Ireland

Frontrunning: January 26

  • BOJ Should Be Allowed $643 Billion Fund to Buy Foreign Bonds, Iwata Says (Bloomberg)
  • Banks Hoarding ECB Cash May Double Company Defaults (Bloomberg)
  • China Police Open Fire on Tibetans as Protests Spread (Bloomberg)
  • Sarkozy Presidential Rival Hollande Would Lower Retirement Age, Lift Taxes (Bloomberg)
  • IMF takes tougher stance over Greek debt (FT)
  • Iran threatens to act first on EU embargo (FT)
  • PM says ‘no complacency’ on economy (FT)
  • George Soros: How to pull Italy and Spain back from the edge (FT)
  • Japan's NEC to slash 10,000 jobs (Reuters)
  • Obama Planning Corporate Tax Overhaul (Bloomberg)

T-Minus 11 Months Until Geithner Resignation

Easily the best news of the day:

GEITHNER SAYS OBAMA WOULDN'T ASK HIM TO STAY FOR A SECOND TERM - BBG

Oh well, life is tough. Surely that basement office at Goldman Sachs will have some daylight and a TruboTax manual to make post-administrative life bearable for Geithner.

 

"Dreams Versus Reality" - Former IMF Chief Economist On Europe's Last Stand

Successive plans to restore confidence in the euro area have failed. Proposals currently on the table also seem likely to fail. The market cost of borrowing is at unsustainable levels for many banks and a significant number of governments that share the euro. In three short sentences, the Peterson Institute for International Economics' (PIIE) Simon Johnson introduces the clear and present danger that Europe has become in a comprehensive article on the deepening European crisis. The circular nature of the realization of sovereign credit risk realities and the subsequent effective insolvency of banks exacerbates a credit crunch and exaggerates problems in the real economy - most specifically in the periphery. Johnson outlines five measures that are needed to enable the euro area to survive but the big bazooka of up to EUR5tn just for the PIIGS is what the PIIE senior fellow fears as the ECB is pushed down a dangerous path. The coordination of 17 disaparate nations leaves the former IMF man greatly concerned as the unique nature of this crisis leaves "four economic, social, and political events as possible causes of systemic collapse with each at risk of occurring in the next weeks, months, or years and these risks will not disappear quickly." As European sovereign bonds are now deeply subordinated claims on recessionary economies, it is no surprise that Johnson ends by noting that Europe's economy remains in a dangerous state.

Japan Gold Buying On TOCOM Again Supports

Investors are waiting on the outcome of a 2 day Federal Reserve meeting which ends on Wednesday.  Here they are following any signs that interest rates will remain low, as that could put pressure on the U.S. dollar. The Tokyo Commodity Exchange, December, gold contracts climbed as high as 4,167 yen/gram, its biggest gain since mid-December. The gains initially propelled cash gold even though trading was slow during the Lunar New Year break. Japan has been notably absent in the gold market in recent years. This may be changing as concerns about the Japanese economy and continuing debasement of the yen may be leading to Japanese diversification into gold.  The scale of domestic savings in Japan remains enormous. This would be a new and potentially extremely important source of demand in the gold market which could help contribute to much higher gold prices. 

Frontrunning: January 24

  • Fears Mount That Portugal Will Need a Second Bailout (WSJ)
  • EU to Have No Deadline for End of Greek Talks (Bloomberg)
  • Japan economy predicted to shrink in 2011 (AFP)
  • Japan’s Fiscal Pressure Intensifies as Tax-Boost Plan Insufficent: Economy (Bloomberg)
  • Berlin ready to see stronger ‘firewall’ (FT)
  • Obama Speech to Embrace U.S. Manufacturing Rebirth, Energy for Job Growth (Bloomberg)
  • EU Hits Iran With Oil Ban, Bank Asset Freeze in Bid to Halt Nuclear Plan (Bloomberg)
  • China's Oil Imports from Iran Jump (WSJ)
  • Croatians vote Yes to join EU (FT)
  • Japan’s $130 Billion Fund Unused in Biggest M&A Year in More Than Decade (Bloomberg)
  • Buffett Blames Congress for Romney’s 15% Rate (Bloomberg)

Subordination 101: A Walk Thru For Sovereign Bond Markets In A Post-Greek Default World

