Just because it is always amusing to watch the cognitive dissonance in the head of a permabull, here is Jim 'Soon to be head of the BOE... allegedly' O'Neill's latest missive to (what?) GSAM clients. Yes, the same O'Neill who week after week, letter after letter kept on saying that 2012 is nothing like 2011, finally being forced to admit that 2012 is, as we have been saying since January 1, nothing but 2011, as the central planners' script writers prove painfully worthless at coming up with anything original. That, of course, and that the lifelong ManU fan had to suffer the indignity of interCity rivals picking up the trophy this year after a miraculous come back win against QPR. Oh, the horror...
While gold is now negative year to date in dollar terms, it remains 0.7% higher in euro terms. Gold prices dropped 3.7% last week and silver fell 5.1% to $28.89/oz. The smart money, especially in Asia, is again accumulating on the dip. Demand for jewellery and bullion in India has dipped in recent weeks but should resume on this dip – especially with inflation in India still very high at 7.23%. Also of interest in India is the fact that investment demand has remained robust and gold ETF holdings in India are soon to reach the $2 billion mark. This shows that recent gold weakness is primarily due to the recent bout of dollar strength. Morgan Stanley has said in a report that gold’s bull market isn’t over despite the recent price falls. Morgan Stanley remains bullish on gold as it says that the ECB will take steps to shore up bank balance sheets, U.S. real interest rates are still negative, investors have held on to most of their exchange traded gold and central banks are still buying gold.
Last week, the Spanish government carried out the biggest financial bailout since the outbreak of the economic crisis. BFA-Bankia (BKIA), the giant which resulted from the merger of seven savings banks only a year and a half ago, was nationalized by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government through the conversion of a 4.5 billion euro holding of preferential shares into equity. As part of the bailout, and as part of a more comprehensive effort to reform the country’s ailing financial sector announced on Friday, the bank will need to provision additional taxpayers’ money (7-10 billion), which will come in the form of contingency bonds (CoCos). Bankia has put Spain’s financial system under scrutiny from investors and analysts worldwide who worry about the country’s capacity to strengthen its banks while adopting harsh fiscal consolidation policies in the midst of a recession. However, among the many questions raised by Bankia’s nationalization in extremis, there is one that cannot go unanswered: who is responsible?
The failure to form a coalition government in Greece this weekend has prompted risk averse trade across the asset classes this morning with publications across Europe continuing to speculate about the potential exit of Greece from the Euro-area. As a result of this the Spanish 10yr yield touched 6.2% and the respective spreads over benchmark bunds in Spain and Italy have traded as wide as 30bps so far today. The knock on effect has been a sell-off in the financials which has seen the IBEX and FTSE MIB under perform in the equity markets with a relative safe-haven bid into the USD weighing on crude futures and precious metals. Spanish t-bill auctions and a variety of lines tapped out of Italy did stem the tide after selling around the top end of their indicative ranges but focus will remain solely on Greece given a lack of tier 1 data out of the US. Moving forward the next meeting of party heads in Greece is scheduled to commence at 1730BST, however, the head of the Syriza party has already indicated he will not be attending with the leader of the democratic left suggesting he is doubtful that a coalition can be formed.
The only good news spin this morning was that the Greek, pardon Spanish contagion, has not reached Italy, after the boot-shaped country sold €5.25 in bonds this morning at rates that did not indicate a meltdown just yet. It sold its three-year benchmark at an average 3.91 percent yield, the highest since January but below market levels of around 4 percent at the time of the auction. It also sold three lines due in 2020, 2022 and 2025 which it has stopped issuing on a regular basis. And this was the good news. The bad news was the not only has the Spanish contagion reached, well, Spain, but that everything else is now coming unglued, as confirmed first and foremost by the US 10 Year which just hit a new 2012 low of 1.777%. Spain also is getting hammered with CDS hitting a record wide of 526 bps overnight, and its 10 Year hitting 6.26% after the country sold 364 and 518-Day Bills at rates much higher rates than on April 17 (2.985% vs 2.623%, and 3.302% vs 3.11%). But the highlight of the day was the Banco de Espana release of the Spanish bank borrowings from the ECB, which to nobody's surprise soared by €36 billion in one month to €263.5 billion, more than doubling in 2012 from the €119 billion at December 31.
- Default now or default later? (FT)
- Monti warns of tears in Italy's social fabric (Reuters)
- Fear Grows of Greece Leaving Euro (FT)
- Greek Elections Loom as Key Bailout Opponent Defies Unity (Bloomberg)
- Santander, BBVA to Set Aside 4.5 Billion Euros for New Cleanup (BBG) - Thank god they both passed the stress test
- Austerity Blow for Merkel in German State Election (Reuters)
- Apple Founder Wozniak to Buy Facebook Regardless of Price (Bloomberg) - so... another ponzi.
- Dimon Fortress Breached as Push From Hedging to Betting Blows Up (Bloomberg)
- Saudi and Bahrain Expected to Seek Union: Minister (Reuters)
- Obama Pitches Equal Pay to Win Women Even as Charges Drop (BBG)
All you need to read and some more.
