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Square Minus Zero

Square Minus Zero

Gustave Courbet The village maidens  1852

I intentionally start writing this mere minutes away from Fed chair Jay Powell’s latest comments. Intentionally, because the importance ascribed to those comments only means we have gotten so far removed from what capitalism and free markets are supposed to be about, that it’s pathetic. The comments mean something for rich socialists, but nothing for the man in the street. Or, rather, they mean that the man in the street will get screwed worse for longer.

And it’s not just the Fed, all central banks have it and do it. They play around with rates and definitions and semantics until the cows can never come home again. And they have such levels of control over their respective societies and economies that the mere use of the word “markets” should result in loud and unending ridicule. There are no markets, because there is no price discovery, the Fed and ECB and BOJ got it all covered. Any downside risks, that is.

But it doesn’t, because the people who pretend they’re in those markets hang on central banks’ every word for their meal tickets. These are the same people we once knew as traders and investors, but who today function only as rich socialists sucking the Fed’s teats for ever more mother’s milk.

Our economic systems have been destroyed by our central bankers. Who pretend they’re saving them. And we all eat it up hook line and sinker. Because the rich bankers and their media have no reasons to counter Fed or ECB actions and word plays, and because anyone who’s not a rich banker or investor is kept by the media from understanding those reasons.

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

Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits Record $12.3 Trillion

Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits Record $12.3 Trillion

Somewhere, SocGen’s permabearish strategist Albert Edwards is dancing a jig, as every day that passes bring us every closer to his trademark “Ice Age.”

One week after the universe of negative yielding debt regained its prior high of $11.7 trillion, overnight – thanks to the dovish capitulations by both the ECB and Fed – the notional value of global sovereign debt with a minus yield sign jumped to $12.3 trillion, a new all time high.Source: Bloomberg

The collapse in yields started on Tuesday morning when Mario Draghi said that the central bank might also trim rates and resume its bond-buying should inflation continue to languish well below its 2% target (recently European 5Y5Y forwards hit an all time low but have since rebounded following Draghi’s comments).

The dovish comments sent another jolt through fixed income markets and pushed another $714bn worth of bonds into sub-zero yield territory on Tuesday. The market value of bonds trading at negative yields — once thought to be economic lunacy — to a fresh record of $12.3TN, according to Bloomberg surpassing the last peak in 2016. The average yield of the global bond market is now just 1.76 per cent, down from 2.51 per cent in November last year.

Meanwhile, in another startling observation, Bank of America recently wrote that “highly-anticipated events in recent years (e.g. Shanghai G20, Brexit, Trump) have typically coincided with big unwinds of crowded positions; and “Japanification” rate theme max consensus.” As a result, the collapse in global inflation breakeven levels have taken global govt bond yields (ex. UST) to a new all-time low of 1.2%.

While the majority of core European and Japanese government bonds have been trading with negative yields since 2016, on Tuesday the Austrian, French and Swedish 10-year yields all slumped below zero for the first time. The 10Y German Bund yield stands at -0.32, an all time record low.

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

It IS Different This Time

It IS Different This Time

They’re right. It IS different this time. It’s worse. Much, much worse. What is? Everything. In terms of preparedness for the next recession that is. Debt is higher than ever, be it corporate debt, government debt, central banks balance sheets, available ammunition to deal with a new recession, wealth inequality, the social divisions and political extremes, and now trillion dollar deficits, everything points to a much more fragile system. Oh yes on paper low rates keep it all afloat, but the context is as ugly as it gets.

Here we are, the great collapse unfolding in front of us. With yesterday’s Fed meeting we witnessed a confirmed breakdown in central bank narratives over last the year, an utter capitulation to market realities that are forcing central banks to commence the new easing cycle. No, this is not a temporary little rate cut event they are promising, it’s a new cycle. The Fed yesterday offered a 3 rate cut outlook, precisely what markets had been pricing in. The Fed bowing before market demands. Give us drugs. Yes, whatever you want, you got it.

The response: An overnight collapse in yields to now below 2% on the 10 year, the lowest reading since the US election in 2016.

It was all bullshit:

The glorious growth stories everybody told, the tax cuts that were supposed to bring greatness, all nonsense. Instead we’re now stuck with trillion dollar deficits, collapsing yields, and a renewed TINA effect as money doesn’t know where to go but stocks, chasing whatever they need to chase.

Or, if you don’t want to chase, you can lend money and pay people to borrow from you. It’s all the rage:

Over $12 trillion of negative yielding debt floating about there. Quite the recovery.

