Fiat Chrysler in talks over 6.3 bln euro state-guaranteed loan: source

Fiat Chrysler is in talks with Italian lender Intesa Sanpaolo over a 6.3 billion euro ($6.8 billion) state-guaranteed loan to help the automaker weather the coronavirus crisis, a source close to the matter said on Friday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

Fiat Chrysler in talks over 6.3 billion euro state-guaranteed loan: source

Fiat Chrysler is in talks with Italian lender Intesa Sanpaolo over a 6.3 billion euro ($6.8 billion) state-guaranteed loan to help the automaker weather the coronavirus crisis, a source close to the matter said on Friday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

Fiat Chrysler in talks over 6.3 bln euro state-guaranteed loan: source

Fiat Chrysler is in talks with Italian lender Intesa Sanpaolo over a 6.3 billion euro ($6.8 billion) state-guaranteed loan to help the automaker weather the coronavirus crisis, a source close to the matter said on Friday......»»

Category: topSource: reutersMay 15th, 2020

Has The Counter Revolution Arrived In The US?

Has The Counter Revolution Arrived In The US? Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog, The counter-revolution at the counter of a store People buy the things they want and borrow for a little more All those wasted years All those precious, wasted years Who will pay? — RUSH, “Heresy” There is no bigger heresy at this point in history than to suggest the US is not the main source of great evil in the world. There was a time, when the exact opposite was the case. Today, however, As war rages in Ukraine and everyone in power in the West says they want peace but keep shoveling money and weapons into the conflict, the message is clear. We want this war. We need this war and it doesn’t matter what the people want. We will have this war. But, here’s the big heresy, it’s not just the US that wants this war. Here’s another one is ‘The US’ as a global actor even exist anymore? We are now digesting the most irresponsible escalation yet by “Ukraine,” a drone strike on a strategic airbase deep inside Russia attacking one leg of its nuclear triad — damaging strategic bombers capable of delivering nuclear warheads. This is an explicit redline for Russia. Regardless of what side of the line you stand on, Ukraine’s or Russia’s, in this war (or refuse to even define where the line is), this is a moment that should crystallize for you that this is a turning point in the war… and not for the better. Escalations like this are a sign of weakness. They are tantamount to begging Russia to over-react, to force Putin’s hand and strike Ukraine mercilessly, which it seems they did in response. Ukraine crossed the line where Russia would be free to use nuclear weapons per their use doctrine on attacking their nuclear deterrence capability. Counterparts “All around that dull grey world from Moscow to Berlin People storm the barricades walls go tumbling in“ The Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union were fresh in our minds when RUSH recorded this deep cut off the album Roll the Bones. 1991 was supposed to be a time of hope, right? The Cold War was over. The free world triumphed over totalitarianism again. A triumph of our system over theirs. But at what cost? The US began the rapid rise into empire, eschewing the humble foreign policy directives of the Founders to expand NATO into the vacuum created by the end of the USSR. The European Union began its formalization into a political and economic behemoth, introducing the euro while its agents deep within the UK overthrew a rightfully obstinate Margaret Thatcher to bring the UK into the fold. These western institutions were supposed to be the promise of a better life was supposedly for the former Warsaw Pact… well, except Serbia, but only Putin apologists talk about that. The costs for the Cold War were obvious to everyone east of the Berlin Wall. But the costs for the West were equally substantial. To fight the Cold War the US was turned into a massive corporatist nightmare, the security state justified at every turn and our monetary system of hard money dismantled. That counter revolution really was at the “counter of the store” as the US morphed from the country with the cleanest balance sheet in the world into the biggest debtor the world has ever, and likely, will ever see via a voracious consumer gorging on ever cheaper fiat money. The free world was enslaved by its leaders’ arrogance and hubris and the people bought off with cheap money for disposable goods to mollify the anxiety and psychological damage done to two generations with living under the threat of nuclear war. Now make that four generations thanks to “Ukraine.” Then when the system broke in 2008 we papered over the sins of the banking system, went full retard ‘printer go brrrrrr’ and ushered in the truly irresponsible era of zero-bound interest rates, round-robin Central Bank coordinated balance sheet expansion which funded a massive security state through portable technology while selling it all as ‘hope and change’ for a world safe for trannies and pedophiles. Hold Yer Fire “All around that dull grey world of ideology People storm the marketplace and buy up fantasy” We were supposed to be beyond the ‘dull gray world of ideology,’ but ideology is all we have left after having sold our souls for so little. As Alastair Crooke points out in his latest article, the West suffers from an ideological bias which precludes any other from being allowed to coexist on the planet. This is where Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have practiced real heresy. They’ve said no to the Climate Change agenda of the West. But it goes far beyond that. They’ve said no to the entire western ideological framework of system over civilization. Every argument made by European leaders like EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen is suffused with this ideological bias, this rightness of our system over any other. And no escape route can be allowed. The EU is the one providing the ideological framework for continuing the war against Russia. The US is just cynically providing the weapons. They are peas in the same aggressive collectivist pod. It’s why there is a 9th sanctions package on the way. It’s why they are forming War Crimes Tribunals in courts not recognized by Russia, and looking for legal means to steal all Russian assets within their geographical borders. This is nothing more than wholesale looting that goes far beyond the initial violations of international law even the most hardened Ukraine supporter can accuse Russia of over the February 24th invasion. This war should have been over in March but the UK didn’t want it to end and blew up the Ankara peace talks. Everything that has happened since then can then be laid at the West’s feet. And I mean everything. The escalations have but one theme, take options away from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin until we get to the unthinkable moment. For this defiance Putin is to be Milosevic’d for daring to say no to the EU and NATO for denying them control over Russia’s future and for embarrassing them by reminding the world of NATO’s involvement in the breakup of Yugoslavia. And the worst part is that to say anything other than they are they are vassals to a crazed US government bent on global domination is, itself, heresy. But is it really? By their words and deeds we shall know them. Because the EU had many chances to stop this war but chose at every turn to double down. And now, they will deal with the flood of Ukrainians rightfully fleeing Russia’s now righteous indignation for keeping alive a war it didn’t want against people it considered brothers. These escalations have a pattern. Ignore all of Russia’s security concerns and corner them into an invasion and use each move they make as justification for more aggression, until we’re now at the moment we’ve been groomed for for months, the decision by Putin to finally go nuclear. So what’s really going on here? How did it come to this? Crooke reminds us of a 2013 speech by Xi on the subject. In his address, Xi attributed the break-up of the Soviet Union to ‘ideological nihilism’: The ruling strata, Xi asserted, had ceased to believe in the advantages and the value of their ‘system’, yet lacking any other ideological coordinates within which to situate their thinking, the élites slid unto nihilism: “Once the Party loses the control of the ideology, Xi argued, once it fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for its own rule, objectives and purposes, it dissolves into a party of loosely connected individuals linked only by personal goals of enrichment and power”. “The Party is then taken over by ‘ideological nihilism’”. This, however, was not the worst outcome. The worst outcome, Xi noted, would be the state taken over by people with no ideology whatsoever, but with an entirely cynical and self-serving desire to rule. The neocons and the Brits have tried to level this criticism at Putin, but that is clearly not the case. Putin, as any sober analyst will tell you, is the moderate in Russia. These crazed lunatics don’t want him deposed because they believe it will blow apart Russia, but rather they want Putin gone so that his replacement goes off half-cocked and nukes someone. Because that is the only way to achieve their goals of having the war they need to reset their failing system. Again, with these latest drone strikes from “Ukraine” that’s now on the table. Putin is being ground into an untenable position, not by his own weakness but by the relentless ideological nihilism of western globalists who fear their own loss of power and need this war. What else can you conclude as they pursue policies that can only result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people? Vapor Trails “All around this great big world, all the crap we had to take Bombs and basement fallout shelters, all our lives at stake“ Their full support of Ukraine has reached its religious zenith with their oil price cap, which will cause further turmoil in a market that doesn’t need it. Davos’ puppet in Kiev, Zelenskyy, is now outlawing the orthodox church and openly threatening the hands that feed what’s left of his regime. They tell us the ‘future of democracy’ hangs in the balance in “Ukraine,” a place where no democracy exists, apartheid-like laws are in place for ethnic Russians and is supported only by our tax dollars funding drone strikes on a nuclear power. Who makes this case harder than Eurocrats like Von der Leyen? To save democracy we have to abolish it. To save free speech we have to end disinformation. Zelenskyy knows his time is short. Russia is making mincemeat of his country and this drone strike on the Engels airbase should be viewed as a last ditch effort to secure future NATO involvement. Open war between NATO and Russia is clearly the final goal of this attack. With the follow up strikes on Russian oil tankers we’re rapidly reaching the point of no return. The message is what it has always been: there can be no escape from the EU’s promised land of technocracy and the ideological nihilism of Davos. That said, here’s the next bit of heresy. As bad as things are there are still forces alive who see where this is headed and are working diligently to keep Putin’s options open. The attacks on Davos via the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes, Elon Musk’s buying Twitter and the smart game Giorgia Meloni plays in Italy are having their effect. I realize that all of these things are open to multiple interpretations and many believe I’m chasing smoke in a windstorm. But the incentives align here. Remember, in geopolitics there are no allies, only interests. Only the most ideologically nihilistic would pursue Davos’ path. Only those with a hatred of humanity born of a deep wellspring of love for all things Malthusian would bring us to this point. And to deny that there’s no one in a position to oppose this from our side of the new Berlin Wall is just surrender masquerading a cynicism. To understand how fragile Davos really is I put it to you like this: For the price of a few hundred basis points, the Fed forced a coup in the UK, the ECB into a tightening cycle with more yield curve control, likely blew up FTX and its burgeoning offshore crypto-dollar Ponzi Scheme, and forced the Swiss National Bank to intervene against the bank run on Credit Suisse. These are major weapons to have fired. Four major weapons. And none of those missile launchers can be reloaded. And all it did was buy the EU a few more months (weeks?) of undeserved euro strength. Powell and company, on the other hand, have even more ammunition to tighten things further with the US 10-year trading at 3.5% now and US stocks going on a year-end rally. In fact, the SNB likely gave the Fed the biggest Christmas gift it could have by intervening in the Swiss Franc market to help Credit Suisse. Davos’ Nuclear Triad of derivative control over commodity and currency markets, control over the US military through the “Biden” administration and narrative control through the media has been dealt a far bigger blow than “Ukraine” dealt to Russia’s supply of strategic bombers. The war in Ukraine and the West’s over-the-top sanctions response crystallized the Global South against them. So, color me not shocked to hear no less than Saudi Arabia is coming to Credit Suisse’s rescue buying a major stake in its investment banking spin-off. They’re giving Elon Musk the “Donald Trump treatment” for having the temerity to believe a free society rests on open communication. Musk’s moves since buying Twitter all point to the real goal of the exercise; buy the database of the Bluechecked Sneetches DMs and release the evidence of government pressure on Twitter to censor perfectly legal speech on every major Davos sanctioned operation against humanity. We knew they were doing it but now we have something akin to proof that they were doing it. The initial response has been predictable — deny, screech, make fun, downplay and attack Musk and his agents like Matt Taibbi personally. But all that does is prove further they are caught red-handed. The Davos response is always to double-down, it’s the psychopath’s way. They continue to act as if nothing matters, that they are untouchable. And they have to, it would be heretical to do otherwise as the entire fragile narrative edifice would collapse like a Jenga Tower made out of Styrofoam in a summer breeze. These drone strikes inside Russia are to try and further weaken Putin, give spine to Russian hardliners and force things closer to the unthinkable. And this is the real heresy here, the pressure coming from within the West is helping Putin execute his off-battlefield strategy of forcing monetary Armageddon on Russia’s enemies through control over commodity prices. Putin’s on-battlefield strategy has been to drain Western coffers of munitions and warm bodies to fill increasingly cold trenches along the Dnieper River. I’m not saying that Putin is winning this war, but this is clearly the strategy being employed. Has it empowered crazed neocons in Whitehall, the Pentagon and K-Street to think they can beat Russia once NATO officially gets involved in this conflict? Yes. Is this a high-risk strategy at this point? Also yes. Could Putin have played this better? Absolutely. But, this is the world we have now and the real heresy is not acknowledging everyone’s complicity in allowing it to get to this tragic state. There’s a counter-revolution happening. The only question now is, will it mature in time to stop this train running on Davos’ time? The bloody revolution, all the warheads in its wake All the fear and suffering, all a big mistake All those wasted years All those precious wasted yearsWho will pay? *  *  * Join my Patreon if you are a political heretic Tyler Durden Wed, 12/07/2022 - 16:20.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 7th, 2022

