This Great Graphic was created on Bloomberg and depicts Japan and US 5-year credit default swap indicative pricing. Japan's 5-year CDS is denominated in dollars and is represented by the white line. The US CDS is the white line and is priced in euros.
As can be seen by looking closely at the recent performance, the US CDS has risen through Japan's. This does not appear to have happened since the throes of the Great Financial Crisis.
Some observers want to blame the unorthodox policies of the Trump Administration, but this does not seem right. For the first eight months of last year, the 5-year US CDS traded between 18 bp and about 24 bp. It appears to have jumped to a new and higher range in early August when it rose to almost 32 bp. Since then, it has been mostly in a 25-30 bp range. It finished last week near 27.2 bp, which is smack on the 50- and 100-day moving averages.
There was a spike to 30 bp following the unexpected results of the US election last November, but it has been trading steadily mostly in a two basis point range for last two months, despite the press conferences, executive orders and tweets. The US is one of ten countries where the five-year CDS is quoted below 30 bp. It is difficult to call it rich. Norway looks the lowest near 20 bp. Keep in mind too that these are indicative prices and the liquidity appears uneven at best.
Japan's 5-year CDS rose from less than 20 bp in early 2008 to around 155 bp in late 2011 and early 2012. It has been trending lower since, and the low reached at the end of last week (~25 bp) is the lowest since 2008. Some have suggested that the explanation lies with the Japanese investors. They were net sellers of foreign bonds in December and January. It is the first two-month divestment since March-April 2014.
It is not immediately clear why the sales of global bonds would spur a decline in Japan's CDS. Moreover, in the December-January period, Japanese yields have risen. Consider that the 10-year JGB yield closed last July near minus 22 bp. At the end of November, it was near minus five basis points. It finished 2016 just below four basis points, the first month close in positive territory in eight months. It was near 4.5 bp at the end of January and is now near nine bp. Year-to-date the US 10-year yield is off three basis points, while the yield on the 10-year JGB is up nearly six basis points.
We do not attribute great significance to the minor crossover of the indicative pricing of the US and Japanese credit default swaps. To the extent that there is a meaningful takeaway, it would seem to be the convergence at relatively low levels - not quite pre-crisis levels, but near the lowest since then. The US 5-year CDS has increased by less than a single basis point this year, and Japan's has fallen by five. We suspect there is nothing nefarious taking place, though we will continue to monitor the situation.
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