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."
The usually optimistic bunch of salubrious sell-side strategists are mixed in their perspective of the latest debacle to roll ashore from Europe. Most, if not quite all, expect short-term 'nervousness' and a few hardy Pollyannas remain though looking at the other end of the rainbow - once again because, drum roll please, "central banks will respond." Adding to our summary yesterday, Bloomberg adds another 13 sell-side opinions (and Moody's), it the diversity of response is perhaps best glimpsed with one who "does not expect savers to be fearful of a confiscation of their savings and spark a run on banks" for some whimsical reason and another states unequivocally, "No sensible foreign depositor would continue to keep money in a banking system that just took nearly 10% of his deposit without any notice."
"Has Europe bazookaed itself in the foot? Even if we avoid a negative outcome this week, events in Cyprus invite broader questions about the region’s commitment, repeated ad nauseum since June to ‘break the feedback loop between sovereigns and banks’. The IMF warned as recently as Friday that the Euro area lacked an effective deposit guarantee framework (before agreeing to a haircut that adroitly proves its point). The Cypriot package reinforces the fact that existing deposit guarantee schemes are only as strong as the sovereign which backs them; something which is unlikely to go unnoticed in the rest of the region (although we think specific contagion risks are limited near-term). Other EU member states will likely be affected, there are significant numbers of UK depositors in Cypriot banks, some of whom the UK has now promised to protect (with echoes of the Icesave situation), and some potential contagion channels may not be obvious. It is notable that German policy-makers have been insisting on Cyprus’ significant ‘systemic relevance’ over recent days while pushing a package that may test it."
“Financial stability has not been assured”
With Angela Merkel and her vassal at the ECB Mario Draghi seemingly in control of markets on the European continent, there is a temptation to pull a George W. Bush and unfurl the “Mission Accomplished” banner. However, that was a PR blunder for Bush the Younger and it would be a blunder for Merghi as well. There are a couple of items that have hit the tape recently that seem to indicate the ground upon which the Euro is based is shaking. Perhaps you believe Draghi’s open-ended commitment to do, “...whatever it takes,” to bail out Europe’s broken banking system will be enough to stabilize things for good. Could be. On the other hand, the Merghi doctrine of open-ended support depends upon the sovereigns of Europe voting more or less along traditional lines. I feel pretty confident saying this will not happen. Over 25% of the people in two of Europe’s largest, best educated, richest, most populous countries are already saying they reject the status quo.
This is the third day in a row that an attempt to mount an overnight ramp out of the US has fizzled, with first the Nikkei closing down for the second day in a row and snapping a week-long rally, and then the Shanghai Composite following suit with its 5th consecutive drop in a row as the rumblings out of the PBOC on the inflation front get louder and louder, following PBOC governor Zhou's statement that inflation expectations must be stabilized and that great importance must be attached to inflation. Stirring the pot further was SAFE chief Yi Gang who joined the Chinese chorus warning against a currency war, by saying the G20 should avoid competitive currency devaluations. Obviously China is on the edge, and only the US stock market is completely oblivious that the marginal economy may soon force itself to enter outright contraction to offset the G-7 exported hot money keeping China's real estate beyond bubbly. Finally, SocGen released a note last night title "A strong case for easing Korean monetary policy" which confirms that it is only a brief matter of time before the Asian currency war goes thermonuclear. Moving to Europe, it should surprise nobody that the only key data point, Eurozone Industrial Production for January missed badly, printing at -0.4% on expectations of a -0.1% contraction, down from a 0.9% revised print in December as the European recession shows no signs of abating. So while the rest of the world did bad or worse than expected for the third day in a row, it will be up to the POMO and seasonally adjusted retail sales data in the US to offset the ongoing global contraction, and to send the perfectly manipulated Dow Jones to yet another all time high, in direct refutation of logic and every previous market reality ever.
A interesting non-partisan analysis of Draghi (which means dragon) and Grillo (which means cricket) to discuss what is happening in Italy and the euro area more generally.
The passing away of president Chávez has important implications ranging from the political spectrum to the economical spectrum. These implications will be crucial in assessments of the future of the country. Stratfor's Karen Hooper provides a succinct summary of the short-term (who will be the interim president until new elections take place? When will the elections take place, and what is the most likely result of the election), medium-to-long-term (Uncertainty about future economic management creates an additional downward bias in macroeconomic performance in a 1–2 year horizon), and Citi, despite the uncertainty-removing finality of Chavez' death, maintain an underweight as while neither political unrest nor a near-term default are likely, markets are also not pricing in much risk of either.
When the Eurozone crisis first broke some four years ago, most analysts quickly and correctly concluded that the Eurozone was an incomplete monetary union; but, as UBS Larry Hatheway notes, neither rapid integration nor breakup were or are politically feasible options for Europe’s political classes. The 'Merkel-Draghi wager' then began with the determination that capital markets would not dictate Europe’s future: with growth-supporting fiscal transfers or debt mutualisation ruled out by national politics, the remainder of the story is about an ‘Austrian’ solution to cleanse Europe of excessive fiscal deficits, narrow gaps in competitiveness, and shrink external imbalances. The ‘Merkel-Draghi wager’, then, is a political gamble of historic proportions. It is a calculated bet that a policy prescription of robust liquidity buffers coupled with internal devaluation and fiscal consolidation will work. Equally, it is a view that the historical, cultural, economic, financial and political forces that have brought Europe together in the post-war era will prove stronger than those unleashed by the wrenching social dislocations associated with ‘Austrian’ economics that could one day threaten to rip apart the Eurozone. So far, the ‘wager’ is working in economic terms, or at least that's the hope.
A few days ago, to the surprise of many, the European Parliament voted through substantial curbs on banker pay, limiting bonuses to twice the annual salary (we have yet to see the list of pre-existing loopholes, which we are confident will be wide enough for Arnold's hummer to pass through). Today, in a less surprising, although perhaps more notable development, more than two-thirds of the Swiss people voted through a proposal to curb "fat cat-ism" in Switzerland, and impose strict controls on executive pay, including compensation vetos and payout bans. The development is notable, because unlike other insolvent nations, Switzerland is actually one of the most affluent sovereigns in the world, and class warfare is hardly as much an issue as it is in the US. The fact that Swiss society is as polarized as it was confirmed to be this morning, shows just how deep the rich vs, well, non-rich tensions truly lie, even in the most wealthy of societies. One can then imagine how close to snapping they are in other less well-off places, read most countries, in the world.
When two weeks ago we exposed the heretofore secret location of JPM's London gold vault (located under the firm's massive L-shaped office complex at 60 Victoria Embankment) we thought: what about New York? After all, while London is the legacy financial capital of the "old world", it is in New York that the biggest private wealth of the past century is concentrated, and it is also in New York where the bulk of the hard assets backing the public money of the world's sovereigns are located, some 80 feet below ground level in the fifth sub-basement of the New York Fed, resting on the bedrock of Manhattan. That the topic of the gold "held'' by the New York Fed - historically considered the gold vault with the largest concentration of gold bars in the world - has become rather sensitive, in the aftermath of the Bundesbank's request to repatriate it (surely, but very, very slowly), is an understatement. Yet in the aftermath of some of the revelations presented here, we believe quite a few other countries will follow in Germany's footsteps for one very simple reason: suddenly the question of whether their gold is located at 33 Liberty, or just adjacent to it, in what we have learned is the de facto largest private gold vault in the world, located across the street 90 feet below 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, doesn't appear to have a clear answer.