August 12, 2022

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The subject of our most recent expose on the European banking system has a plethora of problems, including but not limited to excessive PIIGS exposure, NPA growth up the yin-yang, Texas ratios and Eyles test numbers that’ll make you shiver and razor thin provisions. Focusing on the most pertinent and contagious of the issues at hand leads us back to the initial premise of a European bank run. I laid the foundation for said topic discussion last Thursday in "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style" and the fear du jour is a European version of the Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns style bank run. The aforelinked at explanatory piece is a must read precursor to this illustration of what can only be described as the anatomy of a European bank run - before the fact. Remember how the pieces of the puzzle were perfectly laid together for a Bear Stearns collapse in January of 2008, two months before the bank's actual collapse? Reference "Is this the Breaking of the Bear?" in which Bear Stearns collapse was illustrated in explicit, graphic detail. Lehman Brothers wasn't impossible to see either (Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise? Thursday, February 21st, 2008 | Web chatter on Lehman Brothers Sunday, March 16th, 2008).

I would also like to make it clear that it is my opinion that the EU leaders who insist on issuing "alleged" bank stress tests that assume its constituency are moronic simply add fuel to the bank run fire. The refusal to test for the concern that the entire bond market has simply feeds uncertainty in lieu of alleviating it, reference Multiple Botched and Mismanaged Stress Test Have Created The Makings Of A Pan-European Bank Run.

The "alleged" stress tests did not test for sovereign default and its effect on HTM inventory, which is already priced into the system and which is the primary worry of the markets. Thus, the stress test results are largely irrelevant.

It's as if I have AIDS and I go to the doctor and pass a test for measles... Does that make my multiple partners (counterparties , lenders and customers) more or less comfortable with my condition?

We have run our own numbers and produced alternative, more realistic scenarios including exposure, haircut assumptions and writedowns for individual countries. Specifically, we have applied writedowns on both banking and trading books with the results available in the subscription document File Icon The Inevitability of Another Bank Crisis? and well as File Icon European Bank's Greece exposure. In essence, after Lehman Brothers collapse, sovereign states appear to deem themselves obligated to bail out their respective insolvent banking systems, thus real stress tests should test both the banks' distressed portfolio carried at unrealistic marks and leverage and the sovereign's ability to aid said banks. Of course, this will be very unpopular from a political perspective because you will get a lot of nasty answers to the questions asked.

Below is a chart excerpted from our most recent work showing the asset/liability funding mismatch of a bank detailed within the report. The actual name of the bank is not at issue here. What is at issue is what situation this bank has found itself in and why it is in said situation after both Lehman and Bear Stearns collapsed from the EXACT SAME PROBLEM!

Overnight and on demand funding is at a 72% deficit to liquid assets that can be used to fund said liabilities. This means anything or anyone who can spook these funding sources can literally collapse this bank overnight. In the case of Bear Stearns, it was over the weekend.

In reviewing my post on this topic in January predicting the fall of Bear - "Is this the Breaking of the Bear?", it is actually scary how prescient it actually was...

Schmook Value – How Marking to Market Will Break the Bear’s Back

Okay, I’ll admit it. I watch CNBC. Now that I am out of the confessional, I can say that when I do watch it I hear a lot of perma-bulls stating that this and that stock is cheap because it is trading at or below its book value. They then go on to quote the historical significance of this event, yada, yada, yada. This is then picked up by a bunch of other individual investors, media pundits and other “professionals,” and it appears that rampant buying ensues. I don’t know how much of it is momentum trading versus actual investors really believing they are buying on the fundamentals, but the buying pressure is certainly there. They then lose their money as the stock they thought was cheap, actually gets a lot cheaper, bringing their investment down the crapper with it. What happened in this scenario? These investors bought accounting numbers instead of true economic book value. Anything outside of simple widget manufacturers are bound to have some twists and turns to ascertain actual book value, actual marketable book value that is. This is what the investor is interested in, the ECONOMIC market value of book, not what the accounting ledger says. After all, you are paying economic dollars to buy this book value in the market, so you want to be able to ascertain marketable book value, I hope it sounds simplistic, because the premise behind it is quite simple – How much is this stuff really worth?. The implementation may be a different matter, though. I set out to ascertain the true book value of Bear Stearns, and the following is the path that I took...

