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Athens has to pay €2 billion in debt payments this Friday to ECB, IMF and Goldman Sachs

Athens will have to pony up more than €2 billion in debt payments this Friday to the ECB, the IMF, and (get this) Goldman Sachs, for an interest payment on a derivative and it’s not entirely clear where the money will come from.

Alex Christoforou

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Post originally appeared on Zerohedge.

Greece’s day of reckoning may be fast approaching. Athens will have to pony up more than €2 billion in debt payments this Friday to the ECB, the IMF, and (get this) Goldman Sachs, for an interest payment on a derivative and it’s not entirely clear where the money will come from. On Wednesday, the government will vote on a “plan” to boost liquidity which includes tapping public funds and diverting bank bailout money. Here’s Bloomberg:

Greece will begin debating measures to boost liquidity as the cash-starved country braces for more than 2 billion euros ($2.12 billion) in debt payments Friday…

The government’s revenue-boosting plan includes eliminating fines on those who submit overdue taxes by March 27 to encourage payment, helping cover salaries and pensions due at the end of the month. The bill also requires pension funds and public entities to invest reserves held at the Bank of Greece in government securities and repurchase agreements, and transfers 556 million euros from the country’s bank recapitalization fund to the state. A vote on the measures is scheduled for Wednesday…

The Goldman Sachs derivative, now held by the National Bank of Greece, masked the country’s growing debt when it was agreed in 2001, helping it meet European Union rules for entering the euro area. The interest payment adds to the country’s funding woes as the government misses budget targets and the ECB refuses to allow Greek banks to keep the country afloat with additional short-term debt.

Despite government claims that it can meet its obligations, outside observers aren’t so sure. German FinMin Wolfgang Schaeuble for instance, can’t find anyone who can explain it:

“None of my colleagues, or anyone in the international institutions, can tell me how this is supposed to work.”

Meanwhile, one senior fellow at the Brookings Institution suggests Athens is winging it entirely at this point:

“The impression given is that there’s no plan A or plan B. There’s nothing.”

With the situation deteriorating rapidly, the sell side is back to drawing up Grexit plans. For their part, Morgan Stanley sees a 60% chance of either a euro exit or what the bank is calling a “staycation,” which basically means that the situation is so convoluted that no one can figure it out leading to the imposition of capital controls and a painful prolonging of the inevitable. Here’s more from MS:

Grexit – what’s the probability?

We recap the three alternative scenarios worth exploring:

1. Euro stay (40% probability): This scenario would be the result of political compromise. Basically, of the ‘impossible trinity’ that Syriza wants (stay in the euro; be in power; and undo the bailout programme), what gives is that the Greek government doesn’t undo the bailout programme. We assume that it recommits to implementing a slightly less demanding package of measures in agreement with the official lenders, and prospects of somewhat less austerity, extra maturity extensions and interest rate reductions on the EU loans, as well as ECB QE, help find a compromise (see here). This is still our base case but, compared to our previous assessment of 55%, we think that the chances of this outcome have diminished, given the inherent difficulties in finding a middle-ground solution, mostly given Greece’s political constraints domestically, and Europe has little appetite for further slippages.

2. Euro exit (25% probability): This would happen if the lack of a Greece-Troika compromise led to bitter negotiations, then a worsening in market reaction, negotiations ultimately failing and Greek banks being cut off from ECB funding. It could also happen if the EU perceived low contagion risk and/or viewed the political precedent of a Greek euro exit as not that bad – in which case Greece would be ‘let go’. The chances of this outcome playing out have not increased, in our view; yet they haven’t diminished either. While this is not our base case, we believe that the probability of a misstep remains substantial – given an unstable economic, bank deposit and sovereign funding situation – and may well lead to an exit. 

