With home prices rising at near-record paces in SoCal, corporate debt yields at record-lows, equity markets surging at near-record rates, and high quality assets dwindling by the minute under the heel of a central bank jack boot; it is perhaps no surprise that investors have switched from finding leverage through the balance sheet (i.e. crappy quality firms) to finding leverage through the instrument (i.e. structured credit). The trouble this time is that yields (and spreads) being so low, the creators of the new-normal ABS, CDOs, and CLOs have to stoop to the old tricks to make their money (as we noted here). As Bloomberg reports, bond issuers are once again exploiting the credit rating agency pay-for-performance business model to create "high-quality" collateralizable assets from utter garbage - such as auto loans.
An attempt to look ahead at the drivers of the capital markets in the week ahead.
While most of the US was in deep REM sleep, the Germany stock index, the DAX, had a flashback to May 2010: starting at 3:44 am EDT, in the span of 6 minutes or much faster than the gradual drop that led to the US flash crash from three years ago, the DAX went from well and solidly-bid to having zero liquidity... and dumping nearly 200 points in the process. Whether it was rumors of a (subsequently validated) rating agency downgrade, or just an algo testing its quote stuffing ability, the moves showed vividly that when the current rosy paradigm shifts abruptly and violently, all those hoping to be the first out of the door and hit the sell button, simply won't be able to do so. Because sadly there is no such thing as a free "4 year long zero volume levitation" - one must always pay the piper in the end.
Yes, there was economic news overnight, such as a Eurozone and UK CPI, both of which came in line with expectations (1.7% and 0.4% respectively), and a German ZEW which confirmed Europe's accelerating deterioration, tumbling from 48.5 to 36.3, far below expectations of a 41.0 print (somehow the huge miss has managed to push the EURUSD up by 60 pips to an overnight high of 1.31 but this is merely the pre-US open manipulation to ramp US equities higher), just as there was news that Angela Merkel's support for a Cyprus bailout is growing (was there an alternative?), and that as part of their ongoing investigation into Italy's repeatedly insolvent Monte Paschi, investigators had seized €1.8 billion worth of assets from Nomura Holdings, and that Spain as usual sold more Bills than expected, driven by oversize Japanese and Pension Fund purchases, but what everyone has been looking for is whether the relentless and record rout in gold is over. For now, it appears that is the case, with gold printing an overnight low of just over $1320 and ramping higher ever since, up 3% so far and rising.
Ever since Moody's head economist Mark Zandi, together with Princeton's Alan Blinder, authored a paper in July 2010 titled "How We Ended The Great Recession" (which incidentally is wrong on two key counts: i) it is a great depression not recession, and ii) it has not ended) it became clear that the Keynesian sycophant would not rest until he somehow found a way to penetrate deep inside one or more of the darkest administrative orifices of the Obama regime. Surely, Zandi must have been heartbroken when it was not him but Jack Lew picked to replace Tim Geithner - a post the Keynesian had a desperate craving for. Yet his recent appointment to head up the ADP "payroll" joint venture, which was nothing more than a test of his propaganda skills, should have given us advance notice something was cooking. Further notice should have emerged when the US Department of Injustice launched its rating agency witch-hunt campaign only against S&P, not Moody's, where the abovementioned Zandi still officially works. Last night all of this finally fell into place, when the WSJ reported that Zandi has emerged as the leading candidate to head the FHFA - the regulator in charge of the two zombiest of zombie US institutions: the still insolvent Fannie and Freddie, in the process kicking out current FHFA head Ed DeMarco who recently emerged as Obama's persona non grata number 1 for his stern refusal to espouse socialist practices and wholesale debt forgiveness and principal reduction.
The stock market is not crashing yet, but there are lots of other market crashes happening in the financial world right now. Just like we saw back in 2008, it is taking stocks a little bit of extra time to catch up with economic reality. But almost everywhere else you look, there are signs that a financial avalanche has begun.
With every modestly positive datapoint being desperately clung to, now that even Goldman's Hatzius has once more thrown in the economic towel after proclaiming an economic renaissance in late 2012 just like he did in late 2010 only to issue a mea culpa a few months later (and just as we predicted - post coming up shortly), the key prerogative is to ignore the elephant in the room. That, of course, is that the JPY 1 quadrillion bond market had to be halted for the second day in a row as the Japanese capital markets are fast becoming a very big and sad joke. The resulting flight to safety from Japanese investors, who sense that their own bond market is on the verge of breaking down completely, has managed to send French and Belgian bonds to record lows, the Spanish 2 Year to sub 2%, the German 6 month bill negative in the primary market, the US 10/30 year constantly bid and so on. The immediate result is that the bond-equity disconnect continues to diverge until one day we may get negative 10 Year rates coupled with an all time high stock market. Gotta love the fake New Normal market, in which the Japanese penny stock market was up another 2.8% to well over 13,000 even as the Shanghai Composite plumbs ever redder territory for 2013 on fears the birdflu contagion will hurt the already struggling economy even more.
