Risk Premium

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Mixed Results As Spain Sells More Bonds Than Expected, But Pays Up As Yields Again Spike - Analyst View

Traders were watching Spain cautiously this morning which at around 4 am Eastern sold €2.52 billion of three- and five-year government bonds, in its first bond auction since Standard & Poor's cut its sovereign rating by two notches last week. The results were mixed because while more than the maximum range of €2.5 billion was sold (on solid total demand of €8.07 billion) or €2.52 billion, Spain paid up for the privilege, with yields rising across the board, reaching just why of 5% for the 2017 bonds and more importantly pricing with tails to secondary market prices, confirming that the trend in rising yields at primary issuance is very much unsustainable. This in turn caused the EURUSD to get spooked and slide to overnight lows, a move not mimicked by broader equity futures which this morning are again in a world of their own, and now simply await to see if the Initial Claims number later will be far worse than expected in order to soar.


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Hugh Hendry Is Back - Full Eclectica Letter

Hugh Hendry is back with a bang after a two year hiatus with what so many have been clamoring for, for so long - another must read letter from one of the true (if completely unsung) visionary investors of our time: "I have not written to you at any great length since the winter of 2010. This is largely because not much has happened to change our views. We still see the global economy as grotesquely distorted by the presence of fixed exchange rates, the unraveling of which is creating financial anarchy, just as it did in the 1920s and 1930s. Back then the relevant fixes were around the gold standard. Today it is the dual fixed pricing regimes of the euro countries and of the dollar/renminbi peg."


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What Would Fed Chairman Krugman Do?

As if our recent discussion of Austerity were not enough, Citi's Steve Englander invokes 'String theory' to open the door to multiple universes, and in one of them Paul Krugman is undoubtedly Fed Chairman. Start with the assumption that a Paul Krugman Fed would advocate strong fiscal and monetary measures and tolerate a significant run-up in inflation. The question is how the USD would respond in this world. The presumption is that the Krugman Fed would cooperate by financing the fiscal expansion, allowing government spending or (or in a very strange Republican Krugman parallel universe) tax cuts to have a real impact without affecting government debt, making a strong distinction between pumping liquidity into the banking system and directly into the real economy. In conventional terms,  this is Financial Repression 101, but inflation is desired, achieved and beneficial. As Krugman points out there is a cost to an extended period of long-term unemployment. The bottom line is that unless you make low inflation a canonical virtue, you have to compare the long-term losses from lower credibility (if they exist) against the long-term gains from moving to full employment quicker (if they exist).


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EFSF Issuance Proclaimed Success Even As Risk Hits 4 Month Highs

The EFSF 'firewall' issued EUR3 billion 7-year bonds this morning. It seems any time any European entity actually manages to issue debt, it is proclaimed as miraculous evidence of investor demand and comfort with these risks. In this case, we are told, via Bloomberg, that:



So the self-dealing continues to grow the ponzi ever bigger. However, what few will mention is that 10Y EFSF spreads (the risk premium over Bunds to hold these government-guaranteed exposed-to-Europe's-entrails) broke above 150bps today for the first time in over four months and are now over 35% higher than at the start of April. Success Indeed.


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Citi's Englander On What Can Go Wrong In The Next 11 Days?

As usual the market remains on tenterhooks for its next fix of Central Bank largesse and the following 11 days provide some rather large potholes for those addicted to the sweet nectar of freshly printed extreme monetary policy. Citi's Steven Englander provides some much-needed reality checking on what the market is expecting and what the FOMC/ECB might deliver, and all importantly, what the implications for risk-assets in general will be. The possibility of misunderstood language at the FOMC meetings seems very high even as the announcement of additional measures remains unlikely and perhaps more notably the Euro has sold off sharply when the ECB does not present a policy response to rapidly deteriorating market conditions - especially in light of the implicit tightening we have seen in Euro-zone aggregate rates. Rock meet hard-place.


