On Friday we pointed out that after nearly 9 months of straight line steepening, the Treasury curve, as depicted by the spot 2s10s, has collapsed, and has flattened from 290 to 240 bps practically overnight, in what has been an unprecedentedly rapid move in the curve, driven primarily by asset liquidations. Those with exposure to spot are panicking, and have been forced to cover what amounts to billions in levered notional positions. Some (the lucky ones) only have synthetic exposure, via Constant Maturity Swaps or other Robertson/Klarman-esque contraptions, thus limiting a downside they can walk away from. They are the minority. Yet an interesting observation, coming by way of Morgan Stanley's Jim Caron, who little by little is forced to wave the white flag of surrender not only on his 5.5% call in the 10 year by Year End, but also on his all out steepening trade, is that flattening has really only occurred in the spot curve: forward yield curves, both the 1y and 2y, have surprisingly retained their steepening bias in spite of unprecedented vol and liquidations. Why is this? Caron explains. However, more relevantly, his observation that a convergence between spot and forward curves is imminent could serve as an easy (famous last words) way to pick 100 bps.
It is no secret that the last few weeks saw massive liquidations along all asset classes. The result was a huge outflow across almost all products: Loans, HY Bonds, Municipals, Commodities... all a typical reaction to broad based liquidations. However, note we said "almost" - one class that actually posted a $6.2 billion inflow was equities. Yet not is all as it seems: peeking underneath the hood indicates that the bulk of this inflow, or $10.3 billion, had to do with inflow into ETFs... or rather, just one ETF - the SPY, accounting for $10.1 billion. Did someone prop up the entire equity market last week by massively pushing capital into the most liquid equity proxy available?
BofA/ML's Jeffrey Rosenberg proves once again why he is one of the best credit analysts on Wall Street. Two months ago, the Bank of American put together a basket of potential LBO names which included Pactiv, Lexmark, Lubrizol, US Cellular, and Harris Corp, duly noted on Zero Hedge. He also proposed ways to play these names, focusing on various CDS strategies, of which by far the simplest one was to buy outright naked CDS on the names. Sure enough, this week Pactiv blew out, on rumors of an Apollo LBO (we hope for the sake of Pactiv's employees, not to mention Calpers, that the deal never materializes) and the names in the basket have widened by 121%-257% since inception. For those who followed Rosenberg's advice and made a 20x annualized return on the recommendation, congratulations. Sure enough, the trade is now closed. Additionally, after it was noted that a consortium of private equity firms was likely to acquire Fidelity Information Services, Rosenberg noted on May 7 that the deal is unlikely to materialize. Subsequent to his note, the deal has now fallen apart. This week, Rosenberg provides an updated LBO basket, as well as several strategies on how to play these, either outright or as pair trade. We are confident that with liquidity soon to become overabundant yet again, that these specific LBO names are set to see their credit spreads blow out as usual.
While Erik Nielsen is free to provide Goldman clients with a comfortably tabulated and bullish list of last week's events from the UK countryside, a realistic appraisal of the key events over the past 168 hours really boils down to one thing - central bank intervention. Whether it is definitive SNB intervention in the Swiss franc or questionable ECB involvement in the euro, the only catalyst that prevented an all out rout of European currencies was outright and blatant market participation by sovereigns and their printers. Yet something interesting happened on the way to the stick save - decoupling. As the chart below shows, once it became openly obvious that the SNB/ECB is intervening in the market, the traditionally very tight correlation between the euro and US stocks went up in a puff of ink cartridge smoke.
For the first time this year I am writing to you from my backyard here in Chiswick; the weather is impeccable and I couldn’t think of a place I’d rather be right now. A good cup of Nespresso certainly contributes to my well-being this morning, but more on that later. Here’s my view of Europe right now. - Erik Nielsen, Goldman Sachs
The other perspective: "The US Senate has passed its version of financial regulatory reform that will include serious changes, some expected, some not, specific to the OTC derivatives market. The passage of this bill will lead to a compromise bill created jointly by the House and Senate and ultimately President Obama signing it into law before 4th of July barbeques are under way. Although its contents are questionable, getting the bill out of the Senate is a good thing as the Hill will finally be removed from the Street. But as we’ve learned during the entire, multi-year reform process, the devil is really in the details and unfortunately many of the details continue to be a bit hazy. At last check, there were 434 proposed amendments to the Senate bill. Most of these amendments will fall by the wayside now as the Senate was anxious to move the process along, but sorting out and knowing what’s in, what’s out and what replaces what may well require a gaggle of Congressional staffers. Even with the final text made clear, most of us at TABB Group are left trying to decipher the “spirit” of the law."
Max Keiser at his best, deconstructing the global ponzi with Gerald Celente, another very much outspoken critic of the broken financial system. Most ZH regulars will be quite familiar with the overriding themes exposing the mass corruption perpetrated by the kleptocratic oligarchy, yet Max as always delivers the message with his patented iconoclastic panache that just draws you in.
A Wave 4 is described as a Profit-Taking Wave. It is not so much that the Bears are getting stronger as the Bulls are taking profits off the table as they see them eroding. The mini-crash on 6 May may not have been real in the eyes of many, but it did technical damage to the market. The emotions of traders are seen in the market as fear and greed have their way. That is also why I said in my post on 6May that the low of that day would be taken out, even though the massive rebound made many think it was just an anomaly. That low (1056) was broken Friday as ES dipped to 1051.25. I think we still have more to go, but I’ll take that new low for now. If that first leg down on 6May didn’t convince traders and investors that there was a significant correction beginning, then the more deliberate decline to the new low on Friday should have convinced them that there is trouble brewing with their new-Bull market. IMO, this is why technical analysis is so great. It is based on repeatable mass psychology, and it is driven by the emotions, fear and greed. Fear and greed are ever-present human emotions that form repeatable patterns in the market, whereas news and world events cannot be anticipated and measured by the lowly traders like myself.
