As everyone is engrossed by assorted groundless Christmas (and other ongoing bear market) rallies, and oblivious to the debt monsters hiding in both the closet and under the bed, Zero Hedge has decided it is about time to present the ugliest truth faced by our ‘intellectual superiors’ and their Wall Street henchman who succeeded in pulling off Goal #1 for 2009 – the biggest ever bonus season (forget record bonuses in 2010… in fact, scratch any bonuses next year if what is likely to transpire in the upcoming 12 months does in fact occur).
If someone asks you what happened in 2009, the answer is simple – two things. There was a huge credit and liquidity crunch, and then there was Quantitative Easing. The last is the Fed’s equivalent of band-aiding a zombied and ponzied corpse, better known as the US economy. It worked for a while, but now the zombie is about to go back into critical, followed by comatose, and lastly, undead (and 401(k)-depleting) condition.
In 2009, total supply of all USD denominated fixed income, net of maturities, declined by $300 billion from $2.05 trillion to $1.75 trillion. This makes sense: the abovementioned crunches stopped the flow of credit from January until well into April, and generally firms were unwilling to demonstrate to the market how clothless they are by hitting the capital markets until well into Q2 if not Q3. What happened was a move so drastic by the Fed, that into November, the worst of the worst High Yield names were freely upsizing dividend recap deals (see CCU) – the very same greed and stupidity that brought us here. Luckily, so far securitization and CDOs have not made a dramatic entrance. They likely will, at which point it will be time to buy a one-way ticket for either our southern or northern neighbor, both of which, in the supremest of ironies, transact in a currency that will survive long after the dollar is dead and buried.
Back to the math… And here is the kicker. Accounting for securities purchased by the Fed, which effectively made the market in the Treasury, the agency and MBS arenas, but also served to “drain duration” from the broader US$ fixed income market, the stunning result is that net issuance in 2009 was only $200 billion. Take a second to digest that.
And while you are lamenting the death of private debt markets, here is precisely what the Fed, the Treasury, and all bank CEOs are doing all their best to keep hidden until they are safely on their private jets heading toward warmer climes: in 2010, the total estimated net issuance across all US$ denominated fixed income classes is expected to increase by 27%, from $1.75 trillion to $2.22 trillion. The culprit: Treasury issuance to keep funding an impossible budget. And, yes, we use the term impossible in its most technical sense. As everyone who has taken First Grade math knows, there is no way that the ludicrous deficit spending the US has embarked on makes any sense at all… none. But the administration can sure pretend it does, until everything falls apart and blaming everyone else for its fiscal imprudence is no longer an option.
Out of the $2.22 trillion in expected 2010 issuance, $200 billion will be absorbed by the Fed while QE continues through March. Then the US is on its own: $2.06 trillion will have to find non-Fed originating demand. To sum up: $200 billion in 2009; $2.1 trillion in 2010. Good luck.
As we pointed, the number one reason why 2010 is set to be a truly “interesting” year is a result of the upcoming explosion in US Treasury issuance. Fiscal 2010 gross coupon issuance is expected to hit $2.55 trillion, a $700 billion increase from 2009, which in turn was $1.1 trillion increase from 2008. For those of you needing a primer on the exponential function, click here. But wait, there is a light in the tunnel: in 2011, gross issuance is expected to decline… to $1.9 trillion.
And while things are hair-raising in “gross” country (not Bill…at least not yet), they are not much better in netville either. Net of maturities, 2010 coupon issuance will be about $1.8 trillion, a 45% increase from the $1.3 trillion in FY 2009 (and the paltry $255 billion in 2008).
Now everyone knows that the average maturity of the UST curve has become a big problem for Tim Geithner: nearly 40% of all marketable debt matures within a year (a percentage that has kept on growing). In fact, the Treasury provided guidance in its November 2009 refunding, in which it stated that it intends “to focus on increasing the average maturity” of its debt after relying heavily on Bill issuance in H2. Once again, we wish Tim the best of luck.
Why our generous best intentions to the US Treasury? Because unless the US consumer decides to forgo the purchase of the 4th sequential Kindle and buy some Treasuries (and not just any: 30 Year Bonds or bust), the presumption that the Bond printer will have the option of finding vast foreign appetite for its spewage is a very myopic one. We already know that China is a major question mark, and will aggressively be looking at pumping capital into its own economy instead of that of Uncle Sam’s – at some point the return on investment in its own middle class will surpass that of funding the rapidly disappearing US middle class. That tipping point could be as soon as 2010.
As for Japan – the country has plunged into its nth consecutive deflationary period. Whether or not the finance minister announces yet another affair with the Quantitative Easing whore on any given day, depends merely on what side of the bed he wakes up on. The country will have its hands full monetizing its own sovereign issuance, let alone ours.
Lastly, the UK – well, with the country set to have zero bankers left in a few months, we don’t think the traditionally third largest purchaser of US debt will be doing much purchasing any time soon.
None of this is merely speculation: October TIC data confirmed these preliminary observations. It will only become more pronounced in upcoming months.
How about that great globalization dynamo: emerging markets? Alas, they have their hands full with issuing their own record amounts of both sovereign and corporate debt as well: in 2009 gross EM debt issuance reached an astounding $217 billion, $29 billion higher than the previous record in 2007. Gross EM issuance was particularly high in the last quarter at $73 billion, with October breaking the record for the largest ever monthly gross issuance of emerging market global bonds at $38 billion (January is traditionally the busiest month of the year.) With $81 billion, 2009 was notably a record year for sovereign bonds, while gross issuance of corporate bonds amounted to $136 billion, the second highest level after that of 2007 with $155 billion.
Bottom line: everyone has major problems at home, and is more focused on the supply than the demand side of the equation.
What options does this leave for the administration? Very few, and all of them are ugly. As we stated earlier on, the options for the Fed are threefold:
- Announce a new iteration of Quantitative Easing. This will be met with major disapproval across all voting classes (at least those whose residential zip codes do not start with 10xxx or 068xx), creating major headaches for Obama and the democrats which are already struggling with collapsing polls.
- Prepare for a major increase in interest rates. While on the surface this would be very welcome for a Fed that keeps hinting that deflation is the biggest concern for the economy, Bernanke’s complete lack of preparation from a monetary standpoint (we are surprised the Fed’s $200 million reverse repos have not made the late night comedy circuit yet) to a forced interest rate increase, would likely result in runaway inflation almost overnight. The result would be a huge blow to a still deteriorating economy.
- Engineer a stock market collapse. Recently investors have, rightfully, realized there is no more risk in equities, not because the assets backing the stockholder equity are actually creating greater cash flow (as we demonstrated recently, that is not the case), but simply because taxpayers have involuntarily become safekeepers for the entire stock market, due to Bernanke’s forced intervention in bond and equity markets. Yet the President’s Working Group is fully aware that when the time comes to hitting the “reverse” button, it will do so. Will the resultant rush into safe assets be sufficient to generate the needed endogenous demand for Treasuries is unknown. It will likely be correlated to the size of the equity market drop.
If the Fed decides on option three, we fully believe a 30% drop (or greater) in equities is very probable as the new supply/demand regime in fixed income becomes apparent. We hope mainstream media takes the ideas presented here and processes them for broader consumption as indeed the Fed is caught in a very fragile dilemma, and the sooner its hand is pushed, the less disastrous the final outcome for investors. Then again, as Eric Sprott has been pointing out for quite some time, it could very well be that the US economy has become merely one huge Ponzi, and as such, its expansion or reduction on the margin is uncontrollable. We very well may have passed into the stage where blind growth is the only alternative to a complete collapse. We hope that is not the case.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all readers.