fitch expect Greece to default on March 20 (just to have the event somewhat "priced in"). Which means that in an attempt to front-run the unprecedented liquidity scramble that will certainly result as nobody has any idea what would happen should Greece default in an orderly fashion, let alone disorderly, the only buffer is having cash. Lots of it. A shock and awe liquidity firewall that will leave everyone stunned. How much. According to Credit Suisse the new LTRO number could be up to a gargantuan, and unprecedented, €10 TRILLION!