Fitch Strikes Again
Following on the heels of the recent euro area downgrades by S&P, Fitch has now also issued several new downgrades. While this has not been unexpected, it further complicates the efforts to bring the crisis under control. Of course one must always keep in mind that these downgrades are only belated confirmations of what the markets have long ago recognized and priced in already. The only new problems raised by such downgrades come from indexation and the rules governing the fiduciary responsibilities of certain institutional investors. Investors who allocate their bond investments by the weightings that such bonds have in bond indexes are forced to sell bonds that are removed from indexes due to rating changes – this is one of the effects currently plaguing Portugal's bond market.
This in turn then forces clearing firms such as LCH Clearnet to alter the margin respectively haircut requirements of the bonds concerned in repo transactions, if their spread over the benchmark (a mixture of several AAA rated euro area government bonds) increases beyond a certain minimum threshold.
These margin increases in turn then tend to set off a spiral of even lower bond prices, provoking more downgrades and so forth. Italy has just been spared this fate as Clearnet lowered margin requirements on Italian bonds again following their LTRO induced recovery. Alas, Italy is in great danger to re-enter the death spiral if more credit rating downgrades are issued.
Fitch issued five major downgrades on Friday – and Italy and Spain were among them:
“The credit ratings of Italy, Spain and three other euro-area countries were cut by Fitch Ratings, which said the five nations lack financing flexibility in the face of the regional debt crisis.
Italy, the euro area’s third-largest economy, was cut two levels to A- from A+. The rating on Spain was also lowered two notches, to A from AA-. Ratings on Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus were also reduced, while Ireland’s rating was maintained.
The downgrades, flagged a month ago by Fitch, come as Greece negotiates with creditors on how to avoid a default and other euro nations struggle to bolster the region’s defenses against contagion should those talks fail. While sovereign-bond yields have fallen in Italy, Spain in recent weeks as the European Central Bank added liquidity, the countries downgraded yesterday still lack financial flexibility, Fitch said.
“The divergence in monetary and credit conditions across the euro zone and near-term economic outlook highlight the greater vulnerability” these nations face in the event of financing shocks, Fitch said. “These sovereigns do not, in Fitch’s view, accrue the full benefits of the euro’s reserve- currency status.”
Belgium’s rating was cut to AA from AA+, while that of Cyprus was pared to BBB- from BBB. Slovenia was downgraded to A from AA-. Ireland’s long-term rating was maintained at BBB+.
All the countries were removed from “ratings watch negative,” though they retain a “negative outlook,” which implies the possibility of a downgrade within two years, according to Fitch.”
While Italy and Spain remain the biggest worries for the euro area, one should not forget that Belgium is so to speak part of the 'hard currency core's' weak underbelly. For the moment, the markets are giving Belgium some rope, but this doesn't mean it won't become a focus again at some point in the future.
Credit Market Charts
Below is our customary collection of charts updating the usual suspects: CDS spreads, bond yields, euro basis swaps and a few other charts. Charts and price scales are color coded (readers should keep the different scales in mind when assessing 4-in-1 charts). Prices are as of Friday's close.
On Friday, the markets were still fairly exuberant. This may change at any moment, given the fact that the euro area crisis has merely received a stay of execution by the ECB's latest interventions, so to speak. The summit currently underway and the still stalled Greek debt negotiations are apt to throw a monkey wrench into the happy 'risk on' partying.
On the other hand, a second huge 36 month LTRO exercise is to be put in place in late February, so the markets have to look forward to that as well.
On Friday most CDS spreads and yields continued to retreat, but Portugal's were once again a notable exception. Portugal is now widely regarded as a 'Greece in waiting'. CDS on Portugal's government debt have hit a new all time high of 1,431 basis points on Friday and its 10 year yield landed above 15% for the first time since Portugal joined the euro.
5 year CDS on Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain – CDS on Portugal hit a new all time high – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on France, Belgium, Ireland and Japan – small bounce in CDS on Japan – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Austria – all still falling – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia – a few small bounces here – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Turkey – all bouncing a tad on Friday. Bahrain still near its recent highs – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on Germany, the US and the Markit SovX index of CDS on 19 Western European sovereigns – these were all still heading lower on Friday. The SovX seems to be in a corrective formation – so far one can make the case that it is an a-b-c type corrective wave, but it may well become more complex as time goes on – click chart for better resolution.
Three month, one year, three year and five year euro basis swaps – a slight dip on Friday – click chart for better resolution.
Our proprietary unweighted index of 5 year CDS on eight major European banks (BBVA, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredito) – approaching another major support level and bouncing a bit on Friday – click chart for better resolution.
5 year CDS on two big Austrian banks, Erstebank and Raiffeisen – a small bounce – click chart for better resolution.
10 year government bond yields of Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain – except for Spain – yields continued to head lower on Friday, with the exception of Portugal and Greece. Spain's ten year yield is now at an important level of lateral support – click chart for better resolution.
UK gilts, Austria's 10 year government bond yield, Ireland's 9 year government bond yield and the Greek 2 year note – click chart for better resolution.
Portugal's 10 year government bond yield – another new high, closing on Friday above 15% for the first time since Portugal joined the euro – click chart for better resolution.
Charts by: Bloomberg
It is that time of the year again – our semi-annual funding drive begins today. Give us a little hand in offsetting the costs of running this blog, as advertising revenue alone is insufficient. You can help us reach our modest funding goal by donating either via paypal or bitcoin. Those of you who have made a ton of money based on some of the things we have said in these pages (we actually made a few good calls lately!), please feel free to up your donations accordingly (we are sorry if you have followed one of our bad calls. This is of course your own fault). Other than that, we can only repeat that donations to this site are apt to secure many benefits. These range from sound sleep, to children including you in their songs, to the potential of obtaining privileges in the afterlife (the latter cannot be guaranteed, but it seems highly likely). As always, we are greatly honored by your readership and hope that our special mixture of entertainment and education is adding a little value to your life!
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
Most read in the last 20 days:
- A Striking Chart
The Economy and the Stock Market As long time readers know, we are always paying close attention to the manufacturing sector, which is far more important to the US economy than is generally believed. In terms of gross output it is the largest sector of the economy, and it should of course be obvious that saving, investment and production are the only ways to create wealth. What's left of the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refinery. Photo credit: Paul Raphaelson Contrary...
- Trump and Putin Narrowly Escape Assassination Attempt
The Gloves are Coming Off First a little bit of recent history. Readers are probably aware that some questions about the occasionally malfunctioning Deep State android... no, wait, we'll start again. Questions have recently been raised about the health of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by various “alt-right” tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, such as this one. The monsters are normally hiding under Hillary's bed, but lately they have come out into the open...
- US Economy - Curious Pattern in ISM Readings
Head Fake Theory Confirmed? This is a brief update on our last overview of economic data. Although we briefly discussed employment as well, the overview was as usual mainly focused on manufacturing, which is the largest sector of the economy by gross output. Pepsi factory in Baltimore, 1956 Photo via pinterest.com Readers may recall that we have pointed out for some time that there was quite a large gap between the data reported in regional Fed manufacturing...
- Why the Fed Destroyed the Market Economy
What Have You Done for Me Lately? Swing voters are a fickle bunch. One election they vote Democrat. The next they vote Republican. For they have no particular ideology or political philosophy to base their judgment upon. The primacy of the wallet. They don’t give a rip about questions of small government or big government. Nor do they have any druthers about the welfare or warfare state. In effect, they really don’t care. What’s important to the...
- How is Real Wealth Created?
An Abrupt Drop Let’s turn back to our regular beat: the U.S. economy and its capital markets. We’ve been warning that the Fed would never make any substantial increase to interest rates. Not willingly, at least. Groping in the dark, Yellen-style Each time Fed chief Janet Yellen opens her mouth, out comes a hint that more rate hikes might be coming. But each time, it turns out that the economy is not as robust as she had believed... and that a rate hike isn’t...
- Janet Yellen’s Shame
Playing Politics In honest capitalism, you do what you can to get other people to voluntarily give you money. This usually involves providing goods or services they think are worth the price. You may get a little wild and crazy from time to time, but you are always called to order by your customers. In the market economy, consumers reign supreme. There is no such thing as a “lost” vote in the marketplace; every penny spent affects production. Mises noted: “Consumers...
- Get Ready for a New Crisis – in Corporate Debt
Imposter Dollar OUZILLY, France – We’re going back to basics here at the Diary. We’re getting everyone on the same page... learning together... connecting the dots... trying to figure out what is going on. The new three dollar bill issued by the Apprehensive States of America. We made a breakthrough when we identified the source of so many of today’s bizarre and grotesque trends. It’s the money – the new post-1971 dollar. This new dollar is green. You...
- The Economy, the Stock Market and the Fed
John Hussman on Recent Developments We always look forward to John Hussman's weekly missive on the markets. Some people say that he is a “permabear”, but we don't think that is a fair characterization. He is rightly wary of the stock market's historically extremely high valuation and the loose monetary policy driving the surge in asset prices. The S&P 500 Index and the NYSE advance-decline line. Most market internals weakened steadily until early February 2016, but...
- Donald’s Electoral Struggle
Wicked and Terrible After touting her pro-labor union record, the Wicked Witch of Chappaqua rhetorically asked, “why am I not 50 points ahead?” Her chief rival bluntly responded: “because you’re terrible.”* No truer words have been uttered by any of the candidates about one of their opponents since the start of this extraordinary presidential campaign! Electoral map (note that the coloration may no longer be applicable...) That Hillary Clinton is...
- Hanjin Marooning in San Pedro Bay
Global Trade Reversal Expansions and contractions in global trade have played out over long secular trends for thousands of years. The Silk Road, for example, was established by the Han Dynasty of China in 130 BC, and allowed for continuous trade between East and West for nearly 1,600 years. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was also a conduit for culture and knowledge among its network of civilizations. A map of the main ancient Silk Road - click to...
- Great Causes, a Sea of Debt and the 2017 Recession
Great Cause NORMANDY, FRANCE – We continue our work with the bomb squad. Myth disposal is dangerous work: People love their myths more than they love life itself. They may kill for money. But they die for their religions, their governments, their clans... and their ideas. Famous French hippie and author Voltaire. He wears the same sardonic grin in every painting, whether he's depicted at a young or an old age, doesn't matter. His real name was François-Marie Arouet; he...
- The Donald Versus Killary: War or Peace?
War: A Warning from the Past Although history does not exactly repeat itself, it does provide parallels and sometimes quite ominous ones. Such is the case with the current U.S. Presidential election and the one which occurred one hundred years earlier. The Donald probably has the better slogan... The dominating question which hung over the 1916 campaign was whether the country would remain neutral in regard to the horrific slaughter which was taking place on the...