And now the real shocker: there is over US$100bn in gross financial exposure to Glencore. From BofA: "We estimate the financial system's exposure to Glencore at over US$100bn, and believe a significant majority is unsecured. The group's strong reputation meant that the buildup of these exposures went largely without comment. However, the recent widening in GLEN debt spreads indicates the exposure is now coming into investor focus."
The selloff last year was a desperate warning about the lack of resilience in credit and funding. That repo markets persist in that is, again, the opposite of the picture Janet Yellen is trying to clumsily fashion. Central banks cannot create that because their intrusion axiomatically alters the state of financial affairs, and they know this. It has always been the idea (“extend and pretend” among others) to do so with the expectation that economic growth would allow enough margin for error to go back and clean up these central bank alterations. That has never happened, and the modifications persist. Resilience is the last word we would use to describe markets right now, with very recent history declaring as much.
When Arthur Levitt's SEC adopted Rule 2a-7 in 1998, it handed the TBTF banks and GSEs a mortgage monopoly on a silver platter.
Kyle Bass covers three critical topics in this excellent in-depth interview before turning to a very wide-ranging and interesting Q&A session. The topics he focuses on are Central bank expansion (with a mind-numbing array of awe-full numbers to explain just where the $10 trillion of freshly created money has gone), Japan's near-term outlook ("the next 18 months in Japan will redefine the economic orthodoxy of the west"), and most importantly since, as he notes, "we are investing in things that are propped up and somewhat made up," the psychology of negative outcomes. The latter, Bass explains, is one of the most frequently discussed topics at his firm, as he points out that "denial" is extremely popular in the financial markets. Simply put, Bass explains, we do not want to admit that there is this serious (potentially perilous) outcome that disallows the world to continue on the way it has, and that is why so many people, whether self-preserving or self-dealing, miss all the warning signs and get this wrong - "it's really important to understand that people do not want to come to the [quantitatively correct but potentially catastrophic] conclusion; and that's why things are priced the way they are in the marketplace." Perhaps this sentence best sums up his realism and world view: "I would like to live in a world where it's all rainbows and unicorns and we can make Krugman the President - but intellectually it's simply dishonest."
Romney's apparent victory in the first Presidential debate was the worst outcome for U.S. stocks, for it gave false hope to a Republican sweeping into the White House. A more gradual acceptance of the November result would give the market a better chance to absorb the news with minimal impact. We are presented with a similar scenario with Washington’s addressing the fiscal cliff. Optimistic comments about resolving the crisis has spawned gains in equities that are sustainable while losses resulting from downbeat remarks have offered profitable short term buying opportunities. While much of this price action the past few days has benefitted from typical calendar money flows that will disappear in the middle of next week, some of the positive sentiment arises from the overwhelming belief that both sides can consummate a deal on the budget ahead of the December 31 deadline. The longer investors anticipate such a compromise, the more violently shares will tumble upon recognition that assuaging the crisis with a comprehensive solution will take extra innings.
We have some good news for our German readers: in the month of June, your implicit cost of preserving the Eurozone (read the PIIGS) via TARGET2 funding of current account and various other public sector deficits and imbalances amounted to only €1 billion/day, down from €2 billion in June. We also have some bad news, which is that Europe's negative convexity ticking inflationary timebomb (why inflationary: Why Germany's TARGET2-Based Eurozone Preservation Mechanism Is Merely A Ticking Inflationary Timebomb), which guarantees that with every month in which nothing is done to undo the Buba's onboarding of liquidity risk, the risk for an out of control implosion of German, and implicitrly all European monetary institutions, rises exponentially, and just hit an all time high of €729 billion. To everyone who naively believes that a deus ex can come out of stage left and somehow reverse this guaranteed loss to German taxpayers (sorry: no free lunch) in the form of even more guaranteed inflation down the road, we suggest you short the chart below, somehow (and when you figure out how, let us know, so we can do the opposite).
As if last week's bought and paid for by JPMorgan media circus in the Senate was not enough, in which Jamie Dimon played several bribed muppets like a fiddle, today we get part two. Momentarily, the Committee on Financial Services will pick up the baton where the Senate left off, and confirm to everyone that the people who lead this country, at least on paper, are some of the most incompetent, and outright clueless when it comes to financial matters. The same matters that have led America to the Second great depression, which has so far been prevented from wiping out 20% of the economy only courtesy of Bernanke's relentless money printing. Dimon's testimony, which is a replica of last week's, can be found here. In other news, Jamie Dimon is furious he never bribed Maxine Waters before. Now he will have to explain introductory math for absolute idiots. Karma is a bitch.
We already know that JPM has lost billions on its prop trade, and as suggested earlier (and as the FT picked up subsequently), JPM's prop desk (not to mention its actual standalone hedge fund, $29 billion Highbridge, which nobody has oddly enough discussed in the mainstream press yet) is so large that unwinding the full trade, as well as all other positions held by the CIO, would be unwieldy, allowing us to mock "the fun of negative convexity - especially when you ARE the market and there is no-one to unwind the actual tranches to." The FT then phrased it as follows: "I can’t see how they could unwind these positions because no one can replace them in terms of size. It’s a bit of the same problem they face with the derivatives trade," said a credit trader at a rival bank. "They pretty much are the market." Which actually is funny, because if the media were to actually read a paper or two on how the market works, and puts two and two together, it just may figure out that the biggest beneficial counterparty for JPM is none other than the Fed, using the conduits of the Tri-Party repo system. But that is for Long-Term Capital MorganTM and its new CIO head Matt "LTCM" Zames to worry about. In the meantime, a question nobody has asked is how have the purported JPM counterparties, the most public of which are BlueMountain and BlueCrest who leaked the trade to the press in the first place, and are allegedly on the other side of the IG9 blow up doing. Well, according to the latest HSBC hedge fund update looking at the week ended May 11, not that hot.
