Yes... a rating agency - the same entity that enabled the last housing market crash - just warned of a housing bubble. How the times have changed - maybe it is different this time?
The rest of the world has had enough of the monopoly of the credit-rating agencies that are largely biased towards the US economy and it’s about time that it all came to an end.
A mere 24 hours before the US was going to run out of money and default on its obligations (in what Jack Lew described as a "catastrophe"), Grant Williams notes the S&P 500 was trading exactly 2.30% from its all-time high. Does that sound like anybody was worried about financial Armageddon? Nope, but as Williams detail sin his latest letter, the danger was very real, as a default by the US on its debt obligations would have gone to the very heart of the "plumbing" that underlies financial markets and caused havoc in the repo market and all kinds of problems with collateral... The key clue passed most people by a week ago; but it came from, of all places, Hong Kong...
While 20-year highs for the CNY may be enough for many to question the USD's ongoing reserve status, it is clear that there are many other plans afoot that undermine the dominance of the greenback. On the global financial stage, China is playing chess while the U.S. is playing checkers, and the Chinese are now accelerating their long-term plan to dethrone the U.S. dollar. You see, the truth is that China does not plan to allow the U.S. financial system to dominate the world indefinitely. Unfortunately for us, the U.S. debt spiral cannot go on indefinitely. Our debt is growing far, far more rapidly than our GDP is, and therefore our debt is completely and totally unsustainable. The Chinese understand what is going on, and when the dust settles they plan to be the last ones standing.
But I never thought it wise to sell it, because for central banks this is a reserve of safety, it’s viewed by the country as such. In the case of non-dollar countries it gives you a value-protection against fluctuations against the dollar, so there are several reasons, risk diversification and so on.
While the US economic data reporting machinery slowly starts churning again following the "reactivation" of government, last night it was China 's turn to report a slew of goalseeked economic items. Q3 GDP (+7.8% yoy), Industrial Production (+10.2% yoy), Fixed Asset Investments (+20.2% YTD yoy) and Retail sales (+13.3% yoy) for September all came in broadly in line with market consensus. The economy grew at a faster pace on a sequential basis with Q3 growth being 0.3ppts higher than Q2. Nonetheless, many observers forecast yoy Q4 GDP growth to decline due to the end of inventory restocking and the fade out of a major credit stimulus in the prior quarter, even as total Chinese debt continues to push ever higher into bubble territory.Speaking of China, however, it is worth noting that overnight the Chinese Yuan rose to the highest level against the dollar in 20 years. This happens as the USD tumbles to nearly a year low, which incidentally is the theme of the overnight session: the ongoing dollar poundage is reverberating across the globe, and the resulting unleashing of global funding carry trades looks set to take the S&P (and everything else) to fresh record highs on the back of even more generous Fed Kool Aid expectations.
If there is anything the market has shown in the past 16 days of government shutdown, which is set to reopen this morning in grandiose fashion following last night's 10 pm'th hour vote in the House, is that it no longer needs Washington not only to function but to ramp higher. All it needs is the Fed, which in turn needs an unlimited debt issuance capacity by the US Treasury which it can monetize indefinitely, which is why the debt ceiling was always the far more pressing issue. In other words, the good news is that the can has been kicked, and now the government workers (who will need about a week to get up to speed), can resume releasing various government data showing just how much 5 years of now-open ended QE have impaired the US economy, and why as a result, even more years of unlimited QE are in stock (because in a Keynesian world, what caused the problem is obviously what will fix it). The bad news: the whole charade will be repeated in three months. More importantly, with futures no longer having the hopium bogey on the horizon, namely the always last minute debt deal, they have finally sold off on the back of a weaker USD. It is unclear if the reason for this has more to do with climbing the wall of shorters which is now gone at least until February when the soap opera returns, or what for now, has been an absolutely abysmal Q3 earnings season. Luckily, in a centrally-planned world, plunging stocks is bullish for stocks, as it means even more Fed intervention, and so on ad inf.
Since all US rating agencies (Fitch is majority French-owned) have been terrified into submission and will never again touch the rating of the US following the DOJ's witch hunt of S&P, any US rating changes on the margin will come from abroad. Like China's Dagong rating agency, which several hours ago just downgraded the US from A to A-, maintaining its negative outlook. The agency said that while a default has been averted by a last minute agreement in Congress, the fundamental situation of debt growth outpacing fiscal income and GDP remains unchanged. "Hence the government is still approaching the verge of default crisis, a situation that cannot be substantially alleviated in the foreseeable future."
So what exactly did Reid know and when?
