A panel of bankers warned the Fed in February that their extreme monetary policy is forcing institutions to "accept greater credit-risk" than "makes sense" and student debt and farmland prices are in a bubble. We first started to explain the bubble in student debt over two years ago and since then the bubble has become larger (and the underlying structure much more fragile as delinquencies soar). Farmland rose in price over 16% last year (according to the Chicago Fed) and has surged 8% per annum over the past decade. Credit risk is now at levels associated with the CDO-driven liquidity excess of 2006. "Further accommodation is not warranted," the minutes of this meeting show - uncovered by Bloomberg via the FOIA. The comments should cause Bernanke and his merry men to pause for breath but of course it is likely what he wanted all along. "Growth in student debt... has parallels to the housing crisis," and "agricultural land prices are veering further from what makes sense," are just two of the bankers' comments, adding that this "will ultimately result in higher loan losses," which is odd since every bank is adjusting down its loan-loss-reserves and juicing earnings.
All Chinese economic data is manipulated: that much is known. So is its trade data. However, the manipulation has become so grossly evident, some wonder if there is a far bigger problem behind the scenes. Turns out there is: a $60 billion per month "hot capital" inflow problem, and an economy on the very of bursting at the inflationary seams.
The debate rages... Soros: "The euro crisis has already transformed the European Union from a voluntary association of equal states into a creditor-debtor relationship from which there is no easy escape. The creditors stand to lose large sums should a member state exit the monetary union, yet debtors are subjected to policies that deepen their depression, aggravate their debt burden, and perpetuate their subordinate position. As a result, the crisis is now threatening to destroy the EU itself. That would be a tragedy of historic proportions, which only German leadership can prevent." Sinn: "Soros is playing with fire... Many investors echo Soros. They want to cut and run – to unload their toxic paper onto intergovernmental rescuers, who should pay for it with the proceeds of Eurobond sales, and put their money in safer havens... Soros does not recognize the real nature of the eurozone’s problems. The ongoing financial crisis is merely a symptom of the monetary union’s underlying malady: its southern members’ loss of competitiveness... His accusation that Germany is imposing austerity is unfair. Austerity is imposed by the markets, not by those countries providing the funds to mitigate the crisis."
Curious who the biggest casualty of last month's forced precious metal take down is? It may very well be John Paulson, who has systematically been blown out of all his concentrated positions in the past few years, and who, according to Bloomberg, just lost a record 27% in one month in his gold fund, and down 47% so far in 2013. If anything, it may explain the ongoing collapse in GLD holdings as he (among others) is forced to continue liquidating. The good news is that one levered players such as Paulson are finally blown out, there is hope that only far more rational, "non-weak handed" players remain at the table.
The second half of 2012 saw a significant shift in US monetary policy from calendar-based guidance to outcome-based guidance and the adoption of a 6.5% unemployment rate as a threshold for 'tapering'. With Friday's better-than-expected payrolls data and another tick lower in the critical-to-liquidity unemployment rate, it seems Goldman Sachs (and others) are waking up to the facts that we have been vociferous about: the shift of jobless individuals from unemployment into inactivity (the participation rate dilemma) is making the unemployment rate a less appropriate measure of broad labor market conditions. This has important implications for Fed policy because it implies that the committee might still be quite far from reaching the jobs side of its mandate even once the unemployment rate is back at 6%. After all, the Federal Reserve Act calls for 'maximum employment', not 'minimum unemployment'.
Moments ago, Draghi made sure all the downside stops in the EURUSD were taken out when out of the blue, during a discussion following prepared remarks at LUISS, he confirmed what the ECB said last week: namely that the 25 bps cut is just the beginning.
- DRAGHI SAYS ECB ARE TO EXAMINE EU DATA IN THE NEXT WEEKS AND IS READY TO ACT AGAIN
- ECB READY TO ACT AGAIN IF NEEDED, DRAGHI SAYS
- ECB MONETARY POLICY IS TO REMAIN ACCOMMODATIVE
This follows his earlier comments that the ECB can't subsidize government through buying bonds (only through trillions repo equivalents apparently), which means more whispers of a negative deposit rate are coming to a rumormonger near you.
Following last week's macro fireworks, the coming week will be an absolute snoozer with virtually nothing on the calendar until Thursday's Initial claims, which is the key event of the week, as well as much Fed president jawboning again, including both good and bad cops talking QE4EVA either up or down. And with earnings season basically over, at least coffee consumption will be higher than average.
