We are still waiting to see the final form of the "Grand Plan" and what novel ways the EFSF guarantees will be applied to save the day. At the risk of sounding incredibly stupid, I have this feeling that Europe didn't actually work on any details until this past week, and Germany is suddenly realizing how bad the details are for them. Is it possible that some politicians got so caught in the moment of "saving Europe" and "fighting the speculators" that they kept promising more and more, without thinking whether they could or should deliver? You would like to think they didn't, but since none of the politicians are detail oriented, most of their contacts at investment banks are high level, former bankers, rather than traders, it is quite possible they didn't realize what they had agreed to. If some new EFSF is created, all of the future bargaining power in Europe will be shifted from France and Germany to PIIS. (it is a shame Ireland wasn't named Shamrock, it would make the acronym so much better).
Moody's Announces That France's Debt Metrics Have Deteriorated And Are Now The Weakest Of All Aaa-Rated PeersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/17/2011 16:34 -0500
This is not what Europe needed, 6 days ahead of the G20 ultimatum's expiration for Europe to somehow fix itself, and hours after Deutsche Bank said the rating agencies may go ahead and put France on downgrade review. Just out "Moody's notes that the government's financial strength has weakened, as it has for other euro area sovereigns, because the global financial and economic crisis has led to a deterioration in French government debt metrics -- which are now among the weakest of France's Aaa peers." As for the timing... "Over the next three months, Moody's will monitor and assess the stable outlook in terms of the government's progress in implementing these measures, while taking into account any potential adverse economic or financial market developments."
By now everyone has had a chance to play with the US debt clock. But what about its global cousin? Courtesy of The Economist, we now have a convenient way to track the hundreds of millions in dollars added each and every hour by the global governments who see to spur global deleveraging by, you guessed it, adding more debt. Yes, in the process the world's sovereigns are transferring default risk away from global corporations to sovereigns, but few in the #OWS crowd appear to have yet figured out this rather disturbing and very insidious usurpation of sovereignty by the global corporatocracy, so said risk and leverage transfer will continue until such time as any and all paper backed by these insolvent corporate shells (f/k/a countries) is completely worthless. Regardless, one should not forget that like in the sandalone case, the "debt clock" below only tracks on balance sheet debt. Should one add the NPV of all "welfare state" obligations (pensions, retirement, healthcare), the number will be well over quarter of a quadrillion dollars. Have fun funding that, never mind paying it off...
As talk about an actual restructuring of Greek debt increases, the EU continues to think avoiding a CDS Credit Event is a good thing. More and more stories and leaks indicate that a real restructuring of Greek debt is on the table, with write-offs of as much as 50%. Whether it will be real, permanent reductions in principle this time, or some other form of principle protected rollover with a subjective NPV calculation like the 21% haircut, remains to be seen. In any case, the EU continues to head down the path of bending over backwards to avoid trigger a CDS Credit Event. They are wrong to be avoiding a Credit Event on the Hellenic Republic. If they are really pushing for a true restructuring where banks and insurance companies are for all intents and purposes forced to accept a big haircut, they should want to trigger a CDS Credit Event. They are allegedly avoiding a credit event because it “could unleash a cascade of losses” according to a bloomberg article. That just makes no sense. It also seems that pride plays a role as the EU doesn’t want to be impacted by the stigma of a default – a 50% write-off is even, but they don’t want to be called defaulters. That is plain silly. They also seem to want to punish speculators, and this is where they really have it wrong, not only are few hedge funds short Greece via CDS at this time, the problems this creates for bank risk management desks is big and will have long term negative consequences for sovereign debt demand.
The European CDS rollercoaster has troughed. And now it goes back up...
Chaos theory states than in complex systems, a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan can cause tornadoes in California. Whether or not that is true, a Banker in Belgium buying Greek bonds can impact the lives of factory workers in Germany. Europe continues to head down the path of making the system more complex than ever and ensuring that no bad lending, investing, or borrowing decision is ever punished.
Now we have a new plan. EFSF would take first loss on the full guarantee amount of 726 billion. Given everything that EFSF can now invest in, and the fact that it is taking first loss risk, the potential loss is 726 billion. So in a little over a year, the risk of loss transfer from private companies to sovereign nations has increased from 120 billion, to 270 billion, to 360 billion, to the possibility of 726 billion! That seems bad enough, but the situation is worse than that. At each turn, Greece has underperformed and been found to have bigger needs than previously thought, but the latest IMF decision to go ahead with the next tranche anyways, sends a clear signal to Greece that they are in the drivers seat. Why do more now when IMF will keep picking up the tab until you finally decide that drachma's suit you better. Portugal cannot be blind. It sees where Greece has failed but still gotten money, and that Italy barely goes through the motions of pretending to try, so why should they?
In yet another ironic twist, traditional market cheerleader Goldman Sachs, which discusses the factors for the "strong start to the week for equity markets" in the form of the 100 S&P point surge on nothing but hope and more rumor speculation, concludes with rather ominous: "beyond the headlines, it is only the process of grappling with the details and concrete plans that will force the political leadership in these countries to face the difficult tradeoffs involved. And as such, as long as there is not more clarity around concrete proposals – the distribution of legacy losses and the mechanisms for mutual support in the Euro-area going forward – and the details on implementation, we doubt that the current market optimism can be sustained over the medium term, and beyond the upcoming G20 meetings." In other words, precisely what we have been saying: rumors and "plans of plans of plans" are great for short term squeeze induced, bear market bounces, but in the long, or even medium-term, do nothing to address the fundamental math fail which states, quite factually, that going from point A (where we are now) to point B (where Merkozy wants Europe to be), will be virtually impossible absent massive equity losses. Yet, as also pointed out before, Wall Street career risk is always in the "here and now" never in what may happen a day or even an hour from now, now that markets are no longer a discounting mechanism, but a purely headline reactionary one.
