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Unprecedented Housing Bailout Revealed, As China Property Sales Drop For First Time In 30 Months

Unprecedented Housing Bailout Revealed, As China Property Sales Drop For First Time In 30 Months 

Back in March, we explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class, to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth will keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing: three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28% in the US with the remainder invested financial assets.

Beijing knows this, of course, which is why China periodically and consistently reflates its housing bubble, hoping that the popping of the bubble, which happened in late 2011 and again in 2014, will be a controlled, “smooth landing” process. 

The other reason why China is so eager to keep its housing sector inflated – and risk bursting bubbles – is that as shown in the chart below, in 2016 the rise of property prices boosted household wealth in 37 tier 1 and tier 2 cities by RMB24 trillion, almost twice the total local disposable income of RMB12.9 trillion. For any Fed readers out there, that’s how you create a wealth effect, fake as it may be. 

Unfortunately for China, whose record credit creation in 2017, and certainly in the months leading up to the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress which started last week, has been the primary catalyst for the “global coordinated growth”, the good times are now again over, and according to the latest real estate data released last week, property sales in China dropped for the first time since March 2015, or more than two-and-half years, in September and housing starts slowed sharply reinforcing concerns that robust growth in the world’s second-largest economy is starting to cool.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Political Economics

Political Economics

Who President Trump ultimately picks as the next Federal Reserve Chairman doesn’t really matter. Unless he goes really far afield to someone totally unexpected, whoever that person will be will be largely more of the same. It won’t be a categorical change, a different philosophical direction that is badly needed.

Still, politically, it does matter to some significant degree. It’s just that the political division isn’t the usual R vs. D, left vs. right. That’s how many are making it out to be, and in doing so exposing what’s really going on.

As usual, the perfect example for these divisions is provided by Paul Krugman. The Nobel Prize Winner ceased being an economist a long time ago, and has become largely a partisan carnival barker. He opines about economic issues, but framed always from that perspective.

To the very idea of a next Fed Chair beyond Yellen, he wrote a few weeks ago, “we’re living in the age of Trump, which means that we should actually expect the worst.” Dr. Krugman wants more of the same, and Candidate Trump campaigned directly against that. As such, there is the non-trivial chance that President Trump lives up to that promise.

Again, it sounds like a left vs. right issue, but it isn’t. The political winds are changing, and the parties themselves are being realigned in different directions (which is not something new; there have been several re-alignments throughout American history even though the two major parties have been entrenched since the 1850’s when Republicans first appeared). Who the next Fed Chair is could tell us something about how far along we are in this evolution.

What Krugman wants, meaning, it is safe to assume, what all those like him want, is simple: success. He believes that the central bank has given us exactly that, therefore it is stupid to upset what works.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Volatility and the Alchemy of Risk

Volatility and the Alchemy of Risk

Reflexivity in the Shadows of Black Monday 1987

The Ouroboros, a Greek word meaning ‘tail devourer’, is the ancient symbol of a snake consuming its own body in perfect symmetry. The imagery of the Ouroboros evokes the infinite nature of creation from destruction. The sign appears across cultures and is an important icon in the esoteric tradition of Alchemy. Egyptian mystics first derived the symbol from a real phenomenon in nature. In extreme heat a snake, unable to self-regulate its body temperature, will experience an out-of- control spike in its metabolism. In a state of mania, the snake is unable to differentiate its own tail from its prey, and will attack itself, self-cannibalizing until it perishes. In nature and markets, when randomness self-organizes into too perfect symmetry, order becomes the source of chaos (1).

The Ouroboros is a metaphor for the financial alchemy driving the modern Bear Market in Fear. Volatility across asset classes is at multi-generational lows. A dangerous feedback loop now exists between ultra-low interest rates, debt expansion, asset volatility, and financial engineering that allocates risk based on that volatility. In this self-reflexive loop volatility can reinforce itself both lower and higher. In a market where stocks and bonds are both overvalued, financial alchemy is the only way to feed our global hunger for yield, until it kills the very system it is nourishing.

