The only way to sort the wheat (real collateral based on enterprise value) from the chaff (phantom collateral created by central banks' speculative bubbles) is for a crash to force price discovery and the cramdown of losses.
With the impasse over the latest Argentina default going nowhere fast, late last night president Kirchner stunned its creditors when she announced what amounts to a cramdown plan for holdouts, in which all bonds would be stripped of their existing indentures and converted to local law bonds. Or, as some would call it, a "scorched earth" transaction that burns all bridges, and goodwill, with the international creditor community and likely leaves Argentina unable to access global capital markets for the foreseeable future.
There are many ways to look at the United States government debt, obligations, and assets. But TrimTabs's Charles Biderman cuts straight to the bottom line and add it all up - $89.5 trillion in liabilities and $82 trillion in assets. There. It’s not a secret anymore, and although these are all government numbers, for some strange reason the government never adds them all together or explains them - but we will. No one can really know what will have value in this politicized crony capitalistic system as the hyper-monetization ramps up... all I can suggest is to hedge your bets with some physical precious metals and some minimal leveraged real estate. Unfortunately, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know... invest and live accordingly.
Today is probably the first day in a while in which minute-by-minute rumors on the Fiscal Cliff will not be on the frontburner (with yet another late day rumor yesterday of an imminent deal turning out to be a dud, when it was reported that Obama's latest grand compromise was to lower his initial tax hike demand from $1.6 to $1.4 trillion, or still $600 billion more than last summer's negotiated number), with Ben Bernanke and QE4 taking center stage instead. By now it is a foregone conclusion that Ben will proceed with extending Twist as first predicted here, into an unsterilized bond buying operation, in effect confirming that there has been zero improvement in the economy, as another $1 trillion is about to be injected until the end of 2013, and more trillions after that. The good thing is that all pretense that the Fed cares about anything but the market is now gone. The bad thing is that the Fed will continue to take over the capital markets until it and the other central banks are the only traders remaining. The only question is whether the market, now well into massively overbought territory, will fizzle and snap back after Bernanke's news announcement, and will QE4EVA (as we believe QE3+1, aka QEternity-er, should be called) have been fully priced in by the time it was announced?
The Latest Greek "Bailout" In A Nutshell: AAA-Rated Euro Countries To Fund Massive Hedge Fund ProfitsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/21/2012 15:06 -0400
What is the latest state of play that has the biggest support from all parties? It appears that the plan which is now back in play, is one which Greece had previously nixed, namely a partial Greek bond buyback of the private bonds at a discount to par: with numbers currently rumored anywhere between 25 cents and 50 cents on the euro. And even if Greece agrees with this proposal, there is a question of where Greece will get the money for this distressed debt buyback? After all Greece is completely broke, and any new cash would have to be in the form of loans, as not even the most nebulous interpretation of the Maastricht treaty would allow an equity investment, or to use the proper nomenclature, "a fiscal investment" into Greece. But the kicker is when one traces the use of funds. Because what is will happening is a payment not to Greece, obviously, but to its creditors: entities which for the most part are hedge funds, and which have bought up GGB2s in the mid teen levels as recently as 4 months ago (recall Dan Loeb's major position in Greek bonds).
With the star (and legend) of John Paulson long dead and buried, and his Disadvantage Minus fund an embarrassment, wrapped in a monkeyhammering, inside a humiliation, there are few "groupied" HF managers left. One of them is Dan Loeb, who still manages to generate positive Alpha regardless of how Beta does, another one used to be William Ackman (not so much anymore, especially not with the whole JCP fiasco), some others are David Tepper, Seth Klarman, and a few others, but nobody has quite the persistent clout and following of young master, and poker maestro, David Einhorn, and his fund Greenlight. Below we breakdown his latest just released 13F, which as a reminder shows, his holdings as of September 30. Key changes: Einhorn cut his holdings in Best Buy, Carefusion, Compuware, Expedia, Hess and UnitedHealth, and started new, small, positions in Yahoo, Babcock and Wilcox, Aecon and Knight Capital. More importantly, he cut his top position, Apple, by nearly 30% from 1.45 million to 1.09 million shares, cut modestly his second biggest position Seagate, added materially to GM, making it his third position, added to Cigna at #4 and added modestly to the GDX Gold Miners ETF. Sad to say, unless he has changed his portfolio dramatically since September 30, Einhorn is likely not doing too hot, especially in the last week or two.
