Why The BoJ’s Policy Is Inherently Destabilizing

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.

Albert Edwards: "Has The US Recession Already Begun?"

Some are surprised that inflation has failed to take off despite massive amounts of quantitative easing. The explanation, ECRI explains, is simple: recession kills inflation. For all the talk of the wealth effect, demand is falling and deflation is closer than at any time since 2009. The 'r' word is seldom heard on the lips of the mainstream media - "how absurd" - but as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, if anyone is waiting for the ISM to tell them that a recession has started in the US, they are looking at the wrong data. Much more importantly, Edwards explains, we may well be in for a double dose of bad news - both falling revenues and falling margins. History suggests this as good a leading indicator as any other for whether the US economy will endogenously fall back into recession. Unfortunately at the height of a recovery most commentators forget profit margins mean-revert as they become intoxicated by the equity market's prior stellar performance and tend to continue to price the market off analysts' forward earnings - which inevitably always forecast further healthy gains ahead.

Guest Post: Why the Fed Can't Stop Fueling The Shadow Bank Kiting Machine

Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.

Thank You CTRL-P: Deposits Rise To Record $2.1 Trillion Over Bank Loans

It may come as a surprise to some that the total level of commercial bank loans outstanding as of the most recent week, May 22, was "only" $7.303 trillion. We say only because this number is $20 billion less than the total commercial loans outstanding as of the weeks following the Lehman failure, just before the most epic deleveraging episode in recent US history began. It is also just $600 billion higher than the cyclical lows of $6.7 trillion (net of the February 2010 readjustment of the commercial loan terminology).  So does this mean that deposits in the US financial system have been unchanged in the past nearly 5 years? Not at all. As the chart below shows, while commercial loans have flatlined, deposits, which previously used to track loans on a dollar for dollar basis, took off, and are now at $9.4 trillion (as per the latest H.8), or $2.2 trillion more than the $7.2 trillion when commercial banks loan hits a record in October 2008, just after Lehman filed. What's more notable, is that as of the latest week, the excess of deposits over loans just hit an all time record of $2.079 trillion

Central Banks' Central Bank Warns About Rehypothecation Threats

"While certain types of rehypothecation can be beneficial to market functioning, if collateral collected to protect against the risk of counterparty default has been rehypothecated, then it may not be readily available in the event of a default. This, in turn, may increase system interconnectedness and procyclicality, and could amplify market stresses. Therefore, when collateral is rehypothecated, it is important to understand under what circumstances and the extent to which the rehypothecation has occurred; or in other words, how long the collateral chain is... Financial intermediaries should provide sufficient disclosure to clients when collateral assets posted by them are rehypothecated; rehypothecation should be allowed only for the purpose of financing the long position of clients and not for financing the own-account activities of the intermediary; and only entities subject to adequate regulation of liquidity risk should be allowed to engage in the rehypothecation of client assets."

Presenting The Full Impact Of Stock Buybacks On S&P 500 "Earnings"

There has been much speculation in the recent past over what the bottom-line impact of surging stock buyback activity has been on the overall S&P earnings: after all, by removing shares from circulation, the denominator in "per share" calculation gets smaller and smaller with every incremental buyback. Courtesy of JPM we finally have a definitive answer to this long-running question. Of the change in S&P TTM operating earnings between Q3 2011 and the just completed Q1 2013, a stunning 60% or $2.20, of all "gains" of $3.70 have been the result of buybacks. The remainder: a tiny $1.50 is due to actual organic growth. This means that nearly 60% of the bridge between the LTM operating earnings of $94.60 as of Q3 2011 to $98.30 at Q1 2013 has come from corporate management teams engaging in shareholder friendly activity.

Peak Collateral

Peak collateral is just a notion - one we have discussed in detail many times (most recently here). The notion that at the time we want yield and growth we are running out of collateral which is supposed to underpin the high yielding assets and loans. Such a shortage would cause the ponzi-like growth that is necessary to sustain a bubble, to stall and then implode. We think our lords and rulers know this and have decided that it must not be allowed. And this – the need for collateral – is the reason for the endless QE. If this is even close to the mark, then recent murmurings about the Fed tailing off its bond buying will prove to be hollow. The Fed will quickly find it cannot exit QE without precipitating precisely the disorderly collapse, to which it was supposed to be  the solution.

