While the developed world's central banks may enjoy trading FX and stocks, either directly or indirectly, with each other in a demonstration of monetary policy "stability", the historically biggest source of capital inflows into stocks - the retail investor - has once again just said "nein", for the 17th consecutive week, and excluding tiny inflows of $95 million in the week of July 18 and $907 million in the week ended May 30, has pulled money from stocks for an unprecedented 39 consecutive weeks, with $6.6 billion pulled out in the last week, the most since the first week of October. In fact going back to the beginning of 2010, according to ICI, while $44.5 billion has been invested into domestic equity stock funds, $412 billion has been pulled out. Where has the money gone on an almost dollar for dollar basis: bonds, confirming that the New Normal mantra is all about return of capital.
With EURUSD hitting one-month highs, Greek and Spanish government bonds pushing higher day after day, and EU stocks up 5% this week, one could be forgiven for thinking all is well across the pond. Tail-risks removed, firewalls in place, and everything ticking along nicely. The reality, of course, is a rather different picture. As Credit Suisse notes, the apparent inability of the euro area to reach any sort of decision on how best to address Greece’s debtload is far more negative in our view than just its impact on Greece. It speaks, once again, in our view, of the inability for progress at the euro area level in the absence of market pressure. The ECB’s (unactivated) OMT backstop has worked extremely well until now, but the ability of it to continue to do so without progress on the political side is limited in our opinion. As we head into year-end, European storm clouds are building. Meanwhile, the private sector is voting with its feet: German exposure to the periphery continues to fall (down 56% from the peak to the end of September), with exposures to Italy and Spain in particular lower this year. As Santander’s CEO said this week: while the Treasury may not need the Spanish bailout, the Spanish economy and firms do.
Brazil’s aggressive efforts to weaken its currency by buying dollars – about $132 billion since the beginning of 2008 – have left the country with the sixth biggest international reserves in the world, about 80% of which is denominated in the US currency. However, recent turmoil in currency markets and concerns over the global financial crisis and fiat currencies in general has given Brazil’s authorities even more reason to diversify their holdings. It has frequently stated its intention to diversify assets and reduce its exposure to currency risk. Recent sharp weakness in Brazil’s real (see table) and systemic risks are leading central banks, including the BCB to diversify into gold. Brazil raised its gold holdings by 17.2 tonnes in October to 52.5 tonnes, the highest level since January 2001. The move comes on the back of Brazil’s 1.7 tonne increase in September, the country’s first significant gold purchase in a decade. However, there are concerns that the increase in the Brazilian central bank gold holdings' and tonnage are not all that they seem. It appears that the central bank in Brazil has not actually bought London Good Delivery bullion bars but rather fixed term gold deposits with bullion banks. Recently, the Brazilian central bank was asked about their gold reserves and about a section on gold on their website under 'Official Reserve Assets' lists gold as "gold (including gold deposit and, if appropriate, gold swapped)" with a footnote of "Includes available stock of financial gold plus time deposits."
Stopping or scaling back would be "counterproductive" for the economy.
About a month ago, in the third-quarter report of a Canadian global macro fund, its strategist made the interesting observation that “…Four ideas in particular have caught the fancy of economic policy makers and have been successfully sold to the public…” One of these ideas “…that has taken root, at least among the political and intellectual classes, is that one need not fear fiscal deficits and debt provided one has monetary sovereignty…”. This idea is currently growing, particularly after Obama’s re-election. But it was only after writing our last letter, on the revival of the Chicago Plan (as proposed in an IMF’ working paper), that we realized that the idea is morphing into another one among Keynesians: That because there cannot be a gold-to-US dollar arbitrage like in 1933, governments do indeed have the monetary sovereignty. It is not; and in the process of explaining why, we will also describe the endgame for the current crisis... "…We cannot arbitrage fiat money, but we can repudiate the sovereign debt that backs it! And that repudiation will be the defining moment of this crisis…"
The Austrian central bank keeps most of its 280 metric tons of gold reserves in the United Kingdom, Vice Governor Wolfgang Duchatczek was quoted as saying in the finance committee of the country’s parliament today, according to Bloomberg. Answering lawmakers’ questions, Duchatczek said 80%, or 224.4 metric tons of the metal was stored in the U.K., 17% or 48.7 metric tons in Austria and 3% in Switzerland, according to a summary of a closed-door committee meeting provided by the parliament. The reserve has been unchanged since 2007, Duchatczek was quoted as saying. The central bank has earned 300 million euros ($385 million) over the last ten years by lending the gold, he said.
