Mark To Market
With Vacation Over, Europe Is Back To Square Minus One: Merkel Backs Weidmann, Demands Federalist StateSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 08/26/2012 13:04 -0400
Earlier today we showed for the nth time that with insanity and insolvency ravaging the old continent, at least one person has the temerity to avoid sticking his head in the sand of collectivist stupidity and denial. That person is Bundesbank head Jens Weidmann, who until now may or may not have had the backing of Germany's elected leader, Angela Merkel. Moments ago it became clear whose side Merkel, who recently came back from vacation and is set to spoil the party that the (insolvent) mice put together in her absence, is on. From Reuters, who quotes Merkel in her just released interview with German ARD: "I think it is good that Jens Weidmann warns the politicians again and again," Merkel said. "I support Jens Weidmann, and believe it is a good thing that he, as the head of the German Bundesbank, has much influence in the ECB."
Falling interest rates are a feature of our current monetary regime, so central that any look at a graph of 10-year Treasury yields shows that it is a ratchet (and a racket, but that is a topic for another day!). There are corrections, but over 31 years the rate of interest has been falling too steadily and for too long to be the product of random chance. It is a salient, if not the central fact, of life in the irredeemable US dollar system. Irving Fisher, writing about falling prices (I shall address the connection between falling prices and falling interest rates in a forthcoming paper) proposed a paradox: “The more the debtors pay, the more they owe.” Debtors slowly pay down their debts and reduce the principle owed. This would reduce the NPV of their debts in a normal environment. But in a falling-interest-rate environment, the NPV of outstanding debt is rising due to the falling interest rate at a pace much faster than it is falling due to debtors’ payments. The debtors are on a treadmill and they are going backwards at an accelerating rate. How apropos is Fisher’s eloquent sentence summarizing the problem!
Criminal Inquiry Shifts To JPMorgan's Mispricing Of Hundreds Of Billions In CDS: Is Dimon The Next Diamond?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 07/16/2012 20:09 -0400
On the last day of May, when we first learned via Bloomberg that there was even the scantest likelihood that JPM may have been massaging its CDS marks within the (London-based of course) CIO organization - the backbone of hundreds of billions in notional exposure, and thus a huge counterfeited benefit to trader bonuses and corporate earnings - we wrote, "The Second Act Of The JPM CIO Fiasco Has Arrived - Mismarking Hundreds Of Billions In Credit Default Swaps" in which we explained precisely how this activity would and did take place, precisely why other traders caught doing the same are on the verge of being thrown in jail, precisely why everyone else does it, and precisely why the biggest CDS self-reporting and client/banker owned-organization (this is where images of Libor should appear), MarkIt, may well be implicated in everything - very much in the same way that the BBA is the heart of Lie-borgate. Because unlike all other allegations of impropriety, most of which rely on Level 2 and Level 3 assets whose valuations are in the eye of the oh so very sophisticated beholder (in this case JPM) who has complex DCFs and speaks confidently when explaining marks to naive, stupid outsiders (in other words baffles with bullshit), when it comes to one of the last places where Mark to Market is still applicable and used: the OTC CDS market, and where daily P&L records are kept, it will take any regulator, enforcer, or criminal investigator precisely 1 minute to find out if there was fraud, or gambling, going on here. Most importantly, it opened up the firm to a criminal investigation. Which as Reuters reports, is precisely what has now happened.
While we do not agree that anything will happen on Wednesday (or pre-Greek-election to be more precise) - aside from perhaps a small bump in BoE LSAP, Peter Tchir provides a useful update to our original 'full central bank menu' two weeks ago. Markets and economies are teetering across the globe. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that a Greek Exit would be catastrophic. Central banks won’t want to act as though they are panicking, but neither will they want to wait much longer to act. Tchir believes investors will be extremely disappointed if nothing happens and expects markets to decline rapidly. If central bankers do take some policy actions, it is key to figure out which ones are practical, which are merely symbolic, and which are just a dream and not an action. Who says what is just as important in some cases as what they say. When Merkel says something, we all need to listen. When anyone from the EU in Brussels says something, it will be the same thing they have said over and over and is completely self-serving and should be ignored. Anything Draghi and Bernanke might say is critical to listen to, because in this weird world, they have the most power to do something meaningful in a short period of time.
