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German Foreign Minister: "I Don't Want A German Europe... I Want A European Germany"

With nothing but mute silence out of Germany in the aftermath of last night's "historic" Greek vote, the EURUSD is getting nervous trading down to just above 1.3200 minutes ago, well below the level reached last night following the passage in the Greek parliament of the vote with 199 out of 300 votes. As such, everyone is starved for some clues of what Merkel and Germany thinks at this point - will they simply leave Greece to flounder, by demanding even more "reality" and implementation of measures from the first bailout - something Greece obviously can not do? Or will Germany relent for at least one more payment (of €210 billion). We don't know, at least not yet. But the following Spiegel interview with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle may provide some insight. The key part: "Q. The second aid package will presumably be more expensive than anticipated, partly because the Greeks haven't kept their promises. How much longer will the German public put up with this?...Westerwelle: It's undoubtedly a moment of truth for Greece. If a sustainable and correct course is set in Athens now, Greece can expect our support -- but only then. There will be no more advance payments. Only actions count now." Like we said, hardly the ringing endorsement people expect. Then there's this: " I am more than dissatisfied with the political impasse in Greece in recent weeks. I'm also addressing the German opposition when I say this: You can't solve a debt crisis by constantly incurring new debts." And yet that is precisely what Bailout 2 is doing as we have patiently explained over and over. Yet Guido said something else which may be of interest to everyone else in Europe: "I don't want a German Europe. Q. What do you want? A. A European Germany." Aaaand, enter lost in translation interpretations.

Guest Post: The First Dominoes: Greece, Reality, And Cascading Default

Greece is the epicenter of a drama that threatens to unwind with all the intrigue and subterfuge of ancient Greek myths and tragedies. As with the legend of Icarus, big, and now bigger, transnational banks provoked the gods with their wax-and-feather financial fabrications to create the appearance of soaring wealth. Now that they have flown too close to the sun and their wings have melted, these banks are being brought to earth by the obligations and consequences imposed by their fabrications. Rather than take responsibility, these banks seek to appease the gods by sacrificing taxpayers. In fact, if one looks closely, these banks aspire to be gods themselves. They clothe themselves in their indispensability and shield themselves from accountability with tales about how many innocent citizens will be hurt if they don’t get their next bailout. It is as if they say, “We are above the law… We are the law.” Mathematics, legal enforcement, restraint, humility all must fall under the sword of their hubris. In the end, just as with a Greek tragedy or a Yeats poem, this center cannot hold and things fall apart.

Greek Bonds And PSI - Beware The Ides Of March

So what is happening with PSI? The March bonds are up a couple of points today.  The May bonds trade at 33 and after that, all of the Greek bonds trade between 20 and 30, largely depending on coupon with a slight bias towards better prices for nearer term maturities. So what is the PSI meant to do?  Is the PSI meant to treat all bonds equally?  If so, then it makes no sense for the March bonds to be trading at a significantly higher price.  The ECB may own some of these bonds, and may be getting paid out at par, but that shouldn’t affect the price of non ECB held bonds.  The payments and PSI aren’t pro-rata. Maybe it is simply a bet on the ineptitude of the politicians. In any case, watch these short dated bonds both on an outright basis and versus the longer dated bonds.  Right now, it looks like they are signaling some more monkey business coming up.  Either the PSI is maturity weighted, or a decent number of investors are willing to bet that it will be profitable to holdout.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: February 13

Stocks advanced today after Greek lawmakers finally approved a new austerity package aimed at averting a default. As a result, it now looks like that the country will get the next bailout tranche and avoid failing to meet debt redemptions in March. The draft legislation published by the Greek government showed that the EFSF may provide EUR 35bln to help Greece buy back bonds held by euro-area central banks as collateral, while Greek finance minister said that EUR 70bln in bonds are to be issued in the swap and Greece needs to make debt swap offer by Friday Feb 17th at the latest. Credit metrics such as Euribor and Euribor/OIS spreads continued to improve, which in turn supported financial sector. Looking elsewhere, comments from Iranian President Ahmadinejad over the weekend who said that Iran will soon reveal "very big new achievements" in its controversial nuclear programme, together with comments from China’s Wen who said the country will begin to fine tune its economic policies in the Q1 of this year supported both Brent and WTI crude prices today. Going forward, there are no major macro-economic releases this afternoon, but both the BoE and the Fed are due to conduct another round of Asset Purchases.

