Portugal

Is ISDA About To Be Forced To Cave?

Given the TBTF's dominant oligopoly of the credit derivatives market (due mainly to the large exchange's unwillingness to act appropriately when they know the blow-back from their sell-side clients would be considerable), it is perhaps surprising that ISDA (the body that 'regulates' watches over and determines credit events in the CDS market) is coming under increasing pressure to honor the spirit of CDS contract after the FUBAR debacle surrounding the Greek restructuring. As Katy Burne notes in today's WSJ, ISDA is set to decide on a revamp of the CDS rules within weeks as pressure from the buy-side (the other side of the trade obviously) to alter the legal wording governing what is (and is not) a credit event trigger. "Whether it is a series of small fixes or a root-and-branch rewrite is still to be decided" but we note that the market - as we discussed in depth with regard to Portugal over the weekend - is becoming more comfortable once again with the CDS contract as a hedge against 'problems' in the $2.9 trillion sovereign credit derivatives market. This is without doubt a positive step - as opposed to the typical silent arrogance of the ISDA or more broad dismissal of CDS (ban them - they are to blame) arguments that political leaders will tend to bias to. The simple fact of the matter is that CDS have been a much less manipulated market indicator of real-money stress than bonds for much of the last four months and with Portugal's basis normalizing (presumptively on the back of lower concerns at CDS event risk dislocation), perhaps real-money will slow its bond selling (choosing to hedge instead) and/or Italian/Spanish banks will be forced to buy back protection en masse to cover the huge leap in exposure they have taken on - especially with the surcharge chatter of Basel III re-appearing.

Interactive Map Of Europe's Recessionary Tide

As noted earlier, and in the aftermath of both the UK and Spain officially double dipping, very soon a majority of Europe will be submerged under the latest recessionary tide which has already engulfed Spain, UK, Greece, Italy,  Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark,  Holland, Czech Republic, and  Slovenia. The primary wildcard remains Germany, although there is a more than 50% chance that following some very weak PMI data, the country will follow up its already negative Q4 GDP print with another decline, officially pushing the European growth dynamo into recession as well (as for France which reps and warrants that everything is great, it is not as if anyone actually believes those numbers, especially after Hollande becomes president in one week). For everyone who wants to track the European double dip tsunami in real time, the following interactive chart from Reuters is just for you.

Give Austerity A Chance: Growth Spending Failed

The markets may decide to play along with the renewed talk of growth and the death of austerity, but it is shocking how quickly writers and the media have latched on to the idea that growth will somehow save us and that the entire problem is the fault of austerity. Although it seems like it has been around for awhile, austerity is fairly new.  I don’t think Greece even got nailed with austerity until May of 2010.  In September 2010 when EFSF and ESM were first officially launched, Portugal and Ireland were both contributing members.  The first time austerity was mentioned in Spain and Italy had to be the summer of 2011, if not later? Until that time, I assume growth was part of the policy of most countries?  I find it hard to believe any country engaged in an anti-growth policy?  Was not every policy in Europe, up until at least 2010 if not beyond, actually a “growth” policy?  Why did they fail to create enough growth to stop the debt crisis? Ah, that is the other problem.  It isn’t just growth that is needed, certainly not to comfort the bond market, it is growth that surpasses the amount spent (borrowed) to create it.

Spain Officially Double Dips, Joins 10 Other Western Countries In Recession

The good news: Spanish Q1 GDP printed -0.3% on expectations of a -0.4% Q/Q decline. Unfortunately this is hardly encouraging for the nearly 25% of the labor force which is unemployed, and for consumers whose purchasing habits imploded following record plunges in retail sales as observed last week. The bad news: Spain now joins at least 10 other Western countries which have (re) entered a recession. Per DB: "Spain will today likely join a growing list of Western Developed world countries in recession. Last week the UK was added to a recession roll call that includes Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia. Debt ladened countries with interest rates close to zero have limited flexibility to fight the business cycle and this impotency will continue for many years." Alas, the abovementioned good news won't last: from Evelyn Hermman, economist at BNP - "The Pace of Spain’s economic contraction may increase in coming quarters as austerity measures bite more sharply." Of course, it is the "good news" that sets the pace each and every day, as the bad news is merely a further catalyst to buy, buy, buy as the ECB will allegedly have no choice but to do just that when the time comes. And something quite surprising from DB's morning comment: "If it were us in charge we would allow more defaults which would speed up the cleansing out of the system thus encouraging a more efficient resource allocation in the economy at an earlier stage." Wait, this is Deustche Bank, with assets which are nearly on par with German GDP, saying this? Wow...