But be clear the bond market is screaming recession is coming, none of this is fundamental based:

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

Dear Central Bankers: Prepare to be Swept Away in the Next Wave of Populism

Dear Central Bankers: Prepare to be Swept Away in the Next Wave of Populism

The political moment when the “losers” connect their discontent and decline with central bankers is approaching.

The Ruling Elites’ Chattering Classes still haven’t absorbed the key lesson of the 2016 U.S. presidential election: the percentage of the populace that’s becoming wealthier and more financially secure in the bloated, corrupt, self-serving Imperial status quo is declining and the percentage of the populace that’s increasingly insecure and financially precarious is increasing, and candidates that mouth the usual platitudes in support of the bloated, corrupt, self-serving Imperial status quo lose to those who speak of the failing status quo as a travesty of a mockery of a sham, i.e. a “populist” speaking truth to power.

Donald Trump steered clear of the status quo’s favored platitudes and embraced a bit of populist cant, and so to those who understand that the majority of Americans have been abandoned by America’s hubris-soaked, self-serving managerial / ruling elites, his victory was not entirely surprising.

Just as we’ve reached Peak hubris-soaked, self-serving managerial / ruling Elites, we’ve also reached Peak Central Bank Cargo Cult: from now on the majority that’s been abandoned by the managerial / ruling elites will become increasingly aware that the unprecedented asymmetries of wealth and power that have undermined American social and economic life can be traced directly back to the central bank, the Federal Reserve, which has become the all-powerful Cargo Cult of the global economy.

The same awareness of central bankers’ responsibility for soaring wealth-income inequality and the decline of social mobility is spreading in other nations as well.

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

They Are Calling This A “Bloodbath” For The $800 Billion Trucking Industry As U.S. Economic Activity Dramatically Declines

They Are Calling This A “Bloodbath” For The $800 Billion Trucking Industry As U.S. Economic Activity Dramatically Declines

The U.S. trucking industry has not experienced a downturn of this magnitude since the last financial crisis, and this is one of the clearest signs yet that the U.S. economy is steamrolling into a severe economic downturn.  When economic activity is increasing, the trucking industry sees rising demand for their services and freight rates tend to go up.  That is precisely what we witnessed in 2018, and truckers were hoping for more of the same in 2019.  But when economic activity is on the decline, the trucking industry sees decreasing demand for their services and freight rates tend to go down.  Unfortunately, the numbers that the U.S. trucking industry is reporting right now are absolutely abysmal.  Freight rates have now fallen for six months in a row on a year-over-year basis, and according to Business Insider during the month of May loads on the spot market fell “by a chilling 62.6%” compared to last year…

This year has been rocky for the $800 billion trucking industry.

After a raucous 2018, 2019 has seen retailers and manufacturers moving less, according to the Cass Freight Index. Freight rates have dipped year-over-year for six months straight. Loads on the spot market, in which retailers and manufacturers buy trucking capacity as they need it rather than through a contract, have fallen by a chilling 62.6% in May year-over-year.

The spot market is where we see the marginal changes in demand most clearly, and what this is telling us is that we are already in a transportation recession.

Of course that is almost certainly putting it too nicely.  According to one owner-operator, what we are witnessing right now is nothing short of a “bloodbath”

If demand does not start rebounding really soon, we are going to see many more trucking companies go bankrupt.

“The Dollar Is Becoming Toxic” – Russian Intel Chief Slams “Aggressive, Unpredictable” US Behavior

With the latest TIC data showing China following Russia’s lead and reducing its US Treasury exposure (to two-year lows), as it increases its gold reserves (for six straight months), the unipolar US hegemon faces an ugly trend among the ‘rest of the world’ attempting to de-dollarize, as Sergey Naryshkin,  director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, calls the US dollar is an anachronism of the modern world economy.

Countries across the globe, including Russia, China, India, and others, have been working to diversify their foreign reserves away from the greenback.

Kyle Bass Sees Hong Kong Politics ‘Speeding Up’ Pressure on Dollar Peg

And, as RT reports, the head of the Russian intelligence service has now voiced those concerns clearly – that the use of the dollar presents risks and more nations are looking into finding alternative tools for doing business.

“It seems abnormal that the United States, behaving so aggressively and unpredictably, continues to be the holder of the main reserve currency.”

“Due to the objective strengthening of multipolarity, the monopoly position of the dollar in international economic relations becomes anachronistic. Gradually, the dollar is becoming toxic.

