… only for Brussels to retaliate and launch an “unprecedented” review of Polish media laws, a move which Poland angrily responded is far beyond the EU’s domain.
Well, as so often happens, whenever there is a political spat in Europe, the rating agencies are quickly involved (thing S&P and Moody’s downgrades and upgrades of Greece depending on how well the vassal nation is “behaving”), and moments ago S&P downgraded Poland from A- to BBB+ outlook negative, precisely due to Poland’s new media law which has been the topic of so much consternation over the past week.
In other words, S&P is now nothing more than a lackey for Brussels, threatening to send Polish yields higher if Poland does not fall in line.Continue reading »
Having told the world that it will borrow billions (and cut capex) to “return all free cash to investors,” it appears ratings agency S&P just needed to remind McDonalds that Shareholder-friendly releveraging no longer comes for free…
*S&P LWRS MCDONALD’S RTG TO ‘BBB+’ ON SHR BUYBACK PLANS
Having watched the credit markets grow more and more weary of the major US financials, it should not be total surprise that ratings agency S&P just put all the majors on watch for a rating downgrade:
*JPMORGAN, CITIGROUP, GOLDMAN SACHS, STATE STREET CORP, MORGAN STANLEY MAY BE CUT BY S&P
Despite all the talking heads proclamations on higher rates and net interest margins and ‘strongest balance sheets’ ever, S&P obviously sees something more worrisome looming. This comes just hours after Moody’s put Bank of Nova Scotia on review also (blaming the move on concerns over increased risk appetite).
Just a few short years after they dared to downgrade the US, S&P has unleashed their worst on Europe:
*EUROPEAN UNION OUTLOOK REVISED TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY S&P
*S&P: EU TO AA+/NEGATIVE FROM AA+/STABLE – FOREIGN CURRENCY LT
We are sure this will be met by S&P office raids throughout Europe, litigation over somethhing or other, and denials broadly from any and every unelected member of EU’s elite… because “when it’s serious you have to lie.”
And the hits keep coming. On the heels of a demand for repayment of ECB’s profits from GGB bond gains and to extend the T-Bill limit to give the nation time to negotiate with EU leaders (i.e. a Bridge Loan) which Jeroen Dijsselbloem already dismissed earlier in the day, S&P just piled on…
GREECE RATINGS CUT TO B- FROM B BY S&P; MAY BE CUT FURTHER
This downgrade comes just 5 months after upgrading Greece because “risks to fiscal consolidation in Greece have abated.” EURUSD is not moving much (having already cratered after US payrolls) but Greek stock ETFs are sliding once again. Continue reading »
Just hours after apparently settling its suit with the USA (not at all retaliation for downgrading them), S&P has taken the big red marker out on a slew of European banks:
Downgrades: Credit Suisse, Barclays, Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, RBS, HSBC, and Ulster Bank
On Watch Negative: Raiffeisen Zentralbank, MBank, Unicredit, Commerzbank, and Deutsche Bank
The driver of the shift in perspective is the apparent removal of the ‘bailout put’, as the prospect of “extraordinary government support” appeared less likely under recently passed bail-in legislation.
As had been widely rumored in the past two weeks, and as the WSJ reported overnight, moments ago McGraw Hill, parent of disgraced rating agency S&P, entered into a $1.5 billion settlement to fully resolve the DOJ lawsuit regarding S&P ratings on RMBS and CDOs. As the WSJ reported overnight, In the “span of about 30 hours, the Justice Department lowered its asking price and backed off demands that S&P admit to violating laws when it issued rosy grades on risky mortgage deals, the people said.” But the bottom line: ‘S&P agreed to … withdraw its assertion that the Justice Department lawsuit was political retaliation for the ratings firm’s 2011 downgrade.”
Well that didn’t take long. Russian Finance Minister Siluanov has responded to S&P’s “junk” downgrade of The Russian Federation:
*SILUANOV: S&P DOWNGRADE OF RUSSIA SHOWS ‘EXCESSIVE PESSIMISM’
*SILUANOV: NO REASON TO EXPECT `MASS’ DEBT REDEMPTION REQUESTS
Adding in his statement that he “sees no reason to dramatize” the situation, Siluanov adds that the cut should not have any serious effect on Russia’s capital markets. We assume by “dramatize,” he means – they wil not be ‘visiting’ the local ratings agencies offices for a chat anytime soon.
Remember when S&P forgot for a second that it lives in a world of pretend free speech, and where telling the truth would promptly result in a lawsuit by none other than the US government under false pretenses (and from which Buffett darling Moody’s was excluded) after it downgraded the US from AAA to AA+ in the summer of 2011? A downgrade which as Bloomberg previously reported led to this exchange with then Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner: “S&P’s conduct would be looked at very carefully,” Geithner told McGraw according to the filing. “Such behavior would not occur, he said, without a response from the government.”
Well, S&P will never make the same mistake again, because according to Reuters, it will cost it $1.5 billion to settle with the government and put the whole “downgrade” episode in the past.
S&P SAID IN SETTLEMNT TALKS WITH WITH DOJ,STATES: RTRS
S&P SAID IN SETTLEMNT TALKS FOR $1.5B: REUTERS
SEC SAID TO BAN S&P FROM RATING PART OF CMBS MARKET FOR A YEAR
S&P SETTLEMENT WITH SEC SAID TO INCLUDE $60 MILLION FINE
S&P SETTLEMENT ON CMBS SAID TO BE ANNOUNCED AS SOON AS TOMORROW
And let that be a lesson to anyone else who thinks the First Amendment is anything but window dressing.
Remember Greece: the country that in 2010 launched Europe’s sovereign solvency crisis and the ECB’s own helpless attempts at intervention, which later was “saved”, only to default shortly thereafter (but without triggering CDS as that would end the Eurozone’s amusing monetary experiment and collapse the Deutsche Bank $100 trillion house of derivative cards), which later was again “saved” when every single global central bank made sure Greek bonds became the only yield-generating securities in the world? Well, the country which at last count was doing ok, is about to not be ok. Because according to none other than S&P, at some point over the next 15 months, Greek debt is about to be in default when the country is no longer able to cover its financing needs. In other words, back to square one. Continue reading »
A true debacle happened. Just when we thought the euro was safe, that ECB President Mario Draghi had single-handedly duct-taped the Eurozone back together in the summer of 2012 with his magic words, “whatever it takes.” Markets assumed that they were backed by the ECB’s printing press, and they loved their assumption. Spanish, Italian, even highly dubious Greek debt, some of it with a fresh haircut, soared. And hedge funds and banks gorged on it and loved it. The debt crisis was over! Stocks soared even more. Money was being made.
So bank bailouts continued, and the Eurozone recession proved to be a nasty long-term affair, but no problem, everything seemed to be guaranteed by the ECB. Debt-sinner countries, as Germans like to call them, could suddenly borrow for nearly free, and neither deficits nor debts mattered to financial markets.
But now comes ratings agency Standard & Poor’s and douses our illusions, because that’s all they were, with a bucket of ice water. The soaring popularity and electoral successes of Germany’s anti-euro party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), could push Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party, the conservative CDU, to take a harder line against bailouts, hopes of QE, and all manner of other ECB miracles that financial markets had been counting on. And it could spook them. And the nearly free money could suddenly dry up. So S&P warned: Continue reading »
Back in the summer of 2011 during the debt ceiling debacle, S&P did the unthinkable: it dared to speak the truth when it downgraded the US from its pristine AAA rating, setting off a stock market selloff and paradoxically sending bonds to record low yields. This resulted in a vindictive Tim Geithner promptly warning the Chairman of McGraw-Hill the US would retaliate (which it did), the termination of then CEO Devan Sharma (and his replacement with the all too friendly COO of Citibank), and most importantly, a still ongoing legal fight in which the DOJ sued S&P (and only S&P, not Moody’s, not Fitch) allegedly for rating improprieties during the first housing bubble, but even 5 year olds knew it was just to teach S&P a lesson.
Today we learn just what the cost is for anyone who dares to downgrade the US. The answer: $1,000,000,000. That is the amount that S&P has decided it will agree to pay in a settlement with the DOJ to put all this “truthiness” unpleasantness behind it.
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services decided to settle a pending lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and is open to paying about $1 billion to settle it, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the matter. Continue reading »
Cyprus and Russia – what’s the difference (aside from the fact that the former was a money laundering offshore center of the latter until last year of course)?
