We have been discussing US (and European) financial risk for some time (especially recently with regard MS exposure to French banks). Since we published that article, we have seen incredible shifts in MS CDS and bonds even as stocks appear to shrug of some of the reality of the situation. An excellent article on Bloomberg last evening pointed out that not only was MS CDS at rather extreme levels, it was quietly as risky (if not more so) than many of the European banks that are making the headlines. Not only is MS CDS its highest since its spike highs in Q4 2008, the curve is inverted with 1Y risk trading 500/550 against 5Y risk at 455/470 which strongly suggests jump risk (or counterparty risk) is being aggressively hedged. With over $4.5bn of debt maturing in Q4 (which we have been pointing out for months - TLGP issues) and the increasingly binary nature of any outcomes, it seems the only real buyer of any MS debt are basis traders as the difference between bond spreads and CDS has halved in the last few weeks.
The only time that CDS for Morgan Stanley was higher was during the middle of the crisis when they spiked massively higher - the situation is becoming increasingly binary.
And the spread between bonds (which are trading wider - cheaper than) and CDS is falling (an upwards bias in the basis chart above) as basis traders (remember we discussed these traders in yesterday's closing market snapshot) step in to scoop up with 100-150bps differential. However, bond liquidity can disappear very quickly when outcomes are so uncertain (see Q4 2008 Q1 2009) and ask Boaz Weinstein - so don't be left holding that bag.