Once upon a time, one of the best sell-side analysts in the MBS space was Merrill Lynch's "Convexity Maven" Harley Bassman: he was so good, in fact, he was quickly soaked up to the buyside, or at least the prop-trading side, when several years ago he left Merrill to join Credit Suisse as a prop trader. It was here that he provided some insightful trade ideas such as "The "Anti-Widowmaker" Trade: Get Paid To Wait For The Japanese House Of Card To Collapse" and previewed the "Inevitable 'Taper'" at a time when most still didn't think the Fed was running out of paper to monetize. Then, about a year ago, Bassman disappeared again, only to reappear in a new capacity at recently-troubled bond manager Pimco. It is from here that following a year-long silences, he has just sent out his latest letter, in which he picks up on his favorite topic: implied volatility in rates, and the arbitrage opportunities it provides courtesy of epic risk mispricing in the current quote-unquote market, courtesy of the Fed's 6 year+ centrally-planned manipulation of, well, everything.
The Loudest Warning Yet: "This Stage Should Lead To Increased Risk... System Less Able To Deal With Such Episodes"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/06/2014 11:29 -0400
"Suppression of yield and vol induces investors to take on more risk (QE III). The market clings to perception of certainty regarding outcomes, despite the Fed shifting commitment modes from time or level-based to data dependent. This stage of policy should eventually lead to increased uncertainty and risk." Translation: the TBAC itself - i.e., America's largest banks - whose summary assessment this is, is now actively derisiking.
The selloff last year was a desperate warning about the lack of resilience in credit and funding. That repo markets persist in that is, again, the opposite of the picture Janet Yellen is trying to clumsily fashion. Central banks cannot create that because their intrusion axiomatically alters the state of financial affairs, and they know this. It has always been the idea (“extend and pretend” among others) to do so with the expectation that economic growth would allow enough margin for error to go back and clean up these central bank alterations. That has never happened, and the modifications persist. Resilience is the last word we would use to describe markets right now, with very recent history declaring as much.
Treasuries continue to do nothing wrong. Bullish views on bonds over the past several months have been met with stern opposition; however, several are now beginning to question their defiance. With such in mind, it is worth reviewing once again some possible explanations behind the bid. There are many reasons to expect their strong performance to continue (particularly over the next week).
It's that time in the quarter, when Jeff Gundlach takes the mic to walk everyone though his latest thoughts on the market, as well as the most recent capital allocation of his fund, DoubleLine, which like PIMCO, had a less than memorable 2013, although 2014 is certainly starting off on a far better foot for bond funds everywhere. Also who knows: with MBS guru, "convexity maven" Harley Bassman announcing today he is leaving Credit Suisse and joining Pimco, maybe Gundlach will shock everyone with an announcement that El-Erian is moving from Newport Beach and making Doubleline, and West LA, his new home?
When Arthur Levitt's SEC adopted Rule 2a-7 in 1998, it handed the TBTF banks and GSEs a mortgage monopoly on a silver platter.
"There are going to be consequences to central bank balance sheet expansion all over the world," Kyle Bass tells Steven Drobny in his new book, The New House of Money, adding "It’s a beggar-thy-neighbor policy, but everyone is beggaring thy neighbor." The Texan remains concerned at QE's effects on wealth inequality and worries that "at some point this is going to ignite and set cost pressures off." While Gold-in-JPY is his recommended trade for non-clients, his hugely convex trades on Japan's eventual collapse remain as he explains the endgame for his thesis, "won't buy back until JPY is at 350," and fears "the logical conclusion is war."
Taking a “short position” in either Japanese interest rates or their currency is a fundamentally sound idea; however it may take three to seven years for the “Macro-profits” to be fully realized. Over that time, a short position will demand a cost, either in the terms of the negative carry of a spot position or the time decay of a short-dated option. Additionally, since it is unlikely you will enter the trade at the extreme, there could be some mark-to-market vibrations that may breach your risk limits. To the rescue is the strange circumstance of a widening USD vs. JPY Rate differential in conjunction with a flattening Volatility Term Surface. Below is a table of mid-market values for Par Strike USD call // JPY put options with expiries from one-year to ten-years. The critical observation is that a five-year option costs more than a ten-year option; thus the weird dynamic of owning an option with (effectively) positive “theta”: You are paid to own an option !
