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Federal Reserve Will Continue Cutting Economic Life Support

Federal Reserve Will Continue Cutting Economic Life Support

I remember back in mid-2013 when the Federal Reserve fielded the notion of a “taper” of quantitative easing measures. More specifically, I remember the response of mainstream economic analysts as well as the alternative economic community. I argued fervently in multiple articles that the Fed would indeed follow through with the taper, and that it made perfect sense for them to do so given that the mission of the central bank is not to protect the U.S. financial system, but to sabotage it carefully and deliberately. The general consensus was that a taper of QE was impossible and that the Fed would “never dare.” Not long after, the Fed launched its taper program.

Two years later, in 2015, I argued once again that the Fed would begin raising interest rates even though multiple mainstream and alternative sources believed that this was also impossible. Without low interest rates, stock buybacks would slowly but surely die out, and the last pillar holding together equities and the general economy (besides blind faith) would be removed. The idea that the Fed would knowingly take such an action seemed to be against their “best self interest;” and yet, not long after, they initiated the beginning of the end for artificially low interest rates.

The process that the Federal Reserve has undertaken has been a long and arduous one cloaked in disinformation. It is a process of dismantlement. Through unprecedented stimulus measures, the central bank has conjured perhaps the largest stock and bond bubbles in history, not to mention a bubble to end all bubbles in the U.S. dollar.

Stocks in particular are irrelevant in the grand scheme of our economy, but this does not stop the populace from using them as a reference point for the health of our system. This creates an environment rife with delusion, just as the open flood of cheap credit created considerable delusion before the crash of 2008.

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

When This Debt Bubble Bursts, Central Banks Will Turn to Money Printing… Again

When This Debt Bubble Bursts, Central Banks Will Turn to Money Printing… Again

Let’s face the facts.

The only reason the financial system has held together so well since 2008 is because Central Banks have created a bubble in bonds via massive QE programs and seven years of ZIRP/NIRP.

As a result of this, the entire world has gone on a debt binge issuing debt by the trillions of dollars. Today, if you looked at the world economy, you’d find it sporting a Debt to GDP ratio of over 327%.

Well guess what? The REAL situation is even worse than this. The Bank of International Settlements (the Central Banks’ Central Bank) just published a report  revealing that globally the financial system has $13 trillion MORE debt hidden via junk derivatives contracts.

Global debt may be under-reported by around $13 trillion because traditional accounting practices exclude foreign exchange derivatives used to hedge international trade and foreign currency bonds, the BIS said on Sunday.

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

As has been the case for every single crisis since the mid’90s, the problem is derivatives.

Consider that as early as 1998, soon to be chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Brooksley Born, approached Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, and Larry Summers (the three heads of economic policy) about derivatives.

Born said she thought derivatives should be reined in and regulated because they were getting too out of control. The response from Greenspan and company was that if she pushed for regulation that the market would “implode.”

Fast-forward to 2007, and once again unregulated derivatives trigger a massive crisis, this time regarding the Housing Bubble

And today, we find out that once again, derivatives are at the root of the current bubble (debt). And once again, the Central Banks will be cranking up the printing presses to paper over this mess when the stuff hits the fan.

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

Why Quantitative Easing In The Eurozone Will Be Extended

Why Quantitative Easing In The Eurozone Will Be Extended

The staff of the European Central Bank has now released the new macro-economic projections for the Eurozone and whilst the introduction sounds optimistic about an ever-increasing GDP and a relatively stable GDP growth rate, reading between the lines suggests we could see an extended Quantitative Easing program.

The ECB is probably correct when it claims the economic recovery will remain ‘robust’, but it also mentions the ‘favorable financing conditions’ as one of the main drivers of this economic recovery. This is quite the ‘catch 22’ scenario. The economy is recovering due to the low interest rate policy of the ECB, but without this ‘easy money policy’, the recovery would be either much slower or non-existing at all. Whilst we have heard several voices from ECB committee members the central bank is getting close to the point it will start to increase the interest rates again, the working paper from the ECB staffers is pretty clear on the need for continuous (monetary) support to protect the current economic recovery.

Source: ECB paper

What’s even more intriguing is the fact the ECB’s assumptions are taking an even LOWER interest rate into account. The study was based on the market circumstances and market expectations as of half August, and back then, the market was taking an average 10 year government bond yield of 1.3% in 2018 and 1.6% in 2019 into consideration. However, this has now been revised downward with approximately 10-20 basis points. This could indicate the market has started to price in a longer period of easy and free money.

