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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Perry Omo? Fed Will Likely Restart QE In November (SOFR, Repo Rates Stabilize To Near Normal)

Is Fed Chair Jerome Powell really Perry Como? Or Perry OMO?

To the disappointment of many, Powell did not lower the target rate by 50 points and did not announce a resumption of QE.  Instead, the FOMC realigned both interest on excess reserves (IOER) and the reverse repo (RRP) rate lower by 5bp. Powell noted during his press conference that the Fed would use temporary open market operations (OMOs) “for the foreseeable future” to address pressures in funding markets.

However, and the reason why stocks shot up just before 3pm ET, is that that’s when Powell added that “it’s possible that we’ll need to resume the organic growth of the balance sheet, earlier than we thought. … We’ll be looking at this carefully in coming days and taking it up at the next meeting” in late October. Said otherwise, the Fed may not have announcer QE4 yesterday, but it will likely announce it in the very near future.

Sure enough, as Goldman wrote in its FOMC post-mortem, “we took this as a fairly strong hint and now expect the Fed to resume trend growth of its balance sheet in November with permanent OMOs. It is possible that the FOMC will take that opportunity to also reach a final decision on possibly shortening the maturity composition of its purchases, which it discussed at its May meeting.”

With all the OMO (or Perrys), the Fed’s Secured Overnight Finance Rate (SOFR) stabilized to normal levels.

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And the repo rate returned to near normal with the massive intervention with OMO.

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Fed Chair Jerome Powell (aka, Perry Omo).  Hot diggity dog. …

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On a side note, I tripped on a weight at the gym and fell against a weight machine. Fractured rib, badly swollen knee and dislocated perhaps broken finger(s). I call for a ban on power lifters dropping their weights and having them bounce in front of me!

SOFR Soars As Bond Market Liquidity Seemingly Vanishes Ahead Of Fed FOMC Meeting

What up with that?  Financial markets have gone crazy as liquidity seemingly vanishes.

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. money-market interest rate remained elevated for a third straight day, after rising to a record Tuesday.

The rate on overnight general collateral repurchase agreements, or repos, was at 2.8% early Wednesday, based on ICAP pricing. On Tuesday, it jumped to 10%, about four times greater than last week’s levels, as cash reserves in the banking system remained out of balance with the volume of securities on dealer balance sheets.

Today there was a whopping $80.05BN in bids submitted, an increase of $27 billion, or 50% more than yesterday.

It also meant that since the operation – which is capped at $75BN – was oversubscribed by over $5BN.

And the New York Fed’s Secured Overnight Financing Rate soared.

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Uh oh. Has The Fed lost control?

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Photo from Jesse’s Cafe Americain.

The Big Short: Part Deux? US Home Prices Slow As Wage Growth Highest Since Early 2009 (Tiny Bubble OR BIG Bubble?)

No matter which US home price index you choose, US home prices have risen above the peak of the housing bubble in April 2007 (as highlighted in the book and film “The Big Short”).

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Thanks to relaxed credit standards, including the infamous NINJA (no income, no job) loans, the US saw a steady and increasing growth in mortgage credit and a corresponding growth in home price growth … until 2005. Then the bottom fell out out the housing market.

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Today, we are witnessing a slowing of home price growth even as earnings growth is at its highest level since early 2009.  The last time we saw home price growth and earnings growth so in alignment was back in the 1995-1998 period following the enactment of HUD’s National Homeownership Strategy. 

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The big difference between the 2000s housing bubble and today’s housing bubble is that the 2000s housing bubble was driven by subprime and ALT-A credit. But today’s housing bubble is in part driven by foreign investors on both the west and east coasts, not to mention the Federal Reserves low interest-rate policies. And we are seeing a softening of credit standards from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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And Fannie and Freddie’s debt-to-income (DTI) is rising to 2008 (financial crisis levels).

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So does the US have a tiny bubble? Or a big bubble?

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Alternative Investments? Sovereign Bonds At A Premium, Duration Is Climbing As Rates Fall (But MBS Duration Falls With 10Y Yield), House Prices Slowing

Rising bond prices (premium) are spooking some investors as global bond yields plummet. The fear of a global slowdown/recession is spawning interest in alternative investments.

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As the 10-year Treasury yield drops, the duration of US Treasuries rises. On the other hand, the duration of Agency MBS is falling.

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And with national home price growth declining to the lowest rate since the beginning of The Fed’s QE3, where do we put our money?

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Firms like AQR offer products in the alternative investments sphere.

AAA Global Portfolio Space

 

Facebook Wants Its Cryptocurrency to One Day Rival the Greenback (Will Zuck Coins Compete With Gov’t Money??)

Facebook’s new digital currency, Libra, is a Stablecoin. That is, it is tied to a currency like the US dollar. But probably not the Venezuelan Bolivar.

(Bloomberg) —  Called Libra, the new currency will launch as soon as next year and be what’s known as a stablecoin — a digital currency that’s supported by established government-backed currencies and securities. The goal is to avoid massive fluctuations in value so Libra can be used for everyday transactions in a way that more volatile crypotcurrencies, like Bitcoin, haven’t been.

Libra is the culmination of a year-long effort to devise an easy way for Facebook users to send and receive money through its messaging services. Private messaging is one of the company’s fastest growing products, and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg is embracing this by integrating all Facebook’s messaging products to let users communicate between its different apps.

This focus comes at a time when user growth of the main social network has plateaued in some major markets, and regulators are scrutinizing the company’s frequent privacy failures. Payments are a potential way to turn messaging into a business that complements Facebook’s advertising operation, which generates almost all its revenue.

To come anywhere close to matching the U.S. dollar for utility and acceptance, Libra will need to be widely trusted. So Facebook and its partners are mimicking how other currencies have been introduced in the past.

“To help instill trust in a new currency and gain widespread adoption during its infancy, it was guaranteed that a country’s notes could be traded in for real assets, such as gold,” the companies wrote in a white paper. “Instead of backing Libra with gold, though, it will be backed by a collection of low-volatility assets, such as bank deposits and short-term government securities in currencies from stable and reputable central banks.”

The total number of Libra can change, and new digital coins can be issued whenever someone wants to exchange their Libra for an existing fiat currency, so the price shouldn’t fluctuate any more than other stable currencies, according to David Marcus, head of the Facebook blockchain team that’s spearheading the project.

“It would make a scenario where there’s a run on the bank completely impossible, because we are backed one-for-one,” he said. Libra will also be audited, he added, an important step in an industry with limited transparency.

If successful, Libra could make Facebook a much bigger player in financial services. That’s a big “if,” though. Cryptocurrency companies have been trying to build cross-border, digital currencies on the blockchain to disrupt traditional banking and payments for a decade. Nothing has caught on at the scale of traditional money yet.

When it finally arrives, Libra will be late to a party that’s been going on so long, many of the party-goers have either left or collapsed. Some past attempts to make coins usable for commerce, such as Bitcoin, haven’t widely caught on yet because price volatility mainly attracted traders and speculators. Predecessor stablecoins, like Tether, have been used by some traders to park funds in during times of high volatility, but have not been broadly adopted for commerce.

U.S. regulations may represent another hurdle for Facebook. Creating a digital currency doesn’t just require buy-in from financial institutions who need to accept it, and consumers who need to trust it, but it requires approval from regulators, too. The Securities and Exchange Commission has shut down about a dozen businesses issuing their own tokens for violations of securities law. Marcus said Facebook has been in contact with regulators and central banks, but added that the company hasn’t received a “no-action” letter from the SEC yet. That would have safeguarded the project from regulatory action by the agency.

One way Facebook hopes to appease regulators is through the Libra Association, a governing body tasked with making decisions about Libra. At least 27 other firms, including Visa Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and PayPal Holdings Inc., are part of the group. Marcus described these members as “co-founders,” and said they will have an equal say in how the cryptocurrency is managed.

“Facebook will not have any special privilege or special voting rights at the association level,” said Marcus, the former president of PayPal. “We will have competitors and other players on top of this platform that will build competing wallets and services.”

All Libra Association members are putting a minimum of $10 million into a reserve to help support the cryptocurrency’s value. This buy-in comes with voting privileges. However, the association’s governance structure is still in flux, and most of the group’s crucial decisions, including the creation of its charter, have not yet been decided, according to several members of the group. They asked not to be identified discussing private details.

Libra’s timing could also pose challenges. Facebook is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission over the company’s privacy practices. Some have called for the company to be broken up, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Asking consumers to put more trust in the social media giant, and giving Facebook a strong entry into the world of digital payments and banking, will likely draw further criticism.

The company plans to keep financial data gathered from Libra users separate from Facebook user data. That’s why Facebook’s digital wallet will exist under the Calibra subsidiary, which will house user transaction data on separate servers, Marcus said. If a WhatsApp user uses her Calibra wallet to send money to a friend or pay a retailer, those interactions won’t be stored alongside her social-media profile.

“There’s a clear distinction between Calibra and what Calibra has access to, and what Facebook Inc. has access to,” Marcus said. “It’s very clear that people don’t want their financial data from an account to be comingled with social data or to be used for other purposes.”

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (white line) and Litecoin (yellow line) are too volatile? Say it ain’t so!

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There are a plethora of cryptocurrencies out there, here is a sample.

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But Tether is different in that it avoids the sometimes wild volatility of Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum since Tether mirrors the US dollar.

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Libra (or the Zuck coin) should behave in a similar fashion to Tether in that they are both Stablecoins.

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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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Fed Fresh! Fed Reverses Course And Increases Treasury Holdings For First Time Since QE3 (Curve Remains Inverted To 5 Years)

Yes, The Federal Reserve has reversed its Treasury note and bond wind-down by increasing the size of its holdings for the first time since QE3.

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The US Treasury curve remains inverted out to 5 years.

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This is somewhat fresh, so I will call it “Fed Fresh.”

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Just spray some on to lower the 10-year Treasury yield!

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US Trade Weighted Broad Dollar Index Hits All-time High!

The US Trade Weighted Broad Dollar Index just hit an all-time high!

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Meanwhile, President Trump keeps needling Powell and The Fed to lower interest rates, but Trump can’t seem to make Powell his.

Meanwhile. Powell’s Jackson Hole speech is helping to push down the 2-year Treasury yield.

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The 10Y-3M Treasury curve slope fell to -43 basis point on the China/Fed (Ched?) fistfight.

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And the Treasury/Swap curves remain … Ched’d?

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Meanwhile, Powell and Fed Fans are in Jackson Hole Wyoming doing “Talk, talk.”

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.