One-month Treasury bill rates ended the week at 9 bps, and three-month bills closed at 18 bps. Two-year government yields sank 24 bps to 0.96%. Five-year T-note yields plunged 32 bps to 2.46%. Ten-year yields fell 29 bps to 3.57%. Long bond yields were down 18 bps at 4.42%. Benchmark Fannie MBS yields dropped 30 bps to 4.50%. The spread between 10-year Treasuries and benchmark MBS narrowed one to 93. Agency 10-yr debt spreads increased 4 to 9 bps. The implied yield on December eurodollar futures sank 19.5 bps to 0.605%. The 2-year dollar swap spread declined 5.25 to 40 bps; the 10-year dollar swap spread declined 10.25 to 22 bps; and the 30-year swap spread declined 11 to negative 15.5 bps. Corporate bond spreads were mixed. An index of investment grade bond spreads widened 5 bps to 171, while an index of junk spreads narrowed 29 to 720 bps.
Investment grade issuers included GE Capital $1.5bn, Praxair $600 million, Howard Hughes Medical $600 million, Blackstone $600 million, Dominion Resources $500 million, Hyatt Hotels $500 million, Discovery Communications $500 million, Southeast Supply $375 million, Ralcorp $300 million, Raymond James $300 million, Cleveland Electric $300 million, Buckeye Partners $275 million, Snap-On $250 million, Federal Realty Trust $150 million, and Brown University $100 million.
Junk bond fund inflows were strong again at $570 million (from AMG). The long list of junk issuers included Sprint Nextel $1.3bn, Dish $1.0bn, Case New Holland $1.0bn, NII Capital $800 million, Berry Petroleum $450 million, American Casino $375 million, Brunswick $350 million, Mediacom $350 million, Prologis $350 million, Ball Corp $325 million, Penn National Gaming $325 million, Apria Healthcare $318 million, Clean Harbors $300 million, Quicksilver $300 million, Hornbeck Offshore Services $250 million, Sirius XM Radio $250 million, CPM Holdings $200 million, Graphic Packaging $180 million, Olin Corp $150 million, and Alliance One $100 million.
I saw no convert issues.
International dollar debt issuers included Nationwide Building Society $4.0bn, Credit Suisse $2.0bn, Robo Bank $1.5bn, Deutsche Bank $1.0bn, Petrotrin $850 million, Finance for Danish Industry $1.0bn, Grupo Petrotemex $200 million and Lloyds Bank $150 million.
U.K. 10-year gilt yields dropped 13 bps to 3.68%, and German bund yields sank 19 bps to 3.315%. The German DAX equities index dropped 2.7% (up 10.4%). Japanese 10-year "JGB" yields declined 5.5 bps to 1.375%. The Nikkei 225 gained 1.8% (up 19.6%). Emerging markets were mixed. Brazil’s benchmark dollar bond yields fell another 6 bps to 5.52%. Brazil’s Bovespa equities index added 0.5% (up 50.8% y-t-d). The Mexican Bolsa declined 1.2% (up 24.5% y-t-d). Mexico’s 10-year $ yields were little changed at 5.63%. Russia’s RTS equities index declined 1.9% (up 67.7%). India’s Sensex equities index rose 1.7% (up 59.8%). China’s Shanghai Exchange sank 6.6%, lowering 2009 gains to 67.3%.
Freddie Mac 30-year fixed mortgage rates jumped 7 bps to a six-week high 5.29% (down 123bps y-o-y). Fifteen-year fixed rates rose 5 bps to 4.68% (down 139bps y-o-y). One-year ARMs dropped 6 bps to 4.72% (down 46bps y-o-y). Bankrate's survey of jumbo mortgage borrowing costs had 30-yr fixed jumbo rates down 9 bps to 6.29% (down 121bps y-o-y).
Federal Reserve Credit expanded $11.4bn last week to $1.989 TN. Fed Credit has declined $257bn y-t-d, although it expanded $1.106 TN over the past 52 weeks (125%). Elsewhere, Fed Foreign Holdings of Treasury, Agency Debt this past week (ended 8/12) increased $5.5bn to a record $2.816 TN. "Custody holdings" have been expanding at a 19.3% rate y-t-d, and were up $421bn over the past year, or 17.6%.
