Gross Domestic Product
Today, without much fanfare, US debt to GDP hit 101% with the latest issuance of $32 billion in 2 Year Bonds. If the moment when this ratio went from double to triple digits is still fresh in readers minds, is because it is: total debt hit and surpassed the most recently revised Q4 GDP on January 30, or just three weeks ago. Said otherwise, it has taken the US 21 days to add a full percentage point to this most critical of debt sustainability ratios: but fear not, with just under $1 trillion in new debt issuance on deck in the next 9 months, we will be at 110% in no time. Still, this trend made us curious to see who has been buying (and selling) US debt over the past year. The results are somewhat surprising. As the chart below, which highlights some of the biggest and most notable holders of US paper, shows, in the period December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2011, there have been two very distinct shifts: those who are going all in on the ponzi, and those who are gradually shifting away from the greenback, and just as quietly, and without much fanfare of their own, reinvesting their trade surplus in something distinctly other than US paper. The latter two: China and Russia, as we have noted in the past. Yet these are more than offset by... well, we'll let the readers look at the chart and figure out it.
Highly paid shills for the status quo on Wall Street have recently been wheeled out to observe the fundamental ugliness of western government bonds. They are correct. This is an asset class that has managed to defy the laws of economics in becoming ever more expensive even as its supply swells. Their response has been to recommend piling into stocks instead. The logic here is not so pristine. If Napier's thesis is correct, the West faces a period of outright deflation, which will be deeply traumatic for exactly the sort of speculative stocks that have lately done so well. Admittedly, the picture is confused, and prone to all sorts of political horseplay, as observers of the long-running euro zone farce can attest. Nevertheless, when faced with a) huge underlying uncertainties; b) structurally unsound banking and government finances; and c) central banks determinedly priming the monetary pumps, we conclude that the last free lunch in investment markets remains diversification. G7 government bond markets are a waste of time (though you may end up being cattle-prodded into them regardless). But there are still investment grade sovereign markets offering positive real yields. Stock markets are partying like 1999. Which, in many cases, it probably is. We would normally advise to enjoy the party but dance near the door.
Much has been written of the dramatic drop in the Debt/GDP multiplier, or Keynesian accelerator, over the last few years that shows the marginal utility of adding more debt produces less and less growth (and in fact can become a drag). More debt to solve too much debt seems put to bed as a solution except in the surreal world of central bankers and politicians. Well, with all the hoop-la today for the 'peek' over Dow 13000 and our discussion of the nominal versus real 'value' of the Dow as central banks of the world have printed $7tn into existence in the last few years, we thought an examination of the marginal utility of central bank printing would be useful. The depressing truth is that, using Gold as a proxy for central bank ebullience, the impact of implicit devaluation (or explicit printing) by central banks is having a smaller and smaller impact on stock market (asset) prices. Since the lows in March 2009, the impact of central bank intervention on the Dow has rapidly diminished from over 20 Dow points per $1 Gold move to only 2 Dow points per $1 Gold move in the last few months. What is dramatically clear is that investors are losing 'value' even as they see their brokerage statements rise and while Gas prices will inevitably slap reality into their faces, perhaps just as the Debt/GDP multiplier signaled the Keynesian Endgame, then the Gold/Dow multiplier signals the Currency-Wars Endgame - or alternatively, Central Banks will have to go exponential in their extreme experimentation to fulfill equity-holder's hopes and dreams as they approach their event horizon.
The ECB needs to convert its bonds so that they can be addressed separately. So far, there is no indication on Bloomberg, which gets its bond information from trustees, that this has been done. The outstanding amounts of existing GGB and Greece (Greek and English law bonds) hasn’t changed. Greece has to implement a retroactive collective action law. With some luck, they will implement that, before the ECB actually converts their bonds. As we’ve written before, both of those actions are likely to be challenged. There are many concerns: that the PSI is such a mess, or that Greece continues to erode, or some governments fail to support the deal, and it gets cancelled and Greece actually doesn’t pay any of its bonds. Somehow no one in equity land or fx land seems to believe a failure to pay can occur, but I think bond values here, show that the credit markets are far less convinced that the can has been kicked.
Today the US Treasury quietly and efficiently auctioned off enough debt to satisfy nearly 20% of the entire second Greek bailout funding needs (thank you repo markets and multi-trillion repo custodians BoNY and State Street). Tim Geithner just sold $32 billion in 2 year bonds at a rate of 0.31%, right on top of the When Issued, which was the highest yield since August 2011, yet nothing too dramatic. Since this is the short end of the curve where Bernanke is fully in control, the range in recent auctions has fluctuated from 0.222% to 0.31%. Yet as noted last week, the biggest "beneficiary" of short-end purchases have been Primary Dealers - are they starting to choke on thier holdings? And who will they sell to this paper which yields absolutely nothing. The auction internals were a snooze - the Bid To Cover was 3.54, a drop from January's 3.75, but higher than the TTM average of 3.42. Dealers took down 54.66%, in line with the average, Indirects left holding 35.84%, and 9.5% for the direct. Overall, nothing to write home about, and the bottom line is that the US just added another $32 billion to its net debt of $15.413 trillion, or a new record high debt/GDP ratio of 101%. It is going much higher.
