Friday, January 16, 2015

16/1/2015: S&P Capital IQ Global Sovereign Debt Report: Q4 2014

S&P Capital IQ’s Global Sovereign Debt Report is out for Q4 2014, with some interesting, albeit already known trends. Still, a good summary.

Per S&P Capital IQ: "The dramatic fall in oil prices dominated the news in Q4 2014, affecting the credit default swaps (CDS) and bond spreads of major oil producing sovereigns which have a dependence on oil revenues. Venezuela, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Nigeria all widened as the price of oil plummeted over 40%. Separately, Greece also saw a major deterioration in CDS levels as it faces a possible early election."

And "Globally, CDS spreads widened 16%."

No surprises, as I said, but the 16% rise globally is quite telling, especially given CDS and bond swaps for the advanced economies have been largely on a downward trend. The result is: commodities slump and dollar appreciation are hitting emerging markets hard. Not just Russia and Ukraine, but across the board.

Some big moves on the upside of risks:

  • "Venezuela remains at the top of the table of the most risky sovereign credits following Argentina’s default in Q3 2014, resulting in its removal from the report, with spreads widening 169% and the 5Y CDS implied cumulative default probability (CPD) moving from 66% to 89%." 
  • The only major risk source, unrelated to commodities prices is Greece where CDS spreads "widened to 1281bps - an election as early as January could see a change of government and fears over a possible exit from the Eurozone have affected CDS prices." 
  • "Russia enters the top 10 most risky table as CDS spreads widened around 90% following the fall in oil price which is adding more pressure to an economy already subject to continued economic sanctions." 
  • "Ukraine CDS spreads also widened by 90%." 
  • "CDS quoting for Nigeria remained extremely low throughout the last quarter of 2014. Bond Z-Spreads widened 150bps for the Bonds maturing in January 2021 and July 2023 but remained very active." 

Venezuela and Ukraine are clear 'leaders' in terms of risks - two candidates for default next.

Other top-10 are charted over time below:

Again, per S&P Capital IQ:

  • "The CDS market now implies an 11% probability (down from 34% in Q3 2014) that Venezuela will meet all its debt obligations over the next 5 years, as oil prices dropped 40% in Q4 2014." 
  • "Russia and Ukraine CDS spreads widened 90% during Q4 2014. The Russia CDS curve also inverted this quarter with the 1Y CDS level higher than the 5Y. Curve inversion occurs when investors become concerned about a potential ‘jump to default’ and buy short dated as opposed to 5Y protection." This, of course, is tied to the risks relating to bonds redemptions due in H1 2015, which are peaking in the first 6 months of the year, followed by still substantial call on redemptions in H2 (some details here: As readers of the blog know, I have been tracking Russian and Ukrainian CDS for some time, especially during the peak of the Ruble crisis last month - you can see some comparatives in a more dynamic setting here: and in precedent links, by searching the blog for "CDS".
  • "Greece, which restructured debt in March 2012, returned to the debt markets this year. CDS spreads widened to 1281bps and the 4.75Y April 2019 Bonds, which were issued with a yield of 4.95%, now trade with a yield of over 10%, according to S&P Capital IQ Bond Quotes." 

By percentage widening, the picture is much the same:

So all together - a rather unhappy picture in the emerging markets - a knock on effect of oil prices collapse, decline across all major commodities prices, dollar appreciation and the risk of higher US interest rates (the last two factors weighing heavily on the risk of USD carry trades unwinding) - all are having significant adverse effect across all EMs. Russia is facing added pressures from the sanctions, but even absent these things would be pretty tough.

Note 1: latest pressure on Ukraine is from the risk of Russia potentially calling in USD3 billion loan extended in December 2013. Kiev has now breached loan covenants and as it expects to receive EUR1.8 billion worth of EU loans next, Moscow can call in the loans. The added driver here (in addition to Moscow actually needing all cash it can get) is the risk that George Soros is trying to get his own holdings of Ukrainian debt prioritised for repayment. These holdings have been a persistent rumour in the media as Soros engaged in a massive, active and quite open campaign to convince Western governments of the need to pump billions into the Ukrainian economy. Still, all major media outlets are providing Soros with a ready platform to advance his views, without questioning or reporting his potential conflicts of interest. 

Note 2: Not being George Soros, I should probably disclose that I hold zero exposures (short or long) to either Ukrainian or Russian debt. My currency exposure to Hrivna is nil, to Ruble is RUB3,550 (to cover taxi fare from airport to the city centre on my next trip). Despite all these differences with Mr Soros, I agree that Ukraine needs much more significant aid for rebuilding and investment. Only I would restrict its terms of use not to repay billionaires' and oligarchs' debts but to provide real investment in competitive and non-corrupt enterprises.
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