Macleod: The Great Global Unwind Begins

Macleod: The Great Global Unwind Begins Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, There is a growing feeling in markets that a financial crisis of some sort is now on the cards. backslash Credit Suisse’s very public struggles to refinance itself is proving to be a wake-up call for markets, alerting investors to the parlous state of global banking. This article identifies the principal elements leading us into a global financial crisis. Behind it all is the threat from a new trend of rising interest rates, and the natural desire of commercial banks everywhere to reduce their exposure to falling financial asset values both on their balance sheets and held as loan collateral. And there are specific problems areas, which we can identify: It should be noted that the phenomenal growth of OTC derivatives and regulated futures has been against a background of generally declining interest rates since the mid-eighties. That trend is now reversing, so we must expect the $600 trillion of global OTC derivatives and a further $100 trillion of futures to contract as banks reduce their derivative exposure. In the last two weeks, we have seen the consequences for the gilt market in London, warning us of other problem areas to come. Commercial banks are over-leveraged, with notable weak spots in the Eurozone, Japan, and the UK. It will be something of a miracle if banks in these jurisdictions manage to survive contracting bank credit and derivative blow-ups. If they are not prevented, even the better capitalised American banks might not be safe. Central banks are mandated to rescue the financial system in troubled times. However, we find that the ECB and its entire euro system of national central banks, the Bank of Japan, and the US Fed are all deeply in negative equity and in no condition to underwrite the financial system in this rising interest rate environment.  The Credit Suisse wake-up call In the last fortnight, it has become obvious that Credit Suisse, one of Switzerland’s two major banking institutions, faces a radical restructuring. That’s probably a polite way of saying the bank needs rescuing. In the hierarchy of Swiss banking, Credit Suisse used to be regarded as very conservative. The tables have now turned. Banks make bad decisions, and these can afflict any bank. Credit Suisse has perhaps been a little unfortunate, with the blow-up of Archegos, and Greensill Capital being very public errors. But surely the most egregious sin from a reputational point of view was a spying scandal, where the bank spied on its own employees. All the regulatory fines, universally regarded as a cost of business by bank executives, were weathered. But it was the spying scandal which forced the bank’s highly regarded CEO, Tidjane Thiam, to resign. We must wish Credit Suisse’s hapless employees well in a period of high uncertainty for them. But this bank, one of thirty global systemically important banks (G-SIBs) is not alone in its difficulties. The only G-SIBs whose share capitalisation is greater than their balance sheet equity are North American: the two major Canadian banks, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan. The full list is shown in Table 1 below, ranked by price to book in the second to last column. [The French Bank, Groupe BPCE’s shares are unlisted so omitted from the table] Before a sharp rally in the share price last week, Credit Suisse’s price to book stood at 24%, and Deutsche Bank’s stood at an equally lowly 23.5%. And as can be seen from the table, seventeen out of twenty-nine G-SIBs have price-to-book ratios of under 50%. Normally, the opportunity to buy shares at book value or less is seen by value investors as a strategy for identifying undervalued investments. But when a whole sector is afflicted this way, the message is different. In the market valuations for these banks, their share prices signal a significant risk of failure, which is particularly acute in the European and UK majors, and to a similar but lesser extent in the three Japanese G-SIBs. As a whole, G-SIBs have been valued in markets for the likelihood of systemic failure for some time. Despite what the markets have been signalling, these banks have survived, though as we have seen in the case of Deutsche Bank it has been a bumpy road for some. Regulations to improve balance sheet liquidity, mainly in the form of Basel 3, have been introduced in phases since the Lehman failure, and still price-to-book discounts have not recovered materially. These depressed market valuations have made it impossible for the weaker G-SIBs to consider increasing their Tier 1 equity bases because of the dilutive effect on existing shareholders. Seeming to believe that their shares are undervalued, some banks have even been buying in discounted shares, reducing their capital and increasing balance sheet leverage even more. There is little doubt that in a very low interest rate environment some bankers reckoned this was the right thing to do. But that has now changed. With interest rates now rising rapidly, over-leveraged balance sheets need to be urgently wound down to protect shareholders. And even bankers who have been so captured by the regulators that they regard their shareholders as a secondary priority will realise that their confrères in other banks will be selling down financial assets, liquidating financial collateral where possible, and withdrawing loan and overdraft facilities from non-financial businesses when they can.  It is all very well to complacently think that complying with Basel 3 liquidity provisions is a job well done. But if you ignore balance sheet leverage for your shareholders at a time of rising prices and therefore interest rates, they will almost certainly be wiped out. There can be no doubt that the change from an environment where price-to-book discounts are an irritation to bank executives to really mattering is bound up in a new, rising interest rate environment. Rising interest rates are also a sea-change for derivatives, and particularly for the banks exposed to them. Interest rates swaps, of which the Bank for International Settlements reckoned there were $8.8 trillion equivalent in June 2021, have been deployed by pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds and banks lending fixed-rate mortgages. They are turning out to be a financial instrument of mass destruction. An interest rate swap is an arrangement between two counterparties who agree to exchange payments on a defined notional amount for a fixed time period. The notional amount is not exchanged, but interest rates on it are, one being at a predefined fixed rate such as a spread over a government bond yield with a maturity matching the duration of the swap agreement, while the other floats based on LIBOR or a similar yardstick. Swaps can be agreed for fixed terms of up to fifteen years. When the yield curve is positive, a pension fund, for example, can obtain a decent income uplift by taking the fixed interest leg and paying the floating rate. And because the deal is based on notional capital, which is never put up, swaps can be leveraged significantly. The other party will be active in wholesale money markets, securing a small spread over floating rate payments received from the pension fund. Both counterparties expect to benefit from the deal, because their calculations of the net present values of the cash flows, which involves a degree of judgement, will not be too dissimilar when the deal is agreed. The risk to the pension fund comes from rising bond yields. Despite the rise in bond yields, it still takes the fixed rate agreed at the outset, yet it is committed to paying a higher floating rate. In the UK, 3-month sterling LIBOR rose from 0.107% on 1 December 2021, to 3.94% yesterday. In a five-year swap, the fixed rate taken by the pension fund would be based on the 5-year gilt yield, which on 1 December last was 0.65%. With a spread of perhaps 0.25% over that, the pension fund would be taking 0.9% and paying 0.107%, for a turn of 0.793%. Today, the pension fund would still be taking 0.9%, but paying out 3.94%. With rising interest rates, even without leverage it is a disaster for the pension fund. But this is not the only trap they have fallen into. In the UK, pension fund exposure to repurchase agreements (repos) led to margin calls and a sudden liquidation of gilt collateral less a fortnight ago. A number of specialist firms offered liability driven investment schemes (LDIs), targeted at final salary pension schemes. Using repos, LDI schemes were able to use low funding rates to finance long gilt positions, geared by up to seven times. When LDIs blew up due to falling collateral values, the gilt market collapsed as pension funds became forced sellers, and the Bank of England dramatically reversed its stillborn quantitative tightening policy. That saga has further to run, and the problem is not restricted to UK pension funds, as we shall see. A fuller description of how these repo schemes blew up is described later in this article. The LDI episode is a warning of the consequences of a change in interest rate trends for derivatives in the widest sense. We should not forget that the evolution of derivatives has been in large measure due to the post-1980 trend of declining interest rates. With commodity, producer, and consumer prices now all rising fuelled by currency debasement, that trend has now come to an end. And with collateral values falling instead of rising, it is not just a case of dealers adjusting their outlook. There are bound to be more detonations in the $600 trillion OTC global derivatives market. Central to these derivatives are banks and shadow banks. Credit Suisse has been a market maker in credit default swaps, leveraged loans, and other derivative-based activities. The bank deals in a wide range of swaps, interest rate and foreign exchange options, forex forwards and futures.[i] The replacement values of its OTC derivatives are shown in the 2021 accounts at CHF125.6 billion, which reduces with netting agreements to CHF25.6 billion. Small beer, it might seem. But the notional amounts, being the principal amounts upon which these derivative replacement values are based are far, far larger. The leverage between replacement values and notional amounts means that the bank’s exposure to rising interest rates could rapidly drive it into insolvency. At this juncture, we cannot know if this is at the root of the bank’s troubles. And this article is not intended to be a criticism of Credit Suisse relative to its peers. The problems the bank faces are reflected in the entire G-SIB system with other banks having far larger derivative exposures. The point is that as a whole, participants in the derivatives market are unprepared for the conditions which led to its phenomenal growth at $600 trillion equivalent, which is now being reversed by a change in the primary trend for interest rates. Central bank balance sheets and bailing commercial banks In the event of commercial banking failures, it is generally expected that central banks will ensure depositors are protected, and that the financial system’s survival is guaranteed. But given the sheer size of derivative markets and the likely consequences of counterparty failures, it will be an enormous task requiring global cooperation and the abandonment of the bail-in procedures agreed by G20 member nations in the wake of the Lehman crisis. There will be no question but that failing banks must continue to trade with their bond holders’ funds remaining intact. If not, then all bank bonds are likely to collapse in value because in a bail-in bond holders will prefer the sanctity of deposits guaranteed by the state. And any attempt to limit deposit protection to smaller depositors would be disastrous. Because the Great Unwind is so sudden, it promises to become a far larger crisis than anything seen before. Unfortunately, due to quantitative easing the central banks themselves also have bond losses to contend with, wiping out the values of their balance sheet equity many times over. That a currency-issuing central bank has net liabilities on its balance sheet would not normally matter, because it can always expand credit to finance itself. But we are now envisaging central banks with substantial and growing net liabilities being required to guarantee entire commercial banking networks.  The burden of bail outs will undoubtedly lead to new rounds of currency debasement directly and indirectly, as vain attempts are made to support financial asset values and prevent an economic catastrophe. Accelerating currency debasement by the issuing authorities will almost certainly undermine public faith in fiat currencies, leading to their entire collapse, unless a way can be found to stabilise them. The euro system has specific problems In theory, recapitalising a central bank is a simple matter. The bank makes a loan to its shareholder, typically the government, which instead of a balancing deposit it books as equity in its liabilities. But when a central bank is not answerable to any government, that route cannot be taken. This is a problem for the ECB, whose shareholders are the national central banks of the member states. Unfortunately, they are also in need of recapitalisation. Table 2 below summarises the likely losses suffered this year so far on their bond holdings under the assumptions in the notes. Other than the four national central banks for which bond prices are unavailable, we can see that all NCBs and the ECB itself have been entrapped by rising bond yields. Even the mighty Bundesbank appears to have losses on its bonds forty-four times its shareholders’ capital since 1 January. Bearing in mind that the Eurozone’s consumer price index is now rising at about 10% and considerably higher in some member states, 5-year maturity government bond yields between 2% (Germany) and 4% (Italy) can be expected to rise considerably from here. No amount of mollification, that central banks can never go bust, will cover up this problem. Imagine the legislative hurdles. The Bundesbank, let’s say, presents a case to the Bundestag to pass enabling legislation to permit it to recapitalise itself and to subscribe to more capital in the ECB on the basis of its share of the ECB’s equity to restore it to solvency. One can imagine finance ministers being persuaded that there is no alternative to the proposal, but then it will be noticed that the Bundesbank is owed over €1.2 trillion through the TARGET2 system. Surely, it will almost certainly be argued, if those liabilities were paid to the Bundesbank, there would be no need for it to recapitalise itself. If only it were so simple. But clearly, it is not in the Bundesbank’s interest to involve ignorant politicians in monetary affairs. The public debate would risk spiralling out of control, with possibly fatal consequences for the entire euro system. So, what is happening with TARGET2? TARGET2 imbalances are deteriorating again… Figure 1 shows that TARGET2 imbalances are increasing again, notably for Germany’s Bundesbank, which is now owed a record €1,266,470 million, and Italy’s Banca Italia which owes €714,932 million. These are the figures for September, while all the others are for August and are yet to be updated. In theory, these imbalances should not exist because that was an objective behind TARGET2’s construction. And before the Lehman crisis, they were minimal as the chart shows. Since then, they have increased to a total of €1,844,815 million, with Germany owed the most, followed by Luxembourg, which in August was owed €337,315 billion. Partly, this is due to Frankfurt and Luxembourg being financial centres for international transactions through which both foreign and Eurozone investing institutions have been selling euro-denominated obligations issued by entities in Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain (the PIGS). The bank credit resulting from these transactions works through the system as follows: An Italian bond is sold through a German bank in Frankfurt. On delivering the bond, the seller has recorded in his favour a credit (deposit) at the German bank. Delivery to Milan against payment occurs with the settlement going through TARGET2, the settlement system through which cross-border settlements are made via the NCBs. Accordingly, the German bank records a matching credit (asset) with the Bundesbank.  The Bundesbank has a liability to the German bank. On the Bundesbank’s balance sheet, it generates a matching asset, reflecting the settlement due from the Banca d’Italia. The Banca d’Italia has a liability to the Bundesbank, and a matching asset to the Italian bank acting for the buyer of the Italian bond. The Italian bank has a liability to the Banca d’Italia, matching the debit on the bond buyer’s account, which is extinguishedby the buyer’s payment in settlement. As far as the international seller and the buyer through the Italian market are concerned, settlement has occurred. But the offsetting transfers between the Bundesbank and the Banca d’Italia have not taken place. There have been no settlements between them, and imbalances are the result.  