Update: the expected next step: "GREEK 2023 BOND PRICE FALLS TO 14.51 PERCENT OF FACE VALUE" - but it was a "no brainer" trade... a "trade of the year" trade... Tough break for Greylock. As we said "Um, distressed bond expert guys - the bonds you should have bought are the old UK-law bonds which may return par...at least you had some covenant cover." Oh well - at least it is "other people's money."
Back on January 22, (Subordination 101), we advised readers that the one virtually sure way to make a killing in the bond market is to i) buy up a fulcrum Greek piece of debt, i.e., international/UK-law bond with strong covenant protection ahead of the country's restructuring, ii) refuse participation in the cramming down PSI, which was nothing but a GM-type exercise in covenant stripping, and iii) sit back and enjoy the money trickle in. Back than the €450 million bond of May 15, 2012 traded at ~75. Today, that same bond is about to generate a 31.26% cash on cash return, or 135% annualized, as it is Greece that has blinked, and according to the FT, has decided to make a full bond payment on this issue to avoid an out of control sovereign default, even though by doing so, it reduces its cash holdings by a third to just over €1 billion as discussed yesterday, and risks pushing both the PSI participants and its citizens into a murderous rage, as instead of complying with its mouthing off during and after the PSI, that not one bondholder would get a par repayment (nor apparently use the cash for public proceeds such as paying salaries), the one entity who ended up having all the leverage was those bondholders, who went against the grain, and held to their covenant rights. Just as we suggested. End result...
There was little good news out of Europe overnight, when several key countries (Germany, France, Greece and Portugal) reported their Q1 GDP, but what good news did come, namely that Germany avoided a double dip, with Q1 GDP printing at 0.5% on expectations of a 0.1% move, has for now saved the EURUSD and the futures. Why the growth: according to the German statistics office, net trade drove 1Q growth (thank you weaker EUR); domestic consumption rose in 1Q while investment declined in 1Q. The sellside community was quick: "Germany’s 1Q numbers show how EMU’s biggest economy is weathering debt crisis", Newedge said in a note. Then there was everyone else: Italian GDP contracted by 0.8%, more than consensus of 0.7%, the most in 3 years. Broadly, the Eurozone GDP avoided a technical recession with GDP printing at 0.0% on estimates of -0.2%. But as the PMI vs GDP chart below shows, this razor thin escape will hardly be repeated in Q2. Greek GDP declined by 6.2%, Portugal down by 0.1%, Holland down -0.2%, and so on. The well known split in Europe between Germany and everyone else continues, and just as we pointed out yesterday for the US: any "decoupling" is always temporary, and eventually catches up with the decouplee. Finally, proving that not all is well even in Germany, the ZEW Investor Confidence for May printed at nearly half expectations of 19, or 10.8, and down from 23.4.
Many pixels have been 'spilled' trying to comprehend what exactly JPMorgan were up to, where they are now, and what the response will likely end up becoming. Our note from last week appears, given the mainstream media's 'similar' notes after it, to have struck a nerve with many as both sensible and fitting with the facts (and is well worth a read) but we have been asked again and again for a simplification. So here is our attempt, in 22 simple tweets (or sentences less than 140 characters in length) to describe what the smartest people in the room did and in possibly the most incredible irony ever, how the Fed (and the Central Banks of the world) were likely responsible for it all going pear-shaped for Bruno and Ina. The key factor is that if systemic risk had remained in even a 'normal' range of possible regions based on history, then the JPM CIO office would have had no need to over-hedge their tail-risk hedge position, no greed-driven need to press the momentum, and no need for such an epic collapse as we are seeing now. The point is - this was a trader/manager with a good idea (hedge tail risk) that was executed poorly (and with arrogance) but exaggerated by the unintended consequences of the Central-Banks-of-the-world's actions (and 'models behaving badly' as Derman would say).
Last week the hedgies were dumping, as the "momo whale" dumb money was chasing things higher on low volume intraday levitation. Today, idiot money (which is known thus for a reason) joins the dump fest. And according to Goldman, "the selling pressure is still muted." And unless the Politburo of the Developed World comes up with a Deus ex Printerium fast, muted may soon go to Max Volume.
Explaining why and how the global monetary system is failing, why it is too late to stop, what will come next, and why the crisis is only financial – not commercial.
Digging into the details of the Fed's balance sheet can sometimes be a thankless task but Charles Biderman and Jim Bianco have some fascinating insights into where the real money is being hidden. The stability of the Fed's balance sheet post-QE2, given we are borrowing-and-spending over $100bn per month is all down to Operation Twist and the Fed's creation of demand at the short-end (via telling banks that rates will be low forever and 'guaranteeing' positive carry returns on rolling overnight repo) and using this 'cash' to almost entirely fund longer-term borrowing. In a simple primer of the Fed's implicit risk-free carry trade, the two chaps note that the only downside is too much growth or inflation which would cause a massive unwind of these positions (leading only to further bailouts). Critically though, they explain the fact that Operation Twist (and its implicit off-balance-sheet funding of this risk-free carry trade) is nothing more than the Fed's version of the ECB's LTRO - as the banks are 'encouraged' to buy short-term government debt with risk-free-carry expectations - implying the Fed's balance sheet could in fact be considerably larger than it appears. Yet more ponzinomics explained in a simple way - that surely eventually will trickle down to the masses who will question the emperor's clothing.
Just because it is never boring after hours:
- MOODY'S DOWNGRADES ITALIAN BANKS; OUTLOOKS REMAIN NEGATIVE
EURUSD sliding... even more. But that's ok: at some point tomorrow Europe will close and all shall be fixed, only to break shortly thereafter. And now.... Margin Stanley's $10 billion collateral-call inducing 3 notch downgrade is on deck.
"No-Brainer Trade Of The Year" Plummets As Bondholders Duck Ahead Of Possible Greek Bankruptcy TomorrowSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/14/2012 13:48 -0400
Was it only two weeks ago that the smartest investors in the room were calling 'buying Greek bonds' as the no-brainer trade-of-the-year? Sad to say that for such power-houses of intellectual prowess as Greylock (who if you remember could not get enough media coverage during the PSI discussions) have once again grabbed that falling knife with 3 hands and lost a finger, thumb and perhaps even their toes. Longer-dated Greek bonds have dropped to an all-time low price of 13.75 cents on the Euro (a magnificent 27% drop in 2 weeks since the NYT ran the buy it now or you're a big loser article). These bonds are down over 43% since the PSI deal and have plunged in price in the last few days as the reality of a potential bankruptcy of absolutely cash-strapped Greece comes to bear tomorrow with the EUR430mm bond due.
"One of my favourite comedians, Eddie Izzard, has a rebuttal that I find most compelling. He points out that “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, but so do monkeys if you give them guns.” This is akin to my view of financial models. Give a monkey a value at risk (VaR) model or the capital asset pricing model (CAPM) and you’ve got a potential financial disaster on your hands." - James Montier, May 6
Europe's story today was multi-month record deterioration in equity and credit markets. The turning point appears to have been the market's recognition of what LTRO really is and LTRO2 pretty much marked the top. While recent weakness has been exaggerated by the JPMorgan debacle (contagion to 'cheaper' hedge indices in credit), the Greek reality and clear contagion of a Euro / No-Euro decision any minute has Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese equity and credit markets crashing lower (from already Tilson-clutching lows). Spanish bond spreads are 160bps wider since LTRO2 and Italy 87bps wider with today's +28bps in Spain taking it to all-time record wides (pay less attention to yields now as they will be flattered by the ripfest run to safety in bunds), Portugal is back above 1100bps in 5Y CDS, but most critically - given LTRO's unintended consequence of encumbering the weakest banks exponentially to the domestic sovereign - the LTRO Stigma is up more than 200% from its lows when we first pointed out the reality. Banks who took LTRO exposure are on average almost at record wides (with many of them already at record wides). European equities are weak broadly but remain above their credit-implied levels as investment grade and high-yield credit in Europe falls back to four-month lows (almost entirely eradicating the year's gains) while the narrower Euro Stoxx 50 equity index is down significantly YTD. short- and medium-term EUR-USD basis swaps are deteriorating rapidly once again as clearly funding is becoming a major issue in the Euro-zone.
Things are moving fast now.
Just because it is always amusing to watch the cognitive dissonance in the head of a permabull, here is Jim 'Soon to be head of the BOE... allegedly' O'Neill's latest missive to (what?) GSAM clients. Yes, the same O'Neill who week after week, letter after letter kept on saying that 2012 is nothing like 2011, finally being forced to admit that 2012 is, as we have been saying since January 1, nothing but 2011, as the central planners' script writers prove painfully worthless at coming up with anything original. That, of course, and that the lifelong ManU fan had to suffer the indignity of interCity rivals picking up the trophy this year after a miraculous come back win against QPR. Oh, the horror...
While gold is now negative year to date in dollar terms, it remains 0.7% higher in euro terms. Gold prices dropped 3.7% last week and silver fell 5.1% to $28.89/oz. The smart money, especially in Asia, is again accumulating on the dip. Demand for jewellery and bullion in India has dipped in recent weeks but should resume on this dip – especially with inflation in India still very high at 7.23%. Also of interest in India is the fact that investment demand has remained robust and gold ETF holdings in India are soon to reach the $2 billion mark. This shows that recent gold weakness is primarily due to the recent bout of dollar strength. Morgan Stanley has said in a report that gold’s bull market isn’t over despite the recent price falls. Morgan Stanley remains bullish on gold as it says that the ECB will take steps to shore up bank balance sheets, U.S. real interest rates are still negative, investors have held on to most of their exchange traded gold and central banks are still buying gold.
On Thursday night, after it became clear that JPM has lost at least $2 billion on what is most likely an IG9 Index skew (Index less Intrinsics) trade gone horribly wrong, we first predicted (and promptly were piggybacked on by other various financial blogs) that based on various factors, there is about $3 billion more in the pain trade coming in JPM's general direction, once IG9 blows out to catch up to a fair value not supported by JPM(artingale's) infinitely backstopped prop desk. Sure enough, by closing on Friday, IG9 (and the entire IG curve), had blown out wider, by a whopping 10 basis points: one of the biggest intraday moves in nearly a year. In P&L terms, by close of Friday, all else equal, JPM had lost another $2-3 billion on the same trade it had lost over $2 billion since the beginning of April. We expect to hear confirmation of this shortly. Which however brings another question: has JPM closed out its losing trade, or is the entire move in the index (and to a far less extent in the intrinsics) due to hedge funds who have piggybacked on the "crush JPM" trade? The truth is we don't know, and until we get the latest weekly DTCC data on CDS notional outstanding we won't know. However, our gut feeling is that it would have been virtually impossible for JPM to lift every single offer in unwinding a $100+ billion notional position without sending the entire IG curve multiples wider. Which is why keep a close eye on the IG9 10 Year skew - this is where, as ZH first noted, the action is. If the skew soars, it is likely that the runaway train will keep going and going, until JPM issues a formal announcement that the firm is fully out of the trade, together with a final tally of its losses, which will probably be double the reported loss as of Thursday. At which point IG9/18 will see an epic ripfest as those short risk will scramble to cover.