Real Interest Rates
Yesterday we presented a simplistic analysis of why for Japan "This Time Won't Be Different", a preliminary observation so far validated by the just announced Japanese December current account deficit which was not only nearly double the expected 144.2 billion yen, printing at some 264.1 billion yen, but was only the first back-to-back monthly current account deficit since 1985. But perhaps we are wrong and this time Abe will succeed where he, and so many others, have failed before. And, as is now widely understood, perhaps Japan will succeed in finally launching the necessary and sufficient currency war that would be part and parcel of Japans great reflation, as even various G-8 members have recently acknowledged. The question is will it, and when? One attempt at an answer comes from the fine folks at Bienville Capital who have compiled the definitive pros and cons presentation on what Japan must do, and how it will play out, at least if all goes according to plan.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
The entire system is corrupt to its core. Both political parties, regulatory agencies, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and mainstream media are participants in this enormous fraud. They grow more desperate and bold by the day. The lies, misinformation and propaganda being spewed on a daily basis become more outrageous and audacious. They are using the Big Lie method on a grand scale. They frantically need to lure the muppets into the stock market and the housing market to keep the game going a little longer. You can sense we are reaching a tipping point. The system they have created is mathematically unsustainable. Therefore, it will not be sustained.
Back in December, as always happens every year for the past 3, a margin call driven liquidation wave pushed the price of the gold to multi-month lows, providing merely yet another lowball buying opportunity (for which let's all thank John Paulson, again). One buyer who certainly would love to thank whichever marginal seller was liquidating their gold, is none other than China, which as was reported a few hours ago, imported an all time record 114.4 tons of gold in the month of December, or more than all the gold held by the Greek central bank (assuming it hasn't been confiscated by ze Germans or the ECB, or deposited in G-Pap or Venizelos' private HSBC safe in Geneva yet: a very aggressive assumption).
Our credit-based financial markets and the economy it supports are levered, fragile and increasingly entropic – it is running out of energy and time. When does money run out of time? The countdown begins when investable assets pose too much risk for too little return; when lenders desert credit markets for other alternatives such as cash or real assets.
Amid growing concern of yet another liquidity-fueled real estate bubble in the UAE (real estate firms up 92% in the last year in USD terms), the government (via bank regulations) have drastically restricted the proportion of loans that can be provided to foreign investors. However, this has had absolutely no impact as Bloomberg reports that increasingly 'suitcases of cash' are being used to pay for the property. With relatively lax capital controls 'cash is king' as the efforts of the UAE central bank to cap speculation in real estate (which saw property prices crash 65% from their peak in 2009) are failing as one local realtor noted "[the market] is increasingly dominated by cash buyers," and UAE real estate stocks are up over 20% in the last month alone. From Russian diamond dealers to Iranian speculators, Morgan Stanley notes that "property prices ... have continued to rise because of ample liquidity given negative real interest rates and nominal mortgage rates below rental yields," as the world's central banks do what they do best - blow bubbles in unintended places.
G4+CHF can fight the currency wars longer and more aggressively than small G10 and EM countries can. However, as Citi's Steven Englander notes, it also takes a lot of depreciation to crowd in a meaningful amount of net exports. His bottom line, GBP, CHF and JPY have a lot further to depreciate. In principle, the USD can easily fall into this category as well, but right now the USD debate is focused on Fed policy – were it to become clear that balance sheet expansion will end well beyond end-2013, the USD would fall into the category of currency war ‘winners’ as well. Critically, though, the reality of currency wars is that policymakers do not use FX as cyclical stimulus because of its effectiveness; they use it because they have hit a wall with respect to the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies, and are unwilling to bite the structural policy bullet. The following seven points will be on every policymakers' mind - or should be.
One of the first axioms of analysis is: "Garbage In, Garbage Out"! If your data is flawed, everything you do with it and the decisions stemming from it are flawed and dangerous to your financial health. Experienced analysts will often be found relentlessly checking, rechecking and validating their inputs and assumptions. If only our economists and the sell side analyst community were this diligent. But then it isn't their money. Only a year-end bonus for the 'extras' in their life is at risk. If economic practitioners were held to higher standards of accountability, they simply wouldn't accept the raft of fundamental data points that are the pillars of most economic assessment. Markets have become so dysfunctional with so much cheap money chasing so few real opportunities, that collateral values within the rehypothecation process are now in jeopardy and exposed to collateral contagion. The question is - what would things look like if the Fed wasn't engaged in Monetary Malpractice?
The reliable data which policymakers and the public need if effective solutions are to be found is not available. As Tullett Prebon's Tim Morgan notes, economic data has been subjected to incremental distortion; Data distortion can be divided into two categories. Economic data has been undermined by decades of methodological change which have distorted the statistics to the point where no really accurate data is available for the critical metrics of inflation, growth, output, unemployment or debt. Fiscal data, meanwhile, obscures the true scale of government obligations. While he does not believe that the debauching of US official data is the result of any grand conspiracy to mislead the American people; he does see it as an incremental process which has taken place over more than four decades. From 'owner equivalent rent" to 'hedonics', few series have been distorted more than published numbers for inflation, and few if any economic measures are of comparable importance; and the ramifications of understated inflation are huge.
