Sovereign CDS

Time To Load Up On Denmark CDS - Moody's Cuts Nine Danish Financial Institutions: Luxor Thesis In Play

Last time we looked at Denmark it it was in the context of Luxor Capital which had some very ugly things to say about the Scandinavian country in "Rotten Contagion To Make Landfall In Denmark: CDS Set To Soar As Hedge Funds Target Country." Now, 6 months later, Moody's has finally gotten the memo: "Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded the ratings for nine Danish financial institutions and for one foreign subsidiary of a Danish group by one to three notches. The short-term ratings declined by one notch for six of these institutions. The rating outlooks for five banks affected by today's rating actions are stable, whereas the rating outlooks for two banks and for all three specialised lenders affected by today's rating actions are negative  The magnitude of some of today's downgrades reflects a range of concerns, including the risk that some institutions' concentrated loan books deteriorate amidst difficult domestic and European conditions, with adverse consequences on their ability to refinance maturing debt. The latter concern is exacerbated by structural changes in the terms of Danish covered bonds and the mix of underlying assets that lead to increased refinancing risk. While Moody's central scenario remains that financial institutions show some resilience to what will likely be a prolonged difficult environment - and the revised rating levels for most Danish financial institutions continue to reflect low risks to creditors - today's rating actions reflect the view that these risks have increased."

Egan Jones Jars Market Out Of Rumor Hypnosis

UPDATE: EURUSD at 1.2478 as we post.

While European, US, and commodity markets (ex-Spain) were enjoying the hope/hype of ECB rumors and QE chatter, Egan Jones just burst the bubble. back to reality. Within minutes of their downgrade of Spain, EURUSD was plunging faster than Facebook and along with that cornerstone of correlated risk markets, gold, silver, oil, copper, and US equities had smashed lower.

Reinharts And Rogoff On Why The Debt Overhang Matters

In a recent NBER paper, Ken Rogoff and Vince and Carmen Reinhart address the long-lasting consequences of high public debt loads. The authors findings are shocking to many - especially those who choose to look at 10Y Treasury rates as an indication of stress (as opposed to our earlier note on the stresses beginning to occur in the less financially repressed USA sovereign CDS market). Across 50 countries, they find 26 periods of public debt overhangs where the government has pushed gross public debt to GDP over 90% and held it there for at least five years. The stunning reality of their empirical work is four-fold: 1) the median duration of these overhang periods in 23 years (that's a lot of can-kicking); 2) real GDP growth averages 1.2% lower than trend during these overhangs; 3) real GDP drops by on average around 25% at the end of the deleveraging episode; and 4) most critically, "waiting for markets to signal a problem may be waiting too long because governments have the ability to suppress market signals." So while all the chatter of renewed growth in Europe has us ebullient with an unchanged US equity market today, the longer-term reality is - unless this time is different, there's a long and painful road ahead.

US Equities Ignoring US Sovereign Risk Warning

We have been warning of the pending fiscal cliff in the US and the somewhat inevitable debt ceiling debacle, election uncertainty, and the question of Fed independence in an election year as potential catalysts for risk flares in the US and abroad. For now, US equities are happy to ignore these events, still drawn in their Pavlovian-educated manner to US equities for their nominal enrichment. The trouble is - there are clear warning signs from some particularly noteworthy markets that all is not well (that appear more capable of comprehending fundamentals). Forget for a moment the overnight plunge and recovery in futures as this will bring only anchoring bias; a step back to 30,000 feet and we note that the spread on USA Sovereign CDS has risen by over 30% in the last month (now back at 40bps or 3-month wides) flashing a worrying warning signal for US equities if the past is any guide. Remember that US CDS are denominated in EUR and do not simply reflect the 'default' risk of the fiat-issuing USA but the devaluation or restructuring risks - and it appears market participants are getting nervous once again of the profligacy of the US government and the ineptitude of the central banks with their one-trick-pony experimentation. At the same time, central banks' broad repression has crushed volatility in every asset class - except, as Morgan Stanley notes - credit which is inferring considerably higher chance of a risk flare in the short-term. So while this week will bring cheers of growthiness and cooperation and decoupling, the all-seeing eye of credit markets remain far less sanguine.

