Bank of Japan
One glance at the chart below and it is very clear that there is a glaring difference between the market's reaction to the Fed's QE and the BoJ's QQE. Aside from the magnitude and velocity of the equity market response that is, the Fed has been inherently volatility-suppressing (with VIX near all-time lows as stocks rise) while (aside from the last week or so), as the Nikkei surged, Japanese implied volatility also surged. As UBS' Larry Hatheway notes, fundamentally, Japan’s policy settings and preferences (moving from deflation to inflation, which is the stated objective of ‘Abenomics’) embed a great deal of implied volatility, only some of which has already manifested itself in asset prices. The proverbial cat has been thrown among the pigeons - scatter they must - the Fed’s QE has dampened volatility while the BoJ’s QE has boosted volatility. In sum, the price of success - where success is defined as ending deflation in Japan—is likely to be significant volatility in Japanese asset markets.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of his hodgepodge of old ideas and new contradictions.
It's a central bank world, and we are all just suckerfish attached to the Great Central Planning Whites, hoping for little scraps to trickle down as trillions (Yen-denominated) in bonds are monetized every day.
Ongoing monetary stimulus is leading to heightened volatility, and the bull market which has been in place since 2009 is becoming overextended. The recent string of surprise downside moves in markets may be the canary in the coal mine for global investors. This is where we are today. The tide is rising for U.S. and Japanese markets and asset prices will ultimately move higher. The size and violence of each wave that advances or recedes will continue to increase due to the surge of liquidity from central banks. These tides of liquidity are strong, as are the currents underneath. We must guard ourselves from the risk of being pulled under.
Bill Gross To Ben Bernanke: "It's Your Policies That Are Now Part Of The Problem Rather Than The Solution"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/04/2013 06:38 -0400
On practically every day of the past four years, we have said that it was the Fed's own policies that are causing the ever-deeper systemic weakness in the US (and now global with all central banks going "all in") economy, which in turn forces the Fed to intervene even more aggressively in an attempt to counteract, in turn generating ever more economic weakness, leading to even more intervention, which is why every incremental episode of QE is larger and longer, and why the economic baseline is ever lower in the most perverse feedback loop of the New Normal. Now, it is once again Bill Gross to catch up to Zero Hedge and conclude just this in his latest monthly letter: "It’s been five years Mr. Chairman and the real economy has not once over a 12-month period of time grown faster than 2.5%. Perhaps, in addition to a fiscally confused Washington, it’s your policies that may be now part of the problem rather than the solution. Perhaps the beating heart is pumping anemic, even destructively leukemic blood through the system. Perhaps zero-bound interest rates and quantitative easing programs are becoming as much of the problem as the solution." Which is why there simply is no way out as long as Bernanke stays in.
Now that the BOJ's "interventionalism" in the capital markets is increasingly losing steam, as the soaring realized volatility in equity and bond markets squarely puts into question its credibility and its ability to enforce its core mandate (which, according to the Bank of Japan Act "states that the Bank's monetary policy should be aimed at achieving price stability, thereby contributing to the sound development of the national economy) Japan is left with one wildcard: the Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), which as of December 31 held some ¥111.9 trillion in assets, of which ¥67.3 trillion, or 60.1% in Japanese Government Bonds. Perhaps more importantly, the GPIF also held "just" ¥14.5 trillion in domestic stocks, or 12.9% of total, far less than the minimum allocation to bonds (current floor of 59%). It is this massive potential buying dry powder that has led to numerous hints in the press (first in Bloomberg in February, then in Reuters last week, and then in the Japanese Nikkei this morning all of which have been intended to serve as a - brief - risk-on catalyst) that a capital reallocation in the GPIF is imminent to allow for much more domestic equity buying, now that the threat of the BOJ's open-ended QE is barely sufficient to avoid a bear market crash in the Nikkei in under two weeks.
There are some problems, however.
