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CORPORATE PENSION DEFICITS - ~ $423B 09/17/15 THESIS 28 - Pension - Entitlement Crisis

To be sure, we’ve written quite a bit about both public and private pension plans this year. Most notably, we’ve chronicled the deplorable state of the pension system in Illinois, where a State Supreme Court ruling in May set a de facto precedent for pension reform bids across the country. 

But while the focus - here and elsewhere thanks to America’s growing state and local government fiscal crisis - has been on the public sector, seven years of ZIRP has taken its toll on private sector pension plans. 

We touched on this briefly in March when we noted that ECB QE could end up widening pension deficits dramatically and as FT reported last month, “UK companies are paying less towards meeting their pension shortfalls than at any point since 2009, even as aggregate pension deficits reach their highest level in five years.” 

For those wondering about the extent to which falling discount rates have served to create a giant, multi-hundred billion dollar underfunded liability for S&P companies, look no further than the following graphic from Citi’s Matt King which should come with a caption that reads: “You’re welcome pensioners -- The Fed.” 

More color, from Mercer:

The estimated aggregate funding level of pension plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies dropped by 2% to 81% as of August 31st, 2015, rising interest rates mitigated losses in equity markets. As of August 31st, 2015, the estimated aggregate deficit of $423 billion USD increased by $44 billion as compared to the end of July. Funded status is now up by $81 billion USD from the $504 billion USD deficit measured at the end of 2014, according to Mercer,[1] a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers.

S&P 1500 Pension Funded Status Weathers Volatile Month; 2% Decline in Funded Status

  • September 1, 2015
  • United States, New York

The estimated aggregate funding level of pension plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies dropped by 2% to 81% as of August 31st, 2015, rising interest rates mitigated losses in equity markets. As of August 31st, 2015, the estimated aggregate deficit of $423 billion USD increased by $44 billion as compared to the end of July. Funded status is now up by $81 billion USD from the $504 billion USD deficit measured at the end of 2014, according to Mercer,[1] a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC).

The S&P 500 index lost 6.3% and the MSCI EAFE index lost 7.6% in August. Typical discount rates for pension plans as measured by the Mercer Yield Curve increased by approximately 11 basis points to 4.22 percent.

“While the decline for the month was only 2%, August was a very bumpy ride for plan sponsors,” said Matt McDaniel, a Partner in Mercer’s Retirement business.  “Turmoil in equity markets stemming from concerns in China led to a decrease in funded status of more than 5% through August 24th.  Fortunately, a partial recovery, combined with a rise in discount rates late in the month, allowed pension plans to recover much of the loss.”

Mercer estimates the aggregate funded status position of plans sponsored by S&P 1500 companies on a monthly basis. Figure 1 shows the estimated aggregate surplus/(deficit) position and the funded status of all plans sponsored by companies in the S&P 1500. The estimates are based on each company’s year-end statement[2] and by projections to August 31, 2015 in line with financial indices. The estimates include US domestic qualified and non-qualified plans and all non-domestic plans. The estimated aggregate value of pension plan assets of the S&P 1500 companies as of July 31, 2015, was $1.84 trillion USD, as compared with estimated aggregate liabilities of $2.22 trillion USD. Allowing for changes in financial markets through August 31, 2015, changes to the S&P 1500 constituents, and newly released financial disclosures, at the end of August the estimated aggregate assets were $1.77 trillion USD, compared with the estimated aggregate liabilities of $2.20 trillion USD. Figure 2 shows the interest rates used in Mercer’s pension funding calculation.

Notes for editors

Information on the Mercer Yield Curve is available at http://www.mercer.com/pensiondiscount.

The Mercer US Pension Buyout Index may be accessed at www.mercer.com/US-pension-buyout-index.

Unless otherwise stated, the calculations are based on the Financial Accounting Standard (FAS) funding position and include analysis of the S&P 1500 companies.

Figure 1 : Estimated aggregate surplus/(deficit) position and the funded status of all plans sponsored by companies in the S&P 1500

 

Source: Mercer, August 2015

See Figure 2 for High Quality Corporate Bond Yield and S&P 500 data points.

