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When Inflation is really Deflation

QUESTION: Why is the Fed doing so much Reverse Repo? Do you think it will hit $2 trillion?

JE

ANSWER: I understand that people seem to be talking up the reverse repo activity as doom and gloom. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates and boosted the return to fight inflation. The reverse repo facility takes in cash primarily from money-market funds, as well as government-sponsored companies and banks. This facility offered a return of zero percent to eligible users previously, and then the Fed moved it up to 0.05%, while at the same time lifting another rate, called the interest on excess reserves rate to 0.15% from 0.10%. The Fed is actually competing against the US Treasury in taking in cash, which is diverting it from government debt.

What the Fed does not understand because it is beyond their control are the international capital flows. Raising rates to fight domestic inflation is attracting capital from Europe, where banks are charged negative interest rates if they have excess cash. They open a branch in the USA and then send the excess cash to the state, and then they put it at the Fed. In this manner, the Fed has no idea how much money they are actually attracting globally.

I helped the Japanese lower their trade surplus by simply buying gold in New York, taking delivery, shipping it to London, and then selling it and starting all over again constantly. The trade statistics only measure dollars — not goods. You can buy a hot dog and have it delivered in London, and that too would reduce the trade surplus. It’s all a numbers game, and those in government have no ability to figure out the real world.

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

While Fed Is in Denial, Hawkish Bank of Russia Sees Inflation as “Not Transitory,” Warns of Possible Shock-and-Awe Rate Hike

While Fed Is in Denial, Hawkish Bank of Russia Sees Inflation as “Not Transitory,” Warns of Possible Shock-and-Awe Rate Hike

US Inflation is almost as hot as in Russia, but the Fed is still blowing it off.

Consumer price inflation in Russia is red-hot, having jumped 6.0% in May compared to a year ago, 2 percentage points above the Bank of Russia’s target of 4.0%. Polls in Russia show that food inflation is a top concern, currently running at 7.4%.

But inflation in the US isn’t lagging far behind: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 5.0% in May. Yet the central banks are on opposite tracks in their approach to inflation.

Federal Reserve governors keep jabbering about this red-hot inflation being “temporary” or “transitory,” and likely to disappear on its own despite huge government stimulus and the Fed’s huge and ongoing monetary stimulus, though some doubts are creeping in among a couple of them. So they’ll keep interest rates at near-zero until at least next year, and they’re still buying $120 billion a month in securities to push down long-term interest rates.

Russia has been on the opposite trajectory, “surprising” economists at every step along the way. This trajectory started on March 19 with a 25 basis point rate hike, to 4.5%, against the expectations of 27 of the 28 economists polled by Reuters, who didn’t expect a rate hike. On April 23, the Bank of Russia hiked its policy rate by 50 basis points, to 5.0%. On June 11, it hiked by another 50 basis points to 5.5%. The next policy meeting is scheduled for July 23.

Is a shock-and-awe rate hike next? Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina is preparing the markets for this possibility – so it won’t be a shock, but just awe.

At the July meeting, the central bank “will consider” an increase in the range from “25 basis points to 1 percentage point,” she told Bloomberg TV in an interview.

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

When Expedient “Saves” Become Permanent, Ruin Is Assured

When Expedient “Saves” Become Permanent, Ruin Is Assured

The Fed’s “choice” is as illusory as the “wealth” the Fed has created with its perfection of moral hazard.

The belief that the Federal Reserve possesses god-like powers and wisdom would be comical if it wasn’t so deeply tragic, for the Fed doesn’t even have a plan, much less wisdom. All the Fed has is an incoherent jumble of expedient, panic-driven “saves” it cobbled together in the 2008-2009 Global Financial Meltdown that it had made inevitable.

The irony is the only thing that will still be rich when the whole rotten, corrupt, fragile financial system of illusory stability collapses in a heap of runaway instability. The irony is that the Fed’s leaky grab-bag of expedient “saves” was not designed to ensure systemic stability, though that was the PR cover story.

