Published on May 4th 2009
Some brief comments on 3 issues the markets have lately been paying attention to: Steepening credit curves, Sovereign CDS and Banks stress tests
Please, click here to read this letter in .pdf format: may-4-2009
Finally, Friday came with the data on the ISM Index, which was at 40.1 vs. expected of 38.4. On an absolute basis, main street still looks awful, but everyone makes the case that the so called “second derivative” is signaling there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I have been repeating since March 18th, the positive news relies on the Treasuries, GSE debt and securities purchases by the Fed. On Friday, the sell-off in Treasuries continued. The yield on the 30-yr Tsy is now above 4%. And yield, agency and credit curves have steepened considerably during last week. The news on Chrysler and the delay in the release of the stress tests results have left stocks on a wait-and-see mode. The S&P500 at 877.52pts is up a bit over 1% in the week. The inflationist policy in April has pushed a lot of short-covering in the credit space. The CDX IG12 ended at 163/165bps. But High Grade, High Yield, Loans, Convertibles and Mortgages have all tightened significantly too.
- May 1st, 2009: 30-yr Treasury (white) vs. S&P500 (orange)
Source: Bloomberg Analysis: Tincho’s Letter
Some brief comments on 3 issues the markets have lately been paying attention to:
- Steepened credit curves: Most analysis on this is either descriptive or focused on the specific fundamentals. This is short sighted. The steepening is the natural outcome of the inflationist process. It could also be called re-leverage. The different degrees of steepening and liquidity points we see are another proof of the non-neutrality of inflation, which is also impacting correlation in structured credit. Think of this: Without central banks, the only inverted curves you would ever see would be at the single-name level. But we do have central banks…
- Sovereign CDS: The recent tightening in this space is purely technical. Like any other spread, the sovereign spread should compensate for expected losses: spread = prob. of default x loss given default. In the case of developed sovereigns, the probability of default would be that of systemic collapse, after which huge inflation surges, resulting in a considerable currency debasement (=loss given default or loss given systemic collapse). Now, this probability has not yet fully disappeared, while the currency debasement is just starting. Thus, from a fundamental perspective, sovereign spreads should be widening. And they are, but this is only taking place in the bond market (i.e. Treasuries), where yields keep climbing.
- Banks stress tests: The US Govt. wants well capitalized banks. This is all idiocy. In our leveraged world, it is a mistake to think that the banks’ capital’s task is to allow the redemption of funds, when clients have lost confidence in their banks. The confidence that banks and the loans they have issued enjoy is indivisible. No risk management policy or capital requirements adopted on the banks’ initiative or forced upon them can remedy this. Given the ongoing inflationist policy, regurgitating this issue only brings unnecessary political risk to the table = If the Fed will keep bidding on assets and print our way out of this, they should shut up and just do it! Asking for more capital or more lending or even targeting an inflation rate is hypocrisy and it only adds expensive noise (volatility) to a trend!
This week is heavy in Treasury supply: $35bn 3-yr auction (Tues), $22 bn 10-yr (Wed), and $14 bn 30-yr (Thur). With Transmission spreads (LIBOR, LIBOR-OIS and Comm. Paper) collapsing, what could bring a reversal (lower lows in stocks, wider wides in credit)? POLITICS! Behaviour like the one shown in the chart above, between 10:30am and 2pm, when govt. debt and stocks enter or exit for the same doors AND the outlet valve of foreign exchange acts as a thermometer, MUST BE AVOIDED. (What happened on Friday between 10:30am and 2pm, AND AFTER?)
Agency,Banks stress tests,capital,cds,CDX,Chrysler,Commercial Paper,Convertibles,correlation,credit curve,currency debasement,expected losses,GSE,High Grade,High Yield,IG12,inflation,ISM Index,LIBOR,LIBOR-OIS,liquidity,Loans,loss given default,Mortgages,second derivative,sovereign,steepen,Treasuries,yield
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Published on April 30th 2009
Suppose you own a business and 1/3rd of your product is being bought by a single customer. What if this biggest customer tells you that as of June, he or she will stop buying? What do you do with your inventory? Exactly! You liquidate it in a fire sale! You had been selling what this biggest customer was buying, and then buying what you thought this customer would buy next. This has been precisely our thesis No. 1. As the chart below shows, after the Fed’s announcement at 2:15pm yesterday, Treasuries (long-end) sold off.
