I thought my last update summing up Christmas Week was going to be my last hoary for 2014, but I was wrong. Because over a span of 2 short days, a couple of events have rattled both the public and the financial community. It is now just 2 days before the ball officially drops in Time Square, New York and the spins into 2015.
It has indeed been a celestial 2014, quite literally because recall that NASA managed to successfully test launch its Orion Spacecraft into orbit and a full cycle back to Earth just a month back. It is hard not to continually update our readers on crucial happenings, reality knows no limits it seems; even Santa takes a break sometimes but things just keep piling up. In this succinct update, readers will be enlightened on the things that have transpired over the weekend.
Greece In Turmoil After Third Failed Presidential Vote Means January 25 Snap Elections
Over what was a gray Greek Sunday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed for the third and final time to get enough backing for his presidential candidate. For the previous two votes, Samaras had been unable to garner more than 50% of votes in favor from Greece's parliament. As a result, the Prime Minister is set to tender his resignation on Monday afternoon European time.
The PM will proceed to chair a cabinet meeting while the current parliament is dissolved; technically handicapping the nation of a functional legislative arm. The incumbent President Karolos Papoulias has the choice between calling for a snap general election starting Monday till 10 days forward, essentially dead-lining the announcement from now till 8 February 2015. When the President does declare the snap elections as effective, the acting parliament will then make an official announcement on the actual date of the general elections.
Under current legislation, general elections must be held at least 21 days after the date of announcement but not 30 days after. This effectively extends the plausible date of general elections to 25 January 2015 at the farthest. By convention, elections are held on Sundays; political experts are throwing the dart on this very date, 25 January 2015, the date they believe ballots will be cast.
After the polls have closed, the party with a majority of the 300 parliamentary seats (at least 150 seats) will be mandated to form a cabinet to which will be sworn in 3 days after the elections. That is of course assuming matters are simple, and that one party manages to secure at least 150 seats. In reality of course, there is hardly ever a majority in a political climate as dichotomous as it is in Greece.
In the absence of a majority, the party with the most seats will be handed a mandate by the President to form a coalition government, and thereafter present the coalition for the parliament's approval. In the event that the parliament rejects the first coalition, the mandate will be handed over to the second most major party. The cycle continues down the line until a coalition is formed and approved. Depending on the formation of parliament, analysts reckon that this could possible be a protracted event extending for weeks if not months if Greek politicians choose to haggle over spilled Drachmas. Each cycle extends for the same 3-day period.
However, if no party is able for form a coalition (there are 7 parties altogether) as was in 2012, parties meet with president to try and form a coalition. If that too fails, new elections are held and the cycle extends rather painstakingly.
Bloomberg also reminds us that come 28 February, Greece's 2-month bailout extension from the Troika expires, which potentially leaves it without a lifeline or access to the primary market.
The markets' reaction was swift and equally gnarly. Per Bloomberg Markets:
- ASE (Athens Stock Exchange) market tumbles (-3.91% at EU close), leading declines in European stocks while generic Greek government bond spreads vs. Germany's widen
- Meaning: Greek equities largest looser; Greek government debt dumped while German debt was sought
- Greek/German 10Y spread +70bps to 861bps vs day low of 757bps; curve extends inversion
- Meaning: Yield differentials between Greece (most risky EMU nation ex. Cyprus) and Germany (safest EMU nation) exploded; markets selling Greek bonds and buying German bonds
- Shorter tenured GGBs (Greek govt bonds) are sold harder than longer tenured GGBs, as short term risk is priced higher
- Greek 10 Year yield exceeds 9.5% for the first time since September 2013
- German 10-Year yield falls to record 0.563%
- Stoxx600 falls as much as 0.8% to session low; Greek banks are the biggest decliners, with Eurobank Ergasias -23%, Piraeus Bank -21%, National Bank of Greece -18%, Alpha Bank -17%
The main reason why financial markets in the Peripheral Europe (Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal) have been billowing lately, especially after today's failed vote is simple. The transmission can be summarized through the following bulletins:
- Greece's anti-EU party Syriza has been gaining popularity amongst voters, many of whom are disenchanted with austerity and fiscal reforms in the country because financial pain is high despite financial lifelines extended, albeit with strings attached
- With near record high unemployment in Greece, especially amongst youth, many have turned to radicalism and anti-EU dogmas numb their pain, this is the main reason why parties like Syriza have seen their popularity sky rocket
- A majority or even a coalition led by Syriza could spell disaster for existing mutual agreements between Greece and the ECB and the EU at large; namely, these agreements spell out that Greece must undertake fiscal reforms and austerity for it to receive bailout funds going forward. External funding to Greece may be on the balance
- Other European banks especially those in the periphery are still significantly exposed to Greek assets such as deb of Greek banks, and GGBs among others. The largest holders of restructured GGBs remain Italian banks and the Italian government itself
- Negative contagion has spread the risk far outside the borders of Greece. The periphery is still in relative poor economic and financial health, banks are still very shaky and have failed the ECB's stress tests in September missing on core capital adequacy requirements
In short, if Syriza manages either through a majority or coalition to main control over Greece's new parliament, the markets' angst of a Greece-Europe separation will have been founded. From there matters will turn even uglier.
