International Monetary Fund
With the IMF frantically scrambling to cover its forecast errors and model-breakdowns amid an emerging market turmoil that no one could have seen coming, the contagion is beginning to spread. With all eyes fixed on Turkey (unfixed again) or Ukraine (never fixed), Argentina's troubles are exploding. The last few days have seen yields on their 2017 bonds scream higher from 11% to 19%... and 2015 Boden prices collapse.
Greece Is Back: Germany, France, Creditors Hold Secret Meeting Due To Greek Bailout "Mounting Concerns"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/31/2014 11:43 -0400
There was a time - roughly between May 2010 and the spring fall of 2011 - when all the world had to worry about was Greece. Then the realization finally dawned that since a Grexit from the Eurozone would kill the EUR and the European integration dream with so much "political capital" invested, crush Deutsche Bank, and bring back the much dreaded (by German exporters) Deutsche Mark, it became clear that there is no fear that Greece, which is now a decrepit shell of a country with a collapsed economy and society in shambles, has now become a slave state to European bureaucrats, business and banks (in Nigel Farage's words), will never be formally kicked out of Europe and only an internal coup would allow it to finally break free from the clutches of unelected European tyrants. And then the world moved on to more important things: like Japan, China Emerging Markets and how they are all enjoying the Fed's taper. Sadly, we have to report, that Greece is once again baaaaack.
Hinting that the worst is yet to come, was none other than India's Central Bank governor Raghuram Rajan himself, who yesterday in an interview in Mumbai with Bloomberg TV India, said that "international monetary cooperation has broken down." Of course, when the Fed was monetizing $85 billion each and every month and stocks could only go up, nobody had a complaint about any cooperation, be it monetary or international. However, a 4% drop in the S&P from its all time high... and everyone begins to panic.
The IMF's woeful forecasting record, chronicled extensively before, has just taken yet another hit, following the latest flip flop on emerging markets. Try to spot the common theme of these assessments by the IMF.
If one were only to look at the stock market and the buzz within New York, London, San Francisco, Sydney or Toronto; they would conclude that the world is indeed booming. After all, people say the stock market is a leading indicator and that is telling us that the world is bursting at the seams with accelerating growth. And of course, the leading financial news stations are tripping over themselves with gushes of great news. Now, we don’t mean to be the party pooper; however one must understand what is really happening to truly appreciate the still, slow moving and delicate economic pickle the world has been stuck with. For starters, these major cities are always booming. Instead, for a better picture of economic life, feel free to visit St. Louis, Winnipeg, or Marseilles and we’re sure you’ll have no problems at all securing that dinner reservation. Peeling away the top layer of fabulous news resulting from the stock market, we cannot help but see that the deep structural issues associated with the 2008-09 crisis remain. The mountains of bad debt have simply shifted away from specific investors, to governments and their tax payers. From a global perspective, this transfer of bad debt from specific investors to tax payers is THE most important issue to understand. In simpler terms, and unknown to many, the bad debt has been spread around the world for everyone to share. Yes, socialism has arrived and few in our capitalistic world have noticed.
The problem, though, is that once you embrace the Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence to "explain" recent events, you can't compartmentalize it there. If the pattern of post-crisis Emerging Market growth rates is largely explained by US monetary accommodation or lack thereof ... well, the same must be true for pre-crisis Emerging Market growth rates. The inexorable conclusion is that Emerging Market growth rates are a function of Developed Market central bank liquidity measures and monetary policy, and that all Emerging Markets are, to one degree or another, Greece-like in their creation of unsustainable growth rates on the back of 20 years of The Great Moderation (as Bernanke referred to the decline in macroeconomic volatility from accommodative monetary policy) and the last 4 years of ZIRP. It was Barzini all along!
Below is a chart which flags the highest external risk among the 10 most prominent EMs broken down by liquidity (reserves over near-term maturities) on the X-axis and capital flows (current account as % of GDP) on the Y-axis. It should come as no surprise, that Turkey is worst, followed by South Africa, India and Indonesia. China, Korea and Russia have current account surpluses and strong coverage of short-term debt by reserves. Brazil also has high reserve coverage of short-term debt. Mexico and Poland have small current account deficits and healthy reserve coverage, in addition to their IMF Flexible Credit Lines. As for Argentina, forgetabout it.