The Bank of Japan has embarked on one of the most inflationary policies ever undertaken. Pledging to inject $1.4 trillion dollars into the economy over the next two years, the policy is aimed at generating price inflation of 2% and further depreciating the Yen. The idea is to fight “deflation” and increase exports. Mises’ key insight was in looking at the long-term effects of such a policy, and in the process he examined the logic behind the short-term results as well. The ineffectiveness of the policy in the long run is apparent when one understands how prices – both domestic and foreign – interact to determine exchange rates. Exports will be promoted in the short run, though the effect will be cancelled in the long run once prices adjust. If the policy is ineffective in the long run, Mises demonstrated that the short-run gains are illusory. The same monetary policy aimed at depreciating the currency to promote international trade will reap domestic chaos.
Here's the challenge the Status Quo monetary and fiscal authorities faced in the 2008 global financial meltdown: how do we maintain the power structure and keep the masses passive while masking the fact that the Status Quo is broken? The solution: sell bonds to fund benefits to the masses, lower interest rates to zero to keep the explosive rise in fiscal deficits affordable, and rapidly inflate new bubbles in assets that painlessly enrich the top 25% of households who then increase their borrowing and spending, i.e. the "wealth effect." The political calculus is simple: the bottom half of households don't vote, don't contribute to political campaigns and don't have enough income to borrow huge sums of money to enrich the banks. They are thus non-entities in the fiscal-monetary project of maintaining the power structure of the Status Quo. All the Status Quo needs to do is borrow enough money to fund social programs that keep the masses passive and silent: food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, SSI permanent disability, unemployment, etc. Unfortunately for the Powers That Be, the cost of placating the rapidly increasing marginalized populace is rising much faster than tax revenues.
Because when your primary stated goal is achieving "price stability" through unprecedented intervention, and instead you break the markets (both bonds and stocks) it may be time to reevaluate. As a reminder: "The Bank of Japan, as the central bank of Japan, decides and implements monetary policy with the aim of maintaining price stability. The Bank of Japan Act states that the Bank's monetary policy should be aimed at achieving price stability, thereby contributing to the sound development of the national economy." Instead, you get this...
The wild ride in Japan's bond market is a prelude to what will happen in other developed markets.
Some of my first memories of television are of a series called The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, which was a witty combination of animated cartoons about the exploits of the title characters, Rocket "Rocky" J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose and their nemeses, two Pottsylvanian nogoodniks spies, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. The show was filled with current event commentary, political and social satire. The show was also filled with commentary on economic and market conditions that resonated with the parents watching the show while the kids focused on the cartoons. Each show ended with the narrator describing the current cliffhanger with a pair of related titles, usually with a bad pun intended. So let's adapt some of my favorite Rocky and Bullwinkle episode titles to modern day; we might see that there are some political and economic challenges that are timeless, as it appears we have been doing the same thing over and over for decades and expecting different results.
"QE detractors... see something quite different. They see QE as not responding to the collapse in the money multiplier but to some extent causing it. In this account QE – and the flatter yield curves that have resulted from it – has itself broken the monetary transmission mechanism, resulting in central banks pushing ever more liquidity on a limper and limper string. In this view, it is not inflation that’s at risk from QE, but rather, the health of the financial system. In this view, instead of central banks waiting for the money multiplier to rebound to old normal levels before QE is tapered or ended, central banks must taper or end QE first to induce the money multiplier and bank lending to increase."
"It's highly debatable whether AAPL iCloud is making the inroads that they predicted..."
A week later and everyone is a bit more nervous, with the speculation that US sovereign debt purchases by the Federal Reserve will wind down and with the Bank of Japan completely cornered. In anticipation to the debate on the Fed’s bond purchase tapering, on April 28th (see here) we wrote why the Federal Reserve cannot exit Quantitative Easing: Any tightening must be preceded by a change in policy that addresses fiscal deficits. It has absolutely nothing to do with unemployment or activity levels. Furthermore, it will require international coordination. This is also not possible. In light of this, we are now beginning to see research that incorporates the problem of future higher inflation to the valuation of different asset classes. Why is this relevant? The gap between current valuations in the capital markets (both debt and credit) and the weak activity data releases could mistakenly be interpreted as a reflection of the collective expectation of an imminent recovery. The question therefore is: Can inflation bring a recovery? Can inflation positively affect valuations? The answer, as explained below, is that the inflationary policies carried out globally today, if successful will have a considerably negative impact on economic growth.
The influence of central banks on markets seems to have reached unparalleled heights. We look at why, turning to behavioural finance for some clues.