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A Modest Proposal To Boost US GDP By $852 Quadrillion: Build The Imperial Death Star

Since at this point US society is irrevocably split into two camps, on one hand those who believe Keynesian propaganda, where the only cure for unsustainable debt is more debt, and on the other those who believe that a return to a gold standard is the only way to prevent an epic socio-political collapse, also known in official US circles as "extremists", and since we know that the status quo will never let the latter get their way without a fight (quite literally and quite violently), it is only logical that 'if you can't beat them you have to join them'. In which case we believe that instead of breaking windows, or starting wars, or even expecting a growth boosting alien invasion that would lead to a surge in GDP that may or may not come, one should not only go for broke, but do so in style. As such we propose that the US, already the world's most expansionist and aggressive foreign policy power, not like there is anything wrong with that of course - it is all for the sake of liberating oppressed foreign oil, should one up itself and build the true symbol of its contemporary socio-historical status: the Imperial Death Star. Yet the real benefit in addition to blowing up various alien world that refuse to bail out the world's central bank confederacy, is that the cost of construction of said Keynesian masterpiece, would be an epic $852 quadrillion, which in turn would go straight to US GDP.

Behold The Greek Debt Slavery "To Do" Checklist Permitting It To Bail Out Europe's Insolvent Banks

Yesterday, in our daily list of shocking discoveries of just how far forward Greece is willing to bend over, we realized that not only will Greece not receive a penny (or is that a drachma?) from Europe, but it itself will have to fund the European bank bailout via a Greek-funded Escrow account. In today's 'insult to rape' chronicles, we discover that before Greece is even given permission to bail out Europe's banks, its creditors first demand that the province of Bavaria Sachs, formerly known as Greece, satisfy a checklist of 38 specific conditions, which the now fully colonized nation will have to complete before the end of the month (so in about 5 days), before it is permitted to transfer taxpayer cash to French, German, Italian and Spanish banks. How anyone, even the world's most degraded debt slave, is willing to subject themselves to such humiliation is simply inconceivable.

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The financial world is awash with theories as to how significant the Second Greek Bailout is. I’m far less concerned with this (the Bailout accomplishes nothing of import and only puts off the coming Greek default by a short period). Instead, I think it much more important to ascertain the true exposure to Greek sovereign debt. And what better place to start than the banking system of the one country that is playing hardball with Greece during this latest round of negotiations: Germany.

'Til Debt Did Europe Part

'All is not resolved' is how Morgan Stanley's Arnaud Mares begins his latest diatribe on the debacle that is occurring in Europe. While a disorderly default seems to have been avoided (for now), the Greek problem (as we have discussed extensively) remains unsolved as debt sustainability seems questionable at best, economic recovery a remote hope, and the growing political tensions across Europe (and its people) grow wider. Critically, Mares addresses the seeming complacency towards a Greek exit from the euro area noting that it is no small matter and has dramatic consequences (specifically a la Lehman, the unintended consequences could be catastrophic). Greece (or another nation) leaving the Euro invites concerns over the fungibility of bank deposits across weak and strong nations and with doubt over the Euro, the EU could collapse as free-trade broke down. The key is that, just as in the US downgrade case last year, a Euro-exit implies the impossible is possible and the impact of such an event is much, much higher than most seem to realize. While the likelihood of a Greek euro-exit may remain low (for now), the scale of the impact makes this highly material and suggests the EU will do whatever it takes (print?) within their mandates to hold the status quo. For all practical purposes, it would be the end of the euro as a genuine single currency and to preserve the euro if Greece left would require total federalism in the rest of the area.

Guest Post: When Risk Is Disconnected From Consequence, The System Itself Is At Risk

Since the system itself has disconnected risk from consequence with backstops, guarantees and illusory claims of financial security, then it is has lost the essential feedback required to adapt to changing circumstances. As the risk being transferred to the system rises geometrically, the system is incapable of recognizing, measuring or assessing the risk being transferred until it is so large it overwhelms the system in a massive collapse/default. The consortium has only two ways to create the illusion of solvency when the punter's $100 million bet goes bad: borrow $100 million from credulous possessors of capital or counterfeit it on a printing press. These are precisely the strategies being pursued by central banks and states around the globe. BUt since risk remains disconnected from gain/loss, then capital and risk both remain completely mispriced. Risk is being transferred to the entire global financial system at a fantastic rate, because counterfeiting money or borrowing it on this scale to cover losses creates new self-reinforcing feedbacks of risk....At some unpredictable stick/slip point, the accumulated risk will cause the system to implode like a supernova star.