In the aftermath of last night's bombastic European announcement coming in the late night hours, in which Europe has virtually promised the kitchen sink, one would imagine that the response for the biggest beneficiary, Spanish bonds, would be far more dramatic. Instead after ripping 60 bps tighter in a kneejerk move, the yoyo reaction has seen bonds slide wider ever since, and the result being a SPGB level last seen... on Monday. Why is the market not more enthusiastic? Because what happened last night is nothing short of the second Greek bailout announcement from October, which followed a similar pattern: a late night announcement by Europe that Greece is saved, followed by a brief rip of a rally, only to give it all back, and to require global central bank intervention one month later. Because what really happened last night? Merely promises. We will not dwell much on the fact that the ESM has yet to be ratified by the paying countries, that the ESM will now have to be scrapped in its current format, and resigned by all 17 member countries since the seniority provision is somehow scrapped: an event that amounts to a cramdown exchange offer, that while everyone is talking about the uses of funds, nobody has uttered a peep about the sources, that Germany has yet to say what the German conditions will be or whether the revised deal will even pass the Bundestag, that the deal is contingent on the formation of a "effective single supervisory mechanism is established, involving the ECB" which in Europe is next to impossible, and that finally the whole "arrangement" is nothing but an Memorandum of Understanding - the weakest form of non-binding agreement possible. Which is why we are just a little skeptical and that today's E-Tarp is merely the latest catalyst to be faded.
This weekend, everyone's attention will be on the Greek elections, however it is Spain that has now become the "fulcrum security" of Europe. As such, events in Greece are merely a catalyst that will set off a chain of events that will have an impact not only on Spain, but on all of Europe, and thus, the world. As we pointed out last week after the Spanish bailout announcement, based on a preliminary analysis which had been compiled by Deutsche Bank's europhiles hours before the formal announcement, and one which just happened to be a carbon-copy of what was proposed as the 'final (and failed) Spanish solution', it appears that the events in Europe are if not orchestrated by the largest German bank, then certainly receiving part-time advice. Which brings us to the present, where we find that even Deutsche Bank has given up hope for interim solutions, having realized that the market will no longer accept transitory, feeble arrangements. Instead DB is now formally calling for a big bang resolution, one coming from the ECB. Here is the punchline: "ECB has room for manoeuvre, but needs political cover for a ‘big’ policy" or said otherwise, "A shock is required to get a liquidity response." In other words: Europe's only real hope for even a stop gap solution... is a wholesale market crash, not surprisingly the very same conclusion that Citi reached on May 19 when they warned that only Crossover (XO) at 1000 bps or wider could push Europe into acting... Basically stated, anything less than a controlled market crash, one that finally gets the ECB involved with Germany's persmission of course, merely pushes the market higher on nothing but hope of an intervention that said market lift makes even more improbable, as now both Citi and DB admit, which can and will lead to an uncontrolled market collapse, one from which not even the ECB will be able to extricate Europe.
While details are largely missing in the aftermath of yesterday's historic announcement from Spain, the one thing that we did catch inbetween the various conferences and announcements, and probably the most important thing, is that the ESM/EFSF funded bailout loan, whose use of proceeds will go to fund the FROB, not one which will rank pari passu with the FROB, will have "terms better than market" - always a code word for priming and cramdown of other debt classes. Today, we learn that this is precisely the case, and the worst case outcome from Spain's pre-primed sovereign creditors.
Spain's economy minister Luis de Guindos will hold a press conference detailing the terms of the bank bailout shortly. It can be watched live, and without translation, at the link below. In summary, the Spanish bank bailout is apparently a loan targeting the FROB, and at rates better than the market. In other words, the cramdown of Spanish bondholders has officially begun.
A quick look at the Fresh-Start Greek Government Bond (GGB2) complex shows that as of this morning it has tumbled to fresh all time lows across the curve, and now trades at a more than 50% loss to the March PSI conversion price. The reason for this dump is not so much on fear of a Greek exit, but once again a reflection of precisely what we expected would happen, and as explained in our January Subordination 101 post. Last week, the fact that a PSI hold out, holding English-law bonds managed to get par recovery while all the other lemmings have so far eaten a nearly 90% loss, has sparked a realization among all the other hold outs that since they have covenant protection, they should all demand the same treatment. And indeed, another one has stepped up, only this time not a holder demanding par maturity paydown, but one who has read their bond indenture and was delighted to find the words "negative pledge." As Bloomberg reports "a holder of Greek bonds that weren’t settled in the biggest-ever debt restructuring said he’ll demand immediate payment unless the government posts collateral against his investment. Rolf Koch, a private investor who says he holds 500,000 Swiss francs ($528,000) of the notes due in July 2013, argued that he’s entitled to equal treatment with Finland, which made getting collateral a condition of contributing to Greece’s second bailout. He wrote to the paying agent, Credit Suisse Group AG, invoking the bonds’ so-called negative-pledge clause, according to the text of a letter seen by Bloomberg News."
