Thursday 9 December 2010

Europe - The end of the Halcyon days

"Hi, I'm a _______ (add country) and I'm addicted to credit."

Greece, Ireland, now Portugal:
Banco Comercial Portugues SA (SUB) 5 Year CDS:
1472 bps +194 bps on the 6th of December +15%
Banco Espirito Santo SA (SUB) 5 Year CDS:
1467 bps +137 bps wider on the 6th of December +10.36%

These were the levels we had on the 22nd of November as published in the post Dominos in Europe:

From the 22nd of November until the 6th of December, Banco Comercial Portugues SA (SUB) 5 Year CDS has moved from 974 bps to 1472 bps, a mighty 51% increase. Banco Espirito Santo SA (SUB) 5 Year CDS, has moved from 974 bps as well to 1467, similar widening of 51% of the spread.

Any similarity with what has happened with Irish Banks Sub CDS 5 Year, which jumped above 1000 bps in September, would be of course be purely fortuitous...

Italian Financials SUB Cds are widening as seen on the 8th of December:

By accepting too early to guarantee its banking system, Ireland sealed its fate and part of its Sovereignty to Europe and the IMF. Private debt from the dodgy Irish banks have been in fact transferred to the Irish taxpayers. The Black Hole in the Irish banking system is too strong to resolve the outstanding issues as I pointed out back in November (The Irish Black Hole).
According to Dr Constantin Gurdgiev in his last post, the bailout package won't be enough to save both the Irish budget and the Irish banks. Something will have to give:
Economics 6/12/10: IMF stress tests for Irish banks
"It appears that the IMF was either not given the full realistic picture of the Irish banks balance sheets, or it is seriously underestimating the demand for future losses cover in the banks."

"Either way, the numbers continue to suggest that the €67 billion package of loans will not be enough to provide simultaneously a cover for Exchequer deficits and the funds required to underwrite losses and capital requirements of the banks. Somehow, the Irish Exchequer will have to make up for this shortfall."

Either bondholders of Irish banks debt agree take a haircut on both the sub and senior debt, or the Irish Goverment will have to cut more spending, which means more austerity for the Irish people.

On the 9th of December Fitch downgraded Ireland to BBB+ from A+, which automatically means a downgrade for Irish banks as well.

The Dominos keeps falling in Europe and France will also have to face the music at some point.
"France 'next' in Euro debt
firing line
" by Hysni Kaso, 6th of December.

"The country's deficit is much, much higher than anyone realises. My view is that the markets are not prepared to finance it any more unless there is serious, structural reform. No one, not even France, can hide anymore."

These were the comments made by Xavier Rolet, CEO of the LSE. Mr Rolet is right, Germany has made great stride in implementing structural reforms which are today paying off (GDP growth, lower unemployment) whereas France has postponed structural reforms for too long. Time is running out.
France is a difficult country to reform. We have recently witnessed the difficulty, with the strikes and demonstrations relating to the increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62 then 67, when, it had already been set at 67 in many European countries.

France, like many other European countries has kicked the can down the road for to long, and now is running out of road. Structural reforms are needed, but given the looming presidential elections coming in 2012, don't expect any radical reforms in France anytime soon.
The solution for Europe is binary, it is either further integration or disintegration.

Peripheral Europe which is now the politically correct term for PIIGS, represents 17% of Pan-European GDP. Core European banks have 900 Billions USD in peripheral Europe. The ECB now owns or repo 350 Billions Euros of peripheral bonds. A nice transfer from the private hands to the public hands.

Although peripheral Europe is still sinking, macro fundamentals are very good for the likes of Sweden, Germany and Norway, to name a few.

The German economy expanded 3.90 percent in the third quarter of 2010:

The Swedish economy expanded 6.9 percent in the third quarter of 2010.

The major difficulties of the ongoing crisis is due to the characteristic of this recession being a balance sheet recession. In the post "Honey I shrunk the balance sheet", I indicated that in a balance sheet recession, and due to the amount of excess, the deleveraging process is a slow and painful and the road to repair households balance sheet is indeed a very long one. In previous recoveries, the GDP growth following a recession had been much more pronounced. Due to the nature of this particular nasty recession linked to the housing bubble, the recovery is at a much smaller pace as we can see in GDP growth figures in many countries.
What is making the crisis as well more acute in Spain, Portugal and Ireland is the high private sector leverage to GDP compared to other countries: Above 150% for Portugal, around 220% for Spain and close to 300% for Ireland.

The Euro can survive provided there is stronger integration and a tougher approaches to structural issues. France and Germany led the European project from the start. Germany seems to be left on its own to drive the project forward, given the lack of progress of reforms so far in France.

Jean-Claude Juncker and Giulio Tremonti's proposal was an interesting one.
So far both Germany and France are refusing the idea of issuing Euro-bonds.
A way of reducing the burden of debt for peripheral countries, would be to create a European Compensation house and to do some debt compression. They would need to allow creditors to swap the debt of peripheral countries into more solid Euro-bonds issued at the ECB level, provided their is a haircut on the existing peripheral debt. Unfortunately the game of kicking the can down the road is still well alive with French and German politicians. At some point restructuring of the debt for some peripheral countries will have to happen.

Owed to Germany:

Countries Cross-border bank exposure:

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