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End Game

End Game

Well, here we are. All roads have led to here. The combustion case outlined in April, the technical target zone outlined in January of 2018. Trade wars, 20% correction in between, Fed capitulation in response, slowing growth data, inverted yield curves, political volatility, deficit and debt expansion, buybacks. All the big themes that have dominated the landscape in recent memory, they all have led us to here: Record market highs and high complacency into a historic Fed meeting where once again a new easing cycle begins.

Like flies drawn to a light investors have ignored everything that may be construed as negative as the market’s primary price discovery mechanism, central banks, are once again embarking on a global easing cycle from the lowest bound tightening cycle ever. By far. Many central banks such as the BOJ and ECB have never normalized, the Fed barely raising rates before capitulating once again to macro and market reality:

What’s the end game here? I have to ask given the larger backdrop:

Central banks 2009-2018:
We will print $20 trillion & cut rates to nothing & that will reach our inflation goals.

Central banks 2019: Ok, none of that worked so let’s print more & cut rates again. Trust us we know what we’re doing.

What has all this produced? For one the slowest recovery on record, but also the longest expansion. But this expansion has come at a very steep price as artificial low rates have led to massive record debt expansion, $250 trillion in global debt:

The world is sitting on over $13 trillion in negative yielding debt, corporate debt ballooned to all time highs is keeping zombie companies afloat, the desperate search for yield is forcing pension funds into riskier assets, 100 year bonds, BBB rated credit is the largest component of debt markets, everything is distorted and the desperate search for yield has produced another market bubble.

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

Bank of Japan & the Bond Crisis

Bank of Japan & the Bond Crisis 

BoJ Statement 4-24-2019

The Great Financial Unknown is now upon us. After 10 years of Quantitative Easing, the European Central Bank (ECB) in Europe owns 40% of the national debts in the EU and it can neither sell them nor stop buying without creating a Panic in Interest Rates. Likewise, the Bank of Japan (BoJ) owns between 70% and 80% of the ETF bond market in Japan. The Bank of Japan confirmed it is ending free market determination of interest rates for the municipal level and that they “will not require any procedures such as auction as the method of determining lending conditions.”  today it may introduce a lending facility for its exchange-traded fund buying program, which would allow it to temporarily lend ETFs to market participants.

4. Introduction of Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) Lending Facility
The Bank will consider the introduction of ETF Lending Facility, which will make it possible
to temporarily lend ETFs that the Bank holds to market participants.

The statement at the end of the announcement on the last page on its monetary policy has left traders in shock. This appears that the BoJ realizes that it now effectively has destroyed its bond market and realizes that there is not only the end of a free market, but there is a contagion of surrounding lack of liquidity.

We have never before in the history of human society ever witnessed such a major financial crisis. The BoJ makes it clear it will continue its policy of Quantitative Easing. It stated plainly:

The Bank will continue with “Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing (QQE) with
Yield Curve Control,” aiming to achieve the price stability target of 2 percent, as long as it is
necessary for maintaining that target in a stable manner.

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

Nevertheless, he persisted

Nevertheless, he persisted

Today, the Nikkei Asian Review reports that Nomura Holdings, Inc. (8604 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange) expects to close over 30 of its 156 domestic retail branches, “previously considered a sacred cow by the group.” In addition, Nomura will eliminate roughly half of its 11 administrative departments and “revisit its policy of maintaining hubs in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.” That comes after the investment bank reported a ¥101.2 billion ($911 million) loss for the nine months ended Dec. 31, its worst such showing since 2008. 

Nomura’s misadventures are no outlier. In early March, Mizuho Financial Group, Inc. was forced to take a ¥680 billion write down that included ¥150 billion worth of losses related to its portfolio of overseas bonds (Almost Daily Grant’sMarch 7). More broadly, the Tokyo Stock Exchange Bank Index has seen its return on equity decline in each of the last five years, to 5.33% in 2018 from 9.77% in 2013. The index trades at a paltry 0.47 times book value, worse than even the EURO Stoxx Bank Index’s similarly-depressed 0.62 price-to-book ratio and far below the 1.18 times book valuation commanded by the U.S. KBW Bank Index. 

