For the first time since early 2010, the risk of European investment grade credit is lower than that of the US. As BofA notes, recall that the European sovereign crisis escalated in the first part of 2010, as Greece had to be bailed out for the first time, and concerns spread to other countries in the periphery. However, that European spreads have now recovered - after trading at times more than 60bps weaker than US spreads - reflects more on differential technicals (flows) than fundamentals (reality). Credit spreads are currently driven mainly by technicals; this is not to say that technicals in the US credit market are not strong – they are – only that European technicals are stronger. Furthermore, with now completely divergent central banks, BofAML believes that European technicals are going to remain stronger for longer. As they conclude, "relatively stronger US fundamentals lead to relatively weaker technicals," - or put another way "good news is bad news" for US credit markets...
The central banks have created moral hazard on a scale which is simply unbelievable and set a stage for a bonfire of the vanities seldom, if ever, seen in history. Professional Investors who have spent a lifetime playing these contrarian opportunities offered by human behavior are being carried out on stretchers as historic market behaviors fail to materialize. "Never in my 30+ year career as a market observer have I seen so many out on a limb which is about to be sawed off." Those who live within the matrix are fully loaded for a recovery which is not and will not appear. But when the leverage fails, the world’s developed economies will be thrust into the next leg of the cleansing process of deleveraging and the destruction of it will be equally bigger. This conclusion is firmly on the horizon; let’s call it the great insanity.
If predicting yesterday's EURUSD (and market) reaction to the ECB announcement was easy enough, today's reaction to the latest "most important ever" nonfarm payrolls number (because remember: with the Fed getting out of market manipulation, if only for now, it is imperative that the economy show it can self-sustain growth on its own even without $85 billion in flow per month, which is why just like the ISM data earlier this week, the degree of "seasonal adjustments" are about to blow everyone away) should be just as obvious: since both bad news and good news remain "risk-on catalysts", and since courtesy of Draghi's latest green light to abuse any and every carry trade all risk assets will the bought the second there is a dip, the "BTFATH mentality" will be alive in well. It certainly was overnight, when the S&P500 rose to new all time highs despite another 0.5% drop in the Shcomp (now barely holding on above 2000), and a slight decline in the Nikkei (holding on just over 15,000).
With leverage rapidly rising while credit spreads approach record lows, high-yield bond markets have long since lost any sense of sanity with regard to forward-discounting... but that hasn't stopped the world's biggest bond managers (and now Japan's pension fund GPIF because as they say "now they have a chance to chase higher returns without taking on much risk") from diving in while the water is warm. With the smell of risk essentially removed from any and every market, why not pile into the riskiest credits, gain some extra yield (for free) - what could go wrong?
The US economy is a house of cards. Every aspect of it is fraudulent, and the illusion of recovery is created with fraudulent statistics. American capitalism itself is an illusion. However, Washington has unique subjects. Americans will take endless abuse and blame some outside government for their predicament – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, China, Russia. Such an insouciant and passive people are ideal targets for looting, and their economy, hollowed-out by looting, is a house of cards.
- EU regulators unveil details of bank stress tests (FT)
- Just use NSAfari: U.S., UK advise avoiding Internet Explorer until bug fixed (Reuters)
- China’s Income Inequality Surpasses U.S., Posing Risk for Xi (BBG)
- US races to refuel infrastructure fund as revenue dries up (FT)
- New Era Dawns at Nokia as Company Appoints CEO, Plans $1.4 Billion Special Dividend, Share-Repurchase Program (WSJ)
- Obama reassures allies, but doubts over 'pivot' to Asia persist (Reuters)
- Dissent at SEC over bank waivers (FT)
- U.S. Banks to Help Authorities with Tax Evasion Probe (WSJ)
- U.S., Europe Impose New Sanctions on Russia (WSJ)
- Why the U.S. Is Targeting the Business Empire of a Putin Ally (BBG)
- Euro-Area April Economic Confidence Unexpectedly Declines (BBG)
- Bitcoin traders settle class actions over failed Mt. Gox exchange (Reut
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.
