Real Interest Rates
The latest myth of a European recovery came crashing down two weeks ago when Eurostat reported an inflation print of 0.7% (putting Europe's official inflation below that of Japan's 1.1%), followed promptly by a surprise rate cut by Mario Draghi which achieves nothing but sends a message that the ECB is, impotently, watching the collapse in European inflation and loan creation coupled by an ongoing rise in unemployment to record levels (not to mention the record prints in the amount of peripheral bad debt). Needless to say, all of this is largely aggravated by the EURUSD which until a week ago was trading at a two year high against the dollar, and while helpful for Germany, makes the so-needed external rebelancing of the peripheral Eurozone countries next to impossible. Which means that like it or not, and certainly as long as hawkish Germany says "nein", Draghi is stuck in a corner when it comes to truly decisive inflation-boosting actions. But what is Draghi to do? Well, according to BNP's Paul-Mortimer Lee, it should join the "no holds barred" monetary "policy" of the Fed and the BOJ, and promptly resume a €50 billion per month QE.
"Debt matters... even if it is possible to pretend for many years that it doesn't," is the painful truth that, author of "Avoiding The Fall", Michael Pettis offers for the current state of most western economies. Specifically, Pettis points out that Japan never really wrote down all or even most of its investment misallocation of the 1980s and simply rolled it forward in the form of rising government debt. For a long time it was able to service this growing debt burden by keeping interest rates very low as a response to very slow growth and by effectively capitalizing interest payments, but, as Kyle Bass has previously warned, if Abenomics is 'successful', ironically, it will no longer be able to play this game. Unless Japan moves quickly to pay down debt, perhaps by privatizing government assets, Abenomics, in that case, will be derailed by its own success.
Readers should consider carefully the fundamental difference between a “real economy” and a “financial economy.” In a real economy, the debt and equity markets as a percentage of GDP are small and are principally designed to channel savings into investments. In a financial economy or “monetary-driven economy,” the capital market is far larger than GDP and channels savings not only into investments, but also continuously into colossal speculative bubbles. It would seem to me that Karl Marx might prove to have been right in his contention that crises become more and more destructive as the capitalistic system matures (and as the “financial economy” referred to earlier grows like a cancer) and that the ultimate breakdown will occur in a final crisis that will be so disastrous as to set fire to the framework of our capitalistic society.
Just as the European 'markets' have entirely disconnected from fundamental reality, Japan's bond market - the largest in the world - "is dead, with only the BoJ driving prices," Mizuho warns. Crucially, once again just as in Europe, "these low yields are responsible for the lack of fiscal reform in the face of Japan’s worsening finances. Policy makers think they can keep borrowing without problems." Market functions are sacrificed for the sake of ending deflation, but "liquidity has evaporated as the BOJ has gobbled up most of the market." This means that a reduction in monetary stimulus could cause a rapid drop in bond prices, which, just as in the US, "will make it difficult for the BOJ to normalize policy." Simply put, as Bloomberg notes, the BoJ has killed the nation’s sovereign bond market, leaving it unable to reflect either the success of stimulus policies or fiscal risks.
"Just When Consensus Thinks Europe Is Exiting The Crisis" Or Why You Can't Handle The Truth About EuropeSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/04/2013 18:55 -0400
... but for those who can, and wish to see beyond the propaganda of the Eurozone's unelected leaders, here is Natixis with a candid, honest summary of Europe's sad, "unsustainable" predicament.
The Chinese yuan has reached 20-year highs versus the U.S. dollar. It's a significant development with potentially huge ramifications for China and the world.
Japan’s core CPI (which excludes perishables) surged 0.7% y/y in July, but the upturn is largely due to higher prices for energy that reflect rising import prices due the yen’s weakness. Despite global exuberance at Abe's "progress", BNP notes that there are still no signs of price growth for rent and service prices, factors behind Japan’s protracted deflation. Crucially, BNP believes that Abenomics could lead to four possible medium-term outcomes: (1) Continued deflation (35% probability), (2) Financial repression (40%), (3) High inflation (15%), and(4) Happy end to deflation via revived trend growth (10%). Furthermore, even if this happy ending scenario were to unfold, that does not mean that structural problems, like the swelling public debt and insolvent social welfare, will be headed for resolution.
Do you wonder what to make of America’s soaring government debt and what it means for the future? Or, if you already have it figured out, are you interested in research that might challenge your position? Either way, you might like to see the results of this exercise:
1... Take each historic instance of government borrowing rising above America’s current debt of 105% of GDP.
