Tag Archives: central bank policies

Bank of America Stumbles On A $51 Trillion Problem, by Tyler Durden

Global debt is rising faster than global GDP. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

At the end of June, the Institute of International Finance delivered a troubling verdict: in a period of so-called “coordinated growth”, total global debt (including financial) hit a new all time high of $217 trillion in 2017, over 327% of global GDP, and up $50 trillion over the past decade. Commenting then, we said “so much for Ray Dalio’s beautiful deleveraging, oh and for those economists who are still confused why r-star remains near 0%, the chart  below has all the answers.”

Today, in a follow up analysis of this surge in global debt offset by stagnant economic growth, BofA’s Barnaby Martin writes that he finds “that as global debt has been mounting to more than $150 trillion (government, household and non-financials corporate debt), global GDP is just above $60 trillion.” His observation is shown in the self-explanatory chart below. 

As a result, both the global economy and central banks are now held hostage by both the unprecedented stock of debt injected into capital markets over recent years to offset the financial crisis depression, and the record low interest rates associated with it.

As Martin writes, “the global fixed income market (as captured by the GFIM index) is now above the $51trillion mark“, which means that “more than $51 trillion at risk if rates vol spikes and yields move higher” and adds that “amid a record amount of assets acquired by the central banks we have seen the global fixed income market growing to the largest size it has ever been.” This is shown in the left panel on the chart below, while the right side chart shows the accompanying housing bubble: “amid record low funding costs the housing market is also experiencing rapid price gains in some regions as prices are now higher than pre-GFC levels. All main housing markets (US, Europe, Japan and UK) are above the 2007 highs, propped-up by record low yield levels.”

To continue reading: Bank of America Stumbles On A $51 Trillion Problem

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Yes, This Time It Is Different: But Not in Good Ways, by Charles Hugh Smith

Yes, this time is different: there has never been such a spurious basis for the elevation of financial asset prices. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Yes, this time it’s different: all the foundations of a healthy economy are crumbling into quicksand.
The rallying cry of Permanent Bulls is this time it’s different. That’s absolutely true, but it isn’t bullish–it’s terrifically, terribly bearish. Why is this time it’s different bearish going forward? The basic answer is that nothing that is structurally broken has actually been fixed, and the policy “fixes” have fatally weakened the global financial system.
Let’s go over a handful of the many ways that this time it’s different, starting with the unprecedented level of central bank support of asset prices via the purchase of financial assets such as stocks and bonds.
A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real “money”:
As virtually everyone who follows finance knows, these monumental purchases have pushed bond yields / interest rates lower and stocks higher, while super-low mortgage rates have inflated a new global housing bubble that’s now bigger than the previous bubble that burst with such devastating consequences.
The net consequence of this 8-year long orgy of inflating global assets has backed the central banks into a corner, as the asset bubbles demand two incompatible policies:
1. “normalize” rates and central bank balance sheets by reducing / ending central bank purchases of assets
2. continue the rampant expansion of central bank balance sheets / purchases of assets lest these bubbles pop, destroying tens of trillions in “wealth” (more properly, phantom wealth).
You can’t have it both ways, and so the central bankers keep their sweaty palms on the steering wheel and their foot on the accelerator, speeding for the cliff, i.e. the point at which bubbles pop despite central bank buying.

The Trouble with Asset Bubbles: If You Stop Pumping, They Pop, by Charles Hugh Smith

The world’s monetary authorities have put themselves in an impossible situation. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The idea that authorities can massage their pumping to keep asset bubbles inflated at a permanently high plateau is currently being tested.

