Derisking

European Stocks Revert Back Down To Credit's Pessimism (As 2Y Swiss Drops To Record Lows)

Just as we noted yesterday, the ludicrous late-day ramp in European equity markets relative to the absolute nonchalance of credit (corporate, financial, and sovereign) markets, has now reverted totally as broadly speaking Europe ends the day in the red. Spain and Italy stock indices bounced a modest 0.5% on the day as the UK's FTSE and Germany's DAX suffered the most (down 1-1.5%) on Banking Lie-Bor drama and unemployment respectively. Corporate credit leaked a little wider on the day with the investment grade credits underperforming (dragged by weakness in financials). Financials were notably weak with Subordinated credit significantly underperforming Senior credit (bail-in anyone?). Sovereigns were weak overall (not just Spain, Italy, and Portugal this time) as Spain's 2s10s has now flattened to year's lows. Swiss 2Y rates dropped further - to record closing lows at -35.2bps (after being -39bps at their best/worst of the day - suggesting all is not well, and Bunds largely tracked Treasuries as the SCOTUS decision came on and pushed derisking across assets. EURUSD tested towards 1.2400 early on but is holding -35pips or so for now at 1.2430.

What Do Stocks 'Know' That Gold, Treasuries, And The USD Don't (Again)?

The last few minutes of the European day ended with a resplendent surge in stock prices in the face of sideways to wider credit markets and deteriorating sovereign and FX markets. Not to be outdone, US equities remain in a world of hope of their own today having disconnected shortly after the US day-session open as Treasuries, Gold, and the USD have all moved in a more derisking mode. Also, despite S&P's 0.6% gain, VIX has just pushed higher into the green for the day.

Asia Opens And Risk-On Closes

Update: Gold and Silver are extending losses now.

Asian markets have been open for an hour or two now and markets have done nothing but extend the late-day derisking from the last hour of the US day-session. S&P 500 e-mini futures (ES) are down around 8pts from the close, Treasury yields are 5-7bps off their intraday highs now (3-4bps lower than where they closed), JPY is strengthening (carry-off - even though Noda is scheduled to speak), AUD is weakening (carry-off - almost back to post Aussie jobs print levels), and Copper & Oil are tumbling (WTI back under $83). Gold and Silver are falling off quicker now (having suffered during the day session and stabilized a little) as it seems markets are playing catch up to their signals (still around unch from 5/28 closing levels while WTI is down almost 9% and Copper -3.5% from those swing equity highs). Broadly speaking risk assets are increasing in correlation and ES is getting dragged lower.

Crude's Crash Conundrum Explained

For the third year in a row, crude oil prices have stumbled in April (-26% in 2010, -17% in 2011, and -10% in 2012 so far). Much has been made of the help this will offer the economy and consumer spending but this is ceteris-paribus linear thinking. There are a few other critical aspects to consider that make many, including Barclays, believe "there is little to the latest price action than the increasingly self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘sell it in May and go away’, exaggerated by market positioning, with broader macroeconomic concerns used as a lightening rod." With crude inventories on the high side and gasoline (and other oil product) inventories relatively low and falling - we would hold our breaths on the recent crude price drop funneling along to the retail pump price anytime soon as there is one critical aspect of the supply-demand equation that many have missed - a period of heavier-than-usual refinery maintenance which while temporary have reduced demand but tell us nothing about the state of final demand. In other words, even if a balance of sorts was achieved in terms of crude flows in March and April due to maintenance, that balance is likely to be disturbed from June onwards. The mainstream media is full of talking-heads on the chronic weakness in US oil demand, but it does not appear to be a real phenomenon according to the steadily improving flow of data and while Greece, Hollande, and US macro data has dragged out macro shorts, it would appear the fundamentals support oil prices higher from here. With the upward-sloping curve in crude to year-end and the relatively small drop this week (-1.2% only in WTI) despite all the derisking, perhaps the market is already starting to realize.

