China’s credit growth has been outstripping economic growth for five quarters with the corporate debt bubble looking increasingly precarious (as we explained here and here). This raises one key question: where has the money gone? As SocGen notes, although such divergence is not unprecedented, it potentially suggests a trend that gives greater cause for concern – China is approaching a Minsky moment. At the micro level, SocGen points out that a non-negligible share of the corporate sector and local government financial vehicles are struggling to cover their financial expense. At the macro level, they estimate that China’s debt servicing costs have significantly exceeded underlying economic growth. As a result, the debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity (see CCFDs for a very big example). This is probably where most of China’s missing money went.
Against this economic slowdown, stocks are priced quite richly. There is a word for when markets are totally disconnected from reality: it’s a bubble.
"The economy is amazing right now - employment is recovering, innovation is going and housing is reviving. What's not to love?" This was a statement we heard in the media to justify the recent rise in the stock market. However, back in the real world, what is clear from the two composite indexes is that the broad economy, and by extension underlying employment, has clearly peaked and has began to weaken. This is well within the context of historical trends and time frames. While the mainstream analysts and economists continue to have optimistic views for a resurgence in economic activity by years end the current data trends, both globally and domestically, suggest otherwise.
The idea that a weak yen is positive for countries outside Japan is gaining traction. This is preposterous and we'll see why as currency wars soon accelerate.
China's Data Manipulation In One Chart, And Why The Real Data Implies Weakest GDP Growth In Over 20 YearsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/12/2013 13:31 -0400
By definition, exports from country A have to equal imports from country B. Unless country A is China. Then, central planning magic happens, as can be seen in the chart below showing the misreporting of Chinese exports to HK compared to HK's reported imports from China, which is just the latest nail in the coffin of Chinese economic data "integrity."
The financial and other markets do not seem to reflect the reality of subdued growth is how Hoisington Investment's Lacy Hunt describes the current environment. Stock prices are high, or at least back to levels reached more than a decade ago, and bond yields contain a significant inflationary expectations premium. Stock and commodity prices have risen in concert with the announcement of QE1, QE2 and QE3. Theoretically, as well as from a long-term historical perspective, a mechanical link between an expansion of the Fed's balance sheet and these markets is lacking. It is possible to conclude, therefore, that psychology typical of irrational market behavior is at play. As Lance Roberts notes, Hunt suggests that when expectations shift from inflation to deflation, irrational behavior might adjust risk asset prices significantly. Such signs that a shift is beginning can be viewed in the commodity markets. "Debt is future consumption denied," and regardless of the current debate - Reinhart and Rogoff were right. Simply put, "the problems have not been solved, they have merely been contained."
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.
Over the years, Jim O'Neill, former Chairman of GSAM, rose to fame for pegging the BRIC acronym (no such luck for the guy who came up with the far more applicable and accurate PIIGS, or STUPIDS, monikers, but that's neither here nor there). O'Neill was correct in suggesting, about a decade ago, that the rise of the middle class in these countries and their purchasing power would prove to be a major driving force in the world economy. O'Neill was wrong in his conclusion as to what the ultimate driver of said purchasing power would be: as it has become all too clear with the entire world drowning in debt (and recently China), it was pure and simply debt. O'Neill was horribly wrong after the Great Financial Crisis when he suggested that it would be the BRIC nation that would push the world out of depression. To the contrary, not only is the world not out of depression as the fourth consecutive year of deteriorating economic data confirms (long since disconnected with the actual capital markets), but it is the wanton money (and bad debt) creation by the central banks of the developed world (as every instance of easing by China has led to an immediate surge of inflation in the domestic market) that has so far allowed the day of reckoning, and waterfall debt liquidations, to take place (and certainly don't look at the stock index performance of China, Brazil, India or Russia). Despite his errors, he has been a good chap having taken much of the abuse piled upon him here at Zero Hedge somewhat stoically, as well as a fervent ManU supporter, certainly at least somewhat of a redeeming quality. Attached please find his final, farewell letter as Chairman of the Goldman Asset Management division, as he moves on to less tentacular pastures.
