Barclays' head of quantitative strategy Matt Rothman provides some additional information on one of the most notable facets of the current market regime, namely the record implied correlation and thus, near record low stock dispersion, in other words, the phenomenon that all stocks trade as one, regardless of fundamental differences across different publicly traded companies. While nothing a slight dip in 1 month implied correlation from all time records near 70% hit in the past month, Rothman observes that "low levels of stock dispersion generally correspond with difficulty in picking individual stocks...This high level of cross-sectional correlation also has implications for how certain characteristics are being priced. For if stock return dispersion is low but underlying fundamental (economic) performance of factors remains relatively constant then it would appear that mispricings in the market may be beginning to take root." In other words, as we noted last time we observed the record low stock dispersion a month earlier, alpha (continues to be) dead. Yet for those who are eagerly anticipating the dispersion to finally rise, Rothman says that the market is basically back to mid-2009, when high quality stocks were largely undervalued compared to low quality: "High Quality companies are cheap right now relative to low Quality companies. We believe this is due both to a compression of returns in the market and because of the current macro-economic environment that has favored lower Quality stocks." Of course, shorting high beta names in a Fed-mediated market, has led to nothing but implosion.
The primary key variable when it comes to determining the future direction of US market is no longer corporate fundamentals and technicals, nor the US economy itself, as much as the daily gyrations in the Japanese Yen, which defines the move in the S&P on a tick for tick basis. As such, what the BoJ will do is likely far more relevant to US capital markets (or the sad joke that passes for them these days) than anything the Fed can pull out of its hat. And while there has been much posturing out of various Japanese administrations that deflation will not be tolerated (presumably unlike the past 20 years), and that FX intervention is near, few actually believe anything coming out of the BoJ or the Finance Ministry these days. Yet looking at what domestic Japanese investors are doing may provide a better clue as to what is in store for the Yen. As Barclays points out, in time of heavy FX intervention, such as the last period between 2002 and 2004, Japanese holdings of foreign securities tend to surge: a good example being precisely that period, during which Japanese holdings of US Treasuries increased by $320 billion, to go side by side with a BoJ which was actively selling Yen and buying up Dollars. In essence, investors there were frontrunning (or at worst investing side by side with) the BOJ. And as weekly data demonstrate, Japanese investors are once again gearing up for intervention, having purchased $60 billion of foreign securities in July and $75 billion so far in August, the highest number in half a decade. While the BoJ's talk is cheap, Japanese investors appear to have decided that at prevailing JPY levels the BoJ has no option but to start its intervention regime.
From Barclays' Jasraj Vaidya, who states: "At this stage, we are unable to ascertain what that exact issue might be. What is certain is that foreclosure timelines in those states for GMAC loans will be extend further, potentially adversely affecting their eventual severity" which echoes verbatim what Zero Hedge suggested a week ago on the Florida Judge news: "The implications for the REO and foreclosures track for banks could be dire as a result of this ruling, as this could severely impact the ongoing attempt by banks to hide as much excess inventory in their books in the quietest way possible." Jasraj also notes: "Using publicly available data from HUD and RealtyTrac, we have created a list of judicial foreclosure states. These are states where judicial foreclosures are most common and in which the lender has to appear before a judge and obtain a court order before initiating foreclosure proceedings against the delinquent borrower. Such states tend to have much longer foreclosure timelines than non-judicial states. What is striking about the list of states in the GMAC announcement is that all but one (North Carolina) are judicial states. Also, all judicial states in the country but one (Delaware) are in the GMAC list. This would hint at some potential issues with judicial states that is driving the GMAC directive." In the meantime, class actions lawyers across the country will not be sleeping for days.
We present another great review of market dynamics from the eyes of a quant, this time coming yet again Barclays' Matt Rothman. With Risk On, Risk Off the dominant regime since QE2 speculation, and likely to last into the end of the year, throw away all fundamental textbooks, and focus on what it is the momo machines are chasing. Which is simple: to outperform in this market, load up on high beta stocks and high short interest names. The rest is noise. Which means a bloodbath for "disciplined stock pickers" - as Rothman says "the investment managers who are suffering are the truly disciplined stock pickers. Those managers who are diligent about having no style tilts or theme tilts or sector biases are finding it nearly impossible to generate returns. There are no investment opportunities returns for these managers to capitalize on. There are no idiosyncratic returns available in the market for them and the situation has, essentially, never been worse, anytime in the past 60 years." Then again, there are no traditional stock pickers left anymore - everyone now does the same as Pimco - stay one step of the Fed (and just imitate what everyone else is doing), or risk losing your job. In the meantime the biggest groupthink trade ever is getting bigger by the day, as everyone hopes and prays profit taking never occurs.