The depressed tone overnight following AAPL's disappointing earnings mysteriously evaporated just ahead of the European open, when around 2 am Eastern the all important USDJPY began an dramatic ramp, (with ES following just behind) which saw it rise from the Monday closing level of 102.600 all the way to 103.250, in what appears to have been a new frame-setting stop hunt ahead of a variety of news including the start of the January - Bernanke's last - FOMC meeting. One of the potential triggers for the move may have been the RBI's unexpected hike in the repurchase rate to 8.00% with an unchanged 7.75% consensus, which was its second consecutive INR-boosting "surprise." Among the amusing comments by RBI's Rajan, justifying the ongoing (loising) fight with inflation, was that India's consumer numbers are weak because of inflation. But... isn't that the Keynesian cargo cult's wet dream?
In what is sure to be met with cries of derision across the European Union, in line with what the IMF had previously recommended (and we had previously warned as inevitable), the Bundesbank said on Monday that countries about to go bankrupt should draw on the private wealth of their citizens through a one-off capital levy before asking other states for help. As Reuters reports, the Bundesbank states, "(A capital levy) corresponds to the principle of national responsibility, according to which tax payers are responsible for their government's obligations before solidarity of other states is required." However, they note that they will not support an implementation of a recurrent wealth tax in Germany, saying it would harm growth. We await the refutation (or Draghi's jawbone solution to this line in the sand.)
1) Reinforcement of preference for DM vs EM
- While EM have cheapened vs DM, value might not be enough as long as the flow continues to favor DM
2) Potential short-term solutions leading to longer-term problems
3) FX depreciation leading to outflows from local markets
4) Due to decentralized nature of these shocks, no silver bullet can restore appetite for risk
And the best for last: "Unlike the market shocks of recent years, QE or IMF bailouts unlikely to come to rescue this time"
Given that Chinese GDP numbers are manufactured top-down and don't add-up; and that the US - in its wisdom - added "intangibles" to its GDP measure of economic progress and create $500 billion worth of growthiness out of thin air; it should not come as a huge surprise to learn that Greece is picking up bad habits. Following the realization that all their promises (and IMF forecasts are total bullshit), Eurostat will adopt a "new methodology" that will boost Greek GDP by 3 percentage points and historically reducing the depression in the Greek economy to a 0.3% shrinkage to be proud of. But where it gets downright idiotic, is that as a result of the methodology change, Greek GDP in 2014 will "grow" 3.6%, orders of magnitude above the previous forecast expansion of 0.6%, and also well above how much the US economy is expected to grow in 2014. Yup - good stuff.
FX markets featured significant volatility in the past week, though the driver of that volatility was a combination of several idiosyncratic factors, rather than a core underlying narrative. Widespread risk aversion and position unwinds dominated market trading with China PMI, weak US earnings, and BoJ un-dovishness cited among more systemic factors. Turkey and Argentina (among others) have more idiosyncratic risks (and limits approaching) but as Barclays notes, market positioning has played a major role in the moves as market volatility appears to have been the straw that broke the carry-trade's back - for now... as EM currency returns have notably decoupled from moves in US rates.
What a difference half a year makes. It seems like it was yesterday when Blackrock head Larry Fink, when discussing the future of capital markets with the now defunct money honey, uttered these infamous words about any and all possible risks: "it doesn't matter." Suddenly, it matters. Speaking in Davos, Fink warned there is 'way too much optimism' in financial markets as he predicted repeats of the market turmoil that roiled investors this week. As Bloomberg reports, Fink warned a Davos panel that "the experience of the marketplace this past week is going to be indicative of this entire year... We’re going to be in a world of much greater volatility."
The US wants its dollar system to prevail for as long as possible. It therefore has every interest in preventing a ‘rush out of dollars into gold’. By selling (paper) gold, bankers have been trying in the last few decades to keep the price of gold under control. This war on gold has been going on for almost one hundred years, but it gained traction in the 1960's with the forming of the London Gold Pool. Just like the London Gold Pool failed in 1969, the current manipulation scheme of gold (and silver prices) cannot be maintained for much longer.
A paper currency system contains the seeds of its own destruction. The temptation for the monopolist money producer to increase the money supply is almost irresistible. In such a system with a constantly increasing money supply and, as a consequence, constantly increasing prices, it does not make much sense to save in cash to purchase assets later. A better strategy, given this scenario, is to go into debt to purchase assets and pay back the debts later with a devalued currency. Moreover, it makes sense to purchase assets that can later be pledged as collateral to obtain further bank loans. A paper money system leads to excessive debt. This is especially true of players that can expect that they will be bailed out with newly produced money such as big businesses, banks, and the government. We are now in a situation that looks like a dead end for the paper money system.