As we reported last night, whether as a result of Snowden revelations and NSA blowback by BRIC nations, or simply because the global economy is contracting far faster than rigged and manipulated markets worldwide will admit, IBM's Q1 revenues not only missed consensus earnings, but dropped to their lowest level since 2009. And yet, IBM stock is just shy off its all time highs and earnings per share have been flat if not rising during this period, leading even such acclaimed investors who never invest in tech companies as Warren Buffett to give IBM the seal of approval. How is that possible? Simple: all that investment grade companies like IBM have done in the New Normal in order to preserve the illusion of growth, is to use cash from operations, or incremental zero-cost leverage, to fund stock buybacks. In essence a balance sheet for income statement tradeoff. However, that "great stock buyback gimmick" as we call it, is finally coming to an end.
America is being run by an unelected gang of essentially self-perpetuating PhDs. The notion of an economics coup d’ etat is not so far-fetched. So the last 35 years have brought the greatest exercise in mission creep ever undertaken by an agency of the state. That explains why the monetary politburo persists in its absurd quest to force more debt into an economy which is already saturated with $59 trillion of the same. To pretend, as does Yellen and most of the monetary politburo that they must plow ahead printing money at lunatic rates because Congress so mandated it, is the height of mendacity. The Fed has seized power and is not about to let go - common sense be damned, and the constitution, too.
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.
With another session in which US futures levitate into the open, despite a modest drop in the Nikkei225 (to be expected after the president of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension fund, said that a review of asset allocations into stocks is not aimed at supporting domestic share prices) and an unchanged Shanghai Composite while the currency pair du jour, the USDCNY, closes higher despite tumbling in early trade (which also was to be expected after a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China said China is headed for a “mini crisis” in its local- government debt market as economic reforms lead to the first defaults) everyone is asking: will it be deja vu all over again, and after a solid ramp into 9:30 am, facilitated without doubt by the traditional Yen carry trade, will stocks roll over as first biotech and then all other bubble stocks are whacked? We will find out in just over two hours.
In what many thought was a miracle of modern money-printing-driven yield-chasing, Puerto Rico managed to get $3.5 billion of bonds off last week with no problem (albeit at a 8.73% yield). The issue (while perhaps not as surprising as the low yield issues of Uganda we have reflected on previously) raised some eyebrows and in the trading since its release, FINRA noticed something concerning. The bonds, as Bloomberg reports, are supposed to 'minimum denomination $100,000' blocks and yet 75 trades this week have been for no more than $25,000 violating regulations which deem these for "institutional purchasers" and strongly suggesting the heavy hedge fund demand was nothing more than a pump-and-dump scheme to unsophisticated retail investors. PR bonds have plunged from par to $92 this week.
Thanks to the repression of the world's central banks, investors have exited cash and piled into "everything else," but while this is no surprise to most, Citi's Matt King warns of the possibility of an "entrance with no exit" as investors reach for yield has distorted primary and secondary markets, forced risk-averse investors into alternative asset classes, distorted markets beyond any fundamentals, and left markets incredibly illiquid. This, he concludes, sets up a problem that we are already seeing as investors are disillusioned one asset at a time...
"The best way to define the mood in the market right now is panic," warns one commodity broker, adding that "everyone understands why we are going down, but nobody can tell where the bottom is." As the WSJ notes, the economic slowdown in China is hammering prices of some raw materials, driving down industrial commodities from copper to iron ore and coal - exacerbated by the vicious cycle of credit-collateral-contraction. So what is the cheapest way to play continued stress (with potentially limited downside)? The diversified natural resources company Glencore has a huge $55 billion of debt, is drastically sensitive to copper (and other commodity) prices, and its CDS remains just off record tights...
Puerto Rico muni owners who never saw the Barron’s story or the rating firms’ downgrades are better off than those who kept up with the financial news.