Guest Post: Economic Collapse? We’re Soaking In It!

Since the derivatives and housing market implosion of 2008, America and the rest of the world has been spiraling down a chasm some in this country still refuse to take note of. The question has never been whether there “will be” a full scale financial disaster. The end to that chapter of this story was already written years ago. Rather, the real question has been “when” will this inevitable event culminate? Sadly, speculation on the matter has met an irreconcilable road block. The fact is, all the necessary elements are in place to bring down our fiscal shelter not in five years, not in one year, not in six months, but today. That’s right…..the economy as we know it has the potential to derail completely before you wake up for your morning poptart. Some skeptics might shrug off this statement as mere sensationalism for effect. I wish that were the case. Frankly, I would enjoy writing a little fiction for once. The truth is far too bizarre and disturbing lately. In the case of economics, traditional views and standards have gone completely out the window in a way that I and probably every other analyst in the field have never heard of or encountered. All expectations are now null and void. Manipulation of the marketplace is no longer a subversive and secretive process, but open government and central banking policy! Who could have guessed five years ago, for instance, that U.S. taxpayers would be saddled with bailouts of the EU? Who could have predicted that global stock market psychology would be dominated for over a year by the debt drama of a country as economically insignificant as Greece? And, who could have foreseen that destructive fiat stimulus policies would soon be common knowledge events amongst the citizens of various faltering nations?

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: November 14

  • Mario Monti was handed the task on Sunday night of forming an emergency government led by technocrats
  • The Italian/German 10-year government bond yield spread widened despite a well-bid BTP auction from Italy, as concerns surrounding the Italian debt remained in focus
  • According to IFR, European banks are planning to dump more of the EUR 300bln they own in Italian government debt. Also, president of the European Banking Federation said that Europe’s banks need to keep dumping Italian banks
  • The EFSF denied a Sunday Telegraph report that it spent more than EUR 100mln buying its own bonds after failing to achieve its funding target as a sale last week
  • The Swiss economy minister warned against exerting pressure on the SNB to weaken the currency

Chart Of The Day: The EFSF Is Already Trading As AA+, Or Why The French AAA Rating No Longer Matters

Following the S&P "technical glitch" on Thursday which sent out a bizarre notice to a few subscribers notifying that a rating action on France is imminent, FrAAAnce is up in arms and demanding S&P blood. The reason: as everyone knows by now, the sanctity of the Eurozone is now contingent on those three A letters more than any other variable, because without said rating, France becomes ineligible for EFSF funding purposes (at any rating less than AAA), the EFSF's sole 'pristine' backer becomes Germany, and sends the EFSF yield curve into a tailspin, as it glaringly painfully obvious that Germany alone can't fund the trillions needed to preserve the Eurozone and purchase rolling Italian and other PIIGS debt. Yet one look at the yield curve of the EFSF as it already stand confirms that the market is not waiting for S&P, Moody's or any other rating agency, as it is now just a matter of time: after all recall that S&P itself said that it "would likely downgrade the credit ratings of France, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal if the euro zone slips into another recession." Well as of yesterday, the EU itself warned the Eurozone may slump into "a deep and prolonged recession."The result: as of the past few days the EFSF no longer trades with an AAA implied rating. In face as can be seen on the chart below analyzing regression curves for various rating strata, the EFSF is now AA+ at best. Simply said, this means that the bond market has once again voted, and completely oblivious of the noise that is the puppet changes at the top in Italy and Greece, is already preparing for the next contingency casualty, which after France, is just one... at least in Europe.

S&P Is Second Rating Agency In One Day To Warn It Will Cut Hungary To Junk

Earlier today it was Fitch; now, way after the close, it is S&P's turn: the rating agency just put Hungary on junk bond watch, due an "unpredictable policy framework", and better yet, advised readers that the almost certain downgrade from Investment Grade would happen this month. Naturally, if Hungary, AAAustria is next. Then all of Eastern Europe follows quickly and Germany finds itself in a war with contagion on every single front.