European Credit Risk Surges Near 4-Month Highs

Just as we warned last night, the lack of an active European credit market to look over the shoulders of their more exuberant equity colleagues quickly came to bear today as London traders turned up for work in no mood for bullish hope. Investment grade credit spreads in Europe jumped their most in a month and pushed close to four-month wides as the entire credit complex sold off aggressively. It seemed Main (the European IG credit index) was instrument of choice for hedgers (cheaper and more liquid with a smattering of financials) as opposed to XOVER (the European HY credit index) but we suspect the latter will rapidly catch up. Stocks fell further with Greece hitting multi-decade lows but Italy and France underperforming (as reality bit following yesterday's pump). Euro Stoxx 50 was down around 2% (now -3.5% YTD) but Spain remains the YTD biggest loser -18.2% (as opposed to Germany's DAX +9.25%). Sovereign credit was also not happy (just like yesterday) but as US opened, Italy and Spain saw notable derisking pushing their 5Y spreads +7bps and +15bps respectively on the week now. Portugal is +24bps on the week so far as the basis trade unwind begins. Europe's VIX surged above 31% for the first time since the beginning of the year and while Treasuries were bid (with 30Y touching 3%), 10Y Bunds outperformed on the safety rotation now 28.5bps inside of the 10Y TSY. EURUSD slid back under 1.30 shortly after the US opened but some miraculous gappiness (and comments from Greece) dragged its lumbering body back over the 1.30 Maginot line for now.

Treasuries Plummet To 3 Month Low Yields As Equities Recouple

US Treasuries opened just over an hour ago and are now trading considerably lower in yield. 10Y yields are under 1.84%, their lowest since February 3rd and within a few bps of ther 1.7959% yield lows of mid-December which would all but guarantee a return to the September 2012 2011 low yields. More critically for all those QE-hopers, the massive divergence which we have been vociferously arguing as unsustainable between 10Y yields and the S&P 500 has how collapsed and converged perfectly. From last Tuesday's Bernanke press-conference when he hinted (albeit hedged with chatter of recklessness) that QE was still on the table (which we argued meant that - should the entire world suddenly go pear-shaped, we will step in but until then we are on hold), US equities decided that they should forget fundamentals once again and simply bid the market on nominal price improvement based on fiat-debasement - which enabled a 50 point divergence from reality- which has now completely converged and in fact S&P futures are now 10-15points below the pre-Bernanke-week-hope lows.

VIX Stays Above 20% As Equities Close At Lows

ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures contract) tested up to its 50DMA and rejected it early in the day (after some rhetorical enthusiasm from the ECB's new French contingent - surprise!). The 10pt rally in ES overnight into the open was the best levels of the day as we slid lower (within a small range) for the rest of the day making its initial lows around the European close and retesting (lower lows) into the US day session close. NYSE and ES volumes were about average (well below yesterday) as Stocks and HY credit underperformed IG credit (with HYG having a good day - after closing at a discount to NAV last night). The Beige Book took the shine off the day as hopes of QE3 faded (remember its the flow not the stock that counts) and that is when stocks began to leak lower - especially energy, financials, materials, and industrials. FX markets were relatively quiet (aside from Jim O'Neill's comments on the SNB which shook swissy) as the USD closed marginally lower helped by strength in EUR and GBP. AUD lost ground after the European close and JPY strengthened (derisking) which likely dragged on US stocks. The modest move in USD was echoed in commodities (apart from WTI where we broke above $103 and Brent-WTI compressed significantly - not forgetting the $1 handle on Nattie) as Gold and Silver largely went sideways all day with some weakness in Copper. Treasuries leaked higher in yield for much of the morning then stabilized after the European close as the long-end underperformed (steepening). VIX closed back above 20%  (though lower from the close) having drifted from below 19% near the open - we haven't closed above 20% two-days-in-a-row since 1/18.

