Previewing The Dutch Elections

Even in the face of worsening odds of re-election (no sitting government has been returned to power in EU elections since the start of the crisis) one would expect national governments to do what is necessary to maintain current stability. The ultimate arbiter of burden sharing capacity, or whether the Euro will continue on the steady incremental path to integration, is whether regular voters vote for it. Hence the importance of elections, like the Dutch election this week. The anti-austerity Socialist Party (SP) has gained significant ground on the incumbent VVD party - focusing the market's attention on the willingness of the Dutch to meet the 3% of GDP deficit targets in 2013. The two 'extreme' parties look set to gain considerably more seats, and either a very broad coalition would be required, including a tail of small parties, or all four mainstream parties will have to participate in the new government: either way, government stability might be questionable. The scenario troubling markets is the potential for a long government formation process coinciding with the euro area’s need to fight the crisis and progress communal policies - though in the last week or two, support for the SP has declined. With the 2013 budget an immediate test, a 'new' Dutch government faces decisions over Greece, Cyprus, EFSF bond buying, and a common-bank supervisory body - none of which have anything like majority support across the coalitions.

Guest Post: As The Euro Tumbles, Spaniards Look To Gold

The unremitting deterioration of the eurozone’s sovereign debt landscape continues to fuel uncertainties about the longevity of the euro as a hard currency. Such uncertainties are not only leading to capital flight from the EMU’s periphery to the core and destabilizing markets worldwide, but they are also beginning to frighten southern European savers into seeking refuge outside their 10-year-old currency. Such is the case of Spain – the latest tumbling economy to threaten the euro’s survival. As the crisis deepens, there is still a window of opportunity for Spaniards to turn to gold as a means to protect their wealth against the risks of increased foreign exchange volatility, forced re-denomination, or even a total currency collapse.

There Must Be Some Way Out Of Here

There is a Transfer Union underway in Europe. While Germany has tried to avoid this at all costs, Europe, has found a clever way of implementing such a program and keeping it under the radar from the German citizens. In Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy the ECB has implemented a program where the sovereign guarantees some bank’s bonds. The bank then pledges them as collateral at the ECB and gets cash. The bank then turns around and lends the money back to the sovereign nation and provides liquidity and economic sustenance. The Transfer Union is completed as Germany guarantees 22% of the ECB and the European Central Bank is nothing more than a conduit to lend money to the various nations. This contrivance is also not sterilized so that the ECB is, in fact, printing money. In a very real sense the ECB is the only fully operational part of the European construct at present as the European Union does not have the “political will” to carry out its mandate.

Europe's Most Parabolic Chart Resumes Climb As German TARGET2 Claims Rise To Just Shy Of $1 Trillion

Perhaps one of the best advance indicators of the market respite that took place in August was the slowdown in Bundesbank TARGET2 claims, which until then had been rising at an exponential pace, only to see its first monthly sequential decline since 2011, dropping €1.4 billion. Now that August is gone, and the vacation that brought Europe to a merciful halt is over, the time to resume sucking Germany dry in order to fund current account (and other) deficits is back, and sure enough the just reported Bundesbank August update of TARGET2 claims shows that the increase is back. At a record €751.4 billion (or just shy of $1 trillion at today's exchange rate), Germany funded the periphery, mostly Spain with record €415Bn in liabilities, Italy with a record €280Bn, Greece at €105Bn, via the transfer of public risk to private sector benefit (sunk "public" Buba costs are a concurrent benefit to the German export sector) to the tune of over €1 billion each work day, with a total monthly increase of €24 billion in August. Look for this number to resume its astronomic rise as the periphery realizes its inventories needs restocking and that it needs to import German stuff using Bundesbank liabilities that will never be satisfied.

