China’s credit growth has been outstripping economic growth for five quarters with the corporate debt bubble looking increasingly precarious (as we explained here and here). This raises one key question: where has the money gone? As SocGen notes, although such divergence is not unprecedented, it potentially suggests a trend that gives greater cause for concern – China is approaching a Minsky moment. At the micro level, SocGen points out that a non-negligible share of the corporate sector and local government financial vehicles are struggling to cover their financial expense. At the macro level, they estimate that China’s debt servicing costs have significantly exceeded underlying economic growth. As a result, the debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity (see CCFDs for a very big example). This is probably where most of China’s missing money went.
We are told that it’s the youth that is our future. These are the people that supposedly will be governing us one day not in the not too distant future when we sit comfortable doing whatever we have to (or rather, will be able to) do as retirees.
Mervyn King gave a speech in Helsinki Finland today just before he takes retirement from the Bank of England in which he said that both austerity and growth were at fault of grossly exaggerated statements to purely political ends: "This debate has been vastly exaggerated by people who want to make political arguments”. He went on to add that it was a time for common sense.
The Baltic States are unique in Europe in that they went through an austerity crash program a while ago already (beginning right after the 2008 crisis) and have in the meantime recovered strongly. Der Spiegel has an interesting interview with Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite, in which she explains her views on the topic. It can obviously be done successfully. And while we are aware that every case is unique - the problems are not the same in every country, and due to cultural norms and traditions, it may be easier to enact reform in certain countries than others; it seems that no matter how many times Paul Krugman insists that no Baltic nation can possibly be held up as an example, the fact remains that they have imposed fiscal austerity and implemented wide-ranging reform measures and have succeeded.
There have been five developments over the weekend. Which is noise and which the signal ?
A peculiar trading session, in which the usual overnight futures levitation has not been led by the BOJ-inspired USDJPY rise (even as the Nikkei225 rose another 0.6% more than offset by the Shanghai Composite drop of 0.86%), which actually has slid all session briefly dipping under 99 moments ago, but by the EURUSD, which saw a bout of buying around 5 am Eastern, just after news hit that the UK would avoid a triple dip recession with Q1 GDP rising 0.3% versus expectations of a 0.1% rise, up from a -0.3% in Q4 (more in Goldman note below). Since the news that the BOE will likely delay engaging in more QE (just in time for the arrival of Carney) is hardly EUR positive we look at the other news hitting around that time, such as Finland saying that the euro can survive in Cyprus exits the Eurozone, and that Merkel has rejected standardized bank guarantees for the foreseeable future, and we are left scratching our heads what is the reason for the brief burst in the Euro.
After a disastrous few days in early April, bitcoin is back over $100 and up on the month, the year and its short lifetime. ConvergEx's Nick Colas is intrigued and continues to believe that this phenomenon is the most provocative economic experiment since the invention of the euro and well worth watching. The next chapter of the story, he believes, will be the entry of a host of "Smart money" venture capitalists looking to build the currency's infrastructure. Money and currency are exactly the kind of large, scalable and complex opportunity that gets VCs very, very excited. Yes, it could all still end in tears, either by regulation or mismanagement. But bitcoin isn’t dead just yet, and it remains one of the most potentially disruptive forces in modern finance. In summary, bitcoin is what he calls a "Beta currency." How it all shakes out, however, will be both instructive to watch and potentially profitable for those on the right side of this very novel trade.
With the entire world's attention focused on Boston, the FX carry pair traders knew they had a wide berth to push futures, courtesy of some EURUSD and USDJPY levitation overnight, which started following news out of Japan that the G-20 would have no objection to its big monetary stimulus - of course they don't: they encourage it: just look at the levitation in the global wealth effect stock markets since it started. The Friday humor started early: "Japan explained that its monetary policy is aimed at achieving price stability and economic recovery, and therefore is in line with the G20 agreement in February," Aso told reporters. "There was no objection to that at the meeting." "We explained (at the G20 meeting) that we're convinced that the measures we're taking will be good for the global economy as they will help revive Japanese growth," Aso said. And by global economy he of course means stocks. Shortly thereafter, when Europe opened, the real levitation started as someone, somewhere had to offset what would otherwise be a 100 point plunge in the DJIA just on IBM's miserable results alone. Sure enough what better way to do that than with a wholesale market "tide" offsetting one or two founder boats.
As we have vociferously warned since September 2011, and most recently as the Cyprus debacle exploded explained why it is just beginning, Germany's Council of Economic Experts (or so-called 'Five Wise Men') just confirmed a wealth tax is coming. As the Telegraph reports, confirming our expectations, Germany warns that states in trouble must pay more for their own salvation, arguing that there is enough wealth in homes and private assets across the Mediterranean to cover bail-out costs. They further added that targeting deposit-holders is also a mistake, since the "resourceful rich just move their money to banks in northern Europe and avoid paying," preferring instead taxes on property or other less-mobile assets, "for example, over the next 10 years, the rich should give up a portion of their assets." As we noted here and here, the differences between mean and median wealth in the peripheral nations suggest that people in the bailed-out countries are often better-off than those in Germany - - "this shows that Germany has been right to take a tough line of euro rescue loans." However, the implications of a wealth tax - implicitly impacting the pro-euro Southern European uber-rich - raises the specter of EU breakup once again.
You can almost hear the snickering among European politicians.
Everyone learned a lesson from Cyprus, painful ones. German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
There are many lessons and implications from the Cypriot crisis (we list 25 here). Among the most important is that conditionality is back, energetically, which is very important when considering the circumstances under which other, bigger, countries might access ESM or OMT. We believe, like BNP's James Mortimer-Lee, that the market has been too complacent, seeing OMT and “whatever it takes” as unconditional – that’s wrong. A second lesson is that a harsher line is being taken by the core. This partly reflects more effective firewalls, so that core countries are more willing to “burn” the private sector, where doing so does not represent a serious systemic risk. Cyprus may not be a template, but we have seen enough to glimpse what the new pan eurozone bank resolution system could look like. Risk for certain classes of stakeholders in banks has risen. We are a long way from seeing the eurozone crisis resolved.
Mainstream Media Says Cyprus Salvaged By EU Deal, I Say Cyprus Is Sacrificed By Said Deal - Thrown Into DepressionSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 03/25/2013 11:29 -0400
The IMF offered Cyprus a bailout with no specific amount or even range and no time period while in the process gutting confidence in the banking system by robbing depositors and imposing losses on bondholders. A Damn good plan if I ever heard one!!
The wave of social unrest that rumbled across Europe between 2008 and 2011 has become less intense. This has come as a cause for relief in financial markets, as it has helped to underpin the marginalization of ‘tail risk’ already addressed by the ECB and the Greek debt restructuring. And yet the latest crisis over the Cyprus bail-out/bail-in not only shoots an arrow into the heart of the principles of an acceptable banking union arrangement, if it could ever be agreed, but also signifies the deep malaise in the complex and fragile trust relationships between European citizens and their governments and institutions. Some people argue that protest, nationalist and separatist movements are just ‘noise’, that the business of ‘fixing Europe’ is proceeding regardless, and that citizens are resigned to the pain of keeping the Euro system together. UBS' George Magnus is not convinced, even if public anger is less acute now than in the past, it is far from dormant, and its expression is mostly unpredictable. So is the current lull in social unrest a signal that the social fabric of Europe is more robust than we thought, or (as we suggested 14 months ago) is the calm deceptive?
While this kind of 'wealth tax' has been predicted, as we noted yesterday, this stunning move in Cyprus is likely only the beginning of this process (which seems only stoppable by social unrest now). To get a sense of both what just happened and what its implications are, RBS has put together an excellent summary of everything you need to know about what the Europeans did, why they did it, what the short- and medium-term market reaction is likely to be, and the big picture of this "toxic policy error." As RBS summarizes, "the deal to effectively haircut Cypriot deposits is an unprecedented move in the Euro crisis and highlights the limits of solidarity and the raw economics that somebody has to pay. It is also the most dangerous gambit that EMU leaders have made to date." And so we await Europe's open and what to expect as the rest of the PIIGSy Banks get plundered.