In a carry-trade driven world in which news and fundamentals no longer matter, the only relevant "variable" is whether the JPY is down (check) and the EUR is up (check) which always results in green equities around the globe and green futures in the US, with yesterday's sudden and sharp selloff on no liquidity and no news long forgotten. The conventional wisdom "reason" for the overnight JPY underperformance against all major FX is once again due to central bank rhetoric, when overnight BOJ's Kiuchi sees high uncertainty whether 2% CPI will be reached in 2 years, Shirai says bank should ease further if growth, CPI diverge from main scenario. Also the BOJ once again hinted at more QE, and since this has proven sufficient to keep the JPY selling momentum, for now, why not continue doing it until like in May it stops working. As a result EURJPY rose above the 4 year high resistance of 138.00, while USDJPY is bordering on 102.00. On the other hand, the EUR gained after German parties strike coalition accord, pushing the EURUSD over 1.36 and further making the ECB's life, now that it has to talk the currency down not up, impossible. This is especially true following reports in the German press that the ECB is looking at introducing an LTRO in order to help promote bank lending. Since that rumor made zero dent on the EUR, expect the ongoing daily litany of ECB rumors that the bank is "technically ready" for negative rates and even QE, although as has been shown in recent months this now has a half-life measured in minutes as the market largely is ignoring whatever "tools" Draghi and company believe they have left.
If there is one single event that could derail the euro experiment it is the German Federal Constitutional Court ruling on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and Outright Market Transactions (OMT).
Today we present the Target2-system and the fiscal bail-out facilities in our series on European efforts to bail out itself. For new readers, check out part 1 here http://bawerk.net/?p=123
Despite media rumors that the Portuguese foreign minister Portas, who resigned on Tuesday precipitating a complete collapse in Portugual bond prices and ushering in the latest European political crisis, has agreed to stay in the government as a Deputy PM and economy minister (nothing like some title inflation-pro-quo), things in Portugal are rapidly turning from bad to worse. To wit:
PORTUGUESE 10-YEAR BONDS DECLINE; YIELD RISES 14 BPS TO 7.60%
PORTUGUESE TWO-YEAR NOTE YIELD RISES 60 BPS TO 5.64%
PORTUGUESE 2-YEAR YIELD REACHES 5.66%, HIGHEST SINCE NOV. 20
The main reason for the collapse appears to be the near consensus developing this morning that no matter what the government does at this point, a second bailout of the small country is inevitable.
Overnight newsflow (which nowadays has zero impact on markets which only care what Ben Bernanke had for dinner) started in Japan where factory orders were reported to have risen the most since December 2011, retail sales climbed, the unemployment rate rose modestly, consumer prices stayed flat compared to a year ago, however real spending plunged -1.6% significantly below the market consensus forecast for +1.3% yoy, marking the first yoy decline in five months. This suggests that households are cutting utility costs more so than the level of increase in prices. By contrast, real spending on clothing and footwear grew sharply by 6.9% yoy (+0.6% in April) marking positive growth for a fourth consecutive month. Simply said, the Japanese reflation continues to be limited by the lack of wage growth even as utility and energy prices are exploding and limiting the potential for core inflation across the board.
Extreme Developed Market (DM) monetary policy (read The Fed) has floated more than just US equity boats in the last few years. Foreign non-bank investors poured $1.1 trillion into Emerging Market (EM) debt between 2010 and 2012 as free money enabled massive carry trades and rehypothecation (with emerging Europe and Latam receiving the most flows and thus most vulnerable). Supply of cheap USD beget demand of EM (yieldy) debt which created a supply pull for EM corporate debt which is now causing major indigestion as the demand has almost instantly dried up due to Bernanke's promise to take the punchbowl away. From massive dislocations in USD- versus Peso-denominated Chilean bonds to spiking money-market rates in EM funds, the impact (and abruptness) of these colossal outflows has already hit ETFs and now there are signs that the carnage is leaking back into money-market funds (and implicitly that EM credit creation will crunch hurting growth) as their reaching for yield as European stress 'abated' brings back memories of breaking-the-buck and Lehman and as Goldman notes below, potentially "poses systemic risk to the financial system."
