Don't Forget Portugal: MS Sees A Second Bail-Out By September With A Bail-In To Follow

With all eyes firmly planted on Spain, the little-Escudo-that-could has quietly slipped off the heading-into-the-abyss list of the mainstream media. Little was made this week of the fact that 10Y Portuguese bond yields dropped to seven-month lows - except by us of course where we explained that this is almost entirely due to the CDS-Bond basis trade 'arb-du-jour' that has placed a technical bid under Portuguese bonds. Between the help from LTRO and the fact that ISDA is under-pressure to improve/amend CDS rules to 'honor the spirit of the CDS contract to the fullest extent' which implicitly reduces the massive 'event' premium uncertainty between CDS and Bond risks for distressed-names (thanks to the ECB's actions in Greece), every bond in the short- to mid-term maturity of Portugal appears notably rich - with only the longest-dated bonds reflecting the crisis that remains. As we described in detail here, the real Debt/GDP of Portugal is around 140% (notably higher than the EC estimates of 111% once contingent liabilities are take account of) and the issues that face this small nation are entirely unresolved with bank recapitalization needs of at least EUR12bn and a highly indebted private sector. The bottom-line is that optically-pleasing bond improvements recently have been entirely due to synthetic credit arbitrage and, as Morgan Stanley notes, the nation remains mired in the three risks of contingent liabilities, bank recap needs, and a grossly indebted private sector; leaving a second bailout very likely by September 2012 and the challenging debt dynamics likely to mean a restructuring.

Sliding Greek Bond Reality Challenges "Debt Deal" Hopium

We have been rather vociferous in our table-pounding that even if a Greek PSI deal is achieved (in reality as opposed to what is claimed by headlines only to fall apart a month later), then Greece remains mired in an unsustainable situation that will likely mean further restructuring in the future. JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest agrees and notes that Debt/GDP will remain well above 100% post-deal but is more concerned at the implications (just as we noted earlier in the week) of the process itself including ECB preferred credit status, retroactive CACs (law changes), and CDS trigger aversions. In his words, the debt exchange is a bit of a farce and we reiterate our note from a few days ago - if this deal is so close, why is the 1Y GGB (AUG 2012) price trading -8.75% at EUR 28.75 (or 466% yield) and while longer-dated prices are rallying (maybe bear flattener unwinds), the moves are de minimus (-17bps today on a yield of 3353bps?) as selling pressure is clearly in the short-end not being rolled into the long-end as some surmise.

Volume Only Underperformer As Euphoria Catches On

The slippery slope of lower volume continued today in the NYSE (cash/stock trading markets) despite ES (the e-mini S&P futures market) seeing its 2nd highest volume since 12/16 as that futures market has only seen 1 day of the last 11 with a negative close-to-close change. Driven seemingly by yet another rumor that the Greek PSI deal is close (yet GGBs are lower?), risk assets broadly went into overdrive and while ES held 1300 (on very large average trade size and volume as broke that stop-heavy level), the shifts in commodities, FX, and Treasuiries all helped sustain the euphoria into the close where we stabilized at yesterday's pre-market highs. Copper, Silver, Gold, EURUSD (and all FX majors aside from JPY), Treasury yields (and 2s10s30s) all closed at their highs of the day and while oil dropped early (around the Keytsone news?) it also limped back higher to $101 by the close. Equity markets were slight leaders on the day but credit caught up into the close. We do note that while the high-yield credit index has rallied dramatically but worry that the optical compression of spreads (bullish) is hiding the bear flattener in 3s5s that is seemingly dominating flow for now (relative to underlying credit).

EFSF At 5-Day Low Despite Sovereign Strength

While the world of risk explodes to the upside on the back of the LTRO-based carry trade expectations (which is not evident at all in some of the more technical relationships across the sovereign space no matter what headlines try and tell you), the very backbone of support for the fiscal evolution that Europe thinks it will achieve is now trading at a five-day low price having dropped notably post the earlier Fitch 'FrAAAnce' announcement. It is simple enough to think that banks will rapidly seek risk and buy sovereigns with their newfound wealth, but looking at CDS-Cash basis (the difference between CDS spreads and bond spreads) there has been almost no shift in supply/demand (which we would expect to tip to bond outperformance if the carry trade were being placed) and moreover, the sovereign spread curves are NOT bull steepening as one would expect from modest reach for say 2Y/3Y peripheral yield versus the 3Y LTRO. The bottom-line seems to be that equity markets are buoyed by a broad risk asset rally (and TSY selling and 2s10s30s rally) while the underlying beneficiary of this 'solution' does not seem to be improving so much. The strength in ES appears like simple momentum off an overshoot yesterday as risk assets broadly never really sold off like ES did and are now holding up well enough for today.

