Spain, Europe, China - The Generational Opportunity to get hit head on by a Black Swan
Firstly, Britain’s ‘safe-haven status’ is a fallacy. It is no more safe than many of the other major economies who are choking on debts that cannot be paid off. The only reason it HAS that status currently is because of the very Achilles Heel that will ultimately prove to be its demise - the ability to print its own currency. By NOT being a part of the euro experiment, Britain has kept control of its fate and has been able to print its way out of trouble - so far - while its neighbours to the east have all been lashed to the deck of the same sinking boat, but the day is coming when Britain’s profligacy will become important again. As I keep saying; none of this matters to anyone until it matters to everyone. Secondly, interest rates may have ‘fallen to a record low’ but they have done so in the same way heavily-indebted gamblers often ‘fall’ from hotel rooms - with a big push (only this time from the Bank of England and not a guy called Fat Tony). Like US Treasurys, the price of UK gilts would be nowhere near these levels without a captive and very friendly buyer in the shape of the central bank.
All you need to read and some more.
European cash equity markets were seen on a slight upward trend in the early hours of the session amid some rumours that the Chinese PBOC were considering a cut to their RRR. However, this failed to materialise and markets have now retreated into negative territory with flows seen moving into fixed income securities. This follows some market talk of selling in Greek PSI bonds due to the absence of CDSs. This sparked some renewed concern regarding the emergence of Greece from their recovery. Elsewhere, we saw the publication of the BoE’s financial stability review recommending that UK banks raise external capital as soon as possible. This saw risk-averse flows into the gilt, with futures now trading up around 40 ticks.
- More HFT Posturing: SEC Probes Rapid Trading (WSJ)
- Fed’s Bullard Says Monetary Policy May Be at Turning Point (Bloomberg)
- Hilsenrath: Fed Hosts Global Gathering on Easy Money (WSJ)
- Dublin ‘hopeful’ ECB will approve bond deal (FT)
- EU Proposes a Beefed-Up Permanent Bailout Fund (WSJ)
- Portugal Town Halls Face Default Amid $12 Billion Debt (Bloomberg)
- Hidden Fund Fees Means U.K. Investors Pay Double US Rates (Bloomberg)
- Europe Weighs Trade Probes Amid Beijing Threats (WSJ)
- Bank of Japan Stimulus Row Fueled by Kono’s Nomination (Bloomberg)
Bailed-out but un-restructured. And now Fiat-Chrysler CEO is crying for help as EU car sales crash.
An ugly day all around as European sovereign CDS jump the most in three weeks...
5Y 10Y 5/10's
ITALY 374/382 +15 365/385 -10/0
SPAIN 432/440 +15 426/446 -5/5
The global economy remains on shaky ground. China’s manufacturing activity contracted for its 5th straight month, the US recovery is still very early to call, and the euro zone debt crisis may not be finished. Eurozone PMI data is due later today which will show how the economy is doing after Greece averted default earlier this month. Thomson Reuters GFMS have said that gold at $2,000/oz is possible - possibly in late 2012 or early 2013. Thomson Reuters GFMS Global Head of metals analytics, Philip Klapwijk, featured on Insider this morning and advised investors to "buy this gold dip”. Gold should be bought on this correction especially if we go lower still as we may need a shake-out of "less-committed investors." Klapwijk suggested that a brief dip below $1,600 is on the cards but the global macro environment still favours investment, notably zero-to-negative real interest rates and he would not rule out further easing by either the ECB or the Fed before year end.
Remember Europe's so-called success story - Ireland? Time to scratch it off the list, as the "best performing" PIIG, and "peripheral reform" wunderkind, just reminded everyone that the only true success story in Europe is that other I country - Iceland, after its fourth quarter GDP unexpectedly dropped 0.2%, well below consensus estimates of a 1.0% GDP boost. Odd - recall that back in October, following the announcement that Greece would be allowed to extract a bondholder haircut, initially at 50% and ultimately at 78.5%, we said that "this means that Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will promptly commence sabotaging their economies (just like Greece) simply to get the same debt Blue Light special as Greece." Looks like Ireland is well on its way to doing just that, and the GDP slide is actually not all that surprising. Next: prepare for more "surprising" GDP misses from Portugal, Spain and, of course, Italy.
If Spain doesn’t opt for austerity measures in return for bailouts, the EU collapses. If Spain does opt for austerity measures in return for bailouts, it’s quite possible Germany will bail on the EU. Either way, we'd see a Crisis far greater than that of 2008.
Mark Grant's Wake Up Call: Italy Has $211 Billion In Notional Exposure To Derivatives, And Other TriviaSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/21/2012 08:28 -0400
It was nothing more than a footnote in the Morgan Stanley financials; a $3.4 billion pay-out by Italy to settle a derivatives contract made in 1994. Say goodbye to 50% of the tax hikes imposed by the Monti government because that is what was wiped out by this payment. It is also interesting to note that that Mario Draghi, currently President of the European Central Bank, was the Director-General of the Italian Treasury when this derivative was formulated. Then comes the bomb, only mentioned in a brief article yesterday on Bloomberg, and not noted anywhere in the Press this morning. Marco Rossi Doria, an undersecretary in Monti’s administration, tasked with responding to a parliamentary interrogation on derivatives, admitted that the Italian Treasury had $211 billion in "notional" exposure to derivatives, which is around eleven percent (11%) of Italy’s total GDP. This new exposure, coupled with the work I did a few days ago and noted in my commentary of March 17, now brings Italy’s actual debt to GDP ratio to a whopping 144.3%.
Going into the US open, most major European bourses are trading in modest positive territory this follows the publication of a Goldman Sachs research note titled “The Long Good Buy” in which the bank outlines its thoughts that equities will embark on an upward trend over the next few years, recommending dropping fixed-income securities. We have also seen the publication of the Bank of England’s minutes from March’s rate-setting meeting in which board members voted unanimously to keep the base rate unchanged at 0.50%; however there was some indecision concerning the total QE, with members Miles and Posen voting for a further increase to GBP 350bln, however the other seven members voted against the increase. Following the release, GBP/USD spiked lower 35 pips but has regained in recent trade and is now in positive territory. Looking elsewhere in the session, UK Chancellor Osborne will present his budget for this financial year at 1230GMT. We will also be looking out for US existing home sales and the weekly DOE inventories.
It was all ponies and unicorns as the EU-ECB-IMF 'Troika' mission found 'no sign of reform fatigue' in their report today, noting the 'remarkable' nature of the fiscal adjustment. Perhaps they should have asked someone outside of the halls of government as this tragic story from The Guardian notes the Portuguese death rate rising as health and welfare cuts from the 'remarkable' austerity package are biting at the people hard. During February, there were 20% more deaths than normal and the cost cuts are blamed as a visit to the ER has more than doubled. There is a general strike, as we noted earlier, on Thursday as the leader of the unions notes "They are driving the country towards disaster". While the IMF believes that Portuguese debt is sustainable, most practicing market participants who do not have a gun to their head see full well the unsustainable nature of the Portuguese debt load seeing the IMF's position as "wishful thinking". There is a growing tension as Irene Pimentel notes "I worry that democracy is at stake" and on the people's apparent stoicism for now, "I think it will explode eventually, it is impossible for people to remain this passive." At least Portuguese bonds are happy, and accept the culling of the Portuguese population at the altar of the euro, as a worthy supplication, worth at least 250 basis points.
One of the central premises of CDS is that the “basis” package should work. An investor should be able to buy a bond, and buy CDS to the same maturity and expect to get paid close to par – either by the bond being repaid at par and the CDS expiring worthless, or through a Credit Event, where the price of the bonds the investor owns plus the CDS settlement amount add up to close to par. The settlement of the Greek CDS contracts worked well, but that was pure dumb luck. This leaves playing the basis in Portuguese bonds and CDS as a much riskier proposition than before Europe's PSI/ECB decisions - and perhaps explains why at over 300bps, it has not been arbitraged fully away - though today's rally in Portugal bonds suggests a new marginal buyer which given the basis compression suggests they may be getting more comfortable.
The next country that could follow Greece out of Valhalla and down to meet Poseidon at Hades gates is Portugal. They trod the path once before but look likely to be headed out on a second journey. The country’s private and household debt are approximately 300% of the total GDP of Portugal and their economy is contracting; around 4.00% by some estimates. While the European Commission estimates a debt to GDP ratio of 111% for this year; the actual data tells another story. Further aggravating a future restructuring are the CDS contracts with a net position of $5.2 billion and a gross amount of $67.30 billion which is about twice the amount of the net exposure for Greece.