Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services has notified the French government of its decision to downgrade the country’s credit rating, a senior French government official said Friday, a move that marks the long-awaited blow to France’s international standing and knocks the country out of the top financial league of the euro zone. S&P has informed the French government that the country’s cherished triple-A rating will be lowered one notch to double-A-plus. S&P has also notified other European governments of looming ratings downgrades, according to people familiar with the matter. [WSJ]
If It Makes You Feel Any Better, Jon Corzine Did Plenty Of Field Research Before Gorging Himself On An All-You-Can-Eat Euro Debt BuffetBy Bess Levin
…on October 15, two weeks before MF Global filed for bankruptcy, Corzine and his wife, Sharon Elghanayan, were at a birthday party in Paris talking about a château they were about to buy in the South of France. “It’s not in Cap Ferrat,” one person recalls Elghanayan saying, perhaps to mitigate the extravagance. “To buy any decent château is at least a couple of million euros,” explains another person who was at the party, “and that is before the renovation with the air-conditioning and the new kitchen. Sharon was very excited. She said she was flying down there on Monday morning.” [Vanity Fair]
“Standard & Poor’s accidentally released a message to some of its subscribers on Thursday saying that it had downgraded French debt from its top AAA rating. S&P said it was investigating what had gone wrong and stressed that France still had an AAA rating.” [BBC]
The leaders of France and Germany disappointed financial markets Tuesday by ruling out issuing euro bonds to fix Europe’s debt crisis. Instead, they agreed to float proposals in September for a tax on financial transactions and push for closer joint governance of economic policy. Many experts say the only way to ensure affordable financing for the bloc’s most financially distressed countries would be for the euro area to issue joint eurobonds. But both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they believed euro bonds were not part of the solution to Europe’s debt crisis…Sarkozy and Merkel also proposed that all 17 euro zone countries commit to balanced finances and write that goal into their constitutional law by summer 2012. Among other measures announced, he said they would also seek to ensure better cross-border economic government for the euro zone via twice-yearly meetings of leaders and the creation of a two-and-a-half-year presidency to steer this forum. [CNBC, earlier]
With half of Europe having banned short-selling and anything that might loosely resemble it, if you think that French banks are undercapitalized then you may be seeking less traditional ways to monetize that view. One approach that you might have considered is writing a fictional account of a near-future Eurozone meltdown with real names of banks and individuals and selling it pseudonymously to a major French newspaper to publish in a twelve-part serial. If you live in the U.S. that may not sound like such a great idea, since we don’t consume a lot of based-loosely-on-real-events financial fiction unless it stars Shia LeBoeuf.
But in France, where after all mime is considered a form of entertainment, there seems to be a big appetite for fictionalized financial markets, as Le Monde found out when they puplished “Terminus pour l’euro” this summer. But Le Monde’s success may just have ruined it for the rest of you:
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Short sale bans. Is there anything they can’t do?
Maybe. But does it matter? If your position is just that “speculation” on stocks is the moral equivalent of puppy-murder and should never be profitable, then you just say things like “let’s ban short sales” and don’t worry about the details. You take shorting of bank shares as a personal affront, and your goal is not to have functioning markets but just to prove that you’re tough. And your name might be Jean-Pierre Jouyet:
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of the AMF, the French securities regulator, said on Thursday night: “They [investors] wanted to test French resistance. This is our response, as always very determined, and it will be so for all those who want to put us to the test.”
But, as we’re seeing with new short sale bans from France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, this approach sometimes has problems, because most short selling takes place in an actual world where other things happen too. Like:
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