For well over a year now, we have been writing about how this whole “buy to rent” investment strategy is one of the biggest disasters waiting to happen within the U.S. economy. We have repeatedly noted that these private equity clowns were crowding into these markets with reckless abandon and that this would ultimately crush their business model as there’s no way rents can rise enough to keep yields attractive in a country where most people are struggling to meet their daily expenses. Well it seems the day of reckoning may be at hand.
My how the 'over-levered and cross-collateralized debt-is-wealth' mighty have fallen. Eike Batista, Brazilian entrepreneur, was the 7th richest man in the world in 2011 but as Forbes recently noted, he is the 'biggest loser' on their list (losing an incredible $2mm per hour), ending 2012 in 100th place after his biggest holding - OGX Petroleo E Gas - slumped 80% in the last year (and a stunning 43% in 2013 alone) which means his net worth has plunged 20% YTD (according to Bloomberg). While he has the yacht, cars, speedboat, and jets to go with someone who apparently has a net worth of $9.9bn, he now has one more thing to worry about...
*BILLIONAIRE BATISTA SAID TO FACE COLLATERAL CALLS FROM BANKS
As Bloomberg notes, the billionaire faces demands from creditors to boost collateral as his other company MPX Energia saw its stock fall to record lows (as cross-collateralization leads towards a vicious circle). "Doubts about the group continue," one analyst notes as net debt at Batista's six publicly traded units more than tripled last year, "he really has to something to prove he isn't having a cash problem." On the bright side, we are sure his girlfriend will stay with him.
Still in WallStreetPro withdrawal? We may have just the methadone fix for you... "You will lose your f##king money in your bank," is how this English gentleman cabbie begins his caustic diatribe against all that is wrong with European (and in fact) the world of bankers and elites. The so-called 'artist taxi driver' has a spit-flying hand-smashing epic rant while sitting in his taxi. "They did a stress test on the banks in Cyprus 18 months ago and said it's f##king great" and now this; "this is some f##king crooked shit." "They're off their f##king nuts mate," he explains as he asks rhetorically of the bankers getting the bailouts, "how many f##king ponies do their daughters' need?" Insightfully he remarks that, "Cyprus could be the beginning of a bigger and f##king worse financial crisis," and exclaims "[Goldman Sachs and the Bankers] are looking after their own interest - who are they f##king borrowing money to in Cyprus?" His exasperation is one many can empathize with we are sure as he concludes, "We need to shut down the f##king markets... What kind of society allows the rich people to be gambling while the poor people f##king die," ending with a warning, "Wake the f##k up!"
Eurogroup Folds: Tells Cyprus To "Safeguard" Depositors Under €100,000 Euros; Angry Russians To Get Even AngrierSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/18/2013 16:08 -0400
Reuters headlines crossing the closing tape, supposedly out of a (very credible) Greek source, according to whom the Eurogroup will give Cyprus more flexibility on bank levy, and that Cyprus should safeguard depositors under €100,000, even as the full €5.8 billion deposit goal must still be hit. Well, at least they were not kidding with the whole plan. This was not unexpected - there are two key questions which remain woefully unanswered: i) how will Europe restore the confidence it has lost by even contemplating insured deposit impairments, and ii) a deposit haircut is still a deposit haircut, and as noted earlier, the majority of Cypriot parties have announced they would vote against any bank levy, not just that which is determined to be "fair" by 10 European bureaucrats, and supposedly only hurts those evil, evil Russian billionaires. In other words, the final word still remains with the Cypriot parties. Let the horse trading begin.
Finally, the Russian response to the discovery that haircuts on big deposits just rose from 9.9% to over 15.6% will hardly be warm and cuddly. Now may be a good time to ban gun (and plutonium) sales to angry Russian billionaire oligarchs.
There was a time when pervasive financial crimes would if not shock and appall people, then at least make them think for a minute or two. Sadly, now that even the biggest bank by assets is found to have misled regulators, shareholders and the broad public and its CEO is proven to have perjured himself before Congress, and absolutely nothing happens, not even one of those token SEC wristslap settlements, we are way past the point of even pretending to care. Which is why there is little we can comment on the news that Federico Buenrostro Jr., 62, the former CEO of the nation's largest pension fund, California's Calpers, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in a scheme to defraud Apollo Management, one of the biggest private equity firms in the nation, of $20 million. How is one supposed to have any faith, or worse, any hope that there is something more than mere criminality pushing the US capital markets to "new highs", and why is anyone surprised the retail investor has given up on the Fed-backstopped US "wealth creation mechanism" long ago.
For a few wondrous moments around 1430ET the Dow and TRANnies were green and all was well and the world could rest assured that government stealing private property was nothing to worry about. Then it seems some odd tin-foil-hat-wearing blog did the math to figure that there is no way the Cypriots get the vote. VIX had not been partaking of the exuberance BTFD rally as it seemed evident that managers chose to 'hedge' as opposed to 'sell'. Shortly after Europe closed, it was notable that market breadth shifted decidedly weak - though the indices pushed on higher until green was reached. Risk was highly correlated across all asset-classes today but shortly after Europe closed the USD began to rise once again. Gold notably outperformed (especially given USD strength), bonds were bid, and financials underperformed all day (as homebuilders managed gains on the worst NAHB print in six months). We suspect the afternoon was a little more reality than the morning's knee-jerk and volume dominated the last hour's dump. VIX bid to 12-day highs over 13.60% (+2.3 vols).
