Portugal

On GRExit, SPAilout, And Draghi's White Knight

We think as a matter of political reality, given the German polls, that Berlin will refuse to adequately fund Greece and that they will be forced back to the Drachma as a matter of Ms. Merkel’s desire for re-election. The honest truth is that the Greek debts have become so large and so impossible to pay that unless there is absolute debt forgiveness, which we think is politically impossible in Germany and a number of other European countries; the country must roll over as a matter of fiscal reality. In March, the last figures that are available, the Spanish banks lost $66 billion of capital as the citizens of Spain moved their money to safer havens. What the LTRO gave, the populace took away and the situation is unsustainable. Spain will soon be forced into a full-fledged bailout in my opinion which will require money for the regions and for the banks. What amazes us the most is that so many people have the honest opinion that Sir Draghi is going to come charging out from the round table, from the gilded gates of the ECB and save Europe. That White Knight is subject to the whims of Germany and the rest and all of the talk of independence and the separation of Church and State is just that; talk.

Austerity, Debt-Deleveraging, And Why 'Muddle-Through' Fails

The debt levels of advanced economies remains unsustainably high - bringing with it the considerable risk of renewed crisis - and while strong growth is the best way to deleverage, this solution appears out of reach for most (if not all) economies. Financial repression, austerity, inflation, or default are the remaining options - all of which come with considerable costs to economic growth and employment. While 'muddling-through' appears to be heralded as a positive by many market-savants currently, SocGen notes that the line between a virtuous (expansionary fiscal contraction) and vicious austerity trap comes down largely to policy confidence. Most (if not all) advanced economy politicians entirely lack the public's or market's confidence in credible policy direction (and in fact we are seeing policy uncertainty at extremes) which leads to SocGen's conclusion that the muddle-through strategy (which comes with a high price tag economically and socially) is too high a burden politically and will inevitably lead to spillover to core-Europe and the global financial system.

On Using World War 2 Flashbacks To Shame Germany Into Perpetual Bail Outs

Lost in the complete and utter lack of newsflow yesterday (no pun intended) were some comments from Otmar Issing, former chief economist of the ECB. Also a German. Also an advisor for Goldman Sachs. In the absence of Angela Merkel and Schauble, both of whom are still conducting privatization due diligence on Santorini, he decided to present the German view to all the recent bluster and posturing by Europe choosing beggars. What he so conveniently explained is just why "European Union" is the biggest oxymoron imaginable, and why Germany will hardly smile quietly as the rest of the continent uses history as its only leverage to shame Germany into funding the bailout of its broke neighbors. In fact, what Issing confirms, is why any hope that a Federalist union in a continent in which deep seated hatred runs deep, and will promptly overtake any of the happiness associated with the recent 30 years of fake prosperity, is doomed. Art Cashin explains.

Surveying The Landscape

Look around. Take a good long and hard look because the data is becoming unsettling and it is pouring in from all over the world. In China, where a hard landing was thought to have been avoided; one moment please, not so fast. The world’s growth engine is sputtering and there will be consequences. In Europe the situation is dramatically worsening with virtually every country in a recession with the notable exception of Germany though we predict they will join the club by the fourth quarter of this year or by the first quarter of next year. For those that think that the Fed will save the day, if not the planet, we suggest to you that you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. There is only so much they can do now and each Fed action is being met by a less and less reaction in the markets and of a shorter duration.

Monti's Bluffing Unleashes Bull Market In Crude

Since the European Summit a mere six weeks ago, Crude oil prices have surged over 20%. It seems, if one looks at stock prices, that between Monti's 'bluff', Rajoy's 'threats', and Draghi's 'promise' that everything has been fixed in Europe and all-is-well in the world as Europe's stocks swing to a year-to-date gain of 5% (with Spain and Italy up 10-15% since the summit alone). However, if one considers for one moment what exactly they are supposed to have 'fixed' then it seems one of these markets is not like the others... 10Y Spanish spreads are 10bps wider than pre-summit, Italian 10Y is only 10bps tighter, Portugal 10Y is unchanged and the Bund has outperformed Treasuries by 15bps. European corporate and financial credit has rallied but has dramatically underperformed - especially post-Draghi - as it is clear that investor hope for more unsterilized Fed/ECB 'aid' is more than priced into equity markets and has had the aforementioned unintended consequence of spilling out into energy markets - with all the negative feedback implications that come with that.

Europe's Scariest Chart In More Detail

While the surging unemployment rates across Europe are the most troublesome for politicians (and the extreme youth unemployment even more so), if we take a closer and more 'local' view of the stress, it is interestingly more regional than national. While Spain and Greece stand out, the unemployment rate, as analyzed in the chart below by Flute Thoughts blog, does not follow national borders. Northern Italy, for example, seems to have more in common with the German-speaking regions of Europe than with Southern Italy; France appears more peripheral than core; and the former eastern Germany still has not caught up with the west (so much for fiscal integration). Eastern Europe also has some striking differences as we suspect the ovals are slowly collapsing in on themselves as the reality of lower revenues from more unemployed procyclically pulls the euro-zone into depression.

