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Weekly Commentary: Summer of 2020

Weekly Commentary: Summer of 2020

QE fundamentally changed finance. What commenced at the Federal Reserve with a post-mortgage finance Bubble, $1 TN Treasury buying operation morphed into open-ended purchases of Treasuries, MBS, corporate bonds and even corporate ETFs holding high-yield “junk” bonds. Markets assume it’s only a matter of time before the Federal Reserve adds equities to its buy list.

For years now, Treasury bonds (and agency securities) have traded at elevated prices – low yields – in anticipation of an inevitable resumption of QE operations/securities purchases. Conventional analysis has focused on persistent disinflationary pressures as the primary explanation for historically depressed bond yields. While not unreasonable, such analysis downplays the prevailing role played by exceptionally low Federal Reserve interest-rates coupled with latent (and escalating) financial fragility. Meanwhile, near zero short-term rates and historically low Treasury and agency securities yields have spurred a desperate search for yields, significantly inflating the demand and pricing for corporate Credit.

The Fed’s COVID crisis leap into corporate debt has wielded further profound impacts on corporate Credit – yields, prices and issuance.

September 2 – Financial Times (Joe Rennison): “Companies have raised more debt in the US bond market this year than ever before… A $2bn bond from Japanese bank Mizuho and a $2.5bn deal from junk-rated hospital operator Tenet Healthcare helped nudge overall US corporate bond issuance to $1.919tn so far this year, surpassing the previous annual record of $1.916tn set in 2017, according to… Refinitiv. The surge marks a dramatic revival for the market since the coronavirus-induced rout in March, when prices slumped and yields soared… ‘There has been a phenomenal amount of issuance,’ said Peter Tchir, chief macro strategist at Academy Securities… ‘It’s been the busiest summer I have ever seen. It’s felt like we have been setting issuance records month after month.’”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 21st August 2020 – John Law’s MMT revisited

 

Blain’s Morning Porridge – 21st August 2020 – John Law’s MMT revisited

“Earlier today apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she had heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.”

It’s blowing a full hooley out there this morning, which is very bad news for my olive trees as the storm is shaking the ripening fruit off. Shame. It’s the first time our little olive grove has produced what looked likely to become full-sized olives. I was going to add them to Dirty Martinis. Meanwhile, mink farms are being wiped out by coronavirus which is proving 100% fatal to the well-dressed ferrets. Interesting, but what does it mean…?

It’s Friday, which means I am allowed to go off on something of a tangent – so let’s not worry about how long this tech rally continues, the rising tensions in Europe, Apple spending $17bln on stock buybacks, China vs US, or the US election.

What’s got me worried this morning is the headline in the FT: UK Public Debt tops £2 trillion for first time on Covid Spending Boom.

Should we worry or should we not? (Clue: the first one…)

Let me ask the question: how long can governments continue to spend their way out of the Coronavirus crisis? The bills for long-term furlough programmes and sectoral bailouts and support, increased social services as unemployment rises, and the urgent need for health spending are going to come due at some point. Is it going to be a problem, and if yes, how big?

Government debt is rocketing higher – but does it matter? Conventional thinking, based on Reinhart and Rogoff, is when debt/GDP exceeds 77% there will a significant slowdown in growth.

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

The Fed is Determined to Prove the QTM Right

The Fed is Determined to Prove the QTM Right

gold-dollar-trap

Milton Friedman famously said, “Inflation was always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” But Friedman didn’t live through the QE years here in the U.S. and blatantly ignored the twenty plus years of Japanese deflation despite QE and insane levels of money printing during the latter years of his life.

Because Friedman, like a lot of modern economists, adhered strictly to the Quantity Theory of Money (QTM).

And as an Austrian economics kinda guy I somewhat agree with the QTM. I agree with Ludwig von Mises on this, as you would expect. So, how do we square the QTM with the evidence that QE in all of its guises has resulted in deflation, as expressed by the general price level, where ever it has been tried?

Martin Armstrong ask this question all the time and is openly hostile to the QTM. And his arguments have some merit, because, as he rightly points out the QTM only looks at the supply side of the money equation.

It cares not about the demand side. He’s right about that. What he’s wrong about is that the Austrians, like von Mises, haven’t considered this either.

Demand for money is just as important as the supply of it. And during a crisis, the demand side of the equation for any particular currency may, in fact, be more important.

This is what the Fed has struggled with for the past twelve years. The demand for the U.S. dollar has far outstripped the increase in supply, causing a far lower aggregate price rise than anticipated by the QTM.