Europe's Nash Equilibrium - A Tightly Stretched Rubber Band?

In the ongoing 'game of chicken' in Europe (playing out between the core and the periphery as the main two players) it appears we are once again at a point of inflection in the Nash Equilibrium that exists only in the minds of the Eurogroup leaders. As Credit Suisse notes, the continued existence of the Euro will hugely depend on the incentive structure of its members to defend it (and implicitly this means costs and retaliations - downsides - must be appreciated and allocated). These incentives evolve through time (and interventions can have unintended consequences) and brinksmanship and threats (Greece's referendum comments for instance) can improve outcomes in the short-term. Most importantly, it seems the market is among the best mediators to 'fix' each player's action and outcome but each intervention reduces that effect, 'time becomes money' as costs are increasing through procrastination. This leaves the asymmetric interests of the players (remember how exposed the core is to the periphery?) likely to increase break-up risks with Credit Suisse seeing the logical and intended consequence 'an increase in stress' - with either a 'catastrophic' break-up (or member exit) or a long, painful and volatile continuation of the crisis that can only be slowly improved by some type of inter-European enforceable contract. The more intervention, the lower the immediate impact of inaction and the higher the pent-up volatility in the system before threats are taken seriously (or consequences admitted).

Greek 1 Year Hits 763%

If it seems like it was only 5 days ago that Greek bonds could be had for the blockbuster yield of 638%, it is because it was As of today, the same bond was yielding an even more ridiculous 763% (and remember when the MSM fluffers were telling you to buy these at the bargain basement yield of 100% in September 2011?). This price has nothing to do with the Fitch action on the country which is irrelevant, and all to do with the fact that, as noted previously, the cash coupon on the post-reorg bonds was cut once again, this time from 3.6% to just 2%, and the current price on non UK-law bonds is merely indicative of the cash on cash return investors in these bonds expect to make. It also means that the market expects a redefault in just about 1 year. And yes, we realize that at bond prices in the high teens, the yield curve is absolutely meaningless but it is still highly entertaining to watch as Greek bond yields are about to hit quadruple digits, which in itself is very indicative of the recoveries one can expect in a global sovereign ponzi, and yet the powers that be tell us this is a perfectly normal phenomenon, i.e., there is no default, and thus there is no reason to hedge for it. Alas, the whole world has gone mad.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: February 22

The softer PMI reports have weighed on risk markets, which as a result saw equities trade lower throughout the session. In addition to that, market participants continued to fret over the latest Greek debt swap proposals, which according to the Greek CAC bill will give bond holders at least 10 days to decide on new bond terms following the public invitation, and the majority required to change bond terms is set at 2/3 of represented bond holders. Looking elsewhere, EUR/USD spot is flat, while GBP/USD is trading sharply lower after the latest BoE minutes revealed that BoE's Posen and Miles voted for GBP 75bln increase in APF. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest Housing data from the US, as well as the USD 35bln 5y note auction by the US Treasury.

Frontrunning: February 22

  • Obama Administration Said Set to Release Corporate Tax-Rate Plan Today (Bloomberg, WSJ)
  • Greece races to meet bail-out demands (FT)
  • IAEA ‘disappointed’ in Iran nuclear talks (FT)
  • Hilsenrath: Fed Writes Sweeping Rules From Behind Closed Doors (WSJ)
  • Fannie-Freddie Plan, Sweden FSA, Trader Suspects, CDO Lawsuit: Compliance (Bloomberg)
  • Bank of England’s Bean Says Greek Deal Doesn’t End Disorderly Outcome Risk (Bloomberg)
  • Greece Second Bailout Plan an ‘Important Step,’ Treasury’s Brainard Says (Bloomberg)
  • Shanghai Eases Home Purchase Restrictions (Bloomberg)