Yesterday, Reuters' blogger Felix Salmon in a well-written if somewhat verbose essay, makes the argument that "Greece has the upper hand" in its ongoing negotiations with the ad hoc and official group of creditors. It would be a great analysis if it wasn't for one minor detail. It is wrong. And while that in itself is hardly newsworthy, the fact that, as usual, its conclusion is built upon others' primary research and analysis, including that of the Wall Street Journal, merely reinforces the fact that there is little understanding in the mainstream media of what is actually going on behind the scenes in the Greek negotiations, and thus a comprehension of how prepack (for now) bankruptcy processes operate. Furthermore, since the Greek "case study" will have dramatic implications for not only other instances of sovereign default, many of which are already lining up especially in Europe, but for the sovereign bond market in general, this may be a good time to explain why not only does Greece not have the upper hand, but why an adverse outcome from the 11th hour discussions between the IIF, the ad hoc creditors, Greece, and the Troika, would have monumental consequences for the entire bond market in general.

Treja Vu: Bond Market Starts Year With Third Consecutive "Dash For Trash" Surge

A few days ago, we noted how in light of the most recent temporary bout of market insanity, which has seen the worst of the worst companies broadly outperform risk, one should go long the 30 most hated companies in the US as determined by the short interest to float ratio. We ourselves are unsure if this was a mock recommendation, or the only way to make money in a time when short covering is the only viable trading "strategy." Now as it turns out, precisely the same approach of pursuing the biggest losers has worked in the bond world as well. As the following graphic from Reuters shows, the three best performers of the year in rates, is 10 Year paper from Ireland, Italy, and, yup, Greece, all of which have returned over 4%. The US? Down 0.7% YTD. Why the divergence? Simple - the market is fully positioned for continued massive balance sheet expansion out of Europe which at least for the time being appears to have been passed the baton of monetary irresponsibility. At least that is what the market prices in. That and some ridiculous amount in one the next 3 year LTRO next month (which however does nothing at all to fix solvency, and in fact merely makes the day of reckoning even more painful when it starts - what happens in 3 years: the ECB is forced to do a €100 trillion 7 day MRO every week to roll the entire European balance sheet on a weekly basis?). Whether the market be disappointed, we will known in just under 6 weeks. Either way, here is what bond returns look like Year To Date. For anyone hit by a case of treja vu, you are not alone: this is precisely the same pattern we have seen for the third year in a row. What happens next is well known.

Guest Post: Bailouts + Downgrades = Austerity And Pain

Nowhere in S&P’s statement about “global economic and financial crisis”, did it clarify that sovereigns were hit due to backing their largest national banks (and international, US ones) which engaged in half a decade of leveraged speculation. But here’s how it worked: 1) Big banks funneled speculative capital, and their own, into local areas, using real estate and other collateral as fodder for securitized deals with derivative touches. 2) They lost money on these bets, and on the borrowing incurred to leverage them. 3) The losses ate their capital. 4) The capital markets soured against them in mutual bank distrust so they couldn’t raise more money to cover their bets as before. 5) So, their borrowing costs rose which made it more difficult for them to back their bets or purchase their own government’s debt. 6) This decreased demand for government debt, which drove up the cost of that debt, which transformed into additional country expenses. 7) Countries had to turn to bailouts to keep banks happy and plush with enough capital. 8) In return for bailouts and cheap lending, governments sacrificed citizens. 9) As citizens lost jobs and countries lost assets to subsidize the international speculation wave, their economies weakened further. 10) S&P (and every political leader) downplayed this chain of events.... The die has been cast. Central entities like the Fed, ECB, and IMF perpetuate strategies that further undermine economies, through emergency loan facilities and  bailouts, with rating agency downgrades spurring them on. Governments attempt to raise money at harsher terms PLUS repay the bailouts that caused those terms to be higher. Banks hoard cheap money which doesn’t help populations, exacerbating the damaging economic effects. Unfortunately, this won't end any time soon.

