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Turkey Joins Russia In Liquidating US Treasuries

Last month, when we reported that Russia had liquidated the bulk of its US Treasury holdings in just two months, we said that “we can’t help but wonder – as the Yuan-denominated oil futures were launched, trade wars were threatened, and as more sanctions were unleashed on Russia – if this wasn’t a dress-rehearsal, carefully coordinated with Beijing to field test what would happen if/when China also starts to liquidate its own Treasury holdings.”

As it turns out, Russia did lead the way, but not for China. Instead, another recent US foreign nemesis, Turkey, was set to follow in Putin’s footsteps of “diversifying away from the dollar”, and in the June Treasury International Capital, Turkey completely dropped off the list of major holders of US Treasurys, which has a $30 billion floor to be classified as a “major holder.”

According to the US Treasury, Turkey’s holdings of bonds, bills and notes tumbled by 52% since the end of 2017, dropping to $28.8 billion in June from $32.6 billion in May and $61.2 billion at the recent high of November of 2016.

Meanwhile, as we showed earlier, Russia – which first fell off the list last month after being a top-10 foreign creditor to the US just a few years ago – saw its Treasury holdings remain unchanged at an 11 year low of just $14.9 billion.

The selloffs took place well before a diplomatic fallout between the US and both Turkey and Russia resulted in new sets of sanctions and tariffs imposed on both nations. The Trump administration last week imposed new sanctions against Russia in response to the nerve agent poisoning in the U.K. of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

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

Russia Liquidates Its US Treasury Holdings

Last month we showed that as Trade Wars began in April, the world’s central banks and other official institutions dumped more Treasuries than in any month since January 2016, some $48.3BN, perhaps over concerns of others selling first, and precipitating a sharp move higher in yields. Fast forward one month later to May, when according to the latest just released Treasury International Capital (TIC) update, in May the selling of Treasurys by official entities continued, with another $24BN sold in the month of May, when yields continued to rise and eventually hit the 2018 highs of 3.11%.

But while the selling of Treasuries was to be expected – after all someone had to sell aggressively to push yields sharply higher in April and May – the question was who.

What we showed last month, is that contrary to some speculation, it wasn’t Beijing, because after shedding a modest $6BN in April, China actually bought $1.2BN in Treasurys in May, leaving its holdings largely unchanged over the past month.

And while Japan did sell $12BN in TSYs in April, it more than made up for its in May when it purchased $17.5BN, bringing its total to $1048.8BN in May, which means that over the past two month, Japan was a net buyer of US paper.

Meanwhile, the third most prominent holder, hedge funds, aka “Cayman Islands”, bought for a second consecutive month, adding another $5BN.

* * *

So if the usual suspects were buying, who was selling?

Here is the answer.

Readers may recall that last month we first reported  that for all the confusion about sharply higher yields in April, the explanation was simple: it was Vladimir Putin who liquidated a whopping half of Russia’s Treasury holdings, which declined by $47.4BN to just $48.7BN – the lowest since 2008 – from $96BN in March.

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

Trade End Game Scenarios: Boycott Treasuries vs Yuan Devaluation

Since there is no longer any reasonable debate about a trade war having started, let’s investigate how it ends.

End Game Analysis


The end-game retaliation comes via a global boycott of the Treasury auctions. Foreign entities fund half the US fiscal deficit, which is set to double. Imagine the locals funding their own budget gap!

This forces the savings rate up at the expense of spending. Recession follows.


Treasury Boycott Thesis

I am surprised that Rosenberg brings this up because in my mind, this hash has been settled long ago.

What exactly would China, Japan, and Germany do with their reserves and ongoing trade surplus? Mathematically they have to do something.

Historically, that something has been to buy treasuries. But I suppose China could buy could be gold or US equities. The latter would be smack in the middle of an obvious bubble.

And if China were to dump US treasuries, the alleged nuclear option, it would serve to strengthen the Yuan. Recall that China sold US treasuries to support the Yuan and stop capital flight. In a trade war, China would not want an appreciating currency!

