Guest Post: The Fed's Real Worry - A Pick Up In Deflation

The biggest fear of the Federal Reserve has been the deflationary pressures that have continued to depress the domestic economy.  Despite the trillions of dollars of interventions by the Federal Reserve the only real accomplishment has been keeping the economy from slipping back into an outright recession.  However, when looking at many of the economic and confidence indicators, there are many that are still at levels normally associated with previous recessionary lows.  Despite many claims to the contrary the global economy is far from healed which explains the need for ongoing global central bank interventions.  However, even these interventions seem to be having a diminished rate of return in spurring real economic activity despite the inflation of asset prices. The risk, as discussed recently with relation to Japan, is that the Fed is now caught within a "liquidity trap."  The Fed cannot effectively withdraw from monetary interventions and raise interest rates to more productive levels without pushing the economy back into a recession.  The overriding deflationary drag on the economy is forcing the Federal Reserve to remain ultra-accommodative to support the current level of economic activity.  What is interesting is that mainstream economists and analysts keep predicting stronger levels of economic growth while all economic indications are indicating just the opposite.

Credit Shock Dead Ahead: China Money Formation Soars To 2-Year High As Delinquent Loans Surge By 29%

A month ago we pointed out that even as the Chinese credit bubble - at a record 240% of GDP on a consolidated basis - is now clearly out of control, the far more disturbing aspect of China's credit-fueled economy is the ever declining boost to economic growth as a result of every incremental dollar created. Indeed, as the economic response to "credit shock" becomes lower and lower, even as the inflationary impact lingers, the PBOC is caught between a stagnating rock and an inflationary hard place. Nonetheless, there are few options and with the shark-like need to continue growing, or at least moving, in order to prevent collapse, China did precisely what we expected it to do: boost credit growth even more despite the obvious tapering economic impact of such money creation. Sure enough, overnight China reported that its M2 growth accelerated in April from 15.7% in March, to 16.1% on a Y/Y basis: the fastest pace of credit creation in two years. Yes, the PBOC may not be creating money, but the Chinese pseudo-sovereign commercial banks, sure are, and at a pace that puts the rest of the world to shame.

Overnight Yen Tumble Sends Asia Scrambling To Retaliate

The main story overnight is without doubt the dramatic plunge in the Yen, which following the breach and trigger of USDJPY 100 stops has been a straight diagonal line to the upper right (or lower for the Yen across all currency crosses) and at last check was approaching 101.50, in turn sending the USD higher in virtually all jurisdictions. However it is not so much the Yen weakness that was surprising - a nation hell bent on doubling its monetary base in two years will do that - but the accelerating response in neighboring countries all of which are seeing Japan as the biggest economic threat suddenly and all are scrambling to respond. Sure enough, midway through the evening session, Sri Lanka cut its reverse repo and repurchase rate to 9% and 7% respectively, promptly followed by Vietnam cutting its own refinancing rate from 8% to 7%, then moving to Thailand where the finance chief Kittiratt called for a rate cut exceeding 25 bps, and more jawboning from South Korea suggesting even more rate cuts from the export-driven country are set to come as it loses trade competitiveness to Japan. Asian financial crisis 2.0 any minute now?

Guess Who Is A Shocking Fan Of Austrian Economics

“There can be no doubt that besides the regular types of the circulating medium, such as coin, notes and bank deposits, which are generally recognised to be money or currency, and the quantity of which is regulated by some central authority or can at least be imagined to be so regulated, there exist still other forms of media of exchange which occasionally or permanently do the service of money. Now while for certain practical purposes we are accustomed to distinguish these forms of media of exchange from money proper as being mere substitutes for money, it is clear that, other things equal, any increase or decrease of these money substitutes will have exactly the same effects as an increase or decrease of the quantity of money proper, and should therefore, for the purposes of theoretical analysis, be counted as money.”

A Market "Based" On Monetary Surreality

With macro data becoming worse and worse (more and more bullish for Fed free money) and stocks off to the races (despite earnings that are abysmal), we thought a litle reminder of just what is driving this un-reality in nominal price moves. As the following chart, inspired by UBS, shows, each time the S&P 500 shows any sign of weakness, US money grows dramatically (money defined as the sum of M2 and foreign custody repo-able holdings at the Fed). Simply put, this is the reaction function of the Bernanke Put and explains why any weakness in Europe causes problems for the US - as the foreign banks repatriate and impact this 'growth' support. Correlation is not causation, but it is a strong hint.

Desperately Seeking $11.2 Trillion In Collateral, Or How "Modern Money" Really Works

Over a year ago, we first explained what one of the key terminal problems affecting the modern financial system is: namely the increasing scarcity and disappearance of money-good assets ("safe" or otherwise) which due to the way "modern" finance is structured, where a set universe of assets forms what is known as "high-quality collateral" backstopping trillions of rehypothecated shadow liabilities all of which have negligible margin requirements (and thus provide virtually unlimited leverage) until times turn rough and there is a scramble for collateral, has become perhaps the most critical, and missing, lynchpin of financial stability. Not surprisingly, recent attempts to replenish assets (read collateral) backing shadow money, most recently via attempted Basel III regulations, failed miserably as it became clear it would be impossible to procure the just $1-$2.5 trillion in collateral needed according to regulatory requirements. The reason why this is a big problem is that as the Matt Zames-headed Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) showed today as part of the appendix to the quarterly refunding presentation, total demand for "High Qualty Collateral" (HQC) would and could be as high as $11.2 trillion under stressed market conditions.

