Silver and Gold remain the major outperformers year-to-date but the rest of commodities - most notably oil is catching up very fast having over taken stocks this week. It appears that the new-found flood of liquidity that we have been so passionately banging the table on for weeks, has found its way into the energy complex as European Sovereigns, European Financials, European Stocks, and US Stocks have all flattened or turned down as Crude and WTI surge. And as a hint to anyone who hasn't jumped on this tidal movement yet, one thing to note is that unlike stocks, commodities always have the risk of marginal or weak hands being shaken out via CME...margin hikes.
The record volatility, and 400 point up and down days in the DJIA of last summer seem like a lifetime ago, having been replaced by a smooth, unperturbed, 45 degree-inclined see of stock market appreciation, rising purely on the $2 trillion or so in liquidity pumped into global markets by the central printers, ever since Italy threatened to blow up the Ponzi last fall. In short - we have once again hit peak complacency. Yet with crude now matching every liquidity injection tick for tick (and then some: Crude's WTI return is now higher than that of stocks), there is absolutely no more space for the world central banks to inject any more stock appreciation without blowing up Obama's reelection chances (and you can be sure they know it). Suddenly the market finds itself without an explicit backstop. So what are some of the "realizations" that can pop the complacency bubble leading to a stock market plunge, and filling the liquidity-filled gap? Here are, courtesy of David Rosenberg, six distinct hurdles that loom ever closer on the horizon, and having been ignored for too long, courtesy of Bernanke et cie, will almost certainly become the market's preoccupation all too soon.
The decoupling/recoupling we discussed earlier in the EURUSD pair seemed the biggest deal in Europe this week as the 2.5% gain is thge most in a month and takes the cross back to near 3-month highs. Not to be outdone, the VSTOXX (Europe's VIX equivalent) dropped notably and now stands at its lowest in 7 months - dramatically outperforming equity and credit markets on its way as selling vol appears the easiest trade ever (until of course your arms and legs are ripped off by a risk flare). Credit markets outperformed this week as equity underperformed - bringing the two asset classes closer into sync after last week's plunge in credit. Sovereign credit markets were mixed but clearly the high-beta compression trend has stalled as Portugal underperformed dramatically followed by Belgium with the rest generally tracking sideways (and Spain outperforming modestly). JPY weaknes balanced the EUR strength to keep the USD (DXY) from getting completely crushed on the week -1.35% (as Oil has rallied over 5%).
As the banks in Europe report out earnings; or the lack thereof in most cases, it becomes clear that the LTRO is helping with liquidity but not with solvency past some very short term point. This is always the case of course but it is beginning to hit home. The balance sheets for many European banks have now swelled on the liability side with more and more debt piling up courtesy of the ECB while their assets decrease due to the Basel III mandates so that the financials of these banks begin to deteriorate. It is not just the losses from their Greek debt holdings that are coming into play but also their potential future losses from sovereign debt write downs markedly for Portugal soon I think but also perhaps for Spain and Italy in the near term as the recession in Europe brings new problems to the fore which will further reduce the value of sovereign and bank credits in Europe.
An explicit contagion path chart, since you probably won't get info like this anywhere else...
“Ms. Katseli, an economist who was labor minister in the government of George Papandreou until she left in a cabinet reshuffle last June, was also upset that Greece’s lenders will have the right to seize the gold reserves in the Bank of Greece under the terms of the new deal.” The Reuters Global Gold Forum confirms that in the small print of the Greek “bailout” is a provision for the creditors to seize Greek national gold reserves. Reuters correspondents in Athens have not got confirmation that this is the case so they are, as ever, working hard to pin that down. Greece owns just some 100 tonnes of gold. According to IMF data, for some reason over the last few months Greece has bought and sold the odd 1,000 ounce lot of its gold bullion reserves. A Reuter’s correspondent notes that “these amounts are so tiny that it could well be a rounding issue, rather than holdings really rising or falling.” While many market participants would expect that Greece’s gold reserves would be on the table in the debt agreement, it is the somewhat covert and untransparent way that this is being done that is of concern to Greeks and to people who believe in the rule of law.
'All is not resolved' is how Morgan Stanley's Arnaud Mares begins his latest diatribe on the debacle that is occurring in Europe. While a disorderly default seems to have been avoided (for now), the Greek problem (as we have discussed extensively) remains unsolved as debt sustainability seems questionable at best, economic recovery a remote hope, and the growing political tensions across Europe (and its people) grow wider. Critically, Mares addresses the seeming complacency towards a Greek exit from the euro area noting that it is no small matter and has dramatic consequences (specifically a la Lehman, the unintended consequences could be catastrophic). Greece (or another nation) leaving the Euro invites concerns over the fungibility of bank deposits across weak and strong nations and with doubt over the Euro, the EU could collapse as free-trade broke down. The key is that, just as in the US downgrade case last year, a Euro-exit implies the impossible is possible and the impact of such an event is much, much higher than most seem to realize. While the likelihood of a Greek euro-exit may remain low (for now), the scale of the impact makes this highly material and suggests the EU will do whatever it takes (print?) within their mandates to hold the status quo. For all practical purposes, it would be the end of the euro as a genuine single currency and to preserve the euro if Greece left would require total federalism in the rest of the area.
