Displaying items by tag: UK and Eurozone

This is the 2nd to last installment in my Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis series. After covering western and southern Europe, we are moving eastward. Before we go any further, be sure you have caught up on the previous portions:

  1. Can China Control the "Side-Effects" of its Stimulus-Led Growth? Let's Look at the Facts - Explains the potential fallout of the excessive fiscal stimulus in China. While not European, it is quite likely to kick off the daisy chain effect.
  2. The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one.
  3. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? - illustrates the potential for the domino effect
  4. The Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: If I Were to Short Any Country, What Country Would That Be.. - attempts to illustrate the highly interdependent weaknesses in Europe's sovereign nations can effect even the perceived "stronger" nations.
  5. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries

Austria, Belgium and Sweden, while apparently healthy from a cursory perspective, have between one quarter to one half of their GDPs exposed to central and eastern European countries facing a full blown Depression!

Click to Enlarge...

cee_risk_map.png

These exposed countries are surrounded by much larger (GDP-wise and geo-politically) countries who have severe structural fiscal deficiencies and excessive debt as a proportion to their GDPs, not to mention being highly "OVERBANKED" (a term that I have coined).

So as to quiet those pundits who feel I am being sensationalist, let's take this step by step.

Depression (Wikipedia): In economics, a depression is a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity in one or more economies. It is a more severe downturn than a recession, which is seen as part of a normal business cycle.

Considered a rare and extreme form of recession, a depression is characterized by its length, and by abnormal increases in unemployment, falls in the availability of credit, shrinking output and investment, numerous bankruptcies, reduced amounts of trade and commerce, as well as highly volatile relative currency value fluctuations, mostly devaluations. Price deflation, financial crisis and bank failures are also common elements of a depression.

There is no widely agreed definition for a depression, though some have been proposed. In the United States the National Bureau of Economic Research determines contractions and expansions in the business cycle, but does not declare depressions.[1] Generally, periods labeled depressions are marked by a substantial and sustained shortfall of the ability to purchase goods relative to the amount that could be produced using current resources and technology (potential output).[2] Another proposed definition of depression includes two general rules: 1) a decline in real GDP exceeding 10%, or 2) a recession lasting 2 or more years.[3][4]

Before we go on, let's graphically what a depression would look like in this modern day and age...

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Well, not if they are able to pull off their stated austerity measures. Let's see how well they are doing thus far...

Papandreou Says First Deficit Is Greece's Credibility Gap Jan. ...

Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Greece's first "deficit" is its credibility gap, Prime Minister George Papandreou said today at a panel event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Greek Markets Rattled as EU Says Deficit Forecasts ‘Unreliable ...

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Greek stocks and bonds tumbled after the European Commission said "severe irregularities" in the nation's statistical data leave the accuracy of the European Union's largest budget deficit in doubt.

So, in order to gain credibility, Greece has to apply austerity measures and close its large budget. Can Greece accomplish this mission? After all, they are trying to close a fiscal deficit at an unprecedented pace... Let's gauge both their progress and the populace's reactions...

Greek Customs Workers' Strike Dents Exports, Cuts Fuel Supplies

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Greek motorists lined up at gas stations as fuel stocks dwindled while a strike by customs workers over government austerity measures stretched into a fourth day, hurting imports and exports.

The Federation of Greek Customs Workers called a three-day strike on Feb. 16 and decided yesterday to extend the action by six days to protest government austerity measures aimed at trimming Europe’s biggest budget deficit.

Greece is once again “hostage to strikes by powerful labor union groups,” theNational Federation of Greek Commerce said in an e-mailed statement. The strike is “catastrophic” for the country’s trade and industry as well as shipping, food and transport companies and the Greek consumer, said the Athens- based organization, which represents Greek commerce groups.

Exports have fallen 18 percent since the beginning of the customs strike as the shipping of goods via maritime, rail and air links is paralyzed, Christina Sakellaridi, president of the Panhellenic Union of Exporters, told private Skai radio today.

The total value of goods exported by her organization’s members reached 11.4 billion euros ($15.4 billion) in 2009, according to Central Bank of Greece data.

Customs workers in parts of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second- largest city, and on Crete, the biggest Greek island, returned to work today, the state-run Athens News Agency reported. That contradicted a statement by the customs workers’ union on its Web site that continued participation in the industrial action was “universal.”

Cab Drivers Join In

Greece’s taxi drivers also staged a 24-hour strike today, the second in as many weeks, to protest measures including an increase in fuel tax and the obligation to give customers receipts, part of the Greek government’s efforts to clamp down on tax evasion.

