Greece is now yesterday's news. The only question is if, and when, Portugal will follow in the Greek footsteps. SocGen explains, answering key "client questions."
In addition to telling everyone to short the euro and go long the dollar (wink) Goldman Sachs is kind enough to summarize what the recurring Eurocentric rumor-based headlines of the coming week will be: "The week ahead starts with the EU Heads of State Summit, where discussions will be focused on finalizing negotiations around the fiscal compact, where we think important progress has been made, not least by allowing individual countries to police each other's budget policies. Attention will also be squarely focused on Greece, where negotiations over PSI continue, in addition to negotiations between the Troika and the government. The IMF mission is scheduled to remain in Athens at least through Friday. The week also brings important bond auctions, starting with Italy on Monday (at 5- and 10-year tenors), followed by France and Spain on Thursday. Outside of Europe, key data include the slew of global PMI's on Wednesday. Consensus sees China's PMI slipping below the 50 threshold in January. We are slightly more cautious than consensus on the ISM, expecting an essentially unchanged reading. The week ends with the all-important nonfarm payroll release. We think nonfarm payroll growth probably slowed somewhat in January given less of a boost from favorable weather and seasonal factors. However, we think the pace of employment growth, combined with weak labor force participation, may still be enough to pull the unemployment rate down a touch."
Merkel warned that Germany might be overwhelmed by its bailout efforts—a reluctance that turned Germany into a punching bag. Yet risks are staggering.
And like that, this year's Davos World Economic Forum has come and gone, having achieved nothing except allowing a bunch of representatives of the status quo to feel even more self-righteous and important in the world's biggest annual circle jerk, in which fawning journalists ask the questions their cue cards demand, knowing too well their jobs are on the line if they ask anything even remotely provocative (and with the price of admission in the tens of thousands of dollars, one wonders just how many Excel classes these "journalists" could have taken as an alternative, in order to actually do some original math-based research, yes, shocking concept, to present to their readers instead of merely regurgitating others' talking points). Bloomberg TV has compiled the best video summary of the highly irrelevant soundbites by economists, CEOs and other people of transitory power, who provide absolutely no original insight into anything, and in which ironically it is Mexico's Felipe Calderon who summarizes it best: "we have a timebomb the bomb is in Europe and we are working together to deactivate it before it explodes over all of us." Lastly, we provide a quick glimpse into current and previous guests of Davos to show just how utterly worthless is the "braintrust" of those present.
It's Official: German Economy Minister Demands Surrender Of Greek Budget Policy, Says It Is First Of Many Such Sovereign "Requests"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/29/2012 13:19 -0400
While over the past 2 days there may have been some confusion as to who, what, how or where is demanding that Greece abdicate fiscal sovereignty (with some of our German readers supposedly insulted by the suggestion that this idea originated in Berlin, and specifically with politicians elected by a majority of the German population), today's quotefest from German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler appearing in Germany's Bild should put any such questions to bed. And from this point on, Greece would be advised to not play dumb anymore vis-a-vis German annexation demands. So from Reuters, "Greece must surrender control of its budget policy to outside institutions if it cannot implement reforms attached to euro zone rescue measures, the German economy minister was quoted as saying on Sunday. Philipp Roesler became the first German cabinet member to openly endorse a proposal for Greece to surrender budget control after Reuters quoted a European source on Friday as saying Berlin wants Athens to give up budget control." And some bad news for our Portuguese (and then Spanish) readers: you are next.
