Flattener

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.

Morgan Stanley Launches Fed Frontrunning Toolbox, Asks What The End Of QE2 Will Look Like For Rates

By now it is no secret that the end of QE2, should one actually transpire as the alternative is surging bond yields which as described yesterday means gross interest expense as a percentage of total US revenue would hit a Weimaresque 30%+, the collapse in equities will be dramatic, once the marginal buyer of up to $8 billion in daily risk disappears, and as was further pointed out recently, the only variable that every asset class correlates with with no exception is the Fed's balance sheet. And while the drop in equities is all but guaranteed, a more important question is what happens to not only Treasury rates but to the shape of the curve. Even though the jump in rates seems inevitable (to those whose career does not depend on pursuing the lemming-like call of the sellside groupthink wild), the finer nuances in the curve shift have not seen a broad discussion. Morgan Stanley's Jim Caron, whose predictive track record leaves much to be desired, has released an analysis of what the end of QE2 will look like from a rates perspective. We urge readers to take this analysis with the same dose of skepticism as any FX recommendation from Goldman's Thomas Stolper.

Rosie On Why Coming Monetary And Fiscal Contraction Means "Selling In May" May Be Too Late

We have long claimed that in advance of the great "to be or not to be QE3" decision in June, there will likely be a major market swoon in March/April. The reason for that is that, as David Rosenberg explains in a very coherent fashion, the market will soon realize that the case for another bout of monetization is increasingly shaky: "when you go back to August 2010, when QE2 was announced, U.S. core
inflation was 1.1% and headline was 0.1%; by June of this year, we will
probably be looking at 1.5% on the core and as high as 3% on headline
inflation. That combined with the reality that the S&P 500 is 300
points higher now than it was then would certainly suggest that the case
for extension of the Fed’s QE program will not be there, at least not
by the time QE2 runs its course
. So this is what we would be looking for
in terms of chronology (it may be too late to sell in May this year)." So unlike before, the context this time around will be one of much higher inflation, making the stimulation case that much more difficult. The downside? 300 points of downside due to a marginal hole that will no longer be plugged by the Fed. And with a fiscal contraction coming for more (see Koo's notes from yesterday), one can see why as Rosie says "it may be too late to sell in May this year." We agree that there will be a return to market volatility in the months ahead of June, but we believe that the Fed will have no choice but to continue monetizing sooner or later courtesy of the $4 trillion in bond issuance over the next two years. There is no way around it. What it means for the "inflationary" thesis we leave it up to readers.