The conventional view of China and India sports not one but two pair of rose-colored glasses: Chindia (even the portmanteau word is chirpy) is the world's engine of growth, and this rapid economic growth is chipping away at structural political and social problems. Nice, especially from a distance. But on the ground, China and India (not Chindia--there is no such entity) are both powder kegs awaiting a spark for the same reason: systemic corruption in every nook and cranny of both nations. The conventional rose-colored view is that corruption will inevitably decline with modernization and economic growth. This is simply wrong on multiple levels...
The PBOC has injected around CNY 400 billion into China's banking system in the last week focused in the 7-day reverse-repo maturity. While this has been greeted with moderation of the spiking trend in ultra-short-dated funding costs, there is a problem still. With the CEG#1 Trust maturing on 12/31 coinciding with the farce that is the 'confess all mismatched sins' debacle that occurs every Chinese Lunar New Year, the need for liquidity through that maturity is becoming extreme (while shorter-dated not so much). 14-day repo is now at 7.2% - almost 300bps above 7-day repo (which matures before year-end). In fact, it seems those concerned about possible Chinese contagion effects are buying protection aggressively as 5Y CDS jumped over 5bps to 102bps - the widest in 7 months (since the credit crunch in the Summer). This is far from over...
With China's shadow-banking system turmoiling and data not at all supportive of the same kind of growth investors are hoping for, some were surprised when China's GDP magically turned out at the 7.7% expectations deemed acceptable by the government. As Xinhua reports, not all is as it seems. China's GDP amounted to 56.9 trillion yuan (9.3 trillion U.S. dollars) in 2013. However, the aggregate of the provincial GDP figures, which were independently calculated and released, was about 2 trillion yuan more than the 56.9-trillion-yuan figure arrived at by the NBS, even though three of the 31 localities that were yet to release the figures were not included. This has aroused suspicion (just as we saw with the PMI data in the past) that some growth-obsessed local officials have cooked the books.
While most of the attention in the Chinese shadow banking system is focused on the Credit Equals Gold #1 Trust's default, as we first brought to investors' attention here, and the PBOC has thrown nearly CNY 400 billion at the market in the last few days, there appears to be a bigger problem brewing. As China's CNR reports, depositors in some of Yancheng City's largest farmers' co-operative mutual fund societies ("banks") have been unable to withdraw "hundreds of millions" in deposits in the last few weeks. "Everyone wants to borrow and no one wants to save," warned one 'salesperson', "and loan repayments are difficult to recover." There is "no money" and the doors are locked.
Following last night's surprise event, which was China's HSBC PMI dropping into contraction territory for the first time since July, which in turn sent Asian market into a tailspin, the most relevant underreported news was a speech by International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara who said that "As long as steady progress is being made toward the 2% target, we do not see a need for additional monetary accommodation in Japan." He added that while exit from unconventional monetary policy "is still very likely some way off for the euro area and Japan, I believe that the moment to start planning is now." This warning - an echo of prcisely what we said yesterday - promptly roiled the Yen, sending it far higher and sending the EMini futures sliding by over 10 tick in no time: a drop from which they have not recovered yet.
- Winter Storm Expected to Make Northeast Commutes Harder (BBG)
- Invasion of Spanish Builders Angers France Struggling to Compete (BBG)
- Toronto mayor, caught ranting on video, admits drinking a 'little bit" (Reuters)
- IBM's Hardware Woes Accelerate in Fourth Quarter (WSJ)
- Sharp Divisions Come to Fore as Peace Talks on Syria Begin (NYT)
- Afghanistan cracks down on advertising in favor of U.S. troops (Reuters)
- Microsoft CEO Search Rattles Boards From Ford to Ericsson (BBG)
- Banks Sit Out Riskier Deals (WSJ)
- Netflix Seen Reporting U.S. Web Users Reach 33.1 Million (BBG)
New York City may be buried under more than a foot of snow, but global markets don't sleep, however judging by the color of futures this morning, today's respectable $2.25-$3.00 billion POMO will have a tough time digging US equities out of the red, following a tepid overnight session in which the traditional driver of futures levitation, the USDJPY, was flat as the BOJ disclosed unchanged policy despite some inexplicable hopes that Kuroda would increase QE as early as today.
While last night's almost unprecedented reverse repo liquidty injection into the Chinese banking system stopped the bleeding of short-dated money-market rates briefly, the likelihood remains that a shadow-banking system default will occur: As CASS's Zhang noted:
*CHINA TRUSTS AND SHADOW BANKING TO SEE DEFAULTS IN 2014; DEFAULTS WOULD BE GOOD THING
Perhaps that explains why China's CDS spread remains at its highest since the summer credit crunch, barely budging on last night's cash drop. At double the default risk of Japan, China appears far from out of the contagion fire.
The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen. Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time. All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads. In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone. That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014. So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next "Lehman Brothers moment" or will it be something else? In the end, it doesn't really matter. The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years. It is just a matter of time.
