Is it any wonder Mario Draghi didn't lift a quantitative-easing finger this week? Despite record unemployment, record (and disastrous youth unemployment), record suicide rates, record non-performing loans, and an inextricably-linked banking system facing $3 trillion in exposure to emerging markets... Spanish bond yields have collapsed to their lowest since 2006 (and Italian close behind). With an entirely broken transmission mechanism of monetary policy, it seems the "market" for European bonds knows no bounds as spreads on the riskiest sovereigns drop to pre-crisis levels and 10Y Spain yields are now lower than 30Y US Treasuries.
On Wednesday, Italy's government voted final approval to a decree hiking the value of Bank of Italy's share capital from €156K to €7.5 billion - something that had not been done since the 1930s. Of course, politicians determining the fictitious value of a central bank is one thing, as idiotic as it may be. However, what is truly preposterous is the covert bailout that accompanies the decree: a key part of the decision was setting a 3% ceiling on the stake that the bank's shareholders can own in the central bank. This means, as Reuters reports, that Intessa and UniCredit, currently the central bank's largest shareholders with stakes of 42 percent and 22 percent respectively - not to mention two of Italy's most NPL-heavy banks - will have to sell the bulk of their central bank "equity" stakes. And who will they sell them to? Why the central bank itself, and in return they will pocket up to €3.5 billion ($4.7 billion) from the sale of their central bank holdings. Said otherwise, Italy took not only bizarro accounting, but also monetary financing of insolvent banks by the monetary authority, and thus Italy's taxpayers, to the truly next level.
I predicted this clearly, with loads of evidence, last spring. I even tipped the SEC/UK authorities. Tthe chickens come home to roost. Let it be known, Wall Street's margin IS my business model!!!
Forensic Asia, a Hong-Kong-based reserch firm issued a "sell" recommendation on HSBC on the basis of "questionable assets" on its balance sheet. As The Telegraph reports the analysts involved actually worked at HSBC for 15 years and suggest the ginat bank could have overstated its assets by more than £50bn and ultimately need a capital injection of close to £70bn before the end of this decade. "HSBC has not made the necessary adjustments, during the quantitative easing reprieve...The result has been extreme earnings overstatement, causing HSBC to become one of the largest practitioners of capital forebearance globally... This charade appears to be ending."
First the Volcker Rule was defanged when last night the requirement to offload TruPS CDOs was eliminated, and now here comes Europe where the ECB just lowered the capital requirement for its "stringent" bank stress test (the one where Bankia and Dexia won't pass with flying colors we assume) by 25%. From the wires:
- ECB SAID TO FAVOR 6% CAPITAL REQUIREMENT IN BANK STRESS TEST
- ECB SAYS DECISION ON CAPITAL REQUIREMENT NOT YET FORMALLY MADE
Why is this notable? Recall from three short months ago: "the ECB confirmed that it will require lenders to have a capital ratio of 8 percent."
The ongoing debacle of Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi (BMPS) took a turn for the worst today. The bank's largest shareholders (MPS Foundation) approved (read - forced through) a delay in a EUR 3 billion capital raise, which the bank needs to avoid nationalization, until May. The delay (which will cost the bank EUR 120 million in interest) allows MPS more time to liquidate their 33.5% holding before their stake is massively diluted. Management is 'considering' resignation and is "very annoyed," but the city Mayor is going Nationalist with his delay-supporting comments that "we cannot let the third biggest bank in this country fall prey to foreign interests." So Europe is recovering but they can't even raise a day's worth of POMO to save the oldest bank in the world?
A look ahead into 2014.
Key events in the week ahead with implications for early 2014.
For the last year or two, European banks have engaged in the ultimate of self-referential M.A.D. trades - buying the sovereign debt of their own nation in inordinate size to maintain the ECB's illusion of control (even as their economies collapse and stagnate) while referentially obtaining the funding for said purchase from the ECB by repoing the purchase back to the central bank, usually with no haircut to mention. Today though, as The FT reports, a top official at the European Central Bank has signalled it will try to force eurozone banks to hold capital against sovereign bonds, in an attempt to stop weak lenders using its cash to hoover up the debts of crisis-hit countries.