The softer PMI reports have weighed on risk markets, which as a result saw equities trade lower throughout the session. In addition to that, market participants continued to fret over the latest Greek debt swap proposals, which according to the Greek CAC bill will give bond holders at least 10 days to decide on new bond terms following the public invitation, and the majority required to change bond terms is set at 2/3 of represented bond holders. Looking elsewhere, EUR/USD spot is flat, while GBP/USD is trading sharply lower after the latest BoE minutes revealed that BoE's Posen and Miles voted for GBP 75bln increase in APF. Going forward, the second half of the session sees the release of the latest Housing data from the US, as well as the USD 35bln 5y note auction by the US Treasury.
After reading this all should be quite confident of a Grecian Implosion. Instead of focusing on Greece, the actual debt explosion (implosion) path is what the media should be harping, not the color of the match that set it off.
Goldman's Greek Deal Summary: Increased Likelihood Of CDS Trigger And CAC Use Will Lead To VolatilitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2012 07:25 -0500
While we await for Thomas Stolper to issue his latest flip flop and to go long the EURUSD again ("tactically", not "strategically"), here is Francesco Garzarelli's take on the Greek bailout.Here is the biggest issue: "Increased likelihood of CDS: Moreover, higher losses inflicted on the private sector, involving the likely activation of CACs and the triggering of CDS, represent sources of near-term volatility." Bingo. Now as we pointed out in the previous post, a "successful" and completely undefined PSI program is a key precondition to the program. However, with bondholders now certain to throw up, and the requisite 75% (forget 95%) acceptance threshold unlike to be reached, will the use of Collective Action Clauses, and thus a CDS trigger constitute a PSI failure, and thus deal breach? In other words, since we now know that the March 20 bond payment will be part of the PSI, is last night's farce merely a way to avoid giving Greece a bridge loan, and putting its fate in the hands of creditors, which as we noted back in January is a lose-lose strategy?
Ken Rogoff: Greece Should Be Given A "Sabbatical From The Euro" As Kicking The PIIGS Can Will Just Drag Germany DownSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/20/2012 11:03 -0500
There is nothing new in this interview of Spiegel magazine with Ken Rogoff, but it is refreshing to listen to a person who has at least some standing in the arena of grand self-delusion (i.e., economics and capital markets), telling it like it is. While he rehashes all the old points, these bear reminding as the key one is what happens to Germany as the can kicking becomes a new default exercise in preserving bank "solvency" at the expense of the last stable economy: when asked if in 2015 the Eurozone will be the same, his response: "It may well be the case that all current members remain in the euro zone, and that Germany keeps on shouldering the ever-increasing debts of other countries. But the price of such a scenario is very high for all involved: southern Europe would become embroiled in permanent stagnation and the German economy would eventually be dragged down to a slower growth trajectory." So even though everyone knows that Europe is doomed in its current configuration, let's all just pretend things shall be well, and keep the even more doomed banks alive for a few more quarters? Is the loss of a banker bonus truly such a great catastrophe to society that countries have to remain in a state of perpetual misery until it all finally unwinds? Judging by today's market action the answer is yes.
The European Central Bank, in a very misguided attempt to protect itself, has now opened Pandora’s Box. I doubt if they even realize what they have done; but they will, most assuredly they will. The consequences of their horrendous mistake will soon be upon them as institutions not coerced or forced into buying European sovereign debt will be leaving the playing field en masse as the realization dawns upon investors of just what has taken place. You cannot fool all of the people all of the time and the people that manage money for a living are not a forgiving group when governments try to supersede their lawful rights.
Credit markets in Europe remain significant underperformers relative to equities this week, despite some short-covering yesterday that narrowed the gap. Global Financial Systemic Risk is rising again - dramatically. It seemed that the dramatic shift from early to mid-week was enough to scare some action back into the market and we can't help but feel that the rallies in Spanish and Italian govvies (on what was very likely thin trading) was all central banks, all the time. Today saw stocks rally in Europe to new post-NFP highs while credit leaked wider off its open and closed on a weak tone into the US long-weekend. The end of the week felt much more like covering to flat than any aggressive re- or de-risking which seems appropriate given the rising risk of binary events and an inability to hedge those jumps.