Did Societe Generale ever view its $1.2 billion investment in Adirondack 2005-2 as a buy-and-hold proposition? Or was the bank's original intention to offload the risk on to AIG? The answer is central to our understanding of the portfolio of collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, that wiped out the insurance behemoth. The circumstances of SG's, and other banks', holdings, suggest that CDO market was a Potemkin's Village, a facade constructed to give the illusion of economic substance to a series of sham transactions.
We have previously speculated extensively on the recent appearance of direct bidders as a key participant in Treasury auctions. What is known is that the direct take down during the last 2-3 months has at least doubled for most coupon auctions up to and including the 7 year. What is not known is/are the identities of the bidder(s). We have provided some observations on the topic previously (here and here) although our preliminary conclusions are based on circumstantial evidence at best. Additionally, we have highlighted that even as direct bidding take downs have increased, bid-to-cover ratios have reached near record highs, which in itself is also paradoxical and the only immediate explanation is that this is simply a confirmation of Say's law, as this phenomenon certainly does not fit the normal supply/demand pattern.
Our obsession with the direct bidder conundrum is easily explainable as this is a new and very critical presence in the treasury bidding process. The last thing primary dealers need is a source of volatility in the auction process, which could potentially have destabilizing consequences on this most critical cog in funding America's future record deficits. Today, Daniel Kruger at Bloomberg picks up on the topic and thrusts it front and center into the public spotlight, his analysis further confirming our concerns.
Guest Post: As the Middle East Peace Talks Hit Deadlock, Talk of Israel Joining the European Union IncreasesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 - 18:13
The Middle East peace talks are at a deadlock. Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to move ahead with the plan established by the so-called Quartet – the US., U.N., EU and Russia -- have faltered and come to a complete standstill. Continuing with this inertia will have a long-term negative effect on the future of the region both from a political point of view as well as from a business perspective. With the exception of a few risk-takers, what company or business executive would be willing to invest in the Middle East once the region plunges onto the abyss amid renewed violence?
And whenever trouble brews in the Middle East it tends to spill over into other parts of the world. The risk that Mideast violence could spread to nearby Europe might have been one of the reasons that pushed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to say that Israel should be admitted into the European Union earlier this week. Berlusconi made the statement during an official state visit to Israel. Berlusconi, of course, is one of Israel’s strongest supporters.
Sovereign risk was once again front and center on the minds of investors today. Despite the EU's efforts to 'back' Greece's cost cutting plans, investors remain far less sanguine than Almunia. Greek bonds managed a small 7bps rally relative to Bunds (which widened 2bps) as CDS were around 9bps wider (compressing the basis a little more). Don't read too much into the small rally in bonds (the basis remains wide at 55-60bps and we suspect given the convergence today that some are putting the trade on).
Spreads were mixed in the US with IG unch, HVOL wider, ExHVOL weaker, and HY rallying. IG trades 1.5bps wide (cheap) to its 50d moving average, which is a Z-Score of 0.2s.d.. At 92.25bps, IG has closed tighter on 30 days in the last 282 trading days (JAN09). The last five days have seen IG flat to its 50d moving average.
Did some Goldman trader have a huge house party bash last night and as a result half of Wall Street did not report to work today. Starting around 10 am today, it appears everyone took one long Starbucks break and never looked back. It is amazing the Dow didn't hit the proverbial 36k.
Earlier we presented a Bloomberg op-ed by an increasingly pessimistic Mohamed El-Erian. For those too lazy to read it, we recommend the following 4 minute interview by Bloomberg's Tom Keene of the Pimco skeptic. In a response to what policy recommendation El-Erian would suggest, the humble ex-Havard endowment head(who sure got out when the getting was good) who prefaces his response by saying he is not smart enough to propose policy (so who is - Tim Geithner?), says America should expect a bumpy journey as the economy resets "There is no silver bullet." Those mid-term elections are looking uglier by the minute.
Now that American equity markets are controlled by Atari and Commodore, which in turn means stocks go up or down purely based on nanosecond colo lag variations, investors who wish to invest in stocks based on this crazy thing called fundamentals are forced to look elsewhere. One such place could be Europe, and now that the Baltic states, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Iceland and Ireland are literally living on an IMF's prayer, the first market which will take a big leg down will in all likelihood be Europe. Starting with that bearish assumption, we present several ideas out of Morgan Stanley's "Sellers' Compendium February 2010" by Ronan Carr. As the title of the report indicates, Europe bulls may want to skip this post. For everyone else, let's dig in.