Of course, much like Europe, Japan’s macro-economic backdrop features negative interest rates and aggressive central bank asset purchases. The BoJ has accumulated ¥557 trillion in assets, equivalent to 101% of 2018 nominal GDP (that compares to about 39% in Europe and 19% in the U.S.), as policymakers continue to up the ante in their quest to achieve a 2% measured rate of inflation.  

With its gargantuan portfolio, the BoJ wields substantial control of the country’s capital markets. As noted by the Financial Times on Sunday, the central bank now holds close to 80% of outstanding ETF assets, equating to approximately 5% of Japan’s total market capitalization, while data from Bloomberg pegs the BoJ ownership of the Japanese Government Bond Market at 43%.  

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

The Bank Of Japan Bought 5.6 Trillion Yen In Stocks Last Year

The Bank Of Japan Bought 5.6 Trillion Yen In Stocks Last Year

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.  

                – Ludwig von Mises, Human Action

In recent years, thanks to central bank intervention in virtually every asset class, writing about capital markets in the context of some valuation or fundamental analysis framework has become a laughable, surreal, and self-defeating exercise, and here is a perfect example why.

For one reason or another, overseas investors dumped Japanese stocks by the largest margin in 31 years in the fiscal year ended Sunday, according to official market data: specifically, market participants abroad unloaded about 5.63 trillion yen ($50 billion) worth of shares on a net basis, the Tokyo Stock Exchange reported Thursday, for a second straight year of net selling and the highest sell-off since 1987.

And yet this barely caused a ripple in asset prices for one simple reason: the Bank of Japan’s asset purchases absorbed all the bleeding, exposing the central bank’s outsize role in the market. Indeed, as the Nikkei adds, this near-record liquidation was matched nearly yen for yen by the BOJ’s pumping of money into the economy through asset purchases, with the central bank buying 5.65 trillion yen worth of equity!

Of course, there were legitimate reasons why foreign investors felt the urge to liquidate Japanese holdings: international investors unloaded Japanese shares as they became alarmed by concerns about a global slowdown. With many Japanese manufacturers reliant on exports, overseas analysts cut their recommendations for those stocks amid China’s decelerating economy and Beijing’s trade war with the US.

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

We Are Entering The “Quantitative Failure” Narrative

For a decade, the world brushed off any concerns about soaring global debt under the rug for a simple reason: between the Fed, the ECB and the BOJ, there was always a buyer of last resort, providing an implicit or, increasingly explicit backstop to bond prices, in the process creating the biggest asset bubble in history as investors seeking return were forced to buy first fixed income securities and then equities and other, even riskier securities.

However, as BofA’s Barnaby Martin is the latest to point out, “early 2019 will be uncharted territory for the market” because after years of central bank purchases crowding investors into risky assets, this dynamic will now reverse. As Zero Hedge readers have observed on countless occasions, the yearly growth of central bank balance sheets is now turning negative as shown in the following chart.

The upshot of this, in Martin’s view, is that markets will continue to experience more “corrections” than normal, leading to bigger and fatter trading ranges for credit spreads in Europe this year.

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

The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth

For years critics of central bank policy have been dismissed as negative nellies, but the ugly truth is staring us all in the face: Market advances remain a game of artificial liquidity and central bank jawboning and not organic growth and now the jig is up. As I’ve been saying for a long time: There is zero evidence that markets can make or sustain new highs without some sort of intervention on the side of central banks. None. Zero. Zilch.

And don’t think this is hyperbole on my part, I will present the evidence of course.

In March 2009 markets bottomed on the expansion of QE1 which was introduced following the initial QE1 announcement in November 2008. Every major correction since then has been met with major central bank intervention. QE2, Twist, QE3 and so on.

When market tumbled in 2015 and 2016 global central banks embarked on the largest combined intervention effort in history to the tune of over $5 trillion between 2016 and 2017 giving us a grand total of over $15 trillion in central bank balance sheet courtesy FOMC, ECB and BOJ:

When did global central bank balance sheets peak? Early 2018. When did global markets peak? January 2018.

And don’t think the Fed was not still active in the jawboning business despite QE3 ending. After all their official language remained “accommodative”  and their hike schedule was the slowest in history, cautious and tinkering not to upset markets.

With tax cuts coming into the US economy in early 2018 along with record buybacks markets at first ignored the beginning of QT (quantitative tightening), but then it all changed.

And guess what changed? 2 things.

