Centene Gets S&P Rating Upgrade to BB+ from BB

May 18, 2017: S&P raises Centene’s rating one notch to BB+ from BB with an outlook rating of stable. “The rating upgrade on Centene reflects the company’s continued successful execution of its growth and profitability initiatives since we assigned a positive outlook two years ago (in May 2015)”, said Julie Herman, S&P Global credit rating analyst. Herman continued, “As a result, we believe Centene has increasingly differentiated itself favorably from its closest peers Wellcare and Molina, both of which we rate BB/Stable.”

The stable outlook on Centene reflects our expectation that the company will maintain its strong competitive position in the managed Medicaid market while continuing to diversify its profile, particularly in Medicare and specialty services. Consistent with our base-case economic forecast, we expect the company to show revenue growth of 5%-15% over the next two years, with an EBIT ROR of about 2.5%-3.5%. We expect financial leverage to remain elevated but to continue to drop year over year, reaching below 40% over the next two years. We expect consolidated GAAP capitalization to improve year over year through earnings growth, but remain modestly deficient at ‘BBB’ over the next two years. However, we expect consolidated risk-based capital levels to remain around 350%.

April 25, 2017: Centene reports Q1 EPS of $1.12 adj versus the $1.06 estimate. Revenue also beat coming in at $11.7 billion versus the $11.4 billion estimate. Quarter-end at-risk managed care membership came in at 12.1 million or +5% YoY.

February 7, 2017: Centene reports Q4 EPS of $1.19 versus the $1.12 estimate. Revenue also beat coming in at $11.9 billion versus the $10.9 billion estimate. Quarter-end at-risk managed care membership came in at 11.44 million versus 5.1 million last year representing an increase of 223% YoY, nice!

January 5, 2017: Centene Corporation announced today that its Pennsylvania subsidiary, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness, has been selected by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to serve Medicaid recipients enrolled in the HealthChoices program in three zones. Pending regulatory approval and successful completion of readiness review, the three-year agreement is expected to commence June 1, 2017. In April, Centene was originally selected to provide services in three zones for HealthChoices. Today’s award is in response to a re-issue of the HealthChoices award.

The Department completed an evaluation and scoring of the proposal and has selected Centene’s proposal for the Southeast Zone, the Southwest Zone, and the Lehigh Capital Zone of Pennsylvania. The HealthChoices program covers low-income children and families, individuals with disabilities, as well as those newly eligible under the Affordable Care Act expansion throughout the state of Pennsylvania.

In addition to the Health Choices Medicaid award, Centene was previously selected under a separate contract by the departments of Human Services and Aging to serve enrollees in the Community HealthChoices program statewide, pending regulatory approval and successful completion of readiness review. Under this agreement, Pennsylvania Health & Wellness will coordinate physical health and long-term services and supports (LTSS), if needed, to enhance the quality of medical care and access to all appropriate services to more than 420,000 individuals who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, older Pennsylvanians and individuals with disabilities.

January 3, 2017: Piper Jaffray/Simmons initiates coverage of Centene Corporation with an Overweight rating, and sets a price target of $67.

December 20, 2016: JPMorgan Chase and Co initiates coverage of Centene Corporation with an Overweight rating, and sets a price target of $75. JPMorgan also added Centene to its Analyst Focus List saying that while Republican “repeal/replace” efforts present some risk to both the Medicaid RPF pipeline and current Obamacare-population earnings, they believe the current valuation is more than discounting that risk.

Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, is a diversified, multi-national healthcare enterprise that provides a portfolio of services to government-sponsored healthcare programs, focusing on under-insured and uninsured individuals.

Many receive benefits provided under Medicaid, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as Aged, Blind or Disabled (ABD), Foster Care and Long Term Care (LTC), in addition to other state-sponsored/hybrid programs and Medicare (Special Needs Plans). The Company operates local health plans and offers a range of health insurance solutions. It also contracts with other healthcare and commercial organizations to provide specialty services including behavioral health management, care management software, correctional healthcare services, dental benefits management, in-home health services, life and health management, managed vision, pharmacy benefits management, specialty pharmacy and telehealth services.

Fed Puts Markets On Notice For Rate Hike

Fed’s Eric Rosengren was clear in his speech early Friday that rates need to be raised. Mr. Rosengren said that if we don’t raise rates soon, we could crash the economy. Mr. Rosengren said, “A failure to continue on the path of gradual removal of accommodation could shorten, rather than lengthen, the duration of this recovery.”

Fed’s Kaplan (Dallas Fed) spoke about the need to raise rates very slowly but said that the Fed “has put markets on notice.”

Atlanta Federal Reserve chief Dennis Lockhart said on Monday, September 12, 2016, that a “serious discussion” of a rate increase was needed. Lockhart said, “I believe the economy is sustaining sufficient momentum to substantially achieve monetary policy objectives in an acceptable medium-term time horizon.”

Not only do banks need rates to move up as they have suffered for years under low-interest rates, but inflation is also coming on strong.

Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine said last week, “This is a big, big moment.” The bond investor warned his peers that interest rates are ready to rise from their historically low levels and asset managers need to be “defensive.” Quartz writes

Gundlach said investors should reduce duration in their portfolios, move money into cash and buy protection against volatility before rates rise and inflation picks up.

Gundlach uses the recent jump in the ECRI (index of leading indicators) to suggest that we are about to see more inflation in the US.

The ECRI US leading index continues to rise so the market should be pricing in higher inflation and therefore higher interest rates.

Consumer credit confirms an overheating market and the likelihood that inflation will explode higher. Consumer credit as a percentage of GDP is exploding higher to levels never seen before.

Deadly Parasitic Derivative Collapse Spreading Through Global Markets

Deutsche Bank may be on the verge of collapse. Last week Deutsche Bank reported Q2 2016 earnings of 20 million euros which is a 98% drop in earnings year-over-year.

In 2015, Deutsche Bank announced its first full year of loss since the 2008 recession.

Deutsche Bank’s stock is down -60% over the last year meaning that the bank is close to collapse.

Deutsche Bank’s shares now trade for two-thirds less than their tangible book value, a steeper discount than even during the depths of the financial crisis.

Beyond Germany, few stock traders care if Deutsche Bank collapses. The problem with Deutsche Bank collapsing is its enormous derivatives portfolio valued at 42 trillion euros! To put in perspective, the entire EU (all 28 member states) has an estimated GDP value of 14.3 trillion. Deutsche Bank’s 42 trillion euro derivatives portfolio is about three times the size of the entire EU!

One might think that with such a high exposure to the derivatives market, Deutsche Bank would have already collapsed. The reason Deutsche Bank has not collapsed is because of something called netting. For every derivative position Deutsche Bank holds, they hold another position in the opposite direction, so they roughly cancel each other out. At least that’s what Deutsche Bank is reporting that they are doing. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen. Why would anyone hedge their longs with shorts in a 1:1 ratio? You would never make any money from trading, and you would slowly lose on slippage. The OCC tracks netting on U.S. banks and does, in fact, show that even with netting, net current credit exposure (NCCE) has been rising rapidly since 2014.

When Deutsche Bank collapses, it is going to be the explosion heard around the world, and it will be a disaster many times greater than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

US Derivatives Exposure

The big U.S. banks have higher exposures to derivatives than Deutsche Bank. As of June 30, 2016, below are U.S. banks with the largest derivative exposures.

Citigroup has amassed the largest stockpile of interest-rate swaps as they bet on central bank rate changes.

Five U.S. banks hold 93% of all derivatives: Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley. The total value of these derivatives is $247 trillion (notional).

Morgan Stanley has $31 trillion in derivatives with $1.6 trillion (notional) in credit derivatives. What is scary is that Morgan Stanley is back to speculating in the same credit derivatives market that took down AIG in 2008. I don’t think Morgan Stanley necessarily wants to speculate in credit derivatives but with revenue flat the last few years, they may be getting more desperate to prop up their stock price. Morgan Stanley’s stock is down more than -25% over the last year.

Most traders in the U.S. don’t care about Morgan Stanley’s risky credit derivatives portfolio, but they should. Morgan Stanley has more than 15,770 retail brokers managing $404 billion of other people’s money (mom and pop savings, retirees, pensions, retirement accounts, etc.cause). Morgan Stanley’s risky credit derivatives position poses a huge threat to the investing community in my opinion.

