"Mutually assured destruction" now best describes the uneasy stand-off between an increasingly indebted US government and an increasingly monetarily frustrated China. So here's a quiz: 1) Which country is the world’s largest sovereign miner of gold? 2. Which country doesn’t allow an ounce of that gold to be exported? 3. Which country has advised its citizenry to purchase gold? Three questions. One answer. In each case: China. Is it plausible that, at some point yet to be determined, a (largely gold-backed) renminbi will either dethrone the US dollar or co-exist alongside it in a new global currency regime?
"Anything that becomes a mania -- it ends badly," warns one bond manager, reflecting on the $550 billion of new bonds and loans issued by energy producers since 2010, "and this is a mania." As Bloomberg quite eloquently notes, the danger of stimulus-induced bubbles is starting to play out in the market for energy-company debt - as HY energy spreads near 1000bps - all thanks to the mal-investment boom sparked by artificially low rates manufactured by The Fed. "It's been super cheap," notes one credit analyst. That is over!! As oil & gas companies are “virtually shut out of the market" and will have to "rely on a combination of asset sales" and their credit lines. Welcome to the boom-induced bust...
If prices fall any further (and what’s going to stop them?), it would seem that most of the entire shale edifice must of necessity crumble to the ground. And that will cause an absolute earthquake in the financial world, because someone supplied the loans the whole thing leans on. An enormous amount of investors have been chasing high yield, including many institutional investors, and they’re about to get burned something bad. We might well be looking at the development of a story much bigger than just oil.
"Over the next five years investors now expect inflation to average just below 1.3%. This level of expected inflation has always previously been associated with a decline in US equity prices. There have been no exceptions until today." Russell Napier
The Chinese stock market hit a four year high today at 3,020. This is up 53% since the middle of 2013 low and up 48% in the last six months. I guess this must mean the Chinese economy is operating on all cylinders. If you think so, you’d be wrong. As Anne Stevenson-Yang - who has lived there since 1985, told Barron's, the entire Chinese economic miracle is a fraud. The reforms are false. The leaders are corrupt and as evil as ever. The entire edifice is built upon a Himalayan mountain of bad debt. This lady is about as blunt as you can get about Chinese fraud, lies, mal-investment, and data manipulation.
Not long ago, we wrote Ten Reasons Why High Oil Prices are a Problem. If high oil prices can be a problem, how can low oil prices also be a problem? In particular, how can the steep drop in oil prices we have recently been experiencing also be a problem? In our view, a rapid drop in oil prices is likely a symptom that we are approaching a debt-related collapse. Underlying this debt-related collapse is the fact that we seem to be reaching the limits of a finite world. There is a growing mismatch between what workers in oil importing countries can afford, and the rising real costs of extraction, including associated governmental costs. This has been covered up to date by rising debt, but at some point, it will not be possible to keep increasing the debt sufficiently. At some point the debt situation will eventually reach a breaking point.
The actions of central bankers around the globe which have been driving stock prices higher are not a sign of control. They are signs of desperation. They are losing control. Their academic theories have failed. Their bosses insist they turn it up to eleven. Something is going to blow. You can feel it. John Hussman knows what will happen. Do you?
There are two words that should strike fear in the hearts of any rational-thinking citizen of the world - Paul Krugman. Wondering why? As Alhambra's Jeff Snider notes, we already know of at least one respect where Krugman (as a stand-in at least for the Keynesian perspective that is somehow still widely shared, especially in the orthodox economist class) has impacted 'stimulus' activity, Sweden. And now his appearance in Japan enabled what Japanese economists call a "historic meeting," as Bloomberg reports that Abe met with the Nobel-prize winner for 40 minutes who "helped the prime minister make up his mind," that delaying the fiscally-responsible tax-hikes was the right thing to do (and increasing QQE) or Japan "wouldn’t escape deflation." Mission Accomplished... and if it fails, moar will be needed and 'capitalism' will be blamed.
