Bank of Japan
If this plan fails to bring about economic growth in Japan, or worse still fails to bring about growth and unleashes inflation, then it’s GAME OVER for Central Bankers. Their one great claim “we’re not doing enough QE” will have been proven to be total bunk.
If Japan’s bond market implodes, then global Central Bank efforts to hold the system together will have proven a failure.
A quiet day unfolding with just Chicago Fed permadove on the wires today at 1pm, following some early pre-Japan market fireworks in the USDJPY and the silver complex, where a cascade of USDJPY margin calls, sent silver to its lowest in years as someone got carted out feet first following a forced liquidation. This however did not stop the Friday ramp higher in the USDJPY from sending the Nikkei225, in a delayed response, to a level surpassing the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the first time in years. Quiet, however, may be just how the traders at 72 Cummings Point Road like it just in case they can hear the paddy wagons approach, following news that things between the government and SAC Capital are turning from bad to worse and that Stevie Cohen, responsible for up to 10-15% of daily NYSE volume, may be testifying before a grand jury soon. The news itself sent S&P futures briefly lower when it hit last night, showing just how influential the CT hedge fund is for overall market liquidity in a world in which the bulk of market "volume" is algos collecting liquidity rebates and churning liquid stocks back and forth to one another.
We feel that now there is a Bermuda Triangle of economics - a space where everything tends to disappear without radar contact, a black hole in which rationality and science is replaced by hope, superstition and nonsense pundits pretending to understand the real drivers of the economy. The Bermuda Triangle in real life runs from Bermuda to Puerto Rico to Miami. The Economic Bermuda Triangle (EBT) one runs from high stock market valuations to high unemployment to low growth/productivity. There is a myth that the sunken Atlantis could be in the middle of this triangle. It has been renamed Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) to make it suit the black hole's main premise of ensuring there is a fancy name for what is essentially the same economic recipe: print and spend money, then wait and pray for better weather. The EBT is getting harder and harder to justify - if for nothing else because the constant reminders of crisis keep us all defensive and non-committed to investing beyond the next quarter. We all naively think we can exit the "risk-on" trade before anyone else. We are due for a new crisis. We have governments and central banks proactively pursuing bubbles. A long time ago, policymakers entered a one-way street where reversing is, if not illegal, then impossible.
The mistake Abe is making is to think the same trick that worked for the US will work for them. The problem, as Shirakawa no doubt realizes, is that the two country’s situations are not at all analogous, because the yen isn’t really a reserve currency in the same way the dollar is. There is no population of natural sovereign buyers who will be forced to print their own currency to mop up excess yen, as there is for the dollar. No sovereign is going to want to dramatically increase the allocations of their country’s reserves to the yen, not when it’s in the middle of being deliberately devalued, or really ever. Russia and China and Saudi Arabia don’t need any more yen, they have plenty. Oil isn’t priced in yen. Japan isn’t the world’s largest economy, or even its second largest. World trade isn’t conducted in yen. The emerging economies will just let it collapse. There is no natural sovereign sink for yen to drain into, as there is for the dollar, no group of buyers of last resort with bottomless pockets and no choice but to buy.
The idea that a weak yen is positive for countries outside Japan is gaining traction. This is preposterous and we'll see why as currency wars soon accelerate.
Those hoping for a slew of negative news to push stocks much higher today will be disappointed in this largely catalyst-free day. So far today we have gotten only the ECB's weekly 3y LTRO announcement whereby seven banks will repay a total of €1.1 billion from both LTRO issues, as repayments slow to a trickle because the last thing the ECB, which was rumored to be inquiring banks if they can handle negative deposit rates earlier in the session, needs is even more balance sheet contraction. The biggest economic European economic data point was the EU construction output which contracted for a fifth consecutive month, dropping -1.7% compared to -0.3% previously, and tumbled 7.9% from a year before. Elsewhere, Spain announced trade data for March, which printed at yet another surplus of €0.63 billion, prompted not so much by soaring exports which rose a tiny 2% from a year ago to €20.3 billion but due to a collapse in imports of 15% to €19.7 billion - a further sign that the Spanish economy is truly contracting even if the ultimate accounting entry will be GDP positive. More importantly for Spain, the country reported a March bad loan ratio - which has been persistently underreproted - at 10.5% up from 10.4% in February. We will have more to say on why this is the latest and greatest ticking timebomb for the Eurozone shortly.
