How do we know when an asset class is in a bubble? When everyone who stands to benefit from the continuation of the expansion declares it can't be a bubble.
Low volatility is being driven, in BofAML's view, by both fundamental and technical factors. Fundamentally, the volatility of real economic activity and inflation has fallen to near 20 year lows in what some are calling the Great Moderation 2.0. However, the recent further collapse in volatility is also explained by a feedback loop fueled by low conviction, low liquidity, low yields and low fear. Central bank policy has been the largest explanatory factor of both the fundamentals and technicals... and that has BofAML concerned about the risks of short-term volatility spikes exacerbated by market illiquidity.
As every 'real' corporate bond manager knows (as opposed to playing one on television), forecasting from historical defaults is a fool's errand as the process is entirely cyclical and non-stationary. The fact that default rates have been low for 4 years (thanks to an overwhelming flood of liquidity-driven demand for yield) is of absolutely no use when pricing discounted cashflows into the future. However, as Fitch warns, a jump in US high-yield default rates looms. There have been 10 LBO related bond defaults thus far in 2014, compared with nine for all of 2013. While most sectors remain relatively clam, the utilities and chemicals sectors are seeing huge spikes in defaults... which explains why the market is starting to price that in.
With the Fed tapering and both China “I don't think the markets are discounting what’s really happening in China,” and Japan’s currencies likely to weaken, the net impact on the U.S. will be deflationary, Kyle Bass warned in a recent presentation. That trend will be accelerated by the improvement in the balance of trade for the U.S., which had its current account deficit shrink due to increased hydrocarbon production. Bass warns, the crucial moment will come when the U.S. reports a sub-6% unemployment rate, meeting the target it has set for normalizing its monetary policy by ending QE and raising rates. He predicted that will come in July. That will be the Fed’s “worst nightmare,” he said. Raising rates would stifle growth and recreate unemployment problems, which would be disastrous politically, according to Bass.
Despite the plethora of talking heads proclaiming credit markets as awesomely supportive of stocks - High-Yield bond spreads are flashing red... But that's not stopping investors piling into the worst of the worst. As Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger notes, in an all too reminiscent scene from 2007 (MBIA CDS traded 11bps at one point then remember), investors have been buying up bonds with a triple-C-rating en masse.
This eruption of late cycle bubble finance hardly needs comment. Below are highlights from a Bloomberg Story detailing the recent surge of leveraged recaps by the big LBO operators. These maneuvers amount to piling more debt on already heavily leveraged companies, but not to fund Capex or new products, technology or process improvements that might give these debt mules an outside chance of survival over time. No, the freshly borrowed cash from a leveraged recap often does not even leave the closing conference room - it just gets recycled out as a dividend to the LBO sponsors who otherwise hold a tiny sliver of equity at the bottom of the capital structure. This is financial strip-mining pure and simple - and is a by-product of the Fed’s insane repression of interest rates.
Update: in direct flashback from the summer of 2011 when the ECB leaked news only to retract it within minutes, this just happened: CONSTANCIO: DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT 1 TLN-EURO QE MODEL REPORT
When in desperate need to crush your currency (being bought hand over fist by the Chinese), so urgently need to boost German exports, since you are unable to actually do QE as per your charter, what do you do if you are Mario Draghi? Well, you leak, leak, leak that you are contemplating QE, and then you leak some more. Such as today.
- ECB HAS MODELED BOND PURCHASES UP TO 1 TLN EUROS, FAZ SAYS
- ECB TESTS SHOW INFLATION COULD BE BOOSTED 0.2% TO 0.8%: FAZ
Like US inflation soared on the $1 trillion QEternity? Can't wait. In other news, expect zero reaction from gold on this latest news that another $1.4 trillion in fiat is about to flood the market. If only inbetween Mario Draghi's jaw bones.
"If I ask you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time. So the question is how you’re going to position yourself versus these two risks: straight down the middle, more aggressive or more defensive. I think of it like a comedy movie where a guy is considering some activity. On his right shoulder is sitting an angel in a white robe. He says: «No, don’t do it! It’s not prudent, it’s not a good idea, it’s not proper and you’ll get in trouble». On the other shoulder is the devil in a red robe with his pitchfork. He whispers: «Do it, you’ll get rich». In the end, the devil usually wins. Caution, maturity and doing the right thing are old-fashioned ideas. And when they do battle against the desire to get rich, other than in panic times the desire to get rich usually wins. That’s why bubbles are created and frauds like Bernie Madoff get money." - Howard Marks
Spanish loan delinquencies as a percentage of the total have risen for the 8th straight month to a new record high of 13.00% (even as sovereign bond spreads continue to plunge to multi-year lows signaling all is well). With unemployment rates stuck stubbornly high, however, reality is starting to dawn in the Spanish banking system as mortgage defaults are rising following the Bank of Spain's order for lenders to review their portfolios. As Bloomberg reports, the default rate for Banco Santander alone jumped to 7% (from 3.1%) following its "reclassification" of loans that it had refinanced (never expecting to be repaid) and with home prices still falling, "there is an urgency to come clean" as regulators see the need for banks to cover a further EUR5 billion shortfall in provisions.
