Ireland

The Full Math Behind The "Expanded" European Bailout Fund

As noted earlier, futures this morning are higher despite a plethora of economic misses (and despite 57% of March US data missing as per DB), simply on regurgitated headlines of an "expanded" European €7/800 billion bailout fund. There is one problem with this: the headlines are all wrong, as none apparently have taken the time to do the math. Which, courtesy of think tank OpenEurope, is as follows: "The real amount of cash that is still available to back stop struggling states, should it come to that, is only around €500bn." Of course, that would hardly be headline inspiring: recall that that is simply the full size of the ESM as is. But even that number will hardly ever be attained, and the ECB will have to step in long before Europe needs anything close to a full drawdown: "The problem here is that if it’s too big and terrible to ever be used, it’s likely that it won’t ever be used. Even jittery markets will be able to figure out that a large fund which would damage French and German credit ratings if ever extended will never be fully tapped. So clearly some circular logic at play. And let's not forget that it’s still far too small to save Italy and Spain should if worse come to worse." Circular logic? Check. Another check kiting scheme? Check. Spain and Italy still out in the cold? Check. Conclusion -> buy EURUSD, and thus the ES, which has now recoupled with every uptick in the pair, but not downtick.

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Much of the fiscal and monetary insanity that has come out of the EU over the last two years can be summated by one of my central global theses: politics determine Europe's policies, not economics. And Europe now appears to be shifting towards a more leftist/ anti-austerity measure political environment. If this shift is cemented in the coming Greek, French, and Irish elections/ referendums, then things could get ugly in the Eurozone VERY quickly.

 

Austerity - Mais, Non. Spending - Nein. PSI - Tal Vez?

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.

EU - EFSF & ESM - A Whole Lot Of Nothing

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.

Goldman On Europe: "Risk Of 'Financial Fires' Is Spreading"

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.

Frontrunning: March 27, 2012

  • 6.0+ Magnitude quake strikes near Tokyo (USGS)
  • Ireland Faces Legal Challenge on Bank Bailout (Reuters)
  • Bernanke says U.S. needs faster growth (Reuters)
  • Spain Promises Austere Budget Despite Poll Blow (Reuters)
  • Orban Punished by Investors as Hungary Retreats From IMF Talks (Bloomberg)
  • Obama vows to pursue further nuclear cuts with Russia (Reuters)
  • Japan's Azumi Wants Tax Issue Decided Tuesday (WSJ)
  • Australia Losing Competitive Edge, Says Dow Chemicals CEO (Australian)
  • OECD Urges ‘Ambitious’ Eurozone Reform (FT)
  • Yields Less Than Italy’s Signal Indonesia Exiting Junk (Bloomberg)

Things That Make You Go Hmmm... Such As A "Fiscally Credible" UK And Its Upcoming 100 Year Gilts

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.

The Oil Conundrum Explained

Oil as a commodity has always been a highly valuable early warning indicator of economic instability.  Every conceivable element of our financial system depends on the price of energy, from fabrication, to production, to shipping, to the consumer’s very ability to travel and make purchases.  High energy prices derail healthy economies and completely decimate systems already on the verge of collapse.  Oil affects everything. This is why oil markets also tend to be the most misrepresented in the mainstream financial media.  With so much at stake over the price of petroleum, and the cost steadily climbing over the past year returning to disastrous levels last seen in 2008, the American public will soon be looking for someone to blame, and you can bet the MSM will do its utmost to ensure that blame is focused in the wrong direction.  While there are, indeed, multiple reasons for the current high costs of oil, the primary culprits are obscured by considerable disinformation…   The most prominent but false conclusions on the expanding value of oil are centered on assertions that supply is decreasing dramatically, while demand is increasing dramatically.  Neither of these claims is true…

Guest Post: A Primer For Those Considering Expatriation

A growing number of Americans are frustrated with the way in which their economy has been managed and are becoming increasingly concerned about future measures the government may take to keep its coffers full. A question that is arising with increasing frequency is: does expatriation offer a viable protection to those concerned about a more financially-intrusive US system? The short answer is 'yes' but while it does offer a solution to ending one's obligations to pay US taxes - it's important to understand that it's not suitable for everyone. Mark Nestmann gives a great nuts and bolts breakdown of what's involved and what the benefits and risks are

Ugly European Sovereign CDS Rerack

An ugly day all around as European sovereign CDS jump the most in three weeks...

                    5Y                       10Y             5/10's
ITALY           374/382  +15      365/385         -10/0
SPAIN          432/440  +15      426/446          -5/5

Europe's 'Success Story' Double Dips: Irish Economy Re-Contracts, As Predicted

Remember Europe's so-called success story - Ireland? Time to scratch it off the list, as the "best performing" PIIG, and "peripheral reform" wunderkind, just reminded everyone that the only true success story in Europe is that other I country - Iceland, after its fourth quarter GDP unexpectedly dropped 0.2%, well below consensus estimates of a 1.0% GDP boost. Odd - recall that back in October, following the announcement that Greece would be allowed to extract a bondholder haircut, initially at 50% and ultimately at 78.5%, we said that "this means that Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will promptly commence sabotaging their economies (just like Greece) simply to get the same debt Blue Light special as Greece." Looks like Ireland is well on its way to doing just that, and the GDP slide is actually not all that surprising. Next: prepare for more "surprising" GDP misses from Portugal, Spain and, of course, Italy.

Frontrunning: March 22

  • Beijing on edge amid coup rumours (FT) - as predicted two days ago, do not expect any official media update on this critical matter, until after the outcome, whatever it is
  • Goldman scours emails for use of word "muppets" (Reuters)
  • Germany to Balance Budget Early (WSJ)
  • Osborne Gives and Takes From Rich in U.K. Budget Balancing Act (Bloomberg)
  • Big Spending at Fannie, Freddie Should End, Watchdog Says (Bloomberg)
  • Volcker Says U.S. Needs Reforms in Finance, Government (Bloomberg)
  • Chinese Firms, Regulators in Talks on Yuan-Fund Program (FT)
  • Ireland Said to Ready Bank-Debt Proposal for ECB Review (Bloomberg)