Ex-Goldman Greek Operative Announces Bond Issue To Be Delayed Until New Austerity Digested, IMF To "Technically" Support Implementation Of Greek PlanSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/03/2010 12:59 -0400
Petros Christodoulou, most famous for having worked previously at Goldman, and now incidentally the head of the Greek Public Debt Management Agency, has told Market News that while he has no comment on the timing or tenor of the new issue (we venture to assume the timing will be in the next two weeks, as after that Greece be bankrupt for real), he is willing to wait and "allow the market time to digest" the announcement of today's austerity measures. (And if these don't work, the next round will promise Greek workers will pay the government for the privilege of having a job.) Of course, the implementation of these measures is subject to a mass rioting contingency, so while the verbal diarrhea out of everyone who is axed in the viable Greece trade continues, actual actions will be few and far between.
Goldman Offers Olive Branch To Greece, Praises Country For "Tough Actions" (Words, Technically), Awaits Further CDS BashingSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/03/2010 11:17 -0400
Goldman's chief Euro strategist Erik Nielsen is out with another note, this time one of praise and wild-eyed adoration for the increasing desperation in Greek polemics (note, not actions: those tend to be more of the semi-violent police clashing, people striking variety). Well, duh, of course Greece will promise it will take out a second-lien on the Parthenon (and a first on the Acropolis): the country will be out of money in two weeks for Pete's sake! Aside from the pandering desire to be next in line as lead underwriter on the next Greek multi-billion swap (and receive fees, millions of dollars in juicy fees), Nielsen does provide a good narrative that ties in the Greek bail out, and the recent anger against CDS "Speculators" who will at the end of the day be the validation for why Europe will have "no choice" but to bail out Greece, as it is solely through their vile scheming that GGBs are trading so much lower compared to where they should be trading. Because taking a cue straight from the US market, none of this bankruptcy stuff is relevant at all when dealing with capital markets.
I was clearly able to see the Greek bank downgrades coming, but there was one bank that was left out, as I expected it to be. If or when that bank gets downgraded, it is a strong chance that Greece will go down with it.
Much has been said on these pages and elsewhere about the dangers embedded within quant groupthink, in which an ever increasing prevalence of fewer performing factors means that more and more speculators (note: not investors) line up on the same side of the trade pushing up offers, only to experience a regime change based on some heretofore unexpected exogenous event which renders existing signal translation models useless, and causes all former buyers to join the sellers. Whether that would result in a bidless market remains to be seen. If October 1987 is any indication, all signs point to yes. Yet in a sign that at least the bigger bankers may be anticipating just such an outcome, the Economist has disclosed that JP Morgan, in addition to reserving for general loan loss provisions on its balance sheet, has now taken a $3 billion reserve against quant error (yes, quants can be wrong... and for a lot of money at that). Just how many other investment banks demonstrate this kind of prudence? Without any specific regulatory guidelines for quant capital provisioning, we have no idea. While the bulge brackets may have joined JPM in a comparable form of "insurance" it is a certainty that the thousands of newly cropped up quant trading firms not only have no such reserves, but should a dramatic market reversal transpire, it is inevitable that wholesale asset dumping will have to take place to cover losses. And this assumes no leverage. Is the market prepared for such a contingency?
Fleckenstein, Roubini, Rogoff, Eichengreen all sound off on the European debacle and more on the big, fat Greek swap.
The media world is aflutter with recent revelations that Goldman may have facilitated Greece in creating an SPV that "rebalanced" budget payments via an interest rate swap arrangement, which the NYT describes as "a currency trade rather than a loan, [which] helped Athens meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means." For those curious to get a much more detailed perspective on the mechanics of not just this, but a comparable Goldman-facilitated transaction, we suggest the following article in Risk Magazine, which focuses on a similar prior deal completed over six years ago. Yet we are fairly confident that all this barrage of information is merely a Houdini distraction act: the prospectus of the February 2009 securitization deal clearly delineates the mechanics of the deal; it was full public knowledge. Of course, a Europe gripped by sudden chaos due to their aggressive and quick "bail out" response with no regard for public backlash, is now taking full advantage of this recent "discovery" to make it seem that Greece and Goldman were hiding even more information: Bloomberg reports that "Greece was ordered by European Union regulators to disclose details of currency swaps it may have used to deal with the debts that threaten to swamp its economy." Germany's CDU has gone one step further and claims that the "Goldman deal broke the spirit of Euro rules." Alas, this is nothing but more scapegoating while Europe tries to find its bearings and, if possible, back out of the bail out while finding more pretexts to throw Greece out of the euro zone entirely. If it takes a Goldman smear campaign, so be it.