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

Stock Market Crash 2020: Welcome To The End Game

Stock Market Crash 2020: Welcome To The End Game

Red Graph moving down on chart as recession or financial crisis 3d animation
GETTY

If this chart doesn’t make you think the crash is coming soon, then probably nothing will:

The Nasdaq is going vertical
The Nasdaq is going vertical CREDIT: ADVFN

The Nasdaq is on its final run and is going vertical, a classic end of bubble move. This is trader heaven and turns into speculator hell for those who think that markets do grow to the skies. It could go up a long way in price but it won’t go for long in time. It could last to Christmas, it could fold tomorrow, but my feeling is that unless this bubble is cut down by the Fed, the final move will be large and quick.

You can refer to the dotcom crash for the general shape of what looks possible next.

The attempts by the government to pump up the economy with new money is resulting in it going straight into equities and straight into the tip of the equity spear, the giant high beta story stocks. This is a malfunction of the QE mechanism that supports asset prices and slowly trickles the benefits of this support down the pyramid of wealth. Now the game is up because the new money is going straight into this bubble of financial assets that are spiralling up out of control.

If we now get a Nasdaq bull vertical that is the end of the chapter of the process, it will be followed by a devastating crash as everyone dashes to the exit in a blaze of wealth destruction.

The Federal Reserve needs to get a lid on this fast and it appears to be trying to by tapering its balance sheet, but the bubble is still fizzing and if it does not stop soon it will do what bubbles generally do, erupt then collapse. The final eruption before collapse looks to be underway and we should only hope it doesn’t happen.

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

US Money Supply – The Pandemic Moonshot

US Money Supply – The Pandemic Moonshot

Printing Until the Cows Come Home…

It started out with Jay Powell planting a happy little money tree in 2019 to keep the repo market from suffering a terminal seizure. This essentially led to a restoration of the status quo ante “QT” (the mythical beast known as “quantitative tightening” that was briefly glimpsed in 2018/19). Thus the roach motel theory of QE was confirmed: once a central bank resorts to QE, a return to “standard monetary policy” becomes impossible. You can check in, but you can never leave.

Phase 1: Jay Powell plants a happy little money tree to rescue the repo market from itself (from: “The Joy of Printing”).

It is easy to see why. Any attempt to seriously reduce outstanding central bank credit will bring about the very situation QE was intended to prevent, i.e., falling asset prices and an economic bust. Seemingly no-one in officialdom ever stops to ask why that should be so. What happened to “self-sustaining recoveries” and “achieving escape velocity”? Could it be the economy is neither a perpetuum mobile nor a space ship?

Before we consider this question, here is what has happened since then: shortly after the double-plus-uncool novel SARS-2 corona-virus traversed several ponds and made landfall in the US, Mr. Powell and his fellow merry pranksters decided to water the money tree with super-gro. Or maybe it was hyper-gro:

The “QE” roach motel, illustrated by the history of the Fed’s balance sheet.

That is a rather noteworthy bout of inflation. Readers may have noticed that in the realms of finance and economics there has also been an inflation of verbiage describing never before seen extremes.  By its very nature, one would normally not expect to hear the term “unprecedented” very often, but it has become disconcertingly commonplace in connection with monetary pumping, deficit spending and debt growth.

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

What Horrified Fund Managers, Banks & UK’s Pension Minister Said About the Bank of England’s Sudden “We Don’t Rule Out” Negative Interest Rates

What Horrified Fund Managers, Banks & UK’s Pension Minister Said About the Bank of England’s Sudden “We Don’t Rule Out” Negative Interest Rates

“The stimulus the country urgently needs is not experimental and dangerous monetary policy.”

Andrew Bailey, the recently appointed governor of the Bank of England (BoE), is considering going where no other BoE governor has ever gone in the central bank’s 325-year history: into negative interest rate territory. On May 20, Bailey told British MPs that the BoE is refusing to rule out cutting the benchmark interest rate below zero in response to the virus crisis.

“We do not rule things out as a matter of principle. That would be a foolish thing to do,” Bailey told MPs. “But that doesn’t mean we rule things in either.”

That statement came just six days after Bailey had told FT readers that negative interest rates are “not something we are currently planning for or contemplating.” Since then, Bailey says he has “changed [his] position a bit.”

Bailey, who replaced Mark Carney as BoE governor just two months ago, is not the only senior BoE official who’s apparently warming to the idea of foisting negative interest rates on the British economy.

So, too, has the central bank’s chief economist Andrew Haldane, who last week said: “The economy is weaker than a year ago and we are now at the effective lower bound, so in that sense it’s something we’ll need to look at – are looking at – with somewhat greater immediacy. How could we not be?”

