Foreign Central Banks
During the last crisis period, starting in March 2007 and lasting through November 2008, foreign central banks withdrew gold for a total of 20 out of 21 consecutive months, repatriating a grand total of 409 tons of gold. The last period of peak redemption culminated with the failure of Lehman in September 2008, the near failure of AIG in October and November 2008, coupled with the Fed's bailout of the western financial system. If past is prologue, one should ask: what current or future event is driving the ongoing redemption of 246 tons of gold (and rising) from the NY Fed this time?
If the last two auctions, the 2 and 5 Year, were both wildly disappointing and confirmed what we had said that foreign central banks are no longer a strong demand presence in the short-end, today's 7 Year was a welcome surprise to anyone who is holding on to Treasury longs. Moments ago the 7 Year When Issued was trading at 1.939%, so when the 1.930% high yield print hit the tape, longs everywhere collectively exhaled in approval observing the 0.9 bps stop through. The internals were likewise strong, with the Bid to Cover of 2.526 highest since November's 2.635, as Indirects kept their take down flat, absorbing 50.84% of the auction as Directs took down 14.15%, the highest since January, leaving 35.00% to the Dealers.
Imagine that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was a corporation, with its shares owned by the nation's major pharmaceutical companies. How would you feel about the regulation of medications? Whose interests would this corporation be serving? Or suppose that major oil companies appointed a small committee to periodically announce the price of a barrel of crude in the United States. How would that impact you at the gasoline pump? Such hypotheticals would strike the majority of Americans as completely absurd, but it's exactly how our banking system operates.
To help remind readers of what happens when the entire world engages in wholesale currency war, here is a complete list of all the recent FX interventions, courtesy of Stone McCarthy.
If yesterday's 3 Year auction was far stronger than expected, then today's 5 Year auction was an absolute whopper, printing moments ago at a high yield of 1.625%, 0.5bps through the When Issued, but it was the internals that were most impressive, not so much the Bid to Cover which jumped from 2.39 to 2.58, the highest since November, but the real stunner just like in yesterday 3Y auction, was the central bank, aka Indirect, interest because while the foreign central bank bid in yesterday's 3 Year auction were the highest since 2009, today's 67.5% Indirect takedown was the strongest on record!
After today's Bill auction which once again saw rising yields at multi-month highs, supposedly due to Fed rate hike concerns, many were watching today's 2 Year auction carefully to see if rising rate pressures will put a dent in short-end maturities. The answer was a resounding no, when moments ago the Treasury sold $26 billion in 2 Year paper at a yield of just 0.69% (as a reminder the Fed's leaked staff projection forecast a FF rate of 1.26% at the end of 2016 or inside the maturity of this bond), pricing 0.8bps through the 0.698% When Issued, and suggesting there may have been another short squeeze into the auction.
"The European Central Bank has introduced secret credit lines to Bulgaria and Romania as part of a broader effort to convince foreign regulators not to pull the plug on the local subsidiaries of Greek banks," FT reports.
As we previously noted, liquidity is there when you don't need it, and it promptly disappears once it is in demand. Consider it "cocktease capitalism." If liquidity lasts longer than 4 hours, call the CFTC because you may be experiencing a spoof. Right now, the ultimate spoof is setting up as the credit default swap market collapses, and a global bond market margin call is just around the corner.
The treasury auction confusion continues. After yesterday's 5 Year auction priced well weaker than expected, despite a negative repo rate of -0.85% which has actually gotten even more negative this morning dropping to -0.9%, things looked somewhat ominous for today's final for the week issuance of $29 billion in 7 year paper. And yet, moments ago the auction came out far stronger than expected, with the Treasury pricing at 2.153%, a solid 1.2 bps through the 2.165% When Issued, suggesting a far stronger demand into the pricing deadline.
"Do investors want to own bonds at 1% or 1-2bp yield per bp of realized vol, if risk is exploding? The EGB market is at historical highs in terms of total market risk!"
A day after the 2 Year auction surprised with solid demand all around, moments ago the US Treasury issued $35 billion in 5 Year paper which also came stronger than some had expected, pricing at a yield of 1.56%, 0.6 bps through the 1.566% When Issued. Like in yesterday's auction, the yield was the highest of 2015. The Bid To Cover dipped modestly, dwon from 2.56 to 2.46, and in line with the 2.47 average.
Central bank liquidity lines like those the Fed used to bailout the world seven years ago have become a fixture of the post crisis financial system. Since 2009, China has essentially blanketed the globe with yuan liquidity lines, inking swap agreements with nearly three dozen countries with the primary goal of increasing the degree to which the renminbi is used in international trade.
Not a day passes without one clueless pundit after another appearing on TV and reading from the teleprompter like a stoned zombie that one must not fight the Fed (and central banks) and buy stocks while shorting bonds. And yet what are central banks buying? Not stocks (at least not officially in the case of the Fed; only the BOJ and the SNB admit to openly monetizing equities).
The answer: bonds.
It has gotten to where just the lack of a rout in Bunds or any other government issue is enough to activate the "bullish" outside stop hunting algo, which is probably why ES has jumped overnight in another illiquid, newsless session. Curiously, Bunds shave not sold off even though the EUR has jumped sharply by almost 100 pips overnight to a 3 month high also on no news (with some amusing acrobatics by the USDJPY alongside) traditionally a bearish indicator for the Dax and thus the S&P. Perhaps the algos are just late, or maybe the "weak dollar is good for stocks" thesis has been activated, but in any event this morning's ramp higher in the ES will continue until all upside stops are hunted down by Virtu and crushed mercilessly.
Earlier today, there was once again a massive scarcity of 3 Year underlying paper, when as the SMRA charts below show, the bond was trading the most negative in repo it has been since September: at a -1.68% rate, everyone was rushing to short ahead of today's 3 Year auction. And with the latest tumble in rates, absolutely, everyone was convinced shorting today's 3 Year auction would be easy money. And then the central banks showed up, in the form of a whopping 52.7% in Indirect Bid takedown in the just concluded auction of $24 billion in 3 Years, which also was the highest indirect bid since December 2009.