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The U.S. Dollar Collapse Is Greatly Exaggerated

The U.S. Dollar Collapse Is Greatly Exaggerated

The US Dollar Index has lost 10% from its March highs and many press comments have started to speculate about the likely collapse of the US Dollar as world reserve currency due to this weakness.

These wild speculations need to be debunked.

The US Dollar year-to-date (August 2020) has strengthened relative to 96 out of 146 currencies in the Bloomberg universe. In fact, the U.S. Fed Trade-Weighted Broad Dollar Index has strengthened by 2.3% in the same period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The speculation about countries abandoning the U.S. Dollar as reserve currency is easily denied. The Bank Of International Settlements reports in its June 2020 report that global US-dollar denominated debt is at a decade-high. In fact, US-dollar denominated debt issuances year-to-date from emerging markets have reached a new record.

China’s dollar-denominated debt has risen as well in 2020. Since 2015, it has increased 35% while foreign exchange reserves fell 10%.

The US Dollar Index (DXY) shows that the United States currency has only really weakened relative to the yen and the euro, and this is based on optimistic expectations of European and Japanese economic recovery. The Federal Reserve’s dovish announcements may be seen as a cause of the dollar decline, but the evidence shows that the European Central Bank (BOJ) and the Bank Of Japan (BOJ) conduct much more aggressive policies than the U.S. while economic recovery stalls. Recent purchasing manager index (PMI) declines have shown that hopes of a rapid recovery in Europe and Japan are widely exaggerated, and the Daily Activity Index published by Bloomberg confirms it. Furthermore, the balance sheet of the ECB is at the end of August more than 54% of the eurozone GDP and the BOJ´s is 123% versus the Federal Reserve’s 33%.

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

The World Is Drowning In Debt

The World Is Drowning In Debt

According to the IMF, global fiscal support in response to the crisis will be more than 9 trillion US dollars, approximately 12% of world GDP. This premature, clearly rushed, probably excessive, and often misguided chain of so-called stimulus plans will distort public finances in a way in which we have not seen since World War II. The enormous increase in public spending and the fall in output will lead to a global government debt figure close to 105% of GDP.

If we add government and private debt, we are talking about 200 trillion US dollars of debt, a global increase of over 35% of GDP, well above the 20% seen after the 2008 crisis, and all in a single year.

This brutal increase in indebtedness is not going to prevent economies from falling rapidly. The main problem of this global stimulus chain is that it is entirely oriented to support bloated government spending, and artificially low bond yields. That is the reason why such a massive global monetary and fiscal response is not doing much to prevent the collapse in jobs, investment, and growth. Most businesses, small ones with no debt and no assets, are being wiped out.

Most of this new debt has been created to sustain a level of public spending that was designed for a cyclical boom, not a crisis and to help large companies that were already in trouble in 2018 and 2019, the so-called ‘zombie’ companies.

According to Bank Of International Settlements, the percentage of zombie companies – those that cannot cover their debt interest payments with operating profits – has exploded in the period of giant stimuli and negative real rates, and the figure will skyrocket again.

That is why all this new debt is not going to boost the recovery, it will likely prolong the recession.

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

U.S. Depression? The V-Shaped Recovery Fades Away

U.S. Depression? The V-Shaped Recovery Fades Away

The recent jobless claims figures show how difficult it will be for the U.S. recovery to be as quick and strong as initially expected.

  • 7.7 million jobs were lost in Hospitality and Leisure in April, 2.5 million in Education and Health, with 2 million in Retail and another 2 million in Professional Services. These sectors are unlikely to recover fast and enough to compensate the job losses of the past month and even less likely to see the same level of wages of 2019.
  • Credit card delinquencies are rising, and retail sales are going to see a very modest recovery because household debt is increasing, wages are under pressure and most citizens are changing their consumption patterns, looking to strengthen their savings in case another shock arrives.
  • Corporate debt is rising to new records due to the collapse in operating revenues. As such, companies will likely take all possible measures to conserve cash flow, reduce expenditure and be prudent about hiring decisions. This will lead to slower job creation and investment even once the economy opens.
  • Tax increases are likely to affect the recovery. The government deficit is soaring, with the Treasury looking at $2 trillion of new debt in 2020 due to the measures implemented to combat the economic impact of coronavirus. Unfortunately, the Democrats are looking to increase taxes just when the economy needs more investment and attraction of capital. If taxes rise significantly, what is already a weak outlook for capital expenditure and job creation is likely to worsen.

