Trends in US Retail

We have looked into insurance companies' performance last month in regards to our bearish real estate thesis. A small comederie of companies are suffering losses and/or declining profits as we've exected. This is due primarily to increases in their expense and reduction in revenue.

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Maurice Greenberg, the ousted CEO, Chairman, and founder of AIG who remains a major investor in the company, filed suit in 2011 on behalf of fellow shareholders against the government. He has urged A.I.G. to enjoin which should pressure the government into settlement talks - that is if the powers that be don't start distending the law. NY Times Dealbook looks at it this way:

Should Mr. Greenberg snare a major settlement without A.I.G., the company could face additional lawsuits from other shareholders. Suing the government would not only placate the 87-year-old former chief, but would put A.I.G. in line for a potential payout.

Yet such a move would almost certainly be widely seen as an audacious display of ingratitude. The action would also threaten to inflame tensions in Washington, where the company has become a byword for excessive risk-taking on Wall Street.

Some government officials are already upset with the company for even seriously entertaining the lawsuit, people briefed on the matter said. The people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that without the bailout, A.I.G. shareholders would have fared far worse in bankruptcy.

“On the one hand, from a corporate governance perspective, it appears they’re being extra cautious and careful,” said Frank Partnoy, a former banker who is now a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego School of Law. “On the other hand, it’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer and the government.”

AIG has every right and responsibility to sue the US for excessive interest payments on it's bailout! Yes, the company failed in execution. Yes, the company would have went bust if the government didn't rescue it. But that is besides the point. If the government wanted market forces to reign supreme they would have let AIG collapse. The fact is they didn't. The reason is because the government was bailing out the banks, namely the most politically connected publicly traded entity in the entire world. The Vampire Squid! Goldman Sachs! As excerpted from the NY Times:

At the end of the American International Group’s annual meeting last month, a shareholder approached the microphone with a question for Robert Benmosche, the insurer’s chief executive. “I’d like to know, what does A.I.G. plan to do with Goldman Sachs?” he asked. “Are you going to get — recoup — some of our money that was given to them?

As a condition of AIG's bailout, the government "insisted" on paying Goldman et. al. 100 cents on the dollar of its CDS written with AIG, something that wouldn't have been necessary if Goldman had prudently underwritten counterparty and credit risks that it was taking. Apparently, the US government believes that it didn't. In addition, it's somethng that wouldn't have been possible if the government didn't intervene on behalf of the banks, forcing the AIG shareholders to take a hit, but shielding the Goldman, et. al. shareholders. As my grandma used to tell me, what's good for the goose is good for the gander! It's not as if these credit/counterparty risks were invisible, I saw them as far back as early 2008 - reference I won't say I told you so, again. This page also happened to of shown the credit risk concentration of every bank granted a reprieve by the government after the fact. As a matter of fact, there's still more than a modicum of risk present, as clearly illustrated in...

Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?  

Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To Be Ignored?

Welcome to part two of my series on Hunting the Squid, the overvaluation and under-appreciation of the risks that is Goldman Sachs. Since this highly analytical, but poignant diatribe covers a lot of material, it's imperative that those who have not done so review part 1 of this series, I'm Hunting Big Game Today:The Squid On The Spear Tip, Part...

 

Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With The Squid? Plenty!!!Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With The Squid? Plenty!!!  

Hunting the Squid, part 4: So, What Else Can Go Wrong With Goldman Sachs? Plenty!

Yes, this more of the hardest hitting investment banking research available focusing on Goldman Sachs (the Squid), but before you go on, be sure you have read parts 1.2. and 3:  I'm Hunting Big Game Today:The Squid On A Spear Tip, Part 1 & Introduction Hunting the Squid, Part2: Since When Is Enough Derivative Exposure To Blow Up The World Something To...

Now, AIG's shareholders are being forced to finance the bailout of Goldman Sachs. To not combat that should open AIG management up to shareholder lawsuits, for they are not acting as a fiduciary of the shareholder capital if they let this slide. It's one thing to pay for the AIG bailout, but its another to pay for the Goldman bailout. In addition, this forced bailout that refused to force AIG creditors not to take haircuts runs counter to the ideology the government used when it forced the Chrysler's creditor's to take massive haircuts.

When the government began rescuing it from collapse in the fall of 2008 with what has become a $182 billion lifeline, A.I.G. was required to forfeit its right to sue several banks — including Goldman, Société GénéraleDeutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch — over any irregularities with most of the mortgage securities it insured in the precrisis years.

But after the Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil fraud suit filed in April against Goldman for possibly misrepresenting a mortgage deal to investors, A.I.G. executives and shareholders are asking whether A.I.G. may have been misled by Goldman into insuring mortgage deals that the bank and others may have known were flawed.

The anger here should be directed at Goldman, et. al., and not AIG. AIG's management is doing its job, something that our government officials failed to do in making Goldman, et. al. whole during the bailout. Can anyone say regulatory capture?  Goldman et. al.'s transgressions against its clients and counterparties in terms of misrepresentation and what appears to this lay person as outright fraud have been downright egregious, as clearly articulated in Goldman Sachs Executive Director Corroborates Reggie Middleton's Stance: Business Model Designed To Walk Over Clients, it's just that this time, the US taxpayer AND the AIG shareholders are the "Muppets"! The Abacus deal was particularly atrocious, Paulson, Abacus and Goldman Sachs Lawsuit. How about Morgan Stanley's CRE deals on behalf of their so-called clients? Wall Street Real Estate Funds Lose Between 61% to 98% for Their Investors as They Rake in Fees!

re_fund_returns.png

 If Goldman, et. al. were allowed to swim solely at the mercy of the free markets, it (they) would be sinking, Goldman Sachs Latest: Vindicates BoomBustBlog Research ...

... documents also indicate that regulators ignored recommendations from their own advisers to force the banks to accept losses on their A.I.G. deals and instead paid the banks in full for the contracts. That decision, say critics of the A.I.G. bailout, has cost taxpayers billions of extra dollars in payments to the banks. It also contrasts with the hard line the White House took in 2009 when it forced Chrysler’s lenders to take losses when the government bailed out the auto giant.

Regulatory capture! Banks simply lobby harder and pay more to the government than auto companies. How many auto company execs are embedded in government leadership seats worldwide?

As a Congressional commission convenes hearings Wednesday exploring the A.I.G. bailout and Goldman’s relationship with the insurer, analysts say that the documents suggest that regulators were overly punitive toward A.I.G. and overly forgiving of banks during the bailout — signified, they say, by the fact that the legal waiver undermined A.I.G. and its shareholders’ ability to recover damages.