I urge all to review that post of January 2008 and realize that negative equity is negative equity, and no matter how you want to label it, account for it, or delay and pray, broke is broke! This lesson should not be lost on the Europeans, but unfortunately, it is!

The problem then is the same as the European problem now, leveraging up to buy assets that have dropped precipitously in value and then lying about it until you cannot lie anymore. You see, the lies work on everybody but your counterparties - who actually want to see cash!

Using this European bank as a proxy for Bear Stearns in January of 2008, the tall stalk represents the liabilities behind Bear's illiquid level 2 and level 3 assets (including the ill fated mortgage products). Equity is destroyed as the assets leveraged through the use of these liabilities are nearly halved in value, leaving mostly liabilities. The maroon stalk represents the extreme risk displayed in the first chart in this missive, and that is the excessive reliance on very short term liabilities to fund very long term and illiquid assets that have depreciated in price. Wait, there's more!

The green represents the unseen canary in the coal mine, and the reason why Bear Stearns and Lehman ultimately collapsed. As excerpted from "The Fuel Behind Institutional “Runs on the Bank" Burns Through Europe, Lehman-Style":

 The modern central banking system has proven resilient enough to fortify banks against depositor runs, as was recently exemplified in the recent depositor runs on UK, Irish, Portuguese and Greek banks – most of which received relatively little fanfare. Where the risk truly lies in today’s fiat/fractional reserve banking system is the run on counterparties. Today’s global fractional reserve bank get’s more financing from institutional counterparties than any other source save its short term depositors.  In cases of the perception of extreme risk, these counterparties are prone to pull funding are request overcollateralization for said funding. This is what precipitated the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, the pulling of liquidity by skittish counterparties, and the excessive capital/collateralization calls by other counterparties. Keep in mind that as some counterparties and/or depositors pull liquidity, covenants are tripped that often demand additional capital/collateral/ liquidity be put up by the remaining counterparties, thus daisy-chaining into a modern day run on the bank!

 

I'm sure many of you may be asking yourselves, "Well, how likely is this counterparty run to happen today? You know, with the full, unbridled printing press power of the ECB, and all..." Well, don't bet the farm on overconfidence. The risk of a capital haircut for European banks with exposure to sovereign debt of fiscally challenged nations is inevitable. A more important concern appears to be the threat of short-term liquidity and funding difficulties for European banks stemming from said haircuts. This is the one thing that holds the entire European banking sector hostage, yet it is also the one thing that the Europeans refuse to stress test for (twice), thus removing any remaining shred of credibility from European bank stress tests. As I have stated many time before, Multiple Botched and Mismanaged Stress Test Have Created The Makings Of A Pan-European Bank Run!

The biggest European banks receive an average of US$64bn funding through the U.S. money market, money market that is quite gun shy of bank collapse, and for good reason. Signs of excess stress perceived in the US combined with the conservative nature of US money market funds (post-Lehman debacle) may very well lead to a US led run on these banks. If the panic doesn’t stem from the US, it could come (or arguably is coming), from the other side of the pond. The Telegraph reports: UK banks abandon eurozone over Greek default fears

UK banks have pulled billions of pounds of funding from the euro zone as fears grow about the impact of a “Lehman-style” event connected to a Greek default.

Senior sources have revealed that leading banks, including Barclays and Standard Chartered, have radically reduced the amount of unsecured lending they are prepared to make available to euro zone banks, raising the prospect of a new credit crunch for the European banking system.

Standard Chartered is understood to have withdrawn tens of billions of pounds from the euro zone inter-bank lending market in recent months and cut its overall exposure by two-thirds in the past few weeks as it has become increasingly worried about the finances of other European banks.

Barclays has also cut its exposure in recent months as senior managers have become increasingly concerned about developments among banks with large exposures to the troubled European countries Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

In its interim management statement, published in April, Barclays reported a wholesale exposure to Spain of £6.4bn, compared with £7.2bn last June, while its exposure to Italy has fallen by more than £100m.

