Spain’s Bailout in mid-September says Goldman Sachs

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | AUGUST 23, 2012

The Spanish government will wait at least until mid-September before requesting help from its European partners in order to properly assess what offers and under what conditions the European Central Bank (ECB), intends to use. This is what analysts at Goldman Sachs pointed to their clients.

“We continue to see Spain as the first in line in this respect (ask for help and accept the conditions), although we expect that there will be a request in mid-September at the earliest,” say analysts at the Wall Street bank.

So, consider that “the Spanish authorities will probably wait until they have clear what offers the ECB Council will present during the September 6 meeting, before deciding whether to make a request for support to the EFSF and, if so, how and when.”

In fact, the report from Goldman Sachs bets that Mario Draghi will unveiled a strategy at the next Council meeting with a plan to ‘guard the euro’ which will intend to curb the escalating sovereign debt interest rates of the countries of the euro zone.

In this sense, analysts expect the ECB to perform interventions “opportunistically” in debt maturities of the one to three years kind in order to prevent interest rate peaks required on short-term debt in countries where their obligations have paralyzed the debt markets several times.

However, the report from Goldman Sachs is more cautious about the possibility that the ECB will announce the purchase of large amounts of sovereign debt and believes that the institution will first attempt to reactivate private markets through sporadic interventions, instead of immediately replacing the private sector with its own balance sheet. That means the ECB may have to buy debt itself, in order to bring some peace to the markets and confidence to private debt buyers.

The possibility that Spain finally requests financial assistance by mid-September is best handled in the markets, as the country will face the maturity 26,351,000 (6,085,000 bonds and 20,266,000 in bonds and notes) in October.

In fact, the Treasury will have to attract about 79,968,000 from markets for the remainder of the year to fund outstanding maturities and the deficit, according to the primary market which has had access to Europa Press.

The maturities from August to December amounted to 45.968 million euros, to which must be added about half of the deficit forecast for this year (6.3%), which is about 30,000 million and 4,000 million that has been pledged to regional liquidity fund.

S&P will not slash Spain’s credit rating after request for bailout

S & P said today that it will probably keep Spain’s credit rating intact, even though the Spanish government may request a total rescue of the economy from Brussels and the International Monetary Fund.

In a statement, the Anglo-saxon agency notes that it maintains the negative outlook for Spain, whose long-term debt rate remains at BBB +, after the country sought a grant of up to 100,000 million for its banking system.

However, S&P warned that the credit worthiness will not fall any lower if the government of Spain requested a bailout of the total economy because the agency thinks it would be easier to successfully complete what Mariano Rajoy has called ‘the ambitious economic reform agenda’.

U.S. National Debt at $214 Trillion not $14 Trillion

NPR
August 11, 2011

When Standard & Poor’s reduced the nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, the United States suffered the first downgrade to its credit rating ever. S&P took this action despite the plan Congress passed this past week to raise the debt limit.

The downgrade, S&P said, “reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”

It’s those medium- and long-term debt problems that also worry economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, who served as a senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He says the national debt, which the U.S. Treasury has accounted at about $14 trillion, is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We have all these unofficial debts that are massive compared to the official debt,” Kotlikoff tells David Greene, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. “We’re focused just on the official debt, so we’re trying to balance the wrong books.”

Kotlikoff explains that America’s “unofficial” payment obligations — like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits — jack up the debt figure substantially.

“If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That’s the fiscal gap,” he says. “That’s our true indebtedness.”

We don’t hear more about this enormous number, Kotlikoff says, because politicians have chosen their language carefully to keep most of the problem off the books.

“Why are these guys thinking about balancing the budget?” he says. “They should try and think about our long-term fiscal problems.”

According to Kotlikoff, one of the biggest fiscal problems Congress should focus on is America’s obligation to make Social Security payments to future generations of the elderly.

“We’ve got 78 million baby boomers who are poised to collect, in about 15 to 20 years, about $40,000 per person. Multiply 78 million by $40,000 — you’re talking about more than $3 trillion a year just to give to a portion of the population,” he says. “That’s an enormous bill that’s overhanging our heads, and Congress isn’t focused on it.”

“We’ve consistently done too little too late, looked too short-term, said the future would take care of itself, we’ll deal with that tomorrow,” he says. “Well, guess what? You can’t keep putting off these problems.”

To eliminate the fiscal gap, Kotlikoff says, the U.S. would have to have tax increases and spending reductions far beyond what’s being negotiated right now in Washington.

“What you have to do is either immediately and permanently raise taxes by about two-thirds, or immediately and permanently cut every dollar of spending by 40 percent forever. The [Congressional Budget Office’s] numbers say we have an absolutely enormous problem facing us.”

Germany and France to Lose AAA Rating

Reuters
August 9, 2011

PARIS/LONDON – France and Britain are most vulnerable within Europe to a rating review following the U.S. downgrade, with anemic growth and hefty borrowing placing them among the shakiest of the world’s triple-A rated lenders.

