Greece

Guest Post: The Fantasy of Debt: No Trade-Offs, No Sacrifices

Debt offers a compelling fantasy: there is no need for difficult trade-offs or sacrifices, everything can be bought and enjoyed now. If income is flat and interest rates already near zero, then where is the leverage for additional debt going to come from? The answer is the game of relying on ever-expanding debt is over. You can claim phantom assets and income streams as collateral for a while, but eventually the market sniffs out reality, and the phantom assets settle at their real value near zero. Once the collateral is gone, the debt is also revalued at zero, and the debtor is unable to borrow more. This is the position Greece finds itself in; the collateral and income steams have been discounted, the credit lines have been pulled, and so the reality of living within one's means is reasserting itself. Living within one's income (household or national income) requires making difficult trade-offs and sacrfices: either current consumption is sacrificed for future benefits, or the future benefits are sacrificed for current consumption. You can't have it both ways once the collateral and credit both vanish.

Obama Requests Europe Bail Out His Reelection

Color us unsurprised; but the UK's Independent is reporting that American officials are worried that if the Troika decides Greece has not done enough to meet its deficit targets, it will withhold the money - triggering Greece's exit from the eurozone weeks before the presidential election. British government sources have suggested the Obama administration is urging eurozone Governments to hold off from taking any drastic action before then - fearing the resulting market destabilization could damage President Obama's re-election prospects. The Troika are expected to report in time for an 8 October meeting of eurozone finance ministers which will decide on whether to disburse Greece's next EUR31bn aid tranche, promised under the terms of the bailout for the country. European leaders are thought to be sympathetic to the Obama lobbying, fearing that, under pressure from his party in Congress, Mitt Romney would be a more isolationist president than Mr Obama. So once again GRExit is assured economically; but it is an entirely political decision.

Greece Ready To Start Selling Its Islands

A year ago the mere mention of Greece selling its real estate, let along its prized islands, was enough to fill Syntagma square with tear gas, laser light pointers and the occasional riot dog. Now - nobody cares, which is why the statement by Greek PM Samaras that he is ready to start selling Greek islands was largely met with a yawn across the investing world.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: August 23

Reports that the ECB is discussing a new variation for sovereign bond purchases involving secret caps for interest rates failed to support  peripheral EU bonds and instead provided market participants with an opportunity to book profits following recent strong gains. As a result, 10y peripheral bonds with respect to the benchmark German Bund are wider by around 12bps, with the shorter dated 2y bonds wider by around  15bps. This underperformance by peripheral EU assets is also evident in the stock market, where the IBEX and the Italian FTSE-MIB failed to match performance of the core indices today. The latest PMI data from the Eurozone, as well as China overnight underpinned the need for more simulative measures either from respective central banks or the government. While the PBOC continues to refrain from more easing, the release of the FOMC minutes last night revealed the members favoured easing soon if no growth doesn’t pick up.

Frontrunning: August 23

  • Australian minister says resources boom is over (Reuters)
  • China dismisses reports of lost gold reserves (China Daily) - so China really did lose 80 tons of gold.
  • Inconceivable: Former JPM CEO and Chairman William B Harrison Jr come out "In Defense Of Big Banks"
  • Qantas Cancels 787 Order After Posting Annual Net Loss (Bloomberg)
  • EU Official Says Crisis is Eroding Influence (WSJ)
  • Greece Faces New Pressure on Cuts (WSJ)
  • Philippines' black market is China's golden connection (Reuters)
  • Hollande government responds to criticism (FT)
  • LG Display Starts Touch Screens Output Before New IPhone (Bloomberg)
  • Greek Crisis Evasion to Fore as Merkel Hosts Hollande in Berlin (Bloomberg)
  • Stakes rise as US warned of double-dip (FT)
  • Brazil’s Richest Woman Unmasked With $13 Billion Fortune (Bloomberg)

Citi Sees Greek Exit As Soon As September

"Prolonged economic weakness will persist - especially in the peripheral countries - with further periods of intense financial market stress" is how Citi's Willem Buiter's economics team sees the future in Europe. While they continue to believe that the probability of a Greece exit from the Euro is around 90% in the next 12-18 months; but more critically it is increasingly likely in the next six months - conceivably as soon as September/October depending on the TROIKA  report. There is a crucial series of meetings and events in coming weeks and while they believe that the ECB's conditional bond-buying (and ESM/EFSF) may help avoid a 'Lehman moment' around the GRExit, they believe that there will still be considerably capital flight out of periphery assets should it occur. The reason being simply that even if funding costs were reduced, the current mix of fiscal austerity and supply-side reform will not return any periphery country to a sustainable fiscal path in coming years.

The Truth Behind Juncker's Lies: In The Second Largest Greek City, 1250 Companies Have Shuttered In 2012

European viceroy of various neo-colonial territories Jean-Claude Juncker, best known for being a self-professed pathological liar, just concluded a press conference in which he did what he does best: lie. Here is a sampling of the soundbites along with our commentary:

  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS TRUTH IS GREECE SUFFERS CREDIBILITY CRISIS - coming from a pathological liar, this one is our favorite
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS CONVINCED GOVERNMENT WILL TAKE ALL MEASURES. "all measures" = "all gold"
  • EU'S JUNCKER: FULLY CONFIDENT GOVERNMENT TO TAKE ALL EFFORTS "all efforts" = "all gold"
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS GREECE MUST OPEN UP CLOSED PROFESSIONS.  Chimneysweep? Bootblack? Telegraph Operator? Tax Collector? Prosecutor? Uncorrupted muppet?
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS BALL IS IN GREEK COURT; IS LAST CHANCE. The ball will be repoed to the ECB shortly
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS NOT SAYING THERE WON'T EVER BE A 3RD PROGRAM or 33rd program
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS GREEK EURO EXIT WOULD BE RISK TO EURO AREA and Obama's reelections
  • EU'S JUNCKER SAYS BALL IS IN GREEK COURT; not for long: ball will soon be repoed to the ECB

And much more propaganda. Here is the truth. According to Greek Thema, in Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, so far in 2012, an unprecedented 1,250 companies have shut down. This means no jobs, no tax revenues, no money in circulation. A complete and total economic collapse.

