New York City may be buried under more than a foot of snow, but global markets don't sleep, however judging by the color of futures this morning, today's respectable $2.25-$3.00 billion POMO will have a tough time digging US equities out of the red, following a tepid overnight session in which the traditional driver of futures levitation, the USDJPY, was flat as the BOJ disclosed unchanged policy despite some inexplicable hopes that Kuroda would increase QE as early as today.
While last night's almost unprecedented reverse repo liquidty injection into the Chinese banking system stopped the bleeding of short-dated money-market rates briefly, the likelihood remains that a shadow-banking system default will occur: As CASS's Zhang noted:
*CHINA TRUSTS AND SHADOW BANKING TO SEE DEFAULTS IN 2014; DEFAULTS WOULD BE GOOD THING
Perhaps that explains why China's CDS spread remains at its highest since the summer credit crunch, barely budging on last night's cash drop. At double the default risk of Japan, China appears far from out of the contagion fire.
The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen. Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time. All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads. In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent of approximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone. That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014. So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next "Lehman Brothers moment" or will it be something else? In the end, it doesn't really matter. The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years. It is just a matter of time.
One of the bigger stories overnight is Hilsenrath's latest communication from the Fed which once again simply paraphrases the status quo opinion, namely which is that the Fed will taper by another $10 billion on January 29, reducing the total monthly flow to $65 billion. "The Federal Reserve is on track to trim its bond-buying program for the second time in six weeks as a lackluster December jobs report failed to diminish the central bank's expectations for solid U.S. economic growth this year, according to interviews with officials and their public comments." Of course, should the Fed not do that, as the Hilsenrath turned to Hilsen-wrath after all those Taper rumors in September ended up being one giant dud, one can once and for all completely ignore the WSJ reporter, who will have lost all his Fed sources and is now merely an echo chamber of consensus. What is notable is that the result of the latest mouthpiece effort, the USD is stronger, which means USDJPY is higher, which means US equity futures are flying.... on less QE to be announced. We eagerly await for this particular correlation pair to finally flip. The other big story, of course, is the already noted well-telegraphed in advance PBOC liquidity injection ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and ahead of a potential January 31 Trust default which will certainly shake the foundations of the Chinese shadow banking system to the core. Not helping nerves was last night's announcement by Zhang Ming, a researcher and director of the international investment department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that "trusts and shadow banking will see defaults this year, and this is a good thing." Let's circle back in 6 months to see just how good it is.
Despite all the reform policy imperatives to constrict credit and normalize and liberalize policy and rates, the PBOC just provided the largest liquidity injection to its banking system in a year - 255bn CNY. While this is not entirely unusual for a year-end, when Chinese banks have to confess their illiquidity sins and cover mismatches (and are always helped by the PBOC); this year, short-term money-market rates are triple that of last year and there is a very real chance of a very real default within the shadow banking system. Of course, the sell-side are desperately writing cover that this is all priced in and even if the PBOC "lets some Trusts go" then they will come to the rescue and any crisis will be "contained." However, no one knows who will be saved and therein lies the safety-first rub - now where have we heard "contained" before?
Markets have started the week on the back foot, despite a brief rally following a better-than-expected Q4 GDP print in China. Indeed, Asian equities recorded a small pop following the GDP report, but the gains were shortlived as the general negativity on China’s growth trajectory continues to weigh on Asian markets. In terms of the data itself, China’s Q4 GDP (7.7% YoY) was slightly ahead of expectations of 7.6% but it was slower than Q3’s 7.8%. DB’s China economist Jun Ma maintains his view that economic growth will likely accelerate in 2014 on stronger external demand and the benefits from deregulation. The slight slowdown was also evident in China’s December industrial production (9.7% YoY vs 10% previous), fixed asset investment (19.6% YoY vs 19.9% previous) and retail sales (13.6% vs 13.7% previous) data which were all released overnight. Gains in Chinese growth assets were quickly pared and as we type the Shanghai Composite (-0.8%), HSCEI (-1.1%) and AUDUSD (-0.1%) are all trading weaker on the day. On a more positive note, the stocks of mining companies BHP (+0.29%) and Rio Tinto (+0.26%) are trading flat to slightly firmer and LME copper is up 0.1%. Across the region, equities are generally trading lower paced by the Nikkei (-0.5%) and the Hang Seng (-0.7%). Staying in China, the 7 day repo rate is another 50bp higher to a three month high of 9.0% with many investors continuing to focus on the Chinese shadow banking system following the looming restructuring of a $500m trust product that was sold to ICBC’s customers.
UPDATE: China overnight repo rates just spiked to 6% - the worst since June...