Figure 2: Sample Data Points:

Date

High Quality Corporate Bond Yield[3]

S&P 500 Index[4]

December 31, 2007

6.40%

1,468.36

June 30, 2008

6.97%

1,280.00

December 31, 2008

6.34%

903.25

June 30, 2009

6.79%

919.32

December 31, 2009

5.98%

1,115.10

June 30, 2010

5.33%

1,030.71

December 31, 2010

5.33%

1,257.64

June 30, 2011

5.40%

1,320.64

December 31, 2011

4.55%

1,257.60

June 30, 2012

3.87%

1,362.16

December 31, 2012

3.71%

1,426.19

June 30, 2013

4.49%

1,606.28

December 31, 2013

4.69%

1,848.36

June 30, 2014

4.07%

1,960.23

December 31, 2014

3.81%

2,058.90

March 31, 2015

3.62%

2,067.89

June 30, 2015

4.28%

2,063.11

July 31, 2015

4.11%

2,103.84

August 31, 2015

4.22%

1,972.18

 

 

MOST CRITICAL TIPPING POINT ARTICLES THIS WEEK -Sept 13th, 2015 - Sept. 19th, 2015      
BOND BUBBLE     1
RISK REVERSAL - WOULD BE MARKED BY: Slowing Momentum, Weakening Earnings, Falling Estimates     2
GEO-POLITICAL EVENT     3
CHINA BUBBLE     4
JAPAN - DEBT DEFLATION     5

EU BANKING CRISIS

   

6

      16 - Credit Contraction II
ALL EYES ON CREDIT

Awaiting The Spark?

Alhambra Investment Partners

The new week opens much the same as last week traded, with narrow ranges abounding in risky asset prices. From leveraged loans to junk debt, funding markets continue to run the correlations. From this “dollar” view, the lack of “buying” interest in the corporate bubble, bargain value or not, may more properly be understood as lack of “funding” interest. On that point, as noted earlier today, banks are the only aspect to really consider as both the near-term acceleration and long-term decaying structure.

From unsecured eurodollars (LIBOR) to eurodollar futures, the funding market structure remains unkind toward assuming risk again. There is an uncomfortable closeness to the worst parts around August 24 that more than suggests an almost uniform aversion; data and events since then haven’t exactly been reassuring (and not just China), so there is, for once, some sanity and sense here (another indication of how much the cycle has turned already).

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont 12M LIBOR

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont LIBOR

While 12-month LIBOR has been the been the primary mover since December, it is really 3-month LIBOR that I think is perhaps the focal point or central axis of (il)liquidity. Friday’s read of 33.72 bps is the highest since October 2012 just before the first MBS trades on QE3 settled. In eurodollars, the curve inside of 2020 remains largely the same as its flatness of August 24. Given that the outer maturities have steepened that portion, it is significant that the “money part” of the curve (where about $10 trillion in open interest is traded and held) refuses to budge no matter the do’s and don’ts of this week’s FOMC melodrama.

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont Eurodollar Curve

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont Eurodollar June 18

The funding view seems quite proportional to the corporate bubble pricing regime. On the S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan 100, the market value index remains barely above 950, not really much different than the August 26 low of 947.85. The rest of the junk bond pricing views are similarly depressed to differing degrees.

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont Lev Loan 100

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont BofAML CCC

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont BofAML MasterII

ABOOK Sept 2015 Risk Cont BofAML AAA Spread

As mentioned last week, the primary problem here is time. August 24 was three weeks ago and it is increasingly clear that nothing was settled by the liquidations and disruptions. That possibility threatens to turn what might have been temporary adjustments in not just risky positions themselves but open and easily offered leverage into a more permanent and structural shift.

Obviously, that has been the case going back to last year’s “dollar” turn and even to the high point in the junk credit cycle in May 2013. But as each of these individual “events” fail to find a durable point of stability (like even a potential bottom) and the downside momentum only accelerates with each, the risk systemically becomes more about the size of the exits than whether they would actually become necessary. The fact that outward liquidity and prices seem so very linked in the aftermath suggests we may have already arrived at that point and that institutional positions remain far more than wary of it.

The real downside is where those two points intersect; funding contracts further, narrowing the exits, while the volume of those reaching for them at the same time increases exponentially into a self-reinforcing spiral. It is very much like two massive armies having already been mobilized staring directly at each other awaiting only a small spark to set “it” off.

