Sadly, that "something" has nothing to do with the real economy, but it has everything to do with the stock market which is all that matters to the Fed. Presenting the Adjusted Reserves held by Fed banks: it is, logically, at a fresh all time high. This is the low-powered money that due to capital allocation preferences continues to go, every day for the past 4 years, not into the broader economy (blame it on the 2s10s, or the disastrous state of the US consumer who has no desire for loans, or what have you) but straight into the S&P500. Since the full blown launch of QE3 excess bank reserves have grown by $500 billion, or roughly a 30% increase in six months. Which is also the reason why the S&P has correlated not with any actual fundamental data, but only this chart for the past 6 or so months.
Maybe our man Kevin just got pissed off that he has to re-use his starbuck's cup & stopped working for the past few days.
No Bazooka As ECB Backtracks: Draghi Won't Pursue Yield Caps, To Sterilize Bond Buys In SMP ContinuationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/05/2012 07:15 -0500
In what can only be interpreted as a huge disappointment for the ECB and Draghi yielding to German demands, Bloomberg has leaked what likely will be the final plan of the ECB tomorrow, which contrary to previously rumors stating that the ECB will pursue yield caps, or even just buy bonds on an unsterilized basis, appears to be a huge dud:
- ECB BOND PLAN SAID TO REFRAIN FROM SETTING PUBLIC YIELD CAPS
- DRAGHI'S BOND PLAN SAID TO PLEDGE UNLIMITED, STERILIZED BUYING
- ECB PLAN SAID TO FOCUS ON GOVT BONDS, MATURITIES UP TO 3 YEARS
- ECB SAID TO CONSIDER SELLING BONDS IF CONDITIONS NOT MET
- ECB PLAN SAID TO STRESS CONDITIONALITY OF ANY BOND PURCHASES
- ECB BOND PLAN SAID TO HAVE BROAD COUNCIL SUPPORT - but not unanimous, as Germany again objects
The keyword above is highlighted: sterilized, which simply means for those who are unaware, such as all the algos taking the EURUSD higher, that the ECB's entire overhyped plan is nothing more than a continuation of the Securities Market Program, or the SMP, which has been dormant for over 25 weeks, and which was deactivated because it did not work! Because sterilized means no new money enters the system, something which for Europe is unacceptable considering Spain alone is now seeing $100 billion in outflows each month.
Yesterday we dedicated significant space to the most recent piece of perfectly ludicrous propaganda out of the ECB, namely that monetizing debt with a maturity up to three years is not really monetization but is instead within the arena of "money market management" (images of Todd Akin defining when something is 'legitimate' and when it isn't swimming our heads). The implication of course is that debt under 3 years is not really debt, but some mystical piece of paper that nobody should be held accountable for. Hopefully all those consumers who have short-maturity credit card debt which nonetheless yields 29.95% APR are made aware of this distinction and decide to follow through with Mario Draghi's logic, which is about to take the war of words between Germany and the ECB to the next level. Sure enough, this is precisely the news item that is dominating bond risk markets this morning, if not so much futures, and sending Spanish and Italian 2s10s spreads to record wides on hopes Draghi will definitely announce some sub 3 year monetization program for the PIIGS. Bloomberg summarized this best last night when it commented on the move in the EURUSD, since retraced, that we now have speculation Draghi's move will bolster confidence. In other words: the market is now hoping there is hope. Sure enough, even if Draghi follows through, for the ECB to monetize Spanish bonds, Spain still has to demand a bailout, which however is now absolutely out of the question as mere jawboning has moved the entire highly illiquid curve so steep Rajoy (and Monti) have absolutely no reason to hand over their resignations (i.e., request a bailout). And so we go back to square one. But logic no longer matters in these markets.
Between the thinness of European bond markets during the summer doldrums and the hair-trigger momo-monkeys, it would appear that all the hopes and prayers of the Draghi "promise" have been more than priced into the Spanish bond curve already. Of course, short-dated yields could drop further on ECB buying; but where exactly 'should' that risk premia be? Of course, longer-dated yields could compress but does anyone really see a solution here, as opposed to short-term support to get through some debt maturities and avoid a catastrophic contagion? The critical point being - for all the anticipation of Draghi's bond-buying plan and its implicit conditionality, the Spanish yield curve has priced it all in and more - as the 2s10s curve is now at all-time (pre- and post- Euro-era) record steeps. We have seen this pattern before - into and during LTRO - that did not end well; and the crowd is getting larger and doors smaller in this one (and don't forget Corzine won't be your fall-guy this time)...
