Fed INCREASES $4.2 Trillion Balance Sheet By (Drumroll) … $1 Million

The Federal Reserve is shrinking their prodigious balance sheet by baby steps.  Like Steve Martin doing Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.

According to the NY Fed, their securites holdings INCREASED by $1 million from th previous week rather than shrinking it. Not decreased, mind you,  but INCREASED.

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T-note and T-bond holding remained the same while Agency MBS holdings rose by $1 million.

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Way to unwind, Fed!

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A Huge Player (Kingpin) in VIX Options Just Changed Its Buying Behavior (Elephant Trades)

Kingpin? Like the movie with Woody Harrelson and Randy Quaid about bowling?

(Bloomberg) — Trading patterns associated with the new kingpin in volatility options resurfaced on Wednesday, hours before concerns about trade protectionism roiled markets.

The so-called “VIX Elephant” — the moniker bestowed upon the options giant by Macro Risk Advisors head of derivatives strategy Pravit Chintawongvanich — traded more than 2 million contracts, closing out positions in January VIX options and rolling the trade over to same-strike options that mature the following month.

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This entailed buying back 262,500 January VIX puts with a strike price of 12, selling 262,500 15 calls, and buying back 525,000 25 calls in order to close out the existing position. Then, the new position was established by selling 262,500 12 February puts, buying 262,500 15 calls, and selling 525,000 25 calls.

This particular trade, which stands to gain should implied equity volatility rise moderately, confirms a definitive shift in the Elephant’s buying and selling patterns.

“While the ‘Elephant’ originally traded three-month options, rolling after two months, they appear to have switched to a one-month cycle,” the strategist writes.

Daily volume in options tied to the Cboe Volatility Index hit their second-highest level on record Wednesday, exceeded only by the last time the Elephant — joined by another mystery volatility buyer known as “50 Cent” — went on the stampede at the start of December.

The 1 year holding period return (HRP) for the VIX is -13.85%.

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The timing of that roll proved fortuitous: a spike in implied volatility allowed the Elephant’s previous positions to be closed at a loss of $2 million rather than $20 to $30 million.

However, Chintawongvanich estimates that this trader is down roughly $35 million since then as market calm prevailed.

“More generally, the ‘Elephant’ trades reflect a trend towards low premium outlay hedges with minimal convexity,” the strategist concludes. “Clients we talk to have been more interested in VIX call flies or S&P put flies that carry well and have a fairly low initial cost, but may not mark up as much as an outright option in a risk-off scenario.”

In other words, this Elephant might soon be seeing a new animal on safari: copycats.

The Fed has just begun raising rates (only back to October 2008 levels) and barely unwinding their balance sheet. Apparently, there is considerable concern over an unraveling on the stock market with further rate increases/unwinding.

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True,  the trade picture is murky as is The Fed’s will to further raise rates and unwind its balance sheet.

10-year Treasury note volality remains extremely low with all the Central Bank microaggression.

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Did someone mention Kingpin?

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Is The Fed Short Volatility? (Or Is Jerome Powell Actually Thurston Powell III?)

The Federal Reserve doesn’t activley manage its interest rate exposure on its over $4 trillion balance sheet. Yet it purchases and sells Treasury Notes/Bonds and Agency Mortgage-backed Securities (AgMBS) in a measured way to impact interest rates.

Chris Whalen has a nice writeup on Fed Chair (to be) Jermore Powell’s thoughts on expanding and then shrinking the balance sheet.

[W]hen it is time for us to sell, or even to stop buying, the response could be quite strong; there is every reason to expect a strong response. So there are a couple of ways to look at it. It is about $1.2 trillion in sales; you take 60 months, you get about $20 billion a month. That is a very doable thing, it sounds like, in a market where the norm by the middle of next year is $80 billion a month. Another way to look at it, though, is that it’s not so much the sale, the duration; it’s also unloading our short volatility position.

we look like we are blowing a fixed-income duration bubble right across the credit spectrum that will result in big losses when rates come up down the road. You can almost say that that is our strategy.

I hope Powell’s messaging skills have improved since 2012 when he uttered these words. He does sound more like billionaire Thurston Howell III than a future Fed Chair.

Yes, The Federal Reserve can manipulate interest rates through its policies and INFLUENCE the volatility and duration of Treasuries and Agency MBS. (He should have made that clear, particularly for Agency MBS).

Here is a chart of U.S. JP Morgan Treasury Investor Sentiment Active Client Net Long positions are The Fed has been SLOWLY unwinding its Treasury Note/Bond portfolio over the past year. Notice that net long sentiment is in negative territory.

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For Treasury shorts, the investor sentiment has been rising with the slight T-note/bond unwind.jpmsohr.png

10-year Treasury Note volatility remains repressed despite the teeny sales of The Fed’s balance sheet.

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It really does look like The Fed is scared to actually try to unwind its balance sheet, particularly for Agency MBS extention risk where duration (risk) rises with rate increases. Particularly since we are in a low rate environment where small rate increases can crush note/bond/MBS prices.

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Here is a photo of the next Fed Chair, Jerome Powell.

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When do we start calling Powell “The Skipper”? And who gets to be Vice Chair “Gilligan”?

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Sloth-like Fed Shrinks Balance Sheet By 0.14% Or $6 Billion (Will Take 700 Weeks or 13.46 Years To Unwind)

The good news? The Fed continued to unwind its $4.4 TRILLION balance sheet.

The bad news? The Fed is shrinking it at sloth-like speed.

As an example, the latest SOMA report from the Fed on New York saw a $6 billion decline in the Fed balance sheet. That is only 0.14% per week. At this rate, it will take over 700 weeks (or 13.46 years) to unwind.

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This week, Treasury notes and Treasury bonds were the primary driver of the decline. Agency MBS? Not so much.

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Here is a video of Fed Chair Janet Yellen shrinking The Fed’s balance sheet.

Yellen’s last presentation.

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In(som)nia: Fed Fails To Sell T-notes/T-bonds AGAIN! Balance Sheet Back To Trump Election Week (All Agency MBS Sales)

Yawn! Another week goes by in December another week without The Federal Reserve of New York selling any of its Treasury Notes and Treasury Bonds held in SOMA (System Open Market Account).

SOMA holdings (aka, the assets on The Fed’s balance sheet) fell -$10.5 billion from the previous week.

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However, none of the sales were of Treasury Notes or Treasury Bonds. It was all agency MBS.

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SOMA (balance sheet) holdings are back to election week 2016.

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I am getting insomnia waiting for The Fed to seriously start shrinking their balance sheet.

Meanwhile, both the 30Y-2Y and 10Y-2Y Treasury curves are back to October 2007 levels.

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It is almost as if The Fed was … paranoid.