Tuesday's weak 2 Year bond auction is now a distant memory, and following yesterday's strong 5 Year it was not surprising to see a very strong pick up in demand for the just concluded 7 Year auction. On the surface, the auction was very strong with the high yield printing at 1.496%, stopping through the 1.515% When Issued if still the highest since March 2012. The internals were also very strong, with the Bid to Cover closing at 2.70, in line with last month's 2.71, and above the TTM average of 2.68. More importantly, Direct demands soared with 20.68% of the takedown going to Direct bidders, the second highest ever in this series, and lower only to December's 23.11%. Indirects were no slouch either, with a final allotment of 40.84%, leaving just 38.48% for Dealers, the lowest take down for 2013. So with very strong primary market demand along the belly, it is safe to say all rumors of a blow up in the US bond market are greatly exaggerated. Remember: TSYs still continue to be the primary source of repoable collateral and for the time being at least, everyone still wants them.
While many may not recall that the US has been without an official debt ceiling for the past three months, or even that it has a debt target ceiling, the bonus period agreed upon in January to let the nation rake up some $400 billion in addition debt in the past few months, officially runs out tomorrow, May 19, when the debt limit will be restored to its previous level plus the debt that was incurred in the interim, which means around $16.735 trillion in total debt as of yesterday, plus the amount incurred today, excluding the debt not subject to the cap which is about $30 billion. And since no grand bargain is forthcoming in a world in which official governance is now almost universally in the hands of the world's central bankers and out of the hands of the theatrical career politicians, it means that the next deadline in the endless US debt ceiling saga will be the day when the extraordinary measures to extend the debt ceiling run out. Such a deadline will likely be hit in just over three months.
With every modestly positive datapoint being desperately clung to, now that even Goldman's Hatzius has once more thrown in the economic towel after proclaiming an economic renaissance in late 2012 just like he did in late 2010 only to issue a mea culpa a few months later (and just as we predicted - post coming up shortly), the key prerogative is to ignore the elephant in the room. That, of course, is that the JPY 1 quadrillion bond market had to be halted for the second day in a row as the Japanese capital markets are fast becoming a very big and sad joke. The resulting flight to safety from Japanese investors, who sense that their own bond market is on the verge of breaking down completely, has managed to send French and Belgian bonds to record lows, the Spanish 2 Year to sub 2%, the German 6 month bill negative in the primary market, the US 10/30 year constantly bid and so on. The immediate result is that the bond-equity disconnect continues to diverge until one day we may get negative 10 Year rates coupled with an all time high stock market. Gotta love the fake New Normal market, in which the Japanese penny stock market was up another 2.8% to well over 13,000 even as the Shanghai Composite plumbs ever redder territory for 2013 on fears the birdflu contagion will hurt the already struggling economy even more.
Not even the Fed pre-monetizing yesterday of today's 30 Year reopening auction could do much to improve demand for today's $13 billion sale in long-dated paper. Because if yesterday's 10 Year auction was a testament to demand from Direct and Indirect buyers, today's final auction of the week was anything but. Moments ago the Treasury sold $13 billion in 30 year paper, in a 29 year, 11 month reopening, of the infamous 912810QZ4 Cusip, and which priced at a high yield of 3.248%, the highest yield since last March's 3.381%, and more importantly 1.5 bps higher than the When Issued 3.233%. The internals explained why the demand in the primary market was just not there: Indirects got 42%, Dealer take down was 51.2%, which mean Direct bidders were allotted just 4.9% of the total. This was the lowest Direct allocation since September of 2009, and in stark contrast to yesterday's surge in 10 Year Direct bidders. Finally, the Bid to Cover came at 2.43, the lowest since August of 2012.
