Chinese capital markets are quietly turmoiling as debt issues are delayed and demand for "Trust" products - the shadow-banking-system's wealth management 'investments' - is tumbling. As Nikkei reports, since January, 9 companies have postponed or canceled issuance plans (around $1 billion) and is most pronounced in privately-owned companies (who lack an implicit government guarantee). This, of course, is exactly what the PBOC wanted (to instill some fear into these high-yield investors - demand - and thus slow the supply of credit to the riskiest over-capacity compenies) but as non-performing loans in China surge to post-crisis highs, fear remains prescient that they will be unable to "contain" the problem once real defaults begin (as opposed to 'delays of payment' that we have seen so far).
"Take a long, hard look, Janet," warns Grant Williams, "the landscape over which you cast your eyes when you accepted the poisoned chalice prestigious role of Fed Chair changed last week." Just two days before you were confirmed in a rather lovely ceremony, in an interview in Mumbai, Raghuram Rajan (one-time Chief Economist at the IMF and current Governor of the Reserve Bank of India) rather UNceremoniously dropped something of a bombshell that went largely unreported (perish the thought, in this era of dogged journalism). The standout feature of central bank policy over the last five years has been the spirit of cooperation... then came the taper. It is every man for himself now, and the Fed will screw them all. The splintering of central bank policy is just the beginning. This is the end of the innocence.
How quickly emerging markets’ fortunes have turned. Not long ago, they were touted as the salvation of the world economy – the dynamic engines of growth that would take over as the economies of the United States and Europe sputtered. Economists at Citigroup, McKinsey, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and elsewhere were predicting an era of broad and sustained growth from Asia to Africa. But now the emerging-market blues are back. This is not the first time that developing countries have been hit hard by abrupt mood swings in global financial markets. The surprise is that we are surprised. Economists, in particular, should have learned a few fundamental lessons long ago...
Two weeks ago we learned what many had already known just by extrapolating simple trends: in 2013 Chinese net imports of gold from Hong Kong alone rose to over 1000 tons of gold, or 1158 to be precise - 100 tons more than China's official gold holdings of 1054 tons which have not "budged" in the past four years - following another significant net monthly import of 94.8 tons of the precious metal in December (and 126.6 gross). This means total gold imports in 2013 was more than double the 557 tons imported in 2012, and as a result China has now officially surpassed India as the world's biggest buyer of gold (although the title may swing back to India once gold price controls are relaxed, or if the government were to count all the gold smuggled into the country via illegal channels).
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
"The slump in the recent ISM data may be the ?straw in the wind? of what is to come. Certainly the three-month change of the leading indicator has now turned down sharply ? even before the recent ISM data has been incorporated. We watch the unfolding EM crisis with increasing trepidation because we know how this story ends. We have been here before. And even if the Fed resumes massive QE at some point as the world melts down, and markets desperately attempt their return to the dream trance, they will instead find themselves locked into a Freddie Kruger-like nightmare in which phase 3 of this secular bear market takes equity valuations down to levels not seen for a generation." - Albert Edwards
"The shift to ‘tapering’ when the global economy appears under strain now leaves investors in a quandary. The fact that investors have begun to question the effectiveness of further asset purchases and whether much more can be provided without causing financial instability has roiled investor mindsets. The most recent Fed Minutes have unveiled these as valid concerns. The impact of ‘tapering’ along with the challenges exposed in China (Trust securities), Japan (Abenomics and imported energy costs), and EM countries (capital outflows and interest rate hikes) are forming a toxic mix for risk-assets." - ScotiaBank
Today's modest bounce in stocks - considerably removed after-hours - does not provide much hope for those looking to buy the dip with the Dow still down over 1000 points year-to-date. In fact, as we discuss below, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the world... For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable. Consider the following...