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The French Presidential Election Is Underway

Update: according to Belgian Le Soir, first exit polls show that Hollande is not surprisingly ahead, with 27% of the vote, 25.5% for Sarkozy, 16% for Marine Le Pen, and 13% for Jean-Luc Melenchon. More or less just as expected, and setting the stage for the runoff round which will be Hollande's to lose. French speakers demanding a minute by minute liveblog, can find a great one over at Le Figaro, and an English-one can be found at France24.com

As of 8 am CET, polls are open in the first round of the French presidential elections where voters are expected to trim the playing field of ten to just two candidates, incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy and his socialist challenger Francois Hollande, who will then face off in a May 6 runoff, where as of now Hollande is expected to have a comfortable lead and take over the presidency as the disgruntled French take their revenge for an economy that is contracting, an unemployment rate that keeps rising (see enclosed) despite promises to the contrary, and as their to "express a distaste for a president who has come to be seen as flashy following his highly publicized marriage to supermodel Carla Bruni early in his term, occasional rude outbursts in public and his chumminess with rich executives.....France is struggling with feeble economic growth, a gaping trade deficit, 10 percent unemployment and strained public finances that prompted ratings agency Standard & Poor's to cut the country's triple-A credit rating in January." In a major shift for the country, Hollande would become France's first left-wing president since Francois Mitterand, who beat incumbent Valery Giscard-d'Estaing in 1981. As Reuters reports, "Hollande, 57, promises less drastic spending cuts than Sarkozy and wants higher taxes on the wealthy to fund state-aided job creation, in particular a 75 percent upper tax rate on income above 1 million euros ($1.32 million)." The Buffett Rule may have failed in the US but La Loi de Buffett is alive and well in soon to be uber-socialist France. Yet it is not so much Hollande's domestic policies, as his international ones, especially vis-a-vis the European Fiscal Treaty, Germany, and most importantly the ECB, that roiled markets last week, causing French CDS to spike to the widest since January. In other news, goodbye Merkozy, hello Horkel as the power center shifts yet again to a new source of uncertainty and potential contagion.


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Best Day In 5 Months As Europe Soars On Second "Bill Issuance" Catalyst In One Week

While many are celebrating the all-clear again as Spain manages to sell Spanish bills to Spanish banks at a huge risk premium to the last time it did the same, it is perhaps not surprising to hear that this was the biggest gain for the broad European equity market since November. What concerns us most is the absolute schizophrenia that the market is undergoing as the swings in European (and for that matter US) markets is extremely reminiscent of the absolute chaos that reigned last summer as markets suddenly flip-flop +/-2 standard deviations. The sad fact is how quickly our memories (or the algos that surround us) forget just last week we saw the same - exact same - euphoric response to Italy managing to sell short-term Italian bills to Italian banks (again at a significant yield premium to their prior attempt) and the mainstream-media's irrational pump that this is somehow important or noteworthy (remember even Greece managed to sell short-dated bills during the middle of its PSI discussions). European equities are back to pre-NFP levels (same as last week) and credit markets have snapped tighter today (just as they did last week as they got squeezed). This time, however, financials are lagging still and the squeeze in credit is not as hard as overall they remain less ebullient than equities. Sovereign spreads are following the same path as last week also, Italy and Spain yields compressed - though we note that they remain (especially Spain) notably wider than last week's rally. Will the rest of the week play out in a similar manner to last week? As longer-dated auctions and financials weigh heavily on risk sentiment?


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El-Erian Breaches The Final Frontier: What Happens If Central Banks Fail?

"In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability!" is how PIMCO's El-Erian introduces the game-theoretic catastrophe that is potentially occurring around us. In a lecture to the St.Louis Fed, the moustachioed maestro of monetary munificence states "let me say right here that the analysis will suggest that central banks can no longer – indeed, should no longer – carry the bulk of the policy burden" and "it is a recognition of the declining effectiveness of central banks’ tools in countering deleveraging forces amid impediments to growth that dominate the outlook. It is also about the growing risk of collateral damage and unintended circumstances." It appears that we have reached the legitimate point of – and the need for – much greater debate on whether the benefits of such unusual central bank activism sufficiently justify the costs and risks. This is not an issue of central banks’ desire to do good in a world facing an “unusually uncertain” outlook. Rather, it relates to questions about diminishing returns and the eroding potency of the current policy stances. The question is will investors remain "numb and sedated…. by the money sloshing around the system?" or will "the welfare of millions in the United States, if not billions of people around the world, will have suffered greatly if central banks end up in the unpleasant position of having to clean up after a parade of advanced nations that headed straight into a global recession and a disorderly debt deflation." Of course, it is a rhetorical question.


