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Signs of recession are hitting Europe. Is its new Central Bank president up for the challenge?

Signs of recession are hitting Europe. Is its new Central Bank president up for the challenge?

If new institutional reform is to come to the Eurozone, it will entail a major paradigmatic shift

We now know that there will be a changing of the guard at the European Central Bank (ECB) in October. The current head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, will succeed current ECB President Mario Draghi at that time.

A known quantity among the political and investor class of Europe, Lagarde seems like a safe choice: she is a lawyer by training, not an economist. Hence, she is unlikely to usher in any dramatic changes, in contrast to current European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, who significantly expanded the ECB’s remit in the aftermath of his pledge to do “whatever it takes” to save the single currency union (Draghi did this by underwriting the solvency of the Eurozone member states through substantially expanded sovereign bond-buying operations). Instead, Lagarde will likely stick to her brief, as any good lawyer does. There’s no doubt that her years of operating as head of the IMF will also reinforce her inclination not to disrupt the prevailing austerity-based ECB ideology.

Unfortunately, the Eurozone needs something more now, especially given the increasingly frail state of the European economies. The Eurozone still doesn’t have a treasury of its own, and there’s no comprehensively insured banking union. Those limitations are likely to become far more glaring in any larger kind of recession, especially if accompanied by a banking crisis. That is why the mooted candidacy of Jens Weidmann may have been the riskier bet for the top job at the ECB, but ultimately a choice with more political upside. An old-line German central banker might have been able to lay the groundwork for the requisite paradigmatic shift more successfully than a French lawyer, especially now that Germany itself is in the eye of the mounting economic storm.

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

World’s Central Banks End Pact That Limited Selling Of Gold

World’s Central Banks End Pact That Limited Selling Of Gold

In a surprising announcement on Friday morning, the European Central Bank said the 21 signatories of the 4th Central Bank Gold Agreement (CBGA) “no longer see the need for formal agreement” as the market has developed and matured, and as a result the signatories “decided not to renew the Agreement upon its expiry in September 2019.”

For readers unfamiliar, the first CBGA was signed in 1999 to coordinate planned gold sales by the various central banks. When it was introduced, the ECB notes that “the Agreement contributed to balanced conditions in the gold market by providing transparency regarding the intentions of the signatories. It was renewed three times in 2004, 2009 and 2014, gradually moving towards less stringent terms.”

The fourth CBGA, which expires on 26 September 2019, was signed by the ECB, the Nationale Bank van België/Banque Nationale de Belgique, the Deutsche Bundesbank, Eesti Pank, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Bank of Greece, the Banco de España, the Banque de France, the Banca d’Italia, the Central Bank of Cyprus, Latvijas Banka, Lietuvos bankas, the Banque centrale du Luxembourg, the Central Bank of Malta, De Nederlandsche Bank, the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, the Banco de Portugal, Banka Slovenije, Národná banka Slovenska, Suomen Pankki – Finlands Bank, Sveriges Riksbank and the Swiss National Bank.

The simplest reason why the agreement is no longer needed, is that whereas central banks used to sell gold in the 1990s and early 2000s, most famously the UK’s sale of 401 tonnes of gold of its total 715 tonne holdings under Gordon Brown, broadly seen as one of the “worst investment decisions of all time“, currently they are buying at an unprecedented pace, and in 2018, central bank gold demand was the highest in the “modern” era, or since Nixon closed the gold window in 1971.

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

“Yellow Light” – Is The Credit Market Finally Reversing

“Yellow Light” – Is The Credit Market Finally Reversing

Keep digging

Yesterday, the European Central Bank held a stand-pat meeting, keeping the benchmark deposit rate at negative 40 basis points.

However, ECB president Mario Draghi indicated that rate cuts and a resumption of asset purchases are on tap for September.  In the accompanying presser, the outgoing ECB chief captured the mood of central bank-levitated markets, stating that: “it’s difficult to be too gloomy today,” while the outlook “is getting worse and worse.” The German 10-year yield traded as low as negative 42 basis points, briefly crossing below the 40 basis point deposit rate. 

While sovereign debt holders continue to rack up mark-to-market gains, not everyone is enamored with the prospect of still-more negative interest rates.

“We already have a devastating interest rate situation today, the end of which is unforeseeable,” Peter Schneider, who represents banks in the south-eastern German state of Baden-Württemburg, told Bloomberg yesterday.

“If the ECB aggravates this course, that would hit not only the entire financial sector hard, but especially savers.”

Meanwhile, policymakers down under attempt to quantify the practical limits of negative policy rates. In a paper written to New Zealand finance minister Grant Robertson in January and recently released to the public, staffers in the Treasury Department concluded:

“The Reserve Bank expect rates could only fall at most 35 basis points below zero before risking the hoarding of physical cash.”

