Why China Is So Desperate To Blow The Most Epic Stock Bubble

Over one and a half years ago we put in perspective the amount of money creation by China compared to the the liquidity injection by the Big 3 "developed world" central banks. The result was stunning.

This was as of November 2013.

Since then both the Chinese money machine, as well as those of the central banks has kept on pumping in injecting liquidity (in the process withdrawing liquidity from markets as Citi's Matt King pointed out three weeks ago). A quick update comparing just China with the US shows that as of the most recent period, Chinese banks now have just shy of $30 trillion in assets, compared to almost 50% less for US banks.

 

 

To be sure, China's gargantuan, unprecedented debt-issuance spree is nothing new: we have covered it extensively over the years...

....noting all the way back in 2012 that "If one takes the chart above showing the absolute level in Corporate debt, and assumes this is a valid proxy for total leverage growth across all other sectors, one can say, with a straight face, that if all Chinese debt on and off the books, including shadow leverage, were to be pooled, it would make America's grand consolidated debt (excluding the $100 trillion in entitlements) of 345% appears quite modest."

Three years later, McKinsey agreed:

And here also, three years later, is Goldman admitting that China's "Credit-led growth has created one of the biggest debt build-ups in recent years." This is how Goldman explains what happened in China to launch this massive debt-funded growth:

... after the onset of the global financial crisis and the collapse in world demand, exports collapsed. The Chinese government’s response involved large infrastructure outlays via bank financing. This led to a notable increase in China’s credit intensity, as investment growth is a more credit-intensive than exports and consumption, with heavy borrowing requirements and long payback periods.

 

This can be seen from the growth in China’s nominal GDP and in total social financing (TSF), which is an aggregation of credit in both the banking and non-banking sectors. As shown in Exhibit 1, nominal GDP fell sharply in 2008, but rebounded strongly in 2009 following the sizeable increase in TSF. We then saw TSF growth slowing in 2010/11, although nominal growth held up as exports rebounded sharply. As export growth fell in 2012 and TSF growth slowed, nominal GDP dipped in 2011/12. We then saw TSF growth reaccelerate in 2012H2 to support growth. Since early 2013, TSF growth has decelerated again, as has nominal growth. This deceleration has continued in 2015, accompanied by additional loosening measures.

 

Then something changed: China realized that alongside record debt comes record bad debt.

 

We noted as much in the summer of 2013 when we reported that as China scrambled to intercept the relentless surge in non-performling loans, it would moderate its hollow, debt-funded growth. This was part of the new Politburo's stated directive of reorienting the Chinese economy away from being entirely reliant on debt issuance to depend on more conventional growth catalysts; it also explains why China's growth rate has plunged in the past 2 years and has officially dropped to a level just around 7% ... 

... and unofficially to just above 1%.

China did this almost entirely by choking off the growth of its most opaque funding sector residing within China's "shadow banking" system: trust issuance, non-discounted bills and local government debt. These are the highlights we noted in November in "China's Shadow Banking Grinds To A Halt As Bad Debt Surges Most In A Decade"

[W]hat is the main culprit for the contraction in China's all important credit formation? In two words: shadow banking...  as China finally reveals little by little the true extent of its gargantuan bad debt problem, it is also slamming the breaks on the shadow banking system that for years what the sector where marginal credit creation, and thus growth as well as bad debt formation, was rampant.

 

If the shadow banking collapse virus has finally jumped to China, there is no saying just how far Chinese GDP can drop if it is now constrained on the top side by surge in bad debt. One thing is certain: Japan's paltry, in the grand scheme of things, expansion in its own QE will barely be felt if the record Chinese credit creation dynamo is indeed slamming shut.

Six months later, others caught on: first it was RBS, whose Andrew Roberts recently said China accounted for 85% of all global growth in 2012, 54% in 2013, and 30% in 2014. This is likely to fall to 24% this year. “If there is only one statistic that you need to know in the world right now, this is it."

In other words, without China's rampant credit creation, without an out of control shadow banking sector, not only is China's growth doomed to a long period "secular stagnation", to use a popular term these days, but so is the entire world.

Goldman agrees:

China’s policy response to the global financial crisis created one of the largest debt buildups as a share of GDP seen anywhere in the world over the past 50 years. Cognizant of the risks of such a large credit buildup, since early 2013 (when the current Chinese leadership took over), we have seen a notable shift by policymakers to make credit provision more transparent and productive. As discussed above, there was a notable rebound in TSF in 2012/2013 as GDP slowed. That TSF growth was, to a large extent, driven by the growth in trust financings, an area we have highlighted as one of the riskiest segments within China’s credit market. To control risks, policymakers made several attempts at curbing the growth in trust financings. In June 2013, 7-day repo rates spiked to as high as 28% intraday, as interbank rates were pushed up in an attempt to reduce the funding to the trust sector; and in mid-2014, the Chinese banking regulator adopted a number of measures, including restrictions on the informal securitisation of certain credit products and reiterating prudent risk management requirements. These measures successfully reduced the growth in trust financings, with net new trust financings (i.e., new issuance less redemptions) hovering around zero over the past ten months (Exhibit 2).

 

China succeeded in crushing its shadow banking sector, but at the expense of growth:

The administrative measures discussed above have been successful in controlling the riskiest elements within China’s credit markets, as both trust financing and LGFV financings have been contained. However, they have also had the effect of reducing the overall growth of TSF. In our view, these risk control measures have had the impact of not only controlling credit supply, but have also compounded the effect of weak growth in dampening credit demand.

