As the buy-the-ratings-downgrade-news surge on European sovereigns stalls (following a few weeks of sell-the-rumor on France for example), the ever-ready-to-comment mainstream media remains convinced that the impact is priced in and that ratings agencies are increasingly irrelevant. UBS disagrees. In a note today from their global macro team, they recognize that while the downgrades were hardly a surprise to anyone (with size of downgrade the only real unknown), the effect on 'AAA-only' constrained portfolios is important (no matter how hard politicians try to change the rules) but of more concern is the political impact as the divergence between France's rating (and outlook) and Germany (and UK perhaps) highlights harsh economic realities and increases (as EFSF spreads widen further) the bargaining power of Germany in the economic councils of Europe. Furthermore, the potential for closer relationships with the UK (still AAA-rated) increase as the number of AAA EU nations within the Euro only just trumps the number outside of the single currency. This may be one of those rare occasions where politics is more important than economics.
Until now, the crisis has touched mostly the financial world. But in 2012, it will hit the real economy.
Did bankers use the MF Global bankruptcy to suppress gold and silver prices and create the panicked appearance of collapsing precious metals to give themselves additional precious time to delay the crash of the Euro and the US Dollar? As crazy as this sounds, a closer investigation of some key data seems to imply this possibility.
The gloves are off! As the French prepare for the loss of their AAA status, the governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, suggests that the UK should be first in the firing line as the data for inflation, real GDP growth and government deficit to GDP are worse across la Manche from where he sits. A month ago French 10 year yields were 3.8%. Today they are just above 3%, so maybe the markets are giving him the benefit of the doubt, but let us not forget that the maturity timeline of French bonds is considerably shorter than the UK. They are about to have a funding problem and that is one of the many issues that the much maligned ratings agencies are concerned about.
Dick Bove and Fitch, timely and accurate as ever...
- A downbeat BoJ's Tankan report, together with a below 50 reading for HSBC Chinese manufacturing dampened sentiment during the Asian session
- ECB's Draghi said intensified financial market tensions continue to dampen economic activity in the Euroarea and the outlook remains subject to high uncertainty
- According to reports, the ECB is planning to introduce new capital rules for banks to prevent aggressive deleveraging and a credit crunch
- The SNB kept its 3-month LIBOR target rate unchanged at 0.00% as expected, and said it will stick to its 1.2000 EUR/CHF floor
To anyone who doubted that the gloves are now fully off between France and Britain, we bring you exhibit A: Speaking in an interview with local newspaper Le Telegramme de Brest to be published later on Thursday, Bank of France head and ECB member Christian Noyer said that a downgrade of France's AAA credit rating would not be justified and ratings agencies are making decisions based more on politics than economics and questioned whether the use of ratings agencies to guide investors was still valid. "In the arguments they (ratings agencies) present, there are more political arguments than economic ones," said Noyer, the head of the Bank of France and a member of the ECB's governing council. "The downgrade does not appear to me to be justified when considering economic fundamentals," Noyer said. "Otherwise, they should start by downgrading Britain which has more deficits, as much debt, more inflation, less growth than us and where credit is slumping." The bolded sentence confirms two things: i) that the Nash equilibrium in Europe is now fatally broken, because when you have the head of one central bank doing all he can to throw another central bank under the bus, that's pretty much game (theory) over; and ii) when he said that "the agencies have become incomprehensible and irrational. They threaten even when states have taken strong and positive decisions. One could think that the use of agencies to guide investors is no longer valid." it proves that this amateur has no more understanding of basic finance than your generic Reuters blogger, both of whom apparently fail to comprehend that there are several hundred thousand bond and loan indentures in the real world, not the world of "S&P has no credibility so ignore it", which are loaded with covenants discussing springing liens, rating indexed interest levels and collateral thresholds, all of which are based on a sovereign and corporate rating, and all come into play in a completely unpredictable way (hint AIG - the reason why AIG imploded was because a rating agency downgrade unleashed a terminal margin call) when there is a rating downgrade. Such as that of France in a few hours to days top.
What Is More Valuable, The Opinion Of A Major Rating Agency Or The Opinion Of A Blog? Go Ahead, I DARE You To Answer!Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 12/09/2011 12:28 -0400
Follow Europe, banks or corporates? You're out of your damn mind if you subscribe to rating agencies over Blog based independent research!!! Don't believe me? I'll walk you through the evidence, step by step!
Grandma said, "There is never just one roach". What damning characteristics does MF Global, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan have in common? Yes, I mean besides common CEOs and an auditor that gives the green flag months before historically record setting bankruptcies due to inadequate controls...
Where Are The Ratings Agencies Before UK & German Banks Go Boom? How About Those Euro REITs? Agencies Anybody?Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 11/30/2011 13:25 -0400
I'm calling the ratings agencies on this...
As the hopes of an IMF bazooka fades, Market News is reporting that the ever-ready-to-print-a-story European newspaper Die Welt says Germany and the other 5 AAA-rated nations of Europe are discussing jointly issuing 'Elite' bonds. We assume the borrowings could be used to fund the less-well-rated nations and avoid a true Euro-bond joint-and-several issuance which Merkel and other have been so opposed to. For now, it is clear that the 'Have's and the 'Have-Not's are becoming increasingly divided and this - much like our earlier discussion of the recap section of the EFSF draft - seems to be further from a fiscally united Europe and any inevitable endgame. We wonder what will happen when Austria gets downgraded? It certainly seems that the much-ridiculed ratings agencies are now playing an even more important role?
It is increasingly clear that Europe is bifurcating in many ways - High-grade and everyone else - and it appears the preparation is beginning. Is Germany becoming the mercantilist vendor-financier to its hugely imbalanced European trade partners?
The only quote worth noting from the just delivered speech by ECB executive board member José Manuel González-Páramo is the following: "We cannot completely delegate governance to financial markets. The euro area is the world’s second largest monetary area. It cannot depend solely on the opinions of ratings agencies and markets. It needs economic governance arrangements that are preventive and linear. This underscores my central point that a much more comprehensive approach to economic governance is now the priority for the euro area. And this means more economic and financial integration for the euro area, with a significant transfer of sovereignty to the EMU level over fiscal, structural and financial policies." In other words, in order to protect people from the "stupidity" of rating agencies which after years of lying have finally started telling the truth, and the market which does what it always does, and punishes those who fail, Europe must be prepared to give up "significant sovereignty" (sounds better than Anschluss) to Europe's "betters" which is another way of saying 'he who pays the piper calls the tune." And "he" in this case is, of course, Germany. In other words, courtesy of one failed monetary experiment Germany will succeed, without sheeding one drop of blood, where it failed rather historically some 70 years ago.
Arguably the least biased (or perhaps least cognitively dissonant) of the major ratings agencies, China's Dagong has just moved Portugal's rating to junk (BB+) from comfortably investment grade (BBB+) - a 3 notch drop. The rating agency also left the peripheral nation on negative watch. This action follows Monday's Greek downgrade from C to CCC. Is this a ploy for better entry levels when they save the world with their EFSF-buying bazooka? Or more likely a more honest reflection of a debt-laden, slow-growing, austerity-facing nation burdened with inadequate leadership and an inability to control its own fate?