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China’s Central Bank: “Everyone, Please Don’t Worry”

China’s Central Bank: “Everyone, Please Don’t Worry”

Many unhappy returns. Thirty years ago, British ambassador Sir Alan Donald cabled home his classified report on the bloody goings-on in Tiananmen Square: “Students linked arms but were mown down. Armored personnel carriers then ran over the bodies time and time again to make, ‘pie’, and remains collected by bulldozer, incinerated and then hosed down drains. . .”

Unsurprisingly, the Xi Jinping-led government has little interest in commemorating the event, or in allowing others to pause and remember. Domestic social media platforms have “barred users from changing their profile photos and other information,” Bloomberg says, while financial data company Refinitiv has blocked all Tiananmen-related stories from its Eikon terminals, after the Cyberspace Administration of China “threatened to suspend the company’s service,” according to Reuters.

While Refinitiv may suffer a reputational knock in the West for this evident kowtow, its social credit score looks poised for an upgrade.       

If only the recent trouble in China’s banking system could be so easily suppressed. Following the government’s takeover of distressed Baoshang Bank Co., the People’s Bank of China tried to calm the situation by assuring investors that no further such interventions were in the cards: “Everyone,” says a message on the PBOC website: “please don’t worry. At present we don’t have this plan.” But Bloomberg reports today that a pair of smaller institutions, Guilin Bank Co., Ltd. and Jincheng Bank Co., Ltd., have delayed plans to sell RMB 1 billion ($140 million) in tier-2 bond sales following the Baoshang news.  

Over the weekend, Bank of Jinzhou, which holds $113 billion and $53 billion of assets and deposits, respectively, saw its auditor Ernst & Young Hua Ming LLP resign due to “indications that some loans to institutional customers weren’t used in ways consistent with the purposes stated in documents,” per Bloomberg. In response, the bank’s 5.5% dollar-pay perpetual bonds fell below 65 from 81 a week ago, for a 19.2% yield-to-call.

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

“A Big Wake Up Call”: Chinese Bond Market Roiled By First Ever Bank Failure

“A Big Wake Up Call”: Chinese Bond Market Roiled By First Ever Bank Failure

Late last Friday, we reported that several hours after the market close, China’s financial regulator and central bank made a shocking announcement: for the first time in nearly 30 year, China would take control of a bank, in this case the troubled inner Mongolia-based Baoshang Bank, due to the serious credit risks it poses.

The news which highlights the potential for increased stress at regional lenders that piled into off-book financing in recent years, was strategically timed to hit ahead of the weekend, and with the market closed, it avoided an immediate panic selling waterfall. However, the fact that in China banks are now fair game for failure, and will soon join the record surge in Chinese corporate defaults…

… slammed the country’s financial sector on Monday, sending funding costs sharply higher and underscoring the potential for increased stress at regional lenders that piled into off-book financing in recent years.

Unfortunately for Beijing, Bloomberg writes overnight that despite the strategically timed news, it wasn’t enough to prevent turmoil from sweep across the nation’s bond market, where funding costs for lenders surged and yields on government debt jumped. The seven-day repurchase rate jumped 30 basis points to 2.85%, the highest in a month, as of late Monday in Shanghai, while the yield on 10Y sovereign bonds climbed 5 bps to 3.35%.

“Baoshang’s case is a big wake-up call,” said Becky Liu, head of China macro strategy at Standard Chartered. “Participants in the interbank market, who didn’t differentiate credit when lending to banks on the belief that they will never go bankrupt, have now become more cautious. That has helped drive up funding costs and thus sovereign yields.”

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

“China’s JPMorgan” Seeks Money From Its Employees To Avoid Collapse

“China’s JPMorgan” Seeks Money From Its Employees To Avoid Collapse 

Ever since Beijing allowed private Chinese companies (even certain state-owned enterprises) to officially fail for the first time in 2015, and file for bankruptcy to restructure their unsustainable debt loads, it’s been a one-way street of corporate bankruptcies, one which we profiled last June in “Is It Time To Start Worrying About China’s Debt Default Avalanche” (the answer, by the way, was yes), and which culminated with a record number of Chinese onshore bond defaults in 2018, as a liquidity crunch sparked a record 119.6 billion yuan in defaults on local Chinese debt last year.

