Tag Archives: Liquidity

Life’s a Beach Until the Tsunami Hits: Four Waves Nobody Cares About–Yet, by Charles Hugh Smith

The rug is being pulled from under the financial markets. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Four monster waves are about to crash onto the Fed’s beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers.

Hey, is the water in the bay receding? Never mind, free drinks are on the Federal Reserve, so party on, life’s a beach, asset bubbles will never pop, we’re safe. Of course you are. The Fed is all-powerful and would never let a rogue wave turn all its precious phantom wealth into broken detritus.

The water is fast receding and a wave is visible if you care to look, but nobody cares to look. Why bother? The Fed is invincible, that’s all you need to know to mint another fortune.

Just to keep life interesting, let’s look anyway. Gordon Long and I discuss four monster waves that are about to crash onto the Fed’s beach party and sweep away the unwary revelers:

1. Declining liquidity: while everyone is focused on the Fed’s ceaselessly repeated reassurance that the liquidity spigot will never be closed, never ever ever, so party on, asset bubbles will never pop, never ever ever, other central banks have already started reducing global liquidity while domestically, the Treasury General Account (TGA) is soaking up liquidity to fund the federal government’s monumental deficit spending.

2. Declining global growth: long before the pandemic swept ashore in 2020, global growth was faltering: the business cycle had not been abolished, despite Fed assurances that growth and asset bubbles will continue expanding until they reach Alpha Centuri and beyond (Dow one trillion, yowza baby!), growth by any conventional measure (PMI, ISM, industrial production, global trade flows, etc.) had stagnated or rolled over.

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Liquidity Crisis: Wells Fargo & Repo Markets Sound Alarms, by Matthew Piepenburg

If you’re debt is rising at a 45-degree and the wherewithal to pay that debt is only rising at a 25-degree angle, sooner or later you’re going to run out of money. From Matthew Piepenburg at goldswitzerland.com:

Every financial crisis ultimately boils down to a liquidity crisis, namely: Not enough fiat dollars to keep the financial wheels sufficiently greased.

Below, we look at two warning signs from Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) and the reverse repo market which warn of precisely that: a liquidity crisis.

From Debt Binge to Credit Crunch: A Chronicle of Excess

In a world in which consumers, corporations, and sovereigns have falsely confused debt-based growth as actual growth, a liquidity crisis is not a theoretical debate, but a mathematical certainty.

For years, self-serving politico’s, central bankers, Wall Street sell-siders, and a woefully unsophisticated cadre of main stream financial “journalists” have endeavored to downplay this rise-and-“pop” certainty by deliberately ignoring the $280T debt elephant in the global living room.

Of course, that debt, for years, has been “monetized” by increasingly debased currencies and rising money supplies created literally from central bank mouse-clicks rather than productivity, as evidenced by the embarrassing fact that global GDP is less than 1/3 of the global debt.

Needless to say, money (i.e., “liquidity”) created out of thin air, and then justified with even thinner (yet comfortably titled) policies like Modern Monetary Theory has its temporary charms.

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If You Don’t See Any Risk, Ask Who Will “Buy the Dip” in a Freefall? by Charles Hugh Smith

When a market is breaking down and every second counts, liquidity disappears and sometimes doesn’t reappear for days. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Nobody thinks a euphoric rally could ever go bidless, but as Greenspan belatedly admitted, liquidity is not guaranteed.

The current market melt-up is taken as nearly risk-free because the Fed has our back, i.e. the Federal Reserve will intervene long before any market decline does any damage.

It’s assumed the Fed or its proxies, i.e. the Plunge Protection Team, will be the buyer in any freefall sell-off: no matter how many punters are selling, the PPT will keep buying with its presumably unlimited billions.

If this looks risk-free, ask who else will be “buying the dip” in a freefall? Former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan answered this question in his post-2008 crash essay Never Saw It Coming: Why the Financial Crisis Took Economists By Surprise (Dec. 2013 Foreign Affairs):

“They (financial firms) failed to recognize that market liquidity is largely a function of the degree of investors’ risk aversion, the most dominant animal spirit that drives financial markets. But when fear-induced market retrenchment set in, that liquidity disappeared overnight, as buyers pulled back. In fact, in many markets, at the height of the crisis of 2008, bids virtually disappeared.”

