While everyone's attention was focused on details surrounding the household sector in the recently released Q1 Flow of Funds report (ours included), something much more important happened in the US economy from a flow perspective, something which, in fact, has not happened since December of 1995, when liabilities in the deposit-free US Shadow Banking system for the first time ever became larger than liabilities held by traditional financial institutions, or those whose funding comes primarily from deposits. As a reminder, Zero Hedge has been covering the topic of Shadow Banking for over two years, as it is our contention that this massive, and virtually undiscussed component of the US real economy (that which is never covered by hobby economists' three letter economic theories used to validate socialism, or even any version of (neo-)Keynesianism as shadow banking in its proper, virulent form did not exist until the late 1990s and yet is the same size as total US GDP!), is, on the margin, the most important one: in fact one that defines, or at least should, monetary policy more than most imagine, and also explains why despite trillions in new money having been created out of thin air, the flow through into the general economy has been negligible.
News & headlines from the day
In the long run, all the hullabaloo about the various global banking crises is just hot air. The old establishment banks — the ones that have been bailed out this week in Spain, and in 2008 in America — are unnecessary middlemen. This is because of the ludicrous spreads from which they profit. They borrow from central banks and from depositors at absurdly low rates of interest (that’s what ZIRP is all about) and lend at vastly higher rates. What useful function does it serve? At one time, banks generated value by being wise lenders, lending to businesses that they determined would add value. Today they prefer gamble up even bigger profits in the zero-sum derivatives casino and shadow banking whorehouse, requiring frequent bailouts when such schemes go awry. They are dinosaurs that offer no real value to their shareholders, their customers, or to society.
As Many Have Predicted for Years
Deflation has effectively been abolished by central banking. But is it sustainable? The endless post-Keynesian outgrowth of debt suggests not. In fact, what is ultimately suggested is that the abolition of small-scale deflationary liquidations has just primed the system for a much, much larger liquidation later on. Central bankers have shirked the historical growth cycle consisting both of periods of growth and expansion, as well as periods of contraction and liquidation. They have certainly had a good run. Those warning of impending hyperinflation following 2008 were proven wrong; deflationary forces offset the inflationary impact of bailouts and monetary expansion, even as food prices hit records, and revolutions spread throughout emerging markets. And Japan — the prototypical unliquidated zombie economy — has been stuck in a depressive rut for most of the last twenty years. These interventions, it seems, have pernicious negative side-effects. Those twin delusions central bankers have sought to cater to — for creditors, that debt is wealth and should never be liquidated, and for debtors that debt is an easy or free lunch — have been smashed by the juggernaut of history many times before. While we cannot know exactly when, or exactly how — and in spite of the best efforts of central bankers — we think they will soon be smashed again.
First the ECB kicked the stimulus junkies in the crotch in the after hours session, now the PBOC is about to eat their faces for breakfast as both rumors causing overnight and intraday stock ramps are systematically denied. From Bloomberg: "China has no plan to introduce stimulus measures to support growth on the scale unleashed during the depths of the global credit crisis in 2008 according to the nation’s state-run Xinhua News Agency. “The Chinese government’s intention is very clear: It will not roll out another massive stimulus plan to seek high economic growth,” Xinhua said yesterday in the seventh paragraph of a Chinese-language article on economic policy, without attributing the information. “The current efforts for stabilizing growth will not repeat the old way of three years ago." And with that the rug is pulled out from below anyone praying for non-Fed stimulus.
One of the problems with the Hispanic Pandora's box unleashed by a now insolvent Bankia, which as we noted some time ago, is merely the Canary in the Coalmine, is that once the case study "example" of rewarding terminal failure is in the open, everyone else who happens to be insolvent also wants to give it a try. And in the case of Spain it quite literally may be "everyone else." But before we get there, we just get a rude awakening from The Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard that just as the bailout party is getting started, Spain is officially out of bailout money: "where is the €23.5 billion for the Bankia rescue going to come from? The state's Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB) is down to €5.3 billion."... And in an indication of just how surreal the modern financial world has become, none other than Bloomberg has just come out with an article titled "Spain Delays and Prays That Zombies Repay Debt." We can only surmise there was some rhetorical humor in this headline, because as the past weekend demonstrated, the best zombies are capable of, especially those high on Zombie Dust, or its functional equivalent in the modern financial system: monetary methadone, as first penned here in March 2009, is to bite someone else's face off with tragic consequences for all involved. What Bloomberg is certainly not joking about is that the financial zombies in Spain are now everywhere.
There are still 3 weeks until the next so very critical Greek elections (which if we are correct, will have an outcome comparable to the first, and not result in the formation of a new government absent Diebold opening a Santorini office), meaning the power vacuum at the very top in Europe will persist, and while the market demands some clarity about something, anything, nothing is likely to be implemented by a Germany which is (rightfully, as unlike the US, Europe does not have the benefit of $16 trillion in inflation buffering shadow banking) concerned by runaway inflation if and when the global central banks announce the next latest and greatest global bailout, which this time will likely by in the $3-5 trillion ballpark. However, none of this will happen before the market plummets as Citi explained last weekend, and Europe has no choice but to act. Luckily, as the events calendar below from Deutsche Bank shows through the end of July there are more than enough events which can go horribly wrong, which ironically, is precisely what the market bulls need to happen for the central-planning regime to once be given the carte blanche to do what it usually does, and believe it can outsmart simple laws of Thermodynamics, regression to the mean, and all those other things central bankers believe they can simply overrule.
