We noted yesterday that the mice of the European equities markets have tended to run when the credit cats are away; and sure enough, London comes back from a long-weekend and risk appetite disappears. European stocks gave back most of their gains from yesterday (and more in some cases) as Sovereign, corporate, and financial credit opened far less exuberantly and drifted wider for most of the day (with some slight US-open-driven strength into the close). Financials modestly outperformed as Sovereigns did not - with Spain now 48bps wider than last week's best levels, Italy 39bps wider, and seemingly forgotten (yet a total disaster) Portugal +52bps. Swiss 2Y rates have tumbled back lower in the last few days to -35bps. The standout was the OMX (Stockholm) which fell 2.3%, its biggest fall in 4 months, as Swedish banks stumbled.
With Draghi stepping aside, the headliner can shine and while Goldman does not expect Chairman Bernanke's speech on Friday morning, entitled "Monetary Policy Since the Crisis", to shed much additional light on the near-term tactics of monetary policy beyond last week's FOMC minutes; their main question is whether he breaks new ground regarding the Fed's longer-term strategy. An aggressive approach would be to signal that the committee is moving closer to the "unconventional unconventional" easing options that Goldman has been ever-so-generously advocating for months, although even they have to admit that expectations are that any moves in this direction will be gingerly.
It’s a safe statement to make that when Mitt Romney is finally crowned the GOP nominee for president during the Republican National Convention, any vestige of liberty will be firmly wiped away from the ballot box come this November. For those who have followed his campaign in the United States, Congressman Ron Paul has been swindled out of the nomination through various underhanded tricks at state conventions. The explanation is straightforward: Paul’s views are not comfortable within the Republican Party establishment. Today’s GOP is a party of banker interests, imperialism, and clandestine state empowerment while claiming to represent small, limited government. Romney embraces this platform while Paul’s decades-long voting record stands in opposition. For towing the party line, Romney has been anointed the “electable” candidate while Paul has been deemed an extremist.
The data out from Spain this morning should be one serious wake-up call for anyone exposed to Europe. The fourth largest economy in the Eurozone is getting hammered and for anyone that has doubted that they will need a full scale bailout; think again. The numbers are a disaster. One year ago the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $71.53 billion from the European Central Bank. In the last figures available, July, the Central Bank of Spain was borrowing $530.8 billion (an increase of 86.5%) from the ECB either directly or through the Target2 funding which impacts the Bundesbank and Germany quite directly. In other words Germany is now at a huge risk which is not just their 22% ownership of the ECB but a direct and full risk of impairment or default by Spain in the Target2 funding provided by the Bundesbank.
With inflation expectations soaring and jobs plentiful relative to hard-to-get falling slightly, Consumer Confidence plunged its most in 10 months to a level not seen since November of last year. It seems that despite all the hopes and prayers priced into US equity market valuations, the US Consumer remains unimpressed, unhappy, and unemployed. Of course, the 'good is bad, bad is better' market has interpreted this as a clear QE-on flag (for this millisecond anyway).
With economies faltering fast; ministers to cajole; and 'promised' plans going pear-shaped by the second; is it any wonder that Mario is not popping across the pond for some R&R at Bernanke's J-Hole. As the ever-avuncular Art Cashin notes, however, Mario Draghi's withdrawl as a speaker at Jackson Hole is logical and was almost inevitable as "you don't go to your best friend's daughter's wedding and upstage him at the event." One other factor that UBS's top-man notes is next week's ECB meeting - Draghi dare not say something that might complicate negotiations within the ECB (whose statement will not be postponeable).
Rumor - Reaction? - Denial. And so the shameful and ridiculous floating of whatever strawman argument any and every news agency will delightfully post goes on. In somewhat ironic timing, given our recent rebuttal of the likelihood of ECB rate caps/targets as anything but a failure, Reuters is reporting people familiar as saying:
- *ECB UNLIKELY TO SET YIELD CAPS IN NEW BOND BUYING: REUTERS
Is this what Draghi is staying home for? As we noted previously it is clear that consensus is a long way away on the Governing Council. Meanwhile, it seems this is more than enough to stoke hopes of an alternative bailout as stocks rally out of the US open. Sigh.
Speculation that the ECB might, as part of its proposed bond-buying programme, announce an interest rate target (or band) for short-dated peripheral government bonds has sparked a further rally in Spanish and Italian bonds in the past week. Such an 'unlimited' move is a complete volte face from past policy, but Daiwa's research team believes hopes that the announcement of an interest rate or spread target would spare the ECB the pain of having to intervene in the markets at all are flawed in our view. For the ECB to credibly communicate an interest rate or spread target requires it to quantify the excess risk premia. Given the inherent inaccuracy (or falsehoods) of the forecasts underlying these estimates, the ECB would risk having to review these targets regularly, leaving markets uncertain about their permanence. The success and the sustainability of any future ECB interventions will ultimately depend on the peripheral governments’ ability to meet the conditionality required - and we know how that has ended up - always and every time.
The tried strategy of "Baffle them with BS" continues today following the release of the June (two month delayed) Case Shiller data. Because whereas last week we showed that New Home Prices are plunging, and the average new home price just dropping to its 2012 lows, when it comes to the Case-Shiller index, things are looking up. In June, the Top 20 composite index rose by 0.94%, well above the expected increase of 0.45%. How much of this is due to the REO-to-Rental program in which we are now seeing actively securitization of rental properties, which in essence is converting more and more of the Residential market into commercial real estate, remains unclear. For now it is clear that those entities with access to cash are buying up properties in beaten down areas in hopes these will be filled by renters. On the other hand, the truth is that summer months always see the biggest pricing gains, and following the May data revision, which rose at a revised rate of 0.97%, one may observe that the pricing increase has now peaked even according to delayed CS data, and has begun its traditional rolling over pattern. And a pattern it is. As the second chart below shows very clearly, housing is now merely in the dead cat bounce phase of a broad housing quadruple dip, each one having been facilitated by either Fed or ECB intervention. We give this one a few more months before it too resumes the downward trendline so very well known to Japanese homeowners, and falls in line with the data reported by the Census department.
As Robin might say "Riddle me this Batman": how can an country, supposedly growing its economy at over 7%, with factory output up over 9%, manage all of this superlative production while rail traffic is shrinking at almost 5.4% annually?
Beggars can once again be choosers. In other news, non-news (the Catalan bailout was announced at least two times before) is news again, and magically drives the amnesiac market all over again.
Up until now, the title of "Spain's scariest chart" belonged to one depicting its youth (and general) unemployment, both of which are so off the charts it is not even funny (especially to those millions of Spaniards who are currently unemployed). As of today we have a contender for joint ownership of said title - Spain's monthly deposit outflows, which in July hit the highest amount ever, and where the YTD deposit outflow is now the highest on record. One look at the chart below confirms that nobody in Spain got the June 29 Euro summit memo that "Europe is fixed"...
- Ringing endorsement: Lithuania to Adopt Euro When Europe Is Ready, Kubilius Says (Bloomberg)
- Credit Agricole net plunges 67% on losses in Greece and a writedown of its stake in Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (Bloomberg)
- Europe finally starting to smell the coffee: ECB Urging Weaker Basel Liquidity Rule on Crisis Concerns (Bloomberg)
- Japan Cuts Economic Assessment (Reuters)
- France’s Leclerc Stores to Sell Fuel at Cost, Chairman Says (Bloomberg)
- China Eyes Ways to Broaden Yuan’s Use (WSJ)
- Berlin and Paris forge union over crisis (FT)
- Brezhnev Bonds Haunt Putin as Investors Hunt $785 Billion (Bloomberg)
- Republicans showcase Romney as storm clouds convention (Reuters)
- ECB official seeks to ease bond fears (FT)
- German at European Central Bank at Odds With Country’s Policy Makers (NYT)