Category Archives: Stock Market

“On The Precipice”

Authored by Kevin Ludolph via Crescat Capital,

Dear Investors:

The US stock market is retesting its all-time highs at record valuations yet again. We strongly believe it is poised to fail. The problem for bullish late-cycle momentum investors trying to play a breakout to new highs here is the oncoming freight train of deteriorating macro-economic conditions.

US corporate profit growth, year-over-year, for the S&P 500 already fully evaporated in the first quarter of 2019 and is heading toward outright decline for the full year based on earnings estimate revision trends. Note the alligator jaws divergence in the chart below between the S&P 500 and its underlying expected earnings for 2019. Expected earnings for 2019 already trended down sharply in the first quarter and have started trending down again after the May trade war escalation.

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Are You Prepared For A Credit Freeze?

2, 3 and 5-Year Treasury Yields All Drop Below The Fed Funds Rate

Things are getting increasingly more crazy in bond land, where moments ago the 2Y Treasury dipped below 2.40%, trading at 2.3947% to be exact, and joining its 3Y and 5Y peers, which were already trading with a sub-2.4% handle. Why is that notable? Because 2.40% is where the Effective Fed Funds rate is, by definition the safest of safe yields in the market, that backstopped by the Fed itself. In other words, for the first time since 2008, the 2Y (and 3Y and 5Y) are all trading below the effective Fed Funds rate.

That the curve is now inverted from the Fed Funds rate all the way to the 5Y Treasury position suggests that whatever is coming, will be very ugly as increasingly more traders bet that one or more central banks may have no choice but to backstop risk assets and they will do it – how else – by buying bonds, sending yields to levels last seen during QE… i.e., much, much lower.

https://confoundedinterestnet.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/5eff.png

Explained…

Source: ZeroHedge

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Gold Soars Above $1,300; Nikkei, JGB Yields Tumble As Rout Goes Global

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/gold%20futs%201.3.jpg?itok=Wll68K3N

US Federal Reserve Bank’s Net Worth Turns Negative, They’re Insolvent, A Zombie Bank, That’s All Folks

While the Fed has been engaging in quantitative tightening for over a year now in an attempt to shrink its asset holdings, it still has over $4.1 trillion in bonds on its balance sheet, and as a result of the spike in yields since last summer, their massive portfolio has suffered substantial paper losses which according to the Fed’s latest quarterly financial report, hit a record $66.453 billion in the third quarter, raising questions about their strategy at a politically charged moment for the central bank, whose “independence” has been put increasingly into question as a result of relentless badgering by Donald Trump.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Fed%20P%26L%20dec%202018.jpg?itok=DRsSjcAj

What immediately caught the attention of financial analysts is that the gaping Q3 loss of over $66 billion, dwarfed the Fed’s $39.1 billion in capital, leaving the US central bank with a negative net worth…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Fed%20BS%2012.12.jpg?itok=f5WkIqu4

… which would suggest insolvency for any ordinary company, but since the Fed gets to print its own money, it is of course anything but an ordinary company as Bloomberg quips.

It’s not just the fact that the US central bank prints the world’s reserve currency, but that it also does not mark its holdings to market. As a result, Fed officials usually play down the significance of the theoretical losses and say they won’t affect the ability of what they call “a unique non-profit entity’’ to carry out monetary policy or remit profits to the Treasury Department. Indeed, confirming this the Fed handed over $51.6 billion to the Treasury in the first nine months of the year.

The risk, however, is that should the Fed’s finances continue to deteriorate if only on paper, it could impair its standing with Congress and the public when it is already under attack from President Donald Trump as being a bigger problem than trade foe China.

Commenting on the Fed’s paper losses, former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh told Bloomberg that “a central bank with a negative net worth matters not in theory. But in practice, it runs the risk of chipping away at Fed credibility, its most powerful asset.’’

Additionally, the growing unrealized losses provide fuel to critics of the Fed’s QE and the monetary operating framework underpinning them, just as central bankers begin discussing the future of its balance sheet. And, as Bloomberg cautions, the metaphoric red ink also could make it politically more difficult for the Fed to resume QE if the economy turns down.

“We’re seeing the downside risk of unconventional monetary policy,’’ said Andy Barr, the outgoing chairman of the monetary policy and trade subcommittee of the House Financial Services panel. “The burden should be on them to tell us why this does not compromise their credibility and why the public and Congress should not be concerned about their solvency.’’

