Reuters

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Italy Jumps On Nationalization Bandwagon: Tax Police "Seizes" 20% Of Second Largest Domestic Insurer





At least Argentina kinda, sorta had the right idea: find an expensive foreign asset and nationalize it, impotent EU sound and fury be damned. Key word here: foreign. A few days later, the latest trade was escalation move appears to have gone viral, if with some curious, and serious, modification in the process. Minutes ago we learned that the Italian Finance police had seized a 20% stake in a heretofore unnamed firm (how does the police seize a stake? They pocket 20% of the electronic shares held in custody by the local DTCC? or they kidnap 20% of the Board of Directors? Inquiring minds want to know). We vaguely expected it would be a retaliatory move, and the firm would be based out of Latin America. No such luck. As Reuters fills in, the company "seized" is Premafin, "which controls Italy's No. 2 insurer Fondiaria-SAI as part of a judicial probe on market manipulation, the tax police and a judicial source said on Thursday."

 
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Wall Street's Response To Spanish And French Auctions, IBEX Slides





Here is a recap of today's European bond issuance as well as the Wall Street "instaview" response to each

 
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Italian Bad Loans Surge To Highest Since 2000, Foreign Deposits Plunge





Maybe we can call today bad loan day: earlier today the Bank of Spain announced that Spanish bank loans, already rising in a rather disturbing diagonal fashion, have surpassed 8% of total for the first time since 1994. Now it is Italy's turn, where we find courtesy of ABI, that gross non-performing loans, aka bad-debt, has just reached €107.6 billion, or 6.3% of total, and the highest since 2000, not to mention a doubling of the 3.0% in June 2008. It gets worse: as Reuters reports, while domestic deposits in February rose by a heartening 1.6% in February, it is foreign deposits that confirm that not all is well with the country's financial system, declining a whopping 16% in February y/y, and the 8th consecutive monthly decline, a chart which resembles that of Greek deposit outflows. The reason why Italy, like all the other peripherals, is now a ward of the ECB? Simple: "Net funding from abroad stood at 182 billion euros, down 32.5 percent year-on-year." And if there is no external money, the Central Bank will need to save.

 
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Visualizing Aubrey McClendon "Rehypothecation" Scheme... And The China Trail





Aubrey McClendon is no amateur when it comes to shady personal transactions involving his company, nat gas giant Chesapeake: Back in October 2008, just after the financial crisis erupted, he was forced to sell more than 31 million Chesapeake shares for $569 million to cover margin calls generated from buying CHK stock just prior on margin. The company’s stock fell nearly 40 percent the week of McClendon’s share sales. McClendon issued an apology but the company’s credibility with many shareholders suffered significantly. It looks lie the story is repeating itself, only this time the margined security is not company stock, but company loans. As Reuters reports in a must read special report "Since he co-founded Chesapeake in 1989, McClendon has frequently borrowed money on a smaller scale by pledging his share of company wells as collateral. Records filed in Oklahoma in 1992 show a $2.9 million loan taken out by Chesapeake Investments, a company that McClendon runs. And in a statement, Chesapeake said McClendon’s securing of  such loans has been “commonplace” during the past 20 years. But in the last three years, the terms and size of the loans have changed  substantially. During that period, he has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion – an amount that coincidentally matches Forbes magazine’s estimate of McClendon’s net worth." Ah yes, net worth calculations, which always focus on the assets, but endlessly ignore the liabilities (as Donald Trump will be first to admit). But ignore that: what is more notable here is the circuitous way that McClendon basically lifted himself by his, or rather CHK's bootstraps: all the loans are collateralized by his 2.5% working interest in new CHK wells drilled every year. In essence a roundabout way of generating "cash" by hypothecation, and levering into an "upside" corporate case. Should CHK however incur asset impairments, and/or if the current price of gas stays at or $2.00, then not only will CHK be gutted but so will the asset quality securing the private loans to the CEO, which on top of everything have no covenants ("There are no covenants or obligations in my loan documents or mortgages that bind Chesapeake in any way," McClendon wrote in an email to Reuters.) and thus no stakeholder protections. Is it any wonder then that CHK is getting creamed as of right now as investors are once again reminded that CHK may not quite play by the rules?

