Yesterday we reported that with the Fed's first oversubscribed term repo in three weeks...
... coupled with a surge in amount of overnight repo submission, indicated that the funding situation in the repo market had again deteriorated sharply, which was odd since we are now two weeks into the new year and further away from the time when the repo market was supposedly in distress due to the year-end funding constraints.
Indeed, something appears amiss, because as Curvature Securities' Scott Skyrm writes in his daily Repo Market Commentary note, the total overnight and term Fed RP operations on Friday were greater than on year end! On year-end, the Fed had pumped a total of $255.95 billion into the market verses $258.9 billion on Friday.
The problem with the broken repo market and the Fed's respective Repo operations, similar to the problem observed with QE and the Fed's balance sheet in general over the past decade, is that the market had gotten addicted to the easy Fed liquidity unleashed in September (via temporary repo ops), and then again in October (via permanent T-Bill purchases).
As Skyrm writes, "it's easy to see how the Repo market can get addicted to easy cash from the Fed when the stop-out rates for the RP operations are 1.55% - behind the offered side of the market."
But, as the repo strategist adds, as the Fed keeps injecting cash, the market gets used to it.
Which is great in the short-term as it sends risk assets soaring, but become a major issue over the long-term: "The long-term problem is that the some investor cash (real money cash) that was once going into the Repo market is now going elsewhere", Skyrm explains.
Indeed, the problem is that repo rates are trading in the lower end of the fed funds target range. When GC rates were higher in the range, Repo general collateral, as an investment, was more competitive than other overnight rates. But now that cash has gone to other markets.
In short, just as the market got addicted to QE and the result was a 20% drop in the S&P in late 2018 when markets freaked out about Quantitative Tightening, the Fed's shrinking balance sheet, and declining liquidity, Skyrm cautions that "it will take pain to wean the Repo market off of cheap Fed cash" since "it's a circle" which can be described as follows:
For the Fed to end daily RP ops, they need outside cash to come back into the Repo market. For the Repo market to attract cash, Repo rates need to move higher. For rates to move higher, the Fed needs to stop RP ops.
The problem is that stopping RP ops could spark another repo market crisis, especially with $259BN in liquidity pumped currently - more than at year end - via Repo. It also means that the Fed is now unilaterally blowing a market bubble with its repo and "NOT QE" injections, and yet the longer it does so the more impossible it becomes for the Fed to extricate itself from the liquidity pathway without causing a crash.
Or stated simply, the longer the Fed avoids pulling the repo liquidity band-aid, the bigger the market fall when (if) it finally does. The question then becomes whether Powell can keep pushing on the repo string until the November election, because a market crash in the months preceding it, especially since it will be of the Fed's own doing, will result in a very angry president.