When the first revision of the second Greek bailout to the tidy round number of €130 billion was announced, we scoffed, mockingly. Because a country which then had a 7% budget deficit, and now has a deficit that will be well in the double digits, and not to mention a banking system that is now hollow following tens of billions in deposit withdrawals as month after month the Greek bank run gets worse, would obviously need much more liquidity (but banish the thought that it is a solvency crisis...) Sure enough, earlier today Der Spiegel broke the news that the second bailout, which has yet to be re-ratified, and absent Greece meeting demands to cede fiscal sovereignty, is likely a non-starter, would be increased to €145 billion "citing an unidentified official from the so-called troika." So whether or not this is true is irrelevant: what matters is that Spiegel released the article in the same series of posts in which it explained just why Germany has full right to demand (via European enforcement mechanisms or however) virtually anything in exchange for the ongoing endless bailout (such as: Merkel macht Wahlkampf für Sarkozy and Griechenland sträubt sich gegen EU-Aufpasser). Which means one thing only: the great propaganda spin machine is now on, and its only purpose is to provide Germany a buffer of "having done everything in its power" to prevent the now inevitable Greek default. Which, incidentally, means that a Greek default is inevitable. Because at this point once the default floodgates open, the question will be not where the bonds will trade, but just how big the impairment on the European DIP (aka Troika bailout package) will be.
Following yesterday's frankly stunning news that the Troika politely requests that Greece hand over its first fiscal, then pretty much all other, sovereignty to "Europe", here is the Greek just as polite response to the Troika's foray into outright colonialism:
- GREEK GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN DECLARES THAT THE BUDGET IS SOLELY ITS RESPONSIBILITY - DJ
What is interesting here is that unlike the highly irrelevant IIF negotiations which will end in a Greek default one way or another, the real plotline that should be followed is this one: because unless Germany, pardon the Troika, gets the one condition it demands, namely "absolute priority to debt service" and "transfer of national budgetary sovereignty", as well as a "constitutional amendment" thereto. there is no Troika funding deal. Furthermore, since as a reminder the PSI talks are just the beginning, the next step is ensuring compliance, as was noted yesterday ("[ceding sovereignty] will reassure public and private creditors that the Hellenic Republic will honour its comittments after PSI and will positively influence market access"), any refusal to implement such demands is an automatic dealbreaker. Which means anything Dallara and the IIF say, as representatives of a steering committee that at this point probably constitutes of one bondholder, with the bulk having shifted to the ad hoc committee, is irrelevant. Germany just got its answer. And the next step is, as Zero Hedge first suggested, an epic LTRO in precisely one month, whose sole purpose will be to prefund European banks ahead of the Greek default with enough cash to withstand Europe's Bear Stearns. Although as a reminder, in the US, Bear Stearns only led to Lehman and the global "all in" gambit to preserve the financial system by shifting bank insolvency risk to the sovereigns (a chart showing bank assets as a percentage of host countries' GDP can be found here). But who will bailout the world's central banks which already collectively hold over 30% of global GDP in the form of "assets", or as this term is better known these days, debt?
Back in the 1930's, Irving Fisher introduced a concept called the 'debt supercycle.' Simply put, it posits that when there is a buildup of too much debt within an economy, there reaches a point where there simply is no other available solution but to let it rewind. We are at that point in our economy, as are most other major economies around the world, claims John Maudlin, author of the popular Thoughts from the Frontline newsletter and the recent bestselling book Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle and How It Changes Everything. For the past several decades, excessive and increasing amounts of credit in the system have allowed us to live above our means as both individuals and nations. We've been able to have our cake and eat it, too. Now that the supercycle has ended and the inevitable de-leveraging cycle is staring us in the face, we will be forced to set priorities in a way that has been foreign to our society for over a generation.
A brief and comprehensive summary of the main events in the past week, both good and bad.
German individual investors are gobbling up Greek sovereign bonds!
Update 2: the first local headlines are coming in now, from Spiegel: Griechenland soll Kontrolle über Haushalt abgeben (loosely Greece must give up domestic control)
Update: Formal Greek annexation order attached.