I think Rosenberg proposes nonsense, but given the nonsensical actions of Trump, I cannot rule out nonsensical or illogical responses.

This leads us to the most logical real threat.

Yuan Devaluation Thesis

China cannot retaliate with enough tariffs on its own to combat tariffs imposed by the US. Hower, the yuan does not float. China could devalue the yuan enough to counteract the value of US tariffs.

Of course, Trump could ban Chinese imports in response, but prices at Walmart, Costco, Target, everywhere, would skyrocket.

This scenario is nearly the opposite of what Rosenberg suggests. It is also far more credible.

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

Oil Surges, 10Y Yield Back Over 3%, Futures Jump In Iran Deal Fallout

For those curious what the fallout from the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal looks like in the capital markets, the answer is as follows: higher US stock futures, a stronger dollar (at least initially, the greenback has since turned slightly negative) ahead of a $25BN 10Y auction (which may carry the first 3.00% cash coupon in almost 7 years), and perhaps critically, a 10Y Treasury yield rising back above 3.00% again.

But the most closely watched response was how oil would react, and sure enough the bulls have enjoyed the upper hand for now with WTI reversing Tuesday’s “fake CNN news” inspired slump to briefly surpass $71 per barrel, a new 4 year high, while Brent nudged $77 as the market came to terms with a U.S. message that buyers of Iranian crude have six months to curb their purchases.

Oil’s rise has been predicated by fresh concerns what the US withdrawal from the Iran deal means for oil markets: while Trump warned sanctions will be extremely strong for Iran, and any nations collaborating with it, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said the US will be working with allies on a comprehensive deal, also states that firms can seek waivers or special licenses to operate in Iran, sending conflicting messages. Meanwhile, the Iranian parliament is set to vote on “proportional and reciprocal” action vs. the US after leaving the nuclear pact, while the Iranian deputy oil minister says the nuclear deal can exist without the US.  Meanwhile, UBS estimates that sanctions could lead to the reduction of Iran oil exports by 200-500k BPD over the next 6 months, although both China and India have said they will continue importing Iranian oil.

In global markets, the MSCI Asia Pacific index started off on the wrong foot, dropping 0.3% on weakness in Japan and China, however, sentiment reversed when Europe opened, and the Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose a fourth day as energy companies surged, while US equity futures were trading solidly in the green.

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

“We Understand The Chinese Government Has Halted Purchases Of US Treasuries”: SGH

On Friday, we reported that among the five “nuclear” options available to Beijing to retaliate against Trump’s latest $100BN in import tariffs, was the choice whether or not to sell US Treasuries. But what if Beijing did not want to unleash a full-blown market nuke, and instead was hoping for a targeted, EMP hit?

Then it would simply stop buying US paper, instead of dumping it outright; in the process it wouldn’t hurt the US too much – avoiding an angry response –  but it would send a clear signal to the White House, whose fiscal spending plan will more than double net Treasury issuance this year from under $500BN to over $1 trillion, and which needs every possible marginal buyer of US paper, both domestic and foreign.

Which is precisely what a new report by SGH Macro Advisors claims.

According to the consultancy, a long-time favorite of macro hedge funds, Beijing has twice threatened deliberately targeted tit-for-tat punitive measures against the US to date: “first, in response to the Trump Administration’s threat of steel and aluminum tariffs, and second, in response to broader measures aimed at $50 billion of products that lie directly at the heart of Chinese technology transfers, intellectual property violations, and strategic, “Made in China 2025” plan.

But even as US cabinet officials lined up yesterday to calm jittery equity markets, SGH says in a note released over the weekend that “China had already signaled an aggressive and potentially more ominous escalation in the developing trade wars to the White House”:

From what we understand, the Chinese government has halted its purchases of US Treasuries. Despite the direct encouragement, according to Chinese sources, by US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for China to “stay put,” Beijing has apparently discontinued purchases of US Treasuries “for the past few weeks.”

Some more details from the note:

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

Who Is It That Wants to Buy Trillions of US Treasury’s???

Who Is It That Wants to Buy Trillions of US Treasury’s???

As of the latest Treasury update showing federal debt as of Wednesday, February 15…federal debt (red line below) jumped by an additional $50 billion from the previous day to $20.76 trillion.  This is an increase of $266 billion essentially since the most recent debt ceiling passage.  Of course, this isn’t helping the debt to GDP ratio (blue line below) at 105%.

But here’s the problem.  In order for the American economy to register growth, as measured by GDP (the annual change in total value of all goods produced and services provided in the US), that growth is now based solely upon the growth in federal debt.  Without the federal deficit spending, the economy would be shrinking.

The chart below shows the annual change in GDP minus the annual federal deficit incurred.  Since 2008, the annual deficit spending has been far greater than the economic activity that deficit spending has produced.  The net difference is shown below from 1950 through 2017…plus estimated through 2025 based on 2.5% average annual GDP growth and $1.2 trillion annual deficits.  It is not a pretty picture and it isn’t getting better.

Even if we assume an average of 3.5% GDP growth (that the US will not have a recession(s) over a 15 year period) and “only” $1 trillion annual deficits from 2018 through 2025, the US still continues to move backward indefinitely.

The cumulative impact of all those deficits is shown in the chart below.  Federal debt (red line) is at $20.8 trillion and the annual interest expense on that debt (blue line) is jumping, now over a half trillion.  Also shown in the chart is the likely debt creation through 2025 and interest expense assuming a very modest 4% blended rate on all that debt.

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

Take It To The Bank: Interest Rates Won’t Rise, Report 11 Feb 2018

How Not to Predict Interest Rates

We continue our hiatus from capital destruction to look further at interest rates. Last week, our Report was almost prescient. We said:

The first thing we must say about this is that people should pick one: (A) rising stock market or (B) rising interest rates. They both cannot be true (though we could have falling rates and falling stocks).

We write these Reports over the weekend. At the time of last week’s writing session, Friday’s close on the S&P was 2757 (futures). Monday this week saw a crash, with the S&P down to 2529 at the low point in the evening. That is a drop of -8.3%.

We are not stock prognosticators, and we will neither tell you “short the market” nor “buy the dip”. We have a different point to make.

Rising interest rates, by a variety of mechanisms, cause stocks and all asset prices to go down. We have touched on a few in this Report. One is that investors have a choice between the risk-free asset—the Treasury bond—and anything else (note: the Treasury bond is not risk free, but if it defaults then everything else will be wiped out in the collapse). Why would they accept a lower yield on stocks along with the greater risk? Another is that corporations can borrow to buy their own shares. Management may do this if the interest rate is lower than their shares yield. But they can sell shares to pay off debt if the shares have lower yield than the interest rate.

Let’s look at a few more.

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

Flying Blind, Part 2: The Destruction Of Honest Price Discovery And Its Consequences

Flying Blind, Part 2: The Destruction Of Honest Price Discovery And Its Consequences

In Part 1 we noted that the real evil of Bubble Finance is not merely that it leads to bubble crashes, of which there is surely a doozy just around the bend; or that speculators get the painful deserts they fully deserve, which is coming big time, too; or even that the retail homegamers are always drawn into the slaughter at the very end, as is playing out in spades once again. Daily.

Given enough time, in fact, markets do bounce back because capitalism has a inherent urge to grow, thereby generating higher output, incomes, profits, wealth and stock indices. That means, in turn, investors eventually do recover from bubble crashes—notwithstanding the tendency of homegamers and professional speculators alike to sell at panic lows and jump back in after most of the profits have been made—or even at panic highs like the present.

Instead, the real economic iniquity of central bank driven Bubble Finance is that it destroys all the pricing signals that are essential to financial discipline on both ends of the Acela Corridor. And as quaint at it may sound, discipline is the sine qua non of long-term stability and sustainable gains in productivity, living standards and real wealth.

The pols of the Imperial City should be petrified, therefore, by the prospect of borrowing $1.2 trillion during the upcoming fiscal year (FY 2019) at a rate of 6.o% of GDP during month #111 through month #123 of the business expansion; and doing so at the very time the central bank is pivoting to an unprecedented spell of QT (quantitative tightening), involving the disgorgement of up to $2 trillion of its elephantine balance sheet back into the bond market.

Even as a matter of economics 101, the forthcoming $1.8 trillion of combined bond supply from the sales of the US Treasury ($1.2 trillion) and the QT-disgorgement of the Fed ($600 billion) is self-evidently enough to monkey-hammer the existing supply/demand balances, and thereby send yields soaring.

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

What Will Rising Mortgage Rates Do to Housing Bubble 2?

What Will Rising Mortgage Rates Do to Housing Bubble 2?

Oops, they’re already rising.

The US government bond market has further soured this week, with Treasuries selling off across the spectrum. When bond prices fall, yields rise. For example, the two-year Treasury yield rose to 2.06% on Friday, the highest since September 2008.

In the chart, note the determined spike of 79 basis points since September 8, 2017. That was the month when the Fed announced the highly telegraphed details of its QE Unwind.

September as month of the QE-Unwind announcement keeps cropping up. All kinds of things began to happen, at first quietly, without drawing much attention. But then the trajectory just kept going.

The three-year yield, which had gone nowhere for the first eight months of 2017, rose to 2.20% on Friday, the highest since October 1, 2008. It has spiked 82 basis points since September 8:

The ten-year yield – the benchmark for financial markets that most influences US mortgage rates – jumped to 2.66% late Friday.

This is particularly interesting because the 10-year yield had declined from March 2017 into August despite the Fed’s three rate hikes last year, and rising short-term yields.

At 2.66%, the 10-year yield has reached its highest level since April 2014, when the “Taper Tantrum” was winding down. That Taper Tantrum was the bond market’s way of saying “we’re shocked and appalled,” when Chairman Bernanke dropped hints the Fed might eventually begin tapering what the market had called “QE Infinity.”

The 10-year yield has now doubled since the historic intraday low on July 7, 2016 of 1.32% (it closed that day at 1.37%, a historic closing low):

Friday capped four weeks of pain in the Treasury market. But it has not impacted yet the corporate bond market, and the spread in yields between Treasuries and corporate bonds, and particularly junk bonds, has further narrowed. And it has not yet impacted the stock market, and there has been no adjustment in the market’s risk pricing yet.

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

China Downgrades US Credit Rating From A- To BBB+, Warns US Insolvency Would “Detonate Next Crisis”

In its latest reminder that China is a (for now) happy holder of some $1.2 trillion in US Treasurys, Chinese credit rating agency Dagong downgraded US sovereign ratings from A- to BBB+ overnight, citing “deficiencies in US political ecology” and tax cuts that “directly reduce the federal government’s sources of debt repayment” weakening the base of the government’s debt repayment.

Oh, and just to make sure the message is heard loud and clear, the ratings, which are now level with those of Peru, Colombia and Turkmenistan on the Beijing-based agency’s scale of creditworthiness, have also been put on a negative outlook.

In a statement on Tuesday, Dagong warned that the United States’ increasing reliance on debt to drive development would erode its solvency. Quoted by Reuters, Dagong made specific reference to President Donald Trump’s tax package, which is estimated to add $1.4 trillion over a decade to the $20 trillion national debt burden.

“Deficiencies in the current U.S. political ecology make it difficult for the efficient administration of the federal government, so the national economic development derails from the right track,” Dagong said adding that “Massive tax cuts directly reduce the federal government’s sources of debt repayment, therefore further weaken the base of government’s debt repayment.”

Projecting US funding needs in the coming years, Dagong said a deterioration in the government’s fiscal revenue-to-debt ratio to 12.1% in 2022 from 14.9% and 14.2% in 2018 and 2019, respectively, would demand frequent increases in the government’s debt ceiling.

“The virtual solvency of the federal government would be likely to become the detonator of the next financial crisis,” the Chinese ratings firm said.

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

As Petro-Yuan Looms, Bundesbank Adds Renminbi To Currency Reserves

Just days after China’s (denied) threat to slow/stop buying US Treasuries, and just days before the launch of China’s petro-yuan futures contract, Germany’s central bank confirmed it would include China’s Renminbi in its reserves.

The FT reports that Andreas Dombret, a member of Deutsche Bundesbank’s executive board, said at the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong on Monday that the central bank had “decided to include the RMB in our currency reserves”.

He said: “The RMB is used increasingly as part of central banks’ foreign exchange reserves; for example, the European Central Bank included the RMB [as a reserve currency].

The Bundesbank’s six-member board took the decision to invest in renminbi assets in mid-2017, but it was not publicly announced at the time. No investments have been made yet; preparations for purchases are still ongoing.

The inclusion in the German central bank’s reserves basket underscored China’s increasing prominence in the global financial landscape, and reflected policies aimed at making the currency more freely tradable internationally.

Mr Dombret said:

“The notable development from the European point of view over the past few years has been the growing international role of the RMB in global financial markets.

The offshore Yuan strengthened on the news overnight – pushing to its strongest in over 2 years…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180115_dollar1_0.png

And as Les Echoes reports, while the Bundesbank wants to integrate the yuan into its foreign exchange reserves, the Banque de France is already using it as a currency of diversification.

The Banque de France has raised a corner of the veil on its strategy of managing foreign exchange reserves.

“The foreign currency holdings remain overwhelmingly invested in US dollars, with diversification to a limited number of international currencies such as the Chinese renminbi.

Which currency would you rather hold as a stable reserve?

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180115_dollar.png

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

Bond Market Smells Inflation, Begins to React

Bond Market Smells Inflation, Begins to React

Inflation expectations now exceed the Fed’s target.

The 10-year US Treasury yield breached 2.5% on January 9 and hasn’t looked back since, closing on Friday at 2.55%. The three year yield closed at 2.12%, the highest since October 2008. The two year yield, after breaching 2% on Friday intraday, closed at 1.99%, the highest since September 2008.

Bond prices fall when yields rise. And the selloff in three-year maturities and below shows that the short end of the bond market is reacting to the Fed’s rate-hike environment.

The moves in the 10-year yield, however, defied the Fed in much of 2017, with the yield actually dropping. With long-term yields falling and short-term yields rising, the yield curve “flattened,” and there were fears that the yield curve would “invert,” with 10-year yields dropping below two-year yields – a scenario that has proven dreadful in the past, including just before the Financial Crisis. But recently, the 10-year yield too has begun to respond.

Though the “new Fed” in 2018 hasn’t fully taken shape yet, with several key vacancies still to be filled, there is already tough talk even among the “doves.” And that’s where tough talk matters.

On Thursday it was New York Fed President William Dudley who outlined the “two macroeconomic concerns” he is “worried about”: “The risk of economic overheating,” and that the markets are blowing off the Fed. In the end, the Fed “may have to press harder on the brakes,” he said.

On Friday, it was Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren who told the Wall Street Journal that he expected “more than three” rate hikes this year to get this under control before it’s too late. “I don’t want to get to a situation where we have to tighten more quickly,” he said, citing specifically the “fairly ebullient financial markets,” and the risks of waiting too long.

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

BlackRock Warns Geopolitical Risk Is Highest Since 2014’s Crimea Invasion

Rising geopolitical risk is not automatically bad news for risk assets, but, as Richard Turnill explains, BlackRock believes a new U.S. approach to trade bears watching.

The economy is expanding, equities are at new highs, and markets appear calm. What is there to worry about?

Geopolitical risks are ticking up, according to our BlackRock Geopolitical Risk Indicator (BGRI). But this isn’t automatically bad news for markets.

The BGRI gauges the degree of financial market concern about geopolitical risk. It tracks the frequency of geopolitical risk mentions in media and brokerage reports, adjusting for sentiment reflected in the text. A positive score indicates markets appear more concerned about geopolitical risks relative to recent history, whereas a negative score implies less concern.

The BGRI is now at the highest level since March 2015, and well above early 2017 levels, when markets were digesting Donald Trump’s election win, worrying about the French election outcome and fearing the potential for a hard Brexit.

How worried should we be about the recent BGRI uptick?

The indicator is still well below its longer-term peak, as the chart above shows. But we believe risks such as a more muscular U.S. approach on trade bear watching.

Trade is the risk to watch

Sudden geopolitical shocks tend to hurt global risk assets only briefly if the economic backdrop is sound, according to our analysis of asset performance following shocks since 1962. U.S. Treasuries can be an effective hedge during such episodes, we find. This perceived safe haven also tends to rally ahead of “known unknowns” such as elections with binary outcomes, then lag after the event as the lifting of uncertainty boosts risk assets. Market effects of localized geopolitical shocks tend to linger longer where the events occur. A longer-lasting and more acute negative global market reaction is more likely if multiple shocks occur simultaneously or if the economy is weak, we find.

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

St. Louis Fed Promotes the Mathematically Impossible

It’s bad enough when economic writers are clueless about how markets work. It’s worse when Fed economists are clueless.

Check out this Tweet by @StLoiusFed.

Negative interest rates may seem ludicrous, but not if they succeed in pushing people to invest in something more stimulating to the economy than government bonds http://bit.ly/2ASFrRz 


170 people liked this Tweet.

Understanding the Math

  • Negative interest rates cannot push people into more stimulating investments.
  • No matter how negative the rate, someone has to hold every treasury bond and someone has to hold every dollar in circulation.
  • In the equity markets, for every buyer of stocks, there is a seller, thus the sideline cash argument fails as well.

It’s bad enough when analysts fail to understand basic economics, but even Fed economists are clueless about how markets work.

Negative rates cannot possibly do what the Fed suggests, but they can foster an artificial wealth effect when people borrow or spend more than they should.

Any economic gain spurred on by reckless borrowing will all be taken back and then some, in the next recession.

Zombie Corporations

Negative real rates also foster zombie corporations. The BIS defines Zombie firms as those with a ratio of earnings before interest and taxes to interest expenses below one, with the firm aged 10 years or more.

As it sits, 10% of corporations are zombies, unable to make interest payments from profits.They need cheap money to survive.

If the St. Louis Fed economists see a sustainable benefit from spurring zombie corporations, they are wrong about that too.

Interest Rates Starting To Bite

Interest Rates Starting To Bite

We have long held that interest rates have been so low (especially real rates) that it will take some time to reach a level for them to really matter and impact markets. The 2-year yield crossing over the S&P500 divie yield this past week for the first time in the last ten years is unlikely to slow the momentum driving risk markets. Nevertheless, they are getting closer to the zip code — after two years since the tightening cycle began — where they will begin to impact fundamental valuations (what is the fundamental value of Bitcoin?) and the relative pricing of risk assets. Keep it on your radar.

Long-term rates are so utterly distorted by the central banks we are not sure if the markets even pay attention anymore. Pancaking of the yield curve? Not the signal it used to be.  Meh!

The above, of course, is somewhat offset by the massive stock of central bank money in the global financial system which has driven up asset values to a level that has finally kicked the real economy into third gear.  This has created the perception of a Goldilocks global enviornment and positive feedback loop between markets and the economy.  Now add fiscal stimulus.

The unprecedented reservoir of the mix of this type of money is still so full it will take some time to drawdown central bank balance sheets to parch the risk markets. A higher share of central bank money relative to credit based bank money reduces global systemic risk and thus asset price risk premia.  Thus, additional market distortions.

The party continues.  Momentum is a powerful thang!   Until it isn’t.

…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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