The situation has been worsened by capital flight within the Eurozone, using dodgy collateral originating in the PIGS posted to the relevant national central bank by commercial banks, against cash credits made to commercial banks in the form of repurchase agreements (repos).  There are two reasons for these repo transactions. The first is simple capital flight within the Eurozone, where cash balances gained through repos are deployed to buy bonds and other assets lodged in Germany and Luxembourg. The payments will be in euros but are very likely to be for bonds and other investments not denominated in euros. The second is that in overseeing TARGET2, the ECB has ignored collateral standards as a means of subsidising the PIGS’ financial systems. With the PIGS economies on continuing life support, local bank regulators would be put in an awkward position if they had to decide whether bank loans are performing or non-performing. Because increasing quantities of these loans are undoubtedly non-performing, the solution has been to bundle them up as assets which can be used as collateral for repos through the central banks, so that they get lost in the TARGET2 system. If, say, the Banca d’Italia accepts the collateral it is no longer a concern for the local regulator. The true fragility of the PIGS economies is concealed in this way, the precariousness of commercial bank finances is hidden, and the ECB has achieved a political objective of protecting the PIGS’ economies from collapse. The recent increase in the imbalances, particularly between the Bundesbank and the Banca d’Italia are a warning that the system is breaking down. It was not an obvious problem when the long-term trend for interest rates was declining. But now that they are rising, the situation is radically different. The spread between Germany’s bond yields and those of Italy along with those of the other PIGS is increasingly being deemed by investors to be insufficient to compensate for the enhanced risks in a rising interest rate environment. The consequences could lead to a new crisis for the PIGS as their precarious state finances become undermined. Furthermore, capital flight out of Eurozone investments generally is confirmed by the collapse in the euro’s exchange rate against the US dollar. The Eurozone’s repo market From our analysis of the underlying causes of TARGET2 imbalances, we can see that repos play an important role. For the avoidance of doubt a repo is defined as a transaction agreed between parties to be reversed on pre-agreed terms at a future date. In exchange for posting collateral, a bank receives cash. The other party, in our discussion being a central bank, sees the same transaction as a reverse repo. It is a means of injecting fiat liquidity into the commercial banking system. Repos and reverse repos are not exclusively used between commercial banks and central banks, but they are also undertaken between banks and other financial institutions, sometimes through third parties, including automated trading systems. They can be leveraged to produce enhanced returns, and this is one of the ways in which liability driven investment (LDI) has been used by UK pension funds geared up to seven times. Presumably UK LDIs are an activity mirrored by their Eurozone equivalents, likely to be revealed as interest rates continue to rise. According to the last annual survey by the International Capital Market Association conducted in December 2021, at that time the size of the European repo market (including sterling, dollar, and other currencies conducted in European financial centres) stood at a record of €9,198 billion equivalent.[ii] This was based on responses from a sample of 57 institutions, including banks, so the true size of the market is somewhat larger. Measured by cash currency analysis, the euro share was 56.9% (€5,234bn). Obtaining euro cash through repos is cheap finance, as Figure 2 illustrates, which is of rates earlier this week. It allows European pension and insurance funds to finance geared bond positions through liability driven investment schemes. Which is fine, until the values of the bonds held as collateral fall, and cash calls are then made. This is what blew up the UK gilt market recently and are doing do so again this week as gilt prices fall. This is not a problem restricted to the UK and sterling markets. We can be sure that this situation is ringing alarm bells in the ECB’s headquarters in Frankfurt, as well as in all the major commercial banks around Europe. It has not been a concern so long as interest rates were not rising. Now that they are, with price inflation out of control there’s likely to be an increased reluctance on the part of the banks to novate repo agreements. There are a number of moving parts to this emerging crisis. We can summarise the calamity beginning to overwhelm the Eurozone and the euro system, as follows: Rising interest rates and bond yields are set to implode European repo markets. The LDI crisis which hit London will also afflict euro-denominated bond and repo markets — possibly even before the ink in this article has long dried. Collapsing repos in turn will lead to a failure of the TARGET2 system, because repos are the primary mechanism drivingTARGET2 imbalances. The spreads between German and highly indebted PIGS government bonds are bound to widen dramatically, causing a new funding crisis for ever more highly indebted PIGS on a scale far larger than seen in the past. Commercial banks in the Eurozone will be forced to liquidate their assets and collateral held against loans, including repos, as rapidly as possible. This will collapse Eurozone bond markets, as we saw with the UK gilt market earlier this month. Paper held in other currencies by Eurozone banks will be liquidated as well, spreading the crisis to other markets. The ECB and the euro system, which is already insolvent, is duty bound to intervene heavily to support bond markets and ensure the survival of the whole system. Panglossians might argue that the ECB has successfully managed financial crises in the past, and that to assume they will fail this time is unnecessarily alarmist. But the difference is in the trends for price inflation and interest rates. If the ECB is to have the slightest chance of succeeding in keeping the whole euro system and its allied commercial banking system afloat, it will be at the expense of the currency as it doubles down on suppressing interest rates.  The Bank of Japan is struggling to keep bond yields suppressed Along with the ECB, the Bank of Japan forced negative interest rates upon its financial system in an effort to maintain a targeted 2% inflation rate. And while other jurisdictions see CPI rising at 10% or more, Japan’s CPI is rising at only 3%. There are a number of identifiable reasons why this is so. But the overriding reason is that the Japanese consumer continues to place unshakeable faith in the yen. This means that in the face of higher prices, the average consumer withholds spending, increasing preferences for holding the currency. Even though the yen has fallen by 26% against the dollar, and dollar prices are rising at 8.5%, the growing preference for holding cash yen relative to consumer purchases in domestic markets holds. But this cannot go on for ever. While domestic market conditions remain stable, the US Fed’s more aggressive interest rate policy relative to the BOJ’s tells a different story for the yen on the foreign exchanges. The Bank of Japan first started quantitative easing over twenty years ago and has accumulated a mixture of government bonds (JGBs), corporate bonds, equities through ETFs, and property trusts. On 30 September, their accumulated total had a book value — as distinct from a market value — of over ¥594 trillion ($4.1 trillion). But at ¥545.5 trillion, the JGB element is 92% 0f the total. Since 31 December 2021, the yield on the 10-year JGB (by far the largest component) has risen from 0.17% to 0.25% today. On this basis, the bond portfolio held at that time has lost nearly ¥10 trillion, which compares with the bank’s capital of only ¥100 million. Therefore, the losses on the bond element alone are about 100,000 times greater that the bank’s slender equity. One can see why the BOJ has drawn a line in the sand against market reality. It insists that the 10-year JGB yield must be prevented from rising above 0.25%. Its neo-Keynesian case is that consumer inflation is subdued so the case for reducing stimulation to the economy is a marginal one. But the consequence is that the currency is collapsing. And only yesterday, the rate to the US dollar began to slide again. This is shown in Figure 3 — note that a rising number represents a weakening yen. Despite the mess that Japan’s Keynesian policies has created, it is difficult to see the BOJ changing course willingly. But the crisis for it will surely come if one or more of its three G-SIBs needs supporting. And it should be noted (See Table 1) that all three of them have balance sheet gearing measured by assets to shareholders equity of over twenty times, with Mizuho as much as 26 times, and they all have price to book ratios less than 50%. The Fed’s position The position of America’s Federal Reserve Board is starkly different from those of the other major central banks. True, it has substantial losses on its bond portfolio. In its Combined Quarterly Financial Report for June 30, 2022, the Fed disclosed the change in unrealised cumulative gains and losses on its Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities of $847,797 million loss (versus June 30 2021, $185,640m loss).[iii] The Fed reports these assets in its balance sheet at amortised cost, so the losses are not immediately apparent. But on 30 June, the five-year note was yielding 2.7% and the ten-year 2.97%. Currently, they yield 4.16% and 3.95% respectively. Even without recalculating today’s market values, it is clear that the current deficit is now considerably more than a trillion dollars. And the Fed’s capital and reserves stand at only $46.274 billion, with portfolio losses exceding 25 times that figure. Other than losses from rising bond yields, instead of pushing liquidity into markets it is withdrawing it through reverse repos. In this case, the Fed is swapping some of the bonds on its balance sheet for cash on pre-agreed, temporary terms. Officially, this is part of the Fed’s management of overnight interest rates. But with the reverse repo facility standing at over $2 trillion, this is far from a marginal rate setting activity. It probably has more to do with Basel 3 regulations which penalise large bank deposits relative to smaller deposits, and a lack of balance sheet capacity at the large US banks. Repos, as opposed to reverse repos, still take place between individual banks and their institutional customers, but it is not obvious that they pose a systemic risk, though some large pension funds may have been using them for LDI transactions, similarly to the UK pension industry. While highly geared compared with in the past, US G-SIBs are not nearly as much exposed to a general credit downturn as the Europeans, Japanese, and the British. Contracting bank credit will hurt them, but other G-SIBs are bound to fail first, transmitting systemic risk through counterparty relationships. Nevertheless, markets do recognise some risk, with price-to-book ratios of less than 0.9 for Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, State Street, and BONY-Mellon. JPMorgan Chase, which is the Fed’s principal policy conduit into the commercial banking system, is barely rated above book value. Bank of England — bad policies but some smart operators In the headlights of an oncoming gilt market crash, the Bank of England acted promptly to avert a crisis centred on pension fund liability driven investment involving interest rate swaps. The workings of interest rate swaps have already been described, but repos also played a role. It might be helpful to explain briefly how repos are used in the LDI context. A pension fund goes to a shadow bank specialising in LDI schemes, with access to the repo market. In return for a deposit of say, 20% cash, the LDI scheme provider buys the full amount of medium and long-dated gilts to be held in the LDI scheme, using them as collateral backing for a repo to secure the funding for the other 80%. The repo can be for any duration from overnight to a year.  One year ago, when the Bank of England suppressed its bank rate at zero percent, one-month sterling LIBOR was close to 0.4% percent to borrow, while the yield on the 20-year gilt was 1.07%. Ignoring costs, a five-times leverage gave an interest rate turn of 0.63% X 5 = 3.15%, nearly three times the rate obtained by simply buying a 20-year gilt. Today, the yield differential has improved, leading to even higher net returns. But the problem is that the rise in yield for the 20-year gilt to 4.9% means that the price has fallen from a notional 100 par to 49.95. Since this is the collateral for the cash obtained through the repo, the pension fund faces margin calls amounting to roughly 2.5 times the original investment in the LDI scheme. And all the pension funds using LDI schemes faced calls at the same time, which crashed the gilt market. This is why the BOE had to act quickly to stabilise prices. Very sensibly, it has given pension funds and the LDI providers until this Friday to sort themselves out. Until then, the BOE stands prepared to buy any long-dated gilts until tomorrow (Friday, 14 October). It should remove the selling pressure from LDI-related liquidation entirely and orderly market conditions can then resume. This experience serves as an example of how rising bond yields can wreak havoc in repo markets, and with interest rate swaps as well. That being the case, problems are bound to arise in other currency derivative markets as bond yields continue to rise. Like the other major central banks, the BOE has seen a substantial deficit arise on its portfolio of gilts. But at the outset of QE, it got the Treasury to agree that as well as receiving the dividends and profits from gilts so acquired, it would also take any losses. All gilts bought under the QE programmes are held in a special purpose vehicle on the Bank’s balance sheet, guaranteed by the Treasury and therefore valued at cost. Conclusions In this article I have put to one side all the economic concerns of a downturn in the quantities of bank credit in circulation and focused on the financial consequences of a new long-term trend of rising interest rates. It should be coming clear that they threaten to undermine the entire fiat currency financial system. Credit Suisse’s public problems should be considered in this context. That they have not arisen before was due to the successful suppression of interest rates and bond yields, while the quantities of currency and bank credit have expanded substantially without apparent ill effects. Those ill effects are now impacting financial markets by undermining the purchasing power of all fiat currencies at an accelerating rate. From being completely in control of interest rates and fixed interest markets, central banks are now struggling in a losing battle to retain that control from the consequences of their earlier credit expansion. That enemy of every state, the market, has central banks on the run, uncertain as to whether their currencies should be protected (this is the Fed’s current decision and probably a dithering BOE) or a precarious financial system must be the priority (this is the ECB and BOJ’s current position). But one thing is clear: with CPI measures rising at a 10% clip, interest rates and bond yields will continue to rise until something breaks. So far, commercial banks are dumping financial assets to deleverage their balance sheets. The effects on listed securities are in plain sight. What is less appreciated, at least before LDI schemes threatened to collapse the UK’s gilt market, is that the $600 trillion OTC derivative market which grew on the back of a long-term trend of declining interest rates is now set to shrink as contracts go sour and banks refuse to novate them. That means that up to $600 trillion of notional credit is set to vanish, in what we might call the Great Unwind. This downturn in the cycle of bank credit boom and bust will prove difficult enough for the central banks to manage. But they themselves have balance sheet issues, which can only be resolved, one way or another, by the rapid expansion of base money. And that risks undermining all public credibility in fiat currencies. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/14/2022 - 19:40.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 14th, 2022

