Goldman Slams Abenomics: "Positive Impact Is Gone, Only High Yields And Volatility Remain; BOJ Credibility At Stake"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/18/2013 11:16 -0400
While many impartial observers have been lamenting the death of Abenomics now that the Nikkei - essentially the only favorable indicator resulting from the coordinated and unprecedented action by the Japanese government and its less than independent central bank - has peaked and dropped 20% from the highs, Wall Street was largely mum on its Abenomics scorecard. This changed overnight following a scathing report by Goldman which slams Abenomics, it sorry current condition, and where it is headed, warning that unless the BOJ promptly implements a set of changes to how it manipulates markets as per Goldman's recommendations, the situation will get out of control fast. To wit: "Our conclusion is that the positive market reaction initially created by the policy has been almost completely undone. At the same time, a lack of credible forward guidance for policy duration means that five-year JGB yields have risen in comparison with before the easing started, and volatility has also increased. It will not be an easy task to completely rebuild confidence in the BOJ among overseas investors after it has been undermined, and the BOJ will not be able to easily pull out of its 2% price target after committing to it."
Why do the debt crisis in Cyprus and the subsequent "bail-in" confiscation of bank depositors' money matter? They matter for two reasons: 1. The banking/debt crisis in Cyprus shares many characteristics with other banking/debt crises. 2. The official Eurozone resolution of the crisis--the "bail-in" confiscation of 60% of bank depositors' cash in an involuntary exchange for shares in the bank (which are unlikely to have any future value)--may provide a template for future official resolutions of other banking/debt crises. In other words, since the banking/debt crisis in Cyprus is hardly unique, we can anticipate the resolution (confiscation of deposits) may be applied elsewhere.
Wednesday may be the new Tuesday (which halted its relentless and statistically impossible streak of 20 out of 20 up DJIA days last week), if only in terms of the overnight no news stock futures ramp, which today is back with a vengeance. In a session that was devoid of any news, the e-Mini is up enough to practically erase all of yesterday's losses. Whether this is due to a relatively calm Nikkei trading session, to no further surge (or collapse) in the USDJPY, or to the 10 Year trading flat inside 2.20% is unclear. What is clear is that the bipolar market swings from extreme to extreme on speculation about the largely irrelevant topic of whether the Fed will taper (because if it does, it will be very promptly followed by an untapering once risk assets around the world implode.)
"By propping up asset markets, the Fed has created an illusion that wealth is being created. The next step, according to Bernanke’s plan, should be for growth to follow. In fact, there is no reason why the rise in prices of financial assets should lead to actual investments or a rise in the median income. So far, it has not. There has been no real increase in the private sector propensity to borrow, and the danger may be that any further public sector borrowing will hasten the decline because of our “permanent asset hypothesis”. This means that, should the Fed lose control of asset prices (is this what is now happening in Japan?), then the game will be up and the downside move in markets may well be terrifying."
- In Hong Kong, ex-CIA man may not escape U.S. reach (Reuters)
- Backlash over US snooping intensifies (FT)
- Apple to Revamp IPhone Software, Ending Product Funk (BBG)
- Nothing like revising history: Japan revises up Q1 growth to annual 4.1% (FT), just don't look at the trade deficit
- Coffee Exports From Indonesia Seen Slumping to Two-Year Low (BBG)
- Euro bailout Troika nears end of road with patchy record (Reuters)
- Treasuries Little Changed Before Bullard Speaks Amid QE Debate (BBG)
- Schwab Topping Goldman Sachs Presages Return to Stocks (BBG)
- Hedge funds take over another city: London’s Forced Renters Fuel Apartment Investing Boom (BBG)
A harbinger of things to come in other markets
One glance at the chart below and it is very clear that there is a glaring difference between the market's reaction to the Fed's QE and the BoJ's QQE. Aside from the magnitude and velocity of the equity market response that is, the Fed has been inherently volatility-suppressing (with VIX near all-time lows as stocks rise) while (aside from the last week or so), as the Nikkei surged, Japanese implied volatility also surged. As UBS' Larry Hatheway notes, fundamentally, Japan’s policy settings and preferences (moving from deflation to inflation, which is the stated objective of ‘Abenomics’) embed a great deal of implied volatility, only some of which has already manifested itself in asset prices. The proverbial cat has been thrown among the pigeons - scatter they must - the Fed’s QE has dampened volatility while the BoJ’s QE has boosted volatility. In sum, the price of success - where success is defined as ending deflation in Japan—is likely to be significant volatility in Japanese asset markets.
Between Fairholme's back-up-the-truck in GSE Preferreds (demanding his fair share of the dividend), the crazy oscillations in the common stock of FNMA, and the ongoing debacle of what to with the government's implicit ownership of the US mortgage business, tonight's news from Bloomberg - that a bipartisan group of U.S. senators is putting the final touches on a plan to liquidate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (FMCC) and replace them with a government reinsurer of mortgage securities behind private capital - is hardly surprising. Details are few and far between except to note that the proposed legislation, which could be introduced this month, would require private financiers to take a first-loss position. The new entity, to be named the Federal Mortgage Insurance Corp (or FEDMAGIC), would seek private financing to continue existing efforts to help small lenders issue securities. The 'old entity' - where existing equity and debtholders would seemingly reside would contain the existing MBS portfolio and be put in run-down mode. The following from BofAML provides a possible primer and pitfalls (we think the endgame is very unlikely to be positive for holders of the capital structure below subordinated debt) of this approach.
Despite the eagerness of Abenomics and the new BOJ head Kuroda to have their cake and eat it too, in this case manifesting in soaring stock prices, plunging Yen, rising GDP and exports, and most importantly, flat or declining bond yields, so far they have succeeded in carrying out three of the four, as it is physically impossible for any central planner to completely overrule the laws of math, economics and physics indefinitely. Volatility aside the recent surge in yields higher is finally starting to take its tool on domestic bond issuers. As Bloomberg reports, already two names have pulled deals from the jittery bond market due to "soaring" borrowing costs. The first is Toyota Industries which as NHK reported, canceled the sale of JPY20 billion debt. Toyota is among Japanese firms that put off selling debt as long-term yields on government debt have risen, increasing borrowing costs, public broadcaster NHK says without citing anyone. Last week JFE Holdings announced it would delay plans to sell bonds due to market volatility. So two names down... and the 10 Year is not even north of 1%... But perhaps, more importantly, what happens to JGB holdings as the benchmark Japanese government bond continues trading with the volatility of a 1999 pennystock, and as more and more VaR stops are hit, forcing even more holders to dump the paper out of purely technical considerations: a topic we touched upon most recently last week, and which courtesy of JPM, which looks back at exactly the same event just 10 years delayed, now has a name: VaR shocks. For those who wish to skip the punchline here it is: A 100bp interest rate shock in the JGB yield curve, would cause a loss of ¥10tr for Japan's banks.
We have long discussed the problem that the Japanese government faces if interest rates in the troubled nation rise (cost of debt financing will swamp revenues in a vicious circle); but now it seems there is another - just as vicious - problem (that the BoJ is set to discuss according to Nikkei). The inability of the BoJ to 'control' Japanese interest rates (JGB rates spiking unprecedentedly day after day) has put the banking system in a lot of trouble. As we explained recently the banks appeared to initially 'hedge' their huge JGB positions but now appear to recognize that first out wins and are reducing exposure overall (YTD -3.7% according to local data). The reason - simple - as the IMF explains via the BoJ - according to BOJ estimates (footnote 4), a 100bp (parallel) rise in market yields would lead to mark-to-market (MTM) losses of 20% of Tier-1 capital for regional banks and 10% for the major banks. He who sells first wins...
Obviously with Buffett a major shareholder of Moody's, the only place where a downgrade of Berkshire could come from was S&P. Moments ago, the rating agency that dared to downgrade the US for which it is being targeted by Eric Holder's Department of "Justice", did just that.
The Cypriot deposit confiscation has come and gone (and in a parallel world in which the global Bernanke-put never existed and in which bank shareholders were not untouchable, this is precisely how real-time bank restructurings should have taken place), but fears remain that the country's "resolution" mechanism will be the template for future instances of "resolving" insolvent banks. That may or may not be the case: the only way to know for sure is during the next European bank bailout, but one thing is certain - Cyprus was certainly a template when it comes to how a world full of insolvent sovereigns (all engaged in currency warfare), where easing, quantitative or otherwise no longer works to boost the economy, will approach what is the last chance for monetary replenishment - taxation of financial assets, just as we warned first back in 2011. Specifically, Cyprus showed the "template" for confiscating Russian oligarch billionaire "ill-gotten", untaxed cash, which many in Germany demanded should be the quid for ongoing German-funded quo. And here's the rub. There is more where said "ill-gotten" cash has come from. Much more... $32 trillion more.
The commodity market is saying global growth is slowing. But, there is hope, as BofAML's David Woo notes, the US equity market is saying US consumers are still going strong; and the FX and European sovereign markets seem to believe Mrs. Watanabe is about to embark on a global shopping spree. However, like us, Woo thinks it is unlikely that these markets will all turn out to be right. At the same time, we agree completely with Woo's assessment that markets may be under pricing three macro risks: the ability of Beijing to ease policy aggressively in the face of strong home price appreciation may be limited; the positive wealth effect of US housing recovery may not be enough to offset the contractionary impact of fiscal tightening; Japanese money may stay at home longer than expected. As he concludes, "something will have to give and a major re-alignment of the markets, the odds of which are rising, will probably not be either smooth or benign."
There have been several recent developments that have flown in the face of both neo-liberalism and ordo-liberalism and thrown investors off balance. Discuss.
As another woeful week wends to a weary close... what we got to look forward to? Although markets appeared to be shooting off in every direction, we do expect we'll see clearer direction soon. Despite the noisy criticism earlier this week of Yen "competitive" devaluation, the G20 meeting said nothing. We suspect certain individuals were quietly sat in the comfy chair, had global reality gently explained to them with the aid of some rusty dental equipment, were slapped around a bit and told to shut it. As long as Japan can sign the pledge on “no competitive depreciation” without giggling we’ll be ok. We do suspect the warmest circle of financial hell is being reserved for those populist European politicians who've tried to appeal to voters with efforts to stem the financial tides, and punished markets for being markets.