For the uninitiated, bids are the price offered to buyers of stocks and ETFs and the ask is the price offered to sellers. When bids virtually disappear, this means buyers have vanished: everyone willing to buy on the way down (known as catching the falling knife) has already bought and been crushed with losses, and so there’s nobody left (and no trading bots, either) to buy.

When buyers vanish, the market goes bidless, meaning when you enter your “sell” order at a specific price (limit order), there’s nobody willing to buy your shares at the current price. The shares remains yours all the way down.

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Federal Reserve Admits It Pumped More than $6 Trillion to Wall Street in Recent Six Week Period, by Pam Martens and Russ Martens

You get the feeling that everybody is holding their breath, hoping the repo market doesn’t blow up, but that it’s going to blow up. From Pam Martens and Russ Martens at wallstreetonparade.com:

If the Federal Reserve was looking for a media lockdown on news about the trillions of dollars in cumulative repo loans it has funneled quietly to Wall Street’s trading houses since September 17 of last year, it could not have found a better cloud cover than Donald Trump. First the impeachment proceedings bumped the Fed’s money spigot from newspaper headlines. Then, this past Friday, as the Fed released its December meeting minutes at 2:00 p.m., with its highly anticipated plans to be announced for the future of this vast money giveaway to Wall Street, that news was ignored as the media scrambled to cover Trump’s “termination” of General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, which raised the immediate specter of a retaliatory strike against the U.S. by Iran.

The Fed’s minutes revealed that after multiple expansions of this vast money spigot, which was previously set to lapse in January after getting the Wall Street trading houses through the year-end money crunch, instead it may be extended through April. The minutes read as follows:

“The manager also discussed expectations to gradually transition away from active repo operations next year as Treasury bill purchases supply a larger base of reserves. The calendar of repo operations starting in mid-January could reflect a gradual reduction in active repo operations. The manager indicated that some repos might be needed at least through April, when tax payments will sharply reduce reserve levels.”

Corporate and individual tax payments occur every April. The Fed offers no explanation as to why this April is different and requires a multi-trillion-dollar open money spigot from the Fed.

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A “Market” That Needs $1 Trillion in Panic-Money-Printing by the Fed to Stave Off Implosion Is Not a Market, by Charles Hugh Smith

The Fed cannot conjure buyers when everyone wants to sell. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

It was all fun and games enriching the super-wealthy but now the karmic cost of the Fed’s manipulation and propaganda is about to come due.

A “market” that needs $1 trillion in panic-money-printing by the Fed to stave off a karmic-overdue implosion is not a market: a legitimate market enables price discovery. What is price discovery? The decisions and actions of buyers and sellers set the price of everything: assets, goods, services, risk and the price of borrowing money, i.e. interest rates and the availability of credit.

The U.S. has not had legitimate market in 12 years. What we call “the market” is a crude simulation that obscures the Federal Reserve’s Socialism for the Super-Wealthy: the vast majority of the income-producing assets are owned by the super-wealthy, and so all the Fed money-printing that’s been needed to inflate asset bubbles to new extremes only serves to further enrich the already-super-wealthy.

The apologists claim the bubbles must be inflated to “help” the average American, but that claim is absurdly specious. The majority of Americans “own” near-zero assets that earn income; at best they own rapidly-depreciating vehicles, a home that doesn’t generate any income and a life insurance policy that pays off only when they pass away.

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“Massive… Huge… Largest Ever”: Fed Will Flood Market With Gargantuan $500 Billion In Liquidity To Avoid Year-End Repo Crisis, by Tyler Durden

It looks like the Fed will bring in very heavy artillery to prevent an end-of-year repo crisis. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

In previewing today’s Fed statement regarding repurchase operations, on Tuesday Curvature Securities repo expert Scott Skyrm said that he expects the Fed to announce a $50 billion (at least) term operation for Monday December 23 (double the current term ops) and a $50 billion (at least) term operation for Monday, December 30. This prediction was in response to Zoltan Pozsar’s warning that reserve levels are too low and the result would be a market crash that could spark QE4.

Well, moments ago the NY Fed did publish it latest weekly “Statement Regarding Repurchase Operations” as expected laying out the Fed’s expected repo operations for the period December 13 – January 14… and it blew Skyrm’s expectations out of the water

According to the statement, the NY Fed will continue to offer two-week term repo operations twice per week, four of which span year end. In addition, the Desk will also offer another longer-maturity term repo operation that spans year end. The amount offered in this operation will be at least $50 billion, just as Skyrm expected.

