The T Report: China & LIBOR: Spain, Messy & Messi

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Uncategorized | No Comments


Chinese PMI was better than feared, but if I had to bet on what number is less manipulated, Chinese data or LIBOR, I would have to bet on LIBOR. Since we don’t have much else to work with, I guess we are stuck looking at it, and it shows that the slowdown is slowing, but I can’t get very excited about that.

European manufacturing PMI came in at 44.1, worse than the already low expectations of 45.2. The situation in Europe is deteriorating and all the summits aren’t helping. The banks need to be recapitalized and “uncertainty” needs to be removed or else business will continue to grind to a halt.

Most interesting, I thought, was that German Manufacturing PMI came in at only 43.3 and even German service remained under 50. Germany is not immune to the woes in the rest of Europe or to the global economy. French manufacturing PMI was an equally dreadful 43.6. Maybe the growing weakness in the core will light a fire. It isn’t enough to have firewalls. They either have to spend that money and finally take serious default and currency risk off the table, or the economies will continue to slide deeper into recession or depression.

Pesetas and Real Madrid

Spain had a reasonable t-bill auction today. The yields were high compared to any of the core with 6 month t-bills coming in a 3.69%. In a normal world, that isn’t bad, but in a world where Germany and others get paid to issue money for 6 months, it doesn’t look great.

In any case, talk of redenomination continues. Many people argue that the only way out for Spain and others is to exit the Euro and create their own currency that they can devalue at will.

I continue to see several problems with that. Devaluation will be controlled by the markets and not the politicians making it uncertain where the exchange rate will settle in. If the bets are “too high”, “too low” or “just right”, I would certainly bet against “just right”.

The uncertainty created by a new currency will be immense. The confusion for banks and businesses will overwhelm any possible business. Who will want to do business in a country with a highly volatile currency where the end result remains highly uncertain? Who will do business in similar looking countries? Trade will grind to a halt and demand for non-essential goods will dry up as people wait to see the results.

Finally, in a country where much of the “daily essentials”, particularly energy have to be imported, it is far more difficult to see how the people or the country, prosper. In successful devaluations, the country has often been natural resource rich and been able to “harness” those resources for their domestic economy during the devaluation process.

But those arguments are confusing, so let’s look at Barcelona and Real Madrid. Will Barcelona be able to afford Messi? How much of the revenue of these clubs from domestic markets? The higher the percentage of domestic revenue, the more expensive players will be. And it wouldn’t just be foreign players. Spanish players would also be tempted to leave. The clubs would have to pay their players in Euros. That could become a huge burden for Spanish clubs. As the peseta plummets, how will they afford these top players? Will clubs in other countries be able to pay them?

What if the situation in Spain erodes where daily protests become a way of life? What if the devaluation causes domestic problems? If political tensions grow and civil unrest increases will players want to stay in Spain when they could demand the same money elsewhere, without the additional risk?

Maybe Germany is hoping to transform the Bundesliga into the best league through currency devaluation? Yes, this is largely tongue in cheek, but it may be worth thinking about what Liga BBVA would look like after devaluation. People may not be passionate or understanding of the economy, but they are passionate and informed about their football clubs. In a world where much of the talent is imported and the local talent is free to leave, the analysis may not be as fanciful as it sounds. M

any Canadians saw it happen to their teams when a combination of a weak Northern Peso (this was pre loonie) and high taxes made it hard for Canadian franchises to compete (the BlueJays have never recovered). It wasn’t just sports. There were big issues of “brain drain” as many top people and companies looked to move to the U.S.

A weak currency may not be as helpful as people think and in fact may cause far more problems than it fixes, especially since this wouldn’t merely be devaluing, it would be creating a new currency and leaving a union, adding to the confusion and complexity of the task. Any real “progress” towards a near term redenomination would cause me great concern for all risk.

Risk “Meh”

Markets really don’t seem to know what to do. The greed is saying sell-off because Europe is a mess, yet the fear is that enough government money and liquidity comes into the market that we ignite another rally.

Domestic credit continues to do okay. Spreads have widened in the past few days, but very calmly and with relatively little enthusiasm for any move wider. You can pick up some high yield bonds marginally cheaper, but that’s probably only until you engage an offer and find out they aren’t really selling.

My concern that Europe will mess this up is growing. They seemed to have been implementing small steps that could work, but they seemed to have slowed down, and the level of dangerous (and poorly thought out) rhetoric is growing. I will continue to keep a close watch on the situation and am continuing to lighten up risk, though will add when drops seem overdone.

The price action in Spanish bonds is chilling, but volumes are incredibly low.