UBS' Euro Doom And Gloom Team Releases Sequel: "The Eurozone Sovereign Crisis Has Entered A More Dangerous Phase"

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From the same fine Swiss folks who three weeks ago (and before it was uncovered that when it comes to playing, or at least scapegoating, dangerously, UBS is second to none) brought you, "Under the current structure and with the current membership, the Euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change," comes the sequel: "We believe the Eurozone sovereign crisis has entered a more dangerous phase. Financial and banking stresses are plainly evident as concerns about sovereign default grow. Notwithstanding signs from Washington this past weekend that European and world leaders are willing to consider more decisive policies, concrete steps remain elusive. Yet rising uncertainty threatens an already weakened world economy." The Swiss Bank's conclusions? "First, Europe’s politicians and policy makers must do more to shore up the Eurozone and investor confidence more generally. Among others, that probably includes stronger capital buffers in the banking sector, an expanded EFSF/ESM to finance bank recapitalization and support Eurozone bond markets, and further fiscal austerity in ‘at-risk’ Eurozone countries. But these are big asks of Europe’s ‘political economy’. Hence, the second conclusion: The likelihood is that the crisis will intensify before policy can deliver what is required." Reality 1: Strange little "source" voices inside the heads of chief economists of financial comedy cable channels: 0. 

And let's cut right down to the case, or in this case the section UBS titles, "Risk Scenarios":

Risk case 1: Disorderly default

 

It may be, however, that compromise between the ‘troika’ and the Greek government becomes at some point impossible. That could occur if the Greek government (and broader socio-political backdrop) is unable to deliver compliance with the IMF program of fiscal austerity, structural adjustment and privatization.

 

This risk scenario could then unfold with a unilateral Greek default, which if not adequately anticipated and provisioned in the form of capital buffers in the financial sector, would lead to the default and collapse of much of the Greek banking system (given its extensive holdings of Greek government debt), which would then spread via counterparty default to the non-financial corporate and household sector in Greece, as well as to the financial counterparties elsewhere, above all in European banks, pension funds and insurance companies. Plausibly, rising risk premiums would also lead to rising bond yields and widening spreads in the government debt markets elsewhere in the Eurozone, above all in Italy and Spain. Selling pressures could easily overwhelm the modest buying-power of the EFSF (assuming its mandate to buy bonds has been approved) and could even challenge the ability or willingness of the ECB to engage in very large- scale bond purchases.

 

The resulting rise in risk premiums would depress economic activity, quite possibly pushing weakly-growing economies such as Italy’s into recession, exacerbating sovereign credit risk perceptions. Financial stress and heightened uncertainty would almost surely be transmitted globally, dealing another shock to the already-fragile and wobbly US recovery. Indeed, we believe it would not be an overstatement to consider disorderly Eurozone sovereign default as the chief risk to global recovery.

 

Risk 2: Eurozone exit

In a recent paper “Euro breakup – the Consequences” we demonstrated how complex and costly expensive breaking up the Eurozone would be. The worst case scenario would be the exit of a weak country, such as Greece. Less costly, but still very expensive, would be the case of a strong country leaving the Eurozone. The ‘direct’ costs include sharp increases in risk premiums and large moves in exchange rates, which would likely result in recessions everywhere, compounded by very high inflation in weak countries that exit and issue their own currency.

 

But the costs extend to widespread financial stress and default. Currency mismatches between assets and liabilities could lead to very large private sector defaults. Beyond that, it would be difficult, in our opinion, to contain financial risks, including bank runs in other ‘at risk’ countries. The ensuing dislocations in economic and financial terms could even result in severe social unrest and pressures on the political fabric of the EU itself.

 

Elsewhere we have detailed the potential costs of Eurozone exit, either by a weak or strong country departure. We will not repeat those scenarios or calculations here—the interested reader is referred to the publications at the end of this document. However, suffice it to say, that exit represents in all likelihood the most adverse development of all, with output losses for affected Eurozone countries ranging from 20-40% of GDP (if not higher), accompanied by widespread bankruptcy and financial dislocation.

 

Yet that does not mean that exit can be ruled out. In the scenario of a disorderly sovereign default outlined above, political pressure might well result in exit, particularly if the defaulted government had little prospect of receiving financial assistance from the EU, ECB or IMF.

 

Needless to say, however, the broad market implications of disorderly default and exit only differ by degree. In either case, surging risk premiums and falling output would lead to declines in equity prices, widening credit spreads and financial market dislocations on par with those of the immediate post-Lehman brothers market melt-down. The refuges of risk-averse investors would most likely include the usual suspects: cash, the US dollar, Swiss franc and gold.

 

Risk 3: Recession

 

The latest stresses emanating from the Eurozone crisis are arriving at a time when the global economy slowed and is therefore more vulnerable to shocks. As global economist, Andy Cates, recently noted, model results suggest the probability of a global recession have risen to 15% from about nil just a few months ago. Global economic activity indicators have slumped relative to consensus estimates over the past month. And although the weakness is pronounced in sentiment and survey measures, concerns are rising that ‘hard’ activity indicators may turn sharply lower as well.

 

The Eurozone crisis imparts two adverse shocks to the world economy. First, heightened uncertainty erodes confidence, resulting in weaker (discretionary) outlays by households and firms alike. Second, increased financial stress and rising counter-party risk—as evidenced by Eurozone bank funding gaps— threatens to curtail credit to the real economy.

 

The market implications of a global ‘double-dip’ are superficially straightforward. Stocks, commodities and high-yield credit markets would slump, with safe-have bonds (Treasuries and Bunds) and currencies (Swiss franc) rallying.

 

But the scope of moves could be considerable. Notwithstanding the widespread observation that ‘stocks are cheap’, a global recession could send share prices 20-30% lower. That’s not just because earnings would fall. Concerns about how the world economy could extricate itself from recession, given the relative impotence of advanced economy monetary policies and the political or financial restraints on fiscal expansion, would result in more elevated risk premiums. The old adage that stocks don’t trade on trough multiples alongside trough earnings might not hold true if the world economy double-dips.

So.... in other words according to UBS, Steve Liesman's CDO Squared bailout rumor source, is that little voice of wishful thinking in the back of his head that always seems to pitch in whenever the danger of all those unvested GE options expiring worthless, and hence the Ponzi finally unwinding, reaches an apex.

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