But if 2018 was bad, 2019 is set to be the biggest by far for defaults in China’s $13 trillion bond market, highlighting the widening fallout from the government’s campaign to rein in leverage and China’s accelerating economic slowdown. According to Bloomberg, in just the first four months of the year, companies defaulted on 39.2 billion yuan ($5.8 billion) of domestic bonds, some 3.4 times the total for the same period of 2018. The pace is also more than triple that of 2016, when defaults were more concentrated in the first half of the year, unlike 2018.

However, whereas for much of 2018 Chinese defaults affected largely less meaningful companies with little to no systemic impact, in 2019 the defaults started hitting dangerously close to the beating heart of China’s massive, $40 trillion financial system (roughly three times China’s GDP). As we reported back in February, a giant Chinese borrower missed its payment deadline when Wintime Energy – which in 2018 became the latest Chinese bond defaulter as the coal miner failed to pay scheduled interest – didn’t honor part of a restructured debt repayment plan, setting the scene for even more corporate defaults, and as Bloomberg put it, “underscoring the risks piling up in a credit market that’s witnessing the most company failures on record.”

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

Trader: “The Facts Are Lining Up For A Nasty Correction In The S&P 500”

Trader: “The Facts Are Lining Up For A Nasty Correction In The S&P 500”

U.S. Equity Optimism Is Starting To Look Misplaced

It’s time to turn bearish on the S&P 500, at least for a few weeks. The benchmark U.S. equity index just made a fresh record high, but it’s unlikely to keep ignoring warning signs coming from elsewhere in markets.

After having been staunchly bullish global stocks this year, I turned bearish on Asia equities on Monday last week. That negative sentiment will now spread across the Pacific. Asia, and notably China, has led the 2019 global stocks rally, and similarly has the capacity to lead a correction.

There’s not one single looming catalyst that will send equities reeling. The problem is that almost every factor is starting to look like a marginal negative. The positives from Fed dovishness, a solid earnings season and hopes of a trade deal are all generously priced in. Where’s the good news going to come from going forward?

Companies’ guidance hasn’t been encouraging and earnings estimates for later in the year continue to slide. The S&P 500 has a blended 12-months forward price-to-equity ratio of 17 versus the 10-year average of 15. Such a substantial premium is ripe for disappointment.

The data out of Asia over the past week has been terrible. Tuesday’s PMIs out of China emphasize that the market may have got over- optimistic on how quickly the economy can accelerate: All the PMI prints disappointed — private and official, manufacturing and services.

Dollar strength is another marginal negative. As is the surge in oil prices. This week’s lengthy holidays in the world’s second- and third-largest economies, China and Japan, don’t help. And, of course, May is historically a tough month for emerging markets.

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

Orwell Goes Retail: Stores Now Track Where You Shop… And Sleep

Orwell Goes Retail: Stores Now Track Where You Shop… And Sleep

In news that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, retailers are now tracking not only where are you shop, but also where you sleep, according to a new Bloomberg article.

For instance, Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, Texas used information and location data from customers’ phones to determine that a lot of shoppers own pets. Using this data, it went on to install water fountains, babysitting stations and photo op stations for customers and their pets. As a result, the time customers spent in the mall grew by 40%.

One shopping Center in Chicago found it was drawing customers from Asian neighborhoods, so it filled one of its vacancies with a high-end Asian specialty grocery. And even Dunkin’ Donuts is getting in on the trend. It employed phone data to make sure that the 278 new stores it was opening wouldn’t steal customers from existing locations.

These few clues that retail owners are getting from customers’ phones are one of the last chances brick-and-mortar shops have at trying to salvage their industry. They’re buying this mobile phone data hand over fist in order to help determine where people shop, eat and see movies. They’re also looking to see where customers go before and after going to the mall. It helps them look at personal details and paint a picture of the demographic that shops with them. It also helps them advertise.