2... Eliminate those instances in which creditors received a lower return than originally promised, due to defaults, bond conversions, service moratoriums and/or debt cancellations.
3... Of the remaining instances, consider whether and how the debt-to-GDP ratio was reduced.
In other words, let’s see what history tells us about today’s debt levels and what comes next. You may find the answer surprising.
Gold and silver futures surged 2.1% and 3.6% respectively and the dollar fell on the open in Asia prior to determined selling which again capped precious metal prices. Analysts and media attributed the price gains on the withdrawal of Larry Summers from the race to be the new Fed Chairman, leaving Janet Yellen as the new frontrunner.
San Francisco Fed head John Williams - known for his extremely dovish views on monetary policy (and support of record accomodation) - appears to have taken some uncomfortable truth serum this morning. In a speech reminiscent of previous "froth" discussions and "irrational exuberance" admissions, Williams explained:
- *WILLIAMS SAYS POLICY MAY YIELD ASSET BUBBLES, UNINTENDED RESULT
- *WILLIAMS: ASSET-PRICE BUBBLES AND CRASHES 'ARE HERE TO STAY'
- *WILLIAMS: ASSET-PRICE BUBBLES ARE 'CONSEQUENCE OF HUMAN NATURE'
His words appear to reflect heavily on the Fed's Advisory Letter (from the banks) from 3 months ago - warning of exactly this "unintended consequence." This, on the heels of Plosser's recent admission that the Fed was responsible for the last housing bubble, suggests with the black-out period before September's FOMC about to begin, the Fed is sending us a message that Taper is coming - as we know they are cornered for four reasons (sentiment, deficits, technicals, and international resentment).
Today's morning summary is a carbon copy of yesterday's. Some things happened, China continues to make up data to fit its current policy outlook, things in Europe continue to go bump in the night ever louder as we approach the German election despite reflexive diffusion indices - this time Service PMIs - desperately signalling a surge in confidence, Italy has just reminded everyone it is a big political basket case as Berlusconi is said to consider withdrawing his support for the Letta government and calling for elections this year, and so on, but it is still all about Syria. Last night the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has agreed on a resolution on using military force against Syria. The resolution would limit the duration of any US military action in Syria to 60 days, with a 30-day extension possible if Obama determines it is necessary to meet the goals of the resolution. In other words, a "surgical strike" lasting a minimum of 90 days, and then with indefinite additional extensions tacked on. Yet judging by the modest drop in crude and gold, the market may need more than just fighting words at this point to push to th next level of risk aversion.
This week will see the end of August trading and September is, along with November, one of the strongest months to own gold. This is seen in the charts showing gold’s monthly performance over different time frames - 1975 to 2011, 2000 to 2011 and our Bloomberg Gold Seasonality table from 2003 to 2013 (10 years is the maximum that can be used).
Thackray's 2011 Investor's Guide notes that the optimal period to own gold bullion is from July 12 to October 9. During the past 25 periods, gold bullion has outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 4.7%.
As Western economies start to regress in earnest following decades of failed and destructive monetary inflation and debt accumulation, yield-starved investors are allocating real capital to the one industrially untapped continent in the world: Africa. However, we’re not seeing industry moving to Africa to set up shop. Rather, politically-directed capital flowing into the African resources sector is fueling and financing the strongest consumer boom in the world. It’s a vendor financing model for Asia, and it portends a major boom and bust cycle for the African continental economy.
South Africa supplies almost 60% of the world's platinum (including secondary supply) and 30% of the world's palladium (including secondary supply).
According to Johnson Matthey, platinum production fell almost 16% in 2012 while palladium production declined 10% last year alone.
With prices well below their recent highs, looming production cuts will leave markets tight supporting prices and likely leading to higher prices.
A record deficit in platinum supplies is set to push prices higher and demand is boosted by the new exchange traded fund (ETF).
The Chinese demand for gold essentially comes from three segments: (1) the People’s Bank of China; (2); the banking sector; and (3) Chinese citizens. We can count on the Chinese central bank to pursue the same steady course they have been pursuing for a while: buying additional gunpowder by increasing their gold reserves. More importantly, it is very likely that the current forced deleveraging will be accompanied by, for instance, a significant cut in interest rates or a lowering of the reserve requirements to offer the banking sector a helping hand (as the PBOC appears to be folding a little on its hard stance). This could have a major impact on gold. We’ll see why by observing that the bulk of Chinese gold demand comes from its third source: Chinese citizens. China has one of the world's highest saving rates, and the public faces few investment options. With negative real interest rates, in case the PBoC does lower rates to support the banking system, gold seems to be an opportune alternative.