“Even if it turns out that it would be a hard suit to win, just the gesture of requiring A.I.G. to scrap its ability to sue is outrageous,” said David Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “The defense may be that the banking system was in trouble, and we couldn’t afford to destabilize it anymore, but that just strikes me as really going overboard.”

“This really suggests they had myopia and they were looking at it entirely through the perspective of the banks,” Mr. Skeel said.

Nahh? It's called the Federal Reserve Bank, not the Federal Reserve Insurer, nor the Federal Reserve Taxpayer! Who the hell do you think they will back in a crunch?

About $46 billion of the taxpayer money in the A.I.G. bailout was used to pay to mortgage trading partners like Goldman and Société Générale, a French bank, to make good on their claims. The banks are not expected to return any of that money, leading the Congressional Research Service to say in March that much of the taxpayer money ultimately bailed out the banks, not A.I.G.

Of which the interest of about 50% of which should be refunded to AIG shareholders. Without the AIG bailout, these banks would have recieved ZILCH, NOTHING, NADA, Bull Sh1t!

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ZeroHedge, in its snarky, smart ass, Reggie Middleton-like manner made me chuckle this morning with this headline: Mario Draghi Sends Risk Reeling After Exposing Bitter European Truth

It was shaping up like the perfect overnight ramp following yesterday's Goldilocks election result... and then Mario Draghi opened his mouth.

    • DRAGHI SAYS DEBT CRISIS STARTING TO HURT GERMAN ECONOMY
    • DRAGHI SAYS GERMAN RATES LOWER THAN THEY WOULD BE OTHERWISE

And so finally, after months and months of explaining the fundamental dichotomy in Europe (see here), it is finally becoming transparent. And it is as follow: Germany, which is the economic dynamo of Europe, needs a weaker EURUSD to keep its export economy running. Period, end of Story. The problem is that the lower the EURUSD, the greater the implied and perceived EUR redenomination risk, which in turns send the periphery reeling, and will force first Spain, and then everyone else to eventually demand (not request) a bailout.

A quick search on the topic reveals much more of the same...

Draghi admits Germanys f234ked

I emphasize this point because this problem was woefully evident nearly a dull year ago. On Thursday, 12 January 2012, after railing on the US education system (How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery), I made clear to all Harry Potter aficionados (you know, those Euro-types who would rather believe magic over math) that biggest threat to the 2012 economy was sitting right beneath their noses couched as a savior more than a threat. Reference The Biggest Threat To The 2012 Economy Is??? Not What Wall Street Is Telling You..., wherein I painstakingly took the tie to attempt to reassert the authority of math over magic. With the exclusion of central bank mysticism and the attrition of the belief that these bastards can create something out of nothing, or more to the point, can drive nearly everything towards nothing and then suddenly state that they have created something, I bring you my warning prescient warning on Germany and the macro-fundamental call to be aware of the bear Bund trade, to wit:

I believe Germany poses the biggest threat to global harmony for 2012. Here's why...

European banks are (in addition to borrowing on a secured basis from those customers they usually lend to) also paying insurers and pension funds to take their illiquid bonds in exchange for better quality ones, in a desperate bid to secure much-needed cash from the ECB, which only provides cash against collateral. This may not be as safe a measure as it sounds. Below is a sensitivity analysis of Generali's (a highly leveraged Italian insurer, subscribers see File Icon Exposure of European insurers to PIIGS) sovereign debt holdings.

image004image004

As you can see, Generali is highly leveraged into PIIGS debt, with 400% of its tangible equity exposed. Despite such leveraged exposure, I calculate (off the cuff, not an in depth analysis) that it took a 10% hit to Tangible Equity. Now, that's a lot, but one would assume that it would have been much worse. What saved it? Diversification into Geman bunds, whose yield went negative, thus throwing off a 14% return. Not bad for alleged AAA fixed income. But let's face it, Germany lives in the same roach motel as the rest of the profligate EU, they just rent the penthouse suite! Remember, Germany is not in recession after a rip roaring bull run in its bonds, and I presume the recession should get much deeper since as a net exporter it has to faces its trading partners going broke. Below you see what happens if the bund returns were simply run along the historical trend line (with not extreme bullishness of the last year).

image005image005

Companies such as Generali would instantly lose a third of their tangible equity. This is quite conservative, since the profligate states bonds would probably collapse unless the spreads shrink, which is highly doubtful. Below you see what would happen if bunds were to take a 10% loss.

image006image006

That's right, a 10% loss in bunds translates into a near 50% loss in tangible equity to this insurer, which would realistically be 60% plus as the rest of the EU portfolio will compress in solidarity. Combine this with the fact that insurers operating results are facing historically unprecedented stress (see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses!) and it's not hard to imagine marginal insurers seeing equity totally wiped out. The same situation is evident in banks and pension funds as well as real estate entities dependent on financing in the near to medium term - basically, the entire FIRE sector in both European and US markets (that's right, don't believe those who say the US banks have decoupled from Europe).

thumb_Reggie_Middleton_on_Street_Signs_Fire

Now, all of this excerpt above was written BEFORE Tropical Storm Sandy hit the east cost. Now, its a whole difference ball game in terms of combined ratios and operating losses. Exactly how are those operating losses are going to be paid once the truth becomes widespread, re: Germany vs the periphery?

First: See FIRE Burns From Hurricane Sandy - Fear The Insurance Companies, Twice Over - Just Ask the ECB, Greece, Spain & Portugal

Second: Go long magic wands and Harry Potter paraphenalia!!! 

The damage to banks will probably be worse due to the higher level of leverage in European institutions. This is saying a lot since Italy's Generali is truly levered up the ASS! As excerpted from our professional series (subscribers see File Icon Bank Run Liquidity Candidate Forensic Opinion:).. (click here to continue reading)

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At the very beginning of the year I was on CNBC commenting on the horrible time the FIRE sector should be expecting. Well, at year end I see FIRE burning amidst all of this Hurricane damage. First reference my warning on the MSM - Reggie Middleton Sets CNBC on F.I.R.E.!!!

I then followed this up with You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses! Well, guess what we have in today's headlines?

Insurers Face Tab of up to $20 Billion

Hurricane Sandy may cost the insurance industry up to $20 billion, which would put this week's devastating storm second only to 2005's Hurricane Katrina for insured losses, according to a new damage estimate.  44 min ago

 You see, this is more than just massive property losses for the industry. Remember, how the insurance business model works. Take in premiums, invest them for profits, then take your time paying out any claims. Well, this model only works when you have investment profits and/or underwriting profits. A combination of massive investment losses and underwriting losses, a combined ratio of less than 100 in industry parlance, means...