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Goldman Stopped Out Of 10 Year Treasury Short

Yesterday we predicted it was imminent, and sure enough, adding insult to injury for any muppet who rode the "once in a lifetime" opportunity to buy stocks and sell bonds, Goldman just hit the stop loss on its 10 Year Treasury short, after getting stopped out in its Russell 2000 long two days prior.


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AAPL Calls: The Lottery Ticket Effect In Action?

Just last week we highlighted the behavioral bias writ large in the Mega Millions lottery via Dylan Grice's boredom discount concept. The same psychological tendency that overprices lottery tickets (relative to their expected value) seems very evident in the price action of everyone's favorite economy market tech-stock, Apple (and most specifically Apple Options). Since the price of Apple's shares skyrocketed above $500 (around early February), two rather significant (and very concerning) patterns have emerged. The first is the rotation from Apple stock into options as Apple options volumes erupted - almost tripling since the start of the year (from very stable levels for the past few years). Call option volumes have also massively increased relative to Put option volumes. However, while this suggests 'new' entrants lining up to buy their Apple lottery ticket, it is the 'pricing' of these options that is most worrisome as while dropping $1 on a lottery ticket will not break the retirement account - the divergence between Apple Options volatility and the broad market's volatility suggests a huge demand and willingness to overpay. Volatility tends to be the cleanest way to judge demand for options and since late January, the premium for Apple options has exploded (even as its share price rose and rose - breaking the empirical link between the two) as the 'optical cheapness' of Apple options compared to Apple's share price drew in the lottery ticket-buyers. Of course this in no way points to an end to the buying of Apple lottery tickets but the recognition of 'overpaying' - even as Apple's share price reaches all-time highs once again and the overpayment reaches 2008 highs - will eventually slow demand for a levered bet on a new life (but as a bookie market-maker you'd be willing to take that trade bet free-money from punters every day) or maybe covered-call writers will just soak it all up again.


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Sentiment: Deep Red As Europe Is Back With A Thud

Oh where to begin. The weakness in the markets started late last night when Australia posted a surprising second consecutive deficit of $480MM on expectations of a $1.1 billion surplus (with the previous deficit revised even higher). This is obviously quite troubling because as we pointed out 3 weeks ago when recounting the biggest Chinese trade deficit since 1989 we asked readers to "observe the following sequence of very recent headlines: "Japan trade deficit hits record", "Australia Records First Trade Deficit in 11 Months on 8% Plunge in Exports", "Brazil Posts First Monthly Trade Deficit in 12 Months " then of course this: "[US] Trade deficit hits 3-year record imbalance", and finally, as of late last night, we get the following stunning headline: "China Has Biggest Trade Shortfall Since 1989 on Europe Turmoil." So who is exporting? Nobody knows, but everyone knows why the Aussie dollar plunged on the headline. The shock sent reverberations across Asian markets, which then spilled over into Europe. Things in Europe went from bad to worse, after Germany reported its February factory orders rose a modest 0.3% on expectations of a solid 1.5% rebound from the -1.8% drop in January. But the straw on the camel's back was Spain trying to raise €3.5 billion in bonds outside of the LTRO's maturity, where the results confirmed that it will be a long, hard summer for the Iberian country, which not only raised far less, or €2.6 billion, but the internals were quite atrocious, blowing up the entire Spanish bond curve, and sending Spanish CDS to the widest in over half a year.


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The Muppets Are Confused How Goldman Is Both Bullish And Bearish On Stocks At The Same Time

Ten days ago, Goldman's Peter Oppenheimer published the "Long Good Buy, The Case For Equities", a big research piece, full of pretty charts and witty bullets, which actively urged the rotation out of bonds and into stocks, yet not only marked the peak of the market so far, but drew ridicule even from the likes of CNBC. More importantly, it has generated a plethora of questions from the muppets (aka Goldman clients) themselves, who are wondering how Goldman can be both uber bullish, and yet still have a 1250 S&P 2012 YE price target, as per the other strategist, David Kostin ("We expect the S&P 500 will trade at 1325 by mid-year (-5.6%) and 1250 in 12 months (-10.9%)."), or said otherwise, just how is it that Goldman is having its cake and eating it too? Below is David Kostin's attempt to justify how the firm can pull a Dennis Gartman (and virtually any other newsletter and book seller - after all what better way to say one was right than to have all bases covered) be both bearish and bullish at the same time.


