Greece

Surveying The Landscape

Look around. Take a good long and hard look because the data is becoming unsettling and it is pouring in from all over the world. In China, where a hard landing was thought to have been avoided; one moment please, not so fast. The world’s growth engine is sputtering and there will be consequences. In Europe the situation is dramatically worsening with virtually every country in a recession with the notable exception of Germany though we predict they will join the club by the fourth quarter of this year or by the first quarter of next year. For those that think that the Fed will save the day, if not the planet, we suggest to you that you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There is only so much they can do now and each Fed action is being met by a less and less reaction in the markets and of a shorter duration.

Overnight Sentiment: Turning

The markets have been treading water over the past week, yet courtesy of the non-existant volume and the lack of sellers, VWAP algos have been levitating the S&P ever higher despite the lack of any new or credible reason for it to do so. Call it the Merkel vacation doldrums. It is so slow in Europe even Rajoy - now the gatekeeper for the next European phase of sovereign bailouts - is soaking in the sun somewhere, whether or not he may want to return to his job is another matter. As Reuters reports, his popularity is plummeting meaning the government will not survive if and when Rajoy demands a Spanish bailout: "Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces a cloudy return from his short summer break as his expected request for European aid in September will spur protests on the street and deepen cracks emerging in his conservative People's Party... According to an official poll released this week, if a general election were to take place now, Rajoy's People's Party would still win but would get only a 36.6 percent of the vote, down from 40.6 percent in a poll in May and 44.6 percent in the November vote." Which in turn means that Spain demanding a bailout could well mean a violent government overthrow and a follow through mimicking precisely what we saw in Greece, with the opposition party set to undo any bailout request by Rajoy (who knows all of this). In the meantime Bloomberg confirms that sentiment in Europe is resuming its turn as European markets fall led by the Spanish and Italian markets, 10yr yields in those countries rise. Chinese import & export data and French industrial production data were below estimates earlier. The euro is weaker against the dollar and commodity prices fall led by industrial metals. U.S. import price data is released later.

ECB Re-Regurgitates Draghi As Greek Unemployment Rises To New Record, China Deteriorates With No Easing In Sight

It has been a quiet session overnight (and that will continue until the Germans come back from vacation) punctuated by Mario Draghi's attempt to jawbone the market into submission again, this time following the release of the ECB monthly report in which it basically regurgitated Draghi's still misunderstood speech in it said it may buy bonds if strict conditionality is ensured, the same conditionality that Spain said it would not comply with, yet which European bond traders continue to misunderstand, because Spain will not request a bailout as long as its 10 Years are trading below 8% yield. Of course, nobody wants to sell first, until the selling actually begins. Then it will be waterfall. In other news Greek industrial production rose by a tiny amount from below sea level, rising by 0.3% in June following a 2.9% decline previously. This however must be due to the Greek workers' enhanced efficiency - Greek unemployment just rose yet again to the mindblowing 23.1%, from 22.6% - a new all time high (with youth unemployment just 45% away from 100%). And so the race between Spain and Greece over who can hit 50% unemployment first continues. Another notable economic milestone was crossed after the IFO institute euro-area economic climate indicator declined for first time this year, pushing the EURUSD to just above 1.2300. There were also more bad news from the UK whose trade deficit widened more than expected hitting GBP10.1 billion vs GBP8.7 billion estimated, with a record GBP28.3 billion good deficit, led by oil, cars and chemicals. In other news the European collapse continues unabated, yet the market which has long been nothing but a central bank policy tool and no longer discounts anything is perfectly oblivious to what is happening. There was one notable final change: the Chinese economy accelerated its own deterioration, and this time, courtesy of the specter of soaring food prices and a CPI print above estimates, it is very much powerless to even threaten with more easing.

Waiting For The Vampires

You may recall that one of the “tricks of the trade” was the use of people in the audience. They stood up and claimed that they had taken the magic potion and were cured of rheumatism, arthritis, cancer and that ninety year old Uncle Elijah and been able to throw away his cane after imbibing the stuff. This may remind you of what is going on in Europe presently as politicians from each and every nation claim that the newest European snake oil will cure the ailments of Europe for all time, for forever and for always. Yes, well, the printing of money has a cost besides the paper and brandishing yourself as the next new Savior of Europe is the trick of Kings and countless empires on the Continent and yet here we are after being saved so many times in the past. So I will tell you this; you produce the Vampire and then I will buy the garlic and we’ll leave it at that!