From a valuation perspective, Chinese equities do not, at first glance, look to be a likely candidate for trouble. The PE ratios are either 12 or 15 times on MSCI China, depending on whether you include financials or not, and do not scream 'bubble'. And yet, China has been a source of worry for GMO over the past three years and continues to be one. China scares them because it looks like a bubble economy. Understanding these kinds of bubbles is important because they represent a situation in which standard valuation methodologies may fail. Just as financial stocks gave a false signal of cheapness before the GFC because the credit bubble pushed their earnings well above sustainable levels and masked the risks they were taking, so some valuation models may fail in the face of the credit, real estate, and general fixed asset investment boom in China, since it has gone on long enough to warp the models' estimation of what "normal" is. Of course, every credit bubble involves a widening divergence between perception and reality. China's case is not fundamentally different. In GMO's extensive discussion below, they have documented rapid credit growth against the background of a nationwide property bubble, the worst of Asian crony lending practices, and the appearance of a voracious and unstable shadow banking system. "Bad" credit booms generally end in banking crises and are followed by periods of lackluster economic growth. China appears to be heading in this direction.
China now buys more gold than the Western world. Does that mean, as some commentators are suggesting, that future price growth for the gold price depends on China? That if the Chinese economy weakens and has a hard landing or a recession that gold will fall steeply? Of course, this is only one factor. With the global monetary system in a state of flux - with many nations creating bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to trade in non-dollar currencies, including gold - emerging market central banks see gold — the oldest existing form of money — as an insurance policy against unpredictable changes, and as a way to win global monetary influence. As Zhang Jianhua of the People’s Bank of China said: "No asset is safe now. The only choice to hedge risks is to hold hard currency - gold."
The Fiscal Cliff theater was great 'off Broadway' drama, but the real show for traders took center stage Sunday December 16th in Japan. The curtain went up for the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan as the star actor in the unfolding global fiat currency drama. In the last 90 days the US, EU and now Japan have announced "unlimited", "Uncapped" monetary policy with UK's soon to be bank of England Governor, Carney indicating he wants inflation & growth targeting also when he assumes the reins. The goal has been to get interest REAL interest rates as low as possible, and the expected duration to be as long as possible. Market have reacted to this strategic and obvious debasement by stampeding, relentlessly into the Bond Market and creating a disturbing potentially destabilizing bond bubble. However, remember, Financial Repression is at work here and US Bond Yields and Interest Rates must be further reduced. We presently expect the 10 Year US Treasury Bill to eventually break below 1% and Equities will fall on the re-pricing of credit and risk, earnings revenue and margin issues and slowing real global growth.
Whether the repatriation of only some 20% of Germany's gold reserves from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Banque of Paris back to Frankfurt manages to allay German concerns remains in question. Especially given that the transfer from the Federal Reserve is set to take place slowly over a seven year period and will only be completed in 2020. The German Precious Metals Association and Germany's ‘Repatriate Our Gold’ campaign said that the move by the Bundesbank did not negate the need for a full audit of Germany's gold. They want this to take place in order to protect against impairment of the gold reserves through leases and swaps. Indeed, they have called for independent, full, neutral and physical audits of the gold reserves of the world's central banks and the repatriation of all central bank gold - the physical transport of gold reserves back into the respective sovereign ownership countries. It seems likely that we may only have seen another important milestone in the debate about German and global gold reserves.
The Real Interest Rate Risk: Annual US Debt Creation Now Amounts To 25% Of GDP Compared To 8.7% Pre-CrisisSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2013 18:32 -0400
By now most are aware of the various metrics exposing the unsustainability of US debt (which at 103% of GDP, it is well above the Reinhart-Rogoff "viability" threshold of 80%; and where a return to just 5% in blended interest means total debt/GDP would double in under a decade all else equal simply thanks to the "magic" of compounding), although there is one that captures perhaps best of all the sad predicament the US self-funding state (where debt is used to fund nearly half of total US spending) finds itself in. It comes from Zhang Monan, researcher at the China Macroeconomic Research Platform: "The US government is now trying to repay old debt by borrowing more; in 2010, average annual debt creation (including debt refinance) moved above $4 trillion, or almost one-quarter of GDP, compared to the pre-crisis average of 8.7% of GDP."
It is hard to find a policymaker who hasn’t actively tried to talk his currency down. The few who don’t talk, act as if they were intent on driving their currency lower. Citi's Steven Englander argues below that the ‘currency wars’ impact is collective monetary/liquidity easing. Collective easing is not neutral for currencies, the USD and JPY tend to fall when risk appetite grows while other currencies appreciate. Moreover, despite the rhetoric on intervention, we think that direct or indirect intervention is credible only in countries where domestic asset prices are undervalued and CPI/asset price inflation are not issues. In other countries, intervention can boost domestic asset prices and borrowing and create more medium-term economic and asset price risk than conventional currency overvaluation would. So the MoF/BoJ may be credible in their intervention, but countries whose economies and asset markets are performing more favorably have much more to lose from losing control of asset markets. So JPY and, eventually CHF, are likely to fall, but if the RBA or BoC were to engage in active intervention they may find themselves quickly facing unfavorable domestic asset market dynamics.
Gold fell $20.20 or 1.2% in New York yesterday and closed at $1,664.50/oz. Silver slipped to as low as $29.972 and finished with a loss of 2.55%.