Asia Buying Gold On Dips - “Empires May Fall, Currencies May Change... Gold Will Always Survive”

Market focus tends to be almost solely on Chinese and Indian demand but demand is broad based throughout increasingly important Asian gold markets. Demand for gold remains robust in most Asian countries where consumers are buying gold as a store of wealth due to concerns about their local paper currency.  This phenomenon is happening throughout Asia including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and other large Asian countries (see news below regarding demand for gold by investors in Thailand).   AFP have a very interesting article on Vietnamese ‘gold fever’ which recounts how  “stashing gold at home rather than having cash in the bank is a generations-old habit in communist Vietnam”. And old habits are dying hard even if an ounce of gold bullion can now cost up to US $100 more in Hanoi than anywhere else in the world due to government meddling in the gold market. AFP quote 60-year-old retiree Truong Van Hue “I still like to keep my savings in gold. It's safe for retired people like me. I can sell the gold any time, anywhere, when I need cash,” he told AFP. Although the treasure has long been perceived as a safe haven, the recent gold rush has alarmed Vietnam's government, which is faced with an 18 percent inflation rate and an unstable national currency, the dong.

Peace In Our Time

Markets are rallying on the back of Greece’s approval of the austerity measures, and all I can think of is the ill-timed 1938 speech by Neville Chamberlain.  But analyzing that leads to dark places, far too dark for a Monday morning when the markets are up.  So I’ll try and lighten the mood, and only think about a book with talking animals – Animal Farm:

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?

Why do I find it so easy to imagine those words coming out of some technocrat’s mouth?  Why are the Greek people faced with bailout or chaos?  There has never been an alternative to the bailout since no politician has worked on one.  There is plenty of historical evidence showing that countries can default, and not just survive, but thrive.

A Greek Default Doesn't Need To Be Chaotic For Greece

The rhetoric coming out of Greece has reached a fever pitch. Papademos and Samaras are both out their creating dire images of a post apocalyptic Greek state if a default occurs. Maybe it is a good time to remember what Papademos’ job is. He wasn’t elected. He doesn’t represent the Greek people in a fashion that we are used to – running for election and winning the election. He was foisted on the Greek people by the EU – the very people he is going through the motions of negotiating with. His JOB was to get the Greeks to accept what the EU wants. If he isn’t the most conflicted politician of all time, he is right up there. Samaras may believe it, or may have decided this is his best route to power when the vote is passed and the Greek people decide to kick Papademos out (remember, he was never voted in). Either of them would be more credible if they made any attempt to explain why it would be so disastrous. So far, not one basic fact to support the chaos theory has been given. I will admit that if Greece defaults without any preparation, it would be extremely ugly, but there is no reason not to be prepared. So, if I was the Greek Finance Minister (I would probably have a longer last name, with more vowels) here is an outline of how I would prepare for default.

The Cost Of The Combined Greek Bailout Just Rose To €320 Billion In Secured Debt, Or 136% Of Greek GDP

Some of our German readers may be laboring under the impression that following the €110 billion first Greek bailout agreed upon and executed in May 2010, the second Greek bailout would cost a "mere" €130 billion. Alas we have news for you - as of this morning, the formal cost of rescuing Greece for the adjusted adjusted adjusted second time has just risen to €145 billion, €175 billion, a whopping €210 billion, bringing the total explicit cost of all Greek bailout funds to date (and many more in store) to €320 billion. Which incidentally is a little more than Greek GDP (which however is declining rapidly) at 310 billion, only in dollars. So as of today, merely the ratio of the Greek DIP loan (Debtor In Possession, because Greece is after all broke) has reached a whopping ratio of 136% Debt to GDP. This excludes any standing debt which is for all intents and purposes worthless. This is secured debt, which means that if every dollar in assets generating one dollar in GDP were to be liquidated and Greece sold off entirely in part or whole to Goldman Sachs et al, there would still be a 36% shortfall to the Troika, EFSF, ECB and whoever else funds the DIP loan (i.e., European and US taxpayers)! Another way of putting this disturbing fact is that global bankers now have a priming lien on 136% of Greek GDP - the entire country and then some now officially belongs to the world banking syndicate. Consider that when evaluating Greek promises of reducing total debt to GDP to 120% in 2020, as it would mean wiping all existing "pre-petition debt" and paying off some of the DIP. Also keep in mind that Greece has roughly €240 billion in existing pre-petition debt, of which much will remain untouched as it is not held in Private hands (this is the debt which will see a major "haircut" - or not: all depends on the holdout lawsuits, the local vs non-local bonds and various other nuances discussed here). If you said this is beyond idiotic, you are right. It is not the impairment on the Greek "pre-petition' debt that the market should be worried about - that clearly is 100% wiped out. It is how much the Troika DIP will have to charge off when the Greek 363 asset sale finally comes. This is also what Angela Merkel will say tomorrow when Greece shows up on its doorstep with the latest "revised" agreement from its parliament to take Europe's money ahead of the March 20 D-Day. Because finally, after months (and to think we did the math for Die Frau back in July) Germany has done the math, and has reached the conclusion that letting Greece go is now the cheaper option.

