"As interest rates go more negative, market participants will have increasing incentives to make payments quickly and to receive payments in forms that can be collected slowly. This is exactly the opposite of what happened when short-term interest rates skyrocketed in the late 1970s: people then wanted to delay making payments as long as possible and to collect payments as quickly as possible.... if interest rates go negative, we may see an epochal outburst of socially unproductive—even if individually beneficial—financial innovation."
"Every day brings another reason why the Federal Reserve should hold off before raising interest rates... First and foremost there was the recent plunge in stock prices."
In short, activist Fed policy is both ineffective and reckless (and the historical data bears this out), and that the Federal Reserve has pushed the financial markets to a precipice from which no gentle retreat is ultimately likely. Similar precipices, such as 1929 and 2000, and even lesser precipices like 1906, 1937, 1973 and 2007 have always had unfortunate endings. A quarter-point hike will not cause anything. The causes are already baked in the cake. A rate hike may be a trigger with respect to timing, but that’s all. History suggests we should place our attention on valuations and market internals in any event.
The market has delivered a warning shot in August, but it seems investors aren’t taking it seriously yet. This could turn out to be a costly mistake. If (or rather when) faith in the omnipotence of central banks crumbles, we could see an unusually severe market dislocation.
The chart below warrants the question: if an even modest slowdown in Europe's pace of credit creation resulted in unprecedented economic and social upheavals for the "southern" part of the continent, what happens when deleveraging finally hits one of the other places around the globe, be it the BRICs in particular, the EMs in general, or - heaven forbid - the US itself.
More debt begets higher market value of equites which in turn improves the debt/equity ratio which gives the incentive to issue more debt ad infinitum. Or in a slightly simpler version, debt begets more debt. We have seen the story before. In the shaded grey areas we highlight episodes when the virtuous relationship turns ferociously vicious. Remember, markets take the escalator up, but the elevator down. And the longer the escalator the further down the elevator goes.
There is no doubt that the Chinese economy is in a material economic slowdown. Policy officials’ aggressive actions and scare tactics against equity short sellers could continue to cause capital flight. However, this does not mean that China is going to sell large quantities of Treasuries. There is too much co-dependency between the US consumer and Chinese exporter. Destabilizing the US Treasury market with large sales would be tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot.
Ben Bernanke and his cohort central bankers built a Brave New World (SOMA, SOMA, SOMA!) where central bank money printing would boost stock prices and the wealth created would trickle down to workers and cause a booming economy. If you doubted that, you are now seeing proof that maybe this world was a little bit of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland along with the Aldous Huxley.
In almost all cases, including the most recent rise, the intermittent change in psychology that drove interest rates higher in the short run, occurred despite weakening inflation. There was, however, always a strong sentiment that the rise marked the end of the bull market, and a major trend reversal was taking place. This is also the case today. Presently, four misperceptions have pushed Treasury bond yields to levels that represent significant value for long-term investors. While Treasury bond yields have repeatedly shown the ability to rise in response to a multitude of short-run concerns that fade in and out of the bond market on a regular basis, the secular low in Treasury bond yields is not likely to occur until inflation troughs and real yields are well below long-run mean values.
There is hardly a better signal that inflection points in asset classes have been reached than major shifts in capital in/outflows. As a reminder, Bank of America has practically made a career of dragging out the old "great rotation" canard every time there has been a, well, great rotation, out of bonds and into stocks for the past 4 years... only to always top (and bottom) tick said capital flows. Overnight it did it again, when it reported that based on EPFR data, bond funds just suffered the biggest weekly outflow in 2 years of some $10.3 billion matched by a $10.8 billion inflow into stock funds: the largest since March.
The key events on tap for next week.
Financial markets in the United States and around the world are all waiting with “bated breath” for when the Federal Reserve modifies its “easy money” policy and starts to raise interest rates. No one, however, asks a simple question: Why is the American central bank in the interest rate setting business?
During “normal times” – an economic growth phase accompanied or generated by rising systemic leverage – central banks have incentive to promote nominal growth and inflation, which make banking systems profitable and their free-spending political overseers happy. In such times, commercial banks have fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders to constantly increase their market values, which they do by expanding their balance sheets. Now that economies are highly leveraged, extinguishing debt would require banks to reduce the sizes of their loan books, which would shrink their market values. Thus, it seems economic policy makers never have incentive to promote debt extinguishment in the banking system, regardless of economic conditions or prospects.
Will global QE carry on forever...the next month may give out some clues..will it be Junemaggedon after we had May-hem??
"Those who might want to borrow are no longer creditworthy due to excessive debt and/or stagnant income, or those who qualify to borrow more are not interested in borrowing more at any interest rate: they are done with debt." The Fed can push interest rates down and make it easy for banks to loan more money, but it can't (yet) force us to borrow money we don't want or need.