There was little good news out of Europe overnight, when several key countries (Germany, France, Greece and Portugal) reported their Q1 GDP, but what good news did come, namely that Germany avoided a double dip, with Q1 GDP printing at 0.5% on expectations of a 0.1% move, has for now saved the EURUSD and the futures. Why the growth: according to the German statistics office, net trade drove 1Q growth (thank you weaker EUR); domestic consumption rose in 1Q while investment declined in 1Q. The sellside community was quick: "Germany’s 1Q numbers show how EMU’s biggest economy is weathering debt crisis", Newedge said in a note. Then there was everyone else: Italian GDP contracted by 0.8%, more than consensus of 0.7%, the most in 3 years. Broadly, the Eurozone GDP avoided a technical recession with GDP printing at 0.0% on estimates of -0.2%. But as the PMI vs GDP chart below shows, this razor thin escape will hardly be repeated in Q2. Greek GDP declined by 6.2%, Portugal down by 0.1%, Holland down -0.2%, and so on. The well known split in Europe between Germany and everyone else continues, and just as we pointed out yesterday for the US: any "decoupling" is always temporary, and eventually catches up with the decouplee. Finally, proving that not all is well even in Germany, the ZEW Investor Confidence for May printed at nearly half expectations of 19, or 10.8, and down from 23.4.
Over the weekend it was announced that California’s large $9 billion budget deficit was no longer $9 billion but $16 billion. Whoops.
Explaining why and how the global monetary system is failing, why it is too late to stop, what will come next, and why the crisis is only financial – not commercial.
"Sex" and "Money" are probably two of the most powerful words in the English language. First, those two words got you to look at this article. They also sell products, books and services from "How To Have Better Sex" to "How To Make More Money" — ostensibly so you can have more of the former. Unfortunately, they are also the two primary causes of divorce in the country today... The problem for American families today, despite media commentary to the contrary, is simply the inability to maintain their current standard of living. When income remains stagnant or falls, due to job loss or reduction in pay, the impact on the budget at home is significant when there are already very low saving rates and the inability to access a tight credit market. The recent surge in consumer debt, with little relative increase in overall personal consumption expenditures, shows this to be the case. For Main Street the economy remains mired at sub-par growth rates three years into a post-recessionary environment. These financial strains are pervasive and continue to weigh on families and their relationships. While it is true that "money can't buy happiness" try asking a couple who are living on food stamps and working two part-time jobs just to "get by" about how "happy" they are. Even as the media trumpets that the Fed has saved the economy from a "depression," it might just be a statistical victory at best. The government may say this is not the 1930's where bread lines formed outside the corner soup kitchen, however, for many American's the only difference is that they are found at the mailbox and online instead.
While our earlier discussion of the implications of Greece's exit from the Euro are critical reading to comprehend the real-time game of chicken occurring in front of our eyes, JPMorgan's somewhat more quantifiable estimates of the costs and contagion, given the results of the Greek election have raised market expectations of an exit of Greece from the Euro, also provide key indicators and flows that should be monitored. Identifying what has gone wrong with Greece's co-called 'adjustment' program, they go on to identify key transmission mechanisms to Spain and Italy, how it could potentially improve (Marshall-Plan-esque) and most critically, given the exponentially growing TARGET2 balances, if and when Germany throws in the towel. Immediate (cross-border claims) losses are estimate at around EUR400 billion, but the EUR1.4 trillion of Italian and EUR1.6 trillion of Spanish bank domestic deposits is the elephant in the room which a Greek exit and the introduction of capital controls by Greece has the potential to destabilize.
Now that Europe is all the rage again, below we again summarize the key Euro-centric events through the end of the month, as well as all the sovereign bond auctions to look forward to (we use the term loosely). Finally, the squid summarizes the key events in the past week as well as the expected global catalysts in the next several days. Somehow we get the impression it will be all about the unexpected developments in the next 168 hours, especially with Spain, Italy, France and Germany coming front and center with a boatload of bond issuance as soon as 9 hours from now...
That is the only way to express this author’s utter bewilderment that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is still given an outlet to speak his mind. Actually, I am surprised Mr. Greenspan has the audacity to show his face, let alone speak, in public after the economic destruction he is responsible for. It was because of Greenspan, of course, that the world economy is still muddling its way along with painfully high unemployment. His decision to prop up the stock market with money printing under any and every threat of a downtick in growth, also known as the Greenspan Put, created an environment of easy credit, reckless spending, and along with the federal government’s initiatives to encourage home ownership, the foundation from which a housing bubble could emerge. It was moral hazard bolstering on a massive scale. Wall Street quickly learned (and the lesson sadly continues today) that the Federal Reserve stands ready to inflate should the Dow begin to plummet by any significant amount. Following his departure from the chairmanship and bursting of the housing bubble, Greenspan quickly took to the press and denied any responsibility for financial crisis which was a result in due part to the crash in home prices.
Many, if not most, people would agree with the general use of subsidies in a vertical equity fashion, or the efficient redistribution of wealth for a common social purpose: social justice to provide shelter for those who need it. It is subsidies in housing designed to support a political and not a socioeconomic purpose that bother me. Subsidies as they continue to exist in the US in housing follow in this category – much in exclusivity these days to the subsidies in other developed nations the world over, at least in quantifiable terms.
Zero Hedge has a habit of trying to simplify that which is otherwise unnecessarily complex, convoluted and opaque. Today, we wish to explain the primary reason why Europe has still not be engulfed in fire and brimstone and collapsed straight to the 9th circle of overlevereged Hell(as). The reason, as we henceforth dub it, is Ponzi PatriotismTM.
