Beginners Guide to the Death of Euro
John Mauldin's latest -on Cyprus he is spot on...
- one can skip the Right Wing talk of rectitude and the be edits of taxing the poor and some of the comparisons with the US financial sector are misleading-
BNP-Paribas is the classic example: $2.5 trillion of asset footings vs. $80 billion of tangible common equity (TCE) or 31X leverage; it has only $730 billion of deposits or just 29% of its asset footings compared to about 50% at big U.S. banks like JPM; is teetering on $500 billion of mostly unsecured long-term debt that will have to be rolled at higher and higher rates; and all the rest of its funding is from the wholesale money market , which is fast drying up, and from repo where it is obviously running out of collateral.
Looked at another way, the three big French banks have combined footings of about $6 trillion compared to France’s GDP of $2.2 trillion. So the Big Three French banks are 3X their dirigisme-ridden GDP… By contrast, the top three U.S. banks which are no paragon of financial virtue – JPM, BAC, and C – have combined footings of $6 trillion or 40% of GDP. The French equivalent of that number would be $45 trillion for the U.S. banks. Can you say train wreck!
It is only a matter of time before these French and other European banks, which are stuffed with sovereign debt backed by no capital due to the zero risk weighting of the Basel lunacy, topple into the abyss of the shadow banking system where they have funded their elephantine balance sheets. And that includes Germany, too. The German banks are as bad or worse than the French. Did you know that Deutsche Bank is levered 60:1 on a TCE/assets basis, and that its Basel “risk-weighted” assets are only $450 billion, but actual balance sheet assets are $3 trillion? In other words, due to the Basel standards, which count sovereign and other AAA assets as risk free, DB has $2.5 trillion of assets with zero capital backing!
This is all a product of the deformation of central banking and monetary policy over the last four decades and the destruction of honest capital markets by the monetary central planners who run the printing presses. Furthermore, this has fostered monumental fiscal profligacy among politicians who have been told for years now that the carry cost of public debt is negligible and that there would always be a central bank bid for government paper. Perhaps we are now hearing the sound of some chickens coming home to roost.
Yes, yes, I know: “John, how can you even think that French debt could be at risk?” But if you look at France’s income and balance-sheet statements, as if France were a stock rather than a country, you might not be so sure. Might I suggest that a good trade would be to be long German government debt, short French debt? Essentially, this is a bet that France will be worse off than Germany in the coming years, which seems like a good wager right now. And in a French debt crisis (well within the realm of possibility) that trade could work both ways! Just saying …
We will wrap up with this note that just hit my inbox from Louis Gave. (I am up late, as usual, and Louis writes from Hong Kong, where it is early). Remember that Louis is French as you read this.
So we now know that, in Europe, big depositors are the first in the line of fire to ensure that small depositors do not suffer losses. Needless to say, this raises the question of who wants to be a big depositor in a weak bank in a country undergoing a secondary depression?...
EU policymakers are probably not evil henchmen set on destroying the financial industry (even if it often looks that way from the City of London). The more likely explanation is that EU policymakers are simply ignorant of how financial markets work. For example, the fact that the two largest Cypriot banks’ London branches have remained opened through the past week, allowing large depositors to take out millions of euros, hints that Europe's policymakers are simply clueless when it comes to how financial markets work. This also means that whatever pound of flesh the EU thinks it will be getting by wiping out the large depositors could turn out to be on the light side.
Or, for a second example of cluelessness, what could rival yesterday's declarations by the Dutch finance minister that the Cyprus bailout set a new “template” on how to deal with bust banks, namely make the rich depositors pay for the little depositors? What large depositor in a troubled bank in a country going through a secondary depression will want to stick around for that deal? We would venture that the next time that "solution" is applied, the eurocrats will find that the large depositors will not have waited around to get fleeced. In fact, as mentioned above, it might not even work this time (i.e., Cyprus), let alone the next one.