Even as the gargantuan $1+ trillion student debt load has been the bubbly elephant in the room that few are still willing to talk about, there have been until now zero opportunities for a the proverbial highly convex "ABX" short in the student debt space. This of course is the trade that was put on by those who sensed the subprime bubble is about to pop in early/mid 2007 and made billions as the yield chasers were summarily punished one by one as first New Century blew up, and then everyone else. Yet while one was able to buy synthetic "hedge" exposure with limited downside and unlimited upside (by shorting synthetic index spreads) in subprime, so far the only way to be bearish on student debt has been to short the equity of various private sector lenders - a trade with very limited upside and unlimited downside, and which in the current idiotic New Normal is more likely to leave one insolvent and crushed in a smoldering heap of margin calls following yet another epic short squeeze as GETCO's stop hunting algo run amok. This may be about to change. As WSJ reports, SecondMarket Holdings, the private-market securities trading firm best known for allowing numerous overzealous fans to buy FaceBook at moronic valuations, on Monday "will roll out a platform allowing lenders to issue securities backed by student loans directly to investors."
With little on the event calendar in the overnight session, the main news many were looking forward to was Italy's auction of €2.5 billion in 5 and €4 billion in 10 year paper, to see just how big the fallout from the Hung Parliament election was in the primary market. As SocGen explained ahead of the auction: "The target of Italy's 2017 and 2023 BTP auction today is a maximum EUR6.5bn, but in order to get to that tidy amount the Tesoro may be forced to offer a hefty mark-up in yield to compensate investors for the extra risk. Note that Italian 6-month bills were marked up at yesterday's sale from 0.731% to 1.237%. Who knows what premium investors will be asking for today for paper with the kind of duration that is not covered by the ECB OMT (should that be activated)? Will Italian institutions, already long BTPs relative to overall asset size, be forced to hoover up most of the supply?" The outcome was a successful auction which, however, as expected saw yields spike with the 4 year paper pricing at 3.59% compared to 2.95% before, while the 10 Year paper priced some 60 bps wider to the 4.17% in January, yielding 4.83%. The result was a brief dip in Italian OTR BTP yield, which have since retraced all gains and are once again trading in the 4.90% range on their way to 5%+ as JPM forecast yesterday. And as expected, talk promptly emerged that the auction was carried by "two large domestic buyers" in other words, the two big local banks merely levered up on Italian paper hoping furiously that they are not the next MF Global.
The European Commission formally endorsed the financial transaction tax agreed to by eleven of the 27 members. The tax will be set at 0.1% for stocks and bonds and 0.01% for derivatives. The tax will go into effect at the start of 2014, by which time the participating countries will give it formal approval.
There seems to be two purposes of the tax. The first is to raise revenue. The EC projects the tax will raise 30-35 bln euros annually where ever and whenever an instrument from eleven is traded. This would seem to block the ability to avoid the tax by moving transactions out of the eleven countries. It reinforces the "residence principle". This essentially means that if some one is a resident of the eleven countries, or acting on behalf of a resident, the transaction will be taxed anywhere it takes place. The other purpose is to deter the high frequency trading, which some officials see as largely unnecessary and potentially destabilizing.
The name Christian Bittar is well-known to regular Zero Hedge readers. Recall from "Deep Into The Lieborgate Rabbit Hole: The Swiss Hedge Fund Link?": " just like in the case of Barclays (with Diamond), JPM (with Bruno Iksil), UBS (with Kweku) and Goldman (with Fabrice Tourre), there always is a scapegoat. Today we find just who that scapegoat is. From Bloomberg: "Regulators are investigating the possible roles of Michael Zrihen at Credit Agricole, Didier Sander at HSBC and Christian Bittar at Deutsche Bank, the person said on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing." We proceeded to do a circuitous analysis to find that despite assumptions to the contrary, not only has Mr. Bittar not been expelled from the industry for manipulating Libor, but he is still collecting fat paychecks at Swiss hedge fund BlueCrest, Europe's third largest, with some $30 billion under management. Today, courtesy of Bloomberg we get the details of how Mr. Bittar departed Deutsche, and just what his responsibilities there were.
The markets are holding up on hopes of additional stimulus from the Central Banks. Some bulls are even calling for QE 4 at the upcoming Fed meeting, despite the fact that QE 3 was launched a mere three months ago and was open-ended (meaning it would not end until the Fed deemed it time).