So, Spain finally gets a bailout, as I pretty much guaranteed in The Economic Bloodstain From Spain's Pain Will Cause European Tears To Rain and The Spain Pain Will Not Wane: Continuing the Contagion Saga. I'd like to draw attention to an excerpt from the afore-linked article...

 we should all see what this means for those insurers on F.I.R.E.?

Untitled_-__euro_insurereUntitled_-__euro_insurere

Subscriber downloads:

icon Insurer Preliminary Observations (498.08 kB 2011-12-08 10:05:24)

icon Insurer Report_122511 - Professional/Institutional edition (975.49 kB 2011-12-27 11:05:59)

icon Insurer Report_122511 -Retail edition (876.11 kB 2011-12-27 11:04:09)

icon Insurance cos. EU exposure 11-2011 (10.72 kB 2011-11-28 16:20:21)

icon Insurance Cos. Operational Stress (11.92 kB 2011-11-29 10:11:51)

Greece Is Trying To Convince Portugal To Make F.I.R.E. Hot!!!

 I doubt that's the case. In the post Greece's Problem Is Shared By Much Of The EU & Can't Be Solved Through Parlor Tricks, via ZeroHedge, it was noted:

This 'Deposits Related to Margin Calls' line item on the ECB's balance sheet will likely now become the most-watched 'indicator' of stress as we note the dramatic acceleration from an average well under EUR200 million to well over EUR17 billion since the LTRO began. The rapid deterioration in collateral asset quality is extremely worrisome (GGBs? European financial sub debt? Papandreou's Kebab Shop unsecured 2nd lien notes?) as it forces the banks who took the collateralized loans to come up with more 'precious' cash or assets (unwind existing profitable trades such as sovereign carry, delever further by selling assets, or subordinate more of the capital structure via pledging more assets - to cover these collateral shortfalls) or pay-down the loan in part. This could very quickly become a self-fulfilling vicious circle - especially given the leverage in both the ECB and the already-insolvent banks that took LTRO loans that now back the main Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese sovereign bond markets.

Of course, it gets worse... What can't be pawned off to the ECB in exchange for harsh margin calls merely days later has been pushed into insurers. Below is a sensitivity analysis of Generali's (a highly leveraged Italian insurer, subscribers see File Icon Exposure of European insurers to PIIGS) sovereign debt holdings.

image004image004

As you can see, Generali is highly leveraged into PIIGS debt, with 400% of its tangible equity exposed. Despite such leveraged exposure, I calculate (off the cuff, not an in depth analysis) that it took a 10% hit to Tangible Equity. Now, that's a lot, but one would assume that it would have been much worse. What saved it? Diversification into Geman bunds, whose yield went negative, thus throwing off a 14% return. Not bad for alleged AAA fixed income. But let's face it, Germany lives in the same roach motel as the rest of the profligate EU, they just rent the penthouse suite! Remember, Germany is not in recession after a rip roaring bull run in its bonds, and I presume the recession should get much deeper since as a net exporter it has to faces its trading partners going broke. Below you see what happens if the bund returns were simply run along the historical trend line (with not extreme bullishness of the last year).

image005image005

Companies such as Generali would instantly lose a third of their tangible equity. This is quite conservative, since the profligate states bonds would probably collapse unless the spreads shrink, which is highly doubtful. Below you see what would happen if bunds were to take a 10% loss.

image006image006

That's right, a 10% loss in bunds translates into a near 50% loss in tangible equity to this insurer, which would realistically be 60% plus as the rest of the EU portfolio will compress in solidarity. Combine this with the fact that insurers operating results are facing historically unprecedented stress (see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses!) and it's not hard to imagine marginal insurers seeing equity totally wiped out.

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So, Spain finally gets a bailout, as I pretty much guaranteed in The Economic Bloodstain From Spain's Pain Will Cause European Tears To Rain and The Spain Pain Will Not Wane: Continuing the Contagion Saga. I'd like to draw attention to an excerpt from the aforelinked article:

Subscribers, be ready. When/if Spain cracks, these two short positions will explode:

On the banking perspective:

Of course, in today's environ of mega banks, mega marketing, mega investment returns, white hot IPOs, it may be hard for many to appreciate the words of an entrepreneurial investor and blogger. Then again, just remember that this also coming from the same man that called Bear Stearns, Lehman, GGP, CRE, RIM, housing, the entire Pan-European Debt crisis, etc. See Who is Reggie Middleton for more

So, I have set up the play, now let's take a look at how its rolling out, as excerpted from ZeroHedge's morning posts via Market News:

Any aid that might come from the European Stability Mechanism, which is expected to start work next month, would enjoy a preferred creditor status second-only to the IMF, the spokesman confirmed.

Whoa! Of course, we've broached this topic in the past, over two years ago actually- How the US Has Perfected the Use of Economic Imperialism Through the European Union! Long story, short - there is no free lunch. Bailout's of indebted nations using more debt is NOT a NET POSITIVE! Anyway, back to the bailout that subordinates existing senior bondholders, guess who some of those largest bondholders are? Here's a hint, F.I.R.E.!!!. As duly predicted in BoomBustBlog published research dated 12/11...

AXA_Report_122511_unlocked_Page_02_copy

As you can see below, Spain and Greece have already taken big shots. Greece has already defaulted and is about to default again - exactly as we predicted...

And not only has Spain performed as expected (The Spain Pain Will Not Wane: Continuing the Contagion Saga), the CDS market is pushing it along at breakneck speeds - reference Zerohedge's Spanish CDS Storms Above 600bps

Spanish 5Y CDS broke back above 600bps (just shy of their record 603bps level) and 35bps wider of their intrday low spread from 5 hours ago. Spanish 10Y yields are over 50bps wider/higher than their intraday lows just after the open in Europe. Italy also just broke 550bps. EURUSD is almost unch now.

 

Next up in the bond vigilanted shooting gallery is Italy - Italy Moves Into Debt-Crisis Crosshairs. I will dive into this in detail in my next post on this topic, but for now we should all see what this means for those insurers on F.I.R.E.?

