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.
Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’
In his regular Monday Financial Times column, Wolfgang Munchau takes full aim at Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann for trying to make ECB President Draghi the devil incarnate. Because Weidmann invoked the Faustian character, Mephistopheles, from German hero Goethe’s play Dr. Faustus, Munchau accuses the Bundesbank President of undermining the policies of the ECB. Weidmann is going directly to the German public to plead his case that the ECB is taking the EU down the road of inflationary hell and monetary debasement. Munchau takes up the Draghi/Bernanke/Woodford argument that “the debate about nominal income targeting, where a central bank no longer stabilizes the inflation rate directly but focuses instead on stabilizing NOMINAL GDP (emphasis mine).” Munchau assumes that the central banks would be vigilante in controlling inflation but offers no view about what happens if NGDP rises with a significant rise in inflation but unemployment has not met the desired target.
As regular readers of NOTES are well aware, I have been very critical of market participants like George Soros and their sanguine views of the European DEBT CRISIS. Many analysts like Jim Cramer have spent the last years waving the debt problem away. First, it was Greece was too small to have an impact on Europe. Ireland was too small and besides was ring-fenced by a bad bank structure. Portugal was smaller than Greece, thus nothing to be concerned about. Italy and Spain were possible problems but many were listening to the flirtations of the Chinese, who, time after time, made solicitations about purchasing European Debt. (By the way, we still haven’t seen the Chinese Sovereign Wealth Fund enter the fray.) If all else failed, European financial leaders were too exposed to the EURO to allow the European Monetary Structure to collapse. Germany would not allow the work of Helmut Kohl and others to be just another failed attempt at a unified Europe.
In a comment directed toward the European peripherals, Pimco’s Bill Gross said that Greece was a zit, Portugal a boil, and Spain a tumor. Readers of NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND know that Spain has been on the radar for a long time. The growth numbers or lack of growth, rather, hampered by severe austerity budgets have generated ADVERSE FEEDBACK LOOPS that have rendered all economic projections null and void. When austerity bites, all growth forecasts are cast asunder. Staying with Gross’s almost biblical references, I suggest looking at Europe though the lens of the TEN PLAGUES.
The unemployment numbers were much as expected and the most solid news was that the employment participation rate increased to 63.9% to 63.7%, which didn’t cause the overall jobless rate to increase. It has been discussed in this BLOG that the best news for the financial markets would be for job growth to pick up, with an uptick in the UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AS WORKERS RETURN TO THE JOBS POOL AS A SIGN OF IMPROVED CONFIDENCE. This number provided some of that but still not enough returnees to bump the rate higher for the higher rate will make the FED‘s FOMC January 25 statement that much more relevant.
The discussion is over–ha, ha, ha–and another 3 a.m. decision is made. The Greeks will get their funding and the banks are off the hook for another short period of time. There are so many stipulations involved that it will take time to understand what really took place in the wee hours of another EUROPEAN meeting. It seems certain thought the Greeks will deposit money in escrow to assure all the “DONATING” parties that the CITIZENS OF GREECE WILL ADHERE TO THE FISCAL AUSTERITY TO WHICH THE GREEK TECHNOCRATS AND POLITICIANS HAVE AGREED. THIS IS SIMILAR TO A YOUNG ADULT HAVING TO AGREE TO CERTAIN STIPULATIONS IN ORDER TO RECEIVE THEIR TRUST FUND CHECK, or what is known as a TRUSTAFARIAN.
Today, IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE announced that she would try to raise more capital to shore up the IMF‘s balance sheet as to be able to aid the peripheral nations of the European Union. Ms. Lagarde was going to approach the members of the G-20 to provide additional funds to prevent a further assault on the European sovereign debt by securing funds to support the troubled sovereigns. The IMF director will be depending on the BRICS and Japan to increase their contributions so as the IMF may actually be able to help GREECE and PORTUGAL meet immediate funding needs and let the ECB and EFSF do the heavy lifting for Spain and Italy. (At this time, the U.S. said they will not be contributing.)
The European debt markets were thrown into further chaos today as the German/Italian 10-year notes spread blew up. In cash terms, the move was a widening of 58 basis points while in futures prices the differential was 512 ticks. Notes From Underground has been monitoring the BUND/BTP futures spread for almost two years. The BUND and BTP 10-year futures are the proxies for Europe as they are the only liquid contracts available to hedge risk. Prior to September 2009, the BUND was the only bond future contract available to manage risk and speculate on the European debt markets. The ITALIANS moves to list the BTP FUTURES so the banks and pensions would have a viable tool in which to hedge the massive amount of Italian debt that was in the market. It seemed that the Italian finance ministry had a noble intention, but as the debacle of the PIIGS has moved to center stage, the Italian BTP has been the only viable tool for speculators and hedgers to participate in the long end of the EURO debt markets.
The European problems are made from the continued deception of the policy makers that meander from crisis to crisis. Eurocrats denied that there was a sovereign credit crisis even as the BOND MARKET was aggressively selling the debt of the PIIGS. A problem in Greece when rates went above 10% on 2-year Greek Bonds? No, just some speculators moving the markets in an attempt to make a quick EURO. There are no problems in the EU. Now that the lies have given birth to a major crisis and possible global DEPRESSION, the EUROCRATS are beginning to acknowledge that something is rotten in Brussels.
Last week, the Eurocrats tried to persuade the markets that it has gathered the strength to deal with the DEBT CRISIS IN earnest. But even with three days to analyze and digest the statements it is still not clear as to how the actual bailout will work. The ultimate question: Who will guarantee all the good credit being established that will allow the EFSF to do its job to insure the markets against sovereign default??