Broken Arrow! U.S. Treasury Yield Curve Inverts for First Time Since 2007

Since an inverted Treasury curve occurs before a recession, the Federal Reserve may have to expend all remaining policy tools.

The US Treasury 10-year yield declined 10 bps today which is a large pop.

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The Federal Reserve finally achieved an inverted Treasury yield curve for the first time since 2007.

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The Federal Reserve, in the past, has reacted aggressively when the yield curve slope breached 0 slope. Aka, Snake and Nape (Snake Eye Missiles and Napalm).

It’s been a lovely *%*$#$$  non-recovery from the last recession. Just asset bubbles.

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Fed’s Powell Turns Dove And Throws In The Towel As Yield/OIS Curves Remain Kinked

With a projected slowing economy and core inflation still under 2%, Fed Chair Jerome Powell officially threw in the towel on monetary normalization yesterday by announcing  no more rate increases this year and balance sheet reduction will cease in September.

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The US Treasury Actives curve remains kinked from 6 months to 10 years reflecting economic slowdown. The overnight indexed swap curve is hyper-kinked.

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A closer look at the US  Overnight Indexed Swap rate flattened after The Fed’s last rate hike, signaling that there be no more in the short run.

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One can view Powell as Mean Mr. Mustard (and Yellen as Polythene Pam), the surrender on monetary normalization is welcome by equity markets and mortgage lenders.

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An Occurrence At The Federal Reserve: Increased SMART Money & Equity Volatility, Crushed Bond Volatility

Ambrose Bierce wrote a short story about a man being hanged during the American Civil War and what went through his mind in his final moments. It is called “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.” Hauntingly similar to today’s plight: overoptimistic expectations before being hung, then …. snap.

In summary., Ben Bernanke and The Federal Reserve entered the markets in 2008 in force. The Fed Funds Target rate was raised once during President Obama’s two terms as President, but eight times since President Trump’s election as President. Plus, The Fed’s Quantitative Tightening (in terms of its balance sheet) begin in earnest in 2019.

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Once The Fed hurled its monetary weight at the economy in 2008, the stock market had an amazing run. but since The Fed started to raise rates and began their balance sheet unwind, the S&P 500 index has increased in volatility as has the SMART Money Flow Index.

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The bond market volatility indices have gotten crushed by central banks.

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On the real estate front, equity REITs, like the small cap Russell equity indices, seemed to be benefit greatly from The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy and QE. Mortgage REITs, on the other hand, kind of died with the financial crisis and never recovered. The RCA CPPI commercial real estate index too off like a missile.

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Like in the Ambrose Bierce short story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,” The Fed and other central banks are quitting any attempts at rate normalization (for fear that they might hear that dreaded “snap” at the end of the monetary rope].

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Did The Federal Reserve Kill Off 10-Year Swaption Volatility? (Lowest Since 2005)

10-year Swaption volatility has sunk to the lowest level since 2005. Did The Federal Reserve provide too much liquidity for too long, effectively drowning bond volatility?

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The Fed’s lingering Target Rate near zero and its three rounds of asset purchases helped kill of bond volatiilty. And with rising Fed Target rate and balance sheet unwind (removing liquidity from markets) has pushed bond volatility to 2006-2007 levels.

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So, the answer is … YES!

(Vol has been) shot through the heart and The Fed’s to blame! The Fed gives central banks a.bad name.

MOVE 3-month Option Volatility Index Hits All-time Low (Bond Market Bernanke’d!)

The  Merrill Lynch Option Volatility Estimate 3-Month has just hit an all-time low.

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The MOVE index is a yield curve weighted index of the normalized implied  volatility on 3-month Treasury options. It is the weighted average of volatilities on the CT2, CT5,  CT10, and CT30.

Even since Fed Chair Ben Bernanke started ZIRP and QE in 2008, continued by Janet Yellen, interest rate volatility has subsided to an all-time low under current Chairman Powell.

Not a great time for volatility traders!

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The Mummy Returns! ECB’s Draghi Raises Their TLTRO Program From The Dead To Combat Weak Euro Area Growth

The ECB’s Mario Draghi has decided to raise the dead (as in Modern Monetary Theory) by reviving the ECB’s Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations.

Mario Draghi revealed the biggest cut in the European Central Bank’s economic outlook since the advent of its quantitative-easing program as policy makers delivered a new round of stimulus to shore up growth. The ECB president said the euro-zone economy will expand just 1.1 percent this year, 0.6 percentage point less than forecast in December. 

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The central bank will revive its Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operations to encourage banks to provide credit to businesses and consumers, and will hold interest rates at current record-low levels at least through the end of the year, several months later than previously indicated.

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The Euro declined on Draghi’s announcement.

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And most Euro area 10 year sovereign yields are down 5 basis points or more.

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Draghi must not read from the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) book!

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Chasing Mavericks! Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac Are Chasing The Fed’s Asset Bubble (And Other Market Distortions) With Weaker Credit Standards

US home prices have escalated rapidly since The Federal Reserve began their zero-interest rate policies and asset purchases back in 2008.

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In order to serve their US homebuyers, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have had to “soften” their standards for purchasing loans from lenders. Particularly since wage growth is slower than home price growth. And has been since 2012.

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For example, the mean Loan-to-Value ratio for Fannie and Freddie are higher than during the peak of the housing bubble … which blew up.

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In terms of Combined Loan-to-Value Ratio (CLTV),  Fannie Mae purchased loans have a higher CLTV than during the peak of the housing bubble.ffcltv

In terms of average credit score, both Fannie and Freddie tighted their loan purchase standards after the financial crisis, but has been gradually lowering them since 2012.

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In terms of debt-to-income ratios (DTI), both Fannie and Freddie now have average DTI at 2005 levels. We can call that “peak crisis” in terms of the house price bubble peak.

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Like Mavericks at Half Moon Bay in California, Fannie and Freddie are chasing Mavericksv (large waves) to serve the homebuying community.

To be fair, much of the elevated home prices are in coastal California where the tech industry has flourished and buildable sites are constrainted by zoning and other regulations.

*I want to thank my GMU finance students taking my Python for finance class. And downloading the Fannie and Freddie data and analysis in Python. These ambitious students include Fabiola Gonzalez, Fabiola Maldonado, Brandon Wynes, Nathan Handy, Eleri Burnett, Jessica Giron, Lisbeth Figuroa, Ulises Areas, Sarah Madi,
James Pesquera, Belinda Chambika, Alex Dilorenzo, Alexandria White, Steve Bergquist, Dudley Hinote, Amir Sayyad, Claudia Aguilar, Sabrina Hannan, Wael Ronnie Zaineldeen, and Peter Rogers. Thanks to Stuart Sanders and Hakin Azoor!

US Residential Construction Spending YoY Falls To Lowest Growth Rate -1.5% Since 2013 (Slippin’ Into Darkness)

Is housing slippin’ into darkness?

Perhaps. residential construction spending YoY fell in December to its lowest level since early 2013.

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Non-residential construction actually rose 4% YoY in December.

That’s not the way I like it.

 

Deja Vu? Bankers Get Creative to Offload CLO Risk in U.S. and Europe (Here We Are Again!)

Bankers dumping business loans and corporate debt in the forms of Collateralized Loan Obligations off on investors in the US and Europe? As New York Yankee legend Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

(Bloomberg Quint) — Arrangers of collateralized loan obligations are innovating their way through a tough market as they try to shift a stockpile of warehoused assets from their balance sheets.

The year’s first batch of new CLO issues to price in the U.S. includes two transactions with short maturities and one static deal, where the underlying pool of loans remains the same throughout its lifetime. These non-typical features are offered to draw in investors some of who have grown more cautious after leveraged-loan prices dropped and CLO funding costs rose at the end of last year.

Investors say similar structures are being touted in Europe as well. And it’s not the first time that more creative structures have appeared: short-dated deals emerged in 2015 and 2016 when market conditions deteriorated during the oil and gas crisis and liability spreads ballooned.   

Issuance of CLOs — bonds whose cashflows are provided by an underlying pool of loans — soared last year as investors wanted exposure to higher-yielding, floating-rate debt. The market stalled toward year end amid the broader market volatility and weaker sentiment. CLO managers are now trying to navigate the slow recovery in the market.

*Pine Bridge Capital has a nice “CLOs for Dummies” article.

Although CLOs are primarily bank and corporate loans, they can degrade quickly like the “subprime” loans in 2008/2009 (as discussed in The Big Short somewhat accurately).

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And like the period of time discussed in The Big Short (and other lated books and movies), the “A” rated tranches are looking good in terms of impairment rates, but the “killler Bs” are looking stressed.

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The CLOs 2.0 average structures (aka, “Cov Lite” loans) have higher risk.

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While this is NOT a chart of CLOs, it does show the growth of corporate debt since the financial crisis, particularly at the A and BBB ratings.

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Makes one ponder holding a protective asset like … gold.

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Here we are again!

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US Real GDP Rises To 3.1% YoY, 10Y Treasury Yield Rises (Growth Stocks Continue To Rise Relative To Value Stocks)

The advanced US GDP report is out and it is a positive. YoY Real GDP growth rose to 3.1%.

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It’s a major win for the Trump administration, which surpassed its 3% growth goal.

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Consumer spending, which makes up two-thirds of the economy, was solid but still a slight disappointment as confidence was hurt last year by the stock market swoon.
Non-residential investment held up with a 6.2% gain and R&D spending surged, which could have positive impacts on productivity gains and wages.

It’s a Goldilocks report for the Federal Reserve: inflation near target, slower but solid growth. This reinforces the patient approach to interest rates.

Still, bond market bets that the Fed will be on hold all year are a bit less sure in the wake of the 4Q numbers. Yields on 10-year Treasuries rose in the wake of the report.

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The Russell Growth index spread over the Russell Value index resumes its rise.

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But the Russell 3000-1000 spread (size) actually has declined.

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