Speculation Away From Subprime, Part 2

What a week, huh? Even with all of my cash on hand, I did a little worse than the S&P 500. One house keeping note before I get started, the file problem from my last insurance post is fixed. On to speculation:

  1. When trading ended on Friday, my oscillator ended at the fourth most negative level ever. Going back to 1997, the other bad dates were May 2006, July 2002 and September 2001. At levels like this, we always get a bounce, at least, so far.
  2. We lost our NYSE feed on Bloomberg for the last 25 minutes of the trading day. Anyone else have a similar outage? I know Cramer is outraged over the break in the tape around 3PM, and how the lack of specialists exacerbated the move. Can’t say that I disagree; it may cost a little more to have an intermediated market, but if the specialist does his job (and many don’t), volatility is reduced, and panics are more slow to occur.
  3. Perhaps Babak at Trader’s Narrative would agree on the likelihood of a bounce, with the put/call ratio so high.
  4. The bond market on the whole responded rationally last week. There was a flight to quality. High yield spreads continued to move wider, and the more junky, the more widening. Less noticed: the yields on safe debt, high quality governments, agencies, mortgages, industrials and utilities fell, as the flight to quality benefitted high quality borrowers. Here’s another summary of the action on Thursday, though it should be noted that Treasury yields fell more than investment grade debt spreads rose.
  5. Shhhhh. I’m not sure I should say this, but maybe the investment banks are cheap here. I’ve seen several analyses showing that the exposure from LBO debt is small. Now there are other issues, but the investment banks generally benefit from increased volatility in their trading income.
  6. Comparisons to October 1987? My friend Aaron Pressman makes a bold effort, but I have to give the most serious difference between then and now. At the beginning of October 1987, BBB bonds yielded 7.05% more than the S&P 500 earnings yield. Today, that figure is closer to 0.40%. In October 1987, bonds were cheap to stocks; today it is the reverse.
  7. Along those same lines, if investment grade corporations continue to put up good earnings, this decline will reverse.
  8. Now, a trailing indicator is mutual fund flows. Selling equities and high yield? No surprise. Most retail investors shut the barn door after the cow has run off.
  9. Deals get scrapped, at least for now, and the overall risk tenor of the market shifts because player come to their senses, realizing that the risk is higher than the reward. El-Erian of Harvard may suggest that we have hit upon a regime change, but I would argue that such a judgment is premature. We have too many bright people looking for turning points, which may make a turning point less likely.
  10. Are we really going to have credit difficulties with prime loans? I have suggested as much at RealMoney over the past two years, to much disbelief. Falling house prices will have negative impacts everywhere in housing. Still, it more likely that Alt-A loans get negative results, given the lower underwriting standards involved.

We’re going to have to end it here. Part 3 will come Monday evening.