Stocks Plunge On Rare Equity-Gold Decoupling

Equities suffered their largest single-day drop in 4 months as for once Apple was unable to single-handedly hold up the index letting it drop closer to its credit-oriented risk. A monster day for NYSE and ES (S&P 500 e-mini futures) volume saw Financials and Discretionary sectors underperforming and the Energy sector joining Utilities in the red for the year. The S&P closed at its lows as it broke its 50DMA for the first time since DEC11 as AAPL dropped 1.25% for the day (and -2.5% from the highs) but most notably equities and Treasuries are back in sync from early March as 10Y closed under 2% for the first time in a month. Gold and Silver surged around the European close, on little news, as we suspect safe-haven buying and an unwind of the gold-hedged bank-stress-test rally - with another relatively unusual divergence between Gold and stocks on the day. VIX broke above 21% closing just below it back near one-month peaks as the term structure bear-flattened (but notbaly pushing ahead of its credit-equity implied fair value). JPY strengthened all day (and AUD weakened) as carry trades were unwound in FX markets leaving the USD marginally higher on the day (and EUR marginally lower despite the turmoil in European markets). Oil fell back below $101.50 but it was Copper that has suffered the most - down almost 4% since Last Thursday. Credit markets were weak with HY marginally underperforming IG (beta adjusted) but still implying further weakness in equities as HYG closed just shy of its 200DMA.

LTRO Failure Full Frontal As Spain 10 Year Approaches 6% Again

US data this week is relatively sparse (as usual in a post payroll week) leaving little evidence over the next few days to progress the seasonality debate but after a long weekend of derisking in mind and now in reality, Europe is front-and-center once again. Spain (and less so Italy) has decompressed to its worst levels of the year (5.96% yield and 425bps spread on 10Y) has now lost all of the LTRO gains as the curves of these liquidity-fueled optical illusions of recovery bear-flatten (as front-running Sarkozy traders unwind into the sad reality - most specifically for Spain - that we described in glorious must read detail here). Divergence and decoupling remain sidelined also as Deutsche Banks' Jim Reid notes the 4-week rolling beat:miss ratio in the US macro data has fallen to 24%: 73% (3% in line) from a recent peak at a string 70%:30% on February 29th. His view is still that in a post crisis world, especially as severe as the one we've just been through, Western growth is going to continue to be well below trend for many years and with more regular cycles. With Spain teetering on the verge of a 6% yield once again, we are still off the record wides from late November but not by much as the vicious cycle of sovereign-stress-to-banking-stress-to-banking-stress re-emerges in style. The European situation is still incredibly political and while we'd expect much more intervention down the line, expect the discussions and rhetoric to be fairly tough. The ECB last week indicated that they felt the recent widening in Sovereign spreads was more due to sluggishness in the pace of reforms. They are therefore unlikely to intervene in a hurry. So if Europe does need further intervention it is likely to need to get far worse again first.

European Sovereign Debt Shows First Weakness In 3 Months

Whether it was the truthiness of Willem Buiter's comments this morning, the sad reality of Spanish housing, or more likely the ugly fact that LTRO3 is not coming (as money-good assets evaporate), today was broadly the worst day of the year for European sovereigns. Spanish 10Y spreads jumped their most since the first day of the year, Italian yields broke back above 5% (and spreads broke back over 300bps), and Belgium, France and Austria all leaked notably wider. Since Friday's close, Italian and Spanish bonds have suffered their largest 2-day losses in over 3 months. Notably the CDS markets rolled their contracts into Monday and perhaps this derisking is real money exiting as they unwound their hedges - or more simply profit-taking on front-run LTRO carry trades but notably the LTRO Stigma has exploded in the last few days back to near its highs. European equity markets are now underperforming credit - having ridden the high-beta wave far above credit markets in the last few months (a picture we have seen in the US in Q2 2011 and HY is signaling risk-aversion rising in the US currently in the same way). Just how will the world react to another risk flare in Europe now that supposedly everything is solved?

European Sovereigns And Financials Close On Weak Tone

Once again European credit and equity markets flip-flopped intraday from a gap up open (yay, the PSI deal is done) to a modest financial-led selloff on weak data, to a non-financial-led small rally (with equity beating credit post US NFP) to a slide weaker into the European close. Financials (most notably senior unsecured) were the worst performers on the day as stocks managed small gains and credit bigger losses. European sovereign spreads also leaked wider all day after some initial excitement with Italian 10Y spreads 15-20bps off their best levels of the week into the close (and Portugal also leaking wider). US Treasuries continued to selloff as US equities limped higher but EURUSD is pushing back to the week's lows near 1.31 as JPY is also deteriorating (which is modestly stable for carry FX and implicitly risk). Commodities surged (seemingly on Goldman's GDP cut implying great er hopes of QE?) with Gold up over $1710 and almost unch for the week as WTI nears $108 again. As Europe closes, there is a modest derisking across all asset classes (with US and European financials the most obvious rollers). The Precious metals rip and Treasury weakness makes us wonder how much is QE-driven (especially given the sterilized propositions) and how much is simply a rotation to a different kind of safety or quality collateral? The LTRO Stigma is around 8bps (or 10%) higher on the week while Senior-Sub spreads are stable for now.

