Anyone Who Thinks that War Is Good For the Economy Has One Eye Covered ... And Is Only Looking At Half the Picture ...
We have been saying it for weeks, and today even the WSJ jumped on the bandwagon: the sole reason why crude prices are surging (RIP European profit margins: with EUR Brent at a record, we can only assume the ECB will pull a 2011 and hike rates in 3-4 months even as it pumps trillions in PIIGS, banks bailout liquidity) - is because global liquidity has risen by $2 trillion in a few short months, on the most epic shadow liquidity tsunami launched in history in lieu of QE3 (discussed extensively here in our words, but here are JPM's). Luckily, the market is finally waking up to this, and just as world central banks were preparing to offset deflation, they will instead have to deal with spiking inflation, because the market may have a short memory, it can remember what happened just about this time in 2011. And the problem is that when it comes to the inflation trade, the market, unlike in most other instances, can be fast - blazing fast, at anticipating what the central planning collective's next step will be, after all there is only one. And if Bank of America is correct, that next step could well lead to the same unprecedented economic catastrophe that we saw back in 2008, only worse: $200 oil. Note - this is completely independent of what happens in Iran, and is 100% dependent on what happens in the 3rd subbasement of the Marriner Eccles building. Throw in an Iran war and all bets are off. Needless to say, an epic deflationary shock will need to follow immediately, just as in 2008, which means that, in keeping with the tradition of being 6-9 months ahead of the market, our question today is - which bank will be 2012's sacrificial Lehman to set off the latest and greatest deflationary collapse and send crude plunging to $30 just after it hits $200.
Bunch of irrelevant and reflexive (stock market is up so confidence - in what? manipulated markets? - is higher, so stock market is up so confidence is higher etc) stuff today, as the world central banks prepare to pump another $600-$1000 billion into the consolidated balance sheet and send input costs into the stratosphere. Somehow this is bullish for stocks. Luckily, it will finally break the EURUSD - ES linkage.
- U.S. Postal Service to Cut 35,000 Jobs as Plants Are Shut (BBG) -Expect one whopper of a seasonal adjustment to compensate
- European Banks May Tap ECB for $629 Billion Cash (Bloomberg) - EURUSD surging as all ECB easing now priced in; Fed is next
- Madrid presses EU to ease deficit targets (FT)
- Greek Parliament Approves Debt Write-Down (WSJ)
- Mentor of Central Bankers Fischer Rues Complacency as Economy Accelerates (Bloomberg)
- Draghi Takes Tough Line on Austerity (WSJ)
- European Banks Hit by Losses (WSJ)
- Moody's: won't take ratings action on Japan on Friday (Reuters)
- Athens told to change spending and taxes (FT)
While the headline-chasers will allocate cause to effect for every twitch and ditch in asset prices, JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest appears to agree with us that nothing else matters but central bank balance sheet expansion. As we discussed earlier in the week, major central banks have injected nearly $7tn into world markets since 2007 and while the obscene rise in gas prices should somewhat self-limit the print-fest, it appears not before another bubble has burst as central bankers feel safe on this path given their microscopic focus on their own inflation-measures. Whether it be asset-reflation, boosting bank capital, pulling forward consumer demand, or government-reacharound financing, Cembalest sums up: super-easy monetary policy supports markets right now, prompting his question: "Who knew that unlimited money printing would be such a clean and simple solution to the world’s problems? I would love to read a book called “Reliable Central Bank Exit Strategies”, but I don’t think it has been written yet. Enjoy the ride."
We have only one question: "If a 20% rise in global stocks required a $2 trillion expansion in aggregate assets, which also took EUR-Brent to all-time record highs and WTI to over $107 $108, where will the next 20% come from, and how will the economy fare with $150 WTI?"
History is replete with the carcasses of failed currencies destroyed through misguided intentional debasement by governments looking for an easy escape from piling up too much debt. James Rickards, author of the recent bestseller Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, sees history repeating itself today - and warns we are in the escalating stage of a global currency war of the grandest scale. Whether it ends in hyperinflation, in the return to some form of gold standard, or in chaos - history is telling us we can have confidence it will end painfully.