The European Union had painted itself in the corner: not wanting to deal with Cyprus immediately has proven costly. The EU had hoped for a pro-euro, pro-austerity government in Italy, but the plan backfired. The idea was that by postponing the bailout it would help in the elections. It was impossible to wait until the German elections, as Cyprus has a bond maturity in June that it would have been unable to pay. As the maturity date was so close, there was no time to take the bond owners to court (the bonds were issued under English law, so a simple haircut was not possible). The only way to fund the bailout was either a gift from the EU or deposit confiscation. They did both. There are two ways of seeing this: #1 Europe just became even more dysfunctional and fragmented, or #2 it has become more unified in doing whatever it takes to protect investors’ interests. The commentary is already utterly negative, but it might take some time for the markets to realize that the upside in crisis country bonds is minimal and there are no restrictions stopping the bank jogs.
Update: Just as we predicted - Cyprus president Anastasiades to tell Eurogroup he lacks support and votes to pass levy - Antenna
While images of burning flags in the middle-east are not unusual and we have become numb to visions of angry mobs stomping over Western flags, the sight in the clip below of the typically calm and serene Mediterraneans turned Cypriot mob climbing atop the German Embassy in Cyprus and tearing down the German flag may well be a glimpse of what is to come in the next few days as the government nears their voting deadline and banks near their re-opening...
It would appear that the imploding rule of law and currency weakness in Europe has done nothing but increase the value of a 'haircut-proof' digital currency. Since we first saw the ECB 'bash' Bitcoin in November of last year, when the central bank "stooped" so low as having to issue a 55-page pamphlet warning readers against "virtual currency schemes", the value of the digital currency has risen from EUR10 to record highs around EUR37 currently.
Still smarting from his humiliating defeat in court (pending appeal) to ban "large sugary drinks" (because just like in Cyprus nobody can possibly conceive of opening ten €100K accounts instead of one for €1 million, and nobody will buy two 16 oz drinks instead of one 32 oz), Mayor Bloomberg has set his sights on his next nanny state crusade: a proposal banning retail stores from displaying cigarettes as part of his effort to reduce smoking rates in the city. From Reuters: "Bloomberg, who has taken aggressive steps to curb smoking in public places and promote health with various restrictions on restaurants, plans to introduce to the City Council on Wednesday two bills that would require retailers to keep cigarettes in a drawer or other concealed location. "Young people are targets of marketing and the availability of cigarettes, and this legislation will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking."
At long last, Europe's flimsy facades of State sovereignty, democracy and free-market capitalism have collapsed, and we see the real machinery laid bare: the Eurozone's political-financial Aristocracy will stripmine every nation's citizenry to preserve their power and protect the banks and bondholders from absorbing losses. The deposit-confiscation "bailout" of Cyprus confirms the Eurozone's fundamental neocolonial, neofeudal structure and the region's political surrender to financialization.
For the first time, a mainland Chinese company has defaulted on its bonds. SunTech Power Holdings has been clinging on by its teeth but after failing to repay $541mm of notes due on March 15th - and following four consecutive quarters of losses through the first quarter of 2012 and since then having failed to report quarterly earnings - owed to Chinese domestic lenders, the firm is restructuring. As Bloomberg reports, Chinese solar companies are struggling after taking on debt to expand supply, leading to a glut that forced down prices and squeezed profits - and most notably were unable to renegotiate its liabilities and obtain “additional flexibility” from creditors. This is highly unusual and perhaps is the beginning of a trend for Chinese firms. We already know the little discussed but gargantuan size of China's corporate bond market (which dwarves the US relative to GDP) as the mis-allocated credit tsunami of the last few years begins to hit its lending limit - just as Chinese corporate leverage is surging. If Suntech, the world’s largest solar-panel maker as recently as 2011, could not renegotiate its loans, we humbly suggest there are more problem firms out there about to find their friendly local banker a little less enthusiastic - just as Marc Faber warned recently.
There are three key highlights in yet another take on Cyprus, this time from JPMorgan's Robert Henriques: the first, and most obvious, is that "more extreme scenarios of burden-sharing will not necessarily reinforce investor confidence" - that much is clear; the second, as we pointed out over the weekend, is that what happened in Cyprus is a "the death knell for an EU Common Deposit Guarantee scheme, which was to be an integral part of the Banking Union proposals" - so much for the key part of European monetary and fiscal integration. But the third, and most important, is that "we would expect future crises to be exacerbated by more extreme deposit flight. This would likely mean the ECB would have to increase its presence as liquidity provider of last resort, which, under normal circumstances, would lead to increased asset encumbrance and lower recoveries for senior debt." The problem for Europe, as diligent readers know too well already, is that asset encumbrance is already at record high levels, meaning the ability to find "free" assets used to create new loans will be next to impossible.
European equity, credit, and sovereign bond markets all started their day with a jolt. Smashing down to multi-week lows following the FX market (and US futures) implied opens. The reflexive buying began almost immediately but was slow and steady - leaving Spain and Portugal out in the cold still (+32 and 21bps respectively in the last 3 days - the biggest 3-day jump in 4 montsh). Spanish and Italian equity markets trod water near their lows through the European session but once the US opened in its magical way, they rallied 1.5% off the day's lows! EURUSD also rallied back - aided by POMO but didn't close the gap unlike US equities. European financials suffered most - as expected - but even they bounced back off earlier lows - though credit is still shouting loudly that stocks have it all wrong. Away from the mainstream manipulated measures of how awesome a 10% deposit haircutis, Swiss 2Y was in demand all day - trading as lows as 0.003% on safe-haven demand and the 3month EUR-USD basis swap (indicator of bank stress) tumbled its most in 6 weeks.