In what could well be a final act of desperation, central banks are abdicating effective control of the economies they have been entrusted to manage. First came zero interest rates, then quantitative easing, and now negative interest rates – one futile attempt begetting another. Just as the first two gambits failed to gain meaningful economic traction in chronically weak recoveries, the shift to negative rates will only compound the risks of financial instability and set the stage for the next crisis.
Just when traders thought that the biggest and most violent 3-day short squeeze in 7 years was about to end a squeeze that has resulted in 3 consecutve 1%+ sessions for the S&P for the first time since October 2011, overnight we got one of the Fed's biggest faux-hakws, St. Louis Fed's Jim Bullard, who said that it would be "unwise" to continue hiking rates at this moment, and hinted that "if needed", the most natural option for the Fed going forward would be to do further Q.E.
"The takeaway message from New Hampshire is powerful but not new. Voters in Greece have rejected establishment parties – twice. Voters in Portugal recently rejected the establishment. Voters in Iceland did so years ago and their nation is now thriving. So what's behind all of this rejection? I reckon it's because you can only push people so far. As Popeye the Sailor is famous for saying, "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more.""
It has been a morning session of two halves. In Asia, the mood was somber, and stocks fell with the Shanghai Composite (+1.1%) outperforming on another late session binge-fest by the National Team. The European session on the other hand surged higher and did not look back when the USDJPY proceeded to soar 100 pips from overnight lows, and push the Stoxx 600 +1.7% and US equity futures up with it, with the ES trading above 1900 as of this posting, adding to the best 2-day rally in the S&P in five months.
Fundamentally, Credit is unstable. It is self-reinforcing and prone to excess. Credit Bubbles foment destabilizing price distortions, economic maladjustment, wealth redistribution and financial and economic vulnerability. 'Activist' government intervention and manipulation have pushed protracted Bubbles to the point of precarious systemic fragility.
"Whatever it takes" is not enough, it would appear as the fragility and interconnectedness forced upon the European banking/sovereign finance ponzi has rapidly come home to roost for Draghi and his followers. Peripheral bond risk has flipped from "hold your nose" buys to panic sells with Portugal risk exploding 200bps in the last week. As the European banking system's credit risk rises 2012-crisis-like, it seems belief in a bigger bazooka is fading fast.
"There is excessive debt everywhere and negative interest rates are dangerous... My number one fear? That’s the same as asking me where it will start. When you view the economy as a complex, adaptive system, like many other systems, one of the clear findings from the literature is that the trigger doesn’t matter; it’s the system that’s unstable. And I think our system is unstable... Central Bank models are just wrong"
The ECB's "whatever it takes" ponzi strategy of keeping the dream alive in Europe's financial system has finally been caught as rapid collapse in the banking system is contagiously spreading to peripheral sovereigns once again. Portugal risk spreads are up 120bps in the last 3 weeks and Spain and Italy are soaring over 35 and 50bps respectively as the almost self-dealing nature of banks buying "risk-free" EU bonds and repoing for cash via The ECB comes home to roost...
With China offline for the rest of the week, global markets have found a new Asian bogeyman in the face of Japan which as reported last night saw its markets crash, and the Yen soar, showing that less than 2 weeks after the BOJ unveiled NIRP, yet another central bank has lost control.
There is a new element to the latest European selloff, one which turned vicious just minutes after Europe opened for trading this morning with not just commercial banks (who are now all subject to bail-ins courtesy of the BRRD) being dumped with the Deutsche Bank water, but peripheral spreads and equity markets have all joined in. And moments ago, the Athens stock market just dropped to the lowest level since 1990, while the Greek banking index just crashed over 21% to a new all time low.
Everything went from bad to worse once Europe opened, and things started going "bump in the morning" across the European banking sector, where not only has it been more of the same with CDS spreads for major banks - most notably Deutsche Bank - continuing their surge wider, but also EM spreads to Bunds all following, with the Portugal-Germany Yield spread blowing out above 300 bps for the first time since 2014, and other peripheral nations following.