Ireland has finally admitted the horrendous condition of its banking system. I actually give the government kudos for this, and await the moment when the US, China and the UK come forth with such frankness. That being said, things are a mess, I have forewarned of this mess for some time now.First, the lastest from Bloomberg: Ireland's Banks Will Need $43 Billion in Capital After `Appalling' Lending

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Ireland’s banks need $43 billion in new capital after “appalling” lending decisions left the country’s financial system on the brink of collapse. The fund-raising requirement was announced after the National Asset Management Agency said it will apply an average discount of 47 percent on the first block of loans it is buying from lenders as part of a plan to revive the financial system. The central bank set new capital buffers for Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of Ireland Plc and gave them 30 days to say how they will raise the funds.

“Our worst fears have been surpassed,” Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said in the parliament in Dublin yesterday. “Irish banking made appalling lending decisions that will cost the taxpayer dearly for years to come.”

Dublin-based Allied Irish needs to raise 7.4 billion euros to meet the capital targets, while cross-town rival Bank of Ireland will need 2.66 billion euros.Anglo Irish Bank Corp., nationalized last year, may need as much 18.3 billion euros. Customer-owned lenders Irish Nationwide and EBS will need 2.6 billion euros and 875 million euros, respectively.

‘Truly Shocking’

The asset agency aims to cleanse banks of toxic loans, the legacy of plungingreal-estate prices and the country’s deepest recession. In all, it will buy loans with a book value of 80 billion euros ($107 billion), about half the size of the economy. Lenihan said the information from NAMA on the banks was “truly shocking.”

...

Capital Target

Lenders must have an 8 percent core Tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of financial strength, by the end of the year, according to the regulator. The equity core Tier 1 capital must increase to 7 percent.

AIB’s equity core tier 1 ratio stood at 5 percent at the end of 2009 and Bank of Ireland’s at 5.3 percent. Those ratios exclude a government investment of 3.5 billion euros in each bank, made at the start of 2009.

...

Credit-default swaps insuring Allied Irish Bank’s debt against default fell 6.5 basis points to 195.5, according to CMA DataVision prices at 8:45 a.m. Contracts protecting Bank of Ireland’s debt fell 7 basis points to 191 and swaps linked to Anglo Irish Bank’s bonds were down 3.5 basis points at 347.5.

Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a company fail to adhere to its debt agreements. A decline signals improving perceptions of credit quality.

State Aid

If Allied Irish can’t raise enough funds privately, the state will step in with aid, Lenihan said. It is “probable” the government will then end up with a majority stake, he said.

...

Ireland may not be able to afford to pump more money into the banks. The budget deficit widened to 11.7 percent of gross domestic product last year, almost four times the European Union limit, and the government spent the past year trying to convince investors the state is in control of its finances.

The premium investors charge to hold Irish 10-year debt over the German equivalent was at 139 basis points today compared with 284 basis points in March 2009, a 16-year high.

Ireland’s debt agency said it doesn’t envisage additional borrowing this year related to the bank recapitalization. It is sticking to its 2010 bond issuance forecast of about 20 billion euros, head of funding Oliver Whelan said in an interview.

“The bank losses, awful as they are, represent a one-off hit. It’s water under the bridge,” said Ciaran O’Hagan, a Paris-based fixed-income strategist at Societe Generale SA. [What is the logic behind this statement? Has the real estate market started increasing in value? Are the banks credits now increasing in quality? Will the stringent austerity plans of the government create an inflationary environment in lieu of a deflationary one for the bank's customer's assets???] “What’s of more concern for investors in government bonds is the budget deficit. Slashing the chronic overspending and raising taxation by the Irish state is vital.” [This is a circular argument. If the government raises taxes significantly in a weak economic environment, it will put pressure on the bank's lending consituents and the economy in general, presaging a possible furthering of bank losses!]

 

and...

 

Juckes Says Outlook `Frightening' 
March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Kit Juckes, chief economist at ECU Group Plc, talks with Bloomberg's Linzie Janis about the outlook for Ireland's banks after the government set out plans to revive the country's financial system.

