The Argentina default battle is in its final fortnight, with a July 30 grace period expiration looming, one which would result in a second bankruptcy in 13 years to formally be written down in the history books, and which could spoil the serene glow all global capital markets have found themselves in thanks to the central bankers' soothing words. As a result, Argentina has resorted to a last ditch strategy to ferret out the full list of holdout creditors (the hedge funds led by Elliott, Aurelius and various other known and unknown bondholders) as well as get a full list of the restructured bondholders (those who are perfectly happy to clip whatever coupon Argentina will pay them instead of seeing their payment stop altogether if and when CFK announces an official default). The logic behind the ruse: to circumvent the court and pay the restructured debtholders in the 11th hour.
Argentina's attempt to work around SCOTUS decision in favor of the 'holdouts' was rejected (under anti-evasion orders) last night leaving Argentina no alternative but to threaten to default on its debt. The government called it "impossible" to pay bond service due on June 30, because payment to holders of restructured bonds could not be made unless the 'holdouts' were paid $1.33 billion at the same time (and Argentina's economy minister argues could be up to $15 bn) which the distressed country clearly does not have. For the first time in 12 years, Argentina has agreed to negotiate with the 'holdouts' (has renegged on that negotiation) who refused to participate in two restructurings that followed Argentina's 2002 default but it seems increasingly likely that an even of default looms for Argentina. One good thing may come from the victory of the 'hold-outs': the government will find it difficult to rack up more debt.
- Levin Hearing Ups Volume in High-Frequency Call to Action (BBG)
- Ukrainian President Fires Central Bank Chief (BBG)
- Argentina Plans Debt Swap (WSJ)
- Fed Decision Day Guide From Dot Plots To Exit Strategy (BBG)
- World Bank Economist: China May Face US-Style Financial Crisis (WSJ)
- Premier Li says no hard landing for China, expects medium to high growth (Reuters)
- Putin Talks Peace With Ukraine Leader After Gas Pipe Fire (BBG)
- Poll Shows Erosion in President's Support (WSJ)
- U.S. mortgage applications plunge in latest week (Reuters)
- Ex-Goldman director goes to prison, still owes $13.9 million fine (Reuters)
As reported yesterday, The SCOTUS dealt a major blow to Argentina hopes it would avoid making payments on its "holdout" bonds when it enforced a lower-court ruling that said Argentina can't make payments on its restructured debt unless it also pays holdout hedge funds headed by Elliott Management, best known for briefly seizing an Argentina ship in late 2012. The immediate result was a major rout in the country's sovereign bonds, which also sent Argentina CDS soaring. Sadly for Argentina, this would hardly be the end of it, and about an hour ago, Standard & Poor added insult to injury and lowered its long-term foreign currency rating on Argentina to CCC- from CCC+ citing a "higher risk of default on the country's foreign currency debt." As a result, yesterday's drop in bonds has continued, if at a more moderate pace, and the country's USD bond due 2024 hav continued to sink in intraday trading. So what is next for the cash-strapped Latin American country for which the road ahead is suddenly quite "challenging" and default appears increasing like the only way out? For the answer we go to Citi's Jeffrey Williams who has laid out the five most likely developments.
The years-long court battle over Argentina's sovereign debt default appears to have ended... badly for Argentina (and apparently well for Elliott Management). As WSJ reports, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected Argentina's appeal (and mutually assured destruction threats that it "could trigger a renewed economic catastrophe with severe consequences for millions of ordinary Argentine citizens."; leaving in place a lower-court ruling that said Argentina can't make payments on its restructured debt unless it also pays holdout hedge funds that refused to accept the country's debt-restructuring offers. Argentine USD bonds are down 10 points on the news ahead of President Cristina Fernandez addressing the nation at 9pm local time.
For all complaints about painful, unprecedented (f)austerity, the PIIGS (even those with restructured debt such as Greece) sure have no problems raking up debt at a record pace. Over the weekend, Spanish Expansion reported that Spanish official debt (ignoring the contingent liabilities) just hit a new record. "The debt of the whole general government reached 942.8 billion euros in the second quarter, representing an increase of 17.1% compared to the same period last year. Debt to GDP of 92.2% exceeds the limit set by the government for 2013..." Moments ago, it was Italy's turn to show that with employment still plunging, the only thing rising in Europe is total debt. From Reuters, which cites a draft Treasury document it just obtained: "Italy's public debt will rise next year to a new record of 132.2 percent of output, up from a previous forecast of 129.0 percent."