All of this makes a V-shaped recovery even more challenging than before. However, the U.S. economy is likely to recover faster than the Eurozone and suffer less in 2020.

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

Banks Will Not Bail Out The Economy

Banks Will Not Bail Out The Economy

These days, we hear a lot that banks were the problem in the 2008 crisis and now they are the part of the solution. 

Banking was not the main problem of the 2008 crisis, but one of the symptoms that indicated a more serious disease, the excess risk taken by public and private economic agents after massive interest rate cuts and direct incentives to take more debt coming from legislation as well as local and supranational regulation. Lehman Brothers was not a cause, it was a consequence of years of legislation and monetary policies that encouraged risk-taking.

The second part of the sentence, “now banks are the solution,” is dangerous. It starts from a wrong premise, that banks are stronger than ever and can bail out the global economy. Banking may be part of the solution, but we cannot place, as the eurozone is doing, the entire burden of the crisis on the banks’ balance sheet. I will explain why.

When economists in Europe talk endlessly about the differences in growth and success of monetary and fiscal policy between the United States and Europe, many ignore two key factors. In the United States, according to the St Louis Federal Reserve, less than 15% of the real economy is financed through the banking channel, in the European Union, it is almost 80%. In addition, in the United States, there is an open, diversified, more efficient and faster mechanism to clean non-performing loans and recapitalize the economy that adds to its high diversification in private non-bank financing channels. 

It is, therefore, essential that in periods of crisis countries, particularly in Europe, do not relax risk analysis mechanisms, because the economic recovery may be slowed down by ongoing problems in the financial sector and even lead to a banking crisis in the midterm. The worst measure that countries can take in a crisis is to force incentives to take a disproportionate risk.

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

Lacalle: Is Now The Time To Buy Gold?

Lacalle: Is Now The Time To Buy Gold?

In this interview Daniel Lacalle explains why the fundamentals for gold are stronger each day, and why silver and palladium should not be ignored in the current crisis.

Central banks keep buying more gold and will need even more as massive liquidity measures drive their balance sheets higher.

Supply challenges remain with some mines being shut down and new supply coming well below demand (as evidenced by the decoupling – once again – between spot and futs)…

Massive monetary imbalances globally will drive demand from investors looking for a hedge to currency debasement (and that systemic risk is soaring, with sovereign credit markets starting to leak information)…

*  *  *

Finally, we give the last word to Raoul Pal and his most recent thoughts (excerpted) on “A Dollar Standard Crisis” (referring to his institutional market research at Global Macro Investor)…

….

Don’t forget – the $13tn short dollar positions (foreign dollar debt held mainly by foreign corporation and investment vehicles) is the largest position ever taken in the history of global financial markets.

It can only mean a massive, uncontrolled dollar rally. 

QE will not fix this. Swap lines will not fix this. A debt jubilee would fix this or multiple trillions of dollars in write-downs and defaults.

It is the dollar strength that brings to world to its nadir (just like the 1930s). It is the dollar system that is the really big problem.

The dollar has eaten all of its competitors and now it is going to eat itself.

This eventually breaks the dollar after a super-spike as global central banks are forced to find alternatives. 

Remember, nothing lasts forever…

Destroying the Economy is not a Social Policy

Destroying the Economy is not a Social Policy

The economy is the heart of the social body. If we shut down the heart of an organism to safeguard the hands and brain, the body dies. 

The data on deaths and infected from the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic is alarming. Let us remember the deceased, the infected and their families, and applaud the response of civil society, businesses, and citizens. 

A pandemic crisis is addressed by providing safety protocols and sanitary equipment for businesses to continue to run and keep employment, not shutting down everything, which may create a larger social and health problem in the long term regardless of the massive liquidity and fiscal policies. Why? Because demand-side policies never work in a forced shutdown of all sectors. There is no demand to “incentivize” when the government orders the closing of all activities. And there is no supply to follow when the economic crisis creates a collapse in employment and consumption.

