There are those who claim that rating agencies are utterly irrelevant, incompetent, behind the curve and merely echo chambers of popular opinion. They are 100% right. There is, however, one critical function that rating agencies execute - they put into words what everyone else knows is fact, but are simply unwilling to recognize due to the systemic implications of admitting yet another lie: subprime, failed banks, Europe, etc. By the time a rating agency has finally opined on something in a way indicative of the truth, it is too late to stick one's head in the sand. Yesterday precisely this happened once more - from the WSJ: "Credit rating agency Moody's Investor Service Friday downgraded a range of major banks in Sweden and Norway, citing contagion risks from the European debt crisis. But observers said the cuts were less sweeping than feared and reflect the strength of Nordic banks versus their European peers, which risk sharper downgrades as Moody's continues a Europe-wide review that started earlier this month with cuts to 26 Italian lenders. In February Moody's placed various ratings of 114 financial institutions in 16 European countries on review for possible downgrades, highlighting the banks' vulnerability to the euro zone sovereign debt crisis. "We read this as a sign of the strength in relative terms of Swedish banks which are coping well," Swedish Central Bank Deputy Governor Per Jansson said. Moody's Friday downgraded the ratings for Sweden's Nordea Bank AB (NDA.SK) and Handelsbanken AB (SHB-B.SK) by one notch to Aa3, and for specialist agricultural lender Landshypotek AB by two notches to Baa2." Furthermore, as Zero Hedge reminded two days ago, when it comes to deposit backing, European banks are so levered from a loan-to-deposit ratio, that even the tiniest risk of deposit flight would result in immediate undecapitalization, and further outflows. Oddly, nowehere is this more evident than in various Scandivanian banks such as Danska, Handelsbanken (SHB), Swedbank, and Nordea, two of which were just downgraded by Moody's.
Visually this can be seen here.
Of course, to readers of Zero Hedge this is not news. Back in March this particular fringe blog explicitly warned, while everyone else kept silent that...
With banks such as Danske, SHB, Swebank, DnB, and Nordea literally at 200% Loan-to-Deposits, but most other European banks too, even the tiniest outflow in deposit cash (ala what is happening in the PIIGS) will send the system into yet another liquidity spasm. Only this time, since what little unencumbered assets remaining have already been pledged to the ECB, there will be no quick LTRO collateral-type fix this time.
Sadly, many preferred to continue sticking their heads in the sand. Until Moody's announcement made continuation of that avoidance behavior impossible. Which is why we present the following postcard we just got from Sweden. We can only hope this is a very isolated incident of people enjoying to wait in line for a few pieces of paper, completely devoid of any contextual reference. That, or they are all suddenly applying for a mortgage, or in the best case, merely enjoying the wonderful weather, just incidentally next to a branch of one of Sweden's largest banks.
Finally, for those who think we are picking on Sweden, here again, is the simple math presented visually two short days ago.
Deposits and Encumbered/Secured Assets...