Monday, January 7, 2013

7/1/2013: A scary chart from Spain

If you want a frightening figure for the start of the week, here's one, courtesy of the WSJ:

Per WSJ: "At least 90% of the €65 billion ($85.7 billion) fund has been invested in increasingly risky Spanish debt, according to official figures, and the government has begun withdrawing cash for emergency payments."

"In November, the government withdrew €4 billion from the reserve fund to pay pensions, the second time in history it had withdrawn cash. The first time was in September, when it took €3 billion to cover unspecified treasury needs." Such withdrawals can lead to sales of bonds, which in turn can lead to higher yields - classic scenario of a ponzi scheme unwinding.

The point is not valuations, but risk.

"Spain will have trouble finding buyers for the estimated €207 billion in debt it plans to issue in 2013, up from €186 billion in 2012, to cover central-government operations, debt maturities of 17 regional administrations, and overdue energy bills," according to WSJ. 

But there is, of course, more. "Spain's commercial banks already have increased their Spanish government-bond portfolio by a factor of six since the start of the crisis in 2008, and now own one-third of government bonds in circulation." In other words, there is a closed loop between Spanish State, State pensions fund and the banks. A liquidity crunch or solvency problems for banks will cascade all across the debt markets, potentially triggering defaults on pensions.

Note: per Eurointelligence report earlier today, "This is old news as already back in June there was a report that Spanish debt holdings by the Reserve Fund had gone from 55% in 2007 to 90%, and it was government policy to reach 100% by replacing maturing foreign debt holdings with new Spanish debt. It is also a bit of a noisy red herring, as a stock of €65bn is about 2/3 of the government's annual pension bill, it is clear that the Social Security Reserve Fund accumulated over the past decade can never be a substantial contributor to future pensions. However, the Euro's prohibition of central bank financing of state budgets may require the creation of such buffer stocks"
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