Sovereigns

Gold And Silver Plunge As EUR Reaches 15 Month Lows

It seems funds left redemptions until the last minute in the vain hope that everything will be fine in the European dis-Union as we see renewed selling pressure in EURUSD - taking out the January 2011 swing lows (as a mediocre Italian auction and failed Hungarian auction weigh heavily on the expectations for a 'solution' or firewall). Gold and Silver are also legging down hard (the latter now -9.5% from Christmas Eve) and the former loses $1550. Gold took out its September 2011 swing lows back to near six-month lows.

A Strategic Alpha Preview Of 2012: Hope And Expectations

The EU is still a massive risk to the global economy but so is political inaction, over- regulated or manipulated markets, high unemployment and geo-political shifts. QE is a concern as central banks abandon inflation targeting and indeed growth to maintain ratings. The EU is still throwing liquidity at a solvency crisis at both sovereign and banking level. EU banks not only have a cash problem, more specifically, as ECB President Mario Draghi says : "hoarding at the ECB signals that the problem afflicting the Euro-zone is not so much about the amount of liquidity but that this liquidity is not circulating around the region's banks". I am not surprised as they all know that each has a similar or worse problem sitting in the vaults.... In the first throes of the new deflationary cycle the Dollar will do well, as the fight intensifies and the US uses the Dollar as a monetary tool and prints more Dollars, it will fall precipitously. Correlations will break this year and many of the “relative value” trades will implode. Gold will break away from being pressured by a strong Dollar as the hunt for alternatives to Fiat currency explode. The likes of the AUD will fall steeply as the global growth story rolls over as we have suggested for a long time. But it is China that holds the key. Hard or soft landing is the question. Can they really have a soft landing if the developed world implodes? No chance.

Market Snapshot: Asia Down, Europe Stable

Despite more ramblings from Juncker this morning, the overnight session in Asia saw comments on downside risks from the BoJ drive risk assets modestly lower. Led by Japan, Asia-Pac equities were down around 0.3%. While EURUSD is higher by 25pips or so from Christmas Eve's close (and implicitly USD weaker), commodities are broadly underperforming with Copper worst (-1.3%), Gold (under $1600) and Silver in line -0.8%, and Oil just underwater from 12/23 close. European credit markets just started trading and are a smidge tighter - though liquidity is questionable for now - but sovereigns are leaking wider in spread with Italian 10Y worst for now +13bps (and BTP yields now breaking 7% again). US TSYs are 1-2bps lower in yield from the afternoon surge on Christmas Eve's discorrelated action. Given the markets that are open so far, CONTEXT (a broad risk market proxy for where ES - the e-mini S&P futures contract - should trade) is practically unchanged, which given the late-day surge on 12/23, leaves us looking for modest weakness when it re-opens later today.

Hold On Tight: European Bond Issuance In January Is About To Get Very Bumpy

While someone continues to guietly push the EUR offer ever higher in the quiet holiday session, the reality is that with only 5 days to go in 2011, the holiday for Europe is ending, and "the pain"TM it about to be unleashed. All 740 billion worth of it. Because while Japan is monetizing its deficit (and having to issue more debt than it collects in taxes), and America is hot on its heels (as a reminder the US also issues roughly one dollar of debt for each dollar in taxes collected), Europe is still unsure whether it will monetize explicitly (that said, we did clear up that little bit of confusion over implicit monetization, with the ECB's balance sheet having exploded by €500 billion since June, or more than all of QE2). Unfortunately, as the following analysis from UBS indicates, it won't have much of a choice. Here are Europe's numbers: €82 billion in gross debt issuance in January, €234 billion in gross debt issuance in Q1, €740 billion in gross debt issuance in 2012. And then it really picks up because what is largley ignored in such "roll" analyses are the hundreds of billions in debt that financials (i.e., banks) will also have to roll in 2012. In other words, the biggest risk for 2012, in our humble opinion, is that the global repo perpetual ponzi engine (where every primary dealer buys sovereign debt than promptly repos it back to its respective central bank, and courtesy of Prime Broker conduits is allowed to do so without ever encumbering its balance sheet - explained in detail here) is about to choke.

