The last time the world's largest oil and gas drill operator, Seadrill, halted its dividend payment was in 2009, shortly after Lehman had filed and the world was engulfed in a massive depression. Retrospectively, this made sense: the company was struggling not only with depressionary oil prices, but with a legacy epic debt load as can be seen on the chart below. So the fact that the stock of Seadrill collapsed by 20% today following a shocking overnight announcement that it had once again halted its dividend despite what is a far lower debt load than last time, indicates that when it comes to energy companies, the current global economic "recovery" - if one believes the rigged US stock market - is actually worse than the Lehman collapse.
Another day, another case of central banks, not one but two this time, dictating "price" action.
All that the Fed, BoJ (Bank of Japan), the Bank of England etc. have been concerned with is the preservation of private banks and the continued propping up of stock markets. None of these institutions really care about the real-world economy, real-world inflation or the ability of individuals to maintain their lives in a prolonged period of economic contraction. When you couple high real inflation with stagnation or reduction in wages over the years since the 2008 crash then real-world buying power of most individuals is drastically reduced. This doesn’t just make people depressed, it makes them angry – hardworking people do not expect or deserve to be thrust into poverty.
"I had a few meetings yesterday and one of the biggest surprises I had was that for the first time in a long time people were talking about helicopter money and debt cancellation being the end game. This was a major theme of our 2013 long-term study but one that we've struggled to get much traction with over the last year. Perhaps there's an increasing weariness that more QE globally whilst inevitable, is a blunt growth tool and that stopping it will be extremely difficult (let alone reversing it) without a positive growth shock.... Anyway, this is not something for today or tomorrow but the fact that different clients brought it up independently of each other makes me think that's its starting to get into people's thoughts." - Deutsche Bank
Keynesian fiscal policies and central banking regimes have buried the public sectors of most of the world’s major economies in unsustainable debt. Now they propose to double down on more of the same because an entire generation of politicians have been house-trained in permanent fiscal profligacy and endless kicking of the fiscal can down the road. To be sure, in perhaps putting off Japan’s day of fiscal reckoning once again, Prime Minister Abe is proving himself to be a certifiable madman. In short order, however, he will have plenty of company all around the planet.
The BTFDippier of the fast money is already rotating into a long-Europe mode: their entire thesis is that sooner or later the whales will have no choice but to follow the momentum chasers right back into Europe, because where else are they going to go: in the "safety" of the S&P's 19x GAAP P/E? In theory this would be a great strategy, if only in a world in which nobody actually does any fundamental homework and the only thing that matters is frontrunning the next great sucker. In practice, it is fatally wrong. As the following observation from hedge fund Lyxor shows, while CTA and momentum strats have indeed bailed on Europe in recent months, the so-called smart money, the "global macro" funds never left.
Despite the apparent economic and profit news improvements recently, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest notes there are a few instances where people are still flipping out. It’s worth reviewing them, he suggests, as they're indicative of risks and opportunities in financial markets heading into 2015, and of the continued presence of central banks affecting asset prices.
A stunner this morning by ECB board member Yves Mersch who said earlier today that the ECB balance-sheet expansion is "neither an end in itself nor a fetish." As quoted by Bloomberg, the ECB member said that "the effect on rates that comes along with it is at best a collateral benefit." Nothing new here: we have discussed why unlike Japan and the US, the biggest gating factor for Europe is the presence of freely-available, unencumbered collateral that could, at least in theory, be purchased by the ECB. Which brings us to the Mersch punchline: "Theoretically the ECB could purchase other assets such as gold, shares, ETFs to fulfill its promise of adopting further unconventional measures to counter a longer period of low inflation."
While we understand the Fed's desire to pass the monetization baton seamlessly from the end of QE3 in the US, to the expansion of QE in Japan first, and then the launch of public QE by the ECB, things may not be quite as smooth as desired . Because a quick glance at the latest Fed H.4.1 statement reveals something unexpected: in the past 4 weeks, the level of total reserves with Fed banks (i.e., excess reserves created by QE), have seen their biggest plunge since the launch of QE in March of 2009. As of November 5, the total amount of outstanding reserves tumbled to $2.561 trillion, down a whopping $188 billion in the past 4 week, well below the $2.8 trillion recorded in August, and at a level last seen in February 2014.
The Keynesian notions of “potential GDP” and “aggregate demand” have no basis in the real world. They are revealed doctrine. They are the religion of the state’s economic policy apparatus. Its bad enough that this destructive economic religion leads to the farcical forecasting games evident in the EC’s chronic updates and slow-walks of the GDP numbers down. The evil, however, is that the Keynesian apparatchiks will not desist in their destructive money printing and borrowing until they have suffocated free market capitalism entirely, and have monetized so much public debt that the financial system simply implodes.
"Japan is no Zimbabwe. Neither was Israel, yet from 1972 to 1987 its inflation averaged nearly 85%. As its CPI rose nearly 10,000 times, its stock market rose by a factor of 6,500 … Regular readers know that I don’t generally make forecasts, but that every now and then I do go out on a limb. This is one of those occasions. Mapping Israel’s experience onto Japan would take the Nikkei from its current 9,600 [as of October 2010] to 63,000,000. This is our 15-year price target." - Dylan Grice
We’ve been keeping the long lost idea of our long lost society alive by squeezing our own children wherever we can, and telling them that if they only work hard enough, they can be whoever they want to be. But they can’t, that notion is also long lost. When you keep home prices artificially high, homeowners don’t suffer as much, even if they bought at insanely high prices, but the suffering is switched to potential buyers, who remain just that, potential, while they live in their mom’s basements for years. A surefire way to kill a society while everyone’s eagerly awaiting the growth that is just around the corner and will forever remain there. Take it from your kids. Take it from somewhere else in the world. And that’s where we’re now passing a barrier: there’s no-one to take it from anymore.
Strong tailwind for Southeast Asia that the West is ignorant about
While the Fed and the BOJ were by far the biggest news of the past week, explicitly admitting that the world simply can not exist without one central bank passing the monetization torch to someone else, a surprising, and scare for its shareholders, development took place when REIT American Realty Capital Properties, with a then-market cap of over $10 billion, announced, under the cover of the Fed ending QE3, that it had overstated its adjusted funds from operation, a cash flow key metric used by REITs, from the first- and second-quarters of 2014.As the WSJ reminds us, while the amount of money involved, some $23 million, was "relatively small", the irregularities resulted in the resignation of the company’s chief financial officer, Brian Block, and chief accounting officer, Lisa McAlister.The result: a crash in the stock that wiped out nearly 30% or nearly $4 billion in market cap.
Japan’s aging population needs rising prices like a hole in the head. The more “successful” Mr. Kuroda becomes in forcing prices up, the less money people will have to spend and invest. The economy will weaken, not strengthen, as a result. The advantages the export sector currently enjoys are paid for by the entire rest of the economy. moreover, even this advantage is fleeting. It only exists as long as domestic prices have not yet fully adjusted to the fall in the currency’s value. If one could indeed debase oneself to prosperity, it would long ago have been demonstrated by someone. While money supply growth in Japan has remained tame so far, the “something for nothing” trick implied by the BoJ’s massive debt monetization scheme is destined to end in a catastrophe unless it is stopped in time. Once confidence actually falters, it will be too late.