Surprise! This is looking more like a here-and-now problem
Yesterday's 10 Year auction may have been surprisingly weak, perhaps concerned about what the subsequent FOMC minutes would reveal (as it turned out the minutes couldn't have been more dovish - just as everyone knew would be the case - and sent 10Y yields sliding) but today's 30 Year reopening (Cusip: RE0) auction was quite brisk, with the high yield of 2.535% stopping through the When Issued of 2.537% by 0.2 bps. And for those who have been living under a rock and unfamiliar with the epic flattening in the yield curve, today's 30 Year was the tightest pricing since the 3.36% yield last seen in the auction from June 2013.
With today's 10 Year auction just an hour ahead of the traditionally negative for rates FOMC Minutes, it was no surprise that the just completed issuance of $21 billion in 10 Year paper was nothing to write home about. Sure enough, with a high yield of 2.72% tailing the When Issued by 0.8 bps or the biggest tail for a 10Y auction in 2014, the reception was hardly impressive. That said, the yield was still 1 bp lower than the March auction when bonds sold for 2.73%, which in the aftermath of yesterday's wider 3Y, confirmed that flattening is still on everyone's mind.The Bid To Cover was also hardly notable and while it was below March's 2.92, it was well above the TTM average of 2.66 at 2.76.
Another week, another Chinese default. A month after Chaori Solar's default turned on its head a long-held assumption that even high-yielding debt carried an implicit state guarantee, yet another Chinese firm has succumbed to the inevitable logic of lack of cash flows. As a reminder, a technical default late last month by a small construction materials firm, Xuzhou Zhongsen Tonghao New Board Co Ltd, was the first in China's high-yield bond market. However, in that case the guarantor of that bond eventually agreed to fund the required interest payment, resulting in the first bailout of the first high yield default. Still if Xuzhou doesn't want the distinction of the first Chinese HY default, many are lining up for that particular prize - such as a small manufacturer of polyester yarn based in China's wealthy Zhejiang province has declared bankruptcy, threatening its ability to meet an interest payment on a high-yield bond due in July.
Fundamentals are always important over the long term. That said, it has become quite clear that company financials are not what’s moving this market. If fundamentals mattered then the words and decisions of central bankers wouldn’t be the most important headlines. Simply put, the economic fundamentals do not support stock prices. Is this the top? There’s no way to tell. Do some areas of the market look like past bubbles once did? Without a doubt. The last step up before the fall is often characterized by a feeling that the market is invincible. Despite the S&P’s incredible run, it cannot continue to rally forever. Eventually, economic fundamentals will matter again and when that happens it’s likely that the market will sell off.
Today's 3 Year $30 billion auction, if not remarkable, was memorable for two things: the high yield, coming at 0.895% precisely on top of the When Issued, was materially above the March 0.802% which is to be expected courtesy of the Fed's "dots", as the short end keeps rising, and in fact was the highest pricing yield since the 0.913% seen last in September. And not surprisingly, the Bid To Cover picked up to 3.361, above the TTM average of 3.286, to celebrate the higher yield offered on "near money good" collateral, if hardly surging to all time BTC high recorded long ago in October 2012.
Bill Gross lost "Bob" this week. The death of his cat sparked some longer-term reflection on the hubris of risk-takers, the mirage of magnificent performance, and the ongoing debate in bond markets - extend duration (increase interest rate risk) or reduce quality (increase credit risk). As the PIMCO boss explains, a Bull Market almost guarantees good looking Sharpe ratios and makes risk takers compared to their indices (or Treasury Bills) look good as well. The lesson to be learned from this longer-term history is that risk was rewarded even when volatility or sleepless nights were factored into the equation. But that was then, and now is now.
The last year or two has seen a deluge of Fed speakers pay lip-service to watching/monitoring/keeping-an-eye-on potential bubbles... but as yet having found none... That is all except one - Jeremy Stein - who explicitly called out high yield bonds as in a 'frothy' bubble last year... it appears he has grown weary of smashing his head against that wall...
