"Washington is absolutely correct, in my opinion, to want to boost American consumption, but the Fed seems to be trying to boost consumption by igniting another asset bubble in the hopes that, like before 2007, Americans will feel “richer” and so will consume more. This isn't sustainable, however, and will leave us, as Paul and Druckenmiller fear, even more heavily indebted and more dangerously exposed to the underlying weakness in demand."
"The ECB's quantitative expansion is hitting the financial system at a time when broad liquidity is also very high. The rise in excess liquidity, i.e. the residual in the model of Figure 3, is supportive of all assets outside cash, i.e. bonds, equities and real estate. The current episode of excess liquidity, which began in May 2012, appears to have been the most extreme ever in terms of its magnitude and the ECB actions have the potential to make it even more extreme, in our view.... These liquidity boosts are not without risks. We note that they risk creating asset bubbles which when they burst can destroy wealth leading to adverse economic outcomes. Asset yields are mean reverting over long periods of time and thus historically low levels of yields in bonds, equities and real estate are unlikely to be sustained forever."- JPMorgan
In today’s financialized economies, zero cost money has but one use: It gifts speculators with free COGS (cost of goods sold) on their carry trades. Indeed, today’s 10 basis point cut by the ECB is in itself screaming proof that central bankers are lost in a Keynesian dead-end. You see, Mario, no Frenchman worried about his job is going to buy a new car on credit just because his loan cost drops by a trivial $2 per month, nor will a rounding error improvement in business loan rates cause Italian companies parched for customers to stock up on more inventory or machines. In fact, at the zero bound the only place that today’s microscopic rate cut is meaningful is on the London hedge fund’s spread on German bunds yielding 97 bps—-which are now presumably fundable on repo at 10 bps less.
Encouraging and supporting asset bubbles is essentially the only force remaining to keep the system intact as we know it.
This month's Bill Gross letter, notably shorter than usual, is as close to the bond manager discussing an Austrian economics worldview as we will likely ever see him: in brief, it's all about the credit/money creation, with an emphasis on the use of proceeds of said creation under ZIRP, i.e., malinvestment , or as Gross puts it: "credit growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic growth. Economic growth depends on the productive use of credit growth, something that is not occurring."
Is it possible, that in globally interconnected economy, the U.S. can stand alone? It certainly seems that the answer to that question is currently "yes" as financial markets hit "new all-time" highs and economic data has rebounded in the second quarter following a sharp Q1 decline. However, as is always the case, the issue of sustainability is most critical.
Capitalism gets into deep trouble when the price of financial assets becomes completely disconnected from economic reality and common sense. What ensues is rampant speculation in which financial gamblers careen from one hot money play to the next, leaving the financial system distorted and unstable - a proverbial train wreck waiting to happen. That’s where we are now.
Last week’s Jackson Hole meeting helped to highlight a simple reality: unlike other parts of the world, the eurozone remains mired in a deflationary bust six years after the 2008 financial crisis. The only official solutions to this bust seem to be a) to print more money and b) to expand government debt. Nothing Mr Draghi said in his Jackson Hole speech changed this reality.
At this stage, the path of least resistance is for the eurozone, and especially France, to continue disappointing economically, for the euro to weaken, and for Europe to remain a source of, rather than a destination for, international capital.
The Federal Reserve’s prevailing view of the world seems to be that a) QE lowers interest rates, b) lower interest rates stimulate jobs and economic activity, c) the only risk from QE will be at the point when unemployment is low enough to trigger inflation, and d) the Fed can safely encourage years of yield-seeking speculation – of the same sort that produced the worst economic collapse since the Depression – on the belief that this time is different. From the foregoing discussion, it should be clear that this chain of cause and effect is a very mixed bag of fact and fiction.
A "Yes" vote for Scottish independence represents a "high risk" event according to Citi's Michael Saunders. With the so-called 'neverendum' now less than a month away, Citi continues to highlight three particular concerns if Scotland does vote for independence: Scotland’s relatively weak fiscal position, Scotland’s large banking system and uncertainties over the currency arrangements of an independent Scotland. The Scottish Government seems to be seeking a policy of "sterlingisation" - which even their economic advisors judge "is not likely to be a long-term solution." For now a "no" vote is most likely, however, even if the Scottish referendum does not pass, the UK political landscape is likely to remain in a state of flux.
There is no reason rooted in the real world for today’s frothy stock market rally. In every single region of the planet, the post-crisis, central bank fueled expansion cycle - tepid as it was in the global aggregate - is faltering badly. So with the global expansion cycle faltering, profit ratios at all-time highs and PE multiples in the nose-bleed section of history - nearly 20X reported earnings for the S&P 500 - there is only one thing left for the Wall Street robots to do. Namely, vigorously buy the latest dip because the Fed has yet another new sheriff heading for Jackson Hole purportedly bearing dovish tidings. To wit, after 6 years of pinning money market rates to the economic floorboard at zero, Janet Yellen espies an economy still encumbered by “slack”, and will therefore be inclined to keep Wall Street gamblers in free money for a while longer.
The ragged Keynesian excuse that all will be well in Japan once the jump in the consumption tax from 5% to 8% is fully digested is false. Here’s the problem: this is just the beginning of an endless march upwards of Japan’s tax burden to close the yawning fiscal gap left after the current round of tax increases, and to finance its growing retirement colony. There is no possibility that Abenomics will result in “escape velocity” Japan style and that Japan can grow its way out of it enormous fiscal trap. Instead, nominal and real growth will remain pinned to the flatline owing to peak debt, soaring retirements, a shrinking tax base and a tax burden which will rise as far as the eye can see. Call that a Keynesian dystopia. It is a cautionary tale for our times. And Japan, unfortunately, is just patient zero.
The first half of this week has been very interesting from an economic, financial and geopolitical viewpoint. Despite what appears to be globally increasing risks, the financial markets have seemed relatively unfazed. Historically, such calm has always existed prior to the eventual storm. This week’s “3 Things” takes a look at some of the “rising risks” that we believe are being ignored which could potentially be harmful to individual's portfolios.
Against expectations of a further rise in inventory build of 0.7%, wholesale inventories rose only 0.3% in June (the same pace as in May) missing by the most since February 2013. With GDP now basically an exercise in inventory expansion and contraction (Q2 inventory estimate amounte to 40% of GDP), this 'miss' offers little hope for the initial Q2 rebound to hold its exuberance. In addition, wholesale sales also missed (up only 0.2% against expectations of a 0.7% rise) with growth slowing for the 3rd month in a row.
There is a growing certainty in the global economic outlook that is deeply alarming. The welfare-driven nations continue to impoverish their people by debauching their currencies. As Japan’s desperate monetary expansion now shows, far from improving her economic outlook, she is moving into a deepening slump, for which this article provides the explanation. Unfortunately we are all on the path to the same destructive process.