But aside from transforming the industry, this is raising privacy concerns. The idea of being tracked – surprise – makes some people uneasy (how that is not “all” is beyond comprehension). All the companies interviewed for the article said that they don’t use any information that can identify individuals, but due to lax regulation, they’re really on the honor system to keep their word. So, we’re absolutely positive they’re doing the right thing…

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

Thousands Of Amazon Alexa Eavesdroppers Can Also Access Users’ Home Addresses

Thousands Of Amazon Alexa Eavesdroppers Can Also Access Users’ Home Addresses

Bloomberg has it in for Amazon these days.

Two weeks after we finally got confirmation what everyone had known for so long, namely that an internal Amazon team numbering in the thousands was secretly listening in to Alexa users’ commands without their prior knowledge, Bloomberg reported that the same team also has access to location data and can easily find a customer’s home address.

Citing five (supposedly former) employees familiar with the program, Bloomberg writes that the covert “Alexa team”, which is spread across three continents, and transcribes, annotates and analyzes a portion of the voice recordings picked up by Alexa, “to help Amazon’s digital voice assistant get better at understanding and responding to commands”, also has access to Alexa users’ geographic coordinates and can easily type them into third-party mapping software and find home residences, according to the employees (who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program, which apparently did not prevent them from speaking off the record with Bloomberg).

And while there has yet to be any evidence that Amazon employees have attempted to track down individual users, two members of the Alexa team who seem to have grown a coscience, expressed concern that Amazon which is fast becoming the world’s biggest monopoly across virtually every industry, was granting unnecessarily broad access to customer data that would make it easy to identify a device’s owner.

“Anytime someone is collecting where you are, that means it could go to someone else who could find you when you don’t want to be found,” said Lindsey Barrett, a staff attorney and teaching fellow at Georgetown Law’s Communications and Technology Clinic, who noted that location data is more sensitive than many other categories of user information. Widespread access to location data associated with Alexa user recordings “would set up a big red flag for me.”

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

Contrarian Alert: “Is Inflation Dead?” Makes The Cover Of Businessweek

Contrarian Alert: “Is Inflation Dead?” Makes The Cover Of Businessweek

In the financial world, those who subscribe to the contrarian school of thought (including myself) keep an eye out for certain cues or indications that a trend has become overcrowded and is nearing its end. Some examples of these contrarian indicators are investor sentiment indexes, fear gauges such as the CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, the construction of record-breaking skyscrapers, and also the topics that are chosen for finance and business magazine covers. The last example is called the Magazine Cover Indicator and the logic behind it is that, by the time a trend has gained enough momentum or attention to justify its own cover story, it is about to become passé. In an infamous example, Businessweek published the cover story “The Death Of Equities” on August 13, 1979, right before the secular bull market began. 

Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest cover story is called “Is Inflation Dead?,” which should make contrarians question whether the actual risk is higher inflation (or hidden inflation, as I will explain).

Here are the first few paragraphs from this piece – 

If economics were literature, the story of what happened to inflation would be a gripping whodunit. Did inflation perish of natural causes—a weak economy, for instance? Was it killed by central banks, with high interest rates the murder weapon? Or is it not dead at all but just lurking, soon to return with a vengeance?

Like any good murder mystery, this one has a twist. What if the apparent defeat of inflation blew back on the central bankers themselves by making them appear expendable? Far from being lauded for a job well done, they’re under populist attack.

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

New Canadian Bonds Are Backed By Junk Rated Retailers And Consumer Loans Charging 40% Interest

New Canadian Bonds Are Backed By Junk Rated Retailers And Consumer Loans Charging 40% Interest

In a unique twist on the excesses of the last credit bubble, Canada’s bond market is now issuing bonds backed by increasingly riskier assets, but that hasn’t stopped investors from jumping at the chance to buy them – because why would history ever repeat itself when central bankers are here to make sure there is no more risk, ever? 

