When Hedge Funds Trump Governments

vultureWhile Greece suffers to the point of revolution and suicide, hedge funds made out like bandits on Greek sovereign debt.

Greece had reached its target of buying back enough bonds at a discount to retire 21 billion euros, or about $27 billion, of its debt. The bigger winners, though, were hedge funds, which pocketed higher profits than many had expected, in yet another Greek bailout financed by European taxpayers.

To some experts, this latest chapter in the long-running Greek drama is another reminder of how private investors have managed to outmaneuver European officials at various stages of the debt crisis. And they caution that each time it happens, future debt workouts in the euro zone will become even more costly.

When Europe wanted to give the Greek bond holders a hair cut, the hedge funds threatened collective action against a host of European countries. They wouldn't buy any European sovereign bonds in retaliation against the Eurogroup taking a hard line against them.

The warning was blunt: If Athens set off legal mechanisms in the bond contracts known as collective action clauses, forcing bondholders to accept lower prices, investors would stop buying the bonds of struggling European countries. That would be bad news for Spain and Italy — to say nothing of Portugal and Ireland when they return to global bond markets in 2013.

ECB Outright MonetaryTransaction Action In the Face of Recession Redux

euro symbolThe ECB, Europe's Central Bank, has launched a sovereign bond buying program, arguing for price stability and to make it clear the Euro is here to stay. ECB President Mario Draghi:

It is against this background that the Governing Council today decided on the modalities for undertaking Outright Monetary Transactions (OMTs) in secondary markets for sovereign bonds in the euro area. As we said a month ago, we need to be in the position to safeguard the monetary policy transmission mechanism in all countries of the euro area. We aim to preserve the singleness of our monetary policy and to ensure the proper transmission of our policy stance to the real economy throughout the area. OMTs will enable us to address severe distortions in government bond markets which originate from, in particular, unfounded fears on the part of investors of the reversibility of the euro. Hence, under appropriate conditions, we will have a fully effective backstop to avoid destructive scenarios with potentially severe challenges for price stability in the euro area. Let me repeat what I said last month: we act strictly within our mandate to maintain price stability over the medium term; we act independently in determining monetary policy; and the euro is irreversible.

This is an unlimited, open ended, short term maturity of one to three years, Euro area governments' bonds buy back program. The details are as warranted, dependent upon market conditions and at market value.

European Bank Rescue Package May Be Announced This Coming Week

eurozoneThe planets are aligning for another round of debt monetization in Europe, backed up by the United States. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, is reportedly looking at expanding the amount of Spanish government debt he can buy. He is also said to be considering another LTRO – Long Term Refinancing Operation, which is the mechanism the central bank uses to buy debt from private sector banks.

That Spain needs help is beyond doubt. The global bond market has been fleeing Spanish government debt as rapidly as it can, forcing yields to the 7.3% area, which is beyond the point where the Spanish government can continue to pay interest from its own revenues without severely cutting back on domestic expenditures. The same situation is playing out at the local level in Spain: Andalusia and other provinces have been besieging Madrid for help in meeting the interest burden on their own debts. There is also talk that medium to small size Spanish commercial banks are out of liquid collateral, and are unable to meet further collateral calls on the global markets.

European Sovereign Debt Crisis - How Did This Happen?

piigsWith Spain now getting a bail out all to pump up their insolvent banks, one might wonder how did we get here in the first place?

We actually are on the precipice, with a key critical Geek vote on whether or not they will default on their international bail out. Sitting on the edge of a cliff, a review of the European sovereign debt crisis and how we got here is at hand.

What the hell happened is complicated. Greece is not the same as Ireland, nor is Spain the same as Greece. Ireland's sovereign debt crisis was the direct result of their financial crisis. Greece, on the other hand, had long standing structural problems with their economy. Nor are their economies the same although treating them as such originally was part of the problem.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve Research Director Christopher Waller gave a presentation on the the European Debt Crisis. The entire May 8th, 2012 lecture is below. The focus is on debt to GDP ratios, the European Union and interest rates for sovereign bonds. We learn about the European Union's major financial structural problems versus how exactly the debt happened. There are plenty of specifics and this lecture is concise, accurate in it's scope. If you don't understand European Sovereign Debt fundamentals, watch this lecture in full and you will.

Embattled Euro Zone Hunts for Plan B

europestormSpain is desperate, pleading and begging for help. Literally Spain said it does not have access to markets to refinance their debt. This is after the G7 decided to do nothing.

Spain said on Tuesday it was losing access to credit markets and Europe should help revive its banks, as finance chiefs of the Group of Seven major economies conferred on the currency bloc's worsening debt crisis but took no joint action.

Treasury Minister Cristobal Montoro sent out a dramatic distress signal about the impact of his country's banking crisis on government borrowing, saying that at current rates, financial markets were effectively off limits to Spain.

"The risk premium says Spain doesn't have the market door open," Montoro said on Onda Cero radio. "The risk premium says that as a state we have a problem in accessing markets, when we need to refinance our debt."

Now Spain is up against it, testing the market with a bond sale, all in hope of avoiding a bail out, with all of the austerity demands that come with one.

Spain will try to raise between one and two billion euros in bonds on Thursday, a crucial yet cautious test of Madrid's ability to tap investors after a minister said the country was being cut off from the markets.

The Never Ending European Financial Crisis

greekdominoesLast Friday we saw horror headlines from Societe Generale.

Euro zone stocks could plummet up to 50 percent if Greece makes a disorderly exit from the euro zone.

Additionally it was proclaimed bank runs have started in Europe.

A bank run is now happening within the eurozone. So far it has been relatively slow and prolonged, but it is a run nonetheless. And last week, it showed signs of accelerating sharply, in a way which demands an urgent response from policy-makers.

Right now the ECB is pressuring the Euro Zone to come up with deposit guarantee scheme to stop depositors from existing the Euro and various European banks:

Now investors are worried about the contagion effect a Greek exit from the euro zone could have on savers in other countries.

"Preventing bank runs in Italy, Spain and Portugal should be the top priority," said Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding. "Policymakers need to make sure that the potential Greek precedent of a forced conversion of domestic euro deposits into a weak new currency would not spark a run on banks ... elsewhere."

The ECB is pressing the euro zone to set up a fund that would prevent this dangerous ripple effect, a message reinforced by ECB policymaker Joerg Asmussen last week.