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Over $10 Trillion In Debt Now Has A Negative Yield

Over $10 Trillion In Debt Now Has A Negative Yield

NIRP is back.

On Friday, when Germany reported disastrous mfg and service PMI prints, the 10Y German Bund finally threw in the towel, with the yield sliding back under zero for the first time in three years. When that happened, and when the 3M-10Y yield curve inverted in the US right around that time, just over $400 billion in global debt changed the sign on its yield from positive to negative.

As a result, the total notional of global negative yielding debt soared on Friday, rising above $10 trillion for the first time Since September 2017, and which according to Bloomberg has intensified “the conundrum for investors hungry for returns while fretting the brewing economic slowdown.”

Paradoxically, the amount of negative-yielding debt has nearly doubled in just six months, and confirms that the global asset bubble is back because as Gary Kirk, a founding partner at London-based TwentyFour Asset Management, said “money managers face increasing pressure to reprise the yield-chasing mentality synonymous with quantitative easing.”

“This obviously tempts those investors holding cash to move along the maturity curve — or down the rating curve — to seek yield, which is once again becoming a scarce commodity,” he said. “It’s a classic late-cycle conundrum.”

Despite the Fed’s renewed herding of investors into the riskiest assets, Kirk is so far “resisting the temptation” to snap up longer-dated credit obligations that will be the first to default when the next recession hits, and prefers duration bets in interest-rate markets.

Others won’t be so lucky: as we noted last Friday, the ‘reverse rotation’, or flood into fixed income instruments, is accelerating and fund flows confirmed the fresh panic for yield just as the specter of QE4 returns as investors in the latest week parked $6.6 billion into investment-grade funds, $3.2 billion into high-yield bonds and $1.2 billion into emerging-market debt, according to EPFR data.

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

The Fed Has Given Up: Get Ready for More QE

The Fed Has Given Up: Get Ready for More QE

The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to keep the federal funds rate unchanged. Overall, the FOMC signaled it has made a dovish turn away from the promised normalization of monetary policy which the Fed has promised will be implemented “some day” for a decade. Although the Fed began to slowly raise rates in late 2016 — after nearly a decade of near-zero rates — the target rate never returned to even three percent, and thus remains well below what would have been a more normal rate of the sort seen prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

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Much of the Fed’s continued reluctance to upset the easy-money apple cart comes from growing concerns over the strength of the economy. Although job growth numbers have been high in recent years — and this has been assumed to be proof of a robust economy — other indicators point toward less strength. Workforce participation numbers, wage growth, net worth numbers, auto-loan delinquencies and other indicators suggest many Americans are in a more precarious position than headlines might suggest.

The Fed’s refusal to follow through on raising rates, however, has highlighted this economic weakness, and today’s front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal reads: “Growth Fears to Keep Fed on Hold”

Abandoning Plans to Reduce the Balance Sheet

For similar reasons, the Fed has also signaled it won’t be doing much about it’s enormous balance sheet which ballooned to over four trillion dollars in the wake of the financial crisis. Faced with enormous amounts of unwanted assets such as mortgage-backed securities, the Fed began buying up these assets both to prop up — and bail out — banks and to produce an artificially high price for debt of all sort.

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

Don’t Be So Negative

DON’T BE SO NEGATIVE

“FED’S WILLIAMS SAYS IN A DOWNTURN WE COULD CONSIDER QUANTITATIVE EASING, NEGATIVE RATES.”

  • Tweet by Reuters’ Jennifer Ablan, reporting on a speech by John Williams of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the Economic Club of New York, 6 March 2019.

“Because NIRP worked so well in Europe and Japan ?”

  • Response by mac on Twitter.

In February 2016, The Financial Times published an article titled ‘Central Banks: Negative Thinking’, co-authored by Robin Wigglesworth, Leo Lewis and Dan McCrum. The piece in question was atypically sceptical of the received wisdom of QE, i.e., that it works. If it was sceptical as to the efficacy of QE, it was doubly so in relation to the policy of maintaining negative interest rates, or NIRP. Some extracts follow:

Online, the mood has turned to rage. Forums have seen a flood of commentary from Japan’s retirees decrying negative rates and the “torture” that the BoJ’s policy is already inflicting. “Raising commodity prices to overcome deflation, raising consumption taxes, lowering interest rates . . . they are all policies that make us suffer,” wrote one..

The Japanese can be conservative at the best of times, and few think these are the best of times.

But Japan is not the only country affected. A concept once only subject to small-talk among economists is now an uncomfortable reality. With quantitative easing seemingly losing its power to dazzle markets, and many governments either unable or unwilling to countenance raising spending, central banks have felt compelled to try new tools.

Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, the eurozone and most recently Japan — adding up to almost a quarter of the global economy — have all introduced some form of negative interest rate policy in an attempt to fight deflationary forces, weaken their currencies and stimulate growth.

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

Economic Doom Loop Well Underway

Economic Doom Loop Well Underway

From 2007 through 2018, births in the US have declined by 470 thousand on an annual basis, or an 11% decline.  The US fertility rate has likewise cracked lower, from 2.12 births to 1.72, an 18% decline (2.1 births over a females childbearing years is considered zero growth).  This has resulted in 4.5 million fewer net births in the US since 2007 than the Census had estimated in 2000 and again in 2008.  This is over an entire years worth of births that never took place.  The sharp decline in births, against an anticipated rise, and a deceleration from anticipated immigration has resulted in the Census downgrading US population growth through 2050 by over 50 million persons (detailed HERE).  This decelerating growth and outright declines are happening across the globe among the “wealthy nations”, leaving little growth opportunity for the “poor nations” (detailed HERE).

The decline in US births has been particularly steep among those with the lowest incomes and assets.  From 2007 through 2016, Native American fertility rates have collapsed from 1.62 to 1.23.  Hispanic birthrates have fallen from 2.85 to just 2.1.  Black birthrates have turned lower from 2.15 to about 1.9 and white birthrates from 1.95 to 1.72.  Again, these birthrates are only through 2016 and the declines in 2017 and 2018 are significant and accelerating downward.

The reason for fast declining birthrates since 2007 in the US and among most nations globally seems to be the current ZIRP and low interest rates and Quantitative Easing programs which have the effect of inflating asset prices.  The majority of assets are held by large institutions and post child bearing age populations.  The flow through of these policies are asset prices rising significantly faster than incomes.  For example, non-discretionary items like homes, rent, education, healthcare, insurance, childcare, etc. are skyrocketing versus wages.

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

Central Bank Balance Sheet Reductions–Will Anyone Follow the Fed?

CENTRAL BANK BALANCE SHEET REDUCTIONS – WILL ANYONE FOLLOW THE FED?

  • The next wave of QE will be different, credit spreads will be controlled
  • The Federal Reserve may continue to tighten but few other CB’s can follow
  • ECB balance sheet reduction might occur if a crisis does not arrive first
  • Interest rates are likely to remain structurally lower than before 2008

The Federal Reserve’s response to the great financial recession of 2008/2009 was swift by comparison with that of the ECB; the BoJ was reticent, too, due to its already extended balance sheet. Now that the other developed economy central banks have fallen into line, the question which dominates markets is, will other central banks have room to reverse QE?

Last month saw the publication of a working paper from the BIS – Risk endogeneity at the lender/investor-of-last-resort – in which the authors investigate the effect of ECB liquidity provision, during the Euro crisis of 2010/2012. They also speculate about the challenge balance sheet reduction poses to systemic risk. Here is an extract from the non-technical summary (the emphasis is mine): –

The Eurosystem’s actions as a large-scale lender- and investor-of-last-resort during the euro area sovereign debt crisis had a first-order impact on the size, composition, and, ultimately, the credit riskiness of its balance sheet. At the time, its policies raised concerns about the central bank taking excessive risks. Particular concern emerged about the materialization of credit risk and its effect on the central bank’s reputation, credibility, independence, and ultimately its ability to steer inflation towards its target of close to but below 2% over the medium term.

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

Gold Will Become the Next Global Currency of Choice

Gold Will Become the Next Global Currency of Choice

With a wobbly stock market, falling Treasury yields and rampant geopolitical strife, the focus on gold as an asset has been intense as of late. The metal’s price gains reflect this, as gold recently proved able to hold above a key resistance level, which holds bullish implications.

But according to Kitco, Sprott CEO Peter Grosskopf sees gold moving past its role as a mere asset and eventually returning to its status as a true global currency. In an interview, Grosskopf explained that this will be fueled by ballooning global debt, which will ultimately debase all fiat currencies.

As Grosskopf pointed out, recent data shows that the global debt rests above $244 trillion and, as such, is more than three times larger than the global economy itself. Whether governments decide to deal with this through quantitative easing or financial repression, he says gold prices will invariably spike.

The recognition of gold’s role in wealth preservation is on the rise, said Grosskopf, with investors increasingly shying away from fiat currencies and moving into gold. The widespread loss of faith in not just assets, but currencies as well, is already in effect, with Grosskopf’s firm noticing more interest from all corners of the investment spectrum.

