Archív značiek: bailout

We are globally freer

Index of Economic Freedom was released last week. Slovakia was 57th down 15 places from previous year. The main reason behind decline of economic freedom in Slovakia was higher taxation, non-flexible labor market regulation and slow and inefficient judiciary system. We belong among other 59 countries where economic freedom decreased this year. On the other hand the economic freedom globally is on its highest levels for 20 years; it was lowest in 1997.


The freest economies are Hong-Kong, Singapore, Australia, Switzerland and New Zeeland. But still 65 % of population is living mostly in not economically free countries due to the fact that most populated countries are India and China and they are considered as not full free economies. The US is another surprise. And it’s not difficult to see why. The U.S. is losing ground. Marginal tax rates exceeding 43% and they cannot finance runaway government spending. The national debt is skyrocketing and Obama administration continues to shackle entire sectors of the economy with regulation, including health care, finance and energy. The intervention impedes both personal freedom and economic prosperity.

To have more economic freedom we need more market oriented reforms not regulations. And it seems to me that in Europe this is only visible with connection to Britain whose representatives threaten from time to time that they leave EU if reforms are not going to happen. The same we heard from the country’s chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday (15 January). He stated that the UK will leave the European Union if the bloc refuses to reform. „It is the status quo which condemns the people of Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline,“ he added. He also urged that Europe’s labour market was becoming increasingly uncompetitive and was falling behind China and other economic blocs.

The European Central Bank said last year that it will use stricter rules when stress testing banks’ balance sheets. But it seems that this year is everything different. ECB allegedly favor 6% capital requirement in bank stress test and not 8 % was discussed last year. Final number could be finally smaller because small number of countries want an easier benchmark and may press for compromise lower than 6%. We will see if stress tests will not be just complete farce. On the other hand the European Central Bank is concerned that national differences in how bad debt is classified could cripple its probe into the health of euro-area banks. European banks’ bad loans are classified according to a variety of national rules, which makes a comparison among lenders difficult. The aim of the ECB is to define as non-performing all exposures, including loans, debt securities, financial guarantees and other commitments, which are past due for more than 90 days. So finally we can have more serious problems in banking sector than we think.

Switzerland has announced its intention of becoming a renminbi hub in December 2012 and competes with other European financial centers as Britain, Germany and France. The signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China earlier this year might give Switzerland a boost. China´s intention to have reserve currency with connection of gold hoarding is imminent. The big problem in China remains still the same. An out-of-control credit creation process which is blowing up. Instead of crushing credit creation, the PBOC’s liquidity rationing has forced distressed companies into high-interest-cost products in the shadow-banking world. But Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank by assets, said that it has no plans to rescue investors in a troubled off-balance-sheet investment trust product named Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product which matured January 31st with outstanding 492 million. And If the trust product goes into default, it could possibly be the first default to test the China´s financial system. We will see and we must to wait till the end of the month.

We finish today with just two quotes from the Dennis Lockhart, the Atlanta Fed President who stated that “One of the stupidest things a central banker could do is comment on the stock market“ and then he added that the stock market is not „a bubble in any way“. Not bad.

Matúš Pošvanc

ECB four-flush

We already know that ECB is prepared to use so called OMT mechanism to buy on secondary markets government bonds in trouble. The only thing we know is that ECB is prepared but close details were never revealed to public. But the rhetoric was so strong that markets calmed down for now. Lower interests’ rates have been introduced two weeks ago. This week some hidden sources from ECB have revealed that ECB is considering introducing negative rates for commercial lenders who park excess cash at the ECB to minus 0.1 percent from zero. It would be the first time the central bank has adjusted interest rates by less than a quarter of a percentage point. The true is that policy doesn’t yet have a consensus, the sources said. But I still think that it is more rhetoric than real policy decision. ECB has still some other option to intervene on markets as another round of LTRO, similar QE policy as we are witnessing in the US or direct forex interventions to which Czech central bank have decided two weeks ago.  So we will see. But European leaders must be a little bit desperate because this news are coming with another measure which simply put should decrease extensive public debts by new debts. Yes you are reading correctly. The European Union is allegedly considering whether it could encourage countries to make long-term economic changes by offering them loans at below-market rates. Loans would be more suitable for smaller countries which have more difficult access to market sources. The only positive news is that loans for reforms would not be available to countries running excessive macroeconomic imbalances or under bailout.blafovat_karty

Bundesbank gave noticed in the report from last week that southern European countries and their banking sector are still within the same vicious circle. According to Bundesbank Italian banks have increased their holdings of Italian public debt from €240bn to €415bn since November 2011 (+ 73pc). Spanish banks have raised their holdings of Spanish debt €166bn to €299. (+81pc) and Irish banks are up 60pc with Portuguese banks up 51pc. And we can only consider as one of the consequence apart of OMT mechanism why yields on sovereign debts still on sustainable levels are. But this state is not definitely sing of health banking system.  Still works but not too long.

The best example of “effectiveness of the EU” is definitely moving parliamentary sessions from Brussels to Strasbourg. It is such a good idea that also Members of the European Parliament are tired of the monthly move from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week of plenary sessions. France on the other hand vetoes any change. After MEPs tried to merge two plenary sessions into one week last year to cut down on traveling time, France took the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union. What do you think happened? They won. So now MP´s are trying to change their strategy. They proposed that MP´s should in future be allowed to choose the seat of their institution themselves – with no mention of Strasbourg or Brussels.  We will see if they succeed.

As we are always emphasizing it is not only about public debt. The extension of the debt of the whole western society is enormous. And public debt is only one part of it. It is very likely that much of private debt is not effective as well as public one.  The situation is very considerable in the UK. Total personal debt in the UK has reached record highs – 1.4 trillion pounds. It means that households owe 94 percent of the UK’s economic output last year and an average household debt is about 54,000 pounds. It is almost twice the level of a decade ago. What is also more dangerous indebted households in the poorest 10 percent of population have average debts more than four times their annual income. So it is not very surprising that more than 130K people declare personal bankruptcy each year.

Globally, 86% of companies do not plan to hire in 2014. It is the output from the global survey within 11,000 companies around the world. Only 33 % of them are optimistic about the economic future for next year. Among most optimistic are US companies because 41 % of them presuppose better economic conditions in 2014 and only 19 % of them stated that they are not plan to hire anybody in 2014.

As we mention many times in the past China is preparing to enter world currencies world. One of the evidence is its vast activities in currency swaps with many countries or alleged increasing of their official gold holdings. The another step within this policy was last week clarification what the People’s Bank of China is going to do. There are two interesting points. First PBOC said the country does not benefit any more from increases in its foreign-currency holdings. It means that bank will very probably rein in dollar purchases as well. The second is that China’s central bank will “basically” end normal intervention in the currency market and will increase the role of market exchange rates and broaden the yuan’s daily trading limit. So do we see the step by step rise of new reserve currency? From my point of view, yes.

FED´s minutes revealed the dispute among members of monetary committee that they are prepared to tapper their easy-money policy within a few coming months. I still do not believe to that because it is not only about the unemployment rate which is if not manipulated at least managed according to some allegations that the last unemployment report before election in 2012 was manipulated. It is also about the structure of unemployment which is very bad. But who knows. On the other hand Bernanke has said last week that if FED tappers the policy of low interest rates remains for a longer period of time. It is clear evidence that nothing has been changed and trillion of US dollars from FED does not really help to economy. Otherwise we will see at least speculation about higher interest rates which also Keynesians consider as a healthy state of economy.

Matúš Pošvanc

Financial and Natural Hurricanes

Haiya is the name for the biggest hurricane ever which was heading towards Filipinas this week. According to experts there is not almost nothing built on the Philippines that can withstand winds like that. We know natural disasters very well but do we heading into the some which are caused by men? Very probably yes. Monetary policies are the best example of these days’ potential catastrophes for human mankind. They are direct proof that nothing has changed since 2008. Otherwise we would have higher rates. As we wrote last week ECB finally cut the basic rates by 25 bps to historic lows and they will keep them unchanged for a longer period of time. The reasons behind were according to president Draghi low inflation expectations, risk of the growth remain downside as well as unemployment rate and ECB expects that Euro area will face prolonged period of low inflation if not deflation. The Bank of England unchanged its policy but surprisingly our brothers Czechs entered currency wars. Although CNB decided to keep interest rates unchanged it decides on interventions on the foreign exchange market to weaken the koruna so that the exchange rate of the koruna against the euro is hold close to CZK 27.huricane

“Today there is only one country and only one in command: Germany” said Romano Prodi last week. What Europe needs is according to him that ECB should fulfill its inflationary targets by 2 %. Prodi said that Italy is in trouble because of low inflation and that it is trapped in deflationary spiral. Italy has primary budget surplus but its debt to GDP ratio is still climbing due to the unsatisfactory nominal GDP growth. Prodi also urged for creation of “Latin front” against Germany. He claims that Germany is obsessed by low inflation as teenagers are obsessed by sex. There is nothing strange that some Italians claim for lowering of purchasing power of Euro. They did it with their currency before Euro all the time. But as we have emphasized many times these opinions are still stronger and I think that higher inflation times is slowly coming into the Europe; hopefully not end by the word “hyper”.

We had another whole country protests in Greece for 24 hours. Protests were taking place as Greece holds talks with its ‘troika’ of creditors. Labor unions were fear that politicians will impose another wage and pension cuts to meet the terms of the bailout and that they introduce more job cuts in the public sector, as well as privatization. But we are accustomed with these news and we will see more strikes in the near future. That is for sure.

China´s Premier Li Keqiang declared last week that China needs grow at least 7.2 percent annually to create 10 million jobs a year which is necessary for employment as one of the country´s priorities. His remarks were made at a union meeting two weeks ago but were only published in full this week, just days before a pivotal Communist Party plenum to set policy opens. He also warned on easy credit supply, which is about 100 trillion yuan ($16.4 trillion) what means that is already twice the size of China´s GDP. And new credit could cause inflation which is for Chines leaders’ dangerous game in one billion men country. Growth at the peace of 7.2 percent is quite ambitious plan because as we informed you many times China is suspicious to adjust official economic data. There is also news from time to time which supports this theory as for example the one from the last week. Chinese leaders called for stopping expanding industries such as steel and cement in which supply outstrips demand to cut overcapacity of these industries. And as data shows cement manufacturers use only 71.9 percent of their capacity from 2012 and the steel industry use only 72 percent. So as you can see the situation around the growth of GDP is at least cloudy. On the other hand everybody expects introduction of some reforms on their Third Plenum meeting in terms of industry deregulation, financial liberalization, and reforms to land titles, state-owned enterprises and social security. We will see what this meeting brings to the globe.

The most important data for this week from the US were non-farm payrolls. So October nonfarm payrolls soar to 204,000. It was a nearly double digit contrary to the expectations on 120,000. Unemployment rate in the US is at 7.3%, a little bit up from 7.2% in September. Does it mean that FED changes its policy in the near future? It is difficult to tell. But as the UBS warns FED is trapped. According to the UBS the Fed is facing two major risks. First is that premature tapering could disrupt markets and triggers global turmoil across all assets classes with consequence of weakening already weak economy. Second is that if FED delays tapering of its policy of 85 billion purchase program it will fuels creating of asset price bubbles, which could burst eventually and do major damage as well. So you can choose as usually what really happens. Maybe we will witness no tapering at all but increasing of QE. Who knows?

Matúš Pošvanc

More Debt Means Better Rating

The most important news of this week was connected with US and debt ceiling debate. But let´s start as usually with Europe. Austerity measures are more and more unpopular. One of the examples is Ireland today. Their budget proposal is not as austerity budget as it should have been. Ireland will drain a further 1.5pc of GDP from the economy in fiscal cuts and taxes over the next year but against the plan of 1.8pc. Finance minister Michael Noonan told this week that the nation can take no more. Ireland took €60 bn. liabilities of Irish banking sector in 2008 not to cause chain reaction within the Europe. But this step brought total disaster for the country and their public finances. Today´s public debt is 123 pc of GDP and budget deficit is running on 7.3 pc GDP.

Ireland is not alone. We still emphasize that the next problem of Europe will be very probably Spain. Their 10 Y treasury rates are still on sustainable levels, actually they are almost on the year lows but there are many problems within Spanish banking system. Bad loans in the country amounted to $247 billion in August what is a new record-breaking 12.12% of all loans outstanding and what is 30% higher than any previous years. This could end only with the help of the ESM or direct interventions from ECB. So be prepared.

Another sinner is Italy. It must introduce new austerity measures. Italian politicians have decided to sell some state assets. If you are interested you can buy more than 50 historic sites among them Grand Inquisitor’s villa, Orsini Castle near Rome, which was built for Pope Nicholas III in the 1270s or Villa Mirabello near Milan, built in the 18th century by Cardinal Durini, the Grand Inquisitor of Malta. The plan is to raise more than 500 million euros and Italians hope that castles and villas will be converted into the touristic facilities, creating much-needed jobs for the country’s struggling economy.

There is no advice for hopeless. We know how any asset bubbles end; by bursting. And we know what reasons behind the last one bubble in the US were – easy money and enforcement of regulations supporting non-credible owners to borrow. Similar situation is happening in the UK today. U.K. house prices rose to a record last month and government introduced this week a new program providing government-guaranteed mortgages to buyers with smaller deposits. Bank of England is easing and leaving basic rates at low levels. Does not seem to you at least a little bit similar to US before 2008?

China was declaring this week that the dollar regime as reserve currency is unsustainable. The China’s official Press Agency released news concerning U.S. debate about the debt ceiling that it is time to start considering building a “de-Americanized world” which would not be based on U.S. good or bad news. Does China want to lead the movement? Not so fast. We have to realize that China is one of the biggest U.S. debt holders. Another interesting point is that it seems to be very probable that during this political turmoil they were buying nothing else as US treasuries.  China’s foreign-exchange reserves rose last quarter by the most in more than two years and hit a record $3.66 trillion at the end of September. We won’t know for a while where the money went, but a big chunk very probably must have gone into US Treasuries. So as any other super political power these days China is declaring opposite what it is actually doing. But this is a new normal world. We have to accustom to it.

During the last week we had the most news concerning the situation in the US. As the new normal the triple “A” rating of U.S. was placed on rating watch negative by Fitch Ratings, which was connected with the fact that the government is not able to negotiate to raise its borrowing limit. So, more debt means better rating; at least for now. Finally the Senate passed the bill to reopen the government and allow fund new spending till January 15th 2014 and prepare room for negotiation about the extending of the debt ceiling. It is estimated that the debt ceiling should have been raised at least for another $ 1.1 trillion


. Politicians let themselves time till December 13 th as a target date for budget negotiations.  In other words we will see the same situation as today at the beginning of the next year.  What was quite interesting was reaction of the official China’s credit rating agency Dagong which has downgraded the U.S. rating from A to A- due to the fact that the fundamental situation that the debt growth rate significantly  outpaces that of fiscal income and GDP. This is correct.  But Dagong is not recognized by the SEC, and it does not have the influence of the big three: S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch. Other fact is that China itself is in the very same situation as US and this statement was more or less political one concerning the above mentioned fact of op-ed calling for a „De-Americanized“ world. And what should we afraid more? FED. The Fed’s balance sheet increased by over $50 billion in one week, by $100 billion in the past month, and by just shy of $1 trillion in the past year. That is what we should be aware more. US debt is on the second place.

Matus Posvanc

Nothing Has Been Solved

The Euro crisis is not definitely solved. Greece unemployment rate in April 2013 was 26.9% compared to 23.1% in April 2012 and 26.8% in March 2013. The number of employed amounted to 3,636,042 persons. The number of unemployed amounted to 1,337,621 while the number of inactive to 3,337,051. It means that 3.6 million people in Greece are working to support 4.6 million of inactive people. And we had another problem in the country as well. Non-performing loans just surged to €66 billion, amounting to a whopping 29% at the end of March from a „manageable“ 24.2% at end-December. That’s a ridiculous 20% increase in total NPLs in three months that was only exposed due to the Troika’s stress testing!grecko_nepokoje

Portugal’s president threw country into disarray on Thursday calling for early elections next year. President Silva proposed a cross-party agreement between political parties to guarantee wide support for austerity measures needed for Portugal to exit its bailout next year, followed by elections. It was surprise for Prime Coelho who thought he had overcome a cabinet crisis. The 10 Y yields on governmental bonds were automatically almost 8 % which creates unsustainable environment to serve country´s debt.

France is destroying 8,000 jobs a day.” It said Pierre Gattaz, the new leader of business federation in France. It is probably overblown but it illustrates the situation in the country. France is being suffocated by high taxes and an over-regulated system and rising unemployment is direct outcome. Christophe de Margerie, head of the energy giant Total, said it very clearly: “The real problem we have in France is the state. Some 55pc of GDP in the hands of the state, and it is not being very well run. We live in a nanny culture where people expect the state to take care of everything.”

The International Monetary Fund lowered its 2013 global GDP growth forecast to 3.1% from 3.3%. According to IMF US will be down to 1.7% from 1.9% and the euro area GDP to contract 0.6% in 2013, downgraded from the previous estimate of a 0.3% contraction. The revision was made for 2014 as well.

The Japanese government plans to adopt a different measure of inflation. The government plans to use so called „core-core“ CPI which excludes volatile prices of fresh food and ass well as energy costs. The change could result in more pressure being put on the central bank to keep flooding the market with yen as the inflation target becomes harder to achieve. Ok. So it seems to me that inflate to infinity is the government official plan now.

As I mentioned above we had the FOMC minutes and Ben Bernanke appearance. The FOMC minutes have shown that it is very probable that the committee is divided about the present 85 billion bond buy policy and the final confusion came from the chairman who claimed that “Highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future is what’s needed” which is a little bit contrary to the FOMC minutes. We had a resignation of one member of the committee afterwards when Elizabeth A. Duke submitted her resignation following day which could be a logical response of what the „other half“ of the Fed thinks about present time policy. But who knows.

Guess, do outnumber full-time employed workers in the US the number of Americans who receive food assistance and/or are on disability? Simple answer is not. But do not be so fast. There are 116 million Americans with full-time jobs, which include 21.9 million government workers. The number of Americans who receive some kind of social assistance is 112.5 million. So far so good there are only 3.5 million more Americans with full-time jobs than there are Americans who are reliant on the government. Not very good perspective.

Matúš Pošvanc