The Global Short Volatility trade now represents an estimated $2+ trillion in financial engineering strategies that simultaneously exert influence over, and are influenced by, stock market volatility(2). We broadly define the short volatility trade as any financial strategy that relies on the assumption of market stability to generate returns, while using volatility itself as an input for risk taking. Many popular institutional investment strategies, even if they are not explicitly shorting derivatives, generate excess returns from the same implicit risk factors as a portfolio of short optionality, and contain hidden fragility.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kyle Bass: “Today’s Market Resembles The 1987 Debacle On Steroids”

Kyle Bass: “Today’s Market Resembles The 1987 Debacle On Steroids”

The US stock market celebrated the 30th anniversary of Black Monday with the 2017 version of a rocky trading day: Stocks sold off early, with S&P 500 futures recording their steepest post-midnight drop of the year. But the dip was reflexively and aggressively bought, and stocks even poked back into the green seconds before the close as algos mistook a repetitive Politico headline about Jay Powell’s chances of becoming the next Fed chair for news – leaving us with yet another record close.

Of course, the historical juxtaposition of the 1987 crash with today’s unnaturally placid markets practically forced even the most bullish of traders to question how much longer the present market paradigm – where markets listlessly drift through a seemingly interminable series of record highs while trading volume and volatility remain suppressed – can possibly last.

With that question in mind, Real Vision released a video early today containing interviews with some of the biggest names in the hedge fund universe. Though the interview was shot a few weeks ago, remarks from Hayman Capital’s Kyle Bass resonated with market’s mood.

Bass discussed what he sees as the many short- and long-term risks to the US equity market, including the rise of algorithmic trading and passive investment, which have enabled investors to take risks without understanding what they’re doing, leaving the market vulnerable to an “air pocket.”

And with  so many traders short vol, Bass said investors will know the correction has begun when a 4% or 5% drop in equities snowballs into a 10% to 15% decline at the drop of a hat.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Catalonia’s Political Crisis Snowballs into an Economic Crisis

Catalonia’s Political Crisis Snowballs into an Economic Crisis 

Independence would be “horrific” and amount to “financial suicide,” said Spain’s Economy Minister. But financial suicide for whom?

It’s not easy being a Catalan bank these days. In the last few weeks the region’s two biggest lenders, Caixabank and Sabadell, have lost €9 billion of deposits as panicked customers in Catalonia have moved their money elsewhere. Many customers in other parts of Spain have also yanked their savings out of Catalan banks, but less out of fear than out of anger at the banks’ Catalan roots.

Moving their official company address to other parts of Spain last week may have helped ease that resentment, allowing the two banks to recoup some €2 billion of deposits. But the move has angered the roughly 2.5 million pro-independence supporters in Catalonia, many of whom have accounts at one of the two banks. Today they expressed that anger by withdrawing cash en masse.

Many protesters made symbolic withdrawals of €155 — a reference to Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which Madrid activated today to impose direct rule over the semi-autonomous region. Others opted for €1,714 in a nod to the year 1714, when Barcelona was captured by the troops of King Felipe V, who then proceeded to suppress the rights of rebellious regions.

Some bank customers withdrew a lot more than that. The council of Argentona, a small town outside Barcelona, closed its accounts at Caixabank and Sabadell and transferred all €2.25 million of its funds to a branch of the Dutch lender Triodos. If other institutional or business customers follow Argentona’s example, Caixabank and Sabadell could have a big problem on their hands.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: Arms Race in Bubbles 

Weekly Commentary: Arms Race in Bubbles 

The week left me with an uneasy feeling. There were a number of articles noting the 30-year anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash. I spent “Black Monday” staring at a Telerate monitor as a treasury analyst at Toyota’s US headquarters in Southern California. If I wasn’t completely in love with the markets and macro analysis by that morning, there was no doubt about it by bedtime. Enthralling.

As writers noted this week, there were post-’87 crash economic depression worries. In hindsight, those fears were misplaced. Excesses had not progressed over years to the point of causing deep financial and economic structural maladjustment. Looking back today, 1987 was much more the beginning of a secular financial boom rather than the end. The crash offered a signal – a warning that went unheeded. Disregarding warnings has been in a stable trend now for three decades.

