Tag Archives: Italy

Fears of “Doom Loop” between Italian Banks and Government Bonds Resurface by Don Quijones

What happens when insolvent banks hold the bonds of insolvent governments? That’s a question that will soon confront Europe. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

What will Draghi do? 

After two controversial bank rescue operations that stretched Europe’s bank resolution laws beyond recognition, things are beginning to look a little less desperate for Italy’s banking sector. The initial market reaction to the interventions has been overwhelmingly positive. For the first time in years Italian banks are leading Europe’s Stoxx 600 bank Index — upwards, not downwards.

Even the recent announcement of a capital raising and bad-loan sale plan by troubled bank Banca Carige was met with enthusiasm, sending its shares up 30%.

One of the Italian banking sector’s biggest problems — its sky-high bad loan ratio — will soon be under control, claimed Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco in a recent speech to the Italian banking association. The interventions in Monte dei Paschi di Siena and the two Veneto-based banks, Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, will take almost €50 billion of bad loans off their balance sheets, leaving about €275 billion in the system. Within a year Italy’s non-performing loan ratio will be down to an almost respectable 8% of total loans, Visco said.

To that end the government will create a new semi-publicly owned national asset management company (NAMC) that will help “develop the market for bad loans.” To lend the scheme legitimacy, European finance ministers rushed through approval of NAMCs for all Eurozone economies last week.

These NAMCs will vacuum up some of the nonperforming loans from bank balance sheets and sell them at a discount on the secondary market. According to Visco, the only way such a scheme would be “useful” is if it is applied on a purely voluntary basis and the assets are transferred at a price “not too far from their real economic value” — i.e. the value assigned to them by the banks. Untold billions of euros of taxpayer funds will be used to make up the difference between what market participants are willing to pay for the banks’ impaired assets and the price the banks want for them. This is the more covert part of Italy’s publicly funded bank rescue program.

To continue reading: Fears of “Doom Loop” between Italian Banks and Government Bonds Resurface

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ECB Tapering May Trigger “Disorderly Restructuring” of Italian Debt, Return to National Currency, by Don Quijones

An Italian banking system collapse still in one of the favorites for the catalyst that kicks of the next global debt crisis. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The only other option: “Orderly restructuring.”

Here’s the staggering scale of the Italian government’s dependence on the ECB’s bond purchases, according to a new report by Astellon Capital: Since 2008, 88% of government debt net issuance has been acquired by the ECB and Italian Banks. At current government debt net issuance rates and announced QE levels, the ECB will have been responsible for financing 100% of Italy’s deficits from 2014 to 2019.

But now there’s a snag.

Last month, the size of the balance sheet of the ECB surpassed that of any other central bank: At €4.17 trillion, the ECB’s assets have soared to 38.8% of Eurozone GDP. The ECB has already reduced the rate of purchases to €60 billion a month. And it plans to further withdraw from the super-expansionary monetary policy. To do this, according to Der Spiegel, it wants to spread more optimistic messages about the economic situation and gradually reduce borrowing.

Frantically sowing the seeds of optimism on Wednesday was Bruegel’s Francesco Papadia, formerly director general for market operations at the ECB. “On the economic front, things are moving in the right direction,” he told Bloomberg. The ECB will begin sending clear messages in the Fall that it will soon begin tapering QE, Papadia forecast. By the halfway point of 2018 the ECB would have completed tapering and it would then use the second half of the year to move away from negative interest rates.

So far, most current ECB members have shown scant enthusiasm for withdrawing the punch bowl. The reason most frequently cited for not tapering more just yet is their lingering concern about the long-term sustainability of the Eurozone’s recent economic turnaround.

To continue reading: ECB Tapering May Trigger “Disorderly Restructuring” of Italian Debt, Return to National Currency

 

Italy at the Grim Edge of a Global Problem, by Don Quijones

You may be tired of hearing about Italy, but it’s only going to get worse. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

This trend is not your friend.

To be young, gifted, educated and Italian is no guarantee of financial security these days. As a new report by the Bruno Visentini Foundation shows, the average 20-year-old will have 18 years to wait before living independently — meaning, among other things, having a home, a steady income, and the ability to support a family. That’s almost twice as long as it took Italians who turned 20 in 2004.

