It is easy to get the impression that the naysayers are wrong on Europe. After all the predictions of Armageddon, ten-year government bond yields for Spain and Italy fell to the 4% level, France which is retreating into old-fashioned socialism was able to borrow at about 2%, and one of the best performing bond investments has been until recently – wait for it – Greek government bonds! Admittedly, bond yields have risen from those lows, but so have they everywhere. It is clear when one stands back from all the usual euro-rhetoric that as a threat to the global financial system it is a case of panic over. Well, no. Europe has not recapitalized its banking system the way the US has (at great taxpayer expense, of course). Therefore, it is much more vulnerable. Where European governments and regulators have failed to make their banks more secure it is because they tied their strategy to growth arising from an economic recovery that has failed to materialize. The reality is that the Eurozone GDP levels are only being supported at the moment by the consumption of savings; in orther words, the consumption of personal wealth. Wealth that is not infinite; and held by those not likely to tolerate footing the bill for much longer.
- Scalpel in Hand, Chinese Premier Li Stirs Reform Hopes (Reuters)
- Obama Sets Conditions for Keystone Pipeline Go-Ahead (FT)
- World’s Most Indebted Households Face Rate Pain (BBG)
- SAC Probers Weighing 'Willful Blindness' Tack (WSJ)
- Draghi Says ECB Ready to Act, Calls for Investment Over Tax (BBG)
- U.S. Tops China for Foreign Investment (WSJ)
- Basel Presses Ahead With Plans to Limit Bank Borrowing (FT)
- Gillard Ousted as Australia PM by Rival Rudd (FT)
- Japan Economic Strength Will Show in Stocks, Nishimura Says (BBG)
It was shaping up to be another bloodbathed session, with the futures down 10 points around the time Shanghai started crashing for the second night in a row, and threatening to take out key SPX support levels, when the previously noted rumor of an imminent PBOC liquidity injection appeared ex machina and sent the Shanghai composite soaring by 5% to barely unchanged, but more importantly for the all important US wealth effect, the Emini moved nearly 20 points higher from the overnight lows triggering momentum ignition algos that had no idea why they are buying only knowing others are buying. The rumor was promptly squashed when the PBOC did indeed take the mic, but contrary to expectations, announced that liquidity was quite "ample" and no new measures were forthcoming. However, by then the upward momentum was all that mattered and the fact that the underlying catalyst was a lie, was promptly forgotten. End result: futures now at the highs for absolutely no reason.
- China cash crunch deepens as PBOC withholds funding (FT), just a week behind ZH
- Platts in hot manipulated crude again: Traders Try to Game Platts Oil-Price Benchmarks (WSJ)
- Kabul Suspends Security Talks With U.S., jeopardizing plans to maintain a U.S. military presence (WSJ)
- Afghan government irked over U.S. talks with Taliban (Reuters)
- BOJ Kuroda: BOJ to Adjust Policy If Japan Econ Changes (MNI)
- Google Considering Private-Equity Alliances (BBG)
- Korean Air Buying 747-8s to End Boeing’s Sales Drought (BBG)
- Syria's Islamists seize control as moderates dither (Reuters)
- SEC considers policy shift on admissions of wrongdoing (FT)
- U.K. Banker Bonuses Face Decade Delays in Industry Overhaul (BBG)
As noted yesterday, and perhspa even more prescient now Anastasiades is back with the begging bowl, the debt crisis in Cyprus and the subsequent "bail-in" confiscation of bank depositors' money matter for two reasons: 1. The banking/debt crisis in Cyprus shares many characteristics with other banking/debt crises. 2. The official Eurozone resolution of the crisis may provide a template for future resolutions of other banking/debt crises. It also matters for another reason: not only is the bail-in a direct theft of depositors' money, the entire bailout is essentially a wholesale theft of national assets. This is the inevitable result of political Elites swearing allegiance to the European Monetary Union.
The Plight Of Europe's Banking Sector, Its €650 Billion State Guarantee, And The "Urgent Need" To RecapitalizeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/15/2013 12:37 -0400
Since the topic of quantifying how big the sovereign assistance to assorted banks - both in Europe and the US (which Bloomberg calculated at $83 billion per year) - has become a daily talking point, we are happy to read that Harald Benink and Harry Huizinga have reached the same conclusion as us in their VOX analysis, and further have shown that in Europe the implicit banking sector guarantee by the state is a whopping €650 billion. "Europe has postponed the recapitalisation of its banking sector for far too long. And, without such a recapitalisation, the danger is that economic stagnation will continue for a long period, thereby putting Europe on a course towards Japanese-style inertia and the proliferation of zombie banks... Banks are already saddled with ample unrecognised losses on their assets, estimated by many observers to be at least several hundreds of billions of euros and mirrored by low share price valuations, and an additional loss of their present funding advantage will be crippling."