And it’s not just talk, as RT notesRussia has taken concrete steps towards de-dollarizing the economy. So far, Moscow has managed to partially phase out the dollar from its exports, signing currency-swap agreements with a number of countries, including China, India, and Iran. Russia has recently proposed using the euro instead of the US dollar in trade with the European Union.

This comes on the heels of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad proposing a gold-backed currency as a unit of account for trade between East Asian nations.

Infinite growth on a finite planet, what could possibly go wrong?

Ronni Stoeferle: In Gold We Trust

Ronni Stoeferle: In Gold We Trust

Why we may soon see prices of $1,500-1,600/oz

Fresh from releasing his exhaustive 340-page annual report titled In Gold We Trust, Ronald Stoerferle joins us to summarize his forecast for the yellow metal.

Stoerferle, an author of several books on Austrian economics and head of strategy and portfolio management at Incrementum AG, concludes that gold is poised to move explosively higher. He sees a new bull market beginning for the precious metal — one likely to quickly build momentum as the impending recession arrives and the world’s central banks revert to extreme easing policy measures.

We are all part of huge monetary experiments being conducted around the world. Right now, trust in the U.S. economy and in the Federal Reserve is still pretty high. We’re seeing the mantra of “deficits don’t matter” at the moment. And everybody thinks that the U.S. dollar is “the least dirty shirt”.

But this trust is crumbling. Recession clouds are getting darker and from my point of view there is no doubt that the Federal Reserve and the other major central banks will step in with very, very aggressive measures.This is actually what we’re seeing at the moment, with very sophisticated papers coming out from the Federal Reserve mentioning that negative rates would be quite favorable and have positive effects, along with comments from Donald Trump that the Fed should cut rates by 1% and do more QE. And other representatives are proposing that additional measures such as controlling the yield curve should be considered.

So from my point of view, we will see that the monetary policy u-turn that began in December will continue. That’s why gold has reacted so positively of late. We’re in the central bank zero interest rate trap — and there is no way out. Gold is a good hedge in this kind of environment.

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

No, Rate Cuts Were Not Discussed: ECB Insiders Out Draghi as Fabricator & Schemer, and Talk to Reuters

No, Rate Cuts Were Not Discussed: ECB Insiders Out Draghi as Fabricator & Schemer, and Talk to Reuters

Draghi’s shenanigans get hilarious, months before his term ends.

So here’s ECB President Mario Draghi, whose term ends in October, and he’s at the ECB Forum in Portugal, and in a speech on Tuesday titled innocuously, “Twenty Years of the ECB’s monetary policy” – so this wasn’t a press conference after an ECB policy meeting or anything, but a speech on history at an ECB Forum – he suddenly threw out a whole bunch of stuff…

How, “in the absence of improvement” of inflation, “additional stimulus will be required,” in form of “further cuts in policy interest rates” and additional bond purchases, and how “in the coming weeks, the Governing Council will deliberate how our instruments can be adapted commensurate to the severity of the risk to price stability,” and that “all these options were raised and discussed at our last meeting.”

Whoa! Wait a minute, said the good folks who were part of the ECB’s June meeting. These options were not discussed, they told Reuters on Tuesday.

Draghi had ventured out there on his own – apparently trying to push his colleagues into a corner single-handedly as his last hurrah.

His vision laid out on Tuesday was quite a change from the June 6 post-meeting announcement, which didn’t mention anything about even discussing rate cuts. It said that the ECB expects its policy rates to “remain at their present levels at least through the first half of 2020,” before the ECB would begin to raise them, with the bias still on raising rates, not cutting rates. That was less than two weeks ago, and there had not been another ECB policy meeting since then.

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

Draghi Punts, Trump Grunts, Gold Bunts

Draghi Punts, Trump Grunts, Gold Bunts

ecb-draghi-failure

For months now the markets have been in denial that ECB President Mario Draghi has any answers to the Euro-zone’s problems. Today’s statement confirms what anyone with eyes to see has been saying.

There is no Plan B.

Draghi started the year saying he would end his various QE programs and by June he’s not only put them back on the table (New TLTRO in September) but has now opened up the possibility of taking rates lower.

Draghi told an ECB conference in Sintra, Portugal, that “further cuts in policy rates… remain part of our tools.” He added that there was “considerable headroom” to re-start bond purchases, which inject newly created money into the financial system in the hope of boosting lending and economic activity. 

Draghi has been exposed as swimming naked, as Warren Buffet would put it.

The fun part is that Draghi used the cover of Trump’s trade war with everyone to justify a policy that was inevitable anyway.

In response, President Trump piled on accusing Draghi of being a currency manipulator. And then announced his upcoming meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping to hammer out a trade deal.

But, as I’ve pointed out in the past, Trump doesn’t have a serious offer on the table for China. 

Trump backed himself into a corner with China, essentially demanding it give the U.S. ultimate say over its fiscal, monetary and trade policy.

The Chinese aren’t going to agree to that any more than the Palestinians are going to agree to a Palestinian State in name only, administered like a Native American reservation by Israel.

Lebanon is not going to accede to Pompeo’s demands to remove Hezbollah from its government. North Korea isn’t going to give up its nukes so the U.S. will allow it to trade with dollars. Negotiations with Trump are nothing of the sort.

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

Loonie Spikes After Canadian Core Inflation Soars To 10-Year Highs

Loonie Spikes After Canadian Core Inflation Soars To 10-Year Highs

Canadian inflation rose faster than expected in May across all eight major components, spiking the Loonie as it supports the BoC’s view that ‘the North’ is emerging from its growth slowdown (and Poloz argument that rates will need to go higher).

The headline consumer price index jumped 2.4% from a year earlier, compared with 2% in April and versus a median economist forecast of 2.1%, Statistics Canada said Wednesday from Ottawa. It was the highest annual rate since October, boosted by increases in food and durable goods prices.

Core inflation, closely watched by policy makers, surged, with the average of the three key measures rising to 2.07%, the highest since February 2012.

The largest upside contributor to CPI on an annual basis was shelter costs, which rose 2.7%. Food and transportation were also major drivers.

And the Trimmed Mean inflation print jumped 2.3% YoY – the highest since March 2009

Spiking the Loonie…

Presumably, BoC does not believe this spike is “transitory”.

Meanwhile In China, Echoes Of Lehman As Interbank Market Freezes

Meanwhile In China, Echoes Of Lehman As Interbank Market Freezes

One month ago we wrote that in the aftermath of the shocking government May 24 seizure of Baoshang Bank – not shocking because the bank failed as most Chinese banks are insolvent if left to their own devices due to the real, and far higher levels of non-performing loans, but because the government allowed it to happen in the open, sparking fears of who comes next (and when) – the PBOC “finally panicked and injected a whopping net 250 billion yuan ($36 billion) into the financial system via open-market operations, as it fills what traders have dubbed a growing funding gap following the Baoshang failure.”

In retrospect, the PBOC failed to restore confidence in the stability of the Chinese banking system, and since then things have taken a turn for the far worse.

Yet with the world fixated on the U.S.-China (Mexico, Europe, etc) trade conflict, it is easy to understand why many have brushed aside the Baoshang harbinger and its consequences which have exposed giant fissures under China’s calm financial facade and are gradually freezing up the Chinese banking system.

As the WSJ writes, on Sunday, China’s securities regulator convened a meeting asking big brokerages and funds to support their smaller peers, according to a meeting summary circulated among industry participants Monday. The briefing cited rising risk aversion in money markets after defaults in the bond repurchase market.

The immediate reaction, which we pointed out back in May, is that some of the key interbank lending rates – those which banks rely on to obtain critical short-term funds – have moved sharply higher in recent weeks, with the 1 month repo soaring, and almost doubling over the past month.

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – June 19th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge  – June 19th 2019

“You cannot be serious…”

Check out the new Edition of Property Chronicle: https://vimeo.com/342064460 

Oh dear.. Now I am worried. The only positive I can discern is its International Martini Day – Dukes, here we come..

It was a massive Wowser WTF moment on stocks! Donald Trump says he’s having a meeting with Xi and the stock market goes into the stratosphere! Then XI confirms, and its joy unlimited across markets. New records beckon.… Joy unconfined.. What can possibly go wrong? Softbank head Son telling investors it could be worth $1.8 trillion in a few years? (Note to self – sell stocks.) 

On the other side of the pond, it’s a Wow on Bunds…. Spectacular gains y’day taking the 10-year Bund rate to -0.33% after Mario Draghi talked about immediately lower rates, reopening QE and using all the unused A380s Superjumbos to drop wads of money across Yoorp. Spain bond buyers now get a gnat’s crotchet of positive yields, while Italy is just over 2%! Trump immediately tweets branding Draghi an unfair currency manipulator. Draghi looks at the miserable German ZEW and wonders why Donald doesn’t get on an do his own job… (Good to know Trump is on the ball and watching everything… everything.. (Crashing Minor Chords! Note to self – buy Treasuries and Gold).

Meanwhile, the Tories have found something to rally around… kicking Rory Stewart (which, thinking about it, has to be worth trying)… Last night’s televised debate between the candidates was truly terrible. The only positives I could garner was Boris has been stripped of his personality, and Sajid Javid came across measured and even polite. I’d vote for him, but we will never get the chance because most of us are too sensible, young, clever, to be members of the party… Meanwhile, Corbyn looks likely to accept Labour policy will pivot towards a second referendum….

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

Evidence That The U.S. Economy Could Be Plunging Into A Very Deep Recession Is Rapidly Mounting

Evidence That The U.S. Economy Could Be Plunging Into A Very Deep Recession Is Rapidly Mounting

Not since 2008 have we seen so much bad economic data come rolling in all at the same time.  Even without a war with Iran, which by the way is looking increasingly likely with each passing day, it definitely appears that the U.S. economy is steamrolling toward recession territory.  The employment numbers for last month were abysmal, global trade has collapsed to the lowest level that we have seen since the last recession, and manufacturing numbers just keep getting worse and worse.  In fact, the New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index just suffered the worst one month decline in history

The New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index took a sharp turn for the worse in June, falling into negative territory for the first time in more than two years.

The Empire State manufacturing index plummeted 26.4 points to negative 8.6 in June, the New York Fed said Monday. That’s a record decline. Economists had expected a reading of positive 10, according to a survey by Econoday.

Not even during the last recession did we witness a plunge of that magnitude.

And other measures of U.S. manufacturing activity are also “sinking steadily”

And it’s not the only indicator showing a turn for the worse: Others, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey, have also been sinking steadily.

When you step back and look at the big picture, it becomes quite clear what is happening.

At this point, it is simply not possible for anyone to credibly claim that the U.S. economy is still in good shape.  All of the numbers are pointing in the same direction, and Morgan Stanley’s chief US equity strategist Michael Wilson made this point exceedingly well on Monday

Decelerations and disappointments are mounting:

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 18th June 2019

“Here’s to all the filthy money and where it went..” 

Happy Birthday David! 

Apologies for the lack of commentary y’day.. long, dull boring story involving the Isle of Wight Festival, transport hassles and a whiff of pot on a strike slowed train… 

So much to think and worry about the morning – the market showing its love and appreciation for BoJo and the heightened chances of a no-deal Brexit by spanking sterling to a 6 month low, or Boeing deciding to rename its troubled B-737 MAX by dropping MAX as Airbus orders come flooding in at the Paris Airshow, but the main story is the Fed.. or should that be how much faith the market is putting in the Fed and the FOMC meeting today/tomorrow? I’m not persuaded… 

The market consensus is the Fed will eventually ease US rates, but not this time. It’s how it communicates/hints at timing tomorrow that will be most closely analysed aspect. Expect pages of dot-plot analysis and explanations of whatever he said and meant. Fed-Head Jerome Powell has already made clear the Fed is willing to act to offset slower growth and counter a trade war; “we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”. 

This is where it starts to look messy. Is it the Fed’s job to “sustain expansion”? 

It’s clearly a laudable objective, but let’s not confuse the stock market for the economy! It plays right into Trump’s agenda, his simplistic message to the electorate that stock strength proves his deal making success. An ease would provide a potent hit of short-term ecstasy to an addicted stock market, and give Trump something to crow about – a factor the Liberal press is all over like the proverbial cheap suit.

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

Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Markets are being Lulled into a False Sense of Accommodation

Those who take an interest in the actions of central banks will know that the advent of Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency has seen the direction of monetary policy gradually change in both the UK and the U.S.

Since the EU referendum, the Bank of England have raised interest rates twice, after initially cutting them and implementing a new round of quantitative easing in the aftermath of the vote. The first rate hike in November 2017 came over a decade since the bank last increased rates in July 2007.

A month after Donald Trump was confirmed as the 45th American president, the Federal Reserve raised rates for only the second time in nine and a half years. Since Trump’s inauguration, they have gone on to hike a further seven times, and over the course of eighteen months (starting late 2017) the Fed have rolled off over $600 billion in assets from its balance sheet.

As the Fed continue to roll off assets until their balance sheet ‘normalisation‘ programme ends in September, the sentiment amongst traders is that the central bank will soon begin a course of rate cuts in order to stave off the threat of a recession as the prospect of a full blown trade conflict with China and other nation states gathers momentum.

A similar sentiment can be found in the UK over Brexit. With the British economy stagnant and manufacturing and construction sectors in decline, there exists an expectation that the Bank of England will ultimately reverse course if an economic downturn takes hold.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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