-inappropriate European Banking Association decision of imposing banks to reach a 9% Core Tier 1 ratio by June 2012
-unrealistic budget deficit targets (A Deficit Target Too Far),
We came to the conclusion that we ought to use in our title a reference to the Regret decision theory.
The divergence between US and European PMI indexes - source Bloomberg:
As far as Europe is concerned, one can wonder what would have been the "economic outcome" if a different course of action would have been undertaken. On that matter we wonder why our "European elites" did not use the minimax regret approach being a decision rule used in decision theory, game theory, statistics and philosophy for minimizing the possible loss for a worst case (maximum loss) scenario. One approach is to treat this as a game against nature (deflation in our case) and using a similar mindset as "Murphy's law" ("Anything that can possibly go wrong, does"), taking an approach which minimizes the maximum expected loss, but we ramble again...
European consumer confidence indicators for some European countries - source Bloomberg:
We already looked at the link between consumer confidence and consumption back in our June conversation "Yogurts, European Consumer Confidence and Consumption" where we undertook at an interesting exercise following Yogurt giant Danone profitability warning announcement (affected by Spanish woes), namely plotting Danone share price against consumer confidence - source Bloomberg:
"Yogurts matter as an indicator? One has to wonder...
In relation to European Consumption, Consumer Confidence is key. The latest data relating to car sales in Europe, confirms the deflationary forces at play in Europe with car registrations falling plunging 19.2% in November in France on a monthly basis and 13.8% in the first 11 months of the year and Italian care sales by 20.1% in November (for a lengthy analysis on the subject of the car market in Europe please check - "The European Clunker - European car sales, a clear indicator of deflation").
As far as 2013 is concerned, European car sales are at risk on weaker consumer consumption as indicated by Bloomberg:
One could also look at car sales and European Consumer confidence since 2007, the relationship seems pretty clear even though the cash for clunkers program have indeed been highly supportive of car sales whenever consumer confidence needed some government "artificial boost" - source Bloomberg:
Weak economy, low consumer confidence and high unemployment are indeed the deflationary forces at play plaguing European consumption and impacting car sales in the process. 2012 will be the fifth consecutive year of declines in the European car market below 12.8 million units, 20% below pre-crisis levels.
Strong macro drivers such as consumer confidence set the trends for the demand in the auto sector but for consumption levels as well.
France Consumer Confidence and Household Consumption YoY since 2001 - source Bloomberg:
For instance, another indicator of the divergence between Europe and the United States, comes from the auto sector where demand for US light vehicle sales were up 7% year over year in October and 14% year to date, whereas Europe was the only region to decline in 2012, down 4.6% in October and down 6.9% in 10 months. Even China, passenger car sales were up 6.4% in October and nearly 7% year to date. In Europe the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA, indicated in November car sales decreased 6.9 percent to 10.7 million cars. The ACEA indicated Europe’s car sales would reach a 17-year low in 2012. It also estimates that as much as 30 percent of production capacity is not used.
We think our European politicians would be wise to look at the minimax regret approach given Intrade is now putting a 30.6% chance of breakup of the Euro by December 31st 2013 as reported by Stephen Rose from Bloomberg on the 3rd of December:
"Following is a table listing the odds that one country currently using the Euro will change its official currency by the expiration date, based on bets made at Intrade.com."
Europe is still a story of deleveraging and as pointed out by a recent note from Credit Agricole Cheuvreux from the 29th of November entitled "EU, The Road through purgatory", should our European politicians decide to tackle the minimax regret approach, there are indeed four possible recipes: "There are four basic recipes for deleveraging: austerity, inflation, growth, and default. The optimal is growth but Europe as whole cannot export its way out of its challenges and nor does it need to. Europe overall runs a current account surplus; the challenge lies in the balance within the Union. Europe needs further debt restructuring, inflation and a rebound in consumption (domestic growth). Deflation is the key risk here, but Draghi appears to understand this danger and has proved a better lateral thinker than his predecessor." - source Credit Agricole Cheuvreux.
Yes, our "Generous Gambler" aka Mario Draghi has been clearly a better lateral thinker in preventing a financial meltdown following the acute liquidity crisis of the financial sector in 2011. But as far as our Regret Theory is concerned, we previously indicated that in the case of Europe, causation implied correlation:
"Admittedly, a correlation between two variables does not necessary imply that one causes the other, but when it comes to European woes, not only did the ECB's LTROs amounted to "Money for Nothing" given the lack of transmission to the real economy as we posited in February this year, but looking back at the overzealous deficit targets set up by the European Commission which we discussed in our conversation "A Deficit Target Too Far", we are not surprised to see that the economic causation does indeed implies correlation to current European economic woes unsurprisingly due to poor loan growth."
Looking at the prospect for the younger generation of Europeans and high level of youth unemployment, maybe Murphy junior is correct in assessing his father's law after all:
"These unemployment trends are very worrisome and if they are not reversed in the short term they may lead to increased social tensions and structurally higher long-term unemployment, which has negative effects on a country's growth prospects as part of the workforce becomes impaired. Also, youth unemployment leads to emigration, which will have a negative impact on demographics, as will be seen in most European countries in the medium term." - source Credit Agricole Cheuvreux.
Deleveraging leads to lower domestic consumption while tax rates are increasing with a shift from income taxes to consumption taxes:
"As taxes increase, and penalise an already fragile economy, consumption decreases exponentially and corporate investment is postponed, which leads to lower tax intakes. This means that more taxes are levied on the economy to try to cover the shortfall and a vicious circle is perpetuated." - source Credit Agricole Cheuvreux.
Maybe the minimax regret approach is the right approach after all. Oh well...
On a final note and in relation to struggling peripheral countries, Spain has indeed very apt in avoiding "tapping out" for help in this European fight of the Century, given it has so far managed to retain market access with timely sales as indicated by Bloomberg Chart of the Day: