Following another weekend of consistently disappointing news on the latest and greatest bailout front, where the #1 question of just who funds the €560 billion EFSF hole remains unanswered, it is not surprising that the EURUSD has entered the pre-market session modestly lower. If China continues to posture as it has over the last 48 hours, expect this to trend lower as Asia wakes up, with the only possible saving grace the fear that weak-hand residual EUR shorts, which as noted on Friday remain at stubbornly high levels, may cover on any slide.
A few days ago China telegraphed it refuses to continue to be seen as the world's rescuer and the dumbest money in the room. Many assumed China was only kidding: after all how would China let its biggest export partner flounder? And furthermore, all China does is provide vendor financing, right? Well, as it turns out, wrong, because to China the current state of Europe is far from the terminal crisis Europe is trying to make it appear. This is happening even as a thoroughly desperate and grovelling Europe, kneepads armed and ready, has said via the EFSF's Regling that it will even consider issuing Yuan-denominated bonds. Alas, China is less than impressed. As AFP reports, "China’s state media Sunday warned that the country will not be a “savior” to Europe, as President Hu Jintao left for an official visit to the region including a G20 summit. Hu’s visit has raised hopes that cash-rich China might make a firm commitment to the European bailout fund, but in a commentary, the official Xinhua news agency said Europe must address its own financial woes. “China can neither take up the role as a savior to the Europeans, nor provide a ‘cure’ for the European malaise. “Obviously, it is up to the European countries themselves to tackle their financial problems,” it said, adding that China could only do so “within its capacity to help as a friend." A friend, who at this point is quite sensible, and realizes far better deals are to be had down the line if one merely waits. That said, we are certain China is not the only one out there with an instant notification pending the second Santorini, Ibiza or the Isle of Capri hits E-bay.
With the question of who will fund the majority of the EFSF, or the €560 billion of the €1 trillion, still outstanding, and with China no longer the slam dunk "dumb money" everyone had expected it to be, Europe turns to the next biggest beneficiary of maintaining the ponzi - the entire G20 itself. Below is the letter just sent out from the two Eurostooges in which they make it all too clear that money talks, or Europe walks. "We will implement these measures rigorously and in a timely manner, and we are confident that they will contribute to the swift resolution of the crisis. However, whilst we in Europe will play our part, this cannot alone ensure global recovery and rebalanced growth. There is a continued need for joint action by all G20 partners in a spirit of common responsibility and common purpose." Too bad Bernie Madoff went to jail before he could send out comparable letters to his own investors who by implication would have become "voluntary partners" with a gun to their head.
The job market is terrible, and the situation isn’t getting any better. So where will the new jobs be coming from?
Recent anecdotal evidence out of Asia suggests that the flight training received by some civilian airline pilots is based entirely on the aircraft's autopilot functions. Recall that an autopilot is a mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic system used to guide a vehicle without assistance from a human being. This deficiency in their training has been revealed in a most disconcerting fashion: when the aircraft's autopilot malfunctions, the pilots do not know how to actually fly the airplane. In other words, pilots are not actually trained to fly aircraft, i.e. to know how the aircraft responds in real time to actual human intervention/control; they're trained to monitor and manage the autopilot system which does the actual flying. This is a precise analogy for the European Union's leadership: they don't know how the financial system actually works, they only know how to follow the banking system's autopilot. Now that the financial system's autopilot has been fried, they are clueless and increasingly panicky: what does this lever do? Why is the stick so sluggish? We're losing power... there must be an auxiliary power switch, like in Star Trek... Good God, doesn't anyone know how to actually fly this thing? Sadly, the answer is no. The EU leadership, just like that of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government, only know how to blindly follow the system's autopilot program: increase leverage and debt, keep interest rates low so everyone (and every nation) with a pulse can increase their debt load, and let high-frequency trading (HFT) programs goose the stock market ever higher.
While only the market, and no one else, seems to have a grasp on the unknown unknowns in the Eurozone crisis, and has voted two toes up, despite really having no clue what is coming for Europe, here is a report from Exclusive-Analysis that summarizes the known unknowns, and comes up with a bleak conclusion: "We remain very doubtful that the relative optimism that has followed the EU summit will last. Last time, the 10th of October, following a Berlusconi announcement of austerity in the previous week, it took markets only a few days to distinguish between the detail of what was agreed and the more optimistic principles that were announced." So as everyone scrambles to figure out what is still missing from European bailout plan, perhaps focus on what is already present, because if that is any indication, the Thursday rally is nothing but yet another confirmation of just how broken the market as a discounting mechanism truly is.
