Sovereign Debt

Greece - Eurozone or Not? Slavery or Freedom?

At this moment, the headlines coming out of Greece are confusing and contradictory.  It isn't clear whether or not there will be a referendum or a vote of no confidence.  There may be a new leader, there may not be.  All we can do is wait for the next headline.  In the end I think there will be a referendum. You can't put the genie back in the bottle.  If a referendum is cancelled now, how will the people of Greece react? Maybe the No Eurozone plan won't be so compelling, but if people start taking a serious look at how it would work, it might not be so bad, and don't forget, the Eurozone plan isn't that great.  At some point, the citizens of the country need to make the decisions.  Electing politicians that can then be corrupted by Merkozy is not a long term solution. 

Guest Post: MF Global Shines A Light On Monetarism's Incapacity To Enhance The Real Economy

The temptation to compare any financial institution’s failure to those that preceded the 2008 crisis and panic are reasonable. It is easy to classify MF Global as 2011’s “Lehman” event, just as it was to use the same term to describe Dexia a few weeks ago. The use of the term “this year’s Lehman” is somewhat misplaced simply because its users are looking for an event that kicks off another crisis or panic. Instead of using “Lehman” to describe a potential inflection point that propels the crisis into panic, it might be better to see MF Global as AIG. The comparison to AIG is not to say that MF Global was as interconnected, that its failure will be as devastating, or that it is the straw that breaks the European camel’s back. The urge to see the past in the present is historically valid, but it will never be exactly alike (Mark Twain had this right). Rather I think the comparison is useful in that AIG taught the wider world what was really rotten at the core of modern finance, namely hidden risks that were shockingly existential. MF Global’s failure importantly shows that none of the lessons have been heeded in the days since, providing a somewhat unique window into the real dangers that still lurk hidden in the shadows. More than that, though, MF Global demonstrates an obvious shortcoming of the financial system as it relates to the real economy.

The First-Loss Insurance Providing EFSF Is A Truly Unique Vehicle

Following this morning's busted issuance, it seems appropriate to take a deeper dive into the first-loss insurance that EFSF issuance may provide. There are still a lot of details to be worked out, but the €250 - €275 billion EFSF first loss insurance facility is starting to take shape. The amount of exposure that the EFSF can take in any form and retain the AAA rating is capped at €452 billion Euro – the amount of guarantees provided by the AAA entities. It looks more and more like the EFSF guarantees will be used in 3 different ways.  A portion will be used to raise money to meet commitments already made to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.  Another portion will be allocated to provide additional capital to banks.  Finally, a portion will be used to back first-loss insurance and we note that the EFSF First-Loss Insurance Program is like Nothing We Have Ever Seen Before. Why we have wound up at the stage that issuing binary options on sovereign debt is a good solution, I don’t know, but since we are there, it might as well be done as well as possible.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: November 2

  • Market talk that China may contribute towards the EFSF. Meanwhile, Japanese PM Noda said Japan will consider continued buying of EFSF bonds
  • According to an EFSF spokesman, the EFSF is putting off the sale of its 10-year securities
  • Weakness in the USD-Index boosted EUR/USD, GBP/USD and commodity-linked currencies
  • According to the German foreign minister, the Greek rescue plan cannot be renegotiated
  • Markets look ahead to the FOMC rate decision followed by Fed’s Bernanke press-conference

The Inside Story Of What Brought Down MF Global

Now that the affdavit of MF Global COO Bradley Abelow has been filed, we finally get the (partial and quite watered down) inside scoop of just what the events were that brought the company to its knees, and what specifically were the precipitating catalysts that ultimately led to the Halloween massacre. The relevant part begins with section E, paragraph 33, on page 13. "As a global financial services firm, MF Global is materially affected by conditions in the global financial markets and worldwide economic conditions. On September 1, 2011, MF Holdings announced that FINRA informed it that its regulated U.S. operating subsidiary, MFGI, was required to modify its capital treatment of certain repurchase transactions to maturity collateralized with European sovereign debt and thus increase its required net capital pursuant to SEC Rule 15c3-1. MFGI increased its required net capital to comply with FINRA’s requirement...." Read on.

Jon Corzine - Meet Bubba

The admission is here:

  • MF Global Admits Using Client Money, AP Says
  • MF exec. made the admission in phone call with regulators Monday morning

It's time to get some expert on the ex-MF Global head's mental state and to blame temporary insanity, otherwise, someone is going to be bunking with Bubba very shortly.

