It's been quite a morning. Beats across the board at the macro headline level. Housing (prices and sales), check; Durable Goods, check; Confidence, check; Richmond Fed, check. So why are stocks not surging?
The mere mention that tapering was even possible, combined with the Chairman's fairly sunny disposition (perhaps caused by the realization that the real mess will likely be his successor's problem to clean up) was enough to convince the market that the post-QE world was at hand. This conclusion is wrong. Although many haven't yet realized it, the financial markets are stuck in a "Waiting for Godot" era in which the change in policy that all are straining to see, will never in fact arrive. Most fail to grasp the degree to which the "recovery" will stall without the $85 billion per month that the Fed is currently pumping into the economy. Of course, when the Fed is forced to make this concession, it should be obvious to a critical mass that the recovery is a sham.
We have warned a number of times that China is a ticking time-bomb (and the PBoC finds itself between a housing-bubble rock and reflationary liquidity injection hard place) but the collapse of trust in the interbank funding markets suggests things are coming to a head quickly. The problem the administration has is re-surging house prices and a clear bubble in credit (as BofAML notes that they suspect that May housing numbers might have under-reported the true momentum in the market since local governments are pressured to control local prices) that they would like to control (as opposed to exaggerate with stimulus). As we noted here, while the PBOC may prefer to be more selective with their liquidity injections (read bank 'saves' like ICBC last night) due to the preference to control the housing bubble, when they finally fold and enter the liquidity market wholesale, the wave of reflation will rapidly follow (and so will the prices of precious metals and commodities).
The biggest bond fund manager on the planet likely had a bad day today and judging by his comments during the following Bloomberg TV interview, he is not too impressed with the current Fed head, who is "driving in a fog," or the front-runner to fill Ben's shoes, Yellen "is a Siamese twin in terms of policy... [preferring someone] who would emphasize Main Street as well as Wall Street - which has been the emphasis for the past three or four years." The mistake the Fed is making, Gross explains, "is blaming lower growth on fiscal austerity and expects towards the end of the year once that is gone, all of the sudden the economy will be growing at 3%," or more simply the error of their policy-making ways is "to think that is a cyclical as opposed to a structural problem in terms of our economy." The bottom-line is that Gross sees less Taper (due to disinflation) and warns "those who are selling treasuries in anticipation that the Fed will ease out of the market might be disappointed."
The 20th century could be categorized as THE century when communications took off and we started living in each other’s pockets. Lives had been ruined by war, trouble and strife. Wealth had been redistributed beyond belief. There were no longer just a few that were making the profits, but there were growing classes of people that wanted recognition.
Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase control 67.87% of 1-4 Family First Liens NPLs yet only had 32.62% of the charge offs in the quarter.
The fact of the matter is, QE policies are really not so different from how central banks functioned back in the “old-normal” days of the earlier 2000s. They still just bought an asset and paid for it by increasing the money supply. One critical difference is that in order to increase the money supply by as much as they did, the central banks of the world had to change the scope of assets they were willing to buy. Herein lays the rub. By expanding its range of acceptable assets, the Fed created a market for these assets that did not exist. As a result it maintained their prices above which the market deemed necessary to clear – an essential occurrence in market economies. Instead, by expanding its asset purchases through quantitative easing policies, the effects we see are unreasonable prices among some financial assets, and a housing sector unable to sell its unsold inventory.
How Another Housing Bubble Was Blown … And Why
The airwaves are full of stories of economic recovery. One trumpeted recently has been the rapid recovery in housing, at least as measured in prices. The problem is, a good portion of the rebound in house prices in many markets has less to do with renewed optimism, new jobs, and rising wages, and more to do with big money investors fueled by the ultra-cheap money policies of the Fed. It seems entirely wrong that the Fed bailed out big banks and made money excessively cheap for institutions, and that this is being used to price ordinary people out of the housing market. Said another way, the Fed prints fake money out of thin air, and some companies use that same money to buy real things like houses and then rent them out to real people trying to live real lives. At the same time, we are also beginning to see the very same hedge funds that have re-inflated these prices slink out of the market now that the party is kicking into higher gear – all while new buyers are increasingly having to abandon prudence to buy into markets where the fundamentals simply aren't there to merit it. Didn't we just learn a few short years ago how this all ends?
In almost every asset class, volatility has made a phoenix-like return in the last few days/weeks and while equity markets tumbled Friday into month-end, the bigger context is still up, up, and away (and down and down for bonds). From disinflationary signals to emerging market outflows and from fixed income market developments to margin, leverage, and valuations, here is the 'you are here' map for the month ahead.
The Great Economic Transformation! The Chinese are suckers for adjectives to describe and give power and eminence to their attributes, actions or constructions. The Long March. The Cultural Revolution. The Great Wall, the Yellow River. A good adjective always makes it sound as if it’s true. The Chinese have taken over as the superlative attributor to everything. The tallest (soon-to-be) building in China, the Shanghai Tower, is the living proof that China plans on making itself into a byword for superlatives it’s ‘–est’ everything these days.
The spin-doctors are hard at work talking up America’s subpar economic recovery. All eyes are on households. Thanks to falling unemployment, rising home values, and record stock prices, an emerging consensus of forecasters, market participants, and policymakers has now concluded that the American consumer is finally back. Don’t believe it. In short, the American consumer’s nightmare is far from over. Spin and frothy markets aside, the healing has only just begun.
As the global equity and bond markets grind ever higher, abundant signs exist that we are once again living through an asset bubble – or rather a whole series of bubbles in a variety of markets. This makes this period quite interesting, but also quite dangerous. This can be summarized in one sentence: How could this be happening again so soon?
Read 'Em and Weep
China is in the midst of an urban revolution, with hundreds of millions of migrants moving into cities every year. Since 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens (690 million people) are living in cities. Another 300-400 million are expected to be added to China's cities in the next 15-20 years. New Premier Li Keqiang recently proposed accelerating urbanization in China, and said urbanization is a “huge engine” of China’s future economic growth. Yet, China’s urban dream may be derailed by the lack of affordable housing in cities for the massive influx of urban residents.