The Euro Takes the Road Well Traveled: Paths emerge. The EU has options. Yet they continually choose the well-beaten road of fiscal suicide.
If Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain can do it, why not everyone? Heck, why pay for anything, instead of just ramping up debts, until the consolidated debt load is so high the Fed has no choice but to bail everyone out? Of course, this is purely a thought experiment (for now... there are still 5 months in the presidential race). Still, we were curious to see if there is validation of this meme "out there" - and to do this we of course went straight to the source - Google's most recent addition in tracking public queries, Insights for Search, and looked up the term "bailout." We were not at all surprised to find the English-speaking world's curiosity in this particular synonym for a 'free lunch' (with other people's money) has exploded in the last few weeks.
The past week was dominated by the Eurogroup statement over the weekend that Spain will seek financial support for its banks. According to the statement, Spain intends to make a formal request soon, with financial assistance expected to be around EUR100 bn and to come from the EFSF or ESM. Aid will be channeled through the FROB, and will increase the debt burden of the Spanish sovereign. There will be no macro or fiscal conditionality as in the bailouts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but only on bank sector restructuring. That said, there will be monitoring of the deficit and structural reforms as part of this bailout, though no conditionality, and the IMF is also invited to monitor progress under the program. Separately, the week also saw lots of commentary out of the Fed, including from Chairman Bernanke and Vice Chair Yellen. Looking to the week ahead, the key question for us is where to harvest excessive risk premia, bearing in mind that the Greek elections are around the corner.. In terms of policy talk and data, for the former Fed chatter ends on Tuesday when the blackout period begins ahead of the FOMC on June 19/20. For the latter, US retail sales and industrial production will be important to watch as we head into the FOMC next week.
Recent housing data have been generally been encouraging. However, the large number of residential properties that are "underwater"—meaning the borrower owes more on the mortgage than the property is worth—casts a long shadow on the sustainability of the housing recovery. Goldman estimates that approximately 10 million properties are currently underwater. Although this number has not changed much during the past three years, there is much divergence across the nation: California, Michigan, and Arizona, for example, experienced significant improvement, while Georgia, Utah, and Missouri saw many more properties falling underwater during this period. Given that there are 3 million first-lien mortgages that have LTVs of 125% or above as of April 2012, whether or not a large fraction of these mortgages will default in the near future has important implications for the housing market recovery.
The avuncular Art Cashin opines on the roller-coaster of unreality that has been the equity markets for the last few days as outcomes become increasingly binary and investors increasingly herded from one direction to another. His sage advice - as if spoken by the most-interesting-person-in-the-world - "Stay nimble", my friends.
I want a farm subsidy too!
European stock futures saw a jump higher at the cash equity open as the Eurostoxx broke through yesterday’s high of 2160. Comments from the Italian PM from late yesterday, who said that the majority of ministers are in favour of Euro bonds was noted but the move was largely technically driven with stops tripped on the ascent. In reaction to this the European bond yield spreads in the 10yr part of the curve tightened aggressively with OAT’s outperforming once again edging back toward the psychological 100bps level. Meanwhile in the FX market the USD weakened in early trade on the renewed risk appetite which bolstered the gains in EUR/USD alongside touted option defence by a Swiss name at the 1.2500 level. Commodity linked currencies such as the AUD was the main benefactor of a moderate move higher in crude futures and precious metals but has been capped so far by offers at 0.9800. Into the North American open prices have pared, with European equities in the cash and futures both slipping into the red, excepting the DAX. A distinctly light calendar from the US with only the May final Michigan report due, coupled with an early closure in the Treasury pit today, ahead of the Memorial day holiday, means that volumes will likely decline into the latter stages of the US session today.
With US markets already checked out ahead of the holiday day weekend, and Europe acting abnormally stupid (PIIGS bond spreads plunging, then soaring right back), there is little newsflow to report overnight, except for a key report that China loan growth is plunging in what is a major risk flag proudly ignored by all algos (but not the SHCOMP which dropped 0.7%). Futures have followed the now traditional inverse pattern of selling off early in the Asian session, then ramping following the European opening on nothing but vapors of hope. All that needs to happen today is a drop early in regular trading, following by a major squeeze on the third consecutive baseless rumor for the week to be complete, and for stocks to actually post an increase even as the EUR crashes and burns. Unless of course we get a rumor that Europe will be open on Monday even as the US is not there to bail out risk assets.
All you need to read and some more.
Yes, believe it or not, there is a world outside of JPM in the past 12 hours, and it was very ugly: weak Chinese CPI, big miss in Chinese industrial output (+9.3%, Est. +12.2%), even bigger miss, actually make it a decline, in Indian factory Outupt (down -3.5%, est. +1.7%), a collapse in China’s new local-currency loans plunging by 32% m/m in April, making a new money infusion paramount (yet inflation still abounds, and the threat of NEW QE keeping the PBOC mum - oh what to do?) and of course... Greece, where things are heading for a second election at breakneck speed, and where Syriza is gaining about a percent in new support each day, guaranteeing life for Europe will be a living hell in one month. What else happened overnight to send futures down 0.5% (and JPM down 8%). Below is a full recap from Bank of America.
We are in the last innings of a very bad ball game. We are coping with the crash of a 30-year–long debt super-cycle and the aftermath of an unsustainable bubble. Quantitative easing is making it worse by facilitating more public-sector borrowing and preventing debt liquidation in the private sector—both erroneous steps in my view. The federal government is not getting its financial house in order. We are on the edge of a crisis in the bond markets. It has already happened in Europe and will be coming to our neighborhood soon. The Fed is destroying the capital market by pegging and manipulating the price of money and debt capital. Interest rates signal nothing anymore because they are zero. Capital markets are at the heart of capitalism and they are not working.
The University of Michigan Consumer Confidence headline data beat expectations and rose to its highest level since February 2011. However, the somewhat surprising drop in 1-year inflation expectations (to four-month-lows) and drop in Current Economic Conditions index to four-month-lows that underlies less exuberance. Perhaps it is the fact that this current economic conditions index dropped by its largest amount in eight months that is fading equities.
Futures are unchanged after dropping steeply overnight following the Spanish re-downgrade as the Italian 5/10 year bond auction was bad, but still passed (somehow the lack of the European bond market ending is good news). This is ironic with Europe very much on edge following the release of very disappointing EU data, with German confidence, French consumer spending, Spanish unemployment all worse than estimates. Offsetting all of the negativity to some extent is the gross JPY10 trillion and net JPY5 trillion injection by the BOJ, which is a harbinger of what will happen west of Japan when push comes to shove. And so now all eyes turn to US GDP, which, continuing the Constanza bizarroness, better miss for stocks to surge, as a beat of consensus of 2.5% will mean the Chairman was not joking when he told the world he was morphing from a dove to a hawk (if only for theatrical purposes).
One of the biggest games in the Wall Street farce is the game of Beat the Number.