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Is Draghi Really Ending QE?

Mario Draghi said the euro-area economy is strong enough to overcome increased risk,  and therefore this justifies the European Central Bank’s decision to end bond purchases bringing to an end a decade-long failed experiment. The truth behind this statement is starkly different than being portrayed in the press. Draghi also pledged to keep interest rates unchanged at current record lows until his personal term is finished next year. There is the contradiction for if the ECB stops buying debt, who will do so at artificially low rates of interest?

Draghi knows full well that he has utterly destroyed the bond markets in Europe. The ECB has also made it clear that they will REINVEST when the bonds previously purchased mature. The Federal Reserves has taken the opposite position and will NOT reinvest allowing their balance sheet to shrink.

If the economy is that strong, then why not end the QE right now? The fallacy here is that this has nothing to do with the economy. The ECB has simply had the member states on life-support. Interest rates will soar in Europe on long-term debt or there will be no buyers. Pension funds cannot buy 10-year bonds at even 3% when they need 8% to cover liabilities.

The statement by Draghi is creating a total paradox. You cannot keep short-term interest rates where they are and charge negative rates for deposits and simultaneously end QE and expect to sell bonds to the public at insanely low levels.

The press interprets this as the ECB with ending QE because they are “betting that the euro-area economy is robust enough to ride out an apparent slowdown amid risks including U.S. trade tariffs and nervousness that Italy’s populist government will spark another financial crisis” reported Bloomberg.

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

Weekly Commentary: The Great Fallacy

Weekly Commentary: The Great Fallacy

A big week in the world of monetary management: The Federal Reserve raised rates 25 bps, the ECB announced plans to wind down its historic QE program, and the Bank of Japan clung to its “powerful monetary easing” inflationist scheme. A tense People’s Bank of China left rate policy unchanged, too weary to follow the Fed’s path.
The renminbi declined a notable 0.5% versus the dollar this week. More dramatic, the euro was hammered 1.9% on Draghi’s game plan. Also on Thursday’s dollar strength – and even more dramatic – the Argentine peso sank another 6.2% (down 34% y-t-d). The session saw the Brazilian real drop 2.2%, the Hungarian forint 2.6%, the Czech koruna 2.2%, the Polish zloty 2.0%, the Bulgarian lev 1.9%, the Romanian leu 1.9% and the Turkish lira 1.7%.

The FOMC, raising rates and adjusting “dot plots” higher, was viewed more on the hawkish side. The ECB, while announcing plans to conclude asset purchases by the end of the year, was compelled to add dovish guidance on rate policy (“…expects the key ECB interest rate to remain at present levels at least through the summer of 2019…”). Blindsided, the market dumped the euro. The Fed and ECB now operate on disparate playbooks, each focused on respective domestic issues. Anyone these days focused on faltering emerging market Bubbles, global contagion and the rising risk of market illiquidity?

June 13 – Financial Times (Sam Fleming): “Jay Powell put his personal stamp on the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, as the new chairman vowed to speak in plain English and hold more regular press conferences as he fosters ‘a public conversation’ about what the US central bank is up to. The Fed’s statement after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which detailed its decision to raise rates 0.25% and set a course for two more increases this year, also bore his imprint, as Mr Powell stripped away some of the economic verbiage that cluttered its communications in recent years. Mr Powell’s break from the approach of his predecessor… was more a stylistic one than a radical change of monetary policy strategy.”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Eurozone’s Coming Debt Crisis

The Eurozone’s Coming Debt Crisis

The European Central bank has signaled the end of its asset purchase program and a possible rate hike before 2019. After more than 2 trillion euro of purchases and zero interest rate policy, it is overdue.

The massive quantitative easing program has generated very significant imbalances and the risks outweigh the questionable benefits.

The balance sheet of the ECB is now more than 40% of the Eurozone GDP.

The governments of the Eurozone, however, have not prepared themselves at all for the end of stimuli.

