Rating Agencies

Reggie Middleton's picture

No matter what financial engineering scheme you attempt to wrap around it, no matter what socio-political financial nomenclature you attempt to drape it in, and no matter how far you attempt to kick said can down the road in a "delay and pray" tactic of pushing the inevitable collapse past your particular tenure at the helm, the only way out of this is the recognition of capital destruction, AKA Default!

Greek "Rollover" Bailout Proposal On Verge Of Collapse, After Germany Puts Bond Swap Idea "Back On The Table"

The much ridiculed "MLEC-type" bailout proposal of Greece, which contemplates the rolling of existing debt into a guaranteed SPV, and which was the European rescue deux ex machina for exactly two weeks, appears to have been pulled off the table, following the announcement by German Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Asmussen to Reuters Insider TV that "Germany has put a Greek bond swap back on the table as a model for private sector involvement in fresh aid for Athens." More: "The model put forward by some French banks is still a good base for discussions and we are currently working on this. But since rating agencies have signalled that they will consider modalities (such as) the French proposal as a selective default -- that means a rating event -- we can also put other options like a bond exchange on the table." he said, adding discussions would take place over the summer break. Translation: back to square minus one. And actually it is much worse, because if Asmussen is aware of rating agency policy, a debt exchange would most certainly qualify for an event of default. Which confirms our initial expectation from a month ago that there is nothing absent a complete loss of ECB credibility that can possibly transpire next, as the ECB realizes there is no way around accepting defaulted Greek bonds as collateral. The only question is what happens then: will the market, head currently deep in the sand, scramble upon the confirmation that the ECB emperor is naked, or will it continue acting as if nothing has changed yet again.

Iceland Going For Trifecta As "Gateway To Hell" Volcano Prepares To Blow

Last year's Eyjafjoell and the recent Grimsvotn eruptions will have been a walk in the pyroclastic park if, as AFP reports, the most feared of all Iceland volcanoes, Hekla, is indeed about to blow. "Experts say one of Iceland's most feared volcanoes looks ready to erupt, with measurements indicating magma movement, raising fears of a new ash cloud halting flights over Europe. The Iceland Civil Protection Authority says it is closely monitoring the situation. "The movements around Hekla have been unusual in the last two to three days," University of Iceland geophysicist Pall Einarsson said." Hekla's eruption would certainly have far more dire consequences on European airspace than Grimsvotn, which merely succeeded in getting Obama to vacate Ireland sooner than expected: "The volcano, dubbed by Icelanders in the Middle Ages as the "Gateway to Hell," is one of Iceland's most active, having erupted some 20 times over the past millennium, most recently on February 26, 2000. Over the past 50 years, Hekla has gone off about once a decade." And so Europe, once again caught in the maelstrom of a sovereign debt crunch, will be sensitive to headline risk, as the last thing the continent which is now doing all it can to ostracize rating agencies, as if its insolvency is their fault, is a continent-wide grounding of all flights.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: July 6

Moody's downgraded Portugal's sovereign rating to "junk" status yesterday (Ba2 from Baa1; outlook negative), which promoted risk-aversion during the European session, and weighed on EUR and equities. Bunds traded higher and record widening was observed in the Portuguese/German 10-year government bond yield spread. Meanwhile, the German deputy finance minister said that Germany will put the idea of a bond swap in Greek debt deal back on the table, adding that all options should be considered as rating agencies have signalled that the French model will lead to a selective default. Risk-appetite was further dented after the PBOC raised its one-year benchmark lending and deposit rates by 25 basis points each, effective from July 7th. Moving into the North American open, markets look ahead to Challenger job cuts data from the US, and building permits figures from Canada. In fixed income, Fed's Outright Treasury Coupon Purchase operation in the maturity range of Jan'14-Jun'15, with a purchase target of USD 2.5-3.5bln, is scheduled for later in the session. Markets will keep a close eye on any development with respect to Greek or Portuguese economies.

Generali - Still The Best Way To Hedge For The Upcoming Italian, And European, Contagion

Back in December, when noting the first material blow out in PIIGS spreads following the first Greek bailout 6 months earlier, we touched upon Italy, and specifically looked at a way to best play the coming shift in Eurozone contagion from the periphery to the core, coming up with one unique corporate name. Back then we said: "We all know what has happened to Italian bond prices in the past weeks: as of today, Bund spreads have just hit a fresh all time high. But all this is irrelevant since the bank must have a capital buffer to accommodate the losses. After all, what idiot would run a company with almost €300 billion in Euro-facing bond exposure and not factor for deterioration in risk after the events of May... Well the ASSGEN CEO may be just such an idiot. The company's balance sheet as of 9/30 discloses that the firm had a mere €10 billion in tangible capital (excluding €10.7 billion in intangible assets). So let's recap: €262 billion in Euro bonds on.... €10 billion in tangible equity! A 26x leverage on what is promptly becoming the most impaired asset class in the world." In a nutshell, Assecurazioni Generali, one of Italy's largest insurers, is a highly levered windsock for Italian and other PIIGS stress, and better yet, can be played in either equity or CDS. Now that the European bond vigilantes are once again looking beyond Greece and focusing particularly on Italy (especially based on recent Sigma X trading), none other than JP Morgan (which just cut its estimates on GASI.MI, a very appropriate equity ticker) validates the thesis that Generali (or ASSGEN per its memorable corporate/CDS ticker) is the best proxy for contagion: "Generali is one of the most sensitive stocks to both the sovereign debt crisis and the implications for the financial sector through both its government, corporate and equity investment portfolios...Generali’s sovereign exposure is mainly concentrated in Europe with Italy accounting for the largest share (37%; home market bias)."

