Spontaneous combustion. Alien invasion. Zombie apocalypse. What do these have in common? Their likelihood is next to impossible. So why worry? This is how people tend to think about the financial system. Mentioning even the possibility, for example, that the US could default on its debt is met with so much scorn and contempt it would be safer to stand on the street corner warning about an alien invasion. The same goes for the imposition of capital controls. Or a collapse in the banking system. Or a currency crisis. And yet the most casual glance at the headlines proves that these events not only can happen, they do happen... and for one underlying reason...
"...If the S&P500 were to come down by 50% look at the bright side. The Millennial generation can finally buy into America’s future at a good price. Look at what they are facing right now: very little return on their savings and very lofty prices that they have to pay to invest in their future. So we often forget that these wrenching dislocating financial events, particularly for older generations, can create opportunities for the young, and often create space for something more durable for the times to be built. So I’ll just summarize it with Schumpeter’s phrase: creative destruction. That’s how I prefer to see what happens in a Fourth Turning."
During “normal times” – an economic growth phase accompanied or generated by rising systemic leverage – central banks have incentive to promote nominal growth and inflation, which make banking systems profitable and their free-spending political overseers happy. In such times, commercial banks have fiduciary responsibilities to shareholders to constantly increase their market values, which they do by expanding their balance sheets. Now that economies are highly leveraged, extinguishing debt would require banks to reduce the sizes of their loan books, which would shrink their market values. Thus, it seems economic policy makers never have incentive to promote debt extinguishment in the banking system, regardless of economic conditions or prospects.
What could possibly go wrong? Clearly having not learned their lesson from 'interfering' in free markets (and all the deflation-creating over-supplying, crony-capitalizing, taxpayer money-wasting malinvestment that goes with it), NBC News reports, The White House has announced a goal to train 75,000 workers in the solar industry by 2020, many of them veterans. In a sentence only President Obama could utter, he explains "these are good-paying jobs that are helping folks enter the middle-class." Climate 'fixed', folks 'fixed', veterans 'fixed' middle-class-economics 'fixed'... and we are sure it will be unequivocally good for America (until trade wars pick up once again).
Debt, Distraction, Currency Wars, Itchy Fingers
The inability of the linear thinking ruling class to acknowledge the seriousness of our current circumstances and the implications of the era of depression and violence the country is about to experience can be witnessed on a daily basis by listening to mainstream media talking heads or politicians of all stripes who bloviate about economic improvement and progress just ahead. Could there be a better example of myopia, delusion and willful ignorance than the theme and opening line of Obama’s State of the Union speech: "The Shadow Of Crisis Has Passed" Do Obama and his advisors actually believe this Crisis is over? Or is he purposely misleading the American people about the seriousness of our circumstances because he has been instructed to do so by the men who really pull the levers of this country?
- Stick to tapering and rates pledge, says Boston Fed chief (FT)
- Turkey to let Iraqi Kurds reinforce Kobani as U.S. drops arms to defenders (Reuters)
- Obama makes rare campaign trail appearance, some leave early (Reuters)
- Japan GPIF to Boost Share Allocation to About 25%, Nikkei Says (BBG)... or three months of POMO
- Japan Stocks Surge on Report GPIF to Boost Local Shares (BBG)
- China Growth Seen Slowing Sharply Over Decade (WSJ)
- Russia, Ukraine Edge Closer to Natural-Gas Deal (WSJ)
- Leveraged Money Spurs Selloff as Record Treasuries Trade (BBG)
- After clashes, Hong Kong students, government stand their ground before talks (Reuters)
Zero inflation is like death penalty to debt-laden countries. It has been estimated that Italy would need a primary surplus of ~8% if it wanted to stabilize its debt/GDP at zero inflation, which means just stopping it from moving even higher. Spain would need a primary surplus of 2%+, instead of current negative 1.44%. Which means more austerity and more contractionary policies, to cause more internal devaluation than it is currently the case, more declines in unit labor costs, more salary cuts, more unemployment, less consumer spending, less corporate investments.... Incidentally, we have for European assets and the ECB the same feeling we have for Japan and the BoJ. Abenomics has a high chance of failure, in the long term. Nevertheless, on the road to perdition, chances are that efforts will be stepped up and more bullets shot in an attempt to avert the end game. As stakes are raised, financial assets will be supported and melt-up in bubble territory, doing so at the expenses of a more turbulent end-game in the years ahead.