Now, notice how prescient my post of several months ago was, The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: 

Ireland has finally admitted the horrendous condition of its banking system. I actually give the government kudos for this, and await the moment when the US, China and the UK come forth with such frankness. That being said, things are a mess, I have forewarned of this mess for some time now.First, the lastest from Bloomberg: Ireland's Banks Will Need $43 Billion in Capital After `Appalling' Lending

March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Ireland’s banks need $43 billion in new capital after “appalling” lending decisions left the country’s financial system on the brink of collapse. The fund-raising requirement was announced after the National Asset Management Agency said it will apply an average discount of 47 percent on the first block of loans it is buying from lenders as part of a plan to revive the financial system. The central bank set new capital buffers for Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of Ireland Plc and gave them 30 days to say how they will raise the funds.

“Our worst fears have been surpassed,” Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said in the parliament in Dublin yesterday. “Irish banking made appalling lending decisions that will cost the taxpayer dearly for years to come.”

Dublin-based Allied Irish needs to raise 7.4 billion euros to meet the capital targets, while cross-town rival Bank of Ireland will need 2.66 billion euros.Anglo Irish Bank Corp., nationalized last year, may need as much 18.3 billion euros. Customer-owned lenders Irish Nationwide and EBS will need 2.6 billion euros and 875 million euros, respectively.

‘Truly Shocking’

The asset agency aims to cleanse banks of toxic loans, the legacy of plungingreal-estate prices and the country’s deepest recession. In all, it will buy loans with a book value of 80 billion euros ($107 billion), about half the size of the economy. Lenihan said the information from NAMA on the banks was “truly shocking.”

...

Capital Target

Lenders must have an 8 percent core Tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of financial strength, by the end of the year, according to the regulator. The equity core Tier 1 capital must increase to 7 percent.

AIB’s equity core tier 1 ratio stood at 5 percent at the end of 2009 and Bank of Ireland’s at 5.3 percent. Those ratios exclude a government investment of 3.5 billion euros in each bank, made at the start of 2009.

...

Credit-default swaps insuring Allied Irish Bank’s debt against default fell 6.5 basis points to 195.5, according to CMA DataVision prices at 8:45 a.m. Contracts protecting Bank of Ireland’s debt fell 7 basis points to 191 and swaps linked to Anglo Irish Bank’s bonds were down 3.5 basis points at 347.5.

Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a company fail to adhere to its debt agreements. A decline signals improving perceptions of credit quality.

State Aid

If Allied Irish can’t raise enough funds privately, the state will step in with aid, Lenihan said. It is “probable” the government will then end up with a majority stake, he said.

...

Ireland may not be able to afford to pump more money into the banks. The budget deficit widened to 11.7 percent of gross domestic product last year, almost four times the European Union limit, and the government spent the past year trying to convince investors the state is in control of its finances.

The premium investors charge to hold Irish 10-year debt over the German equivalent was at 139 basis points today compared with 284 basis points in March 2009, a 16-year high.

Ireland’s debt agency said it doesn’t envisage additional borrowing this year related to the bank recapitalization. It is sticking to its 2010 bond issuance forecast of about 20 billion euros, head of funding Oliver Whelan said in an interview.

“The bank losses, awful as they are, represent a one-off hit. It’s water under the bridge,” said Ciaran O’Hagan, a Paris-based fixed-income strategist at Societe Generale SA. [What is the logic behind this statement? Has the real estate market started increasing in value? Are the banks credits now increasing in quality? Will the stringent austerity plans of the government create an inflationary environment in lieu of a deflationary one for the bank's customer's assets???] “What’s of more concern for investors in government bonds is the budget deficit. Slashing the chronic overspending and raising taxation by the Irish state is vital.” [This is a circular argument. If the government raises taxes significantly in a weak economic environment, it will put pressure on the bank's lending consituents and the economy in general, presaging a possible furthering of bank losses!]

 

and...

 

Juckes Says Outlook `Frightening' 
March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Kit Juckes, chief economist at ECU Group Plc, talks with Bloomberg's Linzie Janis about the outlook for Ireland's banks after the government set out plans to revive the country's financial system.