That didn't take long. From Athens News: "Greece's two biggest labor unions, GSEE and ADEDY, on Tuesday announced plans for a protest rally on Syntagma Square on Wednesday. Starting at 4 p.m., the protest march is scheduled to coincide with a vote in Parliament on an emergency bill aimed at slashing state spending further through cuts to pensions and salaries, to which Greece is bound by its most recent bailout agreement." Parliaments is planning on further spending cuts? To what? Zero? Negative? And one can bet their bottom dollar, the tax collectors, already urged to increase their efficiency by 200%, will be present, and certainly not tripling their work output while peacefully consuming lungfulls of tear gas.
As markets replay the same identical reaction to the same identical Greek news that we saw back on July 21, 2011 (and we all know where that went), something else entirely and more troubling is going on behind the scenes. Because as the world was transfixed on regurgitated news out of Greece, which will without a shadow of a doubt end up with a far worse 2020 debt/GDP scenario than the IMF's downside case per the sustainability report (first posted in its entirety here on Zero Hedge last night, and which assumes just a 1% decline in Greek 2013 GDP), China just escalated currency wars into outright trade wars. Because as China Daily reports, "Chinese exports are set to get a tax boost." Translated: even as China pushes the CNY higher in infinitesimal and irrelevant increments to appease US Congress, it has just taken out the trade stimulus bazooka. Why? "Export tax rebates will be increased this year in response to an export decline triggered by the European debt crisis. The move, which Commerce Ministry officials said will be implemented when the time is appropriate, will be the first increase since 2009." Still think Europe is fixed? China's answer: nope.
The day dawns with a deal for Greece that is full of smoke and mirrors; lies and deceptions. It is a deal pretty much as expected and, as I have said before, now the realities are going to be confronted. Europe has spun the agreement and the Euro has rallied some and the S&P futures are up but the next few weeks, I am afraid, will hold some serious disappointments. The page turns today because now we are about to confront not what is told to us but the actuality of what has been presented to us and just what will happen as a result.
Heading into the North American open, equities are trading lower with the benchmark EU volatility index up 1.6%, with financials underperforming on concerns that the latest Greek bailout deal will need to be revised yet again. Officials said that the deal will require Greece’s private creditors to take a deeper write-down on the face value of their EUR 200bln in holdings than first agreed. The haircut on the face value of privately held Greek debt will now be over 53%. As a result of the measures adopted, the creditors now assume that Greece’s gross debt will fall to just over 120% of GDP by 2020, from around 164% currently, according to the officials. However as noted by analysts at the Troika in their latest debt sustainability report - “…there are notable risks. Given the high prospective level and share of senior debt, the prospects for Greece to be able to return to the market in the years following the end of the new program are uncertain and require more analysis”. Still, Bunds are down and a touch steeper in 2/10s under moderately light volume, while bond yield spreads around Europe are tighter.
Depending on what yield you apply to the new Greek bonds, then the package is worth 21.5% to 26.25%. Since bonds are trading with accrued and accrued will be paid in 6 months, the real question comes down to what you believe is the value of these new bonds. If there is an amortization schedule, that would change the valuation positively... We still haven’t seen retroactive CAC clauses implemented, but assuming that they are, I’m not sure why the Troika would accept a 95% rate and not trigger, but it seems worth taking the risk. The ECB swap may be illegal. The retroactive CAC may be illegal. The Troika seems like it wants to pretend there is no default if at all possible, in spite of the write-down of more than 50% of the debt.
Goldman's Greek Deal Summary: Increased Likelihood Of CDS Trigger And CAC Use Will Lead To VolatilitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 08:25 -0400
While we await for Thomas Stolper to issue his latest flip flop and to go long the EURUSD again ("tactically", not "strategically"), here is Francesco Garzarelli's take on the Greek bailout.Here is the biggest issue: "Increased likelihood of CDS: Moreover, higher losses inflicted on the private sector, involving the likely activation of CACs and the triggering of CDS, represent sources of near-term volatility." Bingo. Now as we pointed out in the previous post, a "successful" and completely undefined PSI program is a key precondition to the program. However, with bondholders now certain to throw up, and the requisite 75% (forget 95%) acceptance threshold unlike to be reached, will the use of Collective Action Clauses, and thus a CDS trigger constitute a PSI failure, and thus deal breach? In other words, since we now know that the March 20 bond payment will be part of the PSI, is last night's farce merely a way to avoid giving Greece a bridge loan, and putting its fate in the hands of creditors, which as we noted back in January is a lose-lose strategy?
Below are the main points agreed to by Greece to re-secure the €130b bailout, first agreed upon in July 2011, courtesy of Bloomberg.
While all eyes are on Europe and its Greek farce, Japan is advancing at an inexorable pace...
You read headlines that Greece is saved (in a carbon copy release from July 21). Now read the truth behind the lies - presenting the 9 page (so it's brief enough) Greek sustainability (or lack thereof) analysis.
Yeah, we had the same response as our readers when we saw that freak move in the EURUSD. Apparently, despite the fact that absolutely nothing has been resolved, Reuters just ran a headline that "Euro zone reaches deal on second Greek bailout package." And that is all it took for the EURUSD headline scanning algos to surge by 60 100 pips. That there nothing substantial in it, or that this is merely a rephrasing of the actual Bailout 2 announcement from before, is irrelevant. Here is what the actual Reuters report said.