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The Zombie Companies Are Coming

The Zombie Companies Are Coming

Easy money is a curse for capitalism.

Through the first half of August – which is normally a quiet period for the bond market in the US – a total of $56 billion in junk bonds and leveraged loans were issued by junk-rated companies, according to S&P Global. That was nearly 50% higher than the prior records for the same period in 2012 and 2016, and more than double the amount issued in the entire month of August last year.

The Fed’s announcement on March 23rd that it would start buying corporate bonds and bond ETFs set off a huge rally in the bond market, including in the junk-bond market.

The rally started before the Fed ever actually bought the first bond. And then the Fed hardly bought anything by Fed standards. Through the end of July, it bought just $12 billion in corporate bonds and bond ETFs, including a minuscule $1.1 billion in junk bond ETFs. It’s not even a rounding error on its $7-trillion mountain of assets.

But the announcement was enough to trigger the biggest junk-debt chase in the shortest amount of time the world has likely ever seen. And it kept the zombies walking, and it generated a whole new generation of zombies too.

The junk-bond ETFs the Fed dabbled in hold junk-bonds issued by companies that have been taken over by Private Equity firms in leveraged buyouts, where the acquired company itself borrows the money to pay for its own acquisition. Leveraged buyouts produced the first big wave of bankruptcies among retailers that started years before the Pandemic, and included Toys R Us, now liquidated.

The junk bond ETFs that the Fed has bought hold these types of bonds, including bonds by PetSmart, which was taken over in a leveraged buyout by private-equity firm, BC Partners.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Are Bonds and Gold Telling Us Inflation Is Coming?

Are Bonds and Gold Telling Us Inflation Is Coming?

Stocks continue to ignore 40 million unemployed, an economic depression, and societal collapse/ riots.

The S&P 500 rallied yesterday to test major resistance at 3,100. The market is nearing the point of its rising wedge. A big move is coming.

The VIX is also warning us that a big move is coming. It too is at the point of its wedge formation.

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Meanwhile, the 5-year, 30-year yield curve has steepened to levels not seen since 2017. Is this predicting an economic boom or raging inflation?

Gold suggests it’s the latter. The precious metal is going vertical against every major currency: dollars, euros, yen and francs.

Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious…. “

After last night’s Boris announcement on not reopening the economy, it clearly doesn’t need any further explanation.. (US Readers – complex sarcasm alert.)

Over the course of the lockdown, I’ve been brushing up on Quantum Entanglement Theory and almost accidently I’ve created a time machine. I’m not quite sure how it works – so I reckon that qualifies me a job in Whitehall – but I was able to download The Morning Porridge from May 2021….. 

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Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 2021

“Sell in May – oh don’t bother – you are already away…” 

It’s just over a year since 20mm Americans lost their jobs in a single month and United Airline’s failed $2 bln bond issue in the first week of May 2020 became the unstable pebble that triggered the most devasting landslide in financial market history. 

All around the globe, bond investors woke up to their doubts on just how much government QE programmes, miniscule yields, and the value of their collateral of unproductive obsolete economic assets could be. Equity holders caught the whiff of panic – figuring out rising P/E’s in a crashing global economy meant nothing – even if central banks were promising to intervene. Sovereign debt buyers went on immediate strike, citing concerns on debasement, inflation, and the implausible promises being made. 

The result was the most precipitious tumble in history – everyone tried to exit the markets and discovered the truth: “there are many ways to buy, but only one exit marked sell.” 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weaponizing the Dollar

Weaponizing the Dollar

Saul Leiter Phone call c1957

Don’t worry, we’re still talking virus, just from a slightly different angle. I was going to do something completely different, but then I saw an article at the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today that made me think “I don’t think that’s true”, realizing that at the same time many people would think it is.

Foreign holdings of US Treasuries are a misty environment for perhaps not just many, but most people. What triggered the SCMP piece is Trump’s threat, if it was ever meant to be one, to default on US dollar-denominated debt owned by China. Which by one estimate consists for about 70% of Treasuries.

And there are entire choirs full of voices willing to tell us that China can simply start dumping the -estimated- $1.2 trillion in Treasuries it holds, and threaten if not end the USD reserve currency status that way, if the US doesn’t “behave”. There’s little doubt that China would want this, but that doesn’t make the idea any more realistic.

What should give that away is, how easy can we make it for you, that it hasn’t done so yet. And now a conflict over the origin of a virus would trigger this? On a side note: if that origin is somewhere in China, even if it’s unintentional, how could Beijing possibly “admit” to it? How could it ever settle the lawsuits that would ensue?

No, the US cannot default on China’s holdings of its Treasuries. That alone would be a larger threat to the reserve currency status than anything anybody else could do, other then nuclear war. But at the same time, China cannot dump its Treasury holdings. because that would hurt … China.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken

I say these things because:

  • Money is free for those who are creditworthy because the investors who are giving it to them are willing to get back less than they give. More specifically investors lending to those who are creditworthy will accept very low or negative interest rates and won’t require having their principal paid back for the foreseeable future. They are doing this because they have an enormous amount of money to invest that has been, and continues to be, pushed on them by central banks that are buying financial assets in their futile attempts to push economic activity and inflation up. The reason that this money that is being pushed on investors isn’t pushing growth and inflation much higher is that the investors who are getting it want to invest it rather than spend it. This dynamic is creating a “pushing on a string” dynamic that has happened many times before in history (though not in our lifetimes) and was thoroughly explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises. As a result of this dynamic, the prices of financial assets have gone way up and the future expected returns have gone way down while economic growth and inflation remain sluggish. Those big price rises and the resulting low expected returns are not just true for bonds; they are equally true for equities, private equity, and venture capital, though these assets’ low expected returns are not as apparent as they are for bond investments because these equity-like investments don’t have stated returns the way bonds do. As a result, their expected returns are left to investors’ imaginations. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: $150 Billion Global Corporate Bond Binge

Weekly Commentary: $150 Billion Global Corporate Bond Binge

After an extraordinary August, markets are showing no inclination for stability to begin September. Jumping 1.3% Thursday on news of an October restart of trade talks, the S&P500 gained 1.8% for the week. The S&P500 ended the week less than 2% from all-time highs. The Semiconductors surged 4.2%, increasing 2019 gains to almost 36%. The Nasdaq100 advanced 2.1% (up 24.1% y-t-d), now also less than a couple percent from record highs. The Broker/Dealers jumped 2.7%.  

Not uncharacteristically, the more dramatic market trading dynamics were visible throughout fixed-income. Curiously, Thursday’s bout of “risk on” (and much stronger-than-expected ADP and ISM Non-Manufacturing reports) finally captured the attention of safe haven bonds. Ten-year Treasury yields surged nine bps to 1.56% – which equated to a painful 1.8% one-day drop in the popular iShares Treasury Bond ETF (TLT). Intraday, TLT was down as much as 2.4%. Bullish pundits were quick to dismiss a single-session yield jump. But of the crowd piling into bond ETFs, how many are unaware of how quickly money can be lost in “safe” bonds?

“Biggest Bond Rout in Years Whiplashes Bulls Who Were Right,” read a Bloomberg article (Liz McCormick) headline. Jumping 9.5 bps to 1.53%, two-year Treasury yields posted their largest one-day jump since February 2015. At one point up 14 bps, two-year Treasury yields were on the cusp of the biggest single-session spike in a decade. Interestingly, the implied yield for December Fed funds futures was little changed for the week at 1.61%.

Investment-grade corporate bonds were under pressure as well. The iShares Investment-Grade Bond ETF (LQD) was down as much as 0.9% intraday before ending Thursday’s session with a loss of 0.7%. While declining almost 1% early in the trading day, the “risk on” backdrop lifted junk bond indices into positive territory by the close.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There Has Been Just One Buyer Of Stocks Since The Financial Crisis

There Has Been Just One Buyer Of Stocks Since The Financial Crisis

Over the weekend we showed a chart which demonstrated that the bulk of the 21st century has been characterized by equity retail fund outflows offset by a tsunami of bond inflows, i.e. a reverse “great rotation.” The chart also illustrated that periods of “big bond inflows often preceded big policy changes”, hinting that some major event was coming; meanwhile big bond outflows (e.g. 2008/13/18) tended to coincide with the most bearish returns across asset classes, which may explain why in a time of record bond inflows, i.e., right now, stocks are trading near all time highs…

… even if it did – as we said on Sunday – pose a question: “just who is buying stocks here?”

Now, in his latest Flow Show weekly report, BofA CIO Michael Hartnett confirms that the flows continued for one more week, as another $11.4 billion flowed into bonds, while $8.4 billion was redeemed from stocks (a clear sign investors are not worried about bond bubble for now, with chunky inflows to both IG ($7.9bn) & govt bond ($3.5bn) funds).

More importantly, when looking at the bigger picture and finding $213 billion in redemptions from equity funds stands in stark contrast to $337bn inflows to bond funds; Hartnett answered our pressing question: who is buying stocks here? 

His answer: “the sole buyer of US stocks remain corporate buybacks, not institutions” as shown in the chart below.

This is notable not only because it means that without the buyback bid (made possible by record cheap debt, which is used to fund corporate stock repurchases) stocks would be far, far lower, but because it is a carbon copy of what we observed almost exactly two years ago, suggesting that between the summers of 2017 and 2019 absolutely nothing has changed.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

History Being Made: Negative Rates, Fake Markets, & The Imminent “Daily Liquidity” Crisis

History Being Made: Negative Rates, Fake Markets, & The Imminent “Daily Liquidity” Crisis

Transformational  Markets: History Being Made​​

No-Bond World And The Risk Of A Daily Liquidity Crisis

Rates hit new lows this month. Symbolically, the 50-year swap rate in Europe dived into negative territory. Bonds as an asset class are in extinction, a major shift in modern finance as we know it, inadvertently turning ‘balanced portfolios’ into ‘long-equity portfolios’. The ‘nocebo effect’ of enduring negative interest rates is such that negative rates are deflationary, hence self-defeating. Meanwhile, they have potent unintended consequences for systemic risk, which spreads around, leading the market into an historical trap. A ‘Daily Liquidity Crisis’ may result. All the while as markets get off the sugar rush of Trump rate cuts, and Europe has his banking sector at risk of implosion.

History Being Made

It must be a great thing to witness history being made during the span of your career, to find yourself in a market where so much happens for the first time in the history of finance, and close to everything else is at an extreme over the past decade. Nothing much is left around us which is trading regularly, or around historical averages.

In no particular order: the whole of the US interest rate curve dropped below 2% in mid-August, for the first time in history. The whole of the German interest rate curve dropped below zero. The Swiss, Swedish, Japanese curves are also negative for their entirety or whereabouts. The 10yr Swiss government bond yields a mind-blowing -1.2%, a sure bet to make no less than 12% in capital losses by maturity. Peripheral Europe joined in: the 10yr Portugal government bond is close to 0% yield now, about to dive in negative land too.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Ice Age Arrives: Average Sovereign Yield Outside The US Turns Negative For The First Time Ever

The Ice Age Arrives: Average Sovereign Yield Outside The US Turns Negative For The First Time Ever

Last Friday afternoon, when what few traders were not on vacation were planning the venue of their evening alcohol consumption, we showed a remarkable analysis by Bank of America, which found that yields on the $27.8 trillion non-USD global investment grade bond market had declined to just 16bps and that the US share of global investment grade yields has climbed to 94%. But the punchline is that, as we said, “non-USD sovereign yields had dropped to just 2bps, meaning that any day now foreign sovereign debt may have no yield at all on average.”

Fast forward to Monday, when following another surge in global bond prices, Bank of America refreshed its analysis, and foudn that the striking trends noted last week had become even more fascinating, to wit yields on the $27.8tn non-USD global IG fixed income market had declined to just 11bps (down from 16bps just one day earlier)…

… and the US share of global IG yields climbed to 95%…

Negative Yielding Arrives in Europe Credit

… meaning that any foreign investor who is desperate for even the smallest trace of positive yield has no choice but to come to the US, something Kyle Bass echoed earlier on CNBC: “US rates are going to zero because they are the only DM yields with an integer in front of them.”

