The last week has seen quite dramatic drops in the prices of a little-discussed but oh-so-critical asset-class in the last housing bubble's 'pop'. Having just crossed above 'Lehman' levels, ABX (residential) and CMBX (commercial) credit indices have seen their biggest weekly drop in 20 months as both rates and credit concerns appear to be on the rise. Perhaps it is this price action that has spooked Fitch's structured products team, or simply the un-sustainability (as we discussed here, here and here most recently) that has the ratings agency on the defensive, noting that, "the recent home price gains recorded in several residential markets are outpacing improvements in fundamentals and could stall or possibly reverse." Simply put, "demand is artificially high... and supply is artificially low."
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.
With home prices rising at near-record paces in SoCal, corporate debt yields at record-lows, equity markets surging at near-record rates, and high quality assets dwindling by the minute under the heel of a central bank jack boot; it is perhaps no surprise that investors have switched from finding leverage through the balance sheet (i.e. crappy quality firms) to finding leverage through the instrument (i.e. structured credit). The trouble this time is that yields (and spreads) being so low, the creators of the new-normal ABS, CDOs, and CLOs have to stoop to the old tricks to make their money (as we noted here). As Bloomberg reports, bond issuers are once again exploiting the credit rating agency pay-for-performance business model to create "high-quality" collateralizable assets from utter garbage - such as auto loans.
The yen is weak AND the dollar is strong. Two forces at work. Discuss.
- Microsoft prepares U-turn on Windows 8 (FT), Microsoft admits failure on Windows 8 (MW), After Bumpy Start, Microsoft Rethinks Windows 8 (NYT)
- China reports four more bird flu deaths, toll rises to 31 (Reuters)
- Republicans shift stance on US budget (FT)
- NYC Tallest Condo Corridor Gets New Entrant With Steinway (BBG)
- U.S. Says China's Government, Military Used Cyberespionage (WSJ)
- China rejects Pentagon charges of military espionage (Reuters)
- Bank of China Cuts Off North Korean Bank (WSJ)
- Libya defense minister quits over siege of ministries by gunmen (Reuters)
- London Recruiter Says City Job Vacancies Rose 19% (BBG)
- Colleges Cut Prices by Providing More Financial Aid (WSJ) or, said otherwise, loans
- Jeweler agrees to plead guilty in KPMG insider-trading case (LA Times)
A peculiar trading session, in which the usual overnight futures levitation has not been led by the BOJ-inspired USDJPY rise (even as the Nikkei225 rose another 0.6% more than offset by the Shanghai Composite drop of 0.86%), which actually has slid all session briefly dipping under 99 moments ago, but by the EURUSD, which saw a bout of buying around 5 am Eastern, just after news hit that the UK would avoid a triple dip recession with Q1 GDP rising 0.3% versus expectations of a 0.1% rise, up from a -0.3% in Q4 (more in Goldman note below). Since the news that the BOE will likely delay engaging in more QE (just in time for the arrival of Carney) is hardly EUR positive we look at the other news hitting around that time, such as Finland saying that the euro can survive in Cyprus exits the Eurozone, and that Merkel has rejected standardized bank guarantees for the foreseeable future, and we are left scratching our heads what is the reason for the brief burst in the Euro.
An attempt to look ahead at the drivers of the capital markets in the week ahead.
There have been several recent developments that have flown in the face of both neo-liberalism and ordo-liberalism and thrown investors off balance. Discuss.
Fitch has just downgraded the UK from AAA to AA+ - now lower than France's.
- *FITCH REVISED DOWN U.K.'S ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2013 TO 0.8%
- *FITCH REVISED DOWN U.K.'S ECONOMIC GROWTH IN 2014 TO 1.8%
- *FITCH CITES WEAKER ECONOMIC, FISCAL OUTLOOK ON U.K.
Fitch doesn't see the UK economy reaching 2007 highs until 2014 - so there's hope?
In what may be a first in at least 3-4 months, instead of the usual levitating grind higher on no news and merely ongoing USD carry, tonight for the first time in a long time, futures have drifted downward, pushed partially by declining funding carry pairs EURUSD and USDJPY without a clear catalyst. There was no explicit macro news to prompt the overnight weakness, although a German 10 year auction pricing at a record low yield of 1.28% about an hour ago did not help. Perhaps the catalyst was a statement by the Chinese sovereign wealth fund's Jin who said that the "CIC is worried about US, EU and Japan quantitative easing" - although despite this and despite the reported default of yet another corporate bond by LDK Solar, the second such default after Suntech Power which means the Chinese corporate bond bubble is set to burst, the SHCOMP was down only 1 point. The Nikkei rebounded after strong losses on Monday but that was only in sympathy with the US price action even as the USDJPY declined throughout the session.
