I am fairly certain the answer to why Bernanke isn’t increasing inflation when his former self and former colleagues say he should be is actually nothing to do with domestic politics, and everything to do with international politics. Most of the pro-Fed blogosphere seems to live in denial of the fact that America is massively in debt to external creditors — all of whom are frustrated at getting near-zero yields (they can’t just flip bonds to the Fed balance sheet like the hedge funds) — and their views matter, very simply because the reality of China and other creditors ceasing to buy debt would be untenable. Why else would the Treasury have thrown a carrot by upgrading the Chinese government to primary dealer status (the first such deal in history), cutting Wall Street’s bond flippers out of the deal?
Strength is fading. Parity is visible. Reform is the only option. European markets are tumbling and the euro has slipped to record lows against several major currencies. The market is in reaction mode responding Spain and Greece in the headlines.
So the end stage of neoliberalism threatens a Dark Age of poverty/immiseration – most characteristically, one of debt peonage. ~ Michael Hudson
The decoupling between revenues and earnings (that we discussed here) continues and while we have seen analyst reduce estimates, Nic Colas of ConvergEX notes that the estimates for the upcoming quarters of 2012 and into next year have taken a disturbing turn for the worse. On average, the Street expects the 30 companies of the Dow to post only 1.0-1.5% year-over-year top line growth for Q3 2012, down from the 3.0-3.7% expectations it had baked into its financial models just 60 days ago. Also, these analysts now peg Q4 2012 at 3.9% growth, but those numbers are falling quickly as companies report their earnings this month. Also worrisome: analysts are reducing their revenue expectations across the board – only 3 of the Dow 30 companies saw increased expectations for Q3 2012 revenues in the past 30 days, with a similarly dismal count for Q4 2012 expectations. If this is the best these large, well-capitalized companies can muster in terms of sales growth, can a U.S. recession be far behind? And expectations for further monetary policy easing as the last-and-best explanation for the recent rally in U.S. stocks.
The World Gold Council have just published their commentary on gold’s price performance in various currencies, its volatility statistics and correlation to other assets in the quarter - Gold Q2, 2012 - Investment Statistics and Commentary. It provides macroeconomic context to the investment statistics published at the end of each quarter and highlights emerging themes relevant to gold’s future development. One of their key findings is that gold will act as hedge against possible coming dollar weakness and gold will act as a "currency hedge in the international monetary system." The key findings of the World Gold Council’s report are presented inside.
One of the most widely accepted truisms of our time is that deflation is bad: bad for debtors, bad for the indebted government, and therefore bad for the economy. What all this overlooks is how wonderful mild deflation is for those who owe no debt but who own the debt and the income streams that flow from debt. What the "deflation is bad" argument ignores is who controls the financial and political systems, and what set of conditions benefits them. Everyone assuming the Federal government has the power to create inflation and that inflation is "good" should examine the interests of those who control the government's policies, i.e. those who own the debt. Put another way: here's what will be scarce: reliable income streams and liquidity.
ECB Says Greek Bonds No Longer Eligible As Collateral, Leaves Greece With Under €65bn Of ELA Borrowing CapacitySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/20/2012 09:13 -0400
Due to the expiration on 25 July 2012 of the buy-back scheme for marketable debt instruments issued or fully guaranteed by the Hellenic Republic, these instruments will become for the time being ineligible for use as collateral in Eurosystem monetary policy operations.
What's Ben gonna do?
The world's largest hedge fund is not as sanguine about the hope that remains in the markets today. The firm's founder, Ray Dalio, who has written extensively on the good, bad, and ugly of deleveragings, sounds a rather concerned note in his latest quarterly letter to investors as the "developed world remains mired in the deleveraging phase of the long-term debt cycle" and has spread to the emerging world "through diminished capital flows which have weakened their growth rates and undermined asset prices". Between China, Europe, and the US, which he discusses in detail, he sees the lack of global private sector credit creation leaving the world's economies highly reliant on government support through monetary and fiscal stimulation. The breadth of this slowdown creates a dangerous dynamic because, given the inter-connectedness of economies and capital flows, one country's decline tends to reinforce another's, making a self-reinforcing global decline more likely and a reversal more difficult to produce. After discounting a relatively imminent return to normalcy in early 2011, markets are now pricing in a meaningful deleveraging for an extended period of time, including negative real earnings growth, negative real yields, high defaults and sustained lower levels of commodity prices. Lastly he believes the common-wisdom - that the Germans and the ECB will save the day - is misplaced.