An overview of this week's drivers.
The Federal Reserve's extreme monetary policy has done nothing but repress 'safe' assets to the point of making 'risky' assets relatively cheap. This is of course not the case were you to isolate each risky or safe asset and consider its value standalone. Choosing stocks over bonds because "well, what is the alternative?" is akin to the red-pill/blue-pill choice from The Matrix and the reflationary 'normal' that we are supposed to believe in is what 'apparently' justifies a 1.7x rise (12%!) in multiples since QE4EVA was announced. During that same period, consensus earnings expectations have plunged (merely pushed out one more year for the renaissance) and global trade and growth has collapsed. However, while we have shown many divergences from reality in the past, it is the manic/depressive difference between inflation expectations and stock valuations (implicitly supported by reflation) that is the clearest example of the short-term triumph of hope over reality.
While Harvard historian Niall Ferguson's off-the-cuff remarks during the Q&A were in his words "as stupid as they were insensitive", the core message of his presentation was clear: the party of the last 20 years is now over and the longer we fail to address the real issues the bigger the hangover will be in the future. The central question Ferguson asks is whether our institutions, corporations and governments, are degenerating. As Lance Roberts of Street Talk Live notes Ferguson believes that without addressing the structural problems that plague the economy from production to employment – stimulus will fail. The reality is that the 'punch bowl' won't fix employment growth, economic growth or the rule of law.
A. Gary Shilling's discussion of how to invest during a deleveraging cycle is a very necessary antidote to the ecstacy and euphoria that surrounds the nominal surges in risk-assets around the world sponsored by central banking largesse. Shilling ties six fundamental realities together: Private Sector Deleveraging And Government Policy Responses, Rising Protectionism, the Grand Disconnect Between Markets And Economy, a Zeal For Yield, the End Of Export Driven Economies, and why Equities Are Vulnerable. The risk on trade is alive and well - but will not last forever. We are still within a secular bear market that begin in 2000 with P/E ratios still contained within a declining trend. Despite media commentary to the contrary - this time is likely not different.
The pricing of 'safe' assets reflects the ongoing uncertainty in a world that is in the grip of the lunacy of policymakers who have seemingly lost all sense of perspective and are engaged in a huge gamble. This essential fundamental backdrop has not changed for the better lately, but for the worse. What this once again demonstrates is that intervention by central banks is creating incentives for many institutional investors to take inordinate risks in the name of preserving the purchasing power of the savings that have been entrusted to them. The problem is that the gains of today are absolutely certain to become the losses of tomorrow for investors taking the bait, as the echo bubble created by loose monetary policy is fated to turn into a major bust once the boom has played out. When the tide is going out, a great many naked swimmers will be revealed.
- Bank of America 125K
- UBS 130K
- Deutsche Bank 140K
- Citigroup 140K
- JP Morgan 145K
- Goldman Sachs 150K
- Barclays 150K
- HSBC 170K
While everyone's attention this morning will be focused on the sheer, seasonally-adjusted noise that is the monthly NFP report (keep in mind that any number +/- 200,000 of the actual, is entirely in the seasonal adjustments and is thus entirely in the eye of the Arima X 13 beholder), which is expected to print at 140,000, resulting in an unemployment rate of 7.6%, there were some events overnight worth noting. First, the China non-manufacturing PMI printed at 54.5 in April, down from 55.6, and tied with the lowest such print in two years. The biggest red flag was that New Orders dropped below 50, with the price index also declining sharply, indicating that either the Chinese slowdown is for real, and the national bank will have no choice but to ease unleashing inflation, or that the politburo wishes to telegraph to the world that China is slowing, because what goes on in China, and what data is released out of China are never the same thing. Elsewhere, in Europe Mario Draghi's henchmen were stuck in damage control mode, and Ewald Nowotny said markets over-interpreted a signal yesterday that the ECB would consider a deposit rate below zero. Policy makers have “no plan in this direction,” Nowotny said in an interview with CNBC today. This helped boost the EUR from its languishing levels in the mid 1.30s higher by some 50 pips following his statement.
If there was ever a clear sign that the leadership of Japan is fully aware that the country is about enter a terminal economic catastrophe this is it. Using the cover of currency devaluation and a rising stock market, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is attempting to make it easier to change the country’s constitution so that they can eliminate freedom of speech and set the stage for a military dictatorship.