Dispassionate discussion of some of the vexing issues.
- U.S. Government Shut Down With No Quick Resolution Seen (BBG)
- 12 House Republicans now say they’d back a ‘clean’ CR (WaPo)
- Republicans’ 2014 Senate Edge Muddied by Shutdown Message (BBG)
- Obama Shortens Asia Trip Due to Government Shutdown (WSJ)
- Fed Said to Review Commodities at Goldman, Morgan Stanley (BBG)
- Foreign Firms Tap U.S. Gas Bonanza (WSJ)
- Behind Standoff, a Broken Process in Need of a Broker (WSJ)
- Japan Awaits Abe’s Third Arrow as Companies Urged to Invest (BBG)
- Microsoft investors push for chairman Gates to step down (Reuters)
The man who could barely recall anything at his various Congressional hearings, has no problem with remembering one key aspect of the MF Global bankruptcy: Jon Corzine is innocent! And, as a result, yesterday his lawyers filed a motion to dismiss a civil case brought against him by the CFTC in which the legal team shows that the best defense is a good offense and openly critiques the commodities regulator. DealBook excerpts from the filing: "There is no evidence demonstrating that Mr. Corzine knowingly directed unlawful conduct or acted without good faith," wrote the lawyers from Dechert, Andrew J. Levander and Benjamin E. Rosenberg. "Rather than acknowledge that reality and move on, the C.F.T.C. has clung to its baseless presumptions and manufactured charges of wrongdoing that are supposedly connected to Mr. Corzine." Right: the commingling just happened on its own. Twas but a glitch.
The last time we looked at the impact of the ongoing rates blow out on banks' "available for securities" books, we found the biggest monthly drop in unrealized gains, which dropped by $24 billion in the one month in which interest rates surged by 100 bps. Nonetheless, the cumulative net unrealized number was still positive at $6 billion (down from over $43 billion). A cursory look at the most recent H8 statement shows that as a result of the recent secondary blow out in rates which threatened to take the 10 Year to 3%, the damage has continued, and as of August 21 the formerly net profit has turned into a net loss of ($16) billion. The is the most negative the AFS number for the commercial banks operating in the US, has been since late 2009.
With calls for a European renaissance and a general belief in stability through the German elections, it is perhaps worth a reminder of the structural problems that the supposedly bottoming union is facing. Nowhere is that single monetary policy-facing dilemma more evident than in the massive economic growth divergences across the EU nations and the current huge gap in unemployment rates from Greece to Austria and beyond. It seems the world is waiting for Merkel's re-election and fold on austerity (seemingly confirmed by the leaked BuBa report recently) but EU stress test transparency may remove the symbiotic safety net of bank bond buying sooner than many believe. With monetary policy somewhat euthanized across the EU, what's left for the fragmented transmission channels but more promises as pension funds and banks are stuffed to the gills with their own domestic bonds.
Hopes that Kuroda would say something substantial, material and beneficial to the "three arrow" wealth effect (about Japan's sales tax) last night were promptly dashed when the BOJ head came, spoke, and went, with the USDJPY sliding to a new monthly low, which in turn saw the Nikkei tumble another nearly 500 points. China didn't help either, where the Shanghai Composite also closed below 2000 wiping out a few weeks of gains on artificial hopes that the PBOC would step in with a bailout package, as attention turned to the reported announcement that an update of local government debt could double the size of China's non-performing loans, and what's worse, that the PBOC was ok with that. Asian negativity was offset by the European open, where fundamentals are irrelevant (especially on the one year anniversary of Draghi FX Advisors LLC "whatever it takes to buy the EURUSD" speech) and renewed M&A sentiment buoyed algos to generate enough buying momentum to send more momentum algos buying and so on. As for the US, futures are indicating weakness for the third day in a row but hardly anyone is fooled following two consecutive days of green closes on melt ups "from the lows": expect another rerun of the now traditional Friday ramp, where a 150 DJIA loss was wiped out during the day for a pre-programmed just green closing print.