If there is one market that represents the sheer unbridled lack of respect for risk it is the Greek Government bond market. In the last year, GGB prices have surged 380% from under EUR 14 to almost EUR 67% of par today! That is a plunge in yields from over 29% in May 2012 to a mere 8% currently (US Treasuries yielded 8% in 1994)... The driver for all this exuberance? Every major macro data point for Greece has worsened from a year ago - from unemployment to GDP growth... behond the 'wretch'-for-yield. Or perhaps we are overthinking it: it appears that Greek bond prices are merely matching Greek youth unemployment almost tick for tick: expect GGBs to hit par when every single Greek between the ages of 16 and 25 is out of a job.
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
It is only logical that when one of the smarter people in finance warns that he "sees bubbles everywhere" that he should be roundly ignored by those who have no choice but to dance. Because Bernanke and company are still playing the music with the volume on Max, and if not for POMO there is always FOMO. However, if there is any doubt why this "rally is the most hated ever", here are some insights from the Bond King from an interview with Bloomberg TV earlier today: "We see bubbles everywhere, and that is not to be dramatic and not to suggest they will pop immediately. I just suggested in the bond market with a bubble in treasuries and bubble in narrow credit spreads and high-yield prices, that perhaps there is a significant distortion there. Having said that, it suggests that as long as the FED and Bank of Japan and other Central Banks keep writing checks and do not withdraw, then the bubble can be supported as in blowing bubbles. They are blowing bubbles. When that stops there will be repercussions. It doesn't mean something like 2008 but the potential end of the bull markets everywhere. Not just in the bond market but in the stock market as well and a developing one in the house market as well."
Bill Gross, who manages the world’s largest bond fund, has indicated that the 30+ year old super cycle bull market in bonds has ended. This is very bad news for the markets.
In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.
It’s amazing what people can trick themselves into believing and even shout about when you tell them exactly what they want to hear. It was disappointing to see Brad DeLong’s latest defense of Fed policy, which was published this past weekend and trumpeted far and wide by like-minded bloggers. If you take DeLong’s word for it, you would think that the only policy risk that concerns hedge fund managers is a return to full employment. He suggests that these managers criticize existing policy only because they’ve made bad bets that are losing money, while they naively expect the Fed’s “political masters” to bail them out. Well, every one of these claims is blatantly false. DeLong’s story is irresponsible and arrogant, really. And since he flouts the truth in his worst articles and ignores half the picture in much of the rest, we’ll take a stab here at a more balanced summary of the pros and cons of the Fed’s current policies. We’ll try to capture the discussion that’s occurring within the investment community that DeLong ridicules. Firstly, the benefits of existing policies are well understood. Monetary stimulus has certainly contributed to the meager growth of recent years. And jobs that are preserved in the near-term have helped to mitigate the rise in long-term unemployment, which can weigh on the economy for years to come. These are the primary benefits of monetary stimulus, and we don’t recall any hedge fund managers disputing them. But the ultimate success or failure of today’s policies won’t be determined by these benefits alone – there are many delayed effects and unintended consequences. Here are seven long-term risks that aren’t mentioned in DeLong’s article...
Several moments ago, TSLA (hardly) surprised the world when it filed an open-ended S-3 (Shelf) statement, as many had expected it was only a matter of time before the company used the recent surge in its stock price to sell shares. Then, a few moments later, TSLA once again (hardly) surprised the world when it announced a joint $450 million convertible bond and 2.7 million share common stock offering. And because a dilution is not a dilution if the founder is participating in the common offering (buying his own equity at an unprecedented price to "anchor" it as a benchmark- sure why not - after all he is making much on all the other equity he has in the firm that he is not buying, as a result), the stock is trading up after hours.
There have been a litany of articles written recently discussing how the stock market is set for a continued bull rally. There are some primary points that are common threads among each of these articles which are that interest rates are low, corporate profitability is high and the Fed's monetary programs continue to put a floor under stocks. The problem is that while we do not disagree with any of those points - they are all artificially influenced by outside factors. Interest rates are low because of the Federal Reserve's actions, corporate profitability is high due to accounting rule changes following the financial crisis and the Fed is pumping money directly into the stock market. Being bullish on the market in the short term is fine. The expansion of the Fed's balance sheet will continue to push stocks higher as long as no other crisis presents itself. However, the problem is that a crisis, which is always unexpected, inevitably will trigger a reversion back to the fundamentals.