In September 2018, for the first time in 10 years, the FOMC removed one little word from its policy stance: “accommodative” and The Fed increased its QT program. When did US markets peak? September 2018.

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

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

This article is an overview of the principal factors likely to drive the gold price in 2019. It looks at the global factors that have developed in 2018 for both gold and the dollar, how geopolitics are likely to evolve, the economic outlook and how it is worsened for the dollar by President Trump’s tariff war against China, the availability and likely demand for bullion, and the technical position in paper markets. Taken together, the outlook is bullish for gold.

2018 reprise

For gold bulls, 2018 was disappointing. From 11 December 2017, when gold made a significant bottom against the dollar at $1243, it has ended virtually unchanged today, after being 4.2% up. Gold had to struggle against a rising dollar, whose trade-weighted index rose a net 3.7% over the same period, and as much as 9.4% from its mid-February low.

Dollar strength has been driven less by trade imbalances and more by interest rate differentials. A speculating bank for its own book or for a hedge fund client can borrow 3-month Euro Libor at minus0.354% and invest it in 3-month US Treasury bills at 2.36%, for a round trip of over 2.7%. Gear this up ten times or more, either on a bank’s capital, or through reverse repos for annualised returns of over 27%. To this can be added the currency gain, which at times has added enough to overall returns for an unhedged geared position to double the investment.

Not that these forex returns have been guaranteed, but you get the picture. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have been frozen into inactivity, reluctant to raise rates to correct this imbalance, and the punters have known it.

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

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

Every Bubble Is In Search Of A Pin

The ‘Everything Bubble’ has popped

Now that the world’s central banking cartel is taking a long-overdue pause from printing money and handing it to the wealthy elite, the collection of asset price bubbles nested within the Everything Bubble are starting to burst.

The cartel (especially the ECB and the Fed) is hoping it can gently deflate these bubbles it created, but that’s a fantasy. Bubbles always burst badly; it’s their nature to do so. Economic suffering and misery always accompany their termination.

It’s said that “every bubble is in search of a pin”. History certainly shows they always manage to find one.

History also shows that after the puncturing, pundits obsess over what precise pin triggered it, as if that matters.  It doesn’t, because ’cause’ of a bubble’s bursting can be anything.  It can be a wayward comment by a finance minister, otherwise innocuous at any other time, that spooks a critical European bond market at exactly the right (wrong?) moment, triggering a runaway cascade.

Or it might be the routine bankruptcy of a small company that unexpectedly exposes an under-hedged counterparty, thereby setting off a chain reaction across the corporate bond market before the contagion quickly spreads into other key elements of the financial system.

Or perhaps it will be the US Justice Department arresting a Chinese technology executive on murky, over-reaching charges to bully an ally into accepting that unilateral US sanctions are to be abided by everyone, regardless of sovereignty.

How was it that the famous Tulip Bulb bubble came to a crashing end back in the 1600’s?  No one knows the exact moment or trigger. But we can easily imagine that in some Dutch pub on the fateful night on the Feb 3rd1637, a bidder on the most-coveted of all bulbs, the Semper Augustus, had an upset stomach and briefly grimaced when hit by a ripping gas pain:

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

Steen Jakobsen: The Four Horsemen Portend A Painful Reckoning

Steen Jakobsen: The Four Horsemen Portend A Painful Reckoning

Even the US is now ‘swimming naked’

Steen Jacobsen, Chief Economist and Chief Investment Officer of Saxo Bank sees economic slowdown ahead.

Specifically, his “Four Horseman” indicators: the drivers of economic growth, are all flashing red.

Jacobsen believes that the central banks will continue their liquidity tightening efforts for as long as they can get away with (i.e., until the financial markets start toppling over). In his opinion, they eased way too much for way too long; and the malinvestment and zombification that resulted needs to clear the system — and it will likely do so more violently and painful than the central banks will like:

I like to make things simple. Right now we have the Four Horsemen: the four drivers of the global economy. They are the quantity of money, which is falling; the price of money, which is rising; the price of energy,which is a tax on consumers and is rising; and globalization/productivity, which is falling.

So, if you look at the economy as a black box, I really don’t know what happens inside of it. But I can observe what goes into the black box: it’s these four things.

Globalization / productivity, we know that’s all about Trump, trade war and the likes. It’s not exactly improving; it’s actually worsening.

