Swiss National Bank
Following yesterday's earnings disappointments, most notably from Microsoft which is down 7% this morning following the usual after-the-fact downgrades from JPM, Citi and Nomura, futures were already on a the back foot heading into this morning - no doubt impacted by the deja vu ridiculous move in the EURCHF noted earlier - when the latest batch of earnings just hit, of which Dow component Procter and Gamble stood out and which missed the top and bottom line. But the punchline, and in direct refutation of what Jack Lew said previously about a strong dollar being good for the US economy, was this:"The outlook for the year will remain challenging. Foreign exchange will reduce fiscal 2015 sales by 5% and net earnings by 12%, or at least $1.4 billion after tax." In other words, P&G will "offset" the surge in the USD with more layoffs. So when Jack Lew said "good" he really meant "bad."
The Japanese fire at the Europeans. The Europeans fire at the Japanese & Chinese. The Chinese fire scattershot at everybody else in Asia. England & America prep to teach those they consider muppets not to play with guns. It's World War Money, if you know what I mean...
The problem with all Keynesian styled philosophy is, it works well, and seems utterly brilliant on paper and in the classrooms of academia - when trouble arises its "To the text books!" for answers and BAM! – crisis solved. However in the real world it doesn't work that way. Just like war, when the battle starts, all earlier plans get thrown in the dust heap. And make no mistake, this was all started via armchair generals who believed monetary policy could be managed from within the Ivory Towers of academia and the consequences of these policies are multiplying by the day. As Mike Tyson once said so eloquently: (I’m paraphrasing) "Everybody's got a plan – till someone punches them in the face." The SNB has just landed the first blow. Now what?
"...as the Swiss National Bank has shown, risk can come back with a vengeance. The same thing can happen of course, in any other market. If the Federal Reserve wants to pursue an "exit" to its intervention, if it wants to go down this path, well, volatility is going to come back. Everything else equal, it means asset prices have to be priced lower. That is the problem if you base an economic recovery exclusively on asset price inflation. We are going to have our hands full trying to kind of move on from here. In that context, what the Swiss National Bank has done is it is just a canary in the coal mine that there will be more trouble ahead."
Even if you think you know how competitive devaluation works, this primer is worth it because parts 2-4 of this series will blow your socks off leaving you wondering, "Damn, why didn't I tink of that?"
There is no reason to assume that this time will be different. These boom-bust sequences will continue until the economy is structurally undermined to such an extent that monetary intervention cannot even create the illusory prosperity of a capital-consuming boom anymore. The bankers applauding Draghi’s actions today will come to rue them tomorrow.
Minutes after last week's Swiss National Bank shocker, jokingly we mused: "Will be ironic if Soros was long EURCHF." As it turns out, we were almost correct, and according to the WSJ, Soros Fund Management, which manages more than $25 billion for investor George Soros, was betting against the Swiss franc in the fall before it removed those bearish positions. Why did the Soros so conveniently take off a bet which, with leverage, could have resulted in massive losses for his hedge fund? The WSJ says he did so after "viewing the risk as too high relative to potential gains, said people close to the matter." Well as long as "people close" think Soros did not have input directly from the Swiss central bank, or perhaps the occasional hint from Kashya Hildebrand, then one can't help but marvel at the octogenarian's impeccable timing.
Central bank policy is creating liquidity. Wrong --- the growth in broad money is slowing across the world.
Central bank policy is allowing a frictionless de-gearing. Wrong --- debt to GDP levels of almost every country in the world are rising.
Central bank policy is creating inflation. Wrong --- inflation in most jurisdictions is now back to, or below, the levels recorded in late 2009.
Central bank policy is fixing key exchange rates and securing growth. Wrong --- in numerous jurisdictions this exchange rate intervention is slowing the growth in liquidity and thus the growth in the economy.
Central bank policy is keeping real interest rates low and stimulating demand. Wrong --- the decline in inflation from peak levels in 2011 means that real rates of interest are rising.
Central bank policy is driving up asset prices and creating a positive wealth impact which is bolstering consumption. Wrong --- savings rates have not declined materially.
Central bank policy is creating greater financial stability. Wrong --- whatever positives impact central banks are having on bank capital etc they have failed to prevent the biggest emerging market debt boom in history.
Different elements are rapidly changing within the global monetary complex...
Swiss interest rates were already the lowest in the world before The Swiss National Bank de-pegged from the Euro last week but in the ensuing few days, investor demand for the 'safety' of Switzerland has collapsed the yield curve to levels thought impossible just weeks ago...
As we further showed, the bulk of foreign demand for New York's most expensive properties, originated in China, Russia and various other oligarch-controlled nations, where the impetus to launder illegally obtained hot money meant an impulse to buy US real estate sight unseen and virtually at any price. And all of it, of course, all cash. No mortgages. That onslaught of foreign oligarch demand is ending, and with it so is the bubble that luxurious New York real estate found itself in on the back of some $12 trillion in central bank liquidity created out of thin air in the past 6 years. Business Week cites Manhattan real estate agent Lisa Gustin who listed a four-bedroom Tribeca loft for $7.45 million in October, expecting a quick sale. Instead, she cut the price this month by $550,000. “I thought for sure a foreign buyer would come in"... They didn't.
Who will ultimately benefit from the action? Will it be the people of Europe or only the mega-rich? For whom, we have continuously pointed out QE has greatly benefitted and as Alan Greenspan recently pointed out – QE has been a “terrific success.” The intensification of currency debasement and currency wars shows the increasing importance of owning physical gold coins and bars.
Laugh if you want to. Cry if you want to, but the bull market for the US dollar has legs and life.
The old joke is "In America, you correct newspaper, but in Soviet Union, newspaper corrects you.” Switzerland is now experiencing the bond market equivalent.
Major central banks claim to be independent, but they are totally under the control of politicians. Many developed countries have tried to anchor an independent central bank to offset pressure from politicians and that’s all well and good in principle until the economy spins out of control – at zero-bound growth and rates central banks and politicians becomes one in a survival mode where rules are broken and bent to fit an agenda of buying more time. What comes now is a new reality...