We, like Bloomberg's Richard Breslow, were bemused this weekend by the communiques from the wisest men in the room at the G-20 meeting. On one side of their mouths they warned of "excessive risk-taking," in markets noting that there were "mounting economic risks" also. On the other hand, stories continue to print of US equity strength implying optimism over global growth - despite the ongoing collapse in consensus GDP expectations. However, away from this hope and fear, it was the almost coordinated responses of the PBOC (Chinese Finmin Lou Jiwei signaling not to get carried away with stimulus expectations), ECB (Visco saying may not need additional QE step since EUR had dropped 'enough'), and finally the BOJ (Iwata saying Abenomics misunderstood, USDJPY 90-100 'fair); all dashing market expectations of a smooth hand over from a feckless Fed to a free-printing rest-of-the-world. Stocks (and carry) responded by selling off.
USDJPY has been on a tear in recent weeks. Since China unleashed QE-lite, JPY and CNY have greatly diverged with USDJPY breaking above 109 and pushing six-year highs. This recent 'relative strength' is the most extreme overbought for the currency pair since early 2001 - which saw USDJPY plunge 30% in the following six months. The tick-for-tick rise in Japan's stock market also broke a 9-month almost-perfect analog with the last time the nation raised its consumption tax. Perhaps even more worrying in the world of FX trading, ECB Governing Council member Ignazio Visco told the G-20 that it may not need to add stimulus measures after steps in the past three months pushed down the euro.
The Fed’s strategy of targeting higher stock prices to boost economic growth has done the exact opposite. This strategy has pulled money away from effective macroeconomic investments and into ineffective macroeconomic albeit effective short term microeconomic investments. The end result is that we have all time high stock prices but no economic growth. We will be stuck in this economic lull until the Fed is ready to admit defeat and allow for a new more effective strategy to be implemented.
It has been a while since the PBOC engaged in some "targeted" QE. So clearly following the biggest drop in the Shanghai Composite in 6 months after some abysmal Chinese economic and flow data in the past several days, it's time for some more. From Bloomberg:
- CHINA’S PBOC STARTS 500B YUAN SLF TODAY, SINA.COM SAYS
- PBOC PROVIDES 500B YUAN LIQUIDITY TO CHINA’S TOP 5 BANKS: SINA
- PBOC PROVIDES 100B YUAN TO EACH BANK TODAY, TOMORROW WITH DURATION OF 3 MONTHS: SINA
Just as expected, the Chinese "derivative" currency, the AUD, goes vertical on the news, and the S&P 500 goes vertical alongside:. As for those confused what the SLF is, here is a reminder, from our February coverage of this "stealth QE" instrument.
Desperate governments call for desperate measures. Unfortunately for us, citizens often end up paying for the mistakes of their governments. That’s not how it should be but, sometimes, that’s how it is. If and a when a government is no longer able to meet its obligations, capital controls, broad wealth confiscation measures, and other extreme burdens are often considered. Spanish bond yields just fell to their lowest levels in history but does that mean that your money is safe there? Absolutely not. It means that investors are complacent, not that Spain’s political risk has diminished. Portugal is in the same boat. While its borrowing costs continue to fall, its prospects for economic growth and its financial position continue to worsen. If you’ve got assets in Portugal then now would be a good time to contemplate how safe they really are. Unless you like bail-ins, that is.
Is it possible, that in globally interconnected economy, the U.S. can stand alone? It certainly seems that the answer to that question is currently "yes" as financial markets hit "new all-time" highs and economic data has rebounded in the second quarter following a sharp Q1 decline. However, as is always the case, the issue of sustainability is most critical.
This won't last... here's 3 reasons to consider why...
Yields on European sovereign debt have collapsed in recent months as investors piled into these 'riskless' investments following hints that the ECB will unleash QE (at some point "we promise") and the economic situation collapses. However, Mario Draghi has made it clear that any QE would be privately-focused (because policy transmission channels were clogged) and the appointment of Blackrock to run an ABS-purchase plan confirms that those buying bonds to front-run the ECB may have done so in error. As Rabobank's Elwin de Groot notes in six simple comments that he expects continued "procrastination" by the ECB over sovereign QE even after dismal economic data - and in doing so, exposes the entire facade behind The Fed's QE.
Investors in European Bonds are running over each other all in an effort to front run what the Big Banks have been begging the ECB to begin a bond buying program. It is hilarious as European yields are already ridiculously low right now, how much lower do they think these yields can go?
Just what Europe needs... more QE... this is the real problem - not only is demand for credit weak in the periphery as the balance sheet recession rolls on, but "real" borrowing costs are at near-record highs... Despite Draghi's earlier comments and promises, cramming SME loans down the throats of borrowers at suppressed risks will do nothing but kill bank balance sheets (most critically the ECB's)...
There is an ongoing belief that the current financial market trends will continue to head only higher. This is a dangerous concept that is only seen near peaks of cyclical bull market cycles.The problem for most investors is that by they time they recognize the change in the underlying dynamics, it will be too late to be proactive. This is where the real damage occurs as emotionally driven, reactive, behaviors dominate logical investment processes.
Anytime there are negative or even close to negative real rates for bonds that is a sign that central banks need to change policy.
The soft July data have once again generated expectations of monetary easing from China. Goldman however thinks further monetary easing would have incrementally less of an impact and would come at the cost of financial stability. This diminishing impact, they argue, would result as overcapacity/oversupply restricts long-term borrowing demand and due to interest rate deregulation, which tends to move the long-term risk-free interest rate to a higher equilibrium, as seen in recent data. As the tradable sector continues to recover on the back of an improved global outlook, Goldman believes that a combination of sectoral policies aimed at easing financial stress and structural adjustment would be a better policy option. They do not expect broad macro easing or an interest rate cut in what remains of this year.
Even Hellicopter Ben would have balanced remarks. However, Janet Yellen has taken dovishness to an all-time high or low dpending on your perspective.
While everyone's (algorithmic) attention will be focused on today's minutes from the July 29-30 FOMC meeting for views on remaining slack in U.S. economy following recent changes in the labor market (especially a particularly solid JOLTS report which indicates that at least on the openings front, there is no more) and any signal of policy change by the Fed ahead of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech in Jackson Hole on Aug. 22, a curious thing happened overnight when a few hours ago the BoE's own minutes show the first vote split since 2011, as Weale and McCafferty argue for a 0.75% bank rate. Then again, if the Russians are finally bailing on London real estate, the inflationary pressures at the top of UK housing may finally be easing. In any event, every FOMC "minute" will be overanalyzed for hints of what Yellen's speech on Friday morning will say, even if stocks just shy of all time highs know quite well she won't dare say anything to tip the boat despite her warnings of a biotech and social network bubble.