Overnight Sentiment: Lower

There was little in terms of overnight newsflow to spook algos, but the tone is decidedly sour this morning following a lack of either the now traditional Japan or Europen-open buying ramps. The primary reason for this may well be the ongoing decline in the USDJPY which failed to breach the 100 barrier yesterday, coming as close as 99.95 before the Mrs. Watanabe onslaught had to be called off despite some more jawboning from Kuroda whose headlines are now summarily ignored, and which appears to have set a line in the sand for Japan, whose market naturally closed lower following this strengthening in its currency. Similarly troubling was the dip in the SHCOMP which closed down -0.58%, this despite the epic M2 and credit injection reported yesterday: if new liquidity can't send the market higher, what can?

Overnight Sentiment: Keep Ignoring Fundamentals, Keep Buying

Futures green? Check. Overnight ramp in either the EURUSD or USDJPY carry funding pair? Check? Lack of good economic news and plethora of economic misses? Check. In short, all the ingredients for continued New Normal record highs, driven only by the central bank liquidity tsunami are here. The weakness started with Australia's stunning unemployment jump overnight which saw a 36,100 drop in jobs on just 7,500 expected. A miss in Chinese auto sales was next, with 1.59MM cars sole in March, below the 1.596 expected, and even despite the surge in M2 and loan data, the Shanghai Composite closed down once again, dropping 0.29% to 2219.6. Nikkei continued its deranged liquidity-fueled ways, rising 1.96% even as Kuroda is starting to become quite concerned about the rapid move in the Yen, saying he "may adjust policy before the 2% target is reached if the economy and other indicators are growing rapidly." They aren't, and won't be, but if the Nikkei225 is confused for the economy, he just may push on the breaks which would send the only reason for the latest rally, the USDJPY tumbling. Finally, looking at Europe, Italy sold well less than the maximum €6 billion targeted in 2016, 2017 and 2028 bonds, which dented some of the enthusiasm for Italian paper although with Japanese money desperate to be parked somewhere, it will continue going into European and all other fixed income, distorting market signals for a long time. In short, expect the central-bank risk levitation to continue as all the deteriorating fundamentals and reality are ignored once more, and hopium and P/E multiple expansion are the only story in town.

US Begins Regulating BitCoin, Will Apply "Money Laundering" Rules To Virtual Transactions

Last November, in an act of sheer monetary desperation, the ECB issued an exhaustive, and quite ridiculous, pamphlet titled "Virtual Currency Schemes" in which it mocked and warned about the "ponziness" of such electronic currencies as BitCoin. Why a central bank would stoop so "low" to even acknowledge what no "self-respecting" (sic) PhD-clad economist would even discuss, drunk and slurring, at cocktail parties, remains a mystery to this day. However, that it did so over fears the official artificial currency of the insolvent continent, the EUR, may be becoming even more "ponzi" than the BitCoins the ECB was warning about, was clear to everyone involved who saw right through the cheap propaganda attempt. Feel free to ask any Cypriot if they would now rather have their money in locked up Euros, or in "ponzi" yet freely transferable, unregulated BitCoins.  And while precious metals have been subject to price manipulation by the legacy establishment, even if ultimately the actual physical currency equivalent asset, its "value" naively expressed in some paper currency, may be in the possession of the beholder, to date no price suppression or regulation schemes of virtual currencies existed. At least until now: it appears that the ever-benevolent, and always knowing what is "in your best interest" Big Brother has decided to finally take a long, hard look at what is going on in the world of BitCoin... and promptly crush it.

The Global Financial Pyramid Scheme By The Numbers

Why is the global economy in so much trouble?  How can so many people be so absolutely certain that the world financial system is going to crash?  Well, the truth is that when you take a look at the cold, hard numbers it is not difficult to see why the global financial pyramid scheme is destined to fail.  In the United States today, there is approximately 56 trillion dollars of total debt in our financial system, but there is only about 9 trillion dollars in our bank accounts.  So you could take every single penny out of the banks, multiply it by six, and you still would not have enough money to pay off all of our debts. Overall, there is about 190 trillion dollars of total debt on the planet.  But global GDP is only about 70 trillion dollars.  And the total notional value of all derivatives around the globe is somewhere between 600 trillion and 1500 trillion dollars.  So we have a gigantic problem on our hands.  The global financial system is a very shaky house of cards that has been constructed on a foundation of debt, leverage and incredibly risky derivatives.

The Erosion Of The U.S. Economy In Two Words: Jobs And Wages

The Status Quo is shameless when it comes to hyping the recovery by whatever metric is most positive. Recently, that has been the stock market, but if GDP rises significantly (and recall GDP increases if the government borrows and blows money), then that number is duly trotted out by politicos and Mainstream Media toadies. If we scrape away this ceaseless perception management, we find that legitimate broadbased prosperity is always based on rising employment and increased purchasing power of wages. The phantom wealth that is conjured by asset bubbles vanishes when the bubbles inevitably pop, leaving all those who borrowed against their ephemeral bubble wealth hapless debt-serfs. If prosperity ultimately depends on employment and earned income (wages), how are we doing as a nation? Unfortunately, the answer is "terrible." As a percentage of the population, full-time employment is down. Only 36% of the population has a full-time job.

Key Macro Events And Issues In The Week Ahead

In the upcoming week the key focus on the data side will be the US February retail sales figures on Wednesday, which should provide clearer evidence on how the tax increases that took place on January 1 have affected the consumer. In Europe, industrial production and inflation data will be the releases to watch. On the policy side, the focus will be on the BoJ appointments in an otherwise relatively quiet week for G7 central banks. Italy’s newly elected lawmakers convene for the first time on Friday 15 March and the expectation remains that President Napolitano will formally invite Mr Bersani to try and form a new government. He may also opt for a technocrat government. Although clearly preferred by markets, winning political backing may prove challenging.