Banks and Financial Firms Will Not Disclose Information Until It’s Too Late

If you are waiting for banks and financial firms to disclose risks and even how much they were bailed out from the last time they made risky credit derivative bets, don’t.

Wall Street On Parade writes

To survive the 2007-2009 Wall Street crash, Morgan Stanley received an injection of $9 billion from the Japanese bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group; a $10 billion injection from the U.S. government and over $2 trillion in secret, cumulative, below-market-rate loans from the Federal Reserve. According to data obtained by Bloomberg News following a multi-year court battle to obtain the information from the Federal Reserve, Morgan Stanley’s one-day secret outstanding loans from the Fed peaked at $107.3 billion on September 29, 2008.

The public would have never known about these secret loans shoring up Wall Street’s reckless conduct and hubris and obscene bonuses except for the court battle of Bloomberg News and legislation secured by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont requiring a Fed accounting.

Credit Derivatives Exposure On the Rise In the US

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reports some scary facts in their most recent quarterly OCC report.

– Insured U.S. commercial banks and savings associations reported trading revenue of $5.8 billion in the first quarter of 2016… $1.9 billion lower (24.9 percent) than a year earlier. [In my opinion, when trading revenues are down, trading divisions take on more risks in a desperate attempt to meet quotas like buying riskier credit derivatives as the data points below confirm].

– Credit exposure from derivatives increased in the first quarter of 2016. Net current credit exposure (NCCE) increased $65.1 billion, or 16.5 percent, to $460.1 billion.

– Notional derivatives increased $12.0 trillion, or 6.6 percent, to $192.9 trillion.

– Derivative contracts remained concentrated in interest rate products, which represented 76.3 percent of total derivative notional amounts.

Using Derivatives To Bet On Interest Rate Changes

The OCC reports

Measuring credit exposure in derivative contracts involves identifying those contracts where a bank would lose value if the counterparty to a contract defaulted. The total of all contracts with positive value (i.e., derivative receivables) to the bank is the gross positive fair value (GPFV) and represents an initial measurement of credit exposure. The total of all contracts with negative value (i.e., derivative payables) to the bank is the gross negative fair value (GNFV) and represents a measurement of the exposure the bank poses to its counterparties.

GPFV increased by $0.8 trillion (26.6 percent) in the first quarter of 2016 to $3.8 trillion, driven by a 29.9 percent increase in receivables from interest rate and FX contracts. Because interest rate contracts make up 76.2 percent of total notional derivative contracts, changes in interest rates drive credit exposure in derivative portfolios. Declines in interest rates tend to increase exposure. This effect has increased in recent years, as the maturity profile of interest rate derivatives has increased, making credit exposure more sensitive to changes in longer-term rates.

Credit risk exposure increased a whopping 26.6% in Q1 2016. Much of that increased credit risk exposure is coming from bets on Federal Reserve rate hikes. If interest rates go up, credit risk exposure in derivative positions goes down. If interest rates go down, credit risk exposure goes up. In other words, most of the bets in the derivatives market are on interest rates rising. Better hope Janet Yellen doesn’t have to lower interest rates!

Credit Default Swaps Dwarf All Other Forms of Derivatives

Credit default swaps dwarf any other form of credit derivative trading.

The OCC reports

The notional amount for the 54 insured U.S. commercial banks and savings associations that sold credit protection (i.e., assumed credit risk) was $3.6 trillion, up $206.4 billion (6.0 percent) from the fourth quarter of 2015. The notional amount for the 50 banks that purchased credit protection (i.e., hedged credit risk) was $3.8 trillion, $224.9 billion higher (6.3 percent) than in
the fourth quarter of 2015.

It is interesting that many people are reporting having received a letter from their credit card company informing them that their interest rate is going up from 19.9% to 25% in August 2016. Some people have even reported receiving credit limit increase letters too. How kind of these bankers to go long credit default swaps while raising your credit limit and interest rate to insane levels at the same time.

Folks derivatives are dark financial products that cause excessive risk taking that ultimately leads to disaster. I have little doubt that the next global financial crisis will, at its core, once again involve speculative derivatives betting.