This past March, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the finance ministers of the eurozone, shocked the markets with seemingly off-the-cuff comments suggesting that the Cyprus banking solution will, “serve as a model for dealing with future banking crises.”1 Depositors across Europe took a collective gasp of horror – could banks possibly confiscate depositors’ funds in a form of daylight robbery? Indeed they could, and last week the Bank for International Settlements (“BIS”), the Central Bank's Central Bank, published what we have referred to as ‘the template’; a blueprint outlining the steps to handle the failure of a major bank and the conditions to be met before ‘bailing-in’ deposits.
What assets will the core/Empire protect? Those of the core. What will be sacrificed? The periphery.
Fear, like greed, makes people, and that would include investors, behave irrationally. Two major equity bear markets in the last 13 years have traumatized investors. The belief in Modern Portfolio Theory in general and the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (EMH) in particular has been shaken and finance theory will have to be re-written. So, Absolute Return Partners' Niels Jensen asks, what is it specifically that has changed? Human behavior certainly hasn’t. Greed and fear have been factors to be reckoned with since day nought. When faced with the unknown, people (in this case, fund managers) will use whatever information they can get hold of. Hence we shouldn’t really be surprised that fund managers extrapolate current earnings trends when forecasting future earnings, despite the evidence that it is a futile exercise. Occasionally, the Wisdom of Crowds turns into the Madness of Mobs and all rational behavior goes out the window. History provides many examples of that. EMH is entirely unsuited to deal with froth. What made economists love the EMH is that the maths behind it is so neat whereas the alternative truth is a little messy.
US jobs data is important, but other forces are at work that seem more powerful.
Following on from our annual update on the wealth (re)distribution of nations, we thought it important to look at the other side of the household balance sheet - that of 'debt' to see just how much 'progress' has been made in the world. In the aftermath of the credit crisis (and the ongoing crisis in Europe), government debt levels continue to rise but combining trends in household debt highlights countries that have sustainable (and unsustainable) overall debt levels - and thus the greatest sovereign debt problems. Whether the 'number' is from Reinhart & Rogoff or not, the reality is that moar debt is not better and the nations with the highest debt-per-capita may surprise many. Critically, despite the rise in 'wealth' from 2000-2008, the ratio of debt-to-net-worth rose on average by about 50% (and in many nations continues to rise). The bottom line - in almost all countries, government liabilities exceeded government financial assets in 2011, leaving the government a net debtor.
House prices - with respect to both levels and changes - differ widely across OECD countries. As a simple measure of relative rich or cheapness, the OECD calculates if the price-to-rent ratio (a measure of the profitability of owning a house) and the price-to-income ratio (a measure of affordability) are above their long-term averages, house prices are said to be overvalued, and vice-versa. There are clearly some nations that are extremely over-valued and others that are cheap but as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, it is the UK that stands out as authorities have gone out of their way to prop up house prices - still extremely over-valued (20-30%) - despite being at the epicenter of the global credit bust. Summing up the central bankers anthem, Edwards exclaims: "what makes me genuinely really angry is that burdening our children with more debt to buy ridiculously expensive houses is seen as a solution to the problem of excessively expensive housing." It's not different this time.
Now that the BOJ's "interventionalism" in the capital markets is increasingly losing steam, as the soaring realized volatility in equity and bond markets squarely puts into question its credibility and its ability to enforce its core mandate (which, according to the Bank of Japan Act "states that the Bank's monetary policy should be aimed at achieving price stability, thereby contributing to the sound development of the national economy) Japan is left with one wildcard: the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which as of December 31 held some ¥111.9 trillion in assets, of which ¥67.3 trillion, or 60.1% in Japanese Government Bonds. Perhaps more importantly, the GPIF also held "just" ¥14.5 trillion in domestic stocks, or 12.9% of total, far less than the minimum allocation to bonds (current floor of 59%). It is this massive potential buying dry powder that has led to numerous hints in the press (first in Bloomberg in February, then in Reuters last week, and then in the Japanese Nikkei this morning all of which have been intended to serve as a - brief - risk-on catalyst) that a capital reallocation in the GPIF is imminent to allow for much more domestic equity buying, now that the threat of the BOJ's open-ended QE is barely sufficient to avoid a bear market crash in the Nikkei in under two weeks.
There are some problems, however.
Here is what is shaping the global capital markets.
While the U.S. student loan debt “crisis” might be the primary concern associated with the youth population here, this morning's dreadful European data confirms that 15-24 year olds around the world are struggling with a more widespread and pressing issue: high unemployment. In 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 12.4%, projected to grow to 12.6% in 2013 – nearly 3 times the rate of adult unemployment, which stood at 4.5% in 2012. Developed economies, along with the Middle East and North Africa, have some of the worst youth unemployment rates in the world: the US’s unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds in 2012 was 15.4%, according to the Current Population Survey, more than 3 percentage points above the world average. ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes there is one exception to the U.S.’s high rates, though: for all the talk about how student loan debt has crippled young adults in the U.S., we actually have one of the lower unemployment rates for young adults with a tertiary (college) education – better, even, than many countries with free or low-cost universities (though the 'type' of jobs may be questionable).