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The Global Distortions of Doom Part 1: Hyper-Indebted Zombie Corporations

The Global Distortions of Doom Part 1: Hyper-Indebted Zombie Corporations

The defaults and currency crises in the periphery will then move into the core.

It’s funny how unintended consequences so rarely turn out to be good. The intended consequences of central banks’ unprecedented tsunami of stimulus (quantitative easing, super-low interest rates and easy credit / abundant liquidity) over the past decade were:

1. Save the banks by giving them credit-money at near-zero interest that they could loan out at higher rates. Savers were thrown under the bus by super-low rates (hope you like your $1 in interest on $1,000…) but hey, bankers contribute millions to politicos and savers don’t matter.

2. Bring demand forward by encouraging consumers to buy on credit now.Nothing like 0% financing to incentivize consumers to buy now rather than later. Since a mass-consumption economy depends on “growth,” consumers must be “nudged” to buy more now and do so with credit, since that sluices money to the banks.

3. Goose assets based on interest rates by lowering rates to near-zero. Bonds, stocks and real estate all respond positively to declining interest rates. Corporations that can borrow money very cheaply can buy back their shares, making insiders and owners wealthier. Housing valuations go up because buyers can afford larger mortgages as rates drop, and bonds go up in value with every notch down in yield.

This vast expansion of risk-assets valuations was intended to generate a wealth effectthat made households feel wealthier and thus more willing to binge-borrow and spend.

All those intended consequences came to pass: the global economy gorged on cheap credit, inflating asset bubbles from Shanghai to New York to Sydney to London. Credit growth exploded higher as everyone borrowed trillions: nation-states, local governments, corporations and households.

While much of the hot money flooded into assets, some trickled down to the real economy, enabling enough “growth” for everyone to declare victory.

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

China Cuts Reserve Ratio, Releases 1.2 Trillion Yuan Amid Rising Trade War, Record Defaults

China’s central bank announced it would cut the Required Reserve Ratio (RRR) for most banks by 1.0% effective October 15 for the fourth time in 2018, a little over three months after the PBOC announced a similar cut on June 24, as Beijing seeks to stimulate the slowing economy amid the growing trade war with the US, a slumping stock market, a sliding yuan and a record number of bond defaults.

The People’s Bank of China announced on Sunday local time that it lowered the required reserve ratio for some lenders by 1 percentage point according to a statement on its  website. The cut, which will apply to a wide range of banks including large commercial banks, joint stock commercial banks, city commercial banks, non-county rural banks and foreign banks, will release a total of 1.2 trillion yuan ($175 billion), of which 450 billion yuan will be used to repay existing medium-term funding facilities which are maturing, and the remaining RMB 750bn will help offset the seasonal rise in liquidity demand during the second half of the month due to tax payments, according to the PBOC.

But the real reason behind the RRR cut is that it is intended to boost sentiment before the onshore equity market re-opens on Monday after the week-long holidays, as well as to support liquidity conditions at a time when global interest rates have suddenly spiked to multi-year highs..

Commenting on the cut, Goldman economists said that while they had been expecting one RRR cut per quarter in H2, “the 1pp magnitude surprised us on the upside.”

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

“Something Has to Break” as China’s Onshore Defaults Hit a New Record

“Something Has to Break” as China’s Onshore Defaults Hit a New Record

Recent news from China has been really ugly.

But what can you expect? They’re trying to fight a trade war against the U.S. – deal with slowing growth – and survive against a stronger U.S. dollar.

And because of these problems – China’s major stock exchanges have really suffered this year.

But – contrary to what the mainstream says – I think things are going to get much worse. . .

For starters – the latest Chinese Manufacturing PMI (purchasing manager index) showed a continued downturn. Both in the NBS and Caixin Indexes.

Clearly the trade-war with the U.S. is being felt. And with little progress in negotiations between the U.S. and China – expect the near-and-midterm to continue being weak.

Now – Unfortunately – this slow down in the Chinese economy and the loss of sales and income are coming at a bad time. . .

Especially for their corporations.

The combination of a slowing economy, a stronger dollar, and a tightening Federal Reserve is putting pressure on indebted Chinese firms.

This is putting China’s elites between a rock and a hard place. . .

That’s because with the trade-war raging on and a tightening Fed – the Communist Party of China will want to ease and help their economy.

The Peoples Bank of China (the Chinese central bank) can cheapen the yuan to try and boost exports. And as I wrote before – the weaker yuan will offset Trump’s tariffs.

For example – if the U.S. places 20% tariffs on all Chinese goods – China simply must devalue the Yuan by 20%. This would offset the increased costs from the tariffs – keeping the price for U.S. consumers unchanged. Basically rendering the imposed tariff worthless.

