August 31, 2017

Perspective

FT – Taxpayers face lion’s share of $50bn storm Harvey bill – Alistair Gray 8/30

  • “Tropical storm Harvey is shaping up to be one of the three costliest natural disasters in modern US history.”
  • “As the system encircles the devastated region for a sixth consecutive day, some forecasters warn it may prove even more financially ruinous than superstorm Sandy and be topped only by Hurricane Katrina.”
  • “This time, however, the insurance industry — traditionally the backstop in tough times — is expected to avoid picking up much of the tab as many householders lack cover for flooding. Taxpayers are likely to cover a big chunk of the loss, but how much support the state will provide is far from clear.”
  • “Gary Martucci, director at the rating agency Standard & Poor’s, described the storm as ‘unique’ in that it released so much rainfall while its winds caused a small proportion of the devastation. Flood damage is particularly difficult to assess, not least because it makes it harder for loss adjusters to access stricken properties.”
  • “Many homeowners will not, in any case, be covered as standard US home insurance policies exclude flood damage. For decades the industry has been unprepared to underwrite flood risk because of the potential for catastrophic losses.”
  • “Householders can get cover from a government-backed scheme, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but only about one in six properties in the county in which Houston is located has the protection, according to Larry Greenberg, insurance analyst at Janney Montgomery.”
  • “Lawyers predict protracted disputes over insurance coverage — on issues ranging from the definition of flood damage to whether or not a property was rendered inaccessible.”
  • “Mr. Pasich (Kirk Pasich, attorney), who represents corporate policyholders, expects battles for years to come. ‘Some of the litigation that came out of Katrina is still going on,’ he said.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Kushners’ China Deal Flop Was Part of Much Bigger Hunt for Cash – David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby 8/31

MarketWatch – Amazon is actually the weakest of the big U.S. retailers, Moody’s says – Ciara Linnane 8/31

  • “The perception that as soon as Amazon enters a product category, it immediately wins is also flawed, said the analyst. While Amazon is clearly disruptive, it does not dominate any category in which it operates.”
  • Well maybe not ‘any’…very few companies have figured out the hype game so well (except for maybe Tesla and Bitcoin).

Project Syndicate – Odious Ratings for Public Debt – Ricardo Hausmann and Ugo Panizza 8/30

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: ADP – US Job Creation by Category 8/31

Real Estate

FT – Harvey floods prompt alert on risk of mortgage bond defaults – Joe Rennison 8/30

  • “Tropical storm Harvey has put up to $30bn of securitized commercial mortgages on the watch list of analysts and investors, as damage from the disaster has heightened the risk of defaults.”
  • “Morningstar Credit Ratings said 1,529 properties, with an outstanding mortgage balance of $19.4bn could be affected. The majority of the properties are in Harris County, which has suffered from severe floods since Harvey hit Texas as a hurricane on Friday.”
  • “Data company Trepp cast a wider geographical net and put the universe of affected loans at a larger $29.6bn across 2,200 properties.”
  • “Fitch Ratings estimates $10.4bn of loans in bonds it has provided credit ratings to could be impaired.”
  • “’The storm could add long-term uncertainty to the performance of the properties if homes are damaged and residents . . . are unable to move back promptly,’ Fitch said.”
  • “The risk centers on properties that may be uninsured against flood. The widespread impact of the hurricane means that properties outside traditional flood zones could be affected, said analysts. Other risks include the possibility that flooding may have left undamaged properties stranded. For example, a hotel may be open but if people cannot reach it, then it will suffer.”
  • “But Mr. Clancy (Manus Clancy, head of research at Trepp) added that damage from previous storms, such as from Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, had resulted in little knock-on effect to commercial mortgage-backed securities. Traders and analysts said there had been little noticeable effect in markets, with bonds trading without impairment on Wednesday.”
  • “’The market has not reacted in a way to assume assets will be written off,’ said Mr Clancy. ‘People want to know their Houston exposure but they are expecting there will be enough insurance proceeds to cover the value of the bonds.’”

