People's Bank Of China
One of the catalysts driving the Friday rally in stocks was news from the PBOC that China was pushing forward with liberalization of its "interest rate controls" by removing the lending rate floor. Back then we asked, rhetorically, that "besides optics, because China does not have a market clearing interest rate so this announcement is largely moot, will this announcement have an actual impact on Chinese lending or transmission mechanisms? Hardly." As SocGen lays out today, "Hardly" was indeed the accurate answer: "Although the step is of great significance, the near term impact is likely to be very limited."
The PBOC just announced that China will scrap its bank lending rate floor and controls on bill discount rate. It will also allow banks to set lending rate based on commercial preinciples with a goal of promoting economic restructuring. China will continue differentiated lending policies for housing sector and will leave unchanged lending floating rates for home buyers.
Last week's liquidity crunch and market panic is a reminder that Beijing is playing a difficult game. Regardless of what happens next, the consensus expectations that China's economy will grow at roughly 7 percent over the next few years can be safely ignored. Growth driven by consumption, instead of trade and investment, is alone sufficient to grow China's GDP by 3 to 4 percent annually. But it is not clear that consumption can be sustained if investment growth levels are sharply reduced. If Beijing can successfully manage the employment consequences of decreased investment growth, perhaps it can keep consumption growing at current levels. But that's a tricky proposition. It's likely that the days of the super-powered Chinese economy are over. Instead, Beijing must content itself with grinding its way through the debt that has accumulated over the past decade.
In the aftermath of the record cash crunch in the Chinese interbank market, many financial institutions in China and abroad have been hoping that the PBOC would either end its stance of aloof detachment or at least break its vow of silence and if not act then at a minimum promise good times ahead. Alas, despite repeated confusion in various press reports that it has done that, it hasn't aside from the occasional "behind the scenes" bank bailout. And at today's Lujiazui Financial Forum, PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan kept the status quo saying the central bank will adjust liquidity "at the proper time to ensure market stability." That time, however, is not now.
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) released an official statement addressing directly the latest liquidity conditions in the banking system and indicating that the central bank intends to maintain sufficient liquidity conditions in the interbank market. As Goldman notes, this clear communication of policy intentions is highly important to guide market expectations, avoid liquidity hoarding, and contain excessive volatility of market. While they hope this calms markets in coming days, Goldman notes that the interbank rates are likely to settle back to a level higher than before to rein in leverage growth. However, in a helpful prompt for more jawboning, the squid notes, continued communications on policy intentions and actions will be helpful to further ease market uncertainties, given the extreme volatility in recent weeks; though we note the tightening bias will remain as the new leadership appears to prefer to take their pain early (and blame previous parties) than wait.
- Scalpel in Hand, Chinese Premier Li Stirs Reform Hopes (Reuters)
- Obama Sets Conditions for Keystone Pipeline Go-Ahead (FT)
- World’s Most Indebted Households Face Rate Pain (BBG)
- SAC Probers Weighing 'Willful Blindness' Tack (WSJ)
- Draghi Says ECB Ready to Act, Calls for Investment Over Tax (BBG)
- U.S. Tops China for Foreign Investment (WSJ)
- Basel Presses Ahead With Plans to Limit Bank Borrowing (FT)
- Gillard Ousted as Australia PM by Rival Rudd (FT)
- Japan Economic Strength Will Show in Stocks, Nishimura Says (BBG)
Given the earlier rumors of PBOC bailing out the funding markets (followed rapidly by their actual denial/explanation of what is going on which is much less supportive than an exuberantly bouncing market implies), it is perhaps ironic that the nation's government mouthpiece - The People's Daily - explains that help is not coming:
A bailout of the stock market is not beneficial to the development of a sound capital market, although some analysts are suggesting the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the People's Bank of China should intervene
Indeed; it seems the Communist party did learn something about the failures of the US' version of Capitalism and the snowballing impacts of bailout-based unintended consequences.
- Here come the rolling blackouts: Obama takes on power plant emissions as part of climate plan (Reuters)
- Walking Back Bernanke Wished on Too Much Information (BBG)
- As previewed last week: Bridgewater "All Weather" is Mostly Cloudy, down 8% YTD (Reuters)
- U.S. Said to Explore Possible China Role in Snowden Leaks (BBG)
- Coeure Says No Doubt ECB Loose Monetary Policy Exit Distant (Bloomberg)... so a "recovery", but not at all
- U.S. steps up pressure on Russia as Snowden stays free (Reuters)
- Texas' Next Big Oil Rush: New Pipelines Ferrying Landlocked Crude Expected to Boost Gulf Coast Refiners (WSJ)
- Singapore Offsets Bankers as Vacancies Fall (BBG)
- Asian Stocks Fall as China Sinks Deeper Into Bear Market (BBG), European Stocks Rally With Bonds as Metals Advance (BBG)
- Qatar emir hands power to son, no word on prime minister (Reuters)
Dive! Take cover! Or, at least, hold on to your pants in the scramble. The Chinese bubble has just burst. It looks like the world is going to have egg on its face and elsewhere as Chinese banks are scrambling to get the hands on cash.
