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QE Created Dangerous Financial Dependence, Italy Hooked, Withdrawal Next, ECB Warns

QE Created Dangerous Financial Dependence, Italy Hooked, Withdrawal Next, ECB Warns

“Who will purchase the €275 billion of government debt Italy is to issue in 2019?”

The ECB, through its army of official mouthpieces, has begun warning of the potentially calamitous consequences for Italian bonds when its QE program comes to an end, which is scheduled to happen at the end of this year.

During a speech in Vienna on Tuesday, Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny pointed out that Italy’s central bank, under the ECB’s guidance, is the biggest buyer of Italian government debt. The Bank of Italy, on behalf of the ECB, has bought up more than €360 billion of multiyear treasury bonds (BTPs) since the QE program was first launched in March 2015.

In fact, the ECB is now virtually the only significant net buyer of Italian bonds left standing. This raises a key question, Nowotny said: With the ECB scheduled to exit the bond market in roughly six weeks time, “who will purchase the roughly €275 billion of government securities Italy is forecast to issue in 2019?”

With foreigners shedding a net €69 billion of Italian government bonds since May, when the right-wing League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement took the reins of government, and Italian banks in no financial position to expand their already bloated holdings, it is indeed an important question (and one we’ve been asking for well over a year).

According to former Irish central bank governor and ex-member of the ECB’s Governing Council Patrick Honohan, speaking at an event in London, when the ECB’s support is removed, “the yield on Italian government bonds will be much more vulnerable.”

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

The Coming Monetary Crisis

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong, you said that next year, interest expenditure will most likely exceed military. Is this how the monetary crisis begins to unfold?

WR

ANSWER: The entire problem with this Quantitative Easing has been the plain fact that the government is the biggest debtor. This is the same model around the world. Lowering interest rates to encourage people to borrow is absurd when the greatest impact will be upon the government. Europe is now on life support thanks to the ECB. Even if we look at the United States, every 1% rise in interest rates adds $220 billion annually to America’s deficit.  Since we have exceeded the Bullish Reversal on Fed Rates on an annual basis, reaching the 5% level means the annual interest expenditures will be rise by about $1 trillion per year! This is just not a system that has much life expectancy before we enter a major Monetary Crisis that is off the charts.

Mortgage Rates May Hit 6% Sooner, as Fed Sheds Mortgage-Backed Securities, But What Will that Do to Housing Bubble 2?

Mortgage Rates May Hit 6% Sooner, as Fed Sheds Mortgage-Backed Securities, But What Will that Do to Housing Bubble 2?

Mortgage rates are climbing faster than the 10-year Treasury yield.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment rose to 5.17% for the latest reporting week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association(MBA) today. This is the highest average rate since September 2009 (chart via Investing.com):

Many people with smaller down payments and/or lower credit ratings are already paying quite a bit more. Top-tier borrowers pay less.

Thus, mortgage rates have moved a little closer to the next line in the sand, 6%, which is still historically low. At that point, the interest rate would be back where it had been in December 2008, when the Fed was unleashing its program of interest rate repression even for long-dated maturities via QE that later included the purchase of mortgaged-backed securities (MBS), which helped push down mortgage rates further.

Now the Fed is shedding Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, and we’re starting to see the impact on mortgage rates: The difference (spread) between the 10-year yield and the interest rate of the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has widened sharply.

Since the beginning of the year:

  • The 30-year mortgage interest rate has risen 95 basis points, or nearly 1 percentage point (from 4.22% to 5.17%).
  • The 10-year Treasury yield has risen 71 basis points (from 2.46% to 3.17%)
  • The spread between the two has widened from 176 basis points on at the beginning of January to 200 basis points now.

In other words, mortgage rates are climbing faster than the 10-year Treasury yield, now that the Fed has begun the shed mortgage-backed securities. This is expected. It’s part of the QE unwind – it’s part of the Fed exiting the mortgage market and pulling its support out from under it.

But 6% is still low:

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

Hilarious How Wall-Street Crybabies Whine about the Fed’s QE Unwind after a Decade of “Wealth Effect”

Hilarious How Wall-Street Crybabies Whine about the Fed’s QE Unwind after a Decade of “Wealth Effect”

Their “Everything Bubble” is being pricked “gradually,” and they don’t like it.