- *FED SAYS STEIN SUBMITTED RESIGNATION LETTER TO OBAMA
- *YELLEN SAYS STEIN WAS 'AN INTELLECTUAL LEADER' ON FED BOARD
Stein plans to return to teaching at Harvard but in his resignation letter noted that more work is needed on the job market and that the financial market needs strengthening.
Nikkei 225 (+1.04%) outperformed overnight, buoyed by S&P 500 posting a new all-time high, a dovish BoJ's Tankan inflation survey and reports that the GPIF is to invest in funds specializing in Japanese stocks with high returns. Overall, another quiet session this morning as market participants continued to position for the upcoming ECB meeting, with Bunds under pressure amid further unwind of expectation of more policy easing by the central bank. According to ECB sources, there is no clear consensus at present on policy action, intense debate seen on Thursday after March HICP data, adding that it fears "over-interpretation" by market of QE possibility.
For those used to smooth, undisturbed, Fed-assisted, no-risk-all-return, sailing, both the month of March and the entire first quarter were quite the wake up call.
In the middle of 2012, to much yield chasing fanfare, China launched a private-placement market for high-yield bonds focusing on China's small and medium companies, that in a liquidity glutted world promptly found a bevy of willing buyers, mostly using other people's money. Less than two years later, the first of many pipers has come demanding payment, when overnight Xuzhou Zhongsen Tonghao New Board Co., a privately held Chinese building materials company, failed to pay interest on high-yield bonds, according to the 21st Century Business Herald.
Among the key overnight events was the February Euro area unemployment report, which was unchanged at 11.9%, lower than the 12% median estimate; in Italy it rose to a record 13% while in Germany the locally defined jobless rate for March stayed at the lowest in at least two decades Euro zone PMI held at 53 in February, unchanged from January and matching median estimate in a Bloomberg survey HSBC/Markit’s China PMI fell to 48 in March, the lowest reading since July, from 48.5 in February; a separate PMI from the government, with a larger sample size, was at 50.3 from 50.2 the previous month NATO foreign ministers meet today to discuss their next steps after Putin began withdrawing forces stationed on Ukraine’s border Gazprom raised prices for Ukraine 44% after a discount deal expired, heaping financial pressure on the government in Kiev as it negotiates international bailouts.
U.S. stocks are like a duck, floating on a quiet pond – calm above the surface, but lots of furious churning invisible to the naked eye. The S&P 500 looks like it will end the first quarter within a hair of the 1848 level where it started the year, but that doesn’t mean everything else is all stasis and light. Today we offer up a quick ‘Top 10’ list of surprises from the last 90 days. Gold, for example, is back from the grave, up 7.3%. So is an imperial Russia, with the biggest land grab since the building of the Berlin Wall. Mutual fund flows are ahead of exchange traded funds by a factor of 5:1. And most of those ETF inflows are into bond funds, not the “Great Rotation” we all expected into stocks. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yields all of 2.67%, and bonds have bested U.S. stocks consistently in 2014. First quarter 2014 may not have been a long trip, but it certainly has been strange.
Following yesterday's uninspiring 2 Year bond auction, today's 5 Year issuance of $35 billion was a whopper. Because while it was known well in advance that today's closing high yield of 1.715%, which priced through the When Issued of 1.732% by 1.7 bps, would be the highest since May 2011. However, the stunners were all within the internals. First, the Bid To Cover of 2.99 was the highest since September 2012, and an abrupt turn in the recent general downward trend in BTCs - who would have thunk that all it took for greater interest in US paper was higher yields . But it was the takedown where the real shockers lay.
In the WSJ’s February 24th exposé of the turmoil at the helm of Pimco, we saw a curious bit about tension at “the Beach” increasing in the summer of 2013. During this period, according to the Journal, conflict between then co-CIOs Bill Gross and Mohamed E-Erian became apparent to staff, and Gross restricted trading at the firm. We wanted to see what insights a quantitative analysis of Pimco Total Return Fund (PTTRX) could offer about the summer and Total Return’s recent performance, a topic of increasing scrutiny amongst the investment community.