Why ECB's LTRO Won't Stop Collateral Contagion

Via Gordon T Long of GordonTLong.com,

How long can the European media keep the EU credit implosion a secret? The disgraced former IMF Director, Demonic Strauss Kahn said on Tuesday December 12th, 2011 that No 'Firewall' Exists and Europe Has 'Only Weeks'.  Of course within minutes of this Financial Times news release which detailed his vent on EU leadership and the perilous situation in Europe, the article disappeared.

The details of the European liquidity crisis are generally reported, but for some reason no media source wants to pull the pieces together so everyone can see the magnitude and futility of the crisis. A growing Collateral Contagion is being shrouded in the apparent belief that the solution to the European Financial and Banking crisis is a grand change in Treaty governance.  Obviously the European Central Bank (ECB) was well aware of the reality, when it was forced to deploy a historic and unprecedented LTRO (Long Term Purchase Operations) on Wednesday December 21, 2011.  560 banks desperately and immediately grabbed what they could, to the tune of €489B.

The LTRO bought the EU private banks some time. It did nothing to solve the EU Sovereign Debt Crisis. After less than one week, the cash held at the ECB surged €133B to a new record €347B. Since the net LTRO was only €210B, it tells you that the EU banks not only have a cash problem, but more specifically, as ECB President Mario Draghi says : "hoarding at the ECB signals that the problem afflicting the Eurozone is not so much about the amount of liquidity but that this liquidity is not circulating around the region's banks".

I would argue that the problem short term is a shortage of real collateral and that US dollar cash, versus 'encumbered' cash flow, is now king. It is clear that the rampant advancing Collateral Contagion will quickly eat this futile attempt like ravenous wolves.  A well circulated Tweet from PIMCO bond king Bill Gross said it all: " What does LTRO stand for? 1- A shell game; 2-Cash for trash; 3 Three-card Monti; or 4. All of the above."

Here is the stark reality of what forced the ECB to offer unprecedented three year loans at absurd rates and most alarmingly, the acceptance of collateral that no other financial institutions will accept. The ECB has sacrificed its balance sheet in yet another EU "kick at the can".

 

1.     COLLATERAL CONTAGION: There is a cascading Collateral Contagion crisis in which secured lending, based on sound assets, has replaced unsecured lending based on future expected cash flows.

2.     WHOLESALE LENDING: Wholesale bank lending, which is a unique cornerstone of European banking, has completely frozen since the failure of Dexia and US Money Market Funds will no longer risk short term capital having learned their lesson in 2008.

3.     BANK RUNS: Bank Runs are quietly and insidiously occurring throughout the peripheral EU countries as corporate and private depositors seek safe havens for their cash holdings.

4.     SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM: The European Shadow Banking System off balance sheet and unreported leverage structures, such as SIV (Structured Investment Vehicles) is collapsing due to non performing loans which must finally be rolled nearly 3 years since the financial crisis began.

5.     GLOBAL INVESTORS PULLING SOVEREIGN EU INVESTMENTS: Net outflows from the euro-zone’s financial account reached €32.1 billion in October alone, on an unadjusted basis. The drop reflects the sale by foreign investors of €53.3 billion in euro-zone debt instruments and €6.6 billion in equities.

6.     INTERBANK LENDING: Prior to LTRO, overnight interbank lending was impaired as LIBOR, LIBOR-OIS and TED spread yields were going almost straight up on a percentage change basis.

7.     INVERTED YIELD CURVES: Prior to LTRO, yield curves in the EU peripheral countries were either inverted or nearing inversion prior to LTRO.

8.     US DOLLAR SWAPS: A shortage of US dollar denominated loans forced the US federal Reserve and other global central banks to intervene and offer what is turning out to be unlimited US dollar SWAPs for minimal interest rates and unprecedented, extended durations, not previously considered.

9.     SOVEREIGN BOND MARKET: The EU Sovereign Bond Market is being avoided by almost all Global financial institutions. The only participant are Central Banks desperate to buy more time until confidence is restored.

10.  GERMAN BUND SCARE: You cannot have a currency without a risk free bond. The German Bund had become a proxy for this, but recently even the Bund has come under pressure as selling escalated in a flight from Europe.

11.  YEN CARRY TRADE: The YEN Carry Trade which has been a major financing source for the EU, even prior to its inception, is being forced to unwind due to a significantly weakening Euro and the threat of a serious drop.

12.  BASEL BOX: The Tier 1 Core Capital requirements have forced many banks to actually shrink lending to meet requirements. A significant withdrawal from lending in Central and Eastern Europe and many Emerging countries is now clearly seen as a direct result.

13.  CREDIT DOWNGRADE ONSLAUGHT: S&P placed the long-term sovereign-debt ratings of 15 euro-zone nations, including struggling Italy and Spain, on negative watch. That typically means there is at least a 50% chance of a downgrade within 90 days. France is likely to soon lose its coveted AAA rating, which will impact the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) borrowing costs.

 

The list is even longer, but it will need to suffice for this shorter article.

The above issues suggest, minimally, an immediate  €4-8 Trillion EU problem.

The EU has no ability to solve this problem short of simply printing Euros, which unlike the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan, the ECB presently (I stress presently) refuses to do.

Let's briefly discuss a few of these so we can appreciate the seriousness of the EU problem and what lays behind a first half 2011 surge of $107 TRILLION in derivative SWAPS.

 

The rest of the interesting and unusually complete article can be found here:

Article Collateral Contagion

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