ABOOK June 2015 Bubble Risk Subprime to Junk Lev Loans CLOs

 

TO TOP
MACRO News Items of Importance - This Week

GLOBAL MACRO REPORTS & ANALYSIS

     
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/15/2015 18:01

WTO's Stark Warning On Global Trade: "The Timing Belt On The Global Growth Engine Is Off"

One narrative we’ve built on this year is that the subpar character of the global economic recovery isn’t just a consequence of a transient downturn in demand from China whose transition from an investment-led, smokestack economy towards a model driven by consumption and services has effectively caused the engine of global growth to stall. Rather, it seems entirely possible that an epochal shift has taken place in the post-crisis world and the downturn in global trade which many had assumed was merely cyclical, may in fact be structural and endemic. 

We touched on this in “Emerging Market Mayhem: Gross Warns Of ‘Debacle’ As Currencies, Bonds Collapse,” when we highlighted a WSJ piece that contained the following rather disconcerting passage: “Central to this emerging-market slump is the unprecedented weakness of world trade, which has now grown by less than global output for the past four years, unique since World War II.”

This echoes concerns we voiced in May, when BofAML was out warning that if “wobbling” global trade turned out to be structural rather than cyclical, “then EM economies should not count on meaningful demand boosts coming from above-trend growth in DM.”

Most recently, we looked at freight rates (which, incidentally, Goldman predicted earlier this year will remain subdued until 2020) noting that despite a dead cat bounce in the Baltic Dry, “freight rates on the world’s busiest shipping route have tanked this year due to overcapacity in available vessels and sluggish demand for transported goods. Rates generally deemed profitable for shipping companies on the route are at about US$800-US$1,000 per TEU. In other words, at current prices shippers are losing half a dollar on every booked contractual dollar at current rates.”

Now, WSJ is back with a fresh look at the new normal for global trade and unsurprisingly, the picture they paint based largely on WTO data and projections, is not pretty. Here’s more:

For the third year in a row, the rate of growth in global trade is set to trail the already sluggish expansion of the world economy, according to data from the World Trade Organization and projections from leading economists.

Before the recent slump, the last time trade growth underperformed the rate of an economic expansion was 1985.

“We have seen this burst of globalization, and now we’re at a point of consolidation, maybe retrenchment,” said WTO chief economist Robert Koopman. “It’s almost like the timing belt on the global growth engine is a bit off or the cylinders are not firing as they should.”

Since rebounding sharply in 2010 after the financial crisis, trade growth has averaged only about 3% a year, compared with 6% a year from 1983 to 2008, the WTO says.

Few see any signs that trade will soon regain its previous pace of growth, which was double the rate of economic expansion before 2008. In 2006, global trade volumes grew 8.5%, compared with a 4% expansion in global GDP.

This year the WTO is expected to cut its 2015 trade forecast a second time after a sudden contraction in the first half of the year—the first such decline since 2009.

“It’s fairly obvious that we reached peak trade in 2007,” said Scott Miller, trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

And this, bear in mind, is the environment into which the Fed intends to hike, even as the emerging economies which have been hit the hardest by the slowdown in trade (which has served to depress commodities and wreak havoc on commodity currencies) would likely suffer from accelerated capital outflows in the wake of an FOMC liftoff. 

What's also notable here is that this comes as central banks have engaged in round after round of easing in a desperate, multi-trillion quest to boost global growth, suggesting that competitive devaluations are a zero sum game and to the extent that individual countries can boost exports in the short term by devaluing, that gain comes at someone else's expense, meaning, in The Journal's words, "foreign-exchange moves have little chance of raising trade overall" and even if they did, the backdrop of depressed demand means that what many EMs are producing, no one now wants, irrespective of how cheap it may be.

Make no mistake, the most worrying part of the new normal for trade is what it portends for emerging markets. We've already seen Brazil's investment grade rating cut by S&P as the country careens headlong into fiscal, political, and economic crises. As Morgan Stanley put it in August, Brazil is the epicenter and one can reasonably expect that other EMs will follow in its footsteps should the WTO's projections about the sturctural nature of depressed global demand and trade prove accurate. What comes next is the descent of the emerging world into frontier status, and as we've put it on several occasions, after that it will be time to break out the humanitarian aid packages.

Of course, as we mentioned late last month, there is one more possibility: central banks could learn how to print trade. 