M2 (narrow) "money" supply fell $42.0bn to $8.324 TN (week of 8/3). Narrow "money" has expanded at a 2.6% rate y-t-d and 8.1% over the past year. For the week, Currency added $1.1bn, and Demand & Checkable Deposits rose $28.8bn. Savings Deposits dropped $57.6bn, and Small Denominated Deposits fell $9.6bn. Retail Money Funds declined $4.7bn.
Total Money Market Fund assets (from Invest Co Inst) declined $12.8bn to $3.594 TN (low since the week of 10/27). Money fund assets have declined $237bn y-t-d, or 10.0% annualized. Money funds expanded $19bn, or 0.5%, over the past year.
Total Commercial Paper outstanding dipped $1.8bn to $1.075 TN. CP has declined $607bn y-t-d (59% annualized) and $672bn over the past year (39%). Asset-backed CP dropped $12.3bn to $423bn, with a 52-wk drop of $302bn (42%).
International reserve assets (excluding gold) - as accumulated by Bloomberg’s Alex Tanzi – were up $89bn y-o-y to $7.085 TN. Reserves have increased $321bn year-to-date.
Global Credit Market Watch:
August 14 – Bloomberg (Ari Levy): “More than 150 publicly traded U.S. lenders own nonperforming loans that equal 5% or more of their holdings, a level that former regulators say can wipe out a bank’s equity and threaten its survival. The number of banks exceeding the threshold more than doubled in the year through June… Almost 300 reported 3% or more of their loans were nonperforming, a term for commercial and consumer debt that has stopped collecting interest or will no longer be paid in full.”
Government Finance Bubble Watch:
August 11 – Wall Street Journal: “Much to their dismay, Americans learned last year that they ‘owned’ Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well, meet their cousin, Ginnie Mae or the Government National Mortgage Association, which will soon join them as a trillion-dollar packager of subprime mortgages. Taxpayers own Ginnie too. Only last week, Ginnie announced that it issued a monthly record of $43 billion in mortgage-backed securities in June. Ginnie Mae President Joseph Murin sounded almost giddy as he cheered this ‘phenomenal growth.’ Ginnie Mae’s mortgage exposure is expected to top $1 trillion by the end of next year—or far more than double the dollar amount of 2007… Ginnie’s mission is to bundle, guarantee and then sell mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which is Uncle Sam’s home mortgage shop. Ginnie’s growth is a by-product of the FHA’s spectacular growth. The FHA now insures $560 billion of mortgages—quadruple the amount in 2006. Among the FHA, Ginnie, Fannie and Freddie, nearly nine of every 10 new mortgages in America now carry a federal taxpayer guarantee.”
August 11 – Dow Jones (Gabriele Parussini): “The French budget deficit more than doubled in the first half of this year, as the recession cut tax income and the financing of the government's EUR26 billion economic stimulus plan boosted expenditure, the Budget Ministry said… France’s government budget deficit is likely to swell to between 7% and 7.5% of gross domestic product both this year and next, Budget Minister Eric Woerth said in June…”
The dollar index declined 0.2% this week to 78.79. For the week on the upside, the Japanese yen gained 2.9%, the Mexican peso 0.9%, the Swiss franc 0.8%, the New Zealand dollar 0.7%, the Norwegian krone 0.6%, the Danish krone 0.1% and the Euro 0.1%. On the downside, the Canadian dollar declined 1.6%, the Brazilian real 1.6%, the South African rand 1.4%, the South Korean won 1.2%, the British pound 0.9%, and the Australian dollar 0.7%.
August 11 – Bloomberg: “China bought record volumes of oil and iron ore in July as automakers, steel producers and builders expanded output to meet rising demand… Oil imports jumped 18% to 19.6 million metric tons, and iron ore purchases rose 5% to 58.1 million tons from a month ago…”
August 14 – Bloomberg (John Duce): “China… will boost spending on oil and mining acquisitions by at least half this year to take advantage of lower valuations after commodity prices slumped. State-owned Yanzhou Coal Mining Co. yesterday agreed to buy Australia’s Felix Resources Ltd. for about A$3.5 billion ($2.9bn), a day after Sinochem Corp., China’s biggest chemicals trader, offered to buy Emerald Energy Plc for 532 million pounds ($881 million) to gain oil fields in Syria and Colombia. China National Petroleum Corp.’s plan to buy Repsol YPF SA’s Argentine unit may push Chinese purchases of overseas commodity assets to $43 billion this year, a 48% increase on 2008…”
Gold ended the week down 0.7% to $948 (up 7.5% y-t-d). Silver was little changed at $14.68 (up 30% y-t-d). September Crude fell $3.30 to $67.63 (up 52% y-t-d). September Gasoline declined 3.0% (up 84% y-t-d), and September Natural Gas sank 11% (down 42% y-t-d). September Copper gained 1.7% (up 102% y-t-d). September Wheat declined 1.6% (down 21% y-t-d), while September Corn rallied 0.7% (down 10% y-t-d). The CRB index retreated 2.5% (up 12.3% y-t-d). The Goldman Sachs Commodities Index (GSCI) declined 2.1% (up 31.3% y-t-d).
China Bubble Watch:
August 11 – Bloomberg: “China’s industrial output and retail sales grew more quickly as exports slumped, underscoring the economy’s dependence on stimulus spending and record bank lending to maintain a recovery. Industrial production climbed 10.8% in July from a year earlier… retail sales rose 15.2%... Exports fell 23%... China’s economy will grow 9.4% this year, topping the government’s 8% target, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said...”
August 11 – Bloomberg: “China’s new lending in July fell to less than a quarter of June’s level as banks sought to limit credit risks and the flow of money into stocks and property. Banks extended 355.9 billion yuan ($52 billion) of local- currency loans, down from 1.53 trillion yuan in June… M2, the broadest measure of money supply, rose 28.4%.”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Paul Abelsky and Alex Nicholson): “China’s efforts to boost domestic consumption can’t completely offset slumping export demand, the commerce ministry said. Local demand is unlikely ‘to provide a full remedy for the sharp contraction in external demand,’ the ministry said…”
August 13 – Bloomberg: “Chinese companies will need to boost yields on some new corporate bonds to make them more competitive as the government seeks to spur investor interest in fixed- income securities. New five-year notes in the interbank market -- the biggest of China’s three corporate bond markets -- must offer a minimum 4.2% yield…”
August 13 – Bloomberg: “China, the world’s largest market for cellular phones, may have as many as 240 million users of the so-called third generation mobile devices, said the minister of industry and information technology Li Yizhong.”
Japan Reflation Watch:
August 14 – Bloomberg (Yusuke Miyazawa): “Japanese bond sales may exceed a record $109 billion this year as companies led by Toyota Motor Corp. take advantage of borrowing costs lowered by government efforts to end the nation’s worst postwar recession.”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Mayumi Otsuma): “Japan’s producer prices fell at a record pace in July… The costs companies pay for energy and unfinished goods declined 8.5% from a year earlier…”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Kartik Goyal): “India’s industrial production increased at the fastest pace in 16 months in June… Output at factories, utilities and mines jumped 7.8% from a year earlier after a revised 2.2% gain in May…”
August 14 – Bloomberg (Anil Varma): “Money supply in India grew 20% in the two weeks ended July 31 from a year earlier, compared with 19.8% in the prior 14-day period…”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Kartik Goyal): “India’s 7% economic growth target may be jeopardized as the weakest monsoon rains in five years threaten harvests, according to economists.”
August 13 – Bloomberg (Jason Gale): “Orbiting satellites measuring the gravitational pull of water below the earth’s surface confirm what authorities in India suspected for more than 20 years: groundwater is shrinking in some of the nation’s driest areas.”
Asia Bubble Watch:
August 12 – Bloomberg (Seyoon Kim): “South Korea’s unemployment rate fell for the first time in nine months in July… The jobless rate dropped to 3.8% compared with 4% in June…”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Seonjin Cha): “Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s second-biggest carmaker, more than quadrupled quarterly profit to the highest since 2003 as domestic and Chinese sales allowed it to avoid the worst of a global auto market meltdown.”
August 13 – Bloomberg (Jason Folkmanis): “Vietnam’s inflation may accelerate to 8% by year-end from the slowest pace since 2004 amid higher gasoline prices, according to Vinacapital Investment Management Ltd.”
Latin America Watch:
August 13 – Bloomberg (Telma Marotto and Flavia Bohone): “Banco do Brasil SA, Latin America’s biggest federally controlled bank, said second-quarter profit rose 43%... Net income rose to 2.35 billion reais ($1.28 bn) from 1.64 billion reais a year earlier… Banco do Brasil’s total lending expanded 33% to 252.5 billion reais. Personal loans increased 69%, while corporate credit expanded 32%. Loans to farmers expanded 10%. Total assets expanded 44% to 598.8 billion reais.”
Unbalanced Global Economy Watch:
August 12 – Dow Jones (Joe Parkinson): “U.K. unemployment jumped more than expected to its highest level for 14 years… U.K. unemployment rose by 220,000 to 2.43 million in the three months to June… That pushed the unemployment rate to 7.8%...”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Colm Heatley): “Irish mortgage lending dropped 71% in the second quarter as falling house prices, stricter lending rules and rising unemployment deterred buyers.”
August 13 – Bloomberg (Simone Meier): “The euro region’s economy barely contracted in the second quarter as Germany and France unexpectedly returned to growth… Gross domestic product fell 0.1% from the first quarter, when it plunged 2.5%...”
August 14 – Bloomberg (Emma Ross-Thomas): “Spain’s economy contracted more than forecast in the second quarter, suggesting a recovery in Germany and France has yet to reach a country that was once an engine of growth for the euro region. Gross domestic product declined 1% from the previous quarter….”
August 13 – Bloomberg Radoslav Tomek and Zoltan Simon): “Recessions in Hungary and Romania deepened and Slovakia’s gross domestic product contracted for a second quarter… Gross domestic product in Hungary shrank an annual 7.6% in the second quarter, Romania’s GDP contracted 8.8% and Slovakia’s output dropped 5.3%, according to state statistics offices…”
August 11 – Bloomberg (Paul Abelsky and Alex Nicholson): “Russia’s economy contracted the most on record last quarter… Gross domestic product contracted an annual 10.9% in the second quarter, the Federal Statistics Service said…”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Paul Abelsky): “Russia’s inflation rate for the year reached 8.2% as fuel and food costs increased.”
Bursting Bubble Economy Watch:
August 10 – Bloomberg (Linda Sandler and Andrew M. Harris): “Consumer bankruptcies show no sign of abating after rising more than a third this year and may hit 1.4 million by Dec. 31… according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.”
August 13 – Bloomberg (Timothy R. Homan): “Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly fell in July, raising the risk that consumers will keep cutting back as job losses mount and temper a recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s. Purchases decreased 0.1%, the first drop in three months…”
Central Banker Watch:
August 12 – Wall Street Journal (Lingling Wei and Jon Hilsenrath): “The Federal Reserve, with $900 million on the line, is getting actively involved in the biggest hotel bankruptcy, an awkward role for the central bank… On one hand, the Fed is clearly concerned that the bankruptcy of the 680-property Extended Stay Inc. chain has exposed major fault lines in the commercial real-estate market… On the other, the Fed’s role is tricky because it is facing off against financial firms it has to deal with in other rescue matters.”
August 14 – Bloomberg (Jacob Greber): “The Reserve Bank of Australia will have to raise the benchmark interest rate from its “emergency” level at some stage as the economy rebounds from the global recession, bank Governor Glenn Stevens said.”