Untitled_-__euro_insurere

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icon Insurer Report_122511 - Professional/Institutional edition (975.49 kB 2011-12-27 11:05:59)

icon Insurer Report_122511 -Retail edition (876.11 kB 2011-12-27 11:04:09)

icon Insurance cos. EU exposure 11-2011 (10.72 kB 2011-11-28 16:20:21)

icon Insurance Cos. Operational Stress (11.92 kB 2011-11-29 10:11:51)

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Last week I penned Sophisticated Ignorance Part 2: Pressuring Germany To Do The Wrong Thing Is A Short Seller's Dream, wherein I continued the argument that serial bailouts of banks whose assets dwarf domicile GDPs has never, ever worked. Part and parcel to said argument was Germany's resistance to such profligate spending and the perception that Germany was somehow immune to the economic maladies that afflicted its European trading partners - reference The Biggest Threat To The 2012 Economy Is??? Not What Wall Street Is Telling You... An astute reader commented on these postings as follows:

Reggie, all well argued, but the scramble for German Bunds is still on and even if it were to stop there won't be many who sell. (or COULD sell). Even if, you have the ECB who could easily buy up German bunds as well and keep rates down. At the end of the day it's a complete fiasco, no doubt, but that day could last a lot longer than you (or me) currently assume...

I have broached the argument in the past that the ECB is not god, or even close to it, and that it can only play the bond buying ponzi for but so long before negative consequences occur. Reference: 

How much damage is being inflicted upon the ECB, and how? Well simply read How Greece Killed Its Own Banks! and remember that this article was written in the beginning of 2010, when the bonds were trading for much more then they were right before they defaulted! then reference Greece Reports: "Circular Reasoning Works Because Circular Reasoning Works" - Or - Here Comes That Default!!!

 

The ECB's balance sheet bloat doesn't begin or end with Greece. I excerpt "The Bull Argument For Europe Is Credible, Except For The Circular Argument: You Can't Solve Debt Problems With More Debt!!!" as follows:

Italy has close to a quarter trillion euros of bonds maturing around now and another $352 bln maturing next year. The market has already soured on Italy's need to raise so much capital and has punished it through rate increases. The ECB already holds an estimated 20% of Greek, Portugal and Irish outstanding bonds yet it has jumped on the Italian bond buying bandwagon as well. It is doubtful that it has the political will to do the same for Italy and Spain, and even if it did it may not have the financial will to politically monetize the guaranteed losses it will endure. Just take a look at the losses it took on Greek bonds last year, before they really tanked...

image001

The same hypothetical leveraged positions expressed as a percentage gain or loss…

image003

One should doubt that the new EFSF is likely to be large enough to rescue all of insolvent Europe without the necessary debt destruction taking place.

 Hopefully, by now, I have presented enough to get the message across. The question is, whom have I gotten the message across to? Again, evidence that BoomBustBlog should be one of your first reads, ahead of the MSM and the sell side, significantly ahead! Last week, CNBC ran this article - Time Bomb? Banks Pressured to Buy Government Debt Thursday, 31 May 2012 | 2:42 PM ET

US and European regulators are essentially forcing banks to buy up their own government's debt—a move that could end up making 

the debt crisis even worse, a Citigroup analysis says. Regulators are allowing banks to escape counting their country's debt against 

capital requirements and loosening other rules to create a steady market for government bonds, the study says.

While that helps governments issue more and more debt, the strategy could ultimately explode if the governments are unable to 

make the bond payments, leaving the banks with billions of toxic debt, says Citigroup strategist Hans Lorenzen.

"Captive bank demand can buy time and can help keep domestic yields low," Lorenzen wrote in an analysis for clients. "However, 

the distortions that build up over time can sow the seeds of an even bigger crisis, if the time bought isn't used very prudently."

"Specifically," Lorenzen adds, "having banks loaded up with domestic sovereign debt will only increase the domestic fallout if the 

sovereign ultimately reneges on its obligations."

The banks, though, are caught in a "great repression" trap from which they cannot escape.

"When subjected to the mix of carrot and stick by policymakers...then everything else equal, we believe banks will keep buying," 

Lorenzen said.


Institutions both in the U.S. and abroad have been busy buying up their national sovereign debt for years, he found.

Spanish banks bought 90 billion euros worth while Italian firms picked up 86 billion euros just between November and March. Even 

in the UK, which has avoided a debt crisis as it is outside the euro zone and able to set its own monetary policy, banks have increased

holdings of gilts by 100 billion pounds over the past few years.

And in the U.S., banks, though having "comparatively low holdings" of Treasurys, have bought $700 billion of American debt since 2008.

"Ask the simple question: Why are banks buying sovereign debt when yields are either near record lows, or perhaps more interestingly, 

when foreign investors are pulling out?" Lorenzen wrote.

It's really enough to make you say, "Hmmmm!!!" While I have illustrated, in explicit detail, the danger to the banks due to this "kick the can 

down the road syndrome" (subscribers, see the 141 items in the Banks & Financial Services downloads section) The truly underappreciated 

risk is in the insurance sector, as illusrated in the "The Biggest Threat" post.

I'm actually in the process of building a staggered put portfolio on this company, among others covered in my research notes, right now. I will

post on why I chose what I chose to represent my bearish position on this company in a future post, likely sometime this week if time permits.

icon Preliminary Observations (498.08 kB 2011-12-08 10:05:24)

icon Report_122511 - Professional/Institutional edition (975.49 kB 2011-12-27 11:05:59)

icon Report_122511 -Retail edition (876.11 kB 2011-12-27 11:04:09)

icon Insurance cos. EU exposure 11-2011 (10.72 kB 2011-11-28 16:20:21)

icon Insurance Cos. Operational Stress (11.92 kB 2011-11-29 10:11:51) 



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Minutes ago I posted So, What's Next Step Towards The Eurocalypse? wherein I illustrated the folly in believing this CAC-powered Greek bond deal will be the near term sovereign default issues. Following up on those thoughts of serial defaults, I remind my readers and subscribers what was revealed in the post The Biggest Threat To The 2012 Economy Is??? Not What Wall Street Is Telling You... 

