It is hard to make sense of the markets these days. For instance, gold showed no support while the geopolitical situation in Asia deteriorated, Japan embarked in the mother of all monetization programs, and a member nation of what is supposed to be a monetary union was imposed controls on the movement of capital. Or take the case of the Euro, which jumped from $1.2750 to $1.2950 on the day of one of the most confusing and embarrassing press conferences the president of its central bank ever gave. However, in a faraway land, where there is no shadow banking, leverage or even capital markets, economic fundamentals still hold, which can help us, inhabitants of the developed world, visualize a dynamics lost in the shelves of our collective memory. The land we are referring to is Argentina, but not Argentina of 2001. Today, we want to write about Argentina of 2013, and no, we will not discuss their legal battles with Mr. Singer.
Witches Brew: Part 4 - Reality Bites
- The Specter of Things to Come
The road to ruin is on plain display and the playbook is easily seen at this juncture. Let’s take a look at how that playbook will unfold. Contrary to popular outrage of the SOLUTION being IMPOSED it is the correct one once the insured depositors where PROTECTED. In this edition the elites suffered FIRST followed by the private sector depositors who foolishly believed false BALANCE sheets which were POLITICALLY CORRECT but PRACTICALLY incorrect fictions approved by fiduciarily (regulations and regulators allowed ONGOING insolvent operations rather than protect the public by ending and prohibiting them) challenged governments (work for the banks and crony capitalists not for the public at large).
"This is the nationalization of the elite," is how one ex-Kremlin-ite described Putin's new policy. "For [years], the elite saw Russia as a hunting ground - they would keep their money and live somewhere else," but no more, as the FT reports, Putin has moved to inject some moral fibre into the country’s top-level bureaucrats and state employees by giving them a three-month deadline to close their foreign bank accounts and divest themselves of offshore assets – or face the sack. "There is a sort of algorithm [in Russia] for civil servants. You stash a lot of money abroad, send your family to live there, and then when you retire, you join them. This new legislation will put a question mark next to the career plan of a generation of top-level people." Putin's new decree makes it clear, "There are no untouchables and there cannot be any."
Infamous for little boys plugging holes with their fingers and grown-ups plugging their mouth with their foot (D-Boom), it seems Holland, Berlin's most important ally in the goal of greater fiscal discipline in Europe, has fallen into an economic crisis itself. As Spiegel reports, the once exemplary economy is suffering from huge debts and a burst real estate bubble, which has stalled growth and endangered jobs. The statistics make for some worrisome reading: no nation in the euro zone is as deeply in debt as the Netherlands, where banks have a total of about €650 billion in mortgage loans on their books; consumer debt amounts to about 250% of available income - by comparison, in 2011 even the Spaniards only reached a debt ratio of 125%; unemployment is on the rise; consumption is down; and growth has come to a standstill. The nationalization on SNS in February brought this reality home and as Spiegel reports, "there is no end to the crisis in sight."
After one of the most fabulous verbal faux pas in recent history was committed yesterday, in which the truth briefly escaped the lips of the new Eurogroup head who still has to learn from his masterful "when it becomes serious you have to lie" predecessor and ever since both he and all of uber-incompetent Europe have been desperate to put the genie back into the bottle to no avail, everyone has been caught in a great debate: to template, or not to template? Below is a summary of Wall Street's thinking on this key for so many European (and soon global) depositors.
First it was gas prices, then it was food prices, and now it is the turn of basic utilities to see costs surge by double digits. Dow Jones reports that "Japanese utilities, forced to idle their nuclear power plants over the past two years and facing higher fuel costs due to a weak yen, are now looking to push through double-digit rate hikes for their commercial customers." This means less disposable income, less corporate profits, less monetary velocity, less growth and ultimately less "inflation" in other things such as the much desired stock market, which was supposed to be the wealth effect offset to all staples price increases. At least on paper. Of course we explained on various occasions, most recently here, why in Japan a US-style of wealth effect price substitution would never work. Surely nobody could possibly see this coming - "The action comes at a bad time for some Japanese companies that were hoping the fall in the yen and much-trumpeted efforts by the government to turn round the economy would help improve their prospects." Ah hope - the only strategy left.
