The sad reality of an austerity induced slowdown in Europe and an ESFS/ESM as useful as a chocolate fire-guard seems to be creeping into risk asset premia across Europe (and implicitly the US). GGB2s are all trading back under EUR20 (that is 20% of par), Sovereign yields and spreads are leaking wider despite the best efforts of their respective banks to back-up-the-truck in the 'ultimate all-in trade' and the LTRO Stigma has reached record levels as LTRO-encumbered banks' credit spreads are the worst in over two months. Spanish sovereign spreads are back at early January levels and with Italian yields comfortably back over 5% and the bonds starting to reality-check back towards the much less sanguine CDS market. It seems apparent that much of the liquidity-fixing LTRO benefits are now being washed away as investors realize nothing has changed and in fact things are considerably worse now given encumbrance and subordination concerns and the increased contagion risk that the LTRO and the Sarkozy trade has created.
Austerity hasn’t worked for countries. So far the austerity path has made situations worse, rather than better. Without stimulus, economies have seen their problems compound. So now virtually everyone is against the idea that austerity is helpful. That takes us back to spending. Maybe it’s just me, but spending is what got us into this mess in the first place. If spending worked so well and was so easy we wouldn’t have a sovereign debt crisis in the first place. Virtually every country was spending, yet deficits grew and economies shrank. Why is there any faith that spending now will work? Are we so good at targeting specific things that will really, truly, work? Not a chance. Spending will ensure debt grows just as fast, make the problem even bigger in the end, but will make people slightly happier in the near term. So if austerity doesn’t work, and spending hasn’t worked, what will? PSI, or Default, or Restructuring.
- Obama budget defeated 414-0 (Washington Times) yes, the Democrats too...
- German Central Banker: ECB Loans Only Buy Time (AP)
- Baku grants Israel use of its air bases (Jerusalem Times)
- Japan May Understate Deflation, Hampering BOJ, Economist Says (Bloomberg)
- BRICS flay West over IMF reform, monetary policy (Reuters)
- Five Portugal Lenders Downgraded by Moody’s (Bloomberg)
- SEC Registration Captures More Hedge Fund Advisers (Bloomberg)
- EU Nears One-Year Boost in Rescue Fund to $1.3 Trillion (Bloomberg)
- Consumers plot emergency oil release as Saudi decries high prices (Reuters)
- Japan Plans to Draft Stopgap Budget for First Time in 14 Years (Bloomberg)
Nothing has changed. You are counting the commitments of people who need the money. It is like getting a loan from the bank and trying to make them more comfortable by telling them, not only will we co-sign our own loan, but we will give them a guarantee that we will pay it back. These are the same people who constantly try to overwhelm current problems with huge headlines and promises of a better future. They don’t have the money, and never will. They also promised speculators in Greece would lose their shirts. We need to see the details, but be prepared to be underwhelmed.
With Chinese and European data disappointing and Weidmann commenting on the futility of the 'firewalls' (as we discussed earlier) ahead of the discussions later this week, European equities dropped their most in almost three weeks over the last two days closing right at their 50DMA (the closest to a cross since 12/20). Credit markets (dominated by financial weakness) continue to slide as the LTRO euphoria wears off. The LTRO Stigma, the spread between LTRO-encumbered and non-LTRO-encumbered banks, has exploded to over 107bps (from under 50bps at its best in mid Feb when we first highlighted it) and is now up over 75% since the CDS roll as only non-LTRO banks have seen any improvement in the last week. Aside from Portugal, whose bonds seem to be improving dramatically on the back of significant Cash-CDS basis compression as opposed to real-money flows as the spread between Bonds and CDS has compressed from 500bps to 250bps on the back of renewed confidence in CDS triggering, sovereign bond spreads are leaking wider all week with Italy and Spain worst.
Germany's recent 'agreement' to expand Europe's fire department (as Goldman euphemestically describes the EFSF/ESM firewall) seems to confirm the prevailing policy view that bigger 'firewalls' would encourage investors to buy European sovereign debt - since the funding backstop will prevent credit shocks spreading contagiously. However, as Francesco Garzarelli notes today, given the Euro-area's closed nature (more than 85% of EU sovereign debt is held by its residents) and the increased 'interconnectedness' of sovereigns and financials (most debt is now held by the MFIs), the risk of 'financial fires' spreading remains high. Due to size limitations (EFSF/ESM totals would not be suggicient to cover the larger markets of Italy and Spain let alone any others), Seniority constraints (as with Greece, the EFSF/ESM will hugely subordinate existing bondholders should action be required, exacerbating rather than mitigating the crisis), and Governance limitations (the existing infrastructure cannot act pre-emptively and so timing - and admission of crisis - could become a limiting factor), it is unlikely that a more sustained realignment of rate differentials (with their macro underpinnings) can occur (especially at the longer-end of the curve). The re-appearance of the Redemption Fund idea (akin to Euro-bonds but without the paperwork) is likely the next step in countering reality.
Okay, the coast is clear. Everyone buy PIIGS debt to boost pensioon fund yield -or- Media assisted .gov dis(not "mis")information fails to stand up to arithmetic fact!
In a brief but as usual succinct statement, MEP Daniel Hannan points out the country that decided to say no to establishment-rules and stuck to its guns by taking losses, devaluing its currency, and growing its way out of its pit of despair. The eloquent Englishman notes Iceland's current enviable position in terms of not just growth but Debt to GDP and proffers upon his European Parliamentarian peers that perhaps, just perhaps, there is a lesson in here for all European governments (cough Greece/Portugal cough). 67% of 'shrewd and canny' Icelanders are now against joining the Euro.
As we head into the US open, European cash equities are seen in positive territory with strong performance observed earlier in the session from the FTSE MIB. This follows reports from the Italian press regarding commentary from the Chinese President Hu Jintao who promised to encourage Chinese industry to look towards Italy with confidence, in a conversation with the Italian PM Monti on the sidelines of the nuclear safety summit in Seoul. Markets have also been reacting to an article from Der Spiegel, citing economists who have warned that the German central bank could be facing hidden liabilities of up to EUR 500bln should there be a break up in the Eurozone. This has prompted some risk-averse flows into the Bund which has seen fluctuating trade so far in the session but remains in positive territory as North America comes to market. In individual equities news, following overnight reports from Abu Dhabi concerning buying a stake in RBS, company shares were seen up 6%. Source comments from earlier in the session regarding the sale speculated that the stake could be up to a third of RBS. Looking ahead in the session, the market awaits US Consumer Confidence data due at 1500BST.
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)