November 30, 2011

Daily Photo: Heuston Quarter


November 29, 2011

Daily Photo: Storm on Montreal


November 27, 2011

Daily Photo: Ferenc Hopp Garden


IMF voiced to prepare an emergency 600 billion loan to Italy

Some stories in European press suggest that Italy is working on a very big loan package from the IMF according to the newspaper Repubblica a loan of 600 billion euro is being considered for Italy.
I'm very curious to find out what kind of tricks the IMF will resort to find this amount of money which is much larger than the current EFSF allocation.
If this option is being considered it means that there is zero possibility that Italy can refinance any portion of its $300b of 2012 maturing debt. If there is anyone who think that Monti can pull off a miracle, they are deluded, he is simply in charge of seizing the private wealth accumulated by Italian citizen to cover for the enormous Italian public debt and compensate foreign investors and banks in the process. There is a zero chance for a market solution for Italy. Either the ECB (aka Germany) steps in and underwrites the debt with some form of Euro bonds or the IMF (aka the USA) steps in with some very serious money.
Italian bond yields more than doubled in a month and this has left banks and financial institutions scared to death.
Either this gets fixed or Italy defaults in less than six months. The default option is not really an option that policy makers would consider. If Italy can’t make it, then there will be a very big crashing sound. It would end up taking out most of the global lenders, a fair number of countries would follow into Italy’s vortex. In my opinion a default by Italy is certain to bring a global depression; one that would take many years to crawl out of. The policy makers are aware of this too.
Something is brewing. If there is a plan in the works it must involve the IMF and it’s going to be big.

In the real world of global finance the reality is that any country that is forced to accept an IMF bailout is also blocked from issuing debt in the public markets. IMF (or other supranational debt) is ALWAYS senior to any other indebtedness of the country. That’s just the way it works. When Italy borrows money from the IMF it automatically subordinates the existing creditors. Lenders hate this. They will vote with their feet and take a pass at Italian new debt issuance for a long time to come. Once the process starts, it will not end. There will be a snow ball of other creditors. That's exactly what happened in the 80's when Mexico failed; within a year two dozen other countries were forced to their debt knees.
There is unfortunately not anymore a safe exit from this mess. The liquidity crisis in Italy is scaring us to death, the solution will almost certainly kill us.

November 23, 2011

Best of TED: Richard Wilkinson - How economic inequality harms societies

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.










Daily Photo: Troodos


November 22, 2011

Daily Photo: Polis Beach


Global crisis alarms mounting


We are getting closer to a major event and ringing bells are everywhere, although lately the doom and gloom business is not only reserved to fringe alarmists but it is becoming normal business for credible and serious institutions and figures, below a collection of quotes that have been issued by major players of the world economy.

#1 Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit: “We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”
#2 Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup: “Time is running out fast.  I think we have maybe a few months — it could be weeks, it could be days — before there is a material risk of a fundamentally unnecessary default by a country like Spain or Italy which would be a financial catastrophe dragging the European banking system and North America with it.”
#3 Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank: “If you don’t think Merkel’s tone will change then our investment advice is to dig a hole in the ground and hide.”
#4 David Rosenberg, a senior economist at Gluskin Sheff in Toronto: “Lenders are finding it difficult to finance their day-to-day operations with short-term funding. This is a lot like 2008 but with more twists.”
#5 Christian Stracke, the head of credit research for Pimco: “This is just a repeat of what we saw in 2008, when everyone wanted to see toxic assets off the banks’ balance sheets”
#6 Paul Krugman of the New York Times: “At this point I’d guess soaring rates on Italian debt leading to a gigantic bank run, both because of solvency fears about Italian banks given a default and because of fear that Italy will end up leaving the euro. This then leads to emergency bank closing, and once that happens, a decision to drop the euro and install the new lira. Next stop, France.”
#7 Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group: “More and more, we are hearing anecdotal comments from individual and professionals that this is the most difficult environment they have ever experienced as the market is like a fish flopping around after being taken out of the water.”
#8 Bob Janjuah of Nomura International: “Germany appears to be adamant that full political and fiscal integration over the next decade (nothing substantive will happen over the short term, in my view) is the only option, and ECB monetisation is no longer possible. I really think it is that clear and simple. And if I am wrong, and the ECB does a U-turn and agrees to unlimited monetisation, I will simply wait for the inevitable knee-jerk rally to fade before reloading my short risk positions. Even if Germany and the ECB somehow agree to unlimited monetisation I believe it will do nothing to fix the insolvency and lack of growth in the eurozone. It will just result in a major destruction of the ECB‟s balance sheet which will force an ECB recap. At that point, I think Germany and its northern partners would walk away. Markets always want short, sharp, simple solutions.”
#9 Dan Akerson, CEO of General Motors: “The ’08 recession, which was a credit bubble that manifested itself through primarily the real estate market, that was a serious stress….This is much more serious.”
#10 Francesco Garzarelli of Goldman Sachs: “Pressures on Euro area sovereign bond markets have progressively intensified and spread like a wildfire.”
#11 Jim Rogers: “In 2002 it was bad, in 2008 it was worse and 2012 or 2013 is going to be worse still – be careful”
#12 Dr. Pippa Malmgren, the President and founder of Principalis Asset Management who once worked in the White House as an adviser to President Bush: “Market forces are increasingly determining what the options are and foreclosing on options policymakers thought they had. One option which is now under discussion involves permitting a country to temporarily leave the Euro, return to its native currency, devalue, commit to returning to the Euro at a better debt to GDP ratio, a better exchange rate and a better growth trajectory and yet not sacrifice its EU membership. I would like to say for the record that this is precisely the thought process that I expected to evolve,but when I proposed this possibility back in 2009, and again in September 2010, I had a 100% response from clients and others that this was “impossible” and many felt it was “ridiculous”. They may be right but this is the current state of the discussion. The Handelsblatt in Germany has reported this conversation, but wrongly assumes that the country that will exit is Germany. I think that Germany will have to exit if the Southern European states do not. Germany’s preference is to stay in the Euro and have the others drop out. The problem has been the Germans could not convince the others to walk away. But, now, market pressures are forcing someone to leave. Germany is pushing for that someone to be Italy. They hope that this would be a one off exception, not to be repeated by any other country. Obviously, though, if Italy leaves the Euro and reverts to Lira then the markets will immediately and forcefully attack Spain, Portugal and even whatever is left  of the already savaged Greeks. These countries will not be able to compete against a devalued Greece or Italy when it come to tourism or even infrastructure. But, the principal target will be France. The three largest French banks have roughly 450 billion Euros of exposure to Italian debt. So, further sovereign defaults are certainly inevitable, but that is true under any scenario. Growth and austerity will not do the trick, as ZeroHedge rightly points out. Ultimately, I will not be at all surprised to see Europe’s banking system shut for days while the losses and payments issues are worked out. People forget that the term “bank holiday” was invented in the 1930’s when the banks were shut for exactly the same reason.”
#13 Daniel Clifton, a policy strategist with Strategas Research Partners on the potential for more downgrades of U.S. debt: “We would expect further downgrades, a first downgrade from Moody’s and Fitch and possibly a second downgrade from S&P.”
#14 Warren Buffett on the problems in the eurozone: “The system as presently designed has revealed a major flaw. And that flaw won’t be corrected just by words. Europe will either have to come closer together or there will have to be some other rearrangement because this system is not working”
#15 David Kostin, equity strategist for Goldman Sachs: “The wide range of possible outcomes on both the super committee process and the unstable political economy in Europe drives our view that investors should assume the worst while hoping for the best.”
#16 Mark Mobius, the head of the emerging markets desk at Templeton Asset Management: “There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner”

November 20, 2011

Economist on Italy

 Below an excerpt from The Economist Special Report on Italy, worth reading to understand how the problem is not merely financial but deeply embedded in the rotten state of Italian