By now it should come as no surprise to anyone that in a Keynesian world in which the aggregate increase in credit levels is the only necessary and sufficient driver for "growth", as admitted repeatedly by Europe which has blamed its longest ever recession on "(f)austerity" and the inability to issue debt like a drunken-sailor, that the only thing that matters is how much credit money (i.e., liabilities) are created in the banking sector, either organically by creating loans, or through the Fed's low-power "reserve" money creation. If there is any confusion, we present Exhibit A: the chart that strips away all the conventional GDP = C+I+G+(X-M) abracadabra and cuts to the chase - US GDP has tracked the change in traditional bank liabilities for the past 50 years on an almost dollar for dollar basis.
A dispassionate review of a slew of Chinese economic data. Why the capital inflows are not a result of Qe as much as Chinese investors gaming their own system. Why the lower inflation is not evidence of Japan exporting deflation, as some have claimed. Why the decline in imports may be related to prices and foreign demand, more than Chinese demand itself.
China continues to be stuck between an external hot money flows rock and a contracting economy and unstable banking sector hard place... Thanks to the G-0 central planners, the PBOC's hands are now tied: if it injects more hot money or lowers the interest rate the inflation on the margins, which it has so far been able to mask will spill over into the streets in a repeat of 2011, and force an even more epic scramble for inflation protection than the one seen two years ago, and which led to gold rising to just shy of $2000. Naturally, at a time when the central planners have gone all in on precipitating the Great Rotation out of bonds and into stocks at all costs, a re-exodus into gold might just end the Keynesian experiment. So the China central bank has that to contend with as well.Which means one thing: in reality Chinese credit and liquidity is in far worse shape than reported. And sure enough, over the past 24 hours we got news courtesy of Bloomberg that the "China Liquidity Squeeze Risks Companies’ Debt Rollover" leading to what may be the first harbinger of a Chinese bank failure which may subsequently lead to a whole lot of dominoes falling.
The first time we wrote about the Volcker-led Group of 30 recommendation to crush Money Markets in January 2010 by effectively imposing capital controls and fund "gates", whose purpose was simply to scare investors out of the $2.6 trillion liquidity pool and force said capital to reallocate into a much more "reflation friendly" asset classes such as stocks, many were concerned but few took it seriously. After all, such a coercive push into a "free" market at the time seemed incomprehensible (if, in reality, turned out to be just a few years ahead of its time). Fast forward two years to July 2012 when the same proposal of "risk-mitigation" by allocating a portion of the balance to a "loss-absorption fund", which would "create a disincentive to redeem if the fund is likely to have losses" was not only re-espoused by Tim Geithner, and the NY Fed but the SEC put it to a vote and the proposal would have almost passed had it no been for a nay vote by Commissioner Luis Aguilar opposing Mary Schapiro in the last minute. Still, once more many largely unconcerned about the implications behind this urgent push to intervene and establish pseudo-capital controls in this major source of potential stock buying "dry powder." Today, with a brand new leader, Mary Jo White, now that the clueless and co-opted Mary Schapiro is long gone, the $2.6 trillion Money Market Fund industry is one step closer to finally being gated. But don't it call it that - the SEC prefers the term "protecting investors"
Fractional reserve banking is unlike most other businesses. It's not just because its product is money. It's because banks can manufacture their product out of thin air. Under the bygone rules of free market capitalism, only one thing kept banks from creating an infinite amount of money, and that was fear of failure. Periodic bank failures remind depositors of the connection between risk and reward. What is not widely appreciated is that the ensuing government bailouts allowed an underlying shadow banking system to not only survive but grow even larger. To the frustration of Keynesians, and despite an unprecedented Quantitative Easing (QE) by the Federal Reserve, conventional commercial banks have broken with custom and have amassed almost $2 trillion in excess reserves they are reluctant to lend as they scramble to digest all the bad loans still on their books. So most of the money manufactured today is actually being created by the shadow banks. But shadow banks do not generally make commercial loans. Rather, they use the money they manufacture to fund proprietary trading operations in repos and derivatives. No one knows when the bubble will pop, but when it does a donnybrook is going to break out over that thin wedge of collateral whose ownership is spread across counterparties around the world, each looking for relief from their own judges, politicians, bureaucrats, and taxpayers.
As we are in the final stage of the global bubble, we realize that we often fail to ask the most obvious questions. In this case, as every central banker tells us that his policies are directed to obtain growth, the obvious question is... how do we define economic growth? What is economic growth? Yes, yes, we know that what they do is simply monetize deficits and enable the transfer of wealth between sectors and generations, but there is also an intellectual battlefield, which we should be aware of. What is the view of the central banking cartel on how to grow output? Surprisingly, not via an increase in the marginal productivity of capital, but via the so called wealth effect: As interest rates fall, asset prices increase (it doesn’t matter which assets see their prices rise) and the assets can be used as collateral to leverage a higher than previously possible consumption level. This consumption level will drive output growth, and this increase in output –they believe- will bring about full employment. The wealth effect is mistakenly attributed to Keynes, who actually argued against it. Thus, the central banking cartel has its own interpretation of economic growth and it does not fit any of the 'reality' perspectives presented below.
China’s credit growth has been outstripping economic growth for five quarters with the corporate debt bubble looking increasingly precarious (as we explained here and here). This raises one key question: where has the money gone? As SocGen notes, although such divergence is not unprecedented, it potentially suggests a trend that gives greater cause for concern – China is approaching a Minsky moment. At the micro level, SocGen points out that a non-negligible share of the corporate sector and local government financial vehicles are struggling to cover their financial expense. At the macro level, they estimate that China’s debt servicing costs have significantly exceeded underlying economic growth. As a result, the debt snowball is getting bigger and bigger, without contributing to real activity (see CCFDs for a very big example). This is probably where most of China’s missing money went.
