Last week it was Bank of America. This time it is the bank once again known as Margin Stanley. From the 10-Q: "In connection with certain OTC trading agreements and certain other agreements associated with the Institutional Securities business segment, the Company may be required to provide additional collateral or immediately settle any outstanding liability balances with certain counterparties in the event of a credit rating downgrade. At March 31, 2012, the following are the amounts of additional collateral, termination payments or other contractual amounts (whether in a net asset or liability position) that could be called by counterparties under the terms of such agreements in the event of a downgrade of the Company’s long-term credit rating under various scenarios: $868 million (A3 Moody’s/A- S&P); $5,177 million (Baa1 Moody’s/ BBB+ S&P); and $7,206 million (Baa2 Moody’s/BBB S&P). Also, the Company is required to pledge additional collateral to certain exchanges and clearing organizations in the event of a credit rating downgrade. At March 31, 2012, the increased collateral requirement at certain exchanges and clearing organizations under various scenarios was $160 million (A3 Moody’s/A- S&P); $1,600 million (Baa1 Moody’s/ BBB+ S&P); and $2,400 million (Baa2 Moody’s/BBB S&P)." As a reminder, on February 15 Moody's warned it’s considering downgrades of US banks and may cut Morgan Stanley as much as, you guessed it, 3 notches. Needless to say this explains why "CEO James Gorman has met with the ratings firm more often than usual in the past quarter." Net - if the firm sees a 3 notch downgrade as warned the hit will be an AIG-shudder inducing $9.6 billion, or one third of the company's market cap, and enough to leave all shareholders wishing they had exposure to Greece, and no exposure to Morgan Stanley.
While the theatrics of the Greek parliamentary elections are all good and fine, keeping the masses distracted, and will most likely provide an encore performance in just about one month as no government will likely be formed under the current configuration of elected parties, the reality is that unless something drastically changes for the better in the Greek economy, the political situation will only get more and more chaotic until finally the country succumbs to outright anarchy, and possibly far worse. Unfortunately, as history has shown us, economic depressions usually become toxic death spirals where absent major external shocks, there is no hope of recovery. Sure enough, the latest news of Greece confirms just that. As Ekathimerini reports, the real news is that while superficially change may be coming to Greece, beneath the surface absolutely nothing is improving and in fact things are getting worse as measured by two key indicators: i) vacant Athens office space, which has soared to 20% in Q1 2012 compared to 15.5% a year earlier, which means far less corporate tax revenues and business spending, and ii) the lifeblood of the Greek economy - foreign tourism - is drying up, plunging by 12.5%, as foreigners suddenly have better things to do than go to countries better known for the Syntagma Square riot cam than the beaches of Santorini. Not surprisingly, the biggest source of foreign tourists, Germany, has seen its share dry to a trickle from 15% to just 3% - one can't imagine why those called Nazis by the neo-Nazis would have reservations about spending 2 weeks in the former tourist haven. The result: far less tax revenues, far greater reliance on debt as source of cash, and an economic collapse in 2012 that will put 2011 to shame. So much for the IMF estimate of an unchanged GDP print in 2013 on which the entire second Greek bailout package was based...
New Democracy Unable To Form Government, Anti-Bailout Parties Now Get Opportunity To Eject Greece From EuroSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/07/2012 13:29 -0400
Well, that lasted far less than the three days expected:
- SAMARAS SAYS WAS UNABLE TO FORM GOVERNMENT
- SAMARAS SAYS DID ALL POSSIBLE TO FORM GOVERNMENT
- SAMARAS HANDS BACK MANDATE TO PRESIDENT PAPOULIAS
- SAMARAS SAYS AIM TO KEEP GREECE IN EURO
And now the broad-left coalition Syriza gets the mandate to form a coalition government. If successful, and with nearly 60% of the parties in parliament being anti-bailout it would not take much for differences to be resolved, all bets are off as the anti-bailout powers will finally gain control of Greece, effectively ending European control over Greece. Alternatively, if nothing is achieved, then it is very likely that Greece will have another election within 3-4 weeks. And then another. And then another.
About two years ago the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund did something truly remarkable: it invested for infinity: "Norway, which has amassed the world’s second-biggest sovereign wealth fund, says Greece won’t default on its debts. The Nordic nation’s $450 billion Government Pension Fund Global has stocked up on Greek debt, as well as bonds of Spain, Italy and Portugal. Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen says he backs the strategy, which contributed to a 3.4 percent loss on European fixed income in the second quarter, compared with gains on bonds in Asia and the Americas. Norway says its long-term perspective will protect it from losses. “One could say we are investing for infinity,” Johnsen said." Well, we all know how the experiment ended: "Norway Sovereign Wealth Fund Purges All Insolvent Eurozone Debt Holdings." So much for infinity. But that has not stopped others to boldly catch falling knives where so many other have tried to catch falling knives before, and failed. Enter Greylock Capital and various other hedge funds who are positive they have rediscovered the wheel.