Here we go again. Back in July 2011 we wrote an article entitled "The Real Banking Crisis" where we discussed the increasing instability of the Eurozone banks suffering from depositor bank runs. Since that time (and two LTRO infusions and numerous bailouts later), Eurozone banks, as represented by the Euro Stoxx Banks Index, have fallen more than 50% from their July 2011 levels and are now in the midst of yet another breakdown led by the abysmal situation currently unfolding in Greece and Spain.... Although the last eight months have not played out the way we would have expected for gold, they have played out the way we envisioned for the banks. The question now is how long this can go on for, and how long gold can remain under pressure in a banking crisis that has the potential to spread beyond Greece and Spain? So much now rests on the policy responses fashioned by the US Fed and ECB, and just as much also rests on what's left of European citizens' confidence in their local banking institutions. Neither of these things can be precisely measured or predicted, but we continue to firmly believe that depositors in Greece and Spain will choose gold over drachmas or pesetas if they have the foresight and are given the freedom to act accordingly. The number one reason we have always believed gold should be owned, and why we believe it will go higher, is people's growing distrust of the banking system - and we are now there. We will wait and see how the summer develops, and keep our attention firmly focused of the second phase of the bank run now spreading across southern Europe.
One of the problems with the Hispanic Pandora's box unleashed by a now insolvent Bankia, which as we noted some time ago, is merely the Canary in the Coalmine, is that once the case study "example" of rewarding terminal failure is in the open, everyone else who happens to be insolvent also wants to give it a try. And in the case of Spain it quite literally may be "everyone else." But before we get there, we just get a rude awakening from The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that just as the bailout party is getting started, Spain is officially out of bailout money: "where is the €23.5 billion for the Bankia rescue going to come from? The state's Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) is down to €5.3 billion."... And in an indication of just how surreal the modern financial world has become, none other than Bloomberg has just come out with an article titled "Spain Delays and Prays That Zombies Repay Debt." We can only surmise there was some rhetorical humor in this headline, because as the past weekend demonstrated, the best zombies are capable of, especially those high on Zombie Dust, or its functional equivalent in the modern financial system: monetary methadone, as first penned here in March 2009, is to bite someone else's face off with tragic consequences for all involved. What Bloomberg is certainly not joking about is that the financial zombies in Spain are now everywhere.
Europe continues to fight the wrong battle, and continues to spread contagion risk. It is clear that Greece has had a solvency issue now for over 2 years. The ECB and Troika chose to treat it as a liquidity problem. Maybe, they could have argued that in early 2010, but by the summer of 2011 it was obvious to any credit observer that the problem was solvency, yet they continued to treat it as one of liquidity. That is scary because if they fail to see the problem correctly now, they will fail miserably. Not only is the problem clearly solvency, but now forced currency conversion has been added to the mix. Any "solution" from the EU must now address that risk, and it is not the same as solvency. Programs that can protect against solvency may do nothing for the redenomination risk. We keep playing with scenarios and find it hard to find out where a Greek exit doesn't result in a steep sharp decline in the market. We could go through more ideas of ECB intervention, but in the end most will have flaws. Dealing with currency conversion risk is huge. Dealing with the contagion risk that has been created by the EFSF is huge. Will Europe force Greece out thinking they have a plan; that fails miserably and sparks the miserable series of consequences we’ve outlined? Sadly, yes.
Bank Regulatory Capital has been in the news a lot recently - between the $1+ trillion Basel 3 shortfall, the Spanish banks with seemingly their own set of capital issues, or JPM's snafu. There has been a lot of discussion about Too Big To Fail (“TBTF”) in the U.S. with regulators demanding more and banks fighting it. After JPM's surprise loss this month, the debate over the proper regulatory framework and capital requirements will reach a fever pitch. That is great, but maybe it is also time to step back and think about what capital is supposed to do, and with that as a guideline, think of rules that make sense. Specifically, regulatory capital, or capital adequacy, or just plain capital needs to address the worst of eventual loss and potential mark to market loss. Hedges are once again front and center. The only "perfect" hedge is selling an asset. This "hedge" is also a trade. The risk profile looks very different than having sold the loan and the capital should reflect that.
