Yesterday, Reuters royally spooked the market when it announced that Europe is in all seriousness considering full blown capital controls, including border halts and ATM closures. Subsequently, various European talking heads aggressively tried to talk down this latest development. However, overnight Saxo Bank appears to have focused on the former and not the latter, and sent out an email with the following key text: "Due to the current market environment in Europe, Saxo Bank is adjusting the margin requirement for Swiss Franc (CHF)." Specifically, the margin is going from 1% to 2% on June 14, to 4% on June 21. How soon until margins become so high that they effectively act as an FX trading prohibition- i.e., an implicit "capital control", and how long until all other exchanges get the memo next?
Watch out for exchange controls in Switzerland this weekend.
A picture says more than a hundred words, so I wanted to present in graphical terms what happened at the Swiss National Bank over the last few quarters. Central banks have tried to “manage” currencies in the past. Sooner or later, market forces win. As all other major central banks keep printing additional Euros, Dollars, Yen etc., the SNB looks prone to lose this game. A run on the Swiss Franc could lead to a further increase in prices of Swiss government bonds. Swiss equities however would decline, at least measured in Swiss Francs.
We will get a test once again as to the effectiveness of the central bank/MoT confidence game.
Long-time euro-skeptic and President of the Swiss National Bank unloads
The Swiss National Bank may have pegged the EURCHF (and as noted earlier, is progressively accumulating losses defending the barrier - even as EURCHF options are leaning further and further towards the peg breaking), but what about its bonds? At the current rate, Swiss debt, which is quite negative, with 2 year bonds now trading at record NEGATIVE rates, will repay itself quietly in a few short decades: ahhh the benefits of compounding. And for an example of how this is done, hours ago, the government issued debt at a rate of 0.62%. Oh sorry, we forgot the negative sign.
If China Backs Its Currency with Gold, It Could Have Profound Effects for Investors … and Consumers
A panel of the Swiss parliament is discussing the introduction of the parallel ‘Gold franc’ currency. Bloomberg has picked up on the news which was reported by Neue Luzerner Zeitung. The Swiss parliament panel will discuss a proposal aimed at introducing a new currency, or a so-called gold franc. Under the proposal, which will be debated in the lower house’s economic panel in Bern today, one coin in gold would be worth about 5 Swiss francs ($5.30), the Swiss newspaper reported. The Swiss franc would remain the official currency, the paper said. The proposal may lead to a wider debate about the Swiss franc and the role gold might again play to protect the Swiss franc from currency debasement. The initiative is part of the “Healthy Currency” campaign which is being promoted by the country’s biggest party – the conservative Swiss People’s Party (SVP).
There are deepening concerns in Switzerland about the debasement of the Swiss franc. The SNB has pegged the franc to the euro and is engaged in the same ultra loose monetary policies as the Federal Reserve, BOE and the ECB. The SNB won't allow the franc to rise above an arbitrary “ceiling” against the euro Walter Meier himself said on April 5 that the SNB is ready to buy foreign currencies in "unlimited quantities." Meier’s comments regarding the vastly depleted Swiss gold reserves came after Bayram Dincer, an analyst at LGT Capital Management in Pfaeffikon, Switzerland, called on the SNB to disclose where its gold is stored, in a letter published in the respected Swiss publication Finanz und Wirtschaft. Meier said that the SNB holds its physical gold reserves “domestically and internationally, with provisions for a crisis scenario being a main factor in the decision for this decentralized storage”. “The criteria for the storage countries are: appropriate regional diversification, exceptionally stable economic and political environments, immunity for central bank investments, access to a gold market where stocks could be liquidated if necessary,” he continued. He concluded by saying that “such a decentralized storage is still preferable to an exclusive storage in Switzerland. The listed factors can change over time and that’s why the central bank is reviewing and adapting the storage locations periodically.” The SNB’s monetary policies have been imprudent in recent years and their gold sales have lost the Swiss people a lot of money.
- Subprime bubble is back: Lenders Again Dealing Credit to Risky Clients (NYT)
- Housing bubble is also back: AIG Is Planning a Return to U.S. Property Investing (WSJ)
- Spain and EU Reject Talk of Bailout (FT)
- Coeure Suggests ECB Could Restart Bond Purchases for Spain (Bloomberg)
- IMF Set to Recognise Shrinking Chinese Surplus (FT)
- Government to Propose New Mortgage Servicing Rules (AP)
- Japan Currency Chief Warns Against Delay Over Finances (Bloomberg)
- The 'Michael Corleone' of Libya (Reuters)
- North Korea Says Fuel Being Injected Into Rocket (Reuters)
- SNB Reaffirms Vow to Cap Swiss Franc (FT)
- More on JPM's uber-prop trader Bruno Iskil - 'London Whale' Rattles Debt Market (WSJ):
- Traders Eye 45-Minute Window After Good Friday Report (Bloomberg)
- Sky News admits hacking of emails (FT)
- Britain’s Economy Barely Grew in First Quarter, Niesr Estimates (Bloomberg)
- Olbermann sues Current TV for $50M, cites glitches (USAToday), full lawsuit here
- Morgan Stanley broadens clawback rules (FT)
- Swiss Franc Showdown Looms as Jordan Defends SNB Ceiling (Bloomberg)
- Key Democratic donors cool to pro-Obama Super PAC (Reuters)
- Investors' Prying Eyes Blinded by New Law (WSJ)
- U.S. not backing off as Iran sanctions bite (Reuters)
Today's aggressive intervention by various monetary authorities to prevent the Swiss Franc from trading anywhere close to its fair value (yes "intervention", the same that happens each day in other capital markets, like stocks and commodities, read gold) reminded us once again that it is always and only a central planner's world. Yet while it is easy to assume there is some big black box doing all this manipulation, the truth is that the decision chain ultimately ends with carbon-based lifeforms, who push the buy or sell button, respectively: i.e., the human element. Which is why we wanted to present our readers the decision making chain expressed in flesh and blood terms, namely the people who over and over demonstrate to the market just who is in control.
And like that, Europe is broken again. Following a spate of negative European data (what else is there), including a miss in German industrial production as well as a miss in UK manufacturing output, all eyes are again on Spain, especially those of the bond vigilantes, who have sold off the sovereign European bond market, sending the Spanish-Bund spread to over 400 bps for the first time since December 2011. The main reason today: a Goldman report saying Spain will unlikely meet its 2012 and 2013 budget targets, as well as JPM Chief Economist David Mackie saying Spanish government "missteps" have raised questions about its credibility, making investors reluctant to purchase Spanish debt. Stress has returned to periphery, if it broadened into bank funding markets more LTROs would be forthcoming; if that “failed to hold yields at an appropriate level” Spain may need assistance from the EFSF/ESM and the IMF. Euro area unlikely to return to stability in sovereigns without some burden sharing; nominal growth likely to stay below borrowing costs, making fiscal targets “all but impossible to achieve”. UBS piles in saying Spanish banking stresses still haven't been addressed. Finally, a big red flag is that market liquidity is once again starting to disappear, and as Peter Tchir points out, Main is now being quoted with 3/4 bps bid/ask spread, all the way up to 1 bps spread. In other words, as we have been warning for weeks, the period of fake LTRO-induced calm is over, and the market is demanding more central planner liquid heroin. The question becomes whether Europe has even more worthless collateral in exchange for which the ECB will continue handing out discount window money in sterilized sheep's clothing. Yet nowhere is the resumption in risk flaring more evident than in the Swiss Franc, where the EURCHF all of a sudden broke through the critical 1.20 SNB floor, which was set back in September 2011, the day gold was trading at its all time high. Said otherwise, everyone is once again scrambling for safety. And since they can't get it in the CHF, it is only a matter of time, before gold resumes its ascent as the paper currency alternative that sent it to its all time highs late last summer.