Rather the contrary.

The Eurozone states often claim that deficits have been reduced and risks contained. However, closer scrutiny shows that the bulk of deficit reductions came from lower cost of debt. Eurozone government spending has barely fallen, despite lower unemployment and rising tax revenues. Structural deficits remain stubborn, and in some cases, unchanged from 2013 levels.

The 19 eurozone countries have collectively saved 1.15 trillion euros in interest payments since 2008 due to ECB rate cuts and monetary policy interventions, according to Handelsblatt. A reduction in costs against the losses of pensioners and savers.

However, that illusion of savings and budget stability can rapidly disappear as most Eurozone countries face massive maturities in the 2018-2020 period and wasted precious years of quantitative easing without implementing strong structural reforms. Tax wedge rose for families and SMEs, while current spending by governments barely fell, competitiveness remained poor and a massive one trillion euro in non-performing loans raised doubts about the health of the European financial system.

 

The main eurozone economies face more than 2.1 trillion euro in maturities between 2018 and 2021. This, added to lower tax revenues due to the slowdown and rising spending from populist demands creates an enormous risk of a large debt crisis that no central bank will be able to contain. Absent of structural reforms, the eurozone faces a Japan-style stagnation or a debt crisis.

 

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

Breslow: “If You Ever Needed Proof That Central Banks Have Crushed These Markets, There You Have It”

It’s been a while since we featured the grouchy version of Richard Breslow, Bloomberg’s  “Trader’s Notes” author, who is back with a bang with his latest missive, explaining why “Ignoring Current Events Just Makes You a Slave” and why the mockery of centrally-planned “markets” has gone on long enough…

From Bloomberg’s Richard Breslow

Ignoring Current Events Just Makes You a Slave: Trader’s Notes

This was billed as the most important week of the year for global markets. And we made it almost through Monday before “exhausted” traders were being advised to shuffle back to their safe rooms to get lost in watching the upcoming soccer matches. Boo hoo.

When in doubt, watch TV is one hell of an investment strategy. If you ever needed more proof that central banks have crushed these markets, there you have it. The belief that nothing matters other than an inconsequential rate hike some time over a year from now in euro land or whether the Fed will make the ever so bold move of raising the IOER by only 20 basis points speaks volumes. And it isn’t being complimentary.

It’s a truly bizarre construct to judge the import and implications of every event through the lens of whether green- pack Eurodollar futures jump or dump half a point. Especially when it’s intermingled for show with nonsense about demographic trends sure to produce a precise outcome 30 years from now. No wonder the smart money is investing in artificial intelligence programs that don’t listen to this tripe. G-7 and Korea aren’t yesterday’s news, unless day trading is your version of investing.

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

ECB & Bonds – People Believe What They Want to Believe

QUESTION: the ECB is arguing that given the low free float of EU bonds (especially German), bonds not owned by the ECB or other central banks, the impact of an end to APP purchases will be nowhere comparable to the tapering sell-off in the US in 2013. Bank research teams are hanging on to this idea to make positive forecasts in the EUR exchange rate versus the USD. They say an end-date for the APP programme may not result in a higher risk/term premium in the European government bond market.
Could you comment on this, please? Many thanks for all your work,
GM

ANSWER: The ECB knows it has to stop the QE program. They also know that Yellen was correct in lecturing them that interest rates had to be “normalized” so they know there is a real meltdown coming. That is inevitable. Pension funds cannot buy 10-year bonds at 1.5% or even 3% locking in losses for 10 years. I really fail to see that claiming there is such a small float, because the ECB has been the 800-pound gorilla buying everything, that interest rates will not rise. That is just complete fallacy. There is a small float because they have DESTROYED the bond market in Europe.