The Failure Of Fiat Currencies & The Implications For Gold & Silver

The Failure Of Fiat Currencies & The Implications For Gold & Silver Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, This is the background text of my Keynote Speech given yesterday to European Gold Forum yesterday, 13 April. To explain why fiat currencies are failing I started by defining money. I then described the relationship between fiat money and its purchasing power, the role of bank credit, and the interests of central banks. Undoubtedly, the recent sanctions over Russia will have a catastrophic effect for financialised currencies, possibly leading to the end of fifty-one years of the dollar regime. Russia and China plan to escape this fate for the rouble and yuan by tying their currencies to commodities and production instead of collapsing financial assets. The only way for those of us in the West to protect ourselves is with physical gold, which over time is tied to commodity and energy prices. What is money? To understand why all fiat currency systems fail, we must start by understanding what money is, and how it differs from other forms of currency and credit. These are long-standing relationships which transcend our times and have their origin in Roman law and the practice of medieval merchants who evolved a lex mercatoria, which extended money’s legal status to instruments that evolved out of money, such as bills of exchange, cheques, and other securities for money. And while as circulating media, historically currencies have been almost indistinguishable from money proper, in the last century issuers of currencies split them off from money so that they have become pure fiat. At the end of the day, what constitutes money has always been determined by its users as the means of exchanging their production for consumption in an economy based on the division of labour. Money is the bridge between the two, and while over the millennia different media of exchange have come and gone, only metallic money has survived to be trusted. These are principally gold, silver, and copper. Today the term usually refers to gold, which is still in government reserves, as the only asset with no counterparty risk. Silver, which as a monetary asset declined in importance as money after Germany moved to a gold standard following the Franco-Prussian war, remains a monetary metal, though with a gold to silver ratio currently over 70 times, it is not priced as such. For historical reasons, the world’s monetary system evolved based on English law. Britain, or more accurately England and Wales, still respects Roman, or natural law with respect to money. To this day, gold sovereign coins are legal tender. Strictly speaking, metallic gold and silver are themselves credit, representing yet-to-be-spent production. But uniquely, they are no one’s liability, unlike banknotes and bank deposits. Metallic money therefore has this exceptional status, and that fact alone means that it tends not to circulate, in accordance with Gresham’s Law, so long as lesser forms of credit are available. Money shares with its currency and credit substitutes a unique position in criminal law. If a thief steals money, he can be apprehended and charged with theft along with any accomplices. But if he passes the money on to another party who receives it in good faith and is not aware that it is stolen, the original owner has no recourse against the innocent receiver, or against anyone else who subsequently comes into possession of the money. It is quite unlike any other form of property, which despite passing into innocent hands, remains the property of the original owner. In law, cryptocurrencies and the mooted central bank digital currencies are not money, money-substitutes, or currencies. Given that a previous owner of stolen bitcoin sold on to a buyer unaware it was criminally obtained can subsequently claim it, there is no clear title without full provenance. In accordance with property law, the United States has ruled that cryptocurrencies are property, reclaimable as stolen items, differentiating cryptocurrencies from money and currency proper. And we can expect similar rulings in other jurisdictions to exclude cryptocurrencies from the legal status as money, whereas the position of CBDCs in this regard has yet to be clarified. We can therefore nail to the floor any claims that bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency can possibly have the legal status required of money. Under a proper gold standard, currency in the form of banknotes in public circulation was freely exchangeable for gold coin. So long as they were freely exchangeable, banknotes took on the exchange value of gold, allowing for the credit standing of the issuer. One of the issues Sir Isaac Newton considered as Master of the Royal Mint was to what degree of backing a currency required to retain credibility as a gold substitute. He concluded that that level should be 40%, though Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist who was as sound a sound money economist as it was possible to be appeared to be less prescriptive on the subject. The effect of a working gold standard is to ensure that money of the people’s choice is properly represented in the monetary system. Both currency and credit become bound to its virtues. The general level of prices will fluctuate influenced by changes in the quantity of currency and credit in circulation, but the discipline of the limits of credit and currency creation brings prices back to a norm. This discipline is disliked by governments who believe that money is the responsibility of a government acting in the interests of the people, and not of the people themselves. This was expressed in Georg Knapp’s State Theory of Money, published in 1905 and became Germany’s justification for paying for armaments by inflationary means ahead of the First World War, and continuing to use currency debasement as the principal means of government finance until the paper mark collapsed in 1923. Through an evolutionary process, modern governments first eroded then took away from the public for itself the determination of what constitutes money. The removal of all discipline of the gold standard has allowed governments to inflate the quantities of currency and credit as a means of transferring the public wealth to itself. As a broad representation of this dilution, Figure 1 shows the growth of broad dollar currency since the last vestige of a gold standard under the Bretton Woods Agreement was suspended by President Nixon in August 1971. From that date, currency and bank credit have increased from $685 billion to $21.84 trillion, that is thirty-two times. And this excludes an unknown increase in the quantity of dollars not in the US financial system, commonly referred to as Eurodollars, which perhaps account for several trillion more. Gold priced in fiat dollars has risen from $35 when Bretton Woods was suspended, to $1970 currently. A better way of expressing this debasement of the dollar is to say that priced in gold, the dollar has lost 98.3% of its purchasing power (see Figure 4 later in this article). While it is a mistake to think of the relationship between the quantity of currency and credit in circulation and the purchasing power of the dollar as linear (as monetarists claim), not only has the rate of debasement accelerated in recent years, but it has become impossible for the destruction of purchasing power to be stopped. That would require governments reneging on mandated welfare commitments and for them to stand back from economic intervention. It would require them to accept that the economy is not the government’s business, but that of those who produce goods and services for the benefit of others. The state’s economic role would have to be minimised. This is not just a capitalistic plea. It has been confirmed as true countless times through history. Capitalistic nations always do better at creating personal wealth than socialistic ones. This is why the Berlin Wall was demolished by angry crowds, finally driven to do so by the failure of communism relative to capitalism just a stone’s throw away. The relative performance of Hong Kong compared with China when Mao Zedong was starving his masses on some sort of revolutionary whim, also showed how the same ethnicity performed under socialism compared with free markets. The relationship between fiat currency and its purchasing power One can see from the increase in the quantity of US dollar M3 currency and credit and the fall in the purchasing power measured against gold that the government’s monetary statistic does not square with the market. Part of the reason is that government statistics do not capture all the credit in an economy (only bank credit issued by licenced banks is recorded), dollars created outside the system such as Eurodollars are additional, and market prices fluctuate. Monetarists make little or no allowance for these factors, claiming that the purchasing power of a currency is inversely proportional to its quantity. While there is much truth in this statement, it is only suited for a proper gold-backed currency, when one community’s relative valuations between currency and goods are brought into line with the those of its neighbours through arbitrage, neutralising any subjectivity of valuation. The classical representation of the monetary theory of prices does not apply in conditions whereby faith in an unbacked currency is paramount in deciding its utility. A population which loses faith in its government’s currency can reject it entirely despite changes in its circulating quantity. This is what wipes out all fiat currencies eventually, ensuring that if a currency is to survive it must eventually return to a credible gold exchange standard. The weakness of a fiat currency was famously demonstrated in Europe in the 1920s when the Austrian crown and German paper mark were destroyed. Following the Second World War, the Japanese military yen suffered the same fate in Hong Kong, and Germany’s mark for a second time in the mid 1940s. More recently, the Zimbabwean dollar and Venezuelan bolivar have sunk to their value as wastepaper — and they are not the only ones. Ultimately it is the public which always determines the use value of a circulating medium. Figure 2 below, of the oil price measured in goldgrams, dollars, pounds, and euros shows that between 1950 and 1974 a gold standard even in the incomplete form that existed under the Bretton Woods Agreement coincided with price stability. It took just a few years from the ending of Bretton Woods for the consequences of the loss of a gold anchor to materialise. Until then, oil suppliers, principally Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, had faith in the dollar and other currencies. It was only when they realised the implications of being paid in pure fiat that they insisted on compensation for currency debasement. That they were free to raise oil prices was the condition upon which the Saudis and the rest of OPEC accepted payment solely in US dollars. In the post-war years between 1950 and 1970, US broad money grew by 167%, yet the dollar price of oil was unchanged for all that time. Similar price stability was shown in other commodities, clearly demonstrating that the quantity of currency and credit in circulation was not the sole determinant of the dollar’s purchasing power. The role of bank credit While the relationship between bank credit and the sum of the quantity of currency and bank reserves varies, the larger quantity by far is the quantity of bank credit. The behaviour of the banking cohort therefore has the largest impact on the overall quantity of credit in the economy. Under the British gold standard of the nineteenth century, the fluctuations in the willingness of banks to lend resulted in periodic booms and slumps, so it is worthwhile examining this phenomenon, which has become the excuse for state intervention in financial markets and ultimately the abandonment of gold standards entirely. Banks are dealers in credit, lending at a higher rate of interest than they pay to depositors. They do not deploy their own money, except in a general balance sheet sense. A bank’s own capital is the basis upon which a bank can expand its credit. The process of credit creation is widely misunderstood but is essentially simple. If a bank agrees to lend money to a borrowing customer, the loan appears as an asset on the bank’s balance sheet. Through the process of double entry bookkeeping, this loan must immediately have a balancing entry, crediting the borrower’s current account. The customer is informed that the loan is agreed, and he can draw down the funds credited to his current account from that moment. No other bank, nor any other source of funding is involved. With merely two ledger entries the bank’s balance sheet has expanded by the amount of the loan. For a banker, the ability to create bank credit in this way is, so long as the lending is prudent, an extremely profitable business. The amount of credit outstanding can be many multiples of the bank’s own capital. So, if a bank’s ratio of balance sheet assets to equity is eight times, and the gross margin between lending and deposits is 3%, then that becomes a gross return of 24% on the bank’s own equity. The restriction on a bank’s balance sheet leverage comes from two considerations. There is lending risk itself, which will vary with economic conditions, and depositor risk, which is the depositors’ collective faith in the bank’s financial condition. Depositor risk, which can lead to depositors withdrawing their credit in the bank in favour of currency or a deposit with another bank, can in turn originate from a bank offering an interest rate below that of other banks, or alternatively depositors concerned about the soundness of the bank itself. It is the combination of lending and depositor risk that determines a banker’s view on the maximum level of profits that can be safely earned by dealing in credit. An expansion in the quantity of credit in an economy stimulates economic activity because businesses are tricked into thinking that the extra money available is due to improved trading conditions. Furthermore, the apparent improvement in trading conditions encourages bankers to increase lending even further. A virtuous cycle of lending and apparent economic improvement gets under way as the banking cohort takes its average balance sheet assets to equity ratio from, say, five to eight times, to perhaps ten or twelve. Competition for credit business then persuades banks to cut their margins to attract new business customers. Customers end up borrowing for borrowing’s sake, initiating investment projects which would not normally be profitable. Even under a gold standard lending exuberance begins to drive up prices. Businesses find that their costs begin to rise, eating into their profits. Keeping a close eye on lending risk, bankers are acutely aware of deteriorating profit prospects for their borrowers and therefore of an increasing lending risk. They then try to reduce their asset to equity ratios. As a cohort whose members are driven by the same considerations, banks begin to withdraw credit from the economy, reversing the earlier stimulus and the economy enters a slump. This is a simplistic description of a regular cycle of fluctuating bank credit, which historically varied approximately every ten years or so, but could fluctuate between seven and twelve. Figure 3 illustrates how these fluctuations were reflected in the inflation rate in nineteenth century Britain following the introduction of the sovereign gold coin until just before the First World War. Besides illustrating the regularity of the consequences of a cycle of bank credit expansion and contraction marked by the inflationary consequences, Figure 3 shows there is no correlation between the rate of price inflation and wholesale borrowing costs. In other words, modern central bank monetary policies which use interest rates to control inflation are misconstrued. The effect was known and named Gibson’s paradox by Keynes. But because there was no explanation for it in Keynesian economics, it has been ignored ever since. Believing that Gibson’s paradox could be ignored is central to central bank policies aimed at taming the cycle of price inflation. The interests of central banks Notionally, central banks’ primary interest is to intervene in the economy to promote maximum employment consistent with moderate price inflation, targeted at 2% measured by the consumer price index. It is a policy aimed at stimulating the economy but not overstimulating it. We shall return to the fallacies involved in a moment. In the second half of the nineteenth century, central bank intervention started with the Bank of England assuming for itself the role of lender of last resort in the interests of ensuring economically destabilising bank crises were prevented. Intervention in the form of buying commercial bank credit stopped there, with no further interest rate manipulation or economic intervention. The last true slump in America was in 1920-21. As it had always done in the past the government ignored it in the sense that no intervention or economic stimulus were provided, and the recovery was rapid. It was following that slump that the problems started in the form of a new federal banking system led by Benjamin Strong who firmly believed in monetary stimulation. The Roaring Twenties followed on a sea of expanding credit, which led to a stock market boom — a financial bubble. But it was little more than an exaggerated cycle of bank credit expansion, which when it ended collapsed Wall Street with stock prices falling 89% measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Index. Coupled with the boom in agricultural production exaggerated by mechanisation, the depression that followed was particularly hard on the large agricultural sector, undermining agriculture prices worldwide until the Second World War. It is a fact ignored by inflationists that first President Herbert Hoover, and then Franklin Roosevelt extended the depression to the longest on record by trying to stop it. They supported prices, which meant products went unsold. And at the very beginning, by enacting the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act they collapsed not only domestic demand but all domestic production that relied on imported raw materials and semi-manufactured products. These disastrous policies were supported by a new breed of economist epitomised by Keynes, who believed that capitalism was flawed and required government intervention. But proto-Keynesian attempts to stimulate the American economy out of the depression continually failed. As late as 1940, eleven years after the Wall Street Crash, US unemployment was still as high as 15%. What the economists in the Keynesian camp ignored was the true cause of the Wall Street crash and the subsequent depression, rooted in the credit inflation which drove the Roaring Twenties. As we saw in Figure 3, it was no more than the turning of the long-established repeating cycle of bank credit, this time fuelled additionally by Benjamin Strong’s inflationary credit expansion as Chairman of the new Fed. The cause of the depression was not private enterprise, but government intervention. It is still misread by the establishment to this day, with universities pushing Keynesianism to the exclusion of classic economics and common sense. Additionally, the statistics which have become a religion for policymakers and everyone else are corrupted by state interests. Soon after wages and pensions were indexed in 1980, government statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics began working on how to reduce the impact on consumer prices. An independent estimate of US consumer inflation put it at well over 15% recently, when the official rate was 8%. Particularly egregious is the state’s insistence that a target of 2% inflation for consumer prices stimulates demand, when the transfer of wealth suffered by savers, the low paid and pensioners deprived of their inflation compensation at the hands of the BLS is glossed over. So is the benefit to the government, the banks, and their favoured borrowers from this wealth transfer. The problem we now face in this fiat money environment is not only that monetary policy has become corrupted by the state’s self-interest, but that no one in charge of it appears to understand money and credit. Technically, they may be very well qualified. But it is now over fifty years since money was suspended from the monetary system. Not only have policymakers ignored indicators such as Gibson’s paradox. Not only do they believe their own statistics. And not only do they think that debasing the currency is a good thing, but we find that monetary policy committees would have us believe that money has nothing to do with rising prices. All this is facilitated by presenting inflation as rising prices, when in fact it is declining purchasing power. Figure 4 shows how purchasing power of currencies should be read. Only now, it seems, we are aware that inflation of prices is not transient. Referring to Figure 1, the M3 broad money supply measure has almost tripled since Lehman failed, so there’s plenty of fuel driving a lower purchasing power for the dollar yet. And as discussed above, it is not just quantities of currency and credit we should be watching, but changes in consumer behaviour and whether consumers tend to dispose of currency liquidity in favour of goods. The indications are that this is likely to happen, accelerated by sanctions against Russia, and the threat that they will bring in a new currency era, undermining the dollar’s global status. Alerted to higher prices in the coming months, there is no doubt that there is an increased level of consumer stockpiling, which put another way is the disposal of personal liquidity before it buys less. So far, the phases of currency evolution have been marked by the end of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971. The start of the petrodollar era in 1973 led to a second phase, the financialisation of the global economy. And finally, from now the return to a commodity standard brought about by sanctions against Russia is driving prices in the Western alliance’s currencies higher, which means their purchasing power is falling anew. The faux pas over Russia With respect to the evolution of money and credit, this brings us up to date with current events. Before Russia invaded Ukraine and the Western alliance imposed sanctions on Russia, we were already seeing prices soaring, fuelled by the expansion of currency and credit in recent years. Monetary planners blamed supply chain problems and covid dislocations, both of which they believed would right themselves over time. But the extent of these price rises had already exceeded their expectations, and the sanctions against Russia have made the situation even worse. While America might feel some comfort that the security of its energy supplies is unaffected, that is not the case for Europe. In recent years Europe has been closing its fossil fuel production and Germany’s zeal to go green has even extended to decommissioning nuclear plants. It seems that going fossil-free is only within national borders, increasing reliance on imported oil, gas, and coal. In Europe’s case, the largest source of these imports by far is Russia. Russia has responded by the Russian central bank announcing that it is prepared to buy gold from domestic credit institutions, first at a fixed price or 5,000 roubles per gramme, and then when the rouble unexpectedly strengthened at a price to be agreed on a case-by-case basis. The signal is clear: the Russian central bank understands that gold plays an important role in price stability. At the same time, the Kremlin announced that it would only sell oil and gas to unfriendly nations (i.e. those imposing sanctions) in return for payments in roubles. The latter announcement was targeted primarily at EU nations and amounts to an offer at reasonable prices in roubles, or for them to bid up for supplies in euros or dollars from elsewhere. While the price of oil shot up and has since retreated by a third, natural gas prices are still close to their all-time highs. Despite the northern hemisphere emerging from spring the cost of energy seems set to continue to rise. The effect on the Eurozone economies is little short of catastrophic. While the rouble has now recovered all the fall following the sanctions announcement, the euro is becoming a disaster. The ECB still has a negative deposit rate and enormous losses on its extensive bond portfolio from rapidly rising yields. The national central banks, which are its shareholders also have losses which in nearly all cases wipes out their equity (balance sheet equity being defined as the difference between a bank’s assets and its liabilities — a difference which should always be positive). Furthermore, these central banks as the NCB’s shareholders make a recapitalisation of the whole euro system a complex event, likely to question faith in the euro system. As if that was not enough, the large commercial banks are extremely highly leveraged, averaging over 20 times with Credit Agricole about 30 times. The whole system is riddled with bad and doubtful debts, many of which are concealed within the TARGET2 cross-border settlement system. We cannot believe any banking statistics. Unlike the US, Eurozone banks have used the repo markets as a source of zero cost liquidity, driving the market size to over €10 trillion. The sheer size of this market, plus the reliance on bond investment for a significant proportion of commercial bank assets means that an increase in interest rates into positive territory risks destabilising the whole system. The ECB is sitting on interest rates to stop them rising and stands ready to buy yet more members’ government bonds to stop yields rising even more. But even Germany, which is the most conservative of the member states, faces enormous price pressures, with producer prices of industrial products officially increasing by 25.9% in the year to March, 68% for energy, and 21% for intermediate goods. There can be no doubt that markets will apply increasing pressure for substantial rises in Eurozone bond yields, made significantly worse by US sanctions policies against Russia. As an importer of commodities and raw materials Japan is similarly afflicted. Both currencies are illustrated in Figure 5. The yen appears to be in the most immediate danger with its collapse accelerating in recent weeks, but as both the Bank of Japan and the ECB continue to resist rising bond yields, their currencies will suffer even more. The Bank of Japan has been indulging in quantitative easing since 2000 and has accumulated substantial quantities of government and corporate bonds and even equities in ETFs. Already, the BOJ is in negative equity due to falling bond prices. To prevent its balance sheet from deteriorating even further, it has drawn a line in the sand: the yield on the 10-year JGB will not be permitted to rise above 0.25%. With commodity and energy prices soaring, it appears to be only a matter of time before the BOJ is forced to give way, triggering a banking crisis in its highly leveraged commercial banking sector which like the Eurozone has asset to equity ratios exceeding 20 times. It would appear therefore that the emerging order of events with respect to currency crises is the yen collapses followed in short order by the euro. The shock to the US banking system must be obvious. That the US banks are considerably less geared than their Japanese and euro system counterparts will not save them from global systemic risk contamination. Furthermore, with its large holdings of US Treasuries and agency debt, current plans to run them off simply exposes the Fed to losses, which will almost certainly require its recapitalisation. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury Bond is soaring and given the consequences of sanctions on global commodity prices, it has much further to go. The end of the financial regime for currencies From London’s big bang in the mid-eighties, the major currencies, particularly the US dollar and sterling became increasingly financialised. It occurred at a time when production of consumer goods migrated to Asia, particularly China. The entire focus of bank lending and loan collateral moved towards financial assets and away from production. And as interest rates declined, in general terms these assets improved in value, offering greater security to lenders, and reinforcing the trend. This is now changing, with interest rates set to rise significantly, bursting a financial bubble which has been inflating for decades. While bond yields have started to rise, there is further for them to go, undermining not just the collateral position, but government finances as well. And further rises in bond yields will turn equity markets into bear markets, potentially rivalling the 1929-1932 performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Index. That being the case, the collapse already underway in the yen and the euro will begin to undermine the dollar, not on the foreign exchanges, but in terms of its purchasing power. We can be reasonably certain that the Fed’s mandate will give preference to supporting asset prices over stabilising the currency, until it is too late. China and Russia appear to be deliberately isolating themselves from this fate for their own currencies by increasing the importance of commodities. It was noticeable how China began to aggressively accumulate commodities, including grain stocks, almost immediately after the Fed cut its funds rate to zero and instituted QE at $120 billion per month in March 2020. This sent a signal that the Chinese leadership were and still are fully aware of the inflationary implications of US monetary policy. Today China has stockpiled well over half the world’s maize, rice, wheat and soybean stocks, securing basics foodstuffs for 20% of the world’s population. As a subsequent development, the war in Ukraine has ensured that global grain supplies this year will be short, and sanctions against Russia have effectively cut off her exports from the unfriendly nations. Together with fertiliser shortages for the same reasons, not only will the world’s crop yields fall below last year’s, but grain prices are sure to be bid up against the poorer nations. Russia has effectively tied the rouble to energy prices by insisting roubles are used for payment, principally by the EU. Russia’s other two large markets are China and India, from which she is accepting yuan and rupees respectively. Putting sales to India to one side, Russia is not only commoditising the rouble, but her largest trading partner not just for energy but for all her other commodity exports is China. And China is following similar monetary policies. There are good reasons for it. The Western alliance is undermining their own currencies, of that there can be no question. Financial asset values will collapse as interest rates rise. Contrastingly, not only is Russia’s trade surplus increasing, but the central bank has begun to ease interest rates and exchange controls and will continue to liberate her economy against a background of a strong currency. The era of the commodity backed currency is arriving to replace the financialised. And lastly, we should refer to Figure 2, of the price of oil in goldgrams. The link to commodity prices is gold. It is time to abandon financial assets for their supposed investment returns and take a stake in the new commoditised currencies. Gold is the link. Business of all sorts, not just mining enterprises which accumulate cash surpluses, would be well advised to question whether they should retain deposits in the banks, or alternatively, gain the protection of possessing some gold bullion vaulted independently from the banking system. Tyler Durden Fri, 04/15/2022 - 15:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 15th, 2022

