Not a quarter passes without the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) aka central banks' central bank (also the locus of some of the most aggressive manipulation of gold and FX in human history) reiterating a dire warning about the fire and brimstone that is about to be unleashed upon the global economy.
It started in June of 2013, when Jaime Caruana, certainly the most prominent doom and gloomer at the BIS (who also was Governor of the Bank of Spain from 2000 to 2007 when this happened) asked if "central banks [can] now really do “whatever it takes”? As each day goes by, it seems less and less likely... [seven] years have passed since the eruption of the global financial crisis, yet robust, self-sustaining, well balanced growth still eludes the global economy.... low-interest policies have made it easy for the private sector to postpone deleveraging, easy for the government to finance deficits, and easy for the authorities to delay needed reforms in the real economy and in the financial system. Overindebtedness is one of the major barriers on the path to growth after a financial crisis. Borrowing more year after year is not the cure...in some places it may be difficult to avoid an overall reduction in accommodation because some policies have clearly hit their limits."
The BIS' preaching did not end there, and hit a new crescendo in June of 2014, when in its 84th Annual Report, the BIS slammed "Market Euphoria", and found a "Puzzling Disconnect" between the economy and the market":
"it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally", that "despite the euphoria in financial markets, investment remains weak. Instead of adding to productive capacity, large firms prefer to buy back shares or engage in mergers and acquisitions" and that "the temptation to go for shortcuts is simply too strong, even if these shortcuts lead nowhere"... "Particularly for countries in the late stages of financial booms, the trade-off is now between the risk of bringing forward the downward leg of the cycle and that of suffering a bigger bust later on."
"The global economy continues to face serious challenges. Despite a pickup in growth, it has not shaken off its dependence on monetary stimulus. Monetary policy is still struggling to normalise after so many years of extraordinary accommodation. Despite the euphoria in financial markets, investment remains weak. Instead of adding to productive capacity, large firms prefer to buy back shares or engage in mergers and acquisitions. And despite lacklustre long-term growth prospects, debt continues to rise. There is even talk of secular stagnation.
Financial markets are euphoric, but progress in strengthening banks’ balance sheets has been uneven and private debt keeps growing.
It did not end there either. In September of 2014, the warnings continued:
... the search for yield – a dominant theme in financial markets since mid-2012 – returned in full force. Volatility fell back to exceptional lows across virtually all asset classes, and risk premia remained compressed. By fostering risk-taking and the search for yield, accommodative monetary policies thus continued to support elevated asset price valuations and exceptionally subdued volatility.
The spell of market volatility proved to be short-lived and financial markets resumed their rally soon afterwards. By early September, global equity markets had recouped their losses and credit risk spreads once again consolidated at close to historical lows. While geopolitical worries kept weighing on financial market developments, these were ultimately superseded by the anticipation of further monetary policy accommodation in the euro area, providing support for asset prices.
The warnings continued. Earlier today, the BIS released its latest Quarterly Review report, where the most prominent warning this time revolves around the inverse Plaza Accord surge in the US Dollar whose dramatic, concentrated surge in recent months is unparalleled in history. In a nutshell, in "Currency movements drive reserve composition", BIS' McCauley and Chan warn that, in Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's words, "off-shore lending in US dollars has soared to $9 trillion and poses a growing risk to both emerging markets and the world's financial stability."
From the full report:
The appreciation of the dollar against the backdrop of divergent monetary policies may, if persistent, have a profound impact on the global economy, in particular on EMEs. For example, it may expose financial vulnerabilities as many firms in emerging markets have large US dollar-denominated liabilities. A continued depreciation of the domestic currency against the dollar could reduce the creditworthiness of many firms, potentially inducing a tightening of financial conditions.
Or it may not: because this is essentially a carbon copy of the warnings that were issued after Bernanke first hinted at tapering in May of 2013, leading to the Taper TantrumTM, which led to some short-term volatility which were promptly soothed by even more central bank liquidity flooding what's left of the capital "markets."
