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.
Ben Bernanke’s skin is as thin, apparently, as is his comprehension of honest economics. The emphasis is on the “honest” part because he is a fount of the kind of Keynesian drivel that passes for economics in the financially deformed world that the Bernank did so much to bring about.
The law of unintended consequences is becoming ever more prominent in the economic sphere, as the world becomes exponentially more complex with every passing year. Just as a network grows in complexity and value as the number of connections in that network grows, the global economy becomes more complex, interesting, and hard to manage as the number of individuals, businesses, governmental bodies, and other institutions swells, all of them interconnected by contracts and security instruments, as well as by financial and information flows. It is hubris to presume, as current economic thinking does, that the entire economic world can be managed by manipulating one (albeit major) subset of that network without incurring unintended consequences for the other parts of the network.
Today is shaping up to be a rerun of yesterday where another frenzied Asian session that has seen both the Shanghai Composite and the Nikkei close higher yet again (following the weakest Chinese HSBC mfg PMI in one year which in an upside down world means more easing and thus higher stocks) has for now led to lower US equity futures with the driver, at least in the early session, being a statement by the BOJ's Kuroda that there’s a "possibility" the Bank of Japan’s 2% inflation target will be delayed and may occur in April 2016.
GE’s announcement that its getting out of the finance business should be a reminder of how crony capitalism is corrupting and debilitating the American economy. The ostensible reason the company is unceremoniously dumping its 25-year long build-up of the GE Capital mega-bank is that it doesn’t want to be regulated by Washington as a systematically important financial institution under Dodd-Frank. Oh, and that its core industrial businesses have better prospects. We will see soon enough about its oilfield equipment and wind turbine business, or indeed all of its capital goods oriented businesses in a radically deflationary world drowning in excess capacity. But at least you can say good riddance to GE Capital because it was based on a phony business model that was actually a menace to free market capitalism. Its deplorable raid on the public purse during the Lehman crisis had already demonstrated that in spades.