"A Markets Carol" - Goldman Scrooge Gets A Visit By The Three Ghosts Of The Global Economy

In its "pre-Christmas" note, it is somehow appropriate that Goldman's Jose Ursua reprises the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, and explains how, in this contemporary Christmas Carol, "The world economy is struggling: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that" and, logically, gets a visit from the three ghosts of the world's past, present and future. However, while the narrative is similar for the most part to the Carol morality play, where it diverges is in the Hollywood ending: "As in Dickens’ story, avoiding this outcome will require decisive actions. Unlike Ebenezer Scrooge’s overnight redemption, however, we believe the solution to the current global problems will potentially take much longer. So, although some steps are clearly visible in the right direction, the post-holiday environment will likely continue to be challenging for both policymakers and markets alike." And that's only for the macro; the "micro", as Morgan Stanley explained yesterday, is already slipping regardless of how long the US pretends that Europe is irrelevant for the big picture. The only question is whether the macro follows suit (which in Morgan Stanley's case was left as the optimistic case with full resolution), in which case the ghost of the coming "Great Stagnation" will be one scary dude.

Here Is The Math: Carry Trade Profits From The LTRO Are Woefully Insufficient To Make Any Impact

Following yesterday's €489 billion LTRO there are few things we know with certainty, primary among them is that the net proceeds from the 3 year refi operation are really €210 billion, due to the rolling of various other duration facilities which are already in use into the LTRO as discussed yesterday. What we do not know, is whether the net proceeds of €210 billion have been used by banks to purchase sovereign debt or as Peter Tchir suggested, are actually used in a reflexive ponzi whereby banks use the explicit ECB guarantee to buy their own debt. Perhaps the best evidence that the LTRO was an epic failure when it comes to subsidizing the peripheral bond market is the fact that hours after its completion the ECB was forced to jump into the secondary market and buy up billions in Italian and Spanish bonds: an action that was supposed to be conducted by the banks themselves. But let's assume that the entire €210 billion form the first LTRO (and there certainly will be more) is used to fund carry trades: what then? Well, luckily UBS has performed a mathematical analysis which looks at how much paper profit banks can extract from said trade and juxtaposes it with the most recent €115 billion capital shortfall calculated by the EBA in its most recent stress test (not to be confused with the second to last stress test which saw Dexia pass with the highest marks possible). The result: woefully insufficient . In other words, anyone who believes that the LTRO will be used by banks as a source of carry "profits" is massively deluded. If anything banks will find creative loophole to prop up their balance sheets and issue more of their own debt instead of chasing pennies in front of the bond vigilante rollercoaster by loading up on more sovereigns. Because the last thing Italian banks can afford is another late Novemeber blow out in yields which brought the system to within hours of imminent collapse.

"Weaker Euroland" - Two Unhappy Holiday Jingles

Credit calling, are you listening?
On the horizon, defaults are looming
A dreadful sight,
To see high yield's plight,
Walking in a weaker Euroland.

Without a pledge from the German,
Credit spreads are gonna widen
Who wants to pay?
For the peripheral disarray
Walking in a weaker Euroland.

Guest Post: Worse Than 2008

There are clear signs of a liquidity crunch in the asset markets right now, and the question I keep hearing is, Is this 2008 all over again? No, it’s worse. Much worse. In 2008 there was a lot more faith and optimism upon which to draw. But both have been squandered to significant degrees by feckless regulators and authorities who failed to properly address any of the root causes of the first crisis even as they slathered layer after layer of thin-air money over many of the symptoms. Anyone who has paid attention knows that those "magic potions" proved to be anything but. Not only are the root causes still with us (too much debt, vast regional financial imbalances, and high energy prices), but they have actually grown worse the entire time. As always, we have no idea exactly what is going to happen and when, but we can track the various stresses and strains, noting that more and wider fingers of instability increase the risk of a major event. Heading into 2012, there's enough data to warrant maintaining an extremely cautious stance regarding holding onto one's wealth and increasing one's preparations towards resilience.