Does it really make any sense at all that Bernanke would leave gold to trade in an open and transparent market? Hardly. Consider. The Fed has conjured multiple trillions of digital dollars out thin air in the last five years. These efforts have propped up the Treasury market, the domestic TBTF banks, the foreign TBTF banks, the ECB, the BOE, every European sovereign bond market, the RMBS market, the CMBS market, the equity market, the housing market and the entire industrial and soft commodity complexes, to name a few. Since the price of gold we see on our Bloomberg screens is set via derivatives and overwhelmingly settled in USD, the ability for central banks and bullion banks to manipulate the price of gold is way too easy. All the bullion banks have to do is coordinate (as in LIBOR), sell in size and punish anyone in their way. Take losses? No problem, more fiat can be conjured post-haste. So long as no one is taking physical delivery, the band(k) plays on. (Actually, physical demand delivery IS becoming a major new problem for the banks but this is a topic for a different note.) A quickly rising gold price upsets this fiat-engineered, centrally planned, non-market based recovery. Gold left to its’ own devices would signal the unwinding the rehypothecated world of shadow banking where latent monetary inflation goes to summer (think of it as the monetary Hamptons where only the Wall Street elite get to play). Most importantly, it would signal a huge lack of faith in the US dollar. A currency backed by nothing more than faith in central banking.
Cheap credit is a great boon to the wealthy and a path to debt-serfdom for everyone else. The ever-widening chasm between the wealthy and the "rest of us" has generated any number of explanations for this deeply troubling phenomenon. Credit has rendered even the upper-income middle class family debt-serfs, while credit has greatly increased the opportunities for the wealthy to buy rentier income streams. Credit used to purchase unproductive consumption creates debt-serfdom; credit used to buy rentier assets adds to wealth and income. Unfortunately the average household does not have access to the credit required to buy productive assets; only the wealthy possess that perquisite. And so the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer.
"While certain types of rehypothecation can be beneficial to market functioning, if collateral collected to protect against the risk of counterparty default has been rehypothecated, then it may not be readily available in the event of a default. This, in turn, may increase system interconnectedness and procyclicality, and could amplify market stresses. Therefore, when collateral is rehypothecated, it is important to understand under what circumstances and the extent to which the rehypothecation has occurred; or in other words, how long the collateral chain is... Financial intermediaries should provide sufficient disclosure to clients when collateral assets posted by them are rehypothecated; rehypothecation should be allowed only for the purpose of financing the long position of clients and not for financing the own-account activities of the intermediary; and only entities subject to adequate regulation of liquidity risk should be allowed to engage in the rehypothecation of client assets."
First, the important news: in a few hours the Fed will inject between $1.25-$1.75 billion into the stock market. More importantly, it is a Tuesday, which means that in order to not disturb a very technical pattern that will have held for 20 out of 20 Tuesdays in a row, the Dow Jones will close higher. Judging by the futures, this has been telegraphed far and wide: it is a Ben Bernanke risk-managed market, and everyone is a momentum monkey in it. In less relevant news, the underlying catalyst for the overnight rip higher in risk was the surge in the USDJPY, which left the gate at precisely Japan open time, and after languishing at the round number 101 support for several days, did not look back facilitated by what rumors said was a direct BOJ intervention via a Price Keeping Operation in which banks bought ETFs directly. This was catalyzed by the usual barrage of BOJ and FinMin individuals engaging in post-crash damage control and chattering from the usual script.
Succinctly summarizing the positive and negative news, data, and market events of the week...
Europe Opens $80 Trillion Shadow Banking Pandora's Box: Will Seek To Collapse Repo "Collateral Chains"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/24/2013 09:51 -0500
In what may be the most important story of the day, or maybe year, for a world in which there already is an $11 trillion shortfall in high-quality collateral (and declining every day courtesy of Ben's monetization of Treasury paper) so needed to support the deposit-free liability structures of the shadow banking system (as most recently explained here), Bloomberg has just reported that Europe may begin a crackdown on that most important credit money conduit: the $80 trillion+ global shadow banking system, by effectively collapsing collateral chains, and by making wanton asset rehypothecation a thing of the past, permitted only with express prior permission, which obviously will never come: who in their right mind would allow a bank to repledge an asset which may be lost as part of the counterparty carnage should said bank pull a Lehman. The result of this, should it be taken to completion, would be pervasive liquidations as countless collateral chain margin calls spread, counterparty risk soars all over again, and as the scramble to obtain the true underlying assets finally begins.
We are approaching a critical point (again) in the “battle royal” between the forces of inflation and deflation. Deflationary forces are threatening to overwhelm the reflationary push-back of the world’s central banks - although this is not reflected in most equity markets (especially the US). Open-ended QE was only announced by the Fed last Autumn, but the impact on (market-based) inflation expectations plateaued within months and has started turning down. A decision to taper QE would obviously be negative for equities in the absence of a sufficiently strong offsetting improvement in economic fundamentals – which is difficult to envisage right now.
Do you need a break from public policy buzzwords? Are you happy to go back to the days when cliffs were discussed occasionally on the National Geographic channel but not analyzed ad nauseum on CNBC? Are you tired of reading about austerity, austerians, anti-austerians and austeresis? You’ve come to the right place. “How long have we been deleveraging?” – I’ll answer “zero years.” As in, what deleveraging? We haven’t even gotten started yet.