- Cyprus leader invites family firm probe (FT)
- How the Fed fueled an explosion in subprime auto loans (Reuters)
- Wal-Mart Customers Complain Bare Shelves Are Widespread (BBG)
- JC Penney CEO gets no bonus, stock award after dismal year (Reuters)
- New Bird Flu Virus Kills 2 in China, Sparking WHO Probe (BBG)
- Algorithms Play Matchmaker to Fight 7.7% U.S. Unemployment (BBG)
- Fed hawk Lacker and dove Evans face off over inflation (Reuters)
- Infamous silver market "cornerer" WH Hunt Becomes Billionaire on Bakken Oil After Bankruptcy (BBG)
- Japan Auto Sales Fall on Subsidy End as Korea Extends Drop (BBG)
- Black Hawks Near North Korea Show Risk in U.S. Command Shift (BBG)
- SEC Embraces Social Media (WSJ)
- Tesla Touts ‘True Out of Pocket’ Financing for Model S (BBG)
- U.K. Banks Try to Dodge Bonus Caps by Defining Risk-Taker (BBG)
The ongoing debacle surrounding Argentina's holdout over holdouts appears to be escalating (in rhetoric at least) once again. As Reuters notes, negotiations or voluntary payment by Fernandez's government appear almost impossible. Economy Minister Hernan Lorenzino called Griesa's ruling "a kind of judicial colonialism". "The only thing left is for Griesa to order them to send in the (U.S. Navy's) Fifth Fleet," Lorenzino told reporters, outlining Argentina's plans to file an appeal against Griesa's ruling with the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday. Many specialists think it unlikely that the appeals court will reinstate the stay. "It may be an issue of process, but Argentina will struggle to justify why it refuses to pay the $1.3 billion," Eurasia Group analyst Daniel Kerner wrote last week. "Argentina has the resources to meet the payment, so in the end it will be a political decision (and) there does not seem to be any political support for paying the holdouts at all." The Argentina case surely brings into clear view the murkiness of investing in sovereign debt and the increasing difference between ability-to-pay and willingness-to-pay.
Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Eurozone won’t be destroyed in a day, but it is on a path that leads to eventual dismantling. This week we will see everyone play nice. Conciliatory words will be spoken. Growth will become the topic de jour. The markets will fall all over themselves once again on news of bank bailouts. The headlines we get in the early part of this week will once again be overwhelmingly designed to encourage people and the markets. Europe will have a new spirit of co-operation and will welcome fresh insights into the process. Growth, growth pacts, plans to grow, infrastructure growth, etc., will be talked about. There will be talk, and maybe even action on the bank recapitalization efforts. Good banks and bad banks will abound. Governments will promise money to banks at rates so low no sane investor would even consider. Ultimately these plans will fail, and we will see fresh lows on the year for stocks, with the U.S. and Germany hit hardest as justifying further bailouts for the core will be nigh on impossible, growth is not easy to achieve, and the good-bank-bad-bank model is a loser from the start.
Going into the US open, European equity markets have carried across some risk appetite from last night’s Wall Street news that 15 out of 19 major US banks had passed the Fed’s stress test scenarios. This risk appetite is evident in Europe today with financials outperforming all other sectors, currently up over 2%. Data released so far today has been relatively uneventful, with Eurozone CPI coming in alongside expectations and Industrial Production just below the expected reading for January. Taking a look at the energy complex, WTI and Brent crude futures are seen on a slight downwards trajectory so far in session following some overnight comments from China, highlighting the imbalance in the Chinese property market, dampening future demand for oil. Looking ahead in the session, the DOE crude oil inventories will shed further light on the current standing of US energy inventories.
As the week's panacea event (no, not iPad3) draws ever closer, overnight news our of Argentina may be critical for any fence-sitting Greek PSI holdouts. As Reuters reports, a US judge has ruled in favor of a holdout creditor forcing Argentina to pay $650mm interest and principal on their long-forgotten defaulted/restructured debt. Argentina defaulted on $100bn bonds in 2002 and has yet to return to the international capital markets. While the Argentinians continue to litigate holdouts, the judge's decision in favor of these so-called 'vulture funds' (an affiliate of Elliott Management) offers renewed confirmation of considerable payouts in time for Greek bond PSI holdouts. Argentina's whiny reasoning that "bondholders who did not take part in the 2005 and 2010 debt swaps do not deserve full recovery because it is unfair to bondholders who accepted less" sums up the perspective of cram-downs and forced action that sovereigns will try to take. The vulture-fund litigation (and successful precedent here) blocks any new debt operations by Argentina until settlement is reached. This coincides with Bingham McCutchen's committee of Swiss-law Greek bond holders who look set to holdout or 'protect the rights of bondholders' as there appears to be several investors actively considering all of their options, including litigation - but as noted above, litigation can take years (though returns could conceivably be very large given par payouts of bonds trading sub-20% currently).