Collateral Transformation: The Latest, Greatest Financial Weapon Of Mass Destruction

Back in 2002 Warren Buffet famously proclaimed that derivatives were ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ (FWMDs). Time has proven this view to be correct. As The Amphora Report's John Butler notes, it is difficult to imagine that the US housing and general global credit bubble of 2004-07 could have formed without the widespread use of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and various other products of early 21st century financial engineering. But to paraphrase those who oppose gun control, "FWMDs don’t cause crises, people do." But then who, exactly, does? And why? And can so-called 'liquidity regulation' prevent the next crisis? To answer these questions, John takes a closer look at proposed liquidity regulation as a response to the growing use of 'collateral transformation' (a topic often discussed here): the latest, greatest FWMD in the arsenal.

PBOC Head To "Address Liquidity At Proper Time" Even As China's Bad Loan Giant Awakes

In the aftermath of the record cash crunch in the Chinese interbank market, many financial institutions in China and abroad have been hoping that the PBOC would either end its stance of aloof detachment or at least break its vow of silence and if not act then at a minimum promise good times ahead. Alas, despite repeated confusion in various press reports that it has done that, it hasn't aside from the occasional "behind the scenes" bank bailout. And at today's Lujiazui Financial Forum, PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan kept the status quo saying the central bank will adjust liquidity "at the proper time to ensure market stability." That time, however, is not now.

Gold Breaks Below $1200

From the moment Bernanke spoke, Gold and Silver began to accelerate to the downside. Gold legged lower into the NYMEX pit close and faded further in search of the $1200 round number (trading at $1199.90). Down around 12% from the FOMC (gold is now -38% from its highs in 2011). Silver is following (down over 14% from FOMC) as the Gold-to-Silver ratio test 65x (double its lows in April 2011 around 32x) and back to the ratio that existed as Lehman failed.

Guest Post: The Dark Side Of The QE Circus

There may come a day soon where the markets sell off if one of the whiskers in Big Ben's beard is out of place. Or perhaps if his tie is a bit crooked. Or maybe we end up with Janet Yellen as the next puppet in charge over at the local banking cabal and we fret about her hairdo. I don't know, but one thing that is for certain is that this central bank so wants to be loved and we are so under psychological attack with all of this QE nonsense that it isn't even funny. QE is the endgame. ZIRP was only the beginning. QE, or monetization (which they'll never call it because of the negative connotations), is the heroic measure applied to an already dead system. Our system, for all intent and purposes, died in 2008. It ceased to exist. The investing, economic, and business paradigm that has existed since is drastically different than its predecessor despite all the efforts being made to convince everyone, including Humpty Dumpty, that it is in fact 2005 all over again.

For Bonds, It's A Lehman Repeat

There is plenty of discussion of outflows but we though the following chart was perhaps the most insightful at why this drop is different from the last few year's BTFD corrections. As we noted here, corporate bond managers have desperately avoided selling down their cash holdings (since they know dealer liquidity cannot support broad-based selling and its an over-crowded trade) and bid for hedges in CDS markets. But it seems, given the utter collapse in the advance-decline lines for high-yield and investment-grade bonds that the liquidations have begun. While the selling in high-yield bonds is on par with the Lehman liquidationlevels, it is the collapse in investment grade bond demand that is dramatic (and worse than Lehman). It's not like we couldn't see it coming at some point (here) and as we warned here, What Happens Next? Simply put, stocks cannot rally in a world of surging debt finance costs.

Chinese Sovereign Risk Spikes Most Since Lehman

With the nation's short-term funding markets in crisis mode - no matter how much they are jawboned about temporary seasonal factors - it seems yet another indicator of stress is flashing the red warning signal. China's sovereign CDS has spiked by the most since Lehman in the last 3 days - up 55% to 140bps. This is the highest spread (risk) in 18 months and looks eerily similar to the period around the US liquidity market freeze. Hedging individual Chinese bank counterparty risk is hard (given illiquidty) and so it would seem traders are proxying general risk of failure via the nation's sovereign risk (and stocks which also languish at post-Lehman lows). On a related note, Aussie banks have seen there credit risk rise 50% in the last month as they suffer domestically and from the China contagion.