European banks are (in addition to borrowing on a secured basis from those customers they usually lend to) also paying insurers and pension funds to take their illiquid bonds in exchange for better quality ones, in a desperate bid to secure much-needed cash from the ECB, which only provides cash against collateral. This may not be as safe a measure as it sounds. First of all, there's trash and then there's real trash. The ECB has lowered there standards to accept some very low quality assets as collateral. The lower the quality of the asset, the more volatile that asset can be said to be in times of uncertainty. This is both common sense and taught in the first year of B School. Is it that no one at the ECB has common sense or went to school? Nah!!!! I doubt that's the case. In the post Greece's Problem Is Shared By Much Of The EU & Can't Be Solved Through Parlor Tricks, via ZeroHedge, it was noted:

This 'Deposits Related to Margin Calls' line item on the ECB's balance sheet will likely now become the most-watched 'indicator' of stress as we note the dramatic acceleration from an average well under EUR200 million to well over EUR17 billion since the LTRO began. The rapid deterioration in collateral asset quality is extremely worrisome (GGBs? European financial sub debt? Papandreou's Kebab Shop unsecured 2nd lien notes?) as it forces the banks who took the collateralized loans to come up with more 'precious' cash or assets (unwind existing profitable trades such as sovereign carry, delever further by selling assets, or subordinate more of the capital structure via pledging more assets - to cover these collateral shortfalls) or pay-down the loan in part. This could very quickly become a self-fulfilling vicious circle - especially given the leverage in both the ECB and the already-insolvent banks that took LTRO loans that now back the main Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese sovereign bond markets.

Of course, it gets worse... What can't be pawned off to the ECB in exchange for harsh margin calls merely days later has been pushed into insurers. Below is a sensitivity analysis of Generali's (a highly leveraged Italian insurer, subscribers see File Icon Exposure of European insurers to PIIGS) sovereign debt holdings.

image004

As you can see, Generali is highly leveraged into PIIGS debt, with 400% of its tangible equity exposed. Despite such leveraged exposure, I calculate (off the cuff, not an in depth analysis) that it took a 10% hit to Tangible Equity. Now, that's a lot, but one would assume that it would have been much worse. What saved it? Diversification into Geman bunds, whose yield went negative, thus throwing off a 14% return. Not bad for alleged AAA fixed income. But let's face it, Germany lives in the same roach motel as the rest of the profligate EU, they just rent the penthouse suite! Remember, Germany is not in recession after a rip roaring bull run in its bonds, and I presume the recession should get much deeper since as a net exporter it has to faces its trading partners going broke. Below you see what happens if the bund returns were simply run along the historical trend line (with not extreme bullishness of the last year).

image005

Companies such as Generali would instantly lose a third of their tangible equity. This is quite conservative, since the profligate states bonds would probably collapse unless the spreads shrink, which is highly doubtful. Below you see what would happen if bunds were to take a 10% loss.

image006

That's right, a 10% loss in bunds translates into a near 50% loss in tangible equity to this insurer, which would realistically be 60% plus as the rest of the EU portfolio will compress in solidarity. Combine this with the fact that insurers operating results are facing historically unprecedented stress (see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses!) and it's not hard to imagine marginal insurers seeing equity totally wiped out. On that note, here's some info on a very large, very well respected and very diversified European insurer. Before reviewing this, make sure you have read So, What's Next Step Towards The Eurocalypse? and understand the concepts behind Contagion Should Be The MSM Word Du Jour, in particular the potential and paths for contagion, nominally... What happens when you take the raw public debt exposure and you massage it for reality? Well, BoomBustBlog subscribers already know. Here's a sneak peak of just one such scenario...

(Click to enarge)

 thumb_Sovereign_Contagion_Model_-_Pro__Institutional_demonstration_of_Greek_default

You see, Greece getting away with bondholder murder can easily kick off an interest rate shit storm. If so, it really won't look pretty - not nearly as pretty as Lehman, at least! Ask this big EZ insurer that would immediately get $11B chopped off of equity nearly instantaneously...

Untitled_-__euro_insurere

Subscribers are well served to review this report released in December. This opportunity is driven from the possibility of a Euro sector sovereign meltdown. Thus far, every step leads in that direction. I'm not saying its guaranteed, but everything has been happening according to plan thus far, D day looks to be that much closer...

The same situation is evident in banks and pension funds as well as real estate entities dependent on financing in the near to medium term - basically, the entire FIRE sector in both European and US markets (that's right, don't believe those who say the US banks have decoupled from Europe).

Reggie Middleton Explains the Travails of the F.I.R.E. Sector on CNBC

Related links:

 thumb_Reggie_Middleton_on_Street_Signs_Fire

 

Next up I release the latest (and very interesting) Apple research to subscribers, and the effects of this sovereign stuff on British banks and US CRE.

As is usual, you can reach me via BoomBustBlog or by the following means...

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Published in BoomBustBlog

Earlier this week I published a controversial rant on the US education system - How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery. This was a lengthy piece, but apparently caught the interest of many as it went semi-viral. This is part of the conclusion, attempting to show how US indoctrinated "GroupThink" prevents many (if not most) from seeing what empirically should be obvious. 

Subscribers, please reference the following documents analyzing the FIRE companies we see at risk as a result of the following circumstances.

We have reviewed the finance portion extensively throughout 2011. See Commercial & Investment Banks section of the subscription content area. This is the latest bank who we feel will suffere significant if the feces hits the fan blades  Bank Haircuts, Derivative Risks and Valuation.

The last forensic report was centered around an insurer - see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses! and Our Next Forensic Analysis Subject Is In The Insurance Industry. The actual report is available here:

I have also detailed the risks in commercial real estate in the Dutch markets, see

Now available for download to all paying subscribers is a US REIT headed for distress -  US Commercial REIT Distress Overview
(Commercial Real Estate)
. Professional and institutional subscribers will have an addendum published with additional companies that just missed the shortlist, but may see problems in the near to medium term.

There are many analysts and pundits who outline their predictions for the new year. I don't believe in "predicting" personally, but it is very important to form an outlook for the future and back said outlook up with objective observation and prudent analysis. Several big bank analysts have outlined what they perceive to be the biggest threat to stability for 2012, and material amount of them chose the same threat...

shah_of_iran

Iran

Former CIA Chief: Iran 'Single Greatest Destabilizing' Force in 2012

Tehran will be the top threat in 2012, former CIA Director Michael Hayden predicted Wednesday as Iran dominates foreign policy debate even while national security officials appeared to dismiss the Islamic Republic's latest threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"It is the single greatest destabilizing element right now with regards to global security," Hayden told Fox News, adding that the outlook is not encouraging.

Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate and agree with the assertion that Iran is a serious threat to global stability - and I'm not the only one...

Whle PIMCO didn't actually label Iran as the biggest threat, they did do a superb job of outlining the potential fallout from an Iranian oil event....

"Pimco's 4 "Iran Invasion" Oil Price Scenarios: From $140 To "Doomsday"",

 "Whenever the global economy is in a fragile state, as it is today, geopolitical concerns such as the possibility of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities become much more exaggerated. Although we cannot (and will not) predict whether an attack is imminent, or even likely, our experience and research tells us that any major disruption in the supply of oil from Iran could have either subtle or profound global repercussions – especially as excess capacity is virtually exhausted and we doubt that other OPEC nations would be able to compensate for a reduction in Iranian oil production."