Frontrunning: August 8

  • Regulators irate at NY action against Standard Chartered (Reuters)
  • Recession Generation Opts To Rent Not Buy Houses To Cars (Bloomberg)
  • Egypt launches air strikes on militants in Sinai (Reuters)
  • Loan-Shark Lending Surge Feared In Japan (Bloomberg)
  • US seeks $3bn for Sudan oil deal (FT)
  • Home Prices Climb as Supply Dwindles (WSJ)... not really- just money laundering in the form of ultra luxury home purchases soars
  • A lifeline is thrown to the periphery - Smaghi (FT)
  • Standard and Who? Greece Credit-Rating Outlook Lowered by S&P as Economy Weakens (Bloomberg)
  • BOE Cuts Growth Forecast, Sees Inflation Below Goal in Two Years (Bloomberg)
  • S&P Takes CreditWatch Actions On Four Spanish Banks (Reuters)
  • Japan Gets Reprieve as Drop in Oil Eases Trade Impact (Bloomberg)

Europe's Scariest Chart In More Detail

While the surging unemployment rates across Europe are the most troublesome for politicians (and the extreme youth unemployment even more so), if we take a closer and more 'local' view of the stress, it is interestingly more regional than national. While Spain and Greece stand out, the unemployment rate, as analyzed in the chart below by Flute Thoughts blog, does not follow national borders. Northern Italy, for example, seems to have more in common with the German-speaking regions of Europe than with Southern Italy; France appears more peripheral than core; and the former eastern Germany still has not caught up with the west (so much for fiscal integration). Eastern Europe also has some striking differences as we suspect the ovals are slowly collapsing in on themselves as the reality of lower revenues from more unemployed procyclically pulls the euro-zone into depression.

Europe's Mountainous Divide And Why Draghi's Words Fixed Nothing

Two weeks ago we noted the transmission channels that Mr. Draghi had pointed out having become broken, clearly enunciating the chasm that is developing in the interbank market. Goldman's Huw Pill takes this a step further and notes a 'red line'  - running along the Pyrenees and the Alps - that has descended with banks south of this line having difficulty accessing Euro interbank markets, whereas banks north of that line remain better integrated and retain market access. This is the exact segmentation that Draghi worries is interfering with policy transmission (and thus affecting macroeconomic outcomes - in his view). Banks in the periphery have been 'red-lined' and while last week's ECB announcements initiated a policy response to this segmentation, the obvious (to anyone who actually comprehends the situation) reality is that ECB purchases of government bonds does not eliminate this 'red line'; only convincing markets through fundamental adjustment (fiscal consolidation, structural reform, and institutional building) will the red-line be lifted. This is highly improbable in the short-term and means an expectation of more direct intervention in bank funding markets (with all its encumbrance) will occur soon enough (and perhaps that is why European financial credit is underperforming).

Meet The "Labor Pool" - The Greek Version Of The Permanent Paid Vacation

Moments ago, members of the Greek government, which likely won't last long once the thorny issue of "math" returns and not even selling Bills to local banks (which promptly repo said Bills back to the Greek central bank) so the country can fund its payment to the ECB via an ECB guaranteed ELA payment from a Greek central Bank (confused yet) satisfies the New Normal ponzi math, made a strong statement: the country will not let any more public workers go:

  • VENIZELOS SAYS STICKS TO PLEDGE NO LAYOFFS IN PUBLIC SECTOR
  • KOUVELIS SAYS CAN'T ADD MORE UNEMPLOYED TO RANKS

The reason for this pledge is obvious: the last thing the country's new rulers need is more anger in the ranks as people demand a new government, which in turn will bring back Drachma redenomination risk. So what is the Greek solution instead? Simple: enter the labor pool, or the Greek version of the Permanent Paid Vacation, or akin to America's 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.