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After 10 Years of “Recovery,” What Are Central Banks So Afraid Of?

After 10 Years of “Recovery,” What Are Central Banks So Afraid Of?

If the world’s economies still need central bank life support to survive, they aren’t healthy–they’re barely clinging to life.

The “recovery”/Bull Market is in its 10th year, and yet central banks are still tiptoeing around as if the tiniest misstep will cause the whole shebang to shatter: what are they so afraid of? The cognitive dissonance / crazy-making is off the charts:

On the one hand, central banks are still pursuing unprecedented stimulus via historically low interest rates, liquidity and easing the creation of credit on a vast scale. Some central banks continue to buy assets such as stocks and bonds to directly prop up the “market.” (If assets don’t actually trade freely, is it even a market?)

On the other hand, we’re being told the global economy is in synchronized growth and this is the greatest economy ever in the U.S. and China.

Wait a minute: so the patient has been on life-support for 10 years and authorities are telling us the patient is now super-healthy? If the patient is so healthy, then why is he still on life support after 10 years of “recovery”? If the global economy is truly healthy, then central banks should end all their stimulus programs and let the market discover the price of credit, risk and assets.

If the economy is truly expanding organically, i.e. under its own power, then it doesn’t need the life-support of manipulated low interest rates, trillions of dollars in central bank asset purchases, trillions of dollars in backstopping, guarantees, credit swaps, etc.

If the economy were truly recovering, wouldn’t central banks have tapered their stimulus and intervention long ago? Instead, central bank stimulus skyrocketed to new highs in 2015-2017 as global markets took a slight wobble.

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

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

Here’s What We’ve Lost in the Past Decade

The confidence and hubris of those directing the rest of us to race off the cliff while they watch from a safe distance is off the charts.

The past decade of “recovery” and “growth” has actually been a decade of catastrophic losses for our society and nation. Here’s a short list of what we’ve lost:

1. Functioning markets. Free markets discover price and assess risk. What passes for markets now are little more than signaling devices to convince us the economy is doing spectacularly well. It is doing spectacularly well, but only for the top .1% of 1% and the class of managerial/technocrat flunkies and apologists who serve the interests of the top .1%.

2. Genuine Virtue. Parading around a slogan or online accusation, “liking” others in whatever echo-chamber tribe the virtue-signaler is seeking validation in, and other cost-free gestures–now signals virtue. Genuine virtue–sacrificing the support of one’s tribe for principles that require skin in the game–has disappeared from the public sphere and the culture.

3. Civility. As Scientific American reported in its February issue (The Tribalism of Truth), the incentive structure of largely digital “tribes” rewards the most virulent, the most outrageous, the least reasonable and the most vindictive of the tribe with “likes” while offering little to no encouragement of restraint, caution, learning rather than shouting, etc.

The cost of gaining tribal encouragement is essentially zero, while the risk of ostracism from the tribe is high. In a society with so few positive social structures, the self-referentially toxic digital tribe may be the primary social structure for atomized “consumers” in a dysfunctional system dominated by a rigged “market” and a central state that no longer needs the consent of the governed.

Common ground, civility, the willingness to listen and learn–all lost.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 5: The Flat Line Does Not Spell Recovery

The punk January industrial production (IP) report brought another reminder that the Fed has stimulated nothing at all on the output/employment prong of its dual mandate.

Indeed, as they celebrate a purported “mission accomplished” full employment recovery and confidently prepare to plow forward with an epochal pivot to QT (quantitative tightening), our Keynesian central bankers have remained absolutely mum on this stunning fact: To wit, there has been no recovery at all in US industrial production, and that’s as in nichts, nada and nugatory.

In fact, January 2018 output in the manufacturing sector was still 2.2% below its December 2007 level, and total industrial production has barely crept forward at a 0.19% annual rate. And if you don’t think that is close enough to zero for government work, just recall what a real historical recovery looks like on the IP front.