Now, notice how prescient my post of several months ago was, The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: 

This site (freebuck.com) came up in a Google search this morning, and it was just full of good cheer. Enjoy! In the future (if the guy is reading this), please link back to the blog).

2010 will also be challenging for G7 Sovereigns as they TRY to rollover inconceivable sums of existing debt while borrowing NEW money to pay for the WELFARE states’ spending. Trillions of dollars of borrowing challenges lie directly ahead; let’s look at some illustrations of the rollover requirements for Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece fromwww.newyorktimes.com and Reggie Middleton’s Boom Bust blog

;

These are just the rollover requirements for the United States and do not include NEW BORROWING of $1.6 TRILLION. So, a total of OVER $3.5 Trillion is required, providing that the deficits are as projected by the CBO (are they ever accurate?). That’s almost $300 Billion a month, or $10 Billion a day (10,000 million a day). Mind numbing numbers! Inconceivable sums. Now let’s look at European rollovers from Reggie Middleton:

Think of the US issuance and add this to it. Where will the money come from? The printing press in one form or another. That’s just the rollovers; now let’s look at NEW issuance to cover 2010 DEFICITS from www.forbes.com:

This is called INSANITY. Only India, China and the emerging world are growing in REAL terms, the rest of the borrowers are DEADBEAT welfare states with shrinking incomes and economies, when properly adjusted for inflation. How the US and Europe are going to navigate the rest of the year without some MISHAP is inconceivable. That will be the appearance of the “when HOPE to FEAR” moment we are looking for in 2010. This DOES not include BANK and brokerage debt (totaling OVER a trillion dollars) which must roll.

Well, the reason why it seems like China is growing in real terms is because they are blowing a BIG BUBBLE! It is not sustainable, and when it pops it will actually push them back some. See

I actually suggest you read the entire post, for although some of the charts and info are dated (the circumstances have changed somewhat) and other bits of info are anecdotal, it does give a good background of why anyone should be bearish - http://www.freebuck.com/articles/tandros/100326tandros.htm

Published in BoomBustBlog

A recent ZeroHedge article (Bank Of America Can Not Deny It Used Repo 105, Response From PricewaterhouseCoopers Pending; The BofA QSPE's ) probes the possibility of BofA engaging in Repo 105-like activities in regards to their QSPEs (off balance sheet vehicles). ZH does seem to uncover a lot of dirt these days. After reading the article, I think it is worth blog fans time to delve deeper into the off balance sheet world of BofA. Here are some older blog posts that ask the hard questions and raises some additional ones.

And the next AIG is... (Public Edition, and yes, I know there is a typo in Mr. Tizzio's name) Free registration required to access the naked swap note.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 00:00

Newscan from the Weekend Past

Comments on global news from the weekend past...

Bloomberg.com:

  • $7.88 billion of slices underwritten by Deutsche Bank under downgrade review since underlying CMBS have been downgraded (CDOs are MAX CMBS I Ltd. Series 2007-1 and Series 2008-1), S&P has already downgraded 2007-1 to BB+
  • A BlackRock presentation stated that Deutsche Bank's CDO portfolio does not forecast for tranche losses
  • The MAX CDOs are among the Federal Reserve's holdings in Maiden Lane III
  • AIG provided Deutsche Bank with $5.61 billion in collateral before the Maiden Lane III transfer

FT Article: Merkel v. Greece Round 239,084.67 (Ding, ding) @ http://www.ft.com

  • Merkel insists Greece has not asked for money, and Greece does not need any [Let's permanently attached this to Merkel's credibility rating]
  • European Commission and IMF officials are far from same page as Merkel
  • The article wasn't dense with info, which is not unusual considering the subject matter, but what is clear is that the bazooka everyone was talking about has no trigger, and probably loaded with more baby powder than gunpowder!
  • That is going to be a big issue with Greek debt maturing in April if they have no revenue to pay it off

FT Article @ http://www.ft.com

  • British Airway strikes did nothing to dampen travel plans over the weekend
  • Examples like this are calling the union's bluff, they are not stopping society, potentially leaving room for union break ups by private companies, sovereigns and municipalities if they choose so, this could be a blip on the radar or an emerging trend, so something to continue to watch
Published in BoomBustBlog

I will start posting more news topics of interest and welcome readers to forward research and investment ideas at will. Here is the crop from last week. I will post topics from the weekend later on today, and as usual will randomly comment on daily news events.

