U.K. Bank Credit Rallies as Johnson Strikes Brexit Deal With EU (UK CoCo Prices Jump, But Not Deutsche Bank’s 6% CoCo)

While the UK Parliament has to sign off on the Brexit agreement, bank credit rallies after Boris Johnson reached an agreement with the EU.

U.K. lenders’ riskiest notes jumped, leading a credit rally, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached a Brexit agreement with the European Union.

Barclays Plc’s 1.25 billion pound ($1.6 billion) 5.875% CoCo reversed earlier losses and hit 99.5 pence on the pound, the highest since May 2018, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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Nationwide Building Society’s 600 million-pound perpetual bond, sold last month, hit a record. Oddly, NBS’s perpetual bond started rising on October 10th, well before PM Boris Johnson announced his Brexit agreement.

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A contingent convertible bond (CoCo), also known as an enhanced capital note (ECN) is a fixed-income instrument that is convertible into equity if a pre-specified trigger event occurs.

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A famous CoCo bond is the Deutsche Bank 6% Perpetual.

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While issued at par (100), the G-spread on the Deutsche’s 6% CoCo bond is … 11%.

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Odd, that DB’s CoCo bond remained relatively calm after the Brexit deal was announced.

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Is that UK PM Boris Johnson or Martin Kernsten, the Nipple King from Parks and Recreation?

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Its always sunny in the UK!

Iron Man! Copper And Iron Futures Prices Decline As Global Growth Continues Slowing (Gold-Copper Ratio Similar To 10Y Treasury Yield)

Iron Man!

As a sign of continued slowing global growth, essential dry commodities like iron ore and copper have been declining since April/May of 2019.

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The copper-gold ratio has shown a decline after peaking in June 2018.

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The copper-gold chart looks similar to the 10Y US Treasury yield chart.

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Is the global economy paranoid about China-US trade and Brexit impacts?

 

Trade Fog! UK Industrial Production Falls 1.8% YoY In August, China’s Offshore Currency Goes Bananas And Gold Price/ Volatility Rises, V2X Volatility Goes Haywire

This is an update on key economic news relating to US/China trade and UK/EU Brexit talks. Better known as Trade Fog … or simply “The Fog.” 

On the Brexit side, the UK avoided recession by posting of 0.3% in August. Unfortunately, UK industrial production tanked to -1.8% YoY signaling a slowdown for the UK economy.

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On the China/US trade arm wrestling match, China’s offshore currency is showing volatility as even the NBA is getting caught up in the trade scuffle.

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The volatility surface for the CNH is quite steep.

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Of course, trade fog helps assets such as gold to rise.

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The volatility surface for gold is similar to that of the Chinese offshore currency.

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Trade fog (or trade vacillation) is on the rise as seen in this chart of V2X volatility.

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The V2X index is above its various historic moving averages.

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As Brexit negotiation crawl along and the US meets with China or tariffs, we continue to see “The Fog” until Brexit and tariffs are finalized. Throw in Federal Reserve policy errors and we have a party!

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Free Cat? World’s Best-Run Pension Funds Say It’s Time to Start Worrying (Not Enough Revenue Thanks To ECB Policies And Inflated Liabilities)

State and Federal pension funds are plagued by extravagant promises to pensioners and low yields on pension assets caused, in part, by Central Banks, like the European Central Bank and Federal Reserve.

(Bloomberg) Back in 2012, the world’s best-managed pension market was thrown a lifeline by the Danish government to help contain liabilities. That was when interest rates were still positive.

Seven years later, with rates now well below zero, even Denmark’s $440 billion pension system says the environment has become so punishing that it may be time for a change in European rules.

Henrik Munck, a senior consultant at Insurance & Pension Denmark, an umbrella organization, says the way liabilities are currently calculated “could cause a negative spiral” that forces funds to keep buying low-risk assets, drive yields lower and the value of liabilities even higher.

The warning comes as pension firms across Europe struggle to generate the returns they need to cover their growing obligations. In Denmark, some funds saddled with legacy policies guaranteeing returns as high as 4.5% have had to use equity to meet their obligations.

To calculate liabilities, pension firms use a complex mathematical formula constructed by the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). The formula is intended to shield funds from erratic market swings that artificially inflate or hollow out balance sheets. But with negative rates more entrenched, there are signs the EIOPA curve, as it’s called, may not be working as intended.

“When pension funds across Europe de-risk simultaneously, it may actually become pro-cyclical: it increases the price movements, and it could result in yet more downward pressure on the EIOPA yield curve, exacerbating the problem,” Munck said.

The curve is comprised of several elements. Its backbone — the euro interest-rate swap curve — has sunk since its implementation about four years ago, driving up the value of liabilities.

