ANALYSIS: WHY THE REAL EU FUHRER IS NOW MARIO DRAGHI

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During the week the Telegraph broke the story of how the ESM will be used to bailout broke banks. The article from the Slog explores how all the power now resides with Draghi.

ANALYSIS: WHY THE REAL EU FUHRER IS NOW MARIO DRAGHI.

German Court Case Has Potential To Force Euro Exit

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Last summer to avert the euro crisis, Mario Draghi announced Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) to support the Spanish and Italian bonds. Now finally the German constitutional court is to hold hearings this week on the legality of the ECB using OMT as a tool to finance deficits in bankrupt states. Already Bundesbank’s Jens Weidmann has submitted a report to the court objecting to OMT but the panel looks split and the ruling could go either way. This has the potential to possibly force a German euro exit or at very least throw the eurozone back into a full blown crisis.

Udo di Fabio, the constitutional court’s euro expert until last year, said the explosive case on the legality of the European Monetary Union rescue machinery could provoke a showdown between Germany and the European Central Bank (ECB) and ultimately cause the collapse of monetary union.

“In so far as the ECB is acting ‘ultra vires’, and these violations are deemed prolonged and serious, the court must decide whether Germany can remain a member of monetary union on constitutional grounds,” he wrote in a report for the German Foundation for Family Businesses.

“His arguments are dynamite,” said Mats Persson from Open Europe, which is issuing its own legal survey on the case on Monday.

Dr Di Fabio wrote the court’s provisional ruling last year on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the €500bn (£425bn) bail-out fund. His comments offer a rare window into thinking on the eight-strong panel in Karlsruhe, loosely split 4:4 on European Union issues.

The court is holding two days of hearings, though it may not issue a ruling for several weeks. The key bone of contention is the ECB’s back-stop support for the Spanish and Italian bond markets or Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT), the “game-changer” plan that stopped the Spanish debt crisis spiralling out of control last July and vastly reduced the risk of a euro break-up.

germanThe case stems from legal complaints by 37,000 citizens, including the Left Party, the More Democracy movement, and a core of eurosceptic professors, most arguing that the ECB has overstepped its mandate by financing the deficits of bankrupt states.

Berenberg Bank said the case was now “the most important event risk” looming over the eurozone, with concerns mounting over an “awkward verdict” that may constrain or even block ECB action.

Dr Di Fabio said the court, or Verfassungsgericht, does not have “procedural leverage” to force the ECB to change policy but it can issue a “declaratory” ultimatum. If the ECB carries on with bond purchases regardless, the court can and should then prohibit the Bundesbank from taking part.

The Bundesbank’s Jens Weidmann needs no encouragement, say experts. He submitted a report to the court in December attacking the ECB head Mario Draghi’s pledge on debt as highly risky, a breach of both ECB independence and fundamental principles. The ECB does not have a legal mandate to uphold the “current composition of monetary union”, he wrote.

Dr Di Fabio said it was hard to imagine that an “integration-friendly court” would push the EMU “exit button”, but it can force a halt to bond purchases. This may amount to the same thing, reviving the eurozone crisis instantly.

“It would pull the rug from under the whole project. It is the OMT alone that has calmed markets and saved the periphery,” said Andrew Roberts from Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr Draghi said last week that the OMT was the “most successful monetary policy in recent times”.

The court dates back to the Reichskammergericht of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1490, but it was revived after the Second World War along the lines of the US Supreme Court.

It has emerged as the chief defender of the sovereign nation state in the EU system, asserting the supremacy of the German Grundgesetz over EU law, hence the German term “Verfassungspatriotismus”, or constitution patriotism.

The court backed the Lisbon Treaty but also ruled that Europe’s states are “Masters of the Treaties” and not the other way round, and reminded Europe that national parliaments are the only legitimate form of democracy. It said Germany must “refuse further participation in the EU” if it ever threatens the powers of the elected Bundestag.

It issued another “yes, but” ruling last September. It threw out an injunction intended to freeze the ESM, but it also tied Berlin’s hands by capping Germany’s ESM share at €190bn, and blocked an ESM bank licence. It killed off hope of eurobonds, debt-pooling, or fiscal union by prohibiting the Bundestag from “accepting liability for decisions by other states”.

Crucially, the court said the Bundestag may not lawfully alienate its tax and spending powers to EU bodies, even if it wants to, for this would undermine German democracy.

Chief Justice Andreas Vosskuhle said at the time that Germany had reached the limits of EU integration. Any further steps would require a “new constitution”, and that in turn would require a referendum.

