Over the past few months we have explained in detail just how 'frothy' the credit market has become. Probably the most egregious example of this exuberance is the resurgence in covenant-lite loans to record levels. It seems lenders are so desperate to get some yield that they are willing to give up any and all protections just to be 'allowed' to invest in the riskiest of risky credits. With credit having enjoyed an almost uninterrupted one-way compression since the crisis, momentum and flow has taken over any sense of risk management - but perhaps, just perhaps, Sallie-Mae's corporate restructuring this week will remind investors that high-yield credit has a high-yield for a reason. The lender's decision to create a 'good-student-lender / bad-student-lender' and saddle the $17.9bn bondholders with the unit to be wound-down, while as Bloomberg notes, the earnings, cash flow, and equity of the newly formed SLM Bank will be moved out of bondholders’ reach. Bonds have dropped 10-15% on this news - considerably more than any reach-for-yield advantage would benefit and we wonder if these kind of restructurings will slow the inexorable rise in protection-free credit.
While the U.S. student loan debt “crisis” might be the primary concern associated with the youth population here, this morning's dreadful European data confirms that 15-24 year olds around the world are struggling with a more widespread and pressing issue: high unemployment. In 2012, the youth unemployment rate was 12.4%, projected to grow to 12.6% in 2013 – nearly 3 times the rate of adult unemployment, which stood at 4.5% in 2012. Developed economies, along with the Middle East and North Africa, have some of the worst youth unemployment rates in the world: the US’s unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds in 2012 was 15.4%, according to the Current Population Survey, more than 3 percentage points above the world average. ConvergEx's Nick Colas notes there is one exception to the U.S.’s high rates, though: for all the talk about how student loan debt has crippled young adults in the U.S., we actually have one of the lower unemployment rates for young adults with a tertiary (college) education – better, even, than many countries with free or low-cost universities (though the 'type' of jobs may be questionable).
For all the attention paid to the 1.9% drop in PIMCO's $293 billion Total Return Fund in the month of May following one of the worst months for bonds in a long while, perhaps a far more important question is what happens when one mixes the world's largest actively managed, fixed income portfolio, that of the $3.4 trillion hedge fund located at 33 Liberty Street, and its DV01 of over $2.5 billion, with the 46 bps move in the 10 year in the month of May, and gets a P&L of ($115) billion, or double the said hedge fund's total capital.
At some point, the Millennial generation will have to awaken to the fact that the only way to change its fate is to grasp political power and redirect the policy and mindset of the nation. Centralization is the black hole that is destroying the nation's social and economic vigor. Decentralization, transparency, accountability, adaptability, social innovation, a community-based economy - these are the key features of a sustainable social order. The existing social and financial order is crumbling because it is unsustainable on multiple levels. The Status Quo will cling to its false promises and corrupt centers of power until the moment the whole thing implodes. The central state is not the Millennials' friend, it is their oppressor.
"Some color on the extent of the selling from Laine Litman on the futures desk: Starting 6 minutes before the cash close we saw a strong sell off in ESM3. As predicted, volumes and volatility were high. We sold off 7 handles before the additional quick crash of 4.25 points in the final few seconds. Over 110k contracts traded in the last minute. This is the largest non-quarter end volumes seen since November 2011 (117k) and the largest volumes since June 2012 (111k)."
Some of my first memories of television are of a series called The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which was a witty combination of animated cartoons about the exploits of the title characters, Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose and their nemeses, two Pottsylvanian nogoodniks spies, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The show was filled with current event commentary, political and social satire. The show was also filled with commentary on economic and market conditions that resonated with the parents watching the show while the kids focused on the cartoons. Each show ended with the narrator describing the current cliffhanger with a pair of related titles, usually with a bad pun intended. So let's adapt some of my favorite Rocky and Bullwinkle episode titles to modern day; we might see that there are some political and economic challenges that are timeless, as it appears we have been doing the same thing over and over for decades and expecting different results.
While stocks could continue to climb higher that does not mitigate the underlying risks. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is very likely that we are creating one, or more, asset bubbles once again. However, what is missing currently is the catalyst to spark the next major correction. That catalyst is likely something that we are not even aware of at the moment. It could be a resurgence of the Eurocrisis, a banking crisis or Japan's grand experiment backfiring. It could also be the upcoming debt ceiling debate, more government spending cuts, or higher tax rates. It could even be just the onset of an economic business cycle recession from the continued drags out of Europe and now the emerging market countries. Regardless, at some point, and it is only a function of time, reality and fantasy will collide. The reversion of the current extremes will happen devastatingly fast. When this occurs the media will question how such a thing could of happened? Questions will be asked why no one saw it coming.
The Dow Jones Utility Index is down 35% in the last two weeks - the largest drop since March 2009. Across the board, what looked like being a normal BTFD day around midday, equity markets were monkey-hammered lowered with the S&P 500's worst 2-week run in 6 months. The Dow dropped over 270 points intraday (and 400 from its Monday highs) - attributed to a large month-end sell-side imbalance. Equity markets appear to be playing catch-down to credit's warning messages (though stocks are only down 1% from Friday's close, it feels like more as they are -2.5% to 3% from the highs). JPY strengthened into the equity sell-off and commodities all legged lower (with WTI -2.5% on the week and Gold unch) even as the USD weakened 0.5% on the week. The reality of the one-way trade was very evident. Treasuries came well off their worst levels of the day but remain 11-14bps higher in yield on the week. VIX, which had also been sending its warning messages, smashed 1.75 vols higher to 16.25%. It seems a lot will be reflecting on the Dow/NKY convergence and the behavior in Japan this week as they note there was no bounce at all in today's closing crash.
Having shifted our communication stance from 'may' to 'will' last month, the Fed's upcoming POMO schedule offers some insights into the days when shorting (apart from the obvious Tuesdays) will be dangerous (though the BoJ now stuck may require a communication change back to 'may'). We do note that the Fed POMO'd $44 billion out outright Treasury purchases in May (as expected) and plans to do the same in June with $45 billion pegged (strongly suggesting no Taper anytime soon)... it seems next Friday is your first opportunity (though if the last hour is anything to go by... perhaps the Fed's omniptence is being challenged).
The global Monsanto genetically modified wheat scandal is getting worse.
While most of the headlines this week have centered on Syria, Sweden (and Switzerland), Turkey has been cooking and today has broken into full-scale riots. As Reuters reports, Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests for years. The growing unrest centers on disquiet at the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (who just visited Obama). "We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan ... Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us." The protests somewhat surprisingly were sparked by the uprooting of trees but rapidly escalated (as seen below) into riot police, water cannon, and tear gas battles as protesters exclaim, "we're fed up... we don't like the direction the country is heading."