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PFA, like many Danish pension funds, started scaling back guaranteed products for retirees many years ago. That’s given it a buffer to help absorb some of the shock of growing liabilities. But not everyone’s as well prepared. “If the discount curve is more volatile and you can’t hedge it, you can — if you don’t have enough capital — be forced to lower risk on the more hedgeable space, to compensate,” Damgaard said.

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Low volatility assets like sovereign debt?? Pretty soon, government pensions will have to deliver cheaper payments to pensioners.

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Fear! Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion Per Day

Brexit, slowing global growth, Central Bank monetary follicies (negative rates). Lots of economic uncertainty and a growing demand to hedge interest rates. In other words, lots of fear.

According to the BIS, daily turnover of OTC interest rate derivatives averaged $6.5 trillion in April 2019, up markedly from the April 2016 survey when it averaged $2.7 trillion per day. This rise appears to have been driven mainly by increased hedging and positioning amid shifting prospects for growth and monetary policy.

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However, other factors also played a role. Much of the turnover in April 2019 was in shorter-term contracts, which are rolled over more often. In addition, the 2019 survey saw more comprehensive reporting of related party trades than in previous surveys. Average daily turnover in April 2019, after adjusting for these trades, is estimated to have been closer to $5.8 trillion in April 2019, up around 120% since the 2016 survey.

The majority of turnover of OTC interest rate derivatives is in swaps and denominated in the mighty US dollar.

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The home of the largest turnover (aka, trading) is in the UK, followed by Hong Kong and then the USA.

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Yes, lots of fear regarding interest rates.

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Draghi Goes Big! Draghi Faced Unprecedented ECB Revolt as Core Europe Resisted QE (France, Germany Versus Spain, Italy, Greece)

This reminds me of the Mel Brooks skit “The people are revolting.”

It this case, it is France and Germany resisting more QE while “the people” (Spain, Italy and Greece) are revolting and pushing for more QE.

(Bloomberg) — European Central Bank governors representing the core of the euro-area economy resisted President Mario Draghi’s ultimately successful bid to restart quantitative easing, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.

The unprecedented revolt took place during a fractious meeting where Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau joined more traditional hawks including his Dutch colleague Klaas Knot and Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann in pressing against an immediate resumption of bond purchases, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, because such discussions are confidential.

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Those three governors alone represent roughly half of the euro region as measured by economic output and population. Other dissenters included, but weren’t limited, to their colleagues from Austria and Estonia, as well as members on the ECB’s Executive Board including Sabine Lautenschlaeger and the markets chief, Benoit Coeure, the officials said.

Mario Draghi says the ECB will maintain a “highly accommodative stance of monetary policy.”

Such disagreement over a major monetary policy measure has never been seen during Draghi’s eight-year tenure. It casts a shadow over the resolve underpinning his parting stimulus shot before Christine Lagarde succeeds him, and also over his account of the proceedings. The extent of the rift might open the door to critics of the institution to question the legitimacy of its decisions.

Despite the disagreement, Draghi presented the decision to relaunch QE as having enough support to move forward. There was no vote on the matter, in line with typical ECB practice. Such a ballot would be a rare occurrence, but if one had taken place, under the Governing Council’s system of rotation to streamline decision-making, the French and Estonian governors would have been unable to cast a vote this month.

“There was more diversity of views on APP. But then, in the end, a consensus was so broad there was no need to take a vote. So the decision in the end showed a very broad consensus. As I said, there was no need to take a vote. There was such a clear majority.” 
– Mario Draghi, Sept. 12 press conference in Frankfurt

One key argument wielded by policy makers opposed to Draghi’s resumption of QE was that it would be better to save it to use as a contingency in an emergency, such as an abrupt outcome to Brexit if the U.K. leaves the European Union without a transition deal, the officials said.

Spokesmen and spokeswomen for the Austrian, Dutch, Estonian, French and German central banks declined to comment on the ECB discussions. An ECB spokesman also declined to comment.

QE has previously proved contentious. Draghi encountered significant opposition in 2015, when he pushed the Governing Council to start bond purchases, against the wishes of his German, Dutch, Estonian and Austrian colleagues.

Draghi’s decision to press ahead without such key support risks leaving Lagarde with a headache when she starts in November. She will need to decide whether to persist in a policy that has divided her Governing Council, risking further acrimony. The alternative would be to dial back the ECB’s current stimulus commitments, an approach that could provoke a market backlash.

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That’s what she said.

Seriously, how much extra QE does Spain, Italy and Greece want?

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Is it because their banking systems are still in the doldrums? Here is a sample of an Italian, Spanish and Greek bank.

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The Reasonabilists? Negative-yielding Debt Exceeds $17 TRILLION With Japan And France Leading In Negative-yield Issuance (Danish 10-year Fixed Mortgage Rates At -0.5%!)