The trouble with inflating asset bubbles is that you have to keep inflating them or they pop. Unfortunately for the bubble-blowing central banks, asset bubbles are a double-bind: you cannot inflate assets forever. At some unpredictable point, the risk and moral hazard that are part and parcel of all asset bubbles trigger an avalanche of selling that pops the bubble.
This is another facet of The Fed’s Double-Bind: if you stop pumping asset bubbles, they pop as participants realize the music has stopped, and if you keep pumping them, they expand to super-nova criticality and implode.
There are several dynamics at play in this double-bind.
1. The process of inflating a bubble (for example, the current bubbles in stocks and real estate) requires pushing investors and speculators alike into risky asset classes. This puts the market at increasing risk as everyone is pushed to one side of the boat.
2. Those on the other side of the boat (i.e. shorts) are slowly but surely eradicated as the pumping keeps inflating the bubble. When the bubble finally bursts, there are no shorts left to cover, i.e. buy stocks at lower prices to reap their profits.
3. As the bubble continues to expand, the money available to enter the market and keep prices rising declines. The very success of the pumping process strips the markets of new sources of new money, leading to a point where normal selling exceeds new-money buying and the bubble collapses.
4. Money pumping by central banks and governments follows a curve of diminishing return. One analogy is insulin insensitivity: as the systemic distortions build, markets become increasingly insensitive to money pumping. Authorities respond to this intrinsic process of increasing insensitivity by pumping even more money into the system.
But as with insulin insensitivity, at some point the system loses all sensitivity to money pumping: no matter how much money central authorities inject, the markets refuse to go higher. At this point, the stick-slip nature of bubbles manifests and modest selling triggers a collapse as participants all rush for the exits. Buyers have vanished and there is no longer a bid at any price.

Jackson Hole and the Appalachians, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

You don’t have to be clueless to be a central banker (there’s been one or two who were not), but it sure helps. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

The Jackson Hole gathering of central bankers and other economics big shots is on again. They all still like themselves very much. Apart from a pesky inflation problem that none of them can get a grip on, they publicly maintain that they’re doing great, and they’re saving the planet (doing God’s work is already taken).

But the inflation problem lies in the fact that they don’t know what inflation is, and they’re just as knowledgeable when it comes to all other issues. They get sent tons of numbers and stats, and then compare these to their economic models. They don’t understand economics, and they’re not interested in trying to understand it. All they want is for the numbers to fit the models, and if they don’t, get different numbers.

Meanwhile they continue to make the most outrageous claims. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said in early July that “We have fixed the issues that caused the last crisis.” What do you say to that? Do you take him on a tour of Britain? Or do you just let him rot?

Fed head Janet Yellen a few days earlier had proclaimed that “[US] Banks are ‘very much stronger’, and another financial crisis is not likely ‘in our lifetime’. “ While we wish her a long and healthy life for many years to come, we must realize that we have to pick one: it has to be either a long life, or no crisis in her lifetime.

Just a few days ago, ECB President Mario Draghi somehow managed to squeeze through his windpipe that “QE has made economies more resilient”. Even though everybody -well, everybody who’s not in Jackson Hole- knows that QE has blown huge bubbles in lots of asset classes and caused severe damage to savings and pensions, problems that will reverberate through economies for a long time and rip entire societies apart.

But they really seem to believe what they say, all of them. Which is perhaps the biggest problem of all. That is, either they know better and lie straight-faced or they are blind to what they’re doing. Which might be caused by the fact that they are completely blind to what goes on in their countries and societies, and focus exclusively on banking systems. But that’s not where financial crises reside, or at least not only there.

To continue reading: Jackson Hole and the Appalachians

Are Central Banks Nationalising the Economy? by Daniel Lacalle

If a central bank conjures enough fiat debt, it can buy every asset in the economy. From Daniel Lacalle at mises.org:

The FT recently ran an article that states that “leading central banks now own a fifth of their governments’ total debt.”

The figures are staggering.

  • Without any recession or crisis, major central banks are purchasing more than $200 billion a month in government and private debt, led by the ECB and the Bank of Japan.
  • The Federal Reserve owns more than 14% of the US total public debt.
  • The ECB and BOJ balance sheets exceed 35% and 70% of their GDP.
  • The Bank of Japan is now a top 10 shareholder in 90% of the Nikkei.
  • The ECB owns 9.2% of the European corporate bond market and more than 10% of the main European countries’ total sovereign debt.
  • The Bank of England owns between 25% and 30% of the UK’s sovereign debt.

A recent report by Nick Smith, an analyst at CLSA, warns of what he calls ”the nationalization of the secondary market.”

The Bank of Japan, with its ultra-expansionary policy, which only expands its balance sheet, is on course to become the largest shareholder of the Nikkei 225’s largest companies. In fact, the Japanese central bank already accounts for 60% of the ETFs market (Exchange traded funds) in Japan.