Citigroup Analyzes The Failure Of The LTRO, Muses On The Upcoming French Downgrade

Now that the LTRO flop has been digested, one of the more curious explanations for the failure comes from Citi's Steven Englander, who suggests that, surprise, surprise, Italian banks were lying yesterday when they said that they were ready and willing to buy Italian debt with LTRO proceeds. To wit: " One dose of cold water were comments from the Italian Bank Association that EBA rules won’t permit Italian banks to buy sovereign debt – this is a complete reversal from reports yesterday that indicated that Italian bank collateral would benefit from government guarantees in going to the ECB and lead to incremental  Italian bank buying of sovereign debt." Gee: someone lying? NAR who could possibly conceive of that... And more to the point, Englander has an interesting observations on the market reaction to the upcoming French downgrade: "the S&P downgrade of euro zone sovereigns is hanging over the market but there is no definite timing – every day brings one rumor or another of an imminent moves. More concretely there is a chorus of French and euro zone officials managing expectations downward. S&P probably wants to manage the announcement so as to have the least market impact, but it is unclear whether that means doing it when most investors are inactive but liquidity is low or the opposite. At this point a French downgrade is no surprise. A one-step downgrade would be a positive surprise, but downgrading core-core Europe – Germany, the Netherlands, Finland – would still be a negative. Today’s LTRO may be a (reverse) template for the reaction to a downgrade: kneejerk selling followed by a rebound." Well, only one way to know for sure what happens post the downgrade - bring it on.

EFSF At 5-Day Low Despite Sovereign Strength

While the world of risk explodes to the upside on the back of the LTRO-based carry trade expectations (which is not evident at all in some of the more technical relationships across the sovereign space no matter what headlines try and tell you), the very backbone of support for the fiscal evolution that Europe thinks it will achieve is now trading at a five-day low price having dropped notably post the earlier Fitch 'FrAAAnce' announcement. It is simple enough to think that banks will rapidly seek risk and buy sovereigns with their newfound wealth, but looking at CDS-Cash basis (the difference between CDS spreads and bond spreads) there has been almost no shift in supply/demand (which we would expect to tip to bond outperformance if the carry trade were being placed) and moreover, the sovereign spread curves are NOT bull steepening as one would expect from modest reach for say 2Y/3Y peripheral yield versus the 3Y LTRO. The bottom-line seems to be that equity markets are buoyed by a broad risk asset rally (and TSY selling and 2s10s30s rally) while the underlying beneficiary of this 'solution' does not seem to be improving so much. The strength in ES appears like simple momentum off an overshoot yesterday as risk assets broadly never really sold off like ES did and are now holding up well enough for today.

ECB's Stability Review: Seven Charts Of The Sovereign SNAFU

It is no surprise that the ECB has been less than overwhelming in its optimism, unlike Messers Barroso, Van Rompuy et al. when discussing the current and future state of the union that is Europe. While not pessimistic per se, the focus on zee stabilitee and lack of bazooka (no we don't see the 3Y LTROs as a magic bullet) is perhaps related to their view of the difficulties faced in addressing the needs of an increasingly disparate gaggle of countries. In their December Financial Stability Review, the ECB points to four key risks: (contagion, funding, macroeconomy, and trade imbalances), they fear "euro area financial stability increased considerably in the second half of 2011, as the sovereign risk crisis and its interplay with the banking sector worsened in an environment of weakening macroeconomic growth prospects". Summarizing into seven charts, the ECB provides a quick-and-dirty perspective on what is increasingly becoming obvious as capital flows and funding needs interplay with one another (for worse rather than better).

Moody's On Systematic Bank Downgrades

The financial crisis of the last few years has created not just a perceived shift in the creditworthiness of our financial entities but a real crack in the foundation of their business model and more importantly any explicit or implicit supports or guarantees. Moody's, in a special report on credit post crisis "The Great Credit Shift" look at the impact of the crisis on every major asset class within the credit space from sovereigns to corporates to structured finance. Noting that this crisis has profoundly changed the credit picture for sovereigns and financials, Moody's note there is some dispersion in the latter as banks have seen systematic downgrades while insurers (for now) remain on par with pre-crisis levels. More interestingly, large US regional banks represent an exception to this broad downgrade but we suspect that the continued low interest rate, low NIM, and high volatility spread environment will cause both insurers (we have long considered proxies for HY portfolios, no matter how well cushioned from vol their business models may be) and US regionals (consolidation will have the opposite effect of TBTF in our view as it will lead to more comfort with more risk-taking and expose them to more current-bank-like volatility) to face more pressure going forward (despite their lower apparent sovereign risk exposure). As BofA and Morgan Stanley trade at extreme 'crisis' levels in both CDS and equity markets, we suspect the raters have further to go and while the systemic shifts are apparent, we would expect less and not more differentiation going forward - especially if we sink into another solvency crisis.