S&P Explains How A Technical Error May Have Led Some To Believe That FrAAAnce Is Massively Overrated At AAA

Just out via S&P:

As a result of a technical error, a message was automatically disseminated today to some subscribers of S&P's Global Credit Portal suggesting that France's credit rating had been changed. This is not the case: the ratings on Republic of France remain 'AAA/A-1+' with a stable outlook, and this incident is not related to any ratings surveillance activity. We are investigating the cause of the error. Media Contact: Martin Winn, London (44) 20-7176-3740;

At least they did not find €55.5 trillion in the couch. In other news, it is good to see that now a hacker can singlehandedly wreak havoc to a $60 trillion bond market by finding a back door entry to the S&P turboserver. But at least we now know that the next time S&P downgrades someone we will first have to ask if the release was preapproved by Norton AntiVirus...

FT Deutschland On The Upcoming Austrian AAA-Rating Downgrade

Remember Austria: that "other" AAA-rated country, whose megabank Erste recently made headlines for covering up its sovereign CDS exposure? It appears that AAA rating, which means Austria is still eligible to fund the EFSF, may soon be cut, putting even more pressure on Germany and, of course, France, and thus concerns for ratings downgrades there, to bear the brunt of what is an increasingly impossible bail out plan for Europe. It also means that the market will now be fearing not only a kneejerk reaction to the perpetual French downgrade terror threat courtesy of S&P and Moody's, but can now add not only Hungary and Belgium but also Austria to the list of countries due for some inverse rating agency love trim. As for the catalyst: "In two weeks, Moody's analysts to come to Vienna to assess the situation on the ground. Felderer considers it possible that Austria would put on negative outlook in this review." Alas, it appears that the Grinch is about to steal AAAustria's vaunted rating for Christmas, and push the direction of contagion into a whole new direction.

Guest Post: Hard Evidence: Bailed-Out Banks Take More Risk

Moving from this granular level to a bank-wide basis, the authors found that the CPP banks increased asset risk (using ROA & earnings volatility as proxies) while decreasing their leverage (perhaps because they knew that regulators would be keeping an eye on this metric in addition to the capitalization ratio.) What does all this mean and how should this shape actions in the future? The bail-out itself increased our chances of having the bail the banks out all over again. Moral hazard is no longer in the realm of the abstract. Further, my guess is that the bailed-out banks took on more risk so that they could earn enough to speed repayment of the aid and therefore escape the onerous strings attached. So perhaps the limits on executive compensations, dividends, etc. in a perverse way increased our chances of having to bail the banks out all over again.

Tranched EFSF - Or TARP Lite

The EU is getting closer to having two actual alternatives for EFSF on the table. Partial Protection Certificate (PPC) - the goal of which is to reduce coupons on bond issues - and Co-Investment Funds (CIF) which create a levered vehicle for purchasing/supporting secondary bonds. CIF’s seem to have a better chance of working, though they will require not only cheap EFSF money at the first loss part of the capital structure, but also some “dumb” money at the senior part of the capital structure.  If they get enough of that, they can create some compelling value for “mezz” investors. This is not TALF.  TALF was a much better deal for outside investors.  The range of assets the investor could choose from was broad.  Most fund managers believed they were “cheap” but couldn’t come up with the capital to invest, or handle the downside. TALF was a great opportunity.  CIF’s may create some interesting opportunities, and are at the very least flexible enough, that investors could have a discussion, but they are nowhere near as appealing as TALF was.

Where Are We Now? A Comparative Timeline Approach

Let's assume that the statement "its never different this time" is there for a reason, and is fundamentally correct. In which case this time is just like some other previous time. Furthermore, considering that the underlying reasons for the Great Financial Crisis of 2007 never went away but merely saw their symptoms masked by trillions of dollars in monetary and fiscal stimulus, it is safe to say that what is currently happening in Europe, accompanied by financial failures in the US, is merely a continuation of that epic collapse that started all the way back in 2007 with the failure of New Century. And since history always rhymes, and all too often it is easy to ignore the big picture of the past, we would like to remind readers of precisely what the key events in the first great collapse were, transpose these to the present, and attempt to predict the future. The questions are: who is next, when, where and how. To help us with the answer, here is a brief history of two timelines...