It's all code for German backstops, which begs the question: How exactly are things going for Germany?
Erste Group Reveals Stunner: Reports Billions In Previously Undisclosed Underwater Sovereign CDS; Who Is Next? And How Much More Is Out There?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/10/2011 13:36 -0500
Anyone looking at a heatmap of European markets today will see a sea of green punctuated by a very red island in the middle. The culprit: Austrian mega bank Erste, which issued an ad hoc and very unexpected press release, in which it warned that losses in its Hungarian and Romanian books would lead to a 14% hit, or €1.1 billion, to tangible book value, something that in itself is not a surprise to anyone (except the stress test). After all, since early 2010, most have known that due to Swiss Franc-based mortgage exposure, Hungary is next to follow in the PIIGS footsteps, and its collapse has so far been delayed due to lower overall public and private sector leverage. What was, however not only a surprise, but a shock, was that Erste disclosed some major losses on its €5.2 billion CDS portfolio, consisting of "EUR 2.4 billion related to financial institution exposures, and EUR 2.8 billion related sovereign exposures". Why is this a surprise? UK-based financial advisory Autonomous explains: "The fact that Erste had a sovereign CDS portfolio which was not marked-to-market has left many investors scratching their heads. As a reminder the EBA stress test data showed Erste to have zero sovereign CDS exposure within its sovereign mix compared to the €2.8bn it now appears to have ‘fessed up’ to (taking a cumulative €460m hit). They also have €2.4bn exposure to banks via writing of CDS. The bulk is non-PIIGS but banks spreads have moved in the same manner as sovereigns (albeit wider and more volatile)." And there you have it: the bogeyman that everyone has been warning about, yet nobody has seen, CDS written (as in sold) in bulk against other sovereigns and other banks which up until now were only mythical, as they, to quote the EBA (which had Dexia as its safest bank) simply did not exist. Oh, they exist all right, and what they do is create a toxic spiral of accentuating losses whenever the risk situation deteriorates, creating positive feedback loops of ever increasing losses until the next Dexia appears... and then the next... and the next. Expect the market to latch on to this dramatic revelation like a rabid pitbull once the hopium high from today's EURUSD short covering squeeze wears off.
Michael Lewis’ latest piece in Vanity Fair, “California and Bust,” begins with a lengthy defense of Meredith Whitney’s prediction that there would be a wave of defaults in the municipal bond market. I was not planning on writing a response to his article – frankly, defending Whitney’s call at this point is very much like defending Harold Camping’s prophesy on May 22nd, after even the most gullible people have realized that they euthanized their pets for nothing. Who really cares about the intransigent believers that remain, for whom a forceful narrative has always been more relevant than facts?
To all those who bought Belgium CDS as per our compression trade suggested earlier today, congratulations. Oh and the part in the Moody's announcement where it says that a main driver of the review is "The uncertainty around the impact on the already pressured balance sheet of the government of additional bank support measures which are likely to be needed" means that anyone harboring even the smallest hope that France will be within 100 parsecs of Dexia when the broke bank is nationalized, may be slightly disappointed.
As many expected, the Bank of England has followed in Bernanke's footsteps and proceeded with extra QE, 75 billion extra, or about 25 billion more than consensus - this is the first expansion in the British QE since November 5, 2009 when it did the latest £25 billion expansion. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning: much more global QE is coming down the line as the "monetary authority" realizes it only has itself and its printers to rely on in a world rapidly reentering recession.
A green day in Europe as last night's superfluous strength in US equities caused reracks in every major European risk class out of the gate. The early strength in Europe was faded quite quickly but the bias was up - even as no new news/plans/clarity was announced and in fact was modestly worse with a lack of capital injection for Dexia noted. Credit and stocks ratcheted higher in three lurches with covering clearly evident in credit as even Belgium and France sovereigns managed small compressions (which makes little sense) though the former remains notably wider on the week (rightly so). FX traded in a narrow range from the US close but the USD was at the stronger-end of the channel as Europe closed (IMF - ECB easing potential comments) but commodities were mixed with lackluster moves overnight though silver and copper sold off the most - not enjoying the excitement in equities - but since the pre-market, all PMs and commodities have pushed higher. TSY yields leaked higher but the curve flattened but we see HY net-selling against IG net-buying (but several major financial bonds being net-sold including MS, GS, and C). We also note that while credit indices do indeed look better on the week, underlying single-names are notably wider which coupled with US corporate bonds suggests many are using strength to cover longs in 'riskier' credits. ES has re-coupled with a longer-term context reducing some of the urgency in equity's bounce though equities remain rich to credit by quite a margin. All-in-all, it seems like we can bleed higher inch by inch as retail gets sucked into another 'recovery/bailout' but under the surface, the 'things' that should be benefiting are simply not as professionals use this strength to rotate hedges or more simply unwind at better marks.