- Obama to report to his bosses today: Obama Meets With Blankfein, Dimon and Moynihan Today (BBG)
- 2007 is here all over again: Seeking Relief, Banks Shift Risk to Murkier Corners (NYT)
- Kuroda Calls BOJ Inflation Target 'Flexible' (WSJ)
- Lagarde warns over three-speed world (FT)
- N. Korea’s Retro Propaganda Calls U.S. Boiled Pumpkin (BBG)
- Luxembourg To Ease Bank Secrecy Rule, Share Data In 2015 (BBG)
- Bank of Korea Keeps Policy Steady (WSJ)
- BOE Stimulus Dilemma Persists as Inflation Seen Higher (BBG)
- EU Sounds Alarm on Spain (WSJ)
- Qatar gives Egypt $3bn aid package (FT)
- RBNZ Says Deposit Insurance May Increase Risk of Bank Failure (BBG)
- Plosser Calls for Reducing QE Pace Citing Gains in Labor Market (BBG)
- Obama budget aims to kick start deficit-reduction talks (Reuters)
- Germany: Europe's... poorest? ECB Survey Puts Southerners on Top in Household Wealth, Germans Near Bottom (WSJ)
- Obama Proposes $3.77 Trillion Budget to Revive Debt Talks (BBG)
- China trade data raise accuracy worries (FT) ... but generates so much laughter
- such as this... China Exports Miss Forecasts as ‘Absurd’ Data Probed (BBG)
- S. Korea Braces for ‘Very High’ Chance of North Missile Test (BBG)
- Slovenia, Spain Warned of ‘Excessive’ Economic Imbalances by EU (BBG)
- G8 foreign ministers meet in London to address Syria, North Korea (Reuters)
- N. Korea Threats Boost First South Korea Rate Cut Odds Since October (BBG)
- China Bird Flu Outbreak May Stem From Numerous Sources (BBG)
- Spain Bailout Less Likely on Lower Funding Costs: Moody’s (BBG)
- BOE’s Haldane: Simplify Bank Rules to Strengthen Them (WSJ)
Thanks to the Fed's ZIRP, the investing world is on a constant reach for yield; and due to the fact that the last bubble of investor largesse (ignoring leverage and reality) was not 'punished' but in fact 'bailed-out', participants in the financial markets learned nothing. Just as the last crisis was formed on the back of an insatiable mortgage-backed security market desperate for new loans (any loans) of increasingly dubious quality to securitize, so this time it is subprime auto loans that have taken over. As a Reuters review of court records shows, subprime auto lenders are showing up in a lot of personal bankruptcy filings. At car dealers across the United States, loans to subprime borrowers are surging - up 18% in 2012 YoY, to 6.6 million borrowers. Subprime auto lending is just one of several mini-bubbles the bond-buying program has created across a range of assets; "it's the same sort of thing we saw in 2007, people get driven to do riskier and riskier things." Of course, with auto production having been the backbone of so many macro data points that are used to 'show' the real economy recovering (despite the channel-stuffing), now that the growth in auto-sales are stalling, it is for the subprime originators "under extreme pressure to hit goals" in their boiler-room-like dealings to extend loans (at ever higher rates) and securitize while the Fed 'music' is still playing. It seems we truly never learn.
- The revolving door continues: Mary Schapiro joins Promontory Financial (WSJ)
- First Peek at Health-Law Cost (WSJ)
- Abe warns over Japan inflation target: warns 2% inflation target may not be reached within two years (FT)
- BoJ's Kuroda tested by divided board (Reuters)
- Nanjing poultry butcher fourth person infected with H7N9 bird flu (SCMP)
- What time do top CEOs wake up? (Guardian)
- Cyprus Seeks More Time to Meet Targets in Talks With Troika (BBG)
- Investors Ignore Negativity at Their Peril (WSJ)
- Apple bows to Chinese pressure (FT)
- One can only laugh: North Korea to restart nuclear reactor in weapons bid (Reuters)
- Visa Demand Jumps (WSJ)
- Bloomberg's refutation of Stockman: yes, yes but... look over there, stocks are up! (BBG)