El-Erian Says "The Market Believes Central Banks Are Our Best Friends Forever", Just Don't Show It "Figure 4"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/21/2015 16:38 -0500
Liquidity in the junk (and all other markets) is evaporating, and according to Citi the spread between an illiquid and liquid junk bond portfolio just hit 100 bps, the most in the history of the series. Meanwhile according to Mohamed El-Erian "The market is comfortable that whenever we hit a hiccup, the Fed is going to come back in," he said. "It's very deeply embedded that central banks are our best friends forever."
Ten years after Symantec paid $13.5bn for Veritas, Carlyle Group agreed in August to buy the data-storage business for just $8 billion (the biggest LBO of the year). Of course, the buyout deal made sense when the cost of funding was negligible and The Fed had your back but, as Bloomberg reports, amid soaring borrowing costs, banks have pulled the $5.5 billion debt offering for Veritas signaling a clear end to the reach-for-yield, nothing is a problem, bond market's risk appetite.. and if 'growthy' deals like this are being killed, what does that say for distressed bets on Energy M&A deals?
The real risk is that while debt is rising on both a relative and an absolute basis, EBITDA, or cash flow, of both junk companies as well as Investment Grades, has been declining for at least one year. Or rather, while junk-rated companies have seen their EBITDA decline consistently for the past 5 years, the big inflection point was early 2014 when IG EBITDA also plateaued and has since been declining.
Having told the world that it will borrow billions (and cut capex) to "return all free cash to investors," it appears ratings agency S&P just needed to remind McDonalds that Shareholder-friendly releveraging no longer comes for free...
*S&P LWRS MCDONALD'S RTG TO 'BBB+' ON SHR BUYBACK PLANS
Who could have seen that coming?
"Given that we are clearly moving into a higher default environment we believe that equity investors may be inclined not to reward stocks that have large buyback programs. And if this is the case, corporate managers will have a diminished incentive to borrow money to finance buybacks."
"Sluggish activity will spur firms to repurchase shares in an effort to boost EPS growth" - Goldman Sachs
The current stock market melt-up hardly qualifies as limp. Even the robo-machines and hyper-ventilating day traders apparently recognize that their job is to tag the May 2015 highs and then get out of the way. So when and as they complete their pointless mission, the question recurs as to why the posse of fools in the Eccles Building can’t see that they are inflating one hellacious financial bubble; and that when it blows it will deconstruct their entire 7-year project of make-pretend recovery.
"In the event of a downgrade by Standard & Poor’s and/or Moody’s from current ratings to the level(s) immediately below... there are $4.5 billion of bonds outstanding, where a 125bps margin step-up would apply, in the event that the bonds were rated sub-investment grade by either major ratings agency."
"Zero Hedge long ago gave up discussing corporate fundamentals due to our long-held tenet that currently the only relevant pieces of financial information are contained in the Fed's H.4.1, H.3 statements... it is flow not stock that matters" - Zero Hedge, January 2010
"If there were any lingering doubt, this week’s gyrations demonstrate neatly that it is central bank liquidity, not fundamentals, driving markets. It is the flow, not the anticipated stock, of QE which counts." - Citigroup, May 2015
A big part of the U.S. equation is U.S. executives are looking at yields and realizing that to not borrow at these unsustainable levels could be a missed opportunity they will sorely regret. If you run a viable business and “investors” are throwing free money at you for future growth, why not leverage up and buy back some stock. This is ultimately something the Fed needs to focus on and lean against.
As Søren Skou, Maerk's CEO, admitted when he warned that global trade growth could slow this year from recent 4% growth ratnes, as Chinese, Brazilian and Russian economies disappoint, the Baltic Dry is still not only relevant and accurate but telling the real story of global growth, or lack thereof. “The economies in Europe are still very sluggish. Brazil, Russia and China: those three economies used to drive a lot of growth, and right now we are not really seeing that to the same extent. The only real bright spot is the US, and even the US is good but not great.” He added that: "To my mind volumes were sluggish. There is nothing in container volume numbers that suggest that the global economy is just on the verge of starting a new growth trend.”
It is not entirely unusual for revisions to be made to the flow of funds data published by the Fed. Nothing about this time seemed remarkable, until one gets to corporate non-financial debt. Apparently, all that debt that has been taken on by companies in recent years has suddenly disappeared, as if by magic...
There are some signs of trouble in emerging markets. And the money at risk now is bigger than ever.
Among those who’ll get to eat the losses: unsuspecting retail investors.