August 12 – Bloomberg (Rebecca Christie): “The U.S. budget deficit reached a record for the first 10 months of the fiscal year and broke a monthly high for July… The shortfall so far for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 totaled $1.27 trillion compared with a $389 billion y-t-d gap in 2008… The excess of spending over revenue for July climbed to $180.7 billion… Spending for the month of July rose 26% from a year earlier to $332.2 billion, while revenue fell 6% to $151.5 billion… For the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the Office of Management and Budget forecasts the deficit will reach a record $1.841 trillion, more than four times the previous fiscal year’s $459 billion shortfall.”
MBS/ABS/CDO/CP/Money Fund and Derivatives Watch:
August 11 – Bloomberg (Dan Levy): “Almost one-quarter of U.S. mortgage holders owed more than their homes were worth in the second quarter and that figure may rise to as much as 30% by mid-2010 as job losses and foreclosures climb, Zillow.com said… ‘The negative-equity rate will rise and spin off more foreclosures,’ Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist, said… ‘I see a substantial downside risk to prices and don’t think we’ll see a bottom until the middle of next year.’”
Real Estate Bust Watch:
August 13 – Bloomberg (Dan Levy): “Foreclosure filings in the U.S. climbed to a record for the third time in five months in July as falling home prices and the recession left more homeowners unable to keep up payments or refinance. A total of 360,149 properties received a default or auction notice or were seized last month, according to… RealtyTrac Inc. One in 355 households got a filing, the highest monthly rate in RealtyTrac records dating to January 2005…”
August 13 – Wall Street Journal (James R. Hagerty): “The Federal Home Loan Banks reported that their combined net income in the second quarter increased 56% from a year earlier to $1.12 billion. Results at the 12 regional banks benefited from $979 million of net gains on derivative contracts and hedging activities, compared with $364 million of such gains in the year-earlier quarter.”
August 14 – Bloomberg (Jeremy R. Cooke): “State and local government bonds approached 10% returns for 2009, marking their best performance in nine years, as the municipal market absorbed about $10.4 billion of fixed-rate bonds this week.”
August 13 – Bloomberg (Michael B. Marois and William Selway): “California will stop using IOUs to pay its bills in early September, lifting a burden on businesses, taxpayers and municipalities that received $2 billion of the registered warrants instead of cash… State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said he plans to sell $1.5 billion of notes by Aug. 28 to meet cash needs, followed by $10.5 billion of such short-term loans in mid-September.”
Stock prices traditionally lead economic recoveries. Securities markets tend to react swiftly to loosened monetary conditions, while it takes some time for loose Credit to work its way through to the bowels of the real economy. Highly speculative markets react haphazardly, sloshing liquidity out and about. As is commonly understood, employment conditions are a somewhat lagging economic indicator. Most analysts have been content to read nothing of significance from ongoing poor jobs and housing data. Overwhelmingly, the bulls rely on faith - and history - that surging stock prices are discounting the usual “V” rebound.
Data this week should have those of the bullish persuasion on edge. July retail sales were much weaker-than-expected (down 0.1% vs. expectations of a rise of 0.8%). Retail Sales excluding auto sales were down 0.6% for the month (down 8.1% y-o-y), the largest drop since March’s 1.1% fall. Looking back, there was no mystery surrounding first quarter consumer weakness. But even after a dramatic stock market recovery, July’s Department store sales were down a dismal 1.6% for the month (down 9.6% y-o-y). Even Wal-mart management commented that their customers were “selective” and remained keenly focused on value.
Today’s preliminary report on August University of Michigan Consumer Confidence was also a big disappointment. The consensus called for this confidence reading to jump three points to 69. The actual report came in down to 63 - to the lowest level since those dark days of March. Readings on both “Economic Conditions” and “Economic Outlook” dropped to five-month lows.
Yesterday, RealtyTrac reported that U.S. foreclosures jumped to a record 360,149 in July. This was up almost 7% from June and 32% higher than the year ago level. And there’s no relief in sight. American Bankruptcy Institute data had 126,000 Americans filing for bankruptcy in July, up 34% from a year earlier. It is now expected that 1.4 million will file for bankruptcy this year.
Meanwhile, the economic optimists take comfort from this week’s readings on Non-farm Productivity, Wholesale Inventories, Industrial Production, and Capacity Utilization. Positive data out of Europe and Asia also seem to confirm that some type of global economic recovery has taken hold.
From my perspective, this week’s data confirm important aspects of Credit Bubble analysis. First, ongoing headwinds will restrain rebounds in U.S. housing markets and household consumption - for an extended period. Second, the overall U.S. consumption-based economy will lag those of most of our more manufacturing-oriented trading partners. In short, we are witnessing anything but typical reflation dynamics, and those expecting a typical U.S. recovery will be disappointed. Our economy remains overly exposed to U.S. consumption, while having insufficient manufacturing capacity (and resources) of the type to benefit significantly from heightened global demand.
Returning to the stock market, I see nothing typical going on there either. With the Morgan Stanley Retail Index and the Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index up 56% and 49%, respectively, the marketplace apparently has no issue with the recovery. I suspect these gains have been inflated by short covering. Indeed, market dynamics likely explain much of the divergence between ongoing weak underlying economic fundamentals and robust stock prices (especially in the consumer arena).
Unusually large bearish hedges and bets had been placed against the (consumer-driven) U.S. economy. Unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy crisis response stabilized the Credit system, setting in motion a self-reinforcing unwind of “bearish” positions. In the past, such a reflationary dynamic would have seen stock prices for the most part accurately discount the future direction of economic activity. Stated differently, the reversal of bearish positions (and resulting short “squeeze”) would traditionally have (reflating) stock prices portending recovery and a return to the previous trajectory of economic performance. In general, a rejuvenated Credit system - and the resulting recovery of financial flows - would ensure that the “bear” case was proved wrong.
This time may be different. I would not be surprised if the confluence of unusually large bearish positions, unprecedented policy response, and a resulting major “squeeze” created a backdrop where the stock market was turned into a rather poor foreteller of future prospects. From my vantage point, I certainly don’t believe stock prices today generally provide an accurate reflection of underlying company fundamentals. And from an economic perspective, I suspect the stock market is missing some key underlying dynamics that will shape future economic performance.
In particular, equities seem to be discounting a return to business as usual when it comes to the U.S. economy. Retail and the “consumer discretionary” sectors have been among this year’s stellar performers. And, yes, this does fly in the face of my analysis of new economic realities and a permanently downsized role for household consumption in the U.S. economy. At this point, I view this as an anomaly at least partially explained by the hastened reversal of bearish positions. But I also recognize that massive fiscal and monetary stimulus has been implemented with the policy goal of sustaining the existing economic structure. The market has been content to play this dynamic expecting policymaker success.
As I attempted to explain last week, I view the impairment of the stock market discounting mechanism as a key facet of Monetary Disorder. The reversal of bearish plays not only created huge buying power throughout the markets, it decisively reversed The Greed and Fear Factor. Notwithstanding today’s sell-off, the bulls are greedy and the bears are on the run. And the more that inflated stock prices entice shorting, the more games that can be played to “squeeze” the timid bears.
The end result is a highly speculative stock market increasingly detached from reality and vulnerable to wild swings in sentiment. Yet I don’t expect the emerging global reflation to this time disprove the U.S. bearish thesis, although it will no doubt be a wild market ride.
The bond market was happy with this week’s developments. The Fed confirmed it will be especially unhurried in raising rates and ending quantitative easing. Weak U.S. economic data was seen as confirming the bullish bond view. To be sure, low market yields at home and abroad are imperative for global reflation to gain a head of steam. And I would argue that (over-liquefied) bond markets are subject to their own pricing anomalies. In contrast to stocks, bonds have been fixated on U.S. economic vulnerabilities and the Fed, while content to downplay reflation risks. This week’s data doesn’t have me second-guessing the thesis of bond market vulnerability to global reflation dynamics. For bonds as well, the backdrop is set for a wild, speculative market ride.