It would seem, just as during the crisis in 2008/9, that now might be an opportune time to push for 'improvement' in how banks are regulated (and more importantly how the instruments they trade in colossal size are priced and marked-to-market). Rick Santelli believes now has never been a better time but as his guest Tim Backshall of Capital Context notes, regulation of the CDS market can be summed up in one sentence "Get Them On Exchange". Something we have been saying for years (and has been tried before) but with dealers holding all the keys (to market-making) and exchanges cowering for fear of losing clients, we remain less optimistic. Santelli and Backshall critically address the complicity of banks, regulators, analysts, and The Fed in giving 'banks the benefit of the doubt' with regard their use of the bottomless pit of capital they implicitly have but what is more important is for the hordes of sell-side analysts and buy-side sheeple to understand just what this JPM debacle exposes about bank risk (VaR is useless), bank transparency (mark-to-model or worse is widespread), and bank valuation (traditional Price/Book metrics have no merit anymore).
The ECB seems to be quite happy to comment on Greece, and most of the comments seem to say that Greece isn’t doing their part. Well, what about the ECB? What have they been doing for Greece? So far, not very much and I think they need to start to play nicely with their holdings. If the ECB just plays nicely, at no cost to the ECB, the situation in Greece would improve quickly and dramatically. The ECB must go from being a lender of last retort to a bona fide contributor to Greece and a true lender of last resort. Maybe the ECB should “Ask not what Greece can do for you, but what you can do for Greece”?
The question for investors is how likely Draghi unleashes some new money and gives the market another brief relief rally? I’m not sure he is able to do anything meaningful and right now I believe the market will fade over the course of the day as realization sets in that not much can be done. I’m not quite ready to put this trade on, but am looking closely at going long Spanish stocks versus short German stocks. The belief that Germany will be fine while Spain is a disaster seems too common and priced in. I’m not quite there on that trade, but it is only that am looking at very closely.
First we got Italy telling the world quietly it would not meet its deficit target for 2013, and will in fact experience debt/GDP growth in all outer years, and now we get the Bank of Spain, also taking advantage of today's market rally to dump its own set of bad news, namely that Spanish banks will need to provision another €29.1 billion, and will have higher core capital requirements of €15.6 billion (this is fresh capital). 90 banks have already complied with the capital plan, 45 have yet to find the needed cash. Putting this into perspective, the amount already written-down is €9.2 billion. So, just a little more. And this assumes there are no capital shortfalls associated with any impairment from the YPF -> Repsol follow through, which as Zero Hedge already showed, would leave various Spanish banks exposed. In other news, there is one more hour of trading: we suggest every insolvent entity in the world to quickly take advantage of the interim euphoria, as tomorrow may not be so lucky. Of course, in the worst case, Japan will just bail everybody out.
By now everyone is aware of Argentina's disturbing plan to nationalize YPF over the protests of Spain, and soon EU. And as we noted yesterday, the equity value of YPF is essentially a doughnut as BofA stated, if somewhat more correct politically. YPF continues to be halted on the NYSE as per a T2 halt (aka "The news has begun the dissemination process through a Regulation FD compliant method(s).") and there is little availability for price discovery at the first derivative level. However, where discovery is ample is at the second degree, namely Spanish Repsol-YPF which is a majority owner of YPF, whose CDS continue soaring, and hit a whopping 391 earlier today, well over 100 bps compared to the Friday closing spread. For a massive energy production company this is a big move and we can only hope its Spanish bank shareholders are well insulated from mark to market losses, although somehow we doubt it.
There are relatively few natural buyers of Spanish long dated bonds here. Fast money is likely caught long, and it will take a potentially reluctant ECB and some already overly exposed Spanish institutions to step up and stop the slide. It may happen, but many of the policies that “bailed out” Greece created very bad precedents for bondholders, and some of those are coming home to roost, as is the understanding that LTRO ensures that banks can access liquidity, but does nothing to fix any problem at the sovereign level.