In France, Hollande has the rep of having no backbone like a jelly fish (or flan). We will see what he really stands for and what he can achieve. Moreover when he tries to govern we’ll see if this election was more about picking him or dumping Sarkozy. I suspect it was more the latter... Greece is just a mess and I don’t know what model you apply to understand it. It may take a number of election iterations before the ‘people’ figure out they have a bitter pill to swallow and pick someone to figure out what it will look like.
The Greek elections culminated with the worst possible outcome: 2 votes short of a majority for the pro-bailout New Democracy and Pasok parties. So what happens next? Well - two things: expect to see random stop hunting ramps in the EURUSD and ES on false rumors that despite the math, a pro-bailout coalition government is being formed. It isn't, but it will take out all FX and ES stops to the upside first as skittish shorts get burned as usual on planted fake headlines. More importantly, and as predicted last week, we will likely see yet another Greek election as the political vacuum in Athens is likely too big to be circumvented in a few days. Below we present a summary of immediate next steps as summarized by the WSJ. Yet one thing we want to bring attention to is that as we pointed out first on Saturday, a key even over the next two weeks, during a time when Greece will most likely not have an active government in place is the May 15th maturity of €430 million in international-law bonds whose holders have not agreed to the terms of the PSI and thus demand full payment... of money that Greece does not have. Finally we already know that Norway is the biggest non-PSI compliant entity out there. So will we finally see the first Greek PSI-related lawsuit on May 16 if and when Greece fails to make a payment? We will know in 9 days whether the European soap opera gets even more exciting than usual as various European countries start suing each other in international court, especially when one of the countries will have no government for the foreseeable future.
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Eurozone won’t be destroyed in a day, but it is on a path that leads to eventual dismantling. This week we will see everyone play nice. Conciliatory words will be spoken. Growth will become the topic de jour. The markets will fall all over themselves once again on news of bank bailouts. The headlines we get in the early part of this week will once again be overwhelmingly designed to encourage people and the markets. Europe will have a new spirit of co-operation and will welcome fresh insights into the process. Growth, growth pacts, plans to grow, infrastructure growth, etc., will be talked about. There will be talk, and maybe even action on the bank recapitalization efforts. Good banks and bad banks will abound. Governments will promise money to banks at rates so low no sane investor would even consider. Ultimately these plans will fail, and we will see fresh lows on the year for stocks, with the U.S. and Germany hit hardest as justifying further bailouts for the core will be nigh on impossible, growth is not easy to achieve, and the good-bank-bad-bank model is a loser from the start.
Europe’s doomed experiment with the politics of austerity went down in flames over the weekend as voters across the region veered sharply to the left in savaging incumbents. Elections in six European nations on Sunday promised to end any pretense of fiscal sanity. However, it remains to be seen how quickly and drastically the new leaders will act to further unbalance their nations’ books, ostensibly in the name of economic growth.
Now that France has a Socialist President the story is not over, not even close to over as the next French elections, for Parliament, will roust the nation once more into the spotlight as Ms. Le Pen and her allies assume a new role, a higher ground, and as the financial situation in France deteriorates they may get an even bigger slice of the pie than thought at present. It is not just that Europe is going to be governed in a different fashion but that France will be run differently and with more difficulties I predict than currently thought. The recession and the anger directed at Germany are rousing the spirits once thought dead; France for the French, the Netherlands for the Dutch, Greece for the Greeks and soon we may find the same dreaded tale in Germany as Nationalism rings in the death knell for European unity and for the political parties that flaunted it. It is a rolling thunder all across Europe, that much is known, and the implications of it all will be felt by the people of each separate country. The dream is fading into the reality of a different sun and daylight will mask that which was dared to be dreamed years before.
After plunging by 19 points in the overnight session, and just touching the 100 DMA, ES has managed to score a recovery, one which has so far clutched at straws, namely stronger than expected German factory orders (+2.2% vs Exp. 0.5%) despite German GDP due in a week which may well push the core European country into the same double dip tsunami which has swept the resto of Europe, if it prints even a slightly negative GDP print. News from Spain that the "bad bank" bailout has started, with Bankia as the first casualty is also lifting spirits as it means that more taxpayer cash will be used to support risk assets. How long this micro euphoria of "bad news is good news" lasts is anyone's guess, but mostly that of the BIS which after failing to defend the 1.3000 EURUSD, has again managed to get the all important pair over the critical support area.