One source said it was “inevitable” that British banks would look to minimise their potential losses in the event the euro zone crisis were to get worse. “Everyone wants to ensure that they are not badly affected by the crisis,” said one bank executive.

Moves by stronger banks to cut back their lending to weaker banks is reminiscent of the build-up to the financial crisis in 2008, when the refusal of banks to lend to one another led to a seizing-up of the markets that eventually led to the collapse of several major banks and taxpayer bail-outs of many more.

Make no mistake - modern day bank runs are now caused by institutions!

Below is an excerpt of an email exchange that I had with Eurocalypse, the European CDS trader that contributes trade setups to BoomBustBlog (click here for his background), who happens to have ran an ALM department in a sizeable French bank.

FYI, im hearing from my well connected friends that the Chairman of the BoomBustBlog bank run candidate in question has been seeing Sarkozy everyday recently...

Im very surprised about the extent of the ALM gap from the BRC ("Bank Run Candidate"), but my guess is that balance sheet is including the trading books.
Typically the biggest chunk of the balance sheet are govt bonds, and they are refinanced with the repo market. That should explain a lot of the gap.
I dont think the ALM managers manage that gap, and I dont think they should either. Info on the ALM gap ex-trading book should be monitored.

The trading activity is monitored by a market risk group with another set of limits, and of course they would monitor liquidity, closely hopefully.

Of note, there are new official liquidity ratios put in place in Basel III (the LCR Liquidity Coverage Ratio which is a 1 month ratio, and the DFSR which is a 1 year ratio). Basically, Govt bonds are considered as the ultra liquid assets, and actually the LCR forces the banks to hold liquid assets against their 1 month gap calculated with some liquidity assumptions both on the asset and liability side) of course these liquid assets, will mostly be govt bonds in practice, because there is not anything more liquid, and not anything else in sufficient size...

The question is, exactly how liquid are the bonds of sovereign Greece, Ireland and Portugal.  Much of this stuff should rightfully be classified as level 3 assets. The 50% depreciation in the Greek long bond should really, really cause many to rethink both the logic and the strategem behind so called "risk free asset" classes!!!

I'm not saying there is no liquidity risk on the trading books. Effectively if there are signs of stress in the repo market, all players will try (at the same time...) to reduce the size of their trading books ... leaving the market bidless... but its not the intent of banks to try to make profit on the liquidity gap in that case.

Finally the big picture, I think one cannot again ignore that the banking sector and govt debt are totally intertwined as I wrote before. Ultimately, the collapse of the banking sector means the collapse of govt finances and vice versa. Its a FEATURE of a fractional reserve lending system where the eligible asset of choice is those govt bonds, and of a system where govts can freely float more and more debt (as long as there is demand), as money is created by the CB in the process, which end up in the liability side of private banks which then need to buy something etc...

On the liquidity side, many French regional banks were overextended with loan to deposit ratios over 120% (despite being deposit-rich institutions). The main reason is they boosted a lot retail mortgage activity.

Anyway, in France, were converging with Japan.

  1. Tough competition within banks, shrinking margins (consumer laws against predatory lending in France, French banks earn a lot of money from the poorer clients who have temporary deficits on their checking accounts).
  2. The housing and CRE market bubble has not exploded yet (Paris home prices are at the highest ever).
  3. Then there is the Euro crisis on top of that
  4. ...and the govts wanting to levy more banking taxes...The sector should be a HUGE UNDERPERFORM! The only way they can make money in the future, is buying those govt bonds and sitting on them, like the Japanese banks...and pray for the bond market not to explode like in Greece!

Or Portugal, or Ireland, or...

Professional and institutional subscribers will have access to our contributing trader’s trade setups and opinions within a week and a half. Institutional subscribers should feel free to reach out to me via Google Plus for video chat and discussion this and every Tuesday at 12 pm (please RSVP via email). If you need an invitation to Google+ and are a subscriber, simply drop me a mail and I will give you one. Feel free to follow me on:

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The People's Party, the largest group in a five-party coalition, walked out amid disputes over how to cope with the country's severe problems.