Of course, the culprit for the record loss is not so much the holdings, as the impact on bond prices as a result of rising rates which spiked in the summer as a result of the Fed’s own overoptimism on the economy, and which closed the third quarter at 3.10% on the 10Y Treasury. Indeed, with rates rising slower in the second quarter, the loss for Q3 was a more modest $19.6 billion.

And with yields tumbling in the fourth quarter as a result of the current growth and markets scare, it is likely that the Fed could book a major “profit” for the fourth quarter as the 10Y yield is now trading just barely above the 2.86% where it was on June 30.

Meanwhile, the Fed continues to shrink its bond holdings by a maximum of $50 billion per month, an amount that was hit on October 1, not by selling them, which could force it to recognize but by opting not to reinvest some of the proceeds of securities as they mature.

The Fed is expected to continue shrinking its balance sheet at rate of $50BN / month until the end of 2020 (as shown below) unless of course market stress forces the Fed to halt QT well in advance of its tentative conclusion.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Fed%20Soma%20Nov%202018_1.jpg?itok=i1IAr1B1

In any case, the Fed will certainly never return to its far leaner balance sheet from before the crisis, which means that it will continue to indefinitely pay banks interest on the excess reserves they park at the Fed, with many of the recipient banks being foreign entities.

Barr, a Kentucky Republican, has accurately criticized that as a subsidy for the banks, one which will amount to tens of billions in annual “earnings” from the Fed, the higher the IOER rate goes up. He is not alone: so too has California Democrat Maxine Waters, who will take over as chair of the House Financial Services Committee in January following her party’s victory in the November congressional elections.

* * *

Going back to the Fed’s unique treatment of losses on its income statement and its under capitalization, in an Aug. 13 note, Fed officials Brian Bonis, Lauren Fiesthumel and Jamie Noonan defended the central bank’s decision not to follow GAAP in valuing its portfolio. Not only is the central bank a unique creation of Congress, it intends to hold its bonds to maturity, they wrote.

Under GAAP, an institution is required to report trading securities and those available for sale at fair or market value, rather than at face value. The Fed reports its balance-sheet holdings at face value.

The Fed is far less cautious with the treatment of its “profits”, which it regularly hands over to the Treasury: the interest income on its bonds was $80.2 billion in 2017. The central bank turns a profit on its portfolio because it doesn’t pay interest on one of its biggest liabilities – $1.7 trillion in currency outstanding.

The Fed’s unique financial treatments also extends to Congress, which while limiting to $6.8 billion the amount of profits that the Fed can retain to boost its capital has also repeatedly “raided” the Fed’s capital to pay for various government programs, including $19 billion in 2015 for spending on highways.

Still, a negative net worth is sure to raise eyebrows especially after Janet Yellen said in December 2015 that “capital is something that I believe enhances the credibility and confidence in the central bank.”

* * *

Furthermore, as Bloomberg adds, if it had to the Fed could easily operate with negative net worth – as it is doing now – like other central banks in Chile, the Czech Republic and elsewhere have done, according to Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income. That said, questionable Fed finances pose communications and mostly political problems for Fed policymakers.

As for long-time Fed critic and former Fed governor, Kevin Warsh, he zeroed in on the potential impact on quantitative easing.

“QE works predominantly through its signaling to financial markets,’’ he said. “If Fed credibility is diminished for any reason — by misunderstanding the state of the economy, under-estimating the power of QE’s unwind or carrying a persistent negative net worth — QE efficacy is diminished.’’

The biggest irony, of course, is that the more “successful” the Fed is in raising rates – and pushing bond prices lower – the greater the un-booked losses on its bond holdings will become; should they become great enough to invite constant Congressional oversight, the casualty may be none other than the equity market, which owes all of its gains since 2009 to the Federal Reserve.

While a central bank can operate with negative net worth, such a condition could have political consequences, Tobias Adrian, financial markets chief at the IMF said. “An institution with negative equity is not confidence-instilling,’’ he told a Washington conference on Nov. 15. “The perception might be quite destabilizing at some point.”

That point will likely come some time during the next two years as the acrimonious relationship between Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell devolves further, at which point the culprit by design, for what would be the biggest market crash in history will be not the Fed – which in the past decade blew the biggest asset bubble in history – but President Trump himself.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Diagnosing What Ails The Market

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Credit “Death Spiral” Accelerates As Loan ETF Sees Record Outflow, Primary Market Freezes

One week after even the IMF joined the chorus of warnings sounding the alarm over the unconstrained, unregulated growth of leveraged loans, and which as of November included the Fed, BIS, JPMorgan, Guggenheim, Jeff Gundlach, Howard Marks and countless others, we reported that investors had finally also joined the bandwagon and are now fleeing an ETF tracking an index of low-grade debt as credit spreads blow out and cracks appeared across virtually all credit products.