Private and public sector unions strike for 24 hours on Feb. 24 over measures introduced by Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government to reduce a budget gap of 12.7 percent of gross domestic product by 4 percentage points this year. The government has frozen wages for public workers and trimmed bonuses, while raising taxes on consumer goods such as tobacco and gasoline.

I suggest subscribers take another look at those exposed Greek banks:

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Greek Banking Fundamental Tear Sheet

I'm going to end the Euro-Sovereign debt crisis in two more installments, and they will be hard hitting ones. In the meantime, make sure you are caught up because I will be creating a road map that will track where the dominoes fall - If (actually, when) they start falling...

  1. Can China Control the "Side-Effects" of its Stimulus-Led Growth? Let's Look at the Facts - Explains the potential fallout of the excessive fiscal stimulus in China. While not European, it is quite likely to kick off the daisy chain effect.
  2. The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one.
  3. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? - illustrates the potential for the domino effect
  4. The Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: If I Were to Short Any Country, What Country Would That Be.. - attempts to illustrate the highly interdependent weaknesses in Europe's sovereign nations can effect even the perceived "stronger" nations.
  5. The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt Crisis, Pt 4: The Spread to Western European Countries

Published in BoomBustBlog

Rising fiscal deficits and pending bond maturities due in 2010 are paving the way for the next wave of the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - Supply, potentially in excess of demand, which portends higher yields and more onerous debt servicing at a time of record fiscal spending!

Please read the following in sequence if you have not already done so for the requisite background to this post:

1. Can China Control the "Side-Effects" of its Stimulus-Led Growth? Let's Look at the Facts - Explains the potential fallout of the excessive fiscal stimulus in China

2. The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis - introduces the crisis and identified it as a pan-European problem, not a localized one.

3. What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? - illustrates the potential for the domino effect

4. The Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis: If I Were to Short Any Country, What Country Would That Be.. - attempts to illustrate the highly interdependent weaknesses in Europe's sovereign nations can effect even the perceived "stronger" nations.

Expected higher fiscal deficit and bond maturities due in 2010 have increased the need for bond auction financing for all major European economies.

Amongst all major European economies, France and Italy have the highest roll over debt due for 2010 of €281,585 million and €243,586 million, respectively.

Published in BoomBustBlog

This is a trick question, for the fates of many European countries are now inextricably tied by what appears to be a poorly conceived methodology of handling diverse political and economic entities under a single currency without a truly authoritarian governing body. Basically, it's the old American saying, "Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians". If one member faces a harder landing, chances are that several others will follow. When I first started this series, a few pundits accused me of being sensationalist. I assume their weren't studying the numbers. It's funny how a few days can bring so many to your side of the table. Now it is becoming much clearer that this is more of a pan-European issue than a pan-Hellenic one.
The printer of the world's reserve currency had a problem selling debt. How well do you think the EMU members will be able to hawk their record trillions of (now apparently obvious to all) relatively stressed debt? Well, Europe's
Economic Recovery Almost Stalls as Germany Unexpectedly Stagnates
as the IMF Joins EU, ECB in Pledging Support for Greece. This is an extreme blow to the credibility of the Euro. Just a year ago, (silly) pundits were speculating that the Euro would replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency, and now the IMF is coming to a EMU members aid just has it has third world and emerging countries.

This is part 3 of my Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis Series. See The Coming Pan-European Soverign Debt
Crisis
and What Country is Next in the Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis? for the first two parts.

Published in BoomBustBlog

UPDATED -It is beyond a hallucinogenic-induced pipe dream to even consider that the Eurozone will come out of this attempt at replicating the US "extend and pretend" policy intact and unscathed. The mere concept of global equity rallies should have macro traders and fundamental investors chomping at the bit. The US won't even get away with it, and we have the world's reserve currency printing press in our basement running with an ink-based, inter-cooled, twin-turbo supercharger strapped on that will make those German engineers green with envy, not to mention green with splattered printer ink as the presses go berserk!

In part 2 of my series on the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis, we will review Italy and Ireland in comparison to the whipping child of the media - Greece (see "The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis" for part one covering Greece and Spain along with tear sheets for the Spanish banks at risk for subscribers).

Published in BoomBustBlog
Monday, 08 February 2010 04:00

The Coming Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis

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 fact that governments worldwide have made the (generally unwise) attempt to bailout their big banks by transferring bad debts and liabilities from the private sector and bank investors to the public sector and taxpayers doesn't mean that the problem has been solved or even ameliorated. As a matter of fact, I believe the problem has now been amplified, for now we have effective increased the implicit leverage in the already excessively leveraged banking problems as well as removed the natural firewalls that may have been in place by having the problems in individual financial institution versus sitting on government balance sheets, able to affect all without the need of the "domino effect" that was feared from the Lehman collapse.