Draghi has proved something incredibly important – Demand-Side Economics has been a complete and utter failure. After 10 years of manipulating interest rates, that they want to put private bankers in prison for under the Libor Scandal, the ECB has failed completely. In just 7 days, the German bunds dropped from 16415 to 15939 – that was 5.9%. The 2013 decline in US 30-year Treasuries back in 2013 was 16%. So what the Bunds did in 7 days in their decline based upon events in Italy reflect that the ECB is trying to paint a picture that yes – rates will rise and bonds will decline.

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

The Pension Crisis Will Break Up the EU

The German public broadcast agency ARD is proposing structural changes. Due to the low-interest rates, the ECB has placed the agency in hard times with its pensions. Karola Wille, the director, has called for structural reform to reduce costs. The proposal centers on technological change to increase efficiency in the performance of its mandate. They are also looking at developing cross-media applications to modernize the agency.  The ARD is non-profit so the German government has to fund it. As the low-interest rates have undermined pensions throughout Europe, the governments will have to step up and bail them out. This is going to put tremendous pressure on the entire EU budget and austerity policy embedded within the single currency.

We are looking at the same story being painted throughout Europe. The low-interest rate policy for nearly 10 years has not merely destroyed the bond market in Europe, it has undermined the pension system both privately and publicly. Indeed, adding to this crisis is the mandate that all pension funds hold some or the majority of their investments into government debt. The combination of these policies clashes with the ECB and the nightmare on the horizon and why Draghi can’t leave fast enough to avoid personal blame.

This crisis all stems from the structural design of the EU. They tried to be half pregnant with only a single currency and dictatorial control over member state budgets. The refusal to consolidate the debt emphasized the problem of the great disparities in cultures and the prevailing prejudices that exist through Europe between member states as well as within member states such as Bavaria v northern Germany or Spain v Catalonia, Scotland v Britain, Italy v Sicily, etc.. This prevailing prejudice is also why the bail-in policy was adopted.

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

The Relevance of Hayek’s Triangle Today

Most of us are aware of the inflationary pressures in the major economies, that so far are proving somewhat latent in the non-financial sector. But some central banks are on the alert as well, notably the Federal Reserve Board, which has taken the lead in trying to normalise interest rates. Others, such as the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England are yet to be convinced that price inflation is a potential problem.

Virtually no one in the central banks, government treasury departments, or independent analysts see the real inflationary danger. There is a lone exception perhaps in Dr Zhang Weiying, the top economist at Beijing University and formally in charge of China’s economic policy, who quoted Hayek’s business cycle theory to point out the dangers of excessive deficits.[i] Whether he is listened to by his colleagues, we shall doubtless find out in due course. Otherwise, a sudden acceleration of price inflation will come as a complete surprise to our financially sophisticated markets.

This article explains why the danger lies in the structure of production, which in the West at least is seriously out of whack. The follies of post-crisis central bank monetary reflation are likely to drive us rapidly into the next credit crisis as a consequence. To understand why this is so requires us to revisit the 1930s writings of an Austrian-born economist, who was tasked by the London School of Economics with explaining to advanced students the disruption to the production process from changes in consumer demand.

Friedrich von Hayek was famously reported as the economic guru of both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. This distinction owes its origin to his market-based approach to economics, which was in stark contrast with the statist approach that was predominant in political circles at that time, and still is today. It was simple shorthand for the media writing for a mass audience.

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

After Italy… Spain Risk Soars

After Italy… Spain Risk Soars

Political risk in Europe was largely ignored in international markets because of the mirage of the so-called “Macron effect”. The ECB’s massive quantitative easing program and a perception that everything was different this time in Europe added to the illusion of growth and stability.

However, a storm was brewing and the same old problems seen throughout the years in Europe were increasing.

In Italy, the shock came with an election that brought a coalition of extreme left and extreme right populists. Disillusion with the Euro was evident in Italy for years, as the economy continued to be in stagnation while debt soared. However, international bodies, mainstream analysts, and banks preferred to ignore the risk, instead continuing to announce impossible growth estimates for the following year and science-fiction banks’ profitability improvements.

