This article is somewhat technical, but the upshot is that key short-term interest rate spreads are climbing, which is often an indication of lurking financial stress. The OIS is the overnight indexed swap rate, and the FRA is the forward rate agreement rate, for those unfamiliar with those acronyms. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
Until two days ago, the critical level for both the Libor-OIS and FRA-OIS spread was the “psychological level” of 50bps. This, however, was breached on Wednesday when as we reported Libor pushed significantly higher without a matching move in swaps. And yet, despite the sharp push wider, both spreads remained below the peak levels observed during the European sovereign debt crisis of 2011/2012, with some speculating that open central bank swap lines at OIS+50bps would limit the move wider.
That changed this morning when the day’s 3M USD Libor fixing jumped higher for the 27th consecutive session, rising to 2.2018% from 2.1775%, and the highest since December 2008. And, as has been the case for the past two months, the move was again not matched by OIS, resulting in the Libor-OIS spread jumping to 51.4bp, surpassing the 2011/2012 highs and the widest level since May 2009.
At the same time, the FRA-OIS also spread spiked to a new multi-year high of 53.3bps, the highest in years.
Commenting on the move, NatWest Markets strategist Blake Gwinn urgent clients “don’t fade FRA/OIS’ recommendation is still in effect, but certainly on watch”, adding that the most frequently asked question this week has been “where will Libor stop?”
While the clear answer – at least for now – is “not here”, Gwinn repeated what we said on March 14, noting that the Fed’s central bank swap lines should “theoretically put a cap on USD funding rates” as the banks are authorized to offer terms out to three months at OIS+50bp, and also echoed BofA’s comments on the topic, noting that among the impediments are haircuts that add roughly another 10bp to the effective rate, the stigma of going to central banks for funding, and lack of availability of swap lines.
And yet, should Libor keep pushing wider, the Fed will have to notice.