In the 1969 cult classic Putney Swope written by Robert Downey, Sr., the film opens with the death at the board room table of the firm’s chairman, Mario. Not realizing he has had a heart attack the sycophants play charades to get at the message Mario is trying to convey, thus asking HOW MANY SYLLABLES MARIO? Tomorrow, the world will be asking Mario a different question. How much QE, Mario? How long? The European equity markets were en fuego early this morning, led by the German DAX, even as the SPOOs were lower to unchanged. There were rumors about a nationalization of Monti Paschi but it seems that the Italians were trying to delay an actual bailout of the troubled lender and wanted more time from the ECB. MY OPINION IS THAT THE ECB WILL ANNOUNCE SOME EFFORT TO BUY FINANCIAL DEBT FOLLOWING TOMORROW’S MEETING. The ECB has avoided buying financial debt in its QE program because it is also the banking supervisor for the EU.
Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category
Even though Steve Bannon is no Beau Brummel, the music of this early rock song must be ringing in his ears. It seems clear to all but the dumbest media talking heads that the Bannon plan of Trump’s continued flow of tweeting is an attempt to make sure the Trump team controls the NARRATIVE. (See Ben Hunt’s magnificent piece at Epsilon about the significance of narrative.) This is important for investors and traders because of Trump’s ability to control the narrative makes us all focus away from the most events of the greatest possible consequence. Today, the airwaves were echoing the Trump tweet of the President-elect threatening to cancel the orders for two new Air Force One planes, the President’s personal fleet.
This is a tough POST to write for I will criticize a newspaper I have read every day for at least 30 years. (In fact, I still have it delivered on my doorstep and read most of it online in the evening before the hard copy arrives.) The London Financial Times had a front page story, “Troubled Italian Banks Face Fresh Risk of Failing If Renzi Loses Vote.” This is a deplorable headline for it harkens back to the days of the mainstream media warning of dire consequences if Brexit passed and the Trump was elected president. THIS IS SCARE MONGERING. It raises the question: When will the Davos crowd EVER LEARN?
Just some summary points as this year the summer doldrums will prove to be anything but:
When Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman he would regularly orate on the concept of low probability events that could create disruption in the global financial system. These events are not BLACK SWANS because by definition a black swan is unknowable nor foreseeable. So it is time to take a survey of what Greenie called low probability:
1. Paul Ryan being parachuted into the candidacy for the Republican Party. There is a possibility but is a potential problem, which could rip apart the GOP. What would the fallout be for financial markets if the U.S. was splintered into a three- or four-party system? The same could be said for the Democratic Party if there was a revolt by the left-wing in response to the super delegates. The issue for the Democrats will rise to the fore if Hilary Clinton were to lose New York. Bernie Sanders is a low probability bet but his impact would be great.
2. The probability of Russia attacking Turkey, which could result in the break-up of NATO. If Putin attempts to seek revenge against President Erdogan by providing support to the Kurds against Turkey, the U.S. and its NATO allies would be forced to decide if they were willing to risk war with Russia to honor its commitment to a friend. Imagine what happens to the political situation in Europe if NATO were demolished because of its failure to honor Article 5, which asserts that an attack on one is an attack on all.
3. The June 23rd vote by the U.K. on Brexit results in a vote to leave. Not sure this is a low probability event but it will certainly have a HIGH IMPACT. The greatest outcome will be that others in the EU will request a referendum for this was certainly articulated in the recent Dutch vote on the EU’s agreement with the Ukraine. The most volatile result of a Brexit would be the pursuit of a referendum by German voters. The myriad articles on German unhappiness with the ECB are a mere prelude to what a vote in favor of Brexit would result in for the rest of EU. If you want a good sense of the arrogance of the European elite, watch Mario Monti’s CNBC appearance from today. Mr. Monti decried the outbreak of democracy in Europe and was very critical of David Cameron for falling in the trap and calling a referendum.
The critical assessment by Monti is an infamia for Mr. Monti was appointed Prime Minister of Italy by a “coup” orchestrated by the Brussels elite. Berlusconi was forced from office by threats of Italian debt downgrade and the Brussels eurocrats’ rejection of the Italian budget. When Prime Minister Monti had to call elections in 2013 after the Berlusconi term expired, Monti and his allies received a mere 11% of the vote. So Mario Monti’s views of popular democracy are subject to further review.