IG9 10Y spreads re-surged today and were very choppy into the close as they broke back above 155bps (at 155.5/157.5bps now) for the first time since Mid-December with a 31% rip in the last two weeks. This fits perfectly with our ongoing thesis of this being a tail-risk hedge (not a simple 'spread' as other ignorant commentators presume) whose risk management has exploded in their face. While the skew (the difference between the index and its portfolio fair-value) has collapsed and arbs will be happy and likely exiting - the same correlation shifts (that we discussed earlier) that drove the big bank to sell more and more protection into a spread compressing market are now back-firing as systemic risk re-surges and the correlation shift is forcing them to buy back more and more protection into a spread decompressing market. Oh the fun of negative convexity - especially when you ARE the market and there is no-one to unwind the actual tranches to.
For the last month or so, despite ongoing fund inflows, high-yield credit's performance has been generally muted. Compared to the exuberance of the equity market it has been downright flaccid and given how 'empirically' cheap it is on a normalized spread basis through the cycle (and the fortress-like balance sheets we hear so much about) some would expect it to be the high-beta long of choice in the new-new normal rally-to-infinity. However, it is not (and has not been since late January). There are some technical factors including a bifurcated HY credit market (between really 'good's and really 'bad's and illiquids and liquids), low rate implications on callability and negative convexity affecting price but the lack of share creation in the HYG (high-yield bond) ETF also suggests a lagging of support for high-yield credit. This is a very similar pattern to what was seen in Q1/Q2 last year as equity kept rallying away from a less sanguine credit market only to eventually collapse under the weight of its own reality-check. European credit and equity markets are much more in sync together as they have fallen recently but financials in the US exaggerate this credit-signaling-ongoing-concerns trend while equity goes on about its bullish business. Another canary dead?
As the S&P 500 reaches new multi-year highs and VIX touches multi-year lows, there is one rather large and risk-appetite-proxying market out there that is not as excited. The high-yield bond market has seen record in-flows dropping off recently and for the last four-to-six weeks high-yield spreads, yields, and bond prices have been very flat as stocks have surged ahead. Despite US earnings yields at near-record highs relative to high-yield bond yields, we see little pick-up in LBO chatter suggesting a notable preference for higher-quality junk credit (and/or lack of belief in sustainability of earnings yields) and the recent 'dramatic' outperformance in investment grade credit is a notable up-in-quality rotation (as well as early spread-compression reaction to Treasury weakness recently) that strongly suggests less risk appetite among real money managers (given how 'cheap' high-yield appears across asset classes). Lastly, the ratio of HY bond prices to VIX is near its extreme once again, something we saw occur before the risk flares of 2010 and 2011 surrounding the end of the Fed's QE sessions.
Whether it was FX majors, the Treasury complex, or the economically-sensitive commodity markets, the 'negative' shift from yesterday's open (USD up, TSY yields down, Commodities down) plateaued overnight and retraced throughout the day today. Equities and credit however managed to make new highs (while all these other risk-related assets did not) as they stayed in sync for the afternoon (double-topping on lower volume) as financials outperformed (MS +5% for example) on what we can only imagine was Greek rumors (which later proved as usual to be completely false). Oil dropped markedly into the close, heading for $97 as Gold remains the week's winner (though Silver and Copper won on the day). The USD is flat (leaking higher in the late day) to yesterday's pre-market after trying and failing at 1.32 against the EUR (which is the underperformer vs USD on the week for now -0.48%). Treasuries sold off, adding 3-7bps across the curve (though still lower yields on the week) and while 30Y underperformed, 2s10s30s did not move much as the rest of the curve pivoted. The last 30 mins of the day saw ES pull back from its lonely highs to test VWAP (and IG and HY credit also fell with it) as open to close, credit underperformed, and cheap hedge IG was moving more negatively than beta would suggest. By the close, ES had pulled back (lower) to converge with CONTEXT (proxy for broad risk assets) and fell below VWAP as once again average trade size picked up significantly to the downside.
"Reach for yield" is a phrase that never gets old, does it? Whether it's the "why hold Treasuries when a stock has a great dividend?" or "if this bond yields 3% then why not grab the 7% yield bond - it's a bond, right?" argument, we constantly struggle with the 100% focus on return (yield not capital appreciation) and almost complete lack of comprehension of risk - loss of capital (or why the yield/risk premium is high). Arguing over high-yield valuations is at once a focus on idiosyncrasies (covenants, cash-flow, etc.), and technicals (flow-based demand and supply), as well as systemic and macro cycles, which play an increasingly critical part. Up until very recently, high yield bonds (based on our framework) offered considerably more upside (if you had a bullish bias) than stocks and indeed they outperformed (with HYG - the high-yield bond ETF - apparently soaking up more and more of that demand and outperformance as its shares outstanding surged). With stocks and high-yield credit now 'close' to each other in value, we note Barclay's excellent note today on both the seasonals (December/January are always big months for high yield excess return) and the low-rate, low-yield implications (negative convexity challenges) the asset-class faces going forward. The high-beta (asymmetric) nature of high-yield credit to systemic macro shocks, combined with the seasonality-downdraft and callability-drag suggests if you need to reach for yield then there will better entry points later in the year (for the surviving credits).
A discussion of the cash flows of Agency MBS and what it means to Fed policy. It might be the basis of QE 2.0 Lite. Also a side story on how Big Ben juiced the market in March/April of last year. Just another one of those things that were done to put some money on the 'Street'.
Update: mortgage spread to 10 year just spiked to 111 bps, up +5
The bond vigilantes about to start the real pounding of the negative convexity trade. Mortgages can't catch a break. In the 5 seconds since you clicked on this, not one short sale or refi was executed.