3. Euro staycation (35% probability): This is an intermediate scenario where no

compromise is reached over a 3-6-month horizon. We presume capital controls would be introduced to limit money outflows, and Greece, like Cyprus, would effectively no longer be a full member of the eurozone, even though formally it would stay within the currency union. Full euro membership would eventually be restored once/if all capital controls were lifted. This scenario, after some time, could evolve into either of the other two. Should this happen, we’d see a 60% probability that an exit might follow, taking a 12-18 month view, and a 40% probability that capital controls get lifted. Further damage to the economy, banking system and confidence may well lead to this outcome, especially if accompanied by policy mistakes.

Endgame probabilities: Even though it’s beyond the scope of this note, the ‘fully computed’ probabilities – i.e., taking into account that staycation, in the end, either becomes exit or stay in the medium term – suggest that the chances of the euro stay scenario are just slightly more than even. As such, the outlook really is binary, with considerable downside risks – should capital controls be introduced. Besides economic developments, deposit flows and sovereign funding, what’s worth monitoring is the negotiations on the measures that Greece is supposed to implement by the end of April, and whether a more durable solution can be found before the expiration of the four-month extension at the end of June.

 

GrexitMS1_0

…and here’s a bit on systemic risk…

But wouldn’t Grexit make the euro a riskier proposition? Yes, we think that Grexit could conceivably affect market participants’ reaction function – perhaps for a long time. It’s probably fair to say that, if it’s just one of the smaller countries leaving, the overall impact of a euro exit scenario may well be more manageable for the rest of the region and the contagion effects rather limited if the policy response is strong enough.Yet even that would likely change the dynamics of EMU and negate the concept of irrevocability. So Grexit has the potential to leave the impression that the eurozone is no longer a monetary union, but more akin to a collection of fixed exchange rates. From a logical standpoint, if one country leaves, market participants may think that, in a subsequent crisis, others could follow, which may make bond markets in the EU periphery respond much more negatively to a future shock.

…followed by projections for the euro…

Exit (25% probability) => EURUSD to decline to 0.82

A Greek exit is still the most bearish scenario for EUR, in our view. A country leaving the eurozone, even one of the smaller countries in the periphery, will have a major negative impact on EUR. We believe that this may change the dynamics of EUR, implying that the eurozone is no longer a monetary union, but rather a collection of fixed exchange rates. Under the scenario of a Greek exit, we now project EURUSD at 0.82, especially if a Greek exit starts to increase the probability of other countries leaving.

Staycation (35% probability) => EURUSD to decline to 0.90 However, where we believe the risks have increased the most is for our staycation scenario. The potential for a staycation, where Greece stays in the euro but only with the assistance of additional measures, has increased with a probability of 35%, in our view, up from the 20% we assumed previously. This implies that the probability of the EUR decline exceeding our 1.05 base case projection (euro stay scenario) has also increased significantly. One of most significant measures, as far as EUR is concerned, could be the introduction of capital controls for Greece. While not as severe as an exit from the euro, it would once again call into question the eurozone as a monetary union. This, we believe, would expose EUR to increased downward pressure. Under our staycation scenario, we would now expect EURUSD to achieve 0.90 by year-end.

…and ending in a rather dire outlook for the Greek banking sector…

We’ve been here before: As the chart below shows, at the peak in 2012, one-third of Greek balance sheets were funded by the ECB, mostly via ELA. This coincided with the height of deposit outflows at 20%Y in June 2012 – when a Greek euro exit was most anticipated – and had remained c.30% below its peak before this latest round of outflows.

Eurosystem funds withdrawal in event of a euro exit leaves €82bn loans unfunded: Should deposit outflows further accelerate against fears of potential euro exit, at which point the ECB would stop funding Greek banks, the system would be faced with a large and arguably unmanageable funding gap. We estimate that a 20% decline in deposits – the highest percentage we have seen in a single year (2012) – would result in a funding gap equal to about €82bn, > 40% of GDP.

 

GrexitMS2_0

The bottom line here is that the supposedly “indissoluble” monetary union is looking more dissoluble by the day and if there’s anything the ECB does not need a week into PSPP it’s for sovereign spreads to blow out as the market begins to price in redenomination risk.

References:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-17/greece-faces-cash-crunch-friday-without-plan-or-plan-b-what-happens-next

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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