As we noted earlier there are some 'possible' scenarios that enable payments to be made on Treasuries prioritized over other payments but it would appear the short-term Treasury Bill market is becoming not just increasingly anxious about a technical default but is bringing that "X" date closer and closer. The 10/31/13 bill had been the "most risky" of the short-term bills until this weekend but the lack of a deal and no indication of a resolution any time soon has seen risk piling up in the 10/17/13 and 10/24/13 bills - the latter now at 16bps (that is 4 times the yield on the 11/21/13 bill). The 1-month-1-year spread is still inverted (even as USA CDS compresses on the day).
Having been dismissed on the first day of the shutdown, precious metals have surged back in the last few days and this morning, as no deal was achieved (surprising equity market 'investors' who seemed so sure Friday afternoon), are pressing up to post-shutdown highs. With the S&P near post-shutdown lows, and Treasuries only marginally bid, it seems precious metals are benefitting from the anxiety seen in USA CDS and short-term bills (+3bps more at 14bps today) at the resilience of the status quo.
David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government - that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank...
What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut...
He calls this condition "Sundown in America".
Yesterday we described the various scenarios available to Treasury in the next few weeks should the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle carry on longer than the equity markets believe possible. As BofAML notes, however, the most plausible option for the Treasury could be implementing a delayed payment regime. In such a scenario, the Treasury would wait until it has enough cash to pay off an entire day’s obligations and then make those payments on a day-to-day basis. Given the lack of a precedent, it is hard to quantify the impact on the financial markets in the event that the Treasury was to miss payment on a UST; but the following looks at the impact on a market by market basis.
Another day, another shut government and 1-month T-Bills have surged another 6bps to 18.5bps. Those who read our suggestion from Sept 26 to hedge the political stupidity and debt ceiling debate and put on the 1M1Y flattener have seen the fastest plunge and inversion (to negative!) in the curve since early 2009. Despite the relative calm in repo markets, which is likely due to expectations that any technical default will be for a minim al length, the short-term bills most likely to be affected (the 10/31/13 T-Bills) are seeing the largest daily deterioration yet as traders exit and price in the possibility of missed payment. 1Y USA CDS has spiked by a massive 26bps to 65bps, higher than during the Lehman crisis and second only to Summer 2011.
With short-term Treasury Bills starting to price in a missed payment possibility and USA CDS surging (though still low), the debt ceiling (and implicit chance of a technical default) is nigh. As we approach yet another debt ceiling showdown (especially in light of the seeming congruence of a CR and debt ceiling debate in an entirely divided Washington), market attention will turn towards a possible US sovereign rating downgrade. In this article, we provide an outline of the likely actions by the three rating agencies (S&P, Moody’s and Fitch).
It would appear that the almost $1bn capital raise secondary that JCPenney successfully completed last week - inspite of the lies - has done absolutely nothing to resolve market fears as JCP 5Y CDS surges 80bps to 1280bps (equivalent), a record high (and 1Y protection at 1210bps) and the stock price falls another 3.6% to $8.40 - the lowest since 1982. Just as Goldman had warned, liquidity remains a major concern and anyone who had bought the protection made up their losses on the stock they bought from Goldman on the secondary. The credit markets imply around a 25% chance of default within the year and 70% within 5 years.
It would appear that Warren Buffett's reassurance this morning that crossing the debt ceiling won't be so bad (trumpeted by any and all equity pitch men since) is being entirely ignored by the bond market. 1-month Treasury bill yields are soaring this morning - up 5bps at 12.5bps now (having touched 16bps - the highest yield in almost 3 years and notably higher than during the 2011 debt ceiling debacle). 1Y USA CDS are also up 3bps at 38.5bps this morning - notably inverted still. Of course, equity markets are surging back to open green for retail investors ignoring Obama's warning last night and Lew's "default has potential to be catastrophic" note this morning. In the meantime, the 1M1Y flattener trade we suggested goes from strength to strength as an indicator of market stress.
It just keeps getting worse and worse for Bill Ackman. A few weeks after the epic humiliation, not to mention even more epic losses, he suffered on his now defunct JCP long position (despite ample warnings by the likes of Zero Hedge who said long ago JCP is merely a melting icecube and fast-track Chapter 11/7 candidate) all those who predicted (such as Zero Hedge back in January) that an epic HLF short squeeze would result in the aftermath of Ackman's Herbalife short announcement leading to Ackman's ultimate capitulation, have been proven correct. Moments ago, in a letter to investors, Bill Ackman just announced that he has covered over 40% of his Herbalife short position, with his forced buy-in explaining the endless move higher in Herbalife stock in recent weeks. The explanation of being forced out of nearly half of his position is amusing: "we minimize the risk of so-called short squeezes or other technical attempts by market manipulators to force us to cover our position." So Ackman is forced out by his Prime Brokers so as not to be forced out by market manipulators? That's an interesting explanation for what is a far simple situation: booking your paper losses.
Odd that the mainstream media is not discussing the 4% spike in precious metals this morning as vociferously as they discussed the imminent demise of gold and silver yesterday. With stocks having given back all the Shutdown gains, gold and silver prices are surging higher retracing all yesterday's losses as Treasury yields fall and the USD weakens on EUR strength. It seems, perhaps, the spike in 1 month T-Bill yields (and inversion of the USA CDS curve) is being priced into other safe-haven assets...
With even the most compromising politicians on both sides of the aisle admitting at least a brief government shutdown is inevitable (and according to Stone McCarthy the shutdown will hardly be brief and will affect the timely release of such major economic indicators as construction spending, factory orders and the employment number on Friday), the next question arises: how have markets responded to not only shutdowns, but also debt ceiling impasse (with the memory of August 2011 still very vivid) in the past. Here is the full answer from Deutsche's Dominic Constam: "In a shutdown scenario, government agency-compiled economic data releases could be delayed, while essential services, such as Treasury auctions, interest and principal payments on Treasury securities will not be affected. Some federal workers could be furloughed. The most recent government shutdown occurred in late 1995 to early 1996, and lasted about three weeks. Payroll and retail sales data were delayed during that period."
UPDATE: The Bill is currently under debate on the floor - live webcast (Final votes are expected after 11pm ET.)
It appears investors (CDS markets, VIX, T-Bills anxiety) were on to something as each side in the looming government shutdown debate seems mired in their own belief that the other has more to lose. House Republicans are aiming to hold a vote today on a bill to extend government funding through December 15th and ensuring the military gets paid on any shutdown, but...
- HOUSE PLAN WOULD DELAY OBAMACARE ONE YEAR, LAWMAKER SAYS
And as the WSJ reports, Harry Reid has already stated that "we are going to accept nothing as it related to Obamacare," before adjourning the Senate until Monday afternoon (narrowing the gap for a shutdown-avoidance vote). The shutdown-blame-game has begun as it seems the ball is back in the Senate's court...
Earlier in the week we noted the spike in the cost of protecting against a technical default on US Treasuries. While well below "record" wides of 2011, a very interesting event has occurred. The cost of 1Y protection has surged higher than the 5Y protection - something we have only seen in the summer of 2011. However, this time it's different as the inversion is even greater than in 2011 - although not the most liquid instrument in the world - implying a greater chance (albeit a small probability) of a postponed payment in US Treasuries. As we noted previously, there is a way to trade this away from CDS-land.
The last 4 days have seen the price of protection against a default on US Treasuries spike by the most in 4 years. While USA CDS trade on both a default and devaluation basis (as well as technical issues related to which Treasury is cheapest to deliver) this spike to 5-month highs (from what was extremely high levels of complacency) is very notable in light of today's Kocherlakota "whatever it takes" speech. While still well off 2011's debt ceiling debacle panic highs, this move does suggest more than just the politicians are worried about a technical default occurring on US debt. By way of comparison, Germany trades at 23bps and Japan at 61bps against USA's 32bps. But there is a way to trade the debt-ceiling debacle that doesn't invlove leveraged speculation in credit derivatives...
Another signal for investors around the world to buckle their seatbelts.