As usual, a corrupt and pathetic Moody's continues to boldly not go where everyone else has gone before. Luckily, S&P, which had the balls to cut the US, has just done so to Europe's next domino, by downgrading Italy from A+ to A, outlook negative. Then again, this was pretty much telegraphed 100% earlier today as noted in "Italy Expected To Cut Growth Forecasts Further." Anyway, those incompetents from Moody's are next. Some of the choicest words: "In our view, weaker economic growth performance will likely limit the effectiveness of Italy's revenue-led fiscal consolidation program", "We have revised our base-case medium-term projections of real GDP growth to an annual average of 0.7% between 2011 to 2014, compared with our previous projection of 1.3%", "The negative outlook reflects our view of additional downside risks to public finances related to the trajectory of Italy's real and nominal GDP growth, and implementation risks of the government's fiscal consolidation program" and so forth.
Fear is quite obviously rearing its ugly head once again tonight and Belgium's ever-ready-for-an-understatement finance minister Reynders told La Tribune that the euro area may need as much as two years to overcome the sovereign debt crisis. We think it will all be over one way or another by then. As the US Treasury market opens for business tonight, yields are reflecting the fearful action seen in futures markets and dropping notably. The 2Y has just traded at its lowest yield ever at 15.12bps and the 10Y is trying its best to hold above yet another Maginot line at 2.0026%. Credit markets are also starting to crack wider as they open for trading with financials and non-financials notably wider already. While risk-assets in general are offered and safe-haven TSYs are bid, we are seeing PMs gently glide higher and note an interesting article in today's FT that asserts European Central Banks have resumed net-buying Gold after 20 years of consistent selling.
FX markets opened first and gapped down 100pips in EURUSD only to retrace back to fill the gap and then drop all the way back down again - all within the first hour. European credit markets (early CDS runs) are trading very marginally wide of their European closing levels from Friday and that is where US equity futures have pulled back to - 11/12am ET Friday levels - extinguishing the late-day hopium-inspired melt-up. We noted Friday that the late-day jump higher in stocks was not supported by any other asset class and sure enough, ES has retraced it all.
If Greece is going to default, September 20th seems to be as good a day as any. Actually, it is far better than most to be GD-Day. Two big bonds, the 4.5% of 2037 and the 4.6% of 2040 both have coupon payments due that day, totalling 769 Million Euro. So if the IMF wanted to avoid letting another billion euro go down the drain, September 20th would be a good day to do it. The IMF seems to have delayed approving another tranche for now, so Greece must already have the money for this payment? The Fed Scheduled their meeting for 2 days. It now starts on September 20th. Maybe a co-incidence, but what better way to be prepared for new emergency policies? CDS "rolls" on the 20th. On the 21st, all Sept 2011 CDS will have expired. My guess is that banks own more protection than they sold to the September 20th date, so defaulting while those contracts are still valid would be a net benefit to the banking system. As a whole, triggering CDS will likely benefit banks as I can find banks that say they own protection against positions, but find more hedge funds are uninvolved or have sold protection to fund shorts in other sovereigns.
Moody's Continues Review Of Italy's Aa2 Ratings For Possible Downgrade, To Conclude Review Within Next MonthSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/16/2011 17:08 -0400
"In light of the increasingly challenging economic and financial environment and fluid political developments in the euro area, Moody's is continuing to evaluate Italy's local and foreign currency bond ratings in the context of the risks identified. Moody's will strive to conclude the review within the next month."
With each passing day bringing us new predictions in the form of research reports, white papers, analyses, and plain old rants on what a Greek default would mean for the Eurozone, for the Euro, for markets, and the for world in general, it is clear that absolutely nobody knows what will happen. Alas, since this topic will be with us for a while until the can kicking finally fails, many more such prognostications will be forthcoming. Today, we present three different pieces, one from Reuters, which gives a 30,000 foot perspective, one a slightly more technical from Citi, looking at a Greek default from a rates point of view, and lastly, a primer from Goldman's Huw Pill, looking at the aftermath of the current situation for the euro area, with or without a Greek bankruptcy. While we have no idea what will happen to global markets should Greece default, and it will, we are 100% certain that we will present many more such analyses in the future as more and more people piggyback on the Cassandra bandwagon.
Just two hours after the coordinated global central bank intervention signaled the all-clear for risk assets to infinity and beyond and a total solution for European sovereigns and financials, we are sad to deliver the news that all of the impact in equity markets has now been removed. ES has completely retraced the spike as have French banks. The only thing that is still holding better is financials spreads in Europe which are -25bps at 263bps.