Unemployment has now hit 20 per cent and the economy contracted by 18 per cent last year.

The People's Party quit after its action plan failed to get the backing of Valdis Dombrovskis, the Latvian prime minister, who labelled it "populist".

Mr Dombrovskis warned the People's Party's departure could cause yet further economic instability.

"Any contradictions in the government are immediately reflected in the financial markets, and they directly affect the fiscal stability our country... a policy that is truly responsible for the country cannot be self-centred," he said.

But he said remained confident that an emergency IMF bail-out worth £6.7bn would remain unaffected by the political instability. New Era, Mr Dombrovskis's party, confirmed it had already extended invitations to other parties to join a new coalition in an attempt on gain the majority in Latvia's 100-seat parliament. It attempted to play down concerns about the prospect of a minority government at the helm of country in severe economic turmoil. Laila Dimrote, a spokeswoman for New Era, said: "This is not a big deal. Latvia has had many minority governments in the past, and often this is the case prior to elections." 

Hopefully, subscribers and readers are taking full advantage of the research at hand (see File IconBanks exposed to Central and Eastern Europe). This plays into the fact that Latvia, and its neighboring countries, are in a depression. This economic contagion will be both converted into financial contagion through the banking system and transmitted as both financial and economic contagion to the wealthier western countries that have large economic claims on Latvia and do trade with them. 

Click any
graphic to enlarge...

  • The Depression is Already Here for Some Members of Europe, and It Just Might Be Contagious! 
  • and Financial Contagion vs. Economic Contagion: Does the Market Underestimate the Effects of the Latter?

I will be publishing the foreign claims model (which will tie all of the myriad global risks into one, cogent risk model) and my analysis of Italy early next week for subscribers, along with a free accompanying analysis for non-paying subscribers and readers. Ireland, the UK and Spain are on tap... 

Earlier installments of the Reggie Middleton's Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis:

  1. The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis – introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem
  2. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? – illustrates the potential for the domino effect
  3. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries
  4. The Depression is Already Here for Some Members of Europe, and It Just Might Be Contagious!
  5. The Beginning of the Endgame is Coming???
  6. Smoking Swap Guns Are Beginning to Litter EuroLand, Sovereign Debt Buyer Beware!
  7. Greek Crisis Is Over, Region Safe”, Prodi Says – I say Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
  8. Germany Finally Comes Out and Says, “We’re Not Touching Greece” – Well, Sort of…
  9. The Greece and the Greek Banks Get the Word “First” Etched on the Side of Their Domino
  10. As I Warned Earlier, Latvian Government Collapses Exacerbating Financial Crisis
  11. Once You Catch a Few EU Countries “Stretching the Truth”, Why Should You Trust the Rest?
  12. Ovebanked, Underfunded, and Overly Optimistic: The New Face of Sovereign Europe

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Quick Asian and European Recap, taking it in baby steps:

  1. Reggie Middleton warns that the UK prospects for recovery are dramatically over-hyped and optimistic (March 2010): See Osborne Seems to Have Read the BoomBustBlog UK Finances Analysis, His U.K. Deficit Cuts May Rattle Coalition
  2. Bank of England warns UK recovery will be weaker than hoped (Telegraph)
  3. Bank of England Cuts Growth Outlook, Sees Inflation Undershoot (Bloomberg)

The nonsense that passes as the financial reporting from these sovereign entities should be ridiculed. I’d like to take this time to share page 4 of our subscription-based analysis of the UK’s predicament:

 

You see, things are materially worse than Britain is letting on. Now, if we were to reverse the exaggerations, optimistic assumptions and outright lies (speaking of which, reference Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!)…

… and in terms of government balance over-optimism?

And from Asia:

China Output Growth Weakens; Inflation Accelerates (Bloomberg)
As BoomBustBlog made clear many months ago..

 

 

 

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How many of those Greek, Portuguese, Irish and Spanish bondholders have factored the near guaranteed "additional" haircut (/scalping) they will receive having to stand behind the IMF in the event of a (probably guaranteed) default or restructuring? Do you think the investors of European banks (that includes central banks) that are holding/and currently still buying a boat load of these bonds have factored this into their valuations?