- Once a beacon, Obama under fire over civil liberties (Reuters)
- Eurozone in longest recession since birth of currency bloc (FT)
- EU Oil Manipulation Probe Shines Light on Platts Pricing Window (BBG)
- BMWs Cheaper Than Hyundais in Korea as Tariffs Crumble (BBG)
- Stock Boom Isn't a Bubble, Says BOJ's Kuroda (WSJ)
- Struggling France strives to shake off economic gloom (FT)
- JPMorgan investors take heat off Dimon (FT)
- Private-Equity Firms Build Instead of Buy (WSJ)
- Bloomberg Saga Highlights Clash Between Two Worlds (WSJ)
- Bank documents portray Cyprus as Russia's favorite haven (Reuters)
- HSBC Signals 14,000 Jobs Cuts in $3 Billion Savings Plan (BBG)
- Argentines Hold More Than $50 Billion in U.S. Currency (BBG)
So much for Europe's "recovery." In a quarter when the whisper was that some upside surprise would come out of Europe, the biggest overnight data releases, European standalone and consolidated GDPs were yet another flop, missing across the board from Germany (+0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), to France (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), to Italy (-0.5%, Exp. -0.4%), and to the entire Eurozone (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), As SocGen recapped, the first estimate of eurozone Q1 GDP comes in at -0.2% qoq, below consensus of a 0.1% drop. The economy shrank by 1.0% yoy, the worst rate since Dec-09. The decline of 0.5% qoq in Italy means that the economy has been in recession continuously since Q4-11. A 0.2% qoq drop in France means the economy has ‘double-dipped’, posting a second back-to-back drop in GDP since Q4-08. The increase of 0.1% qoq in Germany was disappointing and shows the economy is not in a position to support demand in the weaker member states (table below shows %q/q changes).
I think it's indicative of a problem when, half-jokingly, the vernacular increasingly being used in the popular media includes: being "Corzined" and "Cyprus'd". The former meaning having your money stolen from or via the equities market, and the latter being theft directly via the banking system.
When is the economic collapse going to happen? Just open up your eyes and take a look around the globe. The next wave of the economic collapse may not have reached Wall Street yet, but it is already deeply affecting billions of lives all over the planet. Much of Europe has already descended into a deep economic depression, very disturbing economic data is coming out of the second and third largest economies on the globe (China and Japan), and in most of the world economic inequality is growing even though 80 percent of the global population already lives on less than $10 a day. Just because the Dow has been setting brand new all-time records lately does not mean that everything is okay. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts. The next major wave of the economic collapse is already sweeping across Europe and Asia and it is going to devastate the United States as well.
The Nikkei 225 just passed 15,000 for the first time since January 2008 no up over 77% from its November 2012 lows. Even "Mr Yen" is worried...
*SAKAKIBARA SAYS MOVEMENT OF EQUITY PRICES `SOMEWHAT BUBBLY'
But the real story is in bond land. Twice last night Japanese bond futures were saved miraculously from a third day in a row and at the open this evening JGB futures are looking set for another test of the limit down (though being saved for now) - as 10Y yields spike above 90bps (+5.5bps on the day), the highest in 13 months; and 5Y yields jump another 5bps to 45bps - the highest in 22 months. The last 4 days in 5Y JGBs has been the worst in 5 years (since June 2008) and 10Y JGB's worst 4-days in 10 years (since August 2003). USDJPY is holding below 102.00 as it seems for now the JGB weakness is soaking up the inflation threat (as we discussed here). Amid all of this turmoil, JGB implied volatility is collapsing to 4 month lows - which smells a lot like hedges being lifted along with underlying risk unwinds.
With home prices rising at near-record paces in SoCal, corporate debt yields at record-lows, equity markets surging at near-record rates, and high quality assets dwindling by the minute under the heel of a central bank jack boot; it is perhaps no surprise that investors have switched from finding leverage through the balance sheet (i.e. crappy quality firms) to finding leverage through the instrument (i.e. structured credit). The trouble this time is that yields (and spreads) being so low, the creators of the new-normal ABS, CDOs, and CLOs have to stoop to the old tricks to make their money (as we noted here). As Bloomberg reports, bond issuers are once again exploiting the credit rating agency pay-for-performance business model to create "high-quality" collateralizable assets from utter garbage - such as auto loans.
When the head of the world's largest bond fund starts paraphrasing war-time phrases, you know nothing is what it seems...
Gross: Never have investors reached so high in price for so low a return. Never have investors stooped so low for so much risk.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) May 14, 2013
It seems to us that this can only end one way and the fight on the beaches this time will be between economic reality and central-bank-inspired mass hypnosis.