Both countries have stable rating outlooks, making a sudden downgrade unlikely and markets have been so impressed by Britain’s debt-cutting strategy that they have pushed its bond yields to record lows.

But a surge in the cost of insuring French debt against default on Monday highlighted alarm sparked by Friday’s U.S. rating cut as banks and brokerages warned that rating agencies could now have top-rated European lenders in their sights.

“France has slipped into borderline AA+/Aa1/AA+ (one notch below AAA) territory, so risks to its AAA are rising as stresses spread,” financial services firm BBH said in a note to clients.

In another indication of mounting concern over France, spreads between French and German 10-year bond yields hit all-time highs last week and remained wide on Monday.

The most likely trigger for France to be put on negative watch would be a failure by the government to get parliamentary backing for a constitutional limit on future public deficits, with opposition left-wing lawmakers vowing to reject it.

Euro zone outsider Britain looks less vulnerable, having its own currency which could slide in value and its own interest rate, but it could also come under review given its weaker economic fundamentals.

“There are … lots of countries in Europe that should be downgraded just as the U.S. has been downgraded,” U.S. investor Jim Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Fund, told Reuters Insider as world leaders battled to calm a market rout driven by concern about U.S. and European debt levels.

After making history by stripping America of its AAA-rating, Standard and Poor’s reaffirmed France’s top-notch status and stable outlook at the weekend. Moody’s and Fitch declined to comment, but neither has given any indication they could change their outlooks on the United States, France or Britain.

Providing further comfort, fund managers poured into French and British bonds in early trading as Friday’s U.S. downgrade forced them to shift funds out of U.S. treasuries.

However, French five-year credit default swaps (CDS) surged 15.5 basis points on the day to a record-high 160 bps, according to data monitor Markit, taking it closer to the level of AA-rated states such as Belgium, though analysts warned the market often overreacts.

“The CDS market is very dysfunctional,” said Mark Schofield, global head of interest rate strategy at Citi.

“Although France from the perspective of fiscal fundamentals looks the weakest of the triple-A issuers in Europe, I still think that given very low levels of yields, the depth of the domestic market, the ability to continue to fund at low levels, it’s unlikely France will be downgraded in the near future.”

As for Britain, he added: “It’s unlikely that the UK will be downgraded. At this point in time, we’ve seen very significant fiscal tightening put in place.”

FRENCH POLITICS IN FOCUS

In the euro zone, only Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have a triple-A rating, and French debt costs the most to insure.

France also has the highest deficit, debt and primary deficit of any of them and it is the only triple-A euro zone country running a current account deficit.

Its debt to GDP ratio — set to hit 86.9 percent next year and described by the national audit office as nearing the danger zone — could be pushed even higher by France’s contribution to a new Greece bailout.

S&P said in June it would probably downgrade France in the long term without further reforms and that to preserve its AAA rating France must balance its budget in the next five years, something not achieved since 1974.

It could re-examine its rating outlook as soon as the autumn if President Nicolas Sarkozy fails to win backing for his constitutional budget-balancing rule. Winning would require a three-fifths majority in a two-chamber parliamentary vote and the opposition Socialist Party has vowed to vote against.

“It would be a call for action,” for ratings agencies, said Deutsche Bank analyst Gilles Moec.

He said France was “intrinsically in a better situation” than the United States and could stave off a downgrade by accelerating deficit cuts, one idea being to raise value-added taxes and trim social contributions on labor.

Also weighing on France is a possible swing to a left-wing government after a presidential election next April. The Socialists have vowed to tinker, if they win, with a 2010 retirement reform aimed at cutting future pension costs.

WEAK GROWTH UK’S MAIN RISK

Britain has an even bigger deficit, primary deficit and debt to GDP ratio than France, and also runs a current account deficit but weak growth — and the damaging effect that would have on its debt pile — is its main threat.

Moody’s warned in June that it could reconsider its stance on Britain in the event of lower growth combined with weak fiscal consolidation.

Citi’s Schofield agreed, saying: “The big risks would be a very sharp slowdown in growth and/or huge political upheavals, if you started to get a breakdown in the coalition.”

Broadly, however, markets have faith in Britain’s ability to pay back its debt, despite a budget deficit of some 10 percent, because of an austerity plan that includes tax increases and unprecedented cuts in public spending.

Yields on 10-year gilts hit a record low of 2.59 percent last week and British debt continued to outperform European debt on Monday as investors looked for safe havens.

Yet, the economy has basically stalled over the last nine months and even the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has acknowledged its growth forecast of 1.7 percent for 2011 looks too high.

Lower growth means lower tax receipts and maybe a higher welfare bill if unemployment rises, all of which will add to debt.

The opposition has called for emergency tax cuts and some observers were quick to blame riots in London over the weekend on public spending cuts and dire economic prospects.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the UK is still struggling with its own economic recovery, we are pretty confident that the coalition is going to hold in the UK,” David Beers, head of Standard & Poor’s sovereign ratings, told Reuters Insider.

