Jeff Gundlach has been asked "Why Own Bonds?" twice in his career. The first time was in the 90’s when bonds and stocks were highly correlated. If stocks rose, bond prices fell, and vice versa. Therefore, investment managers decided that they should only own stocks as there was no advantage in being diversified. Unfortunately, we all know how well this turned out. Today, investment managers are making the same decision but for a different reason. With the Fed’s artificial suppression of interest rates to historic lows; the return from owning bonds has become painful particularly for underfunded pension funds. That pain, combined with the inflation of asset prices via continuing QE programs, has forced managers into overweighting stocks. The other reason that managers are jumping into stocks is due to the belief that interest rates are going to start rising on “Tuesday.” Gundlach clarifies, “Let me be clear. This is absolutely wrong. Yields are NOT going to rise any time soon.”
As is well known, Goldman's Mark Carney is leaving the Bank of Canada on June 1 to take over the UK money printer in a few months, at which point he will proceed to create about GBP25 billion per month out of thin air, pushing the total monthly G-7 liquidity injection to a healthy $200 billion (an annualized rate of $2.5 trillion). Which meant that a successor had to be found. Moments ago we learned just who that is, and surprisingly it does not appear to be yet another Goldman Sachs Partner, MD or even Vice President. Carney's replacement is Stephen Poloz, the former head of Export Development Canada. Promptly upon the announcement Poloz noted that flexible inflation targeting no threat to credibility, and Canada's monetary policy has helped through crisis, and that experience at EDC gives him a feel for Canada's economy. If nothing else, at least he has held a real job. Unlike those mandarins in the Marriner Eccles building. Either way, his monetary stance is largely unknown, although it will hardly be a hurdle to the other lunatics who have taken over the money printing asylum.
With last night's China PMI disappointing expectations and eking out a just-expansionary miasma of hope for the growth enthusiasts, the very real question of global growth sustainability (while not on US equity market participants' minds) is coming to the fore. As Michael Pettis notes, Martin Wolf's recent perspective that it may be useful to think about Japan as a model for understanding the adjustment process in China since the Japanese model shows how risky it is to shift to a slow-growth model. While expectations for a 'relatively moderate' slowdown are common (at rates considered rapid for most economies); Pettis asks rhetorically, if part of the explanation for China’s spectacular growth of the past three decades has to do with the positive feedback loops that are so typical of developing countries with fragile and unsophisticated financial systems, then a moderate slowdown in growth may be an impossible target to achieve. Once growth starts to slow, the self-reinforcing impact on urbanization, on credit growth, on financial distress, and on expectations may force growth rates to drop far more sharply than any 'plausible' analysis would suggest.
It was just seven short years ago that the prices at the epicenter of the housing bubble, Los Angeles, CA rose by 50% every six months as the nation experienced its first parabolic move higher in home prices courtesy of Alan Greenspan's disastrous policies: a time when everyone knew intuitively the housing market was in an epic bubble, yet which nobody wanted to pop because there was just too much fun to be had chasing the bouncing ball, not to mention money. Well, courtesy of the real-time real estate pricing trackers at Altos Research, we now know that the very worst of the housing bubble is not only back, but it is at levels not seen since the days when a house in the Inland Empire was only a faint glimmer of the prototype for BitCoin.
We recently asked:"are there really unpredictable market shocks or are investors paid not to care? To us, all signs point towards the next currency reset. We think monetary authorities are compulsively destroying the current global monetary system; they simply have no choice if they are to keep it afloat in the short term." With Bernanke not attending Jackson Hole, we think the choice for next Fed Chair may have profound economic implications, and that it would not require expertise in econometric modeling, credit policy management, and maintaining the public perception of economic stability. We think the next Fed Chairman will oversee a conversion of the global monetary regime. Neither growth nor austerity nor gloom of night will stay these currencies from their appointed devaluations. Bank balance sheets must be preserved; ergo sufficient inflation must be manufactured. We think the dull but persistent economic malaise amid increasingly aggressive monetary intervention policies will soon engender fear among the not-so-great washed – net savers. We think all should question whether we are 100% wrong. If not, then prudence dictates some allocation to properly held precious metals. (Presently, it is less than 1% of all global pensions.)
Ever since JCP entered the death watch with its absolutely abysmal 2012 year end results which saw the firm report something like negative $1.5 billion in Free Cash Flow (frankly we stopped counting there), and just ahead of the heavy inventory rebuild season so just as net working capital would demand another billion or so in cash, much has happened at the company.
- Gold Bears Defy Rally as Goldman Closes Short Wager (BBG)
- Still stuck on central-bank life support (Reuters)
- Ebbing Inflation Means More Easy Money (BBG)
- So much for socialist wealth redistribution then? François Hollande to woo French business with tax cut (FT)
- Billionaires Flee Havens as Trillions Pursued Offshore (BBG)
- Companies Feel Pinch on Sales in Europe (WSJ)
- Brussels plan will ‘kill off’ money funds (FT)
- Danes as Most-Indebted in World Resist Credit (BBG)
- Syria says prime minister survives Damascus bomb attack (Reuters)
- Syria: Al-Qaeda's battle for control of Assad's chemical weapons plant (Telegraph)
- Nokia Betting on $20 Handset as It Loses Ground on IPhone (BBG)
- Rapid rise of chat apps slims texting cash cow for mobile groups (FT)
- Calgary bitcoin exchange fighting bank backlash in Canada (Calgary Herald)
A few hours ago, Greek lawmakers approved a reform law to unlock about €8.8 billion of rescue loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The law, which was a condition for further aid installments, passed easily with the solid backing of the three parties comprising Greece's ruling coalition, by 168 to 123 votes. Next, euro zone officials will meet on Monday to approve overdue payment of 2.8 billion euros ($3.65 billion) in rescue loans, finance minister Yannis Stournaras said. Euro zone finmins will then meet on May 13 to release a further 6 billion euro installment, he added. The use of proceeds? To have enough cash to pay salaries and pensions, and of course to pay Mario Draghi for a bond that matures on May 20. The fact that Europe has gotten the green sign to hand over some pocket change to Greece, so Greece can pay for the maturity on Greek bonds by the ECB was the good news (for someone, unclear exactly who). The bad news, for Greece, starts now. As BBC reports, some 15,000 state workers will lose their jobs by the end of next year. Naturally, in light of the recent epic backlash against austerity (or fauxterity as penned previously) whose corpse has already promptly been trampled in Spain, and now in Italy, Greece would like to get back on the gravy train as well. Yet they are being denied, and the result is indignation at what the people rightfully see as B-class European citizen treatment.