On Greek PSI - Headlines And Reality

The Greek PSI is once again (still) hitting the headlines. Here is what we think the most likely scenario is (80% likelihood). Some form of an agreement will be announced.  The IIF will announce that the “creditor committee has agreed in principle to a plan.”  That plan will need to be “formalized” and final agreement from the individual institutions on the committee and those that weren’t part of the committee will need to be obtained.  The headline will sound good, but will leave a month or so for details to come out.  In the meantime every European and EU leader (or employee) with a press contact will say what a great deal it is.  That it confirms that Europe is on the path of progress and that they are doing what they committed to at their summits. That will be the hype that will drive the market higher (or in fact has already done so). However, the reality (as we noted earlier in Einhorn's market madness chart) is that this still leaves hedge funds to acquiesce (unlikely) and furthermore focus will switch to Greece's actual debt sustaianability post-default (yes the d-word) and as we are seeing recently, Portugal will come into very sharp focus. If they cannot bribe and blackmail and threaten their way into something they call PSI, then we will see Greece stop making payments, and then the markets will get very ugly in a hurry.

Nomura's Koo Plays The Pre-Blame Game For The Pessimism Ahead

While his diagnosis of the balance sheet recessionary outbreak that is sweeping global economies (including China now he fears) is a useful framework for understanding ZIRP's (and monetary stimulus broadly) general inability to create a sustainable recovery, his one-size-fits-all government-borrow-and-spend to infinity (fiscal deficits during balance sheet recessions are good deficits) solution is perhaps becoming (just as he said it would) politically impossible to implement. In his latest missive, the Nomura economist does not hold back with the blame-bazooka for the mess we are in and face in 2012. Initially criticizing US and now European bankers and politicians for not recognizing the balance sheet recession, Koo takes to task the ECB and European governments (for implementing LTRO which simply papers over the cracks without solving the underlying problem of the real economy suggesting bank capital injections should be implemented immediately), then unloads on the EBA's 9% Tier 1 capital by June 2012 decision, and ends with a significant dressing-down of the Western ratings agencies (and their 'ignorance of economic realities'). While believing that Greece is the lone profligate nation in Europe, he concludes that Germany should spend-it-or-send-it (to the EFSF) as capital flight flows end up at Berlin's gates. Given he had the holidays to unwind, we sense a growing level of frustration in the thoughtful economist's calm demeanor as he realizes his prescription is being ignored (for better or worse) and what this means for a global economy (facing deflationary deleveraging and debt minimization) - "It appears as though the world economy will remain under the spell of the housing bubble collapse that began in 2007 for some time yet" and it will be a "miracle if Europe does not experience a full-blown credit contraction."

$10 TRILLION Liquidity Injection Coming? Credit Suisse Hunkers Down Ahead Of The European Endgame

When yesterday we presented the view from CLSA's Chris Wood that the February 29 LTRO could be €1 Trillion (compared to under €500 billion for the December 21 iteration), we snickered, although we knew quite well that the market response, in stocks and gold, today would be precisely as has transpired. However, after reading the report by Credit Suisse's William Porter, we no longer assign a trivial probability to some ridiculous amount hitting the headlines early in the morning on February 29. Why? Because from this moment on, the market will no longer be preoccupied with a €1 trillion LTRO number as the potential headline, one which in itself would be sufficient to send the Euro tumbling, the USD surging, and provoking an immediate in kind response from the Fed. Instead, the new 'possible' number is just a "little" higher, which intuitively would make sense. After all both S&P and now Fitch expect Greece to default on March 20 (just to have the event somewhat "priced in"). Which means that in an attempt to front-run the unprecedented liquidity scramble that will certainly result as nobody has any idea what would happen should Greece default in an orderly fashion, let alone disorderly, the only buffer is having cash. Lots of it. A shock and awe liquidity firewall that will leave everyone stunned. How much. According to Credit Suisse the new LTRO number could be up to a gargantuan, and unprecedented, €10 TRILLION!

Preliminary Thoughts On The European Downgrade From Goldman And Morgan Stanley

It has been a busy weekend for Wall Street, which has been doing all it can to spin the S&P downgrade in the best favorable light, although judging by the initial EURUSD and EURJPY reaction, so far not succeeding. Below we present a quick report written by Goldman's Lasse Nielsen on why in Goldman's view the downgrade's "impact is likely to be limited" and also the quick notes from an impromptu call MS organized for institutional clients (which had just two questions in the Q&A section, of which only one was answered - it appears virtually noboby believes that global moral hazard will allow anyone to fail at this point, so why bother even going out of bed).