A Worsening Trend

Eurostat statistics in October 2016 showed that less than a third of under-35s in Italy had left their parental home, a figure 20 percentage points higher than the European average. The trend is expected to worsen as the economy continues to struggle. Researchers said that for Italians who turn 20 in 2030, it will take an average of 28 years to be able to live independently. In other words, many of Italy’s children today won’t have “grown up” until they’re nearing their 50s.

That raises an obvious question: if Italy’s future generation of workers are expected to struggle to support themselves and their children until they’re well into their forties, how will they possibly be able to support the burgeoning ranks of baby boomers reaching retirement age (a staggeringly low 58 for men and 53 for women), let alone service the over €2 trillion of public debt the Italian government has accumulated (and which doesn’t include the untold billions it hopes to splash out on saving the banks)?

The trend could also have major implications for Italy’s huge stock of non-performing loans, which, unless resolved soon, threatens to overwhelm the country’s banking system. If most young Italians are not financially independent, who will buy the foreclosed homes and other properties that will flood the market once the soured loans and mortgages are finally removed from banks’ balance sheets?

To continue reading: Italy at the Grim Edge of a Global Problem

 

Eurozone Whistles Past its Biggest Threat, by Don Quijones

The Italian financial system is in deep trouble and will crash without a large infusion of funds, undoubtedly from Europe’s beleaguered taxpayers. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

 

Italy’s Multi-Headed Hydra Predicament.

For the last three years, the political establishment in Italy and beyond have had a field day attacking, ridiculing, and vilifying Beppe Grillo’s 5-star movement. Europe’s media have tarred him with the brush of populism. In 2013 The Economist labelled him a clown on its front cover. Yet his party still leads the polls. And that lead is growing.

A new Ipsos poll in Corriere della Sera newspaper has put Beppe Grillo’s 5-Star Movement on 32.3% – its highest ever reading. It placed 5.5 points ahead of the governing PD, on 26.8%, after the PD dropped more than three percentage points in a month, as former prime minister Matteo Renzi battles to reassert his authority following a walkout by a left-wing faction.

Internal political battles are nothing new in Italy. The country enjoys a hard-earned reputation for political instability and paralysis, having seen 63 governments come and go since 1945. The problem this time around is that internal weakness and strife in Italy’s traditional center-left and center-right parties could end up gifting the next election to a party that refuses to play by the book.

If it wins the next elections, which could be brought forward to as early as June this year, 5-Star Movement has pledged to hold a referendum of its own — albeit a non-binding one — on Italy’s membership of the euro. As polls have shown, there is much broader public apathy toward the single currency than in just about any other euro zone nation. Grillo’s plan could also receive the backing of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who is determined to pull off a political comeback and is talking of restoring the Italian Lira.

As Reuters reports, such a scenario could spook financial markets “wary of both the 5-Star’s euroskepticism and the threat of prolonged political instability in Italy,” which boasts a public debt burden of over €2 trillion (133% of GDP). In any normal situation that would be a problem. But Italy is not in a normal situation; it is on the cusp of a potentially very large financial crisis that, if mishandled, could bring down Europe’s entire financial system.

To continue reading: Eurozone Whistles Past its Biggest Threat

Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers, by Don Quijones

The European banking crisis (and make no mistake, European banks are in a crisis) will follow the same story line as all banking crises: with taxpayers bailing out the banks. From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

If the ECB scales back stimulus, banks face even greater risk of collapse. But now there’s a new solution.

Events are moving so fast in Europe these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. While much of the attention is being hogged by political developments, including the election in the Netherlands, Reuters published a report warning that the European banking sector may face even higher bad loan risks if the ECB begins to scale back its monetary stimulus programs, something it has already begun, albeit extremely tentatively.

The total stock of non-performing loans (NPL) in the EU is estimated at over €1 trillion, or 5.4% of total loans, a ratio three times higher than in other major regions of the world.

On a country-by-country basis, things look even scarier. Currently 10 (out of 28) EU countries have an NPL ratio above 10% (orders of magnitude higher than what is generally considered safe). And among Eurozone countries, where the ECB’s monetary policies have direct impact, there are these NPL stalwarts:

Ireland: 15.8%
Italy: 16.6%
Portugal: 19.2%
Slovenia: 19.7%
Greece: 46.6%
Cyprus: 49%

That bears repeating: in Greece and Cyprus, two of the Eurozone’s most bailed out economies, virtually half of all the bank loans are toxic.

Then there’s Italy, whose €350 billion of NPLs account for roughly a third of Europe’s entire bad debt stock. Italy’s government and financial sector have spent the last year and a half failing spectacularly to come up with a solution to the problem. The two “bad bank” funds they created to help clean up the banks’ toxic balance sheets, Atlante I and Atlante II, are the financial equivalent of bringing a butter knife to a machete fight. So underfunded are they, they even strugggled to hold aloft smaller, regional Italian banks like Veneto Banca and Popolare di Vicenza, which are now pleading for a bailout from Rome, which in turn is pleading for clemency from Brussels.

To continue reading: Deepening EU Banking Crisis Meets Euro-TARP and Taxpayers

Move over Greece, Italy’s Crisis Will Be Worse, by Daniel J. Mitchell

Greece is garnering headlines again as it moves towards another crisis, but the Italian economy is much larger, the third largest in Europe, and its banking system is on the verge of a crisis that would be much more severe than the Greek soap opera. From Daniel J. Mitchell at the Foundation for Econonomic Education, fee.org:

Early last month, in a column on my hopes and fears for 2017, I fretted about fiscal chaos in Italy leading to default and bailouts.

Simply stated, I fear that Italy, along with certain other “Club Med” nations, has passed the point of no return in terms of big government, demographic decline, and societal dependency.

And this means that, sooner or later, the proverbial wheels are going to fall off the bus. And it might be sooner.

On Shaky Ground

I don’t always agree with his policy recommendations, but I regularly read Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute because he is one of the best-informed people in Washington on the fiscal and economic mess in Europe.

And Italy, to be blunt, is in a mess.

Here’s what Desmond just wrote about the country’s economy.

…while the euro could very well survive a Greek exit, it certainly could not survive in anything like its present form were Italy to have a full-blown economic and financial crisis that forced it to default on its public debt mountain. …Among the reasons that there should be greater concern about an Italian, rather than a Greek, economic crisis is that Italy has a very much larger economy than Greece. Being the third-largest economy in the eurozone, Italy’s economy is around 10 times the size of that of Greece. Equally troubling is the fact that Italy has the world’s third-largest sovereign bond market with public debt of more than $2.5 trillion. Much of this debt is held by Europe’s shaky banking system, which heightens the risk that an Italian sovereign debt default could shake the global financial system to its core. …the country’s economic performance since 2008 has been abysmal. Indeed, Italian living standards today are around 10 percent below where they were 10 years ago. Meanwhile, Italy’s banking system has become highly troubled and its public sector debt as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) is now the second highest in the eurozone.”

To continue reading: Move over Greece, Italy’s Crisis Will Be Worse

 

How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track, by John Rubino

Sooner or later, Europe and its euro will collapse under its debt load. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

Every few years, it seems, one or another mismanaged eurozone country falls into one or another kind of crisis. This leads to speculation about the end of the common currency, which in turn spooks the global financial markets. Then the ECB conjures another trillion euros out of thin air, buys up and/or guarantees all the offending country’s bonds, and calm returns for a while.

At least, that’s how it’s gone in the past.

The latest crisis has more than the usual number of flash-points and could, therefore, be something new and different. Currently:

Greece. This charming but apparently ungovernable country only got into the eurozone in the first place because its corrupt leaders conspired with Goldman Sachs to hide the true condition of the government’s finances. It quickly blew up and has been on intensive care ever since. Now the latest bailout has become deal-breakingly messy:

‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning

(Guardian) – With another bailout set to bring more cuts, quitting the euro is back on the agenda.

The country’s epic struggle to avert bankruptcy should have been settled when Athens received €110bn in aid – the biggest financial rescue programme in global history – from the EU and International Monetary Fund in May 2010. Instead, three bailouts later, it is still wrangling over the terms of the latest €86bn emergency loan package, with lenders also at loggerheads and diplomats no longer talking of a can, but rather a bomb, being kicked down the road. Default looms if a €7.4bn debt repayment – money owed mostly to the European Central Bank – is not honoured in July.

Amid the uncertainty, volatility has returned to the markets. So, too, has fear, with an estimated €2.2bn being withdrawn from banks by panic-stricken depositors since the beginning of the year. With talk of Greece’s exit from the euro being heard again, farmers, trade unions and other sectors enraged by the eviscerating effects of austerity have once more come out in protest.

To continue reading: How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track