Specifically, we noted that not only had the $6.4 billion Invesco BKLN Senior Loan ETF seen seven straight days of outflows to close out November, with investors pulling $129 million in one day alone and reducing the fund’s assets by 2% to the lowest level in more than two years, but over 800 million has been pulled in last current month, the biggest monthly outflow ever as investors are packing it in.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/bkln%20loan.jpg

Fast forward to today, when another major loan ETF, the Blackstone $2.9BN leverage-loan ETF, SRLN, just suffered its largest ever one-day outflow since its 2013 inception.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/SRLN%20dec%20v%202018.jpg?itok=FU8x72Fm

Year to date, the shares of this ETF backed by the risky debt have dropped 2.6%, hitting their lowest level since February 2016; the ETF’s underlying benchmark, the S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index, has also been hit recently and is down 2.3% YTD, effectively wiping out all the cash interest carry generated YTD and then some.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/srln%2012.7.2018.jpg?itok=93ymkOSL

BLKN and SRLN aren’t alone: investors have pulled over $4 billion from leveraged loan funds in the three weeks ended Dec. 5, the largest cash bleed in almost four years for such a period, according to Lipper data.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Lev%20loan%20outflows%2012.7.jpg?itok=jp4pwY7v

“The price action in the ETF hasn’t warranted investors to justify keeping it on to collect the monthly coupon it pays,” said Mohit Bajaj, director of exchange-traded funds at WallachBeth Capital. “The risk/reward hasn’t been there compared to short-term treasury products like JPST,” he added, referring to the $4.2 billion JPMorgan Ultra-Short Income ETF, which hasn’t seen a daily outflow since April 9.

Analysts have pointed to widening credit spreads and the fact that loan ETFs have floating-rate underlying instruments, assets that become less attractive than fixed-rate ones should the Fed skip its March rate hike, which after Powell’s latest dovish turn and today’s weak payrolls may – or may not – happen.

The ongoing loan ETF puke comes at a time when both US investment grade and junk bond spreads have blown out, while yields spiked to a 30-month high this month. In November, investment grade bonds suffered their worst year in terms of total returns since 2008 and December isn’t looking much better. Meanwhile in high yield, junk bonds yields just had their biggest one-day jump since April.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/IG%20vs%20HY%2012.7.jpg?itok=Y3rIc4KA

According to a note from Citi strategists Michael Anderson and Philip Dobrinov, leveraged loans in the U.S. may no longer be the “star performer” amid a potential pause in rate hikes by the Fed, while the recent redemption scramble has caused ETFs to offload better quality loans to raise cash, according to the Citi duo. That’s despite leveraged loan issuance being at its highest since 2008 largely as a result of insatiable CLO demand.

If investors are, indeed, unloading to raise cash, Anderson and Dobrinov write “this is a bearish sign, particularly if outflows persist and managers eventually turn to deep discount paper for cash. Furthermore, as we get closer to the end of the Fed’s hiking cycle, we expect further outflows as traditional fixed-rate credit products become more in vogue.”

Incidentally the behavior described by Citi’s strategists, in which ETF administrators first sell high quality paper then shift to deep discount holdings, was one of the catalysts that hedge fund manager Adam Schwartz listed three weeks ago as a necessary condition for credit ETFs to enter a “death spiral.” And with virtually everyone – including the Fed, BIS and IMF – all warning that the next crisis will begin in the leverage loan sector, the question to ask is “has it begun“?

One answer comes from the primary market, and it hardly reassuring.

As we discussed last week, while the leveraged-loan party isn’t quite over, jitters around the world have made lenders and investors less willing to give loans to heavily indebted companies, with numerous loan offerings getting pulled and lenders are demanding – and getting – sweeter terms.

As Bloomberg reports, on Tuesday JPMorgan had to slash the price on a $210 million loan to 93 cents on the dollar from par to sweeten investor demand and help finance a private jet takeover.  Specifically, JPMorgan offloaded loans financing the takeover of XOJET at 93 cents on the dollar, one of the steepest discounts seen in the leveraged loan market this year. And with the market on the verge of freezing, the size of the deal was cut by $70 million from the originally targeted amount.

In Europe, the market appears to have already locked up, as three loans were scrapped over the last two weeks, victims of the Brexit tensions gripping the UK. To wit, movie theater chain Vue International withdrew a 833 million pound-equivalent ($1.07 billion) loan sale. While the deal was meant to mostly refinance existing debt, around 100 million pounds was underwritten to finance the company’s acquisition of German group CineStar.

Last week more deals were pulled when diversified manufacturer Jason Inc. became at least the fourth issuer to scrap a U.S. leveraged loan. Additionally, Perimeter Solutions also pulled its repricing attempt, Ta Chen International scrapped a $250MM term loan set to finance the company’s purchase of a rolling mill, and Algoma Steel withdrew its $300m exit financing. Global University System in November also dropped its dollar repricing.

Fears of a slowing global economic growth even as rates continue to rise, combined with anxiety over trade talks between the U.S. and China, reluctance to take risk before year end and the recent rout in credit products, have all led to a widespread fear across markets; investors are also concerned about higher interest rates weighing on corporate profits. These fears are spreading across credit markets, from investment-grade debt to junk bonds.

“No one thinks this is the big one,” said Richard Farley, chair of the leveraged finance group at Kramer Levin told Bloomberg. “But on the fear to greed continuum we have definitely moved closer to fear.”

The fear has resulted in the S&P/LSTA leverage loan price index tumbling to a two year low.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/lev%20loan%20index%2012.7.jpg?itok=mKAf1QUt

The sharp shift in sentiment has been remarkable: for most of 2018, investors couldn’t get enough of floating-rate products like leveraged loans based on the assumption that they will fare better in a rising-rate environment. As a result of blistering demand, companies were able to sell new debt with virtually no covenant protections and higher leverage, triggering warnings about deteriorating standards from regulators and bond graders in recent months (see above).

And, in the aftermath of Chair Powell infamous Oct 3 speech which sent risk assets tumbling and tightened financial conditions, leveraged loan price indexes in Europe and the U.S. have dropped to their lowest level in over two years, while nearly all of the loans outstanding are now trading below their face value. According to JPM, the percentage of loans trading above face value has dropped to just 3.9%, a 29-month low, down from 65.4% in early October. This suggests that virtually all leverage loan investors are now underwater on a total return basis.

* * *

With the leveraged loan market freezing up – and potentially entering a death spiral – the recent weakness has raised concerns that other debt sales currently in the works may be sold at discounts that are so deep underwriters may have to book a loss, if they can be sold at all. This is precisely what happened in late 2007 and early 2008 when underwriters found themselves with pipelines of debt sales that sudden got blocked, and were forced to take massive haircuts to keep the credit flowing.

Still, optimists remain: “The downdraft in loans has been very orderly thus far,” said Chris Mawn, head of the corporate loan business at investment manager CarVal Investors. “We anticipate most managers will keep buying in this market trying to be opportunistic and those who don’t have to sell will just hold.”

Of course, speaking of flashbacks to 2007/2008 it was just this kind of investor optimism that died last…

Source: ZeroHedge

This Time Is Different

Bubble Burst? Smart Money Flow Index Continues To Decline To 1995 Levels

The Smart Money Flow Index, measuring the movement of the Dow in two time periods: the first 30 minutes and the last hour, has just declined AGAIN.

https://confoundedinterestnet.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/smartdow.png

The Smart Money Flow Index, like the DJIA, has been around for decades. But it has just fallen to the lowest level since 1995.

https://confoundedinterestnet.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/smfdow31.png

Is the asset bubble starting to burst? Or is it just one lone indicator getting sick?

https://confoundedinterestnet.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/008-sick-of-this-party-2132469.jpg

Source: Confounded Interest

September YoY Home Sales Down 13.2%, Median Price Down 3.5%, S&P Down 6.5% From High

New Home Sales (SAAR) in September plunged to their lowest since Dec 2016, crashing 5.5% MoM (and revised dramatically lower in August)… Maybe Trump has a point on Fed rate hikes?

Remember this is the first month that takes the impact of the latest big spike in rates – not good!

This is a disastrous print:

August’s 629k SAAR was revised drastically lower to 585k and September printed 553k (SAAR) massively missing expectations of 625k (SAAR) – plunging to the weakest since Dec 2016…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-10-24_7-02-08.jpg?itok=o2oEP3n7

That is a 13.2% collapse YoY – the biggest drop since May 2011

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-10-24.png?itok=mO5y0zJX

The median sales price decreased 3.5% YoY to $320,000…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-10-24%20%281%29.png?itok=hgp-Zkpa

New homes sales were down across all regions … except the midwest.

https://confoundedinterestnet.files.wordpress.com/2018/10/nhstable.pngSource: Confounded Interest

As the supply of homes at current sales rate rose to 7.1 months, the highest since March 2011, from 6.5 months.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-10-24%20%282%29.png?itok=kft0a499

The decline in purchases was led by a 40.6 percent plunge in the Northeast to the lowest level since April 2015 and 12 percent drop in the West.