On September 26, when we wrote "As US Default Risk Spikes To 5-Month High, Here Is How To Trade The Debt Ceiling Showdown", we suggested a simple 1M/1Y Bill flattener, which has since resulted in a massive profit to those who put on the trade with appropriate leverage, leading to the steepest outright inversion the short-end curve has seen on record. For those who engaged in this trade, it may be time to book profits and move on, as the risk of a negative catalyst - a shutdown/debt ceiling resolution - gets higher with every passing day that we move closer to the October 17 X-Date. However, those who wish to remain engaged in the short end of the bond market where the highest convexity to the daily newsflow can be found, one possible alternative trade is to shift away from cash markets, and into shadow banking, via the repo pathway.
As we head for the fateful FOMC announcement on September 18, US data have continued to moderate. Accordingly, the consensus seems to be converging on a $10-15 billion initial reduction in monthly purchases (mostly focused on the Treasury side and less so on MBS) with any 'tightening' talk tempered by exaggerated forward-guidance discussions and the potential to drop thresholds to appear more easy for longer, since as CS notes, assuming Fed policymakers have learned anything in the last four months, they must know that the markets view “tapering” as “tightening,” even though they themselves for the most part do not. Thus, they are going to need to sugar-coat the message of tapering somehow. But as UBS notes, political risks have grown and there is little clarity on the Fed's thinking about the housing market. This leaves 3 crucial surprise scenarios for the FOMC "Taper" outcome.
JPMorgan Warns: Increasing Rates Have "Reduced The Remaining Refinance Opportunity By More Than 50%"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/09/2013 19:57 -0400
About an hour ago, Bank of America served the latest indication that the US housing "recovery" (also known as the fourth consecutive dead cat bounce of the cheap credit policy-driven housing market in the past five years) may be on its last breath. Namely, the bank announced that it will eliminate about 2,100 jobs and shutter 16 mortgage offices as rising interest rates weaken loan demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans and reported by Bloomberg. In some ways this may be non-news: previously we reported, using a Goldman analysis, that up to 60% of all home purchases in recent months have been, which of course shows just how hollow the "recovery" has been for the common American for whom the average home has once again become unaffordable. However, judging by an update presentation given earlier today by the CFO of none other than JP "fortress balance sheet" Morgan, things are rapidly going from bad to worse for the banking industry as a result of the souring mortgage market for which, absent prop trading, loan origination is the primary bread and butter.
It is not a good time for Janet Yellen. The one time Bernanke-replacement favorite who many were confident would be the next Fed chair, and whose odds in the initial stages of the Fed race were 75%, is so far out of the running one can almost ignore her candidacy. At least if the market makers behind Paddy Power, and the Fed Chair market betting participants have it right. As of today, her odds have slumped to the lowest in the life of the contract, or 29.4%, below the 36.4% from mid August. The leader by an even greater margin: Larry Summers whose 2/5 odds, or 70%, mean that absent a material change in rhetoric, will be the person Obama announces as Fed chairman replacement over the next month.
As rising Taper (and QE unwind) uncertainty, the biggest trade driving the rate complex, and by implication, the entire risk complex, is being put (no pun intended) to rest. As BofA explains: "the FOMC (the biggest buyer of duration and convexity risk in the world) is long the option to taper asset purchases (and eventually raise rates) if the data improves. That leaves the market short the option that the Fed may decide to taper. The market has looked to hedge this “short gamma” exposure by selling duration and buying vol."
Nothing like good ole' Goldman to brighten up things with a wink and a smile just as the economy is sliding, earnings are retrenching (and declining excluding pension underfunding adjustments), cash flow is negative and revenues are poised to double dip.
"What just occurred [in the mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) market] is indicative of just how important QE is," as government backed US mortgage bonds suffer their largest quarterly decline in almost two decades. As Bloomberg reports, the $5 trillion market lost 2% in Q2, the most since the 'bond market massacre' in 1994 (when the Fed unexpectedly raised rates) as wholesale mortgage rates spiked by the most on record in the last two months. The reason these bonds have been hardest hit - simple - fear that the Fed's buying program is moving closer to an end. "The Fed, at times during this period, was the only outlet in terms of demand for securities," explains one head-trader, as the Fed’s current buying provided demand as other investors retreated and has grown as a percentage of forward sales by originators tied to new issuance, which is set to fall as higher rates reduce refinancing. With Fed heads talking back what Bernanke hinted at, there was a modest recovery in the last 2 days in MBS but the potential vicious cycle remains a fear especially now that “what was once deemed QE Infinity is no longer viewed that way."