In the wake of the virus crisis, the Bank of England has already slashed interest rates by 0.65 basis points to 0.1%, its lowest level ever. It has also revved up its swap lines with the Federal Reserve and other central banks, offered billions of pounds of fresh liquidity support to banks, and expanded its QE program by £100 billion to £745 billion and extended what it buys to include corporate bonds.

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

“We Print It Digitally”: Futures, Gold Soar After Powell Vows “Lot More We Can Do”

“We Print It Digitally”: Futures, Gold Soar After Powell Vows “Lot More We Can Do”

It took Jerome Powell just two days to confirm what we said late on Friday, namely that with the Fed expected to boost QE by over $3 trillion (assuming Powell doesn’t cut rates negative), the Fed chair said that “there’s a lot more we can do” and just so everyone, including Ben Bernanke understands what the Fed does, he added “We print [money] digitally… we have the ability to create money digitally and we do that by buying Treasury Bills or bonds or other government guaranteed securities.” Of course, traders ignored the “other” part of Powell’s message, namely that the recovery would take at least until the end of 2021, or the implication that stocks first need to crash before the Fed unleashes more QE, and as a result S&P futures surged more than 2% overnight, rising above 2,920, with the last 30 points in that burst coming after news out of biotech company Moderna which reported it may be getting closer to a coronavirus vaccine.

Positive sentiment was boosted by ongoing reopenings with California’s economy is now three-quarters open after virus restrictions were eased, while Apple said it will open more than 25 U.S. stores this week, adding to almost 100 globally, and helping push Apple stock 1.5% higher.

“With the worst of the pandemic likely behind us, central bank supported equity markets are unlikely to re-test their lows,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors. “Yet, while reopening momentum may well carry risk assets a bit higher over the near term, the tepid economic recovery and deep uncertainty over the virus outlook argue against a pivot to more risk-on positioning.”

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

Panic Sets In: Fed Promotes More Free Money

Panic Sets In: Fed Promotes More Free Money

Lawmakers need to do more says Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari.

Free Money for 18 Months

The Fed cannot directly give money away so that burden falls on Congress. Kashkari follows Fed Chair Jerome Powell in seeking Congressional Action.

“They are going to need more. If this is a slow recovery, the way I think it is — I think we’re in this for months, a year, 18 months — there are going to be a lot of families that are going to need direct financial assistance,” Kashkari said Thursday during a virtual event with CBS. “I think a V–shaped recovery is off the table.”

“Putting money directly in the hands of laid-off Americans is, I think, the most direct way to get assistance, and then they will spend the money where they need it,” Kashkari said. “I just think money in the pockets of people who have lost their jobs is what we need right now until we can get the health care system to catch up and get control of this virus.”

I case you were wondering what sent the S&P in a huge 70-point S&P 500 U-Turn today, that reason is as good as any.

Powell’s Message

Yesterday, Powell made similar statements, just not as forceful. 

Recall that the Fed has lending powers, not spending powers. A loan from a Fed facility can provide a bridge across temporary interruptions to liquidity, and those loans will help many borrowers get through the current crisis. But the recovery may take some time to gather momentum, and the passage of time can turn liquidity problems into solvency problems. Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery. This tradeoff is one for our elected representatives, who wield powers of taxation and spending.

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

“A Legal Nightmare”: In Latest European “Freakshow”, EU Threatens To Sue Germany Over QE Ruling

“A Legal Nightmare”: In Latest European “Freakshow”, EU Threatens To Sue Germany Over QE Ruling

In the latest European farce, the European Commission threatened to sue Germany after the country’s top court questioned the legality of the ECB’s bond-buying program, Bloomberg reported over the weekend. In what Nordea’s Andrewas Steno Larsen dubbed the “ongoing freakshow in the Euroarea”, the EC president – a German no less – Ursula von der Leyen said that “The final word in EU law is always spoken in Luxembourg. Nowhere else.”

In other words, following last week’s shocking decision by Germany’s constitutional court which found that some aspects of the ECB’s QE are not constitutional and gave the ECB a 3 month ultimatum in which to demonstrate that QE was a proportional response, “we are gearing up for a remarkable legal stand-off between EU and Germany” writes Larsen, who adds that “the German head of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, is now openly battling her mother country’s constitution as she hinted that Brussels is considering taking legal steps that could result in Germany being sued in Europe’s highest court over the ruling from its constitutional court on ECB bond buying in a letter to the German Press Agency. Never underestimate the arrogance of EUR-crats!”

And here is the German European who is tasked with leading the onslaught on the German constitution.

German head of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen.