Italy’s economic problems are self-inflicted, not due to the Euro. Governments of all ideologies have consistently promoted inefficient dinosaur “national champions” and state-owned semi-ministerial corporations at the expense of small and medium enterprises, competitiveness and growth, labor market rigidities created high unemployment, while banks were incentivized to lend to obsolete and indebted state-owned companies in their disastrous empire-building acquisitions, inefficient municipalities, as well as finance bloated local and national government spending. This led to the highest Non-Performing Loan figure in Europe.

Now, the new government wants to solve a problem of high government intervention with more government intervention. The measures outlined would imply an additional deficit of some €130bn by 2020 and shoot the 2020 Deficit/GDP to 8%, according to Fidentiis.

Italy’s large debt and non-performing loans can create a much bigger problem than Greece for the EU. Because this time, the ECB has no tools to manage it. With liquidity at all-time highs and bond yields at all-time lows, there is nothing that can be done from a monetary policy perspective to contain a political crisis.

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

Debt Deflation Italian Style

New York – This week The IRA will be at the MBA Secondary Market Conference & Expo, as always held at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.  The 8th floor reception and bar is where folks generally hang out.  Attendees should not miss the panel on mortgage servicing rights at 3:00 PM Monday.  We’ll give our impressions of this important conference in the next edition of The Institutional Risk Analyst.

Three takeaways from our meetings last week in Paris:  First, we heard Banque de France Governor Villeroy de Galhau confirm that the European Central Bank intends to continue reinvesting its portfolio of securities indefinitely.  This means continued low interest rates in Europe and, significantly, increasing monetary policy divergence between the EU and the US.

Second and following from the first point, the banking system in Europe remains extremely fragile, this despite happy talk from various bankers we met during the trip.  The fact of sustained quantitative easing by the ECB, however, is a tacit admission that the state must continue to tax savings in order to transfer value to debtors such as banks.  Overall, the ECB clearly does not believe that economic growth has reached sufficiently robust levels such that extraordinary policy steps should end.

Italian banks, for example, admit to bad loans equal to 14.5 percent of total loans. Double that number to capture the economic reality under so-called international accounting rules.  Italian banks have packaged and securitized non-performing loans (NPLs) to sell them to investors, supported by Italian government guarantees on senior tranches. These NPL deals are said to be popular with foreign hedge funds, yet this explicit state bailout of the banks illustrates the core fiscal problem facing Italy.

And third, the fact of agreement between the opposition parties in Italy means that the days of the Eurozone as we know it today may be numbered.

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

Is the US Exporting a Recession?

  • The Federal Reserve continue to raise rates as S&P earnings beat estimates
  • The ECB and BoJ maintain QE
  • Globally, corporations rely on US$ financing, nonetheless
  • Signs of a slowdown in growth are clearer outside the US

After last week’s ECB meeting, Mario Draghi gave the usual press conference. He confirmed the continuance of stimulus and mentioned the moderation in the rate of growth and below-target inflation. He also referred to the steady expansion in money supply. When it came to the Q&A he revealed rather more:-

It’s quite clear that since our last meeting, broadly all countries experienced, to different extents of course, some moderation in growth or some loss of momentum. When we look at the indicators that showed significant, sharp declines, we see that, first of all, the fact that all countries reported means that this loss of momentum is pretty broad across countries.

It’s also broad across sectors because when we look at the indicators, it’s both hard and soft survey-based indicators. Sharp declines were experienced by PMI, almost all sectors, in retail, sales, manufacturing, services, in construction. Then we had declines in industrial production, in capital goods production. The PMI in exports orders also declined. Also we had declines in national business and confidence indicators.

I quote this passage out of context because the entire answer was more nuanced. My reason? To highlight the difference between the situation in the EU and the US. In Europe, money supply (M3) is growing at 4.3% yet inflation (HICP) is a mere 1.3%. Meanwhile in the US, inflation (CPI) is running at 2.4% and money supply (M2) is hovering a fraction above 2%. Here is a chart of Eurozone M3 since 1999:-

EU M3 Money Supply

Source: Eurostat

The recent weakening of momentum is a concern, but the absolute level is consistent with a continued expansion.

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

ECB Capitulates On Defusing Eurozone’s “$1 Trillion Ticking Time Bomb”

In late 2017, the ECB surprised central bank watchers, briefly spooked markets, and angered many Italians, with its plan to eradicate what many have dubbed the “ticking time-bomb” at the heart of the Eurozone, namely the roughly $1 trillion in non-performing loans across European banks (a number which is materially higher in reality as Euro banks were recently caught misrepresenting it).

The ECB then quickly came under fire – mostly from Italy whose banks have the biggest notional amount of bad loans – for demanding that banks set aside far more capital as loss buffer for when the €900 billion in bad loans are ultimately discharged.

Fast forward six months when it now appears that the European central bank came, saw… and ran away when faced with what now appears to be an certifiably insurmountable problem: as Reuters reported this morning, the ECB “is considering shelving planned rules that would have forced banks to set aside more money against their stock of unpaid loans, after suffering a political backlash.

The NPL guidelines, which were already delayed by a month, and were expected by March, were pitched as a key anchor of the ECB’s plan to bring down the $930 billion pile of non-performing credit that has crippled eurozone banks for the past decade, particularly those in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy.

Instead, the ECB is now planning to tactically surrender as there NPL problem has proven too massive for banks to be able to officially address it, or as Reuters put its far more politically, “the ECB was now considering whether further policies on legacy non-performing loans were necessary depending on the progress made by individual banks.” Of course, since there has barely been any progress in resolving this issue, the conclusion is simple: the ECB is no longer pushing for an NPL resolution, as there simply isn’t a viable one.

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

Draghi Admits “Growth May Have Peaked”; ECB To Delay QE Unwind

As we have showed repeatedly over the past month, the European economic imploding, and nowhere is this more obvious than the Citi Eurozone Economic Surprise Index why will soon hit its post financial crisis lows.

It appears that after weeks of dithering, someone at the ECB also figured out how to pull up this chart on their Bloomberg because moments ago, and one month after the ECB first admitted that things are not ok when the central bank cut its 2019 inflation forecast, arguably due to protectionism concerns…

… Mario Draghi finally admitted what we all know:

  • ECB’S DRAGHI EURO-AREA GROWTH CYCLE MAY HAVE PEAKED

To be sure, Draghi also brought up the usual spate of platitudes he mentions every time, including that: “Notwithstanding the latest economic indicators, which suggest that the growth cycle may have peaked, the growth momentum is expected to continue”, that protectionism “may have already had some negative impact on global sentiment indicators” and that “while our confidence in the inflation outlook has increased, remaining uncertainties still warrant patience, persistence and prudence with regard to monetary policy.”

His conclusion was the punchline: “An ample degree of monetary stimulus remains necessary.”

Which leads us to the second point. As Draghi was speaking, Bloomberg reported the latest ECB “trial balloon” according to which Central Bank policymakers “see scope to wait until their July meeting to announce how they’ll end their bond-buying program”, according to euro-area officials familiar with the matter.

In other words, so much for the ECB tightening, or being able to tighten, any time soon.

More details:

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

The Central Bank Crisis on the Immediate Horizon

While the majority keep bashing the Federal Reserve, other central banks seem to escape any criticism. The European Central Bank under Mario Draghi has engaged in what history will call the Great Monetary Experiment of the 21st Century – the daring experiment of negative interest rates. A look behind the scenes reveals that this experiment has been not just a failure, it has undermined the entire global economic structure. We are looking at pension funds being driven into insolvency as the traditional asset allocation model of 60% equity 40% bonds has failed to secure the future with negative interest rates. Then, the ECB has exceeded 40% ownership of Eurozone government debt. The ECB realizes it can not only sell any of its holdings ever again, it cannot even refuse to reinvest what it has already bought when those bonds expire. The Fed has announced it will not reinvest anything. Draghi is trapped. He cannot stop buying government debt for if he does, interest rates will soar. He cannot escape this crisis and it is not going to end nicely.