Due to decades of unreserved credit growth that temporarily boosted the appearance of sustainable economic growth and prosperity, rational economic behavior cannot produce real (inflation-adjusted) economic growth from current levels. The nominal sizes of advanced economies have grown far larger than the rational scope of production that would be needed to sustain them. This fundamental problem explains best the current state of affairs: malaise (i.e., bank system de-leveraging and economic stagnation) spreading through the means of production and the need for increasing policy intervention to stabilize goods, service and asset prices (by depressing the first three and inflating the last?). We live and work in a contrived meta-economy that can be managed through narrow channels in financial and state capitals. Given the overwhelming past misallocation of capital cited above, we think the most important realization for investors in the current environment is that price levels of goods, services and assets may be biased to rise but they are not sustainable in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. The crowd is ignoring the obvious, as all signs point towards the next currency reset.
The most recent gold bear raid has vastly enriched the bullion bankers, once again, at the expense of everyone trying to protect their wealth from global central bank money printing. The central plank of Bernanke's magic recovery plan has been to get everybody back borrowing, spending, and "investing" in stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. But not equally so - he has been instrumental in distorting the landscape towards risk assets and away from safe harbors. That's why a 2- year loan to the US government will only net you 0.22%, a rate that is far below even the official rate of inflation. After the two years is up, you are up $44k (interest) but out $260k (inflation) for net loss of $216,000. That wealth, or purchasing power, did not just vanish: it was taken by the process of inflation and transferred to someone else. This explains, almost completely, why the gap between the rich and everyone else is widening so rapidly, and why financiers now populate the top of every Forbes 400 list. There is no mystery, just a process of wealth transfer of magnificent and historic proportions; one that has been repeated dozens of times throughout history.
Despite the mainstream analysts' calls for a "great rotation" by investors from bonds to stocks - the reality has been quite the opposite. While the 10-year treasury rate rose from the recessionary lows signaling some economic recovery in 2009; the decline in rates coincided with the evident peak in economic growth for the current cycle that begin in earnest in 2012 - "With rates plunging in recent weeks the indictment from the bond market concurs with the longer term data that the economy remains at risk." Despite the calls for the end of the "bond bubble" the current decline in interest rates are suggesting that the real risk is to the economy. The aggressive monetary intervention programs by the Federal Reserve, along with the ECB and BOJ, continue to support the financial markets but are gaining little traction within the real economy. Of course, this is likely why the current quantitative easing program is "open-ended" because the Fed has finally realized that there is no escape. The next economic crisis is coming - the only questions are "when" and "what causes it?" The problem is that next time - monetary policy might not save investors.
Preview of tomorrow's BOE minutes and Osborne's budget.
Our last discussion of the miracle of earnings expectations focused on the bottom-up hockey-stick that it seems the consensus believes is ahead (always out there in the future). Today's 'factual' and 'empirical' whiteboard lecture on the 'miracle' comes courtesy of CNBC's Rick Santelli, who appears as frustrated at his co-correspondents permabullishness (see Liesman's flip-flopping views on retail sales today) as the implicit disconnect between the market and fundamentals. To wit, the fact that expectations for GDP growth and earnings are so divergent. With earnings growth expected to be +14.7% this year and nominal GDP around +3-4%, Santelli asks his guest where nominal GDP 'normally' is for such strong earnings expectations - the answer 7.6% nominal GDP growth... reality discussion ensues...
The UK government appears to be contemplating changing the BOE's mandate so it can be freer tolerate greater near-term price pressures. The Tory-led government is commented to fiscal consolidation--austerity--the same kind of policies many want to see the US adopt, and needs greater monetary stimulus to avoid a deeper contraction in the UK economy.
With their crackpot monetary ideas, central banks have been robbing Peter to pay Paul without knowing which one was which. And a problem here is this thing behavioral psychologists call self-attribution bias. It describes how when good things happen to people they think it’s because of something they did, but when bad things happen to them they think it’s because of something someone else did.... When we look around we can’t help feeling something similar is happening. The 99% blame the 1%; the 1% blame the 47%. In the aftermath of the Eurozone’s own credit bubbles, the Germans blame the Greeks. The Greeks round on the foreigners. The Catalans blame the Castilians. And as 25% of the Italian electorate vote for a professional comedian whose party slogan “vaff a” means roughly “f**k off ”, the Germans are repatriating their gold from New York and Paris. Meanwhile in China, that centrally planned mother of all credit inflations, popular anger is being directed at Japan, and this is before its own credit bubble chapter has fully played out. (The rising risk of war is something we are increasingly worried about…) Of course, everyone blames the bankers (“those to whom the system brings windfalls… become ‘profiteers’ who are the object of the hatred”).