Tag Archives: Italian banks

Salvini Is Positioning Italy for Confrontation, by Tom Luongo

Matteo Salvini is proving himself to be quite a match for the EU. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:

Italy’s Matteo Salvini is riding high right now. Having weathered a couple of cheap legal moves to derail his assault on the European Parliament this May, Salvini is working to galvanize Euroskepticism across the continent into a viable political force.

He’s got his work cut out for himself.

But, he has at least two major allies. Marine Le Pen of the National Rally in France and Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary. Salvini and Le Pen met last week to announce they would be campaigning together for the European elections as well as a major summit in Milan soon.

This is only the beginning, however.

I’ve been saying for over a year now that Salvini needs to be the person who lays the foundation for a wholesale revolt against the European Union and Italy’s participation in the euro.

His Lega party have skyrocketed in the polls, reversing the dynamic between it and coalition partner Five Star Movement. It’s a coalition that is of the kind which frightens the political establishment in Europe because it isn’t formed on the traditional left-right false divide.

It is a populist one united on the common cause of overthrowing the corrupt, corporatist system which most western governments are fronts for.

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Big Old Problem Just Re-Erupted on Eurozone’s Southern Flank, by Don Quijones

Italy is in recession, has debt out the wazoo, and its banking system is in bad shape. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

Italy’s fiscal health is once again in serious decline.

On Wednesday, Italy’s coalition government slashed its growth forecast for the Italian economy in 2019 to 0.2% – the weakest forecast in the Eurozone – from a previous forecast of 1%. Italy is already in a technical recession after chalking up two straight quarters of negative GDP growth in the second half of 2018.

The government’s budget for this year was based on the assumption that the economy would expand by 1% this year. Now, it seems the economy may not grow at all; it could even shrink.

One direct result of this is that Italy’s current account deficit for 2019 will be substantially higher than the 2.04% of GDP Italy’s government pledged to stick to late last year. And that can mean only thing: another standoff between Rome and Brussels over the direction of fiscal policy is in the offing.

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Default Or Exit: A Battle Between Italy And The EU Is Inevitable, by The Oriental Review

Italy’s debt problem makes Greece’s look like small change. From The Oriental Review editorial board at orientalreview.org:

There is a dual Italian crisis brewing in the European Union. On the one hand, it is a political, or even geopolitical, crisis. Italy is undermining the unity of the European Union; blocking the EU’s recognition of those behind the coup in Venezuela as the legitimate authority; preventing the expansion of sanctions against Russia; and even supporting the ‘yellow vest’ movement in France, which is arousing the anger of the French government.

On the other hand, the crisis is economic in nature. Italy is once more sliding into a recession (economic growth was negative in the country); Italian banks are again facing financial problems; and the business media has already estimated that the Italian economic crisis could blow up the entire European banking system.

There is a strong possibility that the EU’s leaders will soon be faced with a choice: try to save Italy (and the whole of Europe) from yet another crisis or set an example by punishing the Italian government for the country’s independent economic and foreign policies. In turn, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government will most likely have its own dilemma to deal with: bow down and sell its principles to get help from Brussels or go all out and regain Italian independence. The choice will not be easy and either decision will be painful. Neither ending to this Italian drama could really be called happy. As this headline in The Telegraph quite rightly notes: “Crisis brewing in Italy will lead to default, exit from the euro, or both.”

Conte Salvini MaioItalian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte delivers his speech during the confidence vote for the new government at the Italian Senate. In the picture at left vice premier Luigi Di Maio and right vice premier Matteo Salvini, Italy, Rome, June 05, 2018

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“New Economic or Financial Crisis” in the Eurozone Could Start in Italy: French Government Frets, by Don Quijones

The eurozone has never really addressed its manifest banking problems from the last credit crisis, which may be the trigger for the next credit crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

“Don’t underestimate the impact of the Italian recession.” This was the stark warning from French Economy Minister Bruno Le Marie in an interview with Bloomberg News. “We talk a lot about Brexit, but we don’t talk much about an Italian recession that will have a significant impact on growth in Europe and can impact France because it’s one of our most important trading partners.”

Italy’s economy as measured in real GDP shrank for two quarters in a row, which puts it into a “technical recession”:

It’s the second time in four months that France’s Economy Minister has expressed deep concern about the Italian economy in public. At the end of October he urged the commission to “reach out to Italy” after the EU’s executive had rejected the country’s draft 2019 budget for breaking EU rules on public spending. Le Maire also conceded at the time that while contagion in the Eurozone was definitely contained, the Eurozone “is not sufficiently armed to face a new economic or financial crisis.”

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Italy’s Debt Crisis Flares Up, Banks Get Hit, as Showdown with the EU Intensifies, by Don Quijones

Remember how painful the Greek debt was, and how hard it was to resolve. Italy’s unfolding debt crisis will be many times larger and more difficult to resolve. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

A serious showdown is brewing in the Eurozone as Italy’s anti-establishment coalition government takes on the EU establishment in a struggle that could have major ramifications for Europe’s monetary union. The cause of the discord is the Italian government’s plan to expand Italy’s budget for 2019, in contravention of previous budget agreements with Brussels.