One of the bigger stories overnight is Hilsenrath's latest communication from the Fed which once again simply paraphrases the status quo opinion, namely which is that the Fed will taper by another $10 billion on January 29, reducing the total monthly flow to $65 billion. "The Federal Reserve is on track to trim its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks as a lackluster December jobs report failed to diminish the central bank's expectations for solid U.S. economic growth this year, according to interviews with officials and their public comments." Of course, should the Fed not do that, as the Hilsenrath turned to Hilsen-wrath after all those Taper rumors in September ended up being one giant dud, one can once and for all completely ignore the WSJ reporter, who will have lost all his Fed sources and is now merely an echo chamber of consensus. What is notable is that the result of the latest mouthpiece effort, the USD is stronger, which means USDJPY is higher, which means US equity futures are flying.... on less QE to be announced. We eagerly await for this particular correlation pair to finally flip. The other big story, of course, is the already noted well-telegraphed in advance PBOC liquidity injection ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and ahead of a potential January 31 Trust default which will certainly shake the foundations of the Chinese shadow banking system to the core. Not helping nerves was last night's announcement by Zhang Ming, a researcher and director of the international investment department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that "trusts and shadow banking will see defaults this year, and this is a good thing." Let's circle back in 6 months to see just how good it is.
Despite all the reform policy imperatives to constrict credit and normalize and liberalize policy and rates, the PBOC just provided the largest liquidity injection to its banking system in a year - 255bn CNY. While this is not entirely unusual for a year-end, when Chinese banks have to confess their illiquidity sins and cover mismatches (and are always helped by the PBOC); this year, short-term money-market rates are triple that of last year and there is a very real chance of a very real default within the shadow banking system. Of course, the sell-side are desperately writing cover that this is all priced in and even if the PBOC "lets some Trusts go" then they will come to the rescue and any crisis will be "contained." However, no one knows who will be saved and therein lies the safety-first rub - now where have we heard "contained" before?
Markets have started the week on the back foot, despite a brief rally following a better-than-expected Q4 GDP print in China. Indeed, Asian equities recorded a small pop following the GDP report, but the gains were shortlived as the general negativity on China’s growth trajectory continues to weigh on Asian markets. In terms of the data itself, China’s Q4 GDP (7.7% YoY) was slightly ahead of expectations of 7.6% but it was slower than Q3’s 7.8%. DB’s China economist Jun Ma maintains his view that economic growth will likely accelerate in 2014 on stronger external demand and the benefits from deregulation. The slight slowdown was also evident in China’s December industrial production (9.7% YoY vs 10% previous), fixed asset investment (19.6% YoY vs 19.9% previous) and retail sales (13.6% vs 13.7% previous) data which were all released overnight. Gains in Chinese growth assets were quickly pared and as we type the Shanghai Composite (-0.8%), HSCEI (-1.1%) and AUDUSD (-0.1%) are all trading weaker on the day. On a more positive note, the stocks of mining companies BHP (+0.29%) and Rio Tinto (+0.26%) are trading flat to slightly firmer and LME copper is up 0.1%. Across the region, equities are generally trading lower paced by the Nikkei (-0.5%) and the Hang Seng (-0.7%). Staying in China, the 7 day repo rate is another 50bp higher to a three month high of 9.0% with many investors continuing to focus on the Chinese shadow banking system following the looming restructuring of a $500m trust product that was sold to ICBC’s customers.
Last week we were the first to raise the very real and imminent threat of a default for a Chinese wealth management product (WMP) default - specifically China Credit Trust's Credit Equals Gold #1 (CEQ1) - and its potential contagion concerns. It seems BofAML is now beginning to get concerned, noting that over 60% of market participants expects repo rates to rise if a trust product defaults and based on the analysis below, they think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and back-coupon on the day. Crucially, with the stratospheric leverage ratios now engaged in such products, BofAML warns trust companies must answer some serious questions: will they stand back behind every trust investment or will they have to default on some or potentially many of them? BofAML believes the question needs an answer because investors and Trusts can’t have their cake and eat it too. The potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 1/31, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event.
Overview of the major forces shaping the investment climate.
While manufacturing and services PMIs disappointed, the big problem in big China remains that of an out-of-control credit creation process that is blowing up. As we previously noted, instead of crushing credit creation, the PBOC's liquidity rationing has forced distressed companies into high-interest-cost products in the shadow-banking world. Investors on the other side of "troubled shadow banking products" had assumed that 'someone' would bail them out but this evening Reuters reports that ICBC has confirmed that it will not rescue holders of the "Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product", due to mature Jan 31st with $492 million outstanding. The anxiety from contagion concerns of the first shadow-banking default has pushed the Shanghai Composite back near 2,000 for the first time since July - and to its narrowest spread to the S&P 500 in almost 8 years.