Don't Forget Portugal: MS Sees A Second Bail-Out By September With A Bail-In To Follow

With all eyes firmly planted on Spain, the little-Escudo-that-could has quietly slipped off the heading-into-the-abyss list of the mainstream media. Little was made this week of the fact that 10Y Portuguese bond yields dropped to seven-month lows - except by us of course where we explained that this is almost entirely due to the CDS-Bond basis trade 'arb-du-jour' that has placed a technical bid under Portuguese bonds. Between the help from LTRO and the fact that ISDA is under-pressure to improve/amend CDS rules to 'honor the spirit of the CDS contract to the fullest extent' which implicitly reduces the massive 'event' premium uncertainty between CDS and Bond risks for distressed-names (thanks to the ECB's actions in Greece), every bond in the short- to mid-term maturity of Portugal appears notably rich - with only the longest-dated bonds reflecting the crisis that remains. As we described in detail here, the real Debt/GDP of Portugal is around 140% (notably higher than the EC estimates of 111% once contingent liabilities are take account of) and the issues that face this small nation are entirely unresolved with bank recapitalization needs of at least EUR12bn and a highly indebted private sector. The bottom-line is that optically-pleasing bond improvements recently have been entirely due to synthetic credit arbitrage and, as Morgan Stanley notes, the nation remains mired in the three risks of contingent liabilities, bank recap needs, and a grossly indebted private sector; leaving a second bailout very likely by September 2012 and the challenging debt dynamics likely to mean a restructuring.

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To give you an idea of how bad things are with the cajas, consider that in February 2011 the Spanish Government implemented legislation demanding all Spanish banks have equity equal to 8% of their “risk-weighted assets.” Those banks that failed to meet this requirement had to either merge with larger banks or face partial nationalization. The deadline for meeting this capital request was September 2011. Between February 2011 and September 2011, the number of cajas has in Spain has dropped from 45 to 17.

 

Richard Koo On The Three Problems With Bullish Speculation On Europe

The balance sheet recession diagnosis of many of the world's developed nations remains among the clearest explanation linking the failure of textbook monetary policy to the dismal multipliers, transmission mechanism breakages, and sad reality of a recovery-less recovery. Whether you agree with Richard Koo's traditional but massive Keynesian fiscal stimulus medicinal choice is a different matter but the Nomura economist delineates the three problems (two macroeconomic and one capital flow) exacerbating the eurozone crisis and notes that "bulls have gotten ahead of themselves". Noting that the central bank supply of funds may help address financial crises but cannot resolve problems at borrowers, and that authorities have never admitted they were wrong, Koo stresses the three key reasons that bullish speculation on eurozone is premature - monetary accommodation's ineffectiveness when the private sector is deleveraging, active fiscal retrenchment by the core when fiscal stimulus is the only plus for aggregate demand, and Japanese and US lagged-examples of that dash any short-term hope that structural reforms will lead to growth. Even his solution to the European debacle - one of financial repression limiting the sale of government bonds to each nation's own citizens - while retroactively limiting a nation's largesse seems to only lead to the inevitable Japanification we have discussed at length. In the meantime, Koo appears far less sanguine than the markets about the prospects for anything but further demise in Europe (and the US).

Europe Ends Week Green But Notably Red On Month

For the third week in a row, European equity and credit markets have remained range-bound. Equities broadly ended the week in the green with the BE500 (Bloomberg's broad S&P 500-equivalent for Europe) ending near the top of the recent range - around the pre-NFP levels from 4/5. Spain and Italy have seen improvements this week in their equity indices but they remain down notably on the month and perhaps surprisingly only the UK's FTSE 100 is in the green for the month. Credit is considerably more dispersed but also green close-to-close on the week after a strong finish today (as the dismal data started rumors of more ECB easing and QE3 lifts). Stocks and high-beta crossover credit outperformed in the liquidity rush but subordinated financials lagged on the week. Critically though, while anchoring bias might make us all feel joyous in the last few days of recovery, we remain significantly red on the month across all risk asset classes in Europe. Sovereigns followed the same path as equities and credit - with another range-bound rotation up better on bill auction success and worse on bond auction failure but as with equities/credit today's exuberance lifted them to the middle of the recent range - well off the best levels of the last few weeks. Most notably, Spanish and Italian 10Y bond spreads are over 60bps wider in April and continue to trade in a two-steps-wider-one-step-tighter rotation intra-week. Portugal is the big winner on the week (and month) when it comes to bond spreads - which are now back to mid-September levels. However - as we have tried to explain before - the massive cheapness of Portuguese bonds relative to CDS (the so-called basis) has just been too tempting and grabbing this 'risk-free' carry has provided some bid to a notably illiquid Portuguese bond market and crushed the differential between bonds and CDS. The point being - be careful in reading too much into Portuguese bond improvements as it is much more a technical arbitrage move than real money flowing into this restructuring prone nation.