The Commodity-Currency Revolution Begins...

The Commodity-Currency Revolution Begins... Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, We will look back at current events and realise that they marked the change from a dollar-based global economy underwritten by financial assets to commodity-backed currencies. We face a change from collateral being purely financial in nature to becoming commodity based. It is collateral that underwrites the whole financial system. The ending of the financially based system is being hastened by geopolitical developments. The West is desperately trying to sanction Russia into economic submission, but is only succeeding in driving up energy, commodity, and food prices against itself. Central banks will have no option but to inflate their currencies to pay for it all. Russia is linking the rouble to commodity prices through a moving gold peg instead, and China has already demonstrated an understanding of the West’s inflationary game by having stockpiled commodities and essential grains for the last two years and allowed her currency to rise against the dollar. China and Russia are not going down the path of the West’s inflating currencies. Instead, they are moving towards a sounder money strategy with the prospect of stable interest rates and prices while the West accelerates in the opposite direction. The Credit Suisse analyst, Zoltan Pozsar, calls it Bretton Woods III. This article looks at how it is likely to play out, concluding that the dollar and Western currencies, not the rouble, will have the greatest difficulty dealing with the end of fifty years of economic financialisation. Pure finance is being replaced with commodity finance It hasn’t hit the main-stream media yet, which is still reporting yesterday’s battle. But in March, the US Administration passed a death sentence on its own hegemony in a last desperate throw of the dollar dice. Not only did it misread the Russian situation with respect to its economy, but America mistakenly believed in its own power by sanctioning Russia and Putin’s oligarchs. It may have achieved a partial blockade on Russia’s export volumes, but compensation has come from higher unit prices, benefiting Russia, and costing the Western alliance. The consequence is a final battle in the financial war which has been brewing for decades. You do not sanction the world’s most important source of energy exports and the marginal supplier of a wide range of commodities and raw materials, including grains and fertilisers, without damaging everyone but the intended target. Worse still, the intended target has in China an extremely powerful friend, with which Russia is a partner in the world’s largest economic bloc — the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — commanding a developing market of over 40% of the world’s population. That is the future, not the past: the past is Western wokery, punitive taxation, economies dominated by the state and its bureaucracy, anti-capitalistic socialism, and magic money trees to help pay for it all. Despite this enormous hole in the sanctions net, the West has given itself no political option but to attempt to tighten sanctions even more. But Russia’s response is devastating for the western financial system. In two simple announcements, tying the rouble to gold for domestic credit institutions and insisting that payments for energy will only be accepted in roubles, it is calling an end to the fiat dollar era that has ruled the world from the suspension of Bretton Woods in 1971 to today. Just over five decades ago, the dollar took over the role for itself as the global reserve asset from gold. After the seventies, which was a decade of currency, interest rate, and financial asset volatility, we all settled down into a world of increasing financialisation. London’s big bang in the early 1980s paved the way for regulated derivatives and the 1990s saw the rise of hedge funds and dotcoms. That was followed by an explosion in over-the-counter unregulated derivatives into the hundreds of trillions and securitisations which hit the speed-bump of the Lehman failure. Since then, the expansion of global credit for purely financial activities has been remarkable creating a financial asset bubble to rival anything seen in the history of financial excesses. And together with statistical suppression of the effect on consumer prices the switch of economic resources from Main Street to Wall Street has hidden the inflationary evidence of credit expansion from the public’s gaze. All that is coming to an end with a new commoditisation — what respected flows analyst Zoltan Pozsar at Credit Suisse calls Bretton Woods III. In his enumeration the first was suspended by President Nixon in 1971, and the second ran from then until now when the dollar has ruled indisputably. That brings us to Bretton Woods III. Russia’s insistence that importers of its energy pay in roubles and not in dollars or euros is a significant development, a direct challenge to the dollar’s role. There are no options for Russia’s “unfriendlies”, Russia’s description for the alliance united against it. The EU, which is the largest importer of Russian natural gas, either bites the bullet or scrambles for insufficient alternatives. The option is to buy natural gas and oil at reasonable rouble prices or drive prices up in euros and still not get enough to keep their economies going and the citizens warm and mobile. Either way, it seems Russia wins, and one way the EU loses. As to Pozsar’s belief that we are on the verge of Bretton Woods III, one can see the logic of his argument. The highly inflated financial bubble marks the end of an era, fifty years in the making. Negative interest rates in the EU and Japan are not just an anomaly, but the last throw of the dice for the yen and the euro. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have bond portfolios which have wiped out their equity, and then some. All Western central banks which have indulged in QE have the same problem. Contrastingly, the Russian central bank and the Peoples Bank of China have not conducted any QE and have clean balance sheets. Rising interest rates in Western currencies are made more certain and their height even greater by Russia’s aggressive response to Western sanctions. It hastens the bankruptcy of the entire Western banking system and by bursting the highly inflated financial bubble will leave little more than hollowed-out economies. Putin has taken as his model the 1973 Nixon/Kissinger agreement with the Saudis to only accept US dollars in payment for oil, and to use its dominant role in OPEC to force other members to follow suit. As the World’s largest energy exporter Russia now says she will only accept roubles, repeating for the rouble the petrodollar strategy. And even Saudi Arabia is now bending with the wind and accepting China’s renminbi for its oil, calling symbolic time on the Nixon/Kissinger petrodollar agreement. The West, by which we mean America, the EU, Britain, Japan, South Korea, and a few others have set themselves up to be the fall guys. That statement barely describes the strategic stupidity — an Ignoble Award is closer to the truth. By phasing out fossil fuels before they could be replaced entirely with green energy sources, an enormous shortfall in energy supplies has arisen. With an almost religious zeal, Germany has been cutting out nuclear generation. And even as recently as last month it still ruled out extending the lifespan of its nuclear facilities. The entire G7 membership were not only unprepared for Russia turning the tables on its members, but so far, they have yet to come up with an adequate response. Russia has effectively commoditised its currency, particularly for energy, gold, and food. It is following China down a similar path. In doing so it has undermined the dollar’s hegemony, perhaps fatally. As the driving force behind currency values, commodities will be the collateral replacing financial assets. It is interesting to observe the strength in the Mexican peso against the dollar (up 9.7% since November 2021) and the Brazilian real (up 21% over a year) And even the South African rand has risen by 11% in the last five months. That these flaky currencies are rising tells us that resource backing for currencies has its attractions beyond the rouble and renminbi. But having turned their backs on gold, the Americans and their Western epigones lack an adequate response. If anything, they are likely to continue the fight for dollar hegemony rather than accept reality. And the more America struggles to assert its authority, the greater the likelihood of a split in the Western partnership. Europe needs Russian energy desperately, and America does not. Europe cannot afford to support American policy unconditionally. That, of course, is Russia’s bet. Russia’s point of view For the second time in eight years, Russia has seen its currency undermined by Western action over Ukraine. Having experienced it in 2014, this time the Russian central bank was better prepared. It had diversified out of dollars adding official gold reserves. The commercial banking system was overhauled, and the Governor of the RCB, Elvira Nabiullina, by following classical monetary policies instead of the Keynesianism of her Western contempories, has contained the fall-out from the war in Ukraine. As Figure 1 shows, the rouble halved against the dollar in a knee-jerk reaction before recovering to pre-war levels. The link to commodities is gold, and the RCB announced that until end-June it stands ready to buy gold from Russian banks at 5,000 roubles per gramme. The stated purpose was to allow banks to lend against mine production, given that Russian-sourced gold is included in the sanctions. But the move has encouraged speculation that the rouble is going on a quasi- gold standard; never mind that a gold standard works the other way round with users of the currency able to exchange it for gold. Besides being with silver the international legal definition of money (the rest being currency and credit), gold is a good proxy for commodities, as shown in Figure 2 below. Priced in goldgrams, crude oil today is 30% below where it was in the 1950, long before Nixon suspended the Bretton Woods Agreement. Meanwhile, measured in depreciating fiat currencies the price has soared and been extremely volatile along the way. It is a similar story for other commodity prices, whereby maximum stability is to be found in prices measured in goldgrams. Taking up Pozsar’s point about currencies being increasingly linked to commodities in Bretton Woods III, it appears that Russia intends to use gold as proxy for commodities to stabilise the rouble. Instead of a fixed gold exchange rate, the RCB has wisely left itself the option to periodically revise the price it will pay for gold after 1 July. Table 1 shows how the RCB’s current fixed rouble gold exchange rate translates into US dollars. While non-Russian credit institutions do not have access to the facility, it appears that there is nothing to stop a Russian bank buying gold in another centre, such as Dubai, to sell to the Russian central bank for roubles. All that is needed is for the dollar/rouble rate to be favourable for the arbitrage and the ability to settle in a non-sanctioned currency, such as renminbi, or to have access to Eurodollars which it can exchange for Euroroubles (see below) from a bank outside the “unfriendlies” jurisdictions. The dollar/rouble rate can now easily be controlled by the RCB, because how demand for roubles in short supply is handled becomes a matter of policy. Gazprom’s payment arm (Gazprombank) is currently excused the West’s sanctions and EU gas and oil payments will be channelled through it. Broadly, there are four ways in which a Western consumer can acquire roubles: By buying roubles on the foreign exchanges. By depositing euros, dollars, or sterling with Gazprombank and have them do the conversion as agents. By Gazprombank increasing its balance sheet to provide credit, but collateral which is not sanctioned would be required. By foreign banks creating rouble credits which can be paid to Gazprombank against delivery of energy supplies. The last of these four is certainly possible, because that is the basis of Eurodollars, which circulate outside New York’s monetary system and have become central to international liquidity. To understand the creation of Eurodollars, and therefore the possibility of a developing Eurorouble market we must delve into the world of credit creation. There are two ways in which foreigners can hold dollar balances. The way commonly understood is through the correspondent banking system. Your bank, say in Europe, will run deposit accounts with their correspondent banks in New York (JPMorgan, Citi etc.). So, if you make a deposit in dollars, the credit to your account will reconcile with the change in your bank’s correspondent account in New York. Now let us assume that you approach your European bank for a dollar loan. If the loan is agreed, it appears as a dollar asset on your bank’s balance sheet, which through double-entry bookkeeping is matched by a dollar liability in favour of you, the borrower. It cannot be otherwise and is the basis of all bank credit creation. But note that in the creation of these balances the American banking system is not involved in any way, which is how and why Eurodollars circulate, being fungible with but separate in origin from dollars in the US. By the same method, we could see the birth and rapid expansion of a Eurorouble market. All that’s required is for a bank to create a loan in roubles, matched under double-entry bookkeeping with a deposit which can be used for payments. It doesn’t matter which currency the bank runs its balance sheet in, only that it has balance sheet space, access to rouble liquidity and is a credible counterparty. This suggests that Eurozone and Japanese banks can only have limited participation because they are already very highly leveraged. The banks best able to run Eurorouble balances are the Americans and Chinese because they have more conservative asset to equity ratios. Furthermore, the large Chinese banks are majority state-owned, and already have business and currency interests with Russia giving them a head start with respect to rouble liquidity. We have noticed that the large American banks are not shy of dealing with the Chinese despite the politics, so presumably would like the opportunity to participate in Euroroubles. But only this week, the US Government prohibited them from paying holders of Russia’s sovereign debt more than $600 million. So, we should assume the US banks cannot participate which leaves the field open to the Chinese mega-banks. And any attempt to increase sanctions on Russia, perhaps by adding Gazprombank to the sanctioned list, achieves nothing, definitely cuts out American banks from the action, and enhances the financial integration between Russia and China. The gulf between commodity-backed currencies and yesteryear’s financial fiat simply widens. For now, further sanctions are a matter for speculation. But Gazprombank with the assistance of the Russian central bank will have a key role in providing the international market for roubles with wholesale liquidity, at least until the market acquires depth in liquidity. In return, Gazprombank can act as a recycler of dollars and euros gained through trade surpluses without them entering the official reserves. Dollars, euros yen and sterling are the unfriendlies’ currencies, so the only retentions are likely to be renminbi and gold. In this manner we might expect roubles, gold and commodities to tend to rise in tandem. We can see the process by which, as Zoltan Pozsar put it, Bretton Woods III, a global currency regime based on commodities, can take over from Bretton Woods II, which has been characterised by the financialisation of currencies. And it’s not just Russia and her roubles. It’s a direction of travel shared by China. The economic effects of a strong currency backed by commodities defy monetary and economic beliefs prevalent in the West. But the consequences that flow from a stronger currency are desirable: falling interest rates, wealth remaining in the private sector and an escape route from the inevitable failure of Western currencies and their capital markets. The arguments in favour of decoupling from the dollar-dominated monetary system have suddenly become compelling. The consequences for the West Most Western commentary is gung-ho for further sanctions against Russia. Relatively few independent commentators have pointed out that by sanctioning Russia and freezing her foreign exchange reserves, America is destroying her own hegemony. The benefits of gold reserves have also been pointedly made to those that have them. Furthermore, central banks leaving their gold reserves vaulted at Western central banks exposes them to sanctions, should a nation fall foul of America. Doubtless, the issue is being discussed around the world and some requests for repatriation of bullion are bound to follow. There is also the problem of gold leases and swaps, vital for providing liquidity in bullion markets, but leads to false counting of reserves. This is because under the IMF’s accounting procedures, leased and swapped gold balances are recorded as if they were still under a central bank’s ownership and control, despite bullion being transferred to another party in unallocated accounts. No one knows the extent of swaps and leases, but it is likely to be significant, given the evidence of gold price interventions over the last fifty years. Countries which have been happy to earn fees and interest to cover storage costs and turn gold bullion storage into a profitable activity (measured in fiat) are at the margin now likely to not renew swap and lease agreements and demand reallocation of bullion into earmarked accounts, which would drain liquidity from bullion markets. A rising gold price will then be bound to ensue. Ever since the suspension of Bretton Woods in 1971, the US Government has tried to suppress gold relative to the dollar, encouraging the growth of gold derivatives to absorb demand. That gold has moved from $35 to $1920 today demonstrates the futility of these policies. But emotionally at least, the US establishment is still virulently anti-gold. As Figure 2 above clearly shows, the link between commodity prices and gold has endured through it all. It is this factor that completely escapes popular analysis with every commodity analyst assuming in their calculations a constant objective value for the dollar and other currencies, with price subjectivity confined to the commodity alone. The use of charts and other methods of forecasting commodity prices assume as an iron rule that price changes in transactions come only from fluctuations in commodity values. The truth behind prices measured in unbacked currencies is demonstrated by the cost of oil priced in gold having declined about 30% since the 1960s. That is reasonable given new extraction technologies and is consistent with prices tending to ease over time under a gold standard. It is only in fiat currencies that prices have soared. Clearly, gold is considerably more objective for transaction purposes than fiat currencies, which are definitely not. Therefore, if, as the chart in the tweet below suggests, the dollar price of oil doubles from here, it will only be because at the margin people prefer oil to dollars — not because they want oil beyond their immediate needs, but because they want dollars less. China recognised these dynamics following the Fed’s monetary policies of March 2020, when it reduced its funds rate to the zero bound and instituted QE at $120bn every month. The signal concerning the dollar’s future debasement was clear, and China began to stockpile oil, commodities, and food — just to get rid of dollars. This contributed to the rise in dollar commodity prices, which commenced from that moment, despite falling demand due to covid and supply chain problems. The effect of dollar debasement is reflected in Figure 3, which is of a popular commodity tracking ETF. A better understanding would be to regard the increase in the value of this commodity basket not as a near doubling since March 2020, but as a near halving of the dollar’s purchasing power with respect to it. Furthermore, the Chinese have been prescient enough to accumulate stocks of grains. The result is that 20% of the world’s population has access to 70% of the word’s maize stocks, 60% of rice, 50% of wheat and 35% of soybeans. The other 80% of the world’s population will almost certainly face acute shortages this year as exports of grain and fertiliser from Ukraine/Russia effectively cease. China’s actions show that she has to a degree already tied her currency to commodities, recognising the dollar would lose purchasing power. And this is partially reflected in the yuan’s exchange rate against the US dollar, which since May 2020 has gained over 11%. Implications for the dollar, euro and yen In this article the close relationship between gold, oil, and wider commodities has been shown. It appears that Russia has found a way of tying her currency not to the dollar, but to commodities through gold, and that China has effectively been doing the same thing for two years without the gold link. The logic is to escape the consequences of currency and credit expansion for the dollar and other Western currencies as their purchasing power is undermined. And the use of a gold peg is an interesting development in this context. We should bear in mind that according to the US Treasury TIC system foreigners own $33.24 trillion of financial securities and short-term assets including bank deposits. That is in addition to a few trillion, perhaps, in Eurodollars not recorded in the TIC statistics. These funds are only there in such quantities because of the financialisation of Western currencies, a situation we now expect to end. A change in the world’s currency order towards Pozsar’s Bretton Woods III can be expected to a substantial impact on these funds. To prevent foreign selling of the $6.97 trillion of short-term securities and cash, interest rates would have to be raised not just to tackle rising consumer prices (a Keynesian misunderstanding about the economic role of interest rates, disproved by Gibson’s paradox) but to protect the currency on the foreign exchanges, particularly relative to the rouble and the yuan. Unfortunately, sufficiently high interest rates to encourage short-term money and deposits to stay would destabilise the values of the foreign owned $26.27 trillion in long-term securities — bonds and equities. As the manager of US dollar interest rates, the dilemma for the Fed is made more acute by sanctions against Russia exposing the weakness of the dollar’s position. The fall in its purchasing power is magnified by soaring dollar prices for commodities, and the rise in consumer prices will be greater and sooner as a result. It is becoming possible to argue convincingly that interest rates for one-year dollar deposits should soon be in double figures, rather than the three per cent or so argued by monetary policy hawks. Whatever the numbers turn out to be, the consequences are bound to be catastrophic for financial assets and for the future of financially oriented currencies where financial assets are the principal form of collateral. It appears that Bretton Woods II is indeed over. That being the case, America will find it virtually impossible to retain the international capital flows which have allowed it to finance the twin deficits — the budget and trade gaps. And as securities’ values fall with rising interest rates, unless the US Government takes a very sharp knife to its spending at a time of stagnating or falling economic activity, the Fed will have to step up with enhanced QE. The excuse that QE stimulates the economy will have been worn out and exposed for what it is: the debasement of the currency as a means of hidden taxation. And the foreign capital that manages to escape from a dollar crisis is likely to seek a home elsewhere. But the other two major currencies in the dollar’s camp, the euro and yen, start from an even worse position. These are shown in Figure 4. With their purchasing power visibly collapsing the ECB and the Bank of Japan still have negative interest rates, seemingly trapped under the zero bound. Policy makers find themselves torn between the Scylla of consumer price inflation and the Charybdis of declining economic activity. A further problem is that these central banks have become substantial investors in government and other bonds (the BOJ even has equity ETFs on board) and rising bond yields are playing havoc with their balance sheets, wiping out their equity requiring a systemic recapitalisation. Not only are the ECB and BOJ technically bankrupt without massive capital injections, but their commercial banking networks are hugely overleveraged with their global systemically important banks — their G-SIBs — having assets relative to equity averaging over twenty times. And unlike the Brazilian real, the Mexican peso and even the South African rand, the yen and the euro are sliding against the dollar. The response from the BOJ is one of desperately hanging on to current policies. It is rigging the market by capping the yield on the 10-year JGB at 0.25%, which is where it is now. These currency developments are indicative of great upheavals and an approaching crisis. Financial bubbles are undoubtedly about to burst sinking fiat financial values and all that sail with them. Government bonds will be yesterday’s story because neither China nor Russia, whose currencies can be expected to survive the transition from financial to commodity orientation, run large budget deficits. That, indeed, will be part of their strength. The financial war, so long predicted and described in my essays for Goldmoney, appears to be reaching its climax. At the end it has boiled down to who understands money and currencies best. Led by America, the West has ignored the legal definition of money, substituting fiat dollars for it instead. Monetary policy lost its anchor in realism, drifting on a sea of crackpot inflationary beliefs instead. But Russia and China have not made the same mistake. China played along with the Keynesian game while it suited them. Consequently, while Russia may be struggling militarily, unless a miracle occurs the West seems bound to lose the financial war and we are, indeed, transiting into Pozsar’s Bretton Woods III. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 09:20.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Futures Rise To 4,700 "Max Gamma" As Oil Slide Accelerates

