From Bill Gross: "In trying to be specific about which conditions would prompt a tapering of QE, the Fed tilted overrisked investors to one side of an overloaded and overlevered boat. Everyone was looking for lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship, and selling begat more selling, even in Treasuries. While the Fed’s move may ultimately be better understood or even praised, it no doubt induced market panic. Without the presence of a “Bernanke Put” or the promise of a continuing program of QE check writing, investors found the lifeboats dysfunctional. They could only sell to themselves and almost all of them had too much risk. A band somewhere on the upper deck began to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”"
Gold has gone down Friday to under $1, 200 an ounce and that means it’s reached its lowest point for the past three years. Worse than that: it’s been the worst quarterly performance for gold for 45 years!
Chinese investors are holding their collective breaths to see if the banking crisis predicted two years ago by renowned Chinese economist Li Zuojun will come to fruition in the next couple of months. Li's astounding accuracy in predicting China's economy has led to him earning the nickname "China's most successful doomsayer." Though far from perfect, a lot of what he said here rings true, but the interesting insight is that he forecasts that the incoming regime will want to take its lumps early, in 2013, so as to minimize blame ("it was the old crew’s fault") and maximize praise for subsequent recovery... He notes three other drivers (aside from this political one) including external flows and credit expansion and fears social instability should the status quo be maintained.
As we pointed out here, the impact on both 'real' housing affordability of surging mortgage rates is extremely significant for the so-called 'housing recovery' but as Charles Hugh-Smith notes, there is a more insidious (inflation-like) effect (aside from the consumer-confidence sapping one we described here). Rising mortgage rates reduce household purchasing power just like higher taxes and inflation. That means there is less household income to spend on other things, and that's not good for "growth."
Bill Gross, of PIMCO and serious bond duration pain, finally comes clean: the man who has been criticizing the Fed for years for one after another misguided policy (all of which ultimately culminate with the New York Fed's markets desk going "wave it in" this or that) to the point where he began sounding like a Zero Hedge broken record, opines on the taper. And it is here that Bill's colors truly shine through: "We agree that QE must end. It has distorted incentives and inflated asset prices to artificial levels. But we think the Fed’s plan may be too hasty." In other words, please let me have my Fed and central-planning criticizing cake (but don't actually enact my free market suggestions) and let me eat my management fees too (and no monthly redemptions please). And there you have it: populist critic by day, pandering P&L defender by night.
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.