Notes From Underground: Draghi, the ECB and Germany

The upcoming meeting in Jackson Hole has become the focus of the global investment community. Why? After Draghi’s comments in Sintra, Portugal on June 27 sent global bond yields higher, the financial world will gauge whether  Draghi’s speech will signal the beginning of their own balance sheet shrinking. If Draghi were to announce the end of the quantitative easing, the impact would be for the EURO to rise for European BOND YIELDS to rise and, most importantly, the greatest increase in yields would be in the peripheral bonds (and maybe the most significant impact will be on global equity markets). BUT LET ME BE CLEAR, I THINK THIS IS A VERY LOW PROBABILITY EVENT and I will do a deep analysis as to why. Yet again:

1. In yesterday’s Financial Times, there was an article titled, “Draghi Faces Easing Dilemma A Strong Euro Sparks Concern.” The article notes that the STRONG EURO keeps inflation down and therefore prevents the ECB from fulfilling its 2% inflation mandate. Draghi is caught in a dilemma of his own making and there really is no way out as long as it speaks to the idea of a 2% inflation target that is self-imposed by the bank. Many months ago I conjectured that President Draghi would prefer a strong rally in the euro before the September German election. A strong euro silences the Bundesbank as it allows for Draghi to use a strong currency as a measure of the success for the ECB’s policy. If the EURO rallies further it will harm the French, Italian and Spanish economies, which are starting to experience growth, than it will impact the Germans. A one-price euro will not lead to Germany losing its edge within the EU for a single currency prevents that so the peripheral nations will have to engage in wage restraint to sustain its recent growth. The idea of wage suppression will hinder a rise in inflation providing the greatest problem for Draghi’s ECB;

2. In Tuesday’s FT, Thomas Hale and Kate Allen wrote a story titled, “Hopes For European ‘Safe’ Bonds Lean On Pre-Crisis Techniques.”  The reporters visit the issues of “aiming to make the continent’s financial system safer, the idea involves taking sovereign bonds from different European countries and packaging them together into safe bonds that would then carry various levels of risk.” This is what we called financially engineered sub-prime debt a decade ago. Take the German bunds, French oats and bundle with Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish sovereign debt and you have a AAA instrument. The urge to create a EUROBOND is the essence of Draghi’s ECB and there are numerous ideas of how to achieve this end. As the article point out, “It is also a way of bringing European sovereign debt markets closer together without explicit ‘mutualisation,’ where debt is collectively issued by multiple countries, an idea that has proved politically toxic in Germany, in particular.”

The politics of the eurobond have become difficult because the Germans are VERY aware that it is the Bavarian Burghers who will be the creditors of the entire project. Every debt instrument must be guaranteed by credible collateral and several of the European peripheral nations lack the credibility of a solid creditor and making matters worse the weak creditors do not have a printing press. Why would Mario Draghi wish to undermine his efforts to backdoor his way to a EUROBOND by slowing the accumulation of debt assets. THE ECB IS NOT THE FED FOR DRAGHI HAS SET IT ON A PATH TO FULFILL THE MANDATE OF THE PRESERVATION OF THE EURO. Draghi needs to maintain the status quo until September 24 when he believes that Chancellor Merkel will prevail in the German election. Merkel has been a willing partner with President Draghi in his efforts to create a more perfect European union;

3. Also in Tuesday’s FT Claire Jones reported on the effort of challenges to the ECB’s QE program. Germany’s HIGH COURT issued an opinion that said some of the ECB’s actions may violate EU law.

In a case brought to Karlsruhe by “… right-wing members of Germany’s establishment” the German Constitutional Court issued a statement that there are “… significant reasons indicate that the ECB decisions governing the asset purchase programme violate the prohibition of monetary financing and exceed the monetary policy mandate of the ECB.” The court decided to refer the case to the European Court of Justice to get a sense of what the ECJ opinion is before hearing the case. The process could take a year before the German Court hears the case. The article cites a point made by German lawyer Hendrik Haag that “the wait for the ECJ decision may well be an elegant way out for the ECB. It may put pressure on the ECB to be a bit quicker with tapering the ECB programme.”

I TOTALLY DISAGREE WITH THIS LAWYERLY ASSESSMENT. In my view it gives the ECB further time to increase the balance sheet so furthering the effort for a EUROBOND. I will await Draghi’s speech from Jackson Hole but again, THE ECB HAS A MUCH DIFFERENT DESIRE THEN THE FED. Mario Draghi will play for time to hope for the best for his guardian angel, Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Heads up: I will be on CNBC with Rick Santelli tomorrow morning around 9:20am CDT.

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3 Responses to “Notes From Underground: Draghi, the ECB and Germany”

  1. Chicken Says:

    I agree, this gargantuan mess cannot be wound up so quickly… Unless..

  2. Quentin Says:

    Hi Yra, if you don’t mind sharing ..

    Typically, how much of capital (in basis points) do you risk per trade?

    Or if you were to long French OAT, how much would you risk? And can I ask for the gold trade you did 2 weeks ago, roughly how much capital was at risk?

    Thanks!

  3. Arthur Says:

    “Germany’s election campaign ignores the country’s deeper challenges,” The Economist

    https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21725805-all-not-dreamy-angela-merkels-coast-victory-makes-it-seem-germanys-election-campaign

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