The IMF, like many other international institutions, asserts that it has a "preferred creditor status", and this has been a practiced convention in the past. Thus, IMF has de facto seniority rights over private creditors despite the fact that there is no legal or treaty-based foundation to support this claim and this seniority of rights for IMF will continue under the recent EU rescue plan announced as well as it has not been noted otherwise implicitly nor explicitly. This is the reason why Sarkozy said it is a said day when the EU has to accept a bailout from the IMF (aka, the US). The EU now, and truly, contains a significant parcel of debtor nations.

To add fuel to this global macro tabloidal fire, the Euro members’ loan will be pari passu with existing sovereign debt i.e. it will not be considered senior. Although there is no written, hard evidence to support this claim, it is our view that otherwise there will be no incentive for investors to hold the debt of troubled countries like Greece, which will ultimately defeat the whole purpose of the rescue package. Moreover, there are indications that support this idea. As per Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, “We are not talking about a special preference for the eurogroup loans, that’s not possible because then you would have the situation that already-existing rights of creditors at the moment would be harmed.” (reference http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-16/netherlands-excludes-senior-status-for-greek-aid-update1-.html). Of course, if more investors did their homework and ran the numbers, that same disincentive can be said to exist with the IMF's super senior preference given the event of a default and recoverable collateral after the IMF has fed at the trough.

The ramifications:

IMF’s preferred creditor status coupled with the expensive Euro members’ loans which are part of the rescue package can create a public debt snowball effect that could push the troubled countries towards insolvency when the IMF debt becomes repayable in three years time. This could be seen particularly in case of Greece (subscribers, please reference Greece Public Finances Projections). Even if all the spending cuts and revenue raising are achieved as planned for Greece, its debt will peak to 149.1% of the GDP in 2013. Please keep in mind that these numbers are based on what we perceived (as does simple math) to be pie in the sky optimism. I urge all readers to reference Lies, Damn Lies, and Sovereign Truths: Why the Euro is Destined to Collapse!.

Notice how dramatically off the market the IMF has been, skewered HEAVILY to the optimistic side. Now, notice how aggressively the IMF has downwardly revsied their forecasts to still end up widlly optimistic.

Ever since the beginning of this crisis, IMF estimates of government balance have been just as bad…

 

Many of my readers have inquired as to why the IMF has been so inaccurate in their estimates throughout the crisis. I doubt very seriously that it is a case of ineptitude. If one were to be a skeptic, and realize that the IMF charges stringent rates and can (and does) usurp the hierarchy of the claims upon assets upon its entrance, then one can clearly see a motivation in undershooting certain estimates. I am not saying that this is the case, but I would be remiss in failing to broach the topic. Remember, this is not your typical mainstream media publication. Nothing is off limits.

IMF Economic Forecasts (%) 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Economic Growth 04 -2.6 1.1 2.1 2.1
Debt as % of GDP 133.3 145.1 148.6 149.1 144.3
Budget Deficit 8.1 7.6 6.5 4.9 3

The year 2013, with a IMF-proclaimed debt ratio of a tad under 150%, is the time when Greece will have to refinance the debt to pay the IMF (remember the charts above that show how optimistic the IMF has been historically). However, since the current debt raised by Greece is at fairly high rates, new debt will only be available at much higher rates (as markets should price-in the risk of high debt rollover) unless there is some saving grace of a drastic plunge in world wide interest rates and a concomitant plunge in the risk profile of Greece. At a 150% debt ratio, historically low artificially suppressed global interest rates that have nowhere to go but higher and prospective junk ratings from the US rating agencies, we don' t see this happening. Thus, the cost of borrowing for in 2013 is likely to be much higher in the market than the nearly five percent for the existing debt. Greece will either be unable to fund itself in the markets at all, and will have to convince the Euro Members and the IMF to extend the three-year lending facility just announced (reference What We Know About the Pan European Bailout Thus Far) or, it will get the debt refinanced at very high rates. In both cases the total debt as a percentage of GDP will continue to rise, and this is not a sustainable scenario over the longer-term. In addition, if it accept the EU/IMF package and there is an event of default or restructuring, the IMF will force a haircut upon the private and public debtors beyond what would have normally been the case. This essentially devalues the debt upon the involvement of the IMF, a scenario that we believe many sovereign bondholders (particularly Greek, Spanish and Irish) may not have taken into consideration. This also leaves the possibility of a significant need for many banks to revalue their sovereign debt - particularly Greek sovereign debt - holdings.