And just to make sure the Germans are really pissed off, the ECB has tasked its staff to study if they should consider buying junk corporate bonds according to Reuters, “as if the ECB hasn’t manipulated credit prices enough already” as Nordea helpfully adds, noting that “ultimately, we think the EUR-ship will be glued together again – but markets are rightfully pricing in a risk of an ugly political showdown for the time being (wider spreads, relatively low EUR/USD etc).”

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

Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 11th 2020 – Bond Triggers Tumble

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious…. “

After last night’s Boris announcement on not reopening the economy, it clearly doesn’t need any further explanation.. (US Readers – complex sarcasm alert.)

Over the course of the lockdown, I’ve been brushing up on Quantum Entanglement Theory and almost accidently I’ve created a time machine. I’m not quite sure how it works – so I reckon that qualifies me a job in Whitehall – but I was able to download The Morning Porridge from May 2021….. 

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Blain’s Morning Porridge – May 2021

“Sell in May – oh don’t bother – you are already away…” 

It’s just over a year since 20mm Americans lost their jobs in a single month and United Airline’s failed $2 bln bond issue in the first week of May 2020 became the unstable pebble that triggered the most devasting landslide in financial market history. 

All around the globe, bond investors woke up to their doubts on just how much government QE programmes, miniscule yields, and the value of their collateral of unproductive obsolete economic assets could be. Equity holders caught the whiff of panic – figuring out rising P/E’s in a crashing global economy meant nothing – even if central banks were promising to intervene. Sovereign debt buyers went on immediate strike, citing concerns on debasement, inflation, and the implausible promises being made. 

The result was the most precipitious tumble in history – everyone tried to exit the markets and discovered the truth: “there are many ways to buy, but only one exit marked sell.” 

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

Eurozone Breakup Risk at New High

Eurozone Breakup Risk at New High

The German Constitutional Court made an unexpected and significant ruling last week against the ECB and Quantitative Easing.

QE Deemed Illegal

In the midst of a pandemic and an important presidential election, it is very easy  to miss globally significant events. 

Here is one that is way under the radar: The German Constitutional Court ruled the ECB’s QE Program Could be Illegal.

That is a landmark ruling that challenges the independence of the ECB and the authority of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In announcing the ruling, German Chief Justice Andreas Voßkuhle said the CJEU had approved a practice that “was obviously not covered” by the ECB’s mandate. Voßkuhle spent months crafting the 77-page decision, announcing the ruling just a day before his official retirement on Wednesday. “

Dismissing a 2018 CJEU decision to allow the bond purchases, the German court ordered the ECB to provide Germany with adequate justification for the program within the next three months. Should it fail to do so, the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, would no longer be permitted to participate in the program.

What it Means for the Future of the EU

Eurointelligence explains What it Means for the Future of the EU.

The ruling raises complex and potentially troubling issues for the EU as a whole. The German constitutional court has accused the ECB and the CJEU, the court of Justice of the European Union, of abusing their power, and of acting beyond their assigned competences. That concept is known in German constitutional law as acting ultra viresIn the German legal interpretation of European integration, all sovereignty still rests with the member states. The EU is clearly not a federal state, but a deferred power.

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

Fed Cut Back on Helicopter Money for Wall Street & the Wealthy

Fed Cut Back on Helicopter Money for Wall Street & the Wealthy

Tapered QE-4 Further, Still Hasn’t Bought Junk Bonds or ETFs, Was Just Jawboning.

Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet rose by $205 billion during the week ending April 22, to $6.57 trillion. Since the week ending March 11, when the bailout of the Everything Bubble and its holders began, the Fed has printed $2.26 trillion.

But the $205 billion increase was the smallest increase since the mega-bailout began with its Sunday March 15 announcement. The Fed is tapering its purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Repurchase agreements (repos) are falling into disuse. Lending to Special Purposes Vehicles (SPVs) has leveled off. And foreign central bank liquidity swaps, after having spiked initially, only ticked up by a small-ish amount.

The sharply reduced increases confirm that the Fed is following its various announcements over the past two years that during the next crisis – namely now – it would front-load the bailout QE and after the initial blast would then taper it out of existence, rather than let it drag out for years.

This concept was further confirmed by Fed Chair Jerome Powell on April 10 when he said that the Fed would pack away its emergency tools when “private markets and institutions are once again able to perform their vital functions of channeling credit and supporting economic growth.”

Overall, the Fed has cut the big QE purchases by 65% since the peak week (week ending April 1, $586 billion), to $205 billion:

Purchases of Treasury securities get slashed.