From Alliance Bernstein:

  • Core Intermediate Producer Prices have taken 6 months to rise 5.2% annualized, recession of 2002 took 2 years to reach same level
  • Operating Rate hit low of 65.4% last year and has only risen to 69.4%, still short of historical threshold causing rise in raw material prices (74%)
  • Increases in foreign operating rates have started to indicate US may now be a price follower instead of price leader
  • The Fed cited lack of resource utilization as reasoning for maintaining record low rates, as these concerns begin to wane Alliance Bernstein sees easing of emergency Fed policy

Bloomberg.com:

  • Christina Romer, Peter Orszag, and Tim Geithner have predicted unemployment will settle in 2010 at around 9.7%, citing poor job conditions
  • Federal deficit projections for 2011 & 2015 are $1.5 trillion & $751 billion respectively, White House officials cite Bush's medicare and income tax cuts for allowing deficit insanity
Published in BoomBustBlog

Sometimes I have to actually read articles twice, because it really seems that I have somehow missed the point the first time around. Well, on my third glance at this Bloomberg article, I still don't get itL SLM Sells Debt at Higher Interest Rate Than Students Pay: Credit Markets

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- SLM Corp., the largest U.S. student-loan company, raised $1.5 billion in the bond market, paying more than it charges some borrowers to begin addressing $11 billion of bonds maturing through next year.

Sallie Mae, as the company is known, sold $1.5 billion of 8 percent notes due in 2020 at a yield of 8.25 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Stafford federal loans disbursed between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, have a fixed interest rate of 5.6 percent, according to the company’s Web site.

I know I'm not as good at math and finance as those fancy Wall Street banker guys, but isn't this a BAD thing? They are essentially borrowing themselves into a hole. I also don't see any indication in the article of the potential for a reversal in this trend, either.

Published in BoomBustBlog

Today in the news: China Inflation, Production Accelerate, Adding Pressure for Stimulus Exit

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- China’s inflation reached a 16- month high, industrial output climbed and new loans exceeded forecasts, adding to the case for the government to pare back stimulus measures.

Consumer prices rose 2.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said in Beijing today, compared with the 2.5 percent median estimate of 29 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Seasonal factors stemming from a weeklong holiday may have boosted prices. Production rose 20.7 percent in the first two months of 2010, the most in more than five years.

Contrary to many, not only do I believe China is in the throws of a credit driven asset bubble, but its touted safeguards point the way to drastic correction.

China huge foreign reserves: Not a savior for the country if the asset bubble bursts

The concerns highlighted by Michael Pettis (a professor at Peking University's Guanghua School of Management, "Never short a country with $2 trillion in reserves?") are telling, particularly that huge foreign exchange reserves are not a sure shot solution for preventing China from a future financial crisis. I would like to amplify the message contained therein, since the news coming out of China reinforces the fact that it is really not "different this time" so emphatically.

The Author states:

"...Let us leave aside that the PBoC's reported reserves are a lot more than $2 trillion, and that if correctly accounted they would be pretty close to $3 trillion. China's foreign reserves are certainly huge. They add up to an amount equal to about 5-6 % of global gross domestic product.


But they are not unprecedented. Twice before in history a country has, under similar circumstances, run up foreign reserves of the same magnitude.


The first time occurred in the late 1920s when, after a decade of record-beating trade and capital account surpluses, the United States had accumulated what John Maynard Keynes worriedly described as "all the bullion in the world". At the time, total reserves accumulated by the US were more than 5-6% of global GDP...