As for the quantity of money, a lot of people argue with me that the Central Banks are still expanding their balance sheets, but the fact of the matter is that the QT in terms of the U.S has been reducing the Federal Reserve balance sheet. And we have a stealth reduction of the balance sheet in terms of the Bank of Japan. The EBC would love to cut and is publicly committed to doing so. The Bank of England is doing its first hike. So the quantity of money is falling.

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

For The First Time Ever, Bank Of Japan Total Assets Surpass Japan’s GDP

For the first time in history, a central bank has managed to print enough money to buy enough assets to surpass the nation’s annual GDP.

Under the watchful eye of Kuroda, and the overseeing (but independent) hand of Abe, The Bank of Japan’s balance sheet grew to 553.6 trillion yen as on November 10th – that is larger than Japan’s annualized nominal seasonally-adjusted GDP of 552.8 trillion yen (as of the end of June).

Some context for just how crazy this is, here is The Fed vs US GDP…

And putting it all together…

What happens next?

Expect the Fed to Pause if Volatility Continues

Expect the Fed to Pause if Volatility Continues

It’s a good thing October is coming to an end. It’s been a particularly lousy month for the markets. October has seen about $5 trillion in value erased from global markets.

Reasons for that sell-off range from fear over Fed rate hikes, trade wars, elections and buyback “blackout” periods during earnings.

Buyback blackouts are ending, which should provide markets some needed lift over the next month. Buybacks have been one of the primary reasons markets have risen this year.

But other areas will keep the level of volatility high into the year-end. The upcoming elections, for example, could reshape Congress. If there is a turnover from Republicans to Democrats, legislation that relates to tax policy, financial regulations and international relations could be stalled or reversed.

Externally, we’re facing global volatility factors that include increasing uncertainty over what Brexit will look like and how it will impact the European economy. The new election of a Trump-like populist figure in Brazil could have ramifications for trade in the Americas and Asia. Emerging-market countries are also seeing their currencies falter against the dollar.

Volatility is nothing new. It’s how you deal with it that matters.

In early 2016, just after the Fed first raised rates in December 2015 after eight years of zero interest rate policy, the markets took a nosedive. As a result, the Fed put the brakes on hiking rates for an entire year.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) ramped up their asset-buying programs, which provided stimulus to the financial markets.

All of that led to calmer markets. Investors believed easy money would continue. That’s why we saw the Dow Jones industrial average rise over 60% through this September from where it was in January 2016.

But now the markets have fallen out of bed.

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

“Peak QE”: This Is What Share Of The Market Central Banks Now Own

After a decade of unprecedented liquidity injections by central banks to preserve the western financial system, global QE has peaked.

First, the aggregate balance sheet of major central banks started to shrink earlier in the year, a reversal that took investors many months to notice but judging by recent market volatility, it is finally being fully appreciated.

Second, beginning this month the Fed’s bond portfolio run-offs as part of its QT are roughly offsetting the combined tapered net QE purchases by the ECB and BoJ. Worse, QT is now set to dominate.

Some facts: between mid-2008 and early 2018, the “Big-6” central banks expanded their balance sheets by nearly $15tn, most of it due to explicit targeted purchases of domestic assets (QE) in addition to other forms of liquidity injections (collateralised lending such as the ECB’s TLTROs or FX interventions equivalent to foreign-asset QE).

According to Deutsche Bank estimates, the four major central banks involved in QE (Fed, ECB, BoJ and BoE) are now collectively holding $11.3tn of securities accumulated through their asset purchase programs.

Why is the above important? Because as Deutsche strategist Michal Jezek, now that liquidity is contracting makes for a timely moment for looking at the proportion of relevant asset classes owned by central banks and putting the ECB’s corporate bond holdings into a wider context.

To begin, as Jezek confirms what we have been saying since the start of 2009, “clearly, QE matters.” As central banks reduced the free float of some securities and QE has worked its magic on confidence and growth, asset valuations reached unprecedented levels while volatility became suppressed. A couple of years ago, a quarter of the global bond market was trading with a negative yield. With global QE fading, this proportion has now fallen by half but remains significant.

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

World Finance Leaders Scramble For A Solution To Escalating Trade War, Rising Rates

The main takeaway from the IMF and World Bank Group annual meeting in Bali, which hosted financial ministers and central bank governors from around the world this weekend, was that global trade tensions were having a profound effect on global growth and need to be solved.