It is only logical that when one of the smarter people in finance warns that he "sees bubbles everywhere" that he should be roundly ignored by those who have no choice but to dance. Because Bernanke and company are still playing the music with the volume on Max, and if not for POMO there is always FOMO. However, if there is any doubt why this "rally is the most hated ever", here are some insights from the Bond King from an interview with Bloomberg TV earlier today: "We see bubbles everywhere, and that is not to be dramatic and not to suggest they will pop immediately. I just suggested in the bond market with a bubble in treasuries and bubble in narrow credit spreads and high-yield prices, that perhaps there is a significant distortion there. Having said that, it suggests that as long as the FED and Bank of Japan and other Central Banks keep writing checks and do not withdraw, then the bubble can be supported as in blowing bubbles. They are blowing bubbles. When that stops there will be repercussions. It doesn't mean something like 2008 but the potential end of the bull markets everywhere. Not just in the bond market but in the stock market as well and a developing one in the house market as well."
Major central bank activism and some sporadically good economic data in the U.S. have lifted equity markets and also helped the credit markets continue their rally. Central bank policy has been focused on an emergency bailout footing to stave off sudden panic and is also is aimed at stimulating economic activity. This has involved incentivizing households and businesses to expand and take some more risk. But no new policy initiative is perfect – not in implementation nor is it precise in its impact. Some in the markets and even in the Fed itself worry that the massive and unprecedented easing could be causing its own distortions and perverse side effects. It has clearly triggered a chancy search for yield that may yet lead to new asset bubbles and financial instability. There are numerous examples as Abraham Gulkowitz's PunchLine (chart extravaganza) shows. While the liquidity provided by key central banks -- including the move by the Bank of Japan to initiate massive monetary easing -- will likely continue suppressing yields, there is a serious argument to be made that the rallies have moved beyond fundamentals... This increases the likelihood of more surprises, not less...
Take a good look at the chart of the Nikkei below. Supposedly this is the same chart that the new BOJ head, Haruhiko Kuroda, was looking at when he was responding to Japanese lawmakers during a session of the upper-house budget committee, where he flatly rejected an opposition-party member's argument that the recent rapid rise in the Tokyo stock market is out of line with Japan's real economy. "At this moment I do not think they are in a bubble," Kuroda said. And everyone believes him, just Because central bankers are so good at objectively observing how contained subrpime is big the asset bubbles their ruinous policies create.
Not even the most prodigious and reckless money-printing binge can fix it
While the stance of monetary policy around the world has, on any conceivable measure, been extreme, the question of whether such a policy is indeed sensible and rational has not been asked much of late. By rational we simply mean the following: Is this policy likely to deliver what it is supposed to deliver? And if it does fall short of its official aim, then can we at least state with some certainty that whatever it delivers in benefits is not outweighed by its costs? We think that these are straightforward questions and that any policy that is advertised as being in ‘the interest of the general public’ should pass this test. As we will argue in the following, the present stance of monetary policy only has a negligible chance, at best, of ever fulfilling its stated aim. Furthermore, its benefits are almost certainly outweighed by its costs if we list all negative effects of this policy and do not confine ourselves, as the present mainstream does, to just one obvious cost: official consumer price inflation, which thus far remains contained. Thus, in our view, there is no escaping the fact that this policy is not rational. It should be abandoned as soon as possible. This will end badly...
Japan should serve as a lesson to central planners around the world. Japan’s stock market/ real estate bubble burst in the early ‘90s. Since that time Japan has launched NINE QE efforts equal to roughly 25% of its GDP. And GDP growth has worsened despite these efforts from 2% to 1%. Ditto for employment.
As the global economic slump continues central bankers, such as Mario Draghi, and politicians have vowed “to do whatever it takes” to get economies back on track. Such policies while having near term benefits are considered extremely risky in the longer run by many commentators as they could beckon runaway inflation or stagflation, with ruinous results.
Shinzo Abe unleashed his plan with the blessing of the Bank of Japan to begin aggressive government bond purchases. This has led to a massive growth of 60% on the Nikkei and is deflating the yen and boosting their exports.
On the surface, Abenomics - the radical unlimited stimulus plan put in place by newly elected Japanese PM Shinzo Abe – appears to be working. The Nikkei is up 68% since July, 2012, the yen has weakened by 30% over the same time frame, and Japanese consumer confidence is up sharply to the highest levels in six years. The theory behind Abenomics is that the rising stock market will create capital, and the falling yen will make Japan’s export-based economy more competitive in global markets, while newly profitable companies will hire more workers. In order for Abenomics to work, four things have to happen (below). Don’t hold your breath. Japan is a bug in search of a windshield. Longer-term, Abenomics is a recipe for disaster - have no illusions about that. But short-term … that’s another matter entirely, and therein lies opportunity.