Rating Agencies

CDS For Doomers, Politicians, And The Media

About the only thing that the doom and gloom crowd, the politicians, and the media all agree on is that credit derivatives are evil, unnecessary, ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’. With the European Sovereign Debt crisis escalating, the CDS market has once again become a topic of conversation. Many of the issues related to CDS that are discussed are old, misleading, or plain wrong. Here is my attempt to address some of the issues that come up most whenever CDS is mentioned: Credit Events; Exposures; Counterparty Risk, and Transparency. These are topics that need to be understood in order for investors to make informed decisions. I am not here to defend CDS as a product, but to try and shed light on the subject so that people don’t react to inaccuracies that cause them to make decisions based on incorrect information. Since so many journalists still feel that the investing public needs to see the boilerplate language ‘when yields go up, bonds prices, which move in the opposite direction, go up’ this may be an uphill struggle. But here is my attempt.

The Greek Bankruptcy Case Study Is Now A Cartoon

With the Greek crisis approaching surreal proportions, now that everything from this point on is a carbon copy of events from May 2010 onward, and the only question is whether Europe will succeed in kicking the can down the road for another year (not with the 2 Year at 28% it won't and the 30 Year priced at 40 cents on the dollar) all one can do at this point is laugh at the daily dose of denial at the Keynesian-cum-monetarist experiment. Alas, one also has to be dead serious about this stuff because it just may usher the eventual implosion of capitalism once again, since many (us among them), believe that the downstream effects from the bankruptcy of Greece, and thus the ECB, and thus Europe, will make Lehman seem like a walk in the park (and the only reason Greece hasn't blown up yet, of course, is that Greece does not have a profitable fixed income trading desk that Goldman would love to gets its tentacles around). So in reporting on today's events we combine the hysterical with the  somber. First, we present the latest NMA cartoon summarizing the Greek fiasco in only a way that NMA can. We also share the latest Greek summary piece from SocGen (which itself will be downgraded substantially when Greece folds). It should serve sufficiently well to defuse any left over levity: "This looks like a last ditch effort from Papandreou to save the
situation as his Parliamentary majority is eroded, and the opposition
threatens to renege on the conditions adhered to when the IMF Stand-By
Arrangement was originally signed back in May 2010. Meeting these
programme requirements is a binding condition for a continuation of the
EU/IMF quarterly disbursements, which are necessary to plug Greece’s
funding gap. Greece’s situation, and the euro area’s sovereign crisis, have reached a new level of uncertainty."

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: June 15

  • Enhanced uncertainty surrounding Greek debt situation promoted risk-averse trade today
  • Moody’s placed France’s top three banks, BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, and Credit Agricole, on review for a possible downgrade
  • It is expected that UK’s Chancellor Osborne will endorse plans to “ring fence” retail banking businesses of UK banks today in his Mansion House speech
  • ECB’s Stark and Liikanen supported private sector involvement in Greek debt, as long as it is voluntary.
  • However, Fitch said an announcement of Vienna type initiative would likely trigger Greek ratings downgrade to 'C'

The Unwind Begins: Eurogroup President Juncker Redirects From A Broke Europe By Throwing US And Japan Under The Insolvency Bus: "The Debt Level Of The USA Is Disastrous"

The first rule of media (especially when dealing with an idiot audience that has a 7 second attention span): when all else fails, redirect. That's precisely what Eurogroup president, and certified, sanctimonious, pompous liar, Jean-Claude Juncker just did today, as it is becoming increasingly clear that nobody in Europe has any clue just what the Greek bailout #2 will look like now that the ECB and Germany are at polar opposites on how to proceed, the ECB thinks it is a rating agency and can dictate what an Event of Default is, and German bankers are willing to cede to private involvement in the bailout, but in a way that is voluntary. The problem is that these three are very much mutually exclusive. So what does Juncker go ahead and do - he redirects to highlighting the problems of the US: "The debt level of the USA is disastrous," Mr. Juncker said. "The real problem is that no one can explain well why the euro zone is in the epicenter of a global financial challenge at a moment, at which the fundamental indicators of the euro zone are substantially better than those of the U.S. or Japanese economy." That may well be the defining moment: by now everyone knows that the global economy is a massive pyramid scheme. Yet to this point, those in control have at least kept their mouths shut. However, when in order to explain one's insolvency, those at the very top of the control pyramid have no other choice than to point out just how broke others are (when in reality it is all one big, interconnected, "globalized" and truly insolvent Ponzi), then the unwind has begin.

