Yesterday, Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter ruffled the unelected Italian PM's feather by saying "forget Spain, Italy is next in the bailout line" - a statement which as expected was promptly loudly refuted, mocked, and scorned by everyone possible: the type of reaction that only the truth can possibly generate in Europe. So far so good: after all the typical European reaction to any instance of the truth is loud screams of "lies, lies" and promptly sticking your head deep in the sand. However, this time around Italy may not have the benefit of the doubt, nor the benefit of some sacrificial replacement of a prime minister: Silvio is long gone, and at this point switching one banker figurehead with another will do precisely nothing. Which is why this morning's assessment from Bloomberg economist David Powell is spot on: "Italy would probably be forced into receiving a bailout if it were to face another two weeks like the last seven days." But the punchline: "The bad news for Italy is the country’s stock of debt is already as large as Spain’s may become after years of fiscal turmoil. In other words, Italy already is where Spain may be heading."
In about an hour's time, Jamie Dimon will sit down before the Senate Banking Committee and prove, once again, not only who is smarter and calls the shots in the great Wall Street-D.C. soap opera, but that when it comes to purchasing a room full of senators (not to mention the script for today's "hearing"), JP Morgan is always at the top. Because as the following table compiled using OpenSecrets data, it cost JP Morgan just under $1 million, or $877,798.00 to be precise in lifetime campaign contributions, to buy itself precisely one Senate Banking Committee. And where it gets really fun is that between the Chairman, Tim Johnson (D - SD), and the ranking member Richard Shelby (R - AL), JP Morgan has been the top and second biggest campaign contributor, respectively. Also, 9 (at least) of the total 22 members of the committee have received some form of bribe from JPM over the years.
Two more data points, two more disappointments: retail sales declined in May by 0.2%, in line with expectations, and unchanged from the April revision from 0.1% to -0.2%. Worse however were retail sales ex autos which had the biggest drop in 2 years, sliding by 0.4%, on expectations of an unchanged print. And so the retrenchment of the US consumer arrives. But at least "housing has bottomed." And in further 'NEW QE is coming' news, PPI also missed for the nth month in a row, printing at -1.0% on expectations of -0.6%, with foods dropping -0.6%, but energy collapsing by a massive 4.3%. PPI ex food and energy (so the items everyone uses, but nobody ever really counts) was up 0.2%. Gold, however, appears to be ignoring the core items, and has soared by $10 since the report, as today's data screams MOAR NEW QE.
Equity markets have traded with moderate volatility so far today as peripheral news concerning Spain and Italy continues to be keenly watched by market participants. Overnight the Italian PM Mario Monti said he does not see any need for a bailout either now or in the future with the Italian and Spanish 10yr yields seen off their highs yesterday, lower by 9.8bps and 7.6bps respectively. On a sector breakdown tobacco stocks saw some slight support after US firm Philip Morris announced a new USD 18bln 3yr share buyback program, however, industrials have lagged as a whole following a profit warning from Swedish firm SKF. In terms of fixed income, the bund has continued yesterday's slide with the Bundesbank coming to market with a July 2022 tap. In initial reaction to the results, bunds saw a 20 tick spike higher, off session lows, following what was perceived to have been a "smooth" auction despite some concerns about the eventual credit worthiness of Germany given the recent bailout of the peripheral nations. Meanwhile, the long end of the EUR curve steepened in early trade as reports from the Danish government who have agreed to change the discount rate that pension funds estimate liabilities being noted. In FX, EUR/USD trades higher into the N.American cross-over with an Asian sovereign name being a touted buyer this morning. In other news the AUD also caught a bid shortly after comments from the German central bank who said that they are considering buying the antipodean currency.
It is really rather pathetic. The Prime Minister of Spain today called for a deposit guarantee fund, pleaded for the EU to take over the budget of Spain and said Spain would cede its sovereignty over its banks. This is all just one thing; a cry for money and money at any cost. The poor fellow has obviously lost whatever self-respect that he had and is behaving no differently than some street urchin begging for alms. What can be seen from this kind of behavior is the desperate state that Spain is in and it is reflected in his desperate pleas for help. I would speculate that so much has been hidden and so many balance sheets falsified that Spain has suddenly found itself in a sea of their own making which could be termed, “Dire Straits.” When Rajoy termed the bailout for Spain as a “Victory for Europe” I knew that he had left “sense and sensibility” behind and headed into the land of Don Quixote where windmills were imagined to be giants and fantasy had replaced reality. The problem is, unlike the creation of Miguel Cervantes, this guy is the Prime Minister of Spain and not some aged senior chasing after the Knights Templar in his later years.
Just because there aren't enough traumatizing events in the next week to look forward to, the market has already set its sights on the next "big" (let down) event in Europe - the EU summit on June 28/29, which will only benefit just one class - Belgian caterers. But for some odd reason there is hope that Europe will, miraculously and magically, after years of failing at this, come to some understanding over either Eurobonds, a fiscal union, a deposit insurance, banking union, or some or all of the above (expect many daily rumors regarding any of the above to incite small but violent EUR and ES short covering rallies). However, as we have been observing for the past 3 years, and as David Einhorn summarized visually, nothing will come out of this latest summit. JPM explains why the one thing that can save Europe is a non-starter, and will be for years.
- How original: Syria prints new money as deficit grows (Reuters)- America is not Syria
- Former SNB head Hildebrand to become BlackRock vice chairman (FT)
- Osborne says Greece may have to quit euro (Reuters)
- Osborne Risks the Wrath of Merkel (FT)
- China second-quarter GDP growth may dip below 7 percent - government adviser (Reuters)
- Italian Borrowing Costs Surge at Auction of 1-Year Bills (Bloomberg)
- Greeks withdraw cash ahead of cliffhanger vote (Reuters)
- Merkel’s Choice Pits European Fate Against German Voter Interest (Bloomberg)
- Italy Tax Increases Backfire as Monti Tightens Belts (Bloomberg)
- Dimon says JPMorgan failed to rein in traders (Reuters)
If yesterday was a repeat of the market action from that day three weeks ago before the last FinMin conference, when everyone expected Germany to announce it had agreed to a bank deposit guarantee, then today is, logically, day after. Because just like back then, so now, Germany has once again made it clear that it will first see the EUR crushed, and all off Europe begging for a bailout (as in the case of Spain - when presented with reality, they all will beg the one with the cash to come to the rescue). To wit from the German Finance Minister, via Stern magazine:
- Schaeuble Rejects European Redemption Fund: Stern Magazine
- German finance minister says redemption fund would violate EU treaties, in interview with Stern magazine
With all the buzz about the 'Fiscal Cliff' – that toxic combination of tax increases and spending cuts due to take hold in a few months – the subject of ongoing Federal budget deficits has fallen by the wayside. ConvergEx's Nic Colas believes that’s a temporary phenomenon, for Congress will have to hammer out agreements to raise the debt ceiling right alongside its negotiations over the 'Cliff' items. His back-of-the-envelope attempt to quantify how much a multi-year debt limit increase would run to take this burdensome legislative issue off the Congressional docket for 5, 10 or even 20 years is worrisome at best with a $3.4 trillion for the 5-year runway, but this assumes a high level of incremental taxation. The number could be as high as $4.5 trillion. As for the longer time horizon debt runways, think in terms of an incremental $6.5 -9.5 billion for a 10 and 20 year horizon. And without significant changes to taxes and/or spending, more. Much more. We cannot help but think about Paul Krugman as we ponder these numbers. His recent book, End this Depression Now, proposes that “A quick, strong recovery is just one step away, if our leaders can find the intellectual clarity and political will to end this depression now.” This “One step” is deficit spending that is orders of magnitude greater than anything spent already. We have no idea if he really believes any of this, since it is politically impossible, but he does have a Nobel (though so did the guys at LTCM).
While it will come as no surprise to ZeroHedge readers (as we discussed why LTRO3 is not coming here and here), it would appear that the ability to turn worthless assets into useful liquidity via a raft of collateralized lending operations with the ECB is at an end. As Fitch's, MD of financial institutions Bridget Gandy just confirmed: "Some of the European banks are becoming short on collateral to pledge with the ECB, unless they can delever and sell some of their assets, which is difficult." Of course this means the banks that need the facilities the most are now in dire need to sell assets and delever further exaggerating the vicious circle in Europe's symbiotic banking-sovereign relationship. Without postable collateral, there can be no more help from the ECB to the banks and thus any further banking system help will further subordinate the sovereign (hence our call to swap into non-local law bonds) since it will necessarily need to be funneled through them (a la Spain). Once more the ball ends up in Bernanke's lap.
We are just about 16 hours away from Jamie Dimon's sworn testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, which even has the theatrical name: "A Breakdown in Risk Management: What Went Wrong at JPMorgan Chase?" Will anyone learn anything? Of course not: Jamie Dimon has been well-schooled in not disclosing critical trading information, and will certainly use the "proprietary position" and "more shareholder losses" excuse for any directed question asking how big the JPM CIO loss has become. Because while the hearing could have been productive, if indeed its purpose was to seek to prevent future massive losses of scale such as the suffered by the JPM prop trading unit and its hundreds of billions in CDS notional position, the last thing anyone will care about tomorrow is market efficiency and actual regulation. First and foremost: grandstanding and posturing, in the case of the politicians, and not disclosing anything, without saying too many "I don't recall"s in the case of Dimon. Which is why we have little hope to get anything out of tomorrow's formulaic 2 hours of largely meaningless droning. That said, considering we have already covered the topic of the JPM loss from a mechanistic standpoint more than any other media outlet, there is one more chart we would like to share with readers.
Presenting JPMorgan's CEO Jamie Dimon's prepared remarks for tomorrow's debacle: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the totally unvarnished version of the truth that will fulfill Jamie Dimon's obligations to sit through a few hours of snide remarks, condescension, and bating. It does seem however that our initial perspective on this being a systemic risk hedge (i.e. a 'delta-hedged' senior tranche position as opposed to some easily managed and understood pairs trade) that rapidly grew out of control due to risk control inadequacies, is absolutely correct - though we suspect that is as close to the real truth anyone will ever get.