European equities in both the futures and the cash markets are making significant gains after a mornings’ trade, with financials, particularly in the periphery, leading the way higher following the weekend reports of the Eurogroup confirming aid for the Spanish banking sector. With data remaining light throughout the day, its likely investors will remain focused on the macro-picture, seeing some relief as the Spanish financials look to be recapitalized. At the open, risk sentiment was clear, with EUR/USD opening in the mid-1.2600’s, and peripheral government bond yield spreads against the German bund significantly tighter. In the past few hours, these positions have unwound somewhat, with EUR/USD breaking comfortably back below 1.2600 and the Spanish 10-yr yield spread moving through unchanged and on a widening trend across the last hour or so against its German counterpart, and the yield failing to break below the 6% mark.
In today’s world, there are many who want government to regulate and control everything. The most bizarre instance, though — more bizarre even than banning the sale of large-sized sugary drinks — is surely central banking. Why? Well, central banking was created to replace something that was already working well. Banking panics and bank runs happen, and they have always happened as long as there has been banking. But the old system that the Fed displaced wasn’t really malfunctioning — unlike what the defenders of central banking today would have us believe. Does central banking retard the economy by providing liquidity insurance and a backstop to bad companies that would not otherwise be saved under a free market “bailout” (like that of 1907)? And is it this effect — that we call zombification — that is the force that has prevented Japan from fully recovering from its housing bubble, and that is keeping the West depressed from 2008? Will we only return to growth once the bad assets and bad companies have been liquidated? That conclusion, we think, is becoming inescapable.
The game continues. Talk up the economy, talk down printing and pray. If the market heads into the Fed meeting at current levels it runs the risk of being disappointed. If this is combined with continued economic weakness then the real set up happens between the June meeting and the August one. It is in that interim period that the market could throw another one of its hissy fits and beg for more liquidity. Money supply growth is extremely sluggish right now all over the world. The velocity never happened and the global economy is rolling over. The Fed is already behind the curve and so when they are forced to act the infusion will have to be huge just to stem the momentum. Mike Krieger suggests people go back and look at different asset classes from the prior two lows in China’s M2 year-over-year growth rate. The first one occurred in late 2004. The M2 growth rate then accelerated until around mid 2006. In that time period gold prices went up around 65% and the S&P 500 went up 20%. In the second period of acceleration from late 2008 to late 2009 gold was up 65% and the S&P500 was up 15%. We are at one of these inflection points and considering the DOW/Gold ratio is still holding gains from its countertrend rally from last August of almost 40%, this is probably one of the best entry points to buy gold and short the Dow of any time in the last decade.
Stripped of acronyms and pseudo-economics, Central banks have one lever: monetary easing. Whatever the name offered for creating money electronically and suppressing interest rates, it boils down to making money abundant and cheap to borrow, at least for banks and other favored players, such as buyers of homes using 3% down-payment FHA mortgages. The problem is that easy money doesn't fix what's broken. Incentivizing debt and leverage does nothing to reduce leverage or debt, and incentivizing speculation does not reduce household debt loads or increase household incomes. And without improving household incomes, you have a recessionary economy held aloft by unsustainably profligate Federal borrowing and spending.
Is this a "solution"? No. Is this sustainable? No.
After sell-side analysts had been begging for it, pardon, predicting it for months, the PBOC finally succumbed and joined every other bank in an attempt to reflate, even as pockets of inflation are still prevalent across the country, although the recent disappointing economic data was just too much. Overnight, the Chinese central bank announced it was cutting the Reserve Requirement Ratio by 50 bps, from 20.5% to 20.0%, effective May 18. The move is expected to free up "an estimated 400 billion yuan ($63.5 billion) for lending to head-off the risk of a sudden slowdown in the world's second-largest economy" as estimated by Reuters. "The central bank should have cut RRR after Q1 data. It has missed the best timing," Dong Xian'an, chief economist at Peking First Advisory in Beijing, told Reuters. "A cut today will have a much discounted impact. So the Chinese economy will become more vulnerable to global weakness and the slowing Chinese economy will in turn have a bigger negative impact on global recovery. Uncertainties in the global and Chinese economy are rising," he said. The irony, of course, is that the cut, by being long overdue, will simply accentuate the perception that China is on one hand seeing a crash in its housing market and a rapid contraction int he economy, while still having to scramble with high food prices (recall the near record spike in Sooy prices two weeks ago). In the end, the PBOC had hoped that it would be the Fed that would cut first and China could enjoy the "benefits" of global "growth", and the adverse effects of second hand inflation. Instead, Bernanke has delayed far too long. When he does rejoin the race to ease, that is when China will realize just how short-sighted its easing decision was. In the meantime, the world's soon to be largest source of gold demand just got a rude reminder that even more inflation is coming.
