Friday, February 17, 2012
Credit Suisse The Sequel: "Probability Of The Largest Disorderly Default Loss In History On March 20 Has Increased"
A week ago we presented an excerpt from Credit Suisse's most excellent piece "The Flaw" - merely the latest in one of the best overviews of the neverending Greek soap opera by William Porter. Yet every soap opera eventually ends. Although when it comes to Nielsen ratings, the denouement is usually a whimper. In the case of Greece, it will be anything but. Yet listening to the daily cacafony of din from Europe's leaders, who are likely more clueless than the average reader as to what is really going on, one may be left with the impression that there is a simple solution to the problem, and Greece may be "saved... in hours." It can't. In fact, as of today, Porter's s conclusion is: "we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way."
As a reminder, Credit Suisse was the one smart enough bank which chose to completely ignore day to day newsflow out of Greece as it is literally noise with absolutely no signal. Wish we could say the same for FX traders. As such, CS' "view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating." Quite fascinating indeed, because they show to what extent an unravelling financial system will go to pretend that the number one unfixable problem in Europe - the lack of money good assets, available to either be sold, repoed, pledged, equitized, or otherwise monetized. As we have observed previously, at this point it doesn't matter for Greece- even if the country gets the second bailout, which will be used almost exclusively to recycle cash into the banking system, Europe will have a first lien on nearly 150% of its GDP. At that point the country is both a de facto and de jure colony of the Troika. The longer the bang, or whimper, is delayed, the fewer assets will remain in Greek possession, and the poorer the population will be for the inevitable fresh start, with or without the Euro.
So meandering regurgitations aside, because all this has been said one hundred times already, here is Credit Suisse's latest attempt at a fresh take on events.
We are cautious about reports of the exchange “running out of time”: the 20 March binding constraint is a GGB maturity. Greece is sovereign and has run out of money; it can choose the timetable. The case might be different if the maturity were an English law bond (but perhaps not much.)
The real issue remains the ECB’s exposure to the BoG, in our view. Protecting that (i.e., ensuring that Greece does not systematically default via introducing a new currency) becomes the bottom line, as the latest Flash explored.
Since our objection to ‘leaving EMU’ is that its corollary is systematic default, bank nationalization and the like, once the latter problems are a given, a situation towards which we seem to be heading rapidly in Greece, then the cost of the incremental step of introducing a new currency become less. Our view remains that the economy would subsequently euro-ize but potentially at a different cost level. The effect of the delay would have been to transfer the cost from Greek citizens (who have now moved substantial sums out of the country, providing in fact a source of subsequent BoP financing that makes the equation even more attractive) to the ECB. The core has a very serious problem and again should swerve, but the probability of a ‘crash’ is rising.
We remain very cautious about the long-term sustainability of the debt after restructuring, and it is just possible (not our core case) that the troika takes the rational decision that it is cheaper to let Greece default and reimburse the ECB for its approx. €30bn of GGB losses than to pay the rising but nominally €130bn. Yet it was only on 14 February (two days before writing) that the ECB was confidently talking of distributing its GGB profits, so we are cautious about second-guessing the analytical framework being used.
Overall, we are left with a sense that the probability of delivering the largest default loss in history in a disorderly way on or before 20 March has increased relative to doing so in an orderly way. (Our view remains that, in any case, the chance of a disorderly outcome after 20 March is high, so to that extent the immediate events are not really central to our view, but of course are fascinating).
Sprott strategist John Embry has never been a fan of the existing financial system. Today, he makes that once again quite clear in this interview with Egon von Grayerz' Matterhorn Asset Management in which he says: "I think that the current financial system, as we know it, will be totally destroyed, probably sooner rather than later. The next system will require gold backing to have any legitimacy. This has happened many times in history." Needless to say, he proceeds to explain why a monetary system based on gold, one in which one, gasp, lives according to one's means, is better. Logically, he also explains why the status quo, whose insolvent welfare world has nearly a third of a quadrillion in the form of unfunded future liabilities, will never let this happen. Much more inside.
From Matterhorn Asset Management
“The Current Financial System Will Be Totally Destroyed“
John Embry, the chief investment strategist at Sprott Asset Management, talks in this exclusive interview about the motives and the means of certain interests to prevent a free gold market; tells the reason why the gold price will remain high; shows the opportunities in silver; and explains: “Gold is about the furthest thing from a bubble that I can think of.“
By Lars Schall
An industry expert in precious metals, his experience as a portfolio management specialist spans more than 45 years: John Embry, the chief investment strategist at Sprott Asset Management. He began his investment career as a Stock Selection Analyst and Portfolio Manager at Great West Life. Mr. Embry then became a Vice President of Pension Investments for the entire firm. After 23 years with the firm, he became a Partner at United Bond and Share, the investment counseling firm acquired by Royal Bank in 1987. Afterwards he was named Vice-President, Equities and Portfolio Manager at RBC Global Investment Management, a $33 billion organization where he oversaw $5 billion in assets, including the Royal Canadian Equity Fund and the Royal Precious Metals Fund. In March 2003 Mr. Embry joined Sprott Asset Management with focus on the Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund and the Sprott Strategic Offshore Gold Fund Ltd. He plays an instrumental role in the corporate and investment policy of the firm.
Mr. Embry, the perhaps best report I have ever read on the gold market was “Not Free, Not Fair: The Long-Term Manipulation of the Gold Price,” written by Andrew Hepburn and you. (1) I would like to talk with you at the beginning about the findings of that report. First of all, why do you think it is relevant whether the gold price is free or not?
John Embry: Thank you for the very generous compliment. It is essential that the gold market be free. It functions as the so called “canary in the coal mine” and its price should be allowed to reflect excesses in a pure fiat monetary system. The continued suppression of the gold price was a key factor in the many financial bubbles which have essentially wrecked the monetary system as we know it.
What has the evidence been that the gold market isn’t a free market?
John Embry: Our report which was written 7 ½ years ago revealed all sorts of chicanery in the gold market and we only used evidence which could be corroborated. Considerable additional evidence has piled up subsequently but two smoking guns are the repetitive counter intuitive price action and evidence of widespread clandestine leasing of western central bank gold.
Who are the ones that don’t like a free gold market and which objectives do they have in mind by preventing a free gold market?
John Embry: The western governments, their central banks and the allied bullion banks are the culprits. They view gold as a mortal enemy of the fiat currency system. Gold has been real money for centuries and every paper money system in history has ultimately collapsed. This drives them to continuously denigrate and manipulate gold.
Through which tools is the gold price “managed“?
John Embry: The worst damage occurs in the so-called paper gold market where derivatives, naked shorting, vicious margin hikes, etc. are employed to fleece the long side who don’t have as deep pockets. In addition, the western central banks have supplied the physical gold necessary to effect the plan through their leasing.
Recently, I was told by a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul A. Volcker, that to his best knowledge “the U.S. has not intervened in the gold market for more than 40 years.“ (2) Do you think Mr. Volcker has the truth on his side?
John Embry: Mr. Volcker admitted that the U.S. had made a mistake by not intervening at one point in the gold market some 40 years, so to think that nothing has happened subsequently is extremely naïve. Technically he might be correct in the sense that swaps could have been employed and the intervention using U.S. gold could have been conducted by another party. Recently retired Fed Governor Kevin Warsh acknowledged U.S. gold swaps in correspondence with GATA just last year. (3)
Furthermore, Mr. Volcker seemed to suggest that central banks have some interest in the price of gold because of its effect on the currency markets. (4) What kind of relationship does exist between gold and the currency markets which are much bigger than the gold market?
John Embry: Very simple. Gold is a currency. Arguably it is the ultimate currency and the central bankers are acutely aware of this fact. Gold’s role as currency is once again coming to the fore and the central bankers hate that fact.
Are gold swap arrangements between central banks a) important for the “management“ of the gold price, and b) do they represent a means of intervention in the gold market?
John Embry: They are most certainly important because it allows central bankers to technically tell the truth because it is always another central bank that is utilizing the swapped gold to intervene in the market. It is a subterfuge.
Do you think the Western central banks have as much gold as they claim they have?
John Embry: I strongly suspect that they have materially less than they try to represent. The IMF permits a one line entry on their balance sheets which aggregates physical gold with gold receivables. That’s ridiculous and it is done to deceive analysts. For example, if the Americans had the 8,161 tonnes that they say they have, they would be delighted to submit to an outside audit and shut their detractors up. However, they stonewall all requests.
With its “QE to infinity“ program: would you say the Fed has exposed itself in a way as a hardcore goldbug entity?
John Embry: I believe they are fully aware of the extent to which they are debasing their money. We, the public, have to be the hardcore gold bugs to protect our wealth from their depredations.
It seems as if more and more gold is moving towards certain central banks and not away from them. Is this a solid assurance that the gold price will remain high?
John Embry: I believe so. The eastern central banks (China, Russia, et al) have accumulated a lot of dollars and realize they are at risk. Ergo, they buy gold. At the same time, I think the western central banks have run their inventories down to levels beyond which they won’t go. Thus, I think central banks collective gold buying will have a salutary impact on the price going forward.
In the event of another market meltdown, which seems rather likely, do you expect a sell-off in gold?
John Embry: There could be a minor sell-off just because there are so many algorhythyms influencing the market. It would be short lived because big money in the world now knows they need gold for protection.
Gold is in a bull market for ten years now. So an increasing number of people say it is in a bubble. Why would you say, in Gershwin’s words, “it ain’t necessarily so“?
John Embry: Gold’s price is directly related to the constant debasement of the currencies in which it is denominated. The creation of new paper money is dwarfing the amount of gold available. Gold is about the furthest thing from a bubble that I can think of.
What do you think in particular about Warren Buffett’s constant “Gold is in a bubble, I go for stocks“ talk? Does he serve here as an influential opinion maker in a specific role because he gets a lot of public attention? In other words: is he a fool or does he only act like a fool? (5)
John Embry: Warren Buffet sold out a long time ago. It’s too bad because he was a great stock picker once. Now he owns insurance companies, Wells Fargo and was a buyer of Goldman Sachs and G.E. in the global financial crisis. He is a member of the American establishment and has a lot to lose. He should have listened to his father Howard Buffett who was a U.S. Congressman and a true “hard money” advocate.
In your view, gold will gain in importance as a monetary asset in the years ahead, likely regaining an official role in the world’s financial system. Why do you think so?
John Embry: I think that the current financial system, as we know it, will be totally destroyed, probably sooner rather than later. The next system will require gold backing to have any legitimacy. This has happened many times in history.
The mining stocks both in gold and silver seem to me extremely undervalued. Do you agree?
John Embry: They are indeed, and they are being heavily manipulated by the same entities active in suppressing the gold price. In addition, many nefarious hedge funds now are active on the short side. The U.S. financial scene has become a total cesspool.
Are there key levels in the XAU and HUI that one should pay attention to as starting points of a mining stock rally?
John Embry: I tend to pay more attention to the HUI because it is the pure gold index. When the HUI takes out the 555 level with gusto, I think we are away to the races. However, this level is being aggressively defended by the bad guys. A higher gold price (through $2000 per oz.) will rectify this issue.
Why are you at Sprott Asset MGMT so very bullish related to silver?
John Embry: We think the supply-demand equation is ultimately better than even that of gold. New industrial and medical uses are exploding and because silver is “poor man’s gold,” investment demand for silver will go crazy when gold gets priced out of the average citizen’s capacity to buy. Given the small size of the market and very limited inventory, the price should go ballistic.
For your physical silver ETF you want to re-acquire physical silver in a big way. Do you think you could be pioneers (for other fund managers) in direct engagement with mines through direct and forward transactions, instead of going to the Comex? You certainly don’t want to “whoop” the silver price by your own buying, correct?
John Embry: I think that is a potential avenue particularly when the supply-demand equation gets progressively tighter in the future.
Is the silver market also subject of surreptitious interventions?
John Embry: Without question. In many ways it may be worse because it is a smaller market and J.P. Morgan Chase’s activities have been egregious. The fact that the CFTC has been investigating this for nearly four years without resolution is one of the great jokes of all time.
What is your information: to which extent the US silver ETFs are short and how many stocks of those have been used for covering future short contracts?
John Embry: I believe that they are but I can’t provide any information on the extent. When the very same organizations that have manipulated the market for years act as custodians for the ETF’s, it would be wise to be wary.
One highly interesting issue for me personally is the point in time when the Middle East countries will no longer sell their oil and natural gas for paper money. When do you think they will be paid for it with precious metals?
John Embry: I suspect this whole phenomenon could occur very quickly. When confidence in paper money is lost and I think we are rapidly approaching that moment, something like that would undoubtedly come to pass.
How do you think about the conflict around Iran viewed from a perspective of the petrodollar?
John Embry: The whole Iranian issue is very disturbing and I think the U.S ‘s motives might have more to do with the petrodollar than Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
One final question. IF the financial system goes under, one can expect massive supply shortfalls and disruptions in goods and services, particularly in the energy sector. Would you recommend to our readers to take precautions for such a scenario instead of hoping for the best outcome of the global financial crisis?
John Embry: Unfortunately yes. I am a great believer in cognitive dissonance. Most individuals don’t want to face the truth, particularly if it is very unpleasant. Those that do not suffer from this condition should take precautions because the world situation is presently very dangerous.
Thank you very much for taking your time, Mr. Embry!
(1) John Embry / Andrew Hepburn: “Not Free, Not Fair: The Long-Term Manipulation of the Gold Price”, published by Sprott Asset Management in August 2004 under:
(2) See Rob Kirby: “Manifest Destiny Derailed: Treason from Within“, published at Goldseek on January 31, 2012 under:
(3) Compare http://www.gata.org/files/GATAFedResponse-09-17-2009.pdf.
The relevant passage of Mr. Warsh’s letter to GATA said:
“In connection with your appeal, I have confirmed that the information withheld under Exemption 4? — that’s Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act — “consists of confidential commercial or financial information relating to the operations of the Federal Reserve Banks that was obtained within the meaning of Exemption 4. This includes information relating to swap arrangements with foreign banks on behalf of the Federal Reserve System and is not the type of information that is customarily disclosed to the public. This information was properly withheld from you.”
(4) See Rob Kirby: “Manifest Destiny Derailed: Treason from Within,“ Footnote 2.
(5) Compare for example in this context what Marshall Auerback has said in an interview about the supression of the silver price:
“It’s in contrast to the gold suppression, which is a central-bank orchestrated scheme. You’ve got a situation now where it seems to be being done amongst the banking community, but I have no doubt that it has being done with official encouragement, explicit or implicit. To give you an example, 10 years ago Warren Buffet bought a silver position, and he liquidated it a few months later. The story I heard from one of his dealers was that he basically told them, “Boys, it’s not politically correct to speculate in silver.” Now who told him that I don’t actually know; I suspect it came from government sources. More interesting to me is that he had had a significant position, and it was liquidated with a great degree of ease with a loss at time when it wasn’t easy to do. This suggests that there was an external agency involved. I have no doubt that there is some degree of government involvement as well, but the primary agents are the investment banks, the commercial banks here.”
Global investors either have extremely short memories or they are far too concrete, as my wife the psychologist would say. Saying that Greece is not a bank but a country means nothing. Almost all Europeans argue that a default by the Greek government would now be more straightforward and not as significant as the collapse and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, especially since the Eurozone, under the influence of the surplus countries, has effectively ‘ring-fenced’ Greece from the other 16 members. Lehman was not a very large factor in the global banking scene with less than one quarter the capital of the biggest US banks and with assets below those of more than 100 banks around the world. Greece might represent less than 3% of the GDP of the Eurozone, but when lined up against Lehman, Greece stands larger in its relevant market.
Anyone can read the newspapers, blogs, and Internet scribblings before the Lehman collapse and see that the impact of its collapse was not expected to be significant. Tim Geithner, then head of the New York Fed, worked to arrange the emergency liquidation of Lehman’s assets and there were expectations that the company could be sold to Bank of America or Barclays, but the Bank of England vetoed a sale to Barclays and the US government refused to lend any support to Bank of America in its effort to buy Lehman.
Rereading the documents and remembering the situation as I set out for a weekend cruise on the Chesapeake, the world was not worried. The market had already seen the rescues or restructuring of Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, so no one was worried.
This looked like another Bear Stearns, a manageable problem but this time the Bush administration was not interested in getting involved – ‘let the market solve this, don’t throw good money after the bad.’ So, what is the difference now? The world is as blasé about a Greek default or departure from the euro as it can be – credit spreads are dropping, the other weak Eurozone sovereigns are financing themselves easily, and everyone thinks the LTRO has solved the problem for the next year or two. Why should we worry about Greece? Who cares if their unemployment is 20.9% and climbing very fast, or that it is now in its fifth year of declining GDP? Let’s teach them a lesson!
Hubris is at the heart of this. Everyone says this cannot happen – we won’t allow it. Says who? The EU says: if it is written in an agreement, it must be totally correct, unchangeable, and followed at all costs. New realities can’t intervene and no slippage is allowed. Why the Germans are so sure that they know the future is beyond me. They are fallible too, but they won’t admit it, and the Greeks can’t make them budge. Haven’t they looked around? Santorini has a different economic and social cost structure than Wiesbaden.
Humanity (and common sense) seems totally lacking in the negotiations with the Greeks and a violent backlash would be totally understandable. Why the countries that have been fattening up their current account surpluses selling products to Greeks, whom they should have known were basically broke – just as they always have been – should be paid 100% on the euro is beyond me. Major losses should apply not only to sovereign borrowings but also to accounts receivable for cars, electronics, and other consumer goods. The market has not opened its eyes to the impact this Greek unraveling will have.
The Eurozone will be mortally wounded and the world will suffer a significant recession – maybe as deep as 2008. European banks will lose much of their capital base and many should be bankrupt, but just as in the Lehman aftermath, the governments will try to save the banks and the banks’ bondholders, solvent or not.
As the bank appetite for Eurozone sovereign paper will be decimated, austerity will probably follow shortly, followed by deflation and uncontrollable money creation. The European recession should be one for the record books.
You might not want to read this article if you have a weak stomach. Most Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on in the dark corners of America, and when people find out the truth it can come as quite a shock. Many of you will not believe some of the things Americans are doing just to survive. Some families are living in sewers and drain tunnels, some families are living in tents, some families are living in their cars, some families will make ketchup soup for dinner tonight and some families are even eating rats. Some homeless shelters in America are so overloaded that they are actually sending people out to live in the woods. As you read this, there are close to 50 million Americans that are living below the poverty line, and that number rises a little bit more every single day. America was once known as the greatest nation on earth, but now there is decay and economic despair almost everywhere you look. Yes, money certainly cannot buy happiness, but the lack of it sure can bring a lot of pain. As the economy continues to decline, the suffering that we see all around us is going to get a lot worse, and that is a very frightening thing to think about.
The following is a half hour documentary produced by the BBC entitled "Poor America". Trust me, this is a must watch. Your heart will break as you hear some American children talk about what they have to do for food....
Wasn't that video absolutely mind blowing?
Those of us that still live comfortably are often completely unaware of what life is like out on the streets of America at this point.
There are millions upon millions of Americans that have lost all hope and that are living on the very edge of life and death.
And more join the ranks of the hopeless with each passing day. This upcoming weekend approximately 80,000 people in the state of Michigan will lose their unemployment benefits.
So what are those people going to do after that?
They have already been unable to find work month after month. Their savings are most certainly gone. Now the only money they had coming in is going to be eliminated.
Yes, I have written many times about how the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt and cannot afford to be giving out so much money. My point here is to show the other side of the equation. There are millions upon millions of Americans that are barely hanging on and there are no jobs for them. The suffering that those families are going through is very real.
Millions of other families are trying to get by on the incomes they pull in from part-time jobs. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that are working part-time jobs but that would like full-time jobs is now higher than it has been at any other time in the last two years. The number of the "working poor" just continues to increase, but most Americans don't have much sympathy for them because they "have jobs".
Well, when you are making 8 bucks an hour it can be incredibly tough to make it from month to month.
Just look at how much it costs to buy the basic things that we need.
Without gasoline, most of us would not even be able to get to our jobs. The price of gasoline has increased 83 percent since Barack Obama first took office, and it is poised to soar even higher. Right now, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is $3.51. Never before has the average price of gas gone above $3.50 so early in the year. Many believe that we could set a new all-time record this summer.
But last year was bad enough. In 2011, the average American family spent over $4,000 on gasoline.
So when you are making just a few hundred dollars per week, it can be a massive struggle just to put gas in your car and food on the table.
The article that I wrote the other day about the decline of Detroit really struck a nerve. All over America, people can see similar things happening to their own neighborhoods. People are scared and they want some answers.
Well, the truth is that we should have never allowed tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of our national wealth to be shipped out of the country.
Just check out this stunning photo which compares the decline of Detroit to the rise of Shanghai, China.
Do you think that it is just a coincidence that Detroit is falling apart and that cities in China look sparkly and new?
No, the truth is that it is a natural consequence of our foolish economic policies.
There are hundreds of communities all over the country where third world conditions are setting in. For example, the following is how one bloggerdescribes what life is like in a decaying suburb of Phoenix called Maryville....
Crime and gangs are widespread. Most houses have either fallen into disrepair, or been remade with outside walls sporting spikes and ironwork. Many of the front lawns are now just dirt (or worse, gravel), the pools green and lethal.
Now we stand on the precipice of another major global financial crisis. Economic conditions in America are going to become significantly worse. The politicians in Washington D.C. may make sure that the boys and girls on Wall Street are always taken care of, but there will be no bailouts for the large numbers of Americans that are about to lose their jobs and their homes.
If you want an idea of what is coming, just look at what is happening in Greece. 25 percent of the businesses have shut down, one-third of all money has been pulled out of Greek bank accounts and unemployment and poverty are absolutely rampant.
For years, a lot of prominent voices out there were screaming and yelling about the dangers posed by our soaring trade deficits and our soaring budget deficits.
But the American people did not listen. They just kept sending the same politicians back to Washington D.C. over and over.
As a result, soon millions of those same Americans will find themselves doing things that they never dreamed that they would do just to survive.
The Economic Collapse
Overall, the situation is getting much worse. They’re spending other peoples’ money, they’re printing money, so overall, I’d be very worried about 2013-2014, and maybe even later in 2012 if it becomes clear that 2013 is not going to be fun. - in the money man report
An inefficient, weak tax system. A bloated military budget. Multiple wars being waged simultaneously.
You can be excused for thinking the preceding sentence is about the United States, but in fact, it describes the Roman Empire two millennium ago as it began its long, hundred-year decline. Jeff Gundlach, CEO with DoubleLine Capital LP in Los Angeles, used the parallels between Ancient Rome and the U.S. to frame his latest webcast this week.
In the webcast, Mr. Gundlach goes on to point out that, like the Roman Empire of yesteryear, the U.S. today maintains a massive debt load and by far the world’s largest military budget. And like Rome, where a destitute underclass was granted little social mobility, a similar “underclass” is emerging in the U.S. as the country is dogged by a sluggish jobs recovery and high unemployment.
But of course, given the two-thousand year gap between these two societies, making comparisons works on a broader scale and not so well when taking a more nuanced view. Mr. Gundlach’s webcast is accompanied by a 70-slide presentation that highlights the many unique problems facing the U.S. today. Here’s a link to theslideshow hosted by Business Insider so you can take a look for yourself.
Mr. Gundlach transitioned his pessimistic overview of the U.S. economy with a cautious outlook for stocks this year. He warned investors to be cautious on risky assets in 2012, even despite the blistering hot performance stocks posted in January.
Mr. Gundlach is also bearish on financial stocks in particular. He warned investors holding Bank of America that despite the stock’s price rebound, anyone holding shares should sell immediately.