“A depression is coming? Let’s put interest rates at zero. The economy is still in trouble? Let’s have the central bank print trillions in new securities. The banks are not lending? Let’s change the accounting rules and offer government guarantees and funds. People are still not spending? Let’s have negative interest rates. The economy is still in the tank? LET’S BAN CASH TRANSACTIONS!”
A cashless society is promising to have very tangible costs to our liberties and future prosperity.
China's January credit data hints that in some ways China is becoming like the US, and as ever more newly created credit money ends up in the stock market, is China about to follow the US and Europe and suffer a collapse in monetary velocity. Because whereas previously the biggest asset bubble in China was that of housing, now it is the stock market, which means that suddenly its monetary system is for all intents and purposes haunted by the same issues that affect western markets. So how long until China, too, which is battling both deflation and economic contraction, proceeds with outright monetary devaluation?
It’s not entirely clear what will happen in the near term, but the financial markets are already pushed to extremes by central-bank induced speculation. With speculators massively short the now steeply-depressed euro and yen, with equity margin debt still near record levels in a market valued at more than double its pre-bubble norms on historically reliable measures, and with several major European banks running at gross leverage ratios comparable to those of Bear Stearns and Lehman before the 2008 crisis, we're seeing an abundance of what we call "leveraged mismatches" - a preponderance one-way bets, using borrowed money, that permeates the entire financial system. With market internals and credit spreads behaving badly, while Treasury yields, oil and industrial commodity prices slide in a manner consistent with abrupt weakening in global economic activity, we can hardly bear to watch...
These Fake Rallies Will End In Tears: "If People Stop Believing In Central Banks, All Hell Will Break Loose"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 06/24/2014 15:11 -0400
Investors and speculators face some profound challenges today: How to deal with politicized markets, continuously “guided” by central bankers and regulators? In this environment it may ultimately pay to be a speculator rather than an investor. Speculators wait for opportunities to make money on price moves. They do not look for “income” or “yield” but for changes in prices, and some of the more interesting price swings may soon potentially come on the downside. They should know that their capital cannot be employed profitably at all times. They are happy (or should be happy) to sit on cash for a long while, and maybe let even some of the suckers’ rally pass them by. As Sir Michael at CQS said: "Maybe they [the central bankers] can keep control, but if people stop believing in them, all hell will break loose." We couldn't agree more.
There should be no 'flexible currency' and no central planning of money. They are at the root of the boom-bust cycle, the very reason for the various crises that have beset Western economies in recent decades. Switzerland would be far better off if no-one had the power to meddle with its money supply. As it is, there has been plenty of meddling already, and quite a bit of suspension of disbelief would be necessary to conclude that there will be no price to pay. As always in monetary matters, the bill will be presented at an unknown future date, but it could be a very big bill in this case... but Switzerland's Keynesian dunderhesds are well on their way to that coming due as they blast any gold repatriation plans as "reducing the credibility of the SNB’s policy."
As we explained in great detail recently, the abundance of so-called cash-on-the-sidelines is a fallacy, but even more critically the we showed the belief that these 'IOUs of past economic activity' would immediately translate into efforts to deploy them into future economic activity is also entirely false. Simply put, there is no relationship between corporate cash and subsequent capital expenditure, nor is the level of capital expenditure even well-correlated with the level of real interest rates. At this point, as John Hussman explains, it should be clear that the mere existence of a mountain of IOUs related to past economic activity is not enough to provoke future economic activity. What matters instead is the same thing that always matters: Are the resources of the economy being directed toward productive uses that satisfy the needs of others?
Financial markets have become increasingly obviously highly dependent on central bank policies. In a follow-up to Incrementum's previous chartbook, Stoerferle and Valek unveil the following 50 slide pack of 25 incredible charts to crucially enable prudent investors to grasp the consequences of the interplay between monetary inflation and deflation. They introduce the term "monetary tectonics' to describe the 'tug of war' raging between parabolically rising monetary base M0 driven by extreme easy monetary policy and shrinking monetary aggregate M2 and M3 due to credit deleveraging. Critically, Incrementum explains how this applies to gold buying decisions as they introduce their "inflation signal" indicator.
A quiet week to send off August ahead of a deluge of key data next week and as the fateful Septembr 18 FOMC announcement approaches. Still, quite a few macro events to keep track of.
Confused what the (non) news of today's "unprecedented" forward guidance announcement by the ECB means? Shocked that the ECB is about as dovish as it has ever been? Then SocGen is here to explain, if only for all those who are seemingly stunned that the ECB isn't planning on hiking rates, or even "tapering" any time soon.
Back in 2002 Warren Buffet famously proclaimed that derivatives were ‘financial weapons of mass destruction’ (FWMDs). Time has proven this view to be correct. As The Amphora Report's John Butler notes, it is difficult to imagine that the US housing and general global credit bubble of 2004-07 could have formed without the widespread use of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and various other products of early 21st century financial engineering. But to paraphrase those who oppose gun control, "FWMDs don’t cause crises, people do." But then who, exactly, does? And why? And can so-called 'liquidity regulation' prevent the next crisis? To answer these questions, John takes a closer look at proposed liquidity regulation as a response to the growing use of 'collateral transformation' (a topic often discussed here): the latest, greatest FWMD in the arsenal.
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
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.
There have been very few times where in my 40+ years of capital markets participation that I’ve strongly believed that we have witnessed a significant, material, public but seemingly under-discussed, under appreciated watershed event that will over the next several years, impact capital markets in a profound manner. The recent announcement by the Fed that they were to pursue the future course of monetary policy with direct regard to a specific, numerical level of unemployment in my mind, represents exactly one of those rare events. While the optics of the recent decision to accept an active target of the unemployment rate might be well meant, socially responsible and politically correct, the dependency upon the single datum construct already of a highly controversial nature may well likely reduce further the credibility of the Federal Reserve’s monetary efforts, thereby leading to slower economic growth, hiring and economic well being as adverse unintended consequences. Indeed, another triumph of form over substance wherein appearances of a literally wondrous intent might soothe the fevered brows of the public but remain entirely within the manipulative province of the data managers.
We face one of the deepest crises in history. A prognosis for the economic future requires a deepening of the concepts of inflation and deflation. Inflation is a political phenomenon because monetary aggregates are not determined by market forces but are planned by central banks in agreement with governments. Inflation is a tax affecting all real incomes. Inflation is a precondition of extreme deflation: depression. Should in fact the overall debt collapse, there would be an extreme deflation or depression because the money aggregate would contract dramatically. In fact the money equivalent to the defaulted debt would literally vanish. It is for this reason that central banks monetize new debt at a lower interest rates, raising its value. All the financial bubbles and the mass of derivatives are just the consequence of debt monetization. How will this all end? In history, debt monetization has always produced hyperinflation. In Western countries, despite the exponential debt a runaway inflation has not yet occurred. Monetary policy has only inflated the financial sector, starving the private one, which is showing a bias towards a deflationary depression. Unfortunately governments and banks will go for more inflation. As history teaches, besides money the freedom of citizens can also be the victim.
We have long been pounding the table on what in our view is the biggest detriment to any future growth for not only corporate America, but the entire US (where, sadly, government investment IRRs just happen to be negative - a fact that most won't understand until it is too late, especially not self-anointed economic wisemen whose only solution to everything is "do more of the same" yet who thought the utility of the Internet would be eclipsed by that of the fax machine): the complete lack of capital expenditures at the corporate level, and lack of (re)investment spending. It turns out that, however, that there is more to the story, and as the following chart from SocGen's Albert Edwards shows, not only are companies using up what actual free cash flows they have for such stupid stock boosting gimmicks such as harebrained M&A (just look at the recent fiasco between HP and Autonomy to see how rushed M&A always ends), and of course buybacks, but they are now levering to the hilt to do even more of this. The last time they did this? The golden days of the credit bubble.