Is This The Reason For Europe's Sudden Bloodbath

While the ongoing slaughter in European bank credit, and mostly counterparty risk, is troubling, it is nothing new: we have been showing it for over a month, most recently on Friday in "European Bank Risk Soars To 3 Year Highs, US Risk Rising."

 

And yet there is a new element to the latest European selloff, one which turned vicious just minutes after Europe opened for trading this morning with not just commercial banks (who are now all subject to bail-ins courtesy of the BRRD) being dumped with the Deutsche Bank water, but peripheral spreads and equity markets have all joined in.

Case in point: Spanish, Portuguese and Italian yields and spreads to Germany are blowing out...

 

... while the Athens stock market just dropped to the lowest level since 1990, as the Greek banking index just crashed over 21% to a new all time low.

Why the sudden and broad revulsion to everything European? Isn't China's devaluation and capital outflow enough worries for the shaky stock market? Or does China being offline for the next week demand that the market find something else to obsess over?

Perhaps the reason for the shift in market sentiment, which appears to have realized once more that Europe is not at all fixed, had to do with the following note out of Morgan Stanely's equity strategist, Graham Secker, which we highlighted yesterday, and which admitted that in addition to everything else, it is time to once again panic about Europe.

One noteworthy aspect in the current risk-off environment is the lack of peripheral spread widening in Europe; this is unusual based on performance patterns during this cycle and most likely reflects the ECB’s substantial QE programme. While the region is often perceived as a relative consensus overweight among equity investors, we are more downbeat and prefer the US and Japan instead. Our European caution primarily reflects the prospect of further earnings disappointment across the region, but we are also wary of any resumption of geopolitical concerns.

 

Recent investor caution tends to focus on fears of excess USD strength, low oil prices and/or China, but we think it is quite plausible that Europe moves back up the pecking order (to its more usual place some would say!) as we move through 2016. The UK’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership, likely to take place in June, may appear the most plausible catalyst in the short term to raise regional risk premia, but the ongoing migrant issue risks eroding political cohesion over the medium term and political uncertainty is rising in the periphery. Greece has a daunting debt repayment due this summer, Spain is currently without a government, new European regulations are preventing Italy from adopting an effective ‘bad bank’ solution and the recently elected socialist government in Portugal is reversing course on prior austerity and competitiveness improvements. During a cyclical upswing, markets are prone to overlook such concerns, but the opposite would be true if growth starts to relapse.

Yesterday, we promptly thanked Mr. Secker for the reminder...

... and, judging by today's action where Europe is once again not only not fixed, but suddenly very much broken once more, so are all other capital markets.