Europe's Mountainous Divide And Why Draghi's Words Fixed Nothing

Two weeks ago we noted the transmission channels that Mr. Draghi had pointed out having become broken, clearly enunciating the chasm that is developing in the interbank market. Goldman's Huw Pill takes this a step further and notes a 'red line'  - running along the Pyrenees and the Alps - that has descended with banks south of this line having difficulty accessing Euro interbank markets, whereas banks north of that line remain better integrated and retain market access. This is the exact segmentation that Draghi worries is interfering with policy transmission (and thus affecting macroeconomic outcomes - in his view). Banks in the periphery have been 'red-lined' and while last week's ECB announcements initiated a policy response to this segmentation, the obvious (to anyone who actually comprehends the situation) reality is that ECB purchases of government bonds does not eliminate this 'red line'; only convincing markets through fundamental adjustment (fiscal consolidation, structural reform, and institutional building) will the red-line be lifted. This is highly improbable in the short-term and means an expectation of more direct intervention in bank funding markets (with all its encumbrance) will occur soon enough (and perhaps that is why European financial credit is underperforming).

In The Merry Old Land Of Oz!

The tin man is now living at the bank in Frankfurt and he has received the Wall Street certificate for his brain which promises much and is short on delivery but that is what he learned. The Munchkins are all out on the yellow brick road and off to see someone or another and are presently mired in the poppy fields where they are having flower induced dreams of unlimited money, no responsibility and the Wizard, now living in Florida with Toto’s cousins Princess and Mr. Trooper, is finding great amusement with the antics of it all and reminds everyone that a horse of a different color will be a staring figure in the next act of the play as the poppy fields are left behind and the gates of the not quite so Emerald City come into view.

Europe's Question Of Today: “If They Will Fund And How?”; The Question Of Tomorrow “Can They Afford It?”

Never forget; there are two sides to the European fiscal proposition. There are the funding nations and the borrowing nations and I suggest that the focus of the markets will soon turn to the funding countries and their capacity to provide capital without endangering themselves. I think the attention of the markets is about to turn to Germany and France, the largest components of the European Union, and with GDP’s of $3.2 trillion and $2.77 trillion respectively the question is going to come around to just how much these two countries can support without sending themselves into a serious economic quagmire. The EU officially recognized sovereign debt of Greece is now 22.33% of the GDP of Germany and 25.80% of the GDP of France. The banks in Europe dwarf the sovereigns with balance sheets three times larger than of all of the EU nations and with Spain having now fallen and Italy about to go; just how much that can be afforded is quickly coming into the focus of many money managers.

"Did Somebody Repeal The Laws Of Mathematics?"

Remember late-2010? When Spain wasn’t a problem, but merely a potential problem? I do. Back then, the general opinion was that if the contagion spread to Spain the game was over because there wasn’t enough money with which to bail out an economy the size of The Kingdom of Spain. I’m not sure exactly what happened— maybe I wasn’t paying attention—but suddenly, almost two years on and in an environment where even the rich nations of Europe are seeing an undeniable slide towards recession, there is no talk about Spain being ‘too-big-to-bail’ anymore.

Did somebody repeal the laws of mathematics?

Guest Post: What Democracy?

Rather than give the people a voice, democracy allows for the choking of life by men and women of state authority.  When Occupy protestors were chanting “this is what democracy looks like” last fall, they wrongly saw the power of government as the best means to alleviate poverty.  What modern day democracy really looks like is endless bailouts, special privileges, and imperial warfare all paid for on the back of the common man. None of this is to suggest that a transition to real democracy is the answer.  The popular adage of democracy being “two wolves and lamb voting on what’s for lunch” is undeniably accurate.  A system where one group of people can vote its hands into another’s pockets is not economically sustainable.  Democracy’s pitting of individuals against each other leads to moral degeneration and impairs capital accumulation.  It is no panacea for the rottenness that follows from centers of power.  True human liberty with respect to property rights is the only foundation from which civilization can grow and thrive.

In Order To Be Saved, Spain And Italy Must First Be Destroyed

There has been much confusion over last week's remarks by Mario Draghi, with the prevailing narrative being that the market first got what Draghi meant wrong (when it plunged), then right (when it soared). The confusion is further granulated by attempts to explain what was merely a desperate attempt at delaying a decision for action, which was inevitable considering the now open opposition by Buba's Weidmann, into a formal and planned plotline: "Inverse Twist" or other such technical jargon is what we have seen floating around. The reality is that, just like all other central bankers, Draghi did what he does best: use big words and threats of action in hope it will buy him a few extra days of time. The reality is also that, just like when the LTRO was announced, the market did get it right initially, when peripheral bonds plunged, and got it wrong over the subsequent 3 months when bond prices rose, only to collapse to new lows (and in the case of Spain - record high yields as of two weeks ago). Back then, the ECB merely bought a few months time with its transitory intervention. This time it has at best bought a few days with the lack of any actual action. And yet, Draghi did leave a way out, for at least another brief respite (where unless Europe expands the available bailout machinery yet again, the respite will have an even briefer half life than that from the LTROs). The way out is simple, and in order to avoid any confusion, we will use an allegory from the movie Batman: Spain and Italy can be saved. But first they must be destroyed.

The Importance Of Being Earnest

Today there will be no discussion of the weather. Today platitudes, arcane phrases, vague promises couched in banalities will no longer do. Mr. Draghi has laid down the gauntlet of actually providing a solution for Europe by having the ECB act as Superman, Batman and the Avengers and show up and make the last minute rescue and I fear that anything short of this will now send the markets into a tailspin. Expectations run high, Mr. Draghi may well have over-promised and any sort of under delivery will not be taken well. Today may be the most critical meeting, ever, of the European Central Bank and it is Mr. Draghi’s reputation, the ECB’s reputation that has been put on the line by Mr. Draghi’s bold comments.