It is way to early to take cheer, but some of the stress in the money markets is backing off a bit. The TED spread is below 4, and ten year credit swap spreads were down to 45 basis points, which is a serious improvement and a genuine positive sign. From Bloomberg:
The spread between the rate on 10- year interest-rate swaps and Treasury yields collapsed to the least since before credit
markets began to seize last year after coordinated central bank rate cuts.
The spread narrowed to as low as 44.94 basis points, the smallest since Feb. 6, 2007. The differences, or gaps, between swap rates of most maturities over corresponding Treasury yields are down today. The 10-year swap spread was 52.25 basis points at 3:06 p.m. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
“The movement in the 10-year swap spread is signaling a break in the upward trend in credit spreads,” said Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. The movement “is probably hinting at a drop in the two-year swap spread, which if it occurs would strongly signal an easing of pressures in the inter-bank market.”
Two-year swap spreads are often used as a gauge of credit concern and near-term expectations for the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. The two-year swap spread is down almost 1 basis points to 133 basis points. It reached 167.25 basis points on Oct. 2, the widest since Bloomberg began compiling the data in 1988.
Swap rates serve as benchmarks for investors in many types of debt often purchased with borrowed money, including mortgage- backed securities and auto-loan securities. Narrower swap spreads can push borrowing costs lower even if Treasury yields are steady.
However, a big offset that might rattle some nerves is how badly today’s Treasury bond sales went, per John Jansen. The result appears in large measure due to Treasury clumsiness, but this market is not in the mood to hear more bad news:
The auction of the May 2015 issue was an amazing occurrence. The Treasury gave the dealer community about an hour to underwrite $10 billion of supply. That was a big mistake. I always kid that in the underwriting process it is the job of the dealer community to shoot the taxpayer in the big toe. In this instance they amputated a leg instead.
Let me explain. There once was an active and deep market for off the run Treasury paper. An off the run is an issue offered by the Treasury at another time which has now rolled down the yield curve. Several of these issues mature in about 6 years. They were originally sold as 10 year notes. They have lost on the run status and qualify as off the run.
So the first issue in the queue was the May 2015 issue. Unfortunately, I do not have precise yield levels but will try and back into the answer. The auction average was 3.31 percent. I am told by participants that the 3.31 percent yield was 40 basis points cheap to the level which prevailed in the market prior to the auction. The point is that in order to rustle up the $10 billion of bids to clear the $10 billion auction the Treasury had to reach 40 basis points from market levels.
In bond market jargon that 40 basis points is known as a “tail” or the number of basis points from where the issue was to the level at which it stopped. Most auctions come “on the screws” which is more jargon for the notion that they come essentially where they are trading at auction times. A typical “sloppy” auction might “tail” 2 basis points. There are 5 basis point tails and I can recall 10 basis points and even 15 basis point tails. They are rare. Extremely. In all my years I can not recall a 40 basis point tail and shall proclaim this the record holder.
Now to place that in dollars and sense terms for the taxpayers of the USA I offer this. On that bond every basis point is worth a little more than $600 per million bonds. Multiply by 40 basis points and you get $24,000 per million. The auction size of $10 billion equates to 10000 million. Multiply by 24,000 and the product is $240,000,000.
In a market to market sense it cost the taxpayers that enormous sum to underwrite the auction today.