Guest Post: The DHS Defends Globalism, Not America

Under any collectivist society, the act of non-participation is always painted as an attack on the group.  In a fully interdependent system, refusing to contribute automatically hurts others, and therefore, makes you a criminal by default.  These systems are built this way deliberately, in order to control a population by exploiting their sense of innate guilt.  The DHS may claim a limited involvement in globalization, restricted to security issues, but the very process of integration with the international corporate framework as well as foreign institutions makes the agency a catalyst for forced collectivism.  Bombs in shipping containers (the bombs we’re supposed to believe are everywhere), do not warrant the massive shift of our security apparatus into a policy of global centralization.  In the end, this move on the part of the DHS has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with manipulating the attitude of the general public towards globalization.  It is much more difficult to challenge a methodology when that methodology is suddenly treated as a national security issue, and is defended by an army of bureaucrats and blue-shirted thugs.  When a world view is made violently essential to the very survival of a people, defiance is held tantamount to treason, and change, no matter how wise, becomes impossible.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: February 10

Heading into the North American open, EU equity indices are trading lower following reports that Eurozone Finance Ministers have dismissed as incomplete a budget presented to them by the Greek party leaders. In addition to that, EU lawmakers have warned Greece of more intensive involvement in the Greek economy to improve tax collection and accelerate the sale of state-owned assets. The Greek Finance Minister Venizelos said that Greece must make a “final, strategic” decision Greek membership in the Eurozone over the next six days as it decides on new austerity and reform measures or faces leaving the single currency. However, according to sources, German finance minister told MPs, Greek reform plans would bring debt to 136% of GDP by 2020, instead of targeted 120%. So it remains to be seen as to whether Greece will be able to meet the looming redemptions in March. Of note, analysts at Fitch said that the ongoing Greece talks stating that the country must secure an agreement to cut its debt burden in the next few days to prevent a “disorderly” default.

Let My People Go

The situation in Greece has taken a more sinister turn. The outrage in Greece is growing. More and more of the people on my distribution list with ties to Greece are pointing out how bad things are there. Daily life is getting more difficult by the day for most people, yet the EU has told the Greeks that their current offer isn’t enough and that they have doubts about its implementation. At least they got that right, the austerity measures, will not remain implemented. It seems obvious to anyone who hasn’t become locked into a negotiating stance that the whole austerity idea isn’t working. It is possible over the weekend that the Greek parliament will defer to EU demands and vote in a plan that is “acceptable” but I don’t see it lasting. The people are fed up and more and more realize that defaulting and costing the foreign bankers money is worth a shot. Default is NOT the end of the world or of Greece. For all the politicians who keep saying default is the end, they are just wrong. It will cause problems, but Greece will survive, and for the first time can start focusing on a plan to move forward rather than dealing just with problems of the past.

Bank Of America Details The Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement

Most people read the headlines (and heard Obama tell us) today that the federal government and 49 state attorneys general reached a $25bn agreement with the five largest mortgage servicers to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. It seems that many people are unclear on what the implications of the various aspects of the settlement are and so we present Bank of America's concise summary of the costs, commitments, penalties, and scope of the long-awaited agreement. Theoretically this by no means closes the book on bank litigation liabilities, as BofA discusses, but we note very mixed performance post the settlement announcement (which admittedly seemed well telegraphed) as WFC rallied modestly (+0.2% from the 10amET announcement), with Citi (-1.2% from the announcement), BofA (-0.85%), and JPM (-0.4%) underperforming.

Schaeuble Blesses Gaspar: German FinMin Promises To Rescue Portugal

UPDATE: Ironic timing (via Bloomberg)...*VENIZELOS SAYS GREECE FACES CHOICE OF STAYING IN EURO OR NOT,  *GREEK DEBT SUSTAINABILITY NO WAY NEAR 120%, DE JAGER SAYS, and *ECB SHOULD CONTRIBUTE TO REDUCTION OF GREEK DEBT, JUNCKER SAYS

In an incredibly candid 'informal' discussion caught on video by Portugal's TVi24 television crew, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gives Portuguese finance minister Vitor Gaspar 'the nod' that after the Greek deal is done, Germany will relax the conditions of the financial assistance program for Portugal. While the soundtrack is a little flaky, it is clear that the German finmin notes they must remain resolute in their conditions against Greece in order to maintain the appearance of 'seriousness' with the fellow members of the Greek parliament and more importantly the people of Germany. It would appear that once they have flexed their muscles against the Greeks (think Lehman?) then (and only then) can (and will) they 'help' the Portuguese. Perhaps the hard default is the way they expect this to play out with the assumption they can post-hoc avoid contagion in some manner but nevertheless, Samaras' comments this afternoon on growth and a focus away from austerity do not sit in any way complementary to Schaeuble's comments in this candid-camera moment.

Portuguese TV is having a field day with the clip as they note: Vítor Gaspar was "looking like a student trying to impress the teacher," was how the commentator saw the episode. Adding, the minister "did everything but say that not only is doing everything right as even very fond of the austerity policy."