The rapid pace of China credit expansion since the Global Financial Crisis, increasingly sourced from the inherently more risky and less transparent "shadow banking" sector, has become a critical concern for the global markets. From the end of 2008 until the end of 2013, Chinese banking sector assets will have increased about $14 trillion. As Fitch notes, that's the size of the entire US commercial banking sector. So in a span of five years China will have replicated the whole US banking system. What we're seeing in China is one of the largest monetary stimuli on record. People are focused on QE in the US, but given the scale of credit growth in China Fitch believes that any cutback could be just as significant as US tapering, if not more. Goldman adds that China stands to lose up to a stunning RMB 18.6trn/$US 3trn. should this bubble pop. That seems like a big enough number to warrant digging deeper...
So, somehow the US economy is roaring back in a big way? Hard to see. Over 70% of the economy is consumer spending. And spending is driven by incomes. And incomes are… falling.
Compared to last week's macro-event juggernaut, this week will be an absolute bore, although with a bevy of Fed speakers on deck - both good and bad cops - there will be more than enough catalysts to preserve the "upward channel" scramble in the S&P and the zero volume levitation to new all time daily highs despite the lack of daily bad news. Speaking of Fed speakers, we have Fisher today, Evans’ tomorrow followed by both Plosser and Pianalto on Wednesday. The key overnight data point was the continuation of July PMIs out of Europe, this time focusing on the service industry. As Goldman summarizes, the Final Euro area Composite PMI for July came in at 50.5, marginally above the Flash reading and consensus expectations (50.4). Relative to the June final reading, this was a sold 1.8pt increase, and building on consecutive increases in the past three months, the July Euro area PMI stands 4.0pts above the March print. Solid increases were observed across all of the EMU4 in July, most notably Italy. The July reading is the highest Euro area PMI level observed since July 2011.
Crashing Australian and a miss in South Korean PMIs, following days of weak Japanese data, and a divergence in the official and HSBC Chinese manufacturing indicators to a 15 month high (HSBC PMI sliding to 11 month low) was just the bad news Asian market needed to break out higher from the recent range and thanks to the return of overnight USDJPY levitation as well as a modest reverse repo liquidity injection by the PBOC overnight, not only did the Nikkei and Shanghai rise 3% and 1.8% respectively, but US futures are right back to where they were before yesterday's dramatic turnaround in the market following a strongly dovish FOMC statement and just shy of the 1700 once more. As for Europe, while there a smattering of noise following the release of final PMIs which did not change the preliminary picture much (Spain 49.8, vs 50.6 exp; Italy 50.4 vs 49.8 exp; France 49.7 vs 49.8 exp; Germany 50.7 vs 50.3 exp) it is all up to the ECB today to preserve the myth of a European improvement coupled with a EUR currency at or near multi-month highs.
Elliott Management's 22-page letter to investors has something for everyone as Paul Singer ascribes his uniquely independent wisdom. From the fragility of the financial system to the hubris of academic pretenders; from inflation's various devious impacts on assets and reality to the floundering of the world's bankers; from America's "cooked data" to the pending social unrest in Europe and the perils of centralized power, Singers stresses "the temptation to debase fiat currencies... means owning claims on paper money is an act of either faith or denial." Recent market movements, Singer warns "indicate a world on life-support," and "for every day, month and year that policymakers try to substitute failed, inappropriate and risky QE policies for pro-growth policies, the debt mounts, as does resentment among middle-income families that their situation is not improving." The fact of the matter is that "no government has ever reached fiscal 'nirvana,' yet our central bank (and its peers) continues to push the envelope of risk, confidence and inflation." Despite the confident and brave words in which they are wrapped, central bank actions currently seem underscored by quiet panic.
One of the unpleasant side-effects for the Fed's forecasting (insert laughter here) abilities, is that following today's GDP revisions, H1 annualized GDP is now 1.4%. It means that there is no way that the economy can grow fast enough in the second half (especially with such early disappointments to the second half as the just released Chicago PMI miss) to meet the Fed's forecast growth of 2.3%-2.6%. Which, in turn, means more egg on the face of Bernanke and the FOMC's 2013 forecasts. Which is precisely what Goldman just said.
As readers are well aware by now, at 8:30 am today we get to see the rewriting of US GDP history back to 1929 with the revisions from the BEA. It’s a big last day of July with the Fed meeting coming after the GDP release. For GDP, real growth is expected to be as low as 1.0% in Q2. Opinions vary widely on today’s GDP number with one major US investment bank’s estimate as low as 0.2%, a number of bulge bracket banks at 0.5% while there are also plenty of economists above 1.5%. It is not news to anyone that nominal GDP is very low at the moment - especially in a world of nosebleed high debts - and today could see this have a 1-handle YoY (and at best a 2-handle) - a level not even normally seen at the depths of most recessions.