Futures Rise To 4,700 "Max Gamma" As Oil Slide Accelerates U.S. index futures rose again, trading on top of the massive 4700 "max gamma" level despite downbeat data out of Chinese tech names, as investors awaited the latest batch of unemployment data and taking comfort from signals that central banks will stay far behind the curve and keep pledges to overlook faster inflation rather than rush into rate hikes. European stocks were steady and Asian equities fell as Chinese tech stocks tumbled after poor results from Baidu and Bilibili. Treasury yields edged higher, the dollar was little changed and gold declined. Bitcoin retreated for a fifth straight day. Oil prices skidded to a six-week low on concern about a supply overhang and the prospect of China, Japan and the United States dipping in to their fuel reserves, with Brent futures last at $79.77, more than 8% off last month's three-year high. Nasdaq futures rose 86.25 points or 0.53% outperforming S&P 500 futs which were up 11.50 points or 0.25% to 4697.75, after chip giant Nvidia jumped 7% after a sales forecast by the world’s largest chipmaker. Elsewhere in premarket trading, Cisco dropped 6.6% after the computer networking equipment group’s growth and earnings forecast fell short of expectations while Alibaba slid after reporting sales that missed analyst estimates for a second straight quarter. Some other notable premarket movers: EV makers are mixed in U.S. premarket trading, with Rivian Automotive (RIVN US), Lucid (LCID US) and Canoo (GOEV US) all declining and newly-listed Sono (SEV US) extending its bounce Nvidia (NVDA US) shares gain 7% in U.S. premarket trading, with analysts saying the chipmaker delivered a strong enough quarter to justify its punchy valuation Amtech (ASYS US) fell 22% in post-market trading after reporting fourth quarter revenue that missed estimates from two analysts. The semiconductor stock has risen 139% this year through Wednesday’s trading. Kraft Heinz (KHC US) fell 1.6% in postmarket trading on Wednesday after announcing one of its top holders was selling a portion of its stake. Victoria’s Secret (VSCO US) shares gain 13% in U.S. premarket trading as analysts highlight “better-than- feared” 3Q results for the lingerie retailer. (JD US) shares advanced 2.2% premarket after it reported net revenue for the third quarter that beat the average analyst estimate. “While companies are managing to report solid third-quarter numbers, the ability to do so is being tempered by concerns about slimmer margins,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in London. “One positive thing, aside from the concern over rising inflation, has been the resilience of labor markets, on both sides of the Atlantic.” The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was little changed with most cash indexes giving back early gains or losses to trade flat as travel and consumer companies gained while the energy and minings industries retreated. FTSE 100 underperformed slightly. Oil & gas was the weakest sector followed by mining stocks. European metals and mining stocks fall 0.8%, the second worst performing sub-index on the benchmark Stoxx 600, amid sinking iron ore futures and copper prices. Iron ore retreated as investors weighed a top producer’s forecasts of a balanced market next year and the impact on miners amid a price collapse in recent months. Diversified miners drop, Glencore -0.8%, Anglo American -1%, BHP -0.7%, Rio Tinto -1.1%; the four stocks account for more than 60% of the SXPP. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks fell, on track for a second day of losses, as Baidu helped lead a slump in Chinese technology giants.  The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped as much as 0.4%, extending its two-day slide to about 0.9%. The Hang Seng Tech Index lost about 3%, as search engine giant Baidu tumbled on worries over the advertising outlook and video-streaming firm Bilibili dropped after posting a larger-than-expected loss. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and China’s CSI 300 benchmark were the worst performing national benchmarks Thursday, while Taiwan’s Taiex managed a small gain. Alibaba also fell, ahead of its highly awaited earnings report later today that may show the impact of Beijing’s regulatory curbs. Japan's Nikkei was down 0.6% in early trade. "We do seem to have stalled somewhat as we head into the year end," said Jun Bei Liu, a portfolio manager at Tribeca Investment Partners in Sydney. "Investors perhaps are just taking a bit of pause," she said, in the wake of a strong U.S. results season, but as inflation and China's slowdown loom as macroeconomic headwinds. “With a bout of earnings having been released and put behind the market, we’re in an environment where investors are inclined to take profits,” said Takashi Ito, an equity market strategist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo. “Investors are likely to cherry pick stocks that have high earnings and ROE and have strong momentum for growth.”  The region’s equities are now poised for a weekly drop after wiping out gains from earlier this week. Anxiety over global inflation has weighed on sentiment as investors search for clues on when central banks will start raising interest rates. Indonesia and the Philippines kept borrowing costs unchanged, as expected, to aid two economies that bore the brunt of Covid-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia this year. In rates, treasuries were slightly cheaper across long-end of the curve after S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures breached Wednesday’s highs. Yields are higher by ~1bp in 30-year sector, with 2s10s steeper by ~1bp, 5s30s by ~0.5bp; 10-year is ~1.60%, trailing bunds by ~2bp as traders push back on ECB rate-hike pricing. Focal points Thursday include several Fed speakers and a potentially historic 10-year TIPS auction at 1pm ET - at $14BN, the 10Y TIPS reopening is poised to draw a record low yield near -1.14%; breakeven inflation rate at ~2.71% is within 7bp of Monday’s YTD high. Elsewhere, Gilts outperformed richening ~2.5bps across the curve. Peripheral spreads tighten, semi-core widens marginally. In FX, the U.S. dollar erased an earlier modest loss and was flat, with majors mostly range-bound. Treasury yields stabilized from overnight declines; the greenback traded mixed versus its Group-of-10 peers, though most were confined to tight ranges, New Zealand’s dollar led G-10 gains after two-year ahead inflation expectations rose to 2.96% in the fourth quarter from 2.27% in the third, according to survey of businesses published by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Support in euro- Swiss franc at 1.0500 holds for now and consolidation for risk reversals this week suggests that a breach of the key level may not see a big follow through. The pound inched up and is on its longest winning streak in nearly seven months after this week’s jobs and inflation data fueled confidence that the Bank of England will hike rates. The Turkish lira plunged to a new all time low, with the USDTRY rising to 10.93 after the central bank cut rates by 100bps. Currency traders are also assessing a sharp downdraft in the Aussie/yen cross, often a barometer of market sentiment. It fell through its 200-day moving average on Tuesday and has lost almost 4% in a dozen sessions . "You've got the perfect storm there for bears," said Matt Simpson, senior analyst at brokerage City Index. "Fundamentally and technically Aussie/yen looks pretty good with lower oil prices." In commodities, crude futures remained in the red but bounce off worst levels as the potential for SPR releases remains center stage. WTI finds support near $77, recovering toward $78; Brent regains a $80-handle. Spot gold gives back Asia’s small gains, dropping ~$7 to trade near $1,860/oz. Base metals trade poorly, LME zinc and lead underperform. Looking at the day ahead now, and data releases from the US include the weekly initial jobless claims, the Philadelphia Fed’s business outlook for November, the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing index for November, and the Conference Board’s leading index for October. Central bank speakers include PBoC Governor Yi Gang, the ECB’s Centeno, Panetta and Lane, and the Fed’s Bostic, Williams, Evans and Daly. There’ll also be a number of decisions from EM central banks, including Bank Indonesia, the Central Bank of Turkey and the South African Reserve Bank. Finally, earnings releases include Intuit, Applied Materials and TJX. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.4% to 4,703.25 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.1% to 490.50 MXAP down 0.3% to 199.31 MXAPJ down 0.6% to 650.79 Nikkei down 0.3% to 29,598.66 Topix down 0.1% to 2,035.52 Hang Seng Index down 1.3% to 25,319.72 Shanghai Composite down 0.5% to 3,520.71 Sensex down 0.4% to 59,755.91 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.1% to 7,379.20 Kospi down 0.5% to 2,947.38 Brent Futures down 0.1% to $80.18/bbl Gold spot down 0.2% to $1,863.45 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 95.75 German 10Y yield little changed at -0.26% Euro little changed at $1.1327 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg More Wall Street banks are wagering that the Federal Reserve will hike rates at a faster-than-expected pace, with Citigroup Inc. joining Morgan Stanley in backing trades that will profit if the central bank does just that China is releasing some oil from its strategic reserves days after the U.S. invited it to participate in a joint sale, suggesting the world’s two biggest oil consumers are willing to work together to keep a lid on energy costs European countries are increasingly forcing reluctant companies to let employees work from home in an effort to break the rapidly spreading fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic A more in depth look at global markets courtesy of Newsqauwk Asia-Pac stocks traded mostly negative with sentiment in the region subdued amid a lack of significant macro drivers and following the uninspired lead from the US - where the major indices finished a choppy session in the red and the DJIA gave up the 36k status. Nonetheless, the ASX 200 (+0.1%) remained afloat with notable strength in gold miners, as well as some consumer stocks, although advances in the index were limited by losses in the financial and energy sectors after similar underperformance stateside amid a decline in yields and oil prices. The Nikkei 225 (-0.3%) was initially dragged lower by unfavourable currency inflows which overshadowed reports that Japan wants to enhance tax breaks for corporations that raise wages, while shares in Eisai were hit after EU regulators placed doubts regarding the approval of Co. and Biogen’s co-developed Alzheimer’s drug and SoftBank also declined after the US regulator raised concerns regarding Nvidia’s acquisition of Arm. However, the index then briefly returned flat in late trade on reports that the Japanese stimulus package is to require JPY 55.7tln of fiscal spending which is higher than the previously speculated of around JPY 40tln. The Hang Seng (-1.3%) and Shanghai Comp. (-0.5%) weakened after another liquidity drain by the PBoC and with the declines in Hong Kong exacerbated by tech selling, while the losses in the mainland were to a lesser extent with China said to be mulling additional industrial policies aimed to support growth and SGH Macro sources suggested the US and China agreed there would be some substantial progress on trade such as the removal of some punitive tariffs by the US and increased purchases of US products by China, although the report highlighted that it was unclear if this would be from a high-profile announcement or a discrete relaxing of tariffs. Finally, 10yr JGBs were initially flat as prices failed to benefit from the subdued risk appetite in Japan and rebound in global peers, while firmer metrics at the 20yr JGB bond auction provided a mild tailwind in late trade although the support was only brief and prices were then pressured on news of the potentially larger than anticipated fiscal spending in PM Kishida's stimulus package. Top Asian News China Property Stocks Sink, $4.2 Billion Rush: Evergrande Update Japan’s Kishida Eyes Record Fiscal Firepower to Boost Recovery China Property Firm Shinsun’s Shares and Bonds Slump Sales Beat Estimates as Investments Start to Pay Off Major bourses in Europe are choppy, although sentiment picked up following a subdued APAC session but despite a distinct lack of fresh catalysts. US equity futures have also been grinding higher in early European hours, with the NQ (+0.6%) outpacing the ES (+0.3%), RTY (+0.2%) and YM (+0.2%). Back to European cash – broad-based gains are seen across the Euro bourses – which lifted the CAC, DAX and SMI to notch record intraday highs, whilst upside in the UK's FTSE 100 (-0.2%) has been hampered by hefty losses in today's lagging sectors– the Energy and Basic Resources - amid price action in the respective markets. Tech names also see a strong performance thus far as chip names cheer NVIDIA (+6% pre-market) earnings yesterday. Overall, sectors have maintained a similarly mixed picture vs the cash open, with no overarching theme. In terms of individual movers, Swatch (+2.8%) and Richemont (+0.6) piggyback on the increase in Swiss Watch Exports vs 2020 and 2019. Metro Bank (-20%) plumbed the depths after terminating takeover talks with Carlyle. Top European News Royal Mail Hands Investors $540 Million Amid Parcel Surge German Coalition Plans Stricter Rent Increase Regulation: Bild HSBC Sees ECB Sticking With Easy Stance Despite Record Inflation Astra Covid Antibody Data Shows Long-Lasting Protection In FX, the Kiwi has extended its recovery on heightened RBNZ tightening expectations prompted by significant increases in Q4 inflation projections, with some pundits now assigning a greater probability to the OCR rising 50 bp compared to the 25 bp more generally