Lehman Brothers

The Final LTRO Preview - Bottoms Up

There is broad disagreement among European banks on whether they should (and whether they will) choose to access the LTRO. We have discussed the top-down perspective and the very granular bank-by-bank perspective, and we end with a more bottoms-up perspective on the bank's own views of the LTRO. As SocGen notes, the investment banks (and certain Swedish banks) are very skeptical (and rightly so given the 'LTRO Stigma') while the Italian and Spanish are open to taking whatever they can, whenever they can (is that really a good sign?). Bank management must weigh the transparency they will face at the end of the quarter when sovereign bond holdings are exposed and just as SocGen points out, banks with considerably higher exposure (implicitly through the carry trade) may well face much more negative market action (even if Basel III doesn't handicap that risk). As with LTRO 1, the ECB will only reveal aggregate data, leaving the individual banks themselves to reveal their own take-up - we suspect the investment banks will make a point of highlighting that they did not take the funds, while the Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish banks will promote the benefits of their government-reach-around self-immolating ECB life-line.

'Til Debt Did Europe Part

'All is not resolved' is how Morgan Stanley's Arnaud Mares begins his latest diatribe on the debacle that is occurring in Europe. While a disorderly default seems to have been avoided (for now), the Greek problem (as we have discussed extensively) remains unsolved as debt sustainability seems questionable at best, economic recovery a remote hope, and the growing political tensions across Europe (and its people) grow wider. Critically, Mares addresses the seeming complacency towards a Greek exit from the euro area noting that it is no small matter and has dramatic consequences (specifically a la Lehman, the unintended consequences could be catastrophic). Greece (or another nation) leaving the Euro invites concerns over the fungibility of bank deposits across weak and strong nations and with doubt over the Euro, the EU could collapse as free-trade broke down. The key is that, just as in the US downgrade case last year, a Euro-exit implies the impossible is possible and the impact of such an event is much, much higher than most seem to realize. While the likelihood of a Greek euro-exit may remain low (for now), the scale of the impact makes this highly material and suggests the EU will do whatever it takes (print?) within their mandates to hold the status quo. For all practical purposes, it would be the end of the euro as a genuine single currency and to preserve the euro if Greece left would require total federalism in the rest of the area.

Guest Post: Exploring The Not-So-Altruistic Aspects Of The "Buffett Rule"

Although no one can be sure of Buffett's motives, it would be naïve to believe that someone as intelligent as Buffett has not considered the benefits of pushing through this tax structure. Higher taxes are always problems for entrepreneurs and regular people in the economy. However, they're often beneficial to the well-connected, who receive government bailouts and favors. And with Buffett even on the president's lips, he is becoming more connected to the power mechanism in D.C. every day. With many of Berkshire's companies, your loss as a taxpayer will be their gains.

"Lehman 2.0" Imminent Warns John Taylor

Hubris is at the heart of this. Everyone says this cannot happen – we won’t allow it. Says who? The EU says: if it is written in an agreement, it must be totally correct, unchangeable, and followed at all costs. New realities can’t intervene and no slippage is allowed. Why the Germans are so sure that they know the future is beyond me. They are fallible too, but they won’t admit it, and the Greeks can’t make them budge. Haven’t they looked around? Santorini has a different economic and social cost structure than Wiesbaden. Humanity (and common sense) seems totally lacking in the negotiations with the Greeks and a violent backlash would be totally understandable. Why the countries that have been fattening up their current account surpluses selling products to Greeks, whom they should have known were basically broke – just as they always have been – should be paid 100% on the euro is beyond me. Major losses should apply not only to sovereign borrowings but also to accounts receivable for cars, electronics, and other consumer goods. The market has not opened its eyes to the impact this Greek unraveling will have. The Eurozone will be mortally wounded and the world will suffer a significant recession – maybe as deep as 2008. European banks will lose much of their capital base and many should be bankrupt, but just as in the Lehman aftermath, the governments will try to save the banks and the banks’ bondholders, solvent or not. As the bank appetite for Eurozone sovereign paper will be decimated, austerity will probably follow shortly, followed by deflation and uncontrollable money creation. The European recession should be one for the record books.

Frontrunning: February 10

  • Eurozone dismisses Greek budget deal (FT)
  • Germany Says Greece Missing Debt Targets in Aid Rebuff (Bloomberg)
  • Germans concerned over Draghi liquidity offer (FT)
  • Azumi Says Japan Won’t Be Shy About Unilateral Intervention (Bloomberg)
  • Schaeuble Signals Germany Is Flexible on Revising Terms of Portuguese Aid (Bloomberg) - food euphemism for "next on the bailout wagon"
  • Venizelos Tells Greek Lawmakers to Back Budget Cuts or Risk Exiting Euro (Bloomberg)
  • Putin May Dissolve Ruling Party After Vote (Bloomberg)
  • HK Bubble pops? Hong Kong Sells Tuen Mun Site to Kerry for HK$2.7 Billion, Government Says (Bloomberg)
  • Gross Buys Treasuries as Buffett Says Bonds Are ‘Dangerous’ (Bloomberg)
Phoenix Capital Research's picture

The vast majority of professional investors are unable to contemplate truly dark times for the markets. After all, the two worst items most of them have witnessed (the Tech Bust and 2008) were both remedied within about 18 months and were followed by massive market rallies.Because of this, the idea that the financial system might fail or that we might see any number of major catastrophes (Germany leaving the EU, a US debt default, hyperinflation, etc.) is on par with Bigfoot or Unicorns for 99% of those whose jobs are to manage investors' money or advise investors on how to allocate their capital.