The Gathering Storm

The easy choices are now behind us and the hard choices are in front of us and wild speculations hanging upon the syllables uttered by Mr. Draghi may bring disastrous results. In a very real sense Ms. Merkel is going to be hanged if she does and hanged if she doesn’t and it is quite difficult to find a safe place to stand when on the platform where the noose and executioner resides. The present situation has one certainty, one block of bedrock upon which you may plant your feet and that is that a storm is coming; of that you may be sure.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: August 22

European bourses are down at the North American crossover, all ten sectors in the red, on thin volumes and a distinct lack of data and news flow from the EU and the UK. The risk-off tone in part attributed to the much wider than expected Japanese trade deficit for July, whose exports also fell the most in six months, raising investor concern once again that Asian economy as a whole is stalling. Elsewhere, investor caution over the Greek debt crisis is once again mounting, as EU’s Juncker visits Athens today to meet with the Greek PM Samaras. Overnight it was reported that Greece would present EUR 13.5bln in budget cuts today, higher than the previous EUR 11.5bln, and whilst the country is not asking for more money, Samaras might request more time to implement them. Lawmakers in Netherlands remain critical of providing more aid for the country and continue to push for more reforms, such as spending cuts and privatization, with the Dutch Finance Minister de Jaeger commenting earlier that it is not a good idea for Greece to get more time.

Frontrunning: August 22

  • Merkel's Dilemma: Risk Euro Zone or Her Government (WSJ)... as first suggest by ZH 2 months ago, with only one resolution: referendum
  • Russia warns West over Syria after Obama threats (Reuters)
  • Consider keeping Bernanke, Romney adviser Glenn Hubbard says (Reuters)... Glenn Hubbard is the star of the movie Inside Job
  • Spain Deficit Goals at Risk as Cuts Consensus Fades (Bloomberg)
  • Czech Austerity Revolt Threatens Cabinet as Slump Bites (Bloomberg)
  • Greek cuts to be deeper than trailed (FT)
  • Akin rebuffs Romney, Republican calls to quit Senate race (Reuters)
  • Obama Leads Romney in Poll Showing Disdain for Congress (Bloomberg)
  • Greece needs more time to reform, PM Samaras tells paper (Reuters)
  • UK banks face scandal over toxic insurance products (Reuters)
  • Iceland Shelves Monetary Tightening as Krona Seen Appreciating (Bloomberg)
  • India Considers $35 Billion Debt Revamp After Biggest Blackout (Bloomberg)

Overnight Sentiment: Back To Zombie Mode

Hopes that today may finally see an increase in trading volatility and volume following yesterday's reversal session will likely be dashed as the event wasteland on the horizon continues for the third day in a row. As DB explains, the FOMC meeting minutes and Juncker’s visit to Athens are likely the two main sources for key headlines today. While backward looking and certainly predating Lockhart's hawkish comments from yesterday, the FOMC minutes today are expected to shed further light on the kind of policy currently under consideration and the economic conditions required before easing is warranted. One thing that will not be discussed is the circularity of launching more QE even as gas prices have never been higher on this day in history, soy and corn are back at all time highs, and the market trading at multi-year highs. As repeatedly explained before, the option for the FOMC include pushing out the targeted exit date for fed funds, providing “exit guidance” on balance sheet measures (i.e. asset sales), various mixes of additional balance sheet expansion (including the possibility of an open-ended QE program) and  cutting interest on reserves. It is virtually certain that none of these will be enacted at the Jackson Hole meeting in one week, 2 months ahead of the presidential election, but hope springs eternal.

Guest Post: Greeks Want To Stay In The Euro? Why Don’t They Move To Germany?

The fact that labour mobility is low in Europe is indicative of a fundamental problem. In any currency union or integrated economy it is necessary that there is enough mobility that people can emigrate from places where there is excess labour (the periphery) to places where labour is in short supply. Now, there is free movement in Europe, which is an essential prerequisite to a currency union. But the people themselves don’t seem to care for utilising it. Why? I can theorise a few potential reasons people wouldn’t want to move — displacement from friends and family, moving costs, local attachment.  Yet none of those reasons are inapplicable to the United States. However there are two reasons which do not apply in the United States — language barriers and national loyalty. It is those reasons, I would suggest, that are preventing Europe from really functioning as a single economy with a higher rate of labour mobility. The people who built the Euro realised that such problems existed, but decided to adopt a cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it approach. But long-term and deep-seated issues like language barriers and nationalistic sentiment cannot simply be eroded away in a day with an economic policy instrument. No bond-buying bazooka can smooth the underlying reality that Europe — unlike the United States — is not a single country.

What Happened After Europe's Last Three Currency "Unions" Collapsed

It may come as a surprise to some of our younger readers, that the Eurozone, and its associated currency, is merely the latest in a long series of failed attempts to create a European currency union and a common currency. Three of the most notable predecessors to the EUR include the Hapsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. Obviously, these no longer exist. Just as obvious, all of these unions, having spent time, energy, money, and effort to change the culture and traditions of member countries and to perpetuate said unions, had no desire, just like Brussels nowadays, to see these unions implode. The question then is: what happened after these multi-nation currency unions fails. VOX kindly answers: "they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation."