The Biggest Threat To The 2012 Economy Is? Not What Wall Street Is Telling You

By: Reggie Middleton | Mon, Feb 6, 2012
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Earlier this week I published a controversial rant on the US education system - How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery. This was a lengthy piece, but apparently caught the interest of many as it went semi-viral. This is part of the conclusion, attempting to show how US indoctrinated "GroupThink" prevents many (if not most) from seeing what empirically should be obvious.

There are many analysts and pundits who outline their predictions for the new year. I don't believe in "predicting" personally, but it is very important to form an outlook for the future and back said outlook up with objective observation and prudent analysis. Several big bank analysts have outlined what they perceive to be the biggest threat to stability for 2012, and material amount of them chose the same threat...

Shah of Iran


Iran

Former CIA Chief: Iran 'Single Greatest Destabilizing' Force in 2012

Tehran will be the top threat in 2012, former CIA Director Michael Hayden predicted Wednesday as Iran dominates foreign policy debate even while national security officials appeared to dismiss the Islamic Republic's latest threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

"It is the single greatest destabilizing element right now with regards to global security," Hayden told Fox News, adding that the outlook is not encouraging.

Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate and agree with the assertion that Iran is a serious threat to global stability - and I'm not the only one...

Whle PIMCO didn't actually label Iran as the biggest threat, they did do a superb job of outlining the potential fallout from an Iranian oil event....

"Pimco's 4 "Iran Invasion" Oil Price Scenarios: From $140 To "Doomsday"",

"Whenever the global economy is in a fragile state, as it is today, geopolitical concerns such as the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities become much more exaggerated. Although we cannot (and will not) predict whether an attack is imminent, or even likely, our experience and research tells us that any major disruption in the supply of oil from Iran could have either subtle or profound global repercussions - especially as excess capacity is virtually exhausted and we doubt that other OPEC nations would be able to compensate for a reduction in Iranian oil production."

The 4 scenarios presented by PIMCO here they are: "i)Scenario 1: Exports minimally effected. Concerns would drive initial price response; Oil could spike initially to $130 to $140 per barrel and then settle in a higher range, around $120 to $125; ii) Scenario 2: Iranian exports cut off for one month. In this case, we would expectprices could reach previous all-time highs of $145/bbl or even higher depending on issues with shipping; iii) Scenario 3: Iranian exports are lost for half a year. We think oil prices could probably rally and average $150 for the six months, with notable spikes above that level; iv)Scenario 4: Greater loss of production from around the region, either through subsequent Iranian response or due to lack of ability to move oil through Straits of Hormuz. This is the Armageddon scenario in which oil prices could soar, significantly constraining global growth. Forecasting prices in the prior scenarios is dangerous enough. So, we won't even begin to forecast a cap or target price in this final Doomsday scenario."

Now, SocGen weighs in...

SocGen Lays It Out: "EU Iran Embargo: Brent $125-150. Straits Of Hormuz Shut: $150-200"

1) "Scenario 1: EU enacts a full ban on 0.6 Mb/d of imports of Iranian crude. In this scenario, we would expect Brent crude prices to surge into the $125-150 range." 2) "Scenario 2: Iran shuts down the Straits of Hormuz, disrupting 15 Mb/d of crude flows. In this scenario, we would expect Brent prices to spike into the $150-200 range for a limited time period."

Now, the last thing an already crippled Europe needs is a doubling of its primary transportation energy source. Alas, methinks Europe has bigger problems to with which to cause goose bumps on its booty - namely.... It's banking AND insurance system is still one step from absolute implosion! It's gotten so bad that the borrowers are actually lending to the lenders because the lenders have no effective credit in the markets!!!

European Banks Now Get Loans From Cash-Rich Firms

Blue-chip names like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Peugeot are among firms bailing out Europe's ailing banks in a reversal of the established roles of clients and lenders.

Euro bills and U.S. dollars being exchanged. One source with knowledge of the so-called repo deals, or short-term secured lending, said the two U.S. pharmaceutical groups and French car maker were the latest to sign up for them. Europe's banks are struggling to secure the cash to fund their day-to-day business and have largely stopped lending to each other for fear Europe's sovereign debt [cnbc explains] crisis could land any of their peers in trouble.

As a result a group of well-known, cash-rich companies with solid cash flows has stepped in the repo market, which provides a form of lending so far almost exclusively in use between banks, and between banks and central banks. One market participant said in one key area of lending companies now accounted for 25 percent of these deals. Repos provide the new financiers with the strict guarantees they need before parting with their cash, answering worries that the crisis has weakened Europe's banks to the extent that they might not be able to pay the money back.

"Companies in the past were ... happy to deposit cash on an unsecured basis to a bank for an interest payment," said Frank Reiss, who oversees some of the repo business at Euroclear, the Brussels-based settlement house owned by a group of banks. "Now following the crisis, we have seen that companies are engaging in repos secured with collateral against the cash they are lending," said Reiss. Euroclear is the largest administrator of repo trades in Europe. At the moment the European Central Bank provides the main lifeline for banks and has pumped hundreds of billions of euros of cash into the market. But the banks are parking most of the money they borrow back at the ECB [cnbc explains] rather than trusting to lend to each other.

Yes, this appears to be the fact... Deposits at ECB Hit New High

Commercial banks' overnight deposits at the European Central Bank hit a new record high of 464 billion euros, data showed on Monday, and traders said they could hit half a trillion euros by next week. High deposits indicate banks prefer the safety of the central bank for their funds to higher rates they could get by lending to each other.

Banks are awash with cash after taking an unprecedented 489 billion euros in the ECB's [cnbc explains] first-ever three-year liquidity operation late last month, and are mulling what to do with the money in the longer term. The liquidity operation was designed to underpin banks' finances and hopefully repair some confidence in the sector, but the sovereign debt crisis means many institutions still lack enough trust to lend to each other and prefer to stash their money at the ECB.

"The market is more or less closed, all the over-liquidity is going back to ECB," the trader said. "Slowly people are getting some longer funding, but there is no easing in the short end."

Now, Germany has acted as stalwart stopgap in the sovereign debt carnage of the EU nations. It's perceived as the strongest, most stable and most disciplined economy. As such, there has been a massive flight to quality trade that has pushed German bunds to negative yields. That's right! As in the US, you literally have to pay Germany for the privilege of lending it your hard earned money.

Germany Issues Bills With Negative Yields As Economists Agree the nation is in recession.

Right here and now, the more astute should see there's something wrong here, but we shall move on. Wait a minute! This net export nation (that means its livlihood is based on selling goods to others) whose major trading partners suffer from a myriad of maladies ranging from hard landing to near depression is in economic recession, yet there's enough demand to lend it money that lenders have to pay for the privilege???

  1. Latest Numbers from Germany Confirm Recession The New American -The announcement from the German Economy Ministry over the weekend confirmed that the long-awaited European recession has officially begun: German factory ...

  2. Germany in recession - The Daily Economist - Entering the new year, we can now add Germany to the growing list of countries in recession, as noted by more than a dozen economists who have come to this ...

  3. Economists: Germany in a recession now - The Local - As European leaders struggle to stave off a looming recession this year,Germany - the continent's biggest and healthiest economy - is probably already in one,...

  4. Survey shows Germany already in recession: report - MarketWatch - BERLIN -The German economy is already in recession, Die Welt newspaper reported Monday, citing its survey of 14 bank economists.


I believe Germany poses the biggest threat to global harmony for 2012. Here's why...

European banks are (in addition to borrowing on a secured basis from those customers they usually lend to) also paying insurers and pension funds to take their illiquid bonds in exchange for better quality ones, in a desperate bid to secure much-needed cash from the ECB, which only provides cash against collateral. This may not be as safe a measure as it sounds. Below is a sensitivity analysis of Generali's (a highly leveraged Italian insurer, subscribers see Exposure of European insurers to PIIGS) sovereign debt holdings.

Can Germany Kill Generali?
Larger Image

As you can see, Generali is highly leveraged into PIIGS debt, with 400% of its tangible equity exposed. Despite such leveraged exposure, I calculate (off the cuff, not an in depth analysis) that it took a 10% hit to Tangible Equity. Now, that's a lot, but one would assume that it would have been much worse. What saved it? Diversification into Geman bunds, whose yield went negative, thus throwing off a 14% return. Not bad for alleged AAA fixed income. But let's face it, Germany lives in the same roach motel as the rest of the profligate EU, they just rent the penthouse suite! Remember, Germany is not in recession after a rip roaring bull run in its bonds, and I presume the recession should get much deeper since as a net exporter it has to faces its trading partners going broke. Below you see what happens if the bund returns were simply run along the historical trend line (with not extreme bullishness of the last year).

Aggregate Change in PIIGS+Germay+France value effect on Tagible Equity

Companies such as Generali would instantly lose a third of their tangible equity. This is quite conservative, since the profligate states bonds would probably collapse unless the spreads shrink, which is highly doubtful. Below you see what would happen if bunds were to take a 10% loss.

If Bunds actually took a 10% loss

That's right, a 10% loss in bunds translates into a near 50% loss in tangible equity to this insurer, which would realistically be 60% plus as the rest of the EU portfolio will compress in solidarity. Combine this with the fact that insurers operating results are facing historically unprecedented stress (see You Can Rest Assured That The Insurance Industry Is In For Guaranteed Losses!) and it's not hard to imagine marginal insurers seeing equity totally wiped out. The same situation is evident in banks and pension funds as well as real estate entities dependent on financing in the near to medium term - basically, the entire FIRE sector in both European and US markets (that's right, don't believe those who say the US banks have decoupled from Europe).

Reggie Middleton On Street Signs Fire

The damage to banks will probably be worse due to the higher level of leverage in European institutions. This is saying a lot since Italy's Generali is truly levered up the ASS! As excerpted from our professional series Bank Run Liquidity Candidate Forensic Opinion:

BNP Paribus First Thoughts

This is how that document started off. Even if we were to disregard BNP's most serious liquidity and ALM mismatch issues, we still need to address the topic above. Now, if you were to employ the free BNP bank run models that I made available in the post "The BoomBustBlog BNP Paribas "Run On The Bank" Model Available for Download"" (click the link to download your own copy of the bank run model, whether your a simple BoomBustBlog follower or a paid subscriber) you would know that the odds are that BNP's bond portfolio would probably take a much bigger hit than that conservatively quoted above. Here I demonstrated what more realistic numbers would look like in said model...

BNP Paribus First Thoughts

 

 

Be aware that Greece, et. al. currently trade at a very fat spread to the bund. Said spread should actually widen as reality starts to set in. Remember, these are spreads, not static yields! If German bunds reflect the fact that Germany, as a net export nation that derives its bread and butter from exporting to economies that currently range from facing hard landings to recession to down right borderline depression (China/US/EU), then Bund prices may feel the effects of fundamentals over the flight to (alleged) quality trade that has pushed yields negative. When you have to pay somebody to lend them money, the wrting should be written very clearly on the wall. If only American Group think indoctrination style education taught us to read (the writing on the wall, that is). See for How Inferior American Education Caused The Credit/Real Estate/Sovereign Debt Bubbles and Why It's Preventing True Recovery more on this.

To note page 9 of that very same document addresses how this train of thought can not only be accelerated, but taken much further...

BNP Paribus First Thoughts

So, how bad could this faux accounting thing be? You know, there were two American banks that abused this FAS 157 cum Topic 820 loophole as well. There names were Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. I warned my readers well ahead of time with them as well - well before anybody else apparently had a clue (Is this the Breaking of the Bear? and Is Lehman really a lemming in disguise?). Well, at least in the case of BNP, it's a potential tangible equity wipeout, or is it? On to page 10 of said subscription document...

BNP Paribus First Thoughts

Yo, watch those level 2s! Of course there is more to BNP besides overpriced, over leveraged sovereign debt, liquidity issues and ALM mismatch, andlying about stretching Topic 820 rules, but I think that's enough for right now. Is all of this already priced into the free falling stock? Are these the ingredients for a European bank run? I'll let you decide, but BoomBustBloggers Saw this coming midsummer when this stock was at $50. Those who wish to subscribe to my research and services should click here. Those who don't subscribe can still benefit from the chronology that led up to the BIG BNP short (at least those who have come across my research for the first time)...

Thursday, 28 July 2011 The Mechanics Behind Setting Up A Potential European Bank Run Trastde and European Bank Run Trading Supplement

I identify specific bank run candidates and offer illustrative trade setups to capture alpha from such an event. The options quoted were unfortunately unavailable to American investors, and enjoyed a literal explosion in gamma and implied volatility. Not to fear, fruits of those juicy premiums were able to be tasted elsewhere as plain vanilla shorts and even single stock futures threw off insane profits.

Wednesday, 03 August 2011 France, As Most Susceptble To Contagion, Will See Its Banks Suffer

In case the hint was strong enough, I explicitly state that although the sell side and the media are looking at Greece sparking Italy, it is France and french banks in particular that risk bringing the Franco-Italia make-believe capitalism session, aka the French leveraged Italian sector of the Euro ponzi scheme down, on its head. As clearly predicted in the last quarter of 2009, Another Banking Crisis Is Inevitable? There will be several bank runs, although they may be cleveraly concealed by central banks and governmental authorities. Reference The Anatomy Of A European Bank Run: Look At The Banking Situation BEFORE The Run Occurs! These bank runs will not be confined to the annals of the EU either, reference Yes, The BoomBustBlog Forecast Pan-European Bank Run Has Breached American Soil!!! The US has a greater than 50% chance of seeing additional bank runs, albeit most likely cloaked. Remember, Lehman Brothers, WaMu and Bear Stearns were victims of bank runs, as was MF Global - which many people fail to realize, and it was a highly leveraged bank run to boot - On MF Global, Hyper-Hypothecation That Creates $6b Out $2B And A Central Bank That Couldn't See A Bankruptcy Staring It In The Face. The big name brand banks whom many thought were infallible, actually have many similarities to that of the now bankrupt MF Global, to wit - Goldman, et. al. Suffer From The Same Malady That Collapsed Lehman and MF Global, Worlds 1st and 8th Largest Bankruptcies!

I then provide a deep dive of the French bank we feel is most at risk. Let it be known that every banked remotely referenced by this research has been halved (at a mininal) in share price! Most are down ~10% of more today, alone!


So, What's the Next Shoe To Drop? Read on...

For those who claim I may be Euro bashing, rest assured - I am not. Just a week or two later, I released research on a big US bank that will quite possibly catch Franco-Italiano Ponzi Collapse fever, with the pro document containing all types of juicy details. This is the next big thing, for when (not if, but when) European banks blow up, it WILL affect us stateside! Subscribers, be sure to be prepared. Puts are already quite costly, but there are other methods if you haven't taken your positions when the research was first released. For those who wish to subscribe, click here.

I would like my subscribers to remain cognizant of the face that equity prices probably will detach from fundamentals this quarter as the inevitable wave of global QE is once again instituted via version 3.5x, but this can kicking has pushed the party's participant into a virtual dead end. Yes, it can continue, but I don't foresee many years of this. Although this is merely speculation on my part, but methinks 2012 may very well be the year of reckoning.

 


Those who wish to subscribe to BoomBustBlog research, analysis and opinion should click here!

 


 

Reggie Middleton

Author: Reggie Middleton

Reggie Middleton
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http://boombustblog.com/

Reggie Middleton

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Well, I fancy myself the personification of the free thinking maverick, the ultimate non-conformist as it applies to investment and analysis. I am definitively outside the box - not your typical or stereotypical Wall Street investor. I work out of my home, not a Manhattan office. I build my own technology and perform my own research - in lieu of buying it or following the crowd. I create and follow my own macro strategies and am by definition, a contrarian to the nth degree.

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