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Italy’s Debt Crisis Thickens

Italy’s Debt Crisis Thickens

But outside Italy, credit markets are sanguine, and no one says, “whatever it takes.”

Italy’s government bonds are sinking and their yields are spiking. There are plenty of reasons, including possible downgrades by Moody’s and/or Standard and Poor’s later this month. If it is a one-notch downgrade, Italy’s credit rating will be one notch above junk. If it is a two-notch down-grade, as some are fearing, Italy’s credit rating will be junk. That the Italian government remains stuck on its deficit-busting budget, which will almost certainly be rejected by the European Commission, is not helpful either. Today, the 10-year yield jumped nearly 20 basis points to 3.74%, the highest since February 2014. Note that the ECB’s policy rate is still negative -0.4%:

But the current crisis has shown little sign of infecting other large Euro Zone economies. Greek banks may be sinking in unison, their shares down well over 50% since August despite being given a clean bill of health just months earlier by the ECB, but Greece is no longer systemically important and its banks have been zombies for years.

Far more important are Germany, France and Spain — and their credit markets have resisted contagion. A good indicator of this is the spread between Spanish and Italian 10-year bonds, which climbed to 2.08 percentage points last week, its highest level since December 1997, before easing back to 1.88 percentage points this week.

Much to the dismay of Italy’s struggling banks, the Italian government has also unveiled plans to tighten tax rules on banks’ sales of bad loans in a bid to raise additional revenues. The proposed measures would further erode the banks’ already flimsy capital buffers and hurt their already scarce cash reserves. And ominous signs are piling up that a run on large bank deposits in Italy may have already begun.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Juncker Warns ‘The EU Cannot Survive Without Italy’

Ignoring warnings from the European Commission, the ECB and the European Commission (as well as practically every other supranational organization in Europe), the populist-led Italian government managed to submit their draft budget to the Commission before a midnight deadline – an outcome that was cheered by BTP traders, who bought back into Italian bonds, once again compressing the spread to bunds, which has blown out in recent months.

But rather than representing a deescalation of tensions between Italy and Brussels, the game of fiscal chicken in which both sides are presently engaged is instead entering its most acute phase, as Brussels now has two weeks to review the budget proposal before it can either accept the plan, or send it back with requests for revisions. And anybody who has been paying even passing attention to the populist government’s denigration of EU budgetary guidelines over the past few months should already understand that Brussels won’t just sit back and accept the budget for what it is.

Juncker

In fact, European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker hinted as much Tuesday morning when he told Italian reporters that accepting the budget would be tantamount to inviting an widespread revolt against the EU, per Italian newswire ANSA and the FT. Juncker also blasted Italy for abandoning the fiscal commitments it made when it joined the EU. However, though they have wavered from time to time, the Italians haven’t kept their intentions to press for a budget deficit equivalent to 2.4% of GDP a secret. Even Giovanni Tria, Italy’s economy minister, defended the draft budget, saying the deficit “would be considered normal in all Western democracies, not explosive.”

Undeterred by the fact that there’s absolutely no political will in the Italian government to back down from their budget stance, despite threats from the ECB to provoke a Greece-style banking crisis if the Italians don’t yield to EU rules.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

St Louis Fed Discloses More Free Money: A Carry Trade in Liquidity

Not only do banks earn free money on excess reserves, they can borrow money and make guaranteed free money on that.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discusses the Carry Trade in Liquidity.

The IOER [interest on excess reserves] has been the effective ceiling of other short-term interest rates. The figure above compares the IOER with overnight rates on deposits and repos.

As we can see, the IOER has mostly remained above these two rates, implying that (at least some) banks have been able to borrow funds overnight, deposit them at the Fed and earn a spread, in essence engaging in carry trade in liquidity markets.

Interest Rate on Excess Reserves

How Much Free Money?

Fed vs ECB

While the Fed has been busy giving banks free money by paying interest on excess reserves, banks in the EU have suffered with negative interest rates, essentially taking money from banks and making them more insolvent.

If the goal was to bail out the banks at public expense (and it was), it’s clear Bernanke had a far better plan than the ECB.

The ECB on the Verge of Collapse?

 

The European Central Bank (ECB) will NOT aid Italy with an EU rescue program if the country or its banks are in financial turmoil. The Italian government is taking the view that Italy has become an “occupied” country and that Germany has conquered Europe imposing austerity and its view of inflation upon the whole of Europe without firing a shot. While the spin is that the ECB is making Italy a test case to demonstrate that Europe and its mechanisms work, in reality, it is a realization that the ECB cannot save Italy’s financial institutions because austerity has created the greatest economic depression perhaps in economic history.

The new five-star Movement in Rome and Lega have been on a confrontational course with the EU Commission, as they plan a higher level of new debt to fulfill election promises. The EU Commission, on the other hand, is calling for less spending and the implementation of austerity as demanded by Germany. Italy is already sitting on a debt of around 131% of GDP. The financial markets are nervous for they see a confrontation that could tear Europe apart at the seams. Italy now has to offer investors significantly higher interest rates when placing its government bonds in order to raise money. In addition, the gap to the yield of German government bonds widened. But in reality, stopping the ECB’s Quantitative Easing will result in interest rates rising by at least 300% very rapidly. Italy is getting ahead of the curve BEFORE everything comes crashing down.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Has “It” Finally Arrived?

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Has “It” Finally Arrived?

Is this week’s 6% market drop the start of the Big One?

With the recent plunge in the S&P 500 of over 5%, has the long-anticipated (and long-overdue) market correction finally begun?

It’s hard to say for certain. But the systemic cracks we’ve been closely monitoring definitely got an awful lot wider this week.

After nearly a decade of endless market boosting, manipulation and regulatory neglect, all of the trading professionals I personally know are watching with held breath at this stage. The central banks have distorted the processes of price discovery and market structure for so many years now, that it’s difficult to know yet whether their grip on the markets has indeed failed.

But what we know for certain is that bubbles always burst. Inevitably. Each is built upon a fallacy; and when that finally becomes apparent to enough people, the mania ends.

And today, there are currently massive bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate. Every one courtesy of the central banks (as we have written about in great detail here at PeakProsperity.com over the years).

And with no Plan B in place to gracefully exit the corner they have painted themselves — and thereby the global economy — into, the only option available to them is to double-down on the pretense that we’d all be screwed without their stewardship. They have to do this I suppose. To admit the truth would throw the world into panic and themselves out of a job.

Who knows what they think privately? But in public, they give us real gems like these:

Williams Says Fed Rate Hikes Helping Curb Financial Risk-Taking

U.S. interest-rate increases will help reduce risk-taking in financial markets, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ECB Hands Italy An Ultimatum: ‘Obey EU Budget Rules Or We Won’t Save You’

With the Washington Post stepping up to put a floor under US stocks Thursday afternoon by reporting that President Trump would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at next month’s G-20 summit (while the headline soothed the market, it doesn’t change the fact that, as with everything involving the Trump administration, this too remains subject to change), investors have apparently overlooked the latest ominous headlines out of Italy. To wit, Reuters reported that the ECB won’t come to Italy’s rescue if its government or banks run out of cash unless the Italian government first secures a bailout from the European Union. Of course, this would almost certainly require that the populist coalition end its ongoing game of fiscal chicken with Brussels and abandon its  dreams of lowering the retirement age and extending a basic income to the Italian people – policies that would effectively secure a political future for M5S and the League.

In effect, the ECB’s latest trial balloon is tantamount to blackmail: Either the Italians agree to fall back in line and obey European budgetary guidelines, or the central bank will sit back and watch as bond yields surge, providing the ratings agencies even more ammunition to cut Italian debt to junk – effectively guaranteeing a Greece-style banking crisis as the liquidity taps are turned off.

ECB

And to eliminate any lingering doubts that this was a deliberate coordinated leak, Reuters cited “five senior sources familiar with the ECB’s thinking,” many of whom were “present at the economic summit in Indonesia.” Of course, the ECB sources explained that they are merely acting in the best interest of the monetary union. Because if Italy is allowed to shake off the yoke of European austerity and re-assert its sovereignty, then what would stop Spain or Portugal from doing the same?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Italy’s Debt Crisis Flares Up, Banks Get Hit, as Showdown with the EU Intensifies

Italy’s Debt Crisis Flares Up, Banks Get Hit, as Showdown with the EU Intensifies

Who will blink first?

A serious showdown is brewing in the Eurozone as Italy’s anti-establishment coalition government takes on the EU establishment in a struggle that could have major ramifications for Europe’s monetary union. The cause of the discord is the Italian government’s plan to expand Italy’s budget for 2019, in contravention of previous budget agreements with Brussels.

The government has set a public deficit target for next year of 2.4% of GDP, three times higher than the previous government’s pledge. It’s a big ask for a country that already boasts a debt-to-GDP ratio of 131%, the second highest in Europe behind Greece. To justify its ambitious “anti-poverty” spending plans, proposed tax cuts, and pension reforms, the government claims that Italy’s economic growth will outperform EU forecasts.

Brussels is having none of it. EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker urged Italy’s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria to desist. “After having really been able to cope with the Greek crisis, we’ll end up in the same crisis in Italy,” he said. “One such crisis has been enough… If Italy wants further special treatment, that would mean the end of the euro. So you have to be very strict.”

On Wednesday ECB President Mario Draghi held a private meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Rome, at which he reportedly raised concerns about Italy’s public finances, the upcoming budget bill, and related stock-exchange and bond-market turbulence.

The meeting evoked memories of the backroom machinations that Draghi, together with his predecessor, Jean Claude Trichet, undertook to engineer the downfall of Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi in 2011 and his replacement with technocrat Mario Monte, after Berlusconi had posited pulling Italy out of the euro during Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Maybe a rethink from Brussels?

The entire fabric of the European Union is under threat while the hierarchy in Brussels sleepwalks into yet another crisis.

The UK is highly likely to walk away from further Brexit negotiations, Italy which once survived on a diet of high interest rates and high inflation is threatening to blow the whole fiscal responsibility demanded by the ECB apart and the rise in nationalism and demands for a curb on immigration, which was until recently actively encouraged by Germany, continues to be “kicked into the long grass”.

It may just be time for Messrs Juncker and Tusk to re-examine their roles in these crises and to consider the intransigence that has been born from trying to run on so many fronts before it can walk.

Ten years ago, I gave a radio interview in Dubai about my feelings for the longevity of the euro. I made a comment that lived with me for many years, saying that “I would live longer than the euro”. Those words dogged me for quite a while but now I firmly believe again that the state of my health far outweighs that of the common currency despite the Italian Prime Minister calling it “unrenounceable”.

The issues will continue to pile up since trying to govern 28 states (after Brexit) using treaties that become out of date in a modern world almost before the ink is dry and having 28 different points of view on every subject is unworkable.

Furthermore, the absolute basis of the EU, the four freedoms, have become a millstone around the neck of anyone trying to negotiate. If there was no freedom of movement, for example, it is almost certain there would be no Brexit. Even if the UK had still voted for Brexit how much easier would negotiations have been without the Irish border issue?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Greece Planning Bad Debt Bailout For Its Banks After Market Crash

It seems like it was just yesterday that Greek banks, which carry some €89BN of bad loans on their balance sheets, passed the ECB’s latest confidence building exercise, known as the “stress test.”

In retrospect that may have been premature, because as Bloomberg reports, over 8 years after its first bailout Greece is finally considering a plan to help its banks become viable, and speed up their bad-loan disposals in a bid to restore confidence in the crushed sector.

At its core, the Greek plan is the now familiar “bad bank” structure, in which banks get to spin off their NPLs into a separate, government-guaranteed SPV (although in the case of Greece, it is not clear if a government guarantee is all that valuable). The SPV would then be funded by selling bonds to the market.

While the details are still being worked out, an asset protection plan would see lenders unload some bad loans into special purpose vehicles, taking them off banks’ balance sheets. The SPVs would issue bonds, some guaranteed by the state, and sell them to investors, the people said, asking not to be named as the information isn’t public.

The move came after a furious selloff in Greek stocks, and especially banks, which was the culmination of a YTD plunge which has seen Greek banks lose more than 40% this year amid doubts they can clean up their balance sheets fast enough. The banks, which amusingly all cleared the ECB’s stress test earlier this year despite being saddled with tens of billions of NPLs, have been under mounting pressure from supervisors to cut their bad-debt holdings.

According to Bloomberg, the plan appears to have been borrowed from Italy, which conducted a similar exercise to stabilize its own banking sector.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe Launches War On Italy’s Fiscal Plans: Warns Of Debt “Explosion”, Threatens Savers

In the aftermath of Italy’s defiant announcement that it would expand its 2019 budget deficit to 2.4% of GDP, above both the initial proposal from finmin Tria which was 1.6%, and also higher than the European “redline” of 2.0%, the question was how would Europe respond to this open mutiny by Italy.

The answers started to emerge on Friday, when European Parliament head Antonio Tajani said that fiscal targets set by Italy’s eurosceptic government were “against the people” and could hit savers without creating jobs.

“I am very concerned for what is happening in Italy,” said Tajani, who is a center-right opposition politician in Italy and close ally to former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The budgetary plans “will not raise employment but will cause trouble to the savings of the Italians,” Tajani said.

“This budget is not for the people, it is against the people,” Tajani said, adding that the planned measures “will create many problems in the north (of Italy) without solving problems in the south,” which is the least developed part of the country.

Separately, Pierre Moscovici, EU Economic Affairs Commissioner, said in an interview with BFM television that “Italy, which has debt at 132 percent, chooses expansion and stimulus. It’s “a budget that looks like jaywalking, and out of line with our rules.”

As a reminder, Italy has the most public debt of any European country, surpassing both France and Germany, and its debt/GDP is the second highest in the EU after bailed-out Greece; until recently, Italy had committed for next year to a deficit three times smaller.

The verbal fireworks continued, with Moscovici reminding Italy that the only reason its “explosive” debt hasn’t collapsed is due to the ECB’s purchases, which has been actively monetizing it for the past few years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

State of European Banks: The ECB View vs Reality

The ECB would like you to believe the European banking system is sound and banks are better regulated. They aren’t.

Ten years after Lehman there are numerous statements from bureaucrats, academics, media and others that banks are now better regulated, more solid and liquidity problems vanished.

Reader Lars from Norway Emailed this assessment today.

Price/Book Ratio

Deutsche Bank trades at 0.30 on the low side and BNP Paribas at 0.70 on the high side. In between we have Commerzbank at 0.40, Unicredit at 0.50, and Society General at 0.50.

The verdict is negative.

Target2

​Italian and Spanish bank require € 900 billion in liquidity support on a permanent basis. ​

This element is mostly ignored by academics and others because they do not understand the implications of Target 2 as a capital flight phenomenon. This is a hidden crisis.

​The verdict is negative.

Nonperforming Loans

Italian banks would all be insolvent if NPLs were to be written off. In order to keep the facade, NPLs are kept on the books as if it’s not a problem.​

The verdict is negative.

​Proprietary Trading and Derivatives

Some of the banks have huge portfolios, led by Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas. As much as 45% of total assets. ​

Nobody knows what a strict mark-to-market exercise would lead to. Most of the derivatives are interest rate swaps that might suffer should rates rise.

​The verdict is negative.

Emerging Market and Troubled Bank Exposure

French banks have huge exposures to Italy, and Italian banks have big exposure to Turkey.

​The verdict is negative.

Contagion Risk

We learned from 2008 that interbank markets can freeze. Liquidity is no longer available. How much more than the € ,400 billion is the eurosystem willing to provide to insolvent Spanish, Italian and Greek banks?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Clinging to Old Theories of Inflation

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong, I think I am starting to understand your view of inflation. It is very complex. I think some people cannot think beyond a simple one dimension concept as you often say. So I am trying to be more dynamic in my thinking process. Here you point out that when debt is collateral it is the same as printing money but worse because it pays interest. Then you point out that hyperinflation takes place not because of printing money but because a collapse in confidence and people then hoard their wealth which reduces the economic output and that compels a government to print more to cover expenses. So there is a line that is crossed and kicks in that collapse in confidence as in Venezuela. This is very interesting but complex. Is this a fair statement?

ANSWER: You are doing very well. You are correct. Some people cannot get beyond an increase in money supply is automatically inflationary one-dimensional thinking. If that was true, then why did 10 years of Quantitative Easing by the ECB fail completely to create inflation given that theory? It is like brainwashing kids with global warming ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

There is yet another dimension that you have to add to this complexity. The BULK of the money is actually created by the banks in leveraged lending. If I lent you $100 and you signed a note that you would repay it, then the note becomes my asset on my balance sheet. I can take that to a bank and borrow on my account receivables. In this instance, just you and I are creating money. Now let a bank stand between us.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

ECB To Cut Euro Area Growth Outlook In Latest Global Slowdown Warning

One week ago, Bank of America’s CIO Michael Hartnett predicted that Europe will be the “missing link” for the emerging market crisis to spread to the rest of the developed world and “morph into a global deleveraging event.”

But where would the crack appear: after all, until recently European economic data had been surprisingly strong… if not so much in the past few days, because after emerging into the green, the Citi Eurozone economic surprise index appears to have rolled over, and returned back into negative territory.

Then, as if to confirm that Europe was finally starting to groan under the weight of EM turmoil, overnight Bloomberg reported that the ECB was set to revise its forecasts lower for euro-area economic growth during its press conference on Thursday “as global trade tensions damp external demand, according to officials familiar with the latest projections.”

According to Bloomberg’s sources, the main nations dragging on demand were the U.K. and Turkey, though the U.S. outlook is still positive.

In June, the ECB predicted economic growth would slow from 2.1 percent this year to 1.7 percent in 2020, with inflation averaging 1.7 percent in all three years covered in the forecast.

The growing pessimistic outlook comes at an “awkward time” for the Governing Council, just as it prepares to wind back stimulus, though the adjustments probably aren’t big enough to derail those plans yet, unless of course the EM turmoil continues and results in even more German foreign factory order weakness.

The silver lining: the path of inflation, the primary consideration for monetary policy, remains unchanged… for now.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Genocide of the Greek Nation

Genocide of the Greek Nation

The political and media coverup of the genocide of the Greek Nation began yesterday (August 20) with European Union and other political statements announcing that the Greek Crisis is over. What they mean is that Greece is over, dead, and done with. It has been exploited to the limit, and the carcas has been thrown to the dogs.

350,000 Greeks, mainly the young and professionals, have fled dead Greece. The birth rate is far below the rate necessary to sustain the remaining population. The austerity imposed on the Greek people by the EU, the IMF, and the Greek government has resulted in the contraction of the Greek economy by 25%. The decline is the equivalent of America’s Great Depression, but in Greece the effects were worst. President Franklin D. Roosevelt softened the impact of massive unemployment with the Social Security Act other elements of a social safety net such as deposit insurance, and public works programs, whereas the Greek government following the orders from the IMF and EU worsened the impact of massive unemployment by stripping away the social safety net.

Traditionally, when a sovereign country, whether by corruption, mismanagement, bad luck, or unexpected events, found itself unable to repay its debts, the country’s creditors wrote down the debts to the level that the indebted country could service.

With Greece there was a game change. The European Central Bank, led by Jean-Claude Trichet, and the International Monetary Fund ruled that Greece had to pay the full amount of interest and principal on its government bonds held by German, Dutch, French, and Italian banks.

How was this to be achieved?

In two ways, both of which greatly worsened the crisis, leaving Greece today in a far worst position that it was in at the beginning of the crisis almost a decade ago.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was right to call out the EU over the failure of the bridge in Genoa this week.  It was an act of cheap political grandstanding but one that ultimately rings very true.

It’s a perfect moment to shake people out of their complacency as to the real costs of giving up one’s financial sovereignty to someone else, in this case the Troika — European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Italy is slowly strangling to death thanks to the euro.  There is no other way to describe what is happening.  It’s populist coalition government understands the fundamental problems but, politically, is hamstrung to address them head on.

The political will simply isn’t there to make the break needed to put Italy truly back on the right path, i.e. leave the euro.  But, as the government is set to clash with Brussels over their proposed budget the issues with the euro may come into sharper focus.

Looking at the budget it is two or three steps in the right direction — lower, flat income tax rate, not raising the VAT — but also a step or two in the wrong direction — universal income.

Opening up Italy’s markets and lowering taxpayers’ burdens is the path to sustainable, organic growth, but that is not the purpose of IMF-style austerity.  It’s purpose is to do exactly what it is doing, strangling Italy to death and extracting the wealth and spirit out of the local population, c.f. Greece and before that Russia in the 1990’s.

So, looking at the situation today as the spat between Turkey and the U.S. escalates, it is obvious that Italy is in the crosshairs of any contagion effects into Europe’s banking system.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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