As excess reserves in Europe continue to fall, prompting some to claim this is positive since banks are "no longer hoarding cash," the reality of a dramatically deleveraging European financial system is far worse. As Goldman notes, lending to Non-Financial Corporations (NFCs) fell by a significant EUR17.2bn month-on-month (seasonally adjusted) in May (with a stunning 19.9% drop in Spain). Perhaps more worrisome, while NFCs have been seeing lower lending, households have been 'steady' for much of the last year - until now. Bank lending to households fell by EUR7.5bn in May. This marks the first material decline since July 2012. Simply put, the European economy (ad hoc economic data items aside) is mired in a grand deleveraging and since credit equals growth - and the ECB somewhat scuppered by a German election looming likely to hold down any free money handouts (and the fact that they cling to the OMT promise reality that is clearly not doing anything for the real economy) - with lending collapsing, growth is set to plunge further. As we noted previously, there is a simple mnemonic for the Keynesian world: credit creation = growth. More importantly, no credit creation = no growth. And that, in a nutshell is the entire problem with Europe.
People at the Fed are people in politics, who need to promote their allies and maintain their patronage networks. So perhaps it’s significant that the last two times the Fed tightened, it was in a President’s second term. It’s safer to anger an incumbent who is leaving, and dangerous to anger one who may have another six years in office. The party that lost the Presidency after one term, as a result of a crash in financial markets, would never forgive the Fed for its intervention. So if you are in the business of blowing up bubbles to win points with incumbents, and popping them at times when that is less of a concern, of course the President’s second term is when you do the popping. In this scenario, beliefs about an economic recovery play no role in motivating the tapering talk. It seems more likely that what’s really driving everything is the American electoral cycle. Well, what did we expect?
Extreme Developed Market (DM) monetary policy (read The Fed) has floated more than just US equity boats in the last few years. Foreign non-bank investors poured $1.1 trillion into Emerging Market (EM) debt between 2010 and 2012 as free money enabled massive carry trades and rehypothecation (with emerging Europe and Latam receiving the most flows and thus most vulnerable). Supply of cheap USD beget demand of EM (yieldy) debt which created a supply pull for EM corporate debt which is now causing major indigestion as the demand has almost instantly dried up due to Bernanke's promise to take the punchbowl away. From massive dislocations in USD- versus Peso-denominated Chilean bonds to spiking money-market rates in EM funds, the impact (and abruptness) of these colossal outflows has already hit ETFs and now there are signs that the carnage is leaking back into money-market funds (and implicitly that EM credit creation will crunch hurting growth) as their reaching for yield as European stress 'abated' brings back memories of breaking-the-buck and Lehman and as Goldman notes below, potentially "poses systemic risk to the financial system."
The Fed has created a Doomsday Machine. The Fed has nurtured moral hazard in every sector of the economy by unleashing an abundance of cheap credit and low interest mortgages; the implicit promise of "you can't lose because we have your back" has been extended from stocks to bonds (i.e. the explicit promise the Fed will keep rates near-zero forever) and real estate. An abundance based on the central bank spewing trillions of dollars of cheap credit and free money (quantitative easing) is artificial, and it has generated systemic moral hazard. This is a Doomsday Machine because the Fed cannot possibly backstop tens of trillions of dollars of bad bets on stocks, bonds and real estate. Its power is as illusory as the abundance it conjured. This loss of faith in key institutions cannot be fixed with more cheap credit or subsidized mortgages; delegitimization triggers a fatal decoherence in the entire Status Quo.
The initial knee-jerk reaction to QE3 and the extension into unlimited free money forever last September sent mortgage spreads dramatically lower and sparked a super-excited flood of cash into cheap-to-finance REO-to-rent housing markets. This created the faux-prosperity that even Bernanke is banking on in our housing markets now. However, that mortgage spread (the difference between 30Y mortgage rates and 10Y Treasury yields) compression slid wider from its initial move but had stabilized. Until, that is, Bernanke mentioned the 'Taper' word - at which point the mortgage market moved well beyond its pre-QE3 levels and things began to escalate. While Bernanke has done his best to convince us that the Fed will be here, the mortgage market seems to be a non-believer and even at $85 billion a month (across MBS and Treasuries) he has lost control of the mortgage market. As Bloomberg notes, the tone of Bernanke’s comments were "very assuring and soothing, but that’s like a mother telling her baby that she will be leaving in a very gentle voice," said one mortgage trader, adding "the baby will still have a fit."
One of the enduring analogies of the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing (QE) program is that the stock market is now addicted to this constant injection of free money. The aptness of this analogy has never been more apparent than now, as the market plummets on the mere rumor that the Fed will cut back its monthly injection of financial smack. (The analogy typically refers to crack cocaine, due to the state of delusional euphoria QE induces in the stock market. But the zombified state of the heroin addict is arguably the more accurate analogy of the U.S. stock market.)But like all highs based on addictive substances, the stock market high cannot be sustained without an increase in the drug. But there is a diminishing-return dynamic to ever higher doses of QE smack--the higher doses are no longer generating the same highs. The addict (the stock market) has become desensitized to the QE free money injections, and higher doses no longer generate the desired state of bullish euphoria. The more Ben talks about eventually decreasing the injection of financial smack, the more panicky the addict becomes.
