Saturday, October 22, 2011
Earlier this week, Standard & Poor's (S&P) downgraded 24 Italian banks and financial institutions. The ratings agency cited renewed concern of a European crisis and "dimming" economic growth prospects... This is the fourth round of Italian downgrades S&P has carried out in less than a month. On a side note, credit-ratings agency Moody's also warned it may downgrade France's triple-A rating.
The downgrades started September 19, when S&P downgraded Italy's credit rating from single-A-plus to single-A. The next day, we described Italy's dire situation...
Days after the initial Italian downgrade, S&P downgraded six Italian banks... And 11 city and regional governments followed a few days later. Regular readers know our view on the mainstream ratings agencies (Moody's, S&P, and Fitch). When they start downgrading, it's already too late.
One glaring omission from S&P's victim list is UniCredit – Italy's largest bank and our bellwether for Europe's banking sector. UniCredit hasn't been downgraded since the initial cut on September 19. But it's a temporary phenomenon...
On Wednesday, a court in Milan seized $337 million of UniCredit's assets, as former CEO Alessandro Profumo is being examined in a tax-evasion probe. Prosecutors are examining whether UniCredit committed fraud through an international investment scheme called Brontos. The bank used Brontos to increase the bank's "economic benefits," Profumo said at UniCredit's 2010 annual meeting. The plan increased pretax profit, a bank spokesman said at the time.
The plan, it appears, was a scam. The judge says Brontos disguised interest earned on deposits as dividends earned from fake securities. Interest earned on deposits is taxed in full, while dividends are taxed at 5%. This scheme took place in 2007 and 2008. This isn't Profumo's first brush with scandal. He stepped down in September 2010... after taking heat for accepting a massive bailout from Muammar Gaddafi.
Earlier this week, JPMorgan said UniCredit is among the worst-capitalized banks in Europe – quite an accomplishment these days. Italy's largest bank would need to raise $18.7 billion if European banks underwent stricter regulations and wrote its sovereign debt holdings down to market. The only bank worse off than UniCredit, according to JPMorgan, is the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The bank, which Porter Stansberry shorted in the July issue of Stansberry's Investment Advisory, would need to raise more than $26 billion.
One final piece of bearish news on Europe... Germany, the European Union's strongest member, tried to sell five billion euros of government bonds this week, but received only 4.55 billion euros in bids. The market is worried – as we've been from the beginning – that the euro nations' ever-increasing bailout needs will fall on Germany (and, we predict, the U.S. Federal Reserve).
In his latest issue, Porter warned the rising markets shouldn't fool you into believing Europe's problems were over. We'll see more and more printing soon...
If you don't have enough gold exposure leading into what promises to be a multitrillion-dollar government bailout, it's not too late...
"It's time to 'back the truck up' on gold stocks," Jeff Clark says.
In an update sent to his S&A Short Report subscribers earlier this week, Jeff said the gold market is flashing a buy signal... And it's "time to aggressively buy gold stocks."
We've highlighted Jeff's gold-trading track record several times... Trading short-term swings in gold stocks is incredibly difficult, and Jeff is doing an amazing job – making his readers tons of money. He's nailed a handful of triple-digit winners in the gold sector (many of them with a holding period of just a few days). He's got the timing for the gold sector down... And in case you didn't note from his above quote, this is his highest-conviction trade yet.
Jeff believes his readers will make between 110% and 175% on his latest trade. If throughout his barrage of huge gold trade winners, you still haven't tried Jeff's service... now is your chance. You can learn more about the S&A Short Report here...
Date Range:10/13/2011 to 10/20/2011
Date Range:10/13/2011 to 10/20/2011