As the sun sets on the Greek drama, the most predicted outcome has indeed taken place as the IMF/EU and ECB/EFSF/ESM have come to an agreement about bringing the Greek debt load to a robust level of 124% debt-to-GDP ratio by 2020. There was no way the TROIKA was going to risk the entire EURO project on a mere 44 BILLION EURO payout to the Greek government. The game was played out to the 11th hour–oh those drama queens in Brussels–and although the OFFICIAL SECTOR did not take an official haircut, the core nations of the European financial system do stand to take a bath. IMF Director Lagarde was able to save face as the Greek debt levels will reach the previously promised levels of 120%. Madame Lagarde can now go to the IMF Board and report that all previously agreed to conditions have been ratified by the EU and await the signing of the memorandum of understanding with the Greek leadership. The IMF needed to get Greece out of the way so it can figure out the role it will play in the Spanish bailout and/or Italy.
Archive for the ‘IMF’ Category
First and foremost, a happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND. The growth in readership and the high level of discourse is something I am very grateful and certainly thankful for in full measure. As much energy as I expend in formulating the blog, it is worth the effort because it helps anchor my thoughts about the impact of the global political economy. It is certainly the definition of a give-get. So again, thanks to all my readers.
First, the equity markets continued this week’s rally as better data in the U.S. (housing) following upon the Monday retail sales report provided more fuel for the bulls and is causing great angst for portfolio managers that are underinvested and badly underperforming their benchmarks. These investment advisers must go to sleep and pray for the U.S. to bomb Iran so that they will have some type of opportunity to buy into the global equity rally. It’s tough to chase this one. As I wrote on Sunday, the IMF “volte face” on the impact of austerity budgets was a game changer as it will mean that austerity inspired programs, like the U.S. fiscal cliff, will force policymakers to be cautious in pushing for too much austerity in times of a balance sheet recession. The pushback from Spain, Italy and others is allowing the forces for unrestrained growth to gain ascendancy over the voices of austerity led by the Bundesbank.
It seems that yesterday’s piece on the IMF left more questions than answers. The point of the IMF moving to break the adverse (negative) feedback loop in the economies of Europe and the impact of austerity budgets results in greater deficits as the economy affected experiences negative economic growth rates, which creates greater deficits. As my readers are well aware, budget deficits can increase by slowing growth as well as increased expenditures. The IMF economic models have used a 0.5% impact on proscribed fiscal retrenchment. The IMF has used that 0.5% number for 30 years. As the IMF has studied the European nations and other countries during the recent Great Recession, it seems that the organization’s models are flawed and the impact is far greater, resulting in ever greater deficits amid less economic growth. The IMF believed that for ever 1% drop in government budgets the result would be a drop in GDP of that beloved 0.5%–the multiplier that the models use.
The IMF took center stage during the last four days as its meeting in Tokyo became the central focus of the global macro world. As usual, the IMF communique promised much via the usual platitudes but as investors and traders we are left in the lurch as much is promised but no real substance is revealed. Probably the most important element in the communique is the line, “WE NEED TO ACT DECISIVELY TO BREAK NEGATIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS AND RESTORE THE GLOBAL ECONOMY TO A PATH OF STRONG,SUSTAINABLE AND BALANCED GROWTH.” Why is this simple statement so critical? In last week’s IMF-produced “World Economic Outlook,” it revealed that the IMF‘s model is probably flawed when measuring the impact of fiscal policy on economic growth.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn delivered a speech today in Beijing, lambasting the leadership of Europe for its “state of denial” about the severity of the credit crisis. It seems that an angry DSK is speaking his mind now that he has no official capacity and can lash out at European leaders. The former IMF managing director was well received by his Chinese hosts who showed their appreciation for all the work DSK did to elevate the status of the Chinese in the IMF.
It was a risk-on day Friday as the markets were ostensibly relieved by the exit of Berlusconi in Italy and Papandreou in Greece. The replacement of two European will have little effect on the austerity proposals facing the beleaguered profligate states. Most important for the EU is whether the EUROS will be “FOUND” to backstop the indebted sovereigns so as to be able to aid European banks loaded with “risk-free” sovereign bonds. There are meetings all over the world to find support for a world-wide bailout of Europe as the G-20 meeting revealed the urgency of the situation.
(AN HOUR LATER THE MARKETS WILL BE HUNGRY FOR MORE RUMORS)
Another day and another round of rumors. As the financial markets awaited the EU LEADERS’ statement, the rumor of China agreeing to buy European SOVEREIGN DEBT and EFSF paper provided a boost to a falling EURO and a BID TO the U.S. EQUITY MARKETS. It seems that the market wants to BELIEVE that the Chinese are going to ride to the rescue of the EU and provide the backstop that the Germans are so reticent to bankroll.
The G-20 meeting in Paris seemed to yield agreement that the Europeans need to come to a vibrant resolution of the Sovereign debt issue and some plan as to how to recapitalize its problem banks. The G-20 COMMUNIQUE read like an alphabet soup of global regulatory groups (IIF, YNFCCC, MDB, IOSCO, IMF, WEB, FSB, GSIFI, SIFI, BIS … you get the idea). The Communique opens: “We welcome the adoption of the ambitious reform of the European economic governance.” This is a very brazen statement for I have not read where Europe has taken any such measures, such as fiscal unification.
The communique also noted that the G-20 nations agreed, “Those with large current account surpluses will also implement policies to shift to growth based more on domestic demand. Those with large current account deficits will implement policies to increase national savings.” Coupled with this was the vacuous words: “All countries will undertake further structural reforms to raise potential growth.” The concept of growth seemed to have been the most significant issue but when you cut through the platitudes I just cannot imagine from where the growth is going to be generated. If the SURPLUS NATIONS INCREASE DOMESTIC DEMAND WHILE THE DEFICIT NATIONS INCREASE SAVINGS IT SEEMS THAT THE EFFECT TO GLOBAL GROWTH WILL BE NEUTRAL.
The KEYNESIANS in the Obama administration cannot possibly accept this at a time when the push is for greater fiscal stimulus to generate the economic growth that FED policy has been unable to do by itself. Another area of UNCERTAIN AGREEMENT is the issue of SECRETARY GEITHNER pushing for the Europeans to use the ECB as a guarantor of European sovereign bonds. Geithner continues to pursue the Henry Paulson game plan but he fails to realize that the ECB just does not have the same legal authorities as the U.S. Treasury and FED.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reported that the Geithner push was rejected out of hand. Evans-Pritchard reported that Josef Ackermann, head of Deutsche Bank and the chairman of the IIF, said plans to leverage the EFSF may be illegal. “We cannot allow a rescue fund of this magnitude. The [constitutional] court wouldn’t permit, and nor would the people.” (Sunday’s London Telegraph). The main area of agreement from the G-20 is that the IMF is going to play a very large role in the financial rescue of the peripheries and most probably Spain and Italy. Christine Lagarde was pushing for increased IMF funding but Geithner and other heads of developed nations believed that the $390 BILLION IMF was a large enough war chest to deal with Europe’s problems.
It seems that Geithner believes in the IMF‘s larger role but wants to withhold further funding until the Eurocrats come up with a COMPREHENSIVE PLAN. Geithner let it be known in a Bloomberg interview on Oct. 11 that the European debt crisis is affecting U.S. growth and the “U.S. is going to do everything we can to make it more likely that they move as aggressively as they need to.” The EU is the second largest market for U.S. exports, trailing only Canada. The Obama administration is very worried that a slowing European economy will scuttle all of its economic stimulus plans, making President Obama’s reelection possibility an uphill battle.
Clarification: Readers of Notes From Underground are very aware that I have pushed for the IMF to enhance its war chest by issuing GOLD-BACKED BONDS, thus utilizing its GOLD hoard. Presently, the IMF has 90.5 million ounces of GOLD with a market value of $164.1 billion at market prices on August 31,2011. The IMF does not carry the GOLD on its books at market prices so I am confused by the $390 billion war chest to which Geithner and Lagarde refer.
More important though, under the Second Amendment of theARTICLES OF AGREEMENT IN APRIL 1978, the “IMF DOES NOT HAVE THE AUTHORITY UNDER ITS ARTICLES TO ENGAGE IN ANY OTHER GOLD TRANSACTIONS SUCH AS LOANS, LEASES, SWAPS, OR USE OF GOLD AS COLLATERAL…” (from the IMF website). Thus, my proposal is now laid to rest unless the IMF and its member nations wake up to the 21st Century and find a way to utilize all its assets. If the IMF is to become a bigger player in the developed world it needs to become much more creative in how it looks to stabilize the world in times of great systemic risk.
An Aside: THE GERMAN/FRENCH 10-year-note spread widened to a record 92 basis points on Friday, not a healthy sign for France.
On the other side of the world the Chinese 2/10 spread was a positive 32 points and the 2/10 spread in India was +33 points. These are very flat curves in the two largest BRICS, indicating that money is too tight in both those nations. Just something else to keep an eye on as so much uncertainty exists in the world.
The August 9 FOMC minutes from were released today and there was a great deal of discussion about the issue of leaving rates at the present level for the next two years. It seems that one of the dissenters opposed the measure for he didn’t want the FED to be locked in to a decision and thought the measure should be subject to newly released data. There was much discussion about European banks and the efforts by the ECB to calm the storm and prevent a bank run. The FED did acknowledge that the biggest drag on U.S. growth was the “efforts to rebuild balance sheets and caution on the part of households facing an uncertain economic environment.”