Jump To Default

The Irony Of Bubbles

The one market seemingly everyone "knows" is a bubble is the treasury market. That is the market that just made new low yields on the 30 year bond for the year. GTAT, which is the first true "jump to default" I have ever seen looks exactly like a "bubble" popping,  is spurring the rethinking of where the risk is in high yield.

On Credit Index Notional Changes

With CDX and credit indices being such a topic of conversation, we took a look at the 1 month changes as of May 12th.  We selected U.S. and European Credit Indices that had NET position changes of $1 billion during that 4 week period.  We also included some with smaller changes where it made sense to me as either part of “normal” roll flows or the now legendary “whale” trade. The overall reduction in HY and XOVER is interesting.  Also, even in financials, the riskier sub index experienced a net decrease.  I’m not sure what it means.  Complacency?  Increased volatility forcing smaller position sizes?  JPM cutting HY short and shorting IG18 against IG9? The off-the-run data is a bit more interesting, especially in light of all the “whale” questions. IG9 tranche net actually increased in the period, though outright index dropped off.  Is that a sign that it was hard to get out of tranches? IG9 with that special place in everyone’s heart, does seem strange. It looks like positions in European indices got reduced pretty dramatically. In any case, all these products need to be moved to an exchange.  Look at the huge differential between the gross and the net?  That would go down.  Yes, banks would have to unwind offsetting trades, but who cares?  Banks would have to post collateral, possibly on longs and shorts, but again who cares?

For A Nation That Obsessed With What "Is" Is, We Can Now Wonder What "Net" Is

One of the consequences of MF Global and the whole PSI in Europe is that investors are less trusting about what "net" is. The "gross" positions are about 2.6 billion. That is across Europe. If they are long and short all sorts of German and French government bonds in their role as market market, that wouldn't be much of a concern. If that is the bulk of the gross position, then the market has clearly over-reacted. I would like to see gross and net by instrument. So bonds as one line item. CDS as another. Futures as another. I would like to see gross and net on a notional basis, and DV01 basis. It would also be helpful to know a jump to default number. I would want sovereign exposure and European bank exposure. Basically I would want the data that I would have on my own positions.

Curve Flattening In Credit - Never A Good Sign

The credit markets here are actually deteriorating and are showing signs that there is growing default concern, rather than just pressure to reduce risk. If investors only wanted liquidity they could sell some of the bonds that have performed better.  If they weren’t hedging jump to default exposure, they wouldn’t be starting to bid up the front end of the curve.  Investors are examining their positions closely and are exiting the positions they fear the most in an economic downturn.

European Credit - Wider & Entering Risk Aversion Mode

I think we are entering a new crucial phase in the problems in Europe as quarter end reports will drive a notional reduction. During parts of 2007 and 2008, CEO's of banks and other financial institutions, did not want to show any exposure to sub-prime, or to certain banks, or to leveraged loans, etc. The CEO's in particular were convinced that they needed to show ZERO net exposure to the asset classes most in question. As part of the "window dressing", their risk management departments were told to be short and told to reduce notional exposures. It was no longer just an economic decision it had become a "what's best for the share price" decision. The reality, is making money is best for the share price, but that notion gets thrown out the window once CEO's panic. I believe we are there, and there are some real repercussions from that. The main problem is that we will see credit curves flatten and possibly invert. As short dated paper to the current "culprits" (sovereigns and financials) matures, the lenders will not want to roll over the positions.

Arbing The Decoupling Between CDS And Out-Of-The-Money Equity Puts In Distressed Names

In his latest analysis, Goldman credit strategist Charles Himmelberg resumes the firm's party line of claiming the market is overestimating the risk impact of "fat tail" events, because presumably, as Goldman's Javier Pérez de Azpillaga showed previously, even though Spain is insolvent, is facing a massive budget deficit, has a huge debt-rolling problem, and has a banking system that is locked out of capital markets, all is good (full report here) and all those who are betting on Europe's demise are about to lose money (how this Eurozone optimism jives with Goldman's recent downgrade of the EURUSD to 1.15 is beyond non-lobotomized comprehension, so we'll just leave it be as yet another fully expected Goldman inconsistency). Yet, as ever so often, inbetween the conflicts of interest, Goldman does tend to provide that occasional piece of useful, actionable information. In this case, Himmelberg has done a very relevant analysis comparing Jump to Default costs for CDS and for out-of-the-money equity puts on distressed public names, and concludes that purchasing CDS provides a far better, lower-costing entry point to hedge against default. As he notes: "Our results show that pricing in the two markets follows the same trend, but that credit protection may be cheaper in many cases." Specifically, anyone wishing to arb the mispricing of credit and equity downside protection would be wise to put on a pair trade basket where one buys CDS/sells OTM Puts in SFI, LIZ, BC, MIR, NYT, and DDS and the inverse (sells CDS/buys OTM Puts) in F, AMR, MGM, TSO, SFD and LEN on a DV01 neutral basis, and wait for risk normalization between equity and credit to lead to a recoupling in the spreads.

Did Paulson Have A $2 Billion Bear Stearns CDS Short In Late 2006? Novel Observations On Abacusgate

Reading a 901 page Goldman document production (cover to cover) at 36,000 feet has proven to be both relaxing and quite productive. Among the plethora of emails, documents and memoranda, we may have stumbled upon something that could prove to be an even "bigger short" for John Paulson than RMBS: a $2 billion position in Bear CDS initiated prior to January 2007, as well as all other financial firms. Additionally, we discover that arguably the world's richest hedge fund manager (for a reason) was prophetically putting on bank counterparty hedges as early late 2006, up to and including Goldman Sachs itself. Most relevantly, in what could be damaging disclosure by Fabrice Tourre, the Frenchman notes that as a result of Paulson's mistrust of Goldman's counterparty risk, the Abacus AC1 deal was structured in a novel way in which "they would be acting as protection buyer, facing the ABACUS SPV (as opposed to a structure where Goldman is protection buyer as is usually the case)." This little legalistic variation could make a world of difference in an Attorney General's hands. It may be time to very carefully read the indenture of AC1 and compare it with those of 2006 and earlier "Abaci."

Goldman Correlation Desk Makes Mint On CIT CDS, Sallie Mae Up Next

One of Wall Street's biggest whipping boys since the post-Lehman days, culminating with the insanity in credit markets in early March, have undoubtedly been correlation desks. These trading outfits, which hit their heyday in 2004-2005, when CDS spreads were nice and tight, and negative convexity would at most bring a 20-30bps widening, would repackage securitization tranches whereby usually they kept the senior and equity wrap around a mezzanine piece, which was in turn sold to investors. Buyers of mezz tranches, whose junior and senior layers would become impaired after a 15% and 30% cumulative losses, respecitvely, saw what the definition of a world of pain is first hand recently, and effectively shut down the correlation business at many major banks. But not all.