The eye of the hurricane over Southeast Europe may soon be shifting, exposing Greece to the same 150 mph gale turmoil everyone has grown to love and expect over the past three years as soon as this month, when a new proposal by Greece is due on how to cut a massive 150,000 public sector jobs: a move which will result in an immediate surge in public unrest, and an exponential jump in strike activity. As Bloomberg reports, "Greece is locked in talks with international creditors in Athens about shrinking the government workforce by enough to keep bailout payments flowing. Identifying redundant positions and putting in place a system that will lead to mandatory exits for about 150,000 civil servants by 2015 is a so-called milestone that will determine whether the country gets a 2.8 billion-euro ($3.6 billion) aid installment due this month. More than a week of talks on that has so far failed to clinch an agreement."
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Saturday that "Japan needs to face up to reality, and take real steps to correct its mistakes... so as to prevent a further escalation," with regard the demand that Japan reverse its nationalization of the small islet chain of the Senkakus. In some of the strongest rhetoric yet, The Japan Times reports that the Chinese minister said Japan's 'single-handed' actions so far have "caused great damage to China-Japan relations and undermined stability in the region," and urged Tokyo to "make concrete efforts" to prevent fraught bilateral ties from spiraling out of control. As the reigns of control in China continue to be handed over (with Yang expected to become state Councillor for foreign affairs), we suspect the situation is far from resolved - especially with Shinzo Abe fighting a war on another front (that China is likely not pleased with either).
This in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.
It's no shock that the Spanish housing market is horrible but hope has been, following the government's nationalization of various banks and creation of the 'bad bank' to soak up all the toxic crap those banks had on their books, that a recovery could blossom. It appears not - not at all. Not only are bad loans rising at record rates with house prices remaining down over 40% but now Reyal Urbis has filed for insolvency making it the nation's second largest bankruptcy as dozens of smaller firms have failed. What makes this so important is the fact that the banks were unwilling to refinance the debt - seemingly comfortable with liquidation - summed up perfectly: "Many loans were refinanced one or two years ago, in the hope that things would get better, but it has not been the case and there is now more realism about the situation. Why would you extend a new loan today?" A good question, one that Tepper's Appaloosa will be pondering as its EUR450mm loan looks in trouble.
Europe’s banks are totally insolvent and have not been fixed. No EU leader is going to tell you this because their jobs depend on convincing people that everything is fine. Bankia was supposedly “fine” right up until the truth came out. Just like the Wall Street banks were “fine” going into 2008.
Selling snake oil and issuing unbacked paper currency are not so different. They're both wildly successful ploys for the guys pulling the strings. And they're both complete scams that depend solely on the confidence of a willing, ignorant public. But once the confidence begins to erode, the fraud unravels very, very quickly, and the perpetrators resort to desperate measures in order to keep the party going. In the case of fiat currency, governments in terminal decline resort to a very limited, highly predictable playbook in which they try to control... everything... imposing capital controls, exchange controls, wage controls, price controls, trade controls, border controls, and sometimes even people controls. These tactics have been used since the ancient Sumerians. This time is not different.
How A Previously Secret Collateral Transformation With The Bank Of Italy Prevented Monte Paschi's NationalizationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/09/2013 20:47 -0400
The endless Italian bailout story that keeps on giving, has just given some more. It turns out Italy's insolvent Banca dei Monte Paschi, which has been in the headlines for the past month due to its role as political leverage against the frontrunning Bersani bloc, and which has been bailed out openly so many times in the past 4 years we have lost track, and whose cesspool of a balance sheet disclose one after another previously secret derivative deal on an almost daily basis, can now add a previously unannounced bailout by the Bank of Italy to its list of recent historical escapades.
Worldwide, politicians are not exactly famous for honesty. However, Europe is a very special case… where just about everyone is lying on just about everything involving the economy and banking system.
Up until now, Argentina's descent into a hyperinflationary basket case, with a crashing currency and loss of outside funding was relatively moderate and controlled. All this is about to change. Today, in a futile attempt to halt inflation, the government of Cristina Kirchner announced a two-month price freeze on supermarket products. The price freeze applies to every product in all of the nation’s largest supermarkets — a group including Walmart, Carrefour, Coto, Jumbo, Disco and other large chains. The companies’ trade group, representing 70 percent of the Argentine supermarket sector, reached the accord with Commerce Secretary Guillermo Moreno, the government’s news agency Telam reported. As AP reports, "The commerce ministry wants consumers to keep receipts and complain to a hotline about any price hikes they see before April 1."