Today, the global stock of negative-yielding debt rose to $13.74 trillion, a new record.

Yellow light

As we close out month 121 of the longest economic expansion on record, let’s take a look at the state of U.S. corporate credit.  Year to date, investment-grade bonds have generated a whopping 12.3% total return, while high-yield has returned 10.6%. Leveraged loans have lagged far behind, with the LSTA Index gaining just 3.3% so far this year.

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

Strait Outta Hormuz

Strait Outta Hormuz

The Strait of Hormuz these days seems to be what the streets of Compton used to be in the 90s. Yesterday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said it has seized a “foreign vessel” for smuggling fuel. And this morning, news came in that the US has shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz, after it allegedly threatened a US warship. About a fifth of global daily oil consumption (c. 21 million barrels) passes through the Strait each day. Moreover, tensions between the US and Iran are more likely to increase than not (don’t forget Iran also shot down a US drone last month). So don’t expect a smooth ride for oil prices this summer.

From the Strait of Hormuz, to back to Europe. According to Bloomberg sources, ECB staff is looking into potentially reforming its inflation target from “below, but close to 2%” to perhaps a policy band around 2%. Such a band would explicitly make the inflation target symmetric (something President Draghi favours), which means that the ECB can better signal willingness to overshoot the target for a short while. As such, it can reinforce inflation expectations if it is seen as a signal of more (or a prolonged period of) loose monetary policy. However, our ECB watcher Bas van Geffen cautions that the risk of such a symmetric band is that the market could also interpret the lower bound as ‘good enough’, especially if inflation keeps undershooting the ECB’s aim. Suppose the band is 0.5%. This implies the ECB might target an inflation rate of 2.5%, but it also implies that an inflation rate of 1.5% is within the ECB’s target band. Hooray, the ECB has achieved its inflation target by simply changing the definition of the target. What does that mean for its credibility? To avoid that situation, a symmetric band should probably be accompanied by more stimulus to rekindle inflation expectations.

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

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

“We’re Never Going To Go Away From Zero:” Presenting Kyle Bass’ Latest Trade

Here at Zero Hedge, we’ve dedicated plenty of attention to signs of “Japanification” in European bond markets…

… with the issue taking on even more urgency now that we have influential bond strategists earnestly advocating the purchase of equities by the ECB, and the Fed in the middle of a policy U-turn that has prompted the market to price in at least three interest rate cuts by the end of the year…

Rates

…previously “conspiratorial” ideas like the Fed buying equities to turbocharge its stimulus program are beginning to look eminently plausible.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the term, “Japanification”, also known as Albert Edwards “Ice Age” concept, it involves the dawn of a new economic paradigm characterized by stagnant growth and pervasive deflation, where central bank debt monetization is needed to finance public spending to keep economies from sliding into contraction.

Bass

Already, there’s reason to believe that both the US and Europe are heading for the same monetary policy trap as Japan. Case in point: the neutral rate – or r*, as the economists at the Fed like to call it – has failed to revert back to its pre-crisis level.

Yields

And with the Fed likely to cut rates later this month and global bond yields tumbling to levels not seen in years, if ever, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass has revealed his latest trade in an interview with the  FTBass is betting that the Fed will slash interest rates to just above zero next year as the US economy slides into a recession, forcing the Fed to restart QE, and possibly even consider more radical alternatives like buying equities.

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

Low Yield, No Yield, Negative Yield–Buy Now But Don’t Forget to Sell

LOW YIELD, NO YIELD, NEGATIVE YIELD – BUY NOW BUT DON’T FORGET TO SELL

  • The amount of negative yielding fixed securities has hit a new record
  • The Federal Reserve and the ECB are expected to resume easing of interest rates
  • Secondary market liquidity for many fixed income securities is dying
  • Outstanding debt is setting all-time highs

To many onlookers, since the great financial crisis, the world of fixed income securities has become an alien landscape. Yields on government bonds have fallen steadily across all developed markets. As the chart below reveals, there is now a record US$13trln+ of negative yielding fixed income paper, most of it issued by the governments’ of Switzerland, Japan and the Eurozone: –

Bloomberg - Negative Yield - 21st June 2019

Source: Bloomberg  

The percentage of Eurozone government bonds with negative yields is now well above 50% (Eur4.3trln) and more than 35% trades with yields which are more negative than the ECB deposit rate (-0,40%). If one adds in investment grade corporates the total amount of negative yielding bonds rises to Eur5.3trln. Earlier this month, German 10yr Bund yields dipped below the deposit rate for the first time, amid expectations that the ECB will cut rates by another 10 basis points, perhaps as early as September.

