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The evolution of credit and debt in 2023

The evolution of credit and debt in 2023

The evidence strongly suggests that a combined interest rate, economic and currency crisis for the US and its western alliance will continue in 2023.

This article focuses on credit, its constraints, and why quantitative easing has already crowded out private sector activity. Adjusting M2 money supply for accumulating QE indicates the degree to which this has driven the US tax base into deep recession. And the wider effects on credit in the economy should not be ignored. 

After a brief partial recovery from the covid crisis in US government finances, they are likely to start deteriorating again due to a deepening recession of private sector activity. Funding these deficits depends on foreign inward investment flows, which are faltering. Rising interest rates and an ongoing bear market make funding from this source hard to envisage.

Meanwhile, from his public statements President Putin is fully aware of these difficulties, and a consequence of the western alliance increasing their support and involvement in Ukraine makes it almost certain that Putin will take the opportunity to push the dollar over the edge.

Credit is much more than bank deposits

Economics is about credit, and its balance sheet twin, debt. Debt is either productive, in which case it can extinguish credit in due course, or it is not, and credit must be extended or written off. Money almost never comes into it. Money is distinguished from credit by having no counterparty risk, which credit always has. The role of money is to stabilise the purchasing power of credit. And the only legal form of money is metallic; gold, silver, or copper usually rendered into coin for enhanced fungibility.

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What Happens If The Fed Doesn’t Capitulate On Interest Rates?

What Happens If The Fed Doesn’t Capitulate On Interest Rates?

In the past stock markets used to rely on the innovation and profit reports of individual companies, and while there were sometimes all encompassing events that would push equities in one direction or another, in the last decade there has been only one factor that ever really matters:  The Federal Reserve.  

The central bank has positioned itself as the ultimate arbiter of market rallies and corrections.  In fact, most of the world is now placing all their investment bets on a single hope, that the Fed will capitulate on interest rate hikes, ignore the stagflation crisis and ramp up the printing presses once again with wild abandon.

This is the sad state of most markets around the world and American markets in particular.  Investors have enjoyed what amounts to a free ride for more than a decade based on the simple premise that the Fed will “never” allow stocks to crash again.  This assumption is predicated on the idea that the Fed actually cares about the continued stability of the markets.

After the latest Fed interest rate hike the speculation mills are swirling that the central bank will back off of rates as soon as November and refresh the easy money punch bowl.  But we need to consider a question that almost no one is out there asking:  What if they stopped caring?  What if they never cared and stimulus measures were actually meant to achieve a separate agenda that is now finished?  What if the Fed doesn’t capitulate?  What is they just keep hiking?

The original rationale given for rate cuts and QE measures was to offset wealth destruction caused by the 2008 credit crash.  The scheme was NOT supposed to continue onward with new stimulus every year or every time stocks lost 10%-20%.  Yet, that is exactly what happened…

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ECB Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Market Turmoil

ECB Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Market Turmoil

Last week, shortly after the ECB’s latest meeting disappointed markets and concluded without a discussion of Europe’s growing bond market fragmentation (which is to be expected since QE – the glue that held the Euro area’s bond market together – is ending) and which has since sent Italian bond yields soaring above 4%, we joked that “at this rate the ECB would make an emergency rate cut” just hours after announcing an end to QT and guiding to a July rate hike.

Once again, our “joke” was spot on because on Wednesday morning, just hours before the Fed’s first 75bps rate hike sine 1994, and with Italian bonds in freefall, European Central Bank “unexpectedly” announced it would hold an emergency, ad hoc meeting of its rate-setters starting 11am CET in which it would “discuss current market conditions.” It wasn’t immediately clear if a statement would be published after the confab.

The meeting, which comes less than a week after the rate-setting governing council’s last vote, raised investor expectations that the central bank is preparing to announce a policy instrument to stave-off another debt crisis in the region, which can only come in the form of more QE… which is ironic at a time when the ECB just announced it was phasing out all QE!

Italian government bonds rallied in price following news of the planned meeting, reversing some of the recent sell-off that analysts said brought the country’s borrowing costs towards the “danger zone”. Gilles Moec, chief economist at Axa, an insurer, said the “stakes are high” for the ECB “now that everyone is dusting off their debt sustainability spreadsheets for Italy, they probably need to go up an extra notch”.

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“Minsky Moments Almost Certainly Await”: Nomura Fears ‘Collateral’ Damage From The QE-to-QT Transition

“Minsky Moments Almost Certainly Await”: Nomura Fears ‘Collateral’ Damage From The QE-to-QT Transition

“Minsky Moments” almost certainly await, warns Nomura’s Charlie McElligott in his latest note as he reflects on a massive week ahead for markets.

