Draining your banking system dry of deposits and loans is no easy task (just see chart below), and yet the Greeks sure have succeeded. There was only one open question: where did all this money go. Now we know.
Eurostat just updated their statistics for government debt to GDP for 2011, so here is an updated graph over Belgium, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, France, UK, Netherlands, Germany and Sweden and the development of their gross government debt to GDP from 1996 to 2011. Countries not matching the new Merkozy-limit of a maximum of 3% budget deficit were Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and... France. But we can forget the old euro convergence criteria of 2% deficit and at most 60% debt to GDP as instead of working back to the green 'safe' quadrant, the PIGS are heading in the exact opposite direction missing both deficit and debt convergence criteria.
Just because try hard as it may, the Chairman's printer simply can't issue infinite electronic equivalents of the 79 proton element, newspapers with a circulation of 435,000 (same as the Chicago Tribune) on this side of the Ganges will hardly ever be allowed to show the following anti-patriotic advertisement.
Just in case one is wondering what is a greater crime in America: vaporizing $1.5 billion in client money or having the temerity to downgrade the US (twice), JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, here is the SEC with the answer:
- SEC SUES EGAN-JONES, SEAN EGAN ON ALLEGED MISREPRESENTATIONS
Somewhere Jon Corzine is cackling like a mad cow.
UPDATE: via Bloomberg:
*MEAT FROM ANIMAL DID NOT ENTER FOOD CHAIN, USDA SAYS
*COW WITH MAD-COW DISEASE CONFIRMED IN CALIFORNIA, USDA SAYS
Rumors of the return of bovine spongiform encephalopathy - or mad cow disease - in the US as the USDA conducts a conference to discuss the potential find of an infected animal has sent Live and Feeder Cattle futures limit-down and back to almost 8 month lows prices. The find has been confirmed, according to The Farmer-Stockman. Now, where is that zombie survival chart?
Modern investing offers the promise that investors who "do their homework" and use data more intelligently than the herd can gain a valuable edge. But what if the underlying data available to the investing public is fundamentally flawed?
Presented with little comment except to give some context for the current weakness in what was the world's largest market cap stock a few days ago. In the last 11 days, Apple has dropped over 12.5% - the largest such drop since January 2009 - as today sees the stock's fall continue to yesterday's lows down over 2.7%. With just a few hours to the event-horizon, options traders are active and stock volume run-rates are high as selling pressure dominates.
We have discussed the exuberance and dysphoria that is exhibited by economists in the context of extrapolating trends many times and nowhere is that more clearly pictured than in Citigroup's Economic Surprise Index which tracks the rise and fall of both misses and beats as well as better or worse data. For the first time in over six months, macro data for the G-10 has turned negative (with Europe having been there for a while and the US getting very close) indicating significant weakness. When this data turned from positive to negative in July 2010 it pre-empted the 'rescue' of the global economy via QE2 and each time it has dropped below its 200DMA (which it also just did) we have seen notable deterioration in equity prices soon after. What is more worrisome perhaps is the rate of deterioration over the last two months or so. Four of the last five times we dropped this rapidly we saw significant drops in stock prices soon after (Dec 2008, August 2010, and June 2011). Europe and the US are now trending lower in macro data 'surprises' as decoupling disappears but the US remains a little less bad for those looking for silver-linings - for now.
It's easy to expand the money supply and difficult to expand the actual production of real goods in the real world. Expanding the money supply and issuing debt that lacks collateral is just like printing quatloos on the desert island: you can print a million quatloos but that doesn't create a single additional coconut. If you print enough quatloos, then people will no longer accept them in exchange for coconuts. You will actually need a real coconut to exchange for fish. This is why Greek towns are reportedly reverting to barter, the exchange of real goods for other real goods. We can anticipate that silver and gold will soon enter the barter as means of exchange that can't be counterfeited or printed by wise-guys (central bankers).This is what happens when abstract representations, i.e. "money," vanish into thin air. Alternative systems of exchanging goods and services arise: actual goods are exchanged via barter, tangible concentrations of value that cannot be counterfeited such as gold and silver are used as a means of exchange, letters of credit or equivalent are traded and settled with tangible goods or gold/silver, and eventually, a means of exchange ("money") that is backed by tangible goods in the real world that can be trusted to actually represent the value being traded might enter the market. That which is phantom will vanish into thin air, while the real goods and services remain to be traded in the real world.
Equity and credit markets in Europe followed the same-old-same-old path of a successful short-dated auction means buy-buy-buy and ended the day in the green today. A few things of note however stand out to us. First, the ramp in stocks/credit this time around is much less than last week's post-auction bliss which was also less than the prior week's post-auction squeeze higher. Second, there was a very notable dispersion between senior financials and subordinated financials credit today - with the spread between the two at almost 3 month wides. Third, Italy notably underperformed Spain today - by the largest in six weeks as the spread between these two is now back at 18bps, six-week tights and dramatically lower than the almost 50bps just a week ago. So while all may look rosy at the surface, we remain wider in spreads on the week and lower in stocks with all the real event risk ahead of us still.
