Over the weekend, ZH looked at the notional amount of non-financial Libor-linked debt (so excluding the roughly $200 trillion in floating-rate derivatives which have little practical impact on the real world until there is a Lehman-like collateral chain break, of course at which point everyone is on the hook), to see what the real-world impact of the recent blow out in 3M USD Libor is on the business and household sector.
To this end, JPM calculated that based on Fed data, there is a little under $8 trillion in pure Libor-related debt…
… and that a 35bps widening in the LIBOR-OIS spread could raise the business sector interest burden by $21 billion. As we wondered previously, “whether or not that modest amount in monetary tightening is enough to “break” the market remains to be seen.”
In other words, unless the Fed – and JPMorgan – have massively miscalculated how much floating-rate debt is outstanding, and how much more interest expense the rising LIBOR will prompt, the ongoing surge in Libor and Libor-OIS, should not have a systemic impact on the financial system, or economy.
What about at the corporate borrower level?
In an analysis released on Monday afternoon, Goldman’s Ben Snider writes that while for equities in aggregate, rising borrowing costs pose only a modest headwind, “stocks with high variable rate debt have recently lagged in response to the move in borrowing costs.”
Goldman cautions that these stocks should struggle if borrowing costs continue to climb – which they will unless the Fed completely reverses course on its tightening strategy – amid a backdrop of elevated corporate leverage and tightening financial conditions.
Indeed, while various macro Polyannas have said to ignore the blowout in both Libor and Libor-OIS because, drum roll, they are based on “technicals” and thus not a system risk to the banking sector (former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan once called the Libor-OIS “a barometer of fears of bank insolvency”), what they forget, and what Goldman demonstrates is what many traders already know well: the share prices of companies with high floating rate debt has mirrored the sharp fluctuation in short-term borrowing costs. This is shown below in the chart of 50 S&P 500 companies with floating rate bond debt (i.e. linked to Libor) amounting to more than 5% of total.
Here are some details on how Goldman constructed the screen:
We exclude Financials and Real Estate, and the screen captures stocks from every remaining sector except for Telecommunication Services. So far in 2018, as short-term rates have climbed, these stocks have lagged the S&P 500 by 320 bp (-4% vs. -1%). The group now trades at a 10% P/E multiple discount to the median S&P 500 stock (16.0x vs. 17.6x). These stocks should struggle if borrowing costs continue to climb, but may present a tactical value opportunity for investors who expect a reversion in spreads. The tightening in late March of the forward-looking FRA/OIS spread has been accompanied by a rebound of floating rate debt stocks and suggests investors expect some mean-reversion in borrowing costs.
Goldman also notes that small-caps generally carry a larger share of floating rate debt than do large-caps, which may lead to a higher beta for the data set due to size considerations.
In any event, the inverse correlation between tighter funding conditions (higher Libor spreads) and the stock under performance of floating debt-heavy companies is unmistakable.
Finally, traders who wish to hedge rising Libor by shorting those companies whose interest expense will keep rising alongside 3M USD Libor, in the process impairing their equity value, here is a list of the most vulnerable names.
“They’re burning the furniture to heat the house”
Money manager Michael Pento says the biggest unreported story is the skyrocketing interest rate of LIBOR. What’s that? Pento explains, “LIBOR, and people don’t understand or talk about it, is the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate. This rate has gone from 0.3% at the end of 2015 to 2.3% today. The London Inter-Bank Offered Rate is the rate that is applied to $370 trillion of loans and derivatives and loans, from credit cards, to student loans, to auto loans are priced off of LIBOR. . . That is the biggest reason why the stock market is rolling over because the cost of borrowing money. . . is going up very, very sharply. . . All of this is going to hit a crescendo in October of 2018.” Pento Says gold prices are going way up because the Fed will no be able to raise interest rates.