Europe’s debt crisis has seen gold prices climb to new record highs in euros and British pounds at EUR 1,087.80/oz and GBP 944.93/oz respectively. Contagion concerns are mounting due to the failure of the ECB, the IMF and respective governments to tackle the sovereign debt crisis.
The scale of the debt crisis effecting Greece, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Spain is leading to growing concerns of a knock on deleterious impact on European banks and the global banking system. Gold should also be supported today by the OECD’s warning regarding the U.S. and Japan’s very poor fiscal situations and their lack of credible plans to tackle high and spiraling budget deficits. Silver’s fundamentals remain even stronger than gold’s and the recent paper driven sell off due to a series of margin calls and heavy selling on the COMEX appears to be over.
The Greek bankruptcy, pardon, sovereign liability management exercise, pardon reprofiling, is once again front and center in the news this morning, after Moody's had some words of caution about a broad spillover effect in Europe should Greece file. From Reuters: "A Greek debt default would hurt other peripheral euro zone states and could push Portugal and Ireland into junk territory, Moody's said on Tuesday, warning it would classify most forms of restructuring as a default. "A Greek default would be highly destabilising and would have implications for the creditworthiness of issuers across Europe," Moody's Investors Service's chief credit officer in the region, Alastair Wilson, told Reuters in a telephone interview. "This would result in more highly polarised credit worthiness and ratings among euro zone sovereigns, with the stronger countries retaining very high ratings and the weaker countries struggling to remain in investment grade." And yet a Greek bankruptcy seems increasingly more inevitable after a brand new fissure has now appeared in the government, after the chief opposition, New Democracy, party leader Antonis Samaras said he would oppose the latest round of austerity which, nonetheless, must pass in order for Greece to not run out of funds in 2 months, as we previously reported, and finally set off the dominoes. While the political bickering will likely hit fever pitch, and result in new and increasingly more violent protests in Athens, it is likely that austerity will pass as western banks are licking their chops at acquiring Greek "privatized" assets, at least when it comes to infrastructure and real estate, banks not so much, at below cost prices.
HY credit reached its widest level of the year today as IG and HY intrinsics are now unch YTD! Significant decompression since mid Feb in HY spreads, increasing amounts of net selling in secondary bonds, and a clear preference for up-in-quality and up-in-capital-structure leaves equity valuations looking precarious.
Cash is not our enemy right now - cash is your friend.
What a difference a year makes. It was just over a year ago that Greece received its first (and certainly not last) $1 trillion + bailout package from the EU, the ECB and the IMF. Just over 12 months later, all those who peddled Greek bonds to the rest of the world (ahem Germany) are now furiously backtracking, having finally realized what we, and everyone else with half a brain realized from the beginning: it's over for the euro. But fine, let's kick the can down the road for a few more months, which will allow banks, with access to interest-free central bank capital, to literally steal Greece's soon to be privatized assets for pennies on the dollar, and then send the carcass, now picked dry, to the international bankruptcy court. In the meantime, we would like expose all the idiots who like various anchors on Comcast's bubblevision channel, pitched Greek paper to hapless investors, only to see losses (this is not some speculative asset - this is fixed income) of over 40% in one year, and for some reason continue to have a podium from which to spread their lunacy, greed and outright stupidity.
The euro, global equities and bonds in peripheral Eurozone countries are all lower this morning on heightened concerns about the debt crisis in the Eurozone. The euro has fallen against all currencies and is now at a record low against gold at EUR 1,080.21/oz. Silver is lower against most currencies but is higher against the Australian dollar and the euro ( EUR 24.80/oz). Greece’s 10 year government debt has surged to 16.98%, Portugal’s to 9.6% and Ireland’s to a new record at 10.76%. The yield on Italian 10-year government debt is up 9bp to 4.85% after S&P cuts its rating outlook on Italy’s sovereign debt to “negative” from “stable”. The Spanish 10 year bond has risen 11 basis points to 5.57%. Besides sovereign debt risk, gold is also being supported by geopolitical risk as seen in the increasingly unstable nuclear armed Pakistan where armed militants attempted to take over Pakistan’s naval air force headquarters. There is increasing tension between the U.S. and Pakistan after what the U.S regards as Pakistan’s failure or collusion regarding Osama Bin Laden. China has increasing economic and military ties and interests in Pakistan and has vowed to standby Pakistan and has called on the world to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. Separately, in an interview with the Financial Times on Saturday, Henry Kissinger has warned of a world war involving Pakistan and India.
It is now as if Europe is urging Greece to fail. The EU's Olli Rehn, better known as lord protector of Ireland (and now Portugal), for once said the sensible thing when he commented on Greek prospects to privatize €50 billion worth of assets: the latest condition for the country to procure additional bailout funding. In word (or two) - not good. This obviously could be a major issue because as we noted yesterday, the country now suddenly only has 2 months of cash left. So if even the very entity that imposed this condition is saying it is a moot point (something we observed yesterday), then why engage in the exercise at all? And how long before Europe (and whoever heads the IMF at that time) decides to pull the plug entirely...
