Sovereigns

The "Neutron Bomb Of Capital Calculations" And A Kyle Bass Refresher

In a double-whammy of downbeat dystopian discussions, GMO and Kyle Bass are active on the inevitability of Europe's demise. Perhaps that is too strong but the two are focused directly, in separate pieces, on the huge need for capital and the dire dearth of it available. GMO's central focus on the direct capital needs of the European banking system in the case of a recovery (but under Basel III) and under stress scenarios. Dismissing the EBA's efforts, and recognizing that the problem is capital/solvency (if there were more, the market would not be worrying about liquidity and deposit flight), their 'neutron bomb' scenario where sovereign debt is recognized as a 'risky asset' (which seems more than plausible to us), the capital needs are almost EUR300bn with Spanish and French banks dominant but Italian and German banks are close behind. As Kyle Bass notes "There is no savior large enough with a magic potion of capital to stave off this unfortunate conclusion to the global debt super cycle.". This leads to only a bad and worse outcome for Europe, as the cataclysm plays out because the banks do have an alternative to raising capital – shrink the balance sheet. Deleveraging is already going on in a number of countries, with loan-to-deposit ratios dropping in recent months in Portugal, Spain, and Italy. This reduces the capital needs of banks, but fairly quickly starts to cut into the muscle of the financial system. The banks have little alternative but to keep holding sovereign debt in the short term, since it is the collateral for their borrowing needs. And as we have been so vociferously explaining recently, should they be forced to delver even more, and sell reduce these sovereign assets, then the daisy-chain effect of de-hypothecation on shadow banking will not end well for anyone.

S&P Warns Of Increased Corporate Bond Downgrade Risk Following Sovereign Action

As we said last week, when the S&P, in desperate hope that the Euro summit would achieve something, anything, to avoid an eventual downgrade of Europe, called Europe's bluff... and Europe was found to hold 2-7 offsuit. Now, when it has no choice but to downgrade the EuropeAAAn-club, S&P is practically apologizing for its action, and is today saying that since nothing happened to change its opinion, it will have no choice but to proceed with pervasive downgrades, only this time not only sovereigns (which it is expected to conclude on shortly) but also corporates of all shapes and sizes. Unless of course it doesn't, at which point the rating agency can just tell the last guy to turn the lights out on their way out.

Art Cashin On The Clash Of Market Reality With Post-Summit H[o/y]pe

It is always amsuing to listen to market narratives, however goal seeked they may be, when presented by market veterans such as Art Cashin, who in this case deconstructs the violent clash between reality and post-summit hype as represented by yesterday's amusing market action.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: December 13

  • Moody's placed the ratings of eight Spanish banks on review for a possible downgrade
  • A solid 3-month T-Bill auction by the EFSF supported appetite for risk
  • OPEC and IEA trimmed their oil demand growth forecasts
  • Talks between Greece and private bondholders have ended without a deal, although consultations will continue, according to a banker involved
  • According to BoE’s Dale, there is certainly scope for the central bank to increase QE if needed

Six Tail Scenarios That Deutsche Bank Are Watching For Next Year

Jim Reid and his team from Deutsche have produced another magnificent compendium of information and prognostication in their 2012 Credit Outlook and while their up-in-quality preference (non-financial) may not be earth-shattering strategically, their timing view is of note. Instead of viewing the looming refi-ganza among European sovereigns and financials in H1 2012 as a reason for doom and gloom, they see it as the necessary evil to drive the ECB into the markets in size only for the latter half of the year to disappoint significantly as the reality of the underlying problems rear their ugly head once more. The down-then-up-then-worse-down perspective on markets for next year hardly sounds optimistic but it is the following six scenarios away from European woes that keep them up at night. From the positivity of a US housing rebound or Election year cycle to much more extreme downside risks such as geo-political concerns and non-European sovereign risks, their views on China, QE-evolution and Inflation concerns are noteworthy.

The European Death Spiral

Recently, we presented and discussed one of the biggest issues for European banks: the urgent need to delever substantially (to the tune of over €2.5 trillion) by selling assets, in order to placate various regulatory entities that banks are solvent, and, far more importantly, the market, which has so far proceeded not to short banks into oblivion only due to the ongoing short selling ban, and to the explicit backstop from the ECB (and, indirectly, the Fed). However, since deleveraging into an deflationary environment will certainly require bank bailouts due to collapsing asset prices, the question is what the impact of bailouts on banks will be. And here Bloomberg's Yalman Onaran explains all too vividly how not even in ponzinomic finance is there ever a free lunch... even if bought with free money. "If the Southern governments put money in their banks, their sovereign debt will go up, exacerbating their problems,” said Karel Lannoo, chief executive officer of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “Then the banks’ losses will rise because they hold the government debt. That’s a vicious cycle. It’s hard to know which one to stabilize first, the sovereign bonds or the banks.”  And therein lies the rub, and the problem at the core of it all: when one is dealing with a continent and its insolvent financial system whose banks have underwater assets that amount to the size of the host nation's GDP, "It’s hard to know which one to stabilize first, the sovereign bonds or the banks." Recall that killing both birds with one silver bullet is what the failure that is the EFSF was supposed to do, by allowing sovereign debt rolls and fund bank nationalizations at the same time. Now that that hope is gone, all we have is the inevitable "death spiral."

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).