Burn the Doors
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe
DOW + 217 = 17,977
SPX + 22 = 2099
NAS + 73 = 5071
10 YR YLD + .01 = 2.43%
OIL – .35 = 51.85
GOLD – 5.30 = 1158.50
SILV – .12 = 15.60
Greece and Eurozone creditors reached a tentative agreement that might unlock about $95 billion in new aid to Greece in exchange for new tough concessions by the Athens government, which included reforms to the pension system, higher taxes, and privatization. However, the €85 billion-euro deal is not official until the Greek parliament on Wednesday passes the deal; and that might be a tough ask given the “no” vote in the recent referendum. Before we get to a Wednesday vote in Athens, there are several Eurozone finance ministers that will have to approve a €12 billion-euro package of short-term bridge financing, to allow the Greek banks to reopen. If the new deal is approved, the bank “holiday” could be lifted as soon as Thursday. And then after that, the Euro Union countries would have to sign off on a deal, unanimously. So, it’s a very complicated deal with considerable risk. Wall Street has never been good at reading the fine print, and stocks moved higher today on the idea that the never-ending negotiations over Greek debt might finally be ending, when in fact, they are just kicking into another gear.
And then even if the all these different governments approve an actual deal, well governments change, and the next government in Athens might not want to be stuck with the deals made by this government. But even if you get past that stumbling block, the deal being offered is even more onerous than the one that was offered 3 weeks ago, which it was widely determined, was unsustainable. In other words, nobody has yet addressed the important concept of how Greece can grow its economy to actually pay back the bailouts. The simple answer is they won’t. In a handful of months, fears over the sustainability of Greek debts will once again grow.
And the idea that privatization will raise the funds is laughable. This is like the story of the man in a mountain cabin, with the winter storm blowing ice and snow outside. He burns through all his firewood, and then he burns the chairs, and then he burns the cabinets, and finally he burns the doors to the cabin.
A couple of months ago, I thought a deal with Greece was inevitable because the cost of failure was too high. In the past month I thought the Troika would try to punish Greece, no matter the cost. Somehow they have crafted a deal that inflicts punishment and persuaded Tsipras to agree to the pain. The quasi-deal agreed to overnight represents the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Greece. Tsipras has surrendered. Greece is no longer a sovereign state. Brussels and Berlin have seized control. Greece needs a modern day equivalent to the Marshall Plan, not more austerity. And the worst damage may be to the Euro Union. If you think this is over, think again.
Meanwhile, we have story to tell of a debt riddled economy, struggling under failed austerity schemes, unable to pay its debt, sending bond prices tumbling and stocks wobbling, And the creditors smell blood as they circle for the kill. There is no credible plan. No, we’re not talking about Greece anymore; this is Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican officials are meeting with creditors for the first time since Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla last month said the commonwealth can’t afford to pay its debts. The IMF has prepared a report suggesting Puerto Rico should try to persuade creditors to exchange old bonds for new bonds with longer maturities and lower debt payments.
Meanwhile, never-ending negotiations seem to be dragging on and on. No, we’re not talking about Greece or Puerto Rico, this time it is Iran. Talks between Iran and six major powers pushed into their 17th day with top Iranian officials saying the talks could go on for days. European officials suggested over the weekend that today was a make-or-break day for the nuclear talks, as both sides said only a final few issues remained to be resolved; so far today, no deal has been made but the talks have not broken down. US diplomats said they wouldn’t be pressured to walk away from talks as long as progress was being made. Who knows? At this point just wait for something conclusive. If the deal is made, we will know because the price of oil will take a big hit.
OPEC lowered its projection for 2015 global oil demand by about 100,000 barrels a day, to 29.2 million a day. That’s more than 2 million a day less than the group’s 12 members pumped last month. Saudi Arabia told OPEC it raised oil production to a record 10.5 million barrels a day in June, exceeding a previous record set in 1980.
U.S. power stations generated 31% of electricity from natural gas in April compared with 30% from coal, research firm SNL Energy estimates, the first time that gas has overtaken coal. In 2010, coal accounted for 45% of power. The milestone has been a long time in coming, with the shale boom causing gas prices to plummet and increasing regulation leading to higher expenses for coal.
In US markets, attention shifted (squirrel) from international headlines to worries about interest rates and also earnings reporting season. Last week Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she still expected to raise US interest rates this year. Fed funds futures show a 37 percent chance the central bank will increase its benchmark rate in September, up from 33 percent on July 10, and a 69 percent chance by December. The difference between two- and 10-year yields, known as the yield curve, widened to the steepest since November.
Janet Yellen heads across town on Wednesday to testify before the House Financial Services Committee. On Thursday, she will repeat the performance before the Senate Banking Committee. The biannual appearances are billed as reports to Congress on monetary policy, but the questions tend to range widely.
The Treasury reports that the federal government ran a budget surplus of $52 billion in June. That is $19 billion lower than the surplus seen in the same month a year ago. For the fiscal year to date, the government’s budget deficit is $313 billion. That is $52 billion smaller than the year-ago period. The government’s budget year runs from October through September.
According to Deloitte’s second-quarter CFO survey, finance chiefs from large North American companies are concerned about the economy, and have less confidence in the prospects for their own companies. The survey, which measures the views of more than 100 CFOs, found net optimism at its lowest level in two years, down to 18.8% vs. 34.4% last quarter. The number of CFOs that reported rising optimism about their own company fell sharply to 38% from 48% last quarter. A full 65% of those surveyed believe U.S. stock markets are overvalued, up from just 46% last quarter.
MPLX LP has agreed to buy MarkWest Energy Partners LP for about $15.8 billion, creating a master-limited partnership giant with natural gas and crude oil presences. The companies said the combination would create the fourth-largest master-limited partnership with a $21 billion market capitalization. MPLX was created by Marathon Petroleum in 2012 to own and operate pipelines and other midstream assets. MarkWest Energy Partners processes natural gas in plays including the Marcellus and Utica shales.
Diversified energy firm Black Hills has agreed to acquire natural-gas utility SourceGas Holdings for $1.9 billion from investment funds managed by General Electric and Alinda Capital Partners. The deal allows the South Dakota-based Black Hills to expand in Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas.
BP may have to pay out over $2 billion more than the $10.3 billion it has set aside to compensate businesses over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The money for the firms is in addition to the $18 billion settlement that BP agreed to last week, which resolved all actions against the company from federal, state and local governments.
Mexico’s new oil regime will undergo a major test on Wednesday when the government holds the first auction for private oil companies of 169 oil blocks that are both onshore and offshore. At least 17 companies are expected to participate, though the auction comes as oil prices are low. Pemex, the old national oil company, has decided not to participate. The Mexican Congress passed legislation last year to end Pemex’s monopoly and open the country’s oil patch to international competition.
Detroit’s “Big Three” carmakers are scheduled to start talks with the United Auto Workers (UAW) over a new contract for employees, and a two-tier wage system is likely to be a main topic of discussion. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, along with the UAW, have until September 14, when the current contract expires, to reach an agreement.
Apple grabbed 92% of the operating profit of the world’s top eight smartphone companies in first quarter, up from 65% a year earlier. Samsung took 15% in this year’s period. The reason why Apple and Samsung earned over 100% combined is because some rivals only broke even or lost money.
On the earnings front: eBay reports tomorrow, Intel will deliver results on Wednesday, Netflix reports after the close on Wednesday (Netflix shares have nearly doubled in the year-to-date), Google reports on Thursday (expect questions about Google’s $65 billion cash pile and how they might spend it).
The nation’s largest banks will post second-quarter earnings this week, starting with JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo on Tuesday; Bank of America on Wednesday, and Goldman Sachs and Citigroup on Thursday. And the expectation is for continued pain due to sagging net interest margins, or the spread between what a bank pays to borrow money and what it can charge on loans. The wild card for banks could be results from their bond, currencies and commodities trading operations. Trading revenue tends to swing wildly each quarter.