"Financial systems are unstable with excessive risk-taking," warns PIMCO's now solo guru Bill Gross, telling Bloomberg TV's Stephanie Ruhle that in a "Soros reflexivity... Once you get the levered system going, it hardly knows when and where to stop." Credit, as we have noted, has been relatively more stable (though less positive on the the way up) Gross notes and "the way to get rich in the past was to borrow money and to lever [up]," but Gross explains that now, "assets are artificially priced... from this point forward, double-digit returns, getting rich on leverage, no. You better look elsewhere for – for your profits," and not Asia. China is "the mystery meat" of emerging market countries, Gross cautions, "nobody knows what’s there and there’s a little bit of baloney."
The biggest fear the market currently has is not the ongoing crisis in the Emerging Markets, not the suddenly slowing economy, not even China's credit bubble popping: it is that Bernanke's successor may have suddenly reverted to the "Old Normal" - a regime in which the Fed is not there to provide the training wheels should the S&P suffer a 5%, 10% or 20% (or more) drop. Whether such fears are warranted will be tested as soon as there is indeed a bear market plunge in stocks - the first in nearly three years (incidentally the topic of the Fed's lack of vacalty was covered in a recent Reuters article). So, assuming that indeed the most dramatic change in market dynamics in the past five years has taken place, how does one trade this new world which is so unfamiliar to so many of today's "younger" (and forgotten by many of the older) traders? And, more importantly, how does one look for the signs of a bottom: an Old Normal bottom that is. Courtesy of Convergex' Nicholas Colas, here is a reminder of what to look forward to, for those who are so inclined, to time the next market inflection point.
"It's not just tapering that is putting pressure on markets," Marc Faber warns in thie brief clip. "Emerging economies have practically no growth and we have a slowdown in China that is more meaningful than strategists are willing to believe," he adds and this is "causing a vicious circle to the downside" in inflated asset markets as most of the growth in the world over the last five years has come from emerging markets. Faber suggests Treasuries as a safe haven in the short-term; but is nervous of their value in the long-term as "debt is becoming burdensome on the system."
Europe has an odd definition of recovery: we already knew that in Greece "recovery" means record high unemployment, an entire generation unable to find work, the return of neo-nazism, no ink with which to print tax forms, and even instances where people infect themselves with HIV to get medical benefits. That, and of course, soaring suicides. Now it is Spain's turn. While the Iberian nation is furiously scrambling to catch up to Greece in terms of sheer economic collapse, even if the government has changed the definition of GDP so many times, somehow Spain dares to look people in the eye and claim its GDP is growing with 26% total, and 54% youth unemployment, one statistic Spain can't change is that the suicide rate has soared and is now the highest in eight years.
Confirming the floating rumor from last week that yet another Wall Streeter from a bailed out company is going to set US economic policy, moments ago the Treasury announced that indeed the Citigroup economist Nathan Sheets - the bank's global head of international economics - will start working next week as a counsellor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. This is the same Sheets, who ten days ago wrote that "our empirical work presents evidence that over the next few years, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields are likely to move toward 5 percent (slightly above our projections for nominal GDP growth) and to stabilize near that level. Our work suggests that Japanese rates may be on a sharply rising trajectory as well, if policymakers there get traction in taming the deflationary demons that have plagued the economy." We already know why the Treasury likes him so much.
According To Bank Of America The Outlook For The Entire World Has "Deteriorated" Due To Cold US WeatherSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/03/2014 14:56 -0400
It really doesn't get funnier than this, and explains the 7 figure comp for the Bank of America authors who can certainly get matching compensation in the comedy circuit. From BofA's Naeem Wahid:
We recommend closing the short EUR/SEK trade that we initiated last week. While Swedish economic data have improved, as we expected, the global outlook has deteriorated – caused by a larger than expected weather effect in the US (the US ISM has fallen to 51.3, from December’s 56.5). As such we close out the trade at 8.8300 (entered at 8.8100) and look to reinitiate once risk appetite turns positive again.
In other words, the outlook for the global economy - that would be the economy of the entire world - has just taken a hit due to cold weather and snowfall during the US winter.... ..... .....
Who stole the people's money?