However, where the rub truly lies, and where things for Greece may get very hairy fairly quick, is in the interplay between the rating agencies and the rating of the Goldman underwritten swap agreement securitization SPV known better as Titlos PLC. As one recalls, it was precisely the rating agencies that were the proximal catalyst that started the collateral call cascade that ultimately resulted in AIG's failure and subsequent bailout (ignoring for a moment the pent up toxicity on AIG's books: both AIG then, and Greece now, are in deplorable shape: the question is what will bring it all to the surface). So here are some recent facts: On December 23, 2009, Moody's downgraded Titlos, following the prior day's downgrade of Greece itself from A1 to A2 with a negative outlook. Fact: last week Moody's said it could further downgrade Greece to Baa1. Fact: the Titlos PLC rating mirrors that of Greece itself. Fact: according to Moody's "Framework for De-Linking Hedge Counterparty Risks from Global Structured Finance Cashflow Transactions Moody's Methodology" a counterparty can enter into a hedge transaction with an SPV and continue to participate in that transaction without collateralizing its obligations so long as it maintains a long-term senior unsecured rating of at least A2. When (not if) Titlos is downgraded again, and its rating drops below the A2 collateralization threshold, look for AIG's margin call driven liquidity crisis escalation from the fall of 2008 to spread to Greece. And that's not all. The Titlos SPV itself may be null and void should the rating of the National Bank of Greece, as the Hedge Provider, drop below a "relevant rating" as defined in the hedge agreement. Should Greece then be forced, at Titlos' option, to unwind the swap agreement, and be forced to cash out to the tune of €5.4 billion (net of the 107.54 issuance price), look for all hell to break loose.
Because everything unraveled so quickly, no one scrutinized Standard & Poor's flip-flop on AIG. On Friday, September 12, 2008, S&P said it would, "continue discussions with the company over the coming weeks regarding liquidity and capital plans. Once we have more clarity on these issues, we could affirm the current ratings on the holding company and operating companies or lower them by one to three notches." Of course, that never happened. S&P did not wait, and issued a downgrade the following Monday. It had at least one conversation with AIG that day, when only two things were clear: Nothing at AIG was settled, and the contagion effect from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was huge. The discussions could not have been especially detailed, since AIG's financial staff was preoccupied in its negotiations with Hank Paulson's deputy, Dan Jester, Goldman and JPMorgan Chase, who ostensibly were trying to put together a bank deal that would address S&P's concerns.
An informed view on the Greek fiscal crisis and a brilliant interview with Michael Hudson which exposes the reality on the global financial system and explains why we are sinking back into a new feudalism.
In a CNBC interview on Feb. 10, Marc Faber went out on a limb saying ALL governments will eventually default, including the United States. From all indications, this is a fairly plausible scenario.
As we look forward, we ask, who now determines the variation margin on Greek CDS (and Portugal, and Dubai, and Spain, and, pretty soon, Japan and the US), the associated recovery rate, and how much collateral should be posted by sellers of Greek protection? If Greek banks, as the rumors goes, indeed sold Greek protection, and, as the rumor also goes, Goldman was the bulk buyer, either in prop or flow capacity, it is precisely Goldman, just like in the AIG case, that can now dictate what the collateral margin that Greek counterparties, and by extension the very nation of Greece, have to post on billions of dollars of Greek insurance. Let's say Goldman thinks Greece's debt recovery is 75 cents and the CDS should be trading at 700 bps, instead of the "prevailing" consensus of a 90 recovery and 450 spread, then it will very likely get its way when demanding extra capital to cover potential shortfalls, since Goldman itself has been instrumental in covering up Greece's catastrophic financial state and continues to be a critical factor in any future refinancing efforts on behalf of Greece. Obviously this incremental margin, which only Goldman will ever see, even if the CDS was purchased on a flow basis, will never be downstreamed on behalf of its clients, and instead will be used to [buy futures|buy steepeners|prepay 2011 bonuses|buy more treasuries for the BONY $60 billion Treasury rainy day fund].
