China "Crisis Gauge" Hits Record High Amid "Flight To Quality"

credittrader's picture

"There is a big flight to quality," warns one trader as the spread between interest rate swaps (implicitly bank risk) and government bonds soared to a record high. This "crisis gauge" flashing red is also followed by 3 month SHIBOR (short-dated interbank lending rates) surging to an 8-month high. China's CDS have jumped 30bps since the Fed taper and as Bloomberg reports that billionaire investors like George Soros and Bill Gross have drawn uncomfortable parallels between the situation in China now and the US before 2008 (when this crisis gauge was key in spotting the carnage to come). Simply put, the banks don't trust each other...


China's "Crisis Gauge" is flashing red...

Via Bloomberg,



What I do see are increasing parallels between China and the U.S. in the run-up to the global financial crisis,” said Patrick Perret-Green, a London-based strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “Shibor-repo is similar to Libor-OIS. Shadow banking is subprime. Credit spreads are widening as they did in 2007. Money growth is softening as tightening bites.”




“There is a big flight to quality,” said Wee-Khoon Chong, Singapore-based head of rates strategy Asia ex-Japan at Nomura. “In times of stress, you sell credits, sell longer-dated bonds into shorter ones and you are going to the government bond market. If the default situation gets out of control, yields are going to fall a lot.”




In a sign of default concern, the premium for five-year  AA rated corporate notes over the sovereign widened to 337 basis points on Feb. 12, the most in two years. At least a third of China’s 200,000 steel-trading firms will collapse because of the credit crisis, the official Xinhua news agency said Feb. 7, citing industry estimates.


The slowdown may fuel bank bad loans, which surged 28.5 billion yuan in the final quarter of 2013 to 592 billion yuan, the highest since September 2008, according to China Banking Regulatory Commission data.



Add to that the seemingly intentional devaluation of the Yuan and risk-asset-based carry traders have a problem, as we explained previously...

As the Fed tapers, and the size of its balance sheet stabilizes/contracts, we should expect this sequence to reverse. Confidence is a fragile membrane. Not only does the Fed’s balance sheet matter as a source of funds, but we believe so does the attractiveness of the recipient of the carry trade – and the trust in its collateral.



What makes sense for an individual carry trade - borrow low, invest at higher rates - falls prey to the fallacy of composition, when too many engage in the same carry trade. And eventually question the underlying collateral, now huge, and potentially suspect. China is a case in point. If our colleagues David Cui and Bin Gao are right, the trust sector in China could create rollover risks that reverse a gluttonous carry trade within China, but partly financed overseas.


With the consequences including...

Potential asset deflation is a risk, as the carry trades diminish/unwind. Property prices are at risk – the collateral value for China’s financial systems. This is not a dire projection – it simply seeks to isolate the US QE as a key driver of China’s monetary policy and asset inflation, and highlights the magnitudes involved, and the transmission mechanism. Investors should not imbue stock-price movements and property price inflation in China with too much local flavor – this is mainly a US QE-driven story, in our view.


Currently, China’s real effective exchange rate is one of the strongest in the world. Concerns about China’s Trust sector, and its underlying collateral value, sees some of this carry trade unwound, the RMB could be under pressure.

And just as BofA warned,

If we do experience a sizable default, the knee-jerk market reaction will be cash hoarding since it will strike as a big surprise. Thus, we expect the repo rate to rise first, while the long term government bond would get bid due to risk aversion flows.


However, what follows will be quite uncertain, aside from PBoC injecting liquidity and easing monetary policy to help short term rate come down. It has been proven again and again the Chinese government will get involved and be proactive. The bond market reaction will be different depending on the government solution.

This is exactly what we are seeing...banks unwilling to lend to each other (cash hoarding) and government bonds aggressively bid.

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Devotional's picture

It will be solved with massive bailouts, money printing. More of the same.

/* hangs his head in conformity */