4. A failure of a major European bank, something on the order of Deutsche Bank or a major French institution. The cracks in the Italian financial system are well known. It is the exposure of other EU domestic banks that can cause a blind side hit to the financial system. Part of this issue is the BIS view of how sovereign debt is rated. Currently, all EU sovereign debt carries a zero risk weighting. If this were to change, EU banks would be forced to raise a great amount of capital, a total that would dwarf the amount that was recently raised to support the purchase of non-performing loans from Italian financial institutions. The European nations are struggling even with zero interest rates. Imagine what the budget deficits of Spain, Italy and France would be if borrowing rates were to dramatically increase.
This is just the beginning of analyzing low probability, high impact events. The landscape of the global macro system are rife with such possibilities. Now a black swan in an uncertain event this focus will be on those with a probability of occurring. The floor is open to all suggestions.
Notes From Underground: Are the 23.7% of Unemployed Spaniards Concerned About Portfolio Balance Channels?January 22, 2015
Well, the Earth did not stand still and markets were relatively rational as President Draghi unveiled a “genuine” QE program. It was a variation of yesterday’s leaks except the final amount was larger than what was rumored. The ECB will be financing the purchases of a mix of asset-backed securities and sovereign bonds to the tune of 60 BILLION EUROS every month from March at least until September 2016. The QE program is open-ended in that the ECB will reserve the right to continue purchasing more assets with printed euros if the inflation target is failing to rise to the 2 percent target level. The European equity markets were unchanged and the BUNDS and French oats fell until President Draghi assured the markets that the ECB would even purchase credit instruments with a NEGATIVE YIELD.
In the mid-October the ECB will announce the results of the Asset Quality Review (AQR), which is a bank stress test by another name. The ECB has measured the riskiness of the European domestic banking system in an effort to measure how much capital banks will need to raise to prevent systemic solvency problems. It is an act of absurdity in some regards because many of Europe’s banks have bought huge amounts of sovereign debt (i.e. Italian and Spanish banks purchasing Italian and Spanish bonds and notes) because they carry a zero risk weighting, requiring no reserves. The problem is that the banks’ assets hide the poor financial health of the banking sector. While European governments are able to borrow at ridiculous rates, private individuals are not able to access credit, which keeps the European economy at a standstill. If the bank stress tests don’t show a dire situation then Mario Draghi will be hard pressed to achieve the massive QE program he would like to undertake.
I am going to take a well-deserved hiatus but I wanted to list some “quick hitters” on the issues facing the markets in the coming weeks. The Yellen testimony has been digested and regurgitated (ad nauseam) and the bottom line is Chairwoman Yellen is singing from the same hymnal as her predecessor. The stock market investors/traders are comfortable with a known known and as readers of NOTES are well aware markets appreciate as much certainty as possible. BUT I WARN EQUITY BULLS WHO BLINDLY FOLLOW THE FED LIQUIDITY MODEL: Janet Yellen is a labor economist of Keynesian predilections.
The talking heads of financial visual media tried to create a circus around the new Fed Chair Yellen’s first official Congressional testimony. Yellen proved a worthy animal trainer and backed critics and supporters to their corners as she delivered very measured and COGENT responses to her inquisitors. The media was hoping for “red meat” but the Fed chair served up a vegetarian casserole full of nutritional value but nothing for the perpetrators of pabulum to sensationalize. It seems as though Yellen watched tape of Mario Draghi for she knew which Congressional posers needed long, drawn out answers so as devour their allowed five minutes of time. Well done Madam Chairman. This testimony of the Fed Chair, as mandated by Congress, has become about as relevant as the G-7 photo-op. If Congress has questions, put them in writing and establish a record of correspondence and thus a trail of responsibility to satisfy the dual mandate. It was reported that the House Republicans on the Finance Committee was to going to have a second hearing post Yellen’s testimony in which four invited guests would provide a rebuttal of the policy put forth by Yellen.
As the end of September approaches it seems that the global financial markets are again buffeted by the egomaniacs who crowd the corridors of power. This weekend has brought news that Silvio Berlusconi (Captain Viagara) has forced his party’s minister to resign from the coalition government, headed by Enrico Letta. Mr. Berlusconi was angry about losing another court appeal and in reprisal has decided to bring down the government. This will of course unnerve the Italian debt markets and send the Italian bond yields higher. Berlusconi will hope that he can craft a compromise with the government and receive some clemency and relieve him of his continued legal problems. The ability to hold the Italian financial markets hostage to instability is an expensive way to play for a legal reprieve. The U.S. markets are being subjected to a similar sort of hostage taking as the Republicans in the House are looking to negotiate away Obamacare by holding the U.S. debt levels and credit ratings hostage to political machinations. Being sympathetic to the long-term designs of the Republicans I understand there concerns but question their methods. Each time the House Republicans go down this path they ultimately cave and suffer politically at the ballot box. Better to draw up a genuine budget plan and educate the public to the destructive future budgetary problems.