Having largely disappeared from the market’s scope for the past 6 months, ever since Europe “bent” its rule allowing the bailout of Monte Paschi and several smaller banks despite Italy having the greatest amount of disclosed NPLs of any European nation, moments ago Fitch decided to drag Italy right back in the spotlight when it downgraded Italy to BBB from BBB+, citing “Italy’s persistent track record of fiscal slippage, back-loading of consolidation, weak economic growth, and resulting failure to bring down the very high level of general government debt has left it more exposed to potential adverse shocks. This is compounded by an increase in political risk, and ongoing weakness in the banking sector which has required planned public intervention in three banks since December.“
And some more:
Italy has missed successive targets for general government debt/GDP, which increased by 0.5pp in 2016 to 132.6%. This is 11.2% of GDP higher than the target in the Stability Programme of 2013, the year Fitch downgraded Italy’s Long-Term IDRs to ‘BBB+’, and compares with the current ‘BBB’ range median of 41.5% of GDP. Fitch forecasts general government debt to peak at 132.7% of GDP in 2017, falling only gradually to 129.3% in 2020 in our debt sensitivity projections.
Fitch’s rating Outlook for the Italian banking sector is Negative, primarily reflecting the challenge of reducing the high level of un-provisioned non-performing loans (NPLs), alongside weak profitability and capital generation. The rate of new NPLs edged down to 2.3% in 4Q16, and there is some greater impetus for disposals and write-downs, which has slightly reduced total NPLs. However, sofferenze, the worst category of loans, increased to EUR203 billion in February, from EUR199 billion in October. Total NPLs amount to close to 17.5% of loans and 20% of GDP, and just over half are provided against.
In our view, political risks have increased since Fitch’s previous rating review. Current polls point to a further hollowing out of support for more centrist parties and to a fragmented political landscape that could result in minority government. Risks of weak or unstable government have increased, as has the possibility of populist and eurosceptic parties influencing policy. Greater populism may dampen political appetite for reform, increase the pressure for fiscal loosening, and weigh on investor sentiment.
With France – and much of Europe – already on edge due to populist tensions, is Italian sovereign – and bank – risk about to make a grand reapparance? For the answer, check in when Europe opens on Monday.
Meanwhile, Italian CDS trades at 190bps, wider than Russia, Croatia and almost as wide as South Africa.
Not today Trump. France has an election.
The major US indices are ending the day lower but losses are somewhat modest. Even Trumps claim that big tax cuts are coming next week did not have an impact. France elections this week helped to keep the lid on equities.
For the day:
- S&P ended down -0.30% to 2248.69. The high reached 2356.18. The low 2344.51. The index failed to close above the 50 day MA this week at 2357.42 despite a few tries to break back above. That is a little more bearish at the end of the week and something to watch in the early part of next week.
- One day after closing at a record level, the Nasdaq is closing at 5910.52 down -6.254 points or -0.11%
- The Dow fell by -30.95 points or -0.15%
For the week:
- S&P indeix is ending the week with a gain of 0.85%
- Nasdaq is ending with a gain of 1.82%
- The Dow is ending up 0.46%
For the year to date:
- S&P is up 4.91%
- Nasdaq is up 9.8%
- Dow is up 3.97%
A quick, if familiar, observation to start the day courtesy of Bank of America which in the latest overnight note from Michael Hartnett notes that central banks (ECB & BoJ) have bought $1 trillion of financial assets just in the first four months of 2017, which amounts to $3.6 trillion annualized, “the largest CB buying on record.”
As Hartnett notes, the “Liquidity Supernova is the best explanation why global stocks & bonds both annualizing double-digit gains YTD despite Trump, Le Pen, China, macro…”
As pressure mounts on Trump to post some victories within the totally arbitrary window of the “First 100 Days” of his administration, the President is expected to join Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later this afternoon to sign a combination of executive orders and memos targeting the reduction of tax regulations and certain components of Dodd-Frank.
Per a statement from the White House, one of Trump’s new executive orders will seek to undo tax rules put in place in the last year of Obama’s presidency that were designed to limit so-called ‘corporate inversions’ which allows U.S. traded companies to recognize income in lower cost countries like Ireland. Per Bloomberg:
Under President Barack Obama, Treasury sought to rein in U.S. companies’ attempts to shift their profit offshore by proposing rules that would curb so-called “earnings stripping” and inversions — mergers in which U.S. companies transfer their tax address overseas to low-tax countries like Ireland to cut their tax bills.
Some of those rules, first proposed in April 2016, sought to restrict lending among subsidiaries of the same corporate parent, a technique that can create income in low-tax countries and tax-deductible interest payments in the U.S. The proposed rules met a barrage of criticism from corporations and tax lawyers, who complained that they went too far by banning common, everyday cash-management practices that have nothing to do with tax avoidance.
Amid the criticism, Treasury last October softened the proposed rules to allow cash pooling, a common corporate money-management technique in which excess cash in subsidiaries is swept daily into a single pool. It also delayed a related proposal, which would require companies to extensively document their related-party lending, until Jan. 1, 2018.
US drillers make a few more holes in the latest count
- Prior was 683
- Natural gas rigs 167 vs 162 prior
- Total rigs 857 vs 847 prior
Every time an OPEC member sees this report, they must cringe.