There is a reason why in Europe, no matter how much some want to deny it, the Cyprus deposit confiscation "resolution" has become the norm. Quite simply, as BofA summarizes, "Europe's economy struggles with too many banks, too much debt and too little growth. A long history of empire, trade, war and commerce means a long history of banking. The world’s first state-guaranteed bank was the Bank of Venice, founded in 1157, and the world’s oldest bank today is also Italian, Monte Paschi di Siena (founded 1472). In many European countries, bank assets dwarf the size of the local economy and are far in excess of other regions in the world. This is similarly reflected in the local stock exchanges: even now financials account for 42% of the Spanish stock market and 31% of the Italian stock market versus ust 16% in the US."
It seems the S&P 500's recent strength is somehow comforted by the fact that the USD is riding high on its cleanest dirty shirt meme at 34 month highs but unfortunately for the Chinese (and their practical peg to the USD), things are a little less fun than in the old mercantilist manipulation days. The implicit benefit that dollar flows appear to be getting (via the wealth effect in the US stock market) is not there in China (lower equity ownership); in fact, the rising Yuan is drastically hurting them as despite export orders remaining in growth mode, the China Daily reports that "most exporters in the delta region have told us that the rising yuan value has led to a big profit decline." Of course, the exporters are calling for a weaker Yuan but as the nation struggles with an exploding shadow banking system, bubbles in real estate and credit, and inflation concerns it knows that any implicit effort to weaken the CNY will create a surge in capital inflows and fuel further imbalances. China remains in the middle of the 'currency war'-driven inflation rock and 'sagging growth' hard place; and with two 91-day bill issues in the last week (in addition to repo) the clear signal (masked by export data fudges) is that China is much more worried about inflation than it is letting on (and has little ability to manage hot money inflows).
So much for Europe's "recovery." In a quarter when the whisper was that some upside surprise would come out of Europe, the biggest overnight data releases, European standalone and consolidated GDPs were yet another flop, missing across the board from Germany (+0.1%, Exp. 0.3%), to France (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), to Italy (-0.5%, Exp. -0.4%), and to the entire Eurozone (-0.2%, Exp. 0.1%), As SocGen recapped, the first estimate of eurozone Q1 GDP comes in at -0.2% qoq, below consensus of a 0.1% drop. The economy shrank by 1.0% yoy, the worst rate since Dec-09. The decline of 0.5% qoq in Italy means that the economy has been in recession continuously since Q4-11. A 0.2% qoq drop in France means the economy has ‘double-dipped’, posting a second back-to-back drop in GDP since Q4-08. The increase of 0.1% qoq in Germany was disappointing and shows the economy is not in a position to support demand in the weaker member states (table below shows %q/q changes).
The Chairman is about to take the lectern to discuss bank structure and competition at the SIFI conference at the Chicago Fed. His prepared remarks are likely to be a little less exciting than the Q&A where the world will be watching for the words "buy, buy, buy", "mission accomplished", or "taper". Charles Evans will be his lead out man. Finally, since Bernanke will be discussing shadow banking, or the source of some $30 trillion in shadow money always ignored by Keynesians, Monetarists and Magic Money Tree (MMT) growers, a topic we have discussed over the past three years, here is the TBAC's own summary on how Modern Money really works.
Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke is a Reverse Robin Hood, robbing from the lower 95% and giving to the financier class. It's worth understanding the mechanisms of this wealth transfer: in essence, the Fed extends low-cost credit (i.e. "free money") to the financier class which then uses this free money to buy rentier assets, that is, assets that generate economic rents for the owners, who add no value and create no wealth. This is of course the neofeudal model. Goebbels would approve of the Fed's masterful propaganda campaign: rob the bottom 95% to benefit the financier class, all the while piously proclaiming that its policies were aimed at increasing employment for the bottom 95%. In terms of propagandistic chutzpah, it doesn't get any better than this. Congratulations, Bernanke, Yellen, et al.
Over a year ago, we first explained what one of the key terminal problems affecting the modern financial system is: namely the increasing scarcity and disappearance of money-good assets ("safe" or otherwise) which due to the way "modern" finance is structured, where a set universe of assets forms what is known as "high-quality collateral" backstopping trillions of rehypothecated shadow liabilities all of which have negligible margin requirements (and thus provide virtually unlimited leverage) until times turn rough and there is a scramble for collateral, has become perhaps the most critical, and missing, lynchpin of financial stability. Not surprisingly, recent attempts to replenish assets (read collateral) backing shadow money, most recently via attempted Basel III regulations, failed miserably as it became clear it would be impossible to procure the just $1-$2.5 trillion in collateral needed according to regulatory requirements. The reason why this is a big problem is that as the Matt Zames-headed Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee (TBAC) showed today as part of the appendix to the quarterly refunding presentation, total demand for "High Qualty Collateral" (HQC) would and could be as high as $11.2 trillion under stressed market conditions.
In the past months and right after implementing Quantitative Easing Unlimited Edition, the Fed began surfacing the idea that an exit strategy is at the door. With the latest releases of weak activity data worldwide, the idea was put back in the closet. However, a few analysts have already discussed the implications of the smoothest of all exit strategies: An exit without asset sales; a buy & hold exit. We have no doubt that as soon as allowed, the idea will resurface again. Underlying all official discussions is the notion that an exit strategy is a “stock”, rather than a flow problem, that the Fed can make decisions independently of the fiscal situation of the US and that international coordination can be ignored. This is logically inconsistent as we address below...