There was yet another European Union summit at the end of June, which (like all the others) was little more than bluff. Read the official communiqué and you will discover that there were some fine words and intentions, but not a lot actually happened. The big news in this is the implication the ECB will, in time, be able to stand behind the Eurozone banks because it will accept responsibility for them. This is probably why the markets rallied on the announcement, but it turned out to be another dead cat lacking the elastic potential energy necessary to bounce. Meanwhile, Germany, meant to be the back-stop for this lunacy, is losing patience. It has become clear that the agreements that arose out of the June summit were not agreements at all. The questions arises: How can the Eurozone stay together, and if not, how quickly is it likely to start disintegrating? And where does the exchange rate for the euro fit in all this?
From UBS: "We think that a creditor nation is less at risk of hyperinflation than a debtor nation, as a debtor nation relies not only on the confidence of domestic creditors, but also of foreign creditors. We therefore think that the hyperinflation risk to global investors is largest in the US and the UK. The more the fiscal situation deteriorates and the more central banks debase their currencies, the higher the risk of a loss of confidence in the future purchasing power of money. Indicators to watch in order to determine the risk of hyperinflation therefore pertain to the fiscal situation and monetary policy stance in high-deficit countries. Note that current government deficits and the current size of central bank balance sheets are not sufficient to indicate the sustainability of the fiscal or monetary policy stance and thus, the risk of hyperinflation. The fiscal situation can worsen without affecting the current fiscal deficit, for example when governments assume contingent liabilities of the banking system or when the economic outlook worsens unexpectedly. Similarly, the monetary policy stance can expand without affecting the size of the central bank balance sheet. This happens for example when central banks lower collateral requirements or monetary policy rates, in particular the interest rate paid on reserves deposited with the central bank. A significant deterioration of the fiscal situation or a significant expansion of the monetary policy stance in the large-deficit countries could lead us to increase the probability we assign to the risk of hyperinflation."
There is a strange delayed reaction between the initial exposure of weakness in the financial system and the public’s realization of the truth, sort of like Wile E. Coyote dashing off a cliff in the cartoons only to continue running in mid-air above the abyss below. It is a testament to the fact that beyond the math, there is an undeniable power of psychology in our economy. The investment world naively believes it can fly, even with the weight of endless debt around its ankles, and for a very short time, that pure delirious oblivious belief sustains the markets. Eventually, though, gravity always triumphs over fantasy…
As Messers Frank and Paul take on the Bernank this morning, we reflect on the four easing options that the illustrious fed-head laid out in a statement-of-the-obvious that still managed to get the algos ripping. As Goldman notes, his prepared remarks were terse (and lacking in 'easing options' discussion) - cautious on his outlook, concerned at Europe, and fearful of the 'fiscal cliff' - but his response in the Q&A were a little more revealing as he laid out his choices: asset purchases, discount window lending programs, changes in communication about the likely path of rates or the Fed balance sheet, or a cut in the interest rate on excess reserves. We discuss each below but note, just as Goldman believes, that while we think that a modest easing step is a strong possibility at the August or September meeting, we suspect that a large move is more likely to come after the election or in early 2013 (and not before), barring a very rapid further deterioration in the already-cautious near term Fed economic outlook (which we assume implicitly brings the threat of deflation).
European equities are trading in minor positive territory on light volume and a light economic calendar with the exception of the IBEX and the FTSE MIB which are down 0.3% and 0.4% respectively as US participants begin to come to their desks. Headline employment data from the UK was for the most part in-line with expectations, though the jobless claims change for June showed a 6.1K increase compared with the 5.0K expected, with downward revisions to May’s figures. The BoE minutes showed the July increase in APF was not unanimous at 7-2, and a GBP 75bln increase was also discussed, and that should the additional easing measures not work, a further rate cut would be examined. The final comment caused a spike to the upside in the short Sterling strip of 6 ticks, Gilt futures rose to make highs of 121.78, and GBP/USD to slide back below 1.5600, though the pair has since come off its lows and trades back above this level.
It may be blasphemy but we ask "Is a Eurobond necessary?" UBS' Paul Donovan suggests the short answer to this question is “no”. The long answer is “no, of course not, not like this”. The Euro area seems to have drifted into something of a fiscal backwater with the debate over Eurobonds. German Chancellor Merkel has rather melodramatically declared that Eurobonds will not be an option as long as she lives. As Donovan notes, European politicians go back and forth over the merits, necessity, and preconditions for Eurobonds. He sees this as "a waste of time". Eurobonds are not a necessary condition for the survival of the Euro, even though (in our view) fiscal union in some form is a necessary condition. The Eurobond debate is diverting valuable political and economic resource into what is at best an irrelevance, and at worst may actually undermine the stability of the Euro area.