In essence, through its conflict of interest, its unshakable negotiating position, and its facility to determine collateral requirements and variation margin, Goldman can expand its previous position of strength from dictating merely AIG and Federal Reserve decision making, to one which determines sovereign policy! This is unmitigated lunacy and a recipe for financial collapse at the global level.
Last October the BLS announced it would revise historical payrolls lower by 824,000 on February 5 (this Friday's NFP release). While this number will not impact the actual January NFP report (a loss of nearly one million jobs in a month would probably even take out the persistent SPY algo that has been hugging the bid for the past 10 months), it will be prorated across all months in the 2008-2009 reporting period. The reason for this adjustment has to do with a huge glitch in the birth-death model, which is exactly the same problem that the rating agencies faced when housing prices plummeted : the birth/death model assumes, in the long-run, jobs are created, not destroyed. Any period of excess volatility in the stock market therefore translates into major prior downward revisions to already disclosed payrolls. And while we know what the current revision will be, the scarier prospect is that the next historical adjustment, due out in early 2011, will be even larger, at least 990,000. This means that the government has overrepresented running payroll data by over 1.8 million jobs over the past 20 months.
If there is one thing the rating agencies can be proud of, it is... well, there isn't one. And if after yesterday's mindboggling budget proposal which sees the deficit increasing to $9 trillion in 10 years, coupled with the fact that GSE liabilities now should be counted as part of overall US obligations, neither S&P nor Moody's could muster enough courage to at least put the US on even the weakest form of downgrade review, one can say that after 2 years of pretending otherwise, both rating agencies are still as [clueless/corrupt] as always. Then one barely visible silver lining, the following disclosure from Moody's in the report released today:
The ratios of general government debt to GDP and to
revenue are deteriorating sharply, and after the crisis they
are likely to be higher than the ratios of other Aaa-rated
If the current upward trend in government debt were to
continue and become irreversible, the rating could come under
downward pressure. The trend and the outlook would be more
important than any particular level of debt.
The financial crisis of 2007–2010 has been called the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many causes have been proposed, including one suggested by MIT economist Ricardo Caballero that foreign investment demand was a major contributor to America's monetary mess. So, are foreigners responsible for America's financial crisis?
It appears that in the 11th hour, Europe is still unable to decide just what the proper approach to rescuing Greece is. The Sunday Times has just released information that a plan to be published by Brussels on Tuesday, titled "Urgent measures to be taken by May 15, 2010" will demand dramatic Greek austerity measures, such as cutting "average nominal wages, including in
central government, local governments, state agencies and other public
institutions" and proposes new luxury goods and self-employed taxes. Yet the kicker is that "Richer eurozone countries such as Germany and France would be expected to bail
out Greece in the worst-case scenario, to prevent a disastrous crash in the
value of the single currency" - not very surprisingly, this is precisely the Plan B that Almunia yesterday swore up and down that the EU was not, repeat not, considering. Moral Hazard has indeed gone global. Yet even with this bureaucratic memorandum on the table, it seems certain that the EU will not actually act before Greek deterioration escalates out of control. Here are the near term catalysts that will likely make the cost of inactivity very high.
While Tim Geithner may hope the AIG situation is now dead and buried, it is likely anything but, with the recently launched investigation into disclosure fraud by the SIGTARP, and the relentless efforts by Darrell Issa to metaphorically crucify the tax-challenged treasury secretary currently ongoing. As these noble pursuits continue, we ask two simple questions.