The Fed’s leaky grab-bag of expedient “saves” had only one purpose: save the fat-cats, skimmers, scammers, fraudsters and embezzlers who had gotten rich off the Fed’s cloaked transfer of wealth: the purpose of all the 2008-2009 extremes was not to impose the discipline required to truly stabilize the financial system; the purpose was to elevate moral hazard— the separation of risk from the consequences of risk–to unprecedented heights, backstopping every skimmer, scammer, fraudster and embezzler from well-deserved losses as the entire pyramid of fraud collapsed under its own enormous weight of risky bets gone bad.

To save its cronies from the catastrophic losses that should have been taken by those making the bets, the Fed instituted one expedient “save” after another: backstopped global banks with $16 trillion, dropped interest rates to zero, eliminated truthful reporting by ending mark-to-market pricing of risk, flooded the financial system with free money for financiers, all designed to signal that the Fed will never let its cronies suffer the consequences of their risky bets, i.e. the perfection of moral hazard.

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

Suffering a sea-change

Suffering a sea-change

There is an established theoretical relationship between bonds and equities which provides a framework for the future performance of financial assets. It would be a mistake to ignore it, ahead of the forthcoming rise in global interest rates.Price inflation is roaring, and so far, central banks are in denial. But it is increasingly difficult to see how monetary policy planners can extend the suppression of interest rates for much longer. There can only be one outcome: markets, that is to say prices determined by non-state actors, will force central banks to capitulate on interest rates in the summer.

Hardly noticed, China is deliberately putting the brakes on its economy, which will cause an inflationary dollar to collapse, unless the US defends it by putting up interest rates. Deliberate? Almost certainly, as part of its strategy, China is taking the financial war with the US into the foreign exchanges.

Bond yields will rise, with the US Treasury 10-year bond leaving a 2% yield far behind. Equity markets will sense the danger, and it might turn out that the month of May marks a peak in financial asset values — following cryptocurrencies into substantial bear markets.
Introduction

There is an old stock market adage that you should sell in May and go away. It has already proved its worth in the case of cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin more than halving at one point, and Ethereum losing 57% between 10—19 May. A sea-change in cryptocurrencies’ market sentiment has taken place.

As for equities, it could also turn out that 10 May, which so far has marked the S&P 500 Index’s high point, will mark the beginning of their decline. But it’s too soon to tell…

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

“Heads, Gold Wins; Tails, Gold Doesn’t Lose” – Jim Rickards

This week, Your News to Know rounds up the latest top stories involving gold and the overall economy. Stories include: How gold could soon break out, U.K.’s Royal Mint experiences peak bullion demand, and why silver can go up much higher.

Heads, Gold Wins; Tails, Gold Doesn’t Lose

As The Daily Reckoning contributor Jim Rickards notes on Zero Hedge, the worst-case scenario for gold appears to be running its course. It’s often stated that the stock market is gold’s primary competitor, but the inverse correlation between the markets has been absent for some years. Instead, bonds position themselves as gold’s archnemesis as investors look at the two and ask themselves: which is the better safe haven?

When the $900 billion December bailout was followed by a $1.9 trillion one and promises of $3 trillion more to be printed, investors were quick to expect inflation, and with good reason. Taking a look at the two safe-havens, Rickards hypothesizes they believed Treasuries were preferable with rates climbing off the floor of 0.508% in August 2020, and bought bonds instead of zero-yield gold.

To Rickards, this is what caused gold to remain rangebound over the past few quarters, (though it’s a pretty good range). The problem is that investors were too hasty in their inflation expectations, while placing too much faith in government bonds.

Rickards believes 10-year Treasury yields peaked at 1.74% on March 31 and are unlikely to spring back up. That view isn’t difficult to corroborate given the dire straits of the global bond market.

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

Spiking Inflation, Rate Hikes, and Debt Defaults in Latin America

Spiking Inflation, Rate Hikes, and Debt Defaults in Latin America

Mexico and Brazil, having seen the economic destruction that high inflation can wreak, don’t want to see it again.