Hopes that Kuroda would say something substantial, material and beneficial to the "three arrow" wealth effect (about Japan's sales tax) last night were promptly dashed when the BOJ head came, spoke, and went, with the USDJPY sliding to a new monthly low, which in turn saw the Nikkei tumble another nearly 500 points. China didn't help either, where the Shanghai Composite also closed below 2000 wiping out a few weeks of gains on artificial hopes that the PBOC would step in with a bailout package, as attention turned to the reported announcement that an update of local government debt could double the size of China's non-performing loans, and what's worse, that the PBOC was ok with that. Asian negativity was offset by the European open, where fundamentals are irrelevant (especially on the one year anniversary of Draghi FX Advisors LLC "whatever it takes to buy the EURUSD" speech) and renewed M&A sentiment buoyed algos to generate enough buying momentum to send more momentum algos buying and so on. As for the US, futures are indicating weakness for the third day in a row but hardly anyone is fooled following two consecutive days of green closes on melt ups "from the lows": expect another rerun of the now traditional Friday ramp, where a 150 DJIA loss was wiped out during the day for a pre-programmed just green closing print.
China is preparing to admit that the level of problem Local Government Financing Vehicle debt is double the 10.7 trillion yuan first reported just two years ago, something many suspected but few dared to voice in the open. But not only that: since the likely level of Non-Performing Loans (i.e., bad debt) within the LGFV universe has long been suspected to be in 30% range, a doubling of the official figure will also mean a doubling of the bad debt notional up to a stunning and nosebleeding-inducing $1 trillion, or roughly 15% of China's goal-seeked GDP! We wish the local banks the best of luck as they scramble to find the hundreds of billions in capital to fill what is about to emerge as the biggest non-Lehman solvency hole in financial history (without the benefit of a Federal Reserve bailout that is).
Dis-passionate discussion of next week's events and data, placed within a somewhat larger context.
The secular low in bond yields has yet to be recorded. This assessment for a continuing pattern of lower yields in the quarters ahead is clearly a minority view, as the recent selling of all types of bond products attest. The rise in long term yields over the last several months was accelerated by the recent Federal Reserve announcement that it would be “tapering” its purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. This has convinced many bond market participants that the low in long rates is in the past. The Treasury bond market’s short term fluctuations are a function of many factors, but its primary and most fundamental determinate is attitudes toward current and future inflation. From that perspective, the outlook for long term Treasury yields to fall is most favorable in light of: a) diminished inflation pressures; b) slowing GDP growth; c) weakening consumer fundamentals; and d) anti-growth monetary and fiscal policies.
Facts are treasonous and dangerous in an empire of lies, fraud and propaganda. It is maddening to watch the country spiral downward, driven to ruin by a psychotic predator class, while the plebs choose to remain willfully ignorant of reality and distracted by their lust for cheap Chinese crap and addicted to the cult of techno-narcissism. We are a country running on heaping doses of cognitive dissonance and normalcy bias, an irrational belief in our national exceptionalism, an absurd trust in the same banking class that destroyed the finances of the country, and a delusionary belief that with just another trillion dollars of debt we’ll be back on the exponential growth track. The American empire has been built on a foundation of cheap easily accessible oil, cheap easily accessible credit, the most powerful military machine in human history, and the purposeful transformation of citizens into consumers through the use of relentless media propaganda and a persistent decades long dumbing down of the masses through the government education system. This national insanity is not a new phenomenon. Friedrich Nietzsche observed the same spectacle in the 19th century: “In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) July 23, 2013
The secret is the world is more indebted now than it was at the height of the financial bubble in 2007. And big changes are needed to avoid further trouble.
It is becoming much more apparent that, as we have seen each year for the past three, the Fed's prediction of stronger economic growth by the end of 2013 will be revised lower from the current level of 2.5%. Either Bernanke was lying back then or is he lying now? The problem is that the Fed is literally caught in a "liquidity trap" from which there is currently no escape. If they reduce liquidity the markets tank, taking down consumer confidence and negatively impacting the economy. If they keep the liquidity going they will inflate an asset bubble which will ultimately burst destroying the financial markets and the economy. The choice is, ultimately, a lose-lose scenario even as the bullish case for equities persists. Of course, as Chuck Schumer stated to Bernanke at the last Humphrey-Hawkins testimony, "You are the only game in town."