The 4 scenarios presented by PIMCO here they are: "i)Scenario 1Exports minimally effected. Concerns would drive initial price response; Oil could spike initially to $130 to $140 per barrel and then settle in a higher range, around $120 to $125; ii) Scenario 2Iranian exports cut off for one month. In this case, we would expectprices could reach previous all-time highs of $145/bbl or even higher depending on issues with shipping; iii) Scenario 3: Iranian exports are lost for half a year. We think oil prices could probably rally and average $150 for the six months, with notable spikes above that level; iv)Scenario 4Greater loss of production from around the region, either through subsequent Iranian response or due to lack of ability to move oil through Straits of Hormuz. This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices could soar, significantly constraining global growth. Forecasting prices in the prior scenarios is dangerous enough. So, we won’t even begin to forecast a cap or target price in this final Doomsday scenario."

Now, SocGen weighs in...

SocGen Lays It Out: "EU Iran Embargo: Brent $125-150. Straits Of Hormuz Shut: $150-200"

1) "Scenario 1: EU enacts a full ban on 0.6 Mb/d of imports of Iranian crude. In this scenario, we would expect Brent crude prices to surge into the $125-150 range." 2) "Scenario 2: Iran shuts down the Straits of Hormuz, disrupting 15 Mb/d of crude flows. In this scenario, we would expect Brent prices to spike into the $150-200 range for a limited time period."

Now, the last thing an already crippled Europe needs is a doubling of its primary transportation energy source. Alas, methinks Europe has bigger problems to with which to cause goose bumps on its booty - namely.... It's banking AND insurance system is still one step from absolute implosion! It's gotten so bad that the borrowers are actually lending to the lenders because the lenders have no effective credit in the markets!!!

European Banks Now Get Loans From Cash-Rich Firms

Blue-chip names like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Peugeot are among firms bailing out Europe's ailing banks in a reversal of the established roles of clients and lenders.
Euro bills and U.S. dollars being exchanged. One source with knowledge of the so-called repo deals, or short-term secured lending, said the two U.S. pharmaceutical groups and French car maker were the latest to sign up for them. Europe's banks are struggling to secure the cash to fund their day-to-day business and have largely stopped lending to each other for fear Europe's sovereign debt [cnbc explains] crisis could land any of their peers in trouble.

As a result a group of well-known, cash-rich companies with solid cash flows has stepped in the repo market, which provides a form of lending so far almost exclusively in use between banks, and between banks and central banks. One market participant said in one key area of lending companies now accounted for 25 percent of these deals. Repos provide the new financiers with the strict guarantees they need before parting with their cash, answering worries that the crisis has weakened Europe's banks to the extent that they might not be able to pay the money back.
"Companies in the past were ... happy to deposit cash on an unsecured basis to a bank for an interest payment," said Frank Reiss, who oversees some of the repo business at Euroclear, the Brussels-based settlement house owned by a group of banks. "Now following the crisis, we have seen that companies are engaging in repos secured with collateral against the cash they are lending," said Reiss. Euroclear is the largest administrator of repo trades in Europe. At the moment the European Central Bank provides the main lifeline for banks and has pumped hundreds of billions of euros of cash into the market. But the banks are parking most of the money they borrow back at the ECB [cnbc explains] rather than trusting to lend to each other.

Yes, this appears to be the fact... Deposits at ECB Hit New High

Commercial banks' overnight deposits at the European Central Bank hit a new record high of 464 billion euros, data showed on Monday, and traders said they could hit half a trillion euros by next week. High deposits indicate banks prefer the safety of the central bank for their funds to higher rates they could get by lending to each other.

Banks are awash with cash after taking an unprecedented 489 billion euros in the ECB's [cnbc explains] first-ever three-year liquidity operation late last month, and are mulling what to do with the money in the longer term. The liquidity operation was designed to underpin banks' finances and hopefully repair some confidence in the sector, but the sovereign debt crisis means many institutions still lack enough trust to lend to each other and prefer to stash their money at the ECB.

"The market is more or less closed, all the over-liquidity is going back to ECB," the trader said. "Slowly people are getting some longer funding, but there is no easing in the short end."

Now, Germany has acted as stalwart stopgap in the sovereign debt carnage of the EU nations. It's perceived as the strongest, most stable and most disciplined economy. As such, there has been a massive flight to quality trade that has pushed German bunds to negative yields. That's right! As in the US, you literally have to pay Germany for the privilege of lending it your hard earned money.

Right here and now, the more astute should see there's something wrong here, but we shall move on. Wait a minute! This net export nation (that means its livlihood is based on selling goods to others) whose major trading partners suffer from a myriad of maladies ranging from hard landing to near depression is in economic recession, yet there's enough demand to lend it money that lenders have to pay for the privilege???

  1. Latest Numbers from Germany Confirm Recession The New American -The announcement from the German Economy Ministry over the weekend confirmed that the long-awaited European recession has officially begun: German factory ...
  2. Germany in recession - The Daily Economist - Entering the new year, we can now add Germany to the growing list of countries in recession, as noted by more than a dozen economists who have come to this ...
  3. Economists: Germany in a recession now - The Local - As European leaders struggle to stave off a looming recession this year,Germany – the continent's biggest and healthiest economy – is probably already in one,...

  4. Survey shows Germany already in recession: report - MarketWatch - BERLIN -The German economy is already in recession, Die Welt newspaper reported Monday, citing its survey of 14 bank economists.

I believe Germany poses the biggest threat to global harmony for 2012. Here's why...

