Little to nothing came of this weekend’s G20/IMF/Worldbank meetings in Washington in terms of a policy response to the Euro/Greek “crisis”. The loudest voices of the Germans, and those that we’re taking our cues from, portend willingness to further aid Greece despite strong winds against such actions from the German populace. Germany’s Bundestag vote on the terms on the facility (originally issued on June 21) comes this Thursday and remains in our minds the lynchpin for the decisions of the other 16 Eurozone parliaments (loosely scheduled in the next weeks, with Slovenia tomorrow and Finland Wednesday) as well as the conciliatory approval of remainder of the EU-27 states outside the Eurozone.
European equity markets rallied today on the belief that the Europeans will throw some sort of bazooka at its fiscal problems, both on the sovereign and banking sides, yet question marks remain on the size, scope, or timing of such a decision. There’s talk that from a calendar perspective, a new framework could be reached at an EU finance ministers meeting on November 4 in Cannes. Regardless, expect the microscope to remain on Europe along with expectations of a near-term solution. We’d expect significant volatility (and greater downside risk) into year-end as investors wrestle with and anticipate additional policy measures that may include a larger EFSF (2-3x its current size of €750B), directed funds to better recapitalize European banks, and stronger fiscal contingency plans for Greece and further down the road for the entire monetary union.
Last week major European equity indices were down -5 to -8%, with the EUR-USD pair falling -2.2%. We’d caution that today’s bounce (European equity indices closed up +2 to 3% and the EUR-USD was mixed) may be short lived. The EUR-USD is in a bearish formation, meaning it’s currently trading below its short term TRADE, intermediate term TREND, and long term TAIL lines. We’d short the EUR-USD on any bounce up to around $1.37 - 1.39 and see immediate term TRADE support (to buy) at $1.34 (see chart).
Risk signals continue to suggest that premiums across the periphery especially (but also in the core – DAX down -28% in last two months) will continue to blow out over the intermediate term TREND, as Eurocrats are likely to continue to attach band-aides to the wounds, yet any new grand policy measures will likely take many months to be pushed through, if they come at all. Again, the market waits for no one.
This weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Eurozone leaders must erect a firewall around Greece to avert a cascade of market attacks on other European states that would risk breaking up the currency area and German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called for the permanent stability fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), to be possibly issued a bit earlier than its present date of 2013. In any case, both leaders, without giving any details away, lean towards aiding Greece, and therefore have minimized the prospect of Greece leaving the Union anytime soon – which may boost sentiment on the news but may not arrest the slide across capital markets.
It’s the risk signals that continue to worry us: CDS spreads for Belgium, France, and Germany are at or near all-time highs in the last two days. And spreads across the periphery, and despite improvements in Ireland, maintain their direction “up-and-to-the-right” (see charts below). Sovereign yields tell a similar story, with Italy and Spain the main points of interest: both have government 19YR yields inside of 6%, a critical break-out level, yet there’s little confidence that Italy and Spain couldn’t overcome the line, especially should the ECB’s secondary sovereign bond purchasing (SMP) wane in the coming weeks (third chart below).
On the banking side, our Financials MD Josh Steiner has astutely noted that between December 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011 the French banking system increased its exposure to PIIGS by $25 billion; while the German banking system decreased its exposure by almost $11 billion, almost all of which came from reductions in Greek sovereign debt holdings; and Italian and Spanish banks both increased their exposure by $3 and $9 billion, respectively, according to the newest report publish by the Bank of International Settlements.
In short, European banking risks have yet to be addressed concisely by Eurocrats, which adds significant fuel to the fire as sovereign exposures are highly linked across the European banks. Our weekly European Financials CDS Monitor showed that bank swaps mostly widened in Europe last week. 39 of the 40 reference entities were wider week over week. The average widening was 11.3%, or 56 basis points, and the median widening was 23.4%
Expect more volatility into and out of tomorrow as Merkel hosts talks with Greek PM Papandreou and the Greek Parliament votes on property tax as one measure of its austerity program. And expect strikes and rioting in Greece beginning today and possibly lasting throughout the week as Troika inspects “the books” and the Greek state thirsts for its next €8 Billion loan tranche!