Washington Wakes To The Downgrade — And Does Nothing

Business Insider
August 8, 2011

Tens of thousands of congressional staffers, government employees and K-street lobbyists begin their first work-day after Standard and Poor’s downgraded the United States Friday, but elected officials — including the one occupying the White House— are nowhere to be found.

Politicians of both parties are escaping the DC heat and humidity for the month-long August recess, while President Barack Obama is scaling back his public event schedule as his campaign continues fundraising activities.

The S&P action has done little to change the political reality in the near term — that Congress is taking a vacation while leaving half-a-dozen jobs bills and the federal budget incomplete. And for the next month, there will be no response from Washington other than the blame game.

Neither party is quite sure how the public is reacting to news of the downgrade, with Republicans criticizing Democrats, and Democrats criticizing S&P.

For Obama the downgrade is a massive liability, as he is the most visible member of a government now deemed to be at some risk of not meeting its obligations. Republicans are on the hook for their opposition to tax reforms, cited by S&P as a key factor in the decision to strip the U.S. of its ‘AAA’ rating.

Looking ahead, the downgrade puts new pressures on the “Super Committee,” created less than a week ago to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit, to exceed its goal by as much as $2 trillion to meet the S&P’s target.

Hopes for the bipartisan group dimmed last week, as Republicans and Democrats waged a public battle over the need for revenue-raising reforms and whether to include entitlement spending as part of the discussions.

S&P said it doubts that a serious attempt at either will succeed. Ratings officials even threatened a second downgrade if the committee failed to meet its statutory requirements, despite the triggered cuts that would take effect.

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U.S. Stock Market Slides after Downgrade

by Stan Choe
AP
August 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks tumbled amid a rout in global markets Monday after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time.

S&P cut the long-term debt rating for the U.S. by one notch to AA+ from AAA late Friday. The move wasn’t unexpected, but it comes when investors are already feeling nervous about a weak U.S. economy, European debt problems and Japan’s recovery from its March earthquake.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 151 points in morning trading, or 1.3 percent, to 11,300. The S&P 500 index fell 19 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,180. The Nasdaq composite index fell 51 points, or 2 percent, to 2,481.

In Europe, the German DAX index fell 3 percent, and the French CAC 40 index fell 2.5 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 2.2 percent, and the South Korean Kospi index fell 3.8 percent.

“Fear of a repeat of 2008 is what’s really driving investments,” said Gary Schlossberg, senior economist with Wells Capital Management. Memories of the 2008 financial crisis are driving investors away from risky investments and into what’s considered safer.

Prices for U.S. government debt rose because Treasurys are still seen as one of the world’s few safe havens. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.48 percent from 2.57 percent late Friday. It fell as low as 2.46 percent earlier Monday. A bond’s yield drops when its price rises.

But where Treasury prices are at the end of the day will be more important than where they are at the start, Bill O’Donnell, head of U.S. Treasury strategy at RBS Securities, wrote in a report.

“We will learn more about the future path of Treasury prices at today’s close than we will by the open,” he said. “I want to see how the market clears and how it synthesizes the cacophony of news of late.”

Gold is another investment that investors traditionally run to for safety. It rose above $1,700 per ounce for the first time. Its price remains below its 1980 record after adjusting for inflation.

Investors are worried that Spain or Italy could become the next European country to be unable to pay its debt. The European Central Bank said it will buy Italian and Spanish bonds in hopes of helping the countries avert a possible default.

Seeking to avert panic spreading across financial markets, the finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of 20 industrial and developing nations issued a joint statement Monday saying they were committed to taking all necessary measures to support financial stability and growth.

“We will remain in close contact throughout the coming weeks and cooperate as appropriate, ready to take action to ensure financial stability and liquidity in financial markets,” they said.

Crude oil, natural gas and other commodities fell on worries that a weaker global economy will mean less demand. Oil fell $2.84 to $84.04 per barrel.

Last week, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 698.63 points. That was its biggest point loss since October 2008, during the financial crisis. The Dow has dropped in nine of the last 11 trading days.

Worries about the U.S. economic recovery have been building since the government said that economic growth was far weaker in the first half of 2011 than economists expected. The economy grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate between April and June, below economists’ expectations of 1.7 percent. It expanded at just a 0.4 percent rate in the first quarter.

Then reports showed that the manufacturing and services industries barely grew in July. Job growth was better than economists expected last month. But the 117,000 jobs created in July were still well below the 215,000 that employers added between February and April, on average.

The Federal Reserve will meet on Tuesday, but economists don’t expect much to come out of the meeting. The central bank’s key interest rate is already at a record of nearly zero, where it has been since 2008. The Fed has also already said that it plans to keep rates low for “an extended period.”

The central bank finished a $600 billion program in June to buy Treasurys in hopes of supporting the economy. Chairman Ben Bernanke said last month that the Fed would step in to help the economy if it further weakened. But some Fed policymakers oppose more bond purchases, saying it could lead to higher inflation.

Fears about a weaker U.S. economy have overshadowed profit growth businesses have reported. Earnings rose 12 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier for the 441 companies in the S&P 500 that have already reported. Revenue growth has also topped 10 percent for the first time in a year.