With Powell testimony and bunches of Fed speakers, along with US economic releases headlined by the market’s most important datapoint in the CPI release Wednesday, in addition to PPI, Retail Sales and Consumer Sentiment over the course of the week, plus two Duration-heavy auctions ($36B of 10Y and $22B 30Y, on top of tomorrow’s $52B 3Y),… and finally, US corporate earnings season kickoff (highlighted by JPM, C and WFC this upcoming Friday), it is no wonder that investors are degrossing still…

While the long-end of the curve is reversing modestly – after some more ugliness overnight – STIRs continue to grind hawkishly higher with March now consolidating around a 90% chance of a rate-hike

McElligott raises some worries of a rapid ‘reversal’ risk in bonds – via “market tantrum” forcing the Fed to yet-again “Bend the Knee” – as market positioning in bonds is extreme to say the least.

Looking at the QIS CTA Trend model to get a sense of the “bearish momentum” and asymmetry within Fixed-Income positioning, we currently see the net exposure across G10 Bonds is back to 10 year historical “extreme Short” at just 2.2%ile overall exposure since 2011; further, the aggregate $notional position across the agg G10 Bond positions is now greater that -2 SD rank (i.e. very “net Short”) dating all the way back to 2002.

Similarly, the Nomura MD notes that eventually, the more this selloff in legacy long / crowded hyper Growth Tech extends, there is ultimately a mounting risk of a sharp counter-trend rally in beaten-down Nasdaq, particularly considering the extremely magnitude of the Dealer “short Gamma” profile in QQQ ($Gamma -$476mm, 3.4%ile since 2013…

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

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada “Pause” after Bank of Canada Ends QE, Starts Unwinding its Balance Sheet

The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in Canada “Pause” after Bank of Canada Ends QE, Starts Unwinding its Balance Sheet

Home prices fell in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal; were flat in Toronto, other cities for the first time since 2019.

So this is something that hasn’t happened in the Canadian housing market since 2019: The Teranet-National Bank House Price Index for October, released today, failed to rise from the prior month.

The index for Vancouver, a red-hot housing market, fell for the second month in a row, something the market hasn’t seen since September 2019. The indices for Ottawa and Montreal also fell. The index for Toronto was flat for the month, as were the indices for some of the other cities.

What has changed that caused this “pause,” as it is now being called, in one of the biggest housing bubbles in the world?

The Bank of Canada got hawkish.

For a year now, the BoC has repeatedly cited the craziness in the Canadian housing market – a historic spike in home prices – the result of the BoC’s crazy asset purchases and interest rate repression.

The BoC started tapering its purchases of securities a year ago by ending its MBS purchases and tapering its purchases of Government of Canada bonds. It then shed nearly all its repos and short-term Canada Treasury bills, ended other smaller programs, and tapered its GoC bond purchases multiple times. Then in October, a suddenly hawkish Bank of Canada ended QE entirely and surprised markets by moving the next rate hikes forward. Meanwhile, inflation in Canada hit an 18-year high.

Total assets on the BoC’s balance sheet, as of last week, fell to C$496 billion, down 14% from the peak in March.

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Waypoints on the road to currency destruction — and how to avoid it

Waypoints on the road to currency destruction — and how to avoid it

The few economists who recognise classical human subjectivity see the dangers of a looming currency collapse. It can easily be avoided by halting currency expansion and cutting government spending so that their budgets balance. No democratic government nor any of its agencies have the required mandate or conviction to act, so fiat currencies face ruin.

These are some waypoints to look for on the road to their destruction:

  • Monetary policy will be challenged by rising prices and stalling economies. Central banks will almost certainly err towards accelerating inflationism in a bid to support economic growth.
  • The inevitability of rising bond yields and falling equity markets that follows can only be alleviated by increasing QE, not tapering it. Look for official support for financial markets by increased QE.
  • Central banks will then have to choose between crashing their economies and protecting their currencies or letting their currencies slide. The currency is likely to be deemed less important, until it is too late.
  • Realising that it is currency going down rather than prices rising, the public reject the currency entirely and it rapidly becomes valueless. Once the process starts there is no hope for the currency.

But before we consider these events, we must address the broader point about what the alternative safety to a fiat collapse is to be: cryptocurrencies led by bitcoin, or metallic money to which people have always returned when state fiat money has failed in the past.
Introduction

When expected events begin to unfold, they can be marked by waypoints. These include predictable government responses, and the confused statements of analysts who are unfamiliar with the circumstances. We see this today in the early stages of an inflation that threatens to become a terminal cancer for fiat currencies.
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We’re Living in a Chaos Economy. Here’s How to End It.