Wall Street has been moaning, groaning, and crying out loud about the Fed’s current monetary policies – raising rates and unwinding QE. They fear that these policies will undo the Fed’s handiwork since the onset of QE and zero-interest-rate policy in 2008, now called the “Everything Bubble” (stocks, bonds, “leveraged loans,” housing, commercial real estate, classic cars, art…). In an effort to pressure the Fed to back off, they’re accusing the Fed of making a “policy mistake” and creating “scarcity” of bank reserves.

Here is Bloomberg News this morning. It’s really cute how this works. This is how the article starts out: “Fixed-income traders are telling the Federal Reserve that it might end up making a big policy mistake.”

These folks cannot say that the Fed’s QE unwind and higher rates might unwind some of the wealth of asset holders that resulted from the Fed’s desired “wealth effect.” That would be too clear. So they have to come up with hoary theories to back their “policy mistake” theme. This time it’s the theory of a “scarcity of bank reserves.”

When these folks talk about “scarcity,” what they mean is that they have to pay a little more. In this case, banks are having to pay more interest to attract deposits.

For the crybabies on Wall Street, that’s “scarcity.” For savers, money-market investors, and short-term Treasury investors, however, it means the era of brutal interest rate repression has ended, and that they’re earning once again more than inflation on their money (savers might have to shop around).

But that the money from depositors is suddenly not free anymore is anathema on Wall Street. So here we go – this time specifically targeting the QE unwind. Bloomberg:

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

Fed’s Balance Sheet Shrinks The Most Since Start Of QT; QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion

On Monday, when discussing the two key, opposing forces facing stocks this week, we said that while on one hand stock buybacks will make a triumphant return, as companies with $50bn of quarterly buybacks exited their blackout periods, and the total number of permitted stock repurchases jumps to $110bn by the end of next week and to $145bn the following…

… the offset of the favorable flows from corporate buybacks would be the Fed itself, as the largest Fed balance-sheet reduction-to-date ($-33.3B) would take place on Halloween.

And sure enough, one month after the Fed quantitative tightening entered its peak monthly unwind phase, during which the Fed’s balance sheet is scheduled to shrink by “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month, for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month, on October 31 the balance sheet declined by $33.8 billion  – the biggest weekly total yet – consisting of $23.8 billion in Treasuries, $8 billion in Mortgage Backed Securities, and a modest decline in various other assets.

As a result of Wednesday’s maturities, the Fed’s balance sheet has now shrunk by $321 billion to $4.140 trillion, the lowest since February 12, 2014; since October 2017, when the Fed began its QE unwind, it has now shed $321 billion, or just over 7% from its all time highs.

While MBS totals shifted around over the month, the Treasury decline took place in one day as there were no Treasury securities maturing on Oct. 15, while three security issues matured all in one day on Oct. 31, totaling $23 billion. Those were allowed to “roll off” entirely without replacement. In other words, the Treasury Department paid the Fed $23 billion for them, money which the Fed will promptly “shred”, digitally speaking.

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

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion

The “up to” exacts its pound of flesh.

Over the four-week period from October 3 through October 31, the Federal Reserve shed $35 billion in assets, according to the Fed’s weekly balance sheet released Thursday afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to $4,140 billion, the lowest since February 12, 2014. Since October 2017, when the Fed began its QE unwind, or “balance sheet normalization,” it has now shed $321 billion:

The Fed acquired Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) as part of QE, which ended in 2014. Between the end of QE and the beginning of the QE Unwind in October 2017, the Fed replaced maturing securities with new securities to keep their levels roughly the same. In October last year, the Fed kicked off the QE unwind and began shedding those securities. But the balance sheet also reflects the Fed’s other activities, and the amount of its total assets is always higher than the sum of Treasury securities and MBS it holds.

October was a new milestone: the QE unwind left the ramp-up phase and entered the cruising-speed phase, according to the Fed’s plan. In the cruising-speed phase, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month, for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month.

