A woman tends to her injuries in front of riot police near a school being used as a polling station
From Hannah Strange and James Badcock:
Catalonia’s government said 90 percent of those who voted in an unauthorised independence referendum chose to split from Spain.
On a day marred by clashes between police and voters, 2.26 million people took part in the referendum, regional government spokesman Jordi Turull said. That represents a turnout of 42.3 percent of Catalonia’s 5.34 million voters.
Of those who took part, 2.02 million Catalans voted “yes” to the question: “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?”
….Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, said the region had “won the right to an independent state” after “millions” turned out to vote in a banned independence referendum.
“With this day of hope and suffering, the citizens of Catalonia have won the right to an independent state in the form a republic,” he said in a televised announcement after polls had closed.
Before the results were announced, he said he would keep his pledge to declare independence unilaterally within 48 hours of the vote if the “Yes” side won the referendum.
The ECB will buy in the secondary market only government bonds with remaining maturities between one and three years without announcing any limits in advance, and as long as the government in question is under a program approved by the euro zone.
The measures will primarily benefit fiscally troubled countries like Spain and Italy, which are facing difficulties financing their budget deficits…
In the first five months of 2012, a total of €163 billion left the country, the figures [from the country’s central bank] indicate. During the same period a year earlier, Spain recorded a net inflow of €14.6 billion.
The outflow has resulted from domestic banks sending money abroad, foreign lenders pulling out cash and mostly non-resident investors dumping Spanish assets.
Interesting to get a view from within the ECB as to the state of the euro-zone crisis.
Benoît Coeuré, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank:
On 29 June, the Euro Summit took a further series of steps to strengthen crisis management. They agreed that loans to Spain as part of its bank recapitalisation programme would not have a senior status, removing a key concern for investors about the programme and their continued purchases of Spanish government debt. They committed themselves to use the full range of EFSF and ESM instruments in a flexible and efficient manner. And most importantly, they decided that the ESM should have the ability to recapitalise banks directly, once a single supervisory mechanism is in place involving the ECB. These are all very significant developments. Let me elaborate.
First, the possibility for direct bank recapitalisation by the ESM is crucial to break the vicious circle between banks and their sovereigns that is at the heart of the crisis. It would allow for banks to be stabilised without increasing the debt level of the sovereign, thereby avoiding further damage to sovereign debt markets and banks’ balance sheets. This would move the euro area closer to the type of financial union we see in federations like the U.S. or Switzerland, where banking sector problems are dealt with at the federal level and have no implications on the finances of the federated units…..
Spain’s economy showed fresh strain as retail sales fell at a record pace in April, showing the government’s austerity program is strangling consumption and suggesting deepening recession. Data Tuesday from the National Statistics Institute, or INE, showed seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 9.8% on the year in April, compared with a 3.8% drop in March. The decline was the sharpest since INE started collecting the data in January 2004. Household spending is dropping as unemployment approaches 25% of the work force.
Michael Pettis: I think Spain [and all the peripheral European countries are similarly uncompetitive] will leave the euro because it seems to me that the country has already started on the self-reinforcing downward spiral that leads to a crisis, and there is no one big enough to reverse the spiral.
How does this process work? It turns out that it is pretty straightforward, and occurs during every one of the sovereign financial crises we have seen in modern history. When a sufficient level of doubt arises about sovereign credibility, all the major economic stakeholders in that country begin to change their behavior in ways that exacerbate the problem of credibility.
Of course as credibility is eroded, this further exacerbates the behavior of these stakeholders. In that case bankruptcy comes, as Hemingway is reported to have said, at first slowly, and then all of a sudden, as the country moves slowly at first and then rapidly towards a breakdown in its debt capacity.
Christian Rickens: So has Greece been rescued and financial markets been tamed? Is the euro crisis a thing of the past? Unfortunately not. With their successes in the last few days, euro-zone politicians have done little more than bought themselves time. They must use this window to brace themselves for the next wave of the euro crisis which is about to crash down on Europe.
It’s already clear that the Greek economy can’t survive with a government debt to GDP ratio that will — at best — still be at 117 percent in 2020, especially given the record pace at which the country’s GDP is contracting. There is still no coherent strategy for making Greece competitive again inside the euro zone, or for raising the capital for the huge investments needed — let alone for the wholesale revamp of the country’s entire public administration.