We’re Living in a Chaos Economy. Here’s How to End It.

small business bbq

The Federal Reserve has been increasing the money supply at an explosive rate. The federal budget, deficits, and the trade deficit are record levels. Governments, both foreign and domestic, have locked down people, restricting production and consumption. How should this be viewed by an economist?

There is clearly chaos in the economy, and hardly a day goes by when I don’t find unusual if not unprecedented situations in day-to-day economic life. However, many people and economists are either oblivious to the problems or in denial. Things are normal for them. Politicians are mostly in this camp. For economists and investment promotors, inflation is “transitory.” They don’t know how the economy works and they expect near perfection from the economy and entrepreneurs. This view is wrong.

The chaos is all too real for most others. Homemakers who spend household income are seeing their purchasing power shrink, their choices disappearing, and more of their time consumed stretching the family budgets. Christmas shopping will be worse than normal.

Chaos deniers are further entrenched in their experience by the mainstream media (MSM). The problems are either not reported by the MSM or are masked by aggregate statistics like price inflation, i.e., the Consumer Price Index, low unemployment, wage increases, and extremely high stock markets and real estate, especially housing prices. These stats make people feel good, or at least less nervous.

Below the government economists’ radar there is real economic suffering. Small businesses are hurting and going out of business. Based on Help Wanted signs I drive by every day, it is extremely difficult to hire employees or purchase inputs. One local BBQ restaurant recently had a sign that said, “Out of Chicken, Pork and Beef.”

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Are We Really Crazy Enough to Believe This Is Going to Work?

Are We Really Crazy Enough to Believe This Is Going to Work?

Unbeknownst to the giddy participants, they’re not just betting on the omnipotence of the Fed Politburo, they’re also making a max-leverage bet that “the madness of crowds” will never end.

Imagine an economy so dominated by its central bank that all markets hang on every word of its priesthood as life or death. You know, like the Federal Reserve and the American economy.

Now imagine this central bank issues enormous sums of new money which supercharges speculative activity such as hundreds of billions of dollars in stock buybacks, special purpose acquisition casinos, oops, I mean companies, and so on. You know, like the Federal Reserve’s trillions in nearly free money for financiers.

Next, imagine that the central bank makes barely concealed promises that should any big gambler lose money in the casino, the bank will flood the financial system with even more nearly free money for financiers and bail out the loser.

Since flooding the system with nearly free money for financiers keeps the speculative frenzy going, the bank has implicitly promised that assets driven higher by speculative frenzy will never be allowed to drop. This promise naturally incentivizes even more speculative borrowing, leverage and risk, generating a titanic Everything Bubble in which risky assets skyrocket from pennies into dollars and dollars into fortunes.

Now imagine that this speculative frenzy spreads into every nook and cranny of the economy such that everyone is drawn into one casino or another, and previously sober, cautious people are seized by a quasi-religious fervor in which they become convinced that their gambling chips on NFTs, SPACs, meme-stocks, obscure alt-coins, homes, collectables and pretty much anything within the manic swirl of speculative frenzy is now a can’t lose path to carefree permanent wealth because the central bank guarantees it and anyone who questions this is in league with the Devil (or worse).

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The Biggest Federal Reserve Scandal

The Biggest Federal Reserve Scandal

Following revelations that Federal Reserve officials made trades in financial assets while the Fed was taking extraordinary efforts to “stimulate” the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell ordered a review of the Fed’s ethics rules. While these trades appear problematic, they pale in comparison to the biggest Fed scandal — the Fed’s impoverishment of ordinary Americans, enrichment of the elites, and facilitation of government debt and deficits.

The depression induced by coronavirus, though really caused by so-called public health actions government took in response, was the official reason for the Fed’s increased asset purchases last year. However, the Fed actually started ramping up its money creating activities in September of 2019, when it began pouring billions a day into the repo markets, which banks use to make short-term loans to each other, in order to keep repo market interest rates low.

Coronavirus was just a convenient excuse for the Fed to do more of what it was already doing. Now, the Fed is using the limited reopening as a scapegoat for rising prices. Of course, anyone who understands Austrian economics understands that rising prices are a symptom, not a cause, of inflation. Inflation is the very act of money creation by the Fed.

Rising prices that diminish the average American’s standard of living are not the only result of the Fed’s manipulation of the money supply. The manipulation distorts economic signals, producing results including booms, bubbles, and busts.