During the December 2000 to December 2007 cycle, for example, total IP grew at 1.4% per annum and manufacturing output rose by 1.9% per annum on a peak-to-peak basis. Prior to that during the 1990-2000 cycle, the figures were 4.0% and 4.6% per annum, respectively.

And if you want to dial way back in time to the Reagan-Bush cycle from July 1981 to July 1990, the peak-to-peak growth trend for total industrial production was 2.3% per annum and 2.8% for manufacturing output. And, by your way, that cycle also included a deep recession in 1982 that was only slightly less severe than the 2008-2009 downturn.

In short, when you don’t get anywhere on industrial production over the course of 10 full years—-the Great Recession notwithstanding—you are not succeeding. And while you are bragging, you at least ought to attempt to explain or rationalize what is otherwise a screaming aberration in the modern history of business cycles.

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

Is the 9-Year Long Dead Cat Bounce Finally Ending?

Is the 9-Year Long Dead Cat Bounce Finally Ending?

Ignoring or downplaying these fundamental forces has greatly increased the fragility of the status quo.

The term dead cat bounce is market lingo for a “recovery” after markets decline due to fundamental reversals. Markets tend to bounce back after sharp declines as participants (human and digital) who have been trained to “buy the dips” once again buy the decline, and the financial media rushes to reassure everyone that nothing has actually changed, everything is still peachy-keen wonderfulness.

I submit that the past 9 years of market “recovery” is nothing but an oversized dead cat bounce that is finally ending. Here is a chart that depicts the final blow-off top phase of the over-extended dead cat bounce:

Why are the past 9 years nothing but an extended dead cat bounce? Nothing that’s fundamentally broken has been fixed, and none of the dynamics that are undermining the status quo have been addressed.

The past 9 years have been one long dead cat bounce of extend and pretend, i.e. do more of what’s failed because to even admit the status quo is being undermined by fundamental forces would panic those gorging at the trough of the status quo’s lopsided rewards.

This 9-year dead cat bounce was pure speculation driven by cheap central bank credit and liquidity. Demographics, environmental degradation, the decline of middle class security, the erosion of paid work, the bankruptcy of public and private pension plans, the global debt bubble, soaring wealth and income inequality, the corruption of democracy into a pay-to-play bidding war, the destruction of price discovery via market manipulation by those who have turned markets into signaling devices that all is well, the laughable distortion of statistics to mask the real world decline in our purchasing power (inflation is near-zero–really really really), the perverse incentives to leverage up bets in financial instruments that have no connection to the real-world economy–none of these have been addressed in the market melt-up.

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

The Curious Case of Missing the Market Boom


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630
“The Cost of Missing the Market Boom is Skyrocketing”, says a Bloomberg headline today. That must be the scariest headline I’ve seen in quite a while. For starters, it’s misleading, because people who ‘missed’ the boom haven’t lost anything other than virtual wealth, which is also the only thing those who haven’t ‘missed’ it, have acquired.

Well, sure, unless they sell their stocks. But a large majority of them won’t, because then they would ‘miss’ out on the market boom… Some aspects of psychology don’t require years of study. Is that what behavioral economics is all about?

And it’s not just the headline, the entire article is scary as all hell. It reads way more like a piece of pure and undiluted stockbroker propaganda that it does resemble actual objective journalism, which Bloomberg would like to tell you it delivers. And it makes its point using some pretty dubious claims to boot:

The Cost of Missing the Market Boom Is Skyrocketing

Skepticism in global equity markets is getting expensive. From Japan to Brazil and the U.S. as well as places like Greece and Ukraine, an epic year in equities is defying naysayers and rewarding anyone who staked a claim on corporate ownership. Records are falling, with about a quarter of national equity benchmarks at or within 2% of an all-time high.