Sentiment Weaker Following Euroarea PMI Contraction, Refutation Of "Technical Recession"

January's hopium catchphrase of the month was that Europe's recession would be "technical" which is simply a euphemism for our Fed's beloved word - "transitory." Based on the just released Euroarea PMI, we can scratch this Euro-accented "transitory" addition to the lexicon, because contrary to expectations that the Euroarea composite PMI would show expansion at 50.5, instead it came out at 49.7 - the manufacturing PMI was 49.0 on Exp of 49.4, while the Services PMI was 49.4, on hopes of expansion at 50.6, which as Reuters notes suggests that firms are still cutting prices to drum up business and reducing workforces to cut costs. This was accompanied by a overnight contraction in China, where the flash manufacturing PMI rose modestly from 48.8, but was again in contraction at 49.7. We would not be surprised if this is merely the sacrifice the weakest lamb in the pack in an attempt to get crude prices lower. So far this has failed to dent WTI much if at all following rapidly escalating Iran tensions. What is curious is that Germany and France continue to do far better than the rest of the Eurozone - just as America has decoupled from Europe, so apparently have Germany and France. This too is surely "sustainable."

Guest Post: The Great Repression

Highly paid shills for the status quo on Wall Street have recently been wheeled out to observe the fundamental ugliness of western government bonds. They are correct. This is an asset class that has managed to defy the laws of economics in becoming ever more expensive even as its supply swells. Their response has been to recommend piling into stocks instead. The logic here is not so pristine. If Napier's thesis is correct, the West faces a period of outright deflation, which will be deeply traumatic for exactly the sort of speculative stocks that have lately done so well. Admittedly, the picture is confused, and prone to all sorts of political horseplay, as observers of the long-running euro zone farce can attest. Nevertheless, when faced with a) huge underlying uncertainties; b) structurally unsound banking and government finances; and c) central banks determinedly priming the monetary pumps, we conclude that the last free lunch in investment markets remains diversification. G7 government bond markets are a waste of time (though you may end up being cattle-prodded into them regardless). But there are still investment grade sovereign markets offering positive real yields. Stock markets are partying like 1999. Which, in many cases, it probably is. We would normally advise to enjoy the party but dance near the door.

IIF's Dallara Warns Holdout Greek Bondholders Could Kill "Successful" Greek Deal

To all those who stayed up until 6 am local time yesterday to hear Europe announce that the Greek deal is done, Europe is fixed, and that a pot of gold was found at the end of the rainbow, our condolences. Sorry, no isn't. Following up on our earlier post about the potential of UK-law bondholders to once again scuttle the deal, here comes none other than the IIF's Charles Dallara who basically says that the fate of Greece, the Euro, and the Eurozone, are in the hands of Greek creditors as we have been cautioning all along. And after all why on earth would hedge funds who just lost over 70% of their recoveries bear a grudge whatsoever...

Guest Post: Scale Invariant Behaviour In Avalanches, Forest Fires, And Default Cascades: Lessons For Public Policy

We have lived through a long period of financial management, in which failing financial institutions have been propped up by emergency intervention (applied somewhat selectively). Defaults have not been permitted. The result has been a tremendous build-up of paper ripe for burning. Had the fires of default been allowed to burn freely in the past we may well have healthier financial institutions. Instead we find our banks loaded up with all kinds of flammable paper products; their basements stuffed with barrels of black powder. Trails of black powder run from bank to bank, and it's raining matches.

For Greece, "Tomorrow" Has Arrived

The day dawns with a deal for Greece that is full of smoke and mirrors; lies and deceptions. It is a deal pretty much as expected and, as I have said before, now the realities are going to be confronted. Europe has spun the agreement and the Euro has rallied some and the S&P futures are up but the next few weeks, I am afraid, will hold some serious disappointments. The page turns today because now we are about to confront not what is told to us but the actuality of what has been presented to us and just what will happen as a result.