Two weeks ago we reported the somewhat surprising news that according to the FT, current Bank of Canada head, and former co-head of sovereign risk at Goldman Sachs had been "informally" approached by the Bank of England to be Mervyn King's replacement when the latter's contract runs out in June 2013. Once the news broke, the tenuous arrangement to have a former-Goldmanite at virtually every single developed world central bank seemed to have hit a snag as both the Bank of Canada and Carney himself were forced to deny that any interest by the BOE had been expressed. Of course, what was missing from the public discourse is that this was likely one of those "reverse inquiry" type of career moves, whereby the candidate himself, or rather the employing firm - in this case Goldman Sachs, makes the decision whether or not the candidate would be suitable to head the Goldman subsidiary known as the Bank of England. Which is why it is with even less surprise that we now learn that it is none other than the firm's most permabullish strategist Jim O'Neill, who after coining the globalist wet-dream term "BRIC" was sent in exile to chair the firm's worst performing division, GS Asset Management, that is rumored to be the latest replacement for Mervyn King.
As we noted this morning, the perfect 'reality-check' storm hit Europe this morning and with Draghi dismissing hope for more printing and nationalism raising its ugly specter, broad European equity markets made nearly their largest drop in five months. With the BE500 (Europe's S&P 500 equivalent) at three-month lows and Spain's IBEX within a few points of the March 2009 lows, things are becoming critical once again. Spanish yields jumped back over 6% but Italian spreads actually underperformed on the day +14bps vs Spain +12bps as Holland 5Y CDS blew past 130bps to near crisis-peak levels - leaving GDP-weighted European sovereign risk at three-month highs. The LTRO Stigma has broken above 150bps for the first time since before the LTRO as the realization of the implicit subordination of LTRO-encumbered banks is crushing unsecured bond-holders (on average trading at 350bps near four-month wides). EUR-USD basis swaps deteriorated a little remaining near their worst levels in three months but EURUSD remains miraculously just above 1.31 (though almost 100 pips off Friday's close) as repatriation flows are not helping correlation-driven algos in the US anymore.
The last two weeks have seen the market's perception of the risk of Europe's 'firewall' rise at its fastest rate in six months (the peak of the crisis). At 142bps wider than Bunds, EFSF bonds now trade at their widest in three months and look set to break out to peak-crisis levels. We are sure the Japanese will still back-up-the-truck at the next issuance of self-referential ponzi bonds, but not only is the credit risk of this staggering CDO rising fast, as Bloomberg notes, the market's anticipation of the PPCs (Partial Protection Certificates), that - akin to CDS - provide an uncollateralized protection for 'some' of the potential losses investors may face in buying sovereign debt at issuance, is dreary at best and "not something that appears immediately hugely attractive". CDS already trade on these bonds and the only willing players taking advantage of that market in size are the basis traders currently; as real money "will buy peripheral bonds outright, because they’re attractive enough, or they won’t buy them at all, and financial engineering [is not] necessarily going to change that dynamic.” Just as we have again and again pointed out, the reality is that investors have seen through these self-guaranteed and 'irrelevantly convoluted' attempts to kick the can and Draghi's rejection of the IMF-Geithner calls for more crisis-fighting (as noted by Bloomberg this evening) - arguing that they have done enough by cutting rates and issuing bank loans, perhaps reflects a Europe that knows it is on the brink. This was further reinforced by the Bundesbank's Joachim Nagel, who, in a moment of sublime reality-awareness, ruled out any direct EFSF 'help' to the banks "as that would pass on the risk of a bank bailout to all European taxpayers" - but why does Geithner care so much - we thought US banks were 'safe' and unexposed to Europe (eh Jamie?).
On The Goldman Path To Complete World Domination: Mark Carney On His Way To Head The Bank Of England?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/17/2012 17:44 -0500
Back in November we penned "The Complete And Annotated Guide To The European Bank Run (Or The Final Phase Of Goldman's World Domination Plan)" in which we described what the long-term reality of Europe, not that interrupted by the occasional transitory LTRO cash injection and other stop-gap central bank measure, would look like. And yet there was one piece missing: after Goldman unceremoniously set up its critical plants in Italy via Mario Monti and the ECB via Mario Draghi, one key target of Goldman domination was still missing. The place? Why the center of the entire modern infinitely rehypothecatable financial system of course: England, which may have 1,000x consolidated debt/GDP, but at least it can repledge any asset in perpetuity thus giving the world the impression it is solvent (no wonder AIG, MF Global, and now the CME are scrambling to operate out of there). Which is why we read with little surprise that none other than former Goldmanite, and current head of the Bank of Canada, is on his way to the final frontier: the Bank of England.
It will come as no surprise that the Spanish 'experiment' with the euro is not going well. Spain now relies more heavily on the ECB than at any time and today's bill auction sums up all that is wrong about our financial markets when an event that absolutely should be expected to be a non-event (a sovereign nation selling a small amount of short-dated debt) becomes a catalyst for algorithmic excess. In perhaps the greatest analogy for today's auction, Micheal Cembalest pronounces "throughout my career, central banks having to buy or finance sovereign debt to avoid a debt crisis was like going to the prom with your sister: there’s something very unnerving about it, even though it looks normal from a distance." It did not take long for the honeymoon following LTRO2 to end and despite today's exuberance, Italian and Spanish equity markets (as well as financial credits) have collapsed as Spain's sovereign risk has skyrocketed. While Spanish bank holdings of Spanish govvies, ECB lending to Spanish banks, and Spanish credit risk are surging so is one other much more worrisome fundamental trend - that of corporate non-performing loans. Dismissing the dichotomous relationship between consumer and residential delinquency calmness relative to unemployment's explosion (much as the market has in its pricing of bank stocks), the JPM CIO remains underweight Europe arguing that while contrarian calls are often the most profitable, this time being underweight European equities is the gift that keeps on giving.
The Bonds in Spain will drain without restrain showing utter disdain for the Euro domain. Research that Rhymes!!!
We have been warning of the uncomfortable current similarities to last year's (and for that matter cycle after cycle) high-yield credit underperformance / lagging behavior 'canary-in-the-coalmine' relative to the exuberant equity market for a month now. Now, Bank of America provides - in two succinct charts - the fundamental underpinning of this grave concern as across the high-yield credit universe revenues are not catching up with costs - creating significant margin pressures - and at the end of the day, a market that cares more for cash flow sustainability than the latest headline or quarter EPS upgrade from some sell-side pen-pusher is waving a red-flag as margins are the lowest they have been since March 2009 and is falling at a much faster clip than in the fall of 2008 as the reality of money-printing comes home to roost. And just to add salt to this fundamental wound, technicals are starting to hurt as supply picks up and 'opportunistic' issuance turns notably heavy - perhaps helping to explain how the ongoing inflows have been unable to push prices further up in the US. Lastly European high yield is trading tick-for-tick with sovereign risk still - as it has since the middle of last year and so as LTRO-funded carry fades, we would expect it to underperform - especially as austerity slows growth.
The sad reality of an austerity induced slowdown in Europe and an ESFS/ESM as useful as a chocolate fire-guard seems to be creeping into risk asset premia across Europe (and implicitly the US). GGB2s are all trading back under EUR20 (that is 20% of par), Sovereign yields and spreads are leaking wider despite the best efforts of their respective banks to back-up-the-truck in the 'ultimate all-in trade' and the LTRO Stigma has reached record levels as LTRO-encumbered banks' credit spreads are the worst in over two months. Spanish sovereign spreads are back at early January levels and with Italian yields comfortably back over 5% and the bonds starting to reality-check back towards the much less sanguine CDS market. It seems apparent that much of the liquidity-fixing LTRO benefits are now being washed away as investors realize nothing has changed and in fact things are considerably worse now given encumbrance and subordination concerns and the increased contagion risk that the LTRO and the Sarkozy trade has created.
Germany's recent 'agreement' to expand Europe's fire department (as Goldman euphemestically describes the EFSF/ESM firewall) seems to confirm the prevailing policy view that bigger 'firewalls' would encourage investors to buy European sovereign debt - since the funding backstop will prevent credit shocks spreading contagiously. However, as Francesco Garzarelli notes today, given the Euro-area's closed nature (more than 85% of EU sovereign debt is held by its residents) and the increased 'interconnectedness' of sovereigns and financials (most debt is now held by the MFIs), the risk of 'financial fires' spreading remains high. Due to size limitations (EFSF/ESM totals would not be suggicient to cover the larger markets of Italy and Spain let alone any others), Seniority constraints (as with Greece, the EFSF/ESM will hugely subordinate existing bondholders should action be required, exacerbating rather than mitigating the crisis), and Governance limitations (the existing infrastructure cannot act pre-emptively and so timing - and admission of crisis - could become a limiting factor), it is unlikely that a more sustained realignment of rate differentials (with their macro underpinnings) can occur (especially at the longer-end of the curve). The re-appearance of the Redemption Fund idea (akin to Euro-bonds but without the paperwork) is likely the next step in countering reality.
Since Draghi's second savior LTRO, European markets have been flip-flopping gradually lower. These four charts do not seem to suggest a market that is confident about tail-risk containment, sovereign firewalls, or an orderly restructuring by Greece. Sovereign spreads are broadly higher (Spain, France, and Portugal the most), CDS spreads are underperforming (as protection is sought and CDS seen having value as a hedge), non-financial and financial credit is notably weaker, LTRO Stigma remains notably wide, stocks are broadly lower, and the EURUSD is back at 'fair' with its swap spreads (removing its over-pessimism). There has been no change in the price trends for UK-law versus Greek-law GGBs (i.e. noone believes this is over) and even if it were, a renewed focus on growth is hardly a market positive given lending trends and macro prints in Europe recently.
"Emotions exceeding known parameters cause extreme events, such as stock market booms and busts. They are self-reinforcing spirals upward and especially downward that, once established, keep diverging from equilibrium until the driving forces fade or stronger counter forces reverse them. Ever-increasing desires for accumulating ever greater wealth faster and faster ignited a credit bubble that spiralled upwards until it burst in 2007 from a lack of new borrowers. The multi decade credit bubble and its bursting were extreme events. No model recognized the credit bubble or its collapse and no model is giving any indication of the plethora of problems now brewing in Europe."
Analysts are questioning the "double-down effect" the ECB's LTRO exercises are creating in eurozone sovereign spreads. Citi notes a spike in the purchase of government securities since the initial take-up in December.
Here's concrete proof of a mass European bank run. If you missed it, don't worry - there'll be plenty more from where these came from...
As the ECB supposedly takes it foot off the gas, and EU Summits and 'events' loom large for the careening wagon of shared sacrifice, unity, and sovereign risk, perhaps it is the nodding donkeys of Greek and Italian technocrats juxtaposed with Ireland's feistier "R" word gambit (and of course Zee German Overlords) that makes Art Cashin reflect somewhat philosophically on recent headlines. Their stereotypical interpretation has him concerned as the potential for ever-increasing culture clashes increases across the pond as sour memories and generational hatreds abound.