Christine Lagarde's chances of heading the IMF just took a another step back. Why? Because the firm whose alumni are about to be or already are in key posts at the Fed, the ECB and the BOC, has said (through its moutpiece Jim O'Neill who "can't see how the EUR should be above 1.40" even as Thomas Stolper et al see it going to 1.55 in a year) that it is not too crazy about having a European replacement for DSK, and that "it might be better if some leadership and authority came from outside of Europe with a fresh set of independent eyes" (supposedly the fact that Lagarde has had no formaly economic academic brainwashing is not a factor). In other words, Goldman has aligned itself with China, which has made it clear that it may be wise if the next IMF leadership "reflected the New World Order." As such, the largely symbolic IMF conclave just became very interesting: while the IMF is largely a figurehead with the real backstop organization always being the Federal Reserve, Goldman appears to have just voted alongside China... and thus against Europe and the US.
"Reasons why the EUR will escape crisis: [This space intentionally left blank]"
Today's EUR trading session which begins in about 4 hours, may be rather violent. While on one hand we have bond-negative news out of Spain, the biggest news once again comes out of the Swiss journal NZZ, which citing greek newspaper Kahtimerini, discloses that insolvent Greece has less than two months of cash left, or enough to last it until July 18, unless a new installment in the bailout tranche is approved for the country by the now headless IMF, and the "suddenly" insolvent ECB. Insolvent, because as Spiegel will report in its headline article tomorrow, and as we have noted many times before, the bank is suddenly finding itself lending out money collateralized by now virtually D-rated bonds: something not even Trichet will be able to spin off to the increasingly malevolent media. Per Dow Jones: "Skeleton risks amounting to several hundreds of billions of euros are on the balance sheet of the European Central Bank, magazine Der Spiegel writes in a preview of its edition to be published Monday. Those risks arise because banks, above all from Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, have provided as collateral asset-backed securities that are unfit for central bank loans as their debt rating is low or non-existent, the magazine says." Alas, the European central bank's dirty laundry is being exposed just as a rift between the bank and Germany: its most solvent backer, is starting to develop. Also from Dow Jones: "German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble cautioned in an interview published Sunday that there shouldn't be a conflict with the European Central Bank over a possible restructuring of Greek debt. "If in the end it should come to an extension of bonds, of course, we need the approval of the IMF and above all of the ECB. Under no circumstances should it come to a conflict with the ECB," Schaeuble told Bild am Sonntag. "I advise all of us to use restraint in public debates about this question." Several ECB officials have rejected a restructuring of Greek debt and have warned of possible catastrophic consequences, while European finance ministers are slowly warming up to the possibility of some kind of restructuring as a last resort." Thus the crunch time for Europe's latest kick the can down the road round, once again centered on a bankrupt Greece, may be coming fast, and this time with a rather furious Germany.
A year after an insolvent European continent realized it is long overdue to implement fiscal consolidation, aka tightening, also known as 2010's keyword of choice: "austerity", the political regimes who have supported fiscal prudence are one after another falling victim to the general population's dissatisfaction with the gradual elimination of a myriad of socialist policies. Following recent electoral losses in Germany, not to mention the overthrow of the Portuguese government, which like Belgium, continues to be in limbo, today we move on to the second to last domino in the PIIGS chain: Spain (and Italy is next: S&P took the time at 6pm on Saturday to remind everyone about that particular unpleasant fact). Per Reuters: "Spaniards began voting on Sunday in local and regional polls expected to deal heavy losses to the ruling Socialists, who are blamed for widespread unemployment that has off a wave of pre-election protests. Tens of thousands of Spaniards demonstrated in the past week in city squares around the country against austerity measures that have kept a fiscal crisis at bay but aggravated the highest jobless rate in the European Union. [as a reminder a webcam of the Madrid protests can be found here]. The protesters have called on Spaniards to reject the Socialists and the center-right Popular Party, the main two political options in Spain." The problem is that when you overthrow socialists, it is unlikely that you will get more socialism down the road. Which, however, is what everyone in this country of 21% unemployment, and nearly 50% joblessness in the 18-25 age group really wants.
When it comes to the topic of Greece, by now everyone is sick of prevaricating European politicians who even they admit are lying openly to the media, and tired of conflicted investment banks trying to make the situation appear more palatable if only they dress it in some verbally appropriate if totally ridiculous phrase (which just so happens contracts to SLiME). The truth is Greece will fold like a lawn chair: whether it's tomorrow (which would be smartest for everyone involved) or in 1 years, when the bailout money runs out, is irrelevant. The question then is what will happen after the threshold of nevernever land is finally breached, and Kickthecandowntheroad world once again reverts to the ugly confines of reality. Luckily, the Telegraph's Andrew Lilico presents what is arguably the most realistic list of the consequences of crossing the senior bondholder Styx compiled to date.
FITCH DOWNGRADES GREECE TO 'B+'; RATING WATCH NEGATIVE
Take a moment and conduct a mini thought experiment. Imagine that you're from the future many hundreds of years from now, researching what life was like in the early 21st century. You pull up an archive of newspaper headlines from the year 2011 and read the following...
The “American Realist” Says: Past as Prologue – Re-blown Bubble to Pop Before the Previous Bubble Finishes Popping!!!!Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 05/18/2011 10:39 -0500
Last night, I spent an interesting time with the esteemed and world reknown macro economist, entrepreneur, NYU professor and strategist, Dr. Nouriel Roubini. Nouriel is a very, very bright guy. He has to be, he agrees with many of my viewpoints :-) On a more serious note, this article is the first installment of the valuation of real world, real assets and properties that are actually up for sale. I plan to walk my readers through the potential absurdity that is investing in a bubble that has not finished popping.