Iberia Implodes To 17 Year Lows As Stigma Trade +200%

Europe's story today was multi-month record deterioration in equity and credit markets. The turning point appears to have been the market's recognition of what LTRO really is and LTRO2 pretty much marked the top. While recent weakness has been exaggerated by the JPMorgan debacle (contagion to 'cheaper' hedge indices in credit), the Greek reality and clear contagion of a Euro / No-Euro decision any minute has Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese equity and credit markets crashing lower (from already Tilson-clutching lows). Spanish bond spreads are 160bps wider since LTRO2 and Italy 87bps wider with today's +28bps in Spain taking it to all-time record wides (pay less attention to yields now as they will be flattered by the ripfest run to safety in bunds), Portugal is back above 1100bps in 5Y CDS, but most critically - given LTRO's unintended consequence of encumbering the weakest banks exponentially to the domestic sovereign - the LTRO Stigma is up more than 200% from its lows when we first pointed out the reality. Banks who took LTRO exposure are on average almost at record wides (with many of them already at record wides). European equities are weak broadly but remain above their credit-implied levels as investment grade and high-yield credit in Europe falls back to four-month lows (almost entirely eradicating the year's gains) while the narrower Euro Stoxx 50 equity index is down significantly YTD. short- and medium-term EUR-USD basis swaps are deteriorating rapidly once again as clearly funding is becoming a major issue in the Euro-zone.

Gold Negative YTD In Dollars But Bull Market Not Over - Morgan Stanley

While gold is now negative year to date in dollar terms, it remains 0.7% higher in euro terms. Gold prices dropped 3.7% last week and silver fell 5.1% to $28.89/oz. The smart money, especially in Asia, is again accumulating on the dip. Demand for jewellery and bullion in India has dipped in recent weeks but should resume on this dip – especially with inflation in India still very high at 7.23%. Also of interest in India is the fact that investment demand has remained robust and gold ETF holdings in India are soon to reach the $2 billion mark. This shows that recent gold weakness is primarily due to the recent bout of dollar strength.  Morgan Stanley has said in a report that gold’s bull market isn’t over despite the recent price falls. Morgan Stanley remains bullish on gold as it says that the ECB will take steps to shore up bank balance sheets, U.S. real interest rates are still negative, investors have held on to most of their exchange traded gold and central banks are still buying gold.

Guest Post: Alan Greenspan Asked For Advice, Do People Ever Learn?


That is the only way to express this author’s utter bewilderment that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is still given an outlet to speak his mind.  Actually, I am surprised Mr. Greenspan has the audacity to show his face, let alone speak, in public after the economic destruction he is responsible for. It was because of Greenspan, of course, that the world economy is still muddling its way along with painfully high unemployment.  His decision to prop up the stock market with money printing under any and every threat of a downtick in growth, also known as the Greenspan Put, created an environment of easy credit, reckless spending, and along with the federal government’s initiatives to encourage home ownership, the foundation from which a housing bubble could emerge. It was moral hazard bolstering on a massive scale.  Wall Street quickly learned (and the lesson sadly continues today) that the Federal Reserve stands ready to inflate should the Dow begin to plummet by any significant amount.  Following his departure from the chairmanship and bursting of the housing bubble, Greenspan quickly took to the press and denied any responsibility for financial crisis which was a result in due part to the crash in home prices. 

Greece Next Next Steps

With the Greek tempest-in-a-teapot about to hit Whale-size, as Tsipras says he will not join the coalition and Venizelos says that Syriza's participation is a prerequisite (via Bloomberg), it seems now would be an opportune time to look forward (not backward at the GGB2s dropping below EUR17 for the first time ever!). As we were among the first to state that their would be a second (if not more) election in Greece, we look at the schedule of events in Europe over the next few weeks (including the payments due on the PSI holdout bonds), and discuss the scenarios and consequences of a Greek exit (for both Greece living without Euro support and the Euro-zone coping with a Lehman-event).

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The ESM funding idea is really just Spain playing for time (the ESM doesn’t actually have the funds to bail Spain out). But the fact that Germany is now making the ESM a political issue indicates the degree to which political relationships are breaking down in the EU. And once the political relationships break down... so will the Euro.

On Greece's Systemic Risk Impact

The implications of a nation leaving the Euro (and its contagion effects) are becoming clearer but are by no means discounted by the market. The risk of an interruption in the Greek adjustment program has increased significantly - and as Goldman notes - is the most likely eventual outcome for Greece and fears of the missed interest payment in June continue to concern many. The tough decision and dilemma for the international community remains between a rock (of acquiescence and just funding a belligerent member state) and had place (ECB deciding to let Greek banks go) with an odd middle ground seemingly the most likely given Europe's tendency for avoiding the hard decisions. There is no doubt that the near term implications from such an unfortunate turn of events would be profound for markets; fiscal risk premia would widen, the EUR would decline in value and European equities would underperform. The true question though, is how much lasting damage such a situation can do and whether, in the long run, systemic risks can be contained. In principle, to the extent that no other country chooses to go down the same path as Greece, there is no political or practical hurdle for the ECB to crucially safeguard the stability of the Euro area with unlimited liquidity provisions. A liquidity driven crisis can be averted in that sense. Whether risk premia stay on a higher tangent after such an event is a separate and complicated question but game-theoretically it strengthens the renegotiating position of Ireland, Portugal, and obviously Spain with the ECB (and implicitly the Bundesbank) being dragged towards the unmitigated print-fest cliff.

