Will Germany go “all in” on the Euro experiment? I doubt it. In fact I’ve found the “smoking gun” the little known act that Germany has recently implemented that proves the country has a Plan B that involves leaving the Euro with minimal damage.
With the second version of the ECB's enhanced LTRO (back-door QE) starting tomorrow, there has been a great deal of speculation on what the take-up will be, what banks will do with the funds they receive, and more importantly how will this effect global asset markets. SocGen provides a comprehensive top-down analysis of the drivers of LTRO demand, the likely uses of those funds, and estimates how much of this will be used to finance the carry trade (placebo or no placebo). Italian (25%) and Spanish (20%) banks are unsurprisingly at the forefront in their take-up of ECB liquidity (likely undertaking the M.A.D. reach-around carry trade ) and have been since long before the first LTRO. On the other side, German banks have dramatically reduced their collective share of ECB liquidity from 30% to only 6%. SocGen skews their detailed forecast to EUR300-400bn, disappointing relative to the near EUR500bn consensus - and so likely modestly bad news for risk assets. Furthermore, they expect around EUR116bn of this to be used for carry trade 'revenue' production which will however lead to only a 0.6% improvement in sectoral equity levels (though some banks will benefit more than others), as they discuss the misunderstanding of LTRO-to-ECB-deposit facility rotation. We, however, remind readers that collateralized (and self-subordinating) debt is not a substitute for capital and if the ECB adamantly defines this as the last enhanced LTRO (until the next one of course) then European banks face an uphill battle without that crutch - whether or not they even have collateral to post. Its further important to note that LTRO 2 cannot be wholly disentangled from the March 1-2 EU Summit event risk and we fear expectations, priced into markets, are a little excessive. We suspect this will not be a Goldilocks 'just right' moment.
While we are aware of politicians' repeated vows about the uniqueness of the Greek case, we remain deeply skeptical. After all, hasn't it been a winning investment strategy to assume that the exact opposite of whatever Europe's elite says will become fact? The recently overheard and filmed conversation between Germany's and Portugal's finmins (http://t.co/iDA9HJPo) points in the direction of an imminent review of the Portuguese case and might be a harbinger of PSI, OSI etc à la Gréce. And why stop there? Why not relieve the Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese etc. of their troublesome load? Wouldn't it be nice to pull a Greek and finally make it for those pesky Maastricht criteria? But regardless of one's view on the ongoing crisis, it makes perfect sense to go where no investor has gone before. We did the unthinkable, read the unreadable and made it back alive to tell the tale: we ploughed through all of the individual bond prospectuses of our favorite list of countries in peril and actually found a lot of useful information for the investor. Given that the sovereign bonds of the Eurozone used to be looked at as riskless assets, it is safe to assume that the exercise hasn't been done by a lot of investors on a regular basis. Judging by the difficulty to even obtain the information, both the interest of investors to obtain it and that of issuers and underwriters to provide it has been and remains extremely limited.
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 08:25 -0400
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?