Leading all others “by the nose through the ring.”
After about an hour’s worth of air traffic congestion delays around JFK airport, I finally departed New York City yesterday evening en route for Vilnius, Lithuania… one of my favorite inconspicuous corners of Europe. The route took me through Helsinki, Finland for a brief connection, and I was on the ground long enough to witness something truly bizarre: a complete and utter lack of people. I could practically count on two hands the number of passengers milling around the airport this morning during peak business hours… it was almost something out of a zombie movie. Ordinarily I would have seen hundreds, thousands of people… and I have in the past as I’ve traversed this route many times before. And no, today was not a holiday.
Some interesting food for thought.
"The art of life is the art of avoiding pain." ~ We'll see how this goes.
One of the biggest caveats from yesterday's Greek election result was that Pasok announced it would only participate in a broad coalition government that includes Syriza. Obviously Syriza promptly turned down the offer, which has now put the ball back in the court of the Pasok leader - Venizeloz. Being a career politicians, and knowing quite well what the final outcome of the Greek fiasco would be, it was only a matter of time before the former minister of defense, finance, and yes, sport, would flip flop, and hint that a government of just ND and Pasok would also work, as the alternative is just too harsh to even consider. In other words, we may shortly get a repeat of the precisely same leadership that brought Greece to 23% unemployment and a completely destroyed financial and economic system, with Veni back in the role of finance minister once again.
In spite of the fact that 85% of Greeks want to stay in the Eurozone, I was reasonably confident that Greeks would support Syriza to a first-place finish, and elect a new government willing to play chicken with the Germans. However Greeks — predominantly the elderly — rejected change (and possible imminent Drachmatization) in favour of the fundamentally broken status quo. But although Syriza finished second, the anti-bailout parties still commanded a majority of the votes. And New Democracy may still face a lot of trouble building a coalition to try to keep Greece in the bailout, and in the Euro . There has long been a rumour that Tsipras wanted to lose, so as to (rightly) blame the coming crush on the status quo parties. What fewer of us counted on was that the status quo parties wouldn’t want to win the election either. The pro-bailout socialists Pasok have thrown a monkey wrench into coalition-building by claiming they won’t take part in any coalition that doesn’t also include Syriza. This seems rational; when the tsunami hits, all parties in government will surely take a lot of long-term political damage. Pasok have already been marginalised by the younger and fierier Syriza, and Pasok presiding over an economic collapse (for that is undoubtedly what Greece now faces) would surely have driven Pasok into an abyss. The economy is such a poisoned chalice that parties seem willing to fight to keep themselves out of power.
Any hopes that Germany may bend and allow Greece a little leeway in its bailout negotiations, buying at least a little goodwill with its people have just been dashed. Not only that, but readers may recall last week's Die Zeit article that a third Greek bailout may be in the workd. Well, forget it. From Reuters:
- GERMANY'S MERKEL SAYS CANNOT ACCEPT ANY LOOSENING OF AGREED REFORM PLEDGES IN GREECE AFTER ELECTION
- MERKEL SAYS DOES NOT SEE ANY REASON TO SPEAK ABOUT A NEW AID PACKAGE FOR GREECE ON TOP OF THE TWO ALREADY AGREED
- GERMANY'S MERKEL EXPECTS QUICK FORMATION OF NEW AND STABLE GOVERNMENT IN GREECE
Good luck with that, and good luck to everyone whose entire investing strategy is based on the assumption that Germany will blink when it comes to Greece.
With the majority of young (and middle-aged for that matter) voters in Greece moving away from the mainstream parties as they become disillusioned about their futures, today brings together two sides of the potential reaction (one of hope and one of despair). In an 80-second clip, we hear the truth that "leaving the country is a real prospect for a lot of young people unfortunately right now" as they are left with the difficult choice of whether to "Leave Greece or stay here and try to live on EUR300-400 per month". Perhaps it is the comment that "Austerity is not the solution, Austerity is the problem" that best summarizes their feelings and perhaps leads to the other 'extreme' side of the Greek youth reaction. As neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, celebrated their consolidating election performance yesterday with another attack on an immigrant. A Pakistan national was stabbed last night at Attiki train station. A video, taken from a mobile phone, shows a number of youths, confirmed by eye witnesses as Golden Dawn supporters, kicking someone on the floor. As the video ends, two of the youths can clearly be heard talking, with one asking the other if he used his knife, with the assailant confirming this by saying "it went all the way in". Whether it is the cuts of budgets via austerity or the cuts of the Golden Dawn supporters' attacks, it is clear that Greece is on a knife's edge and this election merely delays the inevitable exit (or further raises the potential - as we have been concerned about for over a year - of real civil unrest and chaos ensuing).
