No one stays on top forever, and to be sure, when Bill Gross' long reign at the top of the fixed income universe finally came to a sudden and rather unceremonious end last October, the race to lay claim to the inevitable outflows from PIMCO's Total Return Fund was on. Now, a winner has emerged — and it's not Jeff Gundlach.
It seems yet another hero of the recent cyclical bull market, resp. echo bubble, may be in danger of falling from grace. This has already happened to his predecessor Alan Greenspan, who has been gradually demoted from “Maestro” to “irresponsible bubble blower”. In this sense the somewhat less praise-laden verdicts that are lately emerging with respect to Ben Bernanke could be seen as an early warning sign.
“When does our credit based financial system sputter / break down? When investable assets pose too much risk for too little return. Not immediately, but at the margin, credit and stocks begin to be exchanged for figurative and sometimes literal money in a mattress.” We are approaching that point now as bond yields, credit spreads and stock prices have brought financial wealth forward to the point of exhaustion.A rational investor must indeed have a sense of an ending, not another Lehman crash, but a crush of perpetual bull market enthusiasm.
10Y German bond yields hit 42.5bps today (almost a 10x move off their 4.9bps lows on April 17th - before Bill Gross and Jeff Gundlach unleashed their bearish theses). While Draghi keeps buying, the move over the last week is 'almost' unprecedented in bond market history. We says 'almost' because we have seen this before - a sovereign issuer with an extremely low yielding bond suddenly see their bond market collapse... Japan 2003 (when Greenspan cut rates less than expected).
One of the biggest stories of the week has been the great German Bund route as everyone’s new favorite short has sold-off hard on what HSBC calls a “cascade of small events [which has] created a large splash in a structurally ever-thinner mkt, similar to UST flash crash of Oct. 15.” Amid the cacophony of explanations emanating from every credit and rates strategist on Wall Street, BNP is out with a simple suggestion: it’s all about the waxing and waning of supply.
As first Bill Gross and then Jeff Gundlach suggest shorting German bonds, so it appears the message has sunk in that at 4.9bps 10 days ago, 10Y Bund yields were the short of a lifetime. Since then they have soared, with a dramatic doubling today from 14bps to over 29bps - the highest yield in 7 weeks. As Commerzbank warns, "a cascade of small events is creating a large splash in a structurally ever-thinner market," which has led to a plunge "similar to US Treasury flash crash of Oct. 15."
The "new" Bond King joins his predecessor on the bond throne in calling German Bunds a compelling short opportunity. Just as we said last week, "when you short negative yielding bonds you have a positive carry," so why not leverage your bet 100X and get paid to wait on rising yields?
"What is different this time? Central banks are driving all investment decisions, and what this implies is that they are in this trade so deeply that there is no obvious or practical exit.... This is a dangerous situation. The focus must return to the REAL economy; we cannot trade our way out of past mistakes."
With only six weeks (or one Graccident) to go until Bund purchases are forced out to 7-year maturities, and with traders warning that nearly every piece of PSPP-eligible German government paper will eventually trade special in repo despite the ECB’s feeble attempt to remedy the situation via its Securities Lending Program, the world wants to know: “when do I sell Bunds?”
Coincidence? Maybe. But since Bill Gross called Bunds "the short of a lifetime," the last two days have seen German 10Y Bund yields rise (on a percentage basis) by the most on record. On an absolute basis, this is the biggest yield increase since Oct 2014... Who would dare to sell when Draghi has promised moar...
30% of German debt trades at or below the depo rate and some 60% carries a negative yield. The way things are going now, central bank Bund purchases will have to be in maturities of 7 years or more within just 6 weeks, and of course that timeframe could accelerate meaningfully should things take a turn for the worst in Athens. Ultimately, the math doesn't add up and it appears as though modifications to PSPP's structure will be necessary (perhaps at the ECB's September meeting) in order to prevent a forced taper.