It has been over 100 years since The Federal Reserve System was created by Congress in December 1913 and then signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. Since its creation, the purchasing power of the US dollar for consumers has gone from $3.32 in December 1913 to $0.13 today.

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Virtually even nation has a central bank and together they have helped push down sovereign yields into negative territory in the amount of > $17 TRILLION.

The global stock of negative-yielding debt is now in excess of $17 trillion as rising market volatility lends extra force to this year’s unprecedented bond rally.

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Thirty percent of all investment-grade securities now bear sub-zero yields, meaning that investors who acquire the debt and hold it to maturity are guaranteed to make a loss. Yet buyers are still piling in, seeking to benefit from further increases in bond prices and favorable cross-currency hedging rates—or at least to avoid greater losses elsewhere.

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France is the leader in Europe at $2.3 trillion in negative-yielding sovereign debt. France’s 10-year sovereign debt bears a coupon of 0.50% at €109.004 and a yield of -0.408%.

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Japan, of course, is the global leader in negative-yielding debt at $7.3 TRILLION.

Mortgage rates can be negative as well. Just ask the Danish bank Jyske Bank. Jyske is offering a 10-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) at … -0.5%.  Finland’s Nordea Bank is offering a 20-year FRM in Denmark at … 0%.

But wait! Who on earth would buy negative interest rate mortgage bonds? PIMCO, that’s who! 

But are negative mortgage rates reasonable? Or is Zorp the Surveyor approaching?

Zorp the surveyor.

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Gold, Housing And Credit Impulses (US House Price Growth Slowing As US Residential Credit Impulse Slows)

As Hurricane Dorian (cat 4) approaches the eastern Florida coast and Hong Kong protestors clash with police, I thought I would discuss something cheerful .. like rising home prices globally and in the US. Cheerful for current homeowners that is, not current renters.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the global REAL house price index (white line) has recovered from the global housing bubble burst and is now at an all-time  high. US NOMINAL home prices have recovered from the housing bubble and are now higher than at the peak of the US housing bubble (2005).

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If we look at real estate with respect to gold, US housing was the most expensive in the early 2000s. And the ounces of gold needed to buy an average US home remains relatively low (that is, back to 1984 ratios).

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Of course, the flow of credit can help explain housing prices. In the US, both Commercial and Industrial loans (C&I) and loans and leases (Lo&Le) are significantly lower than during the late 2000s. Yet, US home prices continue to rise.

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If we put home price growth YoY (green line) on the chart, you can see home price growth slowing with the lower than average credit impulse (red line).

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At the global level, credit impulses are down but may be showing signs of increasing.

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Mortgage Purchase Applications Back To 1998 Levels As Mortgage Refi Applications Slow A Bit From Refi Wave

If you have recently applied for a mortgage refinancing given plunging mortgage rates, you may have noticed a delay in the underwriting. Why? US lenders are in the midst of a “refi wave” and some lenders are swamped with work, particularly underwriters.

Mortgage applications decreased 6.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 23, 2019.

The Refinance Index decreased 8 percent from the previous week and was 167 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 6 percent compared with the previous week and was 2 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

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The 30 year mortgage rate has been generally falling since November 2018 as European (Brexit) and Asian (China trade) pressures have increased. As a consequence, we have seen a “refi wave” in 2019.

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Mortgage purchase applications have risen gradually since 2014, but litigation against lenders and rules created under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) resulted in mortgage purchase applications at 1998 levels.

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A refi wave can feel like surfing at Nazare in Portugal.

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Shakin’ All Over! German Yield Curve Completely Negative Yield As Germany Issues €869M Zero-coupon Bonds At -0.11% (Tried To Sell €2B)

Things are getting crazy in Europe, particularly in Germany and Denmark,

As Brexit approaches, Germany is desperately trying to save their economy (or at least their banking system) by borrowing at negative rates for 30-years.

The German government sold 869 million euros of 30-year bonds with a negative yield, for the first time ever, adding to the world’s growing $15 trillion in existing negative yielding debt.

The bund, set to mature in 2050, has a zero coupon, meaning it pays no interest. Germany offered 2 billion euros worth of 30-year bunds, and investors were willing to buy less than half of it, with a yield of minus 0.11%.

Here are the German sovereign yield curve (blue) and the Danish sovereign curve (green).

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Of course, the US Treasury curve has the same “bucket” shape as Germany and Denmark (as well as numerous other nations).

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The US Treasury 10Y-3M curve slope is now -40 BPS.

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While not totally submerged, Sweden, France and the UK all have the bucket shape.

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Just so we understand, it’s not just Europe that is slowing. China is slowing too (and before the tariff war).

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Sovereign yield curves are Shakin’ all over.