We may already be in Fimbulvetr, the winter of winters, and it is a cold wind that whips across the European plains blown in from the Southern climes high up into the Alps and then down into the cities of man. In Norse mythology this was a three year event and the creaking of the ice can be distinctly heard if only you listen. Many will not listen, this one can predict, and the clothes that will be worn will not protect the unhearing from the freeze which will surely come. But you and me, we have gazed long for the riders of the North and seeing them; we are prepared.
Back in August 2011 Europe ushered in the totally idiotic idea of reinstating a short selling ban in financial stocks. We predicted at the time that the result would be a sheer disaster: "To those who may have forgotten, on September 18, the SEC banned the shorting of all financials here in the US. Below is a chart of the carnage that ensued... The same chart is coming to Europe first. End result: 48% drop in under a month." Sure enough, a week later we were right: "European banks are already unchanged compared to the day of the ban and in France they are now negative! What next: selling is illegal or "Speculation" is a felony? We expect to find out soon..." Why do we bring this up? Because according to Spanish daily Cinco Dias this last sugar high recourse of a collapsing system is soon coming back to an insolvent European country near you. From MarketWatch: "Spanish stocks rebounded from a sharp opening loss on Friday lifted by gains across the banking sector and led by a 26% rise for Bankia SA ES:BKIA +26.37% after a media report on a possible ban on short selling of banks. The IBEX 35 index defied losses across Europe to gain 1% to 6,596.40. Spanish daily Cinco Dias reported Friday, citing banking sources, that banks in the country want market regulator, CNMV, to reinstate a ban on short selling of domestic banking stocks."
With a lack of European data, markets have remained focused on the macroeconomic issues throughout the morning. European equities have seen mixed trade this morning, starting off sharply lower following Moody’s downgrade of 16 Spanish banks late last night. Equities have been observed on a relatively upwards trend as market talk of asset reallocation into stocks from fixed-income has somewhat buoyed sentiment, however this remains unconfirmed. The news that Spanish banks are pressing regulators to reinstate a short-selling ban on domestic banking stocks has also helped keep negative sentiment towards Spanish financials at bay, with Bankia dramatically reversing recent trends and seen higher by around 25% at the midpoint of the session...The chief of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has said volatile conditions in global markets have caused the wholesale funding market for Australian banks to freeze, a further sign that the European turmoil is taking its toll on global markets.
Now that the consensus seemingly is one that a Greek exit is inevitable, there was only one missing step: an actual New Drachma currency, not in When Issued, electronic 1s and 0s format, but real, based on cotton and linen. It appears UK banknote printer De La Rue is now on top of that. From Reuters: "De La Rue (DLAR.L) has drawn up contingency plans to print drachma banknotes should Greece exit the euro and approach the British money printer, an industry source told Reuters on Friday. The news comes as EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said on Friday the European Commission and the European Central Bank are working on an emergency scenario in case Greece has to leave the euro zone - the first time an EU official has confirmed the existence of contingency plans." Now as noted earlier, the "emergency scenario" was promptly denied by the EC, but as of now nobody has denied the drachma printing yet, which in the world of Venn Diagrams is the "big one."
Gold rose for its 2nd day on concerns that Europe’s debt crisis is growing and the yellow metal is once again seeing increased demand as a safe haven asset. Fitch's downgrade of Greece's credit rating sent the euro to a 4 month low against the dollar and investors wonder if Greece will be able to continue in the EU fiscal union. The gold price jumped over $30 yesterday its most since January, and news from a US report on manufacturing in Philadelphia showed contraction for the first time in over 2 quarters. Moody's Investor Service downgraded 16 Spanish banks yesterday, including Banco Santander, the euro zone's largest bank. All the banks' long-term debt ratings were decreased by at least one grade and some suffered three-grade cuts. This is just days after Moody's downgrade of 26 Italian banks on Monday. Spain's banks like those in other EU countries (PIIGS) have been left with a sea of bad loans after the real estate bubble burst and investors see a state bailout as extremely difficult in light of the country’s limited public finances.
