Back on December 30, we noted that a little known name in the US, but very well known in Europe, PetroPlus is having significant solvency issues as banks froze a $1 billion revolver. Less than a month later the situation has proceeded to the next evolutionary step, as Europe's largest refiner by capacity has announced it will file for bankruptcy protection. And while operations should not be impacted, the fact that this comes just as Europe imposes an oil embargo on Iran, virtually guarantees that the continent's gasoline prices, already among the highest in the world are likely to set off even higher, paradoxically even as end-market demand is at lows. The bankruptcy will also guarantee that European initial jobless claims will plunge, especially if the BLS opens a Brussels office and applies its own very unique brand of "logic" to Europe.
Yesterday, Reuters' blogger Felix Salmon in a well-written if somewhat verbose essay, makes the argument that "Greece has the upper hand" in its ongoing negotiations with the ad hoc and official group of creditors. It would be a great analysis if it wasn't for one minor detail. It is wrong. And while that in itself is hardly newsworthy, the fact that, as usual, its conclusion is built upon others' primary research and analysis, including that of the Wall Street Journal, merely reinforces the fact that there is little understanding in the mainstream media of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Greek negotiations, and thus a comprehension of how prepack (for now) bankruptcy processes operate. Furthermore, since the Greek "case study" will have dramatic implications for not only other instances of sovereign default, many of which are already lining up especially in Europe, but for the sovereign bond market in general, this may be a good time to explain why not only does Greece not have the upper hand, but why an adverse outcome from the 11th hour discussions between the IIF, the ad hoc creditors, Greece, and the Troika, would have monumental consequences for the entire bond market in general.
As the buy-the-ratings-downgrade-news surge on European sovereigns stalls (following a few weeks of sell-the-rumor on France for example), the ever-ready-to-comment mainstream media remains convinced that the impact is priced in and that ratings agencies are increasingly irrelevant. UBS disagrees. In a note today from their global macro team, they recognize that while the downgrades were hardly a surprise to anyone (with size of downgrade the only real unknown), the effect on 'AAA-only' constrained portfolios is important (no matter how hard politicians try to change the rules) but of more concern is the political impact as the divergence between France's rating (and outlook) and Germany (and UK perhaps) highlights harsh economic realities and increases (as EFSF spreads widen further) the bargaining power of Germany in the economic councils of Europe. Furthermore, the potential for closer relationships with the UK (still AAA-rated) increase as the number of AAA EU nations within the Euro only just trumps the number outside of the single currency. This may be one of those rare occasions where politics is more important than economics.
Secret Iran Gold Holdings Leaked: Tehran Holds Same Amount Of Gold As United Kingdom, And Is Buying MoreSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/20/2011 20:41 -0400
While it will not come as a major surprise to most, according to senior BOE individuals and Wikileaks, Iran, as well as Qatar and Jordan have been actively purchasing gold well over the amount reported to and by the IMF, in an accelerated attempt to diversify their holdings away from the US dollar. "Iran has bought large amounts of gold in the international market, according to a senior Bank of England official, in a sign of how growing political pressure has driven Tehran to reduce its exposure to the US dollar. Andrew Bailey, head of banking at the Bank of England, told an American official that the central bank had observed “significant moves by Iran to purchase gold”, according to a US diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks and seen by the Financial Times." The reason for Tehran's scramble into gold: "an attempt by Iran to protect its reserves from risk of seizure”. The misrepresentation of Iran's holdings could be so vast that Iran could possibly be one of the largest holders of goldin the world. "Market observers believe Tehran has been one of the biggest buyers of bullion over the past decade after China, Russia and India, and is among the 20 largest holders of gold reserves... with an alleged 300 tons, big enough to challenge the UK at 310 tons, and more than Spain! " As a reminder according to the WGC, Iran is not even disclosed as an official holder of gold. Also, Iran is not the only one: "Cables obtained by WikiLeaks cite Jordan’s prime minister as saying the central bank was “instructed to increase its holdings” of gold, and a Qatar Investment Authority official as saying the QIA was interested in buying gold and silver." Which means that there is far more marginal demand by countries supposedly friendly to the dollar, as many more than previously expected are actively dumping linen and buying bullion. What all this means for the future price of gold, especially with geopolitical tension in the region, and QE3 imminent, is rather self-evident.
Moody's Absolutely Does Not Fail to Issue Timely Non-Downgrade Downgrade on United States and United Kingdom DebtSubmitted by Marla Singer on 12/08/2009 05:22 -0400
The passage of time, in addition to being subject to dilation through the effects of e.g., relative velocity, also suffers numerous perceptual contortions depending on the observer's particular state of mind. For the purposes of day to day affairs, most humans not at relative velocities to their immediate surroundings that reach a significant fraction of the speed of light, would find these subjective changes normally accounting for the largest perceived deltas in the passage of time ("a watched pot never boils, etc.") Of course, as with most of the laws of nature, the regina scientiarum and, if you believe their analysts, even the laws of thermodynamics, when it comes to the ratings agencies, all bets are off and mere humans unable to shift their perceptions into rates more in line with geologic observations will be doomed to frustration and folly. So it is this morning with Moody's, which has, ever so subtly, maybe warned of what might someday develop into conditions that, in exactly the right environment, could potentially result in a downgrade for the Aaa rated United States and the United Kingdom... maybe sometime around 2013 or so, maybe. (Proving once and for all that Moody's finally fired analysts John Cusack and Amanda Peet).