FT – ‘Nonprime has a nice ring to it’: the return of the high-risk mortgage – Ben McLannahan 8/30

Energy

FT – Storm Harvey exposes Achilles heel for global energy market – Gregory Meyer and Jude Webber 8/31

  • “’It’s a major event. It’s going to impact both domestic and world markets,’ says John Auers, executive vice-president at Turner Mason, a consultancy.”
  • “The shale drilling boom catapulted the US into the top tier of oil and gas producers in the past decade. Refineries clustered in Texas and Louisiana have expanded and now export about 4m barrels per day of refined fuel overseas.”
  • “The US’s new status as an energy powerhouse has created a more flexible, diverse, and arguably resilient world fuel market.”
  • “But Harvey is exposing an Achilles heel: the concentration of US energy assets in a low-lying, hurricane-prone coastal corridor makes the world more exposed to local weather.”
  • “The immediate effects of the storm have been to knock out more than 3m barrels per day of oil refining capacity, or 16% of the US total, according to S&P Global Platts. Among the refineries to close was the nation’s largest, Motiva in Port Arthur, Texas, where nearly four feet of rain fell.”
  • “’There are huge amounts of US products that are not being delivered,’ says Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix, a Swiss-based consultancy. ‘The US is exporting so much compared to before, this is a major disruption for world oil flows.’”
  • “The Gulf’s energy industry may well recover quickly from Harvey, but the Atlantic hurricane season has months to go. On Thursday a storm named Irma was forecast to blow into the Caribbean as a major hurricane.”

FT – European fuel armada heads for US after tropical storm Harvey – David Sheppard 8/30

  • “A flotilla of European fuel tankers is preparing to sail to the US in the wake of tropical storm Harvey, as oil traders rush to replace supplies of petrol knocked out by the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years.”
  • “Shipbrokers in London said almost 40 cargoes of petrol had been booked or were being negotiated so far this week, well up on the usual volume, and traders were asking for flexibility to deliver either to the Atlantic seaboard or the Gulf Coast depending on when ports may reopen.”
  • “Tanker earnings for the transatlantic route, a proxy for demand, have soared almost six-fold in the past week, shipbrokers said, rising to more than $20,000 a day for the benchmark voyage, from $3,500 a week ago. The total number of shipments could still change because not all voyages are arranged through brokers, and some still being discussed may not be finalized. About 25 have already been fixed or are expected to be in the coming days.”

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – BB/BB- Spreads 8/31

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – B+/B Spreads 8/31

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – Debt Buyers 8/31

  • “This chart shows banks pulling out of corporate leveraged loans, as institutions (such as BDCs, CLOs, credit funds, hedge funds, etc.) pile into the market.”

China

Bloomberg – China’s $2 Trillion of Shadow Lending Throws Focus on Rust Belt – Jun Luo and Alfred Liu 8/29

  • “By analyzing 237 Chinese banks, many of them small and unlisted regional lenders, Bedford casts a new spotlight on underground financing and the risks it poses to the nation’s $35 trillion banking industry. Shadow loans grew almost 15 percent to 14.1 trillion yuan ($2.3 trillion) by December from a year earlier, equal to about 19% of economic output, he estimates.”
  • “’This is a sleeper issue,’ Bedford wrote. ‘The remarkable level of concentration in regional banks in rust-belt region banks, combined with evidence that these assets are increasingly being used to roll over loans to existing borrowers as well as being swapped between banks without a clear transfer of risk are alarming.’”
  • “Accounting for this financing, Chinese banks’ nonperforming loans could be three times higher than the official published level, he said.”
  • “By recording such lending under ‘investment receivables’ rather than ‘loans’ on their financial statements, banks were able to disguise what is in effect lending, to get around regulatory lending curbs or heavy reliance on wholesale funding. Such financial engineering also enabled some lenders to overstate their capital adequacy ratios, understate nonperforming loans and reduce provision charges.”

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