- Inside J.P. Morgan's Blunder (WSJ) - Where we learn that Jamie Dimon did not inform his regulator, the Fed, where he is a board member of the massive JPM loss even as he was fully aware of the possible unlimited downside
- Euro Attempted Recovery Countered By Asian Sovereigns (MNI)
- Santander, BBVA Among Spanish Banks Downgraded by Moody’s (Bloomberg)
- Defiant Message From Greece (WSJ)
- G-8 Leaders to Discuss Oil Market as Iran Embargo Nears (Bloomberg)
- Spain hires Goldman Sachs to value Bankia (Reuters)
- China to exclude foreign firms in shale gas tender (Reuters)
- Fed Board Nominees Powell, Stein Win Senate Confirmation (Bloomberg)
- Defiant Message From Greece (WSJ)
- Fitch Cuts Greece as Leaders Spar Over Euro Membership (Bloomberg)
- Madrid Hails Moves by Regions to Cut Spending (WSJ)
And so the unthinkable has happened: the FaceBook IPO has priced (at $38 as noted yesterday) into the ugliest possible tape imaginable, combining continuing bad news for JPM, ongoing deterioration for European risk markets (nothing new here), the need for the EU Commission to deny it is working on emergency Greek exit plans (we all know what that means) a request by Spanish banks to reinstate the short selling rule (as we predicted back in February), and a #Ref!-ing circular demand by Spain that banks deposit €30 billion into a deposit-protection fund. In other words more of the same. And yet FB has to trade up... or else. Which is why at least for the time being futures are soaring, on that, as well as on the rumor that Europe may close again today at 11:30 am Eastern. However, if 13 out of 14 previous trading days are any indication, expect the the rumor to then resurface that Europe will be opening again on Monday which will wipe out all of the day's gains since who on earth will want to be long risk over a weekend in which many things in Europe can go bump in the night.
Tim Geithner outdoes himself this evening with three hypocritical, self-defecating-deceiving, and typically ignominious clips courtesy of his interview with Jeffrey Brown of PBS NewsHour. While we knew TurboTax was beyond him, the Treasury debacle-in-chief admits he doesn't understand how the debt limit has bubbled back up (seeing it as part of a partisan political agenda); admits that perhaps the NY Fed has a 'perception problem' with Jamie Dimon on the board; and his piece-de-resistance his cognitive dissonance erupts as he touts Obama's economic and jobs record: "look how well we are doing relative to any other major country". It seems the election cycle is well and truly upon us and revisionism and populism will once again trump sensibility and forthrightness.
Asia is deteriorating rapidly this evening - extending losses from the US day session. S&P 500 futures just touched 1300 once again and credit markets are bleeding wider. Only the DAX remains positive for the year so far in Europe; today's price action pushed the Dow Transports into the red year-to-date and the rest of the US indices are rolling over rapidly; and in Asia-Pac - Japan and Australia are now in the red year-to-date (in USD terms) with the HangSeng getting close.
The current crisis of the Eurozone is a result of the imbalance of economic power between the core and the periphery but once one understands the non-economic and completely political strategy that is occurring, comprehending the at-times-incredible decision-making (or lack thereof) is at least easier to digest. Stratfor's Adriano Bosoni provides a very succinct description of everything you wanted to know about Europe's 'situation' but were afraid to ask in under 240 seconds.
We already know that JPM has lost billions on its prop trade, and as suggested earlier (and as the FT picked up subsequently), JPM's prop desk (not to mention its actual standalone hedge fund, $29 billion Highbridge, which nobody has oddly enough discussed in the mainstream press yet) is so large that unwinding the full trade, as well as all other positions held by the CIO, would be unwieldy, allowing us to mock "the fun of negative convexity - especially when you ARE the market and there is no-one to unwind the actual tranches to." The FT then phrased it as follows: "I can’t see how they could unwind these positions because no one can replace them in terms of size. It’s a bit of the same problem they face with the derivatives trade," said a credit trader at a rival bank. "They pretty much are the market." Which actually is funny, because if the media were to actually read a paper or two on how the market works, and puts two and two together, it just may figure out that the biggest beneficial counterparty for JPM is none other than the Fed, using the conduits of the Tri-Party repo system. But that is for Long-Term Capital MorganTM and its new CIO head Matt "LTCM" Zames to worry about. In the meantime, a question nobody has asked is how have the purported JPM counterparties, the most public of which are BlueMountain and BlueCrest who leaked the trade to the press in the first place, and are allegedly on the other side of the IG9 blow up doing. Well, according to the latest HSBC hedge fund update looking at the week ended May 11, not that hot.
When Mr. Market ultimately becomes disenchanted with the fiscal excesses of the sovereign deadbeats, he can express his ire most energetically. When the current bond bubble here in the US ultimately bursts, as it must, it's going to be a bloodbath. Of course, there is much, much more at stake to coming to the correct answer on the recovery, or lack thereof, than that. For instance, poor economies make for poor reelection odds for political incumbents. And when it comes to maintaining a civil society, the lack of jobs inherent in poor economies often leads to a breakdown in civility. On that note, overall unemployment in Spain is now running at depression levels of almost 25%, and youth unemployment at close to 50%. How long do you think it will be before the citizens of this prominent member of the PIIGS will refuse being led to the slaughter and start taking out their anger on the swine (governmental and private) seen as bearing some responsibility for the malaise? Meanwhile, back here in the United States, the commander-in-chief is striding around the deck of the ship of state trying to look like the right man for the job in the upcoming election, despite the gaping hole of unemployment just under the economic water line. His future prospects are very much entangled with this question of recovery.
So, what's it going to be? Recovery… no recovery… or worse, maybe even a crash?