New Debt Issuance
The stealth LBO of the S&P 500 will not only continue in 2015 but accelerate, with another 2% of the entire market cap converted into debt, thanks to a whopping $450 billion in net corporate inflows, $35 billion more than the $415 billion in corporate inflows in 2014.
First the Japanese central bank proceeds to monetize all new debt issuance and is on route to holding 50% of all 10 Year bond equivalents within 2 years, sending the Yen year plummeting to 7 years lows daily, and then - just like Europe - Japan gets cold feet and realizes that the next steps are USDJPY 145+, meaning a complete collapse of the Japanese economy and a full on FX, if not shooting, war in Asia. So what does Japan's finance minister Aso do? Why he talks the Yen higher, in the process completely confounding the FX algos, and risking a full blown collapse in the Nikkei just 3 weeks ahead of the Japanese snap elections.
US shale oil is now the marginal swing barrel in the new world oil order, and as Goldman Sachs warns (despite Larry Kudlow apparently knowing better), a decline in WTI to $75/bbl would start to significantly slow US shale growth (and thus employment, capex, and the entire US economy).
Moments ago, as was widely preannounced, the US Treasury unveiled its latest round of Russian sanctions. While the bigger picture was well-known, here are some of the highlights:
- U.S. SANCTIONS FOCUS ON FINANCIAL, ENERGY, DEFENSE SECTORS
- U.S. TREASURY ADDS SBERBANK TO SANCTIONS LIST,
- U.S. TREASURY SANCTIONS AFFECTS GAZPROM, GAZPROM NEFT, LUKOIL, ROSNEFT, AND SURGUTNEFTGAZ
- U.S. TIGHTENS DEBT FINANCING RESTRICTIONS TO 30 DAYS
And instantly: PUTIN: GOVT DRAFTING PROPOSALS TO RETALIATE AGAINST SANCTIONS
As we reported last night, whether as a result of Snowden revelations and NSA blowback by BRIC nations, or simply because the global economy is contracting far faster than rigged and manipulated markets worldwide will admit, IBM's Q1 revenues not only missed consensus earnings, but dropped to their lowest level since 2009. And yet, IBM stock is just shy off its all time highs and earnings per share have been flat if not rising during this period, leading even such acclaimed investors who never invest in tech companies as Warren Buffett to give IBM the seal of approval. How is that possible? Simple: all that investment grade companies like IBM have done in the New Normal in order to preserve the illusion of growth, is to use cash from operations, or incremental zero-cost leverage, to fund stock buybacks. In essence a balance sheet for income statement tradeoff. However, that "great stock buyback gimmick" as we call it, is finally coming to an end.
While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from 2007 to 2013, from "only" $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS' just-released quarterly review.
The overnight global scramble to buy stocks, any stocks, anywhere, continued, with the Nikkei soaring higher by 2% as the USDJPY rose firmly over 100, to levels not seen since May as the previously reported speculation that more QE from the BOJ is just around the corner takes a firm hold. Sentiment that the liquidity bonanza would accelerate around the world (with possibly more QE from the ECB) was undented by news of a surge in Chinese short-term money market rates or the Moody's one-notch downgrade of four TBTF banks on Federal support review. The release of more market-friendly promises from China only added fuel to the fire and as a result S&P futures are now just shy of 1800, a level which will almost certainly be taken out today as the multiple expansion ramp continues unabated. At this point absolutely nobody is even remotely considering standing in front of the centrally-planned liquidity juggernaut that has made "market" down days a thing of the past.
By keeping interest rates near zero, the Fed has been hoping to push investors into the stock market. The hope here was that as stock prices rose, investors would feel wealthier (the “wealth effect”) and would be more inclined to start spending more, thereby jump-starting the economy. This has not been the case. Instead the entire capital market structure has become mispriced.
So the debt ceiling “we’re going to run out of money and the world ends” talk is not accurate. What is accurate is that playing games with your debt limits impacts other investors’ psychologies. And THAT is the real issue here.
Financial asset investors may continue to benefit in the short term while stocks and bonds remain well bid, but production and labor in over-levered economies should continue to wither. When we take it to its logical conclusion, central banks cannot withdraw debt support (on a net basis) and so our baseless currencies seem highly likely to fail to provide sustainable purchasing power. (This happens as producers demand more currency units for their labor and resources, not when consumers drive prices higher by competing with each other for finite supplies of labor and resources.) Continued inflation of all global currency stocks is likely. This implies to us that fundamental expectations of the inevitability of price inflation across borders and in all currencies must change, from unlikely to highly likely. Since very few investors expect rising inflation anytime soon, the return skew is overwhelmingly positive in its favor.
The venerable UBS floorman asks (and answers) an interesting question. With the re-institution of the payroll tax and higher level rates and with spending lowered by sequestration, will the Treasury need to offer fewer bonds? And if so, will the Fed remain steadfast in its purchasing 'size' (good for bond bulls since secondary demand will increase) or reduce its 'size' to meet the lower monetization needs of the Treasury (bad for equity bulls since flow is all that matters.) Thoughts below...
After out sized moves in the foreign exchange market yesterday, a consolidative tone has emerged with a few exceptions. The big winner yesterday was the euro and with a narrow range of about a third of a cent today, the market seems as if it is catching its breath before assaulting important resistance near $1.33, which capped it in mid-December and at the very start of the new year. Sterling recovered from a test on $1.60 at mid-week, but lagged behind the euro. The pullback today is also more pronounced after the disappointing industrial output figures. Industrial production rose 0.3%, half the recovery the consensus expected after the 0.9% decline in October. The key disappointment was in manufacturing, which contracted 0.3% compared with consensus expectations for a 0.5% gain, following the 1.4% slide in October. The increases concerns that the UK economy slipped back into contraction following expansion in Q3. Support is now seen near $1.6080.
We already knew that the US crossed the debt ceiling on New Year's day. It is, however, one thing to read a Geithner press release, it is another to see America's ridiculous debt it in action. So here it is, courtesy of TreasuryDirect, in all its debt ceiling glory: $16,432,730,050,569.12, with the debt subject to the ceiling at the limit of $16.394 trillion.
And with that we can close the books on the first quarter of Fiscal 2013, in which US public debt grew by $366 billion, some $122 billion per month on average.
Why'd the Fed announce QE 4? Three reasons: the US economy is nose-diving again and the Fed is acting preemptively. The Fed is trying to provide increased liquidity going into the fiscal cliff. The Fed is funding the US’s Government massive deficits.
Many people, and erroneously, think that all of the purchasing by the Fed will go to both markets in equal amounts but this is not the case. More money for the stock markets would have to come from asset reallocations by money management firms, insurance companies, pension funds and the like and this is not going to happen anytime soon given the 2008/2009 experience. Consequently the greatest flows generated by the Fed’s recent and forward actions will affect the bond markets much more than the equity markets. Between the MBS purchases and the next upcoming stimulus push, the Fed would account for 90% of all new debt issuance and leading to a demand imbalance between $400 billion to almost $2 Trillion depending upon the actual Fed announcements. The Fed currently holds about 18% of the U.S. GDP on its books and it could bulge to 23-28% a few years out. This all works, by the way, only because all of the world’s central banks are working in concert so that there is no imbalance and money cannot be invested off-world. Yields will not make sense empirically because of the actions of the Fed but it will make no difference, because their intentions and goals are vastly different from investors.