- Obama prepares for chilly talks with Putin over Syria (Reuters)
- G8 opens amid dispute on Syria arms (FT)
- Economists Blame Fed for Higher Bond Yields (WSJ) - wait... what? Isn't the "stronger economy" to blame?
- What a novel concept - In the Czech Republic, a spying scandal has forced the PM to resign (BBG)
- Rigged-Benchmark Probes Proliferate From Singapore to UK (BBG)
- Economists Wary as Fed's Next Forecast Looms (Hilsenleak)
- Banks Balk at New Rules for Small Loans (WSJ)
- Sporadic clashes in Turkey as Erdogan asserts authority (Reuters)
- Global shares pummeled, dollar slumps as rout gathers pace (Reuters)
- Hong Kong to Handle NSA Leaker Extradition Based on Law (BBG)
- Lululemon chairman sold $50 million in stock before CEO's surprise departure (Reuters)
- Companies scramble for consumer data (FT)
- Traders Pay for an Early Peek at Key Data (WSJ)
- When innovation dies: Apple looking at bigger iPhone screens, multiple colors (Reuters)
- Washington pushed EU to dilute data protection (FT)
- Japan-U.S. drill to retake remote island kicks off (Japan Times)
- EM economies in danger of overheating, World Bank says (FT)
- Don't forget the Indian crisis: Chidambaram seeks to quell concerns over rupee (FT)
Goldbugs the world over may not know it, but the one catalyst they are all waiting for, is for the PBOC to throw in the towel to Bernanke's and Kuroda's liquidity tsunami and join in the global reflation effort. Alas, those hoping the Chinese central bank would do just this on Friday were disappointed. Moments ago the 21st Century Business Herald, via MNI, reported that the People's Bank of China "decided to shelve plans to inject short-term liquidity into the market late Friday because of concerns it would be sending the wrong signal in light of the government's ongoing commitment to its "prudent" monetary policy stance. Rumors hit the market mid-afternoon about an injection in the region of CNY150 bln via the PBOC's rarely-used short-term liquidity operation (SLO) tool. But how much longer can it avoid the inevitable: what happens when overnight loan yields soar to 20% or 30% or more, and when the repo and SHIBOR markets lock up and no overnight unsecured wholesale funding is available? Because when China finally does join what is already an historic liquidity tsunami then deflation will be the last thing the world will have to worry about. In the meantime, we welcome every chance to dollar cost average lower on physical hard assets, the same hard assets that none other than 1 billion concerned Chinese will direct their attention to when inflation makes it long overdue comeback to the world's most populous country.
Well, they've finally done it.
As the following chart of the day from Bloomberg shows, as of this week, hedge funds have made "the biggest bet ever" against gold by taking Comex gold shorts to all time highs.
- As scandals mount, White House springs into damage control (Reuters)
- Glencore Xstrata chairman ousted in surprise coup (Reuters), former BP CEO Tony Hayward appointed as interim chairman (WSJ)
- JPMorgan Chase asks Bloomberg for data records (Telegraph)
- Platts Retains Energy Trader Confidence Amid Price-Fix Probe (BBG)
- Syrian Internet service comes back online (PCWorld)
- Japan Q1 growth hits 3.5% on Abe impact although fall in business investment clouds optimism for recovery (FT)
- Soros Joins Gold-Stake Cuts Before Bear Market Drop (BBG)
- Factory Ceiling Collapses in Cambodia (WSJ)
- Sony’s $100 Billion Lost Decade Supports Loeb Breakup (BBG)
- Snags await favourite for Federal Reserve job (FT)
- James Bond’s Pinewood Turned Down on $300 Million Plan (BBG)
It seems the S&P 500's recent strength is somehow comforted by the fact that the USD is riding high on its cleanest dirty shirt meme at 34 month highs but unfortunately for the Chinese (and their practical peg to the USD), things are a little less fun than in the old mercantilist manipulation days. The implicit benefit that dollar flows appear to be getting (via the wealth effect in the US stock market) is not there in China (lower equity ownership); in fact, the rising Yuan is drastically hurting them as despite export orders remaining in growth mode, the China Daily reports that "most exporters in the delta region have told us that the rising yuan value has led to a big profit decline." Of course, the exporters are calling for a weaker Yuan but as the nation struggles with an exploding shadow banking system, bubbles in real estate and credit, and inflation concerns it knows that any implicit effort to weaken the CNY will create a surge in capital inflows and fuel further imbalances. China remains in the middle of the 'currency war'-driven inflation rock and 'sagging growth' hard place; and with two 91-day bill issues in the last week (in addition to repo) the clear signal (masked by export data fudges) is that China is much more worried about inflation than it is letting on (and has little ability to manage hot money inflows).