As illustrated above, there is a higher probability for a Greek sovereign debt restructuring in 2013, which will definitely not hurt IMF (since it has a preferred right) but the Euro Members and other investors who will be holding the Greek debt.

 

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Will someone explain to me why the world is so enamored with Goldman. It appears that their research department is now recommending clients to bet on European bank contagion risk. LTTP (Late to the Party), we first warned on European bank risk in Spain with BBVA in January of last year (The Spanish Inquisition is About to Begin...). Starting in January of this year, I went in depth into the European contagion thing when practically all of the banks, pundits, analysts and rating agencies said this was contained to Greece.

In February, I posted "The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis – introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one." To wit:

Banks are the epicenter of the economic crises that face the developed and emerging nations over the last few years. Many appear to have allowed the media to carry the conversation away from the banks and into sovereign debt issues, social unrest etc., but the main issue still resides in the banks. Why, you ask? Well, because every single major country conducts its finances through the banks and when those finances become stressed, the banks will be the first to show it and usually show it in an aggrieved manner since most banks are still highly leveraged.

The smaller sovereign nations that failed to keep their hands on the fiscal and budget reigns during the global liquidity bubble are also facing issues. Greece is the current poster child for this scenario, having been downgraded by the ratings agencies, money and capital are fleeing from the country in a typical “run on the bank scenario”, their debt being shunned by the markets with CDS exploding and the big market makers in their debt refusing accept their bonds as collateral. This is Lehman Brothers, part deux, which actually makes plenty of sense since the solution to the banks failing was the government taking the failing asset risk onto the balance sheets, hence now the governments are being seen as at risk of failing versus the backstopped private sector.

The larger sovereign nations are at risk of either having to bailout their less fortunate brethren or facing the fallout of having the repercussions of a domino effect reverberate across the EU and its major markets/counterparties. This goes deeper than some may suspect. For instance, the weakest sovereigns in the Euro area are still the central and eastern European nations, and the stronger sovereigns are heavily leveraged into these countries through their “overbanked” system. If (or when) these companies start to publicly exhibit cracks, quite possibly due to the domino effect of Portugal, Greece and Spain finally tipping, then you will find the Nordics showing stress through their banking system (the biggest CEE lenders) at a level that the countries may be hard pressed to backstop, for their banking systems are literally multiples of their GDPs.

Okay, come latter day April (a full 3 and a half months later), and I read over at ZeroHedge...

Goldman's Charles Himmelberg has just reiterrated his call for Long CDS on local banks in Portugal, Spain and Italy, hedged by selling Main (iTraxx) protection. It is our view that as accounts plough into this trade and as bank spreads blow out, it will only accelerate the funding complexities, the bank runs and the inevitable collapse of the financial systems in all of the other imparied peripheral countries, ultimately leading to the collapse of the EMU. Will Goldman be accused next of destroying Europe? Stay tuned.

... With total debt around €265bn, they believe Greece is not out of the woods yet. The Greek government faces a financing gap of about €51bn during the next 12 months, and will need to enact strong fiscal tightening (up to 10% of GDP) and new reforms to re-establish growth.

... High unemployment, decreasing house prices and poor to capital markets are likely to continue to challenge firms in southern Europe, where corporate bonds are only around 7% of GDP (compared to 14% in the rest of Europe and 28% in the US). Local banks, which used to rely on a stable deposit base, will face increased competition from larger players, who are willing to diversify away from bond funding. They will also face new regulatory charges over the coming months. While we remain positive on financials as a whole, we think the local southern European banks will continue to underperform.

For these reasons, we re-iterate our recommendation to buy protection on local banks in Portugal, Spain and Italy against iTraxx Main (Exhibit 13).

 

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