Risk-Off Initial Reaction To PSI Deal

Broadly speaking markets are derisking post the PSI deal announcements. Treasuries are 1-2bps lower in yields, EURUSD is down 35pips or so under 1.3230 (and JPY is rallying as carry is unwound), ES has dropped -5pts, Gold and Silver are sliding modestly, and WTI is off its peak but remains over $107.

Is Gold Suffering Under ECB Margin Calls?

Last night we noted the very concerning rise in margin calls for European banks thanks to collateral degradation at the ECB. This story has become very popular as traders try to figure out which assets were deteriorating rapidly and which banks face immediate cash calls. One thing that came to mind for us was - what about Gold? Coincidentally or not, the last time we saw a big surge in collateral margin calls by the ECB (in September of last year), not only did Gold lease rates explode (implode) but Gold prices fell off a cliff as the squeeze came on from gold liquidity providers pushing prices down to exacerbate the negative lease rates on the gold collateral. The point here is that as margin calls come in from the ECB, we wonder whether banks will be forced to liquidate their gold (last quality collateral standing) to meet the ECB's risk standards. The key will be to watch gold lease rates (as we explained here and here) and ECB Margin calls to see if Gold is merely suffering a short-term dip from USD strength derisking or if this is  a more broad based meeting of collateral desperation need that might have legs - only to be bought back later. MtM losses combined with collateral calls (as we noted earlier) was never a recipe for success and we will be watching closely.

Financials Implode As Volatility And Volume Explodes

We have been warning that the stocks of the major US financials are on weak ground for a few weeks as credit (and implied vol) markets for the TBTFs had been underperforming notably. Today saw the financials ETF, XLF, have the largest down day in three months (dropping over two standard deviations), breaking its uptrend and heading for its 50DMA. As volumes in stocks and stock futures surged to year-highs, we note that the major financials were much worse hit than the broad ETF, roughly separated into 3 groups: Good (JPM, WFC), Bad (GS, C, BAC, GE), and Ugly (MS). While the market is 'only' down around 2%, it is worth noting that Financials and Energy stocks are back at five-week lows, while Industrials and Materials are back at two-month lows as the growthium hope fades. Risk was very highly correlated on the downswing today and along with significantly higher than average volume suggests more broad de-risking than idiosyncratic profit-taking as some would like to suggest. Commodities made headlines as Silver is now down over 5% on the week but Gold stabilized for much of the post-European close session around $1675. The vol term structure snapped flatter today, catching short-dated premium sellers fingers as it tends to, ripping to its flattest in 3 weeks as VIX jumped almost 3 vols to around 21% (back above its 50DMA for the first time since Thanksgiving), with its biggest rise in three months.

Worst Day In Europe Since Rally Began

While we have noted the comparative weakness in European credit and sovereign markets, stocks had so far remained hopeful until today. Bloomberg's broad BE500 index of European stocks fell 2.8% today, its worse performance  since mid-November when the recent rally began. This one-day drop has wiped out the gains of the last five weeks in stocks and credit is even worse as it continues to lead risk lower. European financial stocks are catching up to European credit's weakness (and we note US financial credit is really coming off today). Whether or not to BTFD is the question. We note that this sell-off is much more broad-based with stocks and credit dropping together (instead of just credit last time) and across asset classes the weakness is in CONTEXT with broad derisking. Furthermore, Sovereign credit stress re-emerged with Spain and Italy up 26bps and 18bps on the week as the former is now at almost 4 week wides. At some point, we wonder when MtM losses will hit all those aggressive Italian and Spanish banks who loaded up on chaotically procyclical carry trades?