Berlusconi Screws Over The Wrong Person: ECB Shake Up Imminent Following Big French-Italian Relations SNAFU?Just when one thought the Italian PM could not possibly come up with yet another massive SNAFU, he does it once again. This time however he may have screwed over the wrong (non-underage) person. Last night, after the FT had previously leaked (incorrectly once again) that the Italian head would pick ECB executive Lorenzo Bini Smaghi to head the Bank of Italy following Mario Draghi's departure to head the ECB, Berlusconi instead chose a relatively unknown Ignazio Visco to head the Italian Central Bank. The move, while largely symbolic as it hardly matters who is in charge of the Italian bank but is of great import from a "national pride" perspective, managed to infuriate French leader Nicholas Sarkozy, who had previously made it clear he would advance his support of incoming ECB head, former Goldmanite and current Bank of Italy head, Mario Draghi, only if Bini Smaghi would be pulled and his seat would be vacated to allow a Frenchman to enter the ECB. That did not happen. So with the latest faux pas out of Berlusconi, he is now poised to destabilize not only Italian-French relations, but the percevied stability of the ECB if the Frenchman decides to make it an issue vis-a-vis his support of the incoming President. All in all, this is yet another reminder of the total and utter chaos that dominates Europe every single day. And somehow the broad public is supposed to believe that Europe can come up with a solution to an insolvable math problem...
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To know what is wrong with the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the nature of money. Money is like any other good in our economy that emerges from the market to satisfy the needs and wants of consumers. Its particular usefulness is that it helps facilitate indirect exchange, making it easier for us to buy and sell goods because there is a common way of measuring their value. Money is not a government phenomenon, and it need not and should not be managed by government. When central banks like the Fed manage money they are engaging in price fixing, which leads not to prosperity but to disaster.
Talk about launching ESM early and in conjunction with EFSF has helped the market rally. On Page 1, the ESM will have an effective lending capacity of 500 billion (footnote 2) During the transition from EFSF to ESM, the combined lending capacity will not exceed this amount. Somone better ask Finland and Slovakia whether they are prepared to fund both? Are stocks as strong as they are because Algo's are good are reading headlines, but suck at finding termsheets and reading them?
Bloomberg has just disclosed a statement from the German Budgetary Committee which is critical to the future shape of the EFSF:
- GERMAN CDU/CSU PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESMAN SCHARLACK SPEAKS ON EFSF
- GERMAN BUDGET COMMITTEE SETS CONDITIONS FOR EFSF LEVERAGING
- BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF REPOS MUSTN'T RAISE GUARANTEES
- GERMAN BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF LEVERAGING MUST EXCLUDE ECB
- BUDGET COMMITTEE SAYS EFSF GUARANTEES MUSTN'T EXCEED EU211 BLN
It's time to forget about Europe's headlines for 15 minutes and refresh what is really going on in Europe, and why European leaders are scrambling day to day to come up with a solution to what is ultimately an intractable problem. Technically, the problem, as explained below, is manifested in three distinct symptoms, which exist in a self-referencing feedback loop that amplifies good input signals when times are good, and incremental debt is ample, and vice versa, or become a toxic spiral where one problem is amplified in the other two, when the system is caught in a deflationary spiral, until the entire system is threatened by collapse. The three "problems" are summarized best in a chart by Morgan Stanley's Huw Van Steenis (see below) in what we have dubbed the "Triangle of Terror" - these are i) Bank Solvency, ii) Sovereign Stress, and iii) Bank Funding Stress...Yet the core problem at the very heart of European instability, is nothing more than, you guessed it, excess debt, €1.7 trillion worth of it to be precise: this is how much debt has to be rolled over the next 3 years, and also explains the magical €2 trillion number needed for the EFSF as only something that big can i) backstop the debt roll and ii) insure the needed bank recap, which in reality needs more like €400 billion but that is the topic of a different post. And without the abovementioned support pillars of bank solvency, funding and sovereign stress being address and fixed, in a credible manner and at the same time, this debt will not be able to roll, and effectively lead to systemic European insolvency. And that, in a nutshell, is what the issues facing Europe are. Everything else is headlines, smoke and mirrors.
Visualizing The True Cost Of The First Bank Bailout: $3.5 Trillion And Rising At Over $1 Trillion Every YearIn his latest letter to clients (which we will present shortly), Diapason's Sean Corrigan has one chart that explains beyond a shadow of a doubt what the true cost of the (First) Great Financial Crisis, the failure of Lehman, and the bailout of the US financial sector, is. The premise is ridiculously simple: the chart below compares the trendline of US debt before and after the Lehman from September 2008, and the rescue of everyone else who unlike Dick Fuld, was in Hank Paulson's good graces. What is immediately obvious is that US debt is currently $3.5 trillion higher than where it would be had America's banks not received a rescue. That is Sean's conclusion. It is however incomplete. The truth is that this is a proportional increase which if extrapolated into the future, means that every year the US will incur well over $1.2 trillion each and every year as a result of bailing out the banks. That is the true cost to Americans regardless of what Tim Geithner may claim. But note how we said First. Unfortunately, the Second Great Financial Crisis, that of bailing out insolvent sovereigns, is currently and process. And when all is said and done, the global cost in terms of new "trendline" debt will be many more trillions in incremental debt every year. And despite what economic voodoo theories say, near infinite debt always ends in near infinite pain. It will this time too. Guaranteed.
The ongoing squeeze in US equities, evident in the significant outperformance of the most-shorted-name indices from Goldman relative to market indices, continues to keep domestic wealth effects ticking along nicely while US credit and European equity and credit markets do not seem to have got the same memo. While this rally, seemingly predicated on the fact that Europe 'get's it' finally (and admittedly some talking head chatter about the number of earnings beats - which we argue is useless given previous discussions of the wholesale downgrading of expectations heading into earnings), the US equity market is the only market to have made new highs this week, is outperforming its credit peers in the US (which is simply ignorant given HY's relative cheapness if this was a risk-on buying spree), and most wonderfully - is hugely outperforming the European financials, European sovereigns, European IG and HY credit, and European equities. Did US equities become the new safe-haven play of the world? Perhaps this week, but we suspect that won't end well - at least from the experience of the last decade or so.