But the problem with this is Chinese firms have significant dollar-denominated debts. So a stronger dollar makes their debt-burden much harder to service.

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

In Shock Move, India Nationalizes Giant Shadow Bank At Center Of Market Rout

One week after we reported that India’s NPL crisis finally erupted after IL&FS, a major shadow bank at the heart of India’s economy defaulted in one day on three debt payments, India’s government announced on Monday that it would immediately seize control of a shadow lender whose defaults have caused widespread upheaval at mutual funds.

The nationalization is virtually unprecedented: the nation’s corporate affairs ministry has sought to take control of a company on just two prior occasions, and only followed through once, with Satyam Computer Services in 2009. A bid by the government to take control of debt-laden realty firm Unitech in late 2017 was stalled by the Supreme Court after the move was challenged.

According to Bloomberg, officials ousted Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd.’s entire board and a new six-member board will meet before Oct. 8, the National Company Law Tribunal said on Monday. India’s richest banker Uday Kotak and ICICI Bank Chairman G.C. Chaturvedi will be part of the proposed board, which will elect a chairperson themselves.

An AAA-rated entity for decades, over the last few years IL&FS, saw an increase in its debt levels. The situation worsened in the last two months with both the parent company and its subsidiaries defaulting on a number of repayment obligations. Banks and insurance companies have the largest exposure to IL&FS.

For India to resort to such a dramatic move, the panic must have been palpable: the nationalization, which unfolded within the span of a hectic day in Mumbai, underscores the government’s concern about IL&FS’s defaults spreading to other lenders in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

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

Goldman Warns Of A Default Wave As $1.3 Trillion In Debt Is Set To Mature

Ten years after the Lehman bankruptcy, the financial elite is obsessed with what will send the world spiraling into the next financial crisis. And with household debt relatively tame by historical standards (excluding student loans, which however will likely be forgiven at some point in the future), mortgage debt nowhere near the relative levels of 2007, the most likely catalyst to emerge is corporate debt. Indeed, in a NYT op-ed penned by Morgan Stanley’s, Ruchir Sharma, the bank’s chief global strategist made the claim that “when the American markets start feeling it, the results are likely be very different from 2008 —  corporate meltdowns rather than mortgage defaults, and bond and pension funds affected before big investment banks.

But what would be the trigger for said corporate meltdown?

According to a new report from Goldman Sachs, the most likely precipitating factor would be rising interest rates which after the next major round of debt rollovers over the next several years in an environment of rising rates would push corporate cash flows low enough that debt can no longer be serviced effectively.

* * *

While low rates in the past decade have been a boon to capital markets, pushing yield-starved investors into stocks, a dangerous side-effect of this decade of rate repression has been companies eagerly taking advantage of low rates to more than double their debt levels since 2007. And, like many homeowners, companies have also been able to take advantage of lower borrowing rates to drive their average interest costs lower each year this cycle…. until now.

According to Goldman, based on the company’s forecasts, 2018 is likely to be the first year that the average interest expense is expected to tick higher, even if modestly.

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

India’s NPL Crisis Erupts: A Major Shadow Bank Defaults On Three Debt Payments

IL&FS Investment Managers, a unit of India’s Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) – an Indian infrastructure development and finance company and one of the nation’s largest “shadow banks” – which announced three debt defaults on Friday, said on Saturday morning its Managing Director Ramesh Bawa had resigned as managing director and chief executive officer as a management exodus begins. The company’s independent directors – Renu Challu, Surinder Singh Kohli, Shubhalakshmi Panse and Uday Ved – had also submitted their resignation papers.

The company first defaulted on commercial paper, then on short-term borrowings known as inter-corporate deposits according to Bloomberg. It has also failed to pay Rs 4.5 billion ($62 million) in ICDs to government-backed lender Small Industries Development Bank of India.

As we noted on Friday, IL&FS revealed a series of three defaults on its non-convertible debt obligations and inter-corporate deposits.

With the meltdown of IL&FS in motion, another unit, IL&FS Transportation Networks, reported that its chief financial officer, Dilip Bhatia, was demoted to chief strategy officer, for the goal of divestment of assets. The regulatory filing said Bhatia would relinquish his responsibilities as CFO with immediate effect, and the company will search for a replacement.

The shockwaves spread further on Friday, when IL&FS Financial Services, another unit of the IL&FS group, said its managing director and chief executive had resigned.

Why is this important? IL&FS’s outstanding debentures and commercial paper account for 1% and 2% respectively, of India’s domestic corporate debt market as of March 31, according to Moody, while its bank loans made up about 0.5% to 0.7% of the entire banking system loans.

And while bad loans in the Italian banking system have received a ton of attention from investors, India is not far behind and India’s economic recovery is built on an even shakier foundation.

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

Good Times…

Good Times…

My son wanted to know why it is that Venezuela (a topic that gets discussed around the dinner table at home) chose such painfully, obviously asinine policies.

After much thought I explained it thus.

Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create hard times.CLICK TO TWEETI’d seen it before somewhere and so I dug it up. Here it is in a different form.

We bipeds don’t change. I’ve come to realise not to fight it, just see it for what it is and make sure you’re positioned accordingly…for your friends family and those you care about. Speaking of which you should consider joining our family.

No special offers, no steak knives, no wild ridiculous promises – simply rational analysis and positioning for a macro world we’ve never encountered before. EVER! That’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

We’re Bad

At literally everything. We buy high, sell low, look to what Johnny next door is wearing, what car he drives. We get taken in and scammed by shysters, we believe in the unbelievable.

Which brings me swiftly to EM where fund managers desperate for yield dived into the fire over the last few years. Now the inevitable pain is hitting as default fears mount for “BATS” as the emerging-market rout deepens.

Turkey’s implied default odds climbed to highest since 2008 and over in the land of great steaks default risk in Argentina is …ahem…substantial.

As Bloomberg points out:

  • Argentina’s implied default probability over the next five years climbed this month to 41 percent, the highest since Mauricio Macri’s government ended the nation’s decade-long legal battle with most holdout creditors.
  • Turkey’s implied default odds during that span rose to 31 percent, the highest since the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • Brazil’s implied default odds increased to 18 percent, the highest since the country’s worst-ever recession deepened in late 2016.
  • South Africa’s implied default odds soared to 15 percent, the highest since Donald Trump’s election in November 2016.

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

The Rumors are that Turkey Will Default

The rumors running around is that Turkey will default as Erdogan decides to move to align with Iran and Russia and leave the West behind. While there have been speculative attacks on the Turkish economy and US tariffs and sanctions have been detrimental, the initial causes of this growing monetary problem are really all internal. Erdogan’s management of the economy has been a disaster. He has pretended to borrow too much money from foreign investors to stimulate the economy. It is true that the total debt rose to over $450 billion, about half of GDP. Turkish exports and the current account deficit rose to $50 billion. This has led to rapid inflation that has been at least an annual rate of nearly 7% on average during the last ten years. In truth, Erdogan was really trying to build the economy to fulfill his dream of reestablishing the Ottoman Empire and emerge as at least the dominant power over the Middle East.

Unfortunately, Erdogan is stubborn and he really has no way out. He wants his cake and consumes it all at the same time. The rumors running around the trading desks are that he will pull the plug and turn his back on the West. By doing so, he can then justify defaulting on the debt of the “corrupt” West who wants to subjugate Turkey. That will be the justification spin of things. It looks like this will remain volatile into October.

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Looks Like Italian Default is Back on the Menu

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was right to call out the EU over the failure of the bridge in Genoa this week.  It was an act of cheap political grandstanding but one that ultimately rings very true.

It’s a perfect moment to shake people out of their complacency as to the real costs of giving up one’s financial sovereignty to someone else, in this case the Troika — European Commission, ECB and IMF.

Italy is slowly strangling to death thanks to the euro.  There is no other way to describe what is happening.  It’s populist coalition government understands the fundamental problems but, politically, is hamstrung to address them head on.

The political will simply isn’t there to make the break needed to put Italy truly back on the right path, i.e. leave the euro.  But, as the government is set to clash with Brussels over their proposed budget the issues with the euro may come into sharper focus.

Looking at the budget it is two or three steps in the right direction — lower, flat income tax rate, not raising the VAT — but also a step or two in the wrong direction — universal income.

Opening up Italy’s markets and lowering taxpayers’ burdens is the path to sustainable, organic growth, but that is not the purpose of IMF-style austerity.  It’s purpose is to do exactly what it is doing, strangling Italy to death and extracting the wealth and spirit out of the local population, c.f. Greece and before that Russia in the 1990’s.

So, looking at the situation today as the spat between Turkey and the U.S. escalates, it is obvious that Italy is in the crosshairs of any contagion effects into Europe’s banking system.

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

Russell Napier: “Turkey Will Be The Largest EM Default Of All Time”

Regular readers of the Fortnightly will know that The Solid Ground has long forecast a major debt default in Turkey. More specifically, the forecast remains that the country will impose capital controls enforcing a near total loss of US$500bn of credit assets held by the global financial system. That is a large financial hole in a still highly leveraged system. That scale of loss will surpass the scale of loss suffered by the creditors of Bear Stearns and while Lehman’s did have liabilities of US$619bn, it has paid more than US$100bn to its unsecured creditors alone since its bankruptcy.

