Doug Noland Warns "Bubbles Are Faltering... China Trust Is The Tip Of The Iceberg"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Doug Noland of The Prudent Bear blog,

Backdrops conductive to crises can drag on for so long – sometimes seemingly forever - as if they’re moving in ultra-slow motion. Invariably, they lull most to sleep. Better yet, such environments even work to embolden the optimists. This is especially the case when policy measures are aggressively employed along the way, repeatedly holding the forces of crisis at bay. In the face of mounting risk, heightened risk-taking and leveraging often work only to exacerbate underlying fragilities. But eventually a critical juncture arrives where newfound momentum has things unwinding at a more frenetic pace. It is the nature of such things that most everyone gets caught totally unprepared.


Virtually the entire EM “complex” has been enveloped in protracted destabilizing financial and economic Bubbles. In particular, for five years now unprecedented “developed” world central bank-induced liquidity has spurred unsound economic and financial booms. The massive investment and “hot money” flows are illustrated by the multi-trillion growth of EM central bank international reserve holdings. There have of course been disparate resulting impacts on EM financial and economic systems. But I believe in all cases this tsunami of liquidity and speculation has had deleterious consequences, certainly including fomenting systemic dependencies to foreign-sourced flows. In seemingly all cases, protracted Bubbles have inflated societal expectations.


For a while, central bank willingness to use reserves to support individual currencies bolsters market confidence in a country’s currency, bonds and financial system more generally. But at some point a central bank begins losing the battle to accelerating outflows. A tough decision is made to back away from market intervention to safeguard increasingly precious reserve holdings. Immediately, the marketplace must then contend with a faltering currency, surging yields, unstable financial markets and rapidly waning liquidity generally. Things unravel quickly.


The issue of EM sovereign and corporate borrowings in dollar (and euro and yen) denominated debt has speedily become a critical “macro” issue. More than five years of unprecedented global dollar liquidity excess spurred a historic boom in dollar-denominated borrowings. The marketplace assumed ongoing dollar devaluation/EM currency appreciation. There became essentially insatiable market demand for higher-yielding EM debt, replete with all the distortions in risk perceptions, market mispricing and associated maladjustment one should expect from years of unlimited cheap finance. As was the case with U.S. subprime, it’s always the riskiest borrowers that most intensively feast at the trough of easy “money.”

So, too many high-risk borrowers – from vulnerable economies and Credit systems - accumulated debt denominated in U.S. and other foreign currencies – for too long. Now, currencies are faltering, “hot money” is exiting, Credit conditions are tightening and economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating. It’s a problematic confluence that will find scores of borrowers challenged to service untenable debt loads, especially for borrowings denominated in appreciating non-domestic currencies. This tightening of finance then becomes a pressing economic issue, further pressuring EM currencies and financial systems – the brutal downside of a protracted globalized Credit and speculative cycle.

In many cases, this was all part of a colossal “global reflation trade.” Today, many EM economies confront the exact opposite: mounting disinflationary forces for things sold into global markets. Falling prices, especially throughout the commodities complex, have pressured domestic currencies. This became a major systemic risk after huge speculative flows arrived in anticipation of buoyant currencies, attractive securities markets, and enticing business opportunities. The commodities boom was to fuel general and sustained economic booms. EM was to finally play catchup to “developed.”

Now, Bubbles are faltering right and left - and fearful “money” is heading for the (closing?) exits. And, as the global pool of speculative finance reverses course, the scale of economic maladjustment and financial system impairment begins to come into clearer focus. It’s time for the marketplace to remove the beer goggles.

No less important is the historic – and ongoing - boom in manufacturing capacity in China and throughout Asia. This has created excess capacity and increasing pricing pressure for too many manufactured things, a situation only worsened by Japan’s aggressive currency devaluation. This dilemma, with parallels to the commodity economies, becomes especially problematic because of the enormous debt buildup over recent years. While this is a serious issue for the entire region, it has become a major pressing problem in China.

This week the markets seemed to begin taking the unfolding Chinese Credit crisis more seriously. There was talk early in the week of concerted efforts to save the troubled $496 million (“Credit Equals Gold No. 1”) trust product from a possible end-of-month default.


Savers, investors and speculators will indeed learn painful lessons in China Credit – and it’s difficult for me to envisage this learning process going smoothly. “Credit Equals Gold No.1” is the proverbial tip of the Iceberg for a Credit system today suffering from a historic gulf between saver perceptions of “moneyness” and the poor and deteriorating quality of much of underlying system Credit. Incredible quantities of finance have flowed freely into risky Credit vehicles with the expectation that the banks and governments (local and central) will not allow losses nor ever tolerate a crisis. This is precisely the recipe for Credit accidents and even disaster.


Now officials confront a dangerous situation: Acute fragility in segments of its “shadow” financing of corporate and local government debt festers concurrently with ongoing “terminal phase” excess throughout housing finance. China’s financial and economic systems have grown dependent upon massive ongoing Credit expansion, while the quality of new Credit is suspect at best. It’s that fateful “terminal phase” exponential growth in systemic risk playing out in historic proportions. Global markets have begun to take notice.

There are critical market issues with no clear answers. For one, how much speculative “hot money” has and continues to flood into China to play their elevated yields in a currency that is (at the least) expected to remain pegged to the U.S. dollar? If there is a significant “hot money” issue, any reversal of speculative flows would surely speed up this unfolding Credit crisis. And, of course, any significant tightening of Chinese Credit would reverberate around the globe, especially for already vulnerable EM economies and financial systems.


I have surmised that the so-called “yen carry trade” (borrow/short in yen and use proceeds to lever in higher-yielding instruments) could be the largest speculative trade in history. Market trading dynamics this week certainly did not dissuade. When the yen rises, negative market dynamics rather quickly gather momentum. From my perspective, all the major speculative trades come under pressure when the yen strengthens; from EM, to the European “periphery,” to U.S. equities and corporate debt.


U.S. speculators and investors have become accustomed to hasty comments or policy measures in response to the first sign of market weakness. Chairman Bernanke’s (past June) Comment that the Fed would “push back” against any “tightening of financial conditions” worked wonders on market sentiment and “animal spirits.” But I don’t expect the exiting Bernanke to ride to the markets’ rescue. I also don’t expect Bill Dudley and fellow FOMC doves to upstage the new chair Janet Yellen. And it would as well appear alarming to the marketplace if Yellen felt the need for public statements prior to the official start of her reign. With a Fed meeting scheduled for next week, an “emergency” meeting or other public statement over the weekend would also seem unlikely. This might actually be the beginning of a new environment where Fed officials are reluctant to jump to the markets’ defense at the first sign of nervousness.

Last year was extraordinary on so many levels. Too be sure, a “couple” Trillion of global QE made for some abnormal market dynamics. Typically, trouble at the “periphery” would lead to de-risking, de-leveraging and resulting contagion effects that begin their journey toward the “core.” But in 2013, with unprecedented global liquidity coupled with unprecedented speculation, initial cracks in “periphery” Bubbles spurred a speculative onslaught on “core” equities and corporate debt markets.

I would argue that 2013 dynamics significantly exacerbated global systemic fragilities. Over all, global financial systems and economies became only further dependent upon abundant cheap liquidity. The liquidity backdrop may have held EM crisis dynamics somewhat at bay, but it also prolonged a dangerous expansion of late-cycle debt. Meanwhile, “developed” market speculative Bubbles inflated precariously. “Money” flowed freely into all types of risky securities, instruments and products. Most importantly, inflated securities prices became only further detached from deteriorating fundamental prospects.


In striking contrast to “The May/June Dynamic,” Treasury yields have recently been declining as opposed to moving higher. Treasuries, bunds and other “developed” sovereign debt are enjoying a safe haven bid, likely bolstered by heightened global disinflationary forces. And while this makes life somewhat easier for those managing so-called “risk parity” strategies, this important change in market behavior surely complicates myriad other strategies. Those short Treasuries or bunds as hedges (or funding sources) for various leveraged “carry trade” strategies suddenly face an unfavorable dynamic.

It’s worth noting that most spreads reversed course and widened meaningfully this week. This comes after what appeared to be the whole world coming to realize the fun and easy profits of selling/writing CDS and other forms of Credit insurance (“writing flood insurance during a drought”). This backdrop would seem ripe for a bout of risk aversion, where abruptly shifting markets force players to pare back some exposure to “alternative” Credit strategies and myriad leveraged trades. This would provide a more traditional mechanism for transmitting market tumult at the “periphery” toward the “core.”