Europe Closes At Day's Lows As Sovereign Curves Invert

European equities marginally outperformed credit markets on the day but both ended dreadfully as markets went bidless into the close. Ending the day the lows, having retraced over 75% of the 9/23 to 10/28 swing rally, equity and credit markets are well into bear market territory as sovereign risk morphs back into financials and on into corporates. Sovereign spreads may look 'optically' marginally improved if one focuses merely on the 10Y levels, but a little more digging shows that almost without exception sovereign spread curves all bear flattened considerably today with the short-dated risk rising dramatically relative to mid maturities as jump risks become more and more of a concern.

Risk Leaking Off As EURUSD Loses Late Friday Lows And Spreads Decompress

Some early excitement in credit markets with XOver and senior financials gapping tighter - trying to catch up to equities - has started to show signs of weakness as EURUSD just lost late Friday swing lows and sovereign spreads start to decompress. Broad risk markets are indicating more weakness for S&P futures as US TSYs are rallying. The shift in EUR has had its largest impact on Silver so far as dollar strength is a drag on commodities (though we note Brent priced in EUR is +1%) - though copper enjoyed the Asia session gaining over 2.5% from Friday's close. With the Italian bond auction later this morning it is no surprise that EFSF bonds are well off their tight spreads of the morning already and as EUR-USD swap spreads adjust, they are pointing to further deterioration in EURUSD from here. This modest pessimism is already reflected in the short-end underperformance across the European sovereign yield curves as flatteners appear popular once again.

As Italian Yield Curve Flattens Dramatically (8 Standard Deviations), Is JEF Facing More Stress?

Based on the detailed exposures and DV01s thet Jefferies released on Friday, which we discussed as evidence of an implicit 2s10s (approximate maturities) curve steepener, it would seem that the dramatic shift flatter in the Italian bond curve this morning could be problematic. The huge 35-40bps compression in the spread between 2Y and 10Y BTPs is the second largest ever (largest being 4/8/11) and represents an 8 standard deviation drop compared to the last 8 years. This could mean a significant loss for the JEF book - unless they are perfectly hedged through BTP futures - which it does not seem is clear from the exposure sheet. The Italian yield curve has flattened over 100bps since the end of the EU Summit - inching perilously close to inversion which hasn't been seen since 1994.

Forget The Twist, Here Comes Operation Torque: Presenting Morgan Stanley's Complete Moral Hazard Profit Guide

While we often pick on Morgan Stanley's Jim Caron (the same guy who year after year after year keeps predicting the yield on the 10 year will soar, and not just soar, but soar for all the wrong reasons, such as bull steepening and what not), has just diametrically changed his tune, by bringing us, drumroll please, Operation Torque. To wit: "Policy makers in both the US and Europe get back to work in September, and this month will be rife with deliberations on stimulus and market support policies. In our view, a duration extension to the Fed's SOMA portfolio is an optimal policy tool to engender easing. This can initially be done through extending the duration of reinvestments from MBS and agency holdings but may ultimately culminate in selling shorter-duration USTs in its SOMA portfolio in exchange for buying longer duration assets (‘Operation Torque’, as we at Morgan Stanley have dubbed it)." Why 2 Years? Because as per the August 9 FOMC statement, we know that there will no rate hike for the next 2 Years, and hence no duration risk. Which means that the Fed can sell an infinite amount of paper into a mid-2013 horizon without worrying about demand destruction. And by doing so it will, as we have been predicting since May, expand the duration of its portfolio, in the process pushing investors into risky assets for the third time in as many years. But there is a twist...

