As more and more "baby boomers" head into retirement the need for high quality, independent, registered investment advisors will continue to grow. The need for firms that do organic research, analysis and make investment decisions free from "conflict," and in the client's best interest, will continue to be in high demand in the years to come as more "boomers" leave the workforce. While the "Wall Street" game is not likely to change anytime soon; the trust of Wall Street is fading and fading fast. The rise of algorithmic, program and high frequency trading, scandals, insider trading and "crony capitalism" with Washington is causing "retail investors" to turn away to seek other alternatives.
Over the past few months we have explained in detail just how 'frothy' the credit market has become. Probably the most egregious example of this exuberance is the resurgence in covenant-lite loans to record levels. It seems lenders are so desperate to get some yield that they are willing to give up any and all protections just to be 'allowed' to invest in the riskiest of risky credits. With credit having enjoyed an almost uninterrupted one-way compression since the crisis, momentum and flow has taken over any sense of risk management - but perhaps, just perhaps, Sallie-Mae's corporate restructuring this week will remind investors that high-yield credit has a high-yield for a reason. The lender's decision to create a 'good-student-lender / bad-student-lender' and saddle the $17.9bn bondholders with the unit to be wound-down, while as Bloomberg notes, the earnings, cash flow, and equity of the newly formed SLM Bank will be moved out of bondholders’ reach. Bonds have dropped 10-15% on this news - considerably more than any reach-for-yield advantage would benefit and we wonder if these kind of restructurings will slow the inexorable rise in protection-free credit.
While stocks could continue to climb higher that does not mitigate the underlying risks. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is very likely that we are creating one, or more, asset bubbles once again. However, what is missing currently is the catalyst to spark the next major correction. That catalyst is likely something that we are not even aware of at the moment. It could be a resurgence of the Eurocrisis, a banking crisis or Japan's grand experiment backfiring. It could also be the upcoming debt ceiling debate, more government spending cuts, or higher tax rates. It could even be just the onset of an economic business cycle recession from the continued drags out of Europe and now the emerging market countries. Regardless, at some point, and it is only a function of time, reality and fantasy will collide. The reversion of the current extremes will happen devastatingly fast. When this occurs the media will question how such a thing could of happened? Questions will be asked why no one saw it coming.
In a world of shrinking 'quality' collateral to back the ever-increasing leverage and reach-for-yield practicalities of a centrally-repressed market, it seems the actions of the BoJ (as we warned over a month ago) may have just removed the last best hope for keeping Japanese rates stable. As the chart below shows, JGB volatility is simply off-the-scale relative to the other major bond markets. Sustainable? How much return (yield) would you demand for such risk (volatility) before just jettisoning the position?
Peak collateral is just a notion - one we have discussed in detail many times (most recently here). The notion that at the time we want yield and growth we are running out of collateral which is supposed to underpin the high yielding assets and loans. Such a shortage would cause the ponzi-like growth that is necessary to sustain a bubble, to stall and then implode. We think our lords and rulers know this and have decided that it must not be allowed. And this – the need for collateral – is the reason for the endless QE. If this is even close to the mark, then recent murmurings about the Fed tailing off its bond buying will prove to be hollow. The Fed will quickly find it cannot exit QE without precipitating precisely the disorderly collapse, to which it was supposed to be the solution.
Just when you thought the R&R debate was finished, it seems Paul Krugman's latest "spectacularly uncivil behavior" pushed Reinhart and Rogoff too far. In what can only be described as the most eruditely worded of "fuck you"s, the pair go on the offensive at Krugman's ongoing tete-a-tete. "You have attacked us in very personal terms, virtually non-stop... Your characterization of our work and of our policy impact is selective and shallow. It is deeply misleading about where we stand on the issues. And we would respectfully submit, your logic and evidence on the policy substance is not nearly as compelling as you imply... That you disagree with our interpretation of the results is your prerogative. Your thoroughly ignoring the subsequent literature... is troubling. Perhaps, acknowledging the updated literature on drawbacks to high debt-would inconveniently undermine your attempt to make us a scapegoat for austerity."
Up until today, the narrative was one trying to explain how a soaring dollar was bullish for stocks. Until moments ago, when Bill Dudley spoke and managed to send not only the dollar lower, but the Dow Jones to a new high of 15,400 with the following soundbites.
- DUDLEY: FED MAY NEED TO RETHINK BALANCE SHEET PATH, COMPOSITION
- DUDLEY SAYS FISCAL DRAG TO U.S. ECONOMY IS `SIGNIFICANT'
- DUDLEY: FED MAY AVOID SELLING MBS IN EARLY STAGE OF EXIT
- DUDLEY: IMPORTANT TO SEE HOW WELL ECONOMY WEATHERS FISCAL DRAG
- DUDLEY SAYS HE CAN'T BE SURE IF NEXT QE MOVE WILL BE UP OR DOWN
And the punchline:
- DUDLEY SEES RISK INVESTORS COULD OVER-REACT TO 'NORMALIZATION'
Translated: the Fed will never do anything that could send stocks lower - like end QE - ever again, but for those confused here is a simpler translation: Moar.
Despite the eagerness of Abenomics and the new BOJ head Kuroda to have their cake and eat it too, in this case manifesting in soaring stock prices, plunging Yen, rising GDP and exports, and most importantly, flat or declining bond yields, so far they have succeeded in carrying out three of the four, as it is physically impossible for any central planner to completely overrule the laws of math, economics and physics indefinitely. Volatility aside the recent surge in yields higher is finally starting to take its tool on domestic bond issuers. As Bloomberg reports, already two names have pulled deals from the jittery bond market due to "soaring" borrowing costs. The first is Toyota Industries which as NHK reported, canceled the sale of JPY20 billion debt. Toyota is among Japanese firms that put off selling debt as long-term yields on government debt have risen, increasing borrowing costs, public broadcaster NHK says without citing anyone. Last week JFE Holdings announced it would delay plans to sell bonds due to market volatility. So two names down... and the 10 Year is not even north of 1%... But perhaps, more importantly, what happens to JGB holdings as the benchmark Japanese government bond continues trading with the volatility of a 1999 pennystock, and as more and more VaR stops are hit, forcing even more holders to dump the paper out of purely technical considerations: a topic we touched upon most recently last week, and which courtesy of JPM, which looks back at exactly the same event just 10 years delayed, now has a name: VaR shocks. For those who wish to skip the punchline here it is: A 100bp interest rate shock in the JGB yield curve, would cause a loss of ¥10tr for Japan's banks.
Everyone knows the odds of winning in a casino are worse than 50% (often much worse depending on the game played). So who wouldn't rush to a casino where, instead, the odds were overwhelmingly in the gambler's favor? That's the promise of today's stock market, which has been experiencing an aberrantly high percentage of up days all year. Like all good benders though, this is going to end with one heck of a hangover...
Obviously with Buffett a major shareholder of Moody's, the only place where a downgrade of Berkshire could come from was S&P. Moments ago, the rating agency that dared to downgrade the US for which it is being targeted by Eric Holder's Department of "Justice", did just that.
With the Fed and Bank of Japan buying nearly every government and agency security on the planet, even a completely rancid pile of bollocks might look and smell like a lovely red rose...
As another woeful week wends to a weary close... what we got to look forward to? Although markets appeared to be shooting off in every direction, we do expect we'll see clearer direction soon. Despite the noisy criticism earlier this week of Yen "competitive" devaluation, the G20 meeting said nothing. We suspect certain individuals were quietly sat in the comfy chair, had global reality gently explained to them with the aid of some rusty dental equipment, were slapped around a bit and told to shut it. As long as Japan can sign the pledge on “no competitive depreciation” without giggling we’ll be ok. We do suspect the warmest circle of financial hell is being reserved for those populist European politicians who've tried to appeal to voters with efforts to stem the financial tides, and punished markets for being markets.
We all know that double digit inflation in HPA is not a good thing for the long term recovery of the housing market.
"The stress is beginning to show," Kyle Bass warns during a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg TV. "The beginning of the end," is here for Japanese government bonds as he notes that while quantitiavely it is clear they are insolvent, "the qualitative perception of participants is changing." But away from Japan specifically, there is a lot more on the Texan's mind. "Things go from perfectly stable to completely unstable," very quickly; even more so after 20 years of exponential debt build-up and Keynesian cover-ups; and it is this that he warns complacent investors that it is "really important to think about the capital at risk in your strategy." For this reason he prefers to hold gold rather than Treasuries, as, "when you think about the largest central banks in the world, they have all moved to unlimited printing ideology. Monetary policy happens to be the only game in town. I am perplexed as to why gold is as low as it is. I don't have a great answer for you other than you should maintain a position." His discussion varies from housing's recovery to structured credit liquidity "money is being misallocated by the printing press" and the future of the GSEs, concluding with the rather ominous, "at some point in time, I would much rather would own gold than paper. I just don't know when that time is."
Perhaps the best measure to gauge the European recovery is by the soaring number of companies going bust, because only from this perspective is Europe finally "fixed." As Reuters reports citing a report by Axesor, a record 2,564 companies filed for "insolvency proceedings", a more palatable version of the word bankruptcy, in the first quarter - an increase of 10% from Q4 and up a whopping 45% from Q1 2012. The reasons given: "tight credit conditions and meager demand." Or in other words: no actual cash flow to fund demand for products and services. Obviously it will take some truly phenomenal massaging and manipulation to represent GDP as rising in this environment, but we are confident the Spanish authorities are already on it, and somehow the Spanish pension fund, already 97% filled with Spanish government bonds, will somehow have a finger in yet another completely unbelievable economic print which will fool most of the algos most of the time on flashing red Bloomberg headlines.