Open Market Operations
After Friday's surge fest on weaker than expected news - perhaps expecting a tapering of the taper despite everyone screaming from the rooftops the Fed will never adjust monetary policy based on snowfall levels - overnight the carry trade drifted lower and pulled the correlated US equity markets down with it. Why? Who knows - after Friday's choreographed performance it is once again clear there is no connection between newsflow, fundamentals and what various algos decide to do. So (lack of) reasons aside, following a mainly positive close in Asia which was simply catching up to the US exuberance from Friday, European equities have followed suit and traded higher from the get-go with the consumer goods sector leading the way after being boosted by Nestle and L'Oreal shares who were seen higher after reports that Nestle is looking at ways to reduce its USD 30bln stake in L'Oreal. The tech sector is also seeing outperformance following reports that Nokia and HTC have signed a patent and technology pact; all patent litigation between companies is dismissed. Elsewhere, the utilities sector is being put under pressure after reports that UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey urged industry watchdog Ofgem to examine the profits being made by the big six energy companies through supplying gas, saying that Centrica's British Gas arm is too profitable.
If what happened in the last days of 2013 was indeed merely reverse repo-assisted window dressing, then we would expect the that first days of 2014 should see a comparable collapse in the magnitude of the Fed's reverse repo operations. Sure enough, as the chart below shows, this is precisely what has happened following today's far more modest $56.7 billion reverse repo operation conducted among 50 bidding counterparties and the Fed, of course.
If yesterday's price action in the moments following (and preceding) the FOMC announcement was just a little suspicious, with a seemingly endless supply of VIX selling originating as if from nowhere (or perhaps the 9th floor of Liberty 33) the morning after has so far been a snoozer. Perhaps this is to be expected following the third biggest one-day surge in the stock market in the year (1st = Jan 2nd, 2nd = October 10th), or perhaps the market is finally focusing on Bernanke's tongue in cheek suggestion that the taper may be lowered by $10 billion per month (we disagree as described previously). Or perhaps the creep higher in 10 Year yields, at 2.915% at last check and just shy of the 3.00% psychological level, is finally being noticed. Or perhaps the fact that China, very surprisingly, is also tapering concurrently is finally being appreciated as is the fact that despite all talk of preparedness, developing economies were hardly left unscathed following yesterday's development. Whatever the reason, the euphoria this morning has "tapered."
Those who adhere to the don’t-stop-til-you-get-enough theory of sovereign borrowing, and by extension argue for a scrapping of the debt ceiling, couldn’t be more misguided. In free markets with no Fed money market distortion, interest rates can be a useful guide of the amount of real savings being made available to borrowers. When borrowers want to borrow more, real interest rates will rise, and at some point this crimps the marginal demand for borrowing, acting as a natural “debt ceiling.” But when markets are heavily distorted by central bank money printing and contrived zero-bound rates, interest rates utterly cease to serve this purpose for prolonged periods of time. What takes over is the false signals of the unsustainable business cycle which fools people into thinking there is more savings than there really is. Debt monetization has a proven track record of ending badly. It is after all the implicit admission that no one but your monopoly money printer is willing to lend to you at the margin. The realization that this is unsustainable can take a while to sink in, but when it does, all it takes is an inevitable fat-tail event or crescendo of panic to topple the house of cards. If the market realizes it’s been duped into having too much before the government decides it’s had enough, a debt crisis won’t be far away.
With the schizophrenia that seems to have availed across the FOMC members (hawks are doves, doves are hawks, tapering is not tightening, etc.) it is not surprising that the minutes reflect some confusion:
- *FOMC SAW `SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT RISKS' REMAINING FOR ECONOMY
- *FED TAPER LIKELY IN COMING MONTHS ON BETTER DATA, MINUTES SHOW
- *METLIFE FOUNDATION, SESAME WORKSHOP PARTNER TO PROVIDE FINL
- *FOMC SAW DOWNSIDE RISKS TO ECONOMY, LABOR MARKET `DIMINISHED'
- *FOMC SAW CONSUMER SENTIMENT REMAINING `UNUSUALLY LOW'
- *FOMC SAW RECOVERY IN HOUSING AS HAVING `SLOWED SOMEWHAT'
So summing up - when we get to an unknown point in the future with an unknown state of parameters, we may do an unknown amount of tapering - maybe possibly. Pre-Minutes: SPX 1791, 10Y 2.75, EUR 1.3444, Gold $1262
- Top China Banks Triple Debt Write-Offs as Defaults Loom (BBG)
- PBOC suspends open market operations again (Global Times)
- Eurozone bank shares fall after ECB outlines health check plan (FT)
- O-Care falling behind (The Hill)
- Key House Republican presses tech companies on Obamacare glitches (Reuters)
- J.P. Morgan Faces Another Potential Huge Payouta (WSJ)
- Yankees Among 10 MLB Teams Valued at More Than $1 Billion (BBG)
- Free our reporter, begs newspaper as China cracks down on journalists (Reuters)
- Peugeot Reviews Cost-Saving Alliance With GM (WSJ)
Asia Slides As China Overnight Repo Soars On Fears Of Another Domestic "Tapering" Episode, Preparations For Bank Loan DefaultsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/23/2013 04:48 -0500
Following the past two days of reports in which we noted that both the broader Chinese housing market was overheating and reflating at an unprecedented pace as 69 of 70 cities posted Y/Y home price gains, while a separate report showed a blistering 12% price increase in Shanghai new homes in one week, it was only a matter of time before the PBOC resumed its tighter policy posturing, which infamously sent short-term repo rates to 25% briefly in June and nearly led to a collapse of the already fragile local banking system, in an attempt to pretend it is still in control of what is now the world's fastest growing credit bubble and of course, Chinese inflation which is now impacted not only by record domestic credit production but by hot money flows from both the Fed and the BOJ. Predictably enough, as reported overnight by the Global Times, the PBOC suspended its open market operations Tuesday without injecting money as usual, a move that analysts said was in response to a surge in foreign capital inflows in September. And just like the last time the PBOC proceeded to "surprise" the market with its own tapering intentions, overnight funding rates soared, with the one-day repo rate surged 67 bps, most since June 20, to 3.7561%; while the seven-day repo rate rose 42 bps, most since July 29, to 4.0000%. This, however, brings us to the far more important story, one reported by Bloomberg overnight, and one which we predicted is inevitable over a year ago: namely that the Chinese banks, filled tothe gills with bad and non-performing debt, are finally preparing for the inevitable default onslaught and as a result have suddenly tripled their debt write offs in what can be best described as preparing for an avalanche of defaults.