Spain Goes Irish On Regions

Slowly but surely, the Spanish authorities are gradually socializing the rest of the world to the dismal truth that we have been so vociferously arguing - that their debt levels (or more specifically their debt/GDP ratios) are significantly higher (explicitly) than their current official data suggest. Today's news, via the WSJ, that the Spanish government may take over some regions' finances, in an attempt to shore up investor confidence (just as Ireland did with its banks and we know how well that worked out?) is yet another step closer to the 'realization'  that all that is "contingent" is actually "explicitly guaranteed." As we noted here, this leaves Spain's Debt/GDP nearer 135% than its 'official' 68.5%. The WSJ notes comments from a top government official that "there will soon be new tools to control regional spending" and that they may take over at least one of the country's cash-strapped regions this year. As we broke down extensively here, this is no surprise as yet another group of political elite find the truth harder to deal with than the blinkered optimism they face the media with every day and yet as PM Rajoy notes "Nobody can expect that deep-seated problems be solved in just a few weeks", the irony of the euphoria felt around the world at the optical rally in Spanish spreads for the first few months of the year is not lost as Spain heads back into the abyss ahead of pending auctions and what appears to be more ponzified guarantees of regional finances (as long as they promise to pay it back and have 'a plan'). The simple truth is, as acknowledged by Rajoy, Spain has lost the trust of financial markets.

Spain: The Ultimate Doomsday Presentation

Since we have grown tired of variations on the theme of "The Pain in ...." (having been guilty of encouraging it ourselves), we will spare readers this triteness, and instead summarize the attached must read slidedeck from Carmel Asset Management as the ultimate Spanish doomsday presentation. Naive and/or idealistic Spanish readers are advised to resume sticking their heads in the sand, and to stay as far away as possible from the attached 54 pages, which prove without any doubt why not only was Greece the appetizer (have your UK law:non-UK Law divergence trade on yet?) but why things in Europe are about to get far, far worse, as the Hurricane shifts to its next preferred location, somewhere above and just south of the Pyrenees.

Europe Drops Most In 3 Weeks As LTRO Stigma Hits New Highs

With Chinese and European data disappointing and Weidmann commenting on the futility of the 'firewalls' (as we discussed earlier) ahead of the discussions later this week, European equities dropped their most in almost three weeks over the last two days closing right at their 50DMA (the closest to a cross since 12/20). Credit markets (dominated by financial weakness) continue to slide as the LTRO euphoria wears off. The LTRO Stigma, the spread between LTRO-encumbered and non-LTRO-encumbered banks, has exploded to over 107bps (from under 50bps at its best in mid Feb when we first highlighted it) and is now up over 75% since the CDS roll as only non-LTRO banks have seen any improvement in the last week. Aside from Portugal, whose bonds seem to be improving dramatically on the back of significant Cash-CDS basis compression as opposed to real-money flows as the spread between Bonds and CDS has compressed from 500bps to 250bps on the back of renewed confidence in CDS triggering, sovereign bond spreads are leaking wider all week with Italy and Spain worst.

Ugly European Sovereign CDS Rerack

An ugly day all around as European sovereign CDS jump the most in three weeks...

                    5Y                       10Y             5/10's
ITALY           374/382  +15      365/385         -10/0
SPAIN          432/440  +15      426/446          -5/5

Greek CDS Settlement - 3 Wrongs Do Make A Right

One of the central premises of CDS is that the “basis” package should work.  An investor should be able to buy a bond, and buy CDS to the same maturity and expect to get paid close to par – either by the bond being repaid at par and the CDS expiring worthless, or through a Credit Event, where the price of the bonds the investor owns plus the CDS settlement amount add up to close to par. The settlement of the Greek CDS contracts worked well, but that was pure dumb luck. This leaves playing the basis in Portuguese bonds and CDS as a much riskier proposition than before Europe's PSI/ECB decisions - and perhaps explains why at over 300bps, it has not been arbitraged fully away - though today's rally in Portugal bonds suggests a new marginal buyer which given the basis compression suggests they may be getting more comfortable.