According to Bloomberg, some popular recent deals have included debt backed by assets like mortgages on junk-rated Hudson’s Bay stores and consumer loans that charge interest rates of up to 40%. There is also new debt being backed by home-equity lines of credit, credit cards, and auto loans/leases. Non-banking mortgage lenders may also soon issue similar debt, according to the report. In fact, the only thing that differentiates the current Canadian bond issuance frenzy from what took place in the US in 2005-2006 is… well… we’ll get back to you on that.

These bonds in Canada are starting to hit the market as Canada’s own bond market inverts with the yield on the 10 year government bond trading below the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate. Consumer spending has been poor and inflation has been weak in the country, however its economy recorded its best monthly advance in growth in eight months in January, and has an unemployment rate of 5.8%, a four decade low, so all must be well…

Randall Malcolm, senior managing director of fixed income at Sun Life Investment Management said: “The flattening of the curve, in which you see the ten year bonds inside the overnight rate is prompting investors to hunt for yield.”

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

Cancer-Causing Chemical Over Houston Channel Sends Hundreds To Hospital

Cancer-Causing Chemical Over Houston Channel Sends Hundreds To Hospital

Bloomberg’s update in the wake of the week-long Deer Park oil processing plant fire (now extinguished) and chemical spill holds nothing back, but underscores the seriousness of the situation after both city and Intercontinental Terminals Co. (ITC) previously sought to reassure residents days ago that “everything’s fine”.

Instead, as Bloomberg’s aptly titled headline reads“Cloud of Cancer-Causing Chemical Hangs Over the Houston Channel” — this as hundreds of area residents have sought medical help for illnesses ranging from nausea to headaches to irritation and burning in the skin, eyes, nose and throat.Prior photo showing a black plume that had stretched for 20 miles from the petrochemical fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company, Monday, March 18, 2019, in Deer Park, Texas. via AP

For many days running the nation was captivated by dramatic images of flames and smoke plumes hovering above the Houston area from the Deer Park petrochemical fire, which had initially triggered an emergency shelter-in-place order from city authorities when it began last Sunday March 17; and while firefighters had extinguished the raging inferno on Thursday, multiple chemical tanks reignited again late Friday, complicating efforts to clean up a massive chemical spill into the nearby Houston Ship Channel.

With the fire now extinguished, Houston and Harris County area residents, especially those closest to Deer Park, are now concerned over dangerous levels of exposure to the chemical tanks which had burned for days: benzene, xylene, naphtha, toluene, and pyrolysis gasoline, known as Pygas, along with other oil processing related chemicals.

According to prior local reports

Officials said the components are in gas blend stocks used in the production of finished gasoline and base oil used for machine lubrication.

NAPHTHA can cause irritation to eyes and the respiratory system. It affects the central nervous system and is harmful and even fatal if it is swallowed.

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

France To Deploy Military Against Next Round Of Yellow Vest Protests

France To Deploy Military Against Next Round Of Yellow Vest Protests

If the black smoke over the Paris skyline and charred cars and buildings along the Champs-Elysees which have become characteristic of France’s increasingly violent Yellow Vest protests over the past months weren’t alarming enough, things look to get much worse as the government prepares to escalate

In an effort to clamp down on the unraveling security situation, which has lately seen banks and residential buildings torched, and luxury stores and restaurants vandalized and destroyed, the French authorities have announced the deployment of anti-terrorism military forces in order to protect and secure public buildings. Protesters walk by burning cars during clashes with riot police on the sideline of a protest of Gilets jaunes against rising oil prices and living costs, via AFP

Following the worsening protest situation of the past weekend (after a brief lull at the end of President Macron’s failed ‘great debate’ initiative which pushed town halls to air grievances), which nearly turned deadly for random civilians caught in the mayhem of rioters clashing with police, the government will redirect counter-terror troops from Opération Sentinelle to focus on Yellow Vest related threats

Opération Sentinelle began after the January 2015 Île-de-France attacks (the series of al-Qaeda linked terrorist acts that began with the Charlie Hebdo shooting) and resulted in some 10,000 soldiers and 4,700 police and gendarmes deployed at sensitive sites and public buildings across the country. 