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: July 5

Markets witnessed risk-averse sentiment in early European trade partly on the back of comments from Moody's that China's local government debt may be USD 540bln larger than auditors estimated, which could endanger Chinese banks' credit ratings. Lower than expected services PMI data from China, and core Eurozone countries dented risk-appetite further, which in turn resulted in weakness in EUR and equities. However, as the session progressed equities gradually came off their earlier lows, and the oil & gas sector received some support after the UK Treasury announced tax support for North Sea oil companies. Elsewhere, GBP/USD gained strength following better than expected services PMI data from the UK. Moving forward, the economic calendar remains thin, however markets look ahead to economic data from the US in the form of durable goods revision and factory orders figures.

Moody's July 4 Bomb: Rating Agency Finds 10% Of Chinese GDP Is Bad Debt, Claims "China Debt Problem Bigger Than Stated"

The timing on the earlier pronouncement that rating agencies may have found religion could not have been better. Not even an hour later, here comes Moody's with a blockbuster which may put China's "White Knight" status, at least as ar as Europe is concerned, in grave danger. In a report just released, the rating agency not only warns that China's debt problem is "bigger than stated" (i.e., China is hiding a ton of ugly stuff off the books), but goes ahead to quantify it: "Of the RMB 10.7 trillion (about $1.6 trillion) of local government debt examined by the Chinese audit agency, RMB 8.5 trillion ($1.3 trillion) was funded by banks. However, Moody's has identified another potential RMB 3.5 trillion ($540 billion) of such loans that the Chinese auditors did not discuss in their report....we find that the Chinese audit agency could be understating banks' exposures to local governments by as much as RMB 3.5 trillion." Naturally, the implication is that this is an absolutely willing "omission" (thank you central planning), which means that of China's $5.8 trillion GDP (or whatever imaginary number the Polit Bureau is happy with throwing around for mass consumption), $540 billion is debt that is "unaccounted for", most likely due to being, well, bad. That would be equivalent to saying that $1.4 trillion of US corporate debt is delinquent. And lest anything is lost in translation, Moody's drives the steak through the Dragon's heart: "Since these loans to local governments are not covered by the NAO
report, this means they are not considered by the audit agency as real
claims on local governments. This indicates that these loans are most
likely poorly documented and may pose the greatest risk of delinquency.
" So let's get this straight: a country which has 10% of its GDP in the form of bad debt, is somehow expected to be credible enough to buy not only Greek debt, but the EURUSD each and every day? Mmmmk. In the meantime, Dagong downgrades the US to junk status in 5, 4, 3...

As ECB Finds Rating Agencies Have Suddenly Found Religion, It Prepares To Flip Flop On Accepting Greek Bond Collateral

Well this was unexpected: the rating agencies, for years and years patsies of their highest paying clients, have suddenly found their conscience, if not religion, and adamantly refuse to bend long-standing rules which qualify the proposed Greek MLEC/CDO type rescue as an event of default. Per Bloomberg: "The rating companies have signaled the plan would trigger because it is being done to avoid default, so couldn’t be considered voluntary, and because investors would be worse off than by holding the new securities." The ECB is so confused by this intransigence and unwillingness to bend to the will of the criminal cartel that earlier today the ECB's Novotny was complaining to Austrian TV about this unexpected demonstration of independence: "Debt rating agencies are being much tougher on potential private-sector contributions to Greece's debt woes than in past bailouts, European Central Bank Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said on Monday. "We are conducting a very difficult conversation with the ratings agencies," he said."This is what we have to try to find: a way that on the one hand certainly involves banks without having this lead to a default as a consequence," he added. "I also must say it strikes me that the ratings agencies are being much stricter and more aggressive in this European matter than they were, for example, in similar cases in South America. I think this is something we will have to think over." As a result of all this sudden uncertainty, Bloomberg now speculates that the ECB will have no choice than to flip flop on its own adamant position of isolating defaulted collateral, and accept Greek bonds even in an event of default: “The ECB cannot remove liquidity from the big Greek banks,” said Dimitris Drakopoulos, an economist at Nomura. “This discussion is a waste of time. The ECB is going to back down in the end -- what can they do?” he added."

Guest Post: Making Sense Of The French Rollover Plan

Confusion continues to reign supreme over what the French rollover plan does for the various entities. The details and mechanics are a bit sketchy, but I have attached the proposal that I found, and will use that as a basis for the analysis. As I go through the details, and incorporate the latest rating agency comments, the conclusion remains the same – this is a good deal for the Participants, a mediocre deal for the Troika, and punitive to Greece.