Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Last Man Standing

Contagion contagion everywhere; Spain is being hit with ever higher borrowing costs, so has Belgium, and Italy - bond yields which are again above the 7% level - and Portugal and so on. The markets have already assumed that France will lose its treasured AAA status. Then this morning contagion has hit the last man standing - the benchmark - Germany. 'A disaster' is what the German bond auction is being called (my emphasis):

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - German government bonds fell sharply on Wednesday after investors shunned the country's auction of new 10-year debt, signalling that the fast-spreading euro zone crisis was eroding the safe haven status of German debt.

Germany drew significantly less [sic] bids than the amount on offer for its Bunds, with investors deterred by very low yields. The euro zone powerhouse was caught between the best and worst possible scenarios on the euro zone crisis.

"It is a complete and utter disaster," said Marc Ostwald, strategist at Monument Securities in London. "If Germany can only manage a 0.65 cover in actual terms for what is going to be their next benchmark then what hope for everybody else?"

"It really tells you that the Bund yields are at the completely wrong level ... never mind that they are a safe haven. There's certainly a partial element of 'they (investors)would rather not have euros' in there."

The decisions by Germany are essential to the survival or otherwise of the Euro. As argued before on this blog, Germany faces an impossible position; it wants the survival of the Euro but is unable to take the steps necessary to ensure this. In a great piece Acting Man calls it An Intractable Problem.

The EU of course is arguing for more integration via Eurobonds as a solution:
The EC is launching a consultation to assess if the 17 eurozone countries can issue the bonds to raise cash.

Mr Barroso's 'stability bonds' plan would see much more investigation and control of the budgets of countries within the eurozone, to avoid a repeat of the bailouts and crises affecting the region.
But the EU must know that this would be illegal under German Constitutional Court rulings, it makes one wonder whether not only is this the last desperate throw of the dice for more integration but the laying of the groundwork for the blame game when it all goes pear shaped - that it was Germany's fault for not listening to the EC and its 'messiah' Barroso. The collapse of the Euro will cause enormous political ramifications and fallout.

The Financial Times has interesting piece that the markets have effectively 'smoked out' a stealth operation by the Bundesbank to try to control the German bond market, which spectacularly failed this morning:
That, alongside the fact that the Bundesbank is retaining an ever greater share of bonds from auction, suggests only one thing to the logical mind. It is the Bundesbank which is cornering the bund market on purpose. And it’s doing so to ensure that the one last repo rate in Europe that can be controlled remains suppressed.

The rate is important to suppress because almost all interbank funding is now done on a secured basis against the best quality collateral. Which implies two important points: 1) that the ECB itself has lost control and depends almost entirely on the Bundesbank to enforce its low rate policy target and 2) that the Bundesbank is having to retain more bunds from the market than ever before just to ensure the last functioning repo rate in Europe doesn’t spiral out of control.

That, we would say, is a big deal.

Whatever the case, Wednesday’s auction suggests the Bundesbank’s stealth operation has finally been outed. The question is, will the Bundesbank now be broken too?

One thing is for sure, though, now that Eurozone contagion has infected Germany, it's game over.

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