Frontrunning: September 10

  • China Output Growth Slows as Leadership Handover Looms (Bloomberg); Weak China trade data raises Beijing spending stakes (Reuters)
  • Italy Q2 GDP revised down to -0.8% year-on-year on weak domestic demand (Economic Times)
  • Troika disagreed with €2 billion in Greek "cuts" (Reuters)
  • No Greek bottom in sight yet: Greek IP, Manufacturing Output plunge compared to year earlier (WSJ)
  • France's Hollande sees 2013 growth forecast about 0.8 pct (Reuters), France plots tax hikes of up to 20 bln euros (Reuters)
  • Euro Crisis Faces Tests in German Court, Greek Infighting (Bloomberg)
  • Geithner sells more AIG stock (FT)
  • Japan infuriates China by agreeing to buy disputed isles (Reuters)
  • Euro crisis to worsen, Greece could exit euro: Swedish FinMin Anders Borg (Economic Times)
  • ‘Lead or leave euro’, Soros tells Germany (FT)
  • German MP makes new court complaint against euro plans (Reuters)
  • Obama super-Pac in push to raise $150m (FT)

Preview Of The Action-Packed Week Ahead And Overnight Recap

Suddenly the delicate balancing of variables is once again an art and not a science, ahead of a week packed with binary outcomes in which the market is already priced in for absolute perfection. Per DB: We have another blockbuster week ahead of us so let's jump straight into previewing it. One of the main highlights is the German Constitutional Court's ruling on the ESM and fiscal compact on Wednesday. On the same day we will also see the Dutch go to the polls for the Lower House elections. Thursday then sees a big FOMC meeting where the probabilities of QE3 will have increased after the weak payrolls last Friday. The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors will meet on Thursday in Mexico before the ECOFIN/Eurogroup meeting in Cyprus rounds out the week on Friday. These are also several other meetings/events taking place outside of these main ones. In Greece, PM Samaras is set to meet with representatives of the troika today, before flying to Frankfurt for a meeting with Draghi on Tuesday. The EC will also present proposals on a single banking supervision mechanism for the Euro area on Tuesday. If these weren't enough to look forward to, Apple is expected to release details of its new iPhone on Wednesday. In summary, it will be a good week to test the theory that algos buy stocks on any flashing red headlines, no longer even pretending to care about the content. Think of the cash savings on the algo "reading" software: in a fumes-driven market in which even the HFTs no longer can make money frontrunning and subpennyiong order flow, they need it.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm - Such As "The Hitchcock Zoom" Vs Reality

Ken Burns and Alfred Hitchcock are movie makers. 'The Ken Burns Effect' - panning and zooming to focus attention on a certain isolated piece of the full picture; and the 'Hitchcock Zoom' - a 'shocking' dramatic change in perspective; keep the viewer occupied and entertained by material that would otherwise look a little staid and to ensure that attention is paid to the precise piece of the picture that the director wishes to be the center of focus. As Grant Williams ruminates on the Draghi Scheme (The Dreme), the devices of Burns and Hitchcock came to mind as central bankers attempt to either unsettle the viewers or make them focus on a specific part of the whole, rather than the big picture. For the last eighteen months, we, the viewers, have been manipulated by a seemingly never-ending procession of Eurocrats, bureaucrats, technocrats and who-said-thats to look at a very precise part of the economic picture rather than be allowed to step back and try to take in the wider situation. Accordingly, we thought this week we would take a step back, ignore where the Ken Burns Effect of Draghi’s words were pointing our attention, turn a blind eye to the conflicting rhetoric emanating from the various actors in the Theater of the Absurd and concentrate on the big picture - to try and make sense of the broader reality in Greece, Spain, TARGET2, and The Dreme. It damned near gave us vertigo.

Greek Neo-Nazi Party Surges To Third In Polls, As Anti-Bailout Syriza Back On Top

While there is still some debate whether the proper alternative nomenclature of the Greek ultranationalist party Golden Dawn is "neo-nazi", there is no debate that the party, which is a manifestation of every broken Greek hope and dream, after posting a shocking result in the recent Greek parliamentary election which saw it coming in fifth and entering parliament after, continues to soar in popularity and is now the third most popular party in Greece with 12% of the vote. Above it are only two other parties: the conservative New Democracy which won the June elections with 29.6% of the vote, which is now down to 28%, and on top, in an ominous development for EUR-bulls, is the anti-bailout and anti-memorandum leftist coalition Syriza, which has threatened to end the bailout, and effectively to take Greece out of the Eurozone, setting off the much dreaded dominoes.

54% Of Germans Hope Krimson Kardinals Just Say "Nein" To ESM, As Greece Is Once Again On The Edge

There are two key events in the coming week: first, on September 12, is the decision of the German Constitutional Court, aka the Krimson Kardinals of Karlsruhe, whether the ESM, or the ECB's primary market bond monetization program, is legal. A no vote would severely cripple the European "make it up as you go along" bailout and leave Europe's peripheral nations with little recourse, and Spain with even less cash as it faces a wall of bond maturities in both October and 2013. Then, on Thursday, the Federal Reserve will most likely underwhelm the market which is expecting a new substantial round of outright Asset Purchases, aka NEW QE, which however as we explained will almost certainly not occur due to various reason first described here last Friday. A third, and perhaps far more important event, will be the Dutch parliamentary election also on September 12, but more on that in a further post. For now, looking at Germany, and the piecemeal attempt to put back together the European house of monetary cards, we find that in Germany - the country taksed with funding the European implosion - the population has decided, by a 2 to 1 margin - that the constitutional court should just say "nein" to the ESM, and let Europe go on its merry way without German backing (because as a reminder, the primary source of ESM funding is Germany). From Spiegel: "A survey shows that the majority of Germans hope that the judges in Karlsruhe reject the permanent rescue fund ESM. 54% want a reversal of the Bundestag decisions on the ESM and Fiscal Pact, which should be legally halted. Only 25% believe that the court should dismiss the urgent appeals of the Euro-skeptics."

Suddenly, Nobody In Europe Wants The ECB Bailout

It took the ECB a year of endless behind the scenes Machiavellian scheming to restart the SMP program (which was conceived by Jean-Claude Trichet in May 2010, concurrent with the first Greek bailout). The markets soared with euphoria that this time will be different, and that the program which is a masterclass in central planning paradox, as it is "unlimited" yet "sterilized", while based on "conditions" none of which have been disclosed, and will somehow be pari passu for new bond purchases while it retains seniority for previous purchases of Greek and other PIGS bonds, will work - it won't, and the third time will not be the charm as we showed before. Yet it has been just 48 hours since the "bailout" announcement and already Europe is being Europe: namely, it turns out that nobody wants the bailout.

A Bright Future For Greeks:"Now I Clean Swedish Shit"

One look at the short squeeze in the EURUSD, coupled with the endless jawboning out of Europe, and one may be left with the faulty impression that Europe has been magically fixed and that Greece couldn't be more delighted to remain in the Eurozone. One would be wrong. This is what is really going on in Europe: "As a pharmaceutical salesman in Greece for 17 years, Tilemachos Karachalios wore a suit, drove a company car and had an expense account. He now mops schools in Sweden, forced from his home by Greece’s economic crisis.“It was a very good job,” said Karachalios, 40, of his former life. “Now I clean Swedish s---." That more or less explains everything one needs to know about the "fixing" of Europe.

When Unlimited Has Limits

In very real terms the ECB is now no longer an independent institution. The ECB has promised not to act unless the EU assents. The ECB is now totally subject to the whims of the politicians in Europe and whether the markets ignore this for the moment or not that is the truth of it. In promising redemption the ECB has also traded away its ability to act on its own and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The Post Globalized World Part 2: Why The PIGS Are (Still) Out Of Luck

A world of ongoing global integration leads to rising global trade and to rising competition between companies from different countries and to some degree also between the countries themselves. Some countries have benefited from rising global trade and strengthened their positions, expressed by rising trade surplus; other countries have come under pressure, expressed by rising trade deficit. These global trade imbalances are a consequence of competitive differences. Deutsche Bank note that investors invest in companies and the countries are the platform of the companies. Therefore, an understanding of global competiveness of countries is key for investors. It is most helpful to look at the combination of competiveness and hourly wages. The more competitive a country is, the higher its wages can be justified. There is a clear relation between the two variables. Countries below the regression curve have a strong competiveness rank relative to their labour costs while countries above the curve have a lower competiveness rank relative to their labour costs. Greece is one of the most extreme outliers, but Italy, Spain, and Argentina are also above the curve. They have a long way to go to get close to competitive - but then again - why would they care?