Sovereigns

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: December 12

  • Moody's said that the European crisis is still in a critical and volatile stage, adding that it will revisit ratings of all EU sovereigns in the first quarter of next year
  • According to S&P, it wanted to send a strong signal that the Eurozone is facing risk of a major recession, and significant credit crunch
  • The Italian/German 10-year government bond yield spread widened despite a successful T-Bill auction from Italy as well as market talk of the ECB buying Italian government paper
  • Deutsche Bank cut its UK growth forecast for 2012 to zero, and said it now expects the BoE to buy a further GBP 75bln of Gilts in February, then a final GBP 50bln in May

Moody's Unhappy With Friday Euro Summit, To Review Ratings, Warns Of "Multiple Defaults And Exits By Euro Area Countries"

The main weight on the EURUSD this morning is not only the virtual certainty of S&P cutting Europe's AAA club, after it called Europe's bluff and Europe revealed a 2-7 offsuit, but a report just released from Moody's which said that the rating agency looked at the European abyss, and did not like what it saw at all. As a result, Moody's has warned that it was review the ratings of all EU countries in Q1 as the summit has failed to produce "decisive policy measures" (we emphasize this for our friends at Bloomberg TV). It says: "As a result, the communiqué does not change our view that the crisis is in a critical, and volatile, stage, with sovereign and bank debt markets prone to acute dislocation which policymakers will find increasingly hard to contain. While our central scenario remains that the euro area will be preserved without further widespread defaults, shocks likely to materialise even under this 'positive' scenario carry negative credit and rating implications in the coming months. And the longer the incremental approach to policy persists, the greater the likelihood of more severe scenarios, including those involving multiple defaults by euro area countries and those additionally involving exits from the euro area." The result, as one can imagine, a surge in Italian and Spanish yields, and redness across the screen.

Inevitable Spiral Equity Collapse, Biderman's 'Better Early Than Late' Call To Sell Into Strength

It's the end of deficit spending in Europe as we know it. That's how Charles Biderman, of TrimTabs, rightly describes the unwilling-to-compromise German's (perhaps heroic) attitude to their fellow European sovereigns. From his perspective, this forced austerity will mean slower growth and with that all chance that the European nations can 'grow/tax' their way out of this charade. He notes there is simply no way they can grow fast enough to be able to kick the can far enough down the road for it to matter. Pointing to his 'better early than late' calls on markets over the last 40 years, the man from Sausalito sees it as inevitable that the practical insistence on the elimination of deficit spending will force banks into bankruptcy, leading, as asset values are marked down, to a spiral collapse in equities. He then dismisses the simple-minded decoupling perspective as if no new Keynesian-inspired 'technology shift' occurs, US growth will be in the doldrums as European deleveraging drags global growth down with it. It's not all doom-and-gloom though as he ends on the upbeat notion that this collapse won't happen tomorrow, given balance sheet strength, although selling into rallies is the clear picture he is painting.

Goldman Raises European Banks From Underweight To Neutral

Goldman has just started selling European bank stocks to its clients, whom it is telling to buy European bank stocks. Said otherwise, the stolpering of clients gullible enough to do what Goldman says and not does, has recommenced. Our advice, as always, do what Goldman's flow desk is doing as it begins to unload inventory of bank stocks. Translation: run from European bank exposure.

Last Minute Summit Mutiny Threatens The Future Of The Euro; And Why A Wholesale S&P Downgrade Of Europe Will Be Devastating

A day when everything that could go wrong for the euro and eurozone has just gotten worse. Hours away from the completion of the summit, whose failure will unleash a nuclear bomb of serial downgrades by S&P (let along expose frauds such as Sarkozy and Olli Rehn who claim, yet again, that the world will end a solution is found), The Telegraph writes that the summit is already in tatters after a rebellion and threats by Finland, Holland and Ireland are poised to scuttle the summit. Louise Armistead reports that 'Finland’s grand committee said decisions made by the ESM – the eurozone’s permanent bail-out fund set for launch in 2012 – had to remain unanimous, and not changed to the “qualified majority” that French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed. The Finns are backed by the Netherlands, which fears proposals to withdraw veto powers from the ESM is an erosion of democracy and would make it vulnerable to funding bail-outs without recourse. Meanwhile, the Irish want to block plans for the “convergence and harmonisation” of the eurozone’s “corporate tax base”. The rebellion is a serious threat to German and French plans to sign treaty changes today along the lines laid out in their joint letter on Wednesday. In it, the leaders said they hoped all 27 European Union countries would sign.' And since this is the only option to bypass a popular vote, the mere thought of which would destroy the Eurozone in a flash, and since Finland and Holland are two of the core funders of the ESM (RIP EFSF), it means that the Greek scheme of playing chicken with the Eurozone, has now been adopted by everyone else in the core. In the meantime, time for the Euro is running out with less than 24 hours left until midnight on Friday, and absent a complete consensus, the summit is as good as dead, something we expected a week ago and were heckled for by Bloomberg TV. Good luck Europe - use those 24 hours wisely.