While our earlier discussion of the implications of Greece's exit from the Euro are critical reading to comprehend the real-time game of chicken occurring in front of our eyes, JPMorgan's somewhat more quantifiable estimates of the costs and contagion, given the results of the Greek election have raised market expectations of an exit of Greece from the Euro, also provide key indicators and flows that should be monitored. Identifying what has gone wrong with Greece's co-called 'adjustment' program, they go on to identify key transmission mechanisms to Spain and Italy, how it could potentially improve (Marshall-Plan-esque) and most critically, given the exponentially growing TARGET2 balances, if and when Germany throws in the towel. Immediate (cross-border claims) losses are estimate at around EUR400 billion, but the EUR1.4 trillion of Italian and EUR1.6 trillion of Spanish bank domestic deposits is the elephant in the room which a Greek exit and the introduction of capital controls by Greece has the potential to destabilize.
Now that Europe is all the rage again, below we again summarize the key Euro-centric events through the end of the month, as well as all the sovereign bond auctions to look forward to (we use the term loosely). Finally, the squid summarizes the key events in the past week as well as the expected global catalysts in the next several days. Somehow we get the impression it will be all about the unexpected developments in the next 168 hours, especially with Spain, Italy, France and Germany coming front and center with a boatload of bond issuance as soon as 9 hours from now...
Here is the 3-point plan:
- Renounce all debts denominated in the euro, i.e. a 100% writedown.
- Accept the U.S. dollar as the national currency of Greece.
- Engage in a transparent national dialog and reach a consensus about taxation and the role of the state in the Greek society and economy.
We might add a fourth point: renounce scams and kicking problems down the road rather than addressing them directly, sweeping dysfunction under the rug, etc.
Germany is interested in the EU as a political entity, NOT the Euro as a currency. With that in mind, as well as Merkel’s recent political struggle, the stage is set for a possible exit from the Euro on the part of Germany.
Another weekend, another stunner in local European elections, this time as Merkel's CDU gets a record low vote in the state elections of Germany's most populous state North Rhein-Westphalia. According to a preliminary projections by ARD, the breakdown is as follows:
- CDU: 26%
- Pirates: 7.5%
- FDP: 8.5%
Good news: no neo-nazis. Bad news: record defeat for the Chancellor. And the bext news for twitter fans: Angela_D_Merkel ist aus. Hannelore Kraft: in.
Now that the Greek exit is back to being topic #1 of discussion, just as it was back in the fall of 2011, and the media has been flooded by groundless speculation posited by journalists who have never used excel in their lives and are merely paid mouthpieces of bigger bank interests (long live access journalism and the book sales it facilitates), it is time to rewind to a step by step analysis of precisely what will happen in the moment before Greece announces the EMU exit, how the transition from pre to post occurs, and the aftermath of what said transition would entail, courtesy of one of the smarter minds out there, Citi's Willem Buiter, who pontificated precisely on this topic last year, and whose thoughts he has graciously provided for all to read on his own website. Of course, take all of this with a huge grain of salt - these are observations by the chief economist of a bank which will likely be swept aside the second the EMU starts the post-Grexit rumble.
As suspected, yesterday's report that the Troika may be caving on Greece appears more and more as a red-herring trial balloon, leaked by the Greek press without substantiation, and which sought to lighten the tension ahead of a trading week which is already looking rather askew. Because not even a full 24 hours later, Germany fires right back with an article in the Spiegel which not only anticipates the Grexit, but what happens the day after: namely that Greece would receive further aid from the EFSF if it exited the euro. It also notes that the EFSF aid to service bonds would continue. Greece would continue to get aid as EU member as every other member state. While it is unclear if this article is in response to the WiWo piece we noted yesterday which tried to quantify the costs of a Greek impact, and which has now ominously been picked up by Die Welt, in which Germany was finally starting to get worried about the hundreds of billions in sunk costs should Greece exit, the punchline here, needless to say, is not only the contemplation of a Greek exit but that Greece would be "all taken care of" even as the newly reintroduced Drachma lost a few hundred percent in value every day as Greece stormed its way back to FX competitiveness. Spiegel's punchline: "This is to the consequences of a possible €-egress will be mitigated." Hopefully the market agrees.
Europe is heading for a showdown and in a number of places; that much can be acknowledged with certainty. The first, and perhaps the most important, is the stand-off between France and the European Commission. The EU budgetary office is demanding that France reduce its deficit to 3.00% for 2012 while the projection is for 4.50% so that the Commission is threatening France with large fines. Mr. Hollande ran his campaign upon a reduction in the retirement age, more generous pensions, shorter work hours and more governmental spending so that the budgetary miss is likely to be larger than forecast; somewhere around 5.2% in my estimation. France then finds itself, one way or another, with a larger budgetary deficit and if the EU then imposes fines and sanctions Paris may thumb its nose at Berlin/Brussels in what could be a rather nasty affair with unknown consequences. Mrs. Merkel in one corner and Mr. Hollande in another slugging it out will not make for harmonious relations. Then there are the issues of Greece and Spain and the Socialist reaction is bound to be very different than the Austerity imposition as demanded by Germany. Jawohl!