Sigh. Spain's IBEX gained over 3%; Italy's MIB gained over 2%; and all but the UK's FTSE equity index ended very nicely green today (all jerked higher by Spain's comments on their bad-bank and then Bernanke's cover). However, European Government Bonds (EGBs) failed dismally. Spain's 10Y spread to bunds ended the week 46bps wider and Italy 15bps wider and while some point to the short-end as evidence that all is well, Spain saw modest weakness in the 2Y today post Bernanke (though Italy rallied). The curve steepening was dramatic to say the least as the market appearsd to be increasingly assuming the ECB will monetize short-dated govvies - our own view - consider what the implied forward financing costs are given these steep curves as clearly noone trusts this as a solution and will merely subordinate the entire market. Spain 2s10s curve is now at its steepest on record at 328bps! and this is not helping:
*SPAIN’S CATALONIA REGION CUT TO JUNK BY S&P, OUTLOOK NEGATIVE
But buy stocks...
Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his veep clarifies the policy debate (forcing typically middle-of-the-road voters to become more polarized to the size of government) into the November election and materially changes the odds of the fiscal cliff's resolution. As Morgan Stanley's Vince Reinhart notes, "by tying one side to an explicit plan for fiscal consolidation, the Ryan selection makes it much more likely that the campaign will focus on the appropriate role of the government. That is, the debate will be about the right level of federal expenditure relative to national income, the progressivity of the tax system, and the extent to which family incomes are protected on the downside by Washington, DC." Although theoretically the Ryan pick raises the chance of a benign, before-the-election resolution to the fiscal cliff 'issue', it also worsens the likely outcome if the legislative stand-off continues into 2013 - which the odds suggest is the case.
As Goldman observed last night, the "metaboring" meme continues, as things go from boringer to boringest. Nothing notable has happened overnight. Some things that did happen was news that Spain is about to receive an emergency disbursement from its €100 billion euro bank bailout because of restriction imposed by the ECB on bank borrowings; Italian banks announced plans to dispose of more bad loans to avoid "potentially bigger losses" (to whom? the ECB?), non-voting Fed member Kocherlakota saying that cutting IOER would have a minimal impact (are you paying attention former visiting Fed advisor David "the Fed will bail everyone out always and forever" Zervos), UK retail sales coming in stronger on bigger gas and food purchases (so aside from being ignored for inflation purposes these are useful when extrapolating economic "growth"), July Eurozone inflation coming in just as expected unchanged at 2.4% Y/Y, China FDI collapsing 8.7% as data revealed the longest run of declining inward investment growth in China since the 2008-09 financial crisis sending local markets to 2 week lows as the MOFCOM said the country's 2H export outlook will be even more grim and Premier Wen said easing inflation (not in food) allows for more room to adjust monetary policy, a statement that had zero impact on domestic stocks. As a result we have seen minimal flattening in Spanish and Italian 2s10s, and a continued gradual drift lower in the EURUSD. And this, aside from another week of initial claims that will have the prior week's data revised higher, and a Philly Fed, may be as good as it gets, as volume is set to plumb another multi-year low, and with the 2s10s flattening again, guarantees that bank profits in Q3 will be atrocious, forcing banks to fire even more (or cause various unnamed market makers to accidentally activate 1000x buy algos).
Another day, another LCH margin hike on Spanish and Italian bonds. Spanish SPGBs which will have to post more margin beginning tomorrow are all bonds with a maturity between 0.75 and 3.25 years, as well as bonds between 10 and 15 years, as well as all short-term Italian bonds between 3.25 and 7 year, in effect offsetting Draghi's "reverse Twist" house of cards. Expect to see more flattening in the Spanish and Italian 2s10s curve, followed by more promises of imminent action by the ECB, which however, may finally be realizing that for Spain to actually demand a bailout, its 10 years will have to be closer to 10% than to 5%. Finally, if this ratcheting up in asset encumbrance in Europe doesn't send the VIX to single digits nothing will.
A funny thing happened in European peripheral bond markets: they sold off - Spain is wider across the board, with the 2 Year back over 4%, and the 10 Year threatening to blow out above 7% for the first time since the market was re-re-fooled by Draghi. Same in Italy, where the 2s10s is once again in flattening mode. In other words after getting Draghi right for one day, then flipping and confusing what he said for the next week, the market is back to being right in itis initial kneejerk reaction to the ECB head's words. One reason (among many) - a Rabobank report by Richard McGuire and Lyn Graham-Taylor which states that Spain won’t ask for more aid if more conditions are attached add to likelihood "crisis must worsen before it improves." Hmm, where have we seen an identical turn of the phrase before. Oh yes, here. Rabobank also adds that the ECB will have to show willingness to buy across the curve (not just in tenors of less than one year) when it does intervene. Of course, for that to happen, things must get far, far worse. Just as we explained to the five-year olds in charge of the market this past weekend.
As panties are being thrown at the feet of Mario Draghi all around Europe, and his comments are being heralded as 'confirmation' of Nowotny's restatement of absolutely nothing yesterday, we thought some context would be useful before we all cheer that all is well. Spanish and Italian 10Y bond spreads are still notably wider than the pre-EU-Summit 'panic' levels and dramatically wider than the post-EU-Summit best levels. Spain 2s10s, having flattened from 220bps to 60bps in a week has squeezed back up to 128bps as we can only imagine the bath-salting that caused a few people. The point is that this kneejerk reaction in an incredibly illiquid market at the front-end of the Spanish curve is nothing to rest your hat on yet. In fact, if there are more hints dropped of ECB restarting SMP then we suspect European asset managers will run to sell down their Spanish bonds to try and front-run the subordination this implies at the inevitable restructuring (as game-theoretically they know everyone else will also do the same).
UPDATE: *ITALIAN TWO-YR NOTE YIELD RISES ABOVE 5%, 1ST TIME SINCE JAN 11
While every wannabe bond-trader and macro-strategist can quote 10Y Spanish yields, and maybe even knows what the front-end of the Spanish yield curve is doing (and why), there are three very significant events occurring in the Spanish sovereign credit market. First is the inversion of the 5s10s curve (5Y yields were above 10Y yields at the open today); second is the velocity with which 2s10s and 5s10s have plunged suggesting a total collapse in confidence of short-term sustainability; and perhaps most critically, third is the record wide spread between the bond's spread and the CDS (the so-called 'basis') which suggests market participants have regime-shifted Spain into imminent PSI territory (a la Greece and Portugal) as opposed to 'still rescuable' a la Italy for now. As we pointed out earlier, there is little that can be done (or is willing to be done) in the short-term, and the inevitability of a full-scale TROIKA program request is increasingly priced into credit markets (though its implicatios are not in equities of course).
UPDATE: Biggest down day in Faceplant since 5/29 (down 8%) to close at $28.25 on double recent volume.
This was the narrowest day's range in S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) in over three months and volume was dismally slow as it clung to its 50DMA amid larger than normal average trade size. Elsewhere, markets were anything but dead. Commodities dipped and ripped with WTI breaking back over $88 on Saudi news and Silver/Gold/Copper all ending around unch on the day but leaking off their highs into the close (though well off lows). For a while 'bad was good' as the retail sales print prompted QE-on-esque trades with Gold up, USD down, and Treasury yields plunging to near-record-lows. FX and commodities appeared to catch up to stock's more sanguine view of things from Friday but once there, Treasury yields reversed and rose into the afternoon as EURUSD continued to rally back well into the green (repatriation?) dragging the USD down 0.25% from Friday's close. Credit notably underperformed equities on the day (with HYG stumbling into the close). It seems everyone is waiting with baited breath for Bernanke's speech tomorrow and VIX (which is back in line with realized vol for the first time in 5 months) limped higher by around 0.4 vols to 17.1%.
Just as we noted yesterday, the ludicrous late-day ramp in European equity markets relative to the absolute nonchalance of credit (corporate, financial, and sovereign) markets, has now reverted totally as broadly speaking Europe ends the day in the red. Spain and Italy stock indices bounced a modest 0.5% on the day as the UK's FTSE and Germany's DAX suffered the most (down 1-1.5%) on Banking Lie-Bor drama and unemployment respectively. Corporate credit leaked a little wider on the day with the investment grade credits underperforming (dragged by weakness in financials). Financials were notably weak with Subordinated credit significantly underperforming Senior credit (bail-in anyone?). Sovereigns were weak overall (not just Spain, Italy, and Portugal this time) as Spain's 2s10s has now flattened to year's lows. Swiss 2Y rates dropped further - to record closing lows at -35.2bps (after being -39bps at their best/worst of the day - suggesting all is not well, and Bunds largely tracked Treasuries as the SCOTUS decision came on and pushed derisking across assets. EURUSD tested towards 1.2400 early on but is holding -35pips or so for now at 1.2430.
It's another one of those hope-fueled days in Europe as European stock indices across evey nation close comfortably in the green as the EU Summit begins. Germany has taken all the substantive things off the table and Cyprus and Portugal threw in the towel but nevertheless, stocks are 1-2.5% higher (with Italy and Spain outperforming). We assume this is reflexive pricing of 'the crisis is now so scary that the ECB will have to do something' but it seems the FX and Sovereign bond market missed that pre-emptive hope-driven view as Portugal yields/spreads spiked, Spain pushed back up to 6.93% and saw further flattening in its yield curve (as short-dated LTRO-enthused bonds underperform dramatically) as 2s10s is almost back to six-month pre-LTRO levels. Italian spreads pulled off their worst levels to close mixed but remains over 40bps wider on the week. EURUSD closed down over 35 pips at 1.2450 and stocks were in a world of their own also relative to credit markets today.