 
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Central Banks Favour Gold As IMF Warns of “Collapse of Euro” and “Full Blown Panic in Financial Markets”





The Eurozone could break up and trigger a “full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight” and a global economic slump to rival the Great Depression, the IMF warned yesterday. In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out. It warned that a disorderly exit of one member country would have untold knock-on effects. "The potential consequences of a disorderly default and exit by a euro area member are unpredictable... If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies perceived to have similar risk characteristics would come under severe pressure as well, with full-blown panic in financial markets and depositor flight from several banking systems," said the report.  "Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out."  “This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse," said the report. The risks outlined by the IMF are real and are being taken seriously by central banks who are becoming more favourable towards diversifying foreign exchange reserves into gold. Central bank reserve managers responsible for trillions of dollars of investments are shunning euro assets and questioning the currency’s haven status because of the region’s sovereign debt crisis, research has found, according to the FT.... Elsewhere, gold demand in India, the world’s biggest importer, may climb as much as 25 percent during a Hindu festival next week, according to Rajesh Exports Ltd., reviving jewelry buying that was curtailed by a nationwide shutdown.

 
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Frontrunning: April 18





  • First Japan now... Australia Ready to Help IMF (WSJ)
  • "Not if, but when" for Spanish bailout, experts believe (Reuters)
  • Spain’s Surging Bad Loans Cast New Doubts on Bank Cleanup (Bloomberg)
  • Spain weighs financing options (FT)
  • Spanish Banks Gorging on Sovereign Bonds Shifts Risk to Taxpayer (Bloomberg)
  • Spain and Italy Bank on Banks (WSJ)
  • Chesapeake CEO took out $1.1 billion in unreported loans (Reuters)
  • China preparing to roll out OTC equity market – regulator (Reuters)
  • Angry North Korea threatens retaliation, nuclear test expected (Reuters)
  • North Korea Breaks Off Nuclear Accord as Food Aid Halted (Bloomberg)
 
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The Delays Begin: Italy Pushes Back Balanced Budget Target By One Year





As reported last week, and as shown brilliantly by Artemis Capital, the end of every reliquification phase by the Fed, such as the imminent end of Operation Twist with nothing firmly set to replace it, is always accompanied by a surge in vol, which in turn leads to market days like the past week, when market summaries are simple: either it is all Risk On, or Risk Off. Expect many more of these until Twist finally ends in just over two months at which point much more liquidity will be needed to achieve the same "flow" results. It just so happens that today is a risk On day, driven by previously noted "catalyst." Yet what is great about such days is that they allow all the bad news to be packed into a tidy little package and disseminated without anyone noticing, or pretending to notice. Such as the just announced headline from Reuters, which on any other day would have crippled the mood, that "Italy will delay by a year its current plan to balance its budget in 2013, according to a draft forecasting document to be approved by the cabinet on Wednesday." And while we have seen this over and over in the past 2 years, first with Greece, then with all the other PIIGS, it merely exposes the fact that exuberant optimism never pans out in a world in which the real average debt/GDP is what Reinhart and Rogoff would simply call "unsustainable." And while this news will matter once Germany realizes that its precious fiscal pact is already been soundly rejected, first by Spain and now Italy, for now it is but a footnote in the otherwise lacking newsflow: after all Spain managed to issue €2 billion in Bills, which contrary to yesterday, provides that all is again well in Europe. Until Thursday at least when Spain has to issue 10 year bonds, which just happen to mature outside of the LTRO. The narrative then may be somewhat different.

 
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Weather Blamed For Industrial Production Miss





Industrial production is the latest economic miss, expected to rise from a previously unchanged print, to 0.3%, instead posting another flat print. The reason: blame it on the weather. From the Fed: "Industrial production was unchanged in March for a second month but rose at an annual rate of 5.4 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Manufacturing output declined 0.2 percent in March but jumped 10.4 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter. The gain in manufacturing output in the first quarter was broadly based: Even excluding motor vehicles and parts, which jumped at an annual rate of nearly 40 percent, manufacturing output moved up at an annual rate of 8.3 percent and output for all but a few major industries increased 5 percent or more. In March, production at mines rose 0.2 percent and the output of utilities gained 1.5 percent. For the quarter, however, the output of utilities dropped at an annual rate of 13.8 percent, largely as a result of unseasonably warm temperatures over the past several months, while the output of mining fell 5.4 percent. At 96.6 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production for March was 3.8 percent above its year-earlier level. The rate of capacity utilization for total industry edged down to 78.6 percent, a rate 2.1 percentage points above its level from a year earlier but 1.7 percentage points below its long-run (1972--2011) average." In other words, blaming both cold and hot weather is now a solid excuse for anything that does not go according to the best laid plans of central bankers. Got it.

