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Guest Post: There Is No Shortcut, But All We Have Are Shortcuts

We all know there is no shortcut to anything worth having--mastery, security, wealth-- yet all we have in America is another useless, doomed shortcut. Insolvency is scale-invariant, meaning that being unable to live within your means leads to insolvency for households, towns, corporations, states and national governments. There is no shortcut to living within one's means. Expenses must align with revenues or the debt taken on to fill the gap will eventually bankrupt the entity--even an Empire. We know this, but all we have in America is the shortcut of borrowing more to fill the gap between revenues and expenses. The Federal government is borrowing a staggering 40% of its budget this year--and it has done so for the past three years. Despite all the fantastic predictions of future solvency, the cold reality is that no plausible level of "growth" will close the gap: either expenses must be cut by $1.5 trillion or tax revenues raised by $1.5 trillion or some combination of those realities.

Greece Set To Default On Foreign-Law Bonds On May 15

Back in January, when we wrote "Subordination 101: A Walk Thru For Sovereign Bond Markets In A Post-Greek Default World", we said that "because while the bulk of the bonds, or what is now becoming obvious is the junior class, can be impaired with impunity (pardon the pun), it is the UK-law, or the non-domestic indenture, bonds, which are the de facto fulcrum security."  In other words, from the very beginning the ball game was all about the non-Greek law bonds, whose indentures make it impossible for a non-makewhole take out settlement. Alas, we underestimated the stupidity of the European authorities who in their pursuit of a prompt if messy conclusion to the Greek restructuring, which ended up with a CDS trigger, were left with a tranching of the Greek balance sheet into a ridiculous seven classes, which crammed down the Greek law bonds into yet another separate class, an outcome which will shortly bite the European pre-petition sovereign market (i.e., Portugal, Spain and Italy) in the ass. What we did not however underestimate at all, is the critical value of strong indenture provisions, or, in other words, the willingness of UK-law bondholders to not comply with terms forced down their throat. As reported earlier today by the Greek Ministry of Finance, a whopping 20 of 36 classes of non-Greek law bonds have rejected the nation's attempts to restructure, and now appear set for an epic legal showdown, whose outcome will determine whether or not the UK non-UK law spread will explode, or if the entire European bond market will shoot itself in the foot itself, after all strong indentures appear to be merely a bond prosectus placeholder which will never be honored. Most importantly, we are delighted that UK-law bonds have understood one thing - by being the fulcrum security as we said, they have all the leverage. If Greece thinks it can take them in court and not pay them anything, well that may well be the ballgame for the European bond market.

The Eye Of The Hurricane Passes: Full List Of European Known Knowns As The New Quarter Begins

It appears that these days a EUR1 trillion hot liquidity injection (such as that from the ECB's LTRO 1+2) will buy you about 3 months of breathing room. Then the ostriches have no choice but to pull their head out of the sand, especially in Europe, where after three months of spread tightening, and hence the belief that "all is fixed", things are starting to turn ugly again: sovereign government spreads are beginning to widen, Europe is demanding more money from the IMF (i.e. America, even as the BRIC countries are starting to consider a world without the USD as a reserve currency, and are now forming their own bank) to boost its firewall, strikes are promptly converting to riots, Italian bank stocks are being halted due to rapid moves lower, the LTRO stigma trade is at 2012 wides, in short everything we grew to know and love in Q3 and Q4 of 2011. Ironically, having papered over the symptoms courtesy of fresh new money, the underlying causes were never addressed, and only got worse as the deteriorating European economic data suggests. What is scary, as UBS shows, is that this is just the delayed carryover from 2011! Just like the US which had the benefit of abnormally warm weather to mask a "bounce" in the economy which was never structural, so Europe had a relatively quiet quarter in terms of newsflow. Things are about to change: read the following for why the eye of the hurricane is about to pass over Europe and why this time around there is $1.3 trillion less in firepower to delay the onset of reality.

Charles Hugh Smith On The Phony "Economic Recovery," Stress and "Losing It"

Everyday Stress Can Shut Down the Brain's Chief Command Center. Neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly vulnerable to even mild stress. When they shut down, primal impulses go unchecked and mental paralysis sets in. (Scientific American; subscription required, hopefully your local library has a copy) This helps explain the natural "fight or flight" response we feel when suddenly confronted with danger or potential danger, but more importantly it illuminates how we lose the ability to analyze circumstances rationally when we are "stressed out." Once our rational analytic abilities are shut down, we are prone to making a series of ill-informed and rash decisions. This has the potential to set up a destructive positive feedback loop: the more stressed out we become, the lower the quality of our decision-making, which then generates poor results that then stress us out even more, further degrading our already-impaired rational processes. This feedback loop quickly leads to "losing it completely." Doesn't this describe our increasingly dysfunctional and disconnected-from-reality legislative process?

