It’s about time we have a president to take EU to task over NATO spending

I have to tell you again, that it is so refreshing to have a president go over to the EU and call them out for their hypocrisy.

Case in point: The US pays on average 67% of NATO’s defense spending and where is a majority of that spending still directed too? Defending the EU against Russian aggression.

In 2017, NATO countries contributed $917 billion for defense, the US portion of that bill was $618 billion. Only three EU members contributed the recommended level of 2% of GDP to the alliance. Greece, UK and Estonia along with the US, which chipped in the most with almost 3.6% of our GDP.

Germany’s Angela Merkel was in President Trump’s sights over their energy spending with Russia.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said. Turning to Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, he said: “Explain that.”

“We’re supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.”

If Germany wants to do an energy deal with Russia, then that’s probably a bigger deterrent to hostilities then lining up tanks on the Crimea border. But don’t thumb your nose at US energy companies and then expect Americans to pay for your ease of mind.

Listen allies are one thing and surely if any act of aggression took place on the continent the US would come to their defense. But NATO is a Cold War relic, designed to syphon money from the US to Europe in a 60-year extended Marshall Plan.

If the Europeans and Germans in particular, are so concerned for their safety, then why is Germany only spending 1.2% of its GDP on NATO defense. Because it’s a ruse, a relic and no longer needed in this day and age.

And it’s about time we have a president to hammer that home to Europe.


Deutsche is walking dead, but may not fall

When the markets question the viability of a financial institution, then that firm is toast.

The capital markets were the ultimate forum for picking winners and losers, that was until 2008, when the term “Too Big To Fail” came into vogue.

Once a firm is tagged with the TBTF label, markets no long can become efficient and take the financial institution out through bankruptcy or merger.

This is where you see Deutsche Bank today. In the past before TBTF, Deutsche would be in a liquidity squeeze as markets question the viability of the firm ( see Lehman).

However, there has to be an explicit backing by the German government in order for Deutsche to still have its doors open.

Yes we get headlines that Deutsche’s borrowing costs are going up, that other firms are poaching Deutsche’s bankers and that its derivative book has been reduced to 43 trillion euros from 75 trillion euros.

But let’s work the notional value of a 50 trillion euro book, which conservatively could be 5 trillion euro in exposure. Deutsche’s current book value would have trouble covering the $14 billion Justice Department fine for mortgage security fraud charges. So how can the bank cover a 1% move on 5 trillion euro?

If the market could clean out a troubled firm (see Citigroup), then we would not have had to go through the last eight years of economic malaise. But that’s not to be, as governments and central banks — not the markets — pick winners and losers.

So if the Merkel government has given the markets a thumbs up in backing up Deutsche, which is the only explanation, then we can welcome back the zombie banks in Europe.

Curious Trump banking connection

There seems to a curious connection that I would like to point out.

The reason behind it is open to speculation, which I don’t generally write about.

The connection is between Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump. Deutsche for the last decade or so has been one of Trump’s main lenders.

Deutsche holds more than $350M on mortgages to Trump’s trophy properties: Miami’s Doral National golf course, Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the newly opened Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, a few blocks from the White House.

Deutsche and Trump have been doing these deals since US banks shied away from Trump since his earlier bankruptcies in the early part of this century.

In a growing sign that all is not well with European banks and German banks in particular, Commerzbank on Thursday said it would cut nearly 10,000 jobs or more than a 20 percent of its workforce and stop paying dividends as it goes through restructuring.

Germany’s second biggest lender said in a statement it expected restructuring costs of $1.2 billion as it combines business segments and cuts costs to offset the drag from low loan demand and negative European Central Bank interest rates and as it shifts to digital banking.

The news come on the heels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that the government will not offer a bail out to Deutsche.

The Commerzbank revamp will come at a heavy cost for employees as Commerzbank slashes 9,600 of its 45,000 full-time positions, a more drastic reduction than at Deutsche, which is cutting about 10 percent of staff but has suggested deeper cost cutting may be needed.

Cryan has to know when to Fuld 'em

The similarities between Deutsche Bank and Lehman Bros. grow by the day.

CEO John Cryan is pulling out the Lehman playbook used not so effectively by ex-Lehman CEO Dick Fuld.

Layoffs abound as the German bank cuts losing divisions, just like Lehman.

Defections of the top traders and execs continue across the globe, just like Lehman.

The bank just completed a sale that it said lost the bank more than $100M, but it brings capital in, which is the much-needed life blood right now, just like Lehman.

Cryan also professed that the bank does not need a bail out since it has “plenty of liquidity,”  just like Lehman.

However the German financial press has reported that plans are being drawn up, despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying on Monday no bail out would come.

Why am I continuing to write on Deutsche’s troubles?

Because unlike Lehman’s demise, there is no central bank cure for this catastrophe.

The size of its derivative book, which is conservatively $50T notionally, could create a $2T shortfall and a huge drain on global liquidity at a time when central banks have record debt.

Deutsche Bank's pan-European bail out

As I have been writing about Deutsche Bank since 2012 as an alleged criminal enterprise that had a number of bankers associated with it mysteriously die in suicides, I can’t say I am surprised by the events recently.

And recent market moves on its stocks and bonds show the bank is in bigger trouble than Germany can handle.

  • On Tuesday Deutsche has a market cap of $16B, just above the $14B amount the Justice Department is looking to claw back in fines as a result of peddling fraudulent mortgage paper.
  • And the short interest on the bank is growing. The total number of Deutsche shares out on loan rose from 1.72 per cent of its issued shares to 3.07 per cent over the past week, according to data from Markit, as Deutsche has seen its shares fall 55 per cent in the last year.
  • It’s CoCo bonds — contingent capital bonds — issued earlier this year, to bring in some much-needed capital, are trading well below par. The last price I could find was $0.77 on the dollar in July.

So for German leader Angela Merkel to say Deutsche will not get a government bailout tells me one thing. She is putting the ECB and Mario Draghi on notice that this is their tar baby. You want negative interest rates, which cripple banks, then you bail out Deutsche.

All of Europe will need to prop up this bank, because Germany can’t do it alone, especially with upcoming elections next year.

I would go so far as to say Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve will be part of the bail out as pressure mounts.

Just like in 2008 when Deutsche was one of the global banking firms getting easy money from the Fed after Lehman Bros.’s collapse.