forecast and factored in. Nzd/Usd is eyeing 0.7050 and the 50 DMA just above (at 0.7054 today) having breached the 100 DMA (0.7026), while the Aud/Nzd cross is probing further below 1.0350 even though the Aussie has found some support into 0.7250 against its US rival and will be encouraged by news that COVID-19 restrictions in the state of Victoria are on the verge of being completely lifted. GBP/EUR/DXY - Notwithstanding Kiwi outperformance, the Dollar has lost a bit more of its bullish momentum to the benefit of most rivals, and several of those that compose the basket. Indeed, Cable has popped above 1.3500, while the Euro is looking more comfortable on the 1.1300 handle as the index retreats further from Wednesday’s new y-t-d peak and away from the psychological 96.000 level into a 95.840-642 range. Ahead, IJC and Philly Fed are due amidst another decent slate of Fed speakers, while Eur/Usd will also be eyeing the latest ECB orators for some direction and Eur/Gbp is back around 0.8400 where decent option expiry interest resides (1.1 bn), but perhaps more focused on latest talks between the UK and EU on the NI dispute. CHF/CAD/JPY - The Franc has pared more declines vs the Buck from sub-0.9300 and remains firm against the Euro near 1.0500 in wake of Swiss trade data showing a wider surplus and pick-up in key watch exports, but the Loonie looks a bit hampered by a more pronounced fall in the price of oil as the US calls on other countries for a concerted SPR tap and China is said to be working on the release of some crude stocks. Usd/Cad is tethered to 1.2600 and highly unlikely to threaten 1.1 bn option expiries at the 1.2500 strike in contrast to the Yen that stalled above 114.00 and could be restrained by 1.4 bn between 113.90 and the round number or 1.3 bn from 114.20-25, if not reports that Japan’s stimulus package may require Jpy 55.7 tn of fiscal spending compared to Jpy 40 tn previously speculated. In commodities, WTI and Brent front-month futures are off worst levels but still under pressure amid the prospect of looming crude reserves releases, with reports suggesting China is gearing up for its own release. There were also prior source reports that the US was said to have asked other countries to coordinate a release of strategic oil reserves and raised the oil reserve release request with Japan and China. Furthermore, the US tapping of the SPR could be either in the form of a sale and/or loan from the reserve, and the release from the reserve needs to be more than 20mln-30mln bbls to get the message to OPEC, while a source added that the US asked India, South Korea and large oil-consuming countries, but not European countries, to consider oil reserve releases after pleas to OPEC failed. This concoction of headlines guided Brent and WTI futures under USD 80/bbl and USD 78/bbl respectively with early selling also experienced as European players entered the fray. On the geopolitical front, US National security adviser Jake Sullivan raised with his Israeli counterpart the idea of an interim agreement with Iran to buy more time for nuclear negotiations, according to sources. However, two American sources familiar with the call said the officials were just "brainstorming" and that Sullivan passed along an idea put forward by a European ally. Next, participants should continue to expect jawboning from the larger economies that advocated OPEC+ to release more oil. OPEC+ is unlikely to react to prices ahead of next month's meeting (barring any shocks). Elsewhere, spot gold and silver have been choppy within a tight range. Spot gold trades under USD 1,875/oz - with technicians flagging a Fib around USD 1,876/oz. Spot silver trades on either side of USD 25/oz. Base metals are on a softer footing amid the broader performance across industrial commodities – LME copper remains subdued under the USD 9,500/t level, whilst some reports suggest companies are attempting to arbitrage the copper spread between Shanghai and London. US Event Calendar 8:30am: Nov. Initial Jobless Claims, est. 260,000, prior 267,000; Continuing Claims, est. 2.12m, prior 2.16m 8:30am: Nov. Philadelphia Fed Business Outl, est. 24.0, prior 23.8 9:45am: Nov. Langer Consumer Comfort, prior 50.3, revised 50.3 10am: Oct. Leading Index, est. 0.8%, prior 0.2% 11am: Nov. Kansas City Fed Manf. Activity, est. 28, prior 31 Central banks 8am: Fed’s Bostic Discusses Regional Outlook 9:30am: Fed’s Williams speaks on Transatlantic responses to pandemic 2pm: Fed’s Evans Takes Part in Moderated Q&A 3:30pm: Fed’s Daly takes part in Fed Listens event DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap After 9 weeks since surgery, yesterday I got the green light to play golf again from my consultant. Yippee. However he said that he’ll likely see me in 3-5 years to do a procedure called distal femoral osteotomy where he’ll break my femur and realign the leg over the good part of the knee. Basically I have a knee that is very good on the inside half and very bad on the outer lateral side. He’s patched the bad side up but it’s unlikely to last more than a few years before the arthritis becomes too painful. This operation would be aimed at delaying knee replacement for as long as possible! Sounds painful and a bit crazy! Meanwhile I also have a painful slipped disc in my back at the moment that I’m going to have an injection for to hopefully avoid surgery after years of managing it. As you might imagine from reading my posts last week I don’t get much sympathy at home at the moment for my various ailments. In terms of operations and golf I’m turning into a very very poor man’s Tiger Woods! Markets have been limping a bit over the last 24 hours too as the inflation realities seemed to be a bit more in focus. Those worries were given additional fuel from the UK CPI release for October, which followed the US and the Euro Area in delivering another upside surprise, just as a number of key agricultural prices continued to show significant strength. Oil was down notably though as we’ll discuss below. To add to the mix, the latest global Covid-19 wave has shown no sign of abating yet, even if some countries are better equipped for it than others. Starting with inflation, one of the main pieces of news arrived yesterday morning, when the UK reported that CPI came in at +4.2% year-on-year in October. That was above every economist’s estimate on Bloomberg, surpassing the +3.9% consensus expectation that was also the BoE’s staff projection in their November Monetary Policy Report. That’s the fastest UK inflation since 2011, and core inflation also surprised on the upside with a +3.4% reading (vs. +3.1% expected). In response to this, our UK economist (link here) is now expecting that CPI will peak at +5.4% in April, with the 2022 annual average CPI still at +4.2%, which is more than double the BoE’s 2% target. The release was also seen as strengthening the case for a December rate hike by the BoE, and sterling was the second best performing G10 currency after being top the day before in response, strengthening +0.45% against the US dollar. Even as inflation risks mounted however, the major equity indices demonstrated an impressive resilience, with the STOXX 600 (+0.14%) rising for the 17th time in the last 19 sessions. This is the best such streak since June this year, when the index managed to increase 18 of 20 days. We’ll see if that mark is matched today That was a better performance than the S&P 500 (-0.26%). 342 stocks were in the red today, the most in three weeks. Energy (-1.74%) and financials (-1.11%) each declined more than a percent, on lower oil prices and yields, respectively. Real estate (+0.65%) and consumer discretionary (+0.59%) led the way, driven by a +3.25% increase in Tesla. In line with the broad-based retreat, small-caps continued to put in a much weaker performance, with the Russell 2000 shedding -1.16% as it underperformed the S&P for a 4th consecutive session. Sovereign bonds also managed to advance yesterday, with yields on 10yr Treasuries (-4.5bps) posting their biggest decline in over a week, taking them to 1.59%. Declining inflation expectations drove that move, with the 10yr breakeven down -3.2bps to 2.71%, which was its biggest decline in over two weeks. For Europe it was a different story however, with yields on 10yr bunds only down -0.3bps, just as those on 10yr OATs (+0.1bps) and BTPs (+0.5bps) both moved higher. Most of the Treasury rally was after Europe closed though. Those moves came against the backdrop of a fairly divergent performance among commodities. On the one hand oil prices fell back, with WTI (-2.97%) closing beneath $80/bbl for only the second time in the last month as speculation continued that the US would tap its strategic reserves. On the other hand, there was no sign of any relenting in European natural gas prices, which rose a further +0.79% yesterday to bring their gains over the last 7 days to +31.57%. That follows the German regulator’s decision to temporarily suspend certification for Nord Stream 2, which has added to fears that Europe will face major supply issues over the winter. And while we’re discussing the factors fuelling inflation, there were some fresh moves higher in agricultural prices as well yesterday, with wheat futures (+1.48%) hitting an 8-year high, and coffee futures (+4.75%) climbing to their highest level in almost a decade. Central banks will be watching these trends closely. There’s still no word on who’s going to lead the Fed over the next 4 years, but yesterday’s news was that President Biden will make his pick by Thanksgiving. For those keeping track at home, on Tuesday the guidance was within the next four days. So, while it appears momentum toward an announcement is growing, take signaling of any particular day with a grain of salt. On the topic of the Fed, our US economists released their updated Fed outlook yesterday (link here) in which they brought forward their view of the expected liftoff to July 2022, with another rate increase following in Q4 2022. And although it’s not their base case, they acknowledge that incoming data could even push the Fed to speed up their taper and raise rates before June. They don’t see the choice of the next Fed Chair as having much impact on the broad policy trajectory, since inflation next year is likely to still be at high levels that makes most officials uncomfortable, plus the annual rotation of regional Fed presidents with an FOMC vote leans more hawkish next year. So that will constrain the extent to which a new chair could shift matters in a dovish direction, even if they wanted to. Overnight in Asia stocks are trading mostly in the red outside of a flat KOSPI (+0.01%). The Shanghai Composite (-0.13%), CSI (-0.64%), Nikkei (-0.77%) and Hang Seng (-1.35%) are being dragged down by tech after a bout of Chinese IT companies missed earnings continuing a theme of this earnings season. Elsewhere in Japan, the Nikkei reported that the new economic stimulus package could be around YEN 78.9 tn ($691 bn). Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will announce the package on Friday. Elsewhere S&P 500 (+0.08%) and DAX futures (+0.01%) both fairly flat. The House of Representatives is slated to begin debate on the Biden social and climate spending ‘build back better’ bill. Word from Congress suggested it could be tabled for a vote as soon as today, though the House has been as profligate missing self-imposed deadlines to vote on the bill as President Biden has been with the announcement of Fed Chair. In addition to the Build Back Better package, there’ll still be plenty of action in Congress over the next month, with another government shutdown looming on December 3, and then a debt ceiling deadline estimated on December 15. The House Budget Chair echoed Treasury Secretary Yellen’s exhortation, and urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a government default. Treasury bills are pricing increasing debt ceiling uncertainty during December; yields on bills maturing from mid- to late-December are around double the yields of bills maturing in November and January. Turning to the pandemic, cases have continued to rise at the global level over recent days, as alarm grows in a number of countries about the potential extent of the winter wave. In Germany, Chancellor Merkel and Vice Chancellor Scholz are taking part in a video conference with state leaders today on the pandemic amidst a major surge in cases. And Sweden’s government said that they planned to bring in a requirement for vaccine passports at indoor events with more than 100 people. In better news however, the UK’s 7-day average of reported cases moved lower for the first time in a week yesterday. Moderna also joined Pfizer in seeking emergency use authorization from the FDA for booster jabs of its Covid vaccines for all adults. Looking at yesterday’s other data, US housing starts fell in October to an annualised rate of 1.520m (vs. 1.579m expected), whilst the previous months’ reading was also revised lower. Building permits rose by more than expected however, up to an annualised rate of 1.650m (vs. 1.630m expected). Finally, Canada’s CPI inflation reading rose to +4.7% in October as expected, marking the largest annual rise since February 2003. To the day ahead now, and data releases from the US include the weekly initial jobless claims, the Philadelphia Fed’s business outlook for November, the Kansas City Fed’s manufacturing index for November, and the Conference Board’s leading index for October. Central bank speakers include PBoC Governor Yi Gang, the ECB’s Centeno, Panetta and Lane, and the Fed’s Bostic, Williams, Evans and Daly. There’ll also be a number of decisions from EM central banks, including Bank Indonesia, the Central Bank of Turkey and the South African Reserve Bank. Finally, earnings releases include Intuit, Applied Materials and TJX. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/18/2021 - 08:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 18th, 2021

