The Times and the Journal today are pretty excited by the new high yield bubble and I guess? What is the deal with high-yield yields being not as high as high-yield yields have been in the past, yield-wise? The answer may be giddiness:*
“In a yield-starved world, high-yield bonds are right now the only game in town,” said Les Levi, a managing director at the investment bank North Sea Partners. “The market is giddy.”
How giddy? 5.375% giddy, that’s how giddy:
The $700 million bond Nuance Communications sold last week looks like a textbook high yield deal, except it doesn’t have the yield. … Underwriter Barclays managed to squeeze 5.375% yield out of the fund managers who bought the eight-year deal. That’s almost half the 9.55% average of Barclays US Corporate high yield index since 2002 and is right above the 5.1% average yield of the bank’s investment grade bond index over the same time period. The average interest rate – or coupon – on new junk bonds over the past 30 years has been 11%, according to Thomson Reuters. …
But the top determinant of high yield bond performance, the default rate, is headed the other way. The trailing twelve-month default rate rose to 2.7% in July from 2% at the end of 2011, according to Standard & Poor’s. The rating agency expects defaults to hit 3.7% by this time next year, within hailing distance of the 4.5% 30-year average for speculative-grade bonds.
Here’s a perfect sentence to draw the ire of gold bugs: “But like paper money, gold is worth only what people believe it is worth, and because of this, it is sometimes referred to as the barbarous relic.” Look at all the buttons it presses: comparing gold to paper money! Saying that its value is just as much a convention – or, if you prefer, a “Ponzi scheme” – as that of fiat money! Using “barbarous relic” non-ironically!
That gem comes from a column last night by the Times’s Deal Professor Steven Davidoff, who set out to comprehensively annoy the Ron Paul crowd by arguing that U.S. regulators and exchanges should act to restrict leverage and limit holdings of gold because the metal is in a speculative bubble. The evidence for this includes that hedge-and-speculation demand has doubled in the last two years while industrial-and-jewelry demand is actually down, suggesting that gold is not so much trading on fundamentals. The recommendations:
Yet if regulators are going to stop the next bubble, they will need to act aggressively. Of course, they shouldn’t act in every circumstance, but when we see volatility and speculation as is the case of gold, acting to curb these forces through limiting leverage in cooperation with international regulators would be a prudent course. This would ensure that if a crash does come, it does not have aftereffects on banks and other institutions. Even if the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is hesitant to take such steps, it could, as an initial foray, take to the media to try to “talk down” the speculation.
For our own safety we’re not going to weigh in on whether gold is overpriced or underpriced, or on whether current gold demand is driven by (1) sensible concerns about inflation on the part of savvy investors or (2) Glenn-Beck-driven survivalist freakouts by financially illiterate retail buyers.* We’ll just point out that, if you’re going to have a bubble, this is a really sweet one to have.
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Time was, if you were an exotic dancer, your customers probably wouldn’t have thanked you for that lap dance you so deftly performed. Ingrates, the lot of them, but what could you do? But now? That things aren’t so happy snappy? Strippers are finally getting appreciated for the hard work they do, at least according to one gal named “Bubbles.” Read more »
Alan Greenspan has written a book report that he will present at the Brookings Institution tomorrow. Some are calling it his “most detailed examination of the causes of the financial crisis.” Does he lay out his patented 3-Step Guide For Being Fed Chair (1. Talk like you know your shit, even when you don’t. 2. Cut rates like a Thai hooker with the clap 3. When in doubt, print it out), which may have helped get us into the financial shit-storm du-jour? Not explicitly, no. (Does Coke just up and give out its secret recipe for free? That’s what I thought.) Seven Piña coladas into happy hour in the Maldives, however, he did decide to say this:
We never had a sufficiently strong conviction about the risks that could lie ahead. As I noted earlier, we had been lulled into a state of complacency by the only modestly negative economic aftermaths of the stock market crash of 1987 and the dot-com boom. Given history, we believed that any declines in home prices would be gradual. Destabilizing debt problems were not perceived to arise under those conditions.
Threw this in there too:
For years the Federal Reserve had been concerned about the ever larger size of our financial institutions. Federal Reserve research had been unable to find economies of scale in banking beyond a modest-sized institution. A decade ago, citing such evidence, I noted that “megabanks being formed by growth and consolidation are increasingly complex entities that create the potential for unusually large systemic risks in the national and international economy should they fail.” Regrettably, we did little to address the problem.
The believers of Fed “easy money” policy as the root of the housing bubble correctly note that a low fed fund rate (at only 1% between mid-2003 and mid-2004) lowered interest rates for adjustable rate mortgages (ARM). That in turn, they claim, increased demand for homes financed by ARMs and hence were an important contributor to the emergence of the bubble.
Having said all that? Lest any of you pipsqueaks (Benji) even think about daring to pin one iota of blame for all this shit on him? THINK AGAIN. There was nothing that could’ve been do done. Read more »
Mr Zoellick said on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Singapore: “Traditionally the central banks in east Asia will follow the [US] Federal Reserve because if they raise interest rates [independently], that will draw capital and appreciate their currencies.
“In the US and Europe, because things are still relatively weak, I don’t see any likely inflationary effects at this stage. In east Asia, if you start to get a strong rebound in growth and you’ve got a lot of liquidity, there is a question of whether you start to face asset bubbles,” he said.
Zoellick’s warnings come hot on the heels of his partners-in-crime at the International Monetary Fund doubling their estimates for Asian economic growth this year.
But the most absurd and preposterous of all, and which showed, more completely than any other, the utter madness of the people, was one, started by an unknown adventurer, entitled “company for carrying on an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is.”
Were not the fact stated by scores of credible witnesses, it would be impossible to believe that any person could have been duped by such a project. The man of genius who essayed this bold and successful inroad upon public credulity, merely stated in his prospectus that the required capital was half a million, in five thousand shares of 100 pounds each, deposit 2 pounds per share. Each subscriber, paying his deposit, would be entitled to 100 pounds per annum per share. How this immense profit was to be obtained, he did not condescend to inform them at that time, but promised, that in a month full particulars should be duly announced, and a call made for the remaining 98 pounds of the subscription.
Next morning, at nine o’clock, this great man opened an office in Cornhill. Crowds of people beset his door, and when he shut up at three o’clock, he found that no less than one thousand shares had been subscribed for, and the deposits paid. He was thus, in five hours, the winner of 2,000 pounds. He was philosopher enough to be contented with his venture, and set off the same evening for the Continent.
He was never heard of again.
[Charles MacKay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, Volume One]