Two weeks ago we first touched upon a key tangential topic of the whole mortgage mess, namely the implication of what potential MERS fraud means for Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities. Well, the topic which has so far avoided broad media attention to the benefit of all CMBS holders may be about to go mainstream. As part of our initial inquiry, we asked: "If residential mortgage foreclosures are being halted and if the very fabric of the MBS securitization architecture is put into question, when will someone ask whether MERS® Commercial allowed such pervasive title fraud as is now apparently ubiquitous in the residential space, to take the CMBS space by storm, and how many billions in dollars will Banc of America Securities, Bear Stearns (d/b/a JP Morgan), GE Capital Real Estate, GMAC Commercial, John Hancock and Wells Fargo be forced to buy back loans that were fraudulently certified." Our question is now being reiterated by Barclays Capital. Next up Bloomberg, Ratigan, and everyone else.
On October 31, we highlighted a rapid and dramatic move higher in the JPY crosses, the day after it closed at the all time high against the dollar, which lasted for a few minutes, and which was later sourced to a technical glitch and not to actual BOJ intervention. Perhaps the fact that the half life of the intervention was negligible is why no central bank would ever care to admit it was their doing, especially not the pedantic and results-focused BoJ. The story was promptly buried. Yet as Barclays' Masafumi Yamamoto points out, after digging through BoJ current account source data, there is a conspicuous Y0.6 trillion hole that can not be explained otherwise except by attributing the Halloween JPY spike to a stealth BOJ intervention. If that is indeed the case, it highlights something very troubling: namely that not even $5-6 billion dollar intervention purchases stand a chance of pushing the FX needle much in any direction, if at all. Which is to be expected: after all, the other side of the trade is about to see $1,000 billion in dollar selling courtesy of the Fed, which drowns out any BoJ noise. But what is more worrying is that having seen the disastrous impact of its stealth intervention, the BoJ may be dissuaded from intervening in the FX market any more, as it would be loath to lose any more credibility in the FX markets. Nonetheless, as the USDJPY is about to breach all time low supports once again, it should be obvious to confirm or deny if the BOJ has given up in its attempts to diffuse an armed, strapping and dangerous chairman.
As Zero Hedge demonstrated last week, comprising the list of international banks rescued by the Fed's Commercial Paper Funding Facility were at least 35 foreign financial corporations. Among these, Barclays was near the very top in terms of capital funded from US taxpayers to preserve the bank's solvency. Which is why we were not at all surprised to read that Barclays' chief rates strategist Joseph Abate had a very sour view of the Fed's release of CPFF details "ironically, the same legislation that forced to [sic] the Fed to disgorge details about these 21,000 transactions makes it much harder for the Fed to recreate these facilities by limiting its ability to use the "exigent circumstances" clause of the Federal Reserve Act." Actually, what we find ironic is that Joseph Abate, formerly a major shareholder of Lehman Brothers, and subsequently assimilated by the British Bank, would be a defender of ongoing Fed secrecy: we have the sinking suspicion that Abate's share losses in his Lehman stake were sizable (as in wiped out), and had he had some transparency into what the true state of affairs of his then bank was, he may have had a chance to actually recoup or mitigate some of his catastrophic losses... But such is life for the sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby each and every one of us has been kidnapped and held hostage by the banking system. The only question is how friendly (and compensated) we decide to be with our captors.
Will The Repo-Reserve Carry Trade Blow Up Force Bernanke To Pull Liquidity And Kill The Stock Market Rally Early?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/05/2011 12:47 -0400
By now everybody knows that only a last ditch intervention by the G7 prevented the financial system from imploding three weeks ago, when the Yen carry trades blew up in the face of all those who had been short yen, long high yielding currencies. The result would have been a pervasive trading desk annihilation, possibly on par with that experienced after the Lehman collapse had the world's central banks not stepped in to sell Yen in droves. Yet what fewer know is that when it comes to funding cheap carry-type trades, the FX carry trade is merely one. A possibly far bigger one has been the one established courtesy of the Fed's generous Interest on Overnight Reserves (IOER) rate which being far higher than General Collateral (GC) Repo, presents banks with Fed deposit access, what was a sure way to earn guaranteed money on an interest rate arbitrage spread. For nearly two years banks collected the proverbial pennies in front of the rollercoaster... until last Friday, when the FDIC decided to spoil the party. What happened as a result of the FDIC's decision to establish an assessment rate which spoiled the arb, was a blow out for most institutions playing the IOER-GC carry trade leading to a major disruption in this funding market, possibly far more serious than the FX carry trade unwind, and a plunge in overnight GC repo rates on Monday (see chart) by over 75%! Does this mean banks have lost one key carry funding source? So it would appear. And it only means that the FX carry trade will be that much more a critical source of "risk-free" income for banks... At least until the next major earthquake above the ring of fire. In the meantime, as the Fed scrambles to restore normality to the repo market, will the Fed be forced to do Reverse Repos, which while fixing the carry trade, will withdraw far more liquidity form the market. Which as we all know is grounds for immediate incarceration in a Centrally Planned kleptocracy such as the USSA.
