- Italy sold EUR 6.5bln in 5y and 10y BTPs this morning, solid b/c and competitive yields, especially when considering the uncertain political situation in Italy.
- Moody's also said that Italian election is indirectly credit negative for other pressured EU sovereigns.
- Fears rise that ECB plan has a weakness as the strings in the Eurozone bond buying programme may be its frailty.
Italy is driving the markets. Japanese developments means the market is closer to give Abenomics its first test. Bernanke to set the record straight after many gave the regional non-voting Fed presidents too much weight in understanding trajectory of Fed policy.
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.
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.
The financial world, at the moment, is a scary place. The signs of this are all about us and yet the consensus view is to worry about nothing. This has been caused by one singular action which is the orchestrated input of cash into the financial system by every major central bank on Earth. Money will go somewhere as it is created and so it has which is exactly why the markets are at or close to all-time highs while economic conditions have crumbled precipitously. It is not this market or that market which is in a bubble but all of them and it is systemic by its very creation. Politics, economics and the debauchery of the truth. There are consequences; there are always consequences. The world has subsisted on fantasies for four years but I think this spring will bring on the vengeance of the Fates for the demagoguery that has transpired.
Optimism it seems is all that matters (or is all that is allowed) as we are battered by dismal data left, right, and center. Of course, a reflection on the markets tells any 'smart' person that it all must get better - or why would stocks or sovereigns, or EURUSD be where it is? However, the 6 out of 10 15-24 year olds in Greece (61.7% to be exact) would beg to differ with that view of the world (as their economy grinds to a halt) - and with Spain reaching new highs at 55.6% (as well as the Euro-zone over 24%), all the bureaucratic lip-service in the world won't stop the revolt that is coming we fear.
As we noted yesterday, the credit bubble is in full swing as high-yield covenant protections hit a new low in January. At the same time, new issue premia in high yield credit has remained extremely low (meaning demand is high) - even as leverage (measured in a number of ways) surges to post-financial-crisis highs. With low yields and technical demand so abundant, firms appear to be leveraging-up in favor of shareholders. But, as is always the case, there is a limit to just how much leverage can be piled on before credit spreads 'snap' and raise the cost of capital - hindering the equity price. Finally, for the 'cash on the balance sheet' advocates, US firms' Cash/Debt is its lowest (worst) since pre-crisis. Banks continue to delever, sovereigns relever, and non-financials taking their lead - this didn't end well last time... and this time, exuberance and positioning is very heavy.
Confused what the earlier released statement by the G-7 means? Fear not, because here comes Goldman with a post-mortem. And just in case anyone puts too much credibility into a few sentences by the world's developed nations (whose viability depends in how quickly each can devalue relative to everyone else) in which they say nothing about what every central bank in the world is actually doing, here is a history of four years of G-7 statements full of "affirmations" and support for an open market exchange policy yet resulting in the current round of global FX war, confirming just how 'effective' the group has been.
Late on Friday Venezuela shocked the world when instead of reporting an update on the ailing health of its leader, as many expected it would, it announced the official devaluation of its currency, the Bolivar by nearly 50% against the dollar yet still well below the unofficial black market exchange rate. By doing so, it may have set off a chain reaction among the secondary sovereigns in the world, those who have so far stayed away from the "big boys" currency wars, or those waged by the Big 6 "developed world" central banks, in an attempt to also "devalue their way to prosperity" and boost their economies by encouraging exports even as the local population sees a major drop in its purchasing power and living standards. So in the game, where the last player to crush their currency inevitably loses, the question is who is next. The answer may well be America's latest best north African friend, and custodian of the Suez Canal: Egypt.
EuroStoxx (Europe's Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI's CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today's afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down. European sovereign bonds are no better with Belgian spreads the worst +13bps on the year. Italian bond yields are the highest in seven weeks (with spreads back above 300bps again today) as both Italy and Spain approach unchanged for the year. Europe's VIX closed at its highest in almost 3 months (aside from the 12/28 spike) as Swiss 2Y rates edge ever closer to negative once again. EURUSD broke back below 1.3400, its lowest in 10 days. Cue 'Cleanest Dirty Shirt' talk from US managers in 3...2...1...
Citi's Willem Buiter sums it all up: "...the improvement in sentiment appears to have long overshot its fundamental basis and was driven in part by unrealistic policy and growth expectations, an abundance of liquidity and an increasingly frantic search for yield. The key word in the recovery globally, and in particular in Europe, growth is fragile. To us the key word about the post summer 2012 Euro Area (EA) asset boom is that most of it is a bubble, and one which will burst at a time of its own choosing, even though we concede that ample liquidity can often keep bubbles afloat for a long time." His conclusion is self-evident, "markets materially underestimate these risks," as the EA sovereign debt and banking crisis is far from over. If anything, recent developments, notably policy complacency bred by market complacency, combined with higher political risks in a number of EA countries highlight the risks of sovereign debt restructuring and bank debt restructuring in the EA down the line.
The financial world is used to bubbles. We like to speak about them, point to them, bet upon their comings and goings and wave facts and figures about them like wild men when we appear in the media. It is the way of the markets. We have had bubbles in Real Estate, dot.com, bonds, stock markets and all kinds of other singular spaces. What we are faced with now is also a bubble but one unlike we have ever seen before because all of the major central banks have acted in concert which pumped money in from everywhere while, at the same time, limited what could be done with our new found small bits of paper because they playing field was leveled by distortion en masse. I would say that the entire financial system, every market, every space is in a bubble as a result of what they central banks have done.
Egan-Jones may have been barred from rating sovereigns for 18 months due to missing a comma here or there in its NRSRO application (when everyone knows this was merely retribution for downgrading the US ahead of all the other rating agencies), but now the time has come for that other rating agency which dared to follow in EJ's footsteps and downgrade the US of AmericaAA+ in August 2011 to be punished: Standard & Poors. Moments ago we learned that federal and state prosecutors will five civil charges against S&P for its mortgage bond ratings during the housing crisis.
We warned last week that European markets were beginning to show signs of cracking. European stocks had surged on to new highs while credit markets had decidedly not joined the liquidity-fueled exuberance. Sure enough a few days later and Europe in general is weak, but Italy and Spain are under significant pressure. The last four days have seen the biggest plunge in over six months with the IBEX (Spain -5.7%) and Italy's MIB -6.7%. At the same time, Europe's seemingly invincible OMT-promise-protected sovereign bond market has started to underwhelm. Italian bond spreads are 32bps wider and Spain 28bps wider - the biggest increase in risk in two months. Europe's VIX has surged from 14.5% to almost 19% today in the last 4 days and even Greek government bonds are losing their luster, -6.5% in the last few days. Whether this is exacerbated by European leaders jawboning the strength of the EUR down, or simply we hit the limit on reality amid Italian bank fraud, Spanish political fraud, referenda votes, and macro- and micro- fundamentals snapping; this is the worst performance in Europe in six months. It would seem that if the tail-risks in Europe are starting to re-appear then at least one of the legs of global equity exuberance is starting to break.
We have noted the similarities between the current risk rally and previous years but Morgan Stanley's Laurence Mutkin is "getting worried" that investors expect the second half of this year to be different (and consistently bullish). Much of the current risk-on rally around the world was sparked by Draghi's "whatever it takes" moment theoretically reducing the downside tail-risk in Europe. Well, systemic risk in Europe is now at recent lows and just as in 1H12 and 1H 11, core yields are rising notably, peripheral spreads compressing, money-market curves are steepening, and 2s5s10s cheapening. Of course, he notes, 2013 is different from previous years (OMT for example) but much rests on how ECB's Draghi responds to the recent (LTRO-repayment-driven) rise in EONIA forwards. Albert Einstein reportedly said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Applying that to the European bond market - for the third time running, the year has opened well but it would be insane to expect a different outcome (than the typically bearish reversion) this time?