Latin America will soon be hit by a wave of business bankruptcies and defaults, according to Jesús Urdangaray López, the CEO of CESCE, Spain’s biggest provider of export finance and insurance. CESCE insures companies, mainly from Spain, against the risk of their customers not paying due to bankruptcy or insolvency. It also manages export credit insurance on behalf of the Spanish State.

CESCE’s biggest clients are large Spanish companies with big operations in Latin America. For many of those companies, including Spain’s two largest banks, Grupo Santander and BBVA, Latin America is its biggest market. CESCE’s three biggest shareholders are the Spanish State and, yes, Spain’s two largest banks, Grupo Santander and BBVA.

BBVA, which is heavily invested in Argentina, warned about the worsening situation in the country. If Argentina’s economy continues its inflationary spiral, it could end up affecting BBVA’s overall performance and financial health, the Spanish bank said.

Argentina’s government is once again trying to restructure its foreign-currency debt with the IMF, having already defaulted on the debt once since the virus crisis began.

Ecuador was first to default on its foreign currency debt, followed by Argentina, then Surinam, Belize, and Surinam twice more — six sovereign defaults so far in 13 months.

Latin America has been hard hit by the virus crisis. But the region’s cash-strapped governments with weak currencies and surging inflation cannot afford to provide the sort of financial support programs being rolled out in more advanced economies. Fiscal response has added just 28 cents of extra deficit spending for every dollar of lost output…

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

Weekly Commentary: Generational Turning Point

Weekly Commentary: Generational Turning Point

There is an overarching issue I haven’t been able to get off my mind: Are we at the beginning of something new or in the waning days of the previous multi-decade cycle?

May 5 – Wall Street Journal (James Mackintosh): “We could be at a generational turning point for finance. Politics, economics, international relations, demography and labor are all shifting to supporting inflation. After more than 40 years of policies that gave priority to the fight against rising prices, investor- and consumer-friendly solutions are becoming less fashionable, not only in the U.S. but in much of the world. Investors are woefully unprepared for such a shift, perhaps because such historic turning points have proven remarkably hard to spot. This may be another false alarm, and it will take many years to play out, but the evidence for a general shift is strong across five fronts.”

The “five fronts” underscored in Mr. Mackintosh’s insightful piece are as follows: 1) “Central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, are now less concerned about inflation.” 2) “Politics has shifted to spend even more now, pay even less later.” 3) “Globalization is out of fashion.” 4) “Demographics worsen the situation.” 5) “Empowered labor puts upward pressure on wages and prices.”

The analysis is well-founded, as is the article’s headline: “Everything Screams Inflation.” After surging another 3.7% this week (lumber up 12%, copper 6%, corn 9%), the Bloomberg Commodities Index has already gained 20% this year. Lumber enjoys a y-t-d gain of 93% – WTI Crude 34%, Gasoline 51%, Copper 35%, Aluminum 26%, Steel Rebar 32%, Corn 51%, Soybeans 22%, Wheat 19%, Coffee 18%, Sugar 13%, Cotton 15%, Lean Hogs 59%… The focus on inflation is clearly justified. Yet Mackintosh began his article suggesting a “Generational Turning Point for finance” – rather than inflation. Let’s explore…

I mark the mid-eighties as the beginning of the current super-cycle. A major collapse in market yields (following the reversal of Paul Volcker’s tightening cycle) promoted financial innovation and the expansion of non-bank Credit expansion.

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

Three reasons why inflation is rising. Two of them aren’t going away

A remarkable thing happened yesterday that tells you everything you need to know about inflation.

In the morning, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated bluntly that “interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn’t overheat. . .”

For economists, an ‘overheating economy’ means inflation. So she was essentially saying that rates would have to rise to prevent inflation.

Yet hours later, she completely reversed herself, saying that interest rates would NOT have to rise because “I don’t think there’s going to be an inflationary problem.”

You don’t need a PhD in economics to smell the BS.

Inflation is not some potential issue down the road. Inflation is already here.

As Warren Buffett told investors only days ago, “We’re seeing very substantial inflation.”