And that’s an important starting point. As the loans to businesses (and individuals) are priced based on the anticipated ‘risk-free’ interest rate of a government bond, the lower expectations for sovereign debt yields will trickle down to the ‘real’ economy (underpinning the growth expectations), but it’s unlikely this effect will still be noticeable should the ECB reduce its QE program.

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

What Does the QE Experience Say About Rates in a Shrinking Fed Balance Sheet World?

What Does the QE Experience Say About Rates in a Shrinking Fed Balance Sheet World?

The Federal Reserve is likely to decide next week to begin letting assets roll of its balance sheet as bonds mature, instead of reinvesting the proceeds. This means that the balance sheet will begin to shrink in size and other market participants will be forced to absorb the supply of new issuance of treasury and mortgage backed securities. Conventional analysis of supply and demand dynamics might suggest the exiting of a large marginal buyer of these securities would cause yields to rise to some higher equilibrium level, but the QE experience suggests something else entirely. When the Fed was engaged in asset purchases and the rate of change in the Fed’s balance sheet was rising (late 2010, mid 2012 through early 2013) long-term treasury yields rose on the back of juiced growth and inflation expectations produced by the stimulus. When the rate of change in the Fed’s balance sheet would flat line or fall (most of 2010, most of 2013 through 2014) treasury yields fell on the back of subdued growth and inflation expectations. Importantly, it was both real rates (TIPS) and breakeven inflation that followed this pattern, which is indicative of the level of economic stimulus produced by QE. Chart 1 below shows 10-year nominal rates (red line, right axis) overlaid on the three month difference in the Fed’s balance sheet (blue line, left axis). Chart 2 below shows 10-year real rates (red line, right axis) overlaid on the three month difference in the Fed’s balance sheet (blue line, left axis). Chart 3 below shows 10-year implied breakeven inflation expectations (red line, right axis) overlaid on the three month difference in the Fed’s balance sheet (blue line, left axis).

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

 

 

Bill Blain Crawls Back Into His Pit: “There Is Apparently Nothing To Worry About”

Bill Blain Crawls Back Into His Pit: “There Is Apparently Nothing To Worry About”

What do we know different this morning?

There is apparently nothing to worry about. Everything is coming up roses. These are not the droids you are looking for – says my market guru Steve Previs. All the old market bears, like me, are looking for stuff to grumble about – terrified by the unintended consequences of QE, caught in the headlights of apparently overbought markets, of whatever else panics them… etc.

But what do we know?

We know nothing – the markets continue to make new highs supported by a blaze of good news and positive expectations. The disappointing China data and threat of poor US data is momentary… apparently.. But, but and but again…  mood and sentiment can change on a dime…

I shall crawl back into my pit and ponder…

I could list a whole run of things likely to worry the markets in coming months. As usual, 99% of things the market unwisely labels “known unknowns” prove nothing more that whispy worries and momentary concerns – that with the benefit of hindsight we built up out of all proportion.

But, I am still convinced there is trouble ahead in bonds. The fact countries like Tajikistan and Ukraine are doing blowout deals is one thing – it shows price compression is out of sync and we are approaching a Ukrainian Chicken Farm Moment in the new issue bond market. It’s inevitable. The UCFM is an immutable law of bond physics.

I suspect there is trouble ahead in Investment Grade as well – which spells trouble for delicate sovereign sentiment. I got lots of positive feedback on my comments on the Austria “2% for 100” years deal yesterday, including a very astute observation from a US client as I tried to whet his interest:

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

BofA: Even The Bubbles Are Becoming More “Bubbly” Thanks To Central Banks

BofA: Even The Bubbles Are Becoming More “Bubbly” Thanks To Central Banks

Back in June, Citi’s credit strategist Hans Lorenzen pointed out that while QE had failed to spark inflation across the broader economy, it had achieved something else: “the principal transmission channel to the real economy has been… lifting asset prices.” That however has required continuous CB balance sheet growth, and with the Fed, ECB and BOJ all poised to “renormalize” over the next year, the global monetary impulse is set to turn negative in the coming year. Meanwhile, as financial markets scramble to maximize every last ounce of what central bank impulse remains, we get such bubbles as London real estate, bitcoin and vintage cars, or as Citi puts it: “the wealth effect is stretching farther and farther afield.” 

Three months later, the latest to tackle the issue of central bank bubble creation, is BofA’s Barnaby Martin, who in a note released overnight asks rhetorically “are bubbles becoming more “bubbly”?

