Nicolas Sarkozy

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What makes this time different? Several items:

  1. The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.
  2. The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).
  3. The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.

Sentiment - Neutral Before The European Closing Ramp

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.

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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.

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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.

 
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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?

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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.

 

Pictures From A French Mob - Watch As Sarkozy Bravely Retreats From Furious Frenchmen

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.