Follow The ECB's 2;30pm CET Press Conference Live

The ECB's press conference, which lately has been seeing rather aggressive questions from the press corps (especially if the Finns are present like last time) and very rambling non-answers from Trichet can be followed live below. Expect to see some volatility in the EUR as a result of Trichet's carefully chosen words. Once again, the keyword of note is "vigilance."

Guest Post: Stock Futures Up A Touch, But European Credit Very Weak

European CDS is wider across the board. SOVX is 203 which is 4 wider on the day, and liquidity seems to have broken down completely as I'm seeing 3 bp bid/offer spreads rather than the more customary 2 bps. That is after it widened 10 bps yesterday. Fins at 163 (+4 on day) and Fin Subs 279 (+12 on the day) are also trading extremely poorly. Fin Subs, although fairly illiquid deserve special mention. They were 15 wider yesterday and although it is hard to tell with the rolls, it looks like they are almost at the widest levels of last March at the height of the first time the market noticed the sovereign debt crisis. The sovereign bond market looks to be in rough shape as well. Greek 10 year bonds are back below 54 on a price basis (16.35% yield). They have given up most of the late May gains. It rallied on the comments that the EU wanted a plan to bailout Greece again. It is fading on the fact that in spite of wanting a plan, it seems very difficult to come up with a workable plan.

Greek CDS Surges To All Time Record On Talk Accord For Greek Bailout Faces Major Obstacles

Nobody could have seen this coming. According to RanSquawk, there is "Market talk that accord on new Greek bailout faces major obstacles." Whether true or not is irrelevant: the market sells first. Greek CDS just hit 1,474, +63 bps and an all time record high. Elsewhere, the EURUSD is dropping as the house of cards appears to be finally on the edge. Per Market News: "Despite public declarations last Friday that an agreement in principle had been reached, two major problems threaten to block a deal, the sources said. One is the highly sensitive issue of private sector contribution. The other is the insistence of European officials and the International Monetary Fund that the Greek parliament pass significant new deficit-cutting measures before EU leaders meet at the end of June as a condition for new money. That task appears Herculean, given the rapidly growing domestic political and social resistance. "

Guest Post: Keep The Faith....

What happens if energy and food prices keep going up? Can we be sure that this won’t happen? No of course not so these markets are far too complacent in my view and are not pricing enough risk premium. I am not even convinced that a lot of higher input prices have been passed on yet so the consumer will either face higher prices or the producer will see margins collapse and neither is good for equities. Europe is in a mess and it looks increasingly likely that a restructuring WILL happen somewhere at some point, whilst Trichet seems determined to jack up rates on principle. Don’t forget that even though European politicians want to help for fear of the consequences, ultimately the outcome will be decided by backbench politicians in PM Papandreou's parliamentary party. If austerity measures are not approved by parliament on Jun 28, then all hell could break loose. And just look at the EUR; what’s it doing up here? There is little risk priced here it seems and yet the risks are huge. Central banks are sucking volatility from these markets in a bid to create a false sense of security. This covert intervention is very clever as it’s tough to fight. Without doubt G20 is behind this and the accord is strong. They need a stable equity markets and stable FX markets to help buy time. Very clever.

IMF Says Is Open To Delaying Greek Bailout Loan Repayments

The soap opera begins early today (at least in the US), after the Irish Times reports that the IMF is open to delaying Greece's repayment of its international loans but believes a major restructuring of its debt would create untold problems in the euro zone, a senior IMF official said today. "Athens has made progress in tackling its debt crisis but cannot afford to relax the pace of reforms, Bob Traa, the International Monetary Fund's senior representative in Greece, told a banking conference. "If you want a debt restructuring that will really make a difference, it will need to be very large. Such a large debt restructuring would create untold problems not just in Greece, but also in the euro zone," Mr Traa said. But he did hint that the IMF was open to other solutions. "Stretching out payment terms, for instance in loans from euro area partners and the IMF, is a reasonable thing to think about because we have amortisation right at the end of the programme. This is a technical issue we can think about," he said." Unfortunately, as the rating agencies have made clear by now, such a move would be considered a technical default, and thus is unworkable as the very simple matter at the heart of the whole eurozone crisis is the forced marking of debt from mythical par levels (where the ECB has it) to market values (around half): a development which would lead to the insolvency of the ECB, something discussed minutes ago. All Europe wants is a phase transition that allows it to keep marking Greek bonds at par, and how this is achieved is irrelevant.