 
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US Editor Of The Economist: “Paper Dollar” And “Paper Euro” Will “Debase” In A “Big Way”





Matthew Bishop, the US Editor of The Economist, has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal TV about gold and why “people have lost faith in the 20th century religion of government backed fiat money." He says that he has become an agnostic or an atheist with regard to his belief in government-backed money as he fears that governments are in a position whereby they are going to debase currencies such as the “paper dollar and “paper euro” “in a big way.” Gold becomes one of the “alternative religions” in that environment. History shows that a deleveraging downturn takes a long time and can take 7 or 8 years. Inflationary pressures are building and will be seen in the second half of the cycle, according to Bishop. Bishop says he would put some of his money into gold but is prohibited from this due to the investment policies of The Economist.  He advocates owning gold as a “portfolio of money” and diversification and advocates having 5% to 10% of one’s money in gold.  The Economist magazine has a strong Keynesian bias and has been one of the most anti-gold publications in the world with many simplistic, unbalanced and ill-informed articles.  The publication has suggested on many occasions since 2008 that gold is a bubble. Clients of GoldCore have told us that they were prompted to sell their gold bullion as long ago as 2009 after reading such articles in The Economist. 

 
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Frontrunning: April 17





  • This is just hilarious on so many levels: Japan Will Provide $60 Billion to Expand IMF’s Resources (Bloomberg) - just don't look at Fukushima, don't look at the zero nuclear plants working, don't look at the recent trade deficit, and certainly don't look at the Y1 quadrillion in debt...
  • US Senate vote blocks ‘Buffett rule’ (FT)
  • Reserve Bank of Australia awaiting new data before considering rate move (Herald Sun)
  • Merkel Offers Spain No Respite as Debt Cuts Seen As Key (Bloomberg)
  • RBI cuts repo rate by 50 bps; sees little room for more (Reuters)
  • China allows banks to short sell dollars (Reuters)
  • Central bankers snub euro assets (FT)
  • Shanghai Econ Weakening’ Mayor Vows to Pop Housing Bubble (Forbes)
  • Wen's visit to boost China-Europe ties (China Daily)
  • Madrid threatens to intervene in regions (FT)
 
EconMatters's picture

Another Oil Price Shock, Another Global Recession?





Based on supply, demand and even after taking into account the geopolitical factor, we believe oil could experience a correction later this year and in the next three years or so.

 
GoldCore's picture

Gold Consolidating Over €1,200/oz As Spanish 10 Year Hits 6.15%





There is the slow realisation that the complacency of recent months was again misplaced. It remains obvious that the euro zone debt crisis is far from over and this will support gold in the coming months – especially in euro terms. 

Gold in euro terms has been consolidating above €1,200/oz for six months now. With the eurozone crisis set to deepen and the continuing risk of contagion, we could see gold break out in euro terms prior to doing so in dollars, pounds and other currencies.

 
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Frontrunning: April 16





  • Downgrades Loom for Banks (WSJ)
  • China Loosens Grip on Yuan (WSJ)
  • Sarkozy Embraces Growth Role for ECB (WSJ)
  • A Top Euro Banker Calls for Boost to IMF (WSJ)
  • Wolfgang Münchau - Spain has accepted mission impossible (FT)
  • Hong Kong Takeovers Loom Large With Banks Lending Yuan: Real M&A (Bloomberg)
  • Banks urge Fed retreat on credit exposure (FT)
  • Drought in U.K. Adds to Inflation Fears (WSJ)
  • France faces revival of radical left (FT)
  • Euro Area Seeks Bigger IMF War Chest as Spanish Concerns Mount (Bloomberg)
 
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