This Is An Extraordinary Time

It's as if we have two economies: the simulacrum one of stocks rising dramatically in a few months, and the real one of household earnings (down) and hours worked (down). It is difficult to justify the feeling that we are living in an extraordinary moment in time, for the fundamental reason that it's impossible to accurately assess the present in a historical context. Extraordinary moments are most easily marked by dramatic events such as declarations of war or election results; lacking such a visible demarcation, what sets this month of 2013 apart from any other month since the Lehman Brothers' collapse in 2008? It seems to me that the ordinariness of June 2013 is masking its true nature as a turning point. Humans soon habituate to whatever conditions they inhabit, and this adaptive trait robs us of the ability to discern just how extraordinary the situation has become.

The Toxic Feedback Loop: Emerging <-> Money <-> Developed Markets

Extreme Developed Market (DM) monetary policy (read The Fed) has floated more than just US equity boats in the last few years. Foreign non-bank investors poured $1.1 trillion into Emerging Market (EM) debt between 2010 and 2012 as free money enabled massive carry trades and rehypothecation (with emerging Europe and Latam receiving the most flows and thus most vulnerable). Supply of cheap USD beget demand of EM (yieldy) debt which created a supply pull for EM corporate debt which is now causing major indigestion as the demand has almost instantly dried up due to Bernanke's promise to take the punchbowl away. From massive dislocations in USD- versus Peso-denominated Chilean bonds to spiking money-market rates in EM funds, the impact (and abruptness) of these colossal outflows has already hit ETFs and now there are signs that the carnage is leaking back into money-market funds (and implicitly that EM credit creation will crunch hurting growth) as their reaching for yield as European stress 'abated' brings back memories of breaking-the-buck and Lehman and as Goldman notes below, potentially "poses systemic risk to the financial system."

Treasuries' Worst Week In 50 Years; Stocks Worst Week In 2013

5Y yields rose a stunning 37% this week - the most in the 50 year record of Bloomberg data. The 38bps increase in yields is also among the worst absolute shifts over that period but off such low levels it is quite a shock. Credit markets saw hedge protection bought early on in the week and then covered as real money started to sell their bonds on the back of redemptions in the last two days. The high-yield bond ETF had its biggest weekly loss in 13 months (notably clinging to the Lehman ledge levels). Equity markets suffered too (down 3.5 to 4.0% from the FOMC) with the S&P's worst week of the year (even as it bounced off its 100DMA). Most sectors hung around the 3-4% drop but homebuilders are down over 8% since the FOMC. The USD surged over 2.1% on the week with JPY's worst week in 43 months. VIX ended the day down 1.7 vols at 18.8% but beware as OPEX and hedge unwinds into underlying covers seems prevalent. Gold's worst week in 21 months left it back under $1300.


Pivotfarm's picture

Dive! Take cover! Or, at least, hold on to your pants in the scramble. The Chinese bubble has just burst. It looks like the world is going to have egg on its face and elsewhere as Chinese banks are scrambling to get the hands on cash.

Is This Why The PBOC Is Not Coming To The Rescue?

We have warned a number of times that China is a ticking time-bomb (and the PBoC finds itself between a housing-bubble rock and reflationary liquidity injection hard place) but the collapse of trust in the interbank funding markets suggests things are coming to a head quickly. The problem the administration has is re-surging house prices and a clear bubble in credit (as BofAML notes that they suspect that May housing numbers might have under-reported the true momentum in the market since local governments are pressured to control local prices) that they would like to control (as opposed to exaggerate with stimulus). As we noted here, while the PBOC may prefer to be more selective with their liquidity injections (read bank 'saves' like ICBC last night) due to the preference to control the housing bubble, when they finally fold and enter the liquidity market wholesale, the wave of reflation will rapidly follow (and so will the prices of precious metals and commodities).