Alan Greenspan’s assurances of ample liquidity – and the Fed and global central bankers’ crisis-prevention efforts for some time following the crash – ensured fledgling financial excesses bounced right back and various Bubbles hardly missed a beat. Importantly, financial innovation and speculation accelerated momentously. Wall Street had been emboldened – and would be repeatedly.

The crash also marked the genesis of government intervention in the markets that would evolve into the previously unimaginable: negative short-term rates, manipulated bond yields, central bank support throughout the securities markets, Trillions upon Trillions of central bank monetization and the perception of open-ended securities market liquidity backstops around the globe. Greenspan was the forefather of the powerful trifecta: Team Bernanke, Kuroda and Draghi. Ask the bond market back in 1987 to contemplate massive government deficit spending concurrent with near zero global sovereign yields – the response would have been “inconceivable.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

This is What it Looks Like When Credit Markets Go Nuts

This is What it Looks Like When Credit Markets Go Nuts

Pricing of risk kicks bucket in record central-bank absurdity.

As the days pass, the perverse effects of central bank policies on the financial markets are getting more and more amazing. This includes the record-setting nuttiness now reigning in the European bond market, compared to the mere semi-nuttiness in the US bond market.

The 10-year yield of US Treasury Securities closed at 2.34% yesterday and at 2.33% today. This is low by historical standards. It’s barely above the rate of consumer price inflation as measured by CPI, which was 2.2% in September. This means that coupon payments barely make up for the loss of purchasing power. If inflation ticks up just a little, bondholders will be left in the hole. And a yield this low doesn’t compensate bondholders for any other risks, including duration risk, which can be significant. In other words, this is a bad deal.

But in this strange world, it looks practically sane, compared to the Draghi-engineered negative-yield absurdity that has overtaken the Eurozone, where the average yield of euro junk bonds – the riskiest bonds out there – dropped to 2.16%.

This chart, based on the BofA Merrill Lynch Euro High Yield Index via the St. Louis Fed, shows how the average euro junk-bond yield (red line) has plunged so far this year, on the way to what? Zero? The 10-year US Treasury yield (black line) has started rising in past weeks and, in late September rose above the euro junk bond yield for the first time ever:

This average junk-bond yield is based on a basket of below-investment-grade corporate bonds denominated in euros. Among the issuers are European subsidiaries of junk-rated American companies. For them, it’s nearly free money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Into the Cold and Dark

It amuses me that the nation is so caught up in the sexual mischief of a single Hollywood producer when the nation as a whole is getting fucked sideways and upside down by its own political caretakers.

Behind all the smoke, mirrors, Trump bluster, Schumer fog, and media mystification about the vaudeville act known as The Budget and The Tax Cut, both political parties are fighting for their lives and the Deep State knows that it is being thrown overboard to drown in red ink. There’s really no way out of the financial conundrum that dogs the republic and something’s got to give.

Many of us have been waiting for these tensions to express themselves by blowing up the artificially levitated stock markets. For about a year, absolutely nothing has thwarted their supernatural ascent, including the threat of World War Three, leading some observers to believe that they have been rigged to perfection. Well, the algo-bots might be pretty fine-tuned, and the central bank inputs of fresh “liquidity” pretty much assured, but for all that, these markets are still human artifacts and Murphy’s Law still lurks out there in the gloaming with its cohorts, the diminishing returns of technology (a.k.a. “Blowback”), and the demon of unintended consequences.

Many, including yours truly, have expected the distortions and perversions on the money side of life to express themselves in money itself: the dollar. So far, it has only wobbled down about ten percent. This is due perhaps to the calibrated disinformation known as “forward guidance” issued by this country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, which has been threatening — pretty idly so far — to raise interest rates and shrink down its vault of hoarded securities — a lot of it janky paper left over from the misadventures of 2007-2009.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Get Ready To Party Like It’s 2008

Get Ready To Party Like It’s 2008

Apparently Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, has threatened Congress with stock crash if Congress doesn’t pass a tax reform Bill.  His reason is that the stock market surge since the election was based on the hopes of a big tax cut.  This reminds me of 2008, when then-Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs CEO, Henry Paulson, and Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, paraded in front of Congress and threatened a complete systemic collapse if Congress didn’t authorize an $800 billion bailout of the biggest banks.

