European bank stocks are officially in bear market territory, now down over 22% from their highs with today's drop closing the index at seven month lows. Financial stocks have played catch down to credit's early warning weakness but still have more room to run. The correlation between financials and sovereigns has been notably broken down in the last few weeks - as it seems an external funding source has saved European sovereign debt (perhaps one that just wants to get away from its vicious cycle-like devaluation and diversify into anything non-JPY-denominated). On the day, Portugal blew wider at the open (+22bps) only to be magnificently bid back to unchanged by the invisible hand. Spain and Italy drifted slightly tighter on the day. Stocks were similarly low range today. Swiss 2Y closed at 3-month lows as EURUSD retraced back from its highs to close practically unchanged from Friday at 1.3000.
Economic conditions in Italy are as depressed as they've been since the end of WWII, the economy is still contracting, Italy's banks are in terrible shape, private sector lending is very strained, and the ECB's policy is not resolving the problems. As is typical in countries enduring this level of economic pain, the political situation is starting to get pretty chaotic. Bersani, the top vote getter in the recent elections, has been unable to form a government, new elections this year are increasingiy likely, and recent polling suggests a dead heat among Bersani, Berlusconi and the anti-establishment party of Grillo. Surge in support for Grillo creates a risk because it is not entirely clear what he would do if he came to power. He has made a clear promise to put the euro to a vote and generally thinks that the European fiscal and monetary policies have been a bad deal for Italy. Obviously, an attempt to revisit those policies by a country as systemically important as Italy could destabilize things fast, and the risk of a radical outcome is growing. And over the past few months there are indications of that risk getting priced in and putting pressure on Italy, particularly on its banking system. Italian banking spreads are up; there has been a modest pullback in banks' wholesale funding, a modest increase in their ECB borrowing and no bond issuance.
Witches Brew: Part 4 - Reality Bites
- The Specter of Things to Come
The road to ruin is on plain display and the playbook is easily seen at this juncture. Let’s take a look at how that playbook will unfold. Contrary to popular outrage of the SOLUTION being IMPOSED it is the correct one once the insured depositors where PROTECTED. In this edition the elites suffered FIRST followed by the private sector depositors who foolishly believed false BALANCE sheets which were POLITICALLY CORRECT but PRACTICALLY incorrect fictions approved by fiduciarily (regulations and regulators allowed ONGOING insolvent operations rather than protect the public by ending and prohibiting them) challenged governments (work for the banks and crony capitalists not for the public at large).
In January, we discussed the stunning fact that Spain's social security pension fund was 90% allocated to Spanish sovereign debt. The latest data shows that this farcical epic reach-around has become even more ridiculous as, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the fund's holdings are now 97% weighted to sovereign bonds. The fund purchased about EUR20bn of Spanish debt last year, while it sold EUR4.6bn of French, Dutch and German bonds. More than 70 percent of the purchases took place in the second half of the year, after Draghi's 'promise' to "do whatever it takes" moment. It appears, since the Spanish government does not explicitly have its own Fed to monetize debt, that it has merely plundered another quasi-governmental entity to do the bond-buying reach-around. The fund, which was profitable last year on this bond-buying in its self-sustaining way, still contributes 1% to Spain's deficit as contributions to the fund are outweighed by the benefits paid. Rules have been changed to enable this drastic concentration but at 97%, it is perhaps no wonder that Spanish bonds have been more volatile in recent weeks - as the implicit government buyer is now almost all-in. The potential for a vicious circle here is immense - but perhaps that is the point, more TBTF sovereigns for Draghi to deal with.
After months of posturing, promising, prevaricating, and proclaiming; the time is rapidly upon us where the central planner of the world will have to actually make actions rather than words. As SocGen notes, Central Bank decisions at the BoJ, ECB and BoE will take centre stage tonight/tomorrow but it is the BoJ announcement that is most highly anticipated after the epic jawboning. SocGen’s Sebastien Galy: "Only the truly brave can feel confident trading into the BoJ event"; adds, "It is not completely clear what economic consensus is expecting in terms of BoJ decision apart from broad outlines." Given positioning, the risk of disappointment and short JPY covering cannot be underestimated should Kuroda underdeliver.
The sound and fury of a European leadership denying the template-nature of Cyprus was deafening last week following D-Boom's comments and while we suspect the Cyprus deal was from unique and exceptional, it is clear, as Citi's Matt King notes that Cyprus’ significance was always going to stem more from the precedent it created than from its size. In choosing a relatively conventional good bank, bad bank model, the authorities have done much to alleviate the damage that would have been caused by an arbitrary tax on uninsured depositors. But the very “success” of the solution now being adopted seems likely to lead to its replication elsewhere. While arguably good news for the sovereigns and for longer-term growth prospects (though the chasm to be crossed to that growth is treacherous), its negative repercussions for senior bank bondholders still seem far from being priced in. The Cyprus model has three key features, which highlight the effective elimination of many of bondholders’ supposed protections: hasty implementation under national legislation, application to all bonds by statute, and extremely low recoveries. Against this, of course, is the argument - noisily voiced by the authorities - that Cyprus is unique. We, like King, disagree.