It is the nature of EM lending that there is little in the way of liquid assets to realize; they are predominantly denominated in a currency different from the liability, and also title has to be pursued through the local legal system. Turkey will almost certainly be the largest EM default of all time, should it resort to capital controls as your analyst expects, but it could also be the largest bankruptcy of all time given the difficulty of its creditors in recovering any assets. So the events of last Friday represent only the end of the beginning for Turkey. The true nature of the scale of its default and the global impacts of that default are very much still to come.

Strong form capital controls produce a de facto debt moratorium, and very rapidly investors realize just how little their credit assets are worth. A de jure debt moratorium at the outbreak of The Great War in 1914 bankrupted almost the entire European banking system – it was saved by mass government intervention.

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

Five Pillars of Debt Default

Five Pillars of Debt Default

Regular readers of Gold Goats ‘n Guns know that I’ve been handicapping a major sovereign debt default to begin here in 2018 or early 2019.  But, what do I mean by that?

How does a sovereign debt default come about?  And who will default?

There are a staggering number of factors that feed into this thesis but, for me, to keep it simple it comes down to five important trends coming to a head at the same time.

I call them the Five Pillars.

#1 Massive Foreign Corporate Debt

After ten years of ‘experimental monetary policy’ which drove borrowing costs in U.S dollars down to record lows, foreign companies still reeling from the after-effects of the 2008 financial crisis borrowed trillions of dollars to fund the global expansion of the past few years.

That debt pays investors in US dollars.

But, foreign companies tend to book revenue in their local currency.

A falling local currency makes dollar-denominated debt more expensive to pay off.

This leads to the next Pillar…

#2 Quantitative Tightening.

QT is simply the opposite of QE, Quantitative Easing.  QE expanded the stock of dollars.  QT is contracting it.  This is what is fueling a rising U.S. dollar.  This, in turn, is making it harder for foreign companies to keep up with their bond payments.

They are forced to sell, aggressively, their local currency and buy dollars in the open market.

This is why the Turkish Lira is in serious trouble, for example.

That puts pressure on the country’s sovereign bond market. Since a falling currency lowers the real rate of return on the bond.

Falling currency, falling bonds, Turkey will put on capital controls next.

This feeds into the next Pillar…

#3 Political Unrest in Europe and Emerging Markets

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

Learning from America’s Forgotten Default

​President Franklin D. Roosevelt​ signs the Gold Bill (also known as the Dollar Devaluation Bill) ​Bettmann/Getty Images

Learning from America’s Forgotten Default

One of the most pervasive myths about the United States is that the federal government has never defaulted on its debts. There’s just one problem: it’s not true, and while few people remember the “gold clause cases” of the 1930s, that episode holds valuable lessons for leaders today.

LOS ANGELES – One of the most pervasive myths about the United States is that the federal government has never defaulted on its debts. Every time the debt ceiling is debated in Congress, politicians and journalists dust off a common trope: the US doesn’t stiff its creditors.

There’s just one problem: it’s not true. There was a time, decades ago, when the US behaved more like a “banana republic” than an advanced economy, restructuring debts unilaterally and retroactively. And, while few people remember this critical period in economic history, it holds valuable lessons for leaders today.

In April 1933, in an effort to help the US escape the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt announced plans to take the US off the gold standard and devalue the dollar. But this would not be as easy as FDR calculated. Most debt contracts at the time included a “gold clause,” which stated that the debtor must pay in “gold coin” or “gold equivalent.” These clauses were introduced during the Civil War as a way to protect investors against a possible inflationary surge.

For FDR, however, the gold clause was an obstacle to devaluation. If the currency were devalued without addressing the contractual issue, the dollar value of debts would automatically increase to offset the weaker exchange rate, resulting in massive bankruptcies and huge increases in public debt.

To solve this problem, Congress passed a joint resolution on June 5, 1933, annulling all gold clauses in past and future contracts.

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

Can US Russian Sanctions Start A Financial Crisis?

The US sanctions against Russia are pointless and are placing the West at risk the politicians are too stupid to even comprehend. Already, some Russian companies have asked the government for liquidity injections of up to $2 billion. Even the world’s second-largest aluminum producer Rusal has asked for help. Nevertheless, the impact of sanctions goes beyond the internal borders of Russia for they also impact the international financial markets.