If equity markets in places like Greece and Ukraine, ravaged by -in that order- financial and/or actual warfare, are booming, you don’t need to fire too many neurons to understand something’s amiss. Some of their companies may be doing okay, but not their entire economies. Their boom must be a warning sign, not some bullish signal. That makes no sense. Stocks in Aleppo may be thriving too, but…

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

Maybe The Recovery Wasn’t Real After All

Maybe The Recovery Wasn’t Real After All

Then it all started to evaporate. Lackluster manufacturing and consumer spending reports sent the Atlanta Fed’s reading of Q1 GDP off a cliff to less than 1%:

And this morning the Wall Street Journal highlighted some recent changes in the yield curve that point towards further slowing:

Flatter Yield Curve in 2017 Shows Growth Concern Lingers

Long-term Treasury yields have declined modestly, while short-term yields have risen.A flattening of the Treasury yield curve in 2017 is a worrying sign for investors banking on resurgent U.S. inflation and growth.

Long-term Treasury yields, which are largely driven by the U.S. economic and inflation outlook, have declined modestly this year, following a sharp rise in the wake of the November election of Donald Trump as president. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield has fallen to 2.396% from 2.446% at the end of 2016.

At the same time, short-term yields, which are more influenced by monetary policy, have risen in 2017 as Federal Reserve officials have made clear that they expect to continue raising the fed-funds rate through the rest of the year.
As a result, the yield premium on the 10-year note relative to the two-year note—known in the market as the 2-10 spread—slipped Wednesday to 1.107 percentage points, its lowest level since the election.

FIRST QUARTER REPORT CARD
While the yield curve, like all market indicators, is subject to the ebb and flow of investor sentiment, economic data and political developments, a flattening yield curve gets special attention from investors world-wide because it can serve as an early signal of both economic slowing and overpricing in riskier asset classes.

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

Bernanke Blew It Big-Time: He Should Have Raised Rates Three Years Ago

Bernanke Blew It Big-Time: He Should Have Raised Rates Three Years Ago

Bernanke blew it big-time, letting the “recovery” run seven years without any significant increase in rates.

It is now painfully obvious that Ben Bernanke blew it big-time by not raising rates three years ago when the economy and markets enjoyed tailwinds. The former Federal Reserve chairperson, who has claimed the mantle of savior of the global economy, foolishly kept rates at zero until tailwinds turned to headwinds, at which point he handed Janet Yellen the unenviable task of raising rates as the headwinds are strengthening.

Ben Bernanke is not the savior who rescued the global economy; he is the clueless fool who plunged a poisoned knife in its back. After weathering the spot of bother in Euroland in 2011-2012, the global economy had multiple tailwinds in 2013–tailwinds that enabled Bernanke and the Fed to raise rates in a series of measured steps.

Tailwind #1: the Fed’s binge-buying of assets (QE3) was still ramping up in 2013:

Tailwind #2: the yield curve spread had bounced off its 2012 low:

Tailwind #3: market speculative positions and sentiment were solidly positive:

Tailwind #4: China’s economy and appreciation of the yuan had not yet weakened:

In April 2013, the market’s “recovery” had already been running for four years. By mid-2013, the S&P 500 had soared from 667 in March 2009 to 1,600, exceeding its previous all-time highs around 1,574–a gain of 930 points or 140% off the 2009 lows.

What else did The Bernank want in mid-2013–an infinite line of credit with the Central Bank of Mars? He had literally every tailwind a central banker could want to support higher interest rates–especially rates that could have clicked higher by tiny .25% increments.

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

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

According To Deutsche Bank, The “Worst Kind Of Recession” May Have Already Started

One week ago, Deutsche Bank’s Dominic Konstam unveiled, whether he likes it or not, what the next all too likely step will be as central bankers scramble to preserve order in a world in which monetary policy has all but lost effectiveness: “It is becoming increasingly clear to us that the level of yields at which credit expansion in Europe and Japan will pick up in earnest is probably negative, and substantially so. Therefore, the ECB and BoJ should move more strongly toward penalizing savings via negative retail deposit rates or perhaps wealth taxes.”

Many were not happy, although in reality the only reason why the DB strategist proposed this disturbing idea is because this is precisely what the central banks will end up doing.