It was tried previously (several times) under "slightly different" circumstances, and failed. Yet when it comes to taking over a country without spilling even one drop of blood, and converting its citizens into debt slaves, Germany's Merkel may have just succeeded where so many of her predecessors failed. According to a Reuters exclusive, "Germany is pushing for Greece to relinquish control over its budget policy to European institutions as part of discussions over a second rescue package, a European source told Reuters on Friday." Reuters add: "There are internal discussions within the Euro group and proposals, one of which comes from Germany, on how to constructively treat country aid programs that are continuously off track, whether this can simply be ignored or whether we say that's enough," the source said.' So while the great distraction that is the Charles Dallara "negotiation" with Hedge Funds continues (as its outcome is irrelevant: a Greece default is assured at this point), the real development once again was behind the scenes where Germany was cleanly and clinically taking over Greece. Because while today it is the fiscal apparatus, tomorrow it is the legislative. As for the executive: who cares. At that point Goldman will merely appoint one of its retired partners as Greek president and Greece will become the first 21st century German, pardon, European colony. But at least it will have its precious euro. We can't wait until Greek citizens find out about this quiet coup.
Festive Friday fun:
- FITCH TAKES RATING ACTIONS ON SIX EUROZONE SOVEREIGNS
- ITALY LT IDR CUT TO A- FROM A+ BY FITCH
- SPAIN ST IDR DOWNGRADED TO F1 FROM F1+ BY FITCH
- IRELAND L-T IDR AFFIRMED BY FITCH; OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
- BELGIUM LT IDR CUT TO AA FROM AA+ BY FITCH
- SLOVENIA LT IDR CUT TO A FROM AA- BY FITCH
- CYPRUS LT IDR CUT TO BBB- FROM BBB BY FITCH, OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
And some sheer brilliance from Fitch:
- In Fitch's opinion, the eurozone crisis will only be resolved as and when there is broad economic recovery.
And just as EUR shorts were starting to sweat bullets. Naturally no downgrade of France. French Fitch won't downgrade France. In other news, Fitch's Italian office is about to be sacked by an errant roving vandal tribe (or so the local Police will claim).
In what is likely a long overdue move, Iran has finally decided to give Europe a harsh lesson in game theory. Instead of letting Euro-area politicians score brownie points at its expense by threatening to halt imports and cut off the Iranian economy, the Iranian government will instead propose a bill calling for an immediate halt to oil deliveries to Europe. The move, with most reports citing the Iranian news agency Mehr, has come about in response to the EU agreement to impose sanctions against Iran, which were announced earlier this week. And why not? After all if Europe is indeed serious, sooner or later Iran will be cut off but in the meantime experience significant policy uncertainty, which is precisely what the flipflops on the ground need. The one thing that Europe, however is forgetting, is that all that whopping 0.8 Mb/d will simply find a new buyer. And with China, India and Russia already having bilateral agreements with Iran in place, we are confident that said buyer will have a contract signed, sealed and delivered within an hour of the proposed bill's passage. Furthermore, as SocGen speculated, the fact that Europe will be even more bottlenecked in its crude supplies (good luck Saudi Arabia with that imaginary excess capacity), and which just may force the IEA to release some more of that strategic petroleum reserve (and thus give JPM some more free money on the replenishment arbitrage) will send Brent to $125-150 - something which Iran will be delighted by. That is of course unless some "experts" discover that Iran may or may not have a complete arsenal of shark with fricking nuclear warheads attached to their heads (despite what Paneta has already said) which gives the US the green light for a full blown incursion, which in turn will send oil over $200, and the world economy into a global coordinated re-depression.
Greek debt negotiations continue. They do seem less afraid of triggering a Credit Event (and some even think it could be a good thing - as we have argued for some time). Estimates are that only EUR100bn of Greek bonds are actually in hands that will follow the IIF recommendations but it is clear that the negotiations are getting tricky (actually they have always been tricky, it’s just that until recently no one was actually negotiating). The IMF seems insistent that they won’t provide new money without a high participation rate in an exchange with worse terms than many thought. There are questions about whether the ECB should participate or not and this is in direct opposition to the IMF's need for very high participation and while losses could be hidden by off-market trades to the EFSF, there will be lots more political bickering if that were the case. More importantly, we think, is the Portuguese debt problem, which is much smaller than that of Greece, but should be attracting more attention as we note Portuguese debt hitting new lows (especially post LTRO) unlike the rest of Europe's exuberance.