The "down in European hours, and surge as soon as Europe is closed" trade is once again so well telegraphed even Mrs. Watanabe is now in it. Sure enough US futures are red as European shares slide for the second consecutive day, with 16 out of 19 sectors down, led by banks, travel and leisure. Spanish and Portuguese bond yields are up. Not much data overnight, except for Chinese Non-manufacturing PMI which rose modestly from massively revised numbers: February adjusted to 57.3 from 48.4; January to 55.7 from 52.9 - and that, BLS, is how you do it. European PPI rose 3.6% Y/Y on estimates of a 3.5% rise, while the employment situation, or rather lack thereof, in Spain gets worse with an 8th consecutive increase in jobless claims, rising by 38,769 to 4.75 million. Bloomberg reports that Spanish home prices are poised to fall the most on record this year, leaving one in four homeowners owing more than their properties are worth, as the government forces banks to sell real-estate holdings. Francois Hollande, France’s Socialist presidential candidate, widened his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy in voting intentions for the second round of the 2012 election, a BVA poll showed. Italian bank stocks are notably down and today seems set to be the third consecutive day in which we see trading halts in Intesa and Banca Popolare. Few more weeks of this and the financial short-selling ban is coming back with a vengeance. Yet all of this is irrelevant: the bad news will simply mean the global central banks will pump more money, putting even more cracks in the monetary dam wall, and the only question is how long before US stocks decide to front-run the European close, and whether European stocks will rise in sympathy, just because they get to close one more day.
Our feeling is that Germany is establishing a "Plan B" in place in case it needs to leave the Euro at some point. The catalyst(s) that might provoke this are the upcoming French, Irish, and Greek elections, which could see a resurgence in leftist, anti-austerity measures in these countries. Moreover, inflation is kicking up in Germany which will exacerbate tensions between it and the ECB.
Much of the fiscal and monetary insanity that has come out of the EU over the last two years can be summated by one of my central global theses: politics determine Europe's policies, not economics. And Europe now appears to be shifting towards a more leftist/ anti-austerity measure political environment. If this shift is cemented in the coming Greek, French, and Irish elections/ referendums, then things could get ugly in the Eurozone VERY quickly.
Sarkozy is grasping at straws ... and created a new classification of people in France and maybe even in the whole entire world.
Bailed-out but un-restructured. And now Fiat-Chrysler CEO is crying for help as EU car sales crash.
Just as the CEO of Total had predicted last December—talking his book.
Germany just launched a €480 billion fund that it will use to backstop its banking system should a Crisis hit. And in the fine print, which no one has caught,... the fund will also allow German banks to dump their EU sovereign bonds... as in German banks' PIIGS/ EU exposure disappearing in an instant. So... why would Germany do this?
Unleash the lawyers, um, ... soccer players.
German leaders, particularly Merkel and Schäuble see the writing on the political wall: that both Greece and France are likely going to find themselves with new leadership that is pro-socialism, anti-austerity measures, and most certainly anti-taking orders from Germany. Thus, Germany must be aware (as the EU, IMF, and ECB are to some degree) that it is ultimately fighting a losing battle by participating in the bailouts. Indeed, Schäuble even went so far as to recently call Greece a “bottomless pit” where money is wasted (having just participated in Greek bailouts that exceed the entirety of Greece’s GDP, I have to admit he does have a point here). So while a “deal” may have officially been struck for Greece, there are deep underlying tensions that could bring proceedings to a crashing halt at any point.
Gang of Four against François Hollande. The Eurozone is becoming brittle.
Despite groundless media reports that French president Sarkozy, who is up for reelection in April, is gaining on his challenger Hollande who has promised to undo virtually all the European fiscal pacts attained through blood, sweat, tears and countless contradictory headlines (more here), it seems that Sarkozys' appreciation by his fellow citizens has hit rock bottom. As AP reports, "Several hundred angry protesters have booed President Nicolas Sarkozy, forcing him to take refuge in a cafe protected by riot police as he campaigned in France's southwest Basque country." It appears that the European discontent is finally seeping rather aggressively into the core, and the political overhaul which many assume will take the Greek model of bloodless technocratic coups by banker appointed puppets may just not work too well elsewhere. In other news, the French now surrender to the French.
Et tu, Brute!
Will Germany go “all in” on the Euro experiment? I doubt it. In fact I’ve found the “smoking gun” the little known act that Germany has recently implemented that proves the country has a Plan B that involves leaving the Euro with minimal damage.
A few days ago, before the latest breakout in crude sent Brent to all time highs in GBP and EUR (and Asian Tapis in USD just shy of all time highs), we said that "we hope our readers stocked up on gasoline. Because things are about to get uglier. And by that we mean more expensive. But courtesy of hedonic adjustments, more expensive means cheaper, at least to the US government." This was due to recent news out of Iran "where on one hand we learn that IAEA just pronounced Iran nuclear talks a failure (this is bad), and on the other Press TV reports that the Iran army just started a 4 day air defense exercise in a 190,000 square kilometer area in southern Iran (this is just as bad). The escalation "ball" is now in the Western court." We were not surprised to learn that the "Western court" has responded in precisely the way we had expected. The WSJ reports: "The Pentagon is beefing up U.S. sea- and land-based defenses in the Persian Gulf to counter any attempt by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait... The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles" Which means the escalation slider was just shifted up by one more level, as Iran will next do just what every actor caught in an Always Defect regime as part of an iterated prisoners' dilemma always does - step up the rhetoric even more, as backing off at this point is impossible. Which means that crude will go that much more higher in the coming days, as now even the MSM is starting to grasp the obvious - from the Guardian: "The drumbeat of war with Iran grows steadily more intense. Each day brings more defiant rhetoric from Tehran, another failed UN nuclear inspection, reports of western military preparations, an assassination, a missile test, or a dire warning that, once again, the world is sliding towards catastrophe. If this all feels familiar, that's because it is. For Iran, read Iraq in the countdown to the 2003 invasion." And the most ironic thing is that the biggest loser out of all this, at least in the short-term is.... Greece.