Today, he follows up with an explanation just why the central bankers will engage in such lunatic measures: quite simply, he thinks that economic contraction is now practically assured – and may have already begun – for a simple reason: contrary to popular belief, this particular “expansion” will die of old age after all, and won’t even need the Fed’s intervention to unleash the next recession (if not depression).

There is an old saying amongst market watchers that economic expansions do not die of old age. Rather, during the course of the business cycle dynamics emerge that threaten to become unacceptable from a policy perspective. In the context of economic expansion, that dynamic has been inflation. The conventional pattern has been that as expansions mature, demand for labor outstrips the available supply, creating upward pressure on wages. In the presence of pricing power, higher wages are passed along to end consumers through higher prices.

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

The Cure is Worse than the Disease

Today we look back to the recent past with singleness of purpose.  Context and edification for the present economy is what we’re after.  We have questions…

How come the recovery has been so weak?  Why is it that, nearly seven years after the official end of the Great Recession, the economy’s still mired in a soft muddy quagmire?  Squinting, focusing, and refocusing, there’s one particular week that rises above all others.

Hank the scaremongerHank the scaremonger – in meetings behind closed doors, he threatened Congressmen with financial apocalypse and even martial law if they didn’t hand over $700 billion in tax payer money with essentially no oversight. This has been independently confirmed by several Congressmen. Griffin’s “The Creature from Jekyll Island” is often decried as “conspiracy theory” by establishment shills, but it inter alia contains an eerie prediction of practically everything that eventually happened in 2008.Photo credit: Talks at Google

On Saturday September 20, 2008, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson delivered a draft of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to Congress for review.  If you recall, it had been another wild week.  On Monday, September 15, after 158 years of operation, Lehman Brothers vanished from the face of the earth…Dick Fuld, “The Gorilla,” be damned.

All week the sky relentlessly fell on financial markets.  Even money market funds were in full panic.  In fact, a record $169.03 billion of capital had vacated money market funds in the week ended September 17.

That same day, the Wall Street Journal’s headline was, “U.S. to Take Over AIG in $85 Billion Bailout.”  On top of that, the Primary Fund broke the buck – falling to $0.97 cents a share.  The SEC also went so far as to impose a 10 trading-day ban on short sales of 799 financial stocks.

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

One Chart Says It All

One Chart Says It All

People sense the ‘recovery” is bogus, and their rational response is to save more money rather than squander it. 

Sometimes one chart captures the fundamental reality of the economy: for example, this chart of money velocity and the civilian-population ratio. (thank you, Joseph Y. for posting it on my Facebook feed.)

When the blue line is up, more of the population has a job. (the blue line is the Employment-Population ratio.)

The red line is money velocity, the rate at which money changes hands. (Money buried in the coffee can in the back yard has a money velocity of zero.)

As Joseph noted, the correlation between the percentage of people working and money velocity was strong until 2010. In the post-2009 recession “recovery,” the percentage of the populace with jobs rose modestly, but money velocity absolutely cratered to unprecedented lows.

(The one other disconnect was triggered by the 1987 stock market crash, which caused money velocity to dip even as more people entered the workforce. This absence of correlation was relatively brief.)

The correlation between more people working and money velocity is commonsensical. More people working = more household income = more spending = higher money velocity.

But something changed in 2010. Did the quality and compensation of work change? Joseph observed: People started going back to work after the official recession ended in Q4 2009 but they were working for lower pay. With lower pay comes less disposable income, hence the cliff-like drop off in velocity.

Another potential factor is higher inflation. Some recent estimates (Where’s The Beef? ‘Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics’) suggest the gap between official inflation and actual inflation in rent, food, energy and medical care in the past 20 years has subtracted 20% from paychecks.

