Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Big Fat Grexit Drama / Nifty

Says Keynes, "Markets are irrational to the extent one is solvent"; whilst I may not agree with all his economic principles, I definitely agree with this prophetic statement of his.

We started with a huge gap-down and all major index futures across the globe were showing cuts of over 4%. First it was the put writers who ran for cover, then we saw some brave gladiators aggressively write calls only to run for cover towards the end.

Whenever this kind of uncertainty hits the market, there will be multiple knee-jerk reactions and at the end of the day, one starts wondering what the hell is going on! Technicals are supreme; temporarily they may show ticker prices contrary to technical expectations and that always happens in conditions of flux and panic. However, these tendencies are exceptions and eventually prices move back to regular technical conditions.

Going purely by a technical outlook for Nifty [I will be making a separate detailed post tomorrow with outlook for July 2015], we had a large swing down from 8493 to 7940 in April series.

8493 - 7940 = 553 points [61.8% = 342]
7940 + 342 = 8280 So a move upto at least 8280 was very much on the cards. What really happened was a fast and furious pull-back [signs of a structural bull market] all the way to 8425 odd levels.

With today's gap down opening and lows of 8200 [rounded], the swing has been 8425 - 8200 = 225

[61.8% = 8340 apprx]

Tomorrow is the monthly close. For the last 2 months or so, the critical price on a monthly time-frame has been around the 8380-8425 zone [Last month's critical number was 8410] If we do manage to close around the 8380-8425 zone tomorrow, then it suggests that regardless of where markets go in the early part of July 2015, prices will try to stage a comeback towards the end of the series exactly as they did in June 2015]

Back to Greece and why markets are so worried.....

ECB funding to Greece has been about 340 billion Euros over the last 60 months i.e. about 5.5 billion Euros a month [Note that this is the estimate for GREECE ALONE] If the series of bailouts have to continue, then the amount can be upwards of 500 billion Euros for the next 5 years!

Good economists also pride themselves highly on Game Theory and always say "Think Forward - Reason Backwards" It is difficult and time consuming for me to put out the illustrations here but as the so called Troika is examining the situation with Greece, the starting premise for ECB with Greece is "Heads = Greece Wins, Tails = Germany loses"

This game needs to be evaluated from ECB perspective
Node 1: ECB allows concessions to Greece. The immediate effect will be that the other PIIGS nations will haunt ECB even more with concessions offered to them. [Greece and Ireland are small drops in the messy ocean. Spain and Italy are the white elephants to manage. And if managing 1 drop like Greece costs almost a trillion euros including already spent money and further funding needs, imagine the costs for other PIIGS nations]

Node2: ECB allows Greece to get booted out of the Euro zone by coercion or by voluntary exit, it sends strong signals to other PIIGS nations that one cannot take the ECB for granted. However, this option then comes with far greater pain. There are trillions of dollars worth of derivatives betting exactly on a Euro-zone contagion. And these derivatives are largely spread across the bond markets and the moment Greece is booted out, there will be immediate repercussions in the derivatives markets of other Euro-zone members bringing in a temporary liquidity freeze not just in Greece [already in place today] but the entire Euro-zone

As this happens, it also sets a precedent for other PIIGS nations to work out on exit options. Regardless of which way the ECB decides on Greece, there is inevitable pain. From a Greece stand-alone perspective, the cost of Grexit has been estimated at about 1 billion dollars a month over the next 36 months as per Angela Merkel's calculations [refer bloomberg.com news and views from Saturday for details] Just as RBI does not care what Dalal Street wants, ECB does not care what equity markets want. Central banks have their objectives in a different realm all together

They are however aware that there will be a huge liquidity squeeze with Grexit because of the panic in bond markets and a HUGE RISK of Germany returning to DMs that will perhaps end up trading at 2:1 against USD if this event does take place. Any return to DMs for Germany will almost close doors for German goods and services all over the globe. Exports are the key to Germany's survival.

Last but not the least, there is the humanitarian aspect
Some of the images on Sunday were extremely disturbing
Queues outside of ATM machines resembled the queues Indians have at Shirdi Sai Baba Temple or Tirupathi Balaji temple! There was a 76 year old lady who was in the queue for 2 hours to withdraw her maximum quota of 60 Euros and when her turn at the ATM counter did come up, there was no cash left in the machine! The lady just fainted out of physical and mental stress!!

To get a feel of how bad the situation is, forget supermarkets but talk to mom and pop grocery stores [equivalent of our kirana stores] and pharmacies. With social security cover and/or medical insurance, a person cannot be denied access to medicines. Over the last 5 years, medical bill settlements have seen ballooning turnaround times [Remember that most of the medical insurance is underwritten by banks' insurance arms] From a regular 1 week turnaround time in 2009-2010, the turnaround time has gone up to an average of 90 days. Legally, medicines cannot be denied to people with genuine documents. With the bank run that has just begun, pharmacies are not sure whether they will even get back money rightfully due to them if the system itself goes bankrupt

As far as mom and pop stores are concerned, they have every right to refuse customers any form of credit, even to purchase essentials like milk, fruits, vegetables. That being said, these very stores may not get credit from stockists and super-stockists and with no resolution in place, the entire country's stockpiles of essentials will last for no more than a month.

Along with the Grexit, it will be a return to Drachmas for Greece that will be at least 10 times lower in comparison with Euro and release hyperinflationary trends. [In the post- World War time zones, Germans had to carry millions of DMs in wheel barrows to grocery stores to just pick up basic essentials. From a humanitarian aspect, Germany is very well aware of the pain, a common man has to go through]

One last example of the problem: A small business owner logged on to his internet banking account. As it happened with Cyprus in 2013, the system ended up displaying messages on the lines of "Book Balance xyz Euros; available for transaction = 60 Euros. It can be very frustrating indeed to not be able to access your own money. They money stuck in the bank can end up becoming literally worthless if Grexit happens.

So whilst the mainstream press is pointing fingers at Greece alone prolonging the negotiations, fact is that ECB also wants time to ring-fence itself and minimize the pain. It is definitely not a pleasant site to see people not being able to buy essentials with their own money for mismanagement from the baking sector [both Central Banks and Private Banks]. ECB is looking at every possible loophole in the derivatives legal codes to avoid having liquidity crisis for Credit Default Swaps.

To summarize, there is inevitable pain for Greece, ECB and in fact the entire Euro-zone. The only thing that one has to look at is how to minimize the pain. Also note that should a contagion take place, forget about US Fed raising interest rates or other major economies tightening monetary policy - it sets up the platform for next round of QE

So that is the background for the ongoing panic and volatility. Technicals may go out of the window for a brief 1 week timeline only to come back. As long as Rupee-Dollar exchange rates remain below 64.25 levels and bond yields do not jump past the 8% spot rate for 10 year treasures, India remains an active. Markets may not fall immediately but Rupee-Dollar above 64.25 and bond yield above 8% will the first indication of a large wave down.

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