In a year that at this point seems poised to see a significant reduction in Federal Reserve liquidity creation, I would expect a return of a more “risk on, risk off” trading dynamic. This would seem to ensure that increasingly serious problems at the “periphery” have contagion effects that risk engulfing the “core.”

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Flying Wombat's picture

The US bond market is the worst of them all.

I think we'll see China do some form of a bailout as I discussed on last Friday's Silver Doctors Metals & Markets radio show (click here).  But their credit bubble is spooky to say the least.

buzzsaw99's picture

There are some things that money can't buy... for everything else, there's china, the fed, and the imf.

Peter Pan's picture

Doug Noland is one of the most considered commentators in my view.

Bubbles in their initial phase have signs of strength because they are drawing on someone else's cash reserve which for a while creates a seemingly self perpetuating euphoria. But at some stage those bubbles have to start paying a return and this is where the whole story goes sour. No cash flow, no returns, bills not paid, valuations head south and so on and so forth.

Society at all levels and to one degree or another has gambled and lost on either excess productive capacity, mammoth leverage or ghost cities and even ghost malls. The bill has to be paid and losses taken. The sooner the better.

Initially, follwoing the GFC a whole lot of props prevented the rotten parts of the system coming down. Now the props can do no more and are in fact becoming fragile as well. So the next crisis will be doubly painful.



gjp's picture

Never seen Noland cited on ZH before, good to see.

In many ways they are opposites.  Noland is understated and sober, pulls a few punches, and is willing to suspend disbelief and credit some financiers and officials as misguided but generally acting in the interest of the greater good.  ZH is given to hyperbole and credits just about every conspiracy.

But those differences aside, they are clearly both speaking their own style of the truth, and I read both as often as I am able.  And they are both infinitely more valuable sources than any mainstream source of economic / business / financial news or commentary.

spinone's picture

Central bank liquidity has created capital misallocation on a grand global scale.  Asia has excess manufacturing capacity, and the USA has excess retail capacity.  Both were reacting to distorted market signals indicating growth and recovery.  In reality, the USA's consumer's income is flat and balance is debt saturated.  Banks financed the manufacturing and retail investment that is not generating income.  Who will bail out the banks this time?  (Hint:  whos got the money, but not the connections?)

bobert's picture

No need for a bailout this time.

Just let Buffet by them for pennies on the dollar.

Squid-puppets a-go-go's picture

im glad to see the evil beast staggering a bit, but none of us bears should get too excited until we see a sell off followed by increase QE response, and the market shrugs and continues to sell off

your hot air balloon may have a tear in it, but until hyperinflation is in its acute phase, there's plenty of compressed gas left in the bottle

freedogger's picture

I only hope he lives long enough to see his world destroyed. 

thewhigs's picture

Finally Doug Noland gets some recognition. His brilliant analytical work during the past 10-12 years has helped me understand how bubbles work and how inept the profligate central banksters, especially Greenspan, Bernanke, etc. really are and how they have done nothing but create multiple bubbles and excess.

I HIGHLY recomment everyone read his work on every week!

CheapBastard's picture

"Ice Berg"... is he related to Joshua Berg, the kosher deli owner down the block?

If so, Ice Berg's tip has been ....

Oi vey!

gwar5's picture

"I was on the Titanic, dammit!  Ice Berg, Gold Berg.....  they're all alike."

gwar5's picture

2014 feels like the year. A Sochi bloobath on prime time TV will confirm it.

Grande Tetons's picture

I vote that Bieber gets popped on live TV instead.  

If the market does not crash more Bieber.

superflex's picture

Too bad he's not performing at the Superbowl.

Target rich environment for idiots.

wisehiney's picture

Doug Noland, a fellow long suffering righteous dude.

NoDebt's picture

The only reason I have any real fear of the next bubble bursting/economic downturn is that it's going to come with a heaping helping of totalitarian control over everything in it's wake (yes, even more so than today).  It will not be the downfall of those institutions, it will likely be their greatest moment of triumph.  Anything this long in the making has a carefully throught out plan behind it.

Grande Tetons's picture

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

That, and a bunch of Central Bankers...after that...the coast is clear.  

q99x2's picture

From my college studies the downfall seems to penetrate everything. Nobody wins. But maybe it will be different this time with Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, Holder, McCain, Graham and Feinstein in charge.