What can go wrong? Overall, the central bank not only generates greater imbalances and a poor result in a “zombified” economy as the extremely loose policies perpetuate imbalances, weaken money velocity, and incentivize debt and malinvestment.

Believing that this policy is harmless because “there is no inflation” and unemployment is low is dangerous. The government issues massive amounts of debt and cheap money promotes overcapacity and poor capital allocation. As such, productivity growth collapses, real wages fall and purchasing power of currencies fall, driving the real cost of living up and debt to grow more than real GDP. That is why, as we have shown in previous articles, total debt has soared to 325% of GDP while zombie companies reach crisis-high levels, according to the Bank of International Settlements.

To continue reading: Are Central Banks Nationalising the Economy?

Did the Economy Just Stumble Off a Cliff? by Charles Hugh Smith

It would be no surprise if the economy has faltered. The only surprise is how long it took. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The signs are everywhere for those willing to look: something has changed beneath the surface of complacent faith in permanent growth.
This is more intuitive than quantitative, but my gut feeling is that the economy just stumbled off a cliff. Neither the cliff edge nor the fatal misstep are visible yet; both remain in the shadows of the intangible foundation of the economy: trust, animal spirits, faith in authorities’ management, etc.
Since credit expansion is the lifeblood of the global economy, let’s look at credit expansion. Courtesy of Market Daily Briefing, here is a chart of total credit in the U.S. and a chart of the percentage increase of credit.
Notice the difference between credit expansion in 1990 – 2008 and the expansion of 2009 – 2017. Credit expanded by a monumental $40+ trillion in 1990 – 2008 without any monetary easing (QE) or zero-interest rate policy (ZIRP). The expansion of 2009 – 2017 required 8 long years of massive monetary/fiscal stimulus and ZIRP.
This chart of credit change (%) reveal just how lackluster the current expansion of credit has been, despite unprecedented trillions of stimulus pumped into the financial sector.
Here are two other snapshots of debt: margin debt and private credit. Both have hit new highs.
Note the tight correlation of margin debt to the S&P 500 stock index: when punters borrow more on margin to buy more stock, stocks keep rising.
When credit stops expanding, the economy stumbles into recession.

Rogoff, Orwell and Kafka, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Raúl Ilargi Meijer cuts to the immoral insanity of central banking. From Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Harvard professor and chess grandmaster Kenneth Rogoff has said some pretty out there stuff before, in his role as self-appointed crusader against cash, but apparently he’s not done yet. In fact, he might just be getting started. This time around he sounds like a crossover between George Orwell and Franz Kafka, with a serving of ‘theater of the absurd’ on top. Rogoff wants to give central banks total control over your lives. They must decide what you do with your money. First and foremost, they must make it impossible for you to save your money from their disastrous policies, so they are free to create more mayhem.

Prepare For Negative Interest Rates In The Next Recession Says Top Economist

Negative interest rates will be needed in the next major recession or financial crisis, and central banks should do more to prepare the ground for such policies, according to leading economist Kenneth Rogoff. Quantitative easing is not as effective a tonic as cutting rates to below zero, he believes. Central banks around the world turned to money creation in the credit crunch to stimulate the economy when interest rates were already at rock bottom.

Central banks create recessions and crises. Not people, and not economies. Central banks. The next recession, which is inevitable, that’s the one thing Rogoff has right, will come when the bubbles in housing, stocks, bonds, etc., created by central banks’ QE, ZIRP, NIRP, start to pop. And there’s nothing worse than giving central banks even more tools for creating crises. We should take away the tools they have now, not hand them more sledgehammers.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives the professor of economics at Harvard University argues that central banks should start preparing now to find ways to cut rates to below zero so they are not caught out when the next recession strikes. Traditionally economists have assumed that cutting rates into negative territory would risk pushing savers to take their money out of banks and stuff the cash – metaphorically or possibly literally – under their mattress. As electronic transfers become the standard way of paying for purchases, Mr Rogoff believes this is a diminishing risk.

To continue reading: Rogoff, Orwell and Kafka