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

Puerto Rico Says Will Default Tomorrow, Begs Congress For Help “Or Else Crisis Will Get Worse”

Puerto Rico Says Will Default Tomorrow, Begs Congress For Help “Or Else Crisis Will Get Worse”

Update: PR Governor Padilla has spoken…
  • *PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR SAYS WON’T PAY DEBT TOMORROW
  • *PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR SAYS ISLAND WON’T PAY DEBT MONDAY
  • *PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR: GOVERNMENT SIGNED MORATORIUM BILL YESTERD
  • *PUERTO RICO NEEDS DEAL W/ CREDITORS AND/OR CONGRESS: GARCIA

And of course, demands a bailout…

  • *PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR CALLS ON U.S. CONGRESS, PAUL RYAN FOR HELP

And then threatens…

  • *CRISIS WILL GET WORSE IF U.S. CONGRESS DOESN’T HELP: GARCIA
  • *PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR CONCLUDES REMARKS TO COMMONWEALTH

As we detailed earlier, It’s D-Day in Puerto Rico.As Bloomberg reports, investors are finding little comfort in the Puerto Rico Government Development Bank’s efforts to strike a last-ditch agreement with creditors to soften the blow of a default this weekend. The bonds that mature today (May 1st) have crashed to just 20c (disastrously below the 36-cent recovery rate the commonwealth proposed in March).

It appears investors are not buying what Puerto Rico is selling and prefer to dump the bonds than hold out in hope of a ‘deal’…

A default on the $422 million due today is “virtually certain,” S&P Global Ratings said April 11.

No matter which route Puerto Rico takes, credit-rating companies see a default as inevitable. Moody’s Investors Service analysts said last week that any non-payment, even if it’s agreed to by creditors, constitutes a default in their eyes. S&P Global Ratings said a distressed-debt exchange or temporarily withholding interest is synonymous to default.
But as Bloomberg reports, Puerto Rico said its Government Development Bank, which is operating in a state of emergency to preserve its dwindling cash, reached an agreement with some credit unions to delay $33 million of bond payments as the commonwealth rushes toward a potential historic default.

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

Why the Saudi Princes are Panicked

Why the Saudi Princes are Panicked

The Saudi deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, recently pulled the plug on an output freeze deal that was scheduled to have been signed by oil producers in Doha, Qatar. Since then, the press has been filled with the same story: Prince Mohammed was offended because Iran was a “no show” in Doha. So, he shredded the draft output freeze agreement.

As it turns out, there is an economic story that explains why the Saudis began, in late 2014, to pump crude as fast as they could – or close to as fast as possible. In fact, there is a good reason why the Saudi princes are panicked and pumping.

Let’s take a look at the simple analytics of production. The economic production rate for oil is determined by the following equation: P – V = MC, where P is the current market price of a barrel of oil, V is the present value of a barrel of reserves, and MC is the marginal recovery cost of a barrel of oil.

To understand the economics that drive the Saudis to increase their production, we must understand the forces that tend to raise the Saudis’ discount rates. To determine the present value of a barrel of reserves (V in our production equation), we must forecast the price that would be received from liquidating a barrel of reserves at some future date and then discount this price to present value. In consequence, when the discount rate is raised, the value of reserves (V) falls, the gross value of current production (P – V) rises, and increased rates of current production are justified.

When it comes to the political instability in the Middle East, the popular view is that increased tensions in the region will reduce oil production. However, economic analysis suggests that political instability and tensions (read: less certain property rights) will work to increase oil production.

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

 

Bernanke’s Former Advisor: “People Would Be Stunned To Know The Extent To Which The Fed Is Privately Owned”

Bernanke’s Former Advisor: “People Would Be Stunned To Know The Extent To Which The Fed Is Privately Owned”

With every passing day, the Fed is slowly but surely losing the game.

Only it is not just former (and in some cases current) Fed presidents admitting central banks are increasingly powerless to boost the global economy, even if they still have sway over capital markets. What is far more insidious to the Fed’s waning credibility is when former economists affiliated with the Fed start repeating mantras that until recently were only a prominent feature in the so-called fringe media.