Many commentators are saying that shutting down the economy is an essential measure to gain time to control the virus.  This analysis comes from people who simply do not understand the ripple effects and massive ramifications of a complete shutdown. They perceive that it is small collateral damage because they also believe that everything can go back to normal in one month. They are wrong. The impact is severe, widespread and exponential.

The decision to shut down the economy may cause long-lasting damages to job creation and businesses that cannot be unwound in a few months. Yes, it is essential to contain the virus spread and drastic measures are warranted, but we cannot forget that each month means millions of unemployed and thousands of business closures.

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

Despite Massive QE And Congress Bill, The US Dollar Shortage Intensifies

Despite Massive QE And Congress Bill, The US Dollar Shortage Intensifies

How can the Fed launch an “unlimited” monetary stimulus with congress approving a $2 trillion package and the dollar index remain strong? The answer lies in the rising global dollar shortage, and should be a lesson for monetary alchemists around the world.

The $2 trillion stimulus package agreed by Congress is around 10% of GDP and, if we include the Fed borrowing facilities for working capital, it means $6 trillion in liquidity for consumers and firms over the next nine months. 

The stimulus package approved by Congress is made up of the next key items: Permanent fiscal transfers to households and firms of almost $5 trillion. Individuals will receive a $1,200 cash payment ($300 billion in total). The loans for small businesses, which become grants if jobs are maintained ($367 billion). Increase in unemployment insurance payments which now cover 100% of lost wages for four months ($200 billion). $100 billion for the healthcare system, as well as $150bn for state and local governments. The remainder of the package comes from temporary liquidity support to households and firms, including tax delays and waivers. Finally, the use of the Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund for $500bn of loans for non-financial firms.

To this, we must add the massive quantitative easing program announced by the Fed. 

First, we must understand that the word “unlimited” is only a communication tool. It is not unlimited. It is limited by the confidence and demand of US dollars. 

I have had the pleasure of working with several members of the Federal Reserve, and the truth is that it is not unlimited. But they know that communication matters.

FED BALANCE SHEET 2020

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

For An Effective Response To The Upcoming Crisis

For An Effective Response To The Upcoming Crisis

Before analyzing the emergency plans that the global economy needs, we must remember that, as in the past, the prudence and responsibility of the civil society and businesses will help us to get out of this crisis.

In the face of an unprecedented crisis, we have to be realistic, responsible and cautious.

This is a supply shock added to a mandatory shutdown of the economy. As such, a serious response must be supply-side driven. It is ludicrous to try to stimulate demand with printed money and public spending in a forced lockdown where any extra demand will not drive supply up, even may drive it down.

A mandatory shutdown due to a supply shock is not solved with government spending or demand-side measures. Printing money and lowering rates help the already indebted and governments with already historic-low bond yields, deficits are already going to soar due to automatic stabilizers, so governments need to work on three things:

First, make sure that once there is a tested and approved vaccine, the production, distribution, and healthcare networks are going to be adequately prepared to respond to the population requirements.

Second, make sure that businesses don’t collapse due to working capital build in a domino of bankruptcies that leads to mass unemployment.

Third, eliminate all unnecessary spending to effectively use all fiscal space to mitigate the crisis effects and allow the economy to breathe and recover.

Governments that overspent in growth times, massively increased debt and ignored the pandemic risks only to then create a widespread lockdown cannot present themselves as the solution. 

Small and medium enterprises do not need a government to incentivize demand, because this is not a demand problem, the shutdown is imposed by law due to a health epidemic that lawmakers preferred to ignore. 

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

Supply Chain Disruptions Impact on Global Growth

Supply Chain Disruptions Impact on Global Growth

In a previous post, we mentioned that stagflation is a risk that central planners are ignoring. However, this risk is not just an isolated challenge focused on economies like Mexico, India or Argentina. Even in countries like Germany and Japan the trend of inflation, particularly in non-replicable goods, is diverging from economic growth. Inflation is picking up, while growth is slowing down.

Central banks continue to pump liquidity to disguise the rising risks to the global economy, but the coronavirus epidemic is showing to investors three important lessons:

Containment of the epidemic is taking significantly more time than what many market participants estimated. Calls fro a rapid recovery that would not only offset the first-quarter impact but improve it, are disproved.

The impact on supply chains is significantly larger than most analysts expected. China is now 17% of the global economy and provinces that count for 89% of the country’s exports remain in lockdown.