How does one get a Harvard Business School case study made after them? Why by being constantly ahead of the curve, with the right trade, and being mocked by the same "access journalism and excel free" mainstream media which pushed subprime toxic grenades to anyone who listened, only to be proven correct time after time. In other words, by being Kyle Bass: the same Kyle Bass who lost money month after month on his Subprime short (full slide deck here), only to see it all made back, and then some... quite a bit of some. Because it is not by following the herd that one makes the killer trades: it is by standing against it and by waiting for conventional wisdom (in this case that Japan's debt load is somehow sustainable - it isn't, but the kneejerk response still is one to treat JGB's as a flight to safety - this only works until it no longer does and the same math that had doomed the euro over a decade ago is finally grasped by all). Yes: he has lost 60% on his Japanese short fund since inception: so what? All it takes is one millisecond of Malcom Gladwellian insight and the formerly offerless market goes bidless. And that -60% is transformed to +XXXX.YY. Either way, below is the complete Harvard Business School presentation on Kyle Bass, on Heyman Capital and on the Japan Short ber, which we hope will put to rest some of the prevalent disinformation floating around.
Anyone who worked in finance in the decade before Glass-Steagall was repealed knows that prior to Gramm-Leach-Bliley the megabanks just took their hyper-leveraged activities offshore (primarily to London where no such regulations existed). The big problem (at least in my mind) with Glass-Steagall is that it didn’t prevent the financial-industrial complex from gaining the power to loophole and lobby Glass-Steagall out of existence, and incorporate a new regime of hyper-leverage, convoluted shadow banking intermediation, and a multi-quadrillion-dollar derivatives web (and more importantly a taxpayer-funded safety net for when it all goes wrong: heads I win, tails you lose). I fear that the only answer to the dastardly combination of hyper-risk and huge bailouts is to let the junkies eat dirt the next time the system comes crashing down. You can’t keep bailing out hyper-fragile systems and expect them to just fix themselves. The answer to stupidity is not the moral hazard of bailouts, it is the educational lesson of failure. You screw up, you take more care next time. If you’re bailed out, you just don’t care. Corzine affirms it; Iksil affrims it; Adoboli affirms it. And there will be more names. Which chump is next?
Having listened to the conference call (I was roaring with laughter), Jamie Dimon sounded very defensive especially about one detail: that the CIO’s activities were solely in risk management, and that its bets were designed to hedge risk. Now, we all know very well that banks have been capable of turning “risk management” into a hugely risky business — that was the whole problem with the mid-00s securitisation bubble, which made a sport out of packaging up bad debt and spreading it around balance sheets via shadow banking intermediation, thus turning a small localised risk (of mortgage default) into a huge systemic risk (of a default cascade). But wait a minute? If you’re hedging risk then the bets you make will be cancelled against your existing balance sheet. In other words, if your hedges turn out to be worthless then your initial portfolio should have gained, and if your initial portfolio falls, then your hedges will activate, limiting your losses. That is how hedging risk works. If the loss on your hedges is not being cancelled-out by gains in your initial portfolio then by definition you are not hedging risk. You are speculating.
One can call the BOJ inefficient, slow and for the most part utterly worthless, but one can certainly not accuse them of lying, and beating around the bush. Because unlike all other central banks, with the BOJ at least it has been fully public knowledge that this particular central bank unlike all others (wink wink), is actively engaged in buying equity products, among them REITs and broad equity ETFs (which provide much explicit tail-wags-dog leverage and explains why the FRBNY's red phone hotline goes directly to Citadel's ETF trading desk). And buy stocks on full tilt and in record quantities is precisely what the BOJ just did, only as one can expect, with absolutely no impact on the broader stock market. Because once even the central bank is exposed as participating in the market, the element of surprise is gone, and the central bank becomes just one mark (if one with a largish balance sheet). As MarketWatch reports, "The Bank of Japan stepped back into the stock market Monday, making its largest single-day purchase of exchange-traded funds to date... The Japanese central bank said it spent 39.7 billion yen (about $500 million) buying up stock ETFs as part of its ongoing asset-purchase program, breaking a previous record of ¥28.5 billion, set on April 16. In addition to the ETF buys, the Bank of Japan also acquired ¥2.3 billion in real-estate investment trusts Monday." Too bad that this latest outright bull in a Japan store (sic) intervention had zero impact: "the move failed to prevent a sharp fall for the Tokyo equity market." But at least they are honest. Imagine the shock and horror (and complete lack of apologies to all those who have predicted just that) when the world finally gets a trade confirm-based proof that Brian Sack was indeed buying (never selling) SPYs and ES. Why everyone would be truly shocked, SHOCKED, that the Fed is nothing but another two-bit gambler in a rigged and broken casino.
What are the classic signs of an asset bubble? People piling into an asset class to such an extent that it becomes unprofitable to do so. Treasury bonds are so overbought that they are now producing negative real yields (yield minus inflation). And so America’s creditors are now getting slapped quite heavily in the mouth by the Fed’s easy money inflationist policies. John Aziz proposes (much to the consternation of the monetarist-Keynesian “print money and watch your problems evaporate” establishment) that this is a very, very, very dangerous position. And that those economists who are calling for even greater inflation are playing with dynamite. See, while the establishment seems to largely believe that the negative return on treasuries will juice up the American economy — in other words that “hoarders” will stop hoarding and start spending — we believe that negative side-effects from these policies may cause severe harm. Do we really want to risk the inflationary impact of continuing to print money to monetise debt (and hiding the money in excess reserves, thereby temporarily hiding the inflation). As John wrote recently - "So, does the accumulation of excess reserves lead to inflation? Only so much as the frequentation of brothels leads to chlamydia and syphilis." We’d call that playing dice with the devil.
"In a financed financial system, collateral is money"