This leverage stems from the fact that most European sovereign nations are considerably "overbanked". The levered assets of the banks in many Euro-sovereign nations easily outstrip those nations' GDP's. So when the nations' banks get in trouble from bad banking practices (and a very large swath have), the nations themselves not only are helpless in attempting to truly save the banks (and instead only institute a bait and switch wherein private default risk/insolvency potential is swapped for public manifestations of the same), but are put at risk themselves for the bank is actually more of a sovereign entity than the sovereign is - at least from an economic footprint perspective. This is what happened in Iceland. If one were to take an empirical look at other nations in Europe, Iceland and Greece are merely the tip of the iceberg. I have warned about this over a year ago regarding Spain and the Spanish banks (see The Spanish Inquisition is About to Begin...), and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

As it stands now, we have the most developed nations suffering from indigestion after bailing out their oversized banking industry, with many of the allegedly balance sheet bailouts actually being illusory and liquidity-based in nature. The US is case in point here, since most banks still have untold hundreds of billions of dollars of losses still sitting on their balance sheets, and the US taxpayer is stuck with the equivalent of hundreds of billions of dollars in losses simultaneously. Accounting rules have been laxed to give the impression of record profits in lieu of what should be record losses.

We also have European countries such as the UK which has nationalized several of their largest banks, taking on significant losses on the taxpayer's balance sheet, but still facing the drag of a poorly performing banking system that is still too big for the economy as a whole. Just the non-performing assets of just the top banks in the UK amount to nearly 9% of their GDP! That is a very big chunk of dead money floating around in the system that literally invalidates X% of reported GDP. The UK also has nearly $200 billion of exposure to Ireland, whose bank's NPA's are roughly 6% of that naion's GDP, the second highest in all of Europe save the UK (who has the same problem)!

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.

I will attempt to illustrate the "Overbanked" argument and its ramifications for the mid-tier sovereign nations in detail below and over a series of additional posts.

Published in BoomBustBlog
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 04:00

Note to CNBC Commentators

One of the regular reporters on CNBC was comparing Greece to the subprime "crisis" of 2007, in that "investors" (I am sure that term is being used very loosely) are not going to make the same mistake as they did in 2007 by underestimating the "contagion" that subprime contained.

I feel compelled to correct him. There was no contagion from subprime. This is not a toxin nor infectious condition. The reason why many people missed the boat and failed to understand the speed of the spread of devaluation was because they failed to realize that the cause of the subprime drop was poor underwriting of loans. If anything was a contagion, it was the greed born from the ability to pass around risks that were poorly underwritten using other people's money. Read up on the entire history in my"Asset Securitization Crisis " series.

Published in BoomBustBlog

In continuing the rant on the possibility of the US entering a stagflationary environment, as was hinted by Alcoa's quarterly report (see "Is My Warning of the Risks of a Stagflationary Environment Coming to Fore?"), I have decided to graphically illustrate the historically most successful inflation hedges. Click graphic below to enlarge.

inflation_correlation.png

For those "gold bugs" who have never ran the numbers, gold offers less inflation protection than your house does. The same goes for WTI crude and probably most other categories of oil.

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From the NY Times...

When the Swiss bank UBS and federal prosecutors face off in a Florida courtroom on Monday, the focus will be whether UBS must disclose the identities of thousands of its American clients, but much more could be at stake as well.

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We all know I have been warning of this bear market rally. I know it has been a rough ride, but at the end of the day, a dollar is a dollar and a loss is a loss. I do hope nobody is surprised. This may not even be the end of the bear market rally, but the internals have been looking weak for the last week or two, and we all know how I felt about the fundamentals and the macro outlook.

From the front page of FT.com:

Fears for financial system cut risk appetite

ECB warning prompts shift from equities. Risk appetite suffered a sharp deterioration on Monday as fresh uncertainty about the global economy and the financial system prompted investors to shift away from equities, commodities and emerging market assets into the perceived safety of government bonds and the dollar.

Eurozone banks face $283bn writedowns

ECB says risks to sector intensifying.

Eurozone banks face additional losses of more than $283bn this year and next as continental Europe's severe recession intensifies strains on its financial sector, the European Central Bank has warned.

The fates of the eurozone economy and its banks have become increasingly interlinked, the ECB reported on Monday in its latest "financial stability review" with banks losses expected to be focused on their loan exposures. Risks to the stability of the financial sector remained high, it said, while "uncertainty prevails" over the shock-absorbing capacity of the banking system.

And from that bastion of unbiased reporting, CNBC: Asian Markets Slide, Optimism May Be
Misplaced


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