AirAsia Indonesia Flight Goes Missing Without Trace Over Java Sea
In what has to be the most heart wrenching year in modern civil aviation history, another civilian airplane has vanished without a trace over an area spanning between Indonesia and Borneo.
Earlier this year in March, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China lost radio contact with Malaysian ATC while flying over the South China Sea towards Vietnam. Almost 9 months after its mysterious disappearance, the Boeing 777-200ER airplane that serviced MH370 is still not found, nor have parts that belonged to the aircraft been found despite extensive international search efforts across millions of square miles over the Indian Ocean. The conclusion of MH370 is still open ended, but consensus is that it has crashed in open waters West of Australia. MH370 was carrying 239 passengers in total, the world has never heard from them since.
The flight in question is QZ8501 operated by an affiliate of AirAsia, AirAsia Indonesia whose parent company is PT Fersindo Nusaperkasa. The firm was founded in December 2004 under the brand "Awair". As we go to print, the airplane is still missing after 48 hours since it broke contact with Jakarta ATC. No distress signal was given.
QZ8501 was a regional flight servicing the common flight route from Surabaya in east Java, to Singapore. Below are some of the details we have compiled about the flight and airplane:
- Flight QZ8501 was carrying 155 passengers & 7 crew member (passenger manifest)
- 144 adults; 17 children and 1 infant
- Indonesia: 155
- South Korea: 3
- France; Malaysia; Singapore; UK: 1 each
- QZ8501 departed Juanda International Airport (runway 10), Indonesia (0635 GMT+8) and was scheduled to arrive at Singapore's Changi Airport (0830 GMT+8)
- ETD: 0620 GMT+8 (15 minute delay)
- ETA: 0830 GMT+8 (never arrived)
Crew members abroad flight QZ8501
- Captain: Iriyanto
- Indonesian National
- 20,537 flight hours, 6,100 with AirAsia Indonesia on Airbus A320
- First Officer: Rémi Emmanuel Plesel
- French National
- 2,275 flying hours with AirAsia Indonesia
- Flight crew
- 4 Flight Attendants
- Wanti Setiawati
- Oscar Desano
- Wismoyo Ari Prambudi
- Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi
- 1 Engineer-on-board
- Saiful Rakhmad
- Saiful Rakhmad
- 4 Flight Attendants
- Captain: Iriyanto
- Aircraft details
- Airbus A320-216
- Delivered to AirAsia Indonesia on 15 October 2008
- First flight on 25 September 2008
- 23,000 flight hours over 13,600 flights (short haul flights implied)
- Last maintenance was on 16 November 2014
- Maximum passenger load of 180 with latest seat configuration
- Serial number 3648
- Registration code PK-AXC
- Known flight path
- After takeoff from Runway 10 of Surabaya Juanda Airport, airplane turned left tracking 329° over Java Sea
- Ascended to Flight Level 320 (FL320) of altitude 32,000 ft at 0654 GMT+8 (19 minutes after takeoff)
- After FL320 was attained, airplane turned left to 319°
- 10 minutes later, airplane turned left slightly to 310°
- At 0712 GMT+8, QZ8501 contacted Jakarta ATC informing deviation to the left of their planned route along airway M-635 to avoid clouds
- QZ8501 also requested a climb to FL380 of altitude 38,000 ft . ATC declined request citing busy traffic
- According to the Indonesian Ministry of Transport QZ8501 was still on radar at 0716 GMT+8
- At 0717 GMT+8, only the ADS-B signal was visible with QZ8501 disappearing at 0718 GMT+8
- AirAsia claimed last contact was made at 0724 GMT+8
- Weather conditions were not optimal for flight. A meteorological analysis revealed that the aircraft was traversing a storm cluster during the minutes prior to its disappearance
- Graphic below indicates QZ8501 was at the outskirts of a storm cluster when contact was lost
- QZ8501 was flying into an area of substantially cooler air temperatures and of lower pressures
- Past experiences have proven such conditions have the potential to harbor strong and sudden downdrafts which can quickly disable a airplane even at cruising altitude
- Downdrafts are strong vertical columns of air traveling downwards in great quantities; cold air being denser, falls while hot air being less dense, rises
- In storm clusters, the center of the cluster usually sees an area of higher pressure or warmer air; the outer regions of such clusters usually brings about cooler air. Convection currents are what enable these vertical drafts to sustain themselves within storm clusters
- Cargo wise, there was nothing that the relevant authorities had found suspicious. We have included the load and trim data, as well as the flight dispatch form for our readers' reference
- Indicates that there was 8,296kg of fuel in the airplane's 3 tanks prior to takeoff
- An estimated 5,121kg was for the actual flight with the residual as standard margin
- This implies that QZ8501 could not have remained airborne for longer than 211 minutes (3 hours 31 minutes) based on rough calculations
- The airplane would have ran out of fuel by 1006 GMT+8, around 3 hours 10 minutes after last contact with Jakarta ATC
AirAsia Was A Tad Too Late In Upgrading Fleet With Satellite Tracking System
The WSJ has again highlighted to the public on the importance of real-time tracking of commercial flights via updated technology, rather than relying on analog equipment and methods to determine vital flight statistics of commercial aircraft.
It is now known from industry insiders that AirAsia has indeed been upgrading its fleet with Inmarsat's satellite tracking technology which sends pockets of data via satellite in 2-minute intervals, which in turn transmits flight data to ground-based receivers for respective channel routing. As a primer, Inmarsat was the English company that provided breakthroughs in official investigations into Malaysia Airline's still missing MH370. Analysts feel that in hindsight, absent Inmarsat's valuable augmentations to the direction of MH370's investigative approach, officials would not be searching deep under the Indian Ocean, West of Australia.
Secondary & Primary Radar
MH370's radio transponders are believed to have been forcefully disabled manually or by an unknown fault, rendering the airplane invisible to ground-based secondary radar systems which rely on planes' transponders to respond to interrogations. Secondary radar is therefore also called active radar because it requires airplanes to respond via through their transponders.
Primary radar, or what is known as military radar, doesn't require the response from airplanes' transponders to locate them; they are also called passive radar because of its operating principal. The downside of primary radar is that it is impossible with this operating principal to determine an airplane's altitude; only speed and coordinates can be calculated but with margins of error. Military radar isn't used for civilian aviation but proved to be invaluable during the former stages of investigation into MH370's mystery. Even after ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast) transponders were disabled on MH370, primary radar stations located on the coastlines of Malaysia were able to approximate the airplane's location until it flew out of range. It was all guesswork after that, that is of course until Inmarset stepped into the breech.
Persons familiar with avionics will understand that ADS-B is a form of mutual communications system at involves the integral use of satellites. The key difference between Inmarset's network and ADS-B is that the latter requires ground stations as its first point of receipt while that of Inmarset has direct communications with geo-stationary satellites in orbit.
Secondary radar polling and ADS-B remains the most pervasive form of real-time tracking for commercial flights, and one can already see the issue that lies within. Once airplanes get out of range of ground stations, ADS-B and secondary radar stops functioning in form because flight information doesn't get transmitted, even though it is being measured.
Common flight corridors across the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that cover vast expanse of water essential puts airplanes that transverse across these paths in a vacuum, unless they have been equipped with direct-satellite terminals. With systems akin to what Inmarset offers, which Flight MH370 was equipped with, it is possible to very accurately determine not only the location but the vital flight stats via "Satellite Telex", in which flight information gets transmitted to ground based receivers almost spontaneously (with some latency of course); this happens regardless of an airplane's location because the series of satellites that are in orbit practically covers the entire surface of the Earth.
The maritime industry relies almost solely on "Satellite Telex" for navigation in vast open waters. Primary radar is also used but as a contingency for collision avoidance. In the wake of Flight MH370's tragedy, various aviation and transportation bodies have been picking up slack by making it mandatory for carriers to implement these vital changes as part of an industry-wide overhaul that has been long overdue. Unfortunately for AirAsia Indonesia, it came a little too late.
Update (1430 GMT+8): Debris Spotted On Aerial Recon
The BBC has broke news that aerial SAR (Search And Rescue) teams have spotted debris floating on waters within the search area. Pictures below.
Search Area Now Covers 13 Zone Over Land & Sea: BBC Reports (30 December 2014, 1430 GMT+8)
Share Prices Of AirAsia X Bhd Spike After Debris News Broke; Gains Reversed
AirAsia X Bhd and AirAsia Bhd both trade on the KLSE (Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange). They were both down south of 8% on Monday's trading session on a knee jerk reaction (pre-open) to Sunday's devastating news. Although we will find time to do further analysis on AirAsia Indonesia's liabilities arising form this catastrophe, the price action these past 2 days seem to be indicative of a penchant presence of hope. Earlier on Tuesday (at around 1510 GMT+8), news broke that aerial SAR teams have spotted and pictured what seemed to be debris floating on waters of the Java Sea (see above sections). This sparked buying in stocks of AirAsia X Bhd but those of its parent were blase. As seen below, those momentary gains were quickly reversed. Until material evidence is publicized, it is all guesswork and speculation. Markets seem to be erring on the safe side for now.
An 8% decline in market capitalization doesn't reflect the severity of Flight QZ8501's crisis, in our humble opinion.
Indonesian Officials "Sure" Debris Was From Flight QZ8501
A little over an hour and a half after AFP reported that aerial SAR teams spotted and photographed what seemed to be floating debris in the designated search area spanning the Java Sea, Indonesian Officials have announced to news outlets that they are "95% sure" said debris was from the fateful Flight QZ8501, implying that the Airbus A320-216 had crash landed in the Java Sea after it lost contact with ATC on Sunday morning local time. Bloomberg has more of the news, straight from the horse's mouth:
As always, we wait for the actual press release from the local aviation authorities to confirm without any probability of doubt that Flight QZ8501 has indeed crash landed.