Rosenberg On The 8 Areas Of Behavioral Change In 2012

It seems the market's psychology has shifted, in its wonderfully temperamental and instantaneous manner, once again as the last great hope of Thomas Lee and his cohorts is removed. What better time than for David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, in his inimitable way, to introduce his outlook for 2012 in the form of eight behavioral changes that he expects to overwhelm market psychology in the coming months. Political, financial, and economic transitions for the US, Europe, and China respectively will dominate the coming year and as Rosie points out, the ability to recognize change at the margin (such as basis traders in European sovereigns) is going to be critical in 2012. The shift from one of cyclical extrapolation to secular change is always a hard one to navigate and tactical asset allocation will become foremost in most people's minds over longer-term strategic considerations. The global economy will be forced to endure the mother of all deleveraging cycles as we move through 2012 and capital preservation and income must dominate investment strategy as Rosie's 8 themes play out.

Act II Begins

The leaders pretty much have to cobble together some form of agreement. If they don’t reach an “agreement” the market will likely sell off 5% or more pretty quickly. We were at 1150 2 weeks ago when Europe was back to no plan, so that would be a pretty obvious target if they can’t reach an agreement this week. If they reach an agreement, the market is likely to move up a bit (1-2%), the bulls will be dancing in the street shouting out that Europe is fixed and gets it. The bears will point out that the agreement is a long way from being implemented and is unlikely to ever actually be followed. In either case, it doesn’t make a difference. The moment a treaty agreement is announced (assuming it is) the market will turn its attention to the ECB, IMF, and Fed. The market will be desperately hoping that the ECB immediately follows up the “successful” treaty summit with a new and fresh commitment to become lender of last resort for sovereigns. Expect disappointment. Draghi may be a dove, but he seems focused on banks (which is his primary mandate) and is unlikely to implement a new, and in Europe, revolutionary policy. The markets will test their resolve. Italian and Spanish bonds aren’t trading so well because anything has been fixed or because the market cares about treaties. The bonds rallied hard because the ECB was in the market and no one wanted to take a chance that a treaty agreement would be the excuse the ECB needed to ramp up its purchases. Without aggressive ECB action, Italian and Spanish bonds will decline in price, and renewed fears will hit all risk assets.

Citigroup Explains How The ECB Will Drive The EUR Today

Citi's Steven Englander shares his outlook on what the key things to look out for, in the 8:30 am press conference, are. One variable in his forecast has already been presented: the cut was 25 bps not 50 bps. As he says: "By contrast, if they did 50bps and indicated that more aggressive measures might be forthcoming, the pendulum could swing to positive." In other words, the kneejerk jump in EURUSD following the ECB has been largely misguided for now, especially with forward EONIA rates jumping across the curve confirming that European liquidity is about to get far tigher all over again.

Goldman On Deleveraging And The Sovereign-Financial Feedback Loop

It is no surprise that there is both an implicit and explicit link between financial entity risk and that of their local sovereign overlord. The multitude of transmission channels is large and the causalities, not merely correlations, run both ways, providing for both virtuous (2009 perhaps) and vicious (2010-Present) circles. Goldman Sachs, in its 2012 investment grade credit outlook takes on the topic of the feedback loop which is engulfing financials and sovereigns currently - noting that despite the 'optical' cheapness of financial spreads to non-financials (and equities) that it is unlikely to compress significantly without a 'solution' to the sovereign crisis being well behind us. The key takeaway is that pre-crisis sovereign credit premia were, in hindsight, uneconomically tight (unrealistic) and expectations of a return to those levels is incorrect as they see the current repricing of sovereign risk as a paradigm shift as opposed to temporary repricing due to market stress. "Sovereign spreads will likely emerge from the crisis both more elevated and more dispersed", meaning floors on bank spreads will be elevated and deleveraging pressures to be maintained raising the real risk, outside of spam-and-guns Euro-zone crashes, of a potential credit crunch. This is already evident in European loan spreads, which as we have discussed many times is the primary source of funds (as opposed to public debt markets as in the US).

S&P Warns It May Cut Most European Banks, European Union Itself

Not sure why the market is surprised by this, but it is.

  • S&P PLACES LARGE BANK GROUPS ACROSS EUROZONE ON WATCH NEG - BNP, SocGen, Commerzbank, Intesa, Deutsche... pretty much everyone.
  • EUROPEAN UNION'S AAA RATING MAY BE CUT BY S&P - you KNOW Barroso, Juncker and Gollum are going to take this very personally
  • In short: Commerzbank AG, Natixis S.A., Credit Agricole S.A., Eurohypo, Deutsche Bank L-T counterparty credit rating, Deutsche Postbank AG, Intesa Sanpaolo,Societe Generale L-T counterparty credit, UniCredit SpA, Credit Du Nord L-T counterparty credit, Comapgnie Europeenne de Garanties et Cautions, Credit Foncier de France, Locindus S.A., Rabobank Nederland, CACEIS, Banca IMI SpA, Ulster Bank, Banque Kolb, Bank Polska Kasa Opieki S.A. ratings may be cut by S&P.