We have recently witnessed many 'firsts' such as one of the largest storms in the Pacific, the most severe acute health risk in modern times, and a global financial system on the brink of collapse.
It has been a while since the PBOC engaged in some "targeted" QE. So clearly following the biggest drop in the Shanghai Composite in 6 months after some abysmal Chinese economic and flow data in the past several days, it's time for some more. From Bloomberg:
- CHINA’S PBOC STARTS 500B YUAN SLF TODAY, SINA.COM SAYS
- PBOC PROVIDES 500B YUAN LIQUIDITY TO CHINA’S TOP 5 BANKS: SINA
- PBOC PROVIDES 100B YUAN TO EACH BANK TODAY, TOMORROW WITH DURATION OF 3 MONTHS: SINA
Just as expected, the Chinese "derivative" currency, the AUD, goes vertical on the news, and the S&P 500 goes vertical alongside:. As for those confused what the SLF is, here is a reminder, from our February coverage of this "stealth QE" instrument.
UPDATE: It appears the exodus is beginning - China FDI -14% YoY (vs +0.8% exp.)
As China's shift to a consumer economy progresses based on the urbanization of its agrarian 'poor' population, an odd thing is happening at the other end of the demographic wealth spectrum. As WSJ reports, nearly half of wealthy Chinese are planning to move to another country within the next five years, according to a new Barclays survey. The top reasons 47% of these individuals - with net worths over $1.5 billion - cite for fleeing China include educational and employment opportunities, economic security, and climate. Ironically, none mentioned 'running away from potential prosecution for graft'.
A record-breaking surge in monthly credit creation and a trillion Yuan of QE-lite was enough to provide a glimmer of hope into the tumbling Chinese economy for one or maybe two months but with the real estate market continuing to free-fall, it should be no surprise that China's PMIs finally catch down to the erstwhile reality simmering under the surface in the ultimate centrally-planned economy. China's official government PMI dropped from 30-month highs, missed expectations and the early month flash print, to less exuberant 51.1 reading (with Steel industry new orders totally collapsing) with both medium- and small-companies printing contractionary sub-50 levels. Then (after Japan's PMI beat - of course it did as hard data crashes worst on record), HSBC China PMI also missed, printing a slightly expansionary 50.2 Showing, as BofA warns "the two PMIs both show that the current recovery is relatively weak and choppy..." and RBS adds "we expect the government to interpret such an outlook as challenging its growth target and to take more, and more significant, measures to support growth."
Just in case futures buying algos forgot what the regurgitated "catalyst" that activated the overnight ramp was, the ECB was kind enough to remind everyone that the main event over the past 12 hours was the Deutsche Bank leak that while the ECB will not announce outright QE any time soon, thus denying the rumor spread in the past weak by the likes of Citi and JPM, the formerly preannounced and thus already priced-in (by the EURUSD which was about to take out 1.40 a few months ago) ABS purchase program, or as DB called it "private QE" is about to be unleashed. The ECB confirmed this earlier this morning when it announced that it had appointed BlackRock, the world’s biggest money manager, to advise on developing a program to buy asset-backed securities. In other words, Europe's largest public-sector hedge fund has just hired the world's largest private-sector hedge fund to "fix things."
- The market in one sentence: Buying on Dips Pays Most in Five Years as Stocks Rebound (BBG)
- Europe subdued, Russia shares tumble on new sanctions (Reuters)
- Chinese Data Don’t Add Up (WSJ)
- Argentine Default Drama Nears Critical Stage (WSJ)
- Global Pressure Mounts on Israel to End Gaza Fighting (BBG)
- Ukraine troops advance as experts renew attempt to reach crash site (Reuters)
- Prospects Brighten for Republicans to Reclaim a Senate Majority (WSJ)
- Europe’s banking union faces legal challenge in Germany (FT)
- Investors Bet on China's Large Property Developers (WSJ)
- Hague court orders Russia to pay over $50 billion in Yukos case (Reuters)
One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...