We are confused why Goldman is confused by this: if rampant, out of control credit creation led to a burst of economic growth (built on hollow, non-performing loan foundations), it is only logical that as the flow from the shadow banking conduit is eliminated, so is a major portion of China's GDP.

Sure enough:

Risk control measures and weak credit demand have dampened credit growth since the beginning of 2013, leading to a slowdown in GDP growth. To revive GDP growth, policymakers have undertaken a broad range of monetary easing measures, including lower interest rates, a reduction in the RRR, and other types of liquidity injections into the banking system, such as open market operations.

Here, however, China encounters a unique problem: unlike other central banks who will gladly crush their currency to boost exports and to stimulate corporate profits of multinationals, in China outright currency devaluation has been largely taboo for one main reason: the PBOC is terrified of capital outflows. In fact, as we showed recently when charting the combined Treasury holdings of China and "Belgium", China appears to have been selling USD-denominated paper to fund the tens of billions in recent reserve outflows.

Note: the above capital flight has taken place even as the PBOC has kept the value of the Renminbi roughly flat, and in fact the CNY has appreciated drastically in recent months after declining in the early part of the year. One wonders how this chart would look like, and what would happen to US bond yields, if Chinese outflows accelerated in earnest, and China's selling of US paper followed suit.

And since China is also contemplating whether to join the IMF's Special Drawing Rights basket, which would require a stable currency, China has found it is next to impossible to devalue its way to growth: unlike the BOJ, the PBOC and the Fed in the past 7 years where currency debasement has been the only source of "growth", albeit fading judging by the accelerating plunge in global trade volume (we ultimately believe that China will find it has no other option than to engage in Western-style QE before too late).

But while in addition to currency devaluation QE far more importantly also leads to soaring stock markets, also known as the "wealth effect" transmission channel, China can bypass all the unpleasantness of capital flight and currency devaluation and skip straight to the desert: a massive stock market surge, built on absolutely nothing but hopes of even more central bank interventions: a surge so big in fact China's Shenzhen market is up 100% in 2015. Which is precisely what happened overnight.

But wait, that would mean that for China reflating the stock market bubble, which is far more shallow and penetrated by the domestic population than its comparable in the US or any other western nation, has become a policy mandate, same as in the US and every other western nation.

Bingo.

Goldman explains:

The equity market now plays an important role in terms of both the short-term policy objective (i.e., delivering this year’s growth target) and structural reform ambitions. Policy makers appear to have taken a largely benign view of the equity market rally, which, if sustained, can boost GDP by 0.5pp on our estimates through trading-related financial activities, and could add another 0.2pp or so through a rise in consumption from market wealth generation. We also see further potential benefits from  ‘equitisation’ as it helps to replace debt with equity financing.

Wait a minute: isn't it rising GDP that boosts stocks, not the other way around? Or did Goldman just invent the world's first financial perpetual engine? Does that also mean that should the S&P crash back to its ex-$22 trillion in central bank liquidity fair value of ~400 that US GDP will be some 20, 30 or more percentage points lower (on any seasonally adjusted basis)?

Rational thought aside, what Goldman just confirmed is the following:

  1. China's credit growth in the Lehman aftermath was the dynamo that kept the world afloat from 2009 until 2012/13
  2. Starting in 2013 China realized it has a big problem due to its nearly 300% in debt/GDP, and a soaring bad debt problem which threatens to metastasize into a default domino wave.
  3. In mid-2014, Chinese shadow banking effectively ground to a halt, leading to a sharp contraction in both Chinese and global GDP (this explains the collapse in US Q1 GDP, just don't tell anyone at the Fed which is too busy fabricating seasonal adjustment factor to account for all of the above).
  4. Also in mid-2014 the Chinese relentless stock market rally started, which rose by 50% in 2014 and is up another 50% since then.

In other words, as China's shadow banking bubble burst, China's stock market bubble was given the Politburo's official blessing.

This explains why despite what is quite clearly the world's biggest and most visible asset price bubble since Nasdaq in the year 2000, China will do everything in its power to keep the bubble growing, massive - and pervasive - stock frauds such as Hanergy notwithstanding.

Which is fine, however now the fate of not only millions of Chinese habitual gamblers... 

... but suddenly the fate of China's economic prosperity, and that of the entire world, is in the hands of the Shanghai Composite, which needs to keep growing at about 2-3% each and every day just to keep the illusion of China's growth, and preserve the illusion of global economic expansion.

It also means that now the credibility of each and every single banks will depend on maintaining the world's biggest coordinated stock market blow off top: should the pace of expansion slow down, it would mean loss of faith and confidence in central planning, and thus in the very foundation on which the "recovery" of the past 7 years, both in capital markets and the underlying (or is that overlying) economy rests.

Said otherwise, when the Chinese stock bubble bursts, the shockwave will be heard around the globe, but at least it will unleash even more comedy from America's weathermen-cum-economists, such as triple- and quadruple-seasonally adjusted data. Because even though the answer for the global slowdown is staring everyone in the face...

... one must always fabricate stories to "explain" why the world's biggest experiment in central planning, where now even China is all in, is failing one limit up stock at a time.