 

Source: The Telegraph

Bundesbank’s Report To German Court Could Torpedo Draghi’s OMT

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Draghi’s great plan to buy bonds of struggling eurozone countries through Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) has taken a massive knock. A report issued by the Bundesbank on friday, to the German court which has yet to give its consent to OMT,  is damning to say the least.  The following line from the report says it best “It is not the duty of the ECB to rescue states in crisis”.

The hardline central bank – known as the temple of monetary orthodoxy – told Germany’s top court that the ECB’s pledge to shore up Italian and Spanish debt entails huge risks and violates fundamental principles. “It is not the duty of the ECB to rescue states in crisis,” it wrote in a 29-page document leaked to Handelsblatt.

  The Bundesbank unleashed a point by point assault on every claim made by ECB chief Mario Draghi to justify emergency rescue policies – or Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) – unveiled last summer to stop Spain’s debt crisis spiralling out of control.

The Draghi plan mobilized the ECB as lender of last resort and led to a spectacular fall in borrowing costs across the EMU periphery, buying nine months of financial calm. The credibility of the pledge rests entirely on German consent. Analysts say the crisis could erupt again at any moment if that is called into question.

“The report borders on economic warfare,” said Harvinder Sian from RBS. “We think there is going to be fear and dread in the market that the court will reject OMT.”

The document said OMT entails the purchase of “bad bonds”, violates ECB independence and entails a high risk of heavy losses in the “not unlikely” event that debtor states are forced out of EMU.

 

It said Greek debacle had shown that conditions cannot be enforced, and, in any case, is “very questionable” whether it is desirable to drive down the borrowing costs of profligate states.

To cap it all, the Bundesbank said the ECB has no mandate to uphold the “current composition of monetary union”. Its task is to uphold price stability and let the chips fall where they may.

While the Bundesbank’s president, Jens Weidmann, has openly criticised the Draghi plan before, the aggressive language in the report shocked economists. The document was submitted in December but was not revealed until Friday.

Germany’s constitutional court will rule on the legality of the bond rescue plan on June 12. It gave a provisional go-ahead last September for other parts of the EMU rescue machinery, but limited Germany’s bail-out share to €190bn (£160bn). Crucially, it warned that the Bundestag may not alienate its tax and spending powers to any supra-national body or be exposed to “unlimited” liabilities.

“If the court rules against OMT, it means the end of the euro. The stakes are so high that I don’t see how they could just pull the trigger,” said Mats Persson from Open Europe.

He said the Draghi plan is a legal hot potato because it is, by definition, unlimited. “The previous rulings by the court have all been predicated on this point.”

German historian Michael Stürmer said the tough report is a bid by the Bundesbank to “reassert its primacy”. “They have told the ECB in no uncertain terms that it is exceeding its mandate. Angela Merkel may be smiling because this helps her set limits in Europe.”

Prof Sturmer said the forthcoming ruling – wider than just the Draghi plan – is “much more serious” than last September’s judgment, limited to an injunction brought by eurosceptic groups. “This is about issues of sovereignty. I don’t think the Court will dare to issue a ruling before the elections in September. They will procrastinate,” he said.

The court has some jurisdiction over ECB policy because it intrudes on the German Grundgesetz, or Basic Law. “Once the ECB starts bailing out states it is moving into dangerous waters,” he said.

The court made a glancing reference to OMT in September, stating that ECB bond purchases “aimed at financing the members budgets is prohibited, as it would circumvent the ban on monetary financing”.

The bond markets ignored the leaked report on Friday, confident that the court will once again find some formula to avert a crisis. It could cite a clause in the Lisbon Treaty stating that the ECB has a duty to “support the general economic policies in the Union”, which would include saving the euro.

“They might refer the case to the European Court but that would leave the Sword of Damocles hanging over the market for another two years,” said David Marsh, author of books on the Bundesbank and EMU. “I think use of OMT is practically impossible until this is resolved.”

Sovereign bond strategist Nicholas Spiro said markets are “sick and tired” of the eurozone debt crisis and have stopped paying attention to the detail. “There is this ravenous hunt for yield and they think there is all this money coming from Japan. But it has long been unclear whether OMT is real or just a myth, and the eurozone’s underlying economic crisis is still getting worse. The window of opportunity created by Draghi has been wasted.

“If the court sides with the Bundesbank in any way the whole house of cards could come crashing down.”