European banks are (in addition to borrowing on a secured basis from those customers they usually lend to) also paying insurers and pension funds to take their illiquid bonds in exchange for better quality ones, in a desperate bid to secure much-needed cash from the ECB, which only provides cash against collateral. This may not be as safe a measure as it sounds. Below is a sensitivity analysis of Generali's (a highly leveraged Italian insurer, subscribers see File Icon Exposure of European insurers to PIIGS) sovereign debt holdings.

image004

As you can see, Generali is highly leveraged into PIIGS debt, with 400% of its tangible equity exposed. Despite such leveraged exposure, I calculate (off the cuff, not an in depth analysis) that it took a 10% hit to Tangible Equity. Now, that's a lot, but one would assume that it would have been much worse. What saved it? Diversification into Geman bunds, whose yield went negative, thus throwing off a 14% return. Not bad for alleged AAA fixed income. But let's face it, Germany lives in the same roach motel as the rest of the profligate EU, they just rent the penthouse suite! Remember, Germany is not in recession after a rip roaring bull run in its bonds, and I presume the recession should get much deeper since as a net exporter it has to faces its trading partners going broke. Below you see what happens if the bund returns were simply run along the historical trend line (with not extreme bullishness of the last year).

image005

Companies such as Generali would instantly lose a third of their tangible equity. This is quite conservative, since the profligate states bonds would probably collapse unless the spreads shrink, which is highly doubtful. Below you see what would happen if bunds were to take a 10% loss.

image006

That's right, a 10% loss in bunds translates into a near 50% loss in tangible equity to this insurer, which would realistically be 60% plus as the rest of the EU portfolio will compress in solidarity. Combine this with the fact that insurers operating results are facing historically unprecedented stress (see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses!) and it's not hard to imagine marginal insurers seeing equity totally wiped out. The same situation is evident in banks and pension funds as well as real estate entities dependent on financing in the near to medium term - basically, the entire FIRE sector in both European and US markets (that's right, don't believe those who say the US banks have decoupled from Europe).

thumb_Reggie_Middleton_on_Street_Signs_Fire

The damage to banks will probably be worse due to the higher level of leverage in European institutions. This is saying a lot since Italy's Generali is truly levered up the ASS! As excerpted from our professional series File Icon Bank Run Liquidity Candidate Forensic Opinion:

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_01

This is how that document started off. Even if we were to disregard BNP's most serious liquidity and ALM mismatch issues, we still need to address the topic above. Now, if you were to employ the free BNP bank run models that I made available in the post "The BoomBustBlog BNP Paribas "Run On The Bank" Model Available for Download"" (click the link to download your own copy of the bank run model, whether your a simple BoomBustBlog follower or a paid subscriber) you would know that the odds are that BNP's bond portfolio would probably take a much bigger hit than that conservatively quoted above.  Here I demonstrated what more realistic numbers would look like in said model... image008

Be aware that Greece, et. al. currently trade at a very fat spread to the bund. Said spread should actually widen as reality starts to set in. Remember, these are spreads, not static yields! If German bunds reflect the fact that Germany, as a net export nation that derives its bread and butter from exporting to economies that currently range from facing hard landings to recession to down right borderline depression (China/US/EU), then Bund prices may feel the effects of fundamentals over the flight to (alleged) quality trade that has pushed yields negative. When you have to pay somebody to lend them money, the wrting should be written very clearly on the wall. If only American Group think indoctrination style education taught us to read (the writing on the wall, that is). See for How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery more on this.

To note page 9 of that very same document addresses how this train of thought can not only be accelerated, but taken much further...

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_09

So, how bad could this faux accounting thing be? You know, there were two American banks that abused this FAS 157 cum Topic 820 loophole as well. There names were Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. I warned my readers well ahead of time with them as well - well before anybody else apparently had a clue (Is this the Breaking of the Bear? and Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?). Well, at least in the case of BNP, it's a potential tangible equity wipeout, or is it? On to page 10 of said subscription document...

BNP_Paribus_First_Thoughts_4_Page_10

Yo, watch those level 2s! Of course there is more to BNP besides overpriced, over leveraged sovereign debt, liquidity issues and ALM mismatch, andlying about stretching Topic 820 rules, but I think that's enough for right now. Is all of this already priced into the free falling stock? Are these the ingredients for a European bank run? I'll let you decide, but BoomBustBloggers Saw this coming midsummer when this stock was at $50. Those who wish to subscribe to my research and services should click here. Those who don't subscribe can still benefit from the chronology that led up to the BIG BNP short (at least those who have come across my research for the first time)...

Thursday, 28 July 2011  The Mechanics Behind Setting Up A Potential European Bank Run Trastde and European Bank Run Trading Supplement

I identify specific bank run candidates and offer illustrative trade setups to capture alpha from such an event. The options quoted were unfortunately unavailable to American investors, and enjoyed a literal explosion in gamma and implied volatility. Not to fear, fruits of those juicy premiums were able to be tasted elsewhere as plain vanilla shorts and even single stock futures threw off insane profits.

Wednesday, 03 August 2011 France, As Most Susceptble To Contagion, Will See Its Banks Suffer

In case the hint was strong enough, I explicitly state that although the sell side and the media are looking at Greece sparking Italy, it is France and french banks in particular that risk bringing the Franco-Italia make-believe capitalism session, aka the French leveraged Italian sector of the Euro ponzi scheme down, on its head. As clearly predicted in the last quarter of 2009, Another Banking Crisis Is Inevitable? There will be several bank runs, although they may be cleveraly concealed by central banks and governmental authorities. Reference The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs! These bank runs will not be confined to the annals of the EU either, reference Yes, The BoomBustBlog Forecast Pan-European Bank Run Has Breached American Soil!!! The US has a greater than 50% chance of seeing additional bank runs, albeit most likely cloaked. Remember, Lehman Brothers, WaMu and Bear Stearns were victims of bank runs, as was MF Global - which many people fail to realize, and it was a highly leveraged bank run to boot - On MF Global, Hyper-Hypothecation That Creates $6b Out $2B And A Central Bank That Couldn't See A Bankruptcy Staring It In The Face. The big name brand banks whom many thought were infallible, actually have many similarities to that of the now bankrupt MF Global, to wit - Goldman, et. al. Suffer From The Same Malady That Collapsed Lehman and MF Global, Worlds 1st and 8th Largest Bankruptcies!

I then provide a deep dive of the French bank we feel is most at risk. Let it be known that every banked remotely referenced by this research has been halved (at a mininal) in share price! Most are down ~10% of more today, alone!

So, What's the Next Shoe To Drop? Read on...

For those who claim I may be Euro bashing, rest assured - I am not. Just a week or two later, I released research on a big US bank that will quite possibly catch Franco-Italiano Ponzi Collapse fever, with the pro document containing all types of juicy details. This is the next big thing, for when (not if, but when) European banks blow up, it WILL affect us stateside! Subscribers, be sure to be prepared. Puts are already quite costly, but there are other methods if you haven't taken your positions when the research was first released. For those who wish to subscribe, click here.

I would like my subscribers to remain cognizant of the face that equity prices probably will detach from fundamentals this quarter as the inevitable wave of global QE is once again instituted via version 3.5x, but this can kicking has pushed the party's participant into a virtual dead end. Yes, it can continue, but I don't foresee many years of this. Although this is merely speculation on my part, but methinks 2012 may very well be the year of reckoning.