What does the Fed's QE 3, a Spanish default, the systemic crisis in the EU and Lehman all have in common?
At the beginning of World War II, the term "shell shock" was banned by the British Army, though the phrase "postconcussional syndrome" was used to describe similar traumatic conditions. Pick whichever words you like but lately it seems to me that the world’s investors are in this state of economic reaction; shell shocked. Yes, France is downgraded, no decision about Greece, no truce in Gaza, Spain joining Alice in the rabbit hole, recession in Europe, America fiddling about with no resolution in sight and “ho hum, ho hum pass the cookies if you please.” The world’s central banks have manufactured the money, we have enough sloshing about to invest it, corporate earnings are down, well, nevermind, we have to do something with the stuff so we may as well put it somewhere and the investment world lulled into lethargy by all of the shells that have flown overhead and landed nowhere. It is like the investment world is on Xanax where the sea is perceived as dead calm, regardless of the eight foot swells. It all seems very reminiscent of the blase attitude in Spring 2008 to no-doc loans and CDO-cubeds.
The week's most anticipated speech (given Obama's absence from DC) is here. Bernanke's Economic Club of New York extravaganza - where he has previously hinted at new or further policy - is upon us. Sure enough, it's a smorgasbord of we'll do whatever-it-takes (but won't bailout Congress) easing-to-infinity, housing's recovering but we want moar, simply re-iterating his comments from last week...
- *BERNANKE SAYS FISCAL CLIFF WOULD POSE `SUBSTANTIAL THREAT'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CONGRESS, WHITE HOUSE NEED TO AVERT FISCAL CLIFF
- *BERNANKE SAYS FED TO ENSURE RECOVERY IS SECURE BEFORE RATE RISE
- *BERNANKE SAYS HOUSING RECOVERY `LIKELY TO REMAIN MODERATE'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CRISIS REDUCED ECONOMY'S POTENTIAL GROWTH RATE
However, as we have noted previously, once you've gone QE-Eternity, you never go back... and we would this is the 3rd time in a row that someone from the Fed has spoken and stocks have sold off.
You don’t have to be an economic genius to understand that the perpetual uncertainty over the Eurozone’s future has led to a widespread freeze on industrial investment and development. Industrial production is collapsing at an accelerating rate, falling 7% year-on-year in Spain and Greece, 4.8% in Italy, and 2.1% in France. Since the answer to the question of Who will ultimately pick up the tab? when a Eurozone member defaults or leaves is not at all clear, every player there is eyeing the others suspiciously. In fact, the "stability" of Europe right now hinges completely on no one making a move. What odds do you give that Mexican standoff of lasting? Time is working against all countries in the Eurozone because the good are being dragged down by the bad.
Another day, another melt up overnight wiping out all the post-Moody's weakness, this time coming courtesy of Europe, where following the French downgrade, the EURUSD filled its entire gap down and then some in the span of minutes following the European open, when it moved from 1.2775 to 1.2820 as if on command. And with the ES inextricably linked to the most active and levered pair in the world, it is is no surprise to see futures unchanged. It appears that the primary catalyst in the centrally planned market has become the opening of said "market" itself, as all other news flow is now largely irrelevant: after all the central planners have it all under control.