Last October the BLS announced it would revise historical payrolls lower by 824,000 on February 5 (this Friday's NFP release). While this number will not impact the actual January NFP report (a loss of nearly one million jobs in a month would probably even take out the persistent SPY algo that has been hugging the bid for the past 10 months), it will be prorated across all months in the 2008-2009 reporting period. The reason for this adjustment has to do with a huge glitch in the birth-death model, which is exactly the same problem that the rating agencies faced when housing prices plummeted : the birth/death model assumes, in the long-run, jobs are created, not destroyed. Any period of excess volatility in the stock market therefore translates into major prior downward revisions to already disclosed payrolls. And while we know what the current revision will be, the scarier prospect is that the next historical adjustment, due out in early 2011, will be even larger, at least 990,000. This means that the government has overrepresented running payroll data by over 1.8 million jobs over the past 20 months.
Deep thoughts from T.P. Raman, Managing Director of Sundaram BNP Paribas Asset Management (and others).
Just headlines crossing at this time:
- SR TSY OFF'L: CHINA FX POL TO BE ON AGENDA AT G7 MEETING
- SR TSY OFF'L: CHINA CURRENCY 'SUBSTANTIALLY UNDERVALUED'
- SR TSY OFF'L: CHINA CURRENCY ISSUE ON 'EVERYBODY'S MIND'
- SR TSY OFF'L: CHINA FX NEEDS MORE FLEXIBILITY
- SR TSY OFF'L: ISSUE OF GREECE WILL BE TOUCHED ON AT G7
Rep. Paul Ryan Slams Geithner, Tells The Secretary He Should Be Most Concerned By "Bond Vigilante" CriticismSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 - 13:05
Today's Geithner drubbing comes courtesy of Sen. Paul Ryan, who in a brief 3 minutes presentation indicates why the proposed budget is not only a joke (the fact that he compares it to a box of cigarettes in light of Geithner's associated disclaimer speaks words for the future health of this country. Only only wonders if it is Ben Bernanke or Goldman Sachs who has assumed the role of Surgeon General), but why the bond vigilantes are just waiting in the corridors to see the Fed and PD's control over the bond market slip before they bring the house down.
After the earlier announcement of record risk in Portugal, it was only a matter of hours before the epicenter would feel an aftershock. Indeed, Greece CDS is now back to over 400 bps, after tightening under 370 bps yesterday. Those poor protection sellers just can't catch a break. The dollar flight to safety trade is on again. Lack of robotic, or otherwise, volume means the stock market has yet to digest what all this means. Lastly, in pursuit of an efficient sovereign risk market, STUPIDity is now back to April 2009 levels.
US Tries To Maximize Its Equity Return In Bankrupt Automakers, Tells Americans Not To Drive Recalled ToyotasSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 - 11:57
This whole Toyota recall thing has had us puzzled. The scale of the recall keeps getting bigger and bigger, the hit to Toyota stock greater with every single day. This is extremely uncharacteristic for a company that has taken PR fallout containment (not to mention quality) to an artform. Which, one would speculate, may implicate other forces in this dramatic collapse in everything that Toyota has stood for. The just released announcement from the US Government, in which the government is telling Toyota Owners to "stop driving the recalled vehicles" (can Congress quickly make this into a law please?) which is a defacto endorsement of buy American, and not just any American, but cars made by bankrupt and spun off automakers, in which the country has a major equity stake in via TARP and loan facilities, could be a big clue as to what the behind the scenes play here is. As everyone knows, Cash For Clunkers was a benefit exclusively to Japanese automakers, with Ford barely sneaking into a top 5 spot for cars sold. Well, now it's time for Uncle Sam to demand his pound of flesh; if that involves a "recall" and a huge hit to Toyota's sales and market cap, so be it.One thing for sure: with the various spending freezes , we won't be seeing another Cash For Clunkers for years to come, if ever... Or we may, if and only if, Toyota's reputation has been destroyed beyond measure.
Portugal Bund Spreads Even Wider Following Substantially Reduced Bill Auction And Much Higher Auction Yield, CDS Hits RecordSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2010 - 11:34
Europe bailout tracker update: Portugal edition. Hey Almunia, is there anything to be concerned about in Portugal? We thought so... The country's 10 year spread is now 18 bps wider to 147 bps after the country just had an almost failed BILL (12 months) auction. The country had previously announced an indicative offer of €500 million in 12 month bill to be auctioned. The result- a sale of just €300 million at yields over 50 bps higher compared to just two weeks ago. Oh, forget Greece, Portugal CDS is now trading at record wides.
As David Rosenberg points out, "what a difference a year makes." Here is the compare and contrast. And some observations on why real GDP, absent non-recurring stimulus benefits, was more than 7% lower in Q4 compared to the disclosed number.