I am back in Dublin after a few days of snow-capped Italian Alps, great food, great wine, sunshine, crisp and clean mountains air. Friuli was, as it always is, a marvel!
What did I miss while away?
First, the recapitalization announced last week is not working. The magic, if a promise of the state taking a large chunk out of any future profitability, growth strategies and competitiveness of the Irish banks has had any magic in the first place, is now all gone. Gone because of the terms of this senile arrangement for all sides involved.
Here is how:
(1) The state is borrowing money at ca 5.5-5.7% in the market and injects money into the banks at 8%, earning risk unadjusted 2.5% return implying a risk-adjusted return (assuming our banks CDS spreads for last week) of ca -2-2.5%,
(2) The banks get money at 8%. Hostage to Government's demands on boards composition and lending, their profitability is shot for the foreseeable future,
(3) The banks are required to lend money out to businesses at... 8% (cost of funds) + admin cost (1.5%) so, say, ca 10% to repay the state,
(4) Businesses will stay away from this latest Government-engineered rip-off, while Ireland Inc's corporate and household balance sheets will still carry excessive levels of risk and debt and the economy will continue to spiral downward.
So, Minister Lenihan, the scheme cannot work even in theory. Forget about trying to make it work in practice.
Second, my favourite charts are updated to show that the things I missed while away were duly priced into Irish shares valuations by the market. Hey, at least the market still functions...
Third, I've missed some lively debates on certain 'academic' blogs about the pesky foreign commentators 'talking down' Irish Miracle Economy (and Government credit ratings). Needless to say, I am not amused:
(1) Some of those who made these comments themselves are keen on offering consultancy services advising foreign governments and commenting on their policies. Do their comments suggest that they claim a privilege to do what others should not be allowed?
(2) A part of this debate has finally exposed the undemocratic, technocratic nature of some of the members of the Irish intellectual elite. One commentator went as far as state that any publicly open debate exposes Ireland to the irrationality of the masses and that openness and freedom of expression thus are best reserved exclusively for discussions involving only 'informed' policymakers and analysts.
Which brings us to today's news: Irish 5-year CDS spreads have hit 378bps today, with a recovery rate of 40%, implying (assuming frictionless markets and no arbitrage) a lower bound of the Ireland Inc's default rate of 22%. Adding thinness of the markets (Irish bonds being traded in relatively small volumes, plus the half-day trading yesterday in the US) our implied sovereign default rate stands probably closer to 25%.
These are the resignable-level figures for our Brian-Brian-Mary Triumvirate of the Incompetents.