How US Banks Are Lying About Their European Exposure; Or How Bilateral Netting Ends With A Bang, Not A Whimper

A little over a month ago, Zero Hedge started an avalanche in the financial sector, and an unprecedented defense thereof by the "independent" financial media and conflicted sell side, by being simply the messenger in pointing out that the gross exposure of one Morgan Stanley to the French banking sector is $39 billion. The firestorm of protests, which naturally focused on the messenger, and not the message, attempted to refute the claims that Morgan Stanley (and many others) are overexposed to Europe (both banks and countries) by stating that gross is not net, and that when one nets out "hedges" the real exposure is far, far lower. The logic is that bilateral netting, as the principle behind this argument is called, should always work - no matter the market, and that counterparty risk, especially when it comes to hedges, should always be ignored because banks will always honor their own derivative exposure. Obviously that this failed massively when AIG had to be bailed out, to preserve precisely the tortured and failed logic of bilateral netting was completely ignored, after all things will never get that bad again, right? Well, wrong. Because the argument here is precisely what the exposure is when the chain of netting breaks, when one or more counterparties go under (such as MF Global for example, which filed bankruptcy precisely due to its hedged (?) European exposure - luckily MF was not in the business of writing CDS on European banks or else all hell would be breaking loose right now). So little by little the story was forgotten: after all when everyone says gross is not net, contrary to what history shows us all too often, everyone must be right. Today it is time to refresh this story, as none other than Bloomberg pulls the scab right off and while confirming our observations, also goes further: yes, banks are not only massively exposed to Europe, but they are in essence misrepresenting this exposure to the public by a factor of well over ten!

ECB Buying As 450bps ITA Spread Becomes New Maginot Line

As we detailed 11 months ago, LCH.Clearnet now stands at the fulcrum of today's price action in Europe as the critical 450bps spread to Bunds on European sovereign debt - which will trigger considerable rises in margin requirements - is being aggressively defended thanks to the ECB's SMP. What is evident (and troublesome) is the confluence of the rally in Bunds (as Greece implodes) and unhedgeable risks in ITA bonds which means relatively aggressive buying in ITA bonds is doing little to improve spreads. With all eyes now on the spread (which stood at a measly +150bps when the LCH.Clearnet margin rules were set) as opposed to price, buying Bunds is perhaps the easiest and most liquid way to put pressure on the Italian bond market.

Liquidity Scramble Begins In MF Commingling Aftermath

When sharing our perspective last night on why the alleged MF Global crime of commingling client capital with the firm's deficiency capital we asked, "What happens next? Why customers at all other brokerages, all other exchanges, afraid that their money will suffer the same fate as MF, even if they transact with perfect solvent clearers and agents, will proceed to pull their money, as they know they have nobody to trust but their own prudent and forward looking actions. Which in turn will start the kind of liquidity drain that killed not only Lehman, but froze money markets, and with that brought the complete capital markets to a standstill, only to be thawed after the Fed pledged multiples of the US GDP to rescue Wall Street in October of 2008." Sure enough, here it comes. "Reports of short falls of client money ... if true would be a disaster for all the smaller brokers and banks as nobody will trust them anymore," one London trader said. Reuters continues "MF Global filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, putting a sudden end to Corzine's drive to transform the more than 200-year old MF Global into a mini Goldman by taking on more risky bets on euro zone sovereign debt. In Australia, trading in grain futures and options was suspended by bourse operator ASX Ltd , prompting concerns about the integrity of the country's agricultural futures market. "We're sitting out here with risk that we can't cover," said Jonathan Barratt, head of Sydney-based Commodity Broking Services. MF Global was one of the largest participants in the country's agricultural futures market. And it is all only going to get worse as the liquidity outflow avalanche is realized, following the market's most recent distraction with Europe.

Former PBoC Monetary Policy Committee Member: "Beijing Will Not Ride To Eurozone’s Rescue"

Yu Yongding: "Europe’s courtship of Beijing is moving to a more intense level. Klaus Regling, the chief of the eurozone bail-out fund, is in Beijing discussing possible support. Just a few days ago French President Nicolas Sarkozy conferred with Hu Jintao, his Chinese counterpart, to win Beijing’s support. They should not hold out their hopes too high. The two will have had a courteous hearing: China is willing and able to help. Since the beginning of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, Beijing has repeatedly expressed its wish to offer “a helping hand” to Europe. Eurozone countries, however, have to understand that they will have to save themselves. Expectations of a “red knight” riding to the rescue are sorely misplaced."