The government has set a public deficit target for next year of 2.4% of GDP, three times higher than the previous government’s pledge. It’s a big ask for a country that already boasts a debt-to-GDP ratio of 131%, the second highest in Europe behind Greece. To justify its ambitious “anti-poverty” spending plans, proposed tax cuts, and pension reforms, the government claims that Italy’s economic growth will outperform EU forecasts.

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Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu, by Tom Luongo

Will southern European debt or emerging market debt kick off the next financial crisis? They’re both strong contenders, running neck-and-neck. From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was right to call out the EU over the failure of the bridge in Genoa this week.  It was an act of cheap political grandstanding but one that ultimately rings very true.

It’s a perfect moment to shake people out of their complacency as to the real costs of giving up one’s financial sovereignty to someone else, in this case the Troika — European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Italy is slowly strangling to death thanks to the euro.  There is no other way to describe what is happening.  It’s populist coalition government understands the fundamental problems but, politically, is hamstrung to address them head on.

The political will simply isn’t there to make the break needed to put Italy truly back on the right path, i.e. leave the euro.  But, as the government is set to clash with Brussels over their proposed budget the issues with the euro may come into sharper focus.

Looking at the budget it is two or three steps in the right direction — lower, flat income tax rate, not raising the VAT — but also a step or two in the wrong direction — universal income.

Opening up Italy’s markets and lowering taxpayers’ burdens is the path to sustainable, organic growth, but that is not the purpose of IMF-style austerity.  It’s purpose is to do exactly what it is doing, strangling Italy to death and extracting the wealth and spirit out of the local population, c.f. Greece and before that Russia in the 1990’s.

So, looking at the situation today as the spat between Turkey and the U.S. escalates, it is obvious that Italy is in the crosshairs of any contagion effects into Europe’s banking system.

To continue reading: Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Which Banks Are Most Exposed to Italy’s Sovereign Debt? (Other than the Horribly Exposed Italian Banks), by Don Quijones

Italy is moving up fast on the outside in the race to see which dicey situation sets off the next global financial crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

“Doom loop” begins to exact its pound of flesh.

Risk. Exposure. Contagion. These are three words we’re likely to hear more and more in relation to Europe, as the Eurozone’s debt crisis returns.

On Friday, Italy’s 10-year risk premium — the spread between Italian ten-year bond yields and their German counterparts — surged almost 20 basis points to 212 basis points. This was the highest level since May 2017, when a number of Italy’s banks, including third biggest bank Monte dei Pacshi di Siena (MPS), were on the brink of collapse and were either “resolved” or bailed out. Now, they’re all beginning to wobble again.

Shares of bailed-out and now majority-state-owned MPS, whose management the new government says it would like to change, are down 20% in the last two weeks’ trading. The shares of Unicredit and Intesa, Italy’s two biggest banks, have respectively shed 10% and 18% during the same period.

One of the big questions investors are asking themselves is which banks are most exposed to Italian debt.

A recent study by the Bank for International Settlementsshows Italian government debt represents nearly 20% of Italian banks’ assets — one of the highest levels in the world. In total there are ten banks with Italian sovereign-debt holdings that represent over 100% of their tier-1 capital (which is used to measure bank solvency), according to research by Eric Dor, the director of Economic Studies at IESEG School of Management.

The list includes Italy’s two largest lenders, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, whose exposure to Italian government bonds represent the equivalent of 145% of their tier-1 capital. Also listed are Italy’s third largest bank, Banco BPM (327%), Monte dei Paschi di Siena (206%), BPER Banca (176%) and Banca Carige (151%).

In other words, despite years of the ECB’s multi-trillion euro QE program, which is scheduled to come to an end soon, the so-called “Doom Loop” is still very much alive and kicking in Italy. The doom loop is when weakening government bonds threaten to topple the banks that own the bonds, and in turn, the banks start offloading them, which causes these bonds to fall further, thus pushing the government to the brink. The doom loop is a particular problem in the Eurozone since a member state doesn’t control its own currency, and cannot print itself out of trouble, which leaves it exposed to credit risk.

To continue reading: Which Banks Are Most Exposed to Italy’s Sovereign Debt? (Other than the Horribly Exposed Italian Banks)

Despite Years of ECB’s QE (Ending Soon), Italy’s “Doom Loop” Still Threatens Eurozone Financial System, by Don Quijones

Italian banks own large amounts of Italian government debt, which is supposedly riskless…until it isn’t. Southern European banks are still strong contenders to kick off the next financial crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The dreaded “Doom Loop” — when shaky banks hold too much shaky government debt, raising the fear of contagion across the financial system if one of them stumbles — is still very much alive in Italy despite Mario Draghi’s best efforts to transfer ownership of Italian debt from banks to the ECB, according to Eric Dor, the director of Economic Studies at IESEG School of Management, who has collated the full extent of individual bank exposures to Italian sovereign debt.

The doom loop is a particular problem in the Eurozone since a member state doesn’t control its own currency, and cannot print itself out of trouble, which leaves it exposed to credit risk.