Two days ago we noted that foreigners are selling US paper at a record pace, whether to raise capital in a locked out liquidity environment like French banks, or to make a politicial statement, like China. Today we get the first confirmation to this from Norway's Sovereign Wealth fund, best known for its prediction that it would buy and hold Greek bonds in perpetuity back in September 2010. Just recall: "Norway has taken the view that [Greek bonds] will not [default]. The Greek holdings are particularly interesting because the consensus in the market is that they will at some point restructure or default." Well, about a year later it is now official that the best the Norway SWF can hope for is a 50% recovery. So what does it do? It proceeds to dump US paper. Mortgage Backed Securities first. Because if it announced that a sovereign wealth fund instead of buying into the biggest ponzi ever, we finally defecting from it, then all bets would be of. Bloomberg reports: "Norway’s $570 billion sovereign wealth fund sold all its holdings in U.S. mortgage-backed securities as part of a shift of its fixed-income portfolio.“We’ve reduced our holdings of mortgage-backed securities,” he said. “MBS has been taken out of our internal policy benchmark. This means that we don’t have mortgage-backed securities issued by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae any longer." The stated reason for the dump: prepayment risk: "The debt was sold primarily because of the refinancing risk, he said. In the U.S., when a borrower refinances a mortgage it can cut short the maturity of the bond backed by the loan and reduce the expected interest over time, so-called prepayment risk." The real reason? Why shoring up capital of course. "The fund held 36 billion kroner ($6.6 billion) in bonds from Fannie Mae at the end of the second quarter and 11.5 billion kroner from Freddie Mac at the start of the year." And with the Fed telling us that almost $100 billion in US bonds and MBS having been sold in the past two months, one can be absolutely certain that i) it is not just MBS and ii) it is not just Norway.
1/4 of us gets sick every year from the food we eat.
What do you get when the producer of the world's reserve currency takes on too much debt? Nothing less than the end of the US Treasury-based monetary system. So says Eric Jansen, economic and financial market analyst and proprietor of iTulip.com. In chronicling the decline of the global economy over the past decade, Eric has formulated a framework called the "Ka-POOM" theory, which endeavors to understand how the immense run-up in global debt will be resolved. In short, it looks at the at the credit bubble that began in the early 1980's, started accelerating in 1995, and has now reached epic proportions. The amounts are so staggering at this stage that Eric believes it is too politically undesirable to let natural market adjustments clear them away - the magnitude of the deflationary pain this would create is simply unacceptable for politicians looking to get re-elected. The only other available option left is to service these debts via a dramatically devalued currency. Hence the key role the Fed is playing today. The Fed is at the epicenter of this process, intervening heavily to keep the natural corrective market forces at bay. In this, it has a dual strategy. The first is to keep asset prices high (i.e., fight asset deflation), which it is doing by keeping interest rates historically low. The second is to keep wage and commodity costs under control, which it primarily does via devaluing the currency (maintaining a "weak dollar"). And, of course, through its intervention, the Fed is doing all it can to keep the current financial system in place to perpetuate the process for as long as possible. The end result is a fundamental shift in risk from Wall Street to the taxpayer.
Your one stop, comprehensive summary of the main bullish and bearish events in the past week.
I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to be visiting Tokyo while the Japanese yen is at its all-time, historic high. My timing couldn’t possibly be worse. For reasons that are completely incomprehensible, the yen is still viewed as a stable ‘safe haven’ currency despite four completely hopeless black marks:
1) Japan’s public debt puts other bankrupt nations to shame. As a percentage of GDP (225%), Japan’s debt is more than twice as bad as the United States.
2) The political situation in Japan is anything BUT stable. Japan has blown through 6 prime ministers and 9 finance ministers since 2006. And every one of them was a failure.
3) Social demographics are a ticking time bomb. Both life expectancy AND average age in Japan are higher than just about anywhere else on the planet… and the country has neither the work force nor the financial resources to support the massive waves of retirees that are coming.
4) Oh yeah, Japan’s economy hasn’t actually grown in two decades. No biggie.
Despite these obvious headwinds, though, the market is telling us that Japan is the safe place to be right now. And as a result, prices here are just plain stupid.
Here is the basic problem and why Italian and Spanish bonds are getting crushed again today (ignoring horrific unemployment data out of Spain). If Italy defaults with a 40% recovery, there is 1.613 trillion euro of debt affected (that is up about 10 billion in about a month). That means creditors would lose 970 trillion. Spain with 663 billion would cost almost 400 billion (its debt has shot up about 15 billion in a month). The problem is that EFSF doesn't take default off the table. It may delay the time to default (by helping roll debts as they mature), but all it mainly does is shift who would take the loss. The guarantors can't handle losses that big. There is no "ideal" solution because the problem is just an order of magnitude too large to provide any real help. Either the economies are going to get to balanced budgets (some combination of growth and cuts) or it will fail. Will EFSF do enough to see if the economies can get there?
Now that the kneejerk euphoria, in which nobody had done any work, confirming that the only thing worse than a clueless Europe is an even more clueless market, over the non-bailout has ended, here is the hangover, courtesy of Tullett Prebon.
- Sarkozy Sees More Budget Cuts to Save France’s AAA Rating as Growth Slows (Bloomberg)
- EU Crisis Deal Buys Time for Greece: Papandreou (Bloomberg)
- California Proposes to Curtail Workers’ Benefits (WSJ)
- FINRA brokerage oversight group misled regulators, SEC charges (WaPo)
- Greece Will Leave Euro Even With Pact: Rogoff (Bloomberg)
- Italian banks cool to demand for more capital (FT)
- EU Crisis Resolution Critical to Obama 2012 Bid (Bloomberg)