The second time occurred in the late 1980s, when it was Japan's turn to combine huge trade surpluses, along with more moderate surpluses on the capital account, to accumulate a stockpile of foreign reserves only a little less than the equivalent of 5-6% of global GDP. By the late 1980s, Japan's accumulation of reserves drew the sort of same breathless description - much of it incorrect, of course - that China's does today.


Needless to say, and in sharp rebuttal to Friedman, both previous cases turned out badly for long investors and brilliantly for anyone dumb enough to have gone short. During the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930s, US stock markets lost more than 80 per cent of their value, real estate prices collapsed, and the US economy contracted in real terms by an astonishing 30-40 per cent before recovering in the 1940s.


Japan's subsequent experience was economically less violent in the short term, but even costlier over the long term. During the period following its astonishing accumulation of central bank reserves, its stock market also lost more than 80 per cent of its value, real estate prices collapsed, and economic growth was virtually non-existent for two decades.

Reserves of course are not useless as an enhancer of financial stability, but their use is for very specific forms of instability. Having large amounts of reserves relative to external claims protects countries from external debt crises and from currency crises."

The key term here is "external". China does not face an external debt concerns, as the country's foreign claim as per BIS (Bank for International Settlement) stood at only $278.6 billion at the end of September 2009 (which is only 5.3% of the country's 2010 expected GDP as per IMF). However, China's domestic debt currently remains at an uncomforting level (as we will see in our discussion below)

"The risks that China faces today (and the US in the late 1920s and Japan in the late 1980s) is of excessive domestic liquidity having fueled asset and capacity bubbles, the latter requiring the uninterrupted ability of foreign countries to absorb via large and growing trade deficits. These risks include an explosion in domestic government debt directly and contingently through the banking system... "

This risk is visible in the recent finance ministry announcement to nullify all guarantees local governments for loans taken by their financing vehicles, and its plan to issue rules banning all future guarantees by local governments.

If local government debt that China's local governments have been raising through off-balance sheet (and similar) investment vehicles to circumvent direct borrowing regulations - and which is not counted in official calculations, is included in the total debt - then the country's debt could rise to 39.838 trillion Yuan or $5.8 trillion. This puts China in similar debt standing with many of the PIIGS, being that its accounting for 96% of GDP, much higher in comparison to the IMF's estimate of 22% which excludes local-government liabilities, in 2010 based upon research by Northwestern University's Professor Victor Shih, who estimates China's local- government outstanding debt at the end of 2009 at 11.429 trillion Yuan.

This puts China 4th in line, behind Italy, Belgium and Greece in terms of gross debt to GDP!

"... And reserves are almost totally useless in protecting these economies from the risks they face (and, no, no, no, reserves cannot be used to recapitalize the banks - only domestic government borrowing or direct or hidden taxes on the household sector can be used to recapitalize the banks). In fact, it was the very process of generating massive reserves that created the risks which subsequently devastated the US and Japan. Both countries had accumulated reserves over a decade during which they experienced sharply undervalued currencies, rapid urbanization, and rapid growth in worker productivity (sound familiar?). These three factors led to large and rising trade surpluses which, when combined with capital inflows seeking advantage of the rapid economic growth, forced a too-quick expansion of domestic money and credit."

The above case is most accurate in regards to China, where the accumulated reserves have come from preventing Yuan appreciation, rapid urbanization and rising worker productivity (which remains one of the key drivers for the country's exports). Thus, if we go by historical precedence, a huge financial reserve for China does not safeguard the country against a financial crisis.

These similar concerns are being supported by other analysts and economists. Trend forecaster Gerald Celente believes that the depression is global and a contraction across the entire planet cannot be avoided, and that includes China.

Economist Harry Dent holds a similar view, recently saying that, "China will see their bubble collapse strongly when the U.S.-led stimulus program fails due to rising defaults and foreclosures later in 2010, at the same time that the world is looking for China to pull it out of this global downturn."

As suggested above by Michael Pettis, though foreign reserves can be used for very specific forms of instability, there is one way in which China can use its reserves to tackle the current problem of rising domestic debt, that is by converting its foreign currency denominated assets (which is primarily dollar for China) to Yuan.

