Borrowing Costs

Futures Lifted By Verbal Cental Banker Exuberance

Once again it is all about central banks, with early negative sentiment heading into Asian trading - following the disappointing announcement from the PBOC about "ample liquidity" leading to the 6th consecutive drop in the Shanghai Composite while the PenNikkeiStock index tumbled yet again -  completely erased and flipped as Mario Draghi spoke, although not to explain his involvement with the latest European derivative window-dressing scandal, but to announce that he is, once again, "ready to act" (supposedly through the OMT, which despite the best hopes to the contrary, still DOES NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST) and that while it is up to government to raise growth potentials, growth would "partly come from accommodative policy." In other words, ignore all BIS warnings, for Europe's unaccountable Goldmanite overlord Mario Draghi continues to promise more morphined Koolaid (read record Goldman bonuses) to any banker that comes knocking.

Hope, Hoax, And "Bah Humbug"

With the spigot about to be turned down there will be a marked effect on earnings and profits in American corporations as borrowing costs rise and as all of the gains that could be taken were utilized from our very low interest rate environment. Much of the corporate earnings gains during the last two years did not result from growth but from financial management which was to be anticipated and expected. Those schemes, however, have been brought to an end by the rise in interest rates. In the meantime the Fed, in every manner possible, will try to downplay what Mr. Bernanke has done. The Governors will make speeches. Tidbit swill be handed to the Press. Calming remarks will come from every corner of the great machine and every stock guru on the planet will focus on the Bernanke's remark that the overall economy is improving. Fortunately I have seen this game before exorcised by every Fed during the last forty years. The correct response is, "Bah Humbug" and the correct viewpoint is to watch what they do and not what they say. They will say what suits them. What they do will be a different story.

"Time Is Running Out Fast" For Italy

Everyone knows Europe is insolvent; the only question is "when" will Europe be forced to finally admit this truism. The long overdue house of cards may start toppling in as little as 6 months, as The Telegraph reports, Mediobanca's 'index of solvency risk' suggests "time is running out fast" for Italy. With the breakdown in Eurozone talks on a banking union and the Fed's shift in policy, Europe "has become a dangerous place," warns RBS. Unless Italy can count on low borrowing costs and a broad recovery, it will "inevitably end up in an EU bailout." The current situation is as bad as when the country was blown out of the ERM in 1992 as "the Italian macro situation has not improved...rather the contrary; with 160 large corporates in Italy now in special crisis administration." If the ECB doesn’t act, one analyst warns (pleads) it could see all the gains of the past nine months vanish in two weeks. Mediobanca said the trigger for a blow-up in Italy could be a bail-out crisis for Slovenia or an ugly turn of events in Argentina, which has close links to Italian business. "Argentina in particular worries us, as a new default seems likely."

Global Markets Stabilize Following Thursday Meltdown

After Thursday night's global liquidation fireworks, the overnight trading session was positively tame by comparison. After opening lower, the Nikkei ended up 1.7% driven by a modest jump in the USDJPY. China too noted a drop in its ultra-short term repo and SHIBOR rate, however not due to a broad liquidity injection but because as we reported previously the PBOC did a targeted bail out of one or more banks with a CNY 50 billion injection. Overnight, the PBOC added some more color telling banks to not expect the liquidity will always be plentiful as the well-known transition to a slower growth frame continues. The PBOC also reaffirmed that monetary policy will remain prudential, ordered commercial banks to enhance liquidity management, told big banks that they should play a role in keeping markets stable, and most importantly that banks can't rely on an expansionary policy to solve economic problems. Had the Fed uttered the last statement, the ES would be halted limit down right about now. For now, however, communist China continues to act as the most capitalist country, even if it means the Shanghai Composite is now down 11% for the month of June.

Bonds Versus Stocks - Just Ask Japan

The impact of substantially higher interest rates are not good for the economy or the financial markets going forward.  In the short term consumers, and the financial markets, can withstand small incremental shifts higher in interest rates.  There is clear evidence historically to suggest the same.  However, sustained higher, and rising, interest rates are another matter entirely. Before we get too excited, it is important to keep in perspective the recent "surge" in interest rates that has gotten the market's attention as of late. In reality, this is nothing more than a bounce in a very sustained downtrend. While there is not a tremendous amount of downside left for interest rates to go currently - it also doesn't mean that they are going to substantially rise anytime soon.  Weak economic growth, an aging demographic, rising governmental debt burdens and continued deflationary pressures can keep interest rates suppressed for a very long time.  Just ask Japan.

1994 Redux? But Not In Bonds

In UBS' view, 1994 is critical for guiding investing today. The key point about 1994 was not that US bond yields rose during a global recovery. But that the leverage and positioning built up in previous years, on the assumption that yields would remain low, then got stressed. The central issue, they note, is that a long period of lacklustre growth, low rates and easy money induces individual investors, funds, non-financial corporates and banks to reach for yield. In many cases, they gear up to do it. And as Hyman Minsky warned; in this way, stability breeds leverage, and leverage breeds instability. It is much less likely that we see the US enter a ‘high plateau’ of growth as we saw from 1995-98, where the US saw a powerful productivity & credit fuelled boom while the emerging markets deflated. And it makes it more likely that the US stays on a lower trajectory, interspersed with periodic recessionary slowdowns in the years ahead. The point at which the market realises this would likely herald a significant risk-off event.

Is The Eurozone Crisis Set To Flare Up?

The lack of a centralized constitutional and monetary union has led to several years of inaction in the process of unification of the Euro-zone.  While it was a "grand experiement" to run the Euro-zone under a single currency the underlying structure to make it effective long term was never achieved. There are currently many promises that have been made to the financial system by the ECB.  The question is whether or not they can ultimately "cash the check." While we do not have certain answers as to the where, the who or the when - we are fairly confident that it will be sooner than many currently imagine. We do believe that the ECB will be able to skirt by the ratification of the ESM this coming week and get some limited funding into place, however, we still believe the bigger problem comes at the end of summer when the German voters begin to voice their concerns - after all it is their money that is being wasted.

Press Preview Of German Constitutional Court Decision

Starting today, and continuing through tomorrow, the German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) will consider the legality and conformability of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the ECB’s Outright Monetary Transaction programme (OMT) in particular. What does the press expect will be the outcome of the FCC's deliberations (spoiler alert: nobody will dare to threaten Deutsche Bank's towering mountain of derivatives, all $56 trillion of them, but let's pretend it is exciting). Here is a brief recap via Bruegel Think Tank.

The Most Over/Under-Valued Housing Markets In The World

House prices - with respect to both levels and changes - differ widely across OECD countries. As a simple measure of relative rich or cheapness, the OECD calculates if the price-to-rent ratio (a measure of the profitability of owning a house) and the price-to-income ratio (a measure of affordability) are above their long-term averages, house prices are said to be overvalued, and vice-versa. There are clearly some nations that are extremely over-valued and others that are cheap but as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, it is the UK that stands out as authorities have gone out of their way to prop up house prices - still extremely over-valued (20-30%) - despite being at the epicenter of the global credit bust. Summing up the central bankers anthem, Edwards exclaims: "what makes me genuinely really angry is that burdening our children with more debt to buy ridiculously expensive houses is seen as a solution to the problem of excessively expensive housing." It's not different this time.

Where Do We Stand: Wall Street's View

In almost every asset class, volatility has made a phoenix-like return in the last few days/weeks and while equity markets tumbled Friday into month-end, the bigger context is still up, up, and away (and down and down for bonds). From disinflationary signals to emerging market outflows and from fixed income market developments to margin, leverage, and valuations, here is the 'you are here' map for the month ahead.

Guest Post: Is It Fixable?

In the 15th century, the highest standard of living in the world belonged to China. Places like Nanjing had reached the pinnacle of civilization with incredibly modern infrastructure, robust economies, substantial international trade, great healthcare, and a rising middle class. If you had told a Chinese merchant at the time that, over the course of the next several hundred years, global primacy would shift to Europe (and a relatively unknown American continent), you would have been laughed at. It was simply unthinkable given how advanced China was over the west. And yet, it happened. Ironically, the tables are turning yet again; in total objectivity, the patient is beyond cure at this point… and the math is quite simple. Nations typically enter this vicious cycle once they start having to borrow money just to pay interest on what they already owe. The US is already way past this point.

Is This China's 'Minsky Moment'?

China’s credit growth has been outstripping economic growth for five quarters with the corporate debt bubble looking increasingly precarious (as we explained here and here). This raises one key question: where has the money gone? As SocGen notes, although such divergence is not unprecedented, it potentially suggests a trend that gives greater cause for concern – China is approaching a Minsky moment. At the micro level, SocGen points out that a non-negligible share of the corporate sector and local government financial vehicles are struggling to cover their financial expense. At the macro level, they estimate that China’s debt servicing costs have significantly exceeded underlying economic growth. As a result, the debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity (see CCFDs for a very big example). This is probably where most of China’s missing money went.

 

"Wilful Blindness" And The 3 Bullish Arguments

As the markets elevate higher on the back of the global central bank interventions it is important to keep in context the historical tendencies of the markets over time. Here we are once again with markets, driven by inflows of liquidity from Central Banks, hitting all-time highs. Of course, the chorus of justifications have come to the forefront as to why "this time is different." The current level of overbought conditions, combined with extreme complacency, in the market leave unwitting investors in danger of a more severe correction than currently anticipated. There is virtually no “bullish” argument that will withstand real scrutiny. Yield analysis is flawed because of the artificial interest rate suppression. It is the same for equity risk premium analysis. However, because the optimistic analysis supports the underlying psychological greed - all real scrutiny that would reveal evidence to contrary is dismissed. However, it is "willful blindness" that eventually leads to a dislocation in the markets. In this regard let's review the three most common arguments used to support the current market exuberance.

Is This Why Europe Is Rallying So Hard?

Spanish and Italian stocks are up 3% this week, European sovereign bond spreads are compressing like there's no tomorrow, and Europe's VIX is dropping rapidly. Why? Aside from being a 'Tuesday, we suspect two reasons. First, Hungary's decision to cut rates this morning is the 15th central bank rate cut in May so far which appears to be providing a very visible hand lift to risk assets globally (especially the most junky)' and second, Spain's deficit missed expectations this morning (surprise), worsening still from 2012 and looking set for a significant miss versus both EU expectations (and the phantasm of EU Treaty requirements). As the following chart shows, Spain is not Greece, it is considerably worse, and the worse it gets the closer the market believes we get to Draghi firing his albeit somewhat impotent OMT bazooka and reversing the ECB's balance sheet drag. Of course, direct monetization is all but present via the ECB collateral route and now the chatter is that ABS will see haircuts slashed to keep the spice flowing. What could possibly go wrong?