Just like Lorenzen, Martin observes the blanket central bank “lower for longer” rates intervention, which leads to “speculative behavior in assets.” Well, technically, Martin hedges by calling it a “risk”, but one look at the chart above and below shows that the bubbles created by central banks are all too real. And as Martin, whose topic is the unprecedented buying spree across credit, notes it’s not just credit markets that are seeing exceptional investor demand at this point in the cycle: so is everything else, or as he puts it:

As chart 3, over the page shows, asset bubbles seem to be becoming more “bubbly” as time goes by.”

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

ECB – Draghi & Tapering

The European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to begin reducing its bond purchases gradually tampering its stimulation program of Quantitative Easing (QE). Nevertheless, reliable sources tell of the ECB being extremely cautious fearing what will happen if buyers do not appear and rates begin to rise sharply. The difference between the ECB and the Fed is stark. The ECB owns 40% of Eurozone government debt. The Fed does not even come close.

Obviously, the European financial markets have become addicted to the unprecedented inflow of cheap money even though there has been no appreciable rise in economic growth or inflation as was expected. This raises the question only asked behind the curtain: Will the economy spiral downward if QE ends? The Fed never reached the levels of ECB’s QE program so there is no comparison with the States.

The ECB expects to gradually lower the constant QE purchases of government debt in the Eurozone, which has really kept the governments on life-support. In part, this is why Macron is pushing to federalize Europe in its budgetary and financial markets. There is a fear that there will be severe distortions on the exchanges in the months ahead. What is hoped is that the Euro will decline and make the difficult weaning more tolerable by increasing exports and creating inflation. A lower currency will help to stimulate the Eurozone whereas a rising currency will only add to the deflationary pressures.

The ECB will most likely allow bonds to simply mature rather than sell them back to the marketplace. Any news of the ECB actually selling bonds would send a wave of panic through the European markets. Thus, the only practical way to approach this is to (1) reduce purchases and (2) allow current holding to mature and hopefully they money will be reinvested by the private sector.

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

Matt King: Global QE And “ETFs Everywhere” Have Created An Unstable, One-Way Market

Matt King: Global QE And “ETFs Everywhere” Have Created An Unstable, One-Way Market

While the financial industry remains divided over what precisely is the cause of the malaise that affects modern markets, characterized by plunging volumes and trading activity, record low volatility and dispersion, a relentless ascent disconnected from fundamentals, and generally a sense of foreboding doom, manifested by an all time high OMT skew – or record high price for crash insurance – as discussed previously

… it can agree on one thing: it has something to do with the interplay of QE, the artificial force that has disconnected market prices from values for the past 8 years, and ETFs, which as some prominent investors have said are “devouring capitalism.” They also agree that the combination of QE and ETFs have made the market almost entirely “one-sided”, and thus prone to collapse when conditions finally reverse.Indeed, as Citi’s Matt King – our favorite sellside cross-asset strategist – writes in his latest report, a growing number of institutional managers, from Oaktree to Elliott to  Bridgewater, have recently been expressing concerns not only about elevated valuations and the potential for a correction, but in many cases also about the potential for herding and the risk that markets have grown one-sided.

King points out a trend observed among the financial literature over the past 2-3 years (starting with Howard Marks’ March 2015 note in which he asked, rhetorically “What Would Happen If ETF Holders Sold All At Once? Howard Marks Explains”), “everyone’s number-one suspect in potentially creating such a tendency seems to be ETFs. In Paul Singer’s memorable words, passive investment through the likes of ETFs “is unsustainable and brittle” and “is in danger of devouring capitalism”.

Did the Economy Just Stumble Off a Cliff?

Did the Economy Just Stumble Off a Cliff?

The signs are everywhere for those willing to look: something has changed beneath the surface of complacent faith in permanent growth.
This is more intuitive than quantitative, but my gut feeling is that the economy just stumbled off a cliff. Neither the cliff edge nor the fatal misstep are visible yet; both remain in the shadows of the intangible foundation of the economy: trust, animal spirits, faith in authorities’ management, etc.
Since credit expansion is the lifeblood of the global economy, let’s look at credit expansion. Courtesy of Market Daily Briefing, here is a chart of total credit in the U.S. and a chart of the percentage increase of credit.
Notice the difference between credit expansion in 1990 – 2008 and the expansion of 2009 – 2017. Credit expanded by a monumental $40+ trillion in 1990 – 2008 without any monetary easing (QE) or zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP). The expansion of 2009 – 2017 required 8 long years of massive monetary/fiscal stimulus and ZIRP.
This chart of credit change (%) reveal just how lackluster the current expansion of credit has been, despite unprecedented trillions of stimulus pumped into the financial sector.
Here are two other snapshots of debt: margin debt and private credit. Both have hit new highs.
Note the tight correlation of margin debt to the S&P 500 stock index: when punters borrow more on margin to buy more stock, stocks keep rising.
When credit stops expanding, the economy stumbles into recession.
Back in the real world, have you noticed a slowing of animal spirits borrowing and spending? Have you tightened up your household budget recently, or witnessed cutbacks in the spending habits of friends and family? Have you noticed retail parking lots aren’t very full nowadays, and once-full cafes now have empty tables?