“We think the overall trend for gold is positive because it is being accumulated,” said the CEO. “It’s being accumulated by central banks; it’s being accumulated by billionaires, it’s been accumulated by endowments and it’s more accepted as a class of currencies in portfolios.”

This New Catalyst Will Drive Silver Prices Higher in 2019

Money Morning’s Peter Krauth writes silver’s recent pullback below the $16 level was not only expected, but also irrelevant for its long-term picture. Even after the pullback, the metal remains up 12% since November, and Krauth sees more gains coming in the near future.

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

What Happens When More QE Fails to Reverse the Recession?

What Happens When More QE Fails to Reverse the Recession?

The smart money is liquidating assets, paying off debt and moving capital into collateral that isn’t impaired by debt or speculative valuations.

The Federal Reserve’s sudden return to “accommodative” dovishness in response to the stock market’s swoon telegraphs its intent to fire up QE once the recession kicks into gear. QE (quantitative easing) are monetary policies designed to ease borrowing and the issuance of credit, and to prop up assets such as stocks and real estate.

The basic idea is that the Fed creates currency out of thin air and uses the new money to buy Treasury bonds and other assets. This injects fresh money into the financial system and lowers the yield on Treasury bonds, as the Fed will buy bonds at near-zero yield or even less than zero in pursuit of its policy goals of goosing assets higher and increasing borrowing/spending.

This is pretty much the Fed’s only lever, and it pulls this lever at any sign of weakness in stocks or the economy. That sets up an obvious question that few seem to ask: what happens when QE fails? What happens when the Fed launches QE and stocks fall as punters realize the rally is over? What happens when lowering interest rates doesn’t spark more borrowing?

What happens is the smart money sells everything that isn’t nailed down, a process that is arguably already well underway.

Why sell assets when QE has guaranteed gains in the past? Answer: exhaustion. There are limits to everything financial, and once those limits are reached, no amount of goosing will push the limits higher. Rather, further goosing only increases the fragility and vulnerability of the system.Price-earnings ratios only go so high before reversing, rents only go so high before reversing, and so on.

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

A Survival Guide For 2019

A Survival Guide For 2019

How to safely navigate the ‘Year Of Instability’ 

As the first month of the year concludes, it’s becoming clear that 2019 will be a very different kind of year.

The near-decade of ‘recovery’ following the Great Financial Crisis enjoyed a stability and tranquility that suddenly evaporated at the end of 2018.

Here in 2019, instability reigns.

The world’s central banks are absolutely panicking. After last year’s bursting of the Everything Bubble, their coordinated plans for Quantitative Tightening have been summarily thrown out the window. Suddenly, no chairman can prove himself too dovish.

Jerome Powell, the supposed hardliner among them, completely capitulated in the wake of the recent -15% tantrum in stocks, which, as Sven Henrich colorfully quipped, proved what we suspected all along:

The global tsunami of liquidity (i.e. thin-air money printing) released by the central banking cartel has been the defining trend of the past decade. It has driven, directly or indirectly, more world events than any other factor.

And one of its more notorious legacies is the massive disparity and wealth and income resulting from its favoring of the top 0.1% over everyone else. The mega-rich have seen their assets skyrocket in value, while the masses have been mercilessly squeezed between similarly rising costs of living and stagnant wages.

How have the tone-deaf politicians responded? With tax breaks for their Establishment masters and new taxes imposed on the public. As a result, populist ire is catching fire in an accelerating number of countries, which the authorities are anxious to suppress by all means to prevent it from conflagrating further — most visibly demonstrated right now by the French government’s increasingly jack-booted attempts to quash the Yellow Vest protests:

Meanwhile, two other principal drivers of the past decade’s ‘prosperity’ are also suddenly in jeopardy.

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

Quantitative Brainwashing

Quantitative Brainwashing

We’re all familiar with the term, “quantitative easing.” It’s described as meaning, “A monetary policy in which a central bank purchases government securities or other securities from the market in order to lower interest rates and increase the money supply.”

Well, that sounds reasonable… even beneficial. But, unfortunately, that’s not really the whole story.

When QE was implemented, the purchasing power was weak and both government and personal debt had become so great that further borrowing would not solve the problem; it would only postpone it and, in the end, exacerbate it. Effectively, QE is not a solution to an economic problem, it’s a bonus of epic proportions, given to banks by governments, at the expense of the taxpayer.

But, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that governments have passed off a massive redistribution of wealth from the taxpayer to their pals in the banking sector with such clever terms. Governments of today have become extremely adept at creating euphemisms for their misdeeds in order to pull the wool over the eyes of the populace.

