Before taking a look at Europe, an update on China. Just a few short hours ago, when looking at the bursting of the Chinese bubble where stocks were down between 3% and 5% across the board in the first post-holiday trading session after the worst week in 7 years, we said that "without assistance (levitation) from the same PBOC that just clamped down on liquidity, the China bubble has burst." And then as if by request, minutes later we got, drumroll, levitation and the stickiest stick-save by the PBOC seen in months, when the Shanghai Composite staged an unprecedented 7% surge from the lows to close 2.2% higher after tumbling as much as 5% earlier in the session. And just like that, faith in the "wealth effect" is preserved.
We believe that the above chart is telling us that this Super Cycle of leveraging is ending. What's coming next won't be pretty.
"We have a problem with this, and that is central bank hubris. They now think that they are omnipotent, because, essentially the government has said we are going to pass over all control of the economy to the central banks, they say to everybody else including financial market participants that “you don’t know, you don’t understand, we have our models and they are right”. And that kind of hubristic approach is when you sow the seeds of your own destruction."
After 27 years, honest price discovery has been destroyed, thereby reducing the nerve centers of capitalism - the money and capital markets - to little more than gambling casinos. Accordingly, speculative rent-seeking in the financial arena has replaced enterprenurial innovation and supply side investment and productivity as the modus operandi of the US economy. This has resulted in a severe diminution of main street growth and a massive redistribution of windfall wealth to the tiny share of households which own most of the financial assets. Warren Buffett’s $73 billion net worth is the poster boy for this untoward state of affairs. The massive and systematic falsification of asset prices which lies at the heart of this deformation of capitalism is a direct and unavoidable consequence of monetary central planning.
Following API's considerably larger than expeted inventory draw last night, DOE reported a huge 6.81 million barrel draw (against expectations of a 3.46mm barrel draw). This is the biggest inventory draw in 11 months. In addition production rose once again (up 0.25%) to new record highs at 9.61mm bbl/day. Crude prices are holding gains after this.
The world’s financial system is saturated with speculations fostered by nearly two-decades of central bank credit inflation. Just since 2006, the footings of central bank balance sheets have expanded from $6 trillion to upwards of $22 trillion. That’s all combustible monetary fuel that cannot be recalled; it can only be liquidated in the course of a monumental meltdown in the casino. So, yes, after the carnage of the past few days the global sovereign bond index has lost $625 billion since the bond bubble peak in late March. Call that spring training.
It is hard to believe that in these allegedly enlightened times this question even needs to be asked. Are there really educated adults who believe that by dropping helicopter money conjured from thin air, the central bank can actually make society wealthier? Well, yes there are. They spread this lunacy from the most respectable MSM platforms.
Something BIG is afoot: we are seeing multi-decade breakouts in numerous currency pairs.
It’s not monetary easing, but the attitude of investors toward risk that distinguishes an overvalued market that continues higher from an overvalued market that is vulnerable to vertical losses. That window of vulnerability has been open for several months now, and the immediacy of our downside concerns would ease (despite obscene valuations) only if market internals and credit spreads were to shift back toward evidence of investor risk-seeking. Eventually, the final refuge of speculation is to abandon historically reliable measures wholesale, resting faith instead on the advent of some new era in which the old rules simply don’t apply.
This is jut one small part of the massive $9 trillion in US Dollars that has been borrowed and invested elsewhere. To put this number into perspective, it’s larger than the economies of Germany and Japan combined.
That the Fed and other central banks have unleashed the speculative furies is an unassailable and baleful reality. What is going on here plain and simple is a one-sided game of chicken. The robo-traders and hedge fund buccaneers on Wall Street press the market higher on virtually no volume or conviction whenever macro-economic weakness presents itself, virtually daring the Fed to maintain is ultra-accommodative stance still longer. The casino gamblers will keep chop, chop choppin’ higher until they finally lose confidence that the Eccles building is heaven’s door to further riches. Then the machines will sell, sell, sell. There will be no credible Fed speakers to stop them.
We have called this a tale of two graphs. But what it really describes is a clear and present danger to American capitalism fostered by an unelected monetary politburo in thrall to its own lust for power and mesmerized by its own doctrinaire group think. The tragedy is that nothing can stop them except the thundering crash of the gargantuan bubble they have single handedly enabled.
In welfare state America its virtually certain that through one artifice or another taxes will go up and the national debt burden will rise to crushing heights in order to keep the baby boomers’ entitlements funded. While Keynesians and Wall Street stock peddlers are clueless about the implications of this - it actually doesn’t take too much common sense to get the drift. Namely, under a long-term path of fewer producers, higher taxes and more public debt, the prospects for rejuvenating the previous historically average rates of real output growth are somewhere between slim and none - to say nothing of the super-normal rates implied by the markets’ current bullish enthusiasm.
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!
During the heyday of post-war prosperity between 1953 and 1971, real final sales - a better measure of economic growth than GDP because it filters out inventory fluctuations - grew at a 3.6% annual rate. That is exactly double the 1.8% CAGR recorded for 2000-2014. The long and short of it, therefore, is that there has been a dramatic downshift in the trend rate of economic growth during an era in which central bank intervention and stimulus has been immeasurably enlarged. How exactly is the Fed helping when the trend rate of real growth has withered dramatically?