Across the Curve
Something is different this morning. Whether it is the aftermath of yesterday's inexplicable 10 Year auction demand spike, or more explicable plunge in the ECB's deposit facility usage, or, the fresh record low yield in the supreme risk indicator, Swiss 2 Year bonds, now at under 0.5%, market participants are realizing that the status quo is changing, leading to fresh 2 year lows in the EURUSD which was at 1.2175 at last check, sliding equity futures (those are largely irrelevant, and purely a function of what Simon "Harry" Potter does today when the clockworkesque ramp at 3:30pm has the FRBNY start selling Vol like a drunken sailor), and negative yields also for German, French, and Finland, with Austria and Belgium expected to follow suit as the herd scrambles into the "safety" of the core (which incidentally is carrying the periphery on its shoulders but who cares about details). Either way, Europe's ZIRP is finally being felt, only not in a way that many had expected and hoped and instead of the money being used to ramp risk, it is further accelerating the divide between risky and safe assets. Look for the Direct take down in today's 30 Year auction: it could be a doozy.
Hmmm… Should we be impressed?
SSDD. Europe has a late night conference, regurgitates stuff, gives no details, makes lots of promises, peripheral bonds tighten only to blow out, etc, etc, etc. Seen it all before. Unlike a week ago, Spanish bonds, when Spanish bonds ripped by 1%, this time we can barely muster a 25 bps move tighter, with the 10 year "down" to 6.82%. It was 6.25% a week ago. Expect the blow out as has been empirically proven time and again. Hint: there is no magic money tree nor is there a magic collateral tree.
Last week, Europe was the source of transitory euphoria on some inexplicable assumption that just because the continent has run out of assets, and the ECB has no choice but to expand "eligible" collateral to include, well, everything, things are fixed and it is safe to buy. Today, it is the opposite. Go figure. Call it pre-eurosummit burnout, call it profit taking on hope and prayer, call it Brian Sack packing up his trading desk (just 5 more days to go), and handing over proper capital markets functioning to a B-grade economist, or best just call it deja vu all over again.
Whether it is the need to soak up all of the Fed's sub 3-year sold on an almost daily basis by the Fed courtesy of Operation Twist (which despite ending in 2 weeks, has already brough the average SOMA holding maturity to a record 105.5 months despite the Fed's implicit target of 100 months, meaning the Fed has overshot its duration ramping target by a lot), or because dealers are suddenly very concerned with having equity exposure, in its last update, the NY Fed has disclosed that as of June 6 Primary Dealers held a record $128 billion in Treasury holdings, a massive 41% increase over the prior week's $91 billion. Whatever the reason, Dealers are now firmly into Trasurys, having increased their net holdings across the curve by $170 billion from -$48 billion last April. And just as notably, for the first time since May 2010 Dealers held no offsetting short positions anywhere on the curve. In conclusion: absolutely everyone is now on the same side of the UST trade.
Futures are well bid overnight even though following a modest short covering squeeze of the new record number of EUR shorts, the primary driver of risk, the EURUSD is now back to mere pips above its 2010 lows. It is somewhat confusing why equities are so jubilant about what can only be more imminent bailouts, following statements by the ECB's Nowotny who made it clear that the ECB is not discussing the renewal of bond purchases and that the central bank provides "liquidity not solvency." Adding to the confusion was a release in Chinese daily Xinhua which said that China has no intention of introducing large scale stimulus. All this simply means that the only possible source of liquidity remains the Fed, whose June FOMC decision could make or break the global stock markets, pardon economy, and why this Friday's NFP print is so critical. Absent a huge miss, it will be difficult to see the Chairman pushing through with another $750 bn-$1 trillion in LSAP. Which Europe desperately needs: first we got Italy pricing €8.5 billion in 6 month bills at much worse conditions than April 26, with the yield rising over 2%, or 2.104% to be precise, compared to 1.772% previously, and a BTC of 1.61, declining from 1.71. More importantly, the Spanish economic deterioration gets even worse after Spain just recorded a record (pardon the pun) plunge in retail sales. From AP: 'A record drop in retail sales added to Spain's woes Tuesday as the country struggles to contain the crisis crippling its banking industry and investors remained wary of the country's ability to manage its debt. Retail sales dropped 9.8 percent in April in year-on-year on a seasonally-adjusted basis as the country battles against its second recession in three years and a 24.4 percent jobless rate that is expected to rise. The fall in sales was the 22nd straight monthly decline, and was more than double the 3.8 percent fall posted in March, the National Statistics Institute said Tuesday." So all those focusing on the Greek economic freefall may want to shift their attention west.
If there was one catalyst for the market to be "convinced" of an imminent coordinated liquidity injection, as Zero Hedge first hinted yesterday, or simply a 25-50 bps rate cut from the ECB as some other banks are suggesting and Spain's ever more desperate Rajoy is now demanding, it was the overnight battery of European Flash PMI, all of which came abysmal, throughout Europe, the consolidated Eurozone PMI posting the worst monthly downturn since mid-2009, the PMI Composite Output and Manufacturing Index printing at a 35 month low of 45.9 and 44.7 respectively. PMIs by core country were atrocious: France Mfg PMI at 44.4 on Exp of 47.0 and down from 46.9, a 36 month low; German Mfg PMI at 45.0 on Exp. of 47.0 and down from 46.2. The implication, as the charts below show, is that GDP in Europe is now negative virtually across the board. Adding insult to injury was the UK whose GDP fell 0.3%, more than the 0.2% drop initially expected. The cherry on top was German IFO business climate, which tumbled from 109.9 to 106.9 on Expectations of 109.4 print, as the European crisis is finally starting to drag the German economy down, or as Goldman classifies it, "a clear loss in momentum." What does it all add up to? Why nothing but a massive surge in risk, as the market's entire future is now once again in the hands of the #POMOList, pardon, the central banks: unless the ECB steps up, Europe will implode due to not only political but economic tensions at this point. Sadly, as in the US, by frontrunning this event, the markets make it more improbable, thus setting itself up for an even bigger drop the next time there is no validation of an intervention rumor: after all recall what sent stocks up 1.5% yesterday - a completely false rumor of a deposit insurance proposal to come out of the European Summit. It didn't, but that didn't prevent markets to not only keep their massive end of day gains, but to add to them. it is officially: we have entered the summer doldrums, when bad is good, and horrible is miraculous.
A quick look at the Fresh-Start Greek Government Bond (GGB2) complex shows that as of this morning it has tumbled to fresh all time lows across the curve, and now trades at a more than 50% loss to the March PSI conversion price. The reason for this dump is not so much on fear of a Greek exit, but once again a reflection of precisely what we expected would happen, and as explained in our January Subordination 101 post. Last week, the fact that a PSI hold out, holding English-law bonds managed to get par recovery while all the other lemmings have so far eaten a nearly 90% loss, has sparked a realization among all the other hold outs that since they have covenant protection, they should all demand the same treatment. And indeed, another one has stepped up, only this time not a holder demanding par maturity paydown, but one who has read their bond indenture and was delighted to find the words "negative pledge." As Bloomberg reports "a holder of Greek bonds that weren’t settled in the biggest-ever debt restructuring said he’ll demand immediate payment unless the government posts collateral against his investment. Rolf Koch, a private investor who says he holds 500,000 Swiss francs ($528,000) of the notes due in July 2013, argued that he’s entitled to equal treatment with Finland, which made getting collateral a condition of contributing to Greece’s second bailout. He wrote to the paying agent, Credit Suisse Group AG, invoking the bonds’ so-called negative-pledge clause, according to the text of a letter seen by Bloomberg News."
There was some hope that today's European summit would provide some more clarity for something else than just the local caterer's 2012 tax payment. It wont. Per Reuters: "Germany does not believe that jointly issued euro zone bonds offer a solution to the bloc's debt crisis and will not change its stance despite calls from France and other countries to consider such a step, a senior German official said on Tuesday. "That's a firm conviction which will not change in June," the official said at a German government briefing before an informal summit of EU leaders on Wednesday. A second summit will be held at the end of June. The official, requesting anonymity, also said he saw no need for leaders to discuss a loosening of deficit goals for struggling euro zone countries like Greece or Spain, nor to explore new ways for recapitalise vulnerable banks at Wednesday's meeting." In other words absolutely the same as in August 2011 when Europe came, saw, and did nothing. Yes, yes, deja vu. Bottom line: just as Citi predicted, until the bottom falls out of the market, nothing will change. They were right. As for the summit, just recycle the Einhorn chart from below. Elsewhere, the OECD slashed world growth forecasts and now officially sees Europe contracting, something everyone else has known for months. "In its twice-yearly economic outlook, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that global growth would ease to 3.4 percent this year from 3.6 percent in 2011, before accelerating to 4.2 percent in 2013, in line with its last estimates from late November... The OECD forecast that the 17-member euro zone economy would shrink 0.1 percent this year before posting growth of 0.9 percent in 2013, though regional powerhouse Germany would chalk up growth of 1.2 percent in 2012 and 2.0 percent in 2013." Concluding the overnight news was a meaningless auction of €2.5 billion in 3 and 6 month bills (recall, Bill issuance in LTRO Europe is completely meaningless) in which borrowing rates rose, and a very meaningful downgrade of Japan to A+ from AA, outlook negative, by Fitch which lowered Japan's long-term foreign currency rating to A plus from AA, the local currency rating to A plus from AA minus, and to the country ceiling rating to AA+ from AAA. Yes, Kyle Bass is right. Just a matter of time. Just like with subprime.
In continuing with the 2011 deja vu theme which has become the norm at this point, nearly half way into 2012, the key overnight events driving sentiment and futures higher (if not the EURUSD which despite a record number of shorts appears to have once again decoupled with the US stock market), were a statement following the latest G-8 summit (penned in the brief time when the world leaders were not watching soccer) that Greece should stay in the Eurozone (as opposed to?), and yet another promise from China's Wen Jiabao that the world's fastest growing economy would focus on growth (what a truly radical shift in policy for the country which needs GDP growth over 8% just to avoid riots and civil unrest). And in continuing with the "summit" theme so well exhausted back in 2011, and mocked by David Einhorn (see below), let's recall that there is yet another summit on May 22, this time where the European heads of state will sit down and also decide that, shockingly, they want Greece in Europe, in response to which stocks will surge, then be very confused just why they surged, and promptly tumble. Sadly, by now we have seen it all since 2012 continues to be a carbon copy replica of last year. We can only hope the powers that be infuse at least some originality before we are forced to start recycling headlines from the summer of 2011. In the meantime, futures are green, especially since Dennis Lockhart unleashed the QE bomb hours ago in Tokyo, saying that more easing should not be ruled out amid European risks. Wink wink.
And so the unthinkable has happened: the FaceBook IPO has priced (at $38 as noted yesterday) into the ugliest possible tape imaginable, combining continuing bad news for JPM, ongoing deterioration for European risk markets (nothing new here), the need for the EU Commission to deny it is working on emergency Greek exit plans (we all know what that means) a request by Spanish banks to reinstate the short selling rule (as we predicted back in February), and a #Ref!-ing circular demand by Spain that banks deposit €30 billion into a deposit-protection fund. In other words more of the same. And yet FB has to trade up... or else. Which is why at least for the time being futures are soaring, on that, as well as on the rumor that Europe may close again today at 11:30 am Eastern. However, if 13 out of 14 previous trading days are any indication, expect the the rumor to then resurface that Europe will be opening again on Monday which will wipe out all of the day's gains since who on earth will want to be long risk over a weekend in which many things in Europe can go bump in the night.
Yes, believe it or not, there is a world outside of JPM in the past 12 hours, and it was very ugly: weak Chinese CPI, big miss in Chinese industrial output (+9.3%, Est. +12.2%), even bigger miss, actually make it a decline, in Indian factory Outupt (down -3.5%, est. +1.7%), a collapse in China’s new local-currency loans plunging by 32% m/m in April, making a new money infusion paramount (yet inflation still abounds, and the threat of NEW QE keeping the PBOC mum - oh what to do?) and of course... Greece, where things are heading for a second election at breakneck speed, and where Syriza is gaining about a percent in new support each day, guaranteeing life for Europe will be a living hell in one month. What else happened overnight to send futures down 0.5% (and JPM down 8%). Below is a full recap from Bank of America.
Confirming that the market is now completely insane is a rehash of the actual catalyst data flow: recall that yesterday the one thing that pushed stocks higher, as described in Clutching at Straws, was the surge in German factory orders. Today, we get another huge beat of expectations in German Industrial Production and everything is red. Although now that US traders, most of them originating at Liberty 33, are starting to walk in, we may get yet another of the much anticipated and largely loved turns from a blood red premarket to green everywhere.
After plunging by 19 points in the overnight session, and just touching the 100 DMA, ES has managed to score a recovery, one which has so far clutched at straws, namely stronger than expected German factory orders (+2.2% vs Exp. 0.5%) despite German GDP due in a week which may well push the core European country into the same double dip tsunami which has swept the resto of Europe, if it prints even a slightly negative GDP print. News from Spain that the "bad bank" bailout has started, with Bankia as the first casualty is also lifting spirits as it means that more taxpayer cash will be used to support risk assets. How long this micro euphoria of "bad news is good news" lasts is anyone's guess, but mostly that of the BIS which after failing to defend the 1.3000 EURUSD, has again managed to get the all important pair over the critical support area.
Here is what happened in Europe overnight, and why the market sentiment is already negative in advance of an NFP number which many are watching closely as a miss of expectations will cement the thesis that the US economy has now rolled over and will likely need more nominally dilutive aid from central planners to regain its upward slope:
- Spain Services PMI for April 42.1 – lower than expected. Consensus 45.4. Previous 46.3.
- Italian Services PMI for April 42.3 – lower than expected. Consensus 43.7. Previous 44.3.
- France Services PMI for April 45.2 – lower than expected. Consensus 46.4. Previous 46.4.
- Germany Service PMI for April 52.2 – lower than expected. Consensus 52.6. Previous 52.6.
- Euro-area Service PMI for April 46.9 – lower than expected. Consensus 47.9. Previous 47.9.
And while the data was bad enough to send European stocks and US stock futures lower, the latest meme spreading as the first US traders walk in, is one of reNEWed QE expectations already, if a very weak one for now.