Larry Summers Resumes Exercises In Pontificating Sophistry

Over the weekend, just because apparently someone really needed content at any cost (in this case zero), we got a new intellectual stillborn from none other than the man who more than anyone is responsible for the global economic collapse the world has been in for the past 4 years, and from which it is nowhere even close in escaping. The man of course is Larry Summers, who first crushed global finance, then Harvard, and finally Obama's economic platform, whom the FT saw fit to give the chance to pontificate on such concepts at growth and austerity, because apparently, growth through austerity, whereby banking sector debt is written down in parallel is not growth, but there is some subsegment of "growth", heretofore unknown, that Europe has not tried before, and will instead focus on that going forward. To paraphrase Lewis Black: don't think about that sentence too hard, or blood will shoot out of your nose.

The Next Circle Of Spain's Hell Begins At 5% And Ends At 10%

Three weeks ago we discussed the ultimate-doomsday presentation of the state of Spain which best summarized the macro-concerns facing the nation and its banks. Since then the market, and now the ratings agencies, have fully digested that meal of dysphoric data and pushed Spanish sovereign and bank bond spreads back to levels seen before the LTRO's short-lived (though self-defeating) munificence transfixed global investors. However, the world moves on and while most are focused directly on yields, spreads, unemployment rates, and loan-delinquency levels, there are two critical new numbers to pay attention to immediately - that we are sure the market will soon learn to appreciate. The first is 5%. This is the haircut increase that ECB collateral will require once all ratings agencies shift to BBB+ or below (meaning massive margin calls and cash needs for the exact banks that are the most exposed and least capable of achieving said liquidity). The second is 10%. This is the level of funded (bank) assets that are financed by the Central Bank and as UBS notes, this is the tipping point beyond which banks are treated differently by the market and have historically required significant equity issuance to return to regular private market funding. With S&P having made the move to BBB+ this week (and Italy already there), and Spain's banking system having reached 11% as of the last ECB announcement (and Italy 7.7%), it would appear we are set for more heat in the European kitchen - especially since Nomura adds that they do not expect any meaningful response from the ECB until things get a lot worse. The world is waking up to the realization that de-linking sovereigns and banks (as opposed to concentrating that systemic risk) is key to stabilizing markets.

Europe Ends Week Green But Notably Red On Month

For the third week in a row, European equity and credit markets have remained range-bound. Equities broadly ended the week in the green with the BE500 (Bloomberg's broad S&P 500-equivalent for Europe) ending near the top of the recent range - around the pre-NFP levels from 4/5. Spain and Italy have seen improvements this week in their equity indices but they remain down notably on the month and perhaps surprisingly only the UK's FTSE 100 is in the green for the month. Credit is considerably more dispersed but also green close-to-close on the week after a strong finish today (as the dismal data started rumors of more ECB easing and QE3 lifts). Stocks and high-beta crossover credit outperformed in the liquidity rush but subordinated financials lagged on the week. Critically though, while anchoring bias might make us all feel joyous in the last few days of recovery, we remain significantly red on the month across all risk asset classes in Europe. Sovereigns followed the same path as equities and credit - with another range-bound rotation up better on bill auction success and worse on bond auction failure but as with equities/credit today's exuberance lifted them to the middle of the recent range - well off the best levels of the last few weeks. Most notably, Spanish and Italian 10Y bond spreads are over 60bps wider in April and continue to trade in a two-steps-wider-one-step-tighter rotation intra-week. Portugal is the big winner on the week (and month) when it comes to bond spreads - which are now back to mid-September levels. However - as we have tried to explain before - the massive cheapness of Portuguese bonds relative to CDS (the so-called basis) has just been too tempting and grabbing this 'risk-free' carry has provided some bid to a notably illiquid Portuguese bond market and crushed the differential between bonds and CDS. The point being - be careful in reading too much into Portuguese bond improvements as it is much more a technical arbitrage move than real money flowing into this restructuring prone nation.

Overnight Sentiment - All News Is Good News

S&P threatening to downgrade India... UK double dipping... Germany having a failed auction. It is all irrelevant, for the great fruit has spoken and people are buying iGadgets at record levels, which can only mean that once the great credit spree ends, Apple will likely be forced to use its $110 billion cash hoard to start an in house "Acceptance Corporation" vendor financing purchases of its products directly. And while the AAPL earnings beat has become a contrarian bet, now that even Gartman has said he is turning bullish on stocks, here is a summary of what happened and what will happen. In a nutshell, just like Apple was the only thing that mattered yesterday, today it is only the Fed and the subsequent press conference that matter, with the market likely to only take away whatever it wants to take away.