Guest Post: A First In History: The Coming Simultaneous European Banking Collapse

Watching international financial policy persisting on a concept to fight debt with more debt in an environment where official GDP growth rates only remain positive because of ridiculously low deflators, while interest rates apart from those central bank help for banks via laughingly low interest rates begin to surge everywhere else, this observer begins to wonder if one can expect anything else than a fast-rolling, simultaneous European banking collapse. Engulfed in more exponentially rising debt on public and private levels than ever before there simply cannot be another end of the longest growth cycle in history than a simultaneous collapse of international banking when lending freezes up due to fears about the real creditworthiness of the respective counter party. Globalization will have made it possible.

Fitch Blows At Greek Bailout House Of Cards, Says On Closing Of Distressed Debt Exchange Will Place Sovereign Rating Into Default

As we speculated yesterday...

  • If in Fitch's opinion, an announced exchange offer constitutes a DDE,
    the sovereign issuer rating will be lowered to 'C', indicating that
    default is highly likely in the near term
  • Fitch will place the issuer rating of the sovereign into default, specifically 'Restricted Default' (RD) upon closing of a distrssed debt exchange.
  • Fitch says a potential Greek debt exchange if voluntary, could still be considered a default event
  • Fitch says Greek debt exchange would be a default if bondholders terms were worse than original terms
  • Fitch says stressed sovereign debt exchange with worse terms is a technical default even if deemed voluntary

The gist is clear: the great unknown of how the rating agencies will treat even a "voluntary" restructuring is still in the closet.

"Escaping The Clutches Of Financial Markets" - An Essay On Europe's Debt-For-Democracy Prepackaged Bankruptcy

In today's Europe, the people are no longer in control. Instead, politicians have become slaves to financial institutions and the markets. We are partly to blame -- and changes are urgently needed to nurse European democracy back to health.We are doing well. In fact, we're doing splendidly. The economy is booming, with 1.5 percent growth in the first quarter. We are as prosperous as we were before the crisis, which has finally been overcome. Congratulations are in order for everyone. The banks, Deutsche Bank above all, deserve particular congratulations. In the first quarter, it earned €3.5 billion ($5.1 billion) in pretax profits in its core business, and by the end of the year the bank will likely report a record €10 billion in pretax profits, its best results ever. That number is expected to rise to €11 billion or even €12 billion in two or three years. Less than three years after the peak of the crisis, it seems as if it never happened. That is true of the economy, but it also true of us as economic subjects. But is that all we are? No, we are also citizens and participants in a democratic society. As such, we have no reason to be celebrating. Instead, we ought to be sad and outraged. Democracy, after all, is not doing splendidly, or even well. It is gradually becoming a casualty of the financial crisis.

Don Coxe On Everything From The Markets Rolling Over, To Persistent Food Inflation, To The Coming US Sovereign Debt Crunch

There is a plethora of original insight in Don Coxe (BMO Capital Makets) among them observations on sovereign risk moving from east to west, state finances (or lack thereof), the ongoing correction in financial stocks which portends nothing good for the equity investors, the ongoing violence in MENA, why this inflationary spike in food may last far longer than previous ones, and naturally, some very spot on thoughts on gold, which conclude with: "The only gold bubble likely to burst is the bubbling ridicule of gold."

Reggie Middleton's picture

I called it the coming RE Depression in 2007! I put MY money where my mouth was and sold off all of my investment real estate. I put YOUR money where my mouth was and shorted all that had to do with real estate (REITs, banks, builders, insurers). I called almost every major bank collapse months in advance. I warned the .gov bubble blowing does not = organic economic recovery. Now I'm saying we need to, and will, continue what's left of the crash of 2009, with ample global company. There will be no RE recovery this year, and there will be a crash. OK, you heard it here!

Dagong Downgrades The UK From AA- To A+, Outlook "Negative"

With everyone trading the GBP in the overnight session eagerly awaiting the leaked Moody's report that the rating agency, which has yet to be at least 2 years behind the curve, is set to downgrade "more than a dozen British financial institutions to reflect the eventual withdrawal of Government support for the banking industry", China has gone and upstaged the beating around the bush poser by downgrading the UK outright from AA- to A+, with an outlook negative. The premise: stagflation and deteriorating "debt repayment capability." Poor fools: they have yet to meet the full debt repayment capability of 20 Primary Dealers.