Ahead of the French and Spanish auctions this morning, which given their widespread discussion as catalyst numero-uno in the resurgence of systemic risk in Europe are likely to be pumped and presented in the best possible light for all to gorge their bullish eyes on, we thought it worth a quick reminder of just how awkward things might be getting in Spain. As the WSJ reports tonight, the main (and likely only outside of CDS-bond basis traders) buyer of Spanish bonds is the Spanish banks and they are running very dry of ECB-provided cash money to do their bidding. UBS estimates that there is a remaining EUR21bn of pocket-money with the banks to cover the EUR47bn that Spain needs to roll this year alone.
The simple sad fact is that finding buyers of last resort are dwindling as the banks lose their deposits to the core, cover their own significant redemption needs, and struggle to choke down more Sarkozy-inspired sovereign (carry) debt - all the while leaving an ECB unable to directly enter the primary market (hence Soros' recent SPV financial engineering workaround to enable this).
Besides this uncertainty there are four things are critical to remember before you go all-in on your Spanish 10Y bid (or judge the post-auction hysteria).
1) Bid-to-cover is a useless statistic in these cases as a plethora of bidders (e.g. basis traders - note the current basis is +19bps - which posits 'selling' bonds not 'buying' them - which means the auction would have to come dramatically cheap to secondaries to make it attractive for the hedgies) would be willing to pick these bonds up at extremely high yields should they trade there (e.g. how much would you bid at a 30% yield? 40% yield?) and in no way reflect real money's risk appetite;
2) Every time the ECB steps into the secondary Spanish bond market via its SMP program it subordinates your freshly minted bonds (via its Greek-related unwillingness to take a haircut);
3) It's all about the yield - if these bonds come cheap to secondaries and notably beyond the previous auction then that is the critical signal of what is being anticipated and given the rapidly diminishing bucket upon which the Spanish banks can draw to fund their domestic symbiotic partner, we suspect it will not be pretty; and
4) Given the EUR46bn that the Spanish banks themselves need to roll in the next three months, we suspect they will prefer to keep a little more dry powder than blow it all on their sovereign purchases today.