As of today, we now have three consecutive quarters of tightening lending standards. In fact, based on the latest survey, net lending standards tightened even more than during Q4 as shown in the chart below, and are now the tightest on net since the financial crisis. Needless to say, if a recession and a default cycle has always followed two quarters of tighter lending conditions, three quarters does not make it better.
Think back over the last 10 years - how different was your life in April 2006? While you may think your daily existence is largely the same (maybe the kids are older or you’re married now, but that about it…), consider what was actually different about your life in the spring of 2006:No iPhone;No Facebook (unless you were in college at the time); No Twitter; No Instagram; No Kim Kardashian; No Uber; No iPad.
While the Arab countries floated themselves on oceans of petro-dollars forty years ago, they have little need for them now. So we must now turn our attention to China, which is well positioned to act as white knight to Saudi Arabia. China’s SAFE sovereign wealth fund could easily swallow the Aramco stake, and there are good strategic reasons why it should. A quick deal would help stabilise a desperate financial and political situation on the edges of China’s rapidly growing Asian interests, and keep Saudi Arabia onside as an energy supplier. China has dollars to dispose, and a mutual arrangement would herald a new era of tangible cooperation. The US can only stand and stare as China teases Saudi Arabia away from America’s sphere of influence.
It has already been a very bad several years for hedge funds with 2016 starting off especially brutally, when moments ago we learned that it is about to get even worse for one of the most iconic names in the macro hedge fund space, Brevan Howard, which according to Bloomberg has been served with $1.4 billion in cash redemption requests.
"Central banks are mistaken. They think they’re targeting employment and inflation,” he continued. “They’re actually targeting asset prices and leverage.” When asset values rise, inflation and employment gradually increase. When assets fall, inflation collapses; it’s a coincidental variable. “At these levels of asset prices, it takes a lot of leverage to lift them further.” So the second central banks see a little inflation and curb leverage, rates rise and it all unwinds. “The only way to make money this year is to understand this sequence, and trade it.”
It's not just Halliburton ("What we are experiencing today is far beyond headwinds; it is unsustainable") and Intel (12,000 layoffs amid re-evaluation of programs) that are facing up to a new normal very different from expectations. As Avondale Asset Management notes, having poured over 100s of earnings transcripts, while most CEOs don’t see signs of an imminent downturn, the environment still feels a little fragile. It seems that almost everyone is on high alert for a macro curve-ball...
"The ECB stands ready to buy bonds from Euro Area issuers even when their parent companies are outside of the bloc. Already we can find a number of US, UK and Swiss headquartered names that issue out of SPVs incorporated in the Euro Area. If this trend to SPV issuance catches on, then the ECB’s policies will likely be very reflationary for all credit markets across the globe, and because of a likely refinancing wave – equity markets too."
The stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now. Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even mainstream media is reporting on it...