For those confused by the cornucopia of assorted debt ceiling "plans" out in circulation, Citi's Amitabh Arora has released the definitive guide for what plan does what in terms of proposed deficit reduction, probability of passage of the Congress, Senate and the President, and likely outcome to the US rating. As table 1 below shows, UBS' prescient call from last Thursday that a US downgrade is inevitable, was spot on. It also explains why the entire sellside industry, and media, have been in damage control over what now appears to be an inevitable AA rating of the world's reserve currency. Alas, just like with Lehman, nobody really has any idea what will happen to capital markets once the Poor Standards or Moody's headline of a AA cut hits the tape: one thing is certain - there are trillions in US invested money market funds, structured finance debt and munis that have rating mandates and demand a super secure (AAA) threshold, and especially an A-1+ short-term rating. Should there be a massive flow out of these securities and into other asset classes, the outcome is absolutely unpredictable. More importantly, Citi touches on a topic that has not seen prominent mention anywhere else: namely the acceleration of the GSEs status from conservatorship to receivership should there be no prompt resolution on the debt ceiling. For agency paper holders this may be a topic that merits much more diligence.
A rather sobering report out from S&P, which has no other function than to tighten the screws even more on those who prudently are holding out against extending the debt ceiling. As for S&P: please explain to US how 120% debt/GDP is better than 100% debt/GDP, and thus more worthy of a AAA rating? Please. Because we must be bloody stupid: "In our view, the need for an agreement to raise the debt ceiling before it is breached--which the government has said would occur on or around Aug. 2--remains a major risk to the U.S. economy, in our view. Because we see a real risk that efforts to reduce future deficits may meaningfully miss the targets that Congressional leaders and the White House have discussed, we put the likelihood that we would lower the long-term rating on the U.S. within the next three months and potentially as soon as early August--by one or more notches, into the 'AA' category--at about 50-50."
Why The Latest European Bailout, Aka "The Debt Buyback" Plan Is Also DOA, And Why The CDO At The Heart Of The Eurozone Is About To Become Extremely ToxicSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/17/2011 19:26 -0500
Over time many have wondered why the ECB, in order to "extend and pretend", does not simply do an episode of QE and monetize bonds outright? Well, in addition to Germany's flashbacks to hyperinflation which have so far kept Trichet from pursuing an all too aggressive bond buyback program in the primary market, the ECB does have the Securities Market Programme (SMP) which however since inception has bought only €74 billion (this week the number is expected to rise, or, if it doesn't, it confirms that now China is directly buying European bonds in the secondary market). The problem with the SMP is that it was conceived as a modest marginal debt buying program, never intended to surpass much more than a few dozen billion in debt. Alas, by now it is becoming all too clear that the ECB will need to monetize hundreds of billions of insolvent PIIGS debt in order to extend and pretend forcefully enough so that a new bailout is not needed every other week. But how to do it without monetizing debt on the ECB's books? Enter the EFSF, or the off-balance sheet CDO "at the heart of the eurozone" which according to the latest iteration of the European rescue package (Remember that most recent DOA plan to rollover debt? Yep - that's dead) is precisely the mechanism by which Europe's own open market QE is about to take place. "European Central Bank Executive Board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi suggested the EFSF be allowed to provide funds for a buy-back of bonds from the market, where prices have in some cases fallen 50 percent from levels at which the debt was issued. "This would allow the private sector to sell bonds at market prices, which are currently below nominal value. At the same time, the public sector could benefit monetarily," Bini Smaghi told Sunday's To Vima newspaper in an interview." Translated: another market clearing perversion courtesy of the same structured finance abominations that brought us here. The problem, unfortunately, is that Moody's announced nearly two and a half years ago that the whole distressed debt buyback approach is... a dead end, and will lead to the same "event of default" outcome that all the prior bailout plans would have achieved as well (we correctly surmised that Bailout #2 was DOA, about a month before the "efficient" market did). Here is why.
Domino #2: S&P Downgrades Largest French Retail Banking Group, Credit Agricole, To A+ From AA-, Due To "Greek Exposure"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2011 12:32 -0500
Yes, banks are indeed on the hook should Greece file. Keep an eye on those Deutsche Bank puts. From S&P: "We consider that French banking group Crédit Agricole (GCA) has a significant sensitivity to Greece's creditworthiness and economic prospects, primarily through subsidiary Emporiki's funding needs and exposure to local credit risk. The downgrades reflect our view that reduced creditworthiness of the Greek sovereign puts pressure on GCA's financial profile, given its exposure to the troubled Greek economy, mostly through its subsidiary Emporiki Bank of Greece (not rated). The downgrade reflects our view that persistent deterioration of the Greek economy induces negative prospects for the local banking sector, which could translate into further material credit losses at Emporiki and/or a sharp decrease in its customer deposits. "
Live blogging the S&P conference call. The Q&A session will be critical. A rather interesting one: "Did the Federal Reserve Board's program of quantitative easing contribute to your decision to revise the outlook to negative? Answer - No. We find that risks of deflation in the U.S. have lessened and that there are few indications that inflation expectations have become untethered. Although it will be challenging to sequence the unwinding of these operations while raising policy interest rates once the recovery has become firmly rooted, we believe that the credibility of monetary policy will continue to be a credit strength for the U.S."
As Morgan Stanley Unwinds Its Massive MBIA CDS Losing Position, Is A Billion+ Hit To Earnings Coming?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/29/2011 09:40 -0500
When we reported on some peculiar action in MBIA CDS back in February, we said that one of the reasons for the massive tightening in MBIA CDS which ripped from 55 pts up to 37 pts in the span of two weeks was possibly on CDS commutation speculation (this in addition to ongoing aggressive litigation by MBIA against mortgage originators who may be commutating CDS in a quid-pro-quo fashion to achieve prompt settlement). But whatever the reason for the move, one thing was certain: one bank more than anyone, will be hurt materially by the move - Morgan Stanley. As we said "According to a source, Morgan Stanley was short risk the monoline after it had obtained protection on a static pool of CMBS via an MBIA-related entity called LaCrosse Financial. And as LaCrosse wrote protection against the static pool that was non-transferrable by Morgan Stanley, the bank hedged its counterparty risk by purchasing protection on MBIA itself. So while CDS was blowing out, MS was profiting. Then over the past two weeks, the bank has seen hundreds of millions in paper P&L evaporate through the window. The only question is when will Morgan Stanley close its now underwater protection (which continues to bleed a substantial amount of theta), especially since the actual credit event may have just been pushed back indefinitely. In other words, those who are short the MBIA CDS may wish to wait just a little longer, and see just what the breaking point on Morgan Stanley's collateral call is." Well, per another source, and per Euro Money magazine, that breaking point has been reached and MS has now been forced to close its exposure, at a loss that some speculate could be in the billions.
Q: Is it fair to say that financial regulators are both a source and perpetuator of financial instability? Yes. Financial regulators have a unique position. They are the only financial market participant who can see the current asset and liability level data at any financial institution.
Yves & Tom of Naked Capitalism continue to blame those who shorted housing and housing-derivatives for driving the demand for the structured credit derivatives that almost ruined the financial system. That's like blaming the U.S. for the acts of Nazi Germany during WWII: It's just doesn't make any sense.
Some Sunday food for thought on state budgets, education and jobs...
Steve Abrahams, Head of MBS and Securitization Research predicts home prices to drop nationally another 5-11% through 2012 (Florida of course will take much longer.) Oooo, fun!
With the release of the FCIC report we're seeing a new wave of reasons (excuses) for the Financial Crisis. Somehow, no one seems to place any blame on the rating agencies and the lazy institutional investors who outsourced their due diligence to them. Enough of that BS. What the report should have said is "Here's a simple rule: If you can't analyze a security yourself DON'T FREAKING BUY IT!"
Ever heard the joke "How many European Economists does it take to come to the wrong conclusion about the cause(s) of the American housing crisis?" No? Really? Well, anyway, the answer, it seems, is three:
PIMCO, which was one of the firms spearheading the putback push against BofA, has put together a useful and rather objective analysis though Executive Vice President, Global Structured Finance Specialist, Rod Dubitsky, titled "Foreclosure Flaws Trigger New Round of Uncertainty." While not surprisingly the baseline case presented by PIMCO is a moderate one, as the asset manager claims the most likely impact is "moderate" it does acknowledge that there is a possibility for substantial complications (although Fannie's recent bail out of BofA pretty much takes cares of that). The two main adverse consequences are "corrupted title" - a topic beaten to death previously, and, more importantly, "Tax issues relating to RMBS issuance entities" on which PIMCO says "Some have argued that assigning the note for the mortgage loan so long after closing would run afoul of REMIC rules, which could subject RMBS deals to adverse tax consequences." Of course, as an escalation of these developments would bring the entire $8 trillion RMBS structured finance industry to a halt, we are fairly confident that as more and more settlements are instituted, that the whole fraudclosure issue will be very soon completely forgotten.
The Fed "Used The Vagueness In The Wording Of The Law To Weasel Out Of Fulfilling Their Duty To The American People"Submitted by George Washington on 12/02/2010 17:59 -0500
What's the Fed hiding?
With the recent realization that virtually the entire residential mortgage securitization system in America is hinging on fraud, as few if any of the recent structured finance packages actually were in possession of the necessary mortgage promissory notes (which were often improperly retained by seller banks as has been made all too clear after rounds of sworn and recorded servicer testimonies) we have seen a veritable explosion in the discussions, papers, essays and op-eds that claim that the existing housing system in America is based on a legal lie. Yet despite what has become glaringly obvious, the administration and the banks simply refuse to deal with the issue: that is to be expected as the damaging discoveries would result in a collapse in trillions of structured finance products leading to a fall out far worse than anything in the post-Lehman days. Furthermore, since banks now have recourse to trillions in fungible excess reserves the backdoor schemes to fill capital deficiencies will allow banks to pad the funding holes for the indefinite future. Additionally, rumors that the banks are pushing hard for a class settlement with the various attorneys general who have not yet been co-opted, bribed and otherwise converted to the fold indicates that it may only be a matter of time before this topic, which has lead so many in the blogosphere to the edge of hysteria will soon be buried. So is this merely another open and shut case which will disappear soon, and banks will continue with life and record bonuses as they know? Perhaps not. Bloomberg's Jonathan Weil suggests that instead of going after the banks and the legal system, which is now obviously beyond repair, those who seek justice should instead go after what could be the weakest link in the entire fraudclosure chain: the (well paid) auditors of these banks who may have committed fraud by signing off on their financial statements.