Plenty of companies have already announced price increases to their consumers–

Proctor & Gamble, for instance, announced price hikes across the board on just about everything from diapers to beauty creams.

Hershey’s announced in February that it would be raising prices.

Food giant General Mills complained in February about a “higher inflationary environment” and “input cost pressures” due to rising commodity prices.

Clorox, Shake Shack, Kimberly-Clark, Whirlpool, Hormel, and Woka Kola Coca Cola are among the many companies that have also announced price increases.

And according to Bank of America Global Research, the number of mentions of “inflation” on corporate earnings calls has increased 800% compared to last year.

Inflation is clearly a concern of the largest companies in the world. Investors are worried. Consumers can see it.

And in a rare moment of truth yesterday morning, a politician almost admitted that she was concerned about inflation too.

This is not some wild conspiracy. Inflation is real. It’s happening. Let’s look at three key drivers:

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

Fed and Treasury Steer Their Unsinkable Ship toward Iceberg

Fed and Treasury Steer Their Unsinkable Ship toward Iceberg

Illustration of the Titanic sinking with iceberg in backgroundThis past week we got to observe Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the US stock market andthe US bond market do everything I said they would do in their complicated shuffle of ships-and-icebergs:

“I’m sure many helium-headed stock investors believe the lilly-livered Fed will turn tail and run from its goal of letting inflation rise as soon as bonds begin to clobber stocks more seriously…. I believe the Fed is more committed than ever to raising inflation as it has been saying it wanted to do for years.”

Stocks in Bondage but Fed Not Fazed

While bond yields had already begun to rise and compete against stocks, the Fed stayed the course, iceberg dead ahead. As a result, longterm bond interest rose even more because the Fed did nothing to jawbone the idea of increasing its bond-buying QE to take interest rates back down (which it accomplishes by purchasing US government bonds from banks to take them off the market, putting them on its own balance sheet).

You see, the Fed is — I believe — caught in its own catch-22. Usually, to lower interest (in order to stimulate the economy and hit the higher inflation number the Fed says it is targeting), the Fed would buy more bonds; however, buying bonds and adding them to its balance sheet tends to create more money in the system, and the bond market is already afraid of rising inflation because much of the new money is now going into the hands of average people. (This game only worked when all new money was going into the stock market.)

As a result, aiming for higher inflation by purchasing more bonds will cause the reinvigorated bond vigilantes to up their demand on bond yields to cover inflation, making it impossible to lower longterm yields by purchasing bonds.

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

 

QE During the “Everything Mania”: Fed’s Assets at $7.7 Trillion, up $3.5 Trillion in 13 months

QE During the “Everything Mania”: Fed’s Assets at $7.7 Trillion, up $3.5 Trillion in 13 months

But long-term Treasury yields have surged, to the great consternation of our Wall Street Crybabies.

The Fed has shut down or put on ice nearly the entire alphabet soup of bailout programs designed to prop up the markets during their tantrum a year ago, including the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that bought corporate bonds, corporate bond ETFs, commercial mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, municipal bonds, etc. Its repos faded into nothing last summer. And foreign central bank dollar swaps have nearly zeroed out.

What the Fed is still buying are large amounts of Treasury securities and residential MBS, though no one can figure out why the Fed is still buying them, given the crazy Everything Mania in the markets.

But for the week, total assets on the Fed’s weekly balance sheet through Wednesday, March 31, fell by $31 billion from the record level in the prior week, to $7.69 trillion. Over the past 13 months of this miracle money-printing show, the Fed has added $3.5 trillion in assets to its balance sheet:

One of the purposes of QE is to force down long-term interest rates and long-term mortgage rates. But long-term Treasury yields started rising last summer. The 10-year Treasury has more than tripled since then and closed today at 1.72%. Mortgage rates started rising in early January. Bond prices fall as yields rise, and the crybabies on Wall Street want the Fed to do something about those rising long-term yields and the bloodbath they have created in the prices of long-term Treasury securities and high-grade corporate bonds.