Inflation has always benefited the well-connected elites who receive the Fed’s newly created money before the new money causes widespread price increases. The true motivation behind Fed policies was revealed by former Fed official Andrew Huszar in 2013. Huszar, writing for the Wall Street Journal, confirmed that quantitative easing kept stock prices high, instead of helping Americans struggling with the aftereffects of the 2008 meltdown.

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Peter Schiff: Gold Will Explode; The Dollar Will Implode When the Markets Figure This Out

Peter Schiff: Gold Will Explode; The Dollar Will Implode When the Markets Figure This Out

Peter Schiff says gold will explode and the dollar will implode when the markets figure out the Fed is crying wolf when it comes to monetary tightening.

The Federal Reserve wrapped up another meeting without making any changes to its current extraordinary, loose, inflationary monetary policy. But the central bank did hint that it may start tapering its quantitative easing program “soon.”

That was enough for the markets. They continue to expect the Fed will tighten monetary policy and fight surging inflation. Gold sold off after the FOMC statement came out, dropping about $10.

The gold market has battled these headwinds for months. Every time the Fed hints at tightening, gold sells off. Every time inflation numbers come in hot, gold sells off. This doesn’t make sense. Why would investors sell an inflation hedge during an inflationary period? Because they honestly think the central bank can and will sweep in and successfully fight inflation.

But as we have said over and over again, the Fed cannot possibly tighten in this economic environment. In an interview on RT Boom Bust, Peter Schiff said even if the Fed does begin to taper, it will eventually reverse course and ultimately expand QE.

It knows the only foundation this bubble economy has is the Fed’s easy money policies. And I don’t think they have any actual plans to taper. And even if they just kind of feign the process by beginning it, they’ll never complete it because soon after they start the taper, again, if they even ever start, they’re going to have to reverse the process. Because ultimately, the Fed Fed is going to expand the QE program and start to buy a lot more government Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities in the future than it’s doing right now.”

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EU To Propose Exempting “Green” Bonds From Deficit And Debt Limit Calculations

EU To Propose Exempting “Green” Bonds From Deficit And Debt Limit Calculations

Yesterday, the ECB announced that in Q4, it would “modestly lower the pace of net asset purchases under the PEPP than in the previous two quarters” (even as Lagarde scrambled to convince markets not to call it tapering) with Reuters sources adding that “policymakers set a monthly target of between 60 billion and 70 billion euros” down from 80 billion currently “with flexibility to buy more or less, depending on market conditions.” Putting this non-taper taper in context, Nomura calculated that “even if net PEPP is scaled down to €60bn/month the ECB would still buy 85% of the remaining gross supply, strongly supporting EUR rates.”

Despite the shrinkage of ECB bond-buying, Lagarde made it clear that the fiscal spice must flow:

  • *LAGARDE: FISCAL SUPPORT HAS TO BE CONTINUED
  • *LAGARDE: FISCAL SUPPORT NEEDS TO BE MORE TARGETED

The most notable proposal is to exempt “green” investments from calculations of deficit and debt limits and temporarily forgetting existing rules that say debt must be cut every year, Reuters reported citing documents prepared for the ministers’ talks showed.

“The challenge in coming years will be to consolidate deficits while increasing green investments to achieve the ambitious targets of the EU to cut emissions or any other investments,” a note prepared by host Slovenia said.

In other words, the EU will use the “green” strawman of fighting climate change as a loophole to issue debt over and above the EU’s self-imposed ceilings.

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Rabobank: The Market Has Become “Springtime For Hitler”

Rabobank: The Market Has Become “Springtime For Hitler”

Buy-all-the-stocks and Boom?

Readers will know my view that we are living in a black comedy. There is plenty of evidence of this, but US President Biden saying it is the Taliban who are in the midst of “an existential crisis” takes the biscuit today given the US is charging $2,000 for its citizens to be evacuated from Kabul while refugees go free, and the Wall Street Journal both reports the White House *was* told Afghanistan would likely collapse back in July, and op-eds “How Biden Broke NATO”.

Black comedy dates back to antiquity, but was defined academically by Sigmund Freud’s 1925 essay ‘Humour’ as when: “The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.”

Which brings me to markets. There is always slapstick comedy on Wall Street: e.g., banks opening wealth management shops in China just as China launches a “wealth redistribution” campaign (and shares of European luxury brands slump, showing it is real), or buying shares in Chinese firms that are IOUs in the Caymans. There is surreal comedy: e.g., NFTs –literally infinite digital flatulence– becoming an ‘asset class’ as a hedge against fiat inflation. There are (illegal!) inside jokes: e.g., when certain names tell us to buy something they actually want to get out of. And there are bad jokes: e.g., central-bank inflation and growth forecasts. Yet right now, the most important dynamic is black comedy, in that traumas are no more than occasions to gain pleasure.