The U.S. financial system is experiencing an asset “bubble” that is unprecedented in history. This is a bubble that has been fueled by an unprecedented amount of Central Bank money printing and credit creation. As you are well aware, the Fed printed more than $4 trillion dollars of currency that was used to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. But it has also enabled an unprecedented amount of credit creation. This credit availability has further fueled the rampant inflation in asset prices – specifically stocks, bonds and housing, the price of which now exceeds the levels seen in 2008 right before the great financial crisis.

However, you might not be aware that Central Banks outside of the U.S. continue printing money that is being used to buy stocks and risky bonds. The Bank of Japan now owns more than 75% of that nation’s stock ETFs. The Swiss National Bank holds over $80 billion worth of U.S. stocks, $17 billion of which were purchased in 2017. The European Central Bank, in addition to buying member country sovereign-issued debt is now buying corporate bonds, some of which are non-investment grade.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Should Be the Criteria for Model Selection?

In order to make the data “talk,” economists utilize a range of statistical methods that vary from highly complex models to a simple display of historical data. It is generally held that by means of statistical correlations one can organize historical data into a useful body of information, which in turn can serve as the basis for assessments of the state of the economy. It is held that through the application of statistical methods on historical data, one can extract the facts of reality regarding the state of the economy.

Unfortunately, things are not as straightforward as they seem to be. For instance, it has been observed that declines in the unemployment rate are associated with a general rise in the prices of goods and services. Should we then conclude that declines in unemployment are a major trigger of price inflation? To confuse the issue further, it has also been observed that price inflation is well correlated with changes in money supply. Also, it has been established that changes in wages display a very high correlation with price inflation.

So what are we to make out of all this? We are confronted here not with one, but with three competing “theories” of inflation. How are we to decide which is the right theory? According to the popular way of thinking, the criterion for the selection of a theory should be its predictive power.

On this Milton Friedman wrote,

The ultimate goal of a positive science is the development of a theory or hypothesis that yields valid and meaningful (i.e., not truistic) predictions about phenomena not yet observed.[1]

So long as the model (theory) “works,” it is regarded as a valid framework as far as the assessment of an economy is concerned. Once the model (theory) breaks down, we look for a new model (theory).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Hunt For Taxes Turns on Minimum Wage Earners

The hunt for taxes has turned to employees of companies. Any benefit you give an employee is considered “soft-income” and is to be taxed. In the USA, the maximum value of a gift I can hand an employee is $25. I can’t even give them a decent bottle of champagne for New Years.

In Canada, this same idea of taxing any employee benefit has gone all the way to hunting the minimum wage earners. The politicians have classified any discount an employee gets as tax-avoidance and they want their nickel and dime. A minimum wage store employee who gets a 20% discount on anything the store sells or if a waitress gets a free meal while working is to be taxed. The Income Tax Act of the Canada Revenue Agency is now targeting not the “rich” but minimum wage earners since the rich are leaving. When an employee receives any sort of a discount on merchandise or a free meal because of their employment, the value of the discount is to be included in the employee’s income and taxed.

The hunt for taxes is just going to get worse until the people rise up, as they have always done, and probably start yelling the same words: No Taxation Without Representation!” Politicians are doing the same thing that sparked the French Revolution with their arrogance when taxes reduced the standard of living and people could no longer survive. The response of the government was “let them eat cake” and that did not sit very well even if those words were not really spoken – it was the rumor attached to  Marie Antoinette.

China and Russia: Full Steam Ahead Towards a Cashless Society

China and Russia: Full Steam Ahead Towards a Cashless Society

These Are The Top Geopolitical Risks According To The World’s Largest Asset Manager

These Are The Top Geopolitical Risks According To The World’s Largest Asset Manager

Like many others, the world‘s largest money manager with $5.9 trillion in (ETF) investments, BlackRock, is not too worried about a market which no matter what, promptly rebounds from any and every selloff, and seems to close at all time highs day after day as if by magic. To be sure, BlackRock’s employees are delighted: the less the volatility, and the higher the S&P goes, the more likely retail investors are to hand over their cash to BlackRock. So far so good. Still, not even Blackrock can state that after looking at this chart, which unveils unprecedented economic policy uncertainty at a time when equity uncertainty has never been lower…

… that everything is ok.

And it doesn’t: in a blog post by BlackRock’s Isabelle Mateos y Lago, Blackrock’s chief multi-asset strategist writes that while markets may be a sea of calm, geopolitics are anything but. As a result, the world’s biggest ETF administrator has its eyes on 10 geopolitical risks and is tracking their likelihood and potential market impact, as it wrote recently in the firm’s Global Investment Outlook Q4 2017.

The “world of risk” map below is a quick snapshot of all

Among the Top risks tracked by Blackrock are:

  • North American trade negotiations
  • Russia-NATO conflict
  • South China Sea conflict
  • US-China tensions
  • Escalations in Syria and Iraq
  • North Korea conflict
  • Fragmentation in Europe
  • Gulf conflicts

Of the risks listed above, which are the ones BlackRock is most worried about? According to Mateos y Lago, the top three right now: North American trade negotiations, a North Korea conflict and U.S.-China tensions, with the second and third particularly interrelated.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hartford Could Default On Its Debt As Soon As Next Month, Moody’s Says

Hartford Could Default On Its Debt As Soon As Next Month, Moody’s Says

Moody’s latest warning about Hartford Connecticut is its most dire yet.

In a report issued Thursday, the ratings agency’s analysts said Hartford, Connecticut’s once-proud capital city, could default on its debt as soon as next month, forcing the capital of the country’s wealthiest state (on a per capita basis) into bankruptcy.

If the city doesn’t change course (and given its shrinking tax base and the departure last year of Aetna, a major insurance company that was founded in Hartford and had located its headquarters in the city for more than 150 years, reforms appear unlikely), receive a state bailout or strike some kind of deal with its creditors, Moody’s says lenders can expect it to run up annual deficits in excess of $60 million through the next 20 years.

Moody’s (along with its rivals Fitch and Standard & Poor’s) downgraded Hartford’s credit rating on Sept. 26 to Caa3 from Caa1, reflecting a view that creditors would only manage to recoup between 60% and 80% of their principal should Hartford default.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the state government will be there to support troubled Hartford. Four months into the fiscal year, Connecticut is the only state in the country that hasn’t passed a budget as lawmakers the state’s lame-duck Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy joust over how to close a $3.5 billion two-year budget deficit. In a reflection of the state’s broader fiscal crisis (as is the case in many US states), Moody’s says Hartford’s public employee unions represent a “significant constraint” to cutting the city’s deficit, as the Hartford Courant points out.

Moody’s called Hartford’s unions “a constraint” to trimming the city’s deficit. “Contractual salary increases and employee benefits are significant contributors to the city’s long term structural imbalance,” the report read. Unions would have to make “significant concessions” for Hartford to narrow those deficits, it said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bank Run Imminent: Catalan Separatists Urge Supporters To Pull Cash From Bank

Bank Run Imminent: Catalan Separatists Urge Supporters To Pull Cash From Bank

As tension escalate in Spain, Catalan Separatists are potentially about to do some real damage and hit Spain where it really hurts.

In a tweeted message to their 270,000 followers, Assemblea Nacional urged supporters to pull cash from CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell branches between 8 am and 9am Friday to protest at their decision to shift their legal domiciles out of the region…


Demà, prioritàriament de 8 a 9 h, ves a un dels 5 principals bancs i retira la quantitat que vulguis en efectiu. Són els teus diners!


As the video begins…

“1. Go to 1 of the 5 main banks and take out as much cash as you want. Don’t forget, it’s your money”.

As a reminder, both Banco Sabadell and Caxabank – the two largest banks of the Catalan region – moved their corporate headquarters out of Catalonia (with the help of the Spanish government) shortly after the referendum.

 

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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