Following the nationalization of YPF several months ago, Argentina's recent anti-private industry overtures largely fell off the map. Until the last few days, when bondholders of Spanish gambling company Company have seen their holdings seemingly disappear in a big Greece vortex (modern parlance for infinite drain of wealth): the reason - bonds plunged on speculation the Argentina gaming industry may be next to go under sovereign control. From Bloomberg: "Bonds from Codere, the Spanish gambling company that depends on Argentina for more than half its earnings, are the world’s worst-performing euro-denominated notes on speculation President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may seize the South American country’s gaming industry. Yields on the company’s 660 million euros of bonds due 2015 climbed 496 basis points last week to 18.97 percent. The performance was the worst among more than 2,000 securities tracked by BAML’s Euro High Yield and EMU Corporate indexes." The problem: should already highly leveraged Codere's Argentina operations be indeed nationalized, the bond will almost likely be Corzined, with recoveries which we expect will be comparable to those of Sino Forest.
From Deutsche Bank, below is a list of key events to watch over the next several weeks – events that could have bearing on how the euro sovereign debt crisis evolves. Of particular note: in the next 6 weeks there are 18 or so days on which Spain, Italy or, yes, Greece will be issuing debt. Have that espresso machine ready.
One European think tank which has been spot on in its skepticism over the past two years, is OpenEurope. Below they share their views on the next steps for Greece.
It is the Great Game. They try to lure you into their various traps; I try to keep you out. They offer headlines from countless sources and I try to tell you what things really mean. They make use of a giant propaganda machine and I chant alone in the wilderness. They make up stories and present them as accurate data and I try to give you the facts. They want your money and I want you to “Preserve your Capital.” They are as diabolical in their pursuits as Professor Moriarty was in his. They are the political masterminds and I am a sort of Sherlock Holmes trying to analyze and conclude one case after the other. You may listen or you may not but I pay for my own supper while others ask for their compensation first. It is their Game, my Game; it is the Great Game.
The Spanish precedent is indeed spreading, and as noted here previously a week ago, the Irish demand to get equitable treatment may be about to be granted:
- TROIKA CONSIDERS CHANGING IRISH BAILOUT TERMS, RTE SAYS
- BROADCASTER RTE DOESN'T CITE SOURCES FOR BAILOUT REPORT
So most likely just a trial balloon to see the European response. But why not? What is the downside: Europe blinked and now it is up to the peripherals to demand the same. Next up: Portugal, Greece (again), and again... Spain. And so on, until the socialist utopia finally does run out of other people's money.
Relief in the markets, after the worst case scenario from the Greek elections was averted, proved to be decidedly short-lived. Although the pro-bailout New Democracy party came in first with 129 seats (with an additional 50 seat bonus) the markets still await confirmation of an actual working coalition given a caretaker government has been in place now for approximately two months. A degree of uncertainty in regards to the demands the new coalition will place on negotiating the country's bailout terms has resulted in many investors being unwilling to get their toes wet just yet. Away from the election fever, rising Spanish yields continue to spook the market with the 10yr yield breaching the 7% level, prompting aggressive re-widening of the 10yr government bond yield spreads. The move comes at a crucial time for Spain as they look to come to market tomorrow in 12 and 18 month bills followed by three shorter dated bonds to be tapped this Thursday. Meanwhile, the FX markets have reflected the shift in sentiment with EUR/USD well off its overnight highs and the USD index firmly supported by the prevailing flight to quality bid. However, the biggest currency move of the day came in the early hours after the rupee (INR) weakened substantially following the RBI's decision to leave rates on hold, this coupled with Fitch changing the country's outlook to negative from stable has kept the currency under pressure throughout the day.