If the global equity "markets" were in need of a sharp "horrible news is great news" boost overnight, it came courtesy of Germany's ZEW investor confidence survey, which printed at a stunning 8.6, a plunge from the 27.1 in July and far below the 17.0 expected - the lowest print since December 2012 -largely suggesting that a European triple-dip is all but assured. And if that wasn't enough, strong language from John Kerry, assured to fan the flames of geopolitical instability, came hours ago when the US SecState said even more Russian sanctions may be coming. And just to make sure the NY Fed trading desk has to come up with a new narrative is the latest development in the Russian "humanitarian convoy" saga, which as we reported last night, has departed Russia but which Ukraine is now refusing to allow into its country. All in all, it's is setting up to be another super bullish day in the rigged markets for which all that matters is... Tuesday.
Since there is nothing on today's data docket, it will be all about, you guessed it, geopolitical risks, where "consensus" is best summarized by these two Bloomberg headlines:
- Stay USD Long as Geopolitical Risks Loom
- USD is mixed and world stock markets rise as concerns over geopolitical risks ease
That pretty much covers it, although in addition to the Ukraine civil war one can now add an Iraq coup to the list of geopolitical fiascoes instigated by US foreign policy.
Gold Breaks Out As Tensions In Middle East, With Russia Intensify - Technicals and Fundamentals PositiveSubmitted by GoldCore on 08/08/2014 16:06 -0500
Gold is nearly 2% higher this week and its technical position has further improved (see key charts). On Wednesday, gold broke out of bullish descending wedge chart pattern that has formed in recent months. Another buy signal for gold came when gold rose above the 20 EMA and 50 EMA (exponential moving averages). Also positive is the fact that the price momentum oscillator (PMO) has turned up, indicating that a positive momentum shift has occurred.
High-Yield bonds funds saw record outflows of $7.1 billion this week - the fourth week running - as the slow-motion train crash in credit starts to accelerate. As Forbes reports, the huge redemption blows out past the prior record outflow of $4.63 billion in June 2013. The full-year reading is now deeply in the red, at $5.9 billion, with 43% of the withdrawal tied to ETFs. Simply put, everyone in the bond market knew 'not' to sell because liquidity is simply not there; but game theory's first mover advantage finally broke as retail investors run and create a vicious cycle of 'liquid' ETF selling forcing 'illiquid' underlying bond selling... just as we warned here and here. Why should equity investors care? See chart below...
There were some minor fireworks in the overnight session following the worst Australian unemployment data in 12 years reported previously (and which sent the AUD crashing), most notably news that the Japanese Pension Fund would throw more pensioner money away by boosting the allocation to domestic stocks from 12% to 20%, while reducing holdings of JGBs from 60% to 40%. This in turn sent the USDJPY soaring (ironically, following yesterday's mini flash crash) if only briefly before it retraced much of the gains, even as the Pension asset reallocation news now appears to be entirely priced in. It may be all downhill from here for Japanese stocks. It was certainly downhill for Europe where after ugly German factory orders yesterday, it was the turn of Europe's growth dynamo to report just as ugly Industrial Production which missed expectations of a 1.2% print rising only 0.3%. Nonetheless, asset classes have not seen major moves yet, as today's main event is the ECB announcement due out in less than an hour. Consensus expects Draghi to do nothing, however with fresh cyclical lows in European inflation prints, and an economy which is clearly rolling over from Germany to the periphery, the ex-Goldmanite just may surprise watchers.
Practically since the day Lehman went down in September 2008 Washington has been conducting a monumental farce. It has been pretending to up-root the causes of the thundering financial crisis which struck that month and to enact measures insuring that it would never happen again. In fact, however, official policy has done just the opposite. The Fed’s massive money printing campaign has perpetuated and drastically enlarged the Wall Street casino, making the pre-crisis gamblers in CDOs, CDS and other derivatives appear like pikers compared to the present momentum chasing madness. In a nutshell, the Fed’s prolonged regime of ZIRP and wealth effects based “puts” under risk assets has destroyed two-way markets.
The three charts below are still another reminder that the Fed’s heedless fueling of the third financial bubble this century has done enormous damage to the internals of financial markets. In this case, investors and savers being brutally punished by ZIRP were herded into bonds funds in a desperate scramble for yield. Yet the market’s structural liquidity condition has gone in the opposite direction. Dealer inventories of corporate bonds have plummeted by nearly 75% from pre-crash levels, meaning that the ratio of dealer inventories to bond fund assets has virtually been vaporized. The implication is no mystery. When the financial markets eventually succumb to a “risk-off” selling panic, the corporate bond market will gap down violently, "everyone is hoping to be first through the exit,” warns Citi's Matt King, "by definition, that’s not possible."
Fearful of any impact to the Portuguese/European dream, EU commission leaders folded and bailed out Banco Espirito Santo. Bond and CDS traders are scrambling this morning to come to grips with the consequences of BES bail-out/bail-in. The $6.6 billion bailout's burden-sharing has wiped out shareholders and crushed subordinated debt holders (traded down to 16c on the dollar this morning) where "the likelihood of recovery for junior bondholders is minimal,” according to one trader; but leaves senior bond holders (+10pts to 100) and depositors unaffected. However, it is those 'smart' investors who bought insurance in the CDS market that are struggling this morning as the plan to transfer BES assets to a new company, Novo Banco, may constitute a so-called 'succession event' whereby all the contracts associated with CDS move to the new company (and this do not trigger the CDS to pay). CDS spreads ripped 350bps tighter.
Following a ghastly week for stocks, the momentum algos were desperate for something, anything to ignite some upward momentum and stop the collapse which last week pushed the DJIA into the red for the year: they got it overnight with the previously reported bailout of Portugal's Banco Espirito Santo, where the foreplay finally ended and after the Portuguese Central Bank finally realized that the bank is insolvent and that no more private investors will "recapitalize" it further, finally bailed it out, sticking the stock and the subs into a bad bank runoff entity, while preserving the senior bonds. So much for Europe's much vaunted bail in regime and spreading of pain across asset classes. At least the depositors did not get Cyprused, for now.
Moments ago ISDA, which yesterday was queried whether a CDS-triggering credit event had taken place in Argentina, made a ruling. Here it is:
- The Americas [Determinations Commitee] met on August 1, 2014 and resolved that a Failure to Pay Credit Event in relation to the Argentine Republic occurred on July 30, 2014.
And now, we find out who is the biggest seller of the CDS. Up next: the CDS auction.
With Argentine politicians explaining that "Argentina is not in default" and ISDA set to decide if last night's default is an 'official' trigger event for CDS, it appears Kirchner, Kicillof, and their (k)omrades may have found an angel. The initial 'bailout' plan, by which Argentine banks bought the holdouts defaulted debt (then promptly acquiesced to Argentina's old debt-swap agreement), failed last night; but, as WSJ reports, JPMorgan is in discussions to buy the defaulted bonds of Argentina's holdout creditors. While this would not impact the default decision (that is history), it would speed up the exit from default rapidly. Of course, JPM is not doing this out of love for Argentina, we suspect they are on the hook for a few billion CDS and need some cheapest-to-deliver bonds to help them through the settlement process.
With hours to go until Argentina's grace period runs out and default occurs, investors are less than frantically selling Argentine bonds and pesos. They are lower but do not appear in full panic mode as we presume investors cling to hope that Argentina folds and pays off the holdouts (though there has been no sign of that so far). ARG 2033 bonds are down 3 points to 81 and the black-market peso is modestly weaker at 13.0 (near its record lows). Argentine CDS tightened modestly (as BofA warns the facts surrounding Argentina’s bond payments continue to be unique and deciding if CDS are triggered could take longer than expected) but 1Y CDS are holding at 4600bps (equivalent) - a 52% probability of default. Paul singer continues to defend himself (and the holdouts) from claims they are "dangerous fundamentalists" hell-bent on making it impossible for foreign sovereigns to restructure their debts.
With 2 days until the 30-day grace period for 'negotiating' the already defaulted upon bonds is over and Argentina is once again dumped from the public markets, the demands for a "continuous mediation" by Judge Griesa appears to have fallen on dear ears. Bloomberg reports that the Argentina delegation will not meet with the mediator today.. and Argentina bonds are tumbling (and CDS soaring). Markets are implying around 45-50% chance of a default being triggered, which, as Jefferies noted last week, seems low. Argentina's black-market peso (blue dollar rate) weakened to 12.75 (just shy of its weakest ever at 13.00) implying a 50% devaluation over the peso.
Passing a European Banking stress test these days is a little like farting - easy to do, mostly hot air, and yet it typically warns of something else coming down that isn't going to be pretty
There is no better way to describe what the recently departed CFTC commissioner Scott O'Malia just did when he bailed from the commodity watchdog to become the new head of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, aka ISDA, the biggest banking group that has constantly opposed every intervention and attempt to regulate the swaps market by the CFTC since the Lehman crisis, than an epic farce.