And so Greece is likely to report the next set of disappointing budget figures in a few months, and the wrangling over a new debt cut and a new rescue package will start shortly afterwards……
The other euro-zone governments have at most a few more months, perhaps only a few weeks, before the situation in Greece worsens again……That means that Portugal, Spain and Italy, the three other problem countries in the south of the euro zone, must perform the magic trick of stimulating growth while reducing their budget deficits. That can only succeed with a lot of pragmatism — austerity without growth is as pointless as growth without austerity.
Marc Chandler: The new fiscal compact had just been signed last week, which includes somewhat more rigorous fiscal rule and enforcement, when Spain’s PM Rajoy revealed that this year’s deficit would come in around 5.8 percent of GDP rather the 4.4 percent target. This of course follows last year’s 8.5 percent overshoot of the 6 percent target.
The problem that for Spain is that the 4.4 percent target was based on forecasts for more than 2 percent growth this year. However, in late February, the EU cuts its forecast to a 1 percent contraction. This still seems optimistic. The IMF forecasts a 1.7 percent contraction, which the Spanish government now accepts.
This will be the third year in 5 that the Spanish economy contracts. Unemployment stands at an EU-high of 23.5 percent in February. The strong export growth seen in recent years, the best growth in the euro area, is stalling. Domestic demand has been hit by rising unemployment and government austerity…..
According to analysts at Morgan Stanley, Spain could acquire the entire €176 billion pile of impaired real-estate assets at the 58% discount applied by Ireland’s bad bank, or a cost of €73.9 billion. This could be funded by swapping new government debt for the banks’ soured real-estate assets.
However, the state would have to raise sufficient funds from investors to provide the banks with an estimated €28.5 billion in new capital to absorb losses that the banks would take in selling the assets at a steep discount. In all, the cost of the plan to the Spanish state could be €102.4 billion, or around 10% of Spanish GDP.
Colin Twiggs: ~ Spain faces the same tough choice as the Irish: rescue its banks, by putting its own finances at risk, or endure a massive recession as the banking system implodes and the flow of credit dries up. The first choice may be the least painful but will mean many years of austerity in order to bring government debt back below 60% of GDP.
Just as the United States was not the only country posting a large current account deficit, so too it was not the only country that experienced asset price booms. Figure 2 shows that countries with large current account deficits in 2006 also tended to have larger house price increases. Of course, there are exceptions. For example, China has experienced rapid house price appreciation despite its enormous current account surplus. But, in general, house price appreciation and current account deficits appear to have been positively associated across many countries.
Colin Twiggs: ~ There appears to be a general rule that large current account deficits lead to asset price booms. But to prove the rule researchers need to address why Japan experienced a massive asset price boom in the 1980s, and why China experienced a similar boom over the last decade, when both were running current account surpluses.
Deposit levels at five of Spain’s top six banks declined in the third quarter, while five of Italy’s largest lenders also reported declines, according to a report by analysts at Citigroup. In some cases, individuals pulling their money out of a bank are instead buying the bank’s bonds, which have offered hefty interest rates lately. But corporate clients, who find it relatively simple to move cash from one international bank to another, appear to have been especially aggressive in scaling back their deposits at southern European banks. Spain and Italy’s largest banks each reported declines of at least 10% in the quarter that ended Sept. 30.
The main problem of a Greek exit from the euro zone is not necessarily the direct impact on banks. I believe our government when they say that they would be able to get that under control. The real problem is the next domino. The crisis will spread unchecked to Italy. If Greece leaves the euro zone, then owners of Greek bonds will lose their entire investment. At best, the Greeks would pay them back a small part of their investment — in almost worthless drachmas.
So what kind of investor in his or her right mind would purchase Portuguese, Spanish or Italian sovereign bonds in this kind of situation? Not even a yield of 7 percent can make up for all the risk that Italy won’t be able to pay back its debt. As things now stand, Italy’s debt accounts for 120 percent of its annual GDP, growth is close to zero and the country is currently slipping into a deep recession. In fact, it’s a matter of mathematical inevitability that Italy won’t be able to service its loans if interest rates on its sovereign debt don’t fall. Granted, there have to be reforms. But reforms don’t resolve an acute debt crisis. We’ve already learned that lesson from other crises.
Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, describes four key dynamics that will shape the future of the global economy:
Many economies have built up excessive debt that is now causing market instability. They have three options for de-leveraging: default, like Greece; austerity, like the UK; or “financial repression” like the US — where “interest rates are forced down so that creditors, including those on modest fixed incomes, subsidize debtors”.
Economic growth would reduce the ratio of debt to incomes: “Many countries, including Italy and Spain, must overcome structural barriers to competitiveness, growth, and job creation through multi-year reforms of labor markets, pensions, housing, and economic governance. Some, like the US, can combine structural reforms with short-term demand stimulus. A few, led by Germany, are reaping the benefits of years of steadfast (and underappreciated) reforms.”
It is also important that the benefits of economic growth be shared across the entire community, reducing income inequality and related social instability.
Political systems in Western democracies, designed to support the status quo, are ill-equipped to deal with these “structural and secular changes”. Failure to adjust is the greatest risk.
“Those on the receiving end of these four dynamics – the vast majority of us – need not be paralyzed by uncertainty and anxiety. Instead, we can use this simple framework to monitor developments, learn from them, and adapt. Yes, there will still be volatility, unusual strains, and historically odd outcomes. But, remember, a global paradigm shift implies a significant change in opportunities, and not just risks.”
Markets largely shrugged off the ECB, as long-term investors continued to dump everything but German bonds—considered the market’s safe harbor—and it became increasingly difficult to find private buyers for bonds issued by the large, indebted countries such as Italy and Spain…..The ECB fought a running battle throughout the day, traders said, in an attempt to drive the yield on the 10-year Italian note below 7%. The trading session started with price rally that drove the closely watched rate down to 6.84%. Then, as ECB buying lightened, private sellers took over, driving the yield—which moves in the opposite direction of price—up to 7.22%, according to Tradeweb data. Prices then rallied in the afternoon, with some market participants citing more ECB buying as well as comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel indicating German support for more fiscal integration in the euro zone.
Italy was forced to pay its highest interest rate since the euro’s creation to sell five-year bonds—a sign of skepticism that new governments in Italy and Greece will be able to simultaneously boost economic growth and reduce high public-debt levels……Industrial production in the euro zone plunged 2% in September from August, the steepest slide since February 2009, according to the European Union’s statistics agency. The decline stretched from the weak periphery of Spain, Italy and Portugal to powerhouses such as Germany, France and the Netherlands. Compared with a year ago, output rose just 2.2%—the weakest gain in nearly two years. The data suggest “the euro-zone will soon fall back into another fairly deep recession,” said Ben May, economist at consultancy Capital Economics.
Monetary contraction in Portugal has intensified at an alarming pace and is mimicking the pattern seen in Greece before its economy spiralled out of control, raising concerns that the EU summit deal may soon [be] washed over by fast-moving events.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, there is bound to be a relief rally when EU leaders announce details of their rescue package — followed by a pull-back when traders figure out the costs. The danger is that Germany and France do an “Ireland” and rescue the banks but put themselves at risk. Both have public debt to GDP ratios close to 80 percent and it would not take much to push them into the danger zone. A down-grade would raise their cost of funding and place their own budgets under pressure. If they are down-graded then the kids are home alone — there will be no adults left in the room.
The FTSE 100 displays a decent bullish divergence on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow, warning of strong buying pressure. Breakout above 5600 would offer a target of 6000*, but expect retracement to test the new support level. Respect would confirm the advance.
Germany’s DAX is headed for 6500, but a weaker recovery on Twiggs Money Flow suggests this is a bear market rally. Respect of 6500 would indicate another test of 5000.
The French CAC-40 index displays secondary buying pressure. Respect of 3700 would signal another test of primary support at 2800.
Madrid rallied to test resistance at 900. Again buying pressure on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow appears secondary. Respect of 900 would signal a decline to the 2009 low of 700. Breakout, however, would signal a rally to test the descending trendline.
Italy’s MIB index is testing the descending trendline near 16500. Respect would test the 2009 low at 12500. Breakout would offer a target of 19000*.
Spain’s housing-price index in the July-to-September period fell 5.5% from a year earlier—the fastest pace of decline since 2009—and was down 1.3% from the second quarter, the public-works ministry said.