.@Jkylebass on CNBC: “US rates are going to zero because they are the only DM yields with an integer in front of them”

– btw this echoes Pimco comment from earlier. In a race to negative/ zero what do you own?https://twitter.com/cnbcjou/status/1163698049597759488?s=21 …

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

Here at Zero Hedge, we’ve dedicated plenty of attention to signs of “Japanification” in European bond markets…

… with the issue taking on even more urgency now that we have influential bond strategists earnestly advocating the purchase of equities by the ECB, and the Fed in the middle of a policy U-turn that has prompted the market to price in at least three interest rate cuts by the end of the year…

Rates

…previously “conspiratorial” ideas like the Fed buying equities to turbocharge its stimulus program are beginning to look eminently plausible.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the term, “Japanification”, also known as Albert Edwards “Ice Age” concept, it involves the dawn of a new economic paradigm characterized by stagnant growth and pervasive deflation, where central bank debt monetization is needed to finance public spending to keep economies from sliding into contraction.

Bass

Already, there’s reason to believe that both the US and Europe are heading for the same monetary policy trap as Japan. Case in point: the neutral rate – or r*, as the economists at the Fed like to call it – has failed to revert back to its pre-crisis level.

Yields

And with the Fed likely to cut rates later this month and global bond yields tumbling to levels not seen in years, if ever, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass has revealed his latest trade in an interview with the  FTBass is betting that the Fed will slash interest rates to just above zero next year as the US economy slides into a recession, forcing the Fed to restart QE, and possibly even consider more radical alternatives like buying equities.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

French Bond Yields Slide Below Zero, Hit All Time Record Lows

French Bond Yields Slide Below Zero, Hit All Time Record Lows

Ten days ago when global bond yields tumbled amid renewed fears that the global economy was headed for a recession, we reported that a record $13 trillion in global sovereign debt was trading with a negative yield.

And while we don’t have the latest numbers from Bloomberg, pending their EOD update at the close, it is safe to say that as of this moment, there is a new all time high in negative yielding debt, because while German yields tumbled deeper into record negative territory this morning following abysmal global PMIs and comments from the ECB that the central bank was prepared for any contingency (i.e., ready to cut rates even more), it was the turn of France to follow Germany into sub-zero territory as the French 10Y yield just dropped below 0%, assuring that the total amount of negative-yielding debt just rose by a few hundred billion.

Meanwhile, the disconnect between global bonds – which are now screaming “recession is coming” – and global stocks which are partying as if the Fed can’t wait for S&P 3,000 to cut rates not by 25bps but 50bps, if not more, has never been greater.

Meet “Gekko”: The Robot Bond Trader Being Developed By Quant Funds

Meet “Gekko”: The Robot Bond Trader Being Developed By Quant Funds

We pointed out earlier this year that “factor based” quant funds were having difficulty finding strategies to beat the market – especially now that all quant funds are doing the same thing. But now, the computer scientists at Cantab Capital, based out of Cambridge, have taken on another challenge: trying to create the next “bond king” out of algorithms and data, according to FT.

The company’s computer scientists have backgrounds in astrophysics and molecular biology and are trying to write programs that “surf the undulations” of the bond market in order to copy the best features from human traders, while leaving their frailties behind.

Anthony Lawler, co-head of GAM Systematic, the arm of the Swiss asset manager that owns Cantab said: “An active credit trader is ‘feeling the tape’. We want our models to replicate that behaviour.”



This is now the new world of bond investing, formerly an old-school industry that, for decades, had been limited to wealthy fund managers in places like London and New York. The rarely anointed title of “bond king” – usually used by the media – was reserved for traders like Bill Gross and Jeff Gundlach in the past. It’s now being sought after by computers.

Rare Fund Freeze Attracts Scrutiny of U.K. Regulators

Paul Kamenski, co-head of credit at Man Group’s Numeric unit said: “This feels like the early days of the ‘quant’ equity industry. A lot of the research is in the early stage but the pace of advancement is likely to be faster. There’s a realisation that this is an untapped market.”

Man Numeric launched a bond platform late last year that was initially focused on US junk bonds. Now, it plans on expanding into investment grade corporate debt.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Negative Interest Rates Spread To Mortgage Bonds

Negative Interest Rates Spread To Mortgage Bonds

There are trillions of dollars of bonds in the world with negative yields – a fact with which future historians will find baffling.

Until now those negative yields have been limited to the safest types of bonds issued by governments and major corporations. But this week a new category of negative-yielding paper joined the party: mortgage-backed bonds. 