After reading the Spiegel article below, which reveals so much about German thinking, it becomes very clear that not only is Cyprus the "benchmark", but that the second some other PIIG country runs into trouble again, and its soaring non-performing loans inevitably demand a liability "resolution" a la Cyprus, it will be Germany once again at the helm, demanding more of the same equity, unsecured debt and ultimately depositor impairment. As the following punchline from Spiegel summarizes, "It would be more sensible -- and fairer -- for the crisis-ridden countries to exercise their own power to reduce their debts, namely by reaching for the assets of their citizens more than they have so far. As the most recent ECB study shows, there is certainly enough money available to do this." And that is the crux of the wealth-disparity demand of the European Disunion.
A bank in some European country such as Spain lends money but the collateral, Real Estate or commercial loans, are going bad. The bank then securitizes a large pool of this collateral and pledges it at the ECB to receive cash. In many cases to take the pool the country has to guarantee the debt. So Spain, in my example, guarantees the loan package which is then pledged at the ECB and is a contingent liability and which is not reported in the debt to GDP ratio of the country but nowhere else that you will find either. “Hidden” would be the appropriate word. Then as time passes the loans get even worse so that the ECB demands cash or more collateral because they will not be taking the hit; thank you very much. The bank cannot afford to post more collateral so that the country, Spain, must post the collateral and add an additional guarantee for the new loan or they must post cash which is oftentimes the case. Consequently as time passes and more cash has been spent the country, Spain, begins to run out of capital and the 10.6% deficit figure, that Spain announced recently, is not anywhere close to the actual reality so that they will get forced to officially borrow more money from the ESM as the sovereign guarantee of bank debt becomes unsustainable.
Bulls are still in charge of markets despite the shallow 2 to 3% correction the previous week. The conundrum for most investors remains, where else are you to put your money despite obvious risks and deceptive conditions? The Fed is forcing people into stocks, period.
Despite the many differences between China and the U.S., their basic problems are remarkably similiar: an economy that increasingly serves a tiny Elite, and a political/financial system that is incapable of meaningful reform. Setting aside the latest bird flu outbreak and sagging indicators of growth, China 2.0 is in trouble (with 1.0 being the Communist era of 1949 -1977 and 2.0 being the modernization/globalization era of 1978 - 2013), for it remains overly reliant on unsustainable growth dynamics. Add it all up and you get a clear picture of a government and economy that is incapable of making the kind of structural reforms that are needed to make growth sustainable.
It is a convoluted world. The money rolls in from the Fed, the ECB and various European funds where money is pledged by each country and put up by none. Pledges, contingent liabilities, guarantees of bank debt are not counted but have not vanished and show up when the bills are due decreasing the assets of everyone. The newly printed money must find a home and so supports the sovereign debt yields while costing each European government more in the process. Austerity fails, unemployment rises, economies decline, more taxes are applied and the use of newly printed money is the only thing that separates us from some sort of financial chaos. The differential between the European economies and the European markets increases and the actual losses increase. Print forever. Lies without end. Reality redefined.
While not in the throes of a real estate crash, Italian banks are seeing a sharp deterioration in the quality of their assets. And while Italy's bond spreads head back to pre-crisis lows, as BofAML's Alberto Cordara notes, the ongoing pace and depth of asset quality deterioration further erodes the banks' ability to help Italy on the way back to growth. Critically, the lack of demand for banks' NPLs suggests that asset valuations may be overstated, thereby posing doubts on the real solvency status of Italian banks (i.e. they are not being totally truthful about their balance sheet assets); which explicitly means more capital is needed and soon. The rate of acceleration in newly impaired loans is staggering as it appears the current recession, driven by falling internal demand, is more insidious than the export-led crisis in 2009. And no matter how the Italian banks try to differentiate their bad loan composition, it is an ugly picture. The Italian House Price Index (IPAB) decreased 4.6% yoy as a result of tightening credit conditions, new property taxes and a difficult macro environment; and is unlikely to provide any assistance any time soon. Based on losses and capital, ISP appears best positioned, and BMPS worst - and do not expect a new LTRO to help as this is "not a normal economic downswing."
- UK economy shows 0.3% growth (FT)
- Texas University Fund Sold $375 Million in Gold Bars (BBG)
- Spain Jobless Rate Breaches 27% on Recession Woes (BBG)
- Letta calls for easing of austerity policies (FT)
- Italy Led by Letta Brings Berlusconi Back as Winner (BBG)
- Fed Debate Moves From Tapering to Extending Bond Buying (BBG)
- South Korea wants talks with North on shuttered industrial zone (Reuters)
- Republicans advance bill to prepare for debt ceiling fight (Reuters)
- Republicans claim White House failed to warn on severity of cuts (FT)
- Xi meets former US heavyweights (China Daily)
- Next BoE chief Carney says clear framework key to policy success (Reuters)
- Chinese roll out red carpet for Hollande (FT)