Exclusive: Air France-KLM in talks on multibillion euro state-backed loan package

Air France-KLM is in talks with banks to receive billions of euros in loans guaranteed by the French and Dutch governments, as the airline group braces for a sustained coronavirus shutdown, sources told Reuters......»»

Category: topSource: reutersApr 3rd, 2020

The Benefits Of A Savings Culture & The Future Role Of China"s Yuan

The Benefits Of A Savings Culture & The Future Role Of China's Yuan Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, Savings are a vital component of any successful economy, and the foolishness behind the paradox of thrift is exposed in this article. It has been a huge error for Keynesian policy makers to discourage savings in the interests of temporary boosts to consumerism. It is probably too late now but encouraging people to save by removing all taxation from savings makes an enormous contribution to reducing price inflation and trade deficits, while enhancing national wealth. This is evidenced empirically and demonstrated by reasoned theory.  Furthermore, there is an error in assuming that there is no alternative to Triffin’s dilemma, which posited that for a nation to produce a meaningful level of reserve currency for external circulation it must run trade deficits. Triffin was describing the problems the United States gave itself under the Bretton Woods agreement, leading to the failure of the London gold pool in the late sixties. It still informs US policy makers today, and wrongly leads American commentators to believe that the dollar cannot be toppled from its pre-eminent position. But Triffin’s dilemma assumes that central banks must accumulate currency reserves. Unless a government has foolishly indebted itself in a foreign currency, there is no need for them to do so. Currency reserves add nothing to a domestic currency’s stability. Gold fulfilled this role successfully, and likely to do so again in future. It is a savings ratio of 45% which is at the root of China’s power. The lack of savings in America and its western alliance is their Achilles heel. Empirical evidence If there was one taxation policy which would reduce consumer price inflation, stabilise a fiat currency, encourage capital allocation for productive purposes, and improve government finances for the longer-term, what would it be? Remove all taxes from savings. This is the lesson from past-war West Germany and Japan, both of which suffered absolute defeat and economic destruction in the Second World War. Their currencies were worthless. But they recovered to become economic powerhouses in Europe and Asia respectively in little more than two decades. Both implemented savings-friendly taxation policies, which made capital available at stable interest rates for new industries to invest in production. Germany developed its Mittelstand, and Japan built on her vertically integrated Zaibatsu. Germany was fortunate in its Economy Minister, Ludwig Erhard. A free marketeer who on 20 June 1948 took the bull by the horns, Erhard unilaterally ended rationing on the same day as the new mark was introduced, presenting it as a fait accompli to the military governors in the British and American zones. In a week, shops had begun to reopen, and goods became widely available. In negotiations with the military governors, Erhard managed to obtain income tax concessions for savings, which through the banking system were invested making capital available for private sector reconstruction. While he struggled against both military governments in the two zones to retain lower taxes and for favourable treatment for savings into the 1950s, Erhard had laid the foundations for a savings driven, free market economy. By the 1980s, the only tax on savings was a 10% withholding tax on bank interest and bond coupons, which was not generally pursued by the German tax authorities in the knowledge that attempts to do so would simply drive savings beyond their reach into Luxembourg and Zurich. For this reason, Germany remained a savings driven economy with a strong currency right up to the mark’s incorporation in the new euro. Much to the confusion of British and American neo-Keynesians subscribing to their cherished savings paradox, Germany became the wealthiest of the European nations, other than perhaps Switzerland. In both cases, hard currencies accompanied wealth creation. Erhard’s post-war opposition was principally from General Sir Brian Robertson, the head of the British occupation government, and from the French. The commander of the American occupation zone, General Lucius Clay was more sympathetic with free market solutions. The Americans had promoted A Plan for the Liquidation of War Finance and Financial Rehabilitation of Germany (1946), written at Clay’s behest, one of the co-authors being Joseph Dodge. In 1949, Dodge was then appointed to advise the Japanese government on its post-war reconstruction as an aide to General MacArthur. And Dodge was instrumental in ensuring that up to a certain level, post office savings accounts were entirely tax free. It was probably a deliberate oversight on his part, but the tax law didn’t stop an account holder merely opening another savings account when the tax-free limit on an existing account was reached. Dodge implemented what became known as “The Dodge Line”. By insisting on a balanced national budget and shutting down the printing presses, he ended hyperinflation. The exchange rate between the yen and the dollar stabilised. Government economic intervention and interference was slashed across the board. Echoing John Cowperthwaite’s free market policies in Hong Kong, Dodge realised that the best economic progress was obtained by eliminating state interference, leaving it to Japan’s businessmen and entrepreneurs who, despite the war, retained the skills and connections to run their businesses. With MacArthur’s support, he ruthlessly eliminated subsidies and price controls. Dodge was eventually recalled to America, becoming Truman’s Director of the Budget where in the space of only a year he had cut the US federal deficit in half. Dodge’s free market approach was supplemented by the assistance of another American adviser, W Edwards Denning. Denning introduced quality control techniques to Japanese manufacturing which revolutionised production. As a consequence of Denning’s contribution, Japan rapidly evolved from a source of shoddy goods into a producer of the best consumer technology and the manufacture of world-beating high quality consumer goods. Behind this revolution was the tax incentive to save – a simple approach of assuming that taxed earnings put aside should not be taxed again. In both Germany and Japan, these were not the only factors that led to a successful emergence from total desolation, but they are the elements that ensured that both nations continued to flourish. And in Japan, despite the government fully embracing Keynesian philosophy in the wake of the late-eighties speculative bubble, the savings culture of “Mrs Watanabe, the Japanese housewife” persists to this day. After his stint in Japan and while Joe Dodge worked his budget magic for Truman, the British were going in the opposite direction, eschewing free markets, embracing Keynesianism, persisting with rationing until 1954, and imposing punitive taxes on savings. The decline of post-war Britain and much of Europe need not enter our narrative, but it was a feature of all nations which implemented economic policies of taxing savings. The theory behind savings The empirical evidence is clear. Since the Second World War, economies that embraced free markets and the role of personal savings outperformed those which saw savings as an easy source of tax revenue. Furthermore, we can easily explain why free markets succeed in creating wealth for all, while a state directed economy is anti-progress. It was demonstrated by the Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, who in an essay written in 1920 explained the futility of central planning due to a lack of the ability to perform economic calculation. Admittedly, he compared the full-blown socialism which Russia had embraced with free markets. But his conclusions, that the state is unable to allocate economic resources including capital as efficiently as profit-seeking capitalists applies equally to less aggressive forms of socialism. In a free market economy, individuals are compelled to make provision for the unknown vagaries of the future. Often through the medium of insurance policies and pension plans, they put aside a portion of their income to protect themselves from the financial consequences of ill-health and incapacity, provide for their old age, and to ensure there is something to pass on to their heirs. If the circulating medium is sound, no financial skill is required to preserve the value of savings in these arrangements and in the form of bank deposits. Within the limits of their acumen, those with some financial knowledge can venture into other forms of savings, such as bonds issued by their government agencies and corporations and even to acquire equity interests in ventures. As always, investors with skill and knowledge will improve their position relative to those less financially literate, which is anathema to redistributors of wealth. But the corruption of the value of credit that goes with monetary intervention by the state impoverishes those who lack investing skills most, always the poorest in society. It stands to reason therefore, that an economy that benefits most from the savings of the masses must protect the value of credit. The Keynesian revolution rode roughshod over this issue. Keynes dismissed capitalist savers as rentiers, a term with emotive connotations suggesting that they are workshy and greedy only for interest on their capital. His academic environment at Cambridge and afterwards the Bloomsbury set in London was certainly populated with these flaneurs. But this was not representative of the wider population which was to be deprived by his desire for the euthanasia of the rentier expressed openly in his General Theory. So it was that Keynes came up with the paradox of thrift, while he was working his way towards discarding Say’s law to justify his General Theory. In Chapter 23, he takes preceding crackpot theories on the subject as evidence of the destruction wrought by saving. Earlier in Chapter 3, on Observations of the Nature of Capital, he claimed that excess savings could lead to “the fate of Midas…  assuming that the propensity to consume and the rate of interest are not deliberately controlled in the social interest but are left mainly to the influences of laissez-faire”. In working his way towards a role for the state, which appears to be his objective here, Keynes makes a number of errors, the principal ones being glossing over the role of bank credit (there is only one indexed reference to credit, commercial bank or otherwise in the whole book!), and whether it is the borrower or lender who sets the rate of interest. To be absolutely certain of the role of savings in an economy, and as to whether there can be an excess leading to the fate of Midas, we must explore Keynes’s errors further. Variations in the rate of interest are not due to the ephemeral dispositions of rentiers but in large part to fluctuations in the supply of bank credit. It is the expansion of bank credit which leads to an economic boom, which when it leads to excessive demand and speculation by driving up prices engenders caution in the banker’s mind. Naturally, he then restricts the supply of credit, which raises the interest cost. This is why the cycle of bank credit would never permit “the fate of Midas” to occur. Clearly, Keynes’s conclusion that there can be a savings glut is based on his wilful ignorance of the nature of money and credit.[iii] Furthermore, Keynes’s basic assumption, that it is the greed of the rentier which forces an unnecessary and arguably immoral cost onto production is also incorrect. It is the same error that leads monetary policy makers today to assume that by manipulating the interest rate the general level of prices can be controlled. It was Keynes himself who earlier noted this error, which he named Gibson’s paradox after Arthur Gibson, who pointed out the lack of correlation between the two. Because Keynes was unable to explain the paradox, he simply proceeded as if it did not exist, and so has every monetary policy committee ever since. The paradox is real, and the explanation is simple, falling into two elements. The first is that savers are generally reluctant to save, because it means a deferment of consumption, an immediate satisfaction being exchanged for one in the future of less certain value. Therefore, a business requiring capital for production must bid up the rate of interest it is prepared to pay to a level where the consumer is willing to defer his enjoyment. It is this marginal rate that balances the demands for capital with the availability of savings in an economy. And it is not just a question of setting the rate of interest for recycling credit through the banks’ balance sheets. It sets the rates of return for all financial assets as well and the cost of funding for their issuers. The second element is the time-preference for which savers will naturally expect compensation. Time preference describes the value of possession of money or money substitutes. A saver loses the value of possession until his money or credit for money is returned. For simplicity’s sake, we must ignore counterparty risk but include expectations of changes in the purchasing power in the circulating media for the time that possession is lost. It becomes clear that if a potential saver is to part with possession of money or credit when the evidence points to its debasement, he will reasonably seek compensation. Therefore, for the saver interest rates are not the cost of money which he demands, except in a strictly minimally additional and marginal sense. For a central bank to assume that by varying the underlying rate of interest it can control the economy is therefore incorrect. Central banks have it the wrong way round, which explains why there is no correlation between their interest rate setting and the rate of price inflation.  Furthermore, Gibson pointed out that the correlation was between interest rