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Slovenia slides down the bailout slope

Yesterday

The Fed is considering tougher capital requirements over worries that banks could be playing the [Basel III] system. Currently, the international agreement sees equity capital at only 3%. Basel brought that up significantly, but also gave the parties involved more room for… creative accounting. Give a bank a loophole. read FT

Moody’s downgraded Slovenia to junk with negative outlook (ouch), which is unfortunate, because the country was planning to auction off some debt. read FT
And now the pathway to an EU bailout: (read Bloomberg)

Rising loan losses resulting from a housing bust and a second recession in two years have left a hole of about 7.5 billion euros ($9.9 billion) at Slovenia-based lenders, investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods estimates. That’s a lot for a 35 billion-euro economy: A bank bailout would push government debt above 70 percent of economic output.

Apple issued $17bn in debt – the largest corporate debt offering ever – in six tranches to return money to shareholders and avoid repatriation taxes on overseas funds. read WSJ

In New York, the Empire State Building was lit up in FT-pink to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the newspaper.

This morning…
is quiet due to Labor Day in vast parts of the world.

Later on, we’ll get some data from the US, including the ADP employment report, ISM manufacturing data and the post-FOMC meeting statement from the Fed (ex Bernanke press conference). The ISM is expected to drop below 50, as it last did in November of last year and several months in 2009.

So long.

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All according to plan – US set to grow 3%; China’s slowdown on purpose

Over the weekend…
the UK lost its Fitch-assigned AAA rating on the back of the weak economy and poor outlook. Moody’s downgraded the country in February, but also assigned a negative outlook, while Fitch is optimistic that the UK will return to credit-worthy prosperity around 2014/2015. read article

In Italy, Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected President for the coming seven years on Saturday. The independent is expected to propose a bipartisan cabinet, considering that he was elected by both sides of the political spectrum to avoid another round of elections. Everybody except for Beppe Grillo seems happy; he had called Napolitano’s re-election a coup d’etat. read article

The G20 meeting ended with everyone promising to not engage in competitive devaluation of currencies, defending Japan’s monetary policy as appropriate and targeting domestic demand. read article

This morning…
word got out that the US will see 3% growth in July, due to a reform of the methodology behind government statistics. 21st century GDP also takes film royalties and R&D spending into account:

Billions of dollars of intangible assets will enter the gross domestic product of the world’s largest economy in a revision aimed at capturing the changing nature of US output.” read article

Meanwhile in China, central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan justified the country’s below-expectations growth rate of 7.7% in the first quarter of 2013, saying slow growth was necessary as structural reforms are being put into place. read article

Otherwise the counter-austerity voices are getting louder again, this time it’s Pimco’s Bill Gross (not that surprising) and Jose Manuel Barroso of all people, the President of the European Commission. Could this be the beginning of the end of Angela Austerity Merkel’s dominance in European policy? Probably not.

So long.

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The things about guaranteed debt – China edition

There won’t be an update until Monday, 22 April 2013.

Yesterday…
the aftershock of the events in Boston continued to dominate the front pages, with President Obama speaking to the nation in the early afternoon, saying the FBI was investigating the explosions as an “act of terror”. read article

The IMF cut its global growth forecast for 2013 again from 3.5% to 3.3% in its World Economic Outlook, which left the 2014 forecast at 4%. Last week, Managing Director Christine Lagarde‘s argued that a three-speed [economic] world was developing, in which some countries are still very far away from recovering. Lagarde also embraced the quantitative easing approach and argued that Japan was moving into the right direction. read article

It’s things like this that could make for an uncomfortable atmosphere at this week’s G20 meeting in Washington, especially with regards to Japan. read article

This morning…
London is dressed in metal barricades as Margaret Thatcher’s funeral is putting more or less everything on hold until the afternoon.

In China, the poultry sector has recorded losses of CNY 10bn ($1.6bn) since the outbreak of bird flu virus H7N9. So far 77 people have been diagnosed as infected; 16 people died. read article

Also in China, a local auditor has said that regional government debt was OOT and it was only a matter of time until a bigger-than-American-housing crash if things were to continue. Here just a taste of how we got here:

Local governments are prohibited from directly raising debt, so they have used special purpose vehicles to circumvent these rules, issuing bonds under the vehicles’ names to fund infrastructure projects.

and

Bonds issued by government-owned investment companies almost always receive top-tier credit ratings from domestic agencies because they are seen as being guaranteed by the provinces and cities that back them.

Right, because that has never been a problem before… Last week, Fitch cut China’s credit rating on the back of “underlying structural weaknesses.” further reading

So long.

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Laiki depositors to lose up to 80%, Poland turns against euro

Yesterday…The Spanish central bank forecasts its economy to contract by 1.5% in 2013, while unemployment is seen to rise to close to 30%:

The economy will be marked by weak domestic demand, a fragile labor market and tight financial conditions, the bank said.” read article

Meanwhile in Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk is floating the idea of a euro referendum. The country has been pushing to join the foreign currency pretty much as long as it has existed – proximity to Germany would bring an additional trade advantage (despite the disadvantage for cheap manual labor). Anyway, now Poland is not so sure anymore. The political opposition claims the eurozone has changed too much since 2004, when the country joined, for a decisions to possibly still be valid. read article

The US economy must be improving, because it’s not getting worse. That was the idea of the morale following the data announcement of January home prices rising at the fastest rate since summer 2006 and an increasing demand for durable goods. read article

In other news, the Financial Times has found that the group of AAA-rated countries has decreased by 60% since 2007, and Warren Buffet will become one of Goldman Sachs’ ten biggest investors after exercising some warrants issued in 2008. read article

This morning…
Cyprus‘ central bank announced some details on the impending haircuts, saying uninsured deposits at Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) could be cut by 4/5th. The estimated 40% haircut seems to remain the benchmark for larger insured deposits. According to WSJ:

Based on estiamtes from government officials, the losses would affect some 19,000 deposit-holders at the Bank of Cyprus who, combined, hold some €8.01 billion in uninsured deposits. Uninsured savers at Cyprus Popular Bank, who hold a combined €3.2 billion, will lose most of that.

The Bank of England said British banks were facing a £25bn capital shortfall with regards to compliance with new banking standards. read article

So long.

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Cyprus to exit the news

Over the weekend…

actually right before, Fitch but the UK on its watchlist for downgrades.

The United States Congress is working on reforming the taxability of debt and equity, changing the traditional debt-bias (i.e. tax-deductible interest payments) to an equity-bias. read article

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision received at hat tip that there was a MASSIVE loophole in the Basel III regulation that imposes, among other things, higher capital standards on banks. What it doesn’t regulate, however, is the use of credit default swaps to handle riskier assets that count into those capital standards. Changes to be made. read article

Speaking of Basel – after Switzerland came under scrutiny (again) by facilitating tax avoidance, the US Department of Justice has now asked Lichtenstein to hand over documentation of American-held accounts. read article

Over night…

The Eurogroup of Finance Ministers approved troika-sponsored bailout plan for Cyprus, totalling €10bn. In short, bank deposits under €100,000 will be guaranteed, while larger deposits are facing a crazy haircut, possibly up to 40% (others say the cuts will be capped at 20%). After ten days closure, Cypriot banks re-open todayread article

And let’s not forget that besides all this, we’re still waiting on Italy.

Have a good week.

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Italian elections – Berlusconi with a vengeance

Italy is left in limbo without a conclusive election result, probably another round of elections looming, preceded by an embarrassing attempt by [presumably] Pier Luigi Bersani to form a coalition, and a full re-appearance of Silvio Berlusconi on the political stage (in the Senate). But despite the obvious screw-up that this election seems to be, there are clear winners and losers: Mario Monti, in the rational corner, plays the role of the latter. Beppe Grillo, anti-euro comedian in the ridiculous corner, came out heading the largest single party in the country’s lower house. Winner. Inconclusive is only one way of putting it, although I guess we can gather that the Italian people generally have an issue with austerity measures. Let the name-calling begin. read article

Just in: Bersani will hold a press conference at 5pm CET in Rome.

Summarizing some reactions:

Notably, the European markets display alarming symptoms of contagion: Italian elections drove up yields in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland, and pulled down yields in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland.

Meanwhile, everything Italian that can be bought or rather sold is about to be subject to a short-selling ban. Elsewhere, US stocks fell the most since November of last year, with the volatility index at its 2013 record high.

But there are a couple of other things quietly happening in the background. The Japanese government will sell a third of its 50+% stake in Japan Tobacco, the third largest tobacco company and formerly a Japanese monopoly. The sale comes as part of policies to reduce stakes in state-backed companies to raise funds for this economic recovery that’s taking so long. read article

Over in the Netherlands, Rabobank, commonly clean slate poster-child bank, one of the safest institutions and bailout-free, is looking at a $440m+ in fines for involvement in the Libor rate rigging scandal. The fine could come as early as May. read article

Back in New York at Moody’s, it seems like lessons have been learned since 2008. The rating agency announced that any mortgage-backed securities can’t receive top ratings any longer. Aa is the new Aaa. Other agencies are expected to follow suit. read article

So long.

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Italy at the polls; UK loses triple-A rating

Over the weekend, the UK lost its triple-A rating, with Moody’s downgrading the country to Aa1. The pound is weak and nobody is surprised. But Moody’s also cut the rating of the Bank of England, which is confusing, considering the outrageously unlikely event of a central bank default. In other words:

The question then is: what exactly does a rating mean for a sovereign which borrows in its own currency? Right now, it seems little bar political pain.

Responding to said political pain, George Osborne said he wouldn’t bow under pressure from the opposition and have Britain stick to the course of austerityread article
 
The first exit polls for the Italian election will be coming in at 2pm GMT today, when voting stations close. So far the election has seen topless feminists screaming for the end of Berlusconi’s rule over Italy (…), and a 55.2% voter turnout, 7.3% less than last year. read article
 
In Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades’ center-right party has won the election with a 57.5% majority, leaving the country’s bailout to be finalized by the new government and the EU. Anastasiades, however, likes to think of himself as not just another sheep-like follower of the regime of international lenders, and wants to reach a deal that doesn’t include privatizations, which are believed to raise up to €2bn. read article 
 
Meanwhile in the US, only four days are left to steer the country away from the sequester. So far neither side of the table seems to a have an idea how, despite Obama’s begging for compromise. read article
 
In other news, the Deepwater Horizon trial begins today and Japan‘s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to nominate a new governor for the country’s central bank. So far, possible choices, which include the current President of the Asian Development Bank, are all pro-stimulusread article
 
Have a good week.

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Budget time in Europe; US DoJ investigates Moody’s and Fitch

It’s budget time again in the land they call Europe and the usual suspects pulled an all-nighter in Brussels yesterday, trying to come up with a convincing plan, covering 2014-2020. For the first time in its existence, the budget has actually been reduced. In some last minute action, yet another €12bn were slashed last night. With €960bn on paper now, €33bn less than the current budget measures and down from €1.047tn initially suggested, the plan has to be approved by all 27 EU member states. read article

Over in the US, the Department of Justice has looked [an inch] beyond the obvious and is now considering legal action against Moody’s. The matter at hand concerns defrauding investors. At this point, however, the investigation is in its infancy, as too many resources are devoted to the S&P case. According to WSJ, New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, sworn enemy of what’s left in the post-Lehman world, has also requested insights into Fitch‘s business.

In other news, China reported some positive trade data, with exports rising 25% and and imports rising 28.8% compared to next year, suggesting that the rest of the world has, in fact, not totally collapsed yet. Although…

Futures were delighted by the data, until someone pointed out that January 2013 had some five more working days than 2012 due to the calendar shift of the Chinese new year, and that adjusted for this effect exports were a far more modest 12.5% while imports rose only 3.4%. 

Following yesterday’s news from the European Central Bank, the FT has more details on the Irish debt deal, including the refinancing of €28bn of promissory notes. Meanwhile, Gavyn Davis gives a critical analysis of the ECB’s policy choices. The aftermath for Carney‘s parliamentary presentation can be found here.

And finally, Boeing is struggling with the “exploding battery fiasco”, seeing its orders collapse to only 2 from 150 a year ago this January. read article

Weekend reading:

– Michael Lewis‘ review of Greg Smith’s “Why I left Goldman Sachs“, read article

– Iceland‘s recovery, read article

– Too fast to fail, high-frequency trading and financial collapse read article

– Michael Bloombergmayor of London?, read article

Have a good one.

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Dell brings buyouts back; Obama fails to strike deal

It’s a very AmUrica-centric news day, so let’s start with…

TWENTY-FOUR point four billion dollars. That’s what it will cost founder Michael Dell (who currently holds 14% of the firm) and Silver Lake Partners to buy the computer business. That makes Dell the largest leveraged buyout since 2007. read article 

Microsoft, which counts Dell as one of its largest clients, provided a $2bn loanBut according to WSJ:

Despite its participation, Microsoft isn’t getting board seats or operational control. What it is getting, apparently, is a wink and a nod that Dell won’t start shipping equipment running Android, for instance… The danger there is that, by limiting its technology options, Microsoft’s involvement ultimately damages Dell’s long-term prospects.

In other deal news, US media company Liberty Global is going to buy Virgin Media for £10bnread article

Also in the US, we’re more or less back to the old spiel: after Obama proposed a teeny-tiny cuts/tax package to delay the sequester (automatic spending cuts on 1 March), Republicans rejected the idea out of tradition. The whole thing just looked too much like additional tax increases to them. If all else fails, the sequester will slash $85bn from federal spending until February 2014 – not exactly a health fix for the US economy. read article

The US Department of Justice has added a price tag to the S&P mis-rating case: the mortgage securities in question, which received inappropriate ratings between 2004 and 2007, caused losses of more than $5bn. The awkward side to it: the lawsuit has brought to light that S&P analysts danced around to “Burning Down the House” and said they would “rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.” So far, it is unknown whether S&P employees are just really big fans of the Talking Heads. read article

Otherwise, Europe is waiting for Godot the ECB‘s and Bank of England’s meetings tomorrow and RBS was fined $325m by the CFTC in relation to the Libor scandal, while Silvio Berlusconi is winning ground against Italy’s Democratic Party in the polls. read article

So long.

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Sue the banks (check), sue the auditors (check), sue the rating agencies (pending)

We’ve done the banks and the auditors, now it’s time to turn to other services providers in the sector: the rating agencies. The US Department of Justice is suing Standard&Poor’s (McGraw-Hill) over mortgage-bond ratings between September 2004 and October 2007. According to the filings, the ratings agency understated the riskiness of the assets sold. According to Bloomberg:

The company bent rating models to suit its business needs to the extent that one CDO analyst commented that loosening the measure of default risk for a certain security in 2006 “resulted in a loophole in S&P’s rating model big enough to drive a Mack truck through,” the U.S. said.

Shares in the publishing company fell the most since 1987 in response to the lawsuit. In November 2012, S&P was found guilty for misrating CPDOs (constant proportion debt obligations). The other big rating agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, which presumably did the exact same thing at the exact same time, have been left alone so farread article

Across the pond, Barclays bill for mis-selling products has increased to more than £3.4bn. Today, the bank announced to add £425m to the pool used for redress on mis-sold interest rate hedges, as well as adding another £600m to the indemnities pool for mis-sold payment protection insurance. read article

From ZeroHegde:

In the meantime, the political scandal scene in both Italy and Spain is unchanged, and getting worse, especially with Rajoy summarizing it all with this absolute pearl according to El Pais: Rajoy Says “It’s All Untrue, Except Some of It. No seriously, he said that.

In other news, the banking union turns out to be job creation machine: The ECB, which is meeting on Thursday, will have to hire up to 2,000 people to fully exercise its responsibilities as the watchdog of the banking union. Over in China, the People’s Bank of China injected RMB450bn ($72bn) into the country’s money markets as part of a short-term liquidity fix before the Chinese New Year holiday. 

So long.

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