Monday, 21 May 2012
We have already provided much cold, hard, clinical facts on the hypothetical Greek EMU exit on countless occasions before. Yet Jefferies' David Zervos has done it with such peculiar aplomb which we have not encountered before, that we felt compelled to share with it readers. Zervos' Paulsonesque 'apocalyptic' flair shines particularly when analyzing what happens at T-0, i.e., June 16, i.e., the day before Greek election day, i.e., the last Greek free call option on physical euros if all hell breaks loose: "*On June 16th why wouldn't every Greek go to the bank with a sack and ask for the cash*. Why hold Euros into the 17th? By that logic why not get them out earlier in case they shut the ELA pre-election. From the north's perspective, one could argue that Merkel should shut the ELA right now. Allowing the Greek people to access all their Euros physically, while still holding the option to default on June 17th, is insane. She and the ECB would NOT be acting in the best interest of the Eurozone if they let this happen - there would be 300b in Target2 losses to split up between 16 member NCBs if the Greeks choose to leave after taking out all the Euros." So where does the chaos from a Greek bank run and exit lead us, as Zervos puts it. "The end is of course ECB printing, Eurobonds and every developed market central bank dumping massive liquidity into the global financial markets as systemic risks rise - *QE, LTROs, Currency swaps, and every funding facility under the sun come into play. *The path to this end game will be bumpy, but make no mistake, *the developed market central banks will dump so much fiat on the system to cover the losses, that risk free real rates will plummet to levels so negative that anyone left holding cash or cash equivalents will see massive destruction of real wealth. *We may have to push risk assets a bit lower from here, but the global central banks will be firing *howitzers *and *tomahawks *very shortly, not *bazookas*! And you best be owning some risk when those bad boys are launched!!"
Of course, owning fiat-based assets in a system that is about to be drowned in what effectively amounts to infinitely more fiat, makes one wonder: what will be the point owning risk if the "currency" in which risk is denominated becomes meaningless virtually overnight?
Which is why we are happy to paraphrase Zervos: "And you best be owning some *hard, real *assets when those bad boys are launched."
*Extracted from **Jefferies' David Zervos:* No ELA, No Euros! The End!
*So lets "run" through the mechanics of a Greek bank run. *As the Greek people begin to smell a Greek exit and a conversion of their hard earned Euro deposits back to Drachmas, they will withdraw Euros from Greek banks. So the Greek banks will head to the BoG with some dubious collateral to beg for Euros to pay depositors. The BoG takes the collateral, gives it a minuscule haircut, and draws Euros via the ELA. This of course creates an increase in BoG Target2 liabilities. The BoG then sends the Euros to the Greek bank and the Greek bank then gives the Euros to the hard working Greek depositor standing in line waiting to empty the account.
Importantly, Greek banks ONLY run out of Euros if the ECB can justify a shut down in funding to the BoG ELA facility or the Greek banks directly. Now, as we heard last week, the ECB has already stopped OMOs with 4 Greek banks (which one could safely assume are the big ones). So the ONLY thing standing between a Greek depositor and his/her Euros is the ELA. No ELA, no Euros!! And, as mentioned above, the ECB has once before threatened to turn off NCB access to Euros via the ELA in the case of Ireland. So there is a precedent for this to happen again!
Now we have to look at the conditions under which the ELA could be turned off by the ECB. Looking back to the Irish case, it was the potential for a default on senior bank debt that triggered the ECB threats to the central bank of Ireland. As the rules stand, ELA lending can only be done to "sound" institutions. So the ECB in theory can shut down all lending, including ELA, if the NCB is failing to abide by the rules. And clearly, Irish banks that default on senior debt are easily proven NOT sound!
In the case of Greece, in the middle of a bank run, will it be hard to prove that banks are not sound? Hardly! But more importantly, the soundness of the Greek banks is 100 percent dependent on the 65b Euro capital injection coming as a part of the previous government's agreement to the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding, or what Tsipras calls the Memorandum of Barbarity).
That 65b is the ONLY reason why Greek banks have a chance of being deemed sound. Without the 65b, there is no way anyone could claim the BoG is lending to sound institutions and there is no way the ECB could continue to authorize the BoG to lend under ELA.
