Why are we not surprised? The EU has just voted to scrap the use of ratings agencies in the next step on the road to a ban of all policy criticism. Via Bloomberg,
- *EU LAWMAKERS APPROVE AMENDMENT TO END USE OF CREDIT RATINGS
It seems just a few years ago, when these very same ratings agencies were raising ratings and supporting banking systems, mortgage provision, and sovereign-inclusions-into-monetary-unions, that the political elite could not showing off their bronzed statues of AAA/AA-ness.
And in the most bizarre of twists, they would prefer if they were allowed to rate themselves:
- *LAWMAKERS CALL FOR EU TO ISSUE SOVEREIGN CREDIT RATINGS :MCO US
We're paid by investors, we have to earn our keep every single year. S&P and Moody's are being paid by the issuers of debt
We were wondering how long Europe's insolvent, and very much scorned, banks would take the constant downgrade abuse (or reacquaintance with reality as we like to call it, but that is irrelevant) by the rating agencies without retorting. After all the same organizations that allowed bank "credit analysts" to pretend they did work for years, when they all merely fell in place in some lemming-like procession, patting each other on the back, pocketing record bonus after record bonus and praising groupthink encapsulated by the made up letters AAA, are now largely non-grata first in Europe, and soon, following the imminent downgrade of American banks, in the US as well. It appears that the response is finally coming. Sky News reports that "some of Europe's largest banks are intensifying discussions about a move to reduce their co-operation with the big three credit ratings agencies amid widespread dissatisfaction with their decision-making." After all, when all they do is downgrade, as opposed to the old standby, upgrade, who needs them. In fact, why not just shut their mouths entirely. Sadly, this is precisely what is on the horizon.
A month and a half after the SEC took a much-deserved break from watching taxpayer-funded pornography, and stumbled on the scene with its latest pathetic attempt to scapegoat someone, anyone, for its years of gross incompetence, corruption, and inability to prosecute any of the true perpetrators for an event that wiped out tens of trillions in US wealth, by suing Egan-Jones for "improperly" filing their NRSRO application in what was a glaring attempt to shut them up, the only rating agency with any credibility has done what nobody else in the history of modern crony capitalist-cum-socialist America has dared to do: fight back. We have only three words for Sean Egan: For. The. Win.
- Dublin in final push for EU treaty Yes vote (FT)
- Spain cries for help: is Berlin listening? (Reuters)
- Crisis draws squatters to Spain's empty buildings (Reuters)
- EU World Bank Chief Urges Euro Bonds (WSJ)
- but... EU: Current Plan Is Not To Let ESM Directly Recapitalize Banks (WSJ)
- Graff pulls Hong Kong IPO, latest victim of weak markets (Reuters) - was MS underwriter?
- EU Weighs Direct Aid to Banks as Antidote to Crisis (Bloomberg)
- Dewey's bankruptcy: Let the rumble begin (Dewey)
- More are cutting off Greek trade: Trade credit insurers balk at Greek risk (FT)
- Rosengren wants more Fed easing; Dudley, Fisher don't (Reuters)
- EU throws Spain two potential lifelines (Reuters)
- Fed's Bullard says more quantitative easing unlikely for now, warns on Europe (Reuters)
There was some hope that today's European summit would provide some more clarity for something else than just the local caterer's 2012 tax payment. It wont. Per Reuters: "Germany does not believe that jointly issued euro zone bonds offer a solution to the bloc's debt crisis and will not change its stance despite calls from France and other countries to consider such a step, a senior German official said on Tuesday. "That's a firm conviction which will not change in June," the official said at a German government briefing before an informal summit of EU leaders on Wednesday. A second summit will be held at the end of June. The official, requesting anonymity, also said he saw no need for leaders to discuss a loosening of deficit goals for struggling euro zone countries like Greece or Spain, nor to explore new ways for recapitalise vulnerable banks at Wednesday's meeting." In other words absolutely the same as in August 2011 when Europe came, saw, and did nothing. Yes, yes, deja vu. Bottom line: just as Citi predicted, until the bottom falls out of the market, nothing will change. They were right. As for the summit, just recycle the Einhorn chart from below. Elsewhere, the OECD slashed world growth forecasts and now officially sees Europe contracting, something everyone else has known for months. "In its twice-yearly economic outlook, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that global growth would ease to 3.4 percent this year from 3.6 percent in 2011, before accelerating to 4.2 percent in 2013, in line with its last estimates from late November... The OECD forecast that the 17-member euro zone economy would shrink 0.1 percent this year before posting growth of 0.9 percent in 2013, though regional powerhouse Germany would chalk up growth of 1.2 percent in 2012 and 2.0 percent in 2013." Concluding the overnight news was a meaningless auction of €2.5 billion in 3 and 6 month bills (recall, Bill issuance in LTRO Europe is completely meaningless) in which borrowing rates rose, and a very meaningful downgrade of Japan to A+ from AA, outlook negative, by Fitch which lowered Japan's long-term foreign currency rating to A plus from AA, the local currency rating to A plus from AA minus, and to the country ceiling rating to AA+ from AAA. Yes, Kyle Bass is right. Just a matter of time. Just like with subprime.
A few days ago we suggested that this action by LCH.Clearnet was only a matter of time. Sure enough, as of minutes ago the bond clearer hiked margins on all Spanish bonds with a duration of more than 1.25 years. Net result: the Spanish Banks which by now are by far the largest single group holder of Spanish bonds, has to post even moire collateral beginning May 25. Only problem with that: it very well may not have the collateral.