If you said one is a lackey to statist, selfish banker interests, and after having its economy thoroughly destroyed by the great doomed European sociopolitical (and pathological) experiment, came crawling back to its Eurozone masters, while the other couldn’t care one bit about Pax Petrodollariana and the global central bank cabal, you are right. In which case it will also be clear why a few hours ago that joke of a rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, which also earlier announced it was “affirming” France at an AA rating making it very clear it will no longer accept being sued for telling the truth and downgrading sovereigns or otherwise have its offices abroad raided, not only upgraded Cyprus from B- to B (please deposits your funds in Cyprus banks now: they are safe, S&P promises), but – far more importantly – delivered a political message to the Kremlin, and downgraded Russia from BBB to BBB-, one short notch away from junk status. This was the first downgrade of Russia by S&P since December 2008.
S&P, still deep in the mire of a legal battle with the US government, has decided now is an opportune time to cut the ratings outlook on Russia:
*RUSSIAN FEDERATION OUTLOOK TO NEGATIVE FROM STABLE BY S&P
*S&P SEES EU-U.S. IMPOSING FURTHER SANCTIONS
Russia remains a BBB credit (but with the outlook shift remains open to a downgrade with 24 months). S&P has cut 2014 GDP forecast to 1.2% and 2015 to 2.2%. Of course, we are sure, this would have nothing to do with currying favors with the US government (who threatened them when they downgraded the USA). Full report below.
S&P Reduces Russian Federation outlook to Negative from Stable.
Several hours ago, and a day after the latest truce lasted about a few minutes before the the shooting returned and resulted in the bloodiest day of Ukraine’s protests so far, there was hope that the situation in Ukraine may finally be getting resolved, when Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich announced plans for early elections in a series of concessions to his pro-European opponents. As Reuters reported earlier, Russian-backed Yanukovich, under pressure to quit from mass demonstrations in central Kiev, promised a national unity government and constitutional change to reduce his powers, as well as the presidential polls. He made the announcement in a statement on the presidential website without waiting for a signed agreement with opposition leaders after at least 77 people were killed in the worst violence since Ukraine became independent 22 years ago. This comes in the aftermath of S&P’s announcement overnight that the Ukraine will default in absence of favorable changes.
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Standard & Poor’s on Friday downgraded its long-term sovereign credit rating on the Netherlands to AA+ from AAA, citing growth concerns. S&P said the country’s growth prospects are weaker than it had previously anticipated. “We do not anticipate that real economic output will surpass 2008 levels before 2017, and believe that the strong contribution of net exports to growth has not been enough to offset a weak domestic economy,” S&P said in a statement. The outlook is stable, reflecting the agency’s view “that risks stemming from low growth and the related fiscal outturn are balanced against strong export performance, a net creditor position, and high GDP per capita.”
Obviously with Buffett a major shareholder of Moody’s, the only place where a downgrade of Berkshire could come from was S&P. Moments ago, the rating agency that dared to downgrade the US for which it is being targeted by Eric Holder’s Department of “Justice”, did just that. Continue reading »
McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP) and its Standard & Poor’s unit were sued by the U.S. over claims S&P knowingly understated the credit risks of instruments that were central to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles, accusing McGraw-Hill and S&P of mail fraud, wire fraud and financial institutions fraud. Under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, the U.S. seeks civil penalties of as much as $1.1 million for each violation. The company’s shares tumbled the most in 25 years yesterday when it said it expected the lawsuit, the first federal case against a ratings firm for grades related to the credit crisis.
Standard & Poor’s on Wednesday cut Spain’s sovereign credit rating to BBB-minus, just above junk territory, citing a deepening economic recession that is limiting the government’s policy options to arrest the slide.
The S&P downgrade comes with a negative outlook reflecting the credit ratings agency’s view that there are significant risks to economic growth and budgetary performance, plus a lack of clear direction in euro zone policies.
“In our view, the capacity of Spain’s political institutions (both domestic and multilateral) to deal with the severe challenges posed by the current economic and financial crisis is declining,” S&P said in a statement.
S&P’s two-notch downgrade from BBB-plus brings it in line with Moody’s Investors Service’s Baa3 rating. Moody’s has Spain on review for a possible downgrade.
With government bond markets increasingly manipulated directly via central-bank intervention – and becoming increasingly illiquid – the odd situation we find ourselves in once again is that CDS markets perhaps provide a ‘cleaner’ picture of where credit risk is actually being traded between market participants (hedgers or speculators). To wit, Bloomberg’s ever-insightful Michael McDonough has noticed a significant divergence between market-implied perceptions of risk (CDS) and ratings-agencies perceptions among several nations. Most notably France and Italy (with Belgium close behind) appear considerably ‘over-rated’. Italy’s implied rating is equivalent to BB+ at S&P – well below its average rating of BBB+ and France’s implied rating of A is around four notches below its composite rating. Spain also appears set for more pain as its market price implies a sub-investment grade rating is imminent.
On the bright side – maybe Vietnam is due for an upgrade?
In what S&P calls a ‘Perfect Storm’, the next four years will see a minimum of $30 trillion in companies’ refinancing needs related to maturing bonds and loans and further they expect $13-$16 trillion more debt will be required to finance growth. With bond portfolios over-stuffed with corporate debt (since angst over sovereign risk has skewed asset allocation away from that cohort) the rating agency is concerned that ongoing bank deleveraging, these huge debt re-funding requirements, and the diminishment of central banks and governments to do anything about it leave serious problems with a credit overhang so large. Critically, especially as we hear calls for ‘growth’ plans from Europe, is the increasing likelihood that, as Reuters reports, this will potentially influence corporate credit quality and “alter the fragile equilibrium that currently exists in the global corporate credit landscape”. While S&P expect the refinancing needs may well be met “This global wall of nonfinancial corporate debt will potentially compound the credit rationing that may occur as banks seek to restructure their balance sheets, and bond and equity investors reassess their risk-return thresholds” which “raises the downside risk in global markets” as an inability to finance growth may well be the catalyst for another risk flare. “Governments and central banks have less fiscal and monetary flexibility to prevent serious problems emanating from future market disturbances. A perfect storm scenario would likely cause financing disruptions even for borrowers that are not highly leveraged.”
Of course the size of this massive refinancing wall dwarfs the recent discussion of how much of Europe’s financial system’s equity market cap is nothing but vaporware – since we note that 30% of this $30 trillion is for European financials and corporations.
… but not from us: after all we are known for being biased, which in the mainstream media parlance means calling it like it is. No – instead we leave it to none other than Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil who does as good a job of being “biased” as we ever could: “Egan-Jones, which has been in business since 1992, could have continued operating as an independent publisher of ratings and analysis, not subject to government oversight or control. Instead it chose to play within the Big Three’s system, exposing itself to regulation and the whims of the SEC in exchange for the government’s imprimatur. Now it’s paying the price.” And not only that: as the most recent example of Spain just shows, where Egan Jones downgraded Spain 9 days ago and was ignored, but well ahead of everyone else, only to be piggybacked by S&P, and the whole world flipping out, it has become clear: calling out reality, and the fools that populate it, is becoming not only a dangerous game, but increasingly more illegal. Then again – this is not the first time we have seen just this happen in broad daylight, with nobody daring to say anything about it. In fact, this phenomenon tends to be a rather traditional side-effect of every declining superpower. Such as the case is right now…
The first time I wrote about Sean Egan and his small, independent credit-research firm, Egan-Jones Ratings Co., was in December 2007 for a column about the bond insurer MBIA Inc. (MBI) And man, did he nail it.
The three big credit raters — Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings — all had AAA ratings on MBIA’s insurance unit, their highest grade. Egan said it deserved much lower. Anyone reading MBIA’s financial reports could see the company was losing money and needed billions of dollars of fresh capital.
By mid-2008, the Big Three had cut their ratings. Once again, Egan, a lonely voice of reason who saw the financial crisis coming, had shown his larger competitors to be incompetent or compromised. It was one of many great calls to come for Egan-Jones. As for MBIA, which had no revenue last quarter, it’s still struggling.
So if you had told me back then that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division more than four years later would be accusing Egan, and his firm, of securities-law violations — but not any of the big rating companies — there’s no way I would have believed you. That’s what happened this week, though. Continue reading »