Better Start your duck and cover drills.

A carefully thought out plan by psychopathic morons is psychopathic. People in the military, DHS, FBI and police forces are ready to turn on these fuckers first chance they get.

NoDebt's picture

Can you see the mistake you made?

"From my college studies...."

Consider the source of that information.  Yes, everyone in aggregate ends up worse off.  But it's a relative game.  Those in power after it happens gain near-ABSOLUTE power.

Nobody cares the state of the empire over which they rule so long as they rule over it absolutely.

Tell me this doesn't more accurately describe what you are seeing with your own eyes the last handfull of years.  Does it seem to you that anyone in power has the slightest care about the general welfare of our country?  Or does it seem they're more interested in gaining an ever larger share of what pie remains for themselves?

Anusocracy's picture

Control is a powerful survival trait for the controller. For everyone else, not so much.

A gift from the animal world that keeps on taking.

Winston Churchill's picture

Deflationary collapse part deux.

Now the paper assets will catch down to gold in Exters pyramid.

Now we are about to find out just how clever our masters were manipulating

the gold price.

The law of unintended consequences is a bitch.

Quaderratic Probing's picture

Just like 2008 no money to buy gold price falls

Sabibaby's picture

It would be cool if there were some kind of agencie that would rate risk. They could give different scores for different investments and the actual rating would represent the risk each investment had. China would surely be high risk... along with a lot of other investments.

cnhedge3's picture
News emerged today that investors in the product have quietly been offered a refund of principal but not interest on their investments in the trust product, although such an offer is not being made public -- in a similar fashion to the offer investors in Huaxia Bank's failed wealth management product received in December 2012 and January 2013. While this trust product did technically default, the potential significance of such a default needs to be understood in context. There have already been several defaulted trust products, and there will likely be many more in the future. This case, in particular, is unlikely to set a meaningful precedent or influence all future distributions of losses on future trust products or other shadow banking credit instruments, and policymakers are not evaluating this case as a key precedent to unwind the moral hazard problem within the financial system.

q99x2's picture

Before I die I only want to know one thing: Is Greece going to fucking default?

NoDebt's picture

Define "defualt."

If a 70% haircut for any non-central-bank counterparty isn't a "default" then there is no such thing.

More to the point, understand WHO it is who gets to define what a "default" is.

That liquid running down your back isn't rainwater.

Peter Pan's picture

Various answers:

1. Greece as a government has already defaulted against its people by betraying them to the TROIKA

2. The real default is ongoing for as long as Europe is willing to lend them more money and at the same time have their debt increase.

3. Greece will formally default when the European masters either give the Greek politicians the nod or when Europe loses control of their mess.

Spungo's picture

What to do when the stock market starts crashing

the grateful unemployed's picture

Noland has these quaint sayings, moneyness, and government finance bubble. and periphery to the core. the central bankers have control but of an increasingly smaller portion of the global economy. its like custers last stand, the indians never win, the generals sometimes lose.

TimmyM's picture

Noland has been calling out the credit system for many years before this website existed. It is about time he was recognized.

AdvancingTime's picture

Most investors think that even if things go downhill fast that they will be smart enough to get out of the markets. After the debacle in 2008 where they saw the market do nasty and violent swings they learned a few things, this time they figure they will make the right moves before it is to late. But what if it hits like the flash crash on steroids? We know that can't happen because circuit breakers have been put in place to arrest panic style moves, but imagine a market that falls, trade is halted, and the market simply does not reopen for days, or even weeks. Such a scenario for a market crash of this kind does exist, more on why in the post below,

Herdee's picture

WalMart must receive the cheapest goods possible from China in order to keep their minimum wage employees working.Job creation at WallyMart will stop if Chinese products stop flowing.(What would the U.S. Government ponzi scheme do)?You wouldn't want the little red commi's to stop funding the deficit with trillions of dollars.

bobbydelgreco's picture

ms piggy is a dove anyone counting on her for restraint is stupid

SuparCapitalist's picture

FYI; Doug Noland is a senior pm at Federated Investors and is head of the Federated Alternative Strategies Team. He runs two funds: The Federated Prudent Bear Fund and Federated Prudent Dollar Bear Fund.