The idea that one should make a long-term investment in an asset which will, cumulatively, return less at the end of the investment period, seems nonsensical, except in a deflationary environment. With most central banks committed to an inflation target of around 2%, the Chinese proverb, ‘we live in interesting times,’ springs to mind, yet, negative yielding government bonds are now ‘normal times’ whilst, to the normal fixed income investor, they are anything but interesting. As Keynes famously observed, ‘Markets can remain irrational longer than I can remain solvent.’ Do not fight this trend, yields will probably turn more negative, especially if the ECB cuts rates and a global recession arrives regardless.

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

Lagarde, the ECB and the next crisis

Lagarde, the ECB and the next crisis

The appointment of Christine Lagarde as president of the ECB has been greeted with euphoria by financial markets. That reaction in itself should be a warning signal. When risky assets soar in the middle of a huge bubble due to a central bank appointment, the supervising entity should be concerned.Lagarde is a lawyer, not an economist, and a great professional, but the market probably interprets correctly is that the European Central Bank will become even more dovish. Lagarde, for example, is a strong advocate of negative rates.

Lagarde and Vice President De Guindos have warned of the need to carry out measures to avoid a possible financial crisis, proposing different mechanisms to mitigate the shocks created by excess risk. Both are right, but that search for mechanisms to work as shock buffers runs the risk of being sterile when it is the monetary policy that encourages excess. When the central bank solves a financial crisis by absorbing the excess risk that the market once took it does not reduce it, it only disguises it. 

Supervisors ignore the effect of risk accumulation because they perceive it as necessary collateral damage to the recovery. Risk accumulates precisely because it is encouraged.

Draghi said that monetary policy is not the correct instrument to deal with financial imbalances and macroprudential tools should be used. However, it is the monetary policy which is causing those imbalances when an extraordinary, conditional and limited measure becomes an eternal and unconditional one.

When monetary policy disguises and encourages risk, macroprudential measures are simply ineffective. There is no macroprudential measure that mitigates the risk created by negative rates and almost three trillion of asset purchases.

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

Somebody’ Finally Cares About Gold

Somebody’ Finally Cares About Gold

Grant Williams pithily summed up the situation that has been plaguing gold since 2013: Nobody Cares.

Yes, it’s highly likely that the price has been suppressed. But not enough buyers cared to fight the bullion bank/central bank cartel or make life difficult enough for the politicians — and thus, the regulators — to change things.

So gold languished. For years.

But last August, gold quietly entered a bull market after breaking above $1200.

As the price began rising (for both fundamental & technical reasons), we’ve been tracking its progress closely.  We do so on a daily basis via Peak Prosperity’s Precious Metals Daily Commentary updates (outstandingly authored by user davefairtex), as key developments happened via our premium reports (like this prediction), and via expert interviews such as our recent in-depth discussions with TFMetals and Incrementum’s Ronni Stoeferle.

As we entered 2019, the increasingly dovish/desperate policy retracements of the central banks — which now appear will NEVER normalize their balance sheets — have boosted the bull run.

Lower real interest rates are gold price-positive. And not only are real rates falling right now, there’s alreadycurrently $12 trillion in negative *nominal* debt trading worldwide right now:

Negative-yielding debt hits new record (Bloomberg)

And based on this week’s further dovish announcements from both the Fed and the ECB, we can expect more $trillions to be added to that pile soon.

On Tuesday, Mario Draghi apparently went rogue on his fellow policymakers and launched into a swan song version of his all-time hit “Whatever it takes”. The next day, Jerome Powell at the Fed confirmed his willingness to ease and let the market know he stands ready to cut rates multiple times over the next year.

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

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…

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…

Debt is the Hidden Issue in The European Elections

Debt is the Hidden Issue in The European Elections

The citizens of the European Union are called to vote this week for the European Parliament. It is not a real parliament, and it lacks prospects for becoming one, since all important decisions are taken by the unelected heads of the European Commission and the European Central Bank, dubbed “the worst-run Central Bank in the world”.

These elections capture however the general mood of exasperation with current policies. Conservative and extreme Right parties will rise, reflecting widespread scepticism as to the economic course of the EU and its lack of benefits for the common people. The mainstream Left unfortunately neglects these issues, and it will pay the price.

The conservatives generally blame the weak and scapegoat the refugees, the immigrants, the women, and the poor, while promising to save the middle class from the onslaught of big capital. They create false hopes of easy reform, and they never denounce the exploitation inherent in today’s system. History shows however that small owners manage to resist financial stranglehold only when they make common cause with workers and the poor, and they are not afraid to fight.