But there was more. Much more.

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“It’s About To Get Very Bad” – Repo Market Legend Predicts Market Crash In Days, by Tyler Durden

The nice thing about the headline prediction is that we’ll know fairly soon if it’s correct or not. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

For the past decade, the name of Zoltan Pozsar has been among the most admired and respected on Wall Street: not only did the Hungarian lay the groundwork for our current understanding of the deposit-free shadow banking system – which has the often opaque and painfully complex short-term dollar funding and repo markets – at its core…

… but he was also instrumental during his tenure at both the US Treasury and the New York Fed in laying the foundations of the modern repo market, orchestrating the response to the global financial crisis and the ensuing policy debate (as virtually nobody at the Fed knew more about repo at the time than Pozsar), serving as point person on market developments for Fed, Treasury and White House officials throughout the crisis (yes, Kashkari was just the figurehead); playing the key role in building the TALF to backstop the ABS market, and advising the former head of the Fed’s Markets Desk, Brian Sack, on just how the NY Fed should implement its various market interventions without disrupting and breaking the most important market of all: the multi-trillion repo market.

In short, when Pozsar speaks (or as the case may be, writes), people listen (and read).

$1.6 Trillion Fund Spots A New, Ticking Time Bomb In The Market, by Tyler Durden

If mutual funds specializing in bonds and other forms of debt all head for the exit at the same time, banks will be unable to handle the demand for liquidity. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

First it was the shocking junk bond fiasco at Third Avenue which led to a premature end for the asset manager, then the three largest UK property funds suddenly froze over $12 billion in assets in the aftermath of the Brexit vote; two years later the Swiss multi-billion fund manager GAM blocked redemptions, followed by iconic UK investor Neil Woodford also suddenly gating investors despite representations of solid returns and liquid assets, and most recently the ill-named, Nataxis-owned H20 Asset Management decided to freeze redemptions.

By this point, a pattern had emerged, one which Bank of England Governor Mark Carney described best when he said last month that investment funds that promise to allow customers to withdraw their money on a daily basis are “built on a lie.”

And now, the chief investment officer of Europe’s biggest independent asset manager agrees with him, because while for much of 2019 the biggest risk bogeymen were corporate credit, leveraged loans, and trillions in negative yielding debt, gradually consensus is emerging that investment funds themselves may be the basis for the next liquidity crisis.

“There is no point denying we are faced with a looming liquidity mismatch problem,” said Pascal Blanque, who oversees more than 1.4 trillion euros ($1.6 trillion) as the CIO of Amundi SA, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gilbert who in a Bloomberg View piece writes that Blanque told him that the prospect of melting liquidity is one of “various things keeping me awake at night.”

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Is the 9-Year Long Dead Cat Bounce Finally Ending? by Charles Hugh Smith

Charles Hugh Smith calls the last nine years in financial market just a dead cat bounce, because fundamentally nothing has been fixed. SLL is not arguing with him. From Smith at oftwominds.com:

Ignoring or downplaying these fundamental forces has greatly increased the fragility of the status quo.
The term dead cat bounce is market lingo for a “recovery” after markets decline due to fundamental reversals. Markets tend to bounce back after sharp declines as participants (human and digital) who have been trained to “buy the dips” once again buy the decline, and the financial media rushes to reassure everyone that nothing has actually changed, everything is still peachy-keen wonderfulness.
I submit that the past 9 years of market “recovery” is nothing but an oversized dead cat bounce that is finally ending. Here is a chart that depicts the final blow-off top phase of the over-extended dead cat bounce:
Why are the past 9 years nothing but an extended dead cat bounce? Nothing that’s fundamentally broken has been fixed, and none of the dynamics that are undermining the status quo have been addressed.
The past 9 years have been one long dead cat bounce of extend and pretend, i.e. do more of what’s failed because to even admit the status quo is being undermined by fundamental forces would panic those gorging at the trough of the status quo’s lopsided rewards.
This 9-year dead cat bounce was pure speculation driven by cheap central bank credit and liquidity. Demographics, environmental degradation, the decline of middle class security, the erosion of paid work, the bankruptcy of public and private pension plans, the global debt bubble, soaring wealth and income inequality, the corruption of democracy into a pay-to-play bidding war, the destruction of price discovery via market manipulation by those who have turned markets into signaling devices that all is well, the laughable distortion of statistics to mask the real world decline in our purchasing power (inflation is near-zero–really really really), the perverse incentives to leverage up bets in financial instruments that have no connection to the real-world economy–none of these have been addressed in the market melt-up.