A harbinger of things to come in other markets
It is immeasurably easier to digitally create claims on real-world assets than it is to create real-world assets. The Fed can digitally print a trillion dollars at no cost, but that doesn't mean the money flows into the real economy. Once again we are compelled to ask: cui bono, to whose benefit?
How Another Housing Bubble Was Blown … And Why
The conventional wisdom is that oil should decline in nominal price as global demand weakens along with the global economy. In the hot-money-seeks-a-new-home scenario outlined above, demand could decline on the margins but speculative inflows - demand for oil contracts by speculators - push prices higher, potentially a lot higher in a geopolitical crisis. The central banks that are creating all the "free money" that is available to large speculators fulminate against oil speculators, as if all the free money is only supposed to go to "approved" speculations in equities and bonds. Unfortunately for the central bankers, they only create the money, they don't control what the financiers who get the free money do with it. Gasoline is expensive at the pump, but by one measure oil is cheap and poised to go higher and despite the endless MSM hype about U.S. energy independence and U.S. exporting energy abroad, the U.S. still imports over 3 billion barrels of crude oil every year and when oil becomes expensive: the economy sinks into recession.
UPDATE: S&P 500 futures plunged back to the lows of the day as soon as cash closed.
The streak is alive. For the 20th Tuesday in a row, The Dow Jones Industrials have closed green. With an average gain of 80 points, since 1/25, the Dow is up an impressive 11% but absent Tuesdays is merely unchanged at +0.2%. Today saw significantly volatility in stocks though with Nikkei and S&P futures giving up all their gains at one point only to bounce back into the close for a glorious victory. Volatility was everywhere as the collapse of the JGB market spills over. VIX rose 0.5 vols to 14.5% (disagreeing with stocks). FX markets jerked and gapped with JPY ending down around 1% from Friday's close. Commodities diverged today with Copper and Oil rising and Gold and Silver sliding even with the 0.75% gain on the USD this week. High yield credit slid lower all day but we suspect this was dominated by rate risk as Treasury volatility exploded. 10Y yields rose by their most (+16.5bps or 5-sigma) since Oct 2011 to close at their highest since April 2012.
The problem with trying to solve all our structural problems by injecting "free money" liquidity into financial Elites is that all the money sloshing around seeks a high-yield home, and in doing so it inflates bubbles that inevitably pop with devastating consequences. As noted yesterday, the Grand Narrative of the U.S. economy is a global empire that has substituted financialization for sustainable economic expansion. In shorthand, those people with access to near-zero-cost central bank-issued credit can take advantage of the many asset bubbles financialization inflates. Those people who do not have capital or access to credit become poorer. That is the harsh reality of neofeudal, neocolonial financialization. It is widely accepted as self-evident that all these bubbles will not pop because the central banks won't let them pop. That's nice, but if this were the case, then why did stocks crater in 2000-2001 and 2008-2009, and why did the housing bubble implode in 2008-2011? Did they change their minds for some reason? No; they assured us right up to the moment of implosion that everything was fine, there was no bubble, etc. The only logical conclusion is that bubbles pop even though central banks resist the popping with all their might.
The collective state of mind in the USA these days may be even more peculiar than what went on in Germany in the early 1930s, when the Nazis were freely elected to lead the country and reconstructed the battered national psyche into a superman cult that soon beat a path to mass death and ruin. America has its own way of going crazy. We don't goose-step to tragedy; we coalesce into an insane clown posse and stumble into it by pratfall -- juggaloes dancing backwards off the cliff edge. A subset of our master wish has been on vivid display in recent months, namely the idea that God has blessed the USA with a limitless supply of new oil that will allow us to keep driving to WalMart forever. Most of the current "endless oil" fantasy revolves around shale oil. Apart from the issue of sheer economic suffering and all the damage that will ensue from the realization of the falsehoods and propaganda, consider that it will be generations before anyone believes the "authorities" again.
It’s painfully clear for all to see that the majestic United States is now firmly caught in the rapacious stranglehold of financial elites which have completely captured it in a grotesque gamed monetary process. Our country’s once idealistic and industrious free market economy has been hijacked and is undeniably being fraudulently and overtly financialized by the craven clutches and maniacal machinations of a contemptible self-seeking banking class. They have become nothing more than avaricious parasites disgustingly feeding from the grand trough of our treasured human ingenuity and self-respecting industry.
Aside from light volume there’s no argument with the tape. It’s quite positive but much overbought. Earnings news is beginning to wane leaving less for bulls to respond to. Many previous reliable technical indicators are succumbing to all the money printing. Looking at those markets where QE is not taking place perhaps reveals the real market conditions.