It was one short week ago that both Australia surprised with hotter than expected inflation (and no rate cut), and a Chinese CPI print that was far above expectations. Yet in confirmation of Dylan Grice's point that when it comes to "inflation targeting" central planners are merely the biggest "fools", this morning we woke to find that the PBOC has cut the Required Reserve Ratio (RRR) by another largely theatrical 50 bps. As a reminder, RRR cuts have very little if any impact, compared to the brute force adjustment that is the interest rate itself. As to what may have precipitated this, the answer is obvious - a collapsing housing market (which fell for the fourth month in a row) as the below chart from Michael McDonough shows, and a Shanghai Composite that just refuses to do anything (see China M1 Hits Bottom, Digs). What will this action do? Hardly much if anything, as this is purely a demonstrative attempt to rekindle animal spirits. However as was noted previously, "The last time they stimulated their CPI was close to 2%. It's 4.5% now, and blipping up." As such, expect the latent pockets of inflation where the fast money still has not even withdrawn from to bubble up promptly. That these "pockets" happen to be food and gold is not unexpected. And speaking of the latter, it is about time China got back into the gold trade prim and proper. At least China has stopped beating around the bush and has now joined the rest of the world in creating the world's biggest shadow liquidity tsunami.
San Fran Fed Asks If "People Understand Monetary Policy"; Finds Those With "No High School Diploma" Don'tSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/17/2012 13:18 -0400
For their sake, we hope at least the answer from the Fed is "yes." Yet it is quite ironic that the subtext of this paper is that Monetary Policy can actually fail, when, get this, people don't grasp all the nuances of monetary policy. In other words, it is not the Fed's fault when it fails - it is the people's fault: "we fi?nd evidence that the relationship between unemployment and interest rates is not properly understood by households in the lowest income quartile, and by those with no high school diploma." Cue Kartik Athreya to explain to us all why only Ph.D.s understand the complexities of monetary policy when it works, and why it is those without a highscool diploma that are at fault, when it doesn't.
It is no secret to those who follow the daily nuances of global monetary policy that the primary reason for Europe's deplorable fate has little to do with liquidity, and everything to do with an ever diminishing base of money-good assets, which in turn is a solvency problem when run through the cash flow statement and balance sheet. Need an explanation for the ever declining collateral thresholds by the ECB? There it is: assets in Europe are generating ever lower returns, which means that an ever lower inverse LTV has to be applied to them by monetary authorities in order for the asset holder to get some return. And with trillions in incremental cash needs, before all is said and done, the ECB (and various regional central banks, as was discussed last week), will be forced to accept virtually anything that is not nailed down as collateral for 100 cents on par (not amortized) value. Yet while observing the symptom is simple, the diagnosis is much more difficult. In other words, why is Europe's asset base getting progressively worse. Courtesy of Goldman we may have found the answer. As the following chart shows, the average age of assets in years in Europe, has just hit a record high. The implications of this are substantial, and explain so very much about the core problem at the heart of the European quandary.
Today, Rand’s fictional world has seemingly become a reality – endless bailouts and economic stimulus for the unproductive at the expense of the most productive, and calls for additional taxation on capital investment. The shrug of Rand’s heroic entrepreneurs is to be found today within the tangled ciphers of corporate and government balance sheets. The US Federal Reserve has added more than $2 trillion to the base money supply since 2008 – an incredible and unprecedented number that is basically a gift to banks intended to cover their deep losses and spur lending and investment. Instead, as banks continue their enormous deleveraging, almost all of their new money remains at the Fed in the form of excess reserves. Corporations, moreover, are holding the largest amounts of cash, relative to assets and net worth, ever recorded. And yet, despite what pundits claim about strong balance sheets, firms’ debt levels, relative to assets and net worth, also remain near record-high levels. Hoarded cash is king. The velocity of money (the frequency at which money is spent, or GDP relative to base money) continues to plunge to historic lows. No wonder monetary policy has had so little impact. Capital, the engine of economic growth, sits idle – shrugging everywhere.
Are we really in an economic recovery or is it a figment of the Fed's quantitative easing? This will be the biggest factor in the 2012 elections.
There are those who have been waiting to buy undilutable precious metals in response to a headline announcement from the Fed that it is starting to buy up hundreds of billions of Treasurys or MBS. This is understandable - after all that is precisely the trigger that the headline scanning robots which account for 90% of market action in the past year are programmed to do. And the worst thing that one can do is put on the right trade at the wrong time. Yet it may come as a surprise to some, that while the world was waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for Bernanke to hit the Print button, virtually every other central bank was quietly unleashing it own mini tsunami of liquidity. In fact, as Morgan Stanley puts it, "the Great Monetary Easing Part 2 is in full swing." But wait, there's more: in an Austrian world, where fundamentals don't matter and only how much additional nominal fiat is created is relevant, it is sheer idiocy to assume that the printers will stop here... or anywhere for that matter. They simply can't, now that the marginal utility of every dollars is sub 1.00 relative to GDP creation. This means that by the time the Global Weimar is in full swing, we will see much, much more easing. Sure enough, MS anticipates an unprecedented additional round of easing in the months ahead. So for those waiting to buy gold et al at the same time as DE Shaw's correlation quants do, the time will be long gone. Because slowly everyone is realizing that it is not the Fed that is the marginal creator of fake money. It is everyone.
Yesterday, it was Thomas Stolper who capitulated on his latest incursion into the field of 0.000 batting, when he closed his long EURUSD reco (only for the EUR to jump today of course). We can hardly wait for him to announce he is again long the EURUSD for the clearest EUR short signal possible. That said, it still left outstanding the Goldman Russell 2000 recommendation noted here previously. Sure enough, in the aftermath of yesterday's return of risk with a vengeance, Goldman is taking steps to make sure it locks in at least some profits on its RUT 2000 target of 860 by hiking the stop to 810 from 765. The reason? "What has clearly changed in the past week -- and the catalyst for this "leash tightening" -- is that European sovereign risks have reemerged, with continued near-term support for Greece now much more uncertain than we or the markets had previously assumed. With the amplification of these hard-to-assess risks emanating from Europe, and data continuing to support our main thesis, we think that protecting the gains at this point with relatively tight stop is prudent" But why if Europe is suddenly fixed, on the completely meaningless news that the ECB is funding Eurozone central banks with magic money on their Greek bond losses, even as the actual debt notional is not changing at all. At this point, we doubt we are the only one who no longer care.
The long-term link between demographic supply-demand shifts and the dynamics of asset price changes is hard to quantitatively dismiss and while it is just as difficult to trade these long-term shifts, as Credit Suisse notes, it is a useful context for considering tactical and strategic asset allocation. Based on projections of two interesting ratios (Middle-/Old-age ratio for equity multiples and Yuppie/Nerd ratio for bond yields), they find that US and European equity P/E multiples are set to structurally fall for the next decade (while Japan may see expansion) and similarly Japan is expected to see bond yields continue to structurally fall while US and European yields will rise (with US yields rising only modestly - though still painfully for governments - and UK quite significantly). While, of course, significant differences exist in the equity and debt market participation level and demand and supply mechanics of foreign investors, the relationships have stood the test of time and should warrant concern for the medium-term in both US and European markets as perhaps monetary policy's extreme experimentation is fundamentally fighting these trends that are exaggerated in the short-term by the cyclical-to-secular end of the leverage super-cycle.
Make no mistake, inflation is creeping into the system in a big way. And the Fed will not raise interest rates to fight it until it’s far too late. Debt levels are simply too high for the Federal Government and US corporations, particularly the large banks which the Fed has been doing everything it can to prop up.