Since Alan Greenspan became the Fed chairman in 1987, there has been a policy consensus on the primary role and effectiveness of monetary policy in cushioning an economic downturn and kicking it back to growth. Fiscal policy, due to the political difficulties in making meaningful changes, was relegated to a minor role in economic management. Staving off crisis and reviving growth still dominate today's conversation. The prima facie evidence is that the experiment has failed. The dominant voice in policy discussions is advocating more of the same. When a medicine isn't working, it could be the wrong one or the dosage isn't sufficient. The world is trying the latter. But, if the medicine is really wrong, more and more of the same will kill the patient one day. The global economy was a debt bubble, functioning on China over-borrowing and investing and the West over-borrowing and consuming. The dynamic came to an end when the debt crises exposed debt levels in the West as too high. The last source of debt growth, the U.S. government, is coming to an end, too, as politics forces it to reduce the deficit. Trying to bring back yesterday through monetary growth will eventually bring inflation, not growth.
It is hard to find a policymaker who hasn’t actively tried to talk his currency down. The few who don’t talk, act as if they were intent on driving their currency lower. Citi's Steven Englander argues below that the ‘currency wars’ impact is collective monetary/liquidity easing. Collective easing is not neutral for currencies, the USD and JPY tend to fall when risk appetite grows while other currencies appreciate. Moreover, despite the rhetoric on intervention, we think that direct or indirect intervention is credible only in countries where domestic asset prices are undervalued and CPI/asset price inflation are not issues. In other countries, intervention can boost domestic asset prices and borrowing and create more medium-term economic and asset price risk than conventional currency overvaluation would. So the MoF/BoJ may be credible in their intervention, but countries whose economies and asset markets are performing more favorably have much more to lose from losing control of asset markets. So JPY and, eventually CHF, are likely to fall, but if the RBA or BoC were to engage in active intervention they may find themselves quickly facing unfavorable domestic asset market dynamics.
The Chinese economy has been enjoying a cyclical rebound since the beginning of Q4 2012. SocGen's central scenario is that this recovery will last until early Q2 2013 and then gradually lose momentum. In the medium term, they still anticipate a bumpy path of secular deceleration, leading to an average growth rate of 6-7% over the next five to seven years, down from 10% per annum over the last three decades. This piece focuses on what is probably the most popular “what-if” question about the Chinese economy – what if China hard lands (with real GDP growth rate plummets to below 6%)? As China undergoes demographic ageing and growth of the working-age population slows, this minimum stable growth level will decline further. However, if progress in rebalancing and structural reform remains slow, the probability of a hard landing will rise over the medium term. In the tail risk scenario set out below, 2013 will see several quarters with just 3% growth and full year growth would stand at just 4.2%, but what are th triggers, how would it evolve, how would the government respond, and how bad could things get?
We could say that news is actually relevant or matters in this "market" but we would be lying, just as we would be lying if we said that this market has not become so utterly predictable, with yesterday's late day market surge - on yet another ridiculous catalyst - visible from so far away, it was almost painful to watch it take place in real time. Sure enough, futures are now sliding back, and giving back much of yesterday's gains - but don't worry, in a day full of even more meetings and flashing red headlines, at least some combination of carefully phrased MSM words will set off today's algo-driven buying frenzy, guaranteeing yet another "retail investor" decides they have had it with this farcical "free market" casino for ever.
Today, Spain barely functions as a country. Basic services have shut down. The entire banking system is on life support. And yet banks and the stock market are ralling.
How much phantom housing collateral is still on the books? Nobody knows, and that in itself renders the housing/mortgage sector fragile.
The greater story behind Mark Carney’s appointment to the Bank of England may be the completion of Goldman Sachs’ multi-tentacled takeover of the European regulatory and central banking system. But let’s take a moment to look at the mess he is leaving behind in Canada, the home of moose, maple syrup, Jean Poutine and now colossal housing bubbles. George Osborne (who as I noted last month wants more big banks in Britain) might have recruited Carney on the basis of his “success” in Canada. But in reality he is just another Greenspan — a bubble-maker and reinflationist happy to pump the banking sector full of loose money and call it “prosperity” before the irrational exuberance runs dry, and the bubble inevitably bursts.
Following some well-timed 'suggestions' in Natural Gas and Apple this year, the new bond guru has some rather more concerning views about the future of America. Reflecting on a dismal outlook progressing due to the fact that "Retirees take resources from a society, and workers produce resources", Gundlach has cut his exposure to US equities (apart from gold-miners and NatGas producers) noting their expensive valuation and low potential for growth. In a forthcoming Bloomberg Markets interview, the DoubleLine CEO warns we are about to enter the ominous third phase of the current debacle (Phase 1: a 27-year buildup of corporate, personal and sovereign debt. That lasted until 2008, when Phase 2 started, unfettered lending finally toppled banks and pushed the global economy into a recession, spurring governments and central banks to spend trillions of dollars to stimulate growth) as deeply indebted countries and companies, which Gundlach doesn’t name, will default sometime after 2013. "I don’t believe you’re going to get some sort of an early warning," Gundlach warns "You should be moving now."