Socialism is a dirty word in many parts of the US, but as the FT reports, the government has turned its mortgage market into a giant nationalised enterprise on a par with China’s Red Army with over 90% of mortgages subsidized by the state and aided by so-called "progressive" or "redistributive" policies. In the UK, the government have also become entwined with the housing market, albeit in different ways. Rates have also been slashed close to zero; tens of thousands are buying homes arm-in-arm with the state under 'shared equity schemes'; and one-third of all mortgages come from the two state-controlled banks (Lloyds and RBS); very reminiscent of supposedly communist China, where most banks are majority-owned by the state with small public floats. The question remains how can they avoid another crash if and when they withdraw support from the market? "It’s broadly accepted nowadays that China still lives under the banner of ‘communism’ despite capitalist markets playing an increasing role in society. In Britain and America – at least where the housing market is concerned – the reverse process seems to be taking place."
Two days in Washington D.C. kept caterers busy but produced a 2,126 word communique long on slogans and short on anything actionable. The G-20 statement (below) can be boiled down simply, as we tweeted,
G-20 statement: "if we all lie, same as nobody lying"
— zerohedge (@zerohedge) April 19, 2013
And just to add one more embarrassing detail for them, while section 4 discusses "Japan's recent policy actions," not only does Canada's finance minister James Flaherty believe they "didn't discuss the Japanese Yen," but Japan's Kuroda believes, comments on 'misalignments', "were not meant for the BoJ."
- Boston bomb probe looking at pressure cooker, backpacks (Reuters), Boston Bomb Clues Surface (WSJ) Forensic Investigators Discover Clues to Boston Bombing (BBG)
- China local authority debt ‘out of control’ (FT)
- Gold Wipes $560 Billion From Central Banks as Equities Rally (BBG)... or the same impact a 2% rise in rates would have on the Fed's balance sheet
- More Wall Street leakage: Stock Surge Linked to Lobbyist (WSJ)
- China's bird flu death toll rises to 16, government warns of spread (Reuters)
- Chinese official endorses monetary easing (FT)
- As global price slumps, "Abenomics" risks drive Japan gold bugs (Reuters)
- North Korea rejects US call for talks (FT)
- IMF Renews Push Against Austerity (WSJ)
- India Gains as Gold Plunge Boosts Scope for Rate Cuts (BBG)
- Germany set to approve Cyprus aid (FT)
- Easing Is an Issue as G-20 Meets (WSJ)
It is hard to make sense of the markets these days. For instance, gold showed no support while the geopolitical situation in Asia deteriorated, Japan embarked in the mother of all monetization programs, and a member nation of what is supposed to be a monetary union was imposed controls on the movement of capital. Or take the case of the Euro, which jumped from $1.2750 to $1.2950 on the day of one of the most confusing and embarrassing press conferences the president of its central bank ever gave. However, in a faraway land, where there is no shadow banking, leverage or even capital markets, economic fundamentals still hold, which can help us, inhabitants of the developed world, visualize a dynamics lost in the shelves of our collective memory. The land we are referring to is Argentina, but not Argentina of 2001. Today, we want to write about Argentina of 2013, and no, we will not discuss their legal battles with Mr. Singer.
Witches Brew: Part 4 - Reality Bites
- The Specter of Things to Come
The road to ruin is on plain display and the playbook is easily seen at this juncture. Let’s take a look at how that playbook will unfold. Contrary to popular outrage of the SOLUTION being IMPOSED it is the correct one once the insured depositors where PROTECTED. In this edition the elites suffered FIRST followed by the private sector depositors who foolishly believed false BALANCE sheets which were POLITICALLY CORRECT but PRACTICALLY incorrect fictions approved by fiduciarily (regulations and regulators allowed ONGOING insolvent operations rather than protect the public by ending and prohibiting them) challenged governments (work for the banks and crony capitalists not for the public at large).
This system distorts the market and turns appropriate risk-taking into recklessness. The result is a more concentrated and powerful financial sector — and a more fragile economy. The way to return the financial services industry to the free market is by separating trading from commercial banks and by reforming the so-called shadow banking sector. Government guarantees should be limited primarily to those commercial banking activities that need it to function: the payments system and the intermediation process between short-term lenders and long-term borrowers.... It is time to return our financial system to one in which success is no longer achieved through government protections but, rather, through innovation and competition. While trading and investment activities are vital parts of the financial services industry, there is no economic or social rationale for protecting and subsidizing them. Financial services firms are in the business of taking risks. Our country shouldn’t attempt to take the risk out of the system. But we should absolutely stop subsidizing it.
China’s Government knows it's on thin ice and so is doing three things to try to mollify the Chinese population:
- Launching a very public campaign to crack down on corruption (to mollify the populace).
- Taking steps to tame inflation (slowing financial speculation and importing massive quantities of commodities to attempt to control prices).
- Curbing its stimulus efforts.
This is precisely the formula that resulted in the Arab Spring in the Middle East: increased costs of living and a corrupt Government. Could China be heading for a similar development? It sure looks like it.