It's official - Germany has become just like China (or, rather, has always been like it): the more it is pushed to do something (let ECB print), the more it will do the opposite. Half a year ago we discussed that the weakest point of the European bailout language was its reliance on Collective Action Clauses which imply that any resolution which does not have 100% backing of all bondholders would potentially push a country into default. In essence, this took control out of the hands of the Eurozone head, Germany, and put it to the bondholders. Well, according to a preliminary draft released by the Telegraph and FT, as part of the new bailout 'indenture' contained in the ESM, "under a section headed “The establishment of a procedure for an orderly default as part of the ESM”, Berlin makes clear that countries which are deemed to be insolvent – rather than just suffering a temporary loss of access to the financial markets – would be allowed, in effect, to declare bankruptcy and default on their bonds: If [a debt sustainability review] is negative, the affected member state would instead receive loans for a limited time only, during which the procedure for an orderly default would be prepared. In order to make sovereign defaults possible where they are unavoidable, the threat of instability in the financial system resulting from such a default must be able to be credibly excluded. A plan to maintain the stability of the financial system in the event of an orderly default needs to be developed in close co-operation with European banking regulators. This would determine which banks would be restructured and/or recapitalised, which will necessitate the drawing up of Europe-wide rules on bank restructuring." And as we discussed previously, the voluntary language will likely be taken out from the final draft, effectively giving Germany the unilateral ability to kick countries out. Which explains why the market is about to plunge: according to just released information from DPA, "the German Foreign Ministry on Friday confirmed that Germany was considering the possibility of more eurozone "orderly defaults" beyond that of Greece, as suggested by a paper leaked by the British press." In essence, what this means is that instead of relenting on the ECB issue, which as every investment bank has said would be the end of the world unless massive printing is permitted, Germany would rather kick countries out of the Eurozone instead of entering a hyperinflationary collapse. Perhaps it is now time for the banks to start toning down their language on the imminent destruction that would ensue if the ECB does not print, as this is apparently not happening...
Our friends and rivals over at The Daily Telegraph have gotten their hands on an interesting document from the German government detailing its proposals for EU treaty change, and have helpfully posted it online (with an English translation by the Open Europe think thank).
Although the Telegraph focuses on its implications for Britain, there is a significant amount of detail on how Berlin would like to change eurozone economic governance, including yet another stab at enshrining bondholder “haircuts” in the EU treaties.
For those who haven’t followed the debate closely, there is now a closed-door fight going on about whether Greece really will be the only country that sees its bondholders pushed into losses – as the eurozone’s leaders have repeatedly insisted in their summit conclusions – or whether the bloc’s new €500bn rescue fund, which could come into place as early as next year, should allow for organised defaults.
Why is this a market moving event?
When broader default powers were mooted for the ESM at this time last year in a much-discussed agreement between France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel in the French seaside town of Deauville, bond markets swooned, sending Ireland and then Portugal into bail-outs. Days later, during a G20 meeting in Seoul, Merkel was forced to back down. But the issue clearly hasn’t died.
In other words, while everyone believes Germany has been boxed into a corner and has no choice but to relent on global demands to let the ECB do whatever France demands, Germany was making other plans all along. Such as having the opion to kick France out of the Eurozone if and when it so chooses.
Because after all, money talks. And in Europe, only Germany has the money.