Global excess capacity is a mitigating factor on rising inflation only for replicable and highly competitive goods. There is clearly ample capacity to offset supply chain disruptions in energy commodities, metals, and industrial goods but there are severe problems surfacing in sectors that are very dependent on Chinese supply, particularly auto parts and technology components. 

Market participants started to realize last week that the coronavirus effect was not going to be a two-month issue that would be followed by strong growth. In a recent PriceWaterhouse Coopers report, it showed that the global impact could reach at least 0.7% of GDP. This estimate uses Eric Toner´s infected and casualty estimates (John Hopkins Center for Health Security) and the economic impact using McKibbins & Lee methodology (the ones that estimated the SARS impact).

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

Why Sweden Ended Its Negative Interest Rate Experiment

Why Sweden Ended Its Negative Interest Rate Experiment

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists, who start with a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and that therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea.

Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, perpetuating overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity, and zombifying the economy by subsidizing the low-productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it. They do not strengthen the credit capacity of families, because the prices of nonreplicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrockets because of monetary excess, and the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk.

Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions, because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy that they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money.

It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending. They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, which come from using 2001–7 as a “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble.

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

Negative Rates, The Destruction Of Money. Sweden Ends Its Experiment.

Negative Rates, The Destruction Of Money. Sweden Ends Its Experiment.

Negative Rates, The Destruction Of Money. Sweden Ends Its Experiment.

Negative rates are the destruction of money, an economic aberration based on the mistakes of many central banks and some of their economists who start from a wrong diagnosis: the idea that economic agents do not take more credit or invest more because they choose to save too much and therefore saving must be penalized to stimulate the economy. Excuse the bluntness, but it is a ludicrous idea.

Inflation and growth are not low due to excess savings, but because of excess debt, perpetuating overcapacity with low rates and high liquidity and zombifying the economy by subsidizing the low productivity and highly indebted sectors and penalizing high productivity with rising and confiscatory taxation.

Historical evidence of negative rates shows that they do not help reduce debt, they incentivize it, they do not strengthen the credit capacity of families, because the prices of non-replicable assets (real estate, etc.) skyrocket because of monetary excess, and the lower cost of debt does not compensate for the greater risk.

Investment and credit growth are not subdued because economic agents are ignorant or saving too much, but because they don’t have amnesia. Families and businesses are more cautious in their investment and spending decisions because they perceive, correctly, that the reality of the economy they see each day does not correspond to the cost and the quantity of money. 

It is completely incorrect to think that families and businesses are not investing or spending. They are only spending less than what central planners would want. However, that is not a mistake from the private sector side, but a typical case of central planners’ misguided estimates, that come from using 2001-2007 as “base case” of investment and credit demand instead of what those years really were: a bubble.

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

The Lessons From Japan’s Monetary Experiment

The Lessons From Japan’s Monetary Experiment

A recent article in the Financial Times, “Abenomics provides a lesson for the rich world“, mentioned that the experiment started by prime minister Shinzo Abe in the early 2010s should serve as an important warning for rich countries. Unfortunately, the article’s “lessons” were rather disappointing. These were mainly that the central bank can do a lot more than the ECB and the Fed are doing, and that Japan is not doing so badly. I disagree.

The failure of Abenomics has been phenomenal. The balance sheet of the central bank of Japan has ballooned to more than 100% of the country’s GDP, the central bank owns almost 70% of the country’s ETFs and is one of the top 10 shareholders in the majority of the largest companies of the Nikkei index. Government debt to GDP has swelled to 236%, and despite the record-low cost of debt, the government spends almost 22% of the budget on interest expenses. All of this to achieve what?

None of the results that were expected from the massive monetary experiment, inventively called QQE (quantitative and qualitative easing) have been achieved, even remotely. Growth is expected to be one of the weakest in the world in 2020, according to the IMF, and the country has consistently missed both its inflation and economic growth targets, while the balance sheet of the central banks and the country’s debt soared.

Real wages have been stagnant for years, and economic activity continues to be as poor as it was in the previous two decades of constant stimulus.