LTRO #Fail 2: European Credit Supply And Demand Fading Fast

While the LTRO was heralded as a success for a month or so with the implicit money-printing-and-sovereign-reacharounds involved at the cost of senior unsecured bondholders, the sad reality is that not only are the effects of LTRO now almost entirely gone in both sovereign and financial funding costs but the massive 'injection' of freshly printed encumbrance did nothing for the real economy. In fact, as Barclays notes in these charts from the ECB bank lending survey, not only is demand weaker for credit (i.e. the consumer is pulling back in classic balance sheet recessionary style) but the banks themselves are tightening credit conditions (reducing supply) - the exact opposite of what the ECB had in mind. There is one exception to this vicious cycle - German real estate loan demand picked up modestly - we assume reflecting their flat housing market for the last 15 years and extremely low rates). Oh well, we are sure the next ECB action will be different in its banking reaction.

Translating "Growth" Into European

Pretend, from now on, that when you see this word it is written in Moldavian and needs to be translated. France and the periphery nations are screaming this word now while almost all of Europe is in recession and one that we believe will be much deeper than forecast. Consequently “growth” does not mean “growth” and the correct translation is “Inflation.” We have long said it would come to this in Europe and here we go. The troubled countries are going to beg and plead for Inflation and Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland are going to resist. With Hollande the most likely next President of France you are going to see a stand-off between the socialist and the centrist countries so that a log jam will develop and the consequences of its uncoupling are anyone’s guess except that it will be likely violent and an extreme series of events. The governance of Europe on May 5 will not be what is found on May 6 and preparation for this should be high upon everyone’s list.

European Confidence Tumbles To November 2009 Levels, Euro-Wide Double Dip Inevitable

Following this week's ongoing battery of abysmal economic news out of Europe it will hardly come as a surprise that yet another indicator has been released and is pointing to a multi-year low in the deleveraging (elsewhere called incorrectly austere) continent, namely the Euro-area wide confidence index which just slide to the lowest leve since 2009, missing every single estimate and declining sequentially across the board... And with the UK, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Czech Republic, and Slovenia now in re-recession, and Spain a definitive shoo in next week, the kicker is that German GDP will almost certainly now report a second consecutive GDP print in a few days, thus pushing the entire European continent in a double dip.

Germany Folding? Europe's Insolvent Banks To Get Direct Funding From ESM

We start today's story of the day by pointing out that Deutsche Bank - easily Europe's most critical financial institution - reported results that were far worse than expected, following a decline in equity and debt trading revenues of 23% and 8%, but primarily due to Europe simply "not being fixed yet" despite what its various politicians tell us. And if DB is still impaired, then something else will have to give. Next, we go to none other than Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid, who in his daily Morning Reid piece, reminds the world that with austerity still the primary driver in a double dipping Europe (luckily... at least for now, because no matter how many economists repeat the dogmatic mantra, more debt will never fix an excess debt problem, and in reality austerity is the wrong word - the right one is deleveraging) to wit: "an unconditional ECB is probably what Europe needs now given the austerity drive." However, as German taxpayers who will never fall for unconditional money printing by the ECB (at least someone remembers the Weimar case), the ECB will likely have to keep coming up with creative solutions. Which bring us to the story du jour brought by Suddeutsche Zeitung, according to which the ECB and countries that use the euro are working on an initiative to allow cash-strapped banks direct access to funding from the European Stability Mechanism. As a reminder, both Germany and the ECB have been against this kind of direct uncollateralized, unsterilized injections, so this move is likely a precursor to even more pervasive easing by the European central bank, with the only question being how many headlines of denials by Schauble will hit the tape before this plan is approved. And if all eyes are again back on the ECB, does it mean that the recent distraction face by the IMF can now be forgotten, and more importantly, if the ECB is once again prepping to reliquify, just how bad are things again in Europe? And what happens if this time around the plan to fix a solvency problem with more electronic 1s and 0s does not work?

Guest Post: Will Bond Investors And Savers Have To Hold Forced Government Loans At Some Point In The Future?

If central planners decide to circumvent the already manipulated bond market and enforce much lower interest rates by implementing forced loans, there would be a big uproar for some time in the market. However, the negative wealth effect on the private sector would be more foreseeable and stretched out over a longer period of time. This definitely would decrease uncertainty. In my opinion, this measure would actually help to break through the downward spiral and avoid the much more devastating course towards a restructuring event with its negative side effects.