Italian borrowing costs reached breaking point on Wednesday after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's promise to resign failed to raise optimism about the country's ability to deliver on long-promised economic reforms.
Italian 10-year bond yields shot above the 7 percent level that is widely deemed unsustainable, reflecting investors' concerns that they may not get their money back, a fear that also showed up in a jump in the cost of insuring against Italian debt default.
- LCH.Clearnet lifts margin on Italian debt (FT)
- Chinese Banks May Issue $102 Billion In New Yuan Loans (China Securities Journal)
- Greece Extends Suspense on Choice of Premier (WSJ)
- IMF's Lagarde: Some Asian Countries Can Loosen Money (WSJ)
- Berlusconi’s Resignation Shifts Focus to Forming Government (Bloomberg)
- Merkel Advisers See German Growth Slowing (Bloomberg)
- Fannie Mae taps $7.8 billion from Treasury, loss widens (Reuters)
- Fed up! McCain predicts rise of third political party (Reuters)
As was noted previously (here and here), today's Italian parliament vote on the 2010 Italian budget (yes, like the US they are almost up to date with real time running budgets) will be of notable significance for Berlusconi, Italy, its sovereign bonds and Europe. And the vote has just been open by the Assemblea speaker.. Also attached is the roll call of the key players and potential Berlusconi successors should the billionaire PM step down.
US Mint gold coin sales fell in October leading to further speculation that this was another sign that the gold bull market was over. Rather than idle speculation it is important to look at the facts and analyse them. Dr Constantin Gurdgiev, a non Executive member of the GoldCore Investment Committee, has analysed the data re US Mint coin sales in October and has looked at them in their important historical context going back to 1987. The data since 1987 until today and the evidence from the US Mint regarding the behaviourally anchored, long term demand for gold coins as wealth preservation tool for retail investors does not support the view of dramatic over buying of gold or piling into gold by ‘Joe Public’, the shoeshine boys or the fabled speculatively crazed retail investor that some commentators suggest is happening today. The man and woman in the street in the western world continues to be a bigger seller of gold (jewellery into scrap) than buyer as seen in the western world phenomenon that is ‘cash for gold’.
With the near record October hope rally a distant memory now, the hope that hedge funds participated in it is also just that. Alas, while most hedge funds exhibited a more than 1x beta on the way down in August and September, most were lucky to get half the upside on the way up in October at best. While there are some outlier surprises, unfortunately it is the ones with an abysmal Sharpe Ratio, so for investors who enjoy huge drawdowns and massive month-to-month vol, they probably lucked out in October. Everyone else: better luck next time. Some very notable let downs: Brevan Howard: -1.25%, Tudor: -2.44%, Moore Global: -2.23%, Landsdowne: -0.50%, Bluecrest: 0.43%, Perry: 3.39%, King Street: -0.04%, Blue Mountain: 0.73%, Fortress Macro: -2.19% and last and probably least JAT Capital: -13.7%.
Germany has rejected proposals by France, Britain and the US to have German gold reserves used as collateral for the Eurozone bailout fund. Germany Economy Minister Philipp Roesler said on Monday that the German people's gold reserves cannot be touched and “must remain off limits." "German gold reserves must remain untouchable," said Roesler, who is head of the Free Democrats (FDP), a partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition. Roesler added his voice to opposition to an idea proposed at the G20 summit of using reserves including gold as collateral for the euro zone bailout funds. The Bundesbank and Mr. Seibert, spokesman for Merkel, said Sunday that they too ruled out the idea discussed at the summit of Group of 20 leading economies last week. Mr. Seibert dismissed media reports yesterday that the plan to boost bailout funds, to aid Italy or another large euro zone country, would require Germany to sell off part of its gold and foreign exchange reserves. “Germany’s gold and foreign exchange reserves, administered by the Bundesbank, were not at any point up for discussion at the G20 summit in Cannes,” he said.
- China Stocks Drop Most in Two Weeks on Slumping Auto Sales, Property Curbs (Bloomberg)
- Berlusconi’s Majority Unravel as Allies Turning (Bloomberg)
- Greece to form coalition government (FT)
- Wen Pledges Property Tightening Resolve (WSJ)
- G20 seeks more talks on eurozone crisis (FT)
- ECB Free to Stop Buying Italian Bonds, Mersch Tells La Stampa (Bloomberg)
- Unloved Treasury Notes Becoming Investor Favorite in Fed’s Operation Twist (Bloomberg)
The Greek "Chicken or Egg Problem" Emerges: No Resignation Without Coalition Government; And Vice VersaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/06/2011 11:13 -0500
With Greece once again likely to dominate newsflow, the question of whether G-Pap will step aside, as he promised, will be one everyone will demand to see answered. Especially Europe. As Reuters reports, "the European Union turned up the heat on bickering Greek politicians on Sunday to agree a crisis coalition, demanding progress towards backing an international bailout deal in the next 24 hours. In a sign that Greece's political deadlock may be easing under EU pressure, a senior socialist said Prime Minister George Papandreou had made clear he would resign once a coalition deal was done, possibly as soon as Sunday night." Yet the career politician has pulled the last gambit and has thrown the "coalition" government choice straight in the arms of his nemesis, New Democracy's Antonis Samaras, and the president: "Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has asked the president to host talks between himself and opposition leader Antonis Samaras after a Sunday cabinet meeting, a source at the prime minister's office quoted the premier as telling his cabinet." In other words, if nothing is resolved, G-Pap can tell a furious Europe, "we tried" and blame the opposition, in yet another attempt to simply win political brownie point. Yet time is running short for a final solution: "With euro zone finance ministers due to meet on Monday, senior socialist lawmaker Telemachos Hitiris said: "Everything must be done within the day, otherwise tomorrow it will be hell." How many times have we heard that before. And it very well may be hell, however it will no longer come from Greece but from Italy, whose 10 Year bonds closed at the lowest price ever and where a margin raise by LCH now appears imminent, making another step function move lower almost inevitable. Either way, Greece will be fun to watch as all the hopium has been spent and no more cans can be kicked.
