The Return of Risk?

Department of Treasury Seal
Department of Treasury Seal (Photo credit: woodleywonderworks)

We take a brief look at two interesting Treasury Yield curves today.

The first Yield Curve takes a snapshot view of the yield curves at the end of Q1 2011 and Q1 2012.
What is very noticeable is the fact that the overall yields for the end of Q1 2012 is significantly lower than a year ago. Taking a look at the at the 5 year T-Note yields as an example, the spread between the end of March 2011 (5Yr T-Notes at 2.24% ) and the end of March 2012 (5Yr T-Notes at 1.04%) was 1.20% down. The question is what factors drove down the ‘risk-free’ rate on US Treasuries?

However, turning our attention to the second graph below, indicates a slightly different perspective; and hence the title of this post. Has and is risk returning to the capital and stock markets to levels we previously experienced?

Not quite, is the short answer, because the spread between 31 December 2011 (0.83%) versus the 1.04% rate at the end of March 2012, only indicates an uptick of 21 basis points in the yield rate. The significance is not the percentage spread, but rather the direction of movement and we will continue our analysis at the end of Q2 2012 to establish whether the direction in Q1 2012 will be maintained into Q2 and beyond.

The final question to ponder is this:

Are we finally seeing the corner turned, or are there still significant risks in the global economy and sovereign debt markets to cause a few further after shocks in the months to come?

theMarketSoul ©2012

Where will all the new money come from?

Seal of the United States Department of the Tr...
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Today’s brief analysis of US Treasury Yield curves and the Debt profiles of both the USA and Italy highlights the enduring question in the title of this post.

The first graphic highlights one important issue.  We chose 2 August 2011 versus 17 February 2012 as key dates to compare the US Treasury Yield curve.  If we cast our minds back to 2 August 2012 two key facts emerge:

  1. This was the D-Day of the US Debt Ceiling vote
  2. The US still had a Triple A credit rating

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The key take-away from the Yield Curve comparison is that even with a ratings downgrade, the US is actually able to borrow new capital at a lower rate of interest 6 months on.

However, to pour a bit of realism into the analysis, we highlight two interesting Debt profile graphics below.

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The first one is the USA Treasury Maturity curve (admittedly 6 months out of date), highlighting when the current debt will need to be redeemed or rolled over.  The second is the Italian Bond Maturity curve.  You will notice just how similar the USA and Italy Debt Maturity profiles are.

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From this comparison, the critical question currently for us is:

Where will all the new money come from to roll over the debt maturing during the next 3 – 12 months?  QE is one option, but investors still need to be convinced that their capital is safe and relatively risk-free.  It is the Risk-free equation (or investor risk appetites) that needs to be explored in more detail.

theMarketSoul ©2012

A matter of CULTURE or PSYCHOLOGY in Europe?

Are the European and more specifically the Euro-zone problems purely a matter of cultural differences, engrained in generations of ‘Nation Staters’ or something deeper in each nation-people’s psychology?

 

Countries using the Euro de jure Countries and...
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It cannot purely be a difference of political ideology between the leaders and individual nations of Europe that has lead us to the brink of the Euro abyss. But, yet maybe the way the debate and challenges facing Europe are being framed, has a great part to play in it.

 

Europe always seemed to be a halfway house between cultures, trade, ideologies, beliefs and norms. And the fact that the Euro single currency zone was stitched together based on these ‘halfway house’ ideas should therefore not have been a surprise.

 

How long does it take to build a vision? Or rather, why did Europe take so long to get to the chasm, build a rickety Monetary Union bridge, without firming up the foundations that holds together the infrastructure once the traffic crossing that bridge started increasing in volume?

 

If there is something Trade theory should have taught us, it must be that once opportunity (to trade and create wealth) is established, the trickle would eventually turn to a steady stream and the steady stream to an eventual throng. Yet not one European leader or institution foresaw this? Takes us full circle to the original question, namely: “How long does it take to build a VISION?

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web
Image by kevindean via Flickr

 

The truth might lie somewhere in the nature, establishment and deep rooted psyches of the Europeans themselves. Europe might be the collective noun; yet staunch nation state individualism (the communities we all hunker after) is the actual bedrock and foundation of the people who live in Europe. Unlike the USA, with a common language, full monetary and federal fiscal union, Europe is and will always remain a loosely led together community (but not a collective) of nation states and peoples.

 

Fairness, freedom, equality and openness, some of the most fundamental tenets of a market and community to function properly, are not necessarily on the agendas when ideological political, rather than economic (for the greater good), issues are considered by both politicians, technocrats and bureaucrats in the institutions and fabric at the heart of a (dis)United Europe.

 

Therefore, until and unless we can prize Europeans from there deeply held ‘national interest’ debates and frames of reference, in terms of establishing a common and united front; we feel that there is no hope of sustainably solving the Euro-zone sovereign debt and monetary union problems.

 

A possible mechanism might have to be the establishment of a ‘fourth branch’ of governance, outside the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, being an outside force or rather an Adjudicator comprised of non dominant European member countries and quite possibly with an Advisory Board consisting of non Europeans themselves, to allow for the establishment of a fair, free and an open implementation of the Legislature’s policy decisions, hence and overseer of the Executive, but an equal to the Judiciary, with a final veto by the citizenry of Europe themselves, as a balancing mechanism, should a stalemate ever arise.

 

The enabling driver of such an European Adjudicator must surely be the Digital Economy with its various platforms and reach extending now and in the future across the ‘Net’ that is European integration.