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

Draghi: Trillions In QE Have Made Economies “More Resilient”

Draghi: Trillions In QE Have Made Economies “More Resilient”

When last night we previewed this week’s annual Jackson Hole symposium at which Mario Draghi is scheduled to speak just before the market close on Friday, we said that the ECB head is warming up for the trip by speaking at the Lindau economics symposium in Germany this morning “and as such he could front run himself.” Unfortunately for many who were expecting some advance highlights, Draghi disappointed those who hoped he would preview his Jackson Hole appearance.

So what did Draghi talk about? Instead of previewing the ECB’s inevitable taper (especially as the central bank will soon run out of Bunds to buy at the current pace of monetization), the central banker defended growing criticism of his unorthodox monetary policy, and said the ECB’s policies such as QE and NIRP, saying they have been a success on both sides of the Atlantic, and that the purchase of some $15 trillion in assets has somehow made economies “more resilient.”

Speaking to the Lindau audience of 17 Nobel laureates and 350 young German economists, a nation which has been one of the stiffest critics of ECB policies such as quantitative easing, Draghi’s speech avoided any specific hints on current ECB deliberations, and instead said officials must be “unencumbered by the defense of previously held paradigms that have lost any explanatory power.”

He then launched into a vocal defense of QE, saying that “when the world changes as it did ten years ago, policies, especially monetary policy, need to be adjusted. Such an adjustment, never easy, requires unprejudiced, honest assessment of the new realities with clear eyes, unencumbered by the defense of previously held paradigms that have lost any explanatory power”

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

Bill Blain: There Is A “Last Days Of Rome” Feel To The News These Days…

Bill Blain: There Is A “Last Days Of Rome” Feel To The News These Days…

By Bill Blain of Mint Partners

Blain’s Morning Porridge – August 22nd 2017

“”Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.… ”

I’m wondering if I’ve stumbled into a parallel universe after coming back to the office yesterday. Its too damn quiet out-there! Everybody else is apparently still on holiday. It’s scary. Every headline is about thin markets or how markets have shrugged off last week’s sell off.. (what about next week’s?) There doesn’t seem to be anyone actually at their desks… That’ll change…

This week? Since no one is out there.. I can say what I like.. It’s no wonder news flow noise is being magnified out of proportion..

It used to be the summer was the right time for big Jackson Hole style gatherings – safe on the basis holiday markets weren’t paying much attention. Central bankers/economists/investors and other influencers could gab and pontificate without upsetting anyone. But today.. well maybe there are just too many journalists, bloggers and other market parasites just desperately keen to make sure folk are acting upon their supremely important insights into what Stephen Mnuchin’s wife was wearing during his visit to Fort Knox and what it means for global asset prices.

There is a “last days of Rome” feel to the news these days…

But some stuff is still well worth thinking about, so I have to comment on a great Bloomberg Article this morning: “Unintended Consequences of Quantitative Easing” by Jean-Michel Paul.

Regular readers of the morning porridge will know I’ve been deeply suspicious about QE since Day 1. I’ve been writing about the dangers of QE and asset price inflation, for years. Cassandra like, I’m probably right to be concerned, but was anyone listening?

THEY ARE NOW!

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

Stock & Bond Markets in Denial about QE Unwind, but Banks, Treasury Dept Get Antsy

Stock & Bond Markets in Denial about QE Unwind, but Banks, Treasury Dept Get Antsy

“Let markets clear.” It’ll be just “a financial engineering shock.”

Stock and bond markets are in denial about the effects of the Fed’s forthcoming QE unwind, whose kick-off is getting closer by the day, according to the minutes of the Fed’s July meeting.

“Several participants” were fretting how financial conditions had eased since the rate hikes began in earnest last December, instead of tightening. “Further increases in equity prices, together with continued low longer-term interest rates, had led to an easing of financial conditions,” they said. So something needs to be done about it.

And “several participants were prepared to announce a starting date for the program at the current meeting” – so the meeting in July – “most preferred to defer that decision until an upcoming meeting.” So the September meeting. And markets are now expecting the QE unwind to be announced in September.