When this policy collapses, forced by the free markets (no bid), CONFIDENCE will collapse rapidly. Once people no longer believe the central banks can control anything, the end has arrived. We will be looking at the time at the WEC. We will be answering the question – Can a central bank actually fail?

ECB Tells Deutsche Bank To Simulate A “Crisis Scenario”

In a stark reminder that despite all the operational and management turmoil over the past three years, few if any of the outstanding concerns involving Europe’s banking behemoth – Deutsche Bank, which has gone thorugh – with €48 trillion in net notional derivatives has been resolved…

… in its Monday edition, Suddeutsche Zeitung reports that the ECB has asked that Deutsche Bank simulate what a “crisis scenario” would look like, and what it would cost to complete a “resolution”, i.e. wind-down, of its own investment banking division. 

While DB’s calculations have reported been taking place for several months, SZ notes that this is the first time that the ECB supervisory authority has demanded such a measure from a major bank. The German publication also notes that the ECB will demand similar simulations of other banks.

According to the report, banking regulators want to know what the impact would be on the value of Deutshe Bank’s capital market and derivatives business if, as a solvent bank, it had to simulate an abrupt end to new business.

One possible need for such a simulation may stem from the recent termination of CEO John Cryan, and his replacement with Christian Sewing, a lifelong retail banker, who some have speculated may seek to wind-down Deutsche Bank’s i-Banking division.

To be sure, in order to avoid a panic that the ECB is preparing for the worst and simulating a full-blown Deutsche Bank bankruptcy, SZ adds that the exercise is not about simulating an event of bankruptcy, “which would be many times more expensive and difficult.” In response to the article, the ECB said that it generally gives banks many tasks, without elaborating on the “crisis scenario” it has requested.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank said it is routinely tasked by regulators to determine “the consequences of orderly settlement of positions in its trading books.” Perhaps, but never until now was Europe’s biggest bank asked to quantify how the abrupt end of its banking business, with its associated €48.3 trillion in gross notional derivatives, would affect both the bank itself, and would percolate across markets.

Bank of Japan Buys Record Amount of Equity ETFs: Once Upon a Time

The Japanese stock market fell, so the Bank of Japan bought more equity funds.

After cornering the bond market, the Bank of Japan has its sight on the stock market with a Record Buying Binge in March.

The Bank of Japan spent 833 billion yen ($7.8 billion) on exchange-traded funds tracking the country’s shares last month, the largest amount ever according to data back to 2010. The BOJ stepped in as the Japanese market slumped and its benchmark Topix index inked its first back-to-back monthly declines since the start of 2016. Haruhiko Kuroda’s bank is now ahead of its scheduled goal to spend about 6 trillion yen a year on ETFs. “If the market keeps on falling, there will be the problem of what they do next,” said Kazuyuki Terao, chief investment officer for the Japan arm of Allianz Global Investors.

Problem? What Problem?

Just buy them all. 100% of every ETF. Given the Bank of Japan has cornered the bond market, it’s simply the logical next step.

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I seem to recall central banks discussing and setting monetary policy in a very strange way.

For those of you not old enough to remember, the Fed and other central banks actually discussed the growth rate of money supply at monetary policy meetings.

How peculiar, to actually discuss money at monetary policy meetings. Those silly days are gone.

New Normal

  • Central banks now sponsor negative interest rates, something that could never happen in the real world.
  • The Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank are playing roulette with the stock market.
  • The Fed embarked on three rounds of QE to force bond yields lower.
  • The ECB is still at it, in a clear attempt to keep Italy on life support.

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

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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