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Boutique state-registered RIA, specializing in (1) liability driven investment strategies and (2) an active investment strategy focused primarily on macro, small/micro cap, and distressed opportunities.
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654 Advisors, LLC
  • Poor auctions signifying...what exactly? 0 comments
    Mar 28, 2010 7:11 PM | about stocks: BNPQY, BAC, BCS, C, CS, DB, GS, HSBC, LUK, JPM, MFG, MS, NMR, RBS, UBS, TLT, IEF, IEI, SHY, ALBKYGY

    A good deal is being made of subpar Treasury auctions this past week and whether they signify a turning point in the market’s appetite for U.S. government debt. It’s certainly possible, but we suspect that there’s a more nuanced and global explanation.

    First off, a 10 year Treasury yielding almost 4% annually does not look like a bad deal given the intermediate growth outlook in the U.S., despite what so many other pundits are saying (unless you believe that we’re on the verge of persistent domestic inflation, i.e., a widespread USD surplus…anyone?).

    Second, if Treasury auction participants came to market with only cash and held no other assets, then the prevailing theory would be harder to refute. However, the most important participants in treasury auctions are the New York Fed’s primary dealer banks, which are divisions of BNP, Bank of America, Barclays, Cantor, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Daiwa, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Jefferies, JP Morgan, Mizuho, Morgan Stanley, Nomura, RBC, RBS, and UBS. These bank divisions and their parents already own large amounts of financial assets. Thus, they also need to manage risk when making purchase commitments. And one of the biggest risks of the past week was whether the Eurozone could agree on an assistance plan for Greece.

    The following members of the Fed’s primary dealer banks are also primary dealers for Greek debt: Barclay’s, BNP, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JP Morgan, Merill Lynch (assumedly this is Bank of America), Morgan Stanley, Nomura, RBS, and UBS. This provides just a glimpse of the overall mosaic, as dealers also act as agents or conduits for public, and not just principals. However, it’s an important one, and it’s reported (and reasonable to assume) that several of them do own large slugs of Greek government debt.

    Thus, given the uncertainty surrounding management of Greece’s funding crisis, and how it spiked again this past week as Germany dug in its heels, it’s quite possible that some of the usual buyers of U.S. Treasury debt are simply distracted and/or increasingly risk averse (even using low central bank interest rates to finance the purchase of protective credit default swaps, which probably offered more comfort in the immediate environment than new Treasuries).

     Consider, for example, that French and German banks are believed to be exposed to $119B of Greek debt. Assuming sane leverage ratios of 10x (a dangerous assumption to make), the potential financial loss is equivalent to a significant percentage of the two countries’ annual GDP of $6T (e.g., a 15% decline in the value of Greek bond holdings, if unhedged, would equal roughly 3% of combined French and German GDP).

    As tempting as the U.S.-Treasury-on-the-brink hypothesis is for the public debt Cassandras, we think ours does a better job of incorporating the sharp strengthening of the USD over the past week, and market behavior since yet another agreement began to take shape.

    Combined with the fact that speculative credit markets are looking awfully frothy, some other strange market signs, and the likelihood of federal fiscal consolidation in 2011, we think you have a recipe for an eventual rally in Treasuries. It reminds us a little bit of the post 9/11 Treasury market selloff. Caveat venditor?

    IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES: The author does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Clients of the firm own shares of ALBKY, SHY, TLT, MFG, and NBG. A principal of the firm owns shares of C, GS, and MS. Symmetry Capital Management, LLC is a state registered investment advisor. The foregoing information is for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute an offer to buy nor a solicitation to sell any security, or to engage in any investment strategy.

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