Guest Post: Project “End Up Like Japan” Continues To Advance Well In The West

One scene from the movie Titanic depicts a lounge in one of the upper class quarters of the ship as it slowly sinks beneath the waves. Notwithstanding the vessel listing alarmingly, a motley band of toff revelers are determined to go out in the finest style. Some continue to play at cards with a fatalistic resolve while others determinedly quaff spirits direct from the bottle. Having considered for some time the most appropriate metaphor for the current market environment, we think this may be it: one may be doomed, but one can still party on. Having already hit the iceberg, one major problem we see is the common perspective for both investors and the asset management industry to view debt and equity as the entire universe of investor choices available. Having long exhausted the armory of conventional policies to keep the unsustainably indebted show on the road, increasingly desperate politicians are doing increasingly desperate things, be that gifting money to the IMF in a brazen display of fiscal denial that we can ill afford (US, UK) or simply stealing from other sovereigns (Argentina). The ironic triumph of the Keynesians means that, in trying to save the economy, our central bank may end up destroying it completely by means of the printing press; as a consequence, we now get to experience some of the full-on horror of the Japanese malaise.

Volatile Or Not?

Maybe it is the activity in Europe that made the markets feel more volatile than the weekly changes show. Or maybe it was that the futures traded in an almost 3% range – from 1,359 to 1,390 with several 0.5% swings during the course of most days. Market darling Apple isn’t helping calm the market either. That can reverse on a moment’s notice, or a great earnings release, but the momentum that was dragging more and more hedge funds into the trade, is now working in reverse as stop losses are being triggered. So often lately, the bulls are able to point to a decent tape in face of weak data and no stimulus, and this week ended with the opposite. Bulls will be nervous that decent earnings and a mega-plan from the IMF failed to provide strength to the market. So, it was a strange week that was more volatile than the weekly changes show, and where some real cracks are being exposed.

Europe Is Now Red For The Year

A sea of red is flowing from European equity markets and it seems they are unable to stem the flow as IBEX (the Italian Spanish equity index) nears March 2009 lows (down 18% YTD) but dispersion across European indices is very high from the DAX +14% YTD to Italy, Greece, and Spain very much in the red YTD. However, for the second week in a row, European equity markets (as tracked by the narrow Dow-equivalent Euro Stoxx 50) close with a negative return year-to-date -0.3%. The broader BE500 index is still up around 5% (compared to over 10% YTD gains in the S&P 500). European high yield credit is back at 3-month lows and investment grade credit at 2-month lows. This week, however, followed the exact same path as last week with equity and credit trading in a wide range but notably this week credit markets dramatically underperformed the ever-hopeful equity market with financials underperforming the heaviest. European sovereigns are generally wider close-to-close on the week but just like corporate credit and equity, they generally followed a similar path to last week with a broad range trade - though a clear trend generally wider overall. Italy underperformed Spain on the week and Portugal, as we noted earlier was the big winner on what looked like basis trade-driven flows as opposed to whole new world of relief. Ahead of the G-20 meetings, it did not seem like there was much hope in sovereign credit - even as financials and corporates did lift a little off their multi-month lows and having seen the headlines of the G-20 draft, it appears there is no magic bullet there anyway - no matter how big they think their bazooka is.

Spanish 10 Year Briefly Crosses 6.00% And Portugal Active

European sovereigns peaked in spread yield early this morning before the surprisingly positive German confidence data but while France, Belgium, Austria and more significantly Portugal are all improving, Spain and Italy remain far less positive in this small downtrend after two days of significant selling pressure. Both are now around 35bps post the US non-farm-payroll data with Spain cracking back above 6% yield (and remains above 500bps in 5Y CDS). For those wondering what is going on in Portuguese spreads, it appears CDS-Cash basis traders are very active, according to desk chatter, with the spread between extremely 'cheap' bonds and CDS compressing to 7 month narrows here - bonds remain 232bps wide of CDS though as liquidity, ECB subordination, and CDS trigger concerns remain (though this is in from over 700bps difference at its worst in late January 2012).

Europe Drops Dismally Amid Deja Vu

Keeping it simple, Europe was a sloppy mess today. In an almost perfect copy of last week's sovereign, corporate, and financial credit market movements, today saw all of these assets plunge back near post-Non-Farm-Payroll lows. Equity markets, which had miraculously managed to regain those pre-NFP levels this morning after the Spanish auction knee-jerk, rapidly retraced and aside from some stick-save efforts from US markets and Lagarde, keeps the chaos-ball rolling with yet another multiple-sigma flip-flop. Ugly all around as it seems the reality check we discussed on the Spanish auction overnight was better received than the spin the Euro-Elite tried to put on it as we reinforce our view of the instability as the LTRO Stigma widens further to post LTRO1 wides as 10Y Spain approaches 6% yield and 425bps spread and Italian CDS over 440bps as 10Y yields break back above 5.5%.

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.

Best Day In 5 Months As Europe Soars On Second "Bill Issuance" Catalyst In One Week

While many are celebrating the all-clear again as Spain manages to sell Spanish bills to Spanish banks at a huge risk premium to the last time it did the same, it is perhaps not surprising to hear that this was the biggest gain for the broad European equity market since November. What concerns us most is the absolute schizophrenia that the market is undergoing as the swings in European (and for that matter US) markets is extremely reminiscent of the absolute chaos that reigned last summer as markets suddenly flip-flop +/-2 standard deviations. The sad fact is how quickly our memories (or the algos that surround us) forget just last week we saw the same - exact same - euphoric response to Italy managing to sell short-term Italian bills to Italian banks (again at a significant yield premium to their prior attempt) and the mainstream-media's irrational pump that this is somehow important or noteworthy (remember even Greece managed to sell short-dated bills during the middle of its PSI discussions). European equities are back to pre-NFP levels (same as last week) and credit markets have snapped tighter today (just as they did last week as they got squeezed). This time, however, financials are lagging still and the squeeze in credit is not as hard as overall they remain less ebullient than equities. Sovereign spreads are following the same path as last week also, Italy and Spain yields compressed - though we note that they remain (especially Spain) notably wider than last week's rally. Will the rest of the week play out in a similar manner to last week? As longer-dated auctions and financials weigh heavily on risk sentiment?

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: April 16

Eurozone periphery concerns continue to loom as Italian and Spanish spreads against the German 10yr remain elevated, but have come off their widest levels in recent trade amid some unconfirmed market talk of real money accounts buying Spanish paper.  Despite the concerns in Europe, the major European bourses are trading higher with individual stocks news from over the weekend propping up indices with reports of intra-European M&A and a string of good news for mining stocks pushing up markets today. Some stock stories of note include the agreement of an offer between France’s GDF Suez and UK’s International Power for GBP 4.18 per share, and a speculated merger of BHP Billiton’s and Rio Tinto’s diamond units by private equity firm KKR. The financials sector, however, is showing the strain, as the 3m EUR basis swap moves sharply lower to -53.87 from approximately -50 on Friday, with particular underperformance noted in the French banking sector.  The session so far has been very data-light, with Eurozone trade balance coming in slightly lower than expectations but markets remained unreactive to the release.

If Spain 10 Year > 7.50% Then LTRO 3

At least that is the bogey according to JPMorgan's Pawan Wadhwa, who in a note announced that the ECB may resume SMP purchases if the 10 year hits 6.5% (as in a few hours), much to the chagrin of Germany, which was foosed into believing LTRO 1+2 would mean no more SMP purchases. More importantly, since the 6.50% barrier will be taken down with impunity in days if not hours, and the SMP has proven time and again to be powerless to prevent mass selling, the next big bogey is 7.50% at which the ECB will likely announce another 3-year Discount Window bazooka, pardon, LTRO. What JPM does not say is that with the halflife of each successive LTRO getting cut in half, LTRO 4 will be needed in June, LTRO 5 in July, LTRO 6 in July, LTRO 7 in July and so on. Most importantly, now that banks, who are desperate for some cash infusion from either the Fed or the ECB, know what the critical threshold bogey for action is, they will be sure to facilitate the ECB's life, and send Spanish 10 Years plunging to at least 7.50% and demand Draghi play ball, again. In other words: now that the market knows what the consensus is to get more European QE, it will promptly do it. After all the LTRO was never for the benefit of the countries: it was always and only to benefit Europe's insolvent banks. If that means "Greecing" Spain in the process, so be it.