According to Bloomberg, French authorities have sought to calm the obvious and immediate fears raised that the move constitutes the government taking a full martial law approach of sending the military against its own people.  Opération Sentinelle forces

Following a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux pointed to the “new forms of violence”Saturday which he said justifies deploying the counter-terror forces. 

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

Venezuela Deploys Troops “To Protect National Power Grid” From US “Aggression”

Venezuela Deploys Troops “To Protect National Power Grid” From US “Aggression”

update: Though some parts of Venezuela’s power grid have reportedly begun to come back online after the country was plunged into nation-wide darkness beginning Thursday evening, the mass blackout crisis continues, which Caracas has blamed on US-orchestrated saboteurs.

To prevent further “sabotage” Venezuela’s Defense Ministry has vowed in an official statement via state TV social media channels to deploy armed forces to protect the national electricity system for the duration of the power outage.

“All the security agencies, civil protection and the nation’s integral defense system are deployed to protect and help the people across the country,” a statement said, via Bloomberg. This as official accusations against Washington for conducting what Maduro previously called a US “electricity war” have become even more strident. 

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

#LIVE | Venezuela’s @vladimirpadrino: “This [recent blackout] is an aggression against our country that has hurt every Venezuelan, regardless of color or political allegiance.”

The defense ministry previously vowed to put more security patrols on the streets after dark, as already high-crime areas of Caracas are now considered no-go zones as a result of the blackout. 

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

Pence Urged Germany To Provoke Russian Navy

Pence Urged Germany To Provoke Russian Navy 

Bloomberg dropped a bombshell on Thursday, citing three high level sources familiar with US-German talks at last month’s Munich Security Conference who revealed US Vice President Mike Pence tried to persuade German Chancellor Angela Merkel to directly provoke Russia by sending German ships through the Kerch Strait, the two mile wide flashpoint off Crimea which saw Russia seize Ukrainian vessels and their crew members on November 25. 

Merkel reportedly rebuffed the efforts which Bloomberg described as “a naval maneuver in Russia’s backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin.” Merkel declined Pence’s urging while citing reservations voiced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who viewed such an act as “not enough” to ensure Russia opens the strait permanently, according to the sources. Sources said Pence’s plan was designed “to show Putin that Western powers won’t surrender their access to those waters.”Image source: Reuters

Interestingly, Merkel’s stance wasn’t based on any principled desire to promoted peace or prevent needless provocations which could potentially spark regional war between Ukraine and Russia and western allies, but out of concern it essentially “wasn’t enough”

According to Bloomberg

Merkel had indicated she was willing, in coordination with the French, to send a convoy through the waterway as a one-time maneuver but Poroshenko said that wasn’t enough to solve his problem — he wants to ensure the strait is open permanently, the people said. France also refused to take part, judging the idea as an unnecessary provocation, according to another official who declined to be identified.

Following the controversial 2014 Crimean status referendum, which resulted in the peninsula coming under Russian suzerainty, Russia has been accused of choking off Ukrainian naval access to its ports on the Sea of Azov to the north of the Kerch Strait. 

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

If Central Banks Are the Only Game in Town, We’ve Lost

If Central Banks Are the Only Game in Town, We’ve Lost

Relying on monetary policy to prop up asset prices and smooth out global volatility is a recipe for disaster.

Easy money has become a big problem. 
Easy money has become a big problem.  Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Just since December 2018, central banks have collectively injected as much as $500 billion of liquidity to stabilize economic conditions. The U.S. Federal Reserve has put interest rate increases on hold and is contemplating a halt to its balance-sheet reduction plan. Other central banks have taken similar actions, fueling a new phase of the “everything bubble” as markets careen from December’s indiscriminate selling to January’s indiscriminate buying. 

The monetary onslaught appears a reaction to financial factors — falling equity markets, rising credit spreads, increased volatility — and a perceived weakening of economic activity, primarily in Europe and China. If they heeded Walter Bagehot’s oft-cited rule, central banks would act only as lenders of last resort in times of financial crisis, lending without limit to solvent firms against good collateral at high rates. Instead, they’ve become lenders of first resort, expected to step in at any sign of problems. U.S. central bankers are currently debating whether quantitative-easing programs should be used purely in emergency situations or more routinely.

