Bank of Japan
Monetizing the entirety of gross government bond issuance and amassing an equity portfolio worth just shy of $100 billion on the way to cornering the entire ETF market may come across as insanely irresponsible even in a world that is now defined by insanely irresponsible central banks, but Haruhiko Kuroda does not care because when it comes to QE and the financing of governments via central bank-assisted ponzi schemes, no one does it like the BoJ.
Following yesterday's turbulent bond trading session, where the volatility after the worst Bid to Cover in a Japanese bond auction since 2009 spread to Europe and sent Bund yields soaring again, in the process "turmoiling" equities, today's session has been a peaceful slumber barely interrupted by "better than expected" Italian and a German Bund auction, both of which concluded without a hitch, and without the now traditional "technical" failure when selling German paper. Perhaps that was to be expected considering the surge in the closing yield from 0.13% to 0.65%. Not hurting the bid for 10Y US Treasury was yesterday's report that Japan had bought a whopping $23 billion in US Treasurys in March, the most in 4 years so to all those shorting Tsys - you are now once again fighting the Bank of Japan.
"It was, at least in theory, simple enough in the old days," wrote a wistful W. Randolph Burgess, head of the New York Federal Reserve, in 1938. "In the present strange new world, where the old gold portents have lost their former meaning, where is the radio beam which the central banker may follow? What is the equivalent of gold?" The men of his era and of the late nineteenth century understood the meaning of such a question and, more importantly, why it is one that must be asked. But theirs was a different world, indeed — one without "QE," ZIRP," or "Unknown Knowns" as fiscal policy. And there were no helicopters, either.
The trends in both Japanese income and spending moved downward not at the inception of the tax increase but at the very start of QQE itself. Science is the study of observation whereas monetary economics has become the science of avoiding them. If economists want to see recovery in that they should be honest about so redefining the term. BoJ is two years into QQE and the hole that has been dug for the Japanese people is enormous, so it will be extremely difficult at this point just to get back to even without ever accounting for lost opportunity for compounding and time. Maybe that doesn’t count as the typical, natural recession but it is nothing short of a man-made disaster.
There is one thing riskier than investing in a free market: investing in a rigged market when you think the central bank has your back. At some point, the free market returns with a vengeance, like a coiled spring made out of pure risk. That time may be coming soon. When you devalue money and distort the supposed risk-free rate, you devalue every aspect of the capital structure, and of society itself.
The world economy is in the grips of a dangerous delusion. As the great boom that began in the 1990s gave way to an even greater bust, policymakers resorted to the timeworn tricks of financial engineering in an effort to recapture the magic. In doing so, they turned an unbalanced global economy into the Petri dish of the greatest experiment in the modern history of economic policy. They were convinced that it was a controlled experiment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This was the “Rubicon” moment: the instant at which Central Banks gave up pretending that their actions or policies were aimed at anything resembling public good or stability
The end result of Fed policy appears to be to keep us in perpetual economic malaise, to keep us all confused. They keep interest rates low masking the huge structural issues of huge federal budget deficits and whenever the economy appears to be picking up a bit, they threaten to take away the government props of QE and low interest rates faster thereby slapping down the economy. All this happening while the ticking time bomb of huge Federal Debt accumulates more potency. There is no solution to the crisis, merely a choice of which roads to choose, a deflationary debt collapse, or a hyperinflationary dollar collapse or World War III. Pick your poison...
We heard from several central banks in the last few days, and what they had to say was just one more reminder that we are in a Hill Street Blues financial world. So, hey, let’s be careful out there - and then some!
The final and ultimate round of the Crisis that begin in 2008 will occur when faith is lost in the Central Banks.
Q: How do you make a small fortune on Wall Street?
A: Start with a large fortune.
~ old investing adage
Investors are clearly in a bit of a no-man’s land of market narrative, with the dollar weakening and U.S. corporate earnings slipping. Market participants, like all pack animals, appreciate clear direction and leadership – and we don’t have much of either right now. When considering how they will react, we can compare the two competing frameworks for understanding market behavior: the "Random Walk hypothesis" and the "House money effect." The first states that markets move in random patterns, with prior activity having no bearing on future price action. The latter shows that individuals do actually consider prior gains and losses when making economic decisions. Let’s just hope investors hold to their belief that it’s the house’s money at work here, and that they don’t walk randomly out of the market.
"The Q1 US GDP data was a major disappointment to the market as business investment declined due to the intensifying US profits recession. Only the biggest inventory build in history stopped the economy subsiding into a recessionary quagmire. The US economy is struggling and the Fed will ultimately re-engage the QE spigot. Talk is growing that China will soon be doing the same as local authorities struggle to issue debt. But this week we want to focus on Japan, having just made my fist visit to that fine nation for over a decade! Japan, the third largest economy in the world, is also in trouble (see chart below) and will soon be increasing its off-the-scale QE programme to an out-of-this-world QE programme." - Albert Edwards
The biggest overnight story was neither out of China, where despite the ridiculous surge in new account openings and margin debt the SHCOMP dipped 08%, or out of Japan, where the Nikkei dropped 2.7%, the biggest drop in months, after the BOJ disappointed some by not monetizing more than 100% of net issuance and keeping QE unchanged, but Europe where for the second day in a row there was a furious selloff of Bunds at the open of trading, which briefly sent the yield on the 10Y to 0.38% (it was 0.6% two weeks ago), in turn sending the EURUSD soaring by almost 200 pips to a two month high of 1.1250, and weighing on US equity futures, before retracing some of the losses.
Japanese stocks and USDJPY are back below the lows of the US day-session following The Bank of Japan's decision not to stimulate further (despite all the collapsing economic evidence one might need to do such a thing). Investors were clearly hoping for moar (even if economists weren't). With GDP expectations collapsing, BoJ still voted 8-1 not to increase QQE keeping monetary base growth expectations flat. The result is a 500 point drop in The Nikkei from this morning's highs and around 1 handle drop in USDJPY... for now.