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.
A lesson to be learnt from the individuals who continue to buy European Debt
Now that the bipolar market has once again resynced general risk appetite with the EURUSD (high Euro -> high ES and vice versa), everything in the macro front aside from European developments, is noise (and the occasional reminder by data adjusting authorities in the US that the country can in fact decouple with the entity responsible for half the world's trade. This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, the conventional wisdom as shown by Goldman's latest client poll has European sovereign crisis worries far in the lead of all macro risks. Behind it are Iran and nuclear tensions, China hard-landing, the US recovery/presidential election and the Japanese trade deficit/record debt/JGB issues. Which for all intents and purposes means that the next big "surprise" to the market will be none of the above. What are some of the factor not listed as big macro risks? According to David Kostin 'Risks that clients did not mention include late March US Supreme Court review of health care reform (implications for 12% of S&P 500); mid-year deadline to implement Dodd-Frank financial reform (14% of market); and the French Presidential election on April 22nd where polls show incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy trails opposition candidate Francois Hollande." Oddly enough, one very crucial item missing is once again surging inflation courtesy of trillions in stealthy central banks reliquification, sending crude to the highest since May 2011, and the most expensive gas price in January on record.
At least, Premier Wen Jiabao didn’t kick out the conniving scoundrels.
Everything you always wanted to know about LTRO but were afraid to read.
With nothing but mute silence out of Germany in the aftermath of last night's "historic" Greek vote, the EURUSD is getting nervous trading down to just above 1.3200 minutes ago, well below the level reached last night following the passage in the Greek parliament of the vote with 199 out of 300 votes. As such, everyone is starved for some clues of what Merkel and Germany thinks at this point - will they simply leave Greece to flounder, by demanding even more "reality" and implementation of measures from the first bailout - something Greece obviously can not do? Or will Germany relent for at least one more payment (of €210 billion). We don't know, at least not yet. But the following Spiegel interview with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle may provide some insight. The key part: "Q. The second aid package will presumably be more expensive than anticipated, partly because the Greeks haven't kept their promises. How much longer will the German public put up with this?...Westerwelle: It's undoubtedly a moment of truth for Greece. If a sustainable and correct course is set in Athens now, Greece can expect our support -- but only then. There will be no more advance payments. Only actions count now." Like we said, hardly the ringing endorsement people expect. Then there's this: " I am more than dissatisfied with the political impasse in Greece in recent weeks. I'm also addressing the German opposition when I say this: You can't solve a debt crisis by constantly incurring new debts." And yet that is precisely what Bailout 2 is doing as we have patiently explained over and over. Yet Guido said something else which may be of interest to everyone else in Europe: "I don't want a German Europe. Q. What do you want? A. A European Germany." Aaaand, enter lost in translation interpretations.
Back in July of 2011, when we first predicted the demise of the second Greek bailout package, even before the details were fully known in "The Fatal Flaw In Europe's Second "Bazooka" Bailout: 82 Million Soon To Be Very Angry Germans, Or How Euro Bailout #2 Could Cost Up To 56% Of German GDP" we asked, "what happens tomorrow when every German (in a population of 82 very efficient million) wakes up to newspaper headlines screaming that their country is now on the hook to 32% of its GDP in order to keep insolvent Greece, with its 50-some year old retirement age, not to mention Ireland, Portugal, and soon Italy and Spain, as part of the Eurozone? What happens when these same 82 million realize that they are on the hook to sacrificing hundreds of years of welfare state entitlements (recall that Otto von Bismark was the original welfare state progentior) just so a few peripheral national can continue to lie about their deficits (the 6 month Greek deficit already is missing Its full year benchmark target by about 20%) and enjoy generous socialist benefits up to an including guaranteed pensions? What happens when an already mortally wounded in the polls Angela Merkel finds herself in the next general election and experiences an epic electoral loss? We will find out very, very shortly." Alas, it has not been all that very "shortly", as once again we underestimated people's stupidity and willingness to pay the piper of a crumbling economic and monetary system. But our prediction is finally starting to come true. Spiegel has just released an article, which encapsulates what well over 50% of Germans think, who say that the time to let Greece loose, has come.
With under 3 months left until the first round of the French presidential election on April 22, it maybe prudent to start paying attention to France, where socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande has just widened his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy despite a flurry of measures being advanced by the conservative leader to boost employment and competitiveness, a poll showed on Tuesday. This is quite relevant for Europe, as Hollande has made it very clear that none of the recent treaties and agreements would stand in their current version if elected, in the process overturning austerity and the position of the ECB in Europe's bailout org chart, and will gradually add an element of uncertainty to the second most important country in Europe's core, even if no longer AAA-rated. And for those who say there is no chance Hollande could take over, according to IFOP Hollande would trash Sarkozy in a runoff election by a whopping 58% to 42%, a result that even Romney and Diebold would be envious of.
That Europe has been unable to do the simplest thing, and come to a conclusion in its negotiation with Greek creditors, now running into its six month, is not very surprising. After all this is Europe, where nothing gets done before the deadline, only in the case of Greece the deadline also means the risk of runaway contagion. And as of today there are about 53 days left before the March 20 Greek D-Day. Yet the one thing European should at least be able to do is to have their story straight on what happens once Greece defaults. If nothing else, to show solidarity for optics' sake. Alas, it can't even do that. Because just overnight we have two diametrically opposing stories hitting the tape. On one hand we have Spanish economic minister Luis de Guindos telling Bloomberg TV in Davos that the euro region could withstand a Greek default. This is very much in line with the Jamie Dimon line of thinking that there will be limited fallout. Yet on the other hand, it is that perpetual bag of hot air, Europe's very own head propaganda master Jean Claude Juncker, who ironically told Le Figaro that a Greek default must be avoided at all costs as it would lead to Contagion (read tipping dominoes all over the place). Too bad that both Fitch and S&P said that a Greek default at this juncture is inevitable. And while Juncker's statement in itself is absolutely true, the fact that discord is appearing at the very core of European propaganda - the one place it can afford to stay united until the very end - is troubling indeed. Especially since Juncker also told Le Figaro that Germany can not be asked to do everything alone. Is that a quiet request for the Fed to keep bailing out Europe since the ECB apparently has no interest in doing so?