We are much closer to the end of the Central Bank-fueled $100 trillion bond bubble than ever before. This could be the beginning of the end.
Canary... meet coalmine. While the divergence between US financial stock prices and their credit risk has been significant since Fed's Bullard saved the world in mid October. In fact the divergence really began when oil prices peaked and began to accelerate lower but really picked up this week after the Swiss National Bank news. Between energy-sector-based structured notes, massive short Treasury positions, and the potential for contagion from Swissy's massive moves, it would appear - judging by the major decompression in US bank credit risk this week to its worst since Feb 2014 - that counterparty risk is on the rise again.
'After two days of sharp intraday and vicious reversals, the BTFD algos are suspiciously missing overnight, when as reported earlier, a bout of margin calls and stop loss selling meant not crude but copper would crash in today's episode of "guess the crashing commodity", on what Goldman dubbed a Chinese demand collapse which for those confused is different than an OPEC supply glut, and is also the reason why the entire commodity complex is trading at a decade plus low. As a result copper plunged to a five and a half year low, in the process halting the market due to the severity of the plunge. But the big event overnight was the farcical announcement by the European top court, which as everyone expected, rejected the German rejection of the OMT as illegal, stating it was not only legal (with certain conditions) but greenlighting the way for the ECB's QE in one week, a move which sent the EURUSD crashing to a fresh 9 year low!
Just two days ago we detailed the possibility that Russia could accelerate debt repayment on a $3 billion loan it granted to Ukraine that has broken its covenants. While there is no word yet from Russia on a decision whether to demand the payment, it appears, as Reuters reports, the US taxpayer - just as we warned - is quite willing to step up (thanks to their leaders in Washington) and guarantee $2 billion in loans to the world's 2nd most credit risky nation (after Venezuela).
Last week we focused on potential manipulations of the opaque and self-regulated process by which the conflicted members of ISDA’s Determinations Committee (“DC”) determine whether a triggering event has occurred. This week we will focus on the inherent problems in the External Review process, as set out in the Determinations Committee’s rules.
Currently there are a number of weak spots in the global financial edifice, in addition to the perennial problem children Argentina and Venezuela... The happy bubble in risk assets could presumably be derailed a bit if any of the possible worst case scenarios were to become manifest.
All of this makes no sense at all until you consider that ALL Central Banking actions have been focused on one thing: making sure the global bond bubble DOESN’T IMPLODE.
Despite stressing time and again that the ECB cannot dictate policy within individual nation states in Europe, Reuters reports Draghi's henchmen are playing 'bad cop' to Germany's 'good cop' for now as they threaten the withdrawal of Greek financial system funding if reforms are not carried out post election. Greek stocks are falling once again (led by the banks) and default risk has soared, with 5Y CDS +250bps at 1555bps.
History literally appears to be repeating. The mainstream media and our politicians are promising Americans that everything is going to be okay somehow, and that seems to be good enough for most people. But the signs that another massive financial crisis is on the horizon are everywhere.
With Venezuelan bonds re-collapsing as belief in a 30c recovery floor fades rapidly (and hyperinflating Venezuelan stocks soar - whether oil prices are rising or falling), the people of Maduro's socialist utopia have a new problem to contend with. After running out of toilet paper, and finding soap and shampoo hard to come by, AP reports Venezuela's more than 100 McDonald's franchises have run out of potatoes and are now serving alternatives like deep-fried arepa flatbreads or yuca, "because of the situation here; it's a total debacle."
Things in risk land started off badly this morning, with the worst start to a year ever was set to worsen when European equities came under early selling pressure following news of German unemployment falling to record low, offset by a record high Italian jobless rate, with declining oil prices still the predominant theme as Brent crude briefly touched its lowest level since May 2009, this consequently saw the German 10yr yield print a fresh record low in a continuation of the move seen yesterday. However, after breaking USD 50.00 Brent prices have seen an aggressive bounce which has seen European equities move into positive territory with the energy names helping lift the sector which is now outperforming its peers. As a result fixed income futures have pared a large majority of the move higher at the EU open. But the punchline came several hours ago courtesy of Eurostat, when it was revealed that December was the first deflationary month for the Eurozone since the depths of the financial crisis more than five years ago, when prices dropped by -0.2% below the -0.1% expectation, and sharply lower than the 0.3% increase in November, driven by a collapse in Energy prices.
It has been a busy few days for Germany. In the space of a week, they have warned Greece "there will be no blackmail," adding that a Greek exit from the euro was "manageable," only to hours later deny (clarify) these comments. This was then followed up with beggars-are-choosers Syriza demanding any ECB QE must buy Greek bonds (or else) - which Germany has flatly ruled out - only to see today that Syriza is practically guaranteed to win a "decisive victory" at the forthcoming snap election. So it with a wry smile that we note Bild reports tonight that the German government is preparing for a possible Greek exit, warning of financial system collapse, bank runs, and huge costs for the rest of the EU.
Just when you thought it was all over... Having bounced post-CBR intervention and somewhat stabilized, the re-collapse in crude oil prices and continued weakness in Russian macro data provided just the impetus for a re-plunge in the Ruble (back above 63.5/USD) and surge in Russian bond yields (back to 14%). While Russian stocks are also retesting towards recent lows, it is Russian CDS that is the most telling as it closed to day at 595bps - the widest since March 2009. While these violent gyrations are new for recent history, they are not a new phenomenon, but are quite characteristic of the country’s financial history.
Same slide, different day, as the crude crash continues, with both WTI and Brent tumbling to multi-year highs, below $49 and $52 respectively. This happened despite the news overnight that China is accelerating 300 infrastructure projects valued at 7 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion) this year, suggesting that China will focus more on fiscal policy than monetary easing, which in turn led to much confusion in the SHCOMP, which fluctuated up and down for the day several times before finally closing unchanged. There was no confusion about the stops slamming USDJPY, and its Nikkei225 derivative which tumbled 3%, sending Japanese Treasury yields to fresh record lows. Record low yields were also seen in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, France (and many other places), which in turn forced the US 10 Year to finally dip back under 2.00%. In fact, taken together, the average 10Y bond yield of the U.S., Japan and Germany has dropped below 1% for the first time ever, according to Citi.
“Don’t look back - something might be gaining on you,” Satchel Paige famously warned. For connoisseurs of civilizational collapse, 2014 was merely annoying, a continued pile-up of over-investments in complexity with mounting diminishing returns, metastasizing fragility, and no satisfying resolution. So we enter 2015 with greater tensions than ever before and therefore the likelihood that the inevitable breakdown will release more destructive energy and be that much harder to recover from.