A chunk of China's borrowing is disguised as intra-firm financing. This replicates practices by German industrial companies in the 1920s, which hid their real level of exposure as the 1929 debt trauma was building up. "To the extent that these flows are driven by financial operations rather than real activities, they could give rise to financial stability concerns," said the BIS in its quarterly report.
"More than a quantum of fragility underlies the current elevated mood in financial markets," it warned. Officials are disturbed by the "risk-on, risk-off, flip-flopping" by investors. Some of the violent moves lately go beyond stress seen in earlier crises, a sign that markets may be dangerously stretched and that many fund managers do not really believe their own Goldilocks narrative.
"Mid-October’s extreme intraday price movements underscore how sensitive markets have become to even small surprises. On 15 October, the yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds fell almost 37 basis points, more than the drop on 15 September 2008 when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy."
"These fluctuations were large relative to actual economic and policy surprises, as the only notable negative piece of news that day was the release of somewhat weaker than expected retail sales data for the US one hour before the event," it said.
The BIS said 55pc of collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) now being issued are based on leveraged loans, an "unprecedented level". This raises eyebrows because CDOs were pivotal in the 2008 crash.
"Activity in the leveraged loan markets even surpassed the levels recorded before the crisis: average quarterly announcements during the year to end-September 2014 were $250bn," it said.
BIS officials are worried that tightening by the US Federal Reserve will transmit a credit shock through East Asia and the emerging world, both by raising the cost of borrowing and by pushing up the dollar.
But it's best to leave it to the BIS itself, where this time Claudio Borio picks up the torch left by Jaime Caruana. What is notable is that none other than the BIS slams the infamous, and now legendary intervention by James "QE4" Bullard to assure the S&P's levitation continues without a hitch!
To my mind, these events underline the fragility - dare I say growing fragility? - hidden beneath the markets' buoyancy. Small pieces of news can generate outsize effects. This, in turn, can amplify mood swings. And it would be imprudent to ignore that markets did not fully stabilise by themselves. Once again, on the heels of the turbulence, major central banks made soothing statements, suggesting that they might delay normalisation in light of evolving macroeconomic conditions. Recent events, if anything, have highlighted once more the degree to which markets are relying on central banks: the markets' buoyancy hinges on central banks' every word and deed.
Wait, so the central banks' central bank is openly chastising one of its own now and for what: for stabilizing the market and preserving the unstable euphoria that the BIS has been warning about for so long?
Does this mean that the BIS is now openly calling for a crash? Perhaps, what is clear is that even the BIS, or the "good cop" (if only for the middle-class, certainly bad cop for the 0.01%-ers) is now shocked by just how broken the markets have become as summarized in the following line:
The highly abnormal is becoming uncomfortably normal. Central banks and markets have been pushing benchmark sovereign yields to extraordinary lows - unimaginable just a few years back. Three-year government bond yields are well below zero in Germany, around zero in Japan and below 1 per cent in the United States. Moreover, estimates of term premia are pointing south again, with some evolving firmly in negative territory. And as all this is happening, global growth - in inflation-adjusted terms - is close to historical averages. There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine.
So yes, thank you for confirming - years after most who still follow the farce that is the "market" with an open mind - just how absolutely broken it is thanks to central bankers.
And here is the rub, because for the BIS to be complaining about broken markets is nothing short of peak hypocrisy.
Why? Exhibit A: the BIS board of directors.
So, dear BIS thinkers, philosophers, and commentators: the next time you wish to warn the general public about how fucked up everything has become, maybe you can throw some of these "rational" ideas around your next Board meeting first and ask the economist sociopaths who are sitting on the CTRL-P buttons at printing presses around the globe to maybe take it a little easier with the wholesale, worldwide destruction of not only fiat currency but every single "market".
Oh, and while you are at it, please tell Benoit Gilson to slam paper gold to triple (and, if possible, double) digits ASAP: unlike the world's chasers of momentum who only buy an asset if it becomes more expensive on hopes greater fools will buy it back from them, there are those who actually know a good deal that won't last when they see it.