- China Industrial Output Growth Slows Sharply In April (WSJ)
- Indian industrial output shrinks unexpectedly (AFP)
- China’s Inflation Moderates, Adding Room for Easing (Bloomberg)... a nickel for every "imminent RRR-cut" prediction
- Drew Built 30-Year JPMorgan Career Embracing Risk (Bloomberg)
- Spain Offered Time to Curb Deficit (FT)
- France Entrepreneurs Flee From Hollande Wealth Rejection (BBG)
- Venizelos Eyes Unity Deal After Agreement With Democratic Left (Ekathimerini)
- Berlin Reaches Out to the Periphery (FT)
- Bernanke Speaks About Risks From End of Pro-Growth Plans (Bloomberg)
The implications of a nation leaving the Euro (and its contagion effects) are becoming clearer but are by no means discounted by the market. The risk of an interruption in the Greek adjustment program has increased significantly - and as Goldman notes - is the most likely eventual outcome for Greece and fears of the missed interest payment in June continue to concern many. The tough decision and dilemma for the international community remains between a rock (of acquiescence and just funding a belligerent member state) and had place (ECB deciding to let Greek banks go) with an odd middle ground seemingly the most likely given Europe's tendency for avoiding the hard decisions. There is no doubt that the near term implications from such an unfortunate turn of events would be profound for markets; fiscal risk premia would widen, the EUR would decline in value and European equities would underperform. The true question though, is how much lasting damage such a situation can do and whether, in the long run, systemic risks can be contained. In principle, to the extent that no other country chooses to go down the same path as Greece, there is no political or practical hurdle for the ECB to crucially safeguard the stability of the Euro area with unlimited liquidity provisions. A liquidity driven crisis can be averted in that sense. Whether risk premia stay on a higher tangent after such an event is a separate and complicated question but game-theoretically it strengthens the renegotiating position of Ireland, Portugal, and obviously Spain with the ECB (and implicitly the Bundesbank) being dragged towards the unmitigated print-fest cliff.
The Immortal Bard must have been referencing Madrid when penning these lines or, if not, would likely approve of their application this morning. The nationalization of Bankia, the third largest bank in Spain, is not some isolated event that is singular and alone in nature regardless of the expected dampening and muted words and phrases issued by the Spanish government. The cancer has been identified but not isolated and you may be assured that it remains in the lymph nodes of the two major banks in Spain. Fortunately, during America’s financial crisis, many of the sub-prime mortgages were securitized and no longer resided on the balance sheets of the American banks. In the case of Spain we find not only the majority of the mortgages resident at the Spanish banks but we find an added dimension which is a huge amount of money lent to Real Estate developers which is impaired and still on the books of the Spanish banks. Further, in my opinion, none of these loans have been accurately accounted for and they are being carried at whimsical valuations by the banks or pledged as collateral at the ECB where the Spanish bank funding jumped 50% in one month and now stands at $294 billion. Following the bouncing ball; there is now so much encumbrance of assets between pledged collateral and covered bond sales that the actual worth of the two major Spanish banks is now someplace between “not much” and “De minimis” should the situation deteriorate to the point of impairment.
As noted earlier this week, while the theater of Greek elections serves as a convenient distraction from the epic depression the country of 10 million is undergoing, the reality is that very soon it won't matter at all who is left to govern this ruined country. Because if previously we demonstrated the collapse in two primary drivers of government tax revenue, namely tourism and commerce, today we show the logical follow through to economic flatlining: jobs and industries. Sadly, both are getting trounced. As Reuters reports, "Greece's jobless rate hit a new record in February, underscoring the pain austerity policies required by the EU and IMF have inflicted on the debt-laden country which is struggling to form a government. More than one in five Greeks and one in two youths are out of a job, statistics service ELSTAT data showed on Thursday. The unemployment rate hit 21.7 percent from a revised 21.3 percent in January. In the 15-24 age group, joblessness stood at a record 54 percent." It also appears that Greece has been getting ideas from the BLS: an 11 million population, and a pool of employed at a record low 3.87 million! "Nearly 1.1 million people were without a job, 42 percent more than in the same month last year, the data showed. The number of those in work declined by 8 percent over the same period to a record low 3.87 million." In other words, less than 4 million people are working to pay off the country's bailout package and debt which at last check was about 200% of GDP? At least of all indicators, the GDP is collapsing the fastest. Very soon Greece will be treated to a merciful #Div/0 when attempting to calculate its debt to GDP ratio. We can't wait to see the IMF's face then.
Investors should be questioning their positive assumptions after the events of the past two weeks. Things have changed a great deal and rumors abound on how the authorities plan to support the market now. At the end of last month, only ten calendar days ago, the perky US equity market, the placid foreign exchange scene, calm credit spreads and rock-bottom volatility implied to us and anyone paying even cursory attention that the world was happy with the way things were turning out in 2012, no matter what the Mayan calendar might be saying. But now, after the Socialist victory in France, the Greek electoral disintegration, the poor US employment numbers and the disastrous European PMI readings the market is very uncertain with the EUR/USD below 1.30, Spanish 10-year Bonds back over 6.00% and equity markets down sharply around the world. Our cyclical analysis finds this weakness very appropriate as we should be in a decline. What makes the ground so uncertain beneath our feet is the reality of our current position: interest rates are at zero, fiscal budgets are stretched to the maximum, total national financial liabilities are at a breaking point and national monetary bases are a multiple of the highest they have ever been. Quite simply, there are no good borrowers. No one wants to loan anyone any money.