Aside from the "sure thing" of buying the Alibaba IPO, achieving a 10% yield return in the new normal world requires leverage and excess risk-taking. To compare the risk/reward of various assets, Citi accounts for haircuts and leverage costs of the typical investor and finds an investors needs a 1.9x leverage in the S&P 500, 8.1x leverage in Treasuries, and 2.3x leverage in high-yield to achieve (based on historical norms) the required return. However, after accounting for downside risks, high-yield cash and leveraged loans both top the S&P 500 as the best way to meet a 10% bogey yield.
Veteran investor Marc Faber, author of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report, reiterated the need for gold in a diversified portfolio when interviewed on CNBC. "Now, I want to be diversified, I want to own some gold, I want to own some shares, I own the most in Asia, and some in Europe because I think in Europe there’s still better value than in the US, and I own some bonds and cash and real estate."
The high-yield credit market remains stressed. An active week ended poorly as a heavy pipeline saw Vistaprint pull its deal citing "market conditions" as perhaps both a re-awakening of liquidity fears (Fed hawkishness concerns), price/spread moves, potential downgrades soar, and outflows signal the flashing red light that HY markets are shining is as red as ever. With buybacks having dwindled already - removing a significant leg from the equity rally - it seems CFOs are realizing that maybe they should have used some of that easy money to build as opposed to buy as they face weak growth, a lack of liquidity, and a wall of maturing debt in the next few years that will have to be refinanced at higher yields and spreads.
After being solidly ignored for weeks, suddenly the Scottish independence referendum is all anyone can talk about, manifesting itself in a plunge in the GBPUSD which ha slide over 100 pips in the past 24 hours, adding to the slide over the past week, and is now just above 1.61, the lowest since November 2013. In fact, the collapse of the unionist momentum has managed to push back overnight news from Ukraine, major Russian sanction escalations, Japan GDP as well as global trade data on the back burner. Speaking of global trade, with both China and Germany reporting a record trade surplus overnight, with the US trade deficit declining recently, and with not a single country in the past several month reporting of an increase in imports, one wonders just which planet in the solar system (or beyond) the world, which once again finds itself in a magical global trade surplus position, is exporting to?
Just 2 months ago, the illustrious muppet catchers at Goldman Sachs stated that both stocks were 30-45% overvalued but lifted its year-end target in what we subjectively described as 'moronic drivel'. Then, 2 short weeks after that 'upgrade', the same thought-provoking sell-side strategist downgraded stocks on the basis that a 'sell-off in bonds could lead to short-term weakness in stocks'. Now, with the S&P 500 closing at new record highs on the worst employment data of the year, Goldman is at it again - upgrading equities to overweight for the next 3 months, rolling index targets forward, and piling investors into high-yield credit. Welcome to muppetville...
In Citi's Steven Englander's latest note, he notes that every major FX trade in place right now is a carry trade in one form or another, differing only in their scope and in the risk they entail. This has 5 significant implications...
Dispassionate look at the week ahead, without the hysterics of the sky is falling or the mother of all crises is around the corner.
"two landmark firsts have occurred only recently, with the S&P500 breaking above 2,000 and the 10y bund yield breaking below 1%. Our Ice Age thesis has long called for sub-1% bond yields and I see this extending to the US and UK in due course. It is the equity markets where I have been consistently surprised. QE has been an essential driver for the equity market, providing the fuel for the heavy corporate bond issuance being used for share buybacks. Companies themselves have been the only substantive buyers of equity, but the most recent data suggests that this party is over and as profits also stall out, the equity market is now running on fumes." - Albert Edwards
There rarely seems to be a “reason” for why market crashes happen. Market observers are e.g. debating to this day what actually “caused” the crash of 1987. It is in the nature of the beast that once liquidity evaporates sufficiently that not all bubble activities can be sustained at once any longer, bids begin to become scarce in one market segment after another. Eventually, they can disappear altogether – and sellers suddenly find they are selling into a vacuum. Once this happens, the usual sequence of margin calls and forced selling does the rest. Risk premiums normalize abruptly, and there doesn't need to be an obvious reason for this to happen. Compressed risk premiums can never be sustained “forever”.
Even Hellicopter Ben would have balanced remarks. However, Janet Yellen has taken dovishness to an all-time high or low dpending on your perspective.
The USD is soaring after somewhat hawkish Fed Minutes (up 1% this week) - pushing up towards critical resistance at 1-year highs. Treasury yields slammed 3-4bps higher and are holding those losses (30Y up 11bps this week). High yield credit is at the worst levels of the day as stocks retrace gains towards record highs. WTI crude jumped 1% on the minutes, back above $96 as gold slipped modestly back below $1290. Stocks, having kneejerked lower (below VWAP) have been ripped back higher by a VIX-slamming algo that decided that FOMC uncertainty is exactly the signal to buy certainty.
The stock market is presently a roulette wheel with dimes on black and dynamite on red... The ‘buy the dip’ mentality can introduce periodic recovery attempts even in markets that are quite precarious from a full cycle perspective. Galbraith reminds us that the 1929 market crash did not have observable catalysts: “the crash did not come – as some have suggested – because the market suddenly became aware that a serious depression was in the offing... for it is in the nature of a speculative boom that almost anything can collapse it."
Friday's main event, Ukraine's alleged attack of a Russian military convoy, has come and gone, and as we mused on Friday has promptly faded into the memory of all other fabricated headlines released by the country engaged in a major civil war and an even more major disinformation war. To be sure, Germany's DAX has recovered virtually all losses, US futures are up about 9 points, and the 10 Year is back to 2.37%. One wonders what algo-slamming headline amusement Ukraine has in stock for us today, although anyone hoping for a quick "de-escalation" (there's that word again) will have to wait following yesterday's meeting of Russian, Ukraine, German and French ministers in Berlin where Russia's Lavrov said he saw no progress on Ukraine cease-fire, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says in Berlin, adding that a cease-fire should be unconditional.
High yield mutual funds and ETFs reported a small $0.71bn inflow (of knife catchers) last week (ending on August 13th) after four straight weeks of outflows including a record $6.7bn outflow in the prior week. As BofAML notes, the turn in flows follows a strong rebound in high yield bond prices (drop in spreads), which (before the Ukraine news) had reversed more than half of the losses incurred in July. However, European high-yield funds saw further significant outflows, $3bn more compared to $4bn last week and European equities saw massive outflows. Furthermore, modest equity inflows hide the fact that the only buyer of stocks in the US remain corporates (buybacks) as institutional sellers dominate.
News of the Ukrainian destruction of part of a Russian military convoy sent European stocks (and bond yields) plunging. German DAX futures lost all the gains from the US close last Friday as 2Y bonds closed at -1bps and 10Y bunds at a record low 96bps. European equity indices all lost significant ground on the news today but generally held on to some gains on the week. Peripheral bond spreads pressed wider today but ended the week lower (Spain -5bps, Portugal -25bps). High yield spreads jumped over 20bps on the news. Europe's VIX soared over 20 today (from 16 earlier).