Quick: which BRIC nation has the highest consumer loan default rate?
If you said China, India or Russia, you are wrong. Actually, if you said China you are probably right, but since absolutely all economic "data" in China is worthless, manipulated propaganda, only a retrospective post-mortem after the Chinese credit, housing, commodity, consumption bubbles have all burst will we know the answer. So excluding China, which country's consumers after a multi-year shopping spree funded entirely on credit, are suddenly suffering the epic hangover of soaring non-performing loans as they suddenly find themselves unable to even pay the interest on the debt? Just ask former billionaire Eike Batista whose OGX oil corporation is days away from filing bankruptcy. The answer, with 5.6% of all loans in default, above Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey and India, is Brazil.
The cost of protecting against a default on US Treasuries for one-year has surged to 60bps this morning. This is the highest since the Debt-ceiling debacle in 2011 and worse than Lehman. The 1Y cost is the highest relative to the 5Y cost ever. However, many people look at the 60bps and shrug it off as de minimus, after-all, JCPenney trades at 1200bps and is still alive. This is a mistake. The price of protection for US sovereign debt depends on recovery expectations and the EURUSD exchange rate expectations. Based on current levels, USA CDS imply a 5.9% probability of default - the same as JCPenney in July.
Why are young people in America so frustrated these days?
You are about to find out...
The system is failing, and young people are going to become even angrier and even more frustrated.
Next "Subprime Crisis" Expands As Student Loan Defaults Hit $146 Billion, Highest Default Rate Level Since 1995Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/01/2013 09:22 -0400
Almost exactly one year ago we wrote "The Next Subprime Crisis Is Here: Over $120 Billion In Federal Student Loans In Default" in which we took the latest (2009 three year cohort) loan default data on Federal Student Loans released by the Department of Education and applied it to the total amount of student loans outstanding, which back then was $914 billion. Yesterday, ED.gov provided its annual update - this time to the 2010 three year and 2011 two year cohorts - and to nobody's major surprise, learned that things just got even worse. To wit: "The national two-year cohort default rate rose from 9.1 percent for FY 2010 to 10 percent for FY 2011. The three-year cohort default rate rose from 13.4 percent for FY 2009 to 14.7 percent for FY 2010." Putting this in context, according to Bloomberg defaults have risen to the highest level since 1995. The irony that this is happening in the aftermath of Bernanke's disastrous ZIRP policy is not lost on anyone.
Two weeks ago we first pointed out that as a result of the quiet creep in high grade leverage to fresh record high levels, the resurgence in PIK Toggle debt for LBOs and otherwise, means that the credit bubble is now worse than ever and that the next credit crisis will make 2007 seem like one big joke. Recall that nearly 80% of PIK issuers made a PIK election during the last downturn, "paying" by incurring even more debt and in the process resulting in huge impairments to those yield chasing "investors" who knew they were going to lose money but had no choice - after all, the "career risk." Subsequently, we quantified the explosion in covenant-lite loans - another indicator of a peak credit bubble market - as nearly double when compared to the last credit bubble of 2007 (whose aftermath the Fed, with a $3 trillion larger balance sheet, is still struggling to contain).
As the Greek Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras, visits the US to promote his nation as a "bastion of stability" in the eastern Mediterranean, things appear to be going from worst to worster in his nation. While 65% youth unemployment is a large and scary enough data point, and Greeks are in open revolt against tax collectors, the uproar over Troika's current demands to lift a ban prohibiting banks from confiscating homes is growing. From the people to the politicians, anger is brewing over the lifting of the ban but the banks (already mired in 27% default rates) are behind the decision to help recapitalize themselves (and are refusing to restructure loans). However, given that Greece has already used 75% of its bank bailout fund and that repossessing and auctioning homes (potentially based on 'social criteria') could cut home prices 12 to 21%... not exactly going to help bank balance sheets; and it would seem Greece will need more caves.