 

theMarketSoul ©2012

Our Lessons from 2011

 

We decided to summarise our learning from 2011 into two brief thoughts:

 

The May 1, 2010 cover of the Economist newspap...
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  1. The pains and strains of the economic sovereign debt melt-down in 2011, should stand us in good stead to deal with even more debt and sovereign strain in 2012, as More and Bigger Europe continue to miss the point; this being that more bureaucracy and more government and regulation will not get the INNOVATION engine started again to Recapitalise Europe!

    Graphic "When Greece falls" presente...
    Image via Wikipedia
  2. Translational differences will matter.  The CLOUD is a huge business and business model transformation opportunity.  IT ‘Geekery’ and language could scupper this potential opportunity and we need to develop more ‘CLOUD TRANSLATION’ services so that a broader community and eco-system can get involved in an aspect of “INNOVATION ignition” in 2012.
Clouds over Tahoe HDR #1
Image by Bill Strong via Flickr

All the best and good luck in 2012.

 

theMarketSoul ©2011

More and Bigger Europe –Part 2 – It is MORE…

English: Various Euro bills.
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We pick up from the introductory article by expanding on the issue of MORE Europe, which we did not cover in enough depth.

More Europe

It is without a shadow of doubt that belonging to an enlarged common market has huge beneficial advantages to all its participants.

However, the question of the Cost / Benefit analysis dynamics is never really explored in more detail. Perhaps it is easier to focus on just one or the other of the two interlinked dynamics, but for it to be a balanced appraisal; we need to focus on the interactions of both COST and BENEFITS.

And when the leaders of Europe cannot tell anymore what the difference is between a COST and a BENEFIT of being in a single currency Eurozone, then what chance do the rest of us have? Is our COST the misplaced belief that leaders will make decisions in our best interest that will BENEFIT us in the long run?

But if the COST is the lesson of Moral Hazard, why have they not learnt yet that working towards an orderly default is better than raiding the futures of millions of current and future taxpayers in Europe. The COST of an uncompetitive and stagnating Europe (which has been brewing and developing for a few decades now), is that we have lost the ‘child like’ curiosity of inventing and innovating our why towards sustainable economic development and growth.

Rather than embrace the opportunity to learn from the younger cultural of the Eastern European and Baltic States integration onto Europe, we are in danger of smothering their youthful exuberance with a bureaucratic Welfare State super-state, with a healthy dose of Welfare and Debt dependency for decades to come.

Countries using the Euro de jure Countries and...
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No-one is saying that the transition will be painless, but it seems that most leaders in Europe have forgotten to keep an eye on both the COST and BENEFIT dynamics. Except for the brave decision made by David Cameron on Friday morning.

English: David Cameron's picture on the 10 Dow...
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Veto the madness and risk what some call isolation, but we here at theMarketSoul call the grasp for our economic sanity.

We can still be part of a common market and then there is still a Common Wealth to leverage, should both the EU and the USA decide to marginalise Britain on the international stage, as some commentators are fearing.

Maybe a true third balancing force and alliance will help us move out of the doldrums of the CRISES of 2008 – 2011 (and quite possibly beyond).

theMarketSoul ©2011

The Big Design: Moral Hazard, and the EU

Irrespective of how the twists and turns of the Greek political system plays out over the next few days and weeks, we believe that the Big EU (Eurozone more specifically) players and their leaders only have themselves to blame for Greece‘s seemingly petulant behaviour.

If at the fundamental level we cannot understand that ANY form of bail-out will always support and lead to Moral Hazard, then we have learnt nothing from the past and the more recent debt and financial crisis of the 2008.

Previously we mentioned the ‘Credit Quake’ with lots of after tremors (attributed to Dennis Cox of Risk Reward), will last for a number of years and this is exactly what we have playing out as daily deadlines in front of our eyes at the moment.

However, to return to the point at hand:  The age of economic dilemma of Moral Hazard has reared its monstrous head again and is in danger of ‘nabbing us in the butt’ (yet again), because the leaders of the EU (more specifically the Eurozone 17) do not want to understand that all their actions in supporting Greece is only leading to a more dangerous form of Moral Hazard and flies in the face of the Austrian School‘s ideas of ‘Creative Destruction‘.

Without effective mechanisms in place to deal with European regions at different cycles of development (not even to mention the basic lack of sound  fiscal management), is to ask for problems (on a continuous basis).

Until a sound framework of either full fiscal and monetary union with appropriate checks and balances are rolled out in Europe, with a single capital market instrument (Gilt / Bond or EuroBond) and mechanisms for dealing with localised ‘failures’ of the market to clear itself effectively (never mind efficiently); we will continue to wretch and lurch about with market confidence eroded and leaders running around like headless chickens trying and implementing inappropriate tools for the job a sound framework is supposed to deal with.

It is not more regulation we want.  It is simply BETTER regulation.  It is that simple.

theMarketSoul ©2011

Frameworks, frameworks, frameworks…

Today (26 October 2011) is an important watershed date (or not) for Europe.

Will our leaders and the politicians be able to agree an all encompassing Framework to rescue the Euro, or will we need to think about a more modular approach for the future?

We believe that it might be in the Euro’s short-term best interest to look for a more flexible, yet fragmented modular approach. However, the capital markets might not appreciate the continuous uncertainty and political wrangling whilst we keep on looking for a ‘best fit’ modular solution and what that might entail…

theMarketSoul (c)2011