Why A Record Steep Curve Means The End Of The Fed's Subsidies To Banks

Over the past week, one of the less noticed and more notable developments, was that the 2s10s quietly climbed back to just short of all time record wides: at 273 bps, the curve is just 13 basis point away from the all time record 286 bps achieved on February 2, 2010. For those who still don't understand how this most recent gift to the banks by the Fed and the government works, the math is that for every 100 bps in spread widening, banks make profits by borrowing free at the 2 Year and lending out at the 10 Year spread (on a Price x Volume basis, although as we will discuss momentarily while the price (i.e. spread) may be there the volume is missing), even as home prices decline by about 12% for each percentage point. In other words, in the past year the entire double dip in home prices can be attributed to the spike in long-term rates, which have in turn caused mortgage rates to jump to year highs. All of this has been predicated by increasing concerns that the Fed will allow runaway inflation, as a result pushing 10 and 30 Year spreads (and gold) ever higher. And while traditionally, a steep curve implies substantial bank profits, this time it is really is different, as demand for mortgages, by far the biggest bank product beneficiary from rising LT interest rates, is non-existent - recent new and refinancing mortgage applications are plumbing 15 year lows, meaning that even if banks make exorbitant profits on a spread basis, there is just not enough of them to go around, which in turn means that banks once again have to rely on accounting gimmicks such as declining reserve provisions to pad their books. And unfortunately for the banks, every incremental basis point increase from here on out only means accelerating home price deflation (regardless of how many days in a row cotton, wheat and whiskey closes limit up), which will wreak havoc on myth of any "recovery." This is in fact the most salient point of Scott Minerd's of Guggenheim latest letter: while the bulk of his latest thoughts is focused on Europe, we believe that the critical part if really that dealing with US interest rates. As he concludes: "The story in housing remains a compelling reason yields on the 10-year note above 4 percent are simply not sustainable at this juncture." We complete agree, which also means that the strawman of higher bank earnings due to the yield curve is now dead and buried. Alas for all the bank bulls, from this point on the only direction the curve can go is down... Unless of course the Fed really loses control of the long end in which case all bets are off and QE3 is sure include purchases of MBS.

And Now For The First Gloomy Economic Outlook - Deutsche Bank's 2011 Fixed Income Forecast

There is more to Deutsche Bank than just that douchey joke of an economist who appears on CNBC every other day to repeat that the November NFP number was irrelevant (incidentally we agree, simply because everything out of the BLS now has the same trustworthiness as Chinese data, and the November number was politically motivated to pass the UI extension) and who changes his story diametrically and on a daily basis, with every incremental piece of economic data that does not fit his amateur theories. Deutsche Bank has always had a very decent fixed income platform, and we are happy to announce that in reading the firm's 2011 FI forecast we encounter not only views that diametrically oppose those of the aforementioned hack (for which alone the report is worth reading), but also has some very detailed and insightful observations (which we are confident David Rosenberg would agree with wholeheartedly). The report's summary: bonds may drop a little more, then surge once it becomes clear the economy is as scroomed as always. And another interesting observation, which has to the do with ending the 10s30s flattener trade. We tend to agree with that as well. Having almost penetrated 100 bps today, the second retest proved unsuccessful, and the time for a steeper long-end is coming (primarily due to a renormalization of the curve), and a flattening of the 2s10s.

A Treasury Curve Refresher

Considering how suddenly it has once again become fashionable to talk the Treasury curve (as expected, the halflife of the contagion conversations was 2 weeks), after conveniently ignoring it for about 6 months when it continued to show deteriorating profitability for banks, we think it is useful to provide a reminder of what the curve looks like currently.

What The Rout In MBS Means For Pimco And Broader MBS Investor Alternatives, As The Market Wakes Up To Risk

Wonder why various PIMCO funds are getting hammered over the past week? Simple: the fund's recent push into mortgages, especially on margin, has backfired, and courtesy of the surge in mortgage rates which we highlighted yesterday, has left the world's biggest bond fund, second only the Federal Reserve, hoping for a last minute Hail Mary (Pimco can't print money unlike the former). As a reminder, while Pimco's TRF is positioned well to benefit from the steepening in the 2s10s courtesy of its 4.86 effective duration, we are unsure how the massive flattening of the 10s30s is impacting the firm. What we are absolutely sure of, is that the plunge in MBS prices in the recent week has left the fund gasping for air. Recall that the TRF has increased its MBS holdings by $50 billion in the prior two months (and likely continued in November), which is why the entire rates complex must prevent the ongoing rout in 10s and 30s as otherwise the negative convexity threatens to force an avalanche of selling first by the PIMCOs of the world, then everyone else. We present some very relevant commentary out of CRT on the MBS crunch conundrum.

Morgan Stanley's Top Rates Trades For 2011 (Hint: Sell Treasurys)

After Morgan Stanley's call for the 10 Year hitting 4.5% in 2010 ended up being one of the worst calls of the year (together with each FX call by the Goldman team), the firm's head rates strategist Jim Caron is back on the scene with his latest set of Top Trades for 2011, as well as some views on where the fixed income market is headed next year. In summary: just fast forward the firm's bearish 2009 view on yields one year forward. After all if the firm was so wrong one year, it can't possibly be wrong two years in a row...

Market Recap: 12.3.2010

Technically it a joke to call what we are seeing day in and day out, at least in equities, a market, but for old time's sake, here is a recap of what happened today in stocks, rates, corporates, FX, and a focus on the two key events from late in the day: the bombs from Bernanke and Merkel.

How To Front-Run The Fed's Upcoming SOMA Limit Increase

With the bogey of a minimum QE announcement of $100 billion a month, leading to an in kind purchase of Treasurys, in addition to $30 billion a month from MBS Refis courtesy of QE Lite, a very likely announcement during next week's FOMC meeting, that nobody is talking about, is that the Fed may raise the existing 35% SOMA limit, or abolish it altogether, due to the imminent ceiling hit of purchasable CUSIPs. As a result, as Morgan Stanley suggests, possibly the most profitable Fed frontrunning trade if one wishes to bet on consensus QE, is to buy SOMA excluded CUSIPs as these will be telegraphed to be next in line to be monetized. Of course, in the apocryphal scenario that the Fed disappoints the market and decides to announce a less than $100 billion a month, or, gasp, nothing at all, MS' Igor Cashyn expects a complete bloodbath in rates (and most certainly in risk assets). Then again, the probability of the Fed doing the right and/or prudent thing ever is nil, so we would focus on buying out of favor SOMA issues, because as Morgan Stanley reports: "Net, we like buying what the Fed is buying."And how could one not: after all Morgan Stanley announces that in 2011 net Treasury issuance net of Fed Purchases will be zero!

To QE Or Not To QE?

You thought you knew everything there is to know about the implications, consequences, and ways to frontrun the government's QE2? You were wrong. For everything you always wanted to know about Quantitative Easing, and about 100 pages more, here is Morgan Stanley's Jim Caron with the definitive presentation deck on everything wicked that this way comes.

Treasury Butterfly Collapses To Multi Year Low As All Market Correlations Now Broken

The last stat arb desk has just turned off the lights. Stocks are on their own, as all correlations between bonds and stocks are no longer meaningful, even as the carry trade holds on to some semblance of meaning, but even that is collapsing fast. In this most manipulated market we have ever seen, in which only the Fed is the catalyst for any buying action any more, only those with an investment horizon of 5-10 milliseconds are advised to trade. Everyone else, stay away, or else enjoy waking up to an Apple that is down between 5% and 50% as it (and who knows what else) goes bidless.

Morgan Stanley Institutes Hiring Freeze, May Follow Up With "Significant Cuts" If Market Boycott Continues

And so Wall Street continues to not grasp that as long as the vast majority of people realize just how manipulated and broken the market is, they will simply stay out of it. Today, Gasparino breaks the news that Morgan Stanley has instituted a hiring freeze and that if the current volume drought which will certainly wreck EPS for Q3, persists in Q4, the firm will follow up with "fairly significant cuts." Since we don't anticipate the corrupt regulators to do anything that will return confidence to capital markets (and no, Brian Sack, closing the market by one penny in the green will not help), and since the 2s10s will continue to flatten, the pain for banks will only get worse and worse. Add on top of that the likelihood that very soon the FASB may require banks to report the actual MTM value of their hundreds of billions in underwater loans, and it becomes increasingly obvious why financials will soon be the industry that drags the entire market much lower.

$36 Billion 2 Year Auction Closes At Lowest Ever Yield Of 0.441%, Multi Year High Bid To Cover

Today's 2 Year $36 billion bond auction closed as expected at a fresh all time low high yield of 0.441%, as everyone continues frontrunning the Fed and making a mockery of unsecured overnight market rates. Indicatively, the auction was trading at 0.446% WI, showing just how strong demand is for paper. Furthermore, at 3.78, the Bid To Cover came at 3.78, which is the highest since August of 2007. In terms of takedown, there is no surprise that Primary Dealers took down more than half, or 50.19% specifically, of the auction again: after all the Fed will promptly monetize this debt shortly via one of the tens of billions in POMOs coming down the road. Directs were responsible for 10.78% and indirects took the balance or 39.04%, higher than the recent average of 34.14%. Yet even with the collapse in the 2 Year yield today, the 2s10s is still plunging, and has now hit 208, an 8 bps drop on the day, as ever more investors are shifting their purchase ever more to the right in anticipation of QE2.

Charting Treasury Reactions To Prior QE Episodes

Today the Fed may or may not announce a new outright dollar debasing venture, or may merely hint one is coming. And while the impact on stocks is pretty binary (post embargo, break stocks will either surge or slump) as very few are left trading equities, the real question is what will happen to rate and rate derivative products. Conveniently, Morgan Stanley's Igor Cashyn has compiled a historical analysis of how prior episodes of QE have impacted Treasury-based products. Igor looks at front and back-end rates, at curves, butterflies, swap spreads and agencies. Here are the results.

The Key Charts Entering Q4

Goldman charting guru John Noyce has taken some time off, so in his absence, here is his most recent compilation of charts as we enter Q4, with an emphasis on the EURUSD, AUDUSD (very rich here), EURAUD (and associated oscillation sentiment extremes), the 2s10s, bull flatteners, the S&P, The Shanghai Composite, and much more.

Daily Credit Summary: September 2 - Price Not Volume

Spreads compressed for the second day in a row modestly outperforming stocks as the big volume day from yesterday saw very little activity today as the path of least resistance appears higher for now. Intraday ranges today in credit were very narrow as what two-way flow there was seemed more concentrated in HY than IG for a change...Our super-short-term trading pivot is still long credit (from 111.5bps and 593bps for IG and HY respectively), stops never hit today and we would inch our stop to 110bps in IG and 590bps in HY but we get the sense that tomorrow's action will be early and extreme based on the NFP print. 112.25bps and 600bps are entry levels for the short credit should we run so not much room given the recent vol - and anxiety levels high into a long weekend. HY, IG, and the S&P all now closed above their 50-day averages so that offers some support for now but has offered little critical insight in recent weeks.