From Eric Sprott: "In many of the funds we manage at Sprott, we’ve transitioned out of gold bullion and into gold equities to better participate in the continuation of the trend indicated above. As long-time investors in this space, we can assure you that the production growth rates will be significantly higher in the junior stocks. They continue to trade at discounted valuations, and we believe they offer the best opportunity to build exposure. Margin expansion is the key metric for this industry, and the market is now acknowledging the miners’ improvement in margin capture – which has occurred despite the increase in capital and operating costs. We meet with a large number of gold mining management teams on a weekly basis, and based on those meetings, it appears that the average cost of producing an ounce of gold today, all in, is now around $800. At $1,200 gold, these companies can capture roughly $400 in EBITDA. At $1800 gold, however, they’re now capturing $1,000 per ounce in EBITDA - representing an increase of 150% in profit margin. That is significantly far above what any other equity sector has been able to generate over the past year. Amazingly – despite this new reality for gold producers, we are still finding opportunities in select gold and silver mining companies that can be purchased today at 2-3 times their 2-year-out forecasted cash flow. These multiples are based on the current gold and silver spot price, and if these companies hit their production targets, and gold and silver continue their appreciation – we may discover that these stocks were trading at less than 1 times 2-year-out cash flow today. Having been in the business for many years, we can tell you that investing in a stock at 1 times 2-year-out cash flow tends to be a winning proposition – let alone in an industry that literally mines the world’s reserve currency out of the ground."
Every "solution" to the European debt crisis, whether it is ECB purchase, EFSF, Eurobonds, or BRIC's, fails to account for the fact there are really two types of bonds out there. There are those that are trading and marked, and those that remain on some bank balance sheet unmarked. That is a key distinction. If all Greek bonds were marked at 45 (or even had 55 points of reserves held against them) then there would be a lot of potential solutions.
It seems at the first whiff of downgrades from Moody's, BNP were forced into action announcing a series of asset disposals as Moody's announces no downgrade but maintains review for downgrade...
...as expected from the previous post. Now, BNP downgrade a matter of seconds.
Ladies and gents, it starts. Credit Agricole and BNP downgrades imminent.
Last week, Zero Hedge first brought to readers the infamous UBS report, which has since made the global rounds, and which essentially laid out the binomial tree for Eurozone survival as follows: either the EUR survives, or we get Civil war. In keeping with the schizophrenia of the TBTF banks whose number one goal is to cover their ass by predicting the two opposite possible outcomes, so as to avoid being sued by sovereigns once the dominos start falling, here is the firm's much respected economist George Magnus, who in his latest release of "By George", does a comprehensive framing of the agenda in the Eurozone. His conclusions: don't believe the European bureaucrat PhDs - there is much more here than meets the eye. To wit: "The dilemma over where to draw the lines between integration and sovereignty lies at the core of the fiscal union debate. The policy agenda has to recognise this, and not assume that fiscal union, one way or another, is eventually a ‘gimme’, even though logic would say it should be. Parallel to the logic are the politics and vested interests, the German Constitutional Court notwithstanding, which say fiscal union only one theoretical outcome, and maybe a long shot. Most likely, the political limits to fiscal integration have not yet been reached, but if there are further moves towards but not reaching this goal, they will most certainly be on German, and therefore, limited, terms. We may conclude that while the Euro system is not about to break up, its viability as it stands is far from assured." Maybe not "about" - give it a few weeks though...
Nothing actually new here, but listening to Art Cashin retall the latest end of the world episode in that wise, grizzled voice of his brings a soothing element to what is set to be another dramamine-friendly week."Over the weekend, the battle has shifted. German authorities talk openly of the likelihood of a Greek default. They are said to be developing a plan to backstop German banks in the event of a Greek default. That puts pressure on other banks, especially French banks, since there is no Gallic backstop plan. Collateral damage could be to bring no bids to the next Greek auction, or make them pay such high rates as to make the auction toxic. The Euro crisis is quickly evolving into a Gordian Knot....U.S. markets are at near-critical levels. The uptrend line that caused the last bounce (S&P 1140) is around 1145. Key support levels are 1140, 1132, 1120 and ultimately 1101. The new Battle of Thermopylae is on the way."
Looking at the weekly chart on Gold (vs. USD), the sell-off from two weeks ago at the rejection of $1900 was impressive not so much in how much it dropped in a single week, but on how well it recovered. The following act in the next week was a solid weekly gain of 3.4% from an opening price of $1822 - 1864 closing towards the highs suggesting buyers were holding into the weekend and thus not taking profits. The following week was a sell-off but very mild in nature and a third week of price rejecting off the weekly lows. Three weeks of selling and three weeks of strong rejections off the lows clearly communicating to us anytime the shiny metal is sold off, buyers are eager to come back in. And each time, they are doing so with more confidence because every time, they are buying at a higher price suggesting they are happy to take any dips as an opportunity to buy (or invest/hold) more gold.