As Repo Volumes Plunge And The GC-IOER Carry Trade Dries Up, One Third Of Treasury Repo Volume Is Now At Negative RatesSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/18/2011 08:15 -0400
Zero Hedge was the first to observe the curious phenomenon of the collapse in the General Collateral-IOER carry trade following the implementation of the FDIC assessment rate back in early April (discussed in depth here) which continues to force repo rates far below where they would ordinarily be (and is generating an undue amount of stress on short end rates, impacting money markets, repo, and other shadow economy components, and also substantially complicating an unwind by the Fed if and when one occurs). But that's not all. As Barclays' Joseph Abate points out, another consequence, which is rapidly becoming appreciate by repo market players, is that up to a third of all Treasury repo volume now trades at sub zero rates, making life for money markets a living hell, which perhaps that was the goal all along... And while the fails rates for the time being has not picked up substantially (liquidity is still ample although if the Fed continues to pummel the market with its foolhardy sale of Maiden Lane II securities this may change, more on this later), it does present a complication for the Fed, should Bernanke decided to halt securities reinvestment. Granted it appears this will not be a major worry at a time when some believe QE3 is a given, and others believe QE2 Lite will be precisely the ineffectual, yet critical reinvestment of maturity securities.
... That's what some model (quite possibly from Ford or Wilhelmina) in Barclay's FX department predicts tomorrow's NFP number will be. And just in case the first number is wrong, basedon what can only be attributed to Barcap borrowing Birinyi's ruler, the firm says there is a 95% confidence interval that the actual number will come at 450,000. And there's your whisper number. .
Following the earlier microphonegate (someone really need to tell politicians that any time they speak, they are now on the record always, and no just for the benefit of the NSA's brand spanking new compound in Utah known as "1984", that includes Portuguese and German politicians too) it was only a matter of time before the more conservative republican elements went beyond the simply rhetorical and asked some pointed questions, such as this from Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, who minutes ago said that "It’s Unclear What the President has Offered up to the Russians as Bargaining Chips." Additionally, what is funny is that a part of the much hated NDAA which essentially eliminates the bill of rights for American citizens who are suspected of terrorist activity, Congress specifically targeted missile information sharing with Russia. To wit: "Congress has included in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress, which the president has signed into law, a provision constraining his ability to share classified U.S. missile defense information with the Russian Federation. Congress took this step because it was clear based on official testimony and Administration comments in the press that classified information about U.S. missile defenses, including hit-to-kill technology and velocity at burnout information, may be on the table as negotiating leverage for the president’s reset with Russia." So let's get this straight - Obama signs the NDAA, with supposed reservations because he is well aware it is unconstitutional, and yet when it comes to its plain vanilla provisions, he violates them? Has anyone figured out yet what follows a banana republic in the escalation to pure centrally-planned lunacy, because America is there now.
Earlier today we presented an extended case by Caixin's Andy Xie, who is now confident that a massive 40% devaluation of the Yen is imminent and inevitable (with dire consequences for regional trading partners), as the opportunity cost, now that the Japanese economy is no longer competitive in the New Normal world (read trade surplus) of delaying what every other central banks has been doing so well (just observe the nominal surge in risk assets at 8 am this morning when Bernanke made it clear more real dilution is coming, as predicted here just yesterday), is the 3 decade long overdue pop in the JGB bond market. Yet as Xie notes, either of these two bubbles popping - the JPY or the JGB - is fraught with danger as both will confirm that three decades of central planning have failed. What is worse, Japan would then become a case study for failed central planning (yes, redundant), everywhere, but nowhere more than in the US. Which in turn, would not be a surprise to most, or at least to those who don't chase dead end momentum trends and heatmapped assets in simplistic hopes of finding a greater fool 1 millisecond into the future. It also would not be a surprise to anyone who sees the following chart from John Lohman which shows the gradual failure of central planning since the second global depression started in 2007 (and offset to date by $7 trillion in central bank private-to-public risk offset), during which time the BOJ has been forced to load up its balance sheet with substantially more assets than its GDP has grown by. Alas, this trend will accelerate which is why with time the exponential chart of central bank balance sheet expansion will only get more "exponential" until it finally pops, bringing with it an end to the truly last bubble. We can only hope we are somewhere far away when that happens.