However, this would lead to appreciation of Yuan against the USD. With China being an export-driven economy, this is a measure of very last resort.

But eventually, China will have to appreciate Yuan as it is facing considerable international pressure from its trading partners, more importantly, it looks like the only way to ease strains on the country's fast growing economy. We feel that this will not be a voluntary move (China faces new pressure to let currency rise).

Subscribers should reference the following related topics/documents:

Published in BoomBustBlog

Some of the top secret AIG bailout info is out. Guess who's at the heart of it, making money by creating straight trash, selling it to its clients then buying insurance to benefit from its inevitable crash?
I have been warning about Goldman's ability to sell trash to its clients
for some time now.

This is not a short post, for it is packed with a lot of supporting information, analysis and data. If you are looking for quippy paragraph, soundbyte or quick headline to get an overview of,,, well whatever, click here, or better yet, click here. For everyone else who may be looking for deeper investigative analysis and the unbridled TRUTH for a change, please continue on.

First a little background info. Goldman is supremely overvalued in my opinion. It is even more so considering much of its profit is generated solely from the raping of its clients. I say this holding absolutely no ill will towards Goldman. This is strictly factual. Let's walk through the evidence, of profit potential, valuation, and the stuff behind some of the value drivers in their business model, like brokerage and investment banking...


Published in BoomBustBlog
Monday, 22 February 2010 23:00

The Beginning of the Endgame is Coming???

So, Fitch finally get's around to downgrading the Greek banks. The sovereign debt short is probably a bit crowded right now, and may be due for a squeeze, but the fundamentals and the macro situation still stands. As a matter of fact, I really believe that most investors, speculators, pundits and regulators are actually looking at the wrong sets of risks - hence may truly be surprised when the choco-pudding hits the fan blades.

From Fitch:

Fitch Ratings-Barcelona/London-23 February 2010: Fitch Ratings has today downgraded the Long-term and Short-term Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) of Greece's four largest banks, National Bank of Greece (NBG), Alpha Bank (Alpha), Efg Eurobank Ergasias (Eurobank) and Piraeus Bank (Piraeus) to 'BBB' from 'BBB+' and 'F3' from 'F2' respectively. The Outlook on the Long-term IDRs is Negative.

  • Alpha Bank warned about in subscriber reports last week - Check!
  • National Bank of Greece warned about in subscriber report last week - Check!
  • Efg Eurobank Ergasias (Eurobank) warned about in subscriber report last week -Check!
  • Piraeus Bank (Piraeus) warned about in subscriber report last week -Check!

All subscribers can download the Greek Bank Tear Sheet here:

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Greek Banking Fundamental Tear Sheet

Pro subscribers can click below for the extended download

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Banks exposed to high sovereign risks

There is only one bank in the analysis that was not downgraded, most likely for political issues. It is really only a matter of time, and when that one goes, so goes Greece...

At the same time, the agency has downgraded the banks' Individual Ratings to 'C' from 'B/C', whilst the ratings of the banks' senior, subordinated and hybrid capital instruments have all been downgraded by one notch. The Support Ratings and Support Rating Floors (SRF) of all four banks have been affirmed.

A full rating breakdown is provided at the end of this comment. Separately, Fitch has also affirmed Agricultural Bank of Greece's (ATEbank) Long-term IDR at 'BBB-', which is on its SRF, and Short-term IDR at 'F3'. The Outlook on the Long-term IDR is Negative. ATEbank's IDRs, Support Rating and SRF are based on sovereign support as the bank is majority-owned by the Greek state (rated 'BBB+'/Negative Outlook).

The rating actions reflect Fitch's view that the banks' already weakening asset quality and profitability will come under further pressure due to anticipated considerable fiscal adjustments in Greece. In particular, Fitch believes the required fiscal tightening that needs to be made by the Greek government will have a significant effect on the real economy, affecting loan demand and putting additional pressure on asset quality. The latter could result in higher credit costs, ultimately weakening underlying profitability.

While the banks' operations in South Eastern Europe (SEE) and Turkey add revenue diversification, such revenues are derived from more volatile economies - some of which have themselves experienced recessionary pressures.