But instead, the Fed has said in monotonous uniformity that rising long-term yields despite $120 billion of QE a month are a welcome sign of rising inflation expectations and a growing economy:

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

wolf richter, wolfstreet, qe, quantitative easing, money printing, credit expansion, fed, us federal reserve, central bank, interest rates, wall street

Ponzis Go Boom!!!

For the past few years, I have been critical of the Ponzi Sector. To me, these are businesses that sell a dollar for 80 cents and hope to make it up in volume. Just because Amazon (AMZN – USA) ran at a loss early on, doesn’t mean that all businesses will inflect at scale. In fact, many of the Ponzi Sector companies seem to have declining economics at scale—largely the result of intense competition with other Ponzi companies who also have negligible costs of capital.

I recently wrote about how interest rates are on the rise. If capital will have a cost to it, I suspect that the funding shuts off to the Ponzi Sector—buying unprofitable revenue growth becomes less attractive if you have other options. Besides, when you can no longer use presumed negative interest rates in your DCF, these businesses have no value. I believe the top is now finally in for the Ponzi Sector and a multi-year sector rotation is starting. However, interest rates are only a small piece of the puzzle.

Conventional wisdom says that the internet bubble blew up due to increasing interest rates. This may partly be true, but bubbles are irrational—rates shouldn’t matter—it is the psychology that matters. I believe two primary forces were at play that finally broke the internet bubble; equity supply and taxes. Look at a deal calendar from the second half of 1999. The number of speculative IPOs went exponential. Most IPOs unlock and allow restricted shareholders to sell roughly 180 days from the IPO. Is it any surprise that things got wobbly in March of 2020 and then collapsed in the months after that? Line up the un-lock window with the IPOs. It was a crescendo of supply—even excluding stock option exercises and secondary offerings…

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

adventures in capitalism, ponzi, interest rates, bubble, financial markets, psychology, speculation,

Yield Curve Control: Bubbles And Stagnation

Yield Curve Control: Bubbles And Stagnation

Central banks do not manage risk, they disguise it. You know you live in a bubble when a small bounce in sovereign bond yields generates an immediate panic reaction from central banks trying to prevent those yields from rising further. It is particularly more evident when the alleged soar in yields comes after years of artificially depressing them with negative rates and asset purchases.

It is scary to read that the European Central Bank will implement more asset purchases to control a small love in yields that still left sovereign issuers bonds with negative nominal and real interest rates. It is even scarier to see that market participants hail the decision of disguising risk with even more liquidity. No one seemed to complain about the fact that sovereign issuers with alarming solvency problems were issuing bonds with negative yields. No one seemed to be concerned about the fact that the European Central Bank bought more than 100% of net issuances from Eurozone states. What shows what a bubble we live in is that market participants find logical to see a central bank taking aggressive action to prevent bond yields from rising… to 0.3% in Spain or 0.6% in Italy.

This is the evidence of a massive bubble.

If the European Central Bank was not there to repurchase all Eurozone sovereign issuances, what yield would investors demand for Spain, Italy or Portugal? Three, four, five times the current level on the 10-year? Probably. That is why developed central banks are trapped in their own policy. They cannot hint at normalizing even when the economy is recovering strongly, and inflation is rising.

Market participants may be happy thinking these actions will drive equities and risky assets higher, but they also make economic cycles weaker, shorter, and more abrupt.

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

 

Bank of Canada Announces Balance Sheet Reduction, Suddenly Worried about “Moral Hazard”

Bank of Canada Announces Balance Sheet Reduction, Suddenly Worried about “Moral Hazard”

“Once crisis tools have served their purpose, central banks should scale them back.”

The Bank of Canada will unwind its crisis liquidity facilities, will further reduce its purchases of Government of Canada bonds, which it already started tapering in October, will let short-term assets “roll off” the balance sheet when they mature, and will as a result reduce its total assets from C$575 billion now to $C475 billion by the end of April, announced Bank of Canada Deputy Governor Toni Gravelle in a speech today.