Chinese Business Media Cautions Japanese Bond Bubble Is Ready To Burst, Anticipates 40% Yen DevaluationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/26/2012 14:50 -0400
It is a fact that when it comes to the oddly resilient Japanese hyperlevered economic model, the bodies of those screaming for the end of the JGB bubble litter the sides of central planning's tungsten brick road. Yet in the aftermath of last month's stunning surge in the country's trade deficit, this, and much more may soon be finally ending. Because as Caixin's Andy Xie writes "The day of reckoning for the yen is not distant. Japanese companies are struggling with profitability. It only gets worse from here. When a major company goes bankrupt, this may change the prevailing psychology. A weak yen consensus will emerge then." As for the bubble pop, it will be a sudden pop, not the 30 year deflationary whimper Mrs. Watanabe has gotten so used to: "Yen devaluation is likely to unfold quickly. A financial bubble doesn't burst slowly. When it occurs, it just pops. The odds are that yen devaluation will occur over days. Only a large and sudden devaluation can keep the JGB yield low. Otherwise, the devaluation expectation will trigger a sharp rise in the JGB yield. The resulting worries over the government's solvency could lead to a collapse of the JGB market." It gets worse: "Of course, the government will collapse with the JGB market." And once Japan falls, the rest of the world follows, says Xie, which is why he is now actively encouraging China, and all other Japanese trade partners of the world's rapidly declining 3rd largest economy to take precautions for when this day comes... soon.
In today's open mic farce that has made the president a target of a fresh republican onslaught, we have Obama telling Russian presidential pawn Dmitry Medvedev that "this is his last presidential election", and that he will have "more flexibility after the election." One can only assume that Obama is referring to the aggressive NATO expansion which has angered Russia substantially as noted previously, and even led to Russia putting radar stations on combat alert. It could be this or it could be anything, including US posturing vis-a-vis Syria assuming the stance a huanitariam, if completely impotent, do-gooder globocop, or for that matter any other foreign policy fiasco in which Russia now have the upper hand by default. Naturally, one wonders why Obama would be pandering to Russia (well, aside for the country's premier export position when it comes to nat gas and crude of course) in the first place. Or more importantly, as the GOP has now figured out, why does the president need to be more flexible after the election to begin with, and to what other special interest will Obama be far more responsive than to his mere electorate. Either way, nothing but more theater as central planning continues on its merry way to terminal dislocation with reality.
Every quarter the Office of the Currency Comptroller releases its report on Bank Derivative Activities, and every quarter we find that the Too Big To Fail get Too Bigger To Fail. To wit: in Q4 2011, of the total $230.8 trillion in US outstanding derivatives, the Top 5 banks (JPM, BofA, Morgan Stanley, Goldman and HSBC) accounted for 95.7% of all Derivatives. In some respects this is good news: in Q2, the Top 5 banks held 95.9% of the $250 trillion in derivatives. Unfortunately it is also bad news, because $220 trillion is more than enough for the world to collapse in a daisy chained failure of bilateral netting (which not even all the central banks in the world can offset). What is the worst news, is that the just released report indicates that in addition to everything else, we have now hit peak delusion, as banks now report to the OCC that a record high 92.2% of gross credit exposure is "bilaterally netted." While we won't spend much time on this issue now, it is safe to say that bilateral netting is the biggest lie in modern finance (read How US Banks Are Lying About Their European Exposure; Or How Bilateral Netting Ends With A Bang, Not A Whimper for an explanation of this fraud which was exposed completely in the AIG collapse). And just to put this in global perspective, according to the BIS in the first half of 2011, global derivative gross exposure increased by $107 trillion to a record $707 trillion. It will be quite interesting to get the full year report to see if this acceleration in gross exposure has increased. Because if it has, we will now know that in 2011 European banks were forced up to load up on several hundred trillion in mostly interest rate swap exposure. Which can only mean one thing: when and if central banks lose control of government bond curves, an rates start moving wider again, the global margin call will be unprecedented. Until then we can just delude ourselves that central planners have everything under control, have everything under control, have everything under control.