The main lessons that global economies should learn from Japan are the following:

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

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Also Be A Disaster

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Also Be A Disaster

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the IIF (Institute of International finance) global debt has soared to a new record high. The level of government debt around the world has ballooned since the financial crisis, reaching levels never seen before during peacetime. This has happened in the middle of an unprecedented monetary experiment that injected more than $20 trillion in the economy and lowered interest rates to the lowest levels seen in decades. The balance sheet of the major central banks rose to levels never seen before, with the Bank Of Japan at 100% of the country’s GDP, the ECB at 40% and the Federal Reserve at 20%.

If this monetary experiment has proven anything it is that lower rates and higher liquidity are not tools to help deleverage, but to incentivize debt. Furthermore, this dangerous experiment has proven that a policy that was designed as a temporary measure due to exceptional circumstances has become the new norm. The so-called normalization process lasted only a few months in 2018, only to resume asset purchases and rate cuts.

Despite the largest fiscal and monetary stimulus in decades, global economic growth is weakening and leading economies’ productivity growth is close to zero. Money velocity, a measure of economic activity relative to money supply, worsens.

We have explained many times why this happens. Low rates and high liquidity are perverse incentives to maintain the crowding out of government from the private sector, they also perpetuate overcapacity due to endless refinancing of non-productive and obsolete sectors t lower rates, and the number of zombie companies -those that cannot pay their interest expenses with operating profits- rises.  We are witnessing in real-time the process of zombification of the economy and the largest transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors to the indebted and unproductive.

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

The Repo Market Incident May Be The Tip Of The Iceberg

The Federal Reserve has injected $278 billion into the securities repurchase market for the first time. Numerous justifications have been provided to explain why this has happened and, more importantly, why it lasted for various days. The first explanation was quite simplistic: an unexpected tax payment. This made no sense. If there is ample liquidity and investors are happy to take financing positions at negative rates all over the world, the abrupt rise in repo rates would simply vanish in a few hours.

Let us start with definitions. The repo market is where borrowers seeking cash offer lenders collateral in the form of safe securities.  Repo rates are the interest rate paid to borrow cash in exchange for Treasuries for 24 hours.

Sudden bursts in the repo lending market are not unusual. What is unusual is that it takes days to normalize and even more unusual to see that the Federal Reserve needs to inject hundreds of billions in a few days to offset the unstoppable rise in short-term rates.

Because liquidity is ample, thirst for yield is enormous and financial players are financially more solvent than years ago, right? Wrong.

What the Repo Market Crisis shows us is that liquidity is substantially lower than what the Federal Reserve believes, that fear of contagion and rising risk are evident in the weakest link of the financial repression machine (the overnight market) and, more importantly, that liquidity providers probably have significantly more leverage than many expected.

In summary, the ongoing -and likely to return- burst in the repo market is telling us that risk and debt accumulation are much higher than estimated. Central banks believed they could create a Tsunami of liquidity and manage the waves.

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

Why the ECB should raise, not cut rates

Why the ECB should raise, not cut rates

Negative rates are likely one of the reasons behind the lacklustre European growth. Negative rates have worked as a tool to transfer wealth from savers to the indebted governments that have abandoned all structural reforms, while these extremely low rates have also perpetuated overcapacity, incentivised the refinancing of zombie companies and effectively worked as a disguised subsidy on low productivity. Not only those measures have damaged banks, but they have also created very dangerous collateral impacts (read “Negative Rates Have Damaged Banks But This Is Not The Worst Effect”).

In recent weeks we have heard of a likely new stimulus plan that would include a new repurchase program and further rate cuts. A new asset purchase program is completely unnecessary and unlikely to spur growth when all Eurozone countries already have sovereign debt with negative yields in 2-year maturities and the vast majority have negative real or nominal yields in the 10-year bonds.  Why would the ECB repurchase corporate and sovereign bonds when the issuers are already financing themselves at the lowest rates in history?  Furthermore, by reading some statements one would believe that the ECB has stopped supporting the economy. Far from it, when it repurchases all debt maturities in its balance sheet and has implemented another liquidity injection TLTRO in March 2019.

The main problem of those who defend further purchases and more negative rates is one of diagnosis. The central planners believe the Eurozone problems come from lack of demand, and that investment and credit growth are not what they would want them to be only because investors and corporates believe that rates will ultimately rise, leading to defensive positioning.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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