Source: ZeroHedge


70% Of S&P 500 Stocks Are Already In A Correction

Spooked by fears about peak profits, the slowing Chinese economy, Trump’s tariffs, ongoing political turmoil in the UK and Italy, and ongoing jitters among systematic, vol-targeting funds, on Tuesday the S&P tumbled as much as 2.34% in early trade – a drop which almost wiped out all gains for the year – before paring losses and closing only -0.55% lower. The drop pushed the S&P’s decline from its September highs to 6.5%, two-thirds on the way to a technical correction.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/S%26P%20from%20highs.jpg?itok=qhSNB0d4

However the relatively stability at the index level has masked turmoil among individual names where some 1,256 stocks hit 52-week lows, while only 21 establishing new highs.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Blood%20on%20Wall%20St.PNG?itok=Om2dtkhx

More concerning, and a testament to the tech-heavy leadership of the market concentrated amid just a handful of stocks, is that while the broader S&P 500 index has yet to enter a correction, more than three quarters of all S&P stocks – or 353 – have already fallen more than 10% from their highs. Worse, of those, more than half 179 have already fallen by 20% or more from their highs, entering a bear market.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/stocks%20reuters%201.PNG?itok=5eZQDzEv

The reason why the broader index has so far avoided a similar fate is because Apple, whose $1 trillion market value makes it by far the most heavily weighted stock within the S&P 500, has fallen only 4.6% from its October 3 record high. That has helped the S&P 500 itself stay out of correction territory.

Broken down by sector, the S&P 500 materials index – the closest proxy of Chinese economic growth – has fared the worst in October, leaving it down 19% from its 52-week highs, with the utilities index is the outperformer, down just 5 percent.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Sectors%20vs%2052-week%20highs.PNG?itok=N1dR9Xc5

At the individual level, among the bottom 10 S&P 500 performers, are names likes Wynn Resorts and Western Digital, both highly exposed to China. Nektar Therapeutics and Newell Brands are also among the S&P 500’s worst performers.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Stocks%20furthest%20from%20highs.PNG?itok=t0do72Y-

Taking a step back, despite its relative resilience, the S&P 500 is still on track for its worst month since August 2015, while most global equities are down for the year. North America is still the best performing region with 67% of the six countries having benchmark equities trading higher on the year in US dollar terms, according to Deutsche Bank. In EMEA, only 23% of countries are up, and only 6% of countries in the European Union (in USD). In South American (6 countries) and Asia (18), not a single country has a positive return in USD terms this year.

One day later, and despite widespread call for an imminent market bounce, traders remain completely ambivalent as today’s market cash open action shows:

  • Half of S&P 500 stocks rising, half falling
  • 5 of 11 S&P 500 groups rising, 6 falling
  • 15 DJIA stocks rising, 15 falling

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq has a more negative tone with decliners outpacing advancers. In other words, as Bloomberg’s Andrew Cinko writes, “there’s no follow through on either the upside or the downside after yesterday’s epic rebound. At this moment, he who hesitates isn’t lost, in fact, he’s got a lot of company as stock market pundits engage in verbal duel over where we go from here.”

Source: ZeroHedge

Trader: “Well I Think There’s A Problem Here”

For those looking for key market inflection points, BMO’s Brad Wishak highlights a divergence that was a key tell for recent market action, and may portend even more pain in the coming weeks.

According to Wishak, one place that telegraphed the recent market turmoil was the venerable New York Stock Exchange: the NYSE is the worlds largest stock exchange by market cap (21 trillion) yet “seems to get very little main stream attention for reasons I’ll never understand.”

And, Wishak adds, “when the largest stock exchange in the world throws up a few negative divergences, I want to listen” for the following three reasons:

  • While the other major indices are hugging their 200 dma, the NYSE is firmly through it
  • Additionally, the 2018 Channel trend line support broken
  • But the biggest tell for me took place in September….while all the other majors were marking fresh all time highs, the largest exchange in the world wasn’t even close to confirming ….this doesn’t happen often………another one for the radar

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/wishak%20oct%202018.jpg?itok=xnycGL86