Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bailouts, CDS Defaults, and DeJa Vu

The historic bailout of Fannie and Freddie by the US Treasury turned out to be only one story in a very interesting and volatile trading day yesterday.  The repercussions of the Treasury's action will be weighed for some time, however, the tightening of mortgage bond spreads seems to be the most positive immediate benefit of the plan.  Spreads on agency MBS came in around 40 basis points, giving the entire banking sector a nice mark-to-market gain.  Interestingly, this was a huge boost to Paulson's equity investment in Fannie and Freddie, as the two firms hold enormous mortgage portfolios.  It appears as if Mr. Paulson learned a thing or two about front-running a trade from his time at Goldman.  The tightening of mortgage spreads, however, did not filter out into the rest of the bond market, indicating that the credit markets are still nervous.
Falling in the category of significant unintended consequences of the bailout was the event of default triggered in the CDS market by the conservatorship.  The ISDA will settle the CDS through cash auctions that will likely take 30 days.  It should prove to be nothing more than a back-office nightmare, unless, of course, somebody finds a huge out-trade.  Apparently the CDS market has grown exponentially, despite the fact that the settlement process is performed through the use of fax machines rather than electronic confirms.  I predict at least a few cases of "No no no!  We definitely sold these.  We were not buyers!  I don't care what your stupid confirm says.  Look it doesn't matter that I can't actually find and produce my confirm, my trader says it was a sell and there is no way I'm going to tell him that I can't find the confirm!"

In bizarre and completely unrelated news, UAL declared bankruptcy in 2002.  Unfortunately, the story was so compelling that it was posted as a new headline yesterday and picked up by Bloomberg.  I suppose it seemed so probable that UAL could file for bankruptcy again, that investors didn't even bother to actually read the story before dumping the stock.  UAL adamantly denied the filing and the error was eventually discovered.  For savvy traders who were paying attention, there was a small window of opportunity to buy UAL at $3 before trading was halted.  
The Lehman saga continues unabated.  Reports this morning about KDB officially ending talks about taking a significant stake in the firm are crushing the stock.  Lehman's options for a private sector rescue continue to narrow, which means its days are numbered.  Something tells me that by the end of the week the enthusiasm surrounding the bailout of Fannie and Freddie will be a distant memory.


Oscar said...

I'm going to have to start my own blog. First headline will be "LEH Tanks after K10 Publishes Bearish Post"! Stock dropped $3 within 10 minutes of the post. K10 is in the know!

K10 said...

Thanks Mr. Grouch. But seriously, did everyone really just figure out today that the KDB thing was a joke? This may be worthy of another post...