Back To Reality, by Robert Gore

This site spends little time discussing and analyzing central banks’ policies. Some of the media’s preoccupation with central banks reflects an ideological endorsement of command and control SLL does not share. There are people, mostly well-educated, who actually believe that economies with millions of producers, consumers, and businesses, engaging daily in billions of transactions, can be directed by a group of central bank bureaucrats manipulating short-term interest rates and exchanging the government’s debt for their own fiat debt. Historically Efficacious Government and Central Bank Control of Economies is an even shorter book than The Humility of Donald Trump. The titles of both are longer than the contents, but while faith in central banks waxes and wanes, it never dies. Some of the aforementioned preoccupation is journalistic and analytical laziness: it’s easier to speculate and report on central bank statements and policies than it is to determine what’s actually going on with an economy.

SLL devoted two paragraphs to the Fed’s latest move, and the thrust of those paragraphs was that markets had already marked up rates for a substantial segment of borrowers, starting about six months ago, and the Fed, as it usually does, was following the market. The Fed’s zero rate federal funds target took short terms rates lower than they would have been absent that Fed policy. Europe and Japan’s negative interest rates are an even greater distortion from free market rates. However, the global economy was burdened with more debt than it could sustain back in 2008, when the Fed kicked off the global central banks’ easy credit campaign. That excess of debt ensured that interest rates would remain low by historical standards (for the most creditworthy borrowers), whether central banks intervened or not.

Credit expansion and contraction have two constituent elements: psychology and hard economic reality, and the former is more important than the latter. From too indebted in 2008, the global economy has gone to an even more indebted extreme, led by governments and central banks. The change from debt expansion to debt contraction is not based on some hard ratio of debt to ability to service it, but rather on the psychology of the herd changing from optimism to pessimism.

By late last year it was objectively clear that crashing commodity prices, particularly oil, would impair the creditworthiness of commodity producers (see “Oil Ushers in the Depression”). Every debt is someone else’s asset. Fraying creditworthiness, given this accounting identity and the inextricably intertwined nature of credit in the debt-based global economy, will spread from any significant part of the economy to other parts of the economy. Commodities qualify as a significant part of the global economy. They are certainly a bigger sector than the US housing and mortgage-finance market was in 2008, and we need no reminder that the housing implosion turned into the global financial crisis. So it was also objectively clear late last year that deteriorating creditworthiness in commodities would not remain confined to commodities.

Nevertheless, it has taken most of this year for the equity herd to get the joke. It has watched the hole of Fed policy and not the doughnut of the global economy and souring credit. Who says they don’t ring a bell at the top? Credit markets have been clanging since mid year. Interest rate spreads on commodity producers debt widened first, followed by financial stress and actual insolvency and bankruptcies in that sector. The stress has spread. What is erroneously referred to as “contagion,” is actually a widening margin call: deteriorating asset prices and shrinking economic activity pressure related industries, forcing cutbacks and asset sales. This contraction has been reflected in financial markets, where deteriorating liquidity for lower-quality credit of all issuers, not just commodity producers, has forced mutual funds and exchange traded funds that invest in those credits, faced with surging redemptions, to either sell at fire sale prices or bar redemptions until, they hope, prices improve.

Markets are nothing if not bipolar, so the stock market staged a euphoric rally after the Fed announced its rate hike Wednesday. However, with the Fed out of the way, it was back to the depressing reality of credit contraction and the shrinking global economy. Thursday the market gave back the entire rally, and Friday the Dow closed down 367 points.

On a day-to-day basis, SLL makes no attempt to predict what markets are going to do. However, if the ever-changing speculative psychology has switched from Fed-preoccupation to contemplation of the abysmal state of the global economy and the ongoing credit carnage, the next two weeks may be “interesting” in the sense of that old Chinese proverb. Many traders and institutions have already closed their books on the year and will not be transacting. Thus, a falling stock market may encounter even less buy-side liquidity than when the herd scatters during “normal” market drops.

Or perhaps the market just meanders, or rallies. Nobody is infallible in these matters, which is why it’s best to stay focused on economic and financial reality. Right now, regardless of what the stock market does before New Year’s, that reality looks bleak.


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