Guest Post: What Austerity?

By mainstream media accounts, the presidential election in France and parliamentary elections in Greece on May 6 were overwhelming verdicts against “austerity” measures being implemented in Europe. There is only one problem. It is a lie. First off, austerity was never really tried. Not really. In France for example, according to Eurostat, annual expenditures have actually increased from €1.095 trillion to €1.118 trillion in 2011. In fact spending has increased every single year for the past decade. The debt there increased too from €1.932 trillion €1.987 trillion last year, just as it did every year before. Real “austere”. The French spent more, and they borrowed more. The deficit in France did decrease by about €34 billion in 2011, but that was largely because of a €56.6 billion surge in tax revenues. Again, there were no spending cuts. Zero. Yet incoming socialist president François Hollande claimed after his victory over Nicolas Sarkozy that he would bring an end to this mythical austerity: “We will bring back Europe on a track for jobs, growth and the future… We’re no longer doomed to austerity.” This is just a willful, purposeful distortion. What the heck is he talking about? Certainly not France.

Market Has Longest Losing Streak In 10 Months

For the first time since last July, right before the market's grand plan collapse, the Dow has fallen for 6 days-in-a-row. We could of course have just copy/pasted yesterday's end-of-day as today was a case of deja deja vu all over again as we sold off hard overnight (basically top-ticking right before the US day-session close), made new overnight lows, then managed a miraculous rally into and across the European close only to stall once again as the dip-buying algos enabled bigger blocks to dump into momentum retail players. The European close hour saw your standard 4-sigma swing (low to high) in ES (S&P 500 e-mini futures) but gave half of it back it its typical VWAP reversion as for three days in a row we have dipped and tested the S&P's 50DMA and rallied on lower volume (though ended the day with the 3rd highest volume of the year). The USD rallied further with the EUR ending around 1.2950 (though off its lows of the day) but once again commodities (which sold off pretty hard overnight) managed to crawl their way back higher (closing rather interestingly at the same levels at which they opened the European day-session). VIX ended above 20% (its highest close in a month) and its flattest term structure in five months. Treasuries ended the day marginally changed (-1bps 10Y, +1bps 3Y) but ended well off their low yields of the day. High yield credit was a major underperformer - ending below yesterday's lows (as was IG credit) - bearishly diverging from equities again.

John Taylor Says "To Hell With Germany"

When the founder of the world's largest currency hedge fund FX Concepts says that Greece will be out of money by June and out of the Euro soon after, people should listen. While we disagree with the premise that Greece's exit will not be chaotic, his general thoughts on the situation in Europe, espoused in this Bloomberg TV interview, are summed up by his reply when asked if Europe is a sell "I do. I also feel passionately that the euro is effectively a break up." Taylor also points out that the stability of a post-Greece Euro landscape is really up to the ECB noting that "I think the ECB should let the Euro go down. To hell with Germany." Covering whether the Euro will crater, the contagion effects, and how the rest of Europe will behave, the non-Duran-Duran Taylor who readily admits his mistakes on misjudging the Fed's excess, sees the timeline for exit as soon after the next round of elections in Greece this summer.

Guest Post: The European Union Is Destroying European Unity

So we know that the pro-bailout parties in Greece have failed to form a coalition, and that this will either mean an anti-bailout anti-austerity government, or new elections, and that this will probably mean that the Greek default is about to become extremely messy (because let’s face it the chances of the Greek people electing a pro-austerity, pro-bailout government is about as likely as Hillary Clinton quitting her job at the State Department and seeking a job shaking her booty at Spearmint Rhino). It was said that the E.U.’s existence was justified in the name of preventing the return of nationalism and fascism to European politics. Well, as a result of the austerity terms imposed upon Greece by their European cousins in Brussels and Frankfurt, Greeks just put a fully-blown fascist party into Parliament.

Dan Loeb Explains His (Brief) Infatuation With Portuguese Bonds

Last week, looking at Third Point's best performing positions we noticed something odd: a big win in Portuguese sovereign bonds in the month of April. We further suggested: "We suspect the plan went something like this: Loeb had one of his hedge-fund-huddles; the cartel all bought into Portuguese bonds (or more likely the basis trade - lower risk, higher leverage if a 'guaranteed winner'); bonds soared and the basis was crushed; now that same cartel - facing pressure on its AAPL position (noted as one of Loeb's largest positions at the end of April) - has to liquidate (reduce leverage thanks to AAPL's collateral-value dropping) and is forced to unwind the Portuguese positions. A quick glance at the chart below tells the story of a Portuguese bond market very much in a world of its own relative to the rest of Europe this last month - and perhaps now we know who was pulling those strings?" Since the end of April, both AAPL and Portuguese bonds have tumbled, and Portugal CDS is +45 bps today alone, proving that circumstantially we have been quite correct. Today, we have the full Long Portugal thesis as explained by Loeb (it was a simple Portuguese bond long, which explains the odd rip-fest seen in the cash product in April). There is nothing too surprising in the thesis, with the pros and cons of the trade neatly laid out, however the core premise is that the Troika will simply not allow Portugal to fail, and that downside on the bonds is limited... A thesis we have heard repeatedly before, most recently last week by Greylock and various other hedge funds, which said a long-Greek bond was the "trade of the year", and a "no brainer." Sure, that works, until it doesn't: such as after this past weekend, in which Greece left the world stunned with the aftermath of what happens when the people's voice is for once heard over that of the kleptocrats, and the entire house of cards is poised to collapse.