Just a day after Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, in a televised speech, accused central bank employees of helping local bankers to speculate against the Argentine peso in hopes of forcing the government to devalue the currency, Juan Carlos Fabrega - the head of Argentina's Central Bank - has quit. As WSJ reports, unable to borrow abroad due to a legal dispute with creditors, Mrs. Kirchner has relied on money printing to cover spending deficits at the expense of inflation that is thought to be around 40%; and it appears the sanity of Mr. Fabrega was too much to bear for Kirchner (and Kiciloff - who had reportedly clashed with the Central Banker also). The reaction - not good - the stock index collapsed over 8%, bond yields spiked and the black-market peso dumped to record lows at 15.65 to the USD (drastically worse than the 8.51 official peso rate).
He's back. A month after Appaloosa's David Tepper explained the end of the bond bull market was here (and 10Y rates are now 5bps lower), the trend-following master-of-the-universe explained to Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle and Erik Schatzker how the departure of Bill Gross from PIMCO was "nothing... who cares?"; why "the US economy is pretty good", how junk bonds are at "fair value" and stocks are cheap as "multiples are not high." Finally he explains how he "wished he didn't have any investment" in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and clarifies in his billionaire-all-knowing-ness how he is sure the United States can contain Ebola.
Junk bond investors suffered their biggest quarterly loss since 2011, losing 1.7% in Q3 pushing yields up to one-year highs (despite Treasury yield compression). Managers, knowing full well the underlying liquidity to handle any further selling is not there are out en masse explaining that "high-yield should bounce back in the fourth quarter," relying on the fact that 'historical' defaults are still low and the economy is recovering (as if that's not priced in already). The worst hit segment of the junk market is CCCs and below - at 22-month lows - as Bernanke and Yellen forced investors ever further along the risk spectrum for yield. Of course, equity markets (Russell 2000 aside) have ignored much of this decline until recently, but the plunge in leveraged loan issuance suggests all that cheap-buy-back-funding is rapidly disappearing (even for the best credits and biggest names).
Bloomberg reports that stock orders amounting to a whopping $617 billion (yes Bilion with a B) or more than the size of Sweden’s economy, were canceled in Japan earlier today, for reasons unknown although the early culprit is that this was one of the biggest trading errors of all time. Of course, since this trade was noted, and DKed, one can assume that a major whale was on the losing end of the trade: recall that this is precisely what happened to Goldman time and again, when some errant algo caused the firm to lose millions on several occasions in 2012 and 2013. There is one tiny difference: this time it was not Goldman, and the total amount was not a few paltry million but over half a trillion dollars!
Yesterday's late-day weakness in stocks is continuing as US equities open this morning led by a collapse in Dow Transports and further weakness in Russell 2000. Treasury yields are also plunging with 10Y at 2.435% (back below the oh-so-important Tepper "end of the bond bull" levels). High-yield credit markets are extremely volatile this morning. USD weakness is helping commodities rally with gold and silver outperforming. VIX just hit 17.5
- European Bond Yields Go Negative (WSJ)
- Traveler from Liberia is first Ebola patient diagnosed in U.S. (Reuters)
- Hong Kong Protesters Step up Pressure on Leung to Quit (BBG)
- JPMorgan to face U.S. class action in $10 billion MBS case (Reuters)
- Turkey mulls military action against Islamic State (Reuters)
- Singapore Home Prices Fall for Fourth Straight Quarter on Curbs (BBG)
- Italy's Economic Woes Highlight Dilemma for European Central Bank (WSJ)
- Advanced iOS virus targeting Hong Kong protestors (Reuters)
- Fed Scrutiny of Leveraged Loans Grows Along With Bubble Concern (BBG)
- Mosquito Virus That Walloped Caribbean Spreads in U.S. (BBG)
A quick anecdote that should quickly confirm just how broken everything is: earlier today MarkIt reported European manufacturing data that was atrocious, with both German and European PMIs tumbling to levels not seen since mid-2013, and with Europe's growth dynamo now in a contraction phase clearly signalling what has been long overdue: a European triple dip recession. So what happens? Moments later Germany sells €4.1 billion in 10 Year paper at a record low yield below 1%.... even as the Bundesbank had to retain a whopping 17.84% of the auction, the highest since June, with only €4.663 Bn in bids for the €5 Bn target, the first miss since May 21. So hurray for the central banks, boo for the economy, and as for that mythical creature, once known as bond vigilantes, our condolences: good luck figuring out what the hell just happened, and good luck recalling what a free market is.
If the European triple-dip alert was barely glowing a muted red until this morning, then following the latest German PMI data, which tumbled to 49.9 from 50.3, below the 50.3 consensus, and is the first contractionary print in 15 months, then they are now screaming a bright burgundy. And while the European recession has now clearly made its way to the core, it wasn't just Germany: French PMI continued to be solidly in a contracting phase, at 48.8, unchanged from the previous month, the overall European Manufacturing PMI also missed and declined, dropping from a flash reading 50.5 to only 50.3, which was a 14 month low, with the average PMI reading for Q3 the lowest since a year ago, and as MarkIt summarized, "Eurozone manufacturing edges closer to stagnation." Have no fear, though, Mario Draghi and his monetization of Greek Junk Bonds will fix everything!
The global debt levels have swollen to 200 year highs. Yep, 200 year highs!
While Greek government yields (and political leaders) proclaim the troubled peripheral European nation is 'recovering', the risk of major political upheaval in Greece has not gone away ahead of next year's presidential vote next year. As Reuters notes, under growing pressure from anti-bailout leftists, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras desperately needs a new narrative to get the backing of lawmakers and rally Greeks fed up with four years of austerity. We wish him luck as Keep Talking Greece notes, it is high time that the real data of the economic situation of the Greek society come to the surface and so it did this week. A report from Greece's State Budget Office found that three in every five Greeks, or some 6.3 million people, were living in poverty or under the threat of poverty in 2013 due to material deprivation and unemployment.
For a long time, Fed printing via balance sheet expansion has been the key to understanding markets and the predominant driver that has trumped all other matters. Investors have been able to ignore significant global events, tensions, and economic conditions in faraway places, because a lower real and perceived risk premium from implicit Fed promises was the single most important aspect driving asset prices higher. This game is quickly coming to an end. As the Fed’s asset purchase program ends next month, global events and global economic fundamentals will have to be taken into account and priced accordingly.
As Warren Buffett himself once said, "If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you're the patsy." The central bank bond market poker game has been in train for a good deal longer than half an hour, and the stakes have never been higher. Sometimes, if you simply can't fathom the new rules of the game, it's surely better not to play. But such madness is not limited to the world of bonds. Malign, unthinking mental slavery has fixed itself upon the equity markets, too. And as stock markets have powered ahead, index trackers have enjoyed their highest ever retail inflows.
Things are rapidly shifting from bad to worse for PIMCO. In a triple whammy this morning, Bloomberg reports the Total Return Fund ETF (managed previously by Bill Gross) has suffered $446 million outflows (or over 12.5% of assets) so far; Morningstar downgrades the fund from 'gold' to 'bronze' citing "uncertainty regarding outflows and the reshuffling of management responsibilities"; and perhaps most concerning - given our previous warnings over bond market illiquidity - The FT reports, US regulators are monitoring trading and fund flows surrounding PIMCO's Total Return Bond fund warning investors they should contemplate the unintended consequences of pulling their money and the possibility of systemic risk disruptions, fearful of "runs."
It has been a night of relentless and pervasive disappointing economic data from just about every point on the globe: first the Chinese HSBC manufacturing data was well short of expectations (50.2 vs. Exp. 50.5), which was promptly spun as bullish and a reason for more stimulus by the PBOC even though the central bank has been constantly repeating it will not engage in western-style shotgun easing. Then Japanese wages, household spending and industrial production came in far below expectations - in fact at levels which suggest Japan is once again in a recession - which once again was spun as bullish, because the BOJ has no choice but to do more of the same failed policies that have made Abenomics the laughing stock of the world. Finally, moments ago Europe reported the lowest inflation data in 5 years, as well as core CPI sliding to just 0.7%, and which was, wait for it, immediately spun as bullish for risk as once again the local central bank would have "no choice but to ease." In other words, thank god for horrible news: because how else will the rich get even richer?
Anyone confused why futures are doing their best to surge in the overnight session, the answer is simple: first it was Japan reporting the latest batch of atrocious economic data, which an hour ago was followed by Europe own abysmal econofreakshow, where Eurostat just reported that in September Eurozone inflation rose a meager 0.3% from a year ago, the lowest annual increase since October 2009.This marks the 12th straight month that Euro inflation has been below 1%, and far below the ECB's goal of 2% inflation.