Confirming Europe's realization just how serious events are, and how far down the rabbit hole Europe's bureaucrats have gone, French President Francois Hollande, while stressing that a failure by Russia to reverse a flow of weapons and troops into eastern Ukraine would force the bloc to impose new economic measures i.e., nothing new, it is what he said just after that indicated a dramatic change in rhetoric: "Are we going to let the situation worsen, until it leads to war?" Hollande said at a news conference. "Because that's the risk today. There is no time to waste."
The sudden military escalation in Ukraine in recent days has, according to JPMorgan's Alex Kantarovich, reduced the earlier hopes that the high level meeting in Minsk on 26 August would help to defuse the conflict. As Kantarovich warns, the markets are now bracing for the US/EU responses. In the worst case scenario, now appearing more likely, severe pressure on stocks may extend. As he concludes, "we believe that with the significant deterioration in the Ukrainian situation, markets may treat this as a Lehman-style shock."
Ebola Devastates West Africa: Revenues Down; Markets Not Functioning; Projects Canceled; GDP Plunges 4%Submitted by Tyler Durden on 08/27/2014 17:01 -0400
The market, in its infinitely rigged wisdom, has concluded that the worst Ebola outbreak in history is a non-event, even though it has put virtually all of western Africa on indefinite lockdown, and as Reuters reports, is "causing enormous damage to West African economies and draining budgetary resources." In fact the damage from Ebola to Africa is already so acute, it is expected that economic growth in the region will plunge by up to 4 percent as foreign businessmen leave and projects are canceled, according to the African Development Bank president said. Revenues are down, foreign exchange levels are down, markets are not functioning, airlines are not coming in, projects are being canceled, business people have left - that is very, very damaging," African Development Bank (AfDB) chief Donald Kaberuka said in an interview late on Tuesday.
The US is clearly now pushing Russia towards war. But if you read the signs correctly, Russia has been preparing for exactly this outcome for many years.
There were some minor fireworks in the overnight session following the worst Australian unemployment data in 12 years reported previously (and which sent the AUD crashing), most notably news that the Japanese Pension Fund would throw more pensioner money away by boosting the allocation to domestic stocks from 12% to 20%, while reducing holdings of JGBs from 60% to 40%. This in turn sent the USDJPY soaring (ironically, following yesterday's mini flash crash) if only briefly before it retraced much of the gains, even as the Pension asset reallocation news now appears to be entirely priced in. It may be all downhill from here for Japanese stocks. It was certainly downhill for Europe where after ugly German factory orders yesterday, it was the turn of Europe's growth dynamo to report just as ugly Industrial Production which missed expectations of a 1.2% print rising only 0.3%. Nonetheless, asset classes have not seen major moves yet, as today's main event is the ECB announcement due out in less than an hour. Consensus expects Draghi to do nothing, however with fresh cyclical lows in European inflation prints, and an economy which is clearly rolling over from Germany to the periphery, the ex-Goldmanite just may surprise watchers.
Last week we noted Russia was considering banning fruit from Europe (as well as various other sanctions retaliations) but this morning Vladimir Putin has come out swinging by signing 'a decree on countermeasures to Western sanctions':
*PUTIN BANS FOOD IMPORTS FROM COUNTRIES SANCTIONING RUSSIA: IFX
*PUTIN ORDERS GOVT TO PREVENT ACCELERATED GROWTH OF FOOD PRICES
So trade wars escalate externally and price controls internally. It appears the US (and Europe) will indeed feel "tangible losses" despite Jack Lew's promises.