The Chart That The BoJ Is Most Worried About (And So Should You Be)

Until the last few days, the attention of the mainstream business media has been on how 'wonderful' Japan's policy prescription must be since its stock market is soaring at a record pace. The reality is that the far bigger JGB market has been crumbling. As we explained here, this is a major problem for the bubble-blowers, as the extreme volatility (VaR shock) that the Japanese Government Bond market has been through in the last few weeks has some very large and painful consequences, that as yet, have not been discussed widely. The term 'shadow banking' has been one ZH readers are by now extremely familiar with as we have discussed this as the panacea of unseen leverage (most recently in Europe and China) for years; the funding markets in Japan, so heavily reliant on JGB repo for short-term liquidity and the efficient functioning of two-way markets in the bonds, are hitting a wall. As JPMorgan notes, the number of JGB 'fails' - where a repo deal breaks down - has more than doubled in the last week. For a market that represents 40% of the total Japanese money-market, this will be a critical area to watch for a JGB waterfall.

Guest Post: Our American Pravda

Through most of the 20th century, America led something of a charmed life, at least when compared with the disasters endured by almost every other major country. We became the richest and most powerful nation on earth, partly due to our own achievements and partly due to the mistakes of others. The public interpreted these decades of American power and prosperity as validation of our system of government and national leadership, and the technological effectiveness of our domestic propaganda machinery - our own American Pravda - has heightened this effect. Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Europe Opens $80 Trillion Shadow Banking Pandora's Box: Will Seek To Collapse Repo "Collateral Chains"

In what may be the most important story of the day, or maybe year, for a world in which there already is an $11 trillion shortfall in high-quality collateral (and declining every day courtesy of Ben's monetization of Treasury paper) so needed to support the deposit-free liability structures of the shadow banking system (as most recently explained here), Bloomberg has just reported that Europe may begin a crackdown on that most important credit money conduit: the $80 trillion+ global shadow banking system, by effectively collapsing collateral chains, and by making wanton asset rehypothecation a thing of the past, permitted only with express prior permission, which obviously will never come: who in their right mind would allow a bank to repledge an asset which may be lost as part of the counterparty carnage should said bank pull a Lehman. The result of this, should it be taken to completion, would be pervasive liquidations as countless collateral chain margin calls spread, counterparty risk soars all over again, and as the scramble to obtain the true underlying assets finally begins.

All I Want For Christmas Is The S&P (The Las Vegas Period)

We are approaching a critical point (again) in the “battle royal” between the forces of inflation and deflation. Deflationary forces are threatening to overwhelm the reflationary push-back of the world’s central banks - although this is not reflected in most equity markets (especially the US). Open-ended QE was only announced by the Fed last Autumn, but the impact on (market-based) inflation expectations plateaued within months and has started turning down. A decision to taper QE would obviously be negative for equities in the absence of a sufficiently strong offsetting improvement in economic fundamentals – which is difficult to envisage right now.

The Bronze Swan Arrives: Is The End Of Copper Financing China's "Lehman Event"?

In all the hoopla over Japan's stock market crash and China's PMI miss last night, the biggest news of the day was largely ignored: copper, and the fact that copper's ubiquitous arbitrage and rehypothecation role in China's economy through the use of Chinese Copper Financing Deals (CCFD) is coming to an end.

Frontrunning: May 23

  • Global shares sink, following 7.3 percent drop in Japan's Nikkei (Reuters)
  • When all fails, pull a Kevin Bacon: Japan Economy Chief Warns Against Panic Over Stock Sell-Off (BBG)
  • White House Feeds IRS Frenzy by Revising Accounts (BBG)
  • In any scandal, lying to Congress is tough to prove (Reuters)
  • Debt limit resets at higher level, budget impasse grinds on (Reuters)
  • China factory data to test political calculations (FT)
  • European Leaders Saying No to Austerity (BBG)
  • And yet, nobody wants in anymore: Iceland’s new coalition government suspends EU accession talks (FT)
  • Oil Manipulation Inquiry Shows EU’s Hammer After Libor (BBG)
  • The Fed Squeezes the Shadow-Banking System (WSJ)
  • Diamond Said to Weigh Backing Barclays Alumni in Venture (BBG)
  • Spain’s Private Jets Disappearing as Tycoons Cut Flights (BBG)