BoomBustBloggers are ahead of you Fitch :-)

The banks' profitability is also likely to be affected by higher funding costs derived from increased funding and liquidity pressures on Greek banks which mostly resulted from the ongoing market perception of elevated risk surrounding the Greek sovereign. The uncertainties surrounding the Greek public finances have to a large extent constrained Greek banks' access to wholesale markets and, to a lesser degree, interbank markets at reasonable prices. As a result, Greek banks continue to rely to some degree on European Central bank (ECB) funding. While unhindered access to ECB facilities provides short-term liquidity, Fitch would welcome a rebalancing of the banks' funding and liquidity profiles towards more traditional funding sources. However, on a positive note, Fitch highlights that Greek banks continue to be primarily funded by customer deposits (86% of gross loans on average for the five largest Greek banks at end-Q309), highlighting limited reliance on non-bank wholesale funding. Additionally, wholesale funding maturities for 2010 are manageable and funding needs for the year should be limited.

Excluding ATEbank, the other four banks' Long-term IDRs remain based on their individual financial strength, as expressed by Fitch's Individual Rating. This takes into account their well-established domestic banking franchises, which support revenue generation and good deposit bases, sound and in most cases recently strengthened capitalisation and also some degree of geographical diversification.

The Negative Outlook on all the banks' IDRs could be revised to Stable should Greek banks be successful in reducing ECB funding and be able to rebalance their funding and liquidity position without impairing their profitability, and if their underlying earnings capacity proves to be more resilient than currently anticipated to the expected prolonged recessionary environment in Greece and to a lesser extent in SEE.

The real question of the day is when will the rating agencies get serious and start downgrading Bank Greece. Bank Greece is an interesting entity, for it is the publicly traded Central Bank of Greece. Hey, why don't we float an offering of Bernanke Bank, the Federal Reserve - ticker BBFRB:-). Bank Greece's liabilities are backed directly by the Greek Government. I think it is fair to say that the Greek government's explicit backing doesn't necessarily mean that an entity is truly economically indemnified against loss. Who's backing the Greek government? As of the time of this writing, not one!

As we go over the responsibilities of Bank Greece, just keep in mind its financial condition in relation to the other banks, despite being backed by an entity that currently cannot pay its bills, has more debt than annual GDP and is facing civil unrest in trying to adjust its budget in attempt to resolve the issue, Bank Greece has the highest valuation multiple of 1.2x book, and has the highest adjusted leverage - by far - of the group at nearly 90x. Normally, the explicit backing of the Greek government should mean something, but again since it is obvious that the Greek government needs backing, this is sort of an increasingly empty promise - in appearance at least.

The next question is since the Bank of Greece is a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) which is composed of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks (NCBs) of all 27 European Union (EU) Member States, do they get backstopped somehow by forces from the EU? Inquiring minds want to know. I mean, it is quite feasible that the Greek banks can get in trouble once austerity measures take place and the civil unrest picks up. Even if unrest doesn't pick up, there is still a nearly guaranteed deepening of the recession. Then there is CEE exposure, which can help push banks over the edge. If the Greek Central Bank has to come to the aid of the banks, who will come to the Greek Central Banks aid? It is obvious that Greece doesn't have the budget for it.

The Bank of Greece, a short summary taken from their website...

The Bank of Greece

The Bank of Greece is the central bank of the country. It was established in 1927 by an Annex to the Geneva Protocol and started operations in May 1928. It was incorporated as a société anonyme. According to its Statute, its head office is in Athens. It has a nationwide network of 19 branches, 38 agencies and 7 outlets.

As from January 2001, the Bank of Greece is an integral part of the Eurosystem, which consists of theEuropean Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks (NCBs) of the European Union (EU) Member States participating in the euro area. This implies that the Bank of Greece contributes through its activities to the achievement of the objectives and the performance of the tasks of the Eurosystem, which defines and implements monetary policy in the euro area.

The Bank of Greece is responsible for implementing the Eurosystem’s monetary policy in Greece and safeguarding the stability of the Greek financial system. According to its Statute, its primary objective is to ensure the stability of the general price level. Without prejudice to its primary objective, the Bank supports the general economic policy of the government. In the performance of its tasks, the Bank enjoys institutional, personal and operational independence, and is accountable to the Greek Parliament.

...

Eurosystem-Related Tasks

Monetary policy

The Bank of Greece participates in the formulation of the single monetary policy in the euro area and implements it in Greece, in line with the guidelines and instructions of the European Central Bank (ECB). The Bank conducts monetary policy operations whereby it provides liquidity to domestic credit institutions (main and long-term refinancing operations). It also provides marginal lending and deposit facilities to credit institutions, in order to grant and absorb liquidity, respectively. Finally, it holds the minimum reserve accounts of domestic banks.

Financial stability

The Bank of Greece is responsible for monitoring financial stability, with a view to identifying vulnerabilities in Greece’s financial system, and assesses its resilience.

  • It promotes arrangements for the maintenance of financial stability and effective management of financial crises, in cooperation with other competent authorities in Greece.
  • It monitors banking risks, analyses developments affecting them and presents proposals for ensuring financial stability. It also monitors developments in insurance and investment firms, as well as in undertakings in collective investments not supervised by the Bank of Greece.

I think it is fair to say they are not doing a very good job of excelling at the financial stability task right now.

Statistics

Collecting statistical data from monetary financial institutions (MFIs) (i.e. banks and money market funds) is also a very important task of the Bank. The Bank of Greece collects data on bank rates, as well as data that make up monetary statistics (loans, deposits and other assets and liabilities of MFIs). These statistics are sent to the ECB and taken into account for the calculation of average interest rates in the euro area and the compilation of euro area monetary and credit aggregates. These aggregates are monitored in the context of the Eurosystem’s monetary analysis and their outcomes directly affect monetary policy decisions.

The statistics task appears to have succumbed to manipulation at worst, and quite liberal interpretation at best. From finding information that significantly increases the deficit over the weekend to private sector swaps with banks that mask debt obligations, I feel there is a reason to truly audit this bank and its past tasks and procedures as a condition of remaining an EMU member. Then again, that's just my opinion.

Treasurer and fiscal agent of the government

The Bank of Greece keeps current and time deposit accounts of the government and legal persons in public law in euro and foreign exchange, on the one hand for meeting domestic requirements and, on the other hand, for servicing the external debt. It also carries out payment and collection orders of the government and legal persons in public law in connection with foreign counterparties and provides intermediation services for their international financial activities.

Hmmm!!!

Statistics

The Bank of Greece also compiles and publishes the monetary and credit aggregates concerning the Greek economy and the average interest rates applied by domestic credit institutions to various categories of deposits and loans. In addition to collecting data for monetary statistics, the Bank of Greece also compiles the balance of payments and the financial accounts of the country and, generally, collects and publishes data concerning the Greek economy in the Bulletin of Conjunctural Indicators. Moreover, it conducts specialised statistical surveys on matters related to its tasks (e.g. household indebtedness surveys).

Collecting statistical data aims at both meeting the Bank’s own statistical information requirements and performing its obligations towards the ECB and other international organisations, as well as informing the public and researchers in Greece and abroad. Specifically, the data – in addition to monetary statistics – collected and compiled by the Bank of Greece concern the following four categories:

i. assets and liabilities of financial corporations and data on the mutual fund market

ii. Greece’s balance of payments and international investment position

iii. the country’s financial accounts, according to the methodology of the European System of Accounts 1995 and

iv. general data on the Greek economy.

Can we really trust these numbers?

See Will Greece Set Off the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? as well as:

  • The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one.
  • What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? - illustrates the potential for the domino effect
  • The Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: If I Were to Short Any Country, What Country Would That Be.. - attempts to illustrate the highly interdependent weaknesses in Europe's sovereign nations can effect even the perceived "stronger" nations.
  • The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries
  • The Depression is Already Here for Some Members of Europe, and It Just Might Be Contagious!
  • Published in BoomBustBlog