The Fed added $120 billion of Treasury securities to its balance sheet, the smallest amount since this began, down 67% from the $362 billion it had added during the peak week:

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

Credit Markets – The Waiting Game

Credit Markets – The Waiting Game

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

After the first inter-meeting rate cut in early March, we opined that further rate cuts were a near certainty and that “not-QE” would swiftly morph into “QE, next iteration” (see Rate Cutters Unanimous for the details). As it turned out, the monetary mandarins did not even wait for the official FOMC meeting before deciding to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the markets. Not only were rates insta-ZIRPed, but “not-QE” became “QE on steroids, plus”.

The federal debt monetization machinery goes into orbit. Moon landing next?

The “plus” stands for the alphabet soup of additional support programs for various slices of the credit markets, ranging from money markets to commercial paper to corporate bonds (investment grade only – for now). Alan Greenspan once said in Congressional testimony that if need be, the Fed would one day even “monetize oxen” – he may well live to see it.

What spooked the central bank was clearly the fact that corporate credit markets froze in response to the stock market crash and the lockdown measures. The latter have left a great many companies bereft of cash flows, not an ideal situation considering that trillions in corporate debt have to be refinanced in coming months and years. We have long argued that burgeoning corporate debt was the Achilles heel of the bubble, and this remains the case.

When the stock market crash started, money initially continued to flow into investment grade corporate bonds. LQD (investment grade corporate bond ETF) still made new highs in early March, while stocks were already in free-fall. But that didn’t last, and in less than two weeks LQD not only joined the crash, but began to trade at unprecedentedly large discounts to its NAV.

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

Bank of Canada Announces Provincial, Corporate QE

Bank of Canada Announces Provincial, Corporate QE

While the Bank of Canada kept its overnight rate at 0.25% as expected – as the alternative after three consecutive rate cuts would have been to cut below its effective lower bound of 0.25% and go NIRP – the central bank – which announced that the outlook is too uncertain at this point to provide a complete forecast – did surprise markets by joining the unprecedented QE bandwagon, when it announced that just like the Fed it would launch $10BN corporate QE (just investment grade for now, thank you, junk bonds coming next), while throwing in $50BN provincial QE to boot. It also

Some details, from the report:

The Bank is also announcing today the development of a new Provincial Bond Purchase Program of up to $50 billion, to supplement its Provincial Money Market Purchase Program. Further, the Bank is announcing a new Corporate Bond Purchase Program, in which the Bank will acquire up to a total of $10 billion in investment grade corporate bonds in the secondary market. Both of these programs will be put in place in the coming weeks. Finally, the Bank is further enhancing its term repo facility to permit funding for up to 24 months.

These measures will work in combination to ease pressure on Canadian borrowers. As containment restrictions are eased and economic activity resumes, fiscal and monetary policy actions will help underpin confidence and stimulate spending by consumers and businesses to restore growth. The Bank’s Governing Council stands ready to adjust the scale or duration of its programs if necessary. All the Bank’s actions are aimed at helping to bridge the current period of containment and create the conditions for a sustainable recovery and achievement of the inflation target over time.

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

“Down The Rabbit Hole” – The Eurodollar Market Is The Matrix Behind It All

“Down The Rabbit Hole” – The Eurodollar Market Is The Matrix Behind It All

Summary

  • The Eurodollar system is a critical but often misunderstood driver of global financial markets: its importance cannot be understated.
  • Its origins are shrouded in mystery and intrigue; its operations are invisible to most; and yet it controls us in many ways. We will attempt to enlighten readers on what it is and what it means.
  • However, it is also a system under huge structural pressures – and as such we may be about to experience a profound paradigm shift with key implications for markets, economies, and geopolitics.
  • Recent Fed actions on swap lines and repo facilities only underline this fact rather than reducing its likelihood

What is The Matrix? 

A new world-class golf course in an Asian country financed with a USD bank loan. A Mexican property developer buying a hotel in USD. A European pension company wanting to hold USD assets and swapping borrowed EUR to do so. An African retailer importing Chinese-made toys for sale, paying its invoice in USD.

All of these are small examples of the multi-faceted global Eurodollar market. Like The Matrix, it is all around us, and connects us. Also just like The Matrix, most are unaware of its existence even as it defines the parameters we operate within. As we shall explore in this special report, it is additionally a Matrix that encompasses an implicit power struggle that only those who grasp its true nature are cognizant of.

Moreover, at present this Matrix and its Architect face a huge, perhaps existential, challenge.

Yes, it has overcome similar crises before…but it might be that the Novel (or should we say ‘Neo’?) Coronavirus is The One.

So, here is the key question to start with: What is the Eurodollar system? 

For Neo-phytes

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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