And that takes us squarely to Mr Tsipras, SYRIZA, the MoU/MoB and the Greek election. It will be very easy for Merkel and company up north to lay out a case for an ELA shut down for the BoG if the MoU is discarded by the Greek voters via a win for Tsipras! In a sense, Merkel's phone call on Friday to the Greek president was just that. It was actually the same call that was made to the Irish president a while back - and of course the Irish balked, caving to the German demands. At that time however there wasn't an Irish presidential vote. This time, with Greece, Merkel's message is really to the Greek people. And what is that message exactly? Vote for Tsipras and I turn off the Euros. Or, in other words, choosing Tsipras means choosing to leave the Eurozone. Of course, Greece could vote for Tsipras, discard the MoU, repudiate the dni8ceebt (including Target2 debts), still use the Euro and stay in the EU - but they would become Montenegro! The chances of that however are zero. The Greeks will want to print and control their destiny if they get cut off. No ELA will almost surely bring back the Drachma. And doing so would, in Merkel's view, be the choice of the Greek people. At least that's how it will be sold to the rest of Europe.
The problem for Merkel is that the Greeks will understand this and run the banks BEFORE June 17th - it is happening right now. On June 16th why wouldn't every Greek go to the bank with a sack and ask for the cash. Why hold Euros into the 17th? By that logic why not get them out earlier in case they shut the ELA pre-election. From the north's perspective, one could argue that Merkel should shut the ELA right now. Allowing the Greek people to access all their Euros physically, while still holding the option to default on June 17th, is insane. She and the ECB would NOT be acting in the best interest of the Eurozone if they let this happen - there would be 300b in Target2 losses to split up between 16 member NCBs if the Greeks choose to leave after taking out all the Euros. If she gives the directive to shut off the ELA early she will at least keep the Target2 losses to 150b. And she will be telling the Greek people that if they vote for Tsipras, their Euros in the bank will not be available. This is a dangerous game for sure! But this way she can also blame the Greek voters for an exit, and hide behind ECB rules that imply access to funding can only be done to sound institutions. With this strategy she can have the Greeks decide on the 17th to keep the MoU, get the 65b and have access to their 150b Euros OR abandon the MoU, watch their Euros turn to Drachmas and leave the Eurozone. She didn't kick them out, they chose to leave!! Of course the few weeks leading up to the election with ELA turned off and a multi week Greek bank holiday would make for some crazy headlines.
As I said in Friday's piece, deciding what to do with the ELA for the BoG as we head into the Greek election "is the most important decision in the history of EMU". By turning it off, Merkel might scare the Greek people into complying, as she did with the Irish. By leaving it on, she makes it much easier for the Greeks to vote Tsipras and leave the rest of the zone to pay. She also makes it much more likely she will have to cave to Tsipras' demands.
The stakes are high, and while the decision is crucial for Greece, and their creditors, there are even bigger second order issues in play. A Greek run will certainly cause the Spanish and Italian folks to question the access of their respective NCBs to ECB funding and the ELA. It will be VERY hard to argue that Italian banks are sound if 100s of billions in deposits flow to Germany! And why wouldn't every Eurozone resident put their hard earned money in the safest bank possible if we start to see Greek depositors threatened? As soon as retail sniffs that there is a chance of a loss, a full scale Eurozone bank run ensues. If the Germans can turn off the Greeks or the Irish, could they turn off the Italians?
The Germans have tried to play hard ball for 3 years. Every time it backfires and the Fed and ECB have to ride to the rescue with bazookas. My money is on the Germans going to battle with Tsipras. And in the end we create a Greek exit and a bank run throughout the periphery. The endgame looks like what I described in the commentary entitled "Angie ain't it time we said goodbye". In that analysis the Italians and the Spaniards, through the chaos of bank run and Greek default, force the Germans to wrap their debts via Eurobond or some sort of system wide European bank deposit scheme. In actuality, the Rajoys and Tremontis of the world may even try to incite a run in Greece - it gets them the German wrap they have always dreamed of! Using Greece as a pawn in the big Eurobond chess game is dangerous, but likely effective!
So where does the chaos from a Greek bank run and exit lead us. The end is of course ECB printing, Eurobonds and every developed market central bank dumping massive liquidity into the global financial markets as systemic risks rise - QE, LTROs, Currency swaps, and every funding facility under the sun come into play. The path to this end game will be bumpy, but make no mistake, the developed market central banks will dump so much fiat on the system to cover the losses, that risk free real rates will plummet to levels so negative that anyone left holding cash or cash equivalents will see massive destruction of real wealth. We may have to push risk assets a bit lower from here, but the global central banks will be firing howitzers and tomahawks very shortly, not bazookas! And you best be owning some risk when those bad boys are launched!!