From October 3 through October 31, the Fed’s holdings of Treasury Securities fell by $23.8 billion to $2,270 billion, the lowest since February 19, 2014. Since the beginning of the QE-Unwind, the Fed has shed $195 billion in Treasuries:

The “up to” exacts its pound of flesh

The plan calls for shedding “up to” $30 billion in Treasury securities in October. But the Fed shed only $23.8 billion. Why?

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

Europe More Than Europe: From ‘Boom’ To The Precipice of Recession

Europe More Than Europe: From ‘Boom’ To The Precipice of Recession

Data dependent, they claim. They aren’t. Mario Draghi at his last press conference admitted, “incoming information, [is] somewhat weaker than expected.” There is so much riding on the word “somewhat.” Because of the weasel, the head of the ECB told the assembled media policy normalization was unimpeded. He did so with a straight face.

Good. Europe’s QE experiment needs to end. Not because it succeeded, rather since there was no hope for it from the beginning. It was a giant waste, at best an enormous distortion. At most, it was a huge distraction from the real problem.

You have to hand it to the Germans. They seem quite capable of the more serious business of economics (small “e”). Where Economists (capital “E”) like Draghi play the game of somewhat data dependent, businesses in Germany refuse license to the same luxury. They are business dependent, meaning that if things really were booming they would act that way. And if something like recession looms, the Germans would know it.

And that’s exactly what they’ve said for much of this year particularly the past four or five months. The global economy, which heavily influences Germany’s, is heading for another downturn. For Europe as a whole, it’s a whole lot of trouble.

The European Union’s statistical body confirms today what German sentiment has been warning about. The European economy is already on the precipice of recession. The ZEW survey in September was as low as it was when Europe was last contracting. In Q3 2018, Eurostat reports that GDP expanded by just 0.16% over Q2. That was about one-third the rate in Q2, which was itself about three-quarters the gain in 2017.

Data dependent. Like the ZEW index, GDP growth was the lowest since Europe’s last recession.

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

Why’s France so Worried about Italy’s Showdown with Brussels?

Why’s France so Worried about Italy’s Showdown with Brussels?

The French megabanks are on the hook.

France was just served with a stark reminder of an inconvenient truth: €277 billion of Italian government debt — the equivalent of 14% of French GDP — is owed to French banks. Given that Italy’s government is currently locked in an existential blinking match with both the European Commission and the ECB over its budget plan for 2019, this could be a big problem for France.

On Friday, France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, urged the commission to “reach out to Italy” after rejecting the country’s draft 2019 budget for breaking EU rules on public spending. Le Maire also conceded that while contagion in the Eurozone was definitely contained, the Eurozone “is not sufficiently armed to face a new economic or financial crisis.” As Maire well knows, a full-blown financial crisis in Italy would eventually spread to France’s economy, with French banks serving as the main transmission mechanism.

France isn’t the only Eurozone nation with unhealthy levels of exposure to Italian debt, although it is far and away the most exposed. According to the Bank of International Settlements, German lenders have €79 billion worth of exposure to Italian debt and Spanish lenders, €69 billion. In other words, taken together, the financial sectors of the largest, second largest and fourth largest economies in the Eurozone — Germany, France and Spain — hold over €415 billion of Italian debt on their balance sheets.

While the exposure of German lenders to Italian debt has waned over the last few years, that of French lenders has actually grown, belying the ECB’s long-held claim that its QE program would help reduce the level of interdependence between European sovereigns and banks.

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

French FinMin: The Euro Zone Is Not Prepared To Face A New Crisis

Europe finds itself at a troubling crossroads: while on one hand the official narrative emanating from Brussels and Berlin (and, of course, the ECB) is that there is no risk of contagion from Italy’s budget crisis in the European Union, on the other hand the euro zone is “not prepared enough to face a new economic crisis”, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told daily Le Parisien on Sunday.

“We do not see any contagion in Europe. The European Commission has reached out to Italy, I hope Italy will seize this hand,” he said in an interview.

“But is the eurozone sufficiently armed to face a new economic or financial crisis? My answer is no. It is urgent to do what we have proposed to our partners in order to have a solid banking union and a euro zone investment budget.”

