Libor Just Did Something It Hasn't Done In 13 Years

With traders looking in awe at the ongoing flattening in the yield curve, as the 2s10s drops below 50bps...

... with the 10Y sliding to a 7 week low under 2.74% and telegraphing that unless the Fed manages a parallel shift in the curve, that Powell Fed will create a recession with just 2 more rate hikes as the curve inverts, the action again remains squarely focused on the unsecured dollar funding market, where 3M USD Libor just did something it hasn't done in 13 years.

At its 8am ET fixing, Libor increased from 2.3080% to 2.3118%, rising for the 37th straight day, and marking the longest consecutive string of advances since a 50-day streak that ended in November 2005. Libor is now up a whopping 62 bps since the end of 2017, a move that is far more acute than the shift in either Fed Fund futures or 2Y TSYs.

Additionally, and as shown on this website, the relentless blowout in the Libor-OIS spread continues to signal that conventional funding pathways remain at least partially blocked - for either technical or systemic reasons - even if overnight Libor-OIS narrowed fractionally to 59bp from 59.3bp a day earlier.

In the latest attempt to explain the move in Libor, Goldman this morning noted that the surge in the interbank lending rate has been driven by a drop in demand, or concern over a potential decline, "for short-duration assets by cash-rich companies following the passage of the tax reform legislation in December," something we have said since last October, which is also why we no longer believe this explanation is sufficient as the market will have had more than enough time to not only price the impact of tax reform, but also to take advantage of the gaping arb; furthermore, as shown in the chart below, the recent flood of T-Bill issuance - another reason widely cited for the blow out in Libor-OIS - is about to disappear.

In other words, should Libor fail to tighten in April, one can safely assume that there are additional factors involved, which are also beyond the  Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax or BEAT considerations, proposed recently by Zoltan Pozsar, which also will have been priced in by now.

Meanwhile, another stunning inversion is being observed in the markets, where in the past week, 3-Month Libor has now also blown wide of 2Y Treasurys...

... an inversion that rarely if ever happens...


... and which suggests that one should perhaps be more focused on the Libor-10Y curve, than the steepness/inversion of the 2Y-10Y as a harbinger of the next recession.

Finally, going back to the current level of Libor, whether the reason for its sharp move is systemic or technical remains irrelevant in the context of the big picture: what is relevant as we said over a month ago, is that over $300 trillion in debt instruments which reference Libor, are now paying far more in interest than they used to, with the double whammy being the sharp spike higher, which adds to the pain from the move. Furthermore, the fact that the move wider in both Libor and Libor-OIS has been far longer than all of the so-called experts predicted, suggests that the tightening in monetary conditions is far greater than the prevailing level of the S&P suggests. Indeed, one look at the stock price of Deutsche Bank, or the blow out in bank CDS confirms this.

Which begs the question: how much more upside in Libor can banks, markets and the Fed stomach, before something snaps, and the Fed is forced to cut rates or proceed with more QE?

And, even more importantly, should Libor continue to drift wider (or accelerate) in April, which is just around the corner, something which Forward Rate Agreement say will not happen, then the entire "technical" justification for the move in Libor can be thrown out, as Wall Street is forced to admit - once again - that aside from sounding confident and wearing an expensive suit to give the impression it knows what's going on, it really has no clue what is behind the Libor (and Libor-OIS aka "interbank stress") blow out.