The economy looks ever more frail. In all, the Eurozone’s nominal GDP stagnates, shrinking 12% in its six largest economies in 2008-2017. The European Union remains indifferent to the peoples’ needs, while it caters for every whim of the corporations. Even so, Quantitative Easing and other crony capitalist schemes promoted by the ECB, such as the Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs) or the new Targeted Long-term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO-III) cannot save the day.

 …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…

China & Buying Gold – Why?

China & Buying Gold – Why? 

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; I believe you said at the WEC in 2017 that central banks will diversify and increase their gold reserves going into the currency crisis coming in 2021. China has continued to increase its gold reserves. You would please update on that development.

Thank you

PK

ANSWER: Central banks are in a very difficult position. The ECB has really put the entire world at risk. Draghi is now realizing that negative interest rates have seriously harmed the European economy and led to a major growing liquidity crisis in European banking. The euro is regarded as a time bomb for it is neither a national currency nor a stable unit of account. The failure to have consolidated the debts from the outset has simply left the euro vulnerable to separatist movements and sheer chaos.

This is what has been behind the strength in the dollar. Central banks outside Europe have been caught in this dollar vortex. They have been selling dollars and buying gold in an effort to stem the advance of the dollar. China also has a debt problem with many provinces and companies who borrowed in dollars. Here in 2019, there is $1.2 trillion in Chinese dollar borrowings that must be rolled over. There is a rising concern that this year there could be a major threat of a dollar funding crunch. The total debt issued in US dollars outside the USA approached $12 trillion at the end of 2018. That is about 50% of the US national debt. The forex risk is huge, no less the interest rate risk on top of that. The more crises we see in Europe, the greater the pressure on the dollar to rise regardless of the Fed trying to stop capital inflows by delaying raising rates.

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

ECB Inflationists are Crippling Europe

ECB Inflationists are Crippling Europe

Last week, the ECB announced the reintroduction of targeted long-term refinancing operations for the third time. TLTRO-III is scheduled to start from next September. The idea is to make yet more money available for the banks at attractive rates on condition they increase their lending to non-financial entities.

The policy is justified because the ECB sees growing signs the Eurozone economy is stalling, possibly badly. The weaker Eurozone economies are moving into outright recession, and Germany’s motor exports appear to have dramatically slowed, putting a constraint on her whole economy. 

The ECB’s reintroduction of TLTRO is an offer of yet more monetary and credit inflation, despite the evidence that unprecedented waves of monetary inflation in the last ten years have failed in all the objectives for which they were designed, except two: governments have continued to get the funds to spend without meaningful restraint, and insolvent banks have been preserved.

Only two months after its asset purchase programme officially ended, the inflationists are at it again. But one wonders why the ECB bothers to delay TLTRO-III until September. If it is such a good thing, why not introduce it now?

There is another explanation, and that is the ECB is intellectually adrift with no economic compass. We do not know how many economists and monetary specialists are employed in the Eurosystem, which includes the ECB and the regional central banks, but they are certainly not economists, otherwise they would understand money. They may be technicians, which is not the same thing. If they were economists, or more precisely properly schooled in the human sub-science of catallactics (the theory of exchange ratios and prices) they would more fully appreciate the consequences of monetary inflation.

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

Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Can the EU Survive the Next Financial Crisis?

Despite the ECB’s subsidy of the Eurozone’s banking system, it remains in a sleepwalking state similar to the non-financial, non-crony-capitalist zombified economy. Gone are the heady days of investment banking. There is now a legacy of derivatives and regulators’ fines. Technology has made the over-extended branch network, typical of a European retail bank, a costly white elephant. The market for emptying bank buildings in the towns and villages throughout Europe must be dire, a source of under-provisioned losses. On top of this, the ECB’s interest rate policy has led to lending margins becoming paper-thin. 

A negative deposit rate of 0.4% at the ECB has led to negative wholesale (Euribor) money market rates along the yield curve to at least 12 months. This has allowed French banks, for example, to fund Italian government bond positions, stripping out 33 basis points on a “riskless” one-year bond. It’s the peak of collapsed lending margins when even the hare-brained can see the risk is greater than the reward, whatever the regulator says. The entire yield curve is considerably lower than Italian risk implies it should be, given its existing debt obligations, with 10-year Italian government bonds yielding only 2.55%. That’s less than equivalent US Treasuries, the global risk-free standard.

Government bond yields have been and remain considerably reduced through the ECB’s interest rate suppression and its bond-buying programs. The expansion of Eurozone government debt since the Lehman crisis has been about 50% to €9.69 trillion. This expansion, representing €3.1 trillion, compares with the expansion of the Eurosystem’s own balance sheet of €2.8 trillion since 2009. In other words, the expansion of Eurozone government debt has been nearly matched by the ECB’s monetary creation.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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