Landlord Blackstone Rushes To Capitalize On Housing Bubble By Launching First Ever REO-To-Rent SecuritizationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/14/2013 13:03 -0400
In addition to the phenomenon of "foreclosure stuffing" described here extensively before, one of the main reasons for the artificial drop in housing supply has been the ongoing government-subsidized, GSE/FHFA endorsed REO-to-Rent initiative, through which large asset managers have been encouraged to take advantage of government funded, risk-free financing and purchase foreclosed properties in bulk, with the intention of converting them into rental properties. The REO-To-Rent has traditionally been open to the biggest of financial companies, or at least those who don't have the stigma of legacy mortgage origination resulting in billions in litigation reserves, which means mostly hedge funds and PE firms. One of the main players in the space, Och-Ziff, decided to pull out of the landlord business in October of last year because, as Reuters reported, "the returns it is generating from rental income are less than expected and it is looking to take advantage of a recent rebound in home prices in northern California." In other words, selling while the selling is good. Of course, there is another, far more traditional way to offload risk while preserving some of the upside: dump the balance sheet exposure to others while giving them a fraction of the potential upside yield. This is precisely what the big banks were doing during the last housing bubble when massive residential mortgage-backed security portfolios were packaged, spliced, securitized (sometime without the feedback of firms like Paulson pre-shorting the MBS courtesy of firms like Goldman) and sold off to other yield-starved investors. Everyone knows how that ended. So fast forward to today, when this final missing link from the credit and housing bubble is finally here too, following news that mega-PE firm Blackstone is pushing forward with the first ever REO-To-Rental securitization.
China Tumbles On Real-Estate Inflation Curbs: Biggest Property Index Drop Since 2008; Japan Downgraded On AbenomicsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/04/2013 04:28 -0400
As we have been warning for nearly a year, the biggest threat facing China has been the fact that contrary to solemn promises, the problem of persistent, strong and very much relentless real-estate inflation has not only not been tamed but has been first and foremost on the minds of both the PBOC and the local government. After all with the entire "developed" world flooding the market every single day with countless billions in new cheap, hot money, it was inevitable that much of it would end up in the mainland Chinese real estate market. And since both the central bank and the politburo are well aware that the path from property inflation to broad price hikes, including the all critical to social stability pork and other food, is very short, it was inevitable that the issue of inflation would have to be dealt with eventually. Tonight is that "eventually", when following news from two days ago that yet another Chinese PMI indicator missed, this time the Services data which slid from 56.2 to 54.5, the government announced its most aggressive round of property curbs yet. The immediate result was that the Shanghai Stock Exchange Property Index slumped by a whopping 9.3%, the steepest drop since June 2008, and pushing it down to -11% for the year. The weakness also spread to the broader market, with the Composite closing down 3.65% the biggest drop in months, and now just barely positive, at +0.2%, year to date. We expect all 2013 gains to be promptly wiped out when tonight's risk off session resumes in earnest.
The 2011 changes by the FDIC to the safe harbor for "true sales" may have been the end of "Too Big To Fail."
- Italy Political Vacuum to Extend for Weeks as Bargaining Begins (BBG)
- Italian impasse rekindles eurozone jitters (FT)
- On Spending Cuts, the Focus Shifts to How, Not If (WSJ)
- Obama spending cuts strategy focused on waiting game (Reuters)
- BOE’s Tucker Says He’s Open to Expanding Asset-Purchase Program (BBG)
- Fed Faces Explaining Billion-Dollar Losses in Stress of QE3 Exit (BBG)
- Carney warns over lack of trust in banks (FT) - here's a solution: moar bank bailouts!
- Bundesbank tells France to stick to budget (FT)
- China to tighten shadow banking rules (FT)
- Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms (NYT)
- After election win, Anastasiades faces Cyprus bailout quagmire (Reuters)
- Just for the headline: Singapore’s Darwinian Budget Sparks Employer Ire (BBG)
See why Moody's downgrade of the UK credit rating is unlikely to impact the financial markets or UK policy. One of the sub-arguments is that the divergence between the US and UK monetary policy in recent months cannot explain sterling's slide in the foreign exchange market. Moreover, the UK's exports seem more inelastic to UK exports that the currency warriors would suggest.
Osborne's statement was prepared well in advance, which means Moody's action was not only prepared and distributed long ago but it got the blessing of both the UK government and Goldman Sachs. And why not: so far it has achieved precisely what it was intended to: crush the Pound. The next question: when does talk of GBP-EUR parity begin?
And another AAA-club member quietly exits not with a bang but a whimper:
MOODY’S DOWNGRADES UK’S GOVERNMENT BOND RATING TO Aa1 FROM AAA
Someone must have clued Moody's on the fact that the UK is about to have its very own Goldman banker, which means consolidated debt/GDP will soon need four digits. In other news, every lawyer in the UK is now celebrating because come Monday Moody's will be sued to smithereens. Cable not happy as it tests 31 month lows, which however also explains why the Moody's action has another name: accelerated cable devaluation. Those who heeded our call to short Cable when Goldman's Mark Carney was appointed are now 1000 pips richer. Also, please sacrifice a lamb at the altar of Goldman: It's the polite thing to do.
In a shining example of true form capitalism, Russian scammers opportunists took advantage of the cosmic fury at the ongoing G-20 meeting in Moscow expressed by an attempted bombardment via meteor (which allegedly left the hole shown in the picture below), and are already seeking to find the level of equilibrium demand for cosmic commodities and market clearing prices by offering pieces of the meteor for sale on local websites. From Moscow Times: "Enterprising businessmen in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk lost no time in finding a way to capitalize on the meteor strike that shook the city on Friday morning. By early afternoon, several websites were already selling "fragments of meteorite." Two-centimeter fragments of the celestial body that hospitalized dozens and injured hundreds more in the Urals early on Friday were being offered for 500 rubles a piece by 2 p.m. Moscow time."