At this point, we cannot turn on the daily news without being fed a full meal of carefully- worded mumbo jumbo, designed to further overwhelm whatever small voices of truth may be out there.

Let’s put this in perspective for a moment.

For millennia, political leaders have been in the practice of altering, confusing and even obliterating the truth, when possible. And it’s probably safe to say that, for as long as there have been media, there have been political leaders doing their best to control them.

During times of war, political leaders have serially restricted the media from simply telling the truth. During the American civil war, President Lincoln shut down some 300 newspapers and arrested some 14,000 journalists who had the audacity to contradict his statements to the public.

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

The ECB’s Quantitative Easing was a Failure–Here is What it Actually Did

The main reason why the ECB quantitative easing program has failed is that it started from a wrong diagnosis of the eurozone’s problem. That the European problem was a demand and liquidity issue, not due to years of excess.

The ECB had been receiving tremendous pressure from banks and governments to implement a similar program to the US’ quantitative easing, forgetting that the eurozone had been under a chain of government stimuli since 2009 and that the problem of the euro-zone was not liquidity, but an interventionist model.

The day that the ECB launched its quantitative easing program, excess liquidity stood at 125 billion euro. Since then it has ballooned to 1.8 trillion euro.

“Only” after 2.6 trillion euro purchase program and ultra-low rates.

Eurozone PMIs are atrocious. The euro-zone index falls from 52.7 in November to 51.3 in December, well below the consensus forecast of 52.8. More importantly, France’s PMI plummeted from 54.2 in November to a 34-month low of 49.3.

Unemployment in the euro-zone, at 8%, is double that of the US and comparable economies. Youth unemployment rate remains at 15%.

Economic surprise has plummeted as the ECB balance sheet reached 41% of GDP (vs 21% of the Fed).

More than 900 billion euro of non-performing loans remain in the banking system, which keeps a trillion euro timebomb in its balance sheets (read). A figure that represents 5.1% of total loans compared to 1.5% in the US or Japan.

Deficit spending is rising. Government debt to GDP has risen to 86.8%.

The number of zombie companies -those that cannot pay interest expenses with operating profits- has soared to more than 9% of all large quoted firms, according to the BIS.

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

We Are Entering The “Quantitative Failure” Narrative

For a decade, the world brushed off any concerns about soaring global debt under the rug for a simple reason: between the Fed, the ECB and the BOJ, there was always a buyer of last resort, providing an implicit or, increasingly explicit backstop to bond prices, in the process creating the biggest asset bubble in history as investors seeking return were forced to buy first fixed income securities and then equities and other, even riskier securities.

However, as BofA’s Barnaby Martin is the latest to point out, “early 2019 will be uncharted territory for the market” because after years of central bank purchases crowding investors into risky assets, this dynamic will now reverse. As Zero Hedge readers have observed on countless occasions, the yearly growth of central bank balance sheets is now turning negative as shown in the following chart.

The upshot of this, in Martin’s view, is that markets will continue to experience more “corrections” than normal, leading to bigger and fatter trading ranges for credit spreads in Europe this year.

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

Monday Musings on Monetization and Markets (or Fundamentals Don’t Matter, Liquidity Does)

Monday Musings on Monetization and Markets (or Fundamentals Don’t Matter, Liquidity Does)

Being I’m not an economist nor associated with any financial or investment institutions nor do I have anything for you (dear reader) to buy or sell, I have total freedom to say what I please and freedom to share what I see.

In that spirit, I round back on the Federal Reserves balance sheet versus the curious case of excess reserves of the mega-banks.  Last week I detailed that every time the Fed has ceased adding to its balance sheet or outright reduced, the outcome has been decidedly negative for asset prices (HERE).  However, like everything, there is a little more to the story.

The chart below shows the rise in the Fed’s Treasury’s (blue line), Mortgage Backed Securities (red line), and rise plus fall of Bank Excess Reserves.  What is so interesting is that bank excess reserves didn’t begin declining when the Fed’s Quantitative Tightening began, but immediately upon the conclusion of QE in late 2014.  And excess reserves have already declined by $1.2 trillion while the Fed’s balance sheet has declined by “only” about $400 billion.

Now, if I were cynical, I’d say it’s almost like the Fed’s plan with the excess reserves was to use them like a sponge to soak up liquidity during QE and then continue releasing liquidity long after QE ended…and even well after QT was underway (actually, I’m quite cynical).  The term for this is “monetization”, something the Fed said it would “never do”.

The chart below shows the massive rise in the Fed’s balance sheet (white line), bank excess reserves (black line), and the quantity of monetization (yellow line) floating in the system just waiting to be leveraged into 5x’s or 10x’s or perhaps even 20x’s that amount.