Le Maire’s remarks come just days after the European Commission rejected Italy’s draft 2019 budget earlier this week for breaking EU rules on public spending, and asked Rome to submit a new one within three weeks or face disciplinary action. And while Brussels officials said that Rome’s “unprecedented” standoff with Brussels seems certain to delay the reform process and probably dilute it for good, Italy has remained defiant and has repeatedly said it would not budge on its target deficit at 2.4% of GDP.

The standoff between Italy and the EU, and concerns about who will buy Italian debt after the ECB ends its QE at the end of the year, has sent Italian yields soaring to the highest level in nearly 5 years.

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

Weekly Commentary: “Whatever They Want” Coming Home to Roost

Weekly Commentary: “Whatever They Want” Coming Home to Roost

Let’s begin with global. China’s yuan (CNY) traded to 6.9644 to the dollar in early-Friday trading, almost matching the low (vs. dollar) from December 2016 (6.9649). CNY is basically trading at lows going back to 2008 – and has neared the key psychological 7.0 level. CNY rallied late in Friday trading to close the week at 6.9435. From Bloomberg (Tian Chen): “Three traders said at least one big Chinese bank sold the dollar, triggering stop-losses.” Earlier, a PBOC governor “told a briefing that the central bank would continue taking measures to stabilize sentiment. We have dealt with short-sellers of the yuan a few years ago, and we are very familiar with each other. I think we both have vivid memories of the past.”
The PBOC eventually won that 2016 skirmish with the CNY “shorts”. In general, however, you don’t want your central bank feeling compelled to do battle against the markets. It’s no sign of strength. For “developing” central banks, in particular, it has too often in the past proved a perilous proposition. Threats and actions are taken, and a lot can ride on the market’s response. In a brewing confrontation, the market will test the central bank. If the central bank’s response appears ineffective, markets will instinctively pounce.

Often unobtrusively, the stakes can grow incredibly large. There’s a dynamic that has been replayed in the past throughout the emerging markets. Bubbles are pierced and “hot money” heads for the exits. Central banks and government officials then work aggressively to bolster their faltering currencies. These efforts appear to stabilize the situation for a period of time, although the relative calm masks assertive market efforts to hedge against future currency devaluation in the derivatives markets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECB To End QE In December, Will Keep Rates Unchanged “As Long As Necessary”

In a statement that was a virtual replica from September, the ECB announced it was keeping its three key rates unchanged (main refinancing operations: 0.00%, marginal lending facility: 0.25%; deposit facility: -0.40%), that it will end its LSAP QE program at the end of December however “subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook”, that it will reinvest the principal payments from maturing securities purchased “for an extended period of time” and that in keeping with its prior forward guidance, “rates will remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019, and in any case for as long as necessary to ensure the continued sustained convergence of inflation to levels that are below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.”

In short, no surprises, even though as Bloomberg notes, the ECB still says it “anticipates” to end new QE purchases in December, while some analysts had suggested the Governing Council might tweak the language to make the commitment stronger. Not yet.

Full statement below:

At today’s meeting the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) decided that the interest rate on the main refinancing operations and the interest rates on the marginal lending facility and the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.40% respectively. The Governing Council expects the key ECB interest rates to remain at their present levels at least through the summer of 2019, and in any case for as long as necessary to ensure the continued sustained convergence of inflation to levels that are below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.

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

 

Eight Reasons a Financial Crisis is Coming

It’s been about 10 years since the last financial crisis. FocusEconomics wants to know if another one is due.

The short answer is yes.

In the last 10 years not a single fundamental economic flaw has been fixed in the US, Europe, Japan, or China.

The Fed was behind the curve for years contributing to the bubble. Massive rounds of QE in the US, EU, and Japan created extreme equity and junk bond bubbles.

Trump’s tariffs are ill-founded as is Congressional spending wasted on war.

Potential Catalysts

  1. Junk Bond Bubble Bursting
  2. Equity Bubble Bursting
  3. Italy
  4. Tariffs
  5. Brexit
  6. Pensions
  7. Housing
  8. China

Many will blame the Fed. The Fed is surely to blame, but it is prior bubble-blowing policy, not rate hikes now that are the problem.