Suppose you own a business and 1/3rd of your product is being bought by a single customer. What if this biggest customer tells you that as of June, he or she will stop buying? What do you do with your inventory? Exactly! You liquidate it in a fire sale! You had been selling what this biggest customer was buying, and then buying what you thought this customer would buy next. This has been precisely our thesis No. 1. As the chart below shows, after the Fed’s announcement at 2:15pm yesterday, Treasuries (long-end) sold off. (There was also profit taking in the Agency market):
April 30th 2009, Intraday: 30-yr Treasury (white) vs. S&P500 (orange) Source: Bloomberg Analysis: Tincho's letter
The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) expressed no change in the plans to buy $1.25 Tr of Agency mortgage-backed securities, $200 bn of Agency debt and $300 bn of Treasuries. There was also no change to the fed funds target range. At 1:22 pm, Mr.Volcker, Chairman of the newly formed Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Chairman of the Fed between 1979 and 1983, had said that the current administration was committed to supporting banks. I think that led the market (and me) to believe there was going to be an upsize in Fed’s Treasuries purchases and, as the chart shows, that pushed Treasuries up (for a short time). The FOMC said the economy continued to contracting, but at a slower pace (GDP -6.1% q/q annualized).
I can’t understand stocks. The S&P 500 shot up on the news, and although it ended lower, it was still +2.16% (873.64pts). Why is this hard for me to see? If the long-term (30-yr) risk-free yield rose above 4% post-FOMC and the USD fell against the Euro and the Canadian dollar (=outflow of capital), why are stocks higher? (The USD rose against the yen and Pound, but this reflects and does not explain the rise of stocks). Isn’t a risk-free 4% yield good enough? Maybe it isn’t so risk-free … To make things more interesting, Treasuries in the short-end (2- yrs) had a solid bid, steepening the curve at close. Before I continue, I must say, thesis no. 3 (proposed on Friday) was refuted yesterday (= I was wrong!). There was no announcement of an exit strategy and stocks went up. I could say that to stop buying (FOMC statement) somehow indicates the way out (exit) of this mess, but I think the Fed is only bluffing, and it will keep buying anyway…Perhaps, we may have to first look at the credit markets. The CDX IG12 index finished at 168 bps (-9bps) and the High Yield index also did well, about 2 pts up. Even the leveraged loan LCDX index rose more than 1 pt. What is this supposed to mean? Maybe the market is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the Chrysler negotiations are positive, the distressed debt exchanges we are witnessing will really avoid defaults, perhaps the bank issuance coming outside of the FDIC-backed program (Goldman Sachs sold yesterday $2BN 6% 5-yr notes priced at T+410bps) is also a good sign. If this is the case, the market may wait for a confirmation this Friday, with the release of the ISM Manufacturing Index, before it moves anywhere (Readers’ feedback is welcome)…On this basis, I will wait until Friday, before I reject thesis No. 3. ONE LAST THOUGHT: If we are comfortable with a 4% long-term yield, with double-digit debt exchanges, with oil going higher on oversupply and stocks higher on awful news, maybe Keynes was right when he said that (refer April 28th letter): “…when output has increased and prices have risen, the effect of this on liquidity-preference will be to increase the quantity of money necessary to maintain a given rate of interest…” (General Theory, Chapter 13, published in 1936). We may indeed need more money to maintain the higher yields, to repay the double-digit maturities, a barrel of oil, Citibank shares or my morning coffee! I only hope that more money is also needed to pay your and my salary!
Agency,Canadian dollar,CDX,Chrysler,Citibank,dollar,Euro,FDIC,Fed,Federal Open Market Committee,FOMC,GDP,Goldman Sachs,IG12,Keynes,Leveraged Loan LCDX,oil,Paul Volcker,Pound,S&P 500,Thesis No. 1,Thesis No. 3,Treasuries,USD,Yen
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