For the last year or so, Mario Draghi (the omnipotent head of the ECB) has discussed 'market fragmentation' as a major concern. The reason is clear - his easy money policies are entirely ineffectual in a monetary union when his actions do not 'leak' out to the real economy. Nowhere is this fragmentation more obvious than in the inexorable rise in peripheral lending rates (to small business) compared to the drop (over the last 18 months) in the core. Simply put, whether it is demand (balance sheet recessionary debt minimization) or supply (banks hoarding for safety), whatever the punch ladeled from the ECB's bowl, it is not helping the most needy economies. Of course, that was never really the point anyway - as we have pointed out many times; the actions of the ECB are (just as with the Fed) to enable the banking system to live long enough to somehow emerge from the black hole of loan losses and portfolio destruction that they heaped upon themselves. This chart is yet another example of proof that monetary policy is entirely ineffectual in the new normal - and yet the central planners push for moar...
EU Bank Depositors: Your Mattress Is Starting To Look Awfully Attractive - Bank Risk, Reward & CompensationSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 03/28/2013 08:48 -0400
You should be recieving about 46% interest to compensate for the risk of using a Cyprus bank! Use this calculator to determine how much interest your EU (that's right, it ain't just Cyrpus) bank should be paying you. Guaranteed your getting ripped off! Wake up, and smell the confiscation coffee.
When the ECB first announced the LTRO in late 2011 (and executed in early 2012) we explained how the ECB's encumbrance via this 'aid' is in fact a major negative for the rest of the capital structure. We were proved correct and even as Draghi lied and stated there was no stigma, the market priced the LTRO-encumbered banks notably weaker. Of course, the banks with the greatest need for support were the ones who grabbed the ECB's punchbowl that time and it seems as fears re-awaken in Europe, risk-appetite towards these ECB-dependent banks (relative to non-LTRO banks) is waning rapidly. The so-called LTRO Stigma (the spread between LTRO and non-LTRO bank credit) is back at 5-month wides as investors rotate away from any and every bank outside of the core. This weakness rubbed off everywhere in Europe as Italian and Spanish bonds saw their worst day since the Italian elections as European stocks slumped and Europe's VIX is now 4.5vols higher than Monday's open.
After one of the most fabulous verbal faux pas in recent history was committed yesterday, in which the truth briefly escaped the lips of the new Eurogroup head who still has to learn from his masterful "when it becomes serious you have to lie" predecessor and ever since both he and all of uber-incompetent Europe have been desperate to put the genie back into the bottle to no avail, everyone has been caught in a great debate: to template, or not to template? Below is a summary of Wall Street's thinking on this key for so many European (and soon global) depositors.
Another session in which the market continues to be "cautiously optimistic" about Europe, but is confused about Cyprus which keeps sending the wrong signals: in the aftermath of the Diesel-Boom fiasco, the announcement that the preciously announced reopening of banks was also subsequently "retracted" and pushed back to at least Thursday, did little to soothe fears that anyone in Europe has any idea what they are doing. Additional confusion comes from the fact that the Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus moments ago submitted his resignation: recall that this is the bank that is supposed to survive, unlike its unluckier Laiki competitor which was made into a sacrificial lamb. This confusion has so far prevented the arrival of the traditional post-Europe open ramp, as the EURUSD is locked in a range below its 200 DMA and it is unclear what if anything can push it higher, despite the Yen increasingly becoming the funding currency of choice.
As we recently discussed, many euroskeptics are pushing Cypriot lawmakers to default, devalue, and decouple from the Euro - understanding that the short-term pain of such a move will lead to much more sustainable gains afterwards. But BofAML raises the question of what damage (and required response) would occur in the remainder of the European Union should Cyprus leave (or be pushed ). Unlike some EU leaders suggestions, BofAML suggests the contagion and growth impacts could last a decade; but it is the policy reaction of the ECB that is most crucial to understand and how it may rapidly lead to a German decision on debt mutualization (or not) that should be most concerning.
There are three key highlights in yet another take on Cyprus, this time from JPMorgan's Robert Henriques: the first, and most obvious, is that "more extreme scenarios of burden-sharing will not necessarily reinforce investor confidence" - that much is clear; the second, as we pointed out over the weekend, is that what happened in Cyprus is a "the death knell for an EU Common Deposit Guarantee scheme, which was to be an integral part of the Banking Union proposals" - so much for the key part of European monetary and fiscal integration. But the third, and most important, is that "we would expect future crises to be exacerbated by more extreme deposit flight. This would likely mean the ECB would have to increase its presence as liquidity provider of last resort, which, under normal circumstances, would lead to increased asset encumbrance and lower recoveries for senior debt." The problem for Europe, as diligent readers know too well already, is that asset encumbrance is already at record high levels, meaning the ability to find "free" assets used to create new loans will be next to impossible.
Can't get enough of Cyprus? Then here is yet another post-post-mortem from Goldman's Jernej Omahen, once more trying to put some very silvery lining on this particular mushroom cloud, and providing some useful facts in the process. "As part of its rescue package, Cyprus introduced a one-off tax on deposits. This “tax” can be viewed as both (1) a depositor bail-in, and/or (2) a wealth tax. Cyprus aims to capture €5.8 bn of tax revenue in this way, which compares to the total bailout package of €10 bn. In absolute terms, the amounts are low; regardless, the market focus on potential read-across will be high, in our view. The tax on depositors is setting a precedent, which is likely to have an impact beyond the immediate term, in our view. Resilience of, in particular, retail deposits was an important element of stability during crisis peaks (e.g., Spain). Post the Cyprus precedent, however, it is reasonable to expect that the deposit volatility in stressed sovereigns could rise, for two reasons: firstly, perceived risk of deposit bail-in will have increased; secondly (independent of failing bank issues), perceiving savings as a potential tax-base – for wealth taxes – is new."