Those who wish to subscribe to BoomBustBlog research, analysis and opinion should click here! You can follow my public comments via the following avenues....

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As is  customary, you can reach me via the following avenues...

Reggie Middleton Boom Bust Blog

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Published in BoomBustBlog
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 07:42

Reggie Middleton Sets CNBC on F.I.R.E.!!!

thumb_Reggie_Middleton_on_Street_Signs_Fire

Last week I offered my susbscribers examples of the 2nd and 3rd sectors of the FIRE (Finance, Insurance & Real Estate) group that we see getting burned. I spent much of last year on the "F"portion of FIRE. Subscribers should reference  the last 5 or so documents in the Commercial & Investment Banks section of the subscription content area. I then illustrated a Dutch real estate company facing the FIRE (again subscribers reference the latest submissions in Commercial Real Estate), and I will be offering US REIT entities at risk in the next day or two. Of particular interest was my explicit warning on the insurance industry two weeks ago, both publicly and to subscribers, which included a full forensic analysis of the company we thought would be make the best short candidate as the feces hits the fan blades. See You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses! and Our Next Forensic Analysis Subject Is In The Insurance Industry for more on my opinion on such. I even appeared on CNBC yesterday, apparently the only investor/analyst/pundit warning on the FIRE sector for 2012. I outlined my summary outlook for 2012 here: Reggie Middleton on CNBC StreetSigns Sees 2012 As Reluctant/Manipulated Continuation of Q1 2009… The actual CNBC appearance is available below...

From this point on, start this YouTube video and let it play in the background as you go through the balance of this post. It''ll help set the mood...

So, the day following the CNBC appearance warning of the risks to the FIRE sector, and specific risks to the insurance industry in the guise of combined ratios bumping heads with massive investment losses on sovereign and financial entity debt, guess what appears in the headlines of those very same media outlets??? Insurers’ 2011 Catastrophe Losses Hit Record:

Japan’s earthquake and U.S. storms helped make 2011 the costliest year on record for insurance companies in terms of natural-disaster losses, according to Munich Re (ARN).

Several “devastating” earthquakes and a large number of weather-related catastrophes cost insurers $105 billion, more than double the natural-disaster figure for 2010 and exceeding the 2005 record of $101 billion, the world’s biggest reinsurer said in an e-mailed statement today. Competitor Swiss Re earlier estimated that the industry’s claims from natural catastrophes reached $103 billion.

Global economic losses jumped to $380 billion last year, surpassing the previous record of $220 billion in 2005, with the quakes in New Zealand in February and Japan in March accounting for almost two-thirds of the losses, Munich Re said.

“We had to contend with events with return periods of once every 1,000 years or even higher at the locations concerned,” Torsten Jeworrek, Munich Re’s board member responsible for global reinsurance, said in the statement. “We are prepared for such extreme situations.”

In Beware Even Those "Safe" Insurer's Portfolios I illustrated to my susbscribers the risks that insurance investors face. Munich Re said 2011 was the costliest year on record, but they failed to state how difficult it would be to handle said record losses with additional and potentially greater losses on bond and FI porfolios. Munich Re's net exposure to sovereign debt of PIIGS as % of tangible equity at the end of 2009 = 41.2%. Damn! Many compmanies are worse than that (and I'll delve into those a little later). Now, by revisiting the insurance primer that I offered in You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses! you can see that combined ratios may very well break 100 while investment losses spike. Somebody may not get their claims funded, eh?

Professional Subscribers, reference the addendum to the icon Sovereign Debt Exposure of European Insurers and Reinsurers (439.61 kB 2010-05-19 01:56:52) whcih can be found online here: Insurer and Reinsurer Sovereign Debt Exposure Worksheets - Professional

Published in BoomBustBlog

insuranceNote: Subscribers can download a copy of this post with facts, tickers and figures here. Any susbcriber having access problems should email customer support so we can send you a copy directly. The new site should be open for beta testing within a week, and is aimed at eliminating the performance and access problms.


We have shortlisted an insurance company that looks to have very little chance of escaping a compression if the business in the Euro zone implodes. It is the first company mentioned in the professional subscriber document released last week (Insurance cos. EU exposure 11-2011).The company has both global macro risk and operational risk, but its operational risk did not land it on the retail subscriber short list released last week (Insurance Cos. Operational Stress). All subscribers should expect forensic report on this company within two weeks and a new short list of REITs and related companies by that time as well. I’m packing the research pipeline for the new year.
In reviewing why this company was chosen, we need to review the post that outlines the insurance business and its cyclical nature - also penned last week - You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Is In For Guaranteed Losses…

Remember, the insurance industry is short to medium term bust because it is:

1.      extremely cyclical,
2.      prone to booms and busts (the fodder of BoomBustBlog),
3.      and relies as much, if not more, on investment income borne from bonds (primarily sovereign debt [whaaaat?] and bank/financial institution debt [whoa!!!??] for earnings as much as their core business of underwriting risk.

The combined ratio of the subject company is just under 100, which means that its underwriting profits less its expenses are nearly ZERO, as in zilch. Of course, the unique aspects of the insurance industry float allows it to profit - even in the face of negative net underwriting earnings. As a matter of fact, under the right circumstances, an insurer can post some very significant positive net income despite markedly negative underwriting profits.

Of course, this unsaid implicit leverage works both ways. Under the wrong circumstances (ex. the circumstances that we are currently experiencing) insurance companies negative underwriting profits can be exacerbated to the point where the company has to be either bailed out or shut down - ex. AIG. I implore interested parties who are not knowledgeable in the insurance industry to review the BoomBustBlog insurance primer - You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Will Take Guaranteed Losses...

The forensic analysis subject we shortlisted has all of the qualifications we listed to be an ideal short in times of volatility and dislocation. The model has turned out to be a bit more complicated than we expected, hence the delay in producing the report but trust me... It will be more than worth it. I should have a summary report out midweek as well as a short list of real estate exposed companies early next week. The double whammy serves to make up for lost time.

The combined ratio of the subject company is nearly 100, while its accounting book value (often par), its politically espoused market value and losses allegedly to be booked, and the actual market value of the assets on balance sheet are ALL DRASTICALLY different! We have shifted over to a duration based analysis to outline risks in its EU debt holdings and trending in its equity holdings. We have also stepped through its more arcane derivative structures as well.

As of right now, marking this company's portfolio to market will result in a 24+% drop in shareholder equity. These very same bonds are rapidly trending downward in value, not up.

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