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

The Ugly Truth

The Ugly Truth

For years critics of central bank policy have been dismissed as negative nellies, but the ugly truth is staring us all in the face: Market advances remain a game of artificial liquidity and central bank jawboning and not organic growth and now the jig is up. As I’ve been saying for a long time: There is zero evidence that markets can make or sustain new highs without some sort of intervention on the side of central banks. None. Zero. Zilch.

And don’t think this is hyperbole on my part, I will present the evidence of course.

In March 2009 markets bottomed on the expansion of QE1 which was introduced following the initial QE1 announcement in November 2008. Every major correction since then has been met with major central bank intervention. QE2, Twist, QE3 and so on.

When market tumbled in 2015 and 2016 global central banks embarked on the largest combined intervention effort in history to the tune of over $5 trillion between 2016 and 2017 giving us a grand total of over $15 trillion in central bank balance sheet courtesy FOMC, ECB and BOJ:

When did global central bank balance sheets peak? Early 2018. When did global markets peak? January 2018.

And don’t think the Fed was not still active in the jawboning business despite QE3 ending. After all their official language remained “accommodative”  and their hike schedule was the slowest in history, cautious and tinkering not to upset markets.

With tax cuts coming into the US economy in early 2018 along with record buybacks markets at first ignored the beginning of QT (quantitative tightening), but then it all changed.

And guess what changed? 2 things.

In September 2018, for the first time in 10 years, the FOMC removed one little word from its policy stance: “accommodative” and The Fed increased its QT program. When did US markets peak? September 2018.

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

Fed’s Balance Sheet Reduction Reaches $402 Billion

Fed’s Balance Sheet Reduction Reaches $402 Billion

The QE unwind has started to rattle some nerves.

For the past two months, the sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the Fed’s QE unwind has been deafening. The Fed started the QE unwind in October 2017. As I covered it on a monthly basis, my ruminations on how it would unwind part of the asset-price inflation and Bernanke’s “wealth effect” that had resulted from QE were frequently pooh-poohed. They said that the truly glacial pace of the QE unwind was too slow to make any difference; that QE had just been a “book-keeping entry,” and that therefore the QE unwind would also be just a book-keeping entry; that QE had never caused any kind of asset price inflation in the first place, and that therefore the QE unwind would not reverse that asset-price inflation, or whatever.

But in October last year, when all kinds of markets started reversing this asset price inflation, suddenly, the QE unwind got blamed, and the Fed – particularly Fed Chairman Jerome Powell – has been put under intense pressure to cut it out. Yet it continues:

The Fed shed $28 billion in assets over the four weekly balance-sheet periods of December. This reduced the assets on its balance sheet to $4,058 billion, the lowest since January 08, 2014, according to the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ended January 3. Since the beginning of this “balance sheet normalization,” the Fed has now shed $402 billion.

According to the Fed’s plan released when the QE unwind was introduced, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month – now that the QE unwind has reached cruising speed – for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month. So how did it go in December?

Treasury Securities

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

The Fed Is Panicking

The Fed Is Panicking

This week I’ve been in Washington, D.C. for high level meetings focused on the economy. While meeting with senior officials and members of the House and Senate, it became clear that a troubling phenomenon is building.

Nomi at the Eccles Building in D.C.

Your correspondent at the Eccles Federal Reserve
Board Building in Washington D.C.

In the wake of recent stock market volatility and uncertainty surrounding monetary policy, it seems that political figures are starting to grow concerned.

There is growing consensus that the makings of a financial crisis of some sort is building — and could drop sooner rather than later. While there is speculation over whether it will be as big as the last one, and whether it will come in waves, the belief is that something is wrong.

With those fears, I turned the Federal Reserve itself. While meeting at the Fed, I was given the impression that bank regulators have been routinely chastised by Wall Street bankers. What I learned is that some of the biggest playmakers in finance don’t want to disclose the true nature of their positions and money-making schemes. This confirmed my own experiences as an former investment banker.

In addition, it became clearer that Fed Chairman, Jay Powell, and Vice Chairman, Randal Quarles, will be closely studying real economic and bank data when rendering decisions about the path of interest rates. Many have speculated about such dealings, and whether they will be swayed by President Trump’s pressure.

The truth is that the leaders at the Fed have a firmer understanding of what’s really going on in the economy than they allude to publicly. Even though the Fed has been able to avoid another financial crisis the last decade, with quantitative easing (QE) policy — or what I call dark money — their “toolkit” might not render us “safe enough.” They need to grapple with this reality.

…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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