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from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – ‘You don’t wanna go long into the weekend’

Get ready for one of those days where people say a lot about not wanting to be “long going into the weekend.” Except perhaps in bond markets, where the rush to government debt intensified with President Obama’s remarks that the US is ready to provide air support through airstrikes against ISIS, which now controls a big swath of Syria and Northern Iraq. That’s forced a big move into U.S. and German yields, among other things, which is undermining some of the recent strength in the dollar as well. (That’s not to say it’s a strong-euro move, more of a weak-dollar move, given the declines in the dollar against the yen as well.)

What’s striking here about the rallies in U.S. debt and German debt is that even though there’s a substantial safe-haven bid behind both markets, the difference is the German 2/10 spread has narrowed from about 1.73 percentage points to 1.04 percentage points since the beginning of the year thanks to a big move in the 10-year, a bull “flattening” trade that reflects ongoing concerns about economic growth in Germany, and more broadly, in Europe.

The United States has also seen a flattening as well, and also about 60 basis points, from 2.59 percentage points to 1.97 percentage points. There’s a slight rise in the two-year note embedded in this move, though, and while the 60-basis-point move in the US 2/10 isn’t as big as the 70-bp move in Germany, it’s still significant.

The US yield curve remains relatively steep.

The US yield curve remains relatively steep.

The difference is that the difference of two percentage points is still closer to the historic norm that suggests a stronger economic outlook. Short-dated rates are of course being held back by the Fed and ECB, but that’s becoming less so on the U.S. side of the equation. Either way, the move below 2.40 percent and the big increase in central bank custody holdings ($28 billion this week) supports the idea that there are growing worries, mostly of a global political nature, that are affecting markets right now that’s likely to persist in a vacuum where earnings season is winding down and economic figures have been relatively consistent.

from Breakingviews:

Euro zone’s biggest problem is debt, not slow growth

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Suppose that the euro zone economy was exactly the same as it is now, except that the ratio of sovereign debt to GDP was 9 percent instead of 92 percent. In that alternative reality, recent economic data would be depressing, but not worrying.

from Breakingviews:

BES bail-in leaves CDS traders struck out

By Neil Unmack

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Banco Espirito Santo’s bail-in has been a nice earner for some bond traders. Anyone who bet that Portuguese authorities would save senior creditors but burn bonds lower down has made a killing. But anyone who tried to follow suit with BES credit default swaps will be feeling much less cheery.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – On GDP, the Fed, Argentina, and lots of other things

To paraphrase Kevin Costner in Bull Durham, we’re dealing with a lot of stuff here. The U.S. economy did end up rebounding in the second quarter, with a 4 percent rate of growth that’s much better than anyone anticipated – and the first-quarter decline was revised to something less horrible, so investors worried about the economy are a bit less freaked out at this particular moment.

Of course, that still means that the economy only grew 0.9 percent in the first half of the year, and that’s not all that amazing, but the economy in the second quarter grew in areas that matter the most – business spending, consumer spending and to a lesser extent government, which was such a drag on GDP for a good long time that can’t be just ignored. In tandem with the GDP figure, the ADP report said 218,000 jobs were added for private payrolls for July, another strong month that portends a good showing out of the Labor Department figures on Friday. That’s all at a time when the housing indicators continue to weaken, which is still a concern, and some even believe that auto sales have probably hit their apex as well for this cycle, given so much of the buying was based on incentives, but we’ll get better clarity on that on Friday.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Tango de la default

Red letter day for Argentina comes tomorrow, with the holdout investors and the South American nation coming down to the wire on a potential deal that would offer the holdouts something better than what everyone else agreed to in 2005 and 2010. Without getting into issues of vultures vs. violating debt agreements, the situation probably comes down to three scenarios.

First, Argentina defaults. One cannot underestimate this too much – Argentina has already defaulted before, and the stakes are nowhere near as high for the country as they were the first time. But it is still pretty darned damaging – it puts the country into another level of pariah with international capital markets (double secret probation, and here’s where we once again note that had John Vernon lived, he would have solved this whole mess), it causes even more capital flight from the country and worsens the outlook for the currency, which is already trading at a level much lousier than the going real rate.

from Breakingviews:

Portugal Telecom pays the price for weak controls

By Fiona Maharg-Bravo and Christopher Swann

The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The show will go on. Portugal Telecom and Brazil’s Oi are forging ahead with their planned merger after an Espirito Santo group company failed to repay a $1.1 billion loan to PT. The Portuguese telco is paying the price for its weak controls over its own cash management. Its shareholders will now hold a smaller stake in the group it planned to form with Brazil’s Oi.

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Next for Puerto Rico, Argentina and the Fed

The market's recent chatter has revolved specifically around whether the strength in the jobs figure from last week moves forward the expected timing of the first interest-rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

The answer: yes, but probably by not that much. Jobs growth of 288,000 for June was better than expected, and that 6.1 percent unemployment rate looms large for those who figured the Fed would be ready to start raising rates after at least 6.5 percent was surpassed. So we're there on that, but as Kristina Hooper of Allianz points out, the wage growth seen hasn't been terribly strong, and the types of jobs being created – a lot of which are in lower-paying industries like retail – don't portend the same kind of economic strength that might have been manifest by now in other iterations of U.S. recoveries.

from Edward Hadas:

The stupidity of student debt

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The fast increase in loans to pay for higher education is a trend that is moving in the wrong direction. The idea that borrowing should play an important role in financing higher education, now standard thinking in the United States and the United Kingdom, is financially dangerous and economically wrongheaded.

from Global Investing:

Ecuador: a successful emerging market?

A colleague of mine, Marius Zaharia (@MZaharia) interviewed Moritz Kraemer, Standard and Poor's head of sovereign ratings for Europe, Middle East and Africa. (you can read the interview here) Kraemer offered this piece of advice to the African governments who are busily tapping bond markets these days:

    What I want to tell all those governments in africa is that you are not a successful market participant when you've issued your first eurobond. You are a successful participant when you've paid it back for the first time.   

from Counterparties:

MORNING BID – Climbing the Wall

Eventually, lack of volatility, rock-bottom rates and this accommodating monetary policy will realize the build-up of excesses that causes some kind of market crack that devastates people - particularly in areas where many do not expect it. But it won't be today, and investors should continue to ride that so-called Wall of Worry through the 2,000 mark on the S&P 500 before long.

Goldman Sachs strategists note in a piece overnight that volatility is likely to remain lower for longer, but the slowness of the economic expansion and the additional regulations as a result of the financial market crisis of 2008 mean that the buildup of those speculative excesses is happening at a much slower rate. That's not to say they aren't out there - Brian Reynolds of Rosenblatt Securities is adamant that we are now in a "runaway bull market," which of course usually ends in tears for someone, but again, not today.

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