With rates seemingly flip-flopped today (yields higher as stocks drop), we thought it worth skimming what the smart money in the bond market is thinking. As RBS Strategist Bill O'Donnell warns, "Janet must act like a diving instructor, hoping to bring levels to the surface without giving the economy the bends. What makes it really risky for Janet is that financial sector regulation has created a ‘one-way valve’ in secondary market liquidity. Nobody really knows how the system will hold up under duress." This is confirmed by Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann who fears, "the Fed will have difficulties controlling market gyrations and its potential loss of credibility from troubles that are likely to arise from its exit strategy."
On July 7, Bart Chilton, a former commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, wrote an article about high-frequency trading for the New York Times's DealBook. He argued, in effect, that because high-frequency trading has become so central to the stock market, it must be serving some necessary purpose. This is false...
Dispassionate, non-conspiratorial rant , fact-based high level discussion of the sigificant drivers of the week ahead.
Alarm bells in the European banking system have been ringing for quite a while but nobody seems to be listening. The roaring capital markets are just too loud. But we have been keeping track of a few things.
"Where does [The Fed's] confidence come from?" demanded Stanley Druckenmiller recently. Grant Williams has an answer - Their “confidence” comes from a series of academic models and a lifetime spent studying theoretical finance and then applying it to real-world situations, often with disastrous effect. The day these people admit to themselves (let alone to the public) that what they have believed to be foolproof doesn’t actually work, is the day they render pointless their entire lives’ work... But that could change in a heartbeat.
Look for a speech on Friday August 22nd by Janet Yellen where she officially signals financial markets that they better start finding their respective chairs.
We have been warning for a while that not only is the high-yield credit market sending a warning but that it is critical for equity investors to comprehend why this is such bad news. This week has seen exuberant equity markets start to catch down to high-yield's warning but today's surge in HY credit spreads to six month wides is a rude awakening. Between outflows, a huge wall of maturities (and no Fed liquidity), and corporate leverage, the reach-for-yield just became an up-in-quality scramble. HY spreads are over 70bps wider than cycle tights implying the S&P 500 should be around 1775. When the easy-money-funded buyback party ends, will you still be dancing?
Up until the last day of July, everything was going great: stocks were solidly up for the month, the DJIA was on the verge of 17,000, and the wealth effect was flourishing, if not the economy. Then yesterday happened, and everything changed: not only did the S&P turn red for the month, but the DJIA slid to red for 2014. So what is the best performing asset class in July? With the PBOC now openly unleashing QE in its economy, no surprise that it was the Shanghai Composite, which returned over 8%, if virtually nothing since 2009. However, don't expect this to last: for China real estate is orders of magnitude more important than the stock market to boost the wealth effect. As for the best returning assets class in 2014 YTD: don't laugh - it's still Spain and Italy. Expect the day of reckoning for Europe's periphery to be fast, unexpected and very brutal.
Quietly, and without the drama associated with The Fed and ECB, China unveiled what looks like QE recently (as we discussed in detail here). Whether this is a stealth creation of a 'fannie-mae' structure to support housing or merely another channel for the PBOC to shovel out hole-filling liquidity is unclear. However, one thing is very clear, demand for CNY is surging (even as the PBOC weakens its fixing) and the Shanghai Composite is surging as hot money chases free money once again...
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.
It has been a deja vu session of that day nearly a month ago when the Banco Espirito Santo (BES) problems were first revealed, sending European stocks and US futures, however briefly, plunging. Since then things have only gotten worse for the insolvent Portuguese megabank, and overnight BES, all three of its holdco now bankrupt, reported an epic loss despite which it will not get a bailout but instead must raise capital on its own. The result has been a record drop in both the bonds (down some 20 points earlier) and the stock (despite a shorting ban instituted last night), which crashed as much as 40% before stabilizing at new all time lows around €0.25, in the process wiping out recent investments by such "smart money" as Baupost, Goldman and DE Shaw. The result is a European financial sector that is struggling in the red, while adding to its pain are some large cap names such as Adidas which also tumbled after issuing a profit warning relating to "developments" in Russia. Then there was European inflation which printed at 0.4%, below the expected 0.5%, and the lowest in pretty much ever, and certainly since the ECB commenced its latest fight with "deflation", which so far is not going well. The European cherry on top was Greece, whose dead cat bounce is now over, after May retail sales crashed 8.5%, after rising 3.8% in April.
Having waited until after the US equity markets closed, Portugal's troubled Banco Espirito Santo unveiled an enormous EUR 3.577 Billion loss - that is 15 times larger than the loss the bank suffered a year earlier. The data - to end-June, before the crisis really got going - already shows notable deposit flight, a 73.1% plunge in banking income, and a EUR 3 billion collapse in repoable assets (i.e. liquidity). On the heels of this Portugal's securities regulator has enforced a short-selling ban on BES... we suspect they would not have done that if all was systemically well in Portugal.
While equity markets were in focus for the mainstream, the big moves today occurred in Treasuries and oil prices. From the GDP release this morning, Treasury yields surged higher, rallied briefly after FOMC, before closing near the high-yields of the day (up around 10bps or the most in 9 months). Oil prices started to tumble at around 1030ET, flushed again on EU close, tumbled early afternoon on sanctions headlines, then pumped-and-dumped after FOMC to close at near 3-month lows (below $100). Equity markets surged on GDP, dumped on sanctions, pumped-and-dumped on FOMC, then lifted to the close. Only the Nasdaq ends the day above pre-GDP data levels. On the day, only the Dow closed the day red. Gold and silver chopped around in a narrow range as the USD index roundtripped from early GDP gains after FOMC. VIX closed modestly higher on the day. The Russell 2000 is -4.2% for July, its worst month in 2 years.
Portugal's PSI20 plunged over 3.4% today extending recent losses after its dead-cat-bounce, leaving the index near its lowest since October 2013. Interestingly peripheral bond spreads (and IG/HY credit spreads) compressed while equity markets all dumped across Europe amid concerns of blowback from Russia. As the sell-off accelerated into the close, credit markets also tumbled. An initial rally in financials gave way rapidly as US opened and rumors of G7 statements and Russian retaliation spread. Europe's VIX closed just shy of 18.00 - its highest close since early May. Banco Espirito Santo fell another 10% to record lows ahead of tonight's earnings.