Chinese overnight repo rates were already on the rise (several trades at 5.5%: 200bps above Friday's close) as contagion concerns over wealth management product default spreads and the Chinese Business Climate Index tumbled to its lowest since June 09. Equity futures were sliding also with JPY strength and the Shanghai Composite was testing down towards the 1-handle once again. Then, amid the glorious nashing of spreadsheets and in the face of missed manufacturing and services PMIs, Chinese GDP (according to the Chinese government) came in at a better-than-expected 7.7% YoY (7.6% exp.) and handily above the all-too-crucial-to-hit 7.5% target GDP growth - but in keeping with the Schrodinger plan missed QoQ expectations (+1.8% vs +2.0% exp.). Industrial production also miraculously met expectations of 9.7% perfectly; and (shocker) Retail Sales perfectly matched expectations of 13.6% YoY. The results of all this 'meeting expectations' - JPY weakness (back down to 104 instantaneously) and implicitly US equity futures regain some momentum and scramble back close to unchanged.
Last week we were the first to raise the very real and imminent threat of a default for a Chinese wealth management product (WMP) default - specifically China Credit Trust's Credit Equals Gold #1 (CEQ1) - and its potential contagion concerns. It seems BofAML is now beginning to get concerned, noting that over 60% of market participants expects repo rates to rise if a trust product defaults and based on the analysis below, they think there is a high probability for CEQ1 to default on 31 January, i.e. no full redemption of principal and back-coupon on the day. Crucially, with the stratospheric leverage ratios now engaged in such products, BofAML warns trust companies must answer some serious questions: will they stand back behind every trust investment or will they have to default on some or potentially many of them? BofAML believes the question needs an answer because investors and Trusts can’t have their cake and eat it too. The potential first default, even if it’s not CEQ1 on 1/31, would be important based on the experience of what happened to the US and Europe; the market has tended to underestimate the initial event.
How does the Federal government explain this scramble to hand over the "sole-sourced" healthcare.gov IT contract (to a company made possible thanks to Enron) so late in the process? Simple: the usual mutually assured destruction tactic used so "effectively" in all other recent rushed decisions. As the Hill reports, unless Accenture finishes (and fixes) the back-end of the HealthCare.gov portal by mid-March, the healthcare law will be jeopardized, according to a procurement document posted on a federal website. The punchline: "It says insurers could be bankrupt and the entire healthcare industry threatened if the build out is not completed." In other words, a newly retained consulting company has less than three months to fix all the errors of coding by a different company, and make sure healthcare.gov is working properly... all 500 million lines of healthcare.gov's code?
While the topic of rehypothecation and the shortage of physical gold is well covered here at Zero Hedge (and the ever-changing COMEX gold vaults' inventories), it appears the concept of the exploding "leverage" or default risk of the COMEX has now hit the mainstream media. As BNN reports, veteran trader Tres Knippa, pointing to recent futures data, says "there may not be enough gold to go around if everyone with a futures contract insists on taking delivery of physical bullion." As he goes on to explain to a disquieted anchor, "the underlying story here is that the people acquiring physical gold continue to do that. And that’s what is important," noting large investors like hedge fund manager Kyle Bass are taking delivery of the gold they're buying. Knippa's parting advice, buy physical gold; avoid paper.
Germany's blowback against gold manipulation is accelerating. Following yesterday's report that Bafin took a hard line against precious metals manipulation, after its president Eike Koenig said possible manipulation of precious metals "is worse than the Libor-rigging scandal", today the response has trickled down to Germany and Europe's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, which announced that it would withdraw from the appropriately named gold and silver price "fixing", as European regulators investigate suspected manipulation of precious metals prices by banks. As a reminder, Deutsche is one of five banks involved in the twice-daily gold fix for global price setting and said it was quitting the process after withdrawing from the bulk of its commodities business. The scramble away from gold fixing was certainly assisted by the recent first (of many) manipulation expose in the legacy media, when Bloomberg revealed "How Gold Price Is Manipulated During The "London Fix." And sure enough, with Germany already very sensitive to the topic of its gold repatriation, and specifically why it is taking so long, it was only a matter of time before any German involvement in gold manipulation escalated to the very top.
The following is Part 2 (Part 1 here) a firsthand story of how and why a former US citizen - who kindly shared this information on condition of anonymity - decided to renounce his US citizenship
While manufacturing and services PMIs disappointed, the big problem in big China remains that of an out-of-control credit creation process that is blowing up. As we previously noted, instead of crushing credit creation, the PBOC's liquidity rationing has forced distressed companies into high-interest-cost products in the shadow-banking world. Investors on the other side of "troubled shadow banking products" had assumed that 'someone' would bail them out but this evening Reuters reports that ICBC has confirmed that it will not rescue holders of the "Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product", due to mature Jan 31st with $492 million outstanding. The anxiety from contagion concerns of the first shadow-banking default has pushed the Shanghai Composite back near 2,000 for the first time since July - and to its narrowest spread to the S&P 500 in almost 8 years.
You can reflate a credit bubble in which spending rises briefly... But at the end of the day, all this does is set the stage for another economic collapse when people once again default on their credit card payments/ mortgage payments.
The Status Quo system is failing. Its collapse will be messy. Starting to call things what they really are is a necessary first step to working with this reality.