Guest Post: Financial Cancer: Our Financial System Is Intrinsically Fraudulent and Unstable

First there are the more legitimate skim sources - interest payments, management fees, IPO fees, M&A fees, trade commissions. Then there are the less legitimate bank sources: penalty credit card interest rates, late fees, usage fees, over-the-limit fees, late payment fees, bounced check fees, low balance fees. And the capital markets sources - front-running, insider trading, account churning, manipulation of the news cycle, the captive analyst "ratings game", trading against your own client's order book, forex trades which are marked at the day high or low irrespective of when the trade took place, market manipulations at options expiration, stuffing your managed client accounts full of dubious IPOs and new issues that your organization is earning fees from originating. Bucket shops and ponzi schemes take it even a step further - no actual financial activity takes place. Its simply robbery. And now we add the new stuff: credit default swaps without margin, fraudulent loan origination, sliced & diced mortgages, mark to myth accounting, foreclosure halts to avoid realizing losses, extend & pretend, quote stuffing, HFT trading activity that boils down to denial of service attacks on exchange computers causing delays in pricing information, highly complex derivatives sold to unsuspecting but optimistic public servants, too big to fail status providing cheap backup in the event of trouble, and increased organizational size that facilitate cartel-like control over government and regulators. But if that's not enough, there is the structure itself: they aren't doing this with saved capital, but rather with freshly printed and/or borrowed capital. Its all done with 12:1 leverage at a minimum... And if the bet goes bad, the Fed will ride to the rescue with low-cost money. But usually the bet goes well, because ordinarily the number of sources of fraud today is so HUGE, its practically impossible not to succeed.

Silvio Berlusconi: "We Don't Want Elections. We Want To Govern" - Tens Of Thousands Of Protestors Disagree

Even as the EURUSD is surging because of, uh, we are not quite sure - HFTs hitting all stops most likely, it is only 9 short hours until BTPs, that one and only fulcrum security for the entire European continent reopens. And while for Greece getting a new government, even if one headed by a former Fed member is somehow good news (we wonder how the people will react knowing that their fate as debt slaves repaying European banks has just been sealed for a few more months), in Italy government "stability" (we realize the comic value of this statement) is the key to prevent a blow out to the 10 Year BTP, and the launch of a domnino cascade that will stop only with French OATs, and potentially rip through through that final firewall: Germany (with or without BuBa's billions in gold reserves... which we can only hope are not parked with the New York Fed). So back to Italian government "stability" which according to France 24 is not doing that hot. "Tens of thousands of Italians gathered in Rome on Saturday to protest Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's tackling of the country's sovereign debt crisis. "Silvio out" was the rallying cry for the large crowd that took part in the rally organised by the Democratic Party, the country's main opposition movement. Some demonstrators poured scorn on the prime minister after G-20 leaders humiliatingly put Italy's struggling economy under surveillance, amid a lack of trust in Berlusconi's reform pledges. At the summit in Cannes, the billionaire prime minister played down the gravity of the economic crisis with a trademark quip, claiming that "restaurants are full and the planes fully booked." "I go to restaurants... to do the washing up," read one banner at Saturday's mass demonstration." And the kicker is that over the weekend enough defections from his party have taken place which according to many, but not Silvio, are enough to lose him his majority: "There is growing concern Berlusconi no longer commands enough loyalty among MPs to ensure the quick passage that European and international financial officials say Rome must achieve to avoid falling victim to a dramatic debt crisis like that bringing Greece to its knees...  "We don't want elections. We want to govern," Berlusconi added." So much for democracy in yet another country, but he does bring up a fair demand, one shared by the increasingly more skeptical holders of BTPs. Because when Silvio finally falls, all bets are off.