Tuesday 30 November 2010

There is blood...Europe Government Bond Market getting whacked this morning

Linderhof Castle, Atlas statue, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria.

Looks more and more that Germany is the European Atlas supporting all of Europe...

Just four days earlier I wrote there will be blood. I was expecting additional pressure in the Government bond market. We have it. The bond vigilantes are clearly not satisfied with the politicians answer to the crisis. The Irish solution is clearly not enough to calm the market. The EFSF is a weak structure as well, please look at the previous post "The European Vortex" for more details.

Spreads of European Government debt versus Germany:

Versus the 10 Year German Bund:
France: 49 +7 bps wider
Belgium: 117 +20 bps wider
Spain: 273 +29
Italy: 190 +27
Portugal: 432 +14
Ireland: 653 +13
Greece: 891 no change

Versus the 5 Year German BOBL:
France: 34 +4 bps wider
Belgium: 114 +23 bps wider
Spain: 288 +32 bps wider
Italy: 190 +30 bps wider
Portugal: 420 +14 bps wider
Ireland: 673 +15 bps wider
Greece: 1046 -1 bps tighter

Versus the 2 Year German Schatz:
France: 21 +3 bps wider
Belgium: 80 +19 bps wider
Spain: 290 +32 bps wider
Italy: 193 +38 bps wider
Portugal: 398 +14 bps wider
Ireland: 564 -13 bps tighter
Greece: 1140 -4 bps tighter

New records at wider levels for:
2 year Spanish at 290 bps ,
2 year Belgium at 80 bps
2 year Italien at 193 bps
5 year Spanish at 288 bps ,
5 year Irish at 673 bps
5 year Italian at 190 bps (as I was typing this post, 200 bps was reached)
10 year Spanish at 273 bps
10 year Belgium at 117 bps
10 year Irish at 653 bps
10 year Italian at 190 bps

Only sellers apparently this morning...

Bid by appointment only please...

Good news for Germany, German unemployment level is at its lowest level since December 1992 at 7.5%.
German IFO (business confidence index) reached a record level in November .
Bad news for Germany their high spending neighbors are falling apart.
Euro/USD went below 1.30.

Monday 29 November 2010

Sovereign CDS Credit Game - Spot the difference...

29th of November 2010:

HIGH BETA EU SOVEREIGN CDS closing 5 Year market run:
PORTUGAL 530/550 +35 bps
ITALY 245/253 +30 bps
GREECE 945/970 -
SPAIN 348/358 +28 bps
IRELAND 600/620 +10 bps
U.K. 74/78 +4 bps
BELGIUM 180/190 +21 bps
FRTR 98/103 +6 bps
AUST 88/93 +8 bps

SOVX CEEMEA S4 5y 223/226 +8 , S3 207/211, ROLL 15/16 1/2

Russia Baa1/BBB | 169/172 +8 | Russia 20' 193
Turkey Ba2/BB | 148/151 +7 | Tky 20' 147
Bulgaria Baa3/BBB | 250/265 +10| Bgaria 15' 191 p
Croatia Baa3/BBB | 255/270 +13| Croati 19' 271
Czech A1/A | 88/93 +3 | Czech 21' € 99
Hungary Baa1/BBB- | 367/380 +17| Rephun 15' 315
Kazakhstan | 200/210 +7 | a
Latvia Baa3/BB | 280/300 +5 | Latvia 18'€ 249 t
Lithuania Baa1/BBB | 265/285 +5 | Lithun 20' 281 e
Poland A2/A- | 155/160 +15| Poland 19 163 s
Romania Baa3/BB+ | 315/330 +15| Romani 15'€ 292

At 600 bps, Ireland's cumulated probability of default on 5 year CDS spread is around 40%.
At close to 1000, Greece's probability of default on 5 year CDS is around 55% as priced by the market in the CDS space.
Belgium hasn't had a government for more than 6 months by the way...Happy birthday! Three prime ministers and two elections since 2007. Is the economy worse off? Apparently not. Belgium's economy is growing, with GDP growth of 2.1% in the third quarter from a year earlier.

