Yields spike, damage spreads. Investors try to bail out while they still can.
Let's pause for a moment, take a breath, and reflect on what has happened. As Scotiabank's Guy Haselmann notes, "The current market environment means that prices of securities can move wildly and to previously unforeseen and unexpected levels. For many, P&L management and financial survival will trump economic valuation." But what does all this mean for The Fed tomorrow?
The shale oil “miracle” was an epochal stunt. Thanks to ZIRP, what every pom-pom carrying cheerleader failed to note was how much of the day-to-day shale operation was being run on junk bond financing. ZIRP destroyed the most fundamental index in the financial universe: the true cost of borrowing money. Finance was the lifeblood of the global economy and scam after scam left it riddled with wormholes of fragility. That fragility has been waiting to express itself and the ability of bank wizards to squelch and conceal it may have come to an end. There will be no quick cure for cratering oil prices and the damage it will wreak among the shale drillers.
The Russian Ruble has collapsed this morning. Despite a modest dead-cat-bounce-like rally in crude oil, the Ruble is down almost 3 handles smashing through the 61/USD level for the first time ever. Minutes after flash-crashing to 61.46/USD, officials, according to Reuters, halted trading in certain instruments to “prevent possible manipulation of equity futures market." Russia's 5Y CDS has broken above 500bps for the first time since 2009 (+21bps today), the RTS stock market is down over 6%, and 5Y bond yields are pushing towards 13%. It seems Putin is increasingly being put under pressure to do something...
In space, no one can hear you scream... unless you happen to be Venezuela's (soon to be former) leader Nicolas Maduro, who has been doing a lot of screaming this morning following news that UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut crude output "even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel" and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I deserve to lose.
Not a day passes without pundits on either side of the debate, eager to make their case that the acute, nearly 50% plunge in the price of crude, swear up and down their preferred economic ideology of choice that said plunge is [bullish|bearish] for the economy. The reality is that the true impact of the great oil crash of 2014 will not be revealed for at least several months, however for those who can't afford to wait, or simply lack the patience, here is perhaps the most comprehensive view of the pros and cons of what has now been dubbed a "textbook macroeconomic shock" by Deutsche Bank.
One sign would be for non-energy junk bonds to begin dropping in price. That would mean large holders are exiting from all junk bonds, not just those companies affected by low oil prices.
Another sign would be sudden drops in share prices for banks or insurance companies that hold small amounts of energy-related bonds or bank loans, a clue that some market participants think they have derivative exposure.
A third sign to look for would be the rumors or news that the big, investment-grade energy companies are having trouble renewing their Commercial Paper, bank loans or maturing bonds (the Exxon-Mobils and Shells of the world).
One thing is certain about the ensuing “race to the bottom”. Japan’s retirement colony will end up with the hindmost. And they will surely burn professors Krugman and Summers in effigy—-even if driftwood is the only fuel they have left.
"Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly," warns one bond manager, reflecting on the $550 billion of new bonds and loans issued by energy producers since 2010, "and this is a mania." As Bloomberg quite eloquently notes, the danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt - as HY energy spreads near 1000bps - all thanks to the mal-investment boom sparked by artificially low rates manufactured by The Fed. "It's been super cheap," notes one credit analyst. That is over!! As oil & gas companies are “virtually shut out of the market" and will have to "rely on a combination of asset sales" and their credit lines. Welcome to the boom-induced bust...
Simply put, the US government has reached a point of no return.
If prices fall any further (and what’s going to stop them?), it would seem that most of the entire shale edifice must of necessity crumble to the ground. And that will cause an absolute earthquake in the financial world, because someone supplied the loans the whole thing leans on. An enormous amount of investors have been chasing high yield, including many institutional investors, and they’re about to get burned something bad. We might well be looking at the development of a story much bigger than just oil.
And the final punch in the gut on this bloodbathy Friday some from French Fitch which just downgraded France from AA+ to AA: "The weak outlook for the French economy impairs the prospects for fiscal consolidation and stabilising the public debt ratio. The French economy underperformed Fitch's and the government's expectations in 1H14 as it struggled to find any growth momentum, in common with a number of other eurozone countries. Underlying trends remained weak despite the economy growing more strongly than expected in 3Q, when inventories and public spending provided an uplift. Euro depreciation and lower oil prices will provide some boost to growth in 2015. Fitch's near-term GDP growth projections are unchanged from the October review of 0.4% in 2014 and 0.8% in 2015, down from 0.7% and 1.2% previously. Continued high unemployment at 10.5% is also weighing on economic and fiscal prospects."
"If it was a free market and central banks were not allowed to intervene anymore then we would be very bearish as the global financial system is still extremely fragile and not sustainable."
Despite numerous interventions by Mexico, Russia, and Nigeria, the free-fall continues in their currencies. The Russian Ruble is the poster-child (down 40% since June alone - testing 58/USD today) but the crash in Mexico and Brazil is accelerating in the last week. Default risks are surging for all of the Oil-Producing nations with Russia topping 450bps (5Y CDS) .