Most of the participants – save for China and Mexico – seemed united and in agreement that trade talks have to continue. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda stated that it was essential to have dialogue on trade while at the same time, the president of Brazil’s central bank, Ilan Goldfajn, noted that the trade wars were one of the biggest threats to emerging markets. Indonesia’s president Jokowi Widodo said starkly that “winter is coming” for the global economy if there is no solution on trade.

However, not everybody was prepared to find a solution at any cost. Bank of China governor Yi Gang stated that he was preparing for the worst, despite still seeking a constructive resolution to the problem. Gang stated at the meeting: “You see a lot of people in China now preparing for this trade tension to be a prolonged situation. The downside risks from trade tensions are significant.”

Mexico also stepped in to voice its support for China. Former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo told China that they should follow the example set by Mexico and Canada during their negotiations with the United States, because they both were able to secure the terms that they wanted, even though some may disagree violently with this hot take.

Zedillo said, “Mexico and Canada made clear that they’d rather not have Nafta than having the deal that the U.S. wanted. In the end, Mexico and Canada got their way in every single issue that had been drawn as a red line. So I hope China doesn’t blink.”

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

QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan

QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan

Despite repeated speeches to the contrary.

As of September 30, total assets on the Bank of Japan’s elephantine balance sheet dropped by ¥5.4 trillion ($33 billion) from a month earlier, to ¥537 trillion ($4.87 trillion). It was the fourth month-over-month decline in a series that started in December. This chart shows the month-to-month changes of the balance sheet. Despite all the volatility, the trend since mid-2016 is becoming clear:

Abenomics became the economic religion of Japan in later 2012, and “QQE” (Qualitative and Quantitative Easing) was an integral part of it. So has the “QQE Unwind” commenced? Are central bankers, even at the Bank of Japan, getting cold feet about the consequences?

At BOJ policy meetings, concerns have been voiced over  the “sustainability” of the stimulus program, according to the minutes of the July meeting, released on September 25. So the BOJ staff “proposed measures to enhance the sustainability of the current monetary easing while taking into consideration, for example, their effects on financial markets.”

And “flexibility” has been proposed as solution to those concerns.

The minutes reiterated that the BOJ would continue to buy Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) in “a flexible manner” so that its holdings would increase by about ¥80 trillion a year.

But this is precisely what has not been happening, in line with this “flexibility.” Over the past 12 months, the BOJ’s holdings of JGBs rose by “only” ¥26.2 trillion – not ¥80 trillion. And they declined in September from the prior month (more in a moment).

Shortly after the minutes had been released, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, once the most reckless among the money printers, changed his tune and said in a speech that, “in continuing with powerful monetary easing, we now need to consider both its positive effects and side-effects in a balanced manner.”

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

Stocks Drop As Trade War Returns; Japanese Bond Rout Leads To Emergency Margin Call

The latest trade war truce lasted less than a day, and after stocks jumped yesterday following an early report that Mnuchin had resumed trade talks with his Chinese counterpart, a late Tuesday report that the Trump admin is planning to increase the tariff rate on some $200BN of Chinese imports from 10% to 25% led to an immediate slide in risk assets around the globe, and this morning global stocks and futures were a sea of red despite Apple’s stellar results which helped lift the Nasdaq.

In response, China again warned the U.S. against “blackmailing and pressuring” it over trade. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it will fight back if the U.S. further increases tariffs as it now contemplated. “If the U.S. takes measures to further escalate the situation, we will surely take countermeasures to uphold our legitimate rights and interests,” spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference on Wednesday.

The return of trade war tensions initially sent the dollar higher across the board, while the Yuan tumbled, with the offshore Yuan tumbling to a one year low of 6.8642 against the dollar, before the PBOC intervened again, and the onshore Yuan reversed losses mid-afternoon after a large Chinese bank was seen selling dollars. According to Bloomberg, at least one big Chinese bank started to sell dollars aggressively around 6.83 yuan per USD, and those flows disappeared after rate went to 6.82. A large Chinese bank also sold dollars onshore earlier in the day, spurring other banks to follow.

The big overnight move, however, wasn’t in China but in Japan, where one day after the BOJ tweaked its monetary policy while leaving its YCC largely intact, bond traders tried to find the new tolerance breaking point for 10Y JGB.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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