David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government - that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank...
What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut...
He calls this condition "Sundown in America".
It appears there is just a little excess liquidity sloshing around out there. Moments ago the Fed announced that as part of its most recent overnight reverse repo "liquidity withdrawal preparedness test", some 87 entities provided the Fed with a whopping $58.2 billion in overnight liquidity in exchange for Treasury collateral at a 0.01% stop out rate. This was the largest amount in liquidity soaked up (or, alternatively, collateral provided) by the Fed in its recent history of Temporary Open Market operations going back to 2012.
Much attention has fallen on the Fed's recent announcement that a new fixed-rate, full-allotment overnight reverse repo facility is in the works (so much so that both shadow banking experts Singh and Stella have opined on the issue). It appears that despite the Fed's "best efforts" at communication, not enough clarity has been shed on the topic. So here is Bill Dudley's explanation.
Current US Treasury issuance is relatively low due to sequestration and (at least temporarily) less US warmongering in the Middle East. That's about to change, of course, now that the US is getting ready to launch a Cruise missile attack on Syria (we’re already been arming and financing the opposition rebels, including groups directly linked to al-Qaeda for several years now). Bernanke and the Fed doves would like nothing better than another “controlled” war in the Mideast, because with war comes massive debt issuance, and with massive debt issuance comes the transmission mechanism (QE) for monetizing that debt and mainlining it onto the Wall Street banks' broken balance sheets. And yes, they’re still broken, and Ben is still bailing them out at the expense of the American middle class. Make no mistake, Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and every other complicit banker on the Street has no problem with this, or any other, war, regardless of whether such a conflict would destabilize the entire region and would almost assuredly pull Russia and China into the fray. The more the merrier, just keep letting that free QE monopoly money roll in from the 4X weekly Federal Reserve Permanent Open Market Operations (POMO’s). And with the significant financing needs for a large war effort in the Middle East, say good-bye to “Taper.”
This is our first out of four series where we look at all the various bail-out schemes concocted by Eurocrats.
Today we look at how the ECB has evolved since 2007. In the next three posts we will look at the Target2 system, various fiscal transfer mechanisms and last, but not least the emergence of a full banking union.
Much has been said about the recently announced (with the release of the Fed's July Minutes) proposal for a full-allotment overnight reverse repo facility, some of it confused, some of it desperate to read deeply into what the Fed is suggesting with this superficially tightening process, and most of it just plain wrong. What the Fed is simply trying to do with the O/N RRP, in a few words, is alleviate collateral pressures for "high-quality assets" - the same thing that the TBAC has been whining about for the past 2 quarters - by making available an elastic supply of risk-free assets to a fairly broad set of investors. As BofA adds, "The full-allotment feature would mean that eligible investors could effectively place as much cash as they wished at a fixed rate, which would be determined in advance by the Fed." In brief, a Fed O/N RRP facility would substantially reduce or even eliminate concerns about the lack of high quality liquid assets.
"What just occurred [in the mortgage-backed-securities (MBS) market] is indicative of just how important QE is," as government backed US mortgage bonds suffer their largest quarterly decline in almost two decades. As Bloomberg reports, the $5 trillion market lost 2% in Q2, the most since the 'bond market massacre' in 1994 (when the Fed unexpectedly raised rates) as wholesale mortgage rates spiked by the most on record in the last two months. The reason these bonds have been hardest hit - simple - fear that the Fed's buying program is moving closer to an end. "The Fed, at times during this period, was the only outlet in terms of demand for securities," explains one head-trader, as the Fed’s current buying provided demand as other investors retreated and has grown as a percentage of forward sales by originators tied to new issuance, which is set to fall as higher rates reduce refinancing. With Fed heads talking back what Bernanke hinted at, there was a modest recovery in the last 2 days in MBS but the potential vicious cycle remains a fear especially now that “what was once deemed QE Infinity is no longer viewed that way."
At the end of the day, Friedman jettisoned the gold standard for a remarkable statist reason. Just as Keynes had been, he was afflicted with the economist’s ambition to prescribe the route to higher national income and prosperity and the intervention tools and recipes that would deliver it. The only difference was that Keynes was originally and primarily a fiscalist, whereas Friedman had seized upon open market operations by the central bank as the route to optimum aggregate demand and national income. The greatest untoward consequence of the closet statism implicit in Friedman’s monetary theories, however, is that it put him squarely in opposition to the vision of the Fed’s founders. As has been seen, Carter Glass and Professor Willis assigned to the Federal Reserve System the humble mission of passively liquefying the good collateral of commercial banks when they presented it. Consequently, the difference between a “banker’s bank” running a discount window service and a central bank engaged in continuous open market operations was fundamental and monumental. In short, the committee of twelve wise men and women unshackled by Friedman’s plan for floating paper dollars would always find reasons to buy government debt, thereby laying the foundation for fiscal deficits without tears.