1. Junk Bonds

Many have labeled this an “everything bubble” which is not quite accurate. Yes, the Fed re-blew the housing bubble as well as an equity bubble. But the real standout is the bubble in junk bonds.

Companies are borrowing money to buy back shares at absurd valuations.

In the US, close to 15% of the companies in the S&P 500 only survive because they can roll over their debt. For discussion, please see Rise of the Zombie Corporations: Percentage Keeps Increasing, BIS Explains Why.

I expect a junk bond crash and that will take equities lower with it.

2. Equity Bubbles

Stock valuations are stretched almost beyond belief. The CAPE – Shiller PE was only surpassed by the DotCom bubble. The CAPE PE on October 3 when I last wrote about it was 33.49.​

There will be few places to hide. GMO Forecasts US Equity Losses for 7 Years.

​We may not see a “crash” per se, but if not, then expect a slow bleed over many years, Japanese style.

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

Blain: “We Are Finally Approaching The End Phase Of The 2008 Global Financial Crisis”

Blain’s Morning Porridge, Submitted by Bill Blain

“I found Rome a City of Bricks and left it a City of Marble.”

In the Headlights this morning – see www.morningporridge.com for some of the stories I’m watching:

Debt Leverage: Interesting quote I came across y’day. Which country are we talking about? A) Germany, B) Italy, C) China or D) US?  10 points for the first correct answer. (And remember points mean prizes): “local credit rating agencies have applied absurdly optimistic standards, giving top ratings to companies that rank among the most highly leveraged in the world.”

Global Markets?

Null Entrophy sums up the market’s current energy. Stocks seem to have lost their mojo. Even a major boost from the Chinese government expressing its love for the market failed to restore the mood. Indices have stalled. Funnily enough – a number of portfolio managers tell me we seem to be getting to equity price levels where dividend yields make sense for traditional economy names.

Meanwhile, I’m being told by some fixed income managers they see value in current yields in the face of potential global slowdown. Whether they are right or wrong depends on where the global economy goes and if central banks hold their tightening course. (That said, I’ve got to giggle when certain commentators are calling for central banks to ease to save stock markets – FFS! that would be an absolute abrogation of the Invisible Hand, and a far greater offense than bailing out banks… markets need creative destruction to evolve and function!)

What’s really happening? There is a very serious reassessment of trends and expectations underway in both bonds and stocks which could spell trouble all round! It feels like we are finally approaching the end-phase of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis…

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

The (ominous) problem with global liquidity

The (ominous) problem with global liquidity

Market liquidity is crucial for well-functioning capital markets. There has been a quite lot of talk about diminished market liquidity and the role of machines in it (see, e.g. Q-review 4/2017, this and this). These are worrying developments.

However, while market liquidity is crucial for markets, global financial flows, i.e. liquidity, is also essential to the real economy and for global economic growth. The availability of credit on a global basis fuels investments and growth around the world.  Such financial flows fell by a massive 90 % during the 2008 crisis, which quickly translated into a global recession.  Investment and consumption collapsed almost everywhere, with the exception of China where a massive credit stimulus was enacted.

Since then, there has been an uneven recovery. Cross-border bank lending has never really recovered (see Q-review 1/2017), but the issuance of vast amounts of government and corporate debt has taken its place. This creates a serious risk for the global real economy if highly over-valued capital markets crash.

The metamorphosis of global liquidity

In its recent quarterly report, the Bank of International Settlements, or BIS, raises three crucial points for global liquidity:

  1. Global outside-US dollar denominated debt has risen to a record.
  2. The role of non-bank institutions on providing funding has increased.
  3. The composition of international credit has shifted from bank loans to debt securities.

Combined with the asset purchase programs of central banks (QE) these developments have far-reaching consequences for the global economy.

Currently, non-banking institutions and households outside the US hold over 11.5 trillion worth of dollar-denominated debt—a record. The “shadow banking” sector could conceivably hold the same amount. This means that all policies affecting global dollar liquidity, will have a large effect on the global economy.

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

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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