- *UNITED STATES' AAA IDR RATING MAY BE CUT BY FITCH :3352Z US
- FITCH SAYS PUTS U.S. ON RATING WATCH NEGATIVE AS U.S. AUTHORITIES HAVE NOT RAISED FEDERAL DEBT CEILING IN A "TIMELY MANNER
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES RESOLVING US RWN BY END OF 1Q '14 AT LATEST
- *FITCH STILL SEES U.S. DEBT CEILING TO BE RAISED SOON :3352Z US
- *FITCH SEES U.S. ECONOMIC GROWTH REVERTING TO 2.25% AFTER 2017
Spot the odd 4-week bill auction out...
Two weeks ago we first pointed out that as a result of the quiet creep in high grade leverage to fresh record high levels, the resurgence in PIK Toggle debt for LBOs and otherwise, means that the credit bubble is now worse than ever and that the next credit crisis will make 2007 seem like one big joke. Recall that nearly 80% of PIK issuers made a PIK election during the last downturn, "paying" by incurring even more debt and in the process resulting in huge impairments to those yield chasing "investors" who knew they were going to lose money but had no choice - after all, the "career risk." Subsequently, we quantified the explosion in covenant-lite loans - another indicator of a peak credit bubble market - as nearly double when compared to the last credit bubble of 2007 (whose aftermath the Fed, with a $3 trillion larger balance sheet, is still struggling to contain).
The last 4 days have seen the price of protection against a default on US Treasuries spike by the most in 4 years. While USA CDS trade on both a default and devaluation basis (as well as technical issues related to which Treasury is cheapest to deliver) this spike to 5-month highs (from what was extremely high levels of complacency) is very notable in light of today's Kocherlakota "whatever it takes" speech. While still well off 2011's debt ceiling debacle panic highs, this move does suggest more than just the politicians are worried about a technical default occurring on US debt. By way of comparison, Germany trades at 23bps and Japan at 61bps against USA's 32bps. But there is a way to trade the debt-ceiling debacle that doesn't invlove leveraged speculation in credit derivatives...
Frequent readers will recall that in the past, on several occasions, we expected that MBIA would rise due to two key catalysts: a massive short interest and the expectation that a BAC settlement would provide the company with much needed liquidity. That thesis played out earlier this year resulting in a stock price surge that also happened to be the company's 52 week high. However, now that we have moved away from the technicals and litigation catalysts, and looking purely at the fundamentals, it appears that MBIA has a new problem. One involving Zombies. These freshly-surfacing problems stem from a particular pair of Zombie CLO’s – Zombie-I and Zombie-II (along with Zombie-III, illiquid/black box middle-market CLO’s). While information is difficult to gather, we have heard that MBIA would be lucky to recover much more than $400 million from the underlying insured Zombie assets over the next three years, which would leave them with a nearly $600 million loss on their $1 billion of exposure which would materially and adversely impact the company's liquidity. And as it may take them a while to liquidate assets in a sure-to-be contentious intercreditor fight – their very own World War Z – MBIA may well have to part with the vast majority of the $1 billion in cash, before gathering some of the potential recovery.
Early weakness in Asia driven by US-follow thru selling and ongoing concerns about the us fiscal showdowns as well as the debt ceiling, if not by actual news, resulted in a red close in both the Nikkei and SHCOMP, as well as other regional indices such as the Sensex. This then shifted to Europe, where however stocks reversed the initial move lower and are seen broadly flat, with Bunds remaining bid on the back of month-end, as well as coupon and redemption related flows. However the move higher in stocks was led by telecommunications and health care sectors, which indicates that further upside will require another positive catalyst. There was little in terms of fresh EU related macroeconomic commentary, but according to a report published by the European Banking Authority, the EU’s biggest 42 banks cut their aggregate capital shortfall with respect to the “fully loaded” 2019 Basel III requirements to €70.4bln as of December 2012. This is amusing since not one European bank has actually raised capital, but merely redefined what constitutes capital courtesy of a liberal expansion of RWA, Tier 1 and various other meaningless definition which works until such time as the perilous European balance kept together by the non-existent OMT, is tipped over.
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- How a German tech giant trims its U.S. tax bill (Reuters)
- Despite Merkel's Popularity, Angst Creeps In (WSJ)
- Hank Paulson warns of regulatory conflict (FT)
- Rajan Surprises With India Rate Rise to Quell Inflation (BBG)
- Apple Begins Selling New iPhones (WSJ)
- Pope Says Church Should Stop Obsessing Over Gays, Abortion (BBG)