For example, Rusal had previously made clear that the US sanctions are threatening their ability to even meet debt obligations. They carry $7.7 billion of debt in US dollars of which about $1 billion in debt is maturing within five years. In terms of US dollars, Rusal cannot even pay the debts because it would have to do so through US banks. That means, under the sanctions, they would have to default on their bonds. Now let’s turn to Polyus, which is Russia’s largest gold producer. Here they have also $5 billion in US debt. Those US dollar bonds maturing in 2024.  doubles as sanctions become known.

The same story applies to many Russian companies for they still have to conduct business in US dollars regardless of the sanctions. For example, let’s look closer at Rusal. Here the company conducts over 60% of all its business in US dollars. The US sanctions prohibit Americans from doing business with the affected Russian companies or individuals. This is really crazy. Any Russian state-controlled bank cannot step in as an intermediate because they could then become the target of sanctions itself.

Western investors are actually the ones who will be punished by the US sanctions if the Russian companies cannot pay their debts under the law. They cannot even go to an intermediary in Europe for they too could then be targeted by the US for violating the sanctions.

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

Four Charts: Debt, Defaults and Bankruptcies To See Higher Gold

Four Charts: Debt, Defaults and Bankruptcies To See Higher Gold

– $8.8B Sprott Inc. sees higher gold on massive consumer debt, defaults & bankruptcies 
– Rising and record U.S. debt load may cause financial stress, weaken dollar and see gold go higher
– Massive government and consumer debt eroding benefits of wage growth (see chart)

by Bloomberg

Rising U.S. interest rates, usually bad news for gold, are instead feeding signs of financial stress among debt-laden consumers and helping drive demand for the metal as a haven.

That’s the argument of Sprott Inc., a precious-metals-focused fund manager that oversees $8.8 billion in assets. The following four charts lay out the case for why gold could be poised to rise even as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy.

Gold futures have managed to hold on to gains this year, staying above $1,300 an ounce even as the Fed raised borrowing costs in December for a fifth time since 2015 and is expected to do so again next week.

The increases followed years of rates near zero that began in 2008. Low rates coupled with the Fed’s bond-buying spree contributed to the precious metal’s advance to a record in 2011. Higher rates typically hurt the appeal of gold because it doesn’t pay interest.

Paper Losses

The U.S. posted a $215 billion budget deficit in February, the biggest in six years, as revenue declined, Treasury Department data show. That’s boosting the government debt load, fueling forecasts for higher yields and raising the specter of paper losses for international investors who own $6.3 trillion of U.S. debt.

Slowing demand for Treasuries from overseas buyers is contributing to dollar weakness against the currency’s major peers, helping support gold prices, according to Trey Reik, a senior portfolio manager at Sprott’s U.S. unit.

Debt-Laden Shoppers

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury, which has been in decline for more than three decades, has risen over 40 basis points this year as the Fed raised rates and U.S. debt ballooned to more than $20 trillion.

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

Oil Market Fears: War, Default And Nuclear Weapons

Oil Market Fears: War, Default And Nuclear Weapons

The U.S. is one of the few areas of the world in which there is an energy investment boom underway, a development that could smooth out the uncertainties of geopolitical events around the world. At the same time, outside of the U.S., there is a deterioration of stability in many oil-producing regions, aggravating risks for both oil companies and the oil market, according to a new report.

Financial risk firm Verisk Maplecroft explores these two trends as they play out simultaneously. The U.S. shale sector has emerged from years of low oil prices, damaged but still intact. Importantly, the shale industry “can ride out price dips and respond quickly to upticks, weakening OPEC in the process,” James Lockhart-Smith, director of financial sector risk at Verisk Maplecroft, wrote in the report. Combined with deregulation at the federal level, the oil industry is in the midst of an investment boom in the U.S.

Meanwhile, things are not so rosy elsewhere. Verisk Maplecroft surveyed a long list of countries, and produced its Government Stability Index (GSI), which uses some predictive data and analysts forecasts to take stock of geopolitical risk in various countries over the next few years.

The results are not encouraging. The number of countries expected to see a deterioration of stability “significantly outnumber those we see becoming more stable,” the firm said. The reasons are multiple, including low oil prices, but also the erosion of democratic institutions. Related: Something Unexpected Just Happened In LNG Markets

“We don’t see increasing instability necessarily ending in coups or significant political upheaval, but a less predictable above-ground-risk environment is likely to emerge,” Verisk Maplecroft’s Lockhart-Smith said. “Arbitrary decision making, possible measures to buy off key stakeholders or an inability to pass regulatory reforms will be the main risks to projects in these countries, as their governments seek to stabilise and maintain their influence.”

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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