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Game Over

Game Over

Game over. Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation is often the best one. Central banks will never extract themselves. Whether they ultimately end QE is besides the point. They won’t reduce their balance sheets. They can’t. Powell’s “performance” yesterday was not an accident. He’s been running on the same theme of offering absolutely zero specifics. Why? 3 reasons: 1. There are none as there is no plan. 2. To maintain flexibility and not to be held accountable or anything 3. To not upset markets.

We saw this recently when he actually got challenged on MBS and QE. He couldn’t and wouldn’t offer a rationale as to what is actually economically accomplished by it:

 

Yesterday he clarified his “transitory” definition :

 

More importantly:

 

He doesn’t know. And why would he? There is zero precedent for this much combined liquidity from the fiscal and monetary side along with a rapid economic reopening with consumers’ pockets stuffed with free money from the government.

To inflate the stocks market and the housing market was the goal. The Bernanke script:

 

Now the bubble has gotten so large they can’t risk anything popping it:

Why? Because popping the largest asset bubble ever would result in a catastrophic reset, not only a recession, but a depression.

The reality is debt levels have so exploded in the past 13 years any pre GFC type interest rates (which were historically low back then) would collapse the entire system. They know it. I know it, you know it. The entire system is predicated on debt expansion and cheap money to sustain it. That’s it.

This is the only choice:

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Quantitative easing: how the world got hooked on magicked-up money

Going cold turkey would finish off a dysfunctional global financial system that’s now hopelessly addicted to emergency infusions. The only solution is surgery on the system itself

The world economy is a mess. The system, notionally governed by the invisible hand of the market, is no longer governed in any meaningful way: private excess puffs up bubbles that government indulgence ensures can never burst. We seem condemned to volatile commodity prices, wild capital flows, worsening imbalances in trade, taxation and income, and—before long—the next sovereign debt crisis. And then there’s inequality. During lockdown, the total wealth of billionaires rose by $5 trillion to $13 trillion in 12 months, the most dramatic surge ever registered on the annual Forbes billionaire list.

Where do such riches come from? Compared to before the pandemic, there’s less real economic activity: we are collectively poorer. And yet within a year of the great panic of March 2020, many asset prices were surging. Wall Street and the City of London are again awash with liquidity—and in a speculative mood. One vogue is for something called SPACs, or “special purpose acquisition companies.” That sounds so vague as to bring to mind the South Sea Bubble companies of 1720, whose pitch is remembered as “carrying on an undertaking of great advantage but nobody to know what it is.”

How is this mismatch between financial markets and underlying reality possible? Because just like in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the civil servants in our central banks spotted the dreadful potential of unchecked panic, and rode to the rescue of private speculators by flushing the system with made-up money through a process we’ve come to know as quantitative easing.

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Bank of Canada Tapers Weekly QE To C$2BN, Sees Lift Off In “Sometime In Second Half Of 2022”

Bank of Canada Tapers Weekly QE To C$2BN, Sees Lift Off In “Sometime In Second Half Of 2022”

As expected, the Bank of Canada took another step to normalize the emergency levels of stimulus, when it announced that it is tapering its bond purchases from C$3BN weekly to C$2BN, in what it hopes to telegraph is a sign of optimism about the speed of the recovery. Naturally, it kept the rate unchanged at 0.25%.

“The Bank is maintaining its extraordinary forward guidance on the path for the overnight rate. This is reinforced and supplemented by the Bank’s quantitative easing (QE) program, which is being adjusted to a target pace of $2 billion per week. This adjustment reflects continued progress towards recovery and the Bank’s increased confidence in the strength of the Canadian economic outlook,” the bank said in a statement, which while echoing the Fed in claiming that while “the factors pushing up inflation are transitory” their “persistence and magnitude are uncertain and will be monitored closely.”

Looking ahead, the BOC is maintaining guidance that economic slack will be absorbed in the second half of 2022, suggesting a rate hike won’t occur until then. There remains significant surplus capacity in the economy. And while vaccine progress and easing lockdowns are encouraging, the spread of variants remains a risk.

“The Governing Council judges that the Canadian economy still has considerable excess capacity, and that the recovery continues to require extraordinary monetary policy support. We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the 2 percent inflation target is sustainably achievedIn the Bank’s July projection, this happens sometime in the second half of 2022”

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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