This is precisely what happened today when former central bank staffer and Dartmouth College economics professor Andrew Levin, special adviser to then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke between 2010 to 2012, joined with an activist group to argue for overhauls at the central bank that they say would distance it from Wall Street and make its activities more transparent and accountable to the public.

Levin is pressing for the overhaul with Fed Up coalition activists. Many of the proposed changes target the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, which are quasi-private and technically owned by commercial banks in their respective districts.

All of that is not surprising. What he said to justify his new found cause, however, is.

“A lot of people would be stunned to know” the extent to which the Federal Reserve is privately owned, Mr. Levin said. The Fed “should be a fully public institution just like every other central bank” in the developed world, he said in a conference call announcing the plan. He described his proposals as “sensible, pragmatic and nonpartisan.”

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

Austria Just Announced A 54% Haircut Of Senior Creditors In First “Bail In” Under New European Rules

Austria Just Announced A 54% Haircut Of Senior Creditors In First “Bail In” Under New European Rules

Just over a year ago, a black swan landed in the middle of Europe, when in what was then dubbed a “Spectacular Development” In Austria, the “bad bank” of failed Hypo Alpe Adria – the Heta Asset Resolution AG – itself went from good to bad, with its creditors forced into an involuntary “bail-in” following the “discovery” of a $8.5 billion capital hole in its balance sheet primarily related to ongoing deterioration in central and eastern European economies.

Austria had previously nationalized Heta’s predecessor Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International six years ago after it nearly collapsed under the bad loans it ran up when it grew rapidly in the former Yugoslavia. Having burnt through €5.5 euros of taxpayers’ money to prop up Hypo Alpe, Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling ended support in March 2015, triggering the FMA’s takeover.

This was the first official proposed “Bail-In” of creditors, one that took place before similar ad hoc balance sheet restructuring would take place in Greece and Portugal in the coming months. Or rather, it wasn’t a fully executed “Bail-In” for the reason that creditors fought it tooth and nail.

And then today, following a decision by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Finanzmarktaufsicht or Financial Market Authority, Austria officially became the first European country to use a new law under the framework imposed by Bank the European Recovery and Resolution Directive to share losses of a failed bank with senior creditors as it slashed the value of debt owed by Heta Asset Resolution AG. 

The highlights from the announcement:

Today, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in its function as the resolution authority pursuant to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Act (BaSAG – Bundesgesetz über die Sanierung und Abwicklung von Banken) has issued the key features for the further steps for the resolution of HETA ASSET RESOLUTION AG. The most significant measures are:

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

The Other Problem with Debt No One is Talking About

Faux Growth Recovery

Nearly 7 years have elapsed since the official end of the Great Recession.  By now it’s painfully obvious the rising tide of economic recovery has failed to lift all boats.  In fact, many boats bottomed out on the rocks in early 2009 and have been taking on water ever since.

Last week, for instance, it was reported that U.S. credit card debt topped $917 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015.  That’s up $71 billion from the year before.  Shouldn’t the economic recovery allow consumers to pay down their debts?

Debt load increase, statischAnnual increase in credit card debt load….via cardhub (more data here) – click to enlarge.

 

Indeed, it should, if only the economic recovery was the result of real, economic growth.  To the contrary, the recovery has been faux growth driven by cheap Fed credit and financial engineering.  Mutual increases in prosperity haven’t occurred.

In particular, those outside the financial services business, and other bubble industries, like government lobbyists, have largely missed out on any increase in income or living standard.  Good paying professional jobs that vaporized during the downturn have been replaced with low paying service jobs.  Consumers have used credit card debt to pick up the slack.

Unfortunately, this short term solution sets up consumers for pain in the future.  At some point, as debt increases faster than incomes, the ability to pay down the principal becomes near impossible.  Even making the minimum payment becomes more and more difficult as new debt is added to the burden each month.

Playing with Fire

“We’re playing with fire now,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of credit statistics and analysis site CardHub.  “Either an unexpected economic downtown or the continuation of current spending and payment trends could be enough to unleash an avalanche of defaults.”

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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