Going back to the annals of brokeback Europe, we learn that gold after all is money, after the G-20 demanded that EFSF (of €1 trillion "stability fund" yet can't raise €3 billion fame) be backstopped by none other than German gold. Per Reuters, "The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) reported that Bundesbank reserves -- including foreign currency and gold -- would be used to increase Germany's contribution to the crisis fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) by more than 15 billion euros ($20 billion)." And who would be the recipient of said transfer? Why none other than the most insolvent of global hedge funds, the European Central Bank...There are three observations to be made here: i) when it comes to rescuing insolvent countries, Germany is delighted to sacrifice euros at the altar of the 50-some year old PIIGS retirement age; ask for its gold however, and things get ugly; ii) the Eurozone, the ECB and the EFSF are dead broke, insolvent and/or have zero credibility in the capital markets, and they know it and iii) due to the joint and several nature of the ECB's capital calls, while Germany may have had enough leverage to tell G-20 to shove it, the next countries in line, especially those which are already insolvent and will rely on the EFSF for their existence once the ECB's SMP program is finished, may not be that lucky, and in exchange for remaining in the eurozone, the forfeit could well be their gold.
Three months ago, in exchange for the ECB's expansion of its sterilized monetizations of bonds to include Italian BTPs, allegedly the only backstop that has prevented Italian bonds from experiencing an all out collapse to date, Italy was presented with a list of strict "austerity" demands, among which were spending cuts, higher revenues and labor reform. Since then none of these has occurred... or will occur, simply because Berlusconi has no control over the government, yet neither does anyone else, although everyone in the local government enjoys having a scapegoat for the total chaos. It appears that the ECB has just made it clear that the status quo is about to end, unless Italy does in fact push with something. And unlike other cases, where politicians on both sides of the table are happy to spout rhetoric while knowing well that nothing will change, in this case, courtesy of Italy largely untenable debt profile in which €166 billion in debt and interest are due in 2012, the ECB will have no choice but to play hard ball. Reuters has just confirmed that, reporting that The European Central Bank often discusses the possibility ending the purchase of Italian government bonds if it concludes Italy is not adopting promised reforms, ECB Governing Council Member Yves Mersch said. "If we observe that our interventions are undermined by a lack of efforts by national governments then we have to pose ourselves the problem of the incentive effect," Mersch said according to extracts of an interview with Italian daily La Stampa to be published on Sunday. In other words on Monday the market will have to not only digest the implications of what the implications of the Greek vote of confidence are (last we checked G-Pap is still PM, and likely will be for quite a while), but also what happens now that the ECB has issued an ultimatum to Berlusconi to get his house in order. The problem is that he can't. Not without stepping down, that is. At that point the Italian pseudo stability that everyone has been taking for granted knowing full well it is nothing but an illusion, will fall and expose all the rot underneath. At that point we will truly see just how "hedged" all those Primary Dealers are, who have perfectly offsetting short positions to all their longs.
Is Wall Street confused by this latest act of political treachery by G-Pap who had promised to collaborate with the New Democracy opposition only to back out in the last minute (just as he backed out of his promise for a referendum) and end up in a coalition government with the socialists and the far right? You betcha. Courtesy of Reuters, here is the knee jerk reaction by so called experts who see this as either bullish or bearish. The bottom line is that until G-Pap actually does something he has previously promised to do, he will continue to lie and cheat in order to simply remain in power and soak up Europe's funding (which is of course used merely to repay Europe).
Starting to feel lost in what is an interminable and constant barrage of rumors, lies, insinuations, speculation, and just broadly, headlines? Fear not: here is Reuters with what may be the most useful invention of the EMU collapse era: the intraday visual headline tracker.
- MF Global clients face day of reckoning as margins call (Reuters)
- Key Defections Hit Berlusconi (WSJ)
- G-20 Urges EU to Quell Crisis as Greece Teeters (Bloomberg)
- Greek PM scraps referendum plan (FT)
- Debt-reduction supercommittee talks appear to be at an impasse (WaPo)
- US Influence at G20 Not Diminished, White House Says (Reuters)
- ECB’s Draghi Offers Hope He Can Do What Europe Needs (Bloomberg)
- Many States Already Worried About Running Short (Reuters)
- Bill Gates urges G20 to live up to aid promises (Reuters)