A few days ago we pointed out that Seth Klarman is bracing for yet another lost decade, as the legendary Baupost investor anticipates nothing good out of government incursion in capital markets, and has come up with the best description for the fake, busted and heart attack inducing market yet, comparing it to a "hostess twinkie" (full must read article summarizing his speech at the CFA Institute here). Another must read piece, for those who may have missed it the first time around, is his summary of lessons learned and unlearned from the financial crisis, found here. Today, the WSJ's Jason Zweig has a follow up on Klarman, who, as we noted earlier "is more worried than ever" and concludes that "all we got out of this crisis was a Really Bad Couple of Weeks mentality. I am more worried about the world, more broadly, than I ever have been in my career." And they say Zero Hedge is bearish...
The reform bill is a joke. It reforms nothing, it fixes nothing, and it will not prevent the next much bigger crash from happening (with or without Goldman's Supplemental Lack of Liquidity Provider assistance) - just two items that need to be pointed out: $6+ trillion in GSE debt - untouched, $400 trillion in IR swaps: untouched. This is reform? However, if you care enough to know what a bribed and corrupt Congress and Senate have "reformed" here is a useful cheat sheet courtesy of the New York Times.
The worst kept secret in New York politics is out: the Attorney General has officially announced he is running for governor. From nydailynews.com "After months of speculation of when he will make the formal announcement, Cuomo tossed his hat into the ring on his campaign website Saturday morning." Alas, any changes at the top will do nothing to cure the number one problem in both New York, as well as all other states: insolvency. Too bad New York is so bankrupt that pretty much nothing can help, least of all those tens of billions in NOL carryforwards at Wall Street's investment banks which will make sure New York State corporate tax receipt coffers are empty for years to come.
Jim Rickards, who some may say has gotten a little too much media exposure recently, is on King World News this morning, discussing the presentation he gave to the US Treasury (closed to the public) in which he lectured Tim Geithner on financial warfare, read China, and how flawed trade policies can impact this ever so critical and increasingly tenuous relationship. To be sure, it is better late than never that someone advised the UST on what the right path is. Unfortunately, righting the US(S) Titanic at this point is impossible as it would mean undoing 2 years of flawed actions and policies, and the cost would be unbearable. Another topic touched upon is the recent correction in gold. The price move over the past week should come as no surprise to anyone. On May 19th we noted Goldman's most recent move to a bullish stance in gold, and we concluded that "we may well be in for a gold retracement, at least from a purely
technical standpoint, as Goldman "distributes" its newfound gold
holdings" as Goldman moved to sell its gold to whatever few clients it has left. Sure enough, $70 dollars lower later, Goldman's ever-angrier clients who listened to this most recent horrendous tactical call, are only left with a receipt for a metric ton of KY. The gold move is nothing more than liquidation of real assets to cover margin calls in imaginary ones, such as LBO bonds which have moved from 10 cents on the dollar to par during the melt up, and are now seeing a bidless environment, a groupthink phenomenon of which a plunging FDC is the prime example. Those who have no reason to sell gold should obviously hold right - Rickards notes: "for every seller there is a buyer. The sellers are the daytraders, speculators and people in distress who need to raise cash, buyers could be foreign sovereigns, China, Russia, India, so we could be seeing a move from weak hands into strong hands. I see gold at $2,000 in the short-term, and $5,000 in the long-term." Also discussed is Germany's ban on naked shorting, which Rickards applauds, not so much as a policy move, but as a symbolic stand by European sovereigns against the bullying power of Wall Street, something we fully agree with is long overdue. "Merkel will definitely be supported by others. I know the French were a little but upset that she did it, but they are not upset because she did it, but that she did it first. Sarkozy will join in."
David Kostin: The sinking of the titanic is orderly. Do not panic. The S&P will still close at 1,250. And if you are a client and have listened to us, our bad: "Our overweight recommendations (Energy, Materials, Info Tech) have generated -38 bp of alpha while our underweight positions (Health Care, Consumer Staples, Utilities, Telecom) have generated +12 bp of alpha." In other words we have lost you money on both your longs and your shorts.
A few days ago Tim Geithner said that any risk from Europe is isolated on the continent and there is no risk of it spreading to the US. Following a near 10% drop in the S&P we yet again have confirmation that the Treasury Secretary is a pathological liar or an idiot, or just so confused by analyzing the ever-increasing gobs of negatve data that his brain has officially switched off, we are not sure which, although either case would make him ineligible to practice the role of US Treasurer (unless to the list of permitted exemptions which currently only lists tax "avoidance", one adds lunacy). And while we await a clinical diagnosis on the SecTres' pathologies, we offer this analysis on how European contagion will come to the US from Goldman's Andrew Tilton, which, for what it's worth, is one of the better ones written on the topic.
32 States Now Officially Bankrupt: $37.8 Billion Borrowed From Treasury To Fund Unemployment; CA, MI, NY WorstSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/21/2010 - 19:46
Courtesy of Economic Policy Journal we now know that the majority of American states are currently insolvent, and that the US Treasury has been conducting a shadow bailout of at least 32 US states. Over 60% of Americans receiving state unemployment benefits are getting these directly from the US government, as 32 states have now borrowed $37.8 billion from Uncle Sam to fund unemployment insurance. The states in most dire condition, are, not unexpectedly, the unholy trifecta of California ($6.9 billion borrowed), Michigan ($3.9 billion), and New York ($3.2 billion). With this form of shadow bailout occurring, one can only wonder how many other shadow programs are currently in operation to fund states under the table with federal money.The full list of America's 32 insolvent states is below, sorted in order of bankruptedness.