Most of the speech was focused on the reasons for the QE and liquidity programs that the Bank of Canada unleashed starting in mid-March last year, in a two-fold role: In its role as “lender of last resort,” to deal with the “extreme stress” in the markets, as liquidity dried up and markets weren’t functioning or had “seized completely” as everyone was trying to sell everything in a mad “dash for cash.” And in its role as provider of stimulus as the economy that was spiraling down.

But these actions ballooned the balance sheet fourfold, to C$575 billion, and it created the possibility of “moral hazard.”

“Moral hazard emerges whenever market participants or other economic actors feel that they can engage in risky behavior without bearing consequences if things go wrong,” Gravelle said, a year after moral hazard became forever the guiding principle of the markets.

But moral hazard can be limited “by ensuring that such actions have a predetermined expiry date or are unwound when they’re no longer needed,” he said.

“Once crisis tools have served their purpose, central banks should scale them back to show that they are emergency measures and don’t reflect business as usual,” he said.

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

wolf richter, central banks, bank of canada, wolfstreet, canada, housing bubble, mortgage bubble, interest rates, qe, quantitative easing

Gold vs. the stock market

More than 3,000 years ago in the early 12th century BC, Greco-Roman legend tells us of a mythical pair of monsters located in the Strait of Messina in southern Italy.

The monsters were named Scylla and Charybdis. And both Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid describe the terror of sailors who came into contact with them.

Scylla was on one side of the Strait, and Charybdis on the other. But because the Strait is so narrow, it was impossible for sailors to avoid both of the monsters, essentially forcing the captain to choose between the lesser of two evils.

In Homer’s narrative, for example, Odysseus is advised that the whirlpools of Charybis could sink his entire ship, while Scylla might only kill a handful of his sailors.

So Odysseus chooses to sail past Scylla: “Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew.”

The story is a myth. But the idea of having to choose between two terrible options is very real.

It appears that the Federal Reserve has landed itself in this position.

In its efforts to boost the economy during the pandemic, the Fed slashed interest rates so much that the average 30-year mortgage rate for homebuyers reached an all-time low of 2.65% earlier this year.

Similarly, AAA-rated corporate bond yields reached record low 2.14% last summer.

The US government 10-year Treasury Note dropped to a record low 0.52%.

And the 28-day US government Treasury Bill rate actually turned negative for a brief period– something that has never happened before.

The effects of such cheap rates are obvious.

With corporate borrowing rates so low, the stock market has boomed. With consumers able to borrow money so cheaply, home prices have surged to an all-time high.

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

 

What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

  • The Ten-year U.S. Treasury note yields 1.61%.
  • 10-year high-quality corporate bonds yield 2.09%.
  • The rate on a 30-year mortgage is 3.05%.

Despite recent increases, interest rates are hovering near historic lows.  We do not use the word “historic” lightly. By “historic,” we refer to the lowest levels since the nation’s birth in 1776.

The graph below, courtesy of the Visual Capitalist, highlights our point.

interest, What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

Despite 300-year lows in interest rates, investors are becoming anxious because they are rising. Recent history shows they should worry. A review of the past 40 years reveals sudden spikes in interest rates and financial problems go hand in hand.

The question for all investors is how big a spike before the proverbial hits the fan again?

Debt-Driven Economy

Over the past 40 years, debt has increasingly driven economic growth.

That statement on its own tells us nothing about the health of the economy. To better quantify the benefits or consequences of debt, we need to understand how it was used.

When debt is used productively, the interest and principal are covered with higher profits and sustained economic activity. Even better, income beyond the cost of the debt makes the nation more prosperous.

Conversely, unproductive debt may provide a one-time spark of economic activity, but it yields little to no residual income to service it going forward. Ultimately it creates an economic headwind as servicing the debt in the future replaces productive investment and or consumption.

The graph below shows the steadily rising ratio of total outstanding debt to GDP. If debt, in aggregate, were productive, the ratio would be declining regardless of the amount of debt.

interest, What Interest Rate Triggers The Next Crisis?

…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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