It is what happened in investment grade fund flows in the latest week that is making CEO, especially those whose compensation is a direct function of how much stock they repurchase, very nervous because as Lipper reported overnight IG funds just saw $1.8 billion in outflows, the most in over two years or since June 2013. And without the fund inflow train into IG funds operating smoothly, suddenly stock buybacks appear in jeopardy...
10 year Greek bond yields are spiking this morning (and prices therefore plunging) as trading actvity picks up in the dormant peripheral capital markets. The 2025s are downover 5pts from their last traded price back in late June with yields spiking back up toward 12.5%. This derisking comes after, as we detailed earlier, not only is the Greek economy collapsing but while Brussels is "satisfied with the smooth and constructive cooperation with the Greek authorities and that should allow us to progress as swiftly as possible," Greek PM Tsipras is threatening snap election as rebellion within 'his' party grows.
By removing liquidity via massive purchases of high quality (and in some cases) low quality collateral, the impact on investors of central bank repression of interest rates around the world can be summed up in three simple words: "reach for yield." These three ever-so-simple words provide blanket excuse for 'investors' to pile head long into far riskier investments than they ever would before and considerably lower levels of compensation than they would ever have accepted before... but hey, as long as the central bankers have got their backs, there will always be a greater fool? However, as BofA notes, the mania for "yield reaching" is showing signs of fatigue with the biggest cumulative outflows since 2008...
For the 2nd time in a month, China's Shanghai Composite entered a correction, plunging 10% from local highs as headlines of delayed IPOs and large-scale steel 'dumping' at a loss combined with global monetary policy fireworks and European event risks. The rest of the more highly sensitive and manic Chinese equity markets are also plunging with CHINEXT and CSI-300 down over 7% in the last month (and 17% from the highs in the case of the former). Chinese stocks have gone nowhere in a month...and are now in fact notably lower in June.
With the crucial May 12th €774mm Greek IMF payment looming (and thus even more critical May 11th deadline for the Eurogroup's decision to release around €7bn in additional funds to Greece), the much-discussed 'splintering' of the Troika (The Institutions as the Greeks would prefer we describe them) appears to be gradually un-splintering. Today's statement from the EU talks that the members of the Troika "share the same objective" may reassure some after the 'limbo' of serious disagreements between the European Commission and The IMF. However, with various 'red lines' remaining unaddressed, EU sources say a deal on Monday is not possible.
Wall Streeters are not happy. According to the latest Bloomberg poll, 48% believe they are paid less (or much less) than they had hoped for. With the biggest banks cutting costs as new regulations force derisking and deleveraging (in theory), pay is taking a hit (although not so much for the CEOs). As one headhunter noted, "they're still making decent money, but it’s nothing like 2007," but ironically, a massive 71% of Wall Street bankers admit that their banks are still Too Big To Fail.
"...the deterioration in both economic data and profitability data leave a good bit of cause for near-term concern..."
Venezuela, Argentina, and... China? are the 3 best performing stock markets in March in USD terms (with Ukraine close behind). It is the Greeks that have borne the brunt of global derisking through The Ides, Athens Stock Index down over 15% and the worst-performing stock market in the world for March. Year-to-date, Russia joins the 3 amigos at the top of the list (up almost 11% in USD terms) and Ukraine remains the clear laggard, down almost 33% in USD terms. The best performing global stock market in 2015 in local currency terms is... Denmark!?
Something stunning and unexpected took place in the third quarter: Citigroup, or rather its FDIC-insured Citibank National Association entity, just surpassed JPM and is now the biggest single holder of total derivatives in the US. Furthermore, as the charts below show, while every other bank was derisking its balance sheet, Citi not only increased its total derivative holdings by $1 trillion in Q2, but by a whopping, and perhaps even record, $9 trillion in the just concluded third quarter to $70.2 trillion!
The new year is not even a week old and already the volatility fireworks are off, as well as the continued commodity derisking. But while for now US stocks continue to be an island oasis in a turbulent global sea where GDP forecasts decline every single day, the same can not be said about either the Euro, which after crashing overnight to a 9 year low, and rebounding briefly, has continued to decline and is now once again flirting with a key support level, this time 1.19, last reached during the May 2010 first Greek bailout. The catalyst, as usual, Greece which may or may not be leaving the Eurozone shortly, as well as ongoing bets on ECB QE following this morning's regional German inflation data which declined once more and now hints at outright deflation in Europe's strongest nation.
US equity futures started to slide once German confidence data hit early in the morning (and Treasuries rallied modestly) but as the US opened, the ubiquitous "markets are open and I must buy' rip hit... but didn't last. Stocks leaked lower but stopped as Europe closed (in a mirror of yesterday) but could not hold bounce gains as worries over Russia's convoy weighed on markets late on. The S&P and Dow end the day unch (Russell -0.5%, Trannies up 0.6%) on the week. As stocks old off, somewhat oddly, so did the US Dollar (on EUR strength - reptariation?), US Treasuries, gold and copper. 330RAMPCAPITAL turned up (well it is Tuesday), slammed VIX, and jammed stocks (except Russell) back to green (VWAP) but it didn't hold. S&P futures volume was over 40% below average.
There is a glaring divergence between the performance of US equities and high-yield credit's spread over investment-grade credit. As BofAML warns, "either HY rallies or stocks soon in a bit of trouble," because the only pillar left to hold up the fragile un-bubble-like stock market - buybacks - will disappear if costs of funding start to surge (there's always a limit to the leverage a credit cycle will bear). The more concerning aspect is that it appears investors are already rushing for the doors... as this week saw the largest HY outflows in over a year.
Remember when Ukraine was fixed and you could BTFATH as no geopolitical concerns could ever harm US equity markets... well that just changed... News that a Malaysian Airlines passeneger jet carrying 280 passengers was shot down in Ukraine has sparked major derisking across stocks and slammed bonds to the low yields of the day. Gold and Silver are jumping and the USD is fading.
From Goldman's Sales & Trading Team, "The equity rout continued. Growth tech names felt the heat once again as Nasdaq led the way down, but the weakness was truly wide spread as all sectors ended in the red – both in domestic and overseas developed markets. Earnings season continued, but derisking is the name of the game in these markets."