Earlier, we heard Santorum bidding a fond adieu to the public world, most likely forever, and now it is the turn of the president. Only he won't be resigning, but instead he will once again make the argument why the rich have to pay more in taxes, and why the The Crony Capitalist Cramdown, pardon the Buffet Rule, should be enacted for everyone and why Congress must pass it. We can only wish that the president dedicated as much time and energy to getting America a budget (it still does not have one) as he does to delineating various class distinctions. Today's challenge, should anyone chose to accept it: take a shot every time the TOTUS says "fair" and any variation thereof.
What is better than a one-front European war on insolvency? Why two-fronts of course. But not before many "soothing" words are uttered (no really). From Reuters: "Portugal's international lenders arrived in Lisbon on Wednesday to review the country's bailout, with soothing words of support likely to dominate as Europe gropes for success stories to counteract its interminable Greek headache. As the euro zone's second weakest link, Portugal's ability to ride out its debt crisis will be key to Europe's claim that Greece is a unique case. Despite a groundswell of concerns that Portugal - like Greece - may eventually have to restructure its aid programme, the third inspection of Lisbon's economic performance in the context of its ongoing 78-billion-euro rescue should make that contention clear. "The review will be all about peace and harmony," said Filipe Garcia, head of Informacao de Mercados Financeiros consultants. "The important thing for Europe is to isolate Portugal from Greece, to put it out of Greece's way in case of a default or even an exit from the euro." That makes sense - after all even Venizelos just told Greece that the country is not Italy. And if that fails, the Don of bailouts, Dr Strangeschauble will just give the country will blessing to use a few billion in cash. Oh but wait. It can't. Because as as we pointed out in late January, and as the market has so conveniently chosen to forget, Portugal, unlike Greece, has simple, clean and efficient negative pledge language in its non-local law bonds. Which means "no can do" to any additional bailouts under its current capitalization. Which may very well mean that Portugal is stuck with its existing balance sheet unless the country succeeds in doing an exchange offer which takes out all UK- and other strong-protection bonds. All of them. And as Greece has shown, that is just not going to happen.
Remember when Europe was fixed, if only for a few weeks? Those were the times, too bad they are now officially over. EURUSD is back under 1.30 in thin volume because even as we "shockingly" find that, no, Greece did not have the "upper hand" since Greek bondholder negotiations just broke down (and that over the matter of a cash coupon delta between 3.5% and 4.0%, which implicitly means that from a bondholder IRR perspective, when taking a 15 cent EFSF Bill into consideration, the hedge fund community fully expects the country to be in default even post reorg in at about two years). But it is that "other" European country which was recently junked by S&P (causing the 10 year to soar to new records), that is now the focus point of (re)bailout concerns. Reuters reports: "The euro nudges down some 20 pips to $1.2995 in thin, illiquid trade with Tokyo dealers citing renwed fears Portugal may need a second bailout. Undermining the glow of Lisbon's achievements in reforming the country's labour market is the rapidly rising market concern that it is the next potential candidate to default in the euro zone after Greece -- a point that is fast becoming clear as Athens approaches the end of its debt restructuring talks." And here is the paradox: if Greece succeeds in persuading the ad hoc creditors to accept a 3.5% coupon, which it won't absent cramdown and CDS trigger, Portugal will immediately if not sooner proceed with the same steps. There is however, a problem. Unlike Greece, where the bulk, or over 90%, of the bonds are under Local Law, and thus have no bondholder protections (a fact about to be used by Greece to test the legal skills of asset managers who can retain the smartest lawyers in the world and generate par recoveries on their bonds in due course), in a generic Portuguese Euro Medium Term note Programme prospectus we find the following...
Yesterday, Reuters' blogger Felix Salmon in a well-written if somewhat verbose essay, makes the argument that "Greece has the upper hand" in its ongoing negotiations with the ad hoc and official group of creditors. It would be a great analysis if it wasn't for one minor detail. It is wrong. And while that in itself is hardly newsworthy, the fact that, as usual, its conclusion is built upon others' primary research and analysis, including that of the Wall Street Journal, merely reinforces the fact that there is little understanding in the mainstream media of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Greek negotiations, and thus a comprehension of how prepack (for now) bankruptcy processes operate. Furthermore, since the Greek "case study" will have dramatic implications for not only other instances of sovereign default, many of which are already lining up especially in Europe, but for the sovereign bond market in general, this may be a good time to explain why not only does Greece not have the upper hand, but why an adverse outcome from the 11th hour discussions between the IIF, the ad hoc creditors, Greece, and the Troika, would have monumental consequences for the entire bond market in general.