CDS As Insurance Contracts

While AIG FP often made the contracts look like insurance products, the banks were very careful to make sure that the products were “credit derivatives” because they needed the regulatory capital relief provided by them.  Didn’t the Fed at some point get concerned about the counterparty exposure to AIG FP?  Isn’t counterparty risk something that the Fed is responsible for monitoring (or the ECB in the case of foreign banks)?  When the Fed let MS and GS become bank holding companies and get the ability to use Fed lending programs, didn’t they ask about the AIG FP exposure?  Goldman, which always claimed it was hedged, must have had a massive short position in AIG CDS to be hedged – again, no one at the Fed noticed this?  CDS may be unregulated, but when virtually every big financial company in the world has large notionals on with AIG, huge mark to market gains on those positions, no collateral from AIG, and big shorts in AIG CDS, couldn’t someone do their job?   This should have been noticeable in 2007!

As First Greek CDS "Anstalt" Appears, A Question Emerges: Did Banks Not Square Off Margins?

The irony is not lost on us that Bloomberg is reporting that KA Finanz, an Austrian bad-bank supported by the Austrian government, faces as much as a €1 billion need for funding to cover its exposures to Greek CDS (coughcreditanstaltcough). In a statement this morning, which we noted in a tweet, the bank noted "activation of the CDS with an assumed loss ratio of about 80% would mean an additional provisioning charge of EUR 423.6 million". KA Finanz's total amount of Greek CDS exposure is around EUR1bn. What is shocking and should be of great concern is that we have been led to believe that very little net cash will change hands on the basis of the $3.2bn net aggregate market exposure. This was based on the now false premise that variation margin was maintained and transferred throughout the process (as we note below from recent IMF filings). What appears to have happened is that dealer to dealer variation margin has been, let's say, less rigorous as perhaps all collateral was netted up across all exposures (or simply ignored on the basis of government backstops). The far bigger question then is: are banks simply marking ALL sovereign CDS at par, and not paying off cash to other dealers? Remember it only takes one counterparty in the chain to turn net into gross and quality collateral seems tied up a little right now at the ECB (or with margin calls).

Perspectives On A Printing Press Pause

It would appear, given the actions and rhetoric of the last week or so, that global central bank printing presses have been switched to 'pause' mode and allowed to cool as implicit inflation 'energy' rears its economic-growth-dragging head around the world (as the bears told us earlier). Whether this leads to a slow grind higher or a tactical correction is the question Morgan Stanley considers in a recent note and their answer is that bullish sentiment, 'under-appreciated' risks, and 'tranquil' markets justify a cautious asset allocation. The focus has switched much more to growth, likely why we have not seen a greater deterioration post-printing yet, but this leaves the market much more sensitive to data surprises (as the backstop of QE has been removed for now). Simply put, we tend to agree with MS' view (given our previous discussions of the volatility surface) that as event and growth risks linger, and with valuations no longer cheap in most cases, expectations of a continued grind higher without a tactical correction are overly confident.

ISDA's Take On Lack Of Greek CDS Trigger: "We Think The Credit Event/DC Process Is Fair, Transparent And Well-Tested"

Everyone's favorite banker-controlled CDS determining organization took offense to media reports saying it may be secretive, corrupt, and borderline manipulate if not worse. To wit: "In sum, we think the credit event/DC process is fair, transparent and well-tested.  There’s simply no evidence to the contrary.  Perhaps after today this non-secret secret will be a secret no more." Well, that takes care of that. ISDA is now certainly "fair, transparent, and well-tested", and for those who wrongfully feel that a 70%+ bond haircut could possible be an event of default, tough. Anyone else who wishes to express their feelings on the matter, can respond on ISDA's blog site.

A Strange Chart, In More Ways Than One

Everyone and their mum knows by now that Italian bonds have rallied since the first LTRO and we are told that this is symptomatic of 'improvement'. While we hate to steal the jam from that doughnut, we note Peter Tchir's interesting chart showing how focused the strength is in the short-end of the bond curve (which we know is thanks to the ECB's SMP program preference and the LTRO skew) but more notably the significantly less ebullient performance of the less manipulated and more fast-money, mark-to-market reality CDS market as we suspect, like him, the CDS is pricing in the longer-term subordination and termed out insolvency risk much more clearly than the illiquid bond market does, and perhaps bears closer scrutiny for a sense of what real risk sentiment really looks like.