Hungary’s central bank decided today to raise interest rates by 25 basis points : its first tightening move since the financial crisis kicked off in 2008...
Fitch may downgrade Hungary from its current BBB- and the 5 year CDS of Hungary is trading tighter than 5 year CDS Portugal!

For me it doesn't sound right. Given the latest hijack on pensions in Hungary, Hungary's 5 year CDS looks cheap. Hungary failed to sell the planned amount of debt at the latest auction on the 25th of November. They planned to sell 40 billions florint 12 months treasury bills, they sold 30 billions only, 10 billions short. That sounds to me like further yield curve steepening and further CDS 5 year spread widening. Florint note due February 2015 was yielding 7.642 percent on the 25th of November, highest yield since January.

People are so focused at the core of Europe's problem (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and now Belgium's been added), that they have forgotten what is going on at the periphery.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Bye bye Irish Bank debt...

On the 26th of November:
Irish Banks CDS still getting crushed...

Allied Irish Banks Plc Senior 5 year : 1354 bps, wider by +213 bps, +18.75%.
Allied Irish Banks Plc (SUB)5 year : 5042 bps, wider by a cool 982 bps, +24.19%.
Bank of Ireland Senior 5 year : 989 bps, wider by +167 bps, +20.32%.
Bank of Ireland (SUB) 5 year: 2330 bps, wider by +339 bps, +17.07%.


Friday 26 November 2010

European Sovereign Debt - There will be blood

There will be blood...when it comes to European Debt. There will be haircuts and restructuring. For Greece, the markets already know it cannot be avoided.

It is already happening for some Irish Banks Sub debt which will bare the brunt of significant haircuts. It will be extended probably to senior debt as well.


When it comes to politicians and their lack of moral values and to what extent they are ready to go to plug the gaps in their mis-managed budget, I give you Hungary this week, as highlighted in a Bloomberg article by Zoltan Simon:


Another country, another amazing heist: Hungary following the steps of Argentina.

"Hungary is giving its citizens an ultimatum: move your private-pension fund assets to the state or lose your state pension."

"Economy Minister Gyorgy Matolcsy announced the policy yesterday, escalating a government drive to bring 3 trillion forint ($14.6 billion) of privately managed pension assets under state control to reduce the budget deficit and public debt. Workers who opt against returning to the state system stand to lose 70 percent of their pension claim."

“This is effectively a nationalization of private pension funds,” David Nemeth, an economist at ING Groep NV in Budapest, said in a phone interview. “It’s the nightmare scenario.”

You can expect EUR/HUF currently trading at 270 on the 25th versus the Euro, to go much higher...280 on the 26th...

"Hungary’s pension changes are making the country more risky for investors, according to market reactions to the government’s plan. The forint weakened 2.1 percent versus the euro so far this month, making it the world’s worst-performing currency for that period."

Foreclosed Homes for Sale in Spain May Triple in 2011:

There will be blood...


"Spanish lenders have a total of 181 billion euros ($242 billion) in “troubled” construction and real estate loans, the Bank of Spain said last month. Since Sept. 30, the banks have been required to account for falling property values more quickly, encouraging them to shed assets without waiting for the market to recover from a three-year decline."

Price Reductions

“By changing the rules on provisions, the central bank has really put a shotgun to their heads,” said Fernando Rodriguez y Rodriguez de Acuna, founder of Madrid-based property adviser R.R. de Acuna & Asociados. “The banks will have to cut their price expectations more aggressively to reduce their stock of homes.”

"Property values will fall 20 percent over the next five years, Rodriguez y Rodriguez de Acuna estimates. Most of the declines will come in 2011, he said. Since the Spanish market’s peak in April 2007, home prices have dropped 22.5 percent, according to a survey by real-estate website Fotocasa.es and IESE Business School.

Under the changes introduced by the Bank of Spain in September, lenders must take account of a drop in value of at least 30 percent if they keep the assets for more than two years. They must also make provisions for bad loans after 12 months, rather than as long as 72 months.

The new rules will lead to an average increase in provisions for 2010 of 2 percent, the central bank said in May. They will also knock off an average of 10 percent from the pretax profit that lenders generate from their Spanish businesses, the Bank of Spain said."

Ireland, Portugal next, and the scary Spain...

Source: The Economist, November 27th issue, page 30.

For 2011, in the US you can also expect trouble in the US coming from the Municipal bond space.

The ongoing deflation of the housing bubble is still the ongoing theme. At the same time you have inflation in commodities due to QE2 and the debasement of currencies. The US need a new RTC has I posted previously. The sooner, the better.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Dominos in Europe - "Get the door. It's Domino's."

Irish banks Sub debt whacked to oblivion:

Allied Irish Banks Plc (SUB) 5 year CDS today: 5108 bps +1237 bps +31.98%

Allied Irish Banks Plc (SNR) 5 year CDS today: 1129 bps +175 bps +18.36%
(source cmavision.com)

At the same time, Anglo Irish Bank Corp. investors are forced to take 20 cents on the euro for subordinated debt this week. 20% is the implied recovery rate used to calculate a CDS value on CDS referencing SUB debt (most of the time Lower Tier 2 debt because coupon cannot be deferred).

Irish Banks Senior debt as well is in the turmoil:

"Credit-default swaps on the senior debt of Ireland’s biggest lenders approached records highs. Contracts on Allied Irish Banks Plc climbed 103 to 954.5 while Bank of Ireland Plc jumped 89.9 to 735.7, according to CMA."

As per the above Bloomberg article, contagion is spreading in sick Europe.

"Fears of burden sharing are also being seen in senior bank bonds. The 1 billion euros of senior unsecured floating-rate notes due 2012 issued by Banco Espirito Santo were at 90.8 cents, down from 93.4 on Nov. 4, according to Bloomberg composite prices. Its 500 million euros of senior notes due 2013 were at 83 cents, down from 88.38 on Nov. 4."

Paddy Power the Irish bookmaker is know bigger than Bank of Ireland, founded in 1783. The Irish government will get a majority stake in Bank of Ireland.

Spanish and Portuguese Banks Sub CDS getting crushed:

S&P downgraded Ireland’s credit rating two notches to “A” with a “negative outlook...

Spain 5 year CDS trades at 303 bps today...

Greek 10-year bonds yield 11.93%, compared with 8.96% before the European Union and the IMF agreed to the bail out on the 2nd of May 2010.
For Greece, it will end up in restructuring, no doubt about it.

Markit iTraxx Financial Index of 5 Year credit-default swaps on senior debt rose 12.5 basis points to 163.5 basis points, the biggest increase since June.

As you can see, since the beginning of 2010, insuring Senior Financial debt is more expensive to insure than insuring Senior Corporate debt. It is reflected by the above graph highlighting the relationship between Itraxx Main Europe 5 year CDS and Itraxx Senior Financial 5 Year CDS.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The European Vortex

It looks like the European Financial Stability Facility is going to be triggered early to help out Zombie Ireland.

The issue is that, following Ireland, there is Portugal and then Spain to take care of.

There is 440 Billions Euros available (probably less given its similar resemblance to a CDO structure). Clearly not enough to bail out everyone. If the EFSF wants a AAA to issue bonds to fund the oncoming bailouts, it will need to overcollateralize to 120% and maintain a cash buffer. It cannot lend against backing of troubled nations. The more countries in trouble, the smaller the pot available for bailing out countries in trouble, simple as that. Given Austria is witholding already its funding for Greece, the entire unity of the European Union is being tested.

For more explaination about the weakness of the EFSF, you can read the excellent article written by Tracy Alloway in FT Alphaville, published on the 27th of September as well as the post by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev in the link below:



The EFSF game is well summarised by Dr. Constantin Gurdgiev:

"Now, any sovereign with an once of sense now will know that a race to tap EFSF is on. The faster you get to it to borrow from it, the more likely you’ll arrive to the borrowing window before the limits are reached. Portugal, Spain and possibly even Italy are in the race.

This is why the markets have never been easy about the entire EFSF – they know that Ireland tapping into EFSF simply does two things:

It delays the inevitable restructuring of the massive debts accumulated on the Irish economy side – either sovereign or banks or households or any two or all three. EFSF does not remove the need for such a restructuring. It simply delays it.
It signifies an exponential increase in the probability of EFSF acting as a conduit for contagion from the PIIGS to the rest of the Euro area."

European politicians are trying all they can to kick the can down the road with the EFSF. The "only" major issue is that they are running out of road. Structural issues have not been addressed.

The problem for Ireland, has I discussed in my last post is that its financial sector is damaged beyond repair and need additional support. Currently Irish banks are heavily depending on the ECB for their funding, they are indeed truly zombie banks. The issue is that it is such a black hole for Ireland's public finances, that some external support is necessary. As for Iceland, the Irish banks where too big to fail for the country, hence an estimated budget deficit of 32% for 2010.

On the 17th of November Allied Irish Banks Plc (SUB)was trading at 2568 bps, +405 bps on the day, a 18.76% widening...

Ireland faces the same issue than Iceland did in relation to its banking sector. It did not kept its banking sector under scrutiny and now the whole banking sector is taking the country with it in its downfall.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Another Letter from the Governor to the Chancellor - UK CPI at 3.2% in October

In the UK, Inflation has exceeded 3 percent this year in every month apart from February.

Another fourth letter from Mervyn King to the Chancellor...(The governor must write to the chancellor every three months when the inflation rate deviates more than a point from the central target in either direction).

King in his open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that inflation will "probably" (most likely if you ask me...) stay above the bank's target of 2% till the end of next year.

He explained that inflation might (will...) increase further over the coming few months as the VAT will increase to 20.0% in January and commodity prices are rising, yet "the MPC believes that the spare capacity in companies and labor market would put downside pressure on prices till it shore it back to the target", adding that "inflation prospects remain uncertain".

In February, I argued that QE in the UK would fail and that inflation would be creeping up. I added to this analysis in April also, sating the results of QE would be inflation down the line in the UK. In May, I posted the reasons why QE was failing in the UK. It has been an ongoing theme on my blog. There is more and more a higher risk of Stagflation, low growth, high unemployement and rising commodity prices à la 70s style as I posted in July.


“With continued increases in the headline rate of inflation well above target, the bank is facing an unenviable communication challenge to try and explain why further easing would be needed,” London-based Nomura International Plc economist Philip Rush said in a telephone interview today.
Source: Bloomberg article written by Svenja O'Donnell as indicated in the link above.

The temptation of reducing the debt burden by increasing inflation is clearly in the mind of our politicians, I discussed in July. Is it the game being played in the UK at the moment?

Savers are still being punished, that's the hard reality.
Pensioners in the UK are struggling. They are the hardest hit by the rise in inflation because:
-they spend less on consumer goods that have fallen in price.
-they spend more on basics and insurance where price rises have been much higher. (British Gas has just announced a 7% price hike...).
–they have seen a dramatic fall in their savings income as interest rates have been cut to the bone...

By the way CPI does not include housing or heating costs...

There is still a very real risk of a double-dip recession in the UK. At some point the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King will have to raise rates to counter the rise in prices. This will put additional pressure on housing prices as well as mortgages and put more households into trouble, which would impair even more the damaged balance sheets of many UK banks.

The great bank robbery runs unabated...Inflation is purely and simply theft on a large scale.

The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.
John Maynard Keynes

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value.
Alan Greenspan

Saturday 13 November 2010

The Irish Black Hole

On the 30th of September, I posted a long post relating to the dire situation of the state of the Irish public finances in general and the Irish banks in particular. The post was called "Ireland in a need of a lucky shamrock...".

From Credit Market Analysis Ltd: CMAvision.com, please find below an update on Ireland CDS, the spread level and number of quotes comparison, for the 5 year CDS level:

CMA's CDS Market Activity identifies increasing and decreasing activity around single name CDS, based on the total quantity of quotes observed by CMA Datavision's consortium over a given week. The biggest weekly changes in quoting volumes are identified above for Ireland.

As we can see below from the same source CMA, Ireland Sovereign CDS is moving in the same direction as Irish Banks CDS. As I stated previously in relation to the Greek situation(The Hangover...Some guys can't handle credit...; A run up to the second leg down...and no this time it is not different): "Always remember that the banking industry is a leveraged play intensively correlated to the economy it is operating in and given the GDP contraction Greece has experienced and the state of the public finances, their fate is linked."
The difference between Ireland and Greece is quite simple, in Greece the country sunk the banks, in Ireland (and Iceland...) the banks sunk the country.

The Irish Black Hole in 2010 represents a scary 32% of GDP.

We discover more and more on how the Irish Banks sunk Ireland with them.
the below article published today in Bloomberg by Alan Katz and Joe Brennan is a good illustration of the large scale fraud, lack of accountability and still non existent legal claims on the people responsible for the horrific situation of the Irish financial black hole:


“It was the banks doing crazy loans, it was borrowers taking crazy loans and a failure by government and regulators to do their jobs properly,” said Sean Kay, a professor of politics and government at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, who spent three months this year in Dublin interviewing officials for a book. “There was no adult supervision.”

The credit binge party is definitely over and the taxpayers are left on the hook to bear the costs as well as the massive hangover, which is threatening even the sovereignty of Ireland (IMF and European Stability Fund bail out down the line?).

In my article relating to the Zombie state of the Irish Banking system, I pointed out there were some Zombie Hotels as well in Ireland linked to the Zombie Banks.

Banks in Ireland are facing increasing difficulties in funding due to deposit outflows. The deposit outflows are linked to the uncertainties of the financial situation of these institutions. In order to face these outflows, Irish banks are depending more and more borrowing from monetary authorities.

Irish banks sub debt are trading at distressed level currently. Reflecting the difficult situations of the Irish Financial sector.


"Anglo Irish Bank Corp.'s subordinated debt is being priced below the value offered as part of a government-backed exchange offer, as contagion from Ireland's sovereign situation spreads.

The bank's Lower Tier 2 paper, which was valued at 20% of face value through an exchange offer made three weeks ago, is now indicated in the market at around 18%, according to Markit."

"Allied Irish Banks' 12.5% 2019 bonds are trading at 44%-46% of face value, a drop from its price of around 81% at the beginning of the month. In the same period, Bank of Ireland's 10% 2020 bonds have dropped from around 96% of face value to 60%-62%."

There will be a restructuring and sub debt bondholders will take a haircut on the existing debt.

Given the extensive damages created by the housing bust on the deeply impaired balance sheet of the Irish banks, the Irish Government will have to ask for some help from the IMF and/or the European Financial Stability Facility.

The Irish banks are taking the public finances of Ireland down the drain. Ireland, after Greece. Who will be the next to fall? Portugal? Spain?

Irish 10-year bond spreads widened to a fresh all-time EMU high at +720bps above the benchmark German Bund on the 12th of November which is aroun d to Irish 10-year bond yielding 9.3% !
As for Greece earlier this year, time is running out for Ireland and they will need to seek external support in 2011, because Irish banks are becoming more and more dependent on borrowing to the European Central Bank to stay afloat. The zombie banks are indeed taking large chunks of flesh from the Irish public finances.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Repo Man - The Repo Mess and the Housing Funk

It's 4 AM.
Do you know who owns your house?

Ask the Repo Man...

The big issue of mortgage repurchase obligations for big banks is a hot topic and represents for them serious headwinds.

Bank of America bears the highest mortgage repurchase risk to earnings according to CreditSights, mostly due to the "ill-fated" acquisition of Sunny Subprime-Alt A mortgage player Countrywide (Countrywide was bought for 4 Billion USD in January 2008.). The former Countrywide tanned CEO Mozilo settled for a cool 67.5 millions USD fine with the SEC (although he bailed out early and made a juicy 129 millions USD in 12months in 2007, selling shares). Bank of America shareholders are left on the hook for more pain to come unfortunately. Please also note that out of the 67.5 Millions settlement fine, Countrywide (now Bank of America...) will pay 20 millions USD of it.


This is what we can read from the Bloomberg article as indicated above regarding the situation for Bank of America and the foreclosure mess they are facing.

"Delinquencies and defaults kept rising through the recession of 2009 and into this year. Today, of the 14 million Bank of America mortgage customers, 1.3 million are in some form of delinquency, including 195,000 who haven’t made a payment in more than 2 years. The troubles prompted the bank to triple its loan workout staff to 18,000 in the 18 months ended in October."

"Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, mortgage insurers and other investors had made $12.9 billion in claims on BofA as of Sept. 30. Those demands may eventually exceed $35 billion, says Christopher Gamaitoni, vice president at Compass Point Research and Trading LLC in Washington. During the five quarters ended on Sept. 30, the bank had approved repurchase of loans with a face value of $4.9 billion, it announced on Oct. 20."

But it is not only Bank of America who is feeling the heat on the housing funk and the repo mess...JP Morgan Chase is on the hook as well thanks to its acquisition of Washington Mutual (WAMU) in September 2008 according to an article in Bloomberg:


"JPMorgan did buy WaMu in September 2008 after it was seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which meant the assets came at a bargain price of $1.9 billion, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its December issue.

The 2,200 WaMu branches in California, Washington and 12 other states gave JPMorgan’s consumer bank, Chase, a total of 5,410 branches -- the second-biggest network in the nation. And it moved Chase to first from third in deposits, with $905 billion after the deal closed.

Dimon, 54, got what he wanted -- and a lot that he didn’t want. JPMorgan is now saddled with $74.8 billion in nonperforming home loans inherited from WaMu, a third of the $230.7 billion in mortgages on its books."

"Both the WaMu mortgages and JPMorgan’s own home-equity loans are spilling red ink."

"In addition to the WaMu losses, Dimon has to deal with $113 billion in risky subprime, home-equity and adjustable-rate loans that JPMorgan originated."

The housing funk:

"The debacle in the housing market is still the biggest headache for U.S. banks. Payments on some 8 million U.S. mortgages were delinquent in late September, and almost 7 million of those may end up in foreclosure, says Laurie Goodman, a senior managing director at Austin, Texas-based Amherst Securities Group LP.

11.5 Million Seizures

Those projections exclude the 200,000 additional borrowers that become delinquent each month for the first time, she says.

In total, Goodman estimates that 11.5 million homes could be repossessed by banks during the next five years."

This will keep the Repo Man very busy...

The SEC is stepping in:


“Items that should be considered include, without limitation, the impact of various representations and warranties regarding mortgages made to purchasers of the mortgages (or to purchasers of mortgage-backed securities) including to the government-sponsored entities (GSEs), private-label mortgage-backed security (MBS) investors, financial guarantors and other whole loan purchasers.”

"Investors have been pressuring the banks for refunds on billions of dollars of securities. Earlier, we reported that Bank of America creditors are demanding for a repurchase of mortgage-backed bonds valued at $47 billion which was assembled by Countrywide Financial."

The sharks are circling the wounded banking whale, and they ain't no small sharks: PIMCO, BlackRock (Bank of America owns 34% of BlackRock),as well as the New-York Fed.


"In testimony before the Congressional Oversight Panel yesterday, Katherine Porter, a University of Iowa law professor and expert on mortgage servicers, noted that despite banks' attempts to narrowly characterize the problems as minor technicalities, the flaws in the process are far from fixed:

The problems in such cases range from the imposition and collection of improper fees, a lack of standing to foreclose in judicial foreclosure states, the pursuit of foreclosure without rights in the note and mortgage, mortgage origination fraud, or liability to investors for poor underwriting or improper servicing. The key point is that the vast majority of the alleged problems cannot accurately be described as "technicalities."

"Because [the banks] are being allowed to control the definition of error and are being allowed to audit themselves, we cannot have confidence in such reports," Porter noted."



“This isn’t the other shoe dropping,” says Barry Ritholtz, a lawyer and investment expert and the CEO of Fusion IQ. “This is the third iceberg.”

"The ultimate lesson in all this? Ritholtz sees it as further proof that when a firm screws up, taxpayers should not ride to the rescue. “This goes back to why you don’t bail out banks,” he says. “You don’t know what other shortcuts were on the books.”

Will Bank of America be forced to buy back these Mortgage backed securities? The implications for large players in that space (JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, etc.) could be serious. As I previously posted, there is a strong need for a new RTC to be set up. Problems are adding up for banks, faster than the balance sheets are being repaired thanks to zero rate policy and Quantitative Easing. TPC from the excellent Pragmatic Capitalism website, argues that QE2 is aimed at Wall Street, yet again, not Main Street.

Another story to follow closely.
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