Morgan Stanley Goes Short Treasurys.... Again

It has not been Jim Caron's decade. The Morgan Stanley rates strategist, riding on the coattails of the always wrong Morgan Stanley economics team led by David Greenlaw, has been wrong in his annual rates call year after year after year. Which is unfortunate because while unable to see the forest for the trees, Caron does have a better grasp of rates than most other Wall Street penguins. That said, just like everyone else in the status quo, Caron has just come out with another short duration call (i.e. sell bonds), probably the 6th time in a row he has done that in the past 3 years. Perhaps 7th time will be the charm. Amusingly, Caron, terrified to be seen in the same camp as Bill Gross who is short bonds on fears that there will be nobody available to step in an buy the 80% of gross issuance that has been monetized by the Fed to date, make this very loud caveat on his short bond call: "To be sure, our shift toward short from neutral duration has nothing to do with the end of QE2 and related concerns that there will be a lack of demand to buy US Treasuries once the Fed stops buying them. As we have stated many times in the past, the outlook for the economy will be the main driver of yields, not the end of QE2." No, instead Caron believes that the sell off in bonds will be due to the same bullish economic growth call that he has been predicting over... and over... and over... and over... etc. More interesting is how he suggests the trade is implemented: in MS' view the best way to be bearish on rates is with a DV01 neutral 7s-10s flattener: "we continue to recommend being short 5s on the 2s5s10s fly. In line with the butterfly, and in order to express a more robust short duration position, we recommend a curve flattener on the UST 7s10s curve: · Sell $133.7mm OTR 7y Notes; · Buy $100mm OTR 10y Notes." Perhaps those who want to be short bonds, but for the right reason, that predicted by Zero Hedge and then Bill Gross, this may be one of the better ways to put the trade on.

CapitalContext's picture

Credit markets continue to show glaring concerns as European sovereign risk, global financial systemic risk, and global growth scares drive HY and IG to six month wides. The critical aspect is the potential to reverse the virtuous cycle that has maintained primary issuance - and we are indeed seeing this starting to happen.

CapitalContext's picture

Top-down equities underperformed credit once again as day after day we see the QE2 froth being blown off the weak recovery beer. HY credit is at its widest in six months, financials CDS are starting to crack finally, and sector relative richness in stocks is beginning to sync back to credit.

CapitalContext's picture

Stock and credit markets closed weaker today as Europe came back to the party from their long weekend. Equities underperformed credit (beta-adjusted) and HY underperformed IG as we see the debt-equity relationship starting to wave caution flags and skew compression enabling some downside.

Peter Tchir On Risk Positioning Heading Into The FOMC Conference, And Outcomes Heading Out

So here we are, finally at the big day. We get the first press conference from the most important man in America. Before you gag on the claim that he is the most important person, can you name one other person who has so much power coupled with the ability to act virtually unilaterally? It's not so much what he can do, print money, change rates, print money, change reserve requirements, print money, that makes him so powerful, it's that basically anything that he wants to do becomes policy. Ahead of the Fed there are two interesting moves in the market that bear watching. Treasuries rallied strongly into the close yesterday, but have given back a lot of the late day gains already. The other more interesting phenomena is what is happening to Greek, Irish, and Portuguese spreads. The bonds are blowing out, as much as 80 bps for Greek 10 year debt, but the CDS is actually tighter. This divergence may be a result of the bonds starting to trade at recovery levels, so investors don't want the hedges, or an indication of yet another expected bailout, but it is worth watching as the divergence is quite large. So, now to the Fed.

Capital Context Update: Credit Where Debit Is Due

Only a very few names managed gains in both equity and credit today (an interesting bunch - MAR, TOL, HOT, DHI, PEP, and SVU) as homebuilders were interestingly near the tope on the list of better performers in credit (which we suspect was related to the underperformance of the CMBX and ABX tranche markets as well as the higher beta exposure in some of the credit indices). Every sector was in agreement between credit and equity with a deteriorating move today as we note financials, leisure, and media were the worst beta-adjusted in credit relative to stocks on the day. Capital Goods, Utilities, and Consumer Noncyclicals performed the relative worst in stocks versus credit. The up-in-quality theme in credit is increasingly leaking into vol as we saw much less impact higher in vols in better-rated credits than in lower-rated credits. This was also the picture in credit though we did see the very highest rated names underperforming (financials?). This picture was somewhat different in equity-land where BB-rated and below names saw their stocks drop far less than A- rated and above names - once again we think this is to do with both financials dominating performance as well as the typical ratings/momentum correlation unwind.