Basically, S&P just told Europe it has two days to get the continent in order or else. Said otherwise, it just called Europe's bluff. The problem is Europe is holding 2-7 offsuit...

Cognitive Dissonance Reigns As Risk Sentiment And Positioning Diverge

It seems everywhere we look, talking heads are arguing that they expect a positive resolution to the EU debacle and yet market positioning does not suggest this is the case at all. Of course we have seen snap-back rallies and sell-offs but the dissonance between the seeming consensus of unbridled optimism that European policy-makers 'get it' and the market's anxiety should be very worrisome - especially for the 'money-where-your-mouth-is' crowd. Morgan Stanley put it best recently as they noted their sense that most investors assume there will be some solution found (or put another way, very few assume that the alternative - a catastrophe of disorderly banking and sovereign defaults - is a base case) but few investors seem willing now to position for that benign outcome (most evidently seen in European Sovereign debt markets currently).

Deutsche's Jim Reid, like us, is less optimistic and notes the same disconnect as he argues that at this point: "Who can honestly say they know exactly what rescue plans the EU governments are still discussing...". Investors are rightly confused and we agree with Reid that we don't think there is any chance of a quick fix to all of this. Furthermore, we fear that any belief in a reversion to pre-crisis levels of sovereign risk on the back of a solution is a pipe-dream as it is clear that risk premia are embedded now (like skews in options prices post 1987) and it is far more likely that Europe stabilizes at much wider levels - more like other leveraged regions.

The Five D's Of Dystopian Markets

One of the most frequently-used phrases we hear is 'The Markets Are Broken' and while there are many anecdotal events almost every day in and across asset classes, there is more to it than sudden 'flash-crashes' or Italian bond levitation. The world is increasingly dystopian and Citigroup's credit group recently noted, as part of a pitch for structured credit products, the most critical aspects of our broken environment. While not quite as memorable as the five D's of Dodgeball; the five D's of Dystopian markets are decidely less comical.

Did Basis Traders Save The Euro-Zone (For Now)?

While the standard run-of-the-mill hedge fund trader has been vilified as a short-selling scoundrel, we have pointed again and again to the sometimes impressive and impactful effects this rabble of speculators can have. In the US corporate bond market last year and early this, CDS-Bond basis traders were often the busiest providers of demand at bond auctions (since concessions were solid and this trade somewhat locks that gain in). These buyers-of-bonds simultaneously buy CDS protection to capture carry at a potentially lowered risk and look to profit from bond and CDS pricing converging. Multiple examples of basis traders implicitly providing (systemic) support for bond markets are evident in the last few years and we note that ahead of this impressive rally in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish bonds of the last week, the basis had become extremely wide (attractive). The last few days has seen the bond outperformance drive the basis to 'expensive' levels and we worry that the reduction of basis traders (or profit-taking) may drag on sovereigns just as we reach the event horizon this weekend in Europe - implicitly forcing more of the burden onto the ECB's shoulders. The most obvious short-term trade from this is Short Spanish Bonds against Selling Italian protection to profit from the basis unwinds.

S&P Puts EFSF's Critical AAA Rating On Downgrade Review, Can Cut By Up To Two Notches

From the full release: "We could lower the long-term credit rating on EFSF by one or two notches if we were to lower the 'AAA' sovereign ratings, which are currently on CreditWatch, on one or more of EFSF's guarantor members. Conversely, we could affirm the 'AAA' ratings on EFSF and its issues if we affirm the rating on all six of EFSF's guarantor members currently rated 'AAA'. We could also affirm the ratings if we were to lower the current 'AAA' ratings on one or more guarantor members, but had evidence that the EFSF guarantor members were implementing further credit enhancements that were in our view sufficient to mitigate the relevant guarantor members' reduced creditworthiness."

Here Comes The S&P Downgrade Barrage - Full Statement, In Which S&P Says France May Get Two Notch Downgrade

From S&P: "Standard & Poor's Ratings Services today placed its long-term sovereign ratings on 15 members of the European  Economic and Monetary Union (EMU or eurozone) on CreditWatch with negative implications. .. We expect to conclude our review of eurozone sovereign ratings as soon as possible following the EU summit scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9, 2011. Depending on the score changes, if any, that our rating committees agree are appropriate for each sovereign, we believe that ratings could be lowered by up to one  notch for Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and by up to two notches for the other governments.  [THIS MEANS FRANCE]"