Many politicians and commentators such as Paul Krugman claim that Europe's problem is austerity, i.e., there is insufficient government spending. The common argument goes like this: Due to a reduction of government spending, there is insufficient demand in the economy leading to unemployment, which means aggregate demand falls even more, causing a fall in government revenues and an increase in government deficits. European governments pressured by Germany then reduce government spending even further, lowering demand by laying off public employees and cutting back on government transfers. This reduces demand even more in a never ending downward spiral of misery. First of all, is there really austerity in the eurozone? One would think that a person is austere when she saves, i.e., if she spends less than she earns. Well, there exists not one country in the eurozone that is austere. Public austerity is a necessary condition for private flourishing and a rapid recovery. The problem of Europe (and the United States) is not too much but too little austerity — or its complete absence. The reduction of government spending makes real resources available for the private sector that formerly had been absorbed by the state.
After recently selling the most expensive per-square-foot residential property in the world recently, the liquidity slooshing around the world has been modestly stymied by Hong Kong's curbs on home-buying in the world's most expensive market. But there is always a greater fool to sell to, right? So, that Fed-sponsored liquidity has found a new yield-grabbing spot - parking spaces! Average HK parking space prices have started to surge (up 6.7% in Q3) to its second highest on record and as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, a parking space in the exclusive Repulse Bay are sold for $387,000 (yes, that's a place to park your car; and no, it doesn't come with a happy ending) - double the average US home price! "There's just too much liquidity in the market," said Simon Lo, Hong Kong-based executive director of research and advisory at property broker Colliers International. "The government has set up a firewall for residential properties, but all this money still needs to find a place." Once again we are reminded of the Fed mantra - repeat in monotone: 'there is no inflation and money-printing has no adverse effect'.
Greece? Sorry, what’s with Greece? French downgrade. Unexpected, but then again not that much. So what? Fiscal Cliff? As no one speaks about it, it can be ignored. Risk? If it doesn’t fall, it has to rise.
"Rise To The Occasion" (Bunds 1,43% +2; Spain 5,7% -9; Stoxx 2518 +0,4%; EUR 1,282 +10)
Or Maybe the Biggest of All Time ...
The week's most anticipated speech (given Obama's absence from DC) is here. Bernanke's Economic Club of New York extravaganza - where he has previously hinted at new or further policy - is upon us. Sure enough, it's a smorgasbord of we'll do whatever-it-takes (but won't bailout Congress) easing-to-infinity, housing's recovering but we want moar, simply re-iterating his comments from last week...
- *BERNANKE SAYS FISCAL CLIFF WOULD POSE `SUBSTANTIAL THREAT'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CONGRESS, WHITE HOUSE NEED TO AVERT FISCAL CLIFF
- *BERNANKE SAYS FED TO ENSURE RECOVERY IS SECURE BEFORE RATE RISE
- *BERNANKE SAYS HOUSING RECOVERY `LIKELY TO REMAIN MODERATE'
- *BERNANKE SAYS CRISIS REDUCED ECONOMY'S POTENTIAL GROWTH RATE
However, as we have noted previously, once you've gone QE-Eternity, you never go back... and we would this is the 3rd time in a row that someone from the Fed has spoken and stocks have sold off.
Unwilling to sacrifice their sovereignty at the altar of the ECB's contingent OMT (and unable to wrench 'help' from their previously colonized friends in Latin America; it seems Rajoy and friends are more than willing to sacrifice their actual land... and citizenship in order to maintain their 'independence'. Reuters reports that Spain is considering offering rich investors from countries such as Russia and China the right to settle in return for them buying up property in the stagnant housing sector. For buying property worth as little as $200,000, wealthy foreigners could be offered a residency permit, the country's commerce secretary said on Monday. This is the same nation with near 11% loan delinquencies, greater-than-50% youth unemployment, and a bad-bank loaded with heavily discounted real-estate assets that are still too expensive to encourage investors, and an ever-present devaluation risk hanging over its paralyzed economy. We wonder how the other nations of the EU will feel about Spain 'diluting' the citizen-asset pool with this new non-tax-paying, non-labor-utilizing 'wealth'. How long before Greece sells plots on Santorini (w/passport)?
Moments ago Ben Bernanke released a speech titled "Challenges in Housing and Mortgage Markets" in which he said that while the US housing revival faces significant obstacles, the Fed will do everything it can to back the "housing recovery" (supposedly on top of the $40 billion in MBS it monetizes each month, and/or QEternity+1?). He then goes on to say that tight lenders may be thwarting the recovery, and is concerned about high unemployment, things that should be prevented as housing is a "powerful headwind to the recovery." In other words - the same canned gibberish he has been showering upon those stupid and naive enough to listen and/or believe him, because once the current downtrend in the market is confirmed to be a long-term decline, the 4th dead cat bounce in housing will end. But perhaps what is most amusing is that the Fed is now accusing none other than the US household for not doing their patriotic duty to reflate the peak bubble. To wit: "The Federal Reserve will continue to do what we can to support the housing recovery, both through our monetary policy and our regulatory and supervisory actions. But, as I have discussed, not all of the responsibility lies with the government; households, the financial services industry, and those in the nonprofit sector must play their part as well." So "get to work, Mr. Household: Benny and the Inkjets, not to mention Chuck Schumer's careers rest on your bubble-reflation skills."