The Chinese economy will soon move into contraction, its leaders will panic and jump in with both feet. Fiscal and monetary stimulus, bail-outs, more political control, increased use of censorship, talk about patriotic duty and who know what else. What we do know is that it will look like this...
Deflation is back on the front burner and it's going to destroy all of the careful central planning and related market manipulation of the past 6 years. Clear signs from the periphery indicate that a destructive deflationary pulse has been unleashed. After years of suppression, the forces of reality are threatening to overwhelm our managed global ""markets"'. And it's about damn time.
"To say Greece simply cannot repay isn’t the end of the story. As Europe moves towards a more rational debt policy with Greece, there is an enormous economic cost, not to mention social and perhaps political, to any delay. I worry about the terrifyingly low level of sophistication among policymakers and the economists who advise them when it comes to understanding balance sheet dynamics and debt restructuring. Greece’s debt overhang imposes rising financial distress costs and increasingly deep distortions in the institutional structure of the economy over time, and the longer it takes to resolve, the greater the cost."
Having told the world that it will not be undertaking system-wide rate cuts or stimulus - focusing more on idiosyncratic safety nets - last night's data from China is likely to have the PBOC frowning. Fixed Asset Investment (lowest growth since Dec 2001) and Retail Sales (lowest growth since Feb 2006) missed expectations, but it was the re-slump in Industrial Production (after a small 'huge-credit-injection-driven' bounce in September) that is most worrisome as China's 2014 output is growing at its slowest since at least 2005. As Michael Pettis previously noted"China will be no different... growth miracles have always been the relatively easy part; it is the subsequent adjustment that has been the tough part." Of course, this is not the 'soft-landing' so many bulls have expected, which, if enabled by moar credit, as Pettis warned "will inevitably lead to a very brutal hard landing."
Following the release of the quarterly monetary policy report from the People’s Bank of China, it is becoming clear, as Goldman Sachs notes, that stimulus - via cuts to system-wide RRR and/or benchmark interest rates - is becoming less and less likely. The PBOC's introduction of a new facility called the medium-term lending facility (MLF) allows 'targeted' easing, and as one local economist noted, "it shows the central bank is very reluctant to loosen monetary policy."The PBOC has broadened its toolkit to arrest an economic slowdown, while seeking to avoid adding financial risks, as The PBOC said it would "continue to implement a 'prudent' monetary policy and use various tools to manage liquidity." Not the exuberant stimulus-fest the talking-heads are calling for reminding us, as Pettis previously concluded, "In China, it will be no different. Growth miracles have always been the relatively easy part; it is the subsequent adjustment that has been the tough part."
When Chinese property developer Agile Property Holdings Ltd. said this month that its chairman was taken into custody by authorities, the disclosure was a shock to Western banks that lent the company money, according to China Spectator as the fog of ever-rising asset values suddenly evaporates into the reality of an opaque real estate credit market slap them in the face. The simple fact is "it is very difficult to get a handle on the financials of a Chinese company," as a local investigative consulting firm warns "in China, nothing is what it appears to be."
"If we have what everyone would hail as a soft landing, with growth remaining above 6-7% for another two years, it would just mean that credit was still growing too quickly. And once we reach debt capacity constraints, the so-called soft landing would be followed by a very brutal hard landing... Growth miracles have always been the relatively easy part; it is the subsequent adjustment that has been the tough part."
With global growth concerns on the rise, whether a bust in the Chinese housing sector could threaten the economic activity and financial stability of the world’s largest contributor to growth is top of mind for Goldman Sachs. As Michael Pettis warns, "this story only has a few possible endings, all of which imply a significant reduction in economic growth as debt problems are addressed." The following 3 charts suggest Pettis is right...
This may be excessively optimistic on my part, but there seems to be a slow change in the way the world thinks about reserve currencies. For a long time it was widely accepted that reserve currency status granted the provider of the currency substantial economic benefits. For much of my career I pretty much accepted the consensus, but as one starts to think more seriously about the components of the balance of payments, it is clear Keynes wad right in his call for a hybrid currency when he recognized that once the reserve currency was no longer constrained by gold convertibility, the world needed an alternative way to prevent destabilizing imbalances from developing. On the heels of Treasury Economist Kenneth Austin and former-Obama chief economist Jared Bernstein discussing the end of the USD as a reserve currency, Michael Pettis summarizes 10 reasons the USD's reserve status has become an 'exorbitant burden'.