Source: The Telegraph

Draghi Silences German Finance Minister Over Cyprus “let them default” Comments

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There is one word within the EUSSR that’s never to be uttered and thats DEFAULT. No matter what, bank debt must be honoured, God forbid they loose one cent and that is at the heart of the matter in Germany. Just before the German parlimentary elections, nobody wants to be seen bailing out Cyprus or more importantly shady Russia money via the back door since the majority of Cyprus’s debt is owned to Russia.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has publicly stated that he doesn’t think a Cyprus default would have much harm on the euro. Draghi’s response was of the line, “you are a lawyer so STFU”.

A debate has been raging in Germany about Cyprus. Not that the German parliament, which has a say in this, wouldn’t rubberstamp an eventual bailout, as it rubberstamped others before, but right now they’re not in the mood. Cyprus is too much of a mess. Bailing out uninsured depositors of Cypriot banks would set a costly precedent for other countries. And bailing out Russian “black money,” which makes up a large portion of the deposits, would be, well, distasteful in Germany, a few months before the federal elections.

For the tiny country whose economy is barely a rounding error in the Eurozone, it would be an enormous bailout. At €17.5 billion, it would amount to about 100% of GDP: €10 billion for the banks, €6 billion for holders of existing debt, and €1.5 billion to cover budget deficits through 2016. The new debt, a €2.5 billion loan that Russia extended in 2011, and other debt would amount to 150% of GDP, according to Moody’s. Unsustainable. So haircuts would be necessary. But whose hair would be cut?

As always, there is never an alternative to a bailout. “It’s essential that everybody realizes that a disorderly default of Cyprus could lead to an exit of Cyprus from the Eurozone,” said Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. “It would be extremely stupid to take any risk of that nature.”

A risk German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble would be willing to take. He’d been saying publicly that it wasn’t certain yet that a default would put the Eurozone at risk—”one of the requirements that any bailout money can flow at all,” he said. Cyprus simply wasn’t “systemically important.” In fact, there were alternatives.

Heretic words. He needed to be shut up, apparently. And that happened at the meeting of Eurozone finance ministers a week ago, details of which sources just leaked to the Spiegel.

The meeting was marked by the transfer of the Eurogroup presidency from Jean-Claude Juncker to the new guy, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Cyprus was also on the agenda, but not much was accomplished, other than an agreement to delay the bailout decision until after the Cypriot general elections in February. The government has resisted certain bailout conditions, such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises and the elimination of cost-of-living adjustments for salaries. Now, everyone wanted to deal with the new government.

The put down.

But what didn’t make it into the press release was that ECB President Mario Draghi, bailout-fund tsar Klaus Regling, and Olli Rehn, all three unelected officials, had formed a triumvirate to gang up on Schäuble.

That Cyprus wasn’t “systemically important” was something he kept hearing everywhere from lawyers, Draghi told Schäuble at the meeting. But it wasn’t a question that can be answered by lawyers, he said. It was a topic for economists.

A resounding put-down: Schäuble, a lawyer by training—not an economist—wasn’t competent to speak on the issue and should therefore shut up!

The smoke and mirror argument the triumvirate used was that a Cypriot default would affect Greece, which is true, but for German taxpayers it would be extremely distasteful for the majority of this bailout to go to shady Russian depositors.

The two largest Cypriot banks had an extensive network of branches in Greece, the triumvirate argued. If deposits at these branches weren’t considered safe, Greek depositors would be plunged again into uncertainty, which could then infect Greek banks and cause a serious relapse in Greece.  

If Cyprus went bust, they contended, it would annihilate the flow of positive news that has been responsible recently for calming down the Eurozone.

For weeks, all signs have pointed towards an improvement, they argued. Risk premiums for Spanish and Italian government debt have dropped significantly, and balances between central banks, which had risen to dangerous levels, have been edging down. If the money spigot were turned off, this recovery could reverse, they argued. Contagion would spread and could jeopardize Ireland’s and Portugal’s return to the financial markets.

Further, Cyprus was carrying its portion of the bailout funds and therefore had a right to its own bailout—a legal argument even a mere lawyer should be able to grasp.

And so, letting tiny Cyprus default could tear up the rest of the Eurozone, they argued—saying essentially that bailouts were a delicate con game, and that Schäuble, by digging in his heels, was blowing it up.

Eurocrats bitch slap the German Finance Minister and tell the Germans to hand over the cash. If this show of force from the bankers doesn’t demonstrate who holds the balance of power in eurozone then I don’t know what will.

It made for another bitter Eurozone irony: the democratically elected finance minister of a country whose taxpayers have to pay more than any other for the bailouts got shut down by unelected Eurocrats who, in a continued power grab, postulated that Cypriot banks, their bondholders, their depositors, even their uninsured depositors, even Russian “black money” depositors had a “right” to the German money (and anyone else’s). And if Schäuble refused, it would blow up the entire Eurozone. Schäuble’s response hasn’t bubbled to the surface yet. And bailout queen Chancellor Merkel, who is trying to avoid tumult ahead of her elections, has a new headache. Read…  Russian “Black Money” Threatens To Boot Cyprus Out Of The Eurozone.

Source: Testosterone Pit

Spain To Request Bailout On Sept 13-14

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As ZeroHedge have put it, Goldman Sachs were on the button when it came to Draghi’s announcement yesterday regarding the new Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) program. Since Goldman Sachs practically runs the ECB, their latest prediction is for Spain to request a bailout from the ESFS by Sept 13-14.

Yesterday, when Bloomberg leaked every single detail of today’s ECB announcement, which thus means today’s conference was not a surprise at all, yet the market sure would like to make itself believe it was, we noted that everything that was leaked, and today confirmed, came from a Goldman memorandum issued hours before. Simply said everything that happens at the ECB gets its marching orders somewhere within the tentacular empire headquartered at 200 West. Which is why when it comes to the definitive summary of what “happened” today, we go to the firm that pre-ordained today’s events weeks ago. Goldman Sachs.Perhaps the most important part is this: “September 13-14: Spain to make formal request for EFSF support at the Eurogroup meeting. With a large (and uncovered) redemption looming at the end of October (and under pressure from other Euro area governments), we expect Spain to move towards seeking support.” In other words, Rajoy has one more week before he is sacked and the Spanish festivities begin.

Looking ahead over the coming months are the predictions:

Looking forward, we expect the following time-line in our base case:

  • September 12: German constitutional court gives its blessing to the ESM. Although we expect some procedural riders to be attached to the decision, this would allow German ratification to be completed and the ESM to be established in relatively short order.
  • September 13-14: Spain to make formal request for EFSF support at the Eurogroup meeting. With a large (and uncovered) redemption looming at the end of October (and under pressure from other Euro area governments), we expect Spain to move towards seeking support.
  • Second half of September: Conditionality required by EFSF will have to be accepted by the Spanish authorities, presumably requiring a parliamentary vote. In parallel, approval of other Euro area countries for the provision of EFSF support will need to be obtained: in some countries (notably Germany), this will also require parliamentary approval.
  • By end-September / early October: Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) codifying conditionality is signed, formalising the availability of EFSF support for Spain. At this point, the necessary conditions established by Mr. Draghi for ECB purchases of sovereign debt will have been met, well ahead of the large Spanish bond redemption.

Source: ZeroHedge

Draghi’s Great Bond Buying Plan To Be Sterilized

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Bloomberg has leaked ahead of tomorrows ECB meeting that Draghi’s hyped up plan to buy bonds is not at all what Draghi had hinted. Instead any bonds purchased will have to be sterilized. In other words, no new money added to the system.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s bond-buying proposal involves unlimited purchases of government debt that will be sterilized to assuage concerns about printing money, two central bank officials briefed on the plan said.

Under the blueprint, which may be called “Monetary Outright Transactions,” the ECB would refrain from setting a public cap on yields, according to the people, and a third official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The plan will only focus on government bonds rather than a broader range of assets and will target short-dated maturities of up to about three years, two of the people said.

Most likely to be announced tomorrow.

Policy makers are deliberating on the plan today and Draghi will announce whether it has been agreed to at a press conference tomorrow.

..but any bond purchased by the ECB has to be sterilized.

To sterilize the bond purchases, the ECB will remove from the system elsewhere the same amount of money it spends, ensuring the program has a neutral impact on the money supply.

 

Is Spanish Bank Run Panicking ECB Into Bond Buying Scheme?

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It will come as no surprise that in light of Spain’s woes, capital has been leaving Spanish banks in droves. In July 5% of the country’s entire asset base (€74 billion) left the country. That’s over 17% in just over a year. The most likely place for those banks to come up with the cash has been selling sovereign bonds. The question remains has this prompted Draghi in recent weeks to make comments about doing “what it takes”.

A need to raise cash to meet those withdrawals may have prompted the recent bond sales, as other assets owned by banks – mainly loans and mortgages – are far less liquid. Spanish bank bond holdings are dominated by Spanish government debt, but also include those of other countries.

So where does this leave Mario Draghi? While Spanish banks are selling SPGBs, Spain has 8 bonds auctions planned in the next 6 weeks. Draghi is under serious pressure to get aggreement on a sovereign bond buying scheme. 

…..while Mario Draghi is furiously trying to come up with a bond buying plan that is endorsed by Germany, Buba and Weidmann, all of whom have, to date, said, “9-9-9”, regardless of what the final construct is, whether it includes the ECM, EFSF, and/or ECB buying bonds directly, the key distinction is that no monetary authority can buy bonds in the primary market, as that is a direct breach of Article 123/125, and absent a thorough revision of the Maastricht Treaty, investors will dump as soon as the ECB starts breaking the rules unilaterally. Certainly bonds can be monetized in the secondary market, but someone has to buy them from the government. And if Spanish banks are unable to stem the deposit outflow, there is simply no practical possibility for banks to be buying SPGBs in the primary market even as they are forced to dump them in the secondary market.

In other words, the ECB may or may not surprise next week, but unless the Spanish public is convinced its banks are safe, and the remaining EUR1.5 trillion in Spanish deposits do not explicitly remain within the Spanish bank system, anything Draghi does will be for nothing.

As for next year, the requirement to sell even more SPGBs increases by 40% on this year while competing with Spanish banks dumping bonds. The monster continues to grow. We already know from Mark Grant that Spain’s real debt/GDP figure is closer to 134%.

All in all, the total amount of gross bond issuance from Spain in 2013 could be in excess of EUR 120bn. That is around 40% higher than this year, 10-20% higher than in 2009 and almost four times larger than the average amount of Spanish bond issuance recorded in the previous four years.

 As far as another LTRO, its unlikey to suceed as Spain is fresh out of collateral.

…and the inevitable LTRO X, which the ECB will have to do in order to provide additional funding to Spain, which unlike before, however, will no longer work as Spain and the rest of Europe, are out of eligible collateral, meaning the ECB will have to get the Buba to agree to even more last minute rule changes to keep Spain “solvent.”

So, the pressure is on Draghi to push through with his Bond Purchase Plan. In fact it has been reported that he has number of options but rushing it through by giving only 24 hours to digest it before debating a solution. Serious pressure!

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — The euro area’s 17 national central bank governors will have about 24 hours to digest European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s bond-buying proposal before they start debating it, three officials said.

The ECB’s Executive Board will send a list of options for the bond-buying program to the governors on Sept. 4, a day before the Governing Council convenes in Frankfurt, the central bank officials said yesterday on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t public. The meeting concludes on Sept. 6, after which Draghi holds his regular press conference. No single policy option has emerged as preeminent, the officials said. An ECB spokesman declined to comment.

The lack of a clear preference, the complexity of the issue and the shortage of time increase the risk that Draghi won’t present a detailed plan next week, according to economists at Commerzbank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The ECB may choose to hold back some details of the plan until the German Constitutional Court rules on the legality of Europe’s permanent bailout fund on Sept. 12, two of the officials said.

The battle between Draghi and Weidmann of Buba is a serious roadblock for the ECB’s plans. Another resignation from the Bundesbank would apply pressure to Merkel and with elections coming up next year and an ever ailing economy, Merkel and Germany has little room for manoeuver for backing the ECB’s Bond Purchasing Scheme. Best of luck Draghi 😉 

Mr Weidmann, the only ECB council member opposed to ECB president Mario Draghi‘s plan to buy bonds in some shape or form, has decided to remain in his post to defend his position at next week’s policy meeting, ‘Bild’ reported. The second resignation of a Bundesbank boss in as many years would send shockwaves through the markets and make it much more difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel to soften her stance towards bailouts for countries such as Ireland.

Her room for manoeuvre ahead of next year’s general election is already shrinking as the German economy rapidly slows down. The Bundesbank has repeatedly made clear that it has deep misgivings about the ECB’s determination to press ahead with such a scheme.

Mr Weidmann’s predecessor as Bundesbank chief, Axel Weber, quit last year in protest at the ECB’s previous, now-dormant bond-buy plan. Juergen Stark, a former ECB chief economist, followed him out of the door. Earlier this week, Mr Weidmann told ‘Der Spiegel‘ magazine that bond-buying can become “addictive”, like a drug.

He added: “I hardly believe that I am the only one to get stomachache over this.”

 
Source: Zero Hedge, San Francisco Chronicle, Irish Independent

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