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 09/15/2015

Destroying The "There Are No Signs Of An Imminent Recession" Meme In 4 Chart

Day after day investors are treated to 5-Star Morningstar managers, so-called "strategists", economissseds with entire religions on the line, and circus barkers who proclaim that: a) The US is decoupled from the rest of the world; and/or b) The US is the cleanest dirty shirt; an/or c) There are no indications that the US economy is near a recession. Here are four simple charts - from, just today's data - that destroy this glass half full and rose-colored ignorance of reality...

1) Business Inventories-to-Sales are at recesssion-inducing levels...

1a) Sidenote 1 - Wholesale Inventories relative to sales have NEVER been higher...

1b) Sidenote 2 - here is why that is a problem...

2) Industrial Production is - as would expeted given the inventories - rolling over into recession territory...

2a) Sidenote - as Empire Fed confirmed this morning for August - inventories are collapsing (and along with that Q3 GDP)...

3) Retail Sales is not supportive of anything but a looming recession...

And finally,

4) The last 6 times Auto Assemblies collapsed at this rate, the US was in recession...

So - still think The US is "safe" - because stocks are certainly not priced for anything other than a hockey-stick of hope in earnings rebounds, let alone a collapse into recession.

US ECONOMIC REPORTS & ANALYSIS

     
CENTRAL BANKING MONETARY POLICIES, ACTIONS & ACTIVITIES      
     
Market Analytics
TECHNICALS & MARKET ANALYTICS

 

   
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THESIS - Mondays Posts on Financial Repression & Posts on Thursday as Key Updates Occur
2015 - FIDUCIARY FAILURE 2015 THESIS 2015
2014 - GLOBALIZATION TRAP 2014

2013 - STATISM

2013-1H

2013-2H

2012 - FINANCIAL REPRESSION

2012

2013

2014

09-14-15 THESIS

 

FINANCIAL REPRESSION

 

2011 - BEGGAR-THY-NEIGHBOR -- CURRENCY WARS

2011

2012

2013

2014

2010 - EXTEND & PRETEND

   
THEMES - Normally a Thursday Themes Post & a Friday Flows Post
I - POLITICAL
     
CENTRAL PLANNING - SHIFTING ECONOMIC POWER - STATISM   THEME  

- - CORRUPTION & MALFEASANCE - MORAL DECAY - DESPERATION, SHORTAGES.

  THEME
- - SECURITY-SURVEILLANCE COMPLEX - STATISM M THEME  
- - CATALYSTS - FEAR (POLITICALLY) & GREED (FINANCIALLY) G THEME  
II-ECONOMIC
     
GLOBAL RISK      
- GLOBAL FINANCIAL IMBALANCE - FRAGILITY, COMPLEXITY & INSTABILITY G THEME  
- - SOCIAL UNREST - INEQUALITY & A BROKEN SOCIAL CONTRACT US THEME  
- - ECHO BOOM - PERIPHERAL PROBLEM M THEME  
- -GLOBAL GROWTH & JOBS CRISIS      
- - - PRODUCTIVITY PARADOX - NATURE OF WORK   THEME

MACRO ANALYTICS w/ CHS

- - - STANDARD OF LIVING - EMPLOYMENT CRISIS, SUB-PRIME ECONOMY US THEME
MACRO ANALYTICS w/ CHS
III-FINANCIAL
     
FLOWS -FRIDAY FLOWS

MATA

RISK ON-OFF

THEME
CRACKUP BOOM - ASSET BUBBLE   THEME  
SHADOW BANKING - LIQUIDITY / CREDIT ENGINE M THEME  
GENERAL INTEREST

 

   
STRATEGIC INVESTMENT INSIGHTS - Weekend Coverage

 

RETAIL - CRE

 

 

  SII

 

US DOLLAR

 

 

  SII

 

YEN WEAKNESS

 

 

  SII

 

OIL WEAKNESS

 

 

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Gordon T Long is not a registered advisor and does not give investment advice. His comments are an expression of opinion only and should not be construed in any manner whatsoever as recommendations to buy or sell a stock, option, future, bond, commodity or any other financial instrument at any time. Of course, he recommends that you consult with a qualified investment advisor, one licensed by appropriate regulatory agencies in your legal jurisdiction, before making any investment decisions, and barring that, we encourage you confirm the facts on your own before making important investment commitments.

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