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Credit Suisse Publicly Announces Reopening Of TVIX Share Issuance, Hours After 'Private' Leak Crushes TVIX

VVIX chart

For those curious why it is that the TVIX experienced a 50% plunge earlier today, as described here, perhaps the question should be directed to the SEC who may be better suited to answer just who, when and why had advance knowledge of Credit Suisse's announcement, after the close, that it would "reopen issuance of the TVIX." And since this is a rhetorical question, perhaps a better one is why does one participate in a market in which the fine print is always ignored, and is always used against the retail investor. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course - after all caveat emptor. Especially when none other than one of Ben Bernanke's favorite scholars on shadow banking (i.e., forced complexity) Gary Gorton said the following: "Liquidity requires symmetric information, which is easiest to achieve when everyone is ignorant. This determines the design of many securities..." Alas, when it comes to novel instruments such as levered ETFs that work as a closed end mutual fund hybrid, except when they don't, the only one ignorant is you, dear retail investor. Cost to your P&L: 50% in one day. Finally if for some inconceivable reason that doesn't work, just call the Credit Suisse ETN desk at 212 538 7333.


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Tail Risk Hedging 101: Credit

With volatility so low and risk seemingly removed from any- and every-one's vernacular, perhaps it is time to refresh our perspective on downside and tail-risk concerns. While most think only in terms of equity derivatives as serving to create a tail-wagging-the-dog type of reflexive move, there is a growing and increasingly liquid (just like the old days with CDOs, so be warned) market for options on CDS. Concentrated in the major and most liquid indices, swaption volumes have risen notably as have gross and net notional outstandings. Puts and Calls on credit risk - known as Payers and Receivers (Payers being the equivalent of a put option on a bond, or call option on its spread) have been actively quoted since 2006 but the last 2-3 years has seen their popularity increase as a 'cheap' way to protect (or take on) credit risk - most specifically tail risk scenarios. Morgan Stanley recently published another useful primer on these instruments - as the sell-side's new favorite wide-margin offering to wistful buy-siders and wannabe quants - noting the three main uses for swaptions as Hedging, Upside, and Yield Enhancement. These all have their own nuances but as spreads compress and managers look for ever more inventive ways to add yield so the specter of negative gamma appears - chasing markets up into rallies and down into sell-offs - and the inevitable rips and gaps this causes can wreak havoc in markets that have momentum anyway. Given the leverage and average notionals involved, understanding this seemingly niche space may become very important if we see another tail risk flare and as the Fed knows only too well (as it suggested here) like selling Treasury Putsderivatives on credit are for more effective at establishing directional moves in the the underlying than simple open market operations.


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Goldman Actively Engaging In "Debt-For-Equity" Swap With Clients After Publishing "Long Good Buy, The Case For Equities"

Roughly at the same time Francesco Garzarelli fired the first warning shot against Treasurys on January 23, 2012, telling 'clients' that "We are now of the view that a break to the upside, to 2.25-2.50%, is likely and recommend going tactically short. Using Mar-12 futures contracts, which closed on Friday at 130-08, we would aim for a target of 126-00 and stops on a close above 132-00" a trade which has largely worked which means that the Goldman counter-axe is hurting big (although following the trade snap yesterday this may be over for now), the firm's Peter Oppenheimer started drafting a magnum opus, making a 40 page case, chock full of graphs, charts, bullet points, and footnotes, iPad optimized and likely coming to a Kindle near you, desperate to convince clients to sell their bonds to Goldman, and to buy all of Goldman's inventory of stocks from the firm because "After more than a decade of de-rating, equities are implying unrealistically large declines in growth and returns into the future." As a reminder, this is a deja vu repeat of precisely the same trade that Goldman enacted back in 2011... and then back in 2010... and each of those times was accompanied by lots of pretty charts and fancy bullets. Will this time be different, and is the proper call, as usual, to trade alongside Goldman (sell equities, buy bonds), or to do what Goldman tells the muppets to do? You decide.


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