Bankers Stunned as Negative Rates Sweep Across Danish Mortgages

(Investing.com) – At the biggest mortgage bank in the world’s largest covered-bond market, a banker took a few steps away from his desk this week to make sure his eyes weren’t deceiving him.

As mortgage-bond refinancing auctions came to a close in Denmark, it was clear that homeowners in the country were about to get negative interest rates on their loans for all maturities through to five years, representing multiple all-time lows for borrowing costs.

“During this week’s auctions, there were three times when I had to stand back a little from the screen and raise my eyebrows somewhat,” said Jeppe Borre, who analyzes the mortgage-bond market from a unit of the Nykredit group that dominates Denmark’s $450 billion home-loan industry.

For one-year adjustable-rate mortgage bonds, Nykredit’s refinancing auctions resulted in a negative rate of 0.23%. The three-year rate was minus 0.28%, while the five-year rate was minus 0.04%.

The record-low mortgage rates, which don’t take into account the fees that homeowners pay their banks, are the latest reflection of the global shift in the monetary environment as central banks delay plans to remove stimulus amid concerns about economic growth.

Denmark has had negative rates longer than any other country. The central bank in Copenhagen first pushed its main rate below zero in the middle of 2012, in an effort to defend the krone’s peg to the euro. The ultra-low rate environment has dragged down the entire Danish yield curve, with households in the country paying as little as 1% to borrow for 30 years. That’s considerably less than the U.S. government.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bank of Japan & the Bond Crisis

Bank of Japan & the Bond Crisis 

BoJ Statement 4-24-2019

The Great Financial Unknown is now upon us. After 10 years of Quantitative Easing, the European Central Bank (ECB) in Europe owns 40% of the national debts in the EU and it can neither sell them nor stop buying without creating a Panic in Interest Rates. Likewise, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) owns between 70% and 80% of the ETF bond market in Japan. The Bank of Japan confirmed it is ending free market determination of interest rates for the municipal level and that they “will not require any procedures such as auction as the method of determining lending conditions.”  today it may introduce a lending facility for its exchange-traded fund buying program, which would allow it to temporarily lend ETFs to market participants.

4. Introduction of Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) Lending Facility
The Bank will consider the introduction of ETF Lending Facility, which will make it possible
to temporarily lend ETFs that the Bank holds to market participants.

The statement at the end of the announcement on the last page on its monetary policy has left traders in shock. This appears that the BoJ realizes that it now effectively has destroyed its bond market and realizes that there is not only the end of a free market, but there is a contagion of surrounding lack of liquidity.

We have never before in the history of human society ever witnessed such a major financial crisis. The BoJ makes it clear it will continue its policy of Quantitative Easing. It stated plainly:

The Bank will continue with “Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing (QQE) with
Yield Curve Control,” aiming to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent, as long as it is
necessary for maintaining that target in a stable manner.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is This Downturn A Repeat of 2008?

Getty images

Is This Downturn A Repeat of 2008?

Crashes differ, so be cautious about your assumptions

Even people who don’t follow the stock market closely are aware that the global economy is weakening and appears to be heading into recession.

For those who track the stock market, the signs are ominous: the U.S. was the last major market to notch gains this year and in October the U.S. market followed the rest of the global markets into an extended slide which has yet to end.

Just as sobering, key sectors such as oil, banking and utilities have crashed with alarming ferocity, reaching oversold levels last seen in 2008 as the global financial system was melting down.

These sectors crashing sends an unmistakable signal: the global economy is heading into a potentially severe recession and assets will not be rising in value in a recessionary environment. So better to sell risk-assets like stocks now rather than later, and rotate the money into safe assets such as Treasury bonds.

And indeed, households now own more Treasuries than the Federal Reserve–a remarkable shift in risk appetite.

Many other indicators of recession are in the news: auto and home sales and global trade are all slumping.

Are we in a repeat of the global financial meltdown and recession of 2008-09? The sharp drop in equities is certainly reminiscent of 2008. Indeed, the December decline is the worst in a decade. Or are we entering a different kind of recession, the equivalent of uncharted waters?

And if we are entering a recession, what can central banks and governments do to ease the financial pain and damage? We can’t be sure of much, but we can be relatively confident central banks and states will respond to the cries to “do something.”  This poses two questions: what actions can central banks/states take, and will those policies work or will they backfire and make the recession worse?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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