The Bank of Italy, on behalf of the ECB, has bought up more than €350 billion of multiyear Treasury bonds (BTPs) in recent years. The scale of its holdings overtook those of Italian banks, which have been shedding BTPs since mid-2016, making the central bank the second-largest holder of Italian bonds after insurance companies, pension funds and other financials.

But Italian banks are still big owners of Italian debt. According to a study by the Bank for International Settlements, government debt represents nearly 20% of banks’ assets — one of the highest levels in the world. In total there are ten banks with Italian sovereign debt holdings that represent over 100% of their tier 1 capital (or CET1), according to Dor’s research. They include Italy’s two largest lenders, Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, whose exposure to Italian government bonds represent the equivalent of 145% of their tier 1 capital. Also listed are Italy’s third largest bank, Banco BPM (327%), MPS (206%), BPER Banca (176%) and Banca Carige (151%).

Will Italy’s Banking Crisis Spawn a New Frankenbank? by Don Quijones

Southern European banks have long been one of SLL’s candidates to really get the next financial crisis rolling. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

“Operation Overlord.”

There are rumors currently doing the rounds that Italy’s banking problems have finally been put to rest. The FTSE Italia All-Share Banks Index has soared about 40% over the last 12 months, about double the advance by the Euro Stoxx Banks Index. Six of the top seven gainers in the latter index this year are Italian.

The story of Italy’s non-performing loans, which just a year ago terrified global investors and posed a systemic threat to the entire Eurozone economy, “is over,” according to Fabrizio Pagani, the chief of staff at Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance. Pagani believes that now that the banking sector is well and truly on the mend, work should begin to take consolidation of the sector to a new level.

“There are too many banks,” Pagani told Bloomberg. “And in this sense, Monte dei Paschi could play a role. I think this could start this year.”

There’s clearly lots of room for consolidation in Italy, home to roughly 500 banks, many of which are small local or regional savings banks with tens or hundreds of millions of euros in assets. At the top end of the scale, Italy’s ten biggest banks control roughly 50% of the industry. The goal is to increase thatto 70-75% to bring it more in line with the levels of banking concentration in other EU countries. In Spain, for example, the five biggest banks — Santander, BBVA, CaixaBank, Bankia and Sabadell — control 72% of the market.

The problem is that, while last year’s bail out of Monte dei Paschi di Siena may have restored a certain amount of investor confidence to Italy’s banking sector, many of the largest banking groups are still extremely fragile, with stubbornly high non-performing loan (NPL) ratios. Even Intesa Sanpaolo, which is widely regarded as Italy’s most stable large bank, had a bad-loan ratio of 13% at the end of September, compared to a European average of 4.5%.

 

Dalio’s $13 Billion Short: Bridgewater Unveils Its Biggest Ever Short Position, by Tyler Durden

The world’s largest hedge fund complex is making a big bet against Italian and Spanish financial stocks, and a few European industrial concerns. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Last October, Italy’s government was angry when the world’s largest hedge fund, Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater unveiled it had amassed a sizable  $713 million short against Italian financial stocks, its biggest disclosed bearish bet in Europe.

Then last week, and just one month before Italy’s March 4 elections – which the broader market stubbornly refuses to acknowledge are a risk factor – Bridgewater tripled down on its bearish bets against Italian banks and insurers, making the position the largest thematic short carried by the world’s biggest hedge fund.

As we reported last Thursday, Bridgewater boosted its bearish bets against Italian companies to $3 billion and 18 firms, up four-fold from just over $713 million in early October, further infuriating Italian authorities. As Bloomberg added, Bridgewater’s bearish bets against European companies as a whole totaled $3.3 billion, spread among 20 names.  In addition to his previous negative exposure, Dalio disclosed a short position in transport-infrastructure provider Atlantia and added to its largest short bet, against lender Intesa Sanpaolo SpA.

The growing short comes just days after Dalio told a Davos audience that “holding cash is now stupid”… and literally days before the biggest market crash since Lehman.

Fast forward to today, when Dalio’s bearish fascination is starting to get a little concerning, because according to the latest Bloomberg summary, Bridgewater now has at least $13.1 billion in European Union shorts, quadrupling the $3.2 billion short from last week, and over 18 times more than the fund’s original position last October.

In the past week, Bridgewater put more than $1 billion to work betting against oil giant Total SA – making it the firm’s largest disclosed short holding in Europe. 

As Bloomberg notes, Europe’s energy titan has been riding out the biggest industry downturn in a generation by selling assets and cutting spending. The hedge fund also started a bearish Airbus SE position, investing about $381 million against the aircraft maker. Among other short positions, it disclosed wagers against BNP Paribas SA, ING Groep NV and Banco Santander SA.

Amusingly, since the Feb. 8 regulatory filings were made public, Total fell 1% as markets slumped, while Dalio’s other shorts, Airbus, BNP Paribas, ING Groep and Banco Santander sank roughly 2%.

To continue reading: Dalio’s $13 Billion Short: Bridgewater Unveils Its Biggest Ever Short Position