The chart below crystalizes why the Fed is stranded in a monetary no man’s land. By the time of next week’s meeting the federal funds rate will have been pinned at about 10 bps, or effectively zero, for 84 straight months. After one pretension, delusion, head fake and forecasting error after another, the denizens of the Eccles Building have painted themselves into the most dangerous monetary corner in history. They have left themselves no alternative except to provoke a riot in the casino - the very outcome that has filled them with fear and dread all these years.
Over the weekend, in its latest quarterly presentation, the Bank of International Settlements made what may have been a very premature assessment that China is now contained. Judging by events in the past 24 hours, the reality is anything but.
Overnight, Credit Suisse became the latest bank to join Goldman, JPM and increasingly more banks in predicting that 2016 will be a year in which investors will want to rotate out of equities. Specifically, the second largest Swiss bank said that it is "we reduce our equity weightings to our most cautious strategic stance since 2008 and take our mid-2016 S&P 500 target down to 2,150, the same as our end-2016 target." Here are the five reasons why CS just looked at the mounting wall of worry... and began to worry.
Last night’s Asia action brought another warning that the global deflation cycle is accelerating. Iron ore broke below $40 per ton for the first time since the central banks kicked off the world’s credit based growth binge two decades ago; it’s now down 40% this year and 80% from its 2011-212 peak. This implosion of demand cannot be remedied with another round of central bank money printing because the world is already at peak debt. Accordingly, global corporate profit cycle is heading into a deep downturn, just as the equity markets go into a final spasm of levitation based on a handful of big cap stocks.
"The US corporate financing gap – the difference between cash flow generation and spending on capex and dividends – has turned strongly negative. In the past, when the financing gap went strongly negative, the next downturn was just around the corner."
"But they won’t, you know. Yellen and Draghi believe in the Taylor model and the Phillips curve. Gresham’s law will be found in the history books, but his corollary has little chance of making it into future economic textbooks. The result will likely be a continued imbalance between savings and investment, a yield curve too flat to support historic business models, and an anemic 1-2% rate of real economic growth in even the most robust developed countries."
The talking heads were busy this week powdering the GDP pig. By averaging up the “disappointing” 1.5% gain for Q3 with the previous quarter they were able to pronounce that the economy is moving forward at an “encouraging” 2% clip. And once we get through this quarter’s big negative inventory adjustment, they insisted, we will be off to the ‘escape velocity’ races. Again. No we won’t!The global economy is in an epochal deflationary swoon and the US economy has already hit stall speed. It is only a matter of months before this long-in-the-tooth 75-month old business expansion will rollover into outright liquidation of excess inventories and hoarded labor. That is otherwise known as a recession.
We will be the first to admit that yield curve inversion is not the only factor causing recessions, but through the credit channel it can be an important contributor. Depending on the importance of the credit channel, the Federal Reserve, by pegging the short term rate at zero, have essentially removed one recessionary market mechanism that used to efficiently clear excesses within the financial system. While stability obsessed Keynesians on a quest to the permanent boom regard this as a positive development, the rest of us obviously understand that false stability breeds instability.
Back in September we explained why, contrary to both conventional wisdom and the BOJ's endless protests to the contrary, neither the BOJ nor the ECB have any interest in boosting QE at this - or any other point - simply because with every incremental bond they buy, the time when the two central banks run out of monetizable debt comes closer. Since then the ECB has jawboned that it may boost QE (but it has not done so), and overnight as reported previously, the BOJ likewise did not expand QE despite many, including Goldman Sachs, expecting it would do just that.
No, Ben S. Bernanke will be someday remembered as the world’s most destructive battleship admiral. Not only was he fighting the last war, but his whole multi-trillion money printing campaign after September 15, 2008 was aimed at avoiding an historical Fed mistake that had never even happened!