You know its bad when...the net flow of Mexicans into the US has fallen so much that there is a high probability that it is now in reverse ending around forty years of inward migration. The Pew Hispanic Center notes that the standstill - after more than 12 million current immigrants have entered the US - more than half of whom are illegal - appears to be the result of many factors including a weakened US job and construction market, tougher border enforcement, a rise in deportations, growing dangers associated with border crossing, a long-term decline in Mexico's birth rate, and changing (read perhaps more opportunistic) economic conditions in Mexico (especially if you work at WalMex). This sharp downward trend in net migration has led to the first significant decrease in at least two decades in the number of unauthorized Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. - to 6.1 million in 2011, down from a peak of nearly 7 million in 2007. In the five years from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4m Mexicans immigrated to the US – exactly the same number of Mexican immigrants and their US-born children who quit the US and moved back or were deported to Mexico. By contrast, in the previous five years to 2000 some 3m Mexicans came to the US and fewer than 700,000 left it. It will be interesting to see the spin that the Obama and Romney camps put on this hot-button topic as the 'Dream Act' turns into a nightmare and hardline anti-illegal immigration stances become, well, less relevant as Mexicans become Mexican'ts.
The EFSF 'firewall' issued EUR3 billion 7-year bonds this morning. It seems any time any European entity actually manages to issue debt, it is proclaimed as miraculous evidence of investor demand and comfort with these risks. In this case, we are told, via Bloomberg, that:
- *EFSF SAYS BOND ISSUE MET WITH STRONG DEMAND
- *EFSF SAYS SUPPORT FROM ASIA, CENTRAL BANKS, SOVEREIGN WEALTH
So the self-dealing continues to grow the ponzi ever bigger. However, what few will mention is that 10Y EFSF spreads (the risk premium over Bunds to hold these government-guaranteed exposed-to-Europe's-entrails) broke above 150bps today for the first time in over four months and are now over 35% higher than at the start of April. Success Indeed.
Remember when Lehman or Bear Stearns was 'too small' to matter and 'subprime was contained', we we are getting same ignorant first-order analysis now with regard Spain (or more broadly-speaking Southern Europe). The whole of Southern Europe is only 6% of global GDP - how can that matter? (especially when we can eat iPads?) Michael Cembalest, of JPMorgan, provides some much needed sense on why these small countries pack a large disruption risk punch for global markets and economies. By breaking down the world into a few categories of disruption risk, the JPM CIO notes that the southern strain of Eurovirus has a much larger non-proportional impact thanks to transmission risk via its significantly greater share of sovereign and bank debt relative to the world and how these debts are financed. The transmission risk to the much-larger Northern Europe is material. We are already seeing Germany's new orders from within the Euro-zone slumping and this week's business sector surveys were very weak. As Cembalest concludes, from an alien's perspective, Earth may be able to outrun the collapse in Europe’s periphery if the ECB keeps printing money and the IMF increases its firewall, but it’s not going to be easy.
Yesterday as we all watched the Holland and Hollande Show; Greece was scarcely on the radar. That act was behind us now we think and we are off to different adventures. Not so fast my friends, a moment’s respite; nothing more. The Greek Statistical Office released new data yesterday and the results were anything but positive. The official debt to GDP ratio now stands at 165.3%, a fourteen percent increase from last year’s numbers. Quite frankly, this is a disaster and hardly in-line with all of the fantasy projections that Greece will now be heading towards the mythical 120% number bandied about by both the EU and the IMF. To make matters worse; the banks in Greece are losing $344 million a day and have capital outflows of about $500 million per month. Even with the $32.2 billion in recapitalization funds it does not take a fiscal genius to see where this is all leading which is right down the Spartan rabbit hole.
Two weeks ago we were the first to explain that the mysterious Euro levitation observed, as newsflow out of Europe had just turned very ugly, was due solely to another iteration of a very disturbing phenomenon: EUR repatriation, as domestic banks were forced to shore up capital ahead of what they perceived as major liquidity needs such as bond auctions, and the other usual fare - insolvent banks, deposit outflow replacement, etc. As a reminder, the last time such aggressive repatriation was observed was back in October, just before the Fed was forced to ease the terms of its FX swaps, the ECB was forced to announced the LTROs and China was forced to announce an interest rate hike - in other words, the central planner were in bailout mode. Today, the first to address directly our "explanation" is Citi and specifically Stephen Englander, who notes the repatriation is likely a key driver to such inexplicable moves in the EURUSD. Of course, since Englander understands all too well the true implication of such a move (very, very negative as it means liquidity is once again becoming non-existent), he tries to mitigate it: "we find that in the recent past the repatriation theory has some support but that foreign portfolio flows are probably the dominant EUR driver": alas, that is what he said last time too. And it ended up being the other way around, in the process almost resulting in Europe's getting destroyed. Hopefully this time it is different.