Following Greek Bond Humiliation, Europe's Biggest Equity Investor Is Slashing Its European Exposure

Remember this from September 2010? "Norway, which has amassed the world’s second-biggest sovereign wealth fund, says Greece won’t default on its debts. “The point is, do you expect these guys to default?” said Harvinder Sian, senior fixed-income strategist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, in an interview. “Norway has taken the view that they will not. The Greek holdings are particularly interesting because the consensus in the market is that they will at some point restructure or default.” Norway says its long-term perspective will protect it from losses. “One could say we are investing for infinity."... Uhm, Big Oops. Needless to say, this stupidity was roundly mocked by Zero Hedge at the time. Yet we can only applaud the fact that unlike other European investors (read primarily Italian banks) which are merely sinking ever deeper into the quicksand by dodecatupling down on pyramid scheme assets, the Norwegian SWF finally "plans to sharply reduce its European exposure while raising investments in emerging markets and Asia-Pacific, the finance ministry said on Friday." While we ridiculed their stupidity in 2010, we applaud Norway's prudence in this case, as unlike other insolvent European entities, the crude-rich country is not falling for the latest round of central planning bullshit, and is finally acting as a fiduciary agent. "We're reducing our European exposure because we see that economic development in the global economy is changing and this should also be reflected in our investment strategy," Johnsen said. "Most likely we'll have to sell some assets in Europe." Remember: in game theory he who defects first, defects best. We expect to see many more funds openly declaring they will commence dumping European assets, all of which are buoyed 100% artificially by the ECB, and US taxpayers, shortly.

Frontrunning: March 30

  • Greek PM does not rule out new bailout package (Reuters)
  • Euro zone agrees temporary boost to rescue capacity (Reuters)
  • Madrid Commits to Reforms Despite Strike (FT)
  • China PBOC: To Keep Reasonable Social Financing, Prudent Monetary Policy In 2012 (WSJ)
  • Germany Launches Strategy to Counter ECB Largesse (Telegraph)
  • Iran Sanctions Fuel 'Junk for Oil' Barter With China, India (Bloomberg)
  • BRICS Nations Threaten IMF Funding (FT)
  • Bernanke Optimistic on Long-Term Economic Growth (AP)
Phoenix Capital Research's picture

 

Much of the fiscal and monetary insanity that has come out of the EU over the last two years can be summated by one of my central global theses: politics determine Europe's policies, not economics. And Europe now appears to be shifting towards a more leftist/ anti-austerity measure political environment. If this shift is cemented in the coming Greek, French, and Irish elections/ referendums, then things could get ugly in the Eurozone VERY quickly.

 

Austerity - Mais, Non. Spending - Nein. PSI - Tal Vez?

Austerity hasn’t worked for countries.  So far the austerity path has made situations worse, rather than better.  Without stimulus, economies have seen their problems compound.  So now virtually everyone is against the idea that austerity is helpful. That takes us back to spending.   Maybe it’s just me, but spending is what got us into this mess in the first place.  If spending worked so well and was so easy we wouldn’t have a sovereign debt crisis in the first place.  Virtually every country was spending, yet deficits grew and economies shrank.  Why is there any faith that spending now will work?  Are we so good at targeting specific things that will really, truly, work?  Not a chance.  Spending will ensure debt grows just as fast, make the problem even bigger in the end, but will make people slightly happier in the near term. So if austerity doesn’t work, and spending hasn’t worked, what will? PSI, or Default, or Restructuring.

Some Childish Humor Courtesy Of Moody's

Moody's may never downgrade the US or France for that matter, but when it comes to its stable assessment of Dong Energy, its rock solid analysis truly stands out.

Phoenix Capital Research's picture

Because of its interventions and bond purchases, ¼ of the ECB’s balance sheet is now PIIGS debt AKA totally worthless junk. And the ECB claims it isn’t going to take any losses on these holdings either. No, instead it’s going to roll the losses back onto the shoulders of the individual national Central Banks. How is that going to work out? The ECB steps in to save the day and stop the bond market from imploding… but the minute it’s clear that losses are coming, it’s going to roll its holdings back onto the specific sovereigns’ balance sheets?

Guest Post: Welcome To The United States Of Orwell, Part 3: We Had To Destroy Democracy In Order To Save It

The dominant narrative of our so-called 'National Security State' seems to be: we were surprised by a treacherous, shadowy, sinister enemy and we have to set aside the niceties of democracy and civil liberties to combat this new and terrible foe. It's actually very simple: whatever the National Security State does anywhere on Earth is legal. Whatever action you take to protect your civil liberties is illegal. The State holds all the hammers, and you know what happens to raised nails.