There’s something quite contradictory about telling governments to tighten their belts while promising to buy any and every piece of paper their treasury departments care to issue. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that a €1.1 trillion QE program simply cannot peacefully coexist with a strict, currency bloc-wide austerity policy. This glaring contraction was on full display at the ECB’s April 14-15 policy meeting, minutes show.
As the economic calendar slowly picks up following the NFP lull, we are looking at a busy week both globally and in the US, where an army of Fed speakers culminates with a Yellen speech on Friday at 1pm in Rhode Island.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail
As 30Y yields push up to the highs of the day, steepning the yield curve across the entire complex, it has now retraced 50% of the yield collapse from the start of 2014 to early Feb 2015...
It is perhaps an emblematic description for our current bubble age; QE doesn’t work but “we” can’t wait for more. Maybe that is just the logical evolution of monetary magic, since QE was brought on with almost mythical properties that were going to cure a lot of financial and economic ills (Bernanke the former). Now resignation (Bernanke the latter) has left it with only the hope that it can just save us from the worst downside, even without any real expectation of a true upside in the economy. In other words, markets hope for the QE zombie, where the economy is kept from death by it, with full recognition now that it will never regain full life either.
It all started again in Asia, although not in China where the berserker mania bid for stocks has returned and the SHCOMP is now up nearly 5% in the past two days following the PBOC's latest easing, but in Japan where once again the massively illiquid JGB market, of which the BOJ owns roughly a third as of this moment, is going through yet another shock period (if not quite VaR yet) with last night's 10 Year JGB auction seeing the lowest Bid to Cover since 2009. This was the beginning, and promptly thereafter bond yields around the globe spiked once more, with 10-year Treasury yields climbing to a five-month high, as the global rout in debt markets deepened. The biggest casualty so far is the Bund, which having retraced some of the flash crash losses from two weeks ago is once again in panic selling mode, and while not having taken out the recent 0.8% flash crash wides, traded just shy of 0.75% this morning.
Today's 10Y JGB auction saw the lowest bid-to-cover ratio since Feb 2009 at just 2.24x with a notable tail of 1.1bps (the widest since March) as it appears once again, the total dissolution of liquidity from the largest bond market in the world has left the BoJ and Ministry of Finance losing control. The reaction is dramatic with 5Y through 30Y yields up 5-8bps (10Y +8bps at 47.6bps - the biggest absolute jump in yields in 2 years) leaving 30Y yields at 2-month highs above 1.49% and 10Y yields at 6-month highs.
"The sharp rise in bond volatility over the past week or so is reminiscent of the VaR shocks of October 2014 in US rates and April 2013 in Japanese rates," JP Morgan says, before explaining how volatility induced selling (i.e. a VaR shock) is behind the rout in German Bunds. Predictably, QE has helped create the conditions which make such episodes possible.
There is grave danger in the lack of momentum, as momentum serves as an indirect proxy for belief and rationalizations. Once they fade away it is harder to deny reality any longer. At the very least, top or not, it seems as if investors all across the financial landscape are themselves are losing faith not just in monetary policy and the economy but maybe even the idea that this was anything more than yet another bear market rally. Even Janet Yellen might think so; after all the “dollar” beat her to it.
"As the decline in yields that has followed the liquidity injections has made its way to intermediate maturities, the market has extrapolated that the Bundesbank would have to purchase a larger share of longer maturity bonds to fill its quota. This is a self-reinforcing expectations loop, where lower yields beget lower yields," Goldman notes, describing the dynamic driving Bunds. We would note that this type of feedback loop also operates in the other direction and could thus be rather dangerous in a market that is becoming structurally very thin.
During the heyday of post-war prosperity between 1953 and 1971, real final sales - a better measure of economic growth than GDP because it filters out inventory fluctuations - grew at a 3.6% annual rate. That is exactly double the 1.8% CAGR recorded for 2000-2014. The long and short of it, therefore, is that there has been a dramatic downshift in the trend rate of economic growth during an era in which central bank intervention and stimulus has been immeasurably enlarged. How exactly is the Fed helping when the trend rate of real growth has withered dramatically?
While many thought the selloff had peaked yesterday, and would henceforth be more orderly, they were proven wrong, when right out of the gates this morning, investors were very, so to say, bunderweight, on the German benchmark govvie and the yield promptly gapped up as high as 0.38% before retracing some of the sharp move higher.
Central Bankers bet the financial system that their academic theories would work, despite the countless real-world examples showing that printing money does not generate growth.
We have never, ever, seen the long- and short-end of the Treasury yield curve so anti-correlated.