Since 2008, the global economy has grown far too dependent on huge central bank balance sheets and accommodative monetary policy. The U.S. economic boom President Donald Trump loves to tout is largely fake, engineered by artificial policy settings. Such dependence is dangerous and, for various reasons, could well backfire.

For one thing, central banks are poor forecasters. GDP growth, inflation and labor markets may prove more resilient than feared, remaining at or above trend. Key risks, such as the trade dispute between the U.S. and China, may recede. Financial markets and asset prices have already recovered substantially.

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

IMF Discreetly Preps Massive Aid Package For “Day After” Maduro’s Fall

IMF Discreetly Preps Massive Aid Package For “Day After” Maduro’s Fall

The International Monetary Fund is reportedly making plans for the “day after” embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s fall, according to Bloomberg. Though there’s been little momentum in military defections following US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido’s offer of amnesty to any army officer that switches loyalties, Washington sanctions have effectively strangled state-owned PDVSA’s access to global markets. News of IMF maneuvering also comes amidst fresh reports the US is amassing aircraft, troops and armored vehicles on the Venezuelan border under the pretext of getting humanitarian aid into the country. 

The only significant cash flow that remains after the oil sanctions is through India, Venezuela’s second-biggest oil market after the United States, which still recognizes the Maduro government, and is now reportedly seeking to avoid purchases through US banks and even financial institutions with a heavy US presence. According to a Reuters report on Friday, “India has asked one buyer of Venezuelan oil to consider paying the South American nation’s national oil company PDVSA in a way that avoids the U.S. financial system, an Indian government source said, after Washington imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela last month.”

Image source: Bloomberg

If oil buyers pay PDVSA through American institutions, US authorities can seize the funds. But the IMF reportedly sees cash dwindling from oil sales at such a rapid pace that Maduro can’t possibly hold on, even with the staying power of his loyal armed forces. This also comes as the White House mulls a possible next step of blocking foreign entities all together from dealing with the PDVSA. 

Citing an anonymous official due to the sensitivity of the matter, Bloomberg reports the IMF is planning for a near-term Maduro exit bydiscreetly preparing a massive financial aid package to rescue the nosediving economy, for years choked by US-led sanctions and corrupt socialist leadership, following transition of power.

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

How An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU

How An Italian Debt Crisis Could Take Down The EU

Plagued by another run of bank bailouts and simmering tensions between the partners in its ruling coalition, Italy’s brief reprieve following the detente between its populist rulers and angry bureaucrats in Brussels is already beginning to fade. As Bloomberg reminded us on Monday, Italy’s $1.7 trillion pile of public debt – the third largest sovereign debt pool in Europe – is threatening to set off a chain reaction that could hammer banks from Rome, to Madrid, to Frankfurt – and beyond.

Italy

Just the mention of the precarity of Italian debt markets “can induce a shudder of financial fear like no other” in bureaucrats and businessmen alike – particularly after Italy’s economy slid into a recession during Q4.

Italy

While much of Italy’s debt burden is held by its banks and private citizens, lenders outside of Italy are holding some 425 billion euros ($486 billion) in public and private debt.

Bank

The Bloomberg analysis of Italy’s financial foibles follows more reports that Italy’s ruling coalition between the anti-immigrant, pro-business League and the vaguely left-wing populist Five-Star Movement has become increasingly strained. Per BBG, the two parties are fighting a battle on two fronts over the construction of a high speed Alpine rail and a legal case involving League leader Matteo Salvini over his refusal to let the Dicotti migrant ship to dock in an Italian port last summer.

After M5S intimated that it could support the investigation, the League warned that such a move would be tantamount to “blackmail” against Salvini, whose lieutenants have been pushing for him to take advantage of the party’s rising poll numbers and push for early elections later this year. However, Salvini has rebuffed these demands, warning that there’s nothing stopping Italian President Sergio Mattarella from calling for a new coalition instead of new elections.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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