All you need to read and some more.
All you need to read and some more.
One of the more mythical aspects of the LTRO, at least during its conception, is that the ECB repo operation would facilitate the diffusion of credit and loans to the broader population (and only subsequently was it made clear that the LTRO was there merely to prevent the disorderly insolvency of European banks). Alas, today's liquidity update from Europe shows that absolutely nothing is happening as planned, because even as broader money may have picked up, loans are once again declining.
Over the past several months, starting with the great US stock market surge back in October 2011 which was not paralleled by virtually any other index in the world (and especially not Spain which recently breached its March 2009 low), there has been a great deal of speculation that just because the US stock market was doing "better", that the US economy has by implication "decoupled" from Europe. Well, as yesterday's GDP number showed in Q1 the economy ended up rising at a pace that was quite disappointing, but more importantly, which even Goldman admits is due for a substantial slow down in the coming months. And ironically, in the past 6 months it was not the Fed, but the ECB, that injected over $1.3 trillion in the banking system. One would think that this epic "flow" of liquidity from the central bank would result in a surge in the only metric that matters to 'Austrians', namely the expansion in money (or in this case the widest metric officially tracked on an apples to apples basis - M2). One would be very wrong. Because as the chart below shows, while US M2 has soared from the 2009 troughs, money "movement" in Europe has barely budged at all.
In perhaps the most courageous (and now must-read) speech ever given inside the New York Fed's shallowed hallowed walls, Economic Policy Journal's Robert Wenzel delivered the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the monetary priesthood. Gracious from the start, Wenzel takes the Keynesian clap-trappers to task on almost every nonsensical and oblivious decision they have made in recent years. "My views, I suspect, differ from beginning to end... I stand here confused as to how you see the world so differently than I do. I simply do not understand most of the thinking that goes on here at the Fed and I do not understand how this thinking can go on when in my view it smacks up against reality." And further..."I scratch my head that somehow your conclusions about unemployment are so different than mine and that you call for the printing of money to boost 'demand'. A call, I add, that since the founding of the Federal Reserve has resulted in an increase of the money supply by 12,230%." But his closing was tremendous: "Let’s have one good meal here. Let’s make it a feast. Then I ask you, I plead with you, I beg you all, walk out of here with me, never to come back. It’s the moral and ethical thing to do. Nothing good goes on in this place. Let’s lock the doors and leave the building to the spiders, moths and four-legged rats."
In the science of physics, we know that ice freezes at 32 degrees. We can predict with immense accuracy exactly how far a rocket ship will travel filled with 500 gallons of fuel. There is preciseness because there are constants, which do not change and upon which equations can be constructed.. There are no such constants in the field of economics since the science of economics deals with human action, which can change at any time. If potato prices remain the same for 10 weeks, it does not mean they will be the same the following day. I defy anyone in this room to provide me with a constant in the field of economics that has the same unchanging constancy that exists in the fields of physics or chemistry. And yet, in paper after paper here at the Federal Reserve, I see equations built as though constants do exist. It is as if one were to assume a constant relationship existed between interest rates here and in Russia and throughout the world, and create equations based on this belief and then attempt to trade based on these equations. That was tried and the result was the blow up of the fund Long Term Capital Management, a blow up that resulted in high level meetings in this very building. It is as if traders assumed a given default rate was constant for subprime mortgage paper and traded on that belief. Only to see it blow up in their faces, as it did, again, with intense meetings being held in this very building. Yet, the equations, assuming constants, continue to be published in papers throughout the Fed system. I scratch my head.
In advance of ever louder demands for more, more, more NEWER QE-LTROs (as BofA's Michael Hanson says "If our forecast of a one-handle on H2 growth is realized, then we would expect the Fed to step in with additional easing, in the form of QE3") , it is an opportune time to demonstrate just what the traditional monetary "plumbing" mechanisms at the discretion of the Fed are, and more importantly, just how completely plugged they are. So without any further ado...
The ponzi will fail, and the economy will reset - the only question is when.