Since then, short-term Treasury yields have remained relatively stable, reflecting the Fed’s current target range for the federal funds rate of 1% to 1.25%. But long-term rates, which the Fed intends to push up with the QE unwind, have come down further. As a consequence, the yield curve has flattened further, which is the opposite of what the Fed wants to accomplish.

The chart shows how the yield curve for current yields (red line) across the maturities has flattened against the yield curve on December 14 (blue line), when the Fed got serious about tightening:

Yields of junk bonds at the riskiest end (rated CCC or below) surged in the second half of 2015 and in early 2016, peaking above 20% on average, as bond prices have plunged (they move in opposite directions) in part due to the collapse of energy junk bonds, which caused a phenomenal bout of Fed flip-flopping.

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

Credit Investors Are Suddenly Extremely Worried About Central Banks

Credit Investors Are Suddenly Extremely Worried About Central Banks

On one hand, credit investors have never had it better with IG credit spread at record tights and junk bond yields sliding to 3 year lows

On the other, and this is linked to the above, they have never been more nervous, and as the latest Bank of America credit investor survey shows, more worried about the Fed in general, and “Quantitative Failure” in particular.

But why, if as so many claim, the Fed has nothing to do with the the return of risk assets? Ignore that, it’s rhetorical.

As BofA’s Barnaby Martin writes, August’s survey shows a marked change in the Wall of Worry, in which “Quantitative Failure” has now emerged as investors’ top concern (23%), up materially from June’s reading (6%). The reason for the sudden spike in central bank fears is that Investors say that a backdrop of the ECB ending QE next year, while inflation remains sub-par, has the potential to rattle the market’s confidence.

The chart above shows that at the top of the Wall of Worry for both high grade and high yield investors are:

  • “Quantitative Failure”, “bubbles in credit” and “rising yields”
  • Interestingly, almost no investor worries now about “populism” or “low liquidity”
  • Bubbles in credit still features among the top worries, but is well down from June’s reading (in high-grade it has fallen from 33% to 21%)

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

Why Quantitative Tightening Will Fail

Why Quantitative Tightening Will Fail

After nine years of unconventional quantitative easing (QE) policy the Federal Reserve is now setting out on a new path for quantitative tightening (QT).

QE was a policy of money printing. The Fed did this by buying bonds from the big banks. The banks would then deliver bonds to the Fed, and the Fed would in turn pay them with money from thin air. QT takes a different approach.

Instead, the Fed will set out policy that allows the old bonds to mature, while not buy new ones from the banks. That way the money will shrink the balance sheets ahead of any potential crisis.

For years leaders at the Federal Reserve have been rolling over the balance sheet to keep it at $4.5 trillion.

Here’s what the Fed wants you to believe.

The Fed wants you to think that QT will not have any impact. Fed leadership speaks in code and has a word for this which you’ll hear called “background.” The Fed wants this to run on background. Think of running on background like someone using a computer to access email while downloading something on background.

This is complete nonsense. They’ve spent eight years saying that quantitative easing was stimulative. Now they want the public to believe that a change to quantitative tightening is not going to slow the economy.

They continue to push that conditions are sustainable when printing money, but when they make money disappear, it will not have any impact. This approach falls down on its face – and it will have a big impact.

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

The Three Headed Debt Monster That’s Going to Ravage the Economy

“The bank is something more than men, I tell you.  It’s the monster.  Men made it, but they can’t control it.” – John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Something strange and somewhat senseless happened this week. On Tuesday, the price of gold jumped over $13 per ounce.  This, in itself, is nothing too remarkable.  However, at precisely the same time gold was jumping, the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note was slip sliding down to 2.15 percent.

In short, investors were simultaneously anticipating inflation and deflation.  Naturally, this is a gross oversimplification.  But it does make the point that something peculiar is going on with these markets.

Clear thinking and simple logic won’t make heads or tails of things.  For example, late Wednesday and then into Thursday the reverse happened.  Gold gave back practically all $13 per ounce it had gained on Tuesday, while the yield on the 10-Year Treasury note climbed back up to 2.19 percent.  What to make of it?

Gold and treasury yields have been inversely correlated for some time. This is probably due to inflation expectations driving expectations about interest rate policy – click to enlarge.

With a little imagination one can conceive of where the money’s coming from to buy Treasury bonds.  More than likely, it has something to do with central bank intervention into credit markets.  Though, the Federal Reserve is not the only culprit.

If you recall, the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program concluded in late 2014.  The Fed even says it plans to start shrinking its balance sheet later this year.  So if the Fed’s not the source of liquidity for Treasury purchases, who is?

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

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