- Facebook's selling shareholders can't wait to get out of company, increase offering by 25% (Bloomberg)
- Boehner Draws Line in Sand on Debt (WSJ)
- Romney Attacks Obama Over Recovery Citing U.S. Debt Load (Bloomberg)
- BHP chairman says commodity markets to cool further (Reuters)
- Merkel’s First Hollande Meeting Yields Growth Signal for Greece (Bloomberg)
- Greek President Told Banks Anxious as Deposits Pulled (Bloomberg)
- EU to push for binding investor pay votes (FT)
- Martin Wolf: Era of a diminished superpower (FT)
- China’s Hong Kong Home-Buying Influx Wanes, Midland Says (Bloomberg)
- U.N. and Iran agree to keep talking on nuclear (Reuters)
- US nears deal to reopen Afghan supply route (FT)
Big Ben starved the banks trying to save them, hence they got more aggressive in hunting for food (yield)! That being the case, don't believe only JPM was overreaching for yield.
You know I saw this one coming 3 years ago, didn't you??? This ain't the end of the story either. You heard it hear first, again!
Three weeks ago we discussed the ultimate-doomsday presentation of the state of Spain which best summarized the macro-concerns facing the nation and its banks. Since then the market, and now the ratings agencies, have fully digested that meal of dysphoric data and pushed Spanish sovereign and bank bond spreads back to levels seen before the LTRO's short-lived (though self-defeating) munificence transfixed global investors. However, the world moves on and while most are focused directly on yields, spreads, unemployment rates, and loan-delinquency levels, there are two critical new numbers to pay attention to immediately - that we are sure the market will soon learn to appreciate. The first is 5%. This is the haircut increase that ECB collateral will require once all ratings agencies shift to BBB+ or below (meaning massive margin calls and cash needs for the exact banks that are the most exposed and least capable of achieving said liquidity). The second is 10%. This is the level of funded (bank) assets that are financed by the Central Bank and as UBS notes, this is the tipping point beyond which banks are treated differently by the market and have historically required significant equity issuance to return to regular private market funding. With S&P having made the move to BBB+ this week (and Italy already there), and Spain's banking system having reached 11% as of the last ECB announcement (and Italy 7.7%), it would appear we are set for more heat in the European kitchen - especially since Nomura adds that they do not expect any meaningful response from the ECB until things get a lot worse. The world is waking up to the realization that de-linking sovereigns and banks (as opposed to concentrating that systemic risk) is key to stabilizing markets.
The European Central Bank prints money and hands it to the banks in undiminished size and at an interest rate which compels massive carry trades. The European banks buy sovereign debt that helps to lower the price of the sovereign’s funding costs, the banks use some of the money to increase their own capital and lend some of the money to individuals and corporations in the nations where they are domiciled. The money gets used and eventually dries up and a some of the capital is used to come into compliance with Basel III. The yields of the periphery nations fall but then begin to rise again. Germany, using Target-2, keeps lending money to the other central banks which use part of the money to support their currency, the Euro. The circle is then completed and the equity markets, notably in America, trade off of the strength of the Euro and some days at almost a point by point movement. Never before in the history of the world has such a grand scheme been implemented and in such an all-encompassing fashion. The unlimited amount of money that is available, because they can print all the money they want, has allowed Europe to game the world’s financial system while no one looked or caught on to the scheme. The world’s fiscal system has been rigged by Europe.
Get those rotten tomatos ready
Americans have been listening to the mainstream financial media’s song and dance for around four years now. Every year, the song tells a comforting tale of good ol’ fashioned down home economic recovery with biscuits and gravy. And, every year, more people are left to wonder where this fantastic smorgasbord turnaround is taking place? Two blocks down? The next city over? Or perhaps only the neighborhoods surrounding the offices of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX? Certainly, it’s not spreading like wildfire in our own neck of the woods…Many in the general public are at the very least asking “where is the root of the recovery?” However, what they should really be asking is “where is the trigger for collapse?” Since 2007/2008, I and many other independent economic analysts have outlined numerous possible fiscal weaknesses and warning signs that could bring disaster if allowed to fully develop. What we find to our dismay here in 2012, however, is not one or two of these triggers coming to fruition, but nearly EVERY SINGLE conceivable Achilles’ heel within the foundation of our system raw and ready to snap at a moment’s notice. We are trapped on a river rapid leading to multiple economic disasters, and the only thing left for any sincere analyst to do is to carefully anticipate where the first hits will come from. Four years seems like a long time for global banks and government entities to subdue or postpone a financial breakdown, and an overly optimistic person might suggest that there may never be a sharp downturn in the markets. Couldn’t we simply roll with the tide forever, buoyed by intermittent fiat injections, treasury swaps, and policy shifts? The answer……is no.
Bob Janjuah, who has been quiet lately (recall his last piece in which he quite honestly told everyone that "Markets Are So Rigged By Policy Makers That I Have No Meaningful Insights To Offer"), is out with his latest, in which he gives us not only his long-term preview, "ultimately I still fear and expect the S&P500 – as the global risk-on/risk-off proxy – to trade at 800, and the Dow/Gold ratio to hit parity (currently at 8, down from an all-time high of 45 in late 1999) before we can begin the next multi-decade bull cycle", but also his checklist of 8 things to look forward to in the short-term centrally-planned future.