Back in April, we did an extensive analysis of what, in our opinion, is the primary reason for the slow burn experienced by the US, and global economy, and why virtually every liquidity pathway used by central banks is hopeless clogged: the complete lack of capital expenditures at the corporate level, and lack of (re)investment spending. Specifically we said that in both the context of Japan's plunging corporate profitability over the past 30 years despite year after year of record budget deficits, and its implications everywhere else, that "we get back to what we have dubbed the primary cause of all of modern capitalism's problems: a dilapidated, aging, increasingly less cash flow generating asset base! Because absent massive Capital Expenditure reinvestment, the existing asset base has been amortized to the point of no return, and beyond. The problem is that as David Rosenberg pointed out earlier, companies are now forced to spend the bulk of their cash on dividend payouts, courtesy of ZIRP which has collapsed interest income. Which means far less cash left for SG&A, i.e., hiring workers, as temp workers is the best that the current "recovering" economy apparently can do. It also means far, far less cash for CapEx spending. Which ultimately means a plunging profit margin due to decrepit assets no longer performing at their peak levels, and in many cases far worse." Today, with the usual six month or so delay, this fundamental topic has finally made the mainstream media with a WSJ piece titled "Investment Falls Off a Cliff: U.S. Companies Cut Spending Plans Amid Fiscal and Economic Uncertainty."
The yellow metal soared 4.9% in euros in one week from the 11 week low set November 2nd and has since fallen 1.3%. The rebound from the November dip means prices should recover to reach the all-time euro high set last month, before rising to the point-and-figure target at 1,395 euros, said the bank’s research. Point and figure charts estimate trends in prices without showing time. Gold may then reach a Fibonacci level of about 1,421, the 61.8% extension of the May-to-October rally, projected from the November low, Commerzbank wrote in its report on November 13th which was picked up by Bloomberg. Fibonacci analysis is based on the theory that prices climb or drop by certain percentages after reaching a high or low. “What we are seeing is a correction lower, nothing more,” Axel Rudolph, a technical analyst at Commerzbank in London, said by e-mail Nov. 16, referring to the drop since November 9th. Rudolph remains bullish as long as prices hold above the November low at about 1,303 euros. Technical analysts study charts of trading patterns and prices to predict changes in a security, commodity, currency or index.
After 40 years of boozing on easy money and feasting on fantastical asset price inflations, the global monetary system is approaching catharsis, its arteries clogged and instant cardiac arrest a persistent threat. ‘Muddling through’ is the name of the game today but in the end authorities will have two choices: stop printing money and allow the market to cleanse the system of its dislocations. This would involve defaults (including those of sovereigns) and some pretty nasty asset price corrections. Or, keep printing money and risk complete currency collapse. We think they should go for option one but we fear they will go for option two. In this environment, how can people protect themselves and their property? Our three favourite assets are, in no particular order, gold, gold and gold. After that, there may be silver. We are, in our assessment, in the endgame of this, mankind’s latest and so far most ambitious, experiment with unconstrained fiat money. The present crisis is a paper money crisis. Whenever paper money dies, eternal money – gold and silver – stage a comeback. Remember, paper money is always a political tool, gold is market money and apolitical.
In a prior post, we discussed the implications of the global shadow banking system having risen to the unprecedented level of roughly 100% of global GDP. By now it should be quite obvious to even the most jaded optimists, that the reason why traditional leverage conduits are no longer applicable (and the only real source of bank credit creation is the Fed via the hopeless blocked up excess reserve pathway), and why credit money (and hence in a Keynesian world "growth") has to come via deposit-free, unregulated "shadow" venues, is that there are no longer enough good money good assets for conventional secured credit creation, and viable levered projected cash flows for conventional unsecured credit creation. Yet not the entire world has gone all in on this gambit, which together with the Fed's money printing, is truly the last bastion of "money' creation. In fact, as the FRB demonstrated, there are three distinct paradigms when it comes to source of credit creation or as it puts it, "financial structure": the US "massive shadow banking system" way, the German "conventional bank deposits funds loan creation" way, and the Saudi Arabian, and soon everyone else, "central planning to the max" way. In a nutshell, these are the three credit system structure extremes, with everything else currently inbetween. These can be visualized as follows: