Tag Archives: central bank policy

Why Japan may spark the next crisis, by Simon Black

Japan has the worst debt problem among developing nations…by far. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

In a world full of reckless and extreme monetary policy, Japan no doubt takes the cake.

The country has total debt of more than ONE QUADRILLION YEN (around $10 trillion) pushing its debt-to-GDP ratio to a whopping 224% – that puts it ahead of financial basket case Greece, whose debt-to-GDP is around 180%.

Japan spent 24.1% of its total revenue (appx. 23.5 trillion yen) last year servicing its debt – both paying down principal and interest. And that percentage has no doubt moved even higher this year.

And, keep in mind, this isn’t some banana republic. It’s the world’s third-largest economy.

Did you know? You can receive all our actionable articles straight to your email inbox… Click here to signup for our Notes from the Field newsletter.

The country’s economy is so screwed up that the Bank of Japan (BOJ), the central bank, has been conjuring trillions of yen out of thin air to buy government debt.

The BOJ printed yen to buy basically all of the $9.5 trillion of government debt outstanding. When it ran out of bonds to buy, BOJ started buying stocks. Now it’s a top 10 shareholder in 40% of Japanese listed companies.

Most recently, the central bank has started “yield-curve control,” which basically means they’ll do whatever it takes to make sure the government doesn’t have to pay more than 0.1% interest.

But something interesting has happened over the past few weeks…

Despite the BOJ’s promise to hold rates and bond yields down, the other owners of Japanese government bonds (JGBs) have been getting nervous. And they’ve been selling.

The selling pressure pushed bond prices down (and, inversely, yields and rates up)… In just under two weeks, yields on 10-year JGBs soared from 0.03% to 0.11% – an 18-month high.

If you own an asset and you don’t think it will perform well, you sell it. And clearly that’s how people feel about Japanese debt. The bonds pay close to zero, after all.

Japan has been fighting deflation for a long time. And with deflation, when the purchasing power of your money increases every year, you may consider holding a bond that pays close to zero… because you’re still maintaining your purchasing power.

To continue reading: Why Japan may spark the next crisis

Advertisements

The root of the debt crisis: every $1 in debt generates just 44 cents of economic output, by Simon Black

Only in weird government accounting does the 44 cents of economic output bought with $1 in debt count as “growth.” From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Exactly ten years ago, in the middle of the summer of 2008, the world was only two months away from the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.

At the time, the size of the US economy as measured by Gross Domestic product was around $14.8 trillion– by far the largest in the world.

And the US national debt back then was about 64% of GDP– roughly $9.5 trillion.

Fast forward a decade and take a snapshot of the same numbers: US GDP has grown nearly 35% to $19.9 trillion.

But the national debt has soared 122% to over $21 trillion.

The debt-to-GDP ratio in the United States is now 106%, meaning that the national debt is larger than the size of the entire US economy. Yet the debt keeps growing. Rapidly.

Now, debt isn’t really the problem here. The problem is the way that it’s been used.

Debt (affectionately referred to as ‘other people’s money’) can actually be a great way to enhance investment returns when used wisely and judiciously.

Private equity fund managers use debt to acquire businesses through what’s known as a ‘leveraged buy-out’, where they’ll put up a portion of the cash they need, and borrow the rest.

I did this a couple of years ago, for example, when I purchased an Australian-based business for $6 million.

A local bank offered to finance most of the acquisition with a $4.5 million loan at around 5.75%.

That meant I only needed to write a $1.5 million check for a business that was earning nearly $2 million annually.

It was a no-brainer, because I knew there would be more than enough money to make the loan payment (less than $500k annually) and still generate a substantial return on investment.

Real estate investors do the same when they purchase property.

If you have, say, $1 million, you could pay cash for a single property that costs $1 million… or you could use that money as a down payment and buy a $5 to $10 million property.

If the investment is a good one, the cash flow will more than cover the loan payments, and you’ll end up making a lot more money.

To continue reading: The root of the debt crisis: every $1 in debt generates just 44 cents of economic output

$21 Trillion And Counting: Why Deficits Didn’t Matter During The Age Of Monetization, 1987-2017 (Part 2), by David Stockman

The age of deficits not mattering to either politicians or financial markets is passing. From David Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

For the past 30 years fiscal deficits have been a big financial nothingburger because the Fed and other central banks gutted their sting. So doing, they drastically and dangerously falsified the market for government finance by weaning politicians of the one element that kept modern Big Government fiscally contained.

We are referring to the historical fear among politicians that fiscal deficits cause “crowding out” of private investment and rising interest rates. Indeed, that  proposition was universally understood during your editor’s sojourn in the Imperial City between 1970 and 1985 as a staffer, Congressman and budget director.

As it has turned out, however, there was implicitly a crucial qualifier. To wit, it was naturally assumed that fiscal deficits would be financed in honest capital markets, and that yields in the bond pits were free market prices which cleared the balance between the supply of private long-term savings and the demand for term debt.

The very notion that it could be otherwise—-that the central banking branch of governments could swoop into capital markets to scoop up and sequester in their trillions the debt emissions of the fiscal branches— was scarcely imaginable among anyone reasonably educated and minimally informed.

After all, had Lyndon Johnson, Tricky Dick, Jimmy Carter or even Ronald Reagan suggested that the Federal Reserve buy government debt at rates which exceeded annual issuance by the US Treasury, as was the case during the peak years of QE, they would have been severely attacked—if not subjected to impeachment—-for advocating rank financial fraud.

Nor is that mere conjecture. For instance, after his “guns and butter” deficits had breached an unheard of 3% of GDP (outside of world war), LBJ essentially concluded he had no choice except to commit political hara-kiri by forcing a 10% surtax through the Congress in the 1968 election year.

Likewise, upon inheriting the Oval Office in August 1974, Jerry Ford  famously attempted to curtail excessive fiscal stimulus with a “WIN” tax, and Jimmy Carter never let his deficits get above 2.5% of  GDP—-even though he had a big spending domestic agenda.

But the most dispositive case of all was that of Ronald Reagan. Notwithstanding his reputation as the scourge of taxes, the Gipper signed three consecutive tax increase bills in 1982, 1983 and 1984 after the deficit exploded to 6% of GDP owing to the original Reagan tax cut and huge defense build-up.

To continue reading: $21 Trillion And Counting: Why Deficits Didn’t Matter During The Age Of Monetization, 1987-2017 (Part 2)

New Fed Chairman Will Trigger A Historic Stock Market Crash In 2018, by Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith further elucidates his hypothesis that the Federal Reserve will deliberately make the stock market crash. From Smith at alt-market.com:

Ever since the credit and equities crash of 2008, Americans have been bombarded relentlessly with the narrative that our economy is “in recovery”. For some people, simply hearing this ad nauseam is enough to stave off any concerns they may have for the economy. For some of us, however, it’s just not satisfactory. We need concrete data that actually supports the notion, and for years, we have seen none.

In fact, we have heard from officials at the Federal Reserve that the exact opposite is true. They have admitted that the so-called recovery has been fiat driven, and that there is a danger that when the Fed finally stops artificially propping up the economy with constant stimulus and near zero interest rates, the whole farce might come tumbling down.

For example, Richard Fisher, former head of the Dallas Federal Reserve, admitted a few years ago that the U.S. central bank has made its business the manipulation of the stock market to the upside:

What the Fed did — and I was part of that group — is we front-loaded a tremendous market rally, starting in 2009.It’s sort of what I call the “reverse Whimpy factor” — give me two hamburgers today for one tomorrow.

I’m not surprised that almost every index you can look at … was down significantly.

Fisher went on to hint at the impending danger (though his predicted drop is overly conservative in my view), saying: “I was warning my colleagues, don’t go wobbly if we have a 10-20% correction at some point…. Everybody you talk to … has been warning that these markets are heavily priced.”

One might claim that this is simply one Fed member’s point of view. But it was recently revealed that in 2012, Jerome Powell made the same point in a Fed meeting, the minutes of which have only just now been released:

“I have concerns about more purchases. As others have pointed out, the dealer community is now assuming close to a $4 trillion balance sheet and purchases through the first quarter of 2014. I admit that is a much stronger reaction than I anticipated, and I am uncomfortable with it for a couple of reasons.

 

To continue reading: New Fed Chairman Will Trigger A Historic Stock Market Crash In 2018

Party While You Can – Central Bank Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble, by Brandon Smith

A new chairperson of the Federal Reserve sets the state for a thunderous financial market crash. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

Many people do not realize that America is not only entering a new year, but within the next month we will also be entering a new economic era. In early February, Janet Yellen is set to leave the Federal Reserve and be replaced by the new Fed chair nominee, Jerome Powell. Now, to be clear, the Fed chair along with the bank governors do not set central bank policy. Policy for most central banks around the world is dictated in Switzerland by the Bank for International Settlements. Fed chairmen like Janet Yellen are mere mascots implementing policy initiatives as ordered.  This is why we are now seeing supposedly separate central banking institutions around the world acting in unison, first with stimulus, then with fiscal tightening.

However, it is important to note that each new Fed chair does tend to signal a new shift in action for the central bank. For example, Alan Greenspan oversaw the low interest rate easy money phase of the Fed, which created the conditions for the derivatives and credit bubble and subsequent crash in 2008. Ben Bernanke oversaw the stimulus and bailout phase, flooding the markets with massive amounts of fiat and engineering an even larger bubble in stocks, bonds and just about every other asset except perhaps some select commodities. Janet Yellen managed the tapering phase, in which stimulus has been carefully and systematically diminished while still maintaining delusional stock market euphoria.

Now comes the era of Jerome Powell, who will oversee the last stages of fiscal tightening, the reduction of the Fed balance sheet, faster rate increases and the final implosion of the ‘everything’ bubble.

As I warned before Trump won the election in 2016, a Trump presidency would inevitably be followed by economic crisis, and this would be facilitated by the Federal Reserve pulling the plug on fiat life support measures which kept the illusion of recovery going for the past several years. It is important to note that the mainstream media is consistently referring to Jerome Powell as “Trump’s candidate” for the Fed, or “Trump’s pick” (as if the president really has much of a choice in the roster of candidates for the Fed chair). The public is being subtly conditioned to view Powell as if he is an extension of the Trump administration.

 

To continue reading: Party While You Can – Central Bank Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble

The Greatest Bubble Ever: Why You Better Believe It, by David Stockman

Here is David Stockman’s analysis of the US government’s spending, receipts, and the overall economy. From Stockman at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Part Two:

As we explained in Part 1, the most dangerous place on the planet financially is now the Wall Street casino. In the months ahead, it will become ground zero of the greatest monetary/fiscal collision in recorded history.

For the first time ever both the Fed and the US treasury will be dumping massive amounts of public debt on the bond market—upwards of $1.8 trillion between them in FY 2019 alone—and at a time which is exceedingly late in the business cycle. That double whammy of government debt supply will generate a thundering “yield shock” which, in turn, will pull the props out from under equity and other risk asset markets—-all of which have “priced-in” ultra low debt costs as far as the eye can see.

The anomalous and implicitly lethal character of this prospective clash can not be stressed enough. Ordinarily, soaring fiscal deficits occur early in the cycle. That is, during the plunge unto recession, when revenue collections drop and outlays for unemployment benefits and other welfare benefits spike; and also during the first 15-30 months of recovery, when Keynesian economists and spendthrift politicians join hands to goose the recovery—-not understanding that capitalist markets have their own regenerative powers once the excesses of bad credit, malinvestment and over-investment in inventory and labor which triggered the recession have been purged.

By contrast, the Federal deficit is now soaring at the tail end (month #102) of an aging business expansion. And the cause is not the exogenous effects of so-called automatic fiscal stabilizers associated with a macroeconomic downturn, but deliberate Washington policy decisions made by the Trumpian GOP.

During FY 2019, for example, these discretionary plunges into deficit finance include slashing revenue by $280 billion, while pumping up an already bloated baseline spending level of $4.375 trillion by another $200 billion for defense, disasters, border control, ObamaCare bailouts and domestic pork barrel of every shape and form.

These 11th hour fiscal maneuvers, in fact, are so asinine that the numbers have to be literally seen to be believed. To wit, an already weak-growth crippled revenue baseline will be cut to just $3.4 trillion, while the GOP spenders goose outlays toward the $4.6 trillion mark.

That’s right. Nine years into a business cycle expansion, the King of Debt and his unhinged GOP majority on Capitol Hill have already decided upon (an nearly implemented) the fiscal measures that will result in borrowing 26 cents on every dollar of FY 2019 spending. JM Keynes himself would be grinning with self-satisfaction.

Moreover, this foolhardy attempt to re-prime-the-pump nearly a decade after the Great Recession officially ended means that monetary policy is on its back foot like never before.

 

Bank of Canada’s Poloz Is Right to Be Worried, by Peter Diekmeyer

Canada’s central bank has had a role in the “all-everything” bubble. From Peter Diekmeyer at Sprott Money via wolfstreet.com:

Three possibilities come to mind.

Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz cited numerous worries plaguing the economy during his speech to Toronto’s financial elites at the prestigious Canadian Club. However, the title of Poloz’s presentation, “Three things keeping me awake at night” seemed odd, given positive recent Canadian employment, GDP and other data.

Poloz highlighted high personal debts, housing prices, cryptocurrencies and other causes for concern, along with actions that the BoC is taking to alleviate them. His implicit message was (as always) “We have things under control.” But if that’s all true, then Canada’s central bank governor should be sleeping like a baby. So, what is really keeping Mr. Poloz up at night? Three possibilities come to mind.

The Poloz Bubble

Firstly, far from just a housing bubble, Canada’s economy shows signs of being in the midst of an “everything bubble.” Bitcoin, for example, hovered near CDN $23,000 this week. Stock and bond valuations are not far behind in their relative loftiness. Worse for Poloz, who took office four years ago, his fingerprints are all over those bubble-like levels.

Canadian stock, bond and house prices were already at dizzying heights when Stephen Harper hired Poloz with the implicit expectation that he would juice up the economy, in preparation for what Canada’s then-Prime Minister knew would be a tough upcoming election.

Poloz didn’t disappoint, promptly delivering a nice Benjamin Strong-styled “coup de whiskey” to asset prices in the form of two interest rate cuts, which brought the BoC’s policy rate down to just 0.50% during the ensuing months. Although Harper lost the election, loose BoC policy continues to provide the Canadian government with free money to borrow and spend as it wishes.

Here’s Canada’s ballooning Money Supply  M2 (via Trading Economics):

More broadly, the Poloz BoC’s current policy, like that of the US Federal Reserve, is to boost asset prices even higher in the hope that the resulting wealth effect will trickle down to spur economic activity among ordinary Canadians.

To continue reading; Bank of Canada’s Poloz Is Right to Be Worried