European cash equities opened sharply lower this morning following electoral uncertainties arising from various corners of Europe, notably Greece and France. Volumes also remain light as the market closure across the UK reduces the number of participants today. The mainstream political parties from Greece, PASOK and the New Democracy, failed to establish a majority this weekend as voters firmly expressed their discontent with the political establishment, evident in the rise of fringe parties. As such, the leaders of New Democracy and PASOK will now attempt to establish a coalition party with the splinter group Independent Greeks (a party notable for its anti-EU/IMF stance), due to begin as soon as today. The uncertainty in Greece’s future has taken its toll across the markets today, with EUR/USD beginning the session sub-1.3000 and all European equities trading markedly lower throughout most of the morning session. Elsewhere on the political front, Francois Hollande has won the French Presidency and is to be inaugurated on May 15th, as such; participants now look out for any comments regarding the relationship between the new French leader and German Chancellor Merkel. The Spanish government are set to make an announcement on Friday concerning the continuing troubles over the Spanish banking sector, with a government source commenting that the plans will include the creation of a 10- and 15-year ‘bad bank’. Recent trade has seen a recovery across forex and stocks as EUR/USD grinds higher and stock futures move closer to unchanged. Strong German factory orders data has helped the moves off the lowest levels, as demand from outside the Eurozone helps lift the figure above expectations of +0.5% to +2.2% for March.
- Greek pro-bailout parties lack majority, final poll results (Reuters)
- Greek Election Gridlock Raises Risk for Bailout, Euro Future (Bloomberg)
- Socialist Hollande ousts Sarkozy as French leader (Reuters)
- Merkozy End Means Franco-German Gulf; Greek Voters Rebel (Bloomberg)
- Election swing leaves Greece teetering (Kathimerini)
- Merkel's Coalition Appears to Suffer Loss in German State (WSJ)
- The Only Solution to the Eurozone Crisis (FT)
- Cameron Faces Clamour From Party Right (FT)
- Falcone’s LightSquared Said to Get Week Credit Extension (Bloomberg)
- Hungary plans three-year, 15 billion euro IMF deal: state sec (Reuters)
- Putin pledges unity on return to Kremlin (Reuters)
It was only a matter of time before the next bank bailout began despite all those promises to the contrary. Sure enough, as math always wins over rhetoric and policy, earlier this morning the shot across the Spanish bow was fired after PM Rajoy did a 180 on "no bank bailout" promises as recent as last week. From Dow Jones: "Spain may pump public funds into its banking system to revive lending and its recessionary economy, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Monday, signalling a policy U-turn. The government had pledged to not give money to the banking industry that is struggling in the wake of a collapsed, decade-long, housing boom. "If it was necessary to reactivate credit, to save the Spanish financial system, I wouldn't rule out injecting public funds, like all European countries have done," Rajoy said in interview with Onda Cero radio stations. The weakness of Spain's banks is weighing on the economy that contracted 0.3% in the first and fourth quarters, meeting most economists' definition of a recession. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year high 24.4%, data showed April 27. Banks have sharply reined in credit in the face of rapidly growing bad debt and problems getting finance on international markets." And explicitly we learn that Spain will inject EU7 bln of public funds via contingent-capital securities to support BFA-Bankia, El Confidencial reports, citing Economy Ministry officials it doesn’t name. It actually sounds cooler in the native: "El Estado inyectará 7.000 millones de dinero público para salvar BFA-Bankia." So it begins. Which also means that the "Bad Bank" idea is about to be launched. So far so good... The only problem is that like the EFSF, like the ESM, like the IMF, all those "deus ex machina(e)" also had to find funding of their own... and failed: it is one thing to intend to rescue the system. It is another to find the cash to do it with.
By the look of things, French youth are celebrating Hollande’s victory by picking up all of their friends and then driving up and down the streets honking their horns incessantly. Most cars were packed to the brim with passengers hanging out of every window and even the sunroof waving French flags, singing, or simply yelling pro-Hollande slogans.
Germany's DAX is the hardest hit so far of the major European equity markets (futures) with a drop of over 2.2% (underperforming the French CAC40 -1.5% for now). The EuroSTOXX 50 is down 2% and reflects the general state of affairs in European equity markets as they open - which is a little worse than the S&P futures market's move since the European close on Friday. European credit markets are very quiet and illiquid thanks to the UK's May-Day celebrations (and its position as hub for CDS market-making) but sovereign bonds are trading across mainland Europe and are being sold relatively hard so far. Spain, Italy, and Greece are underperforming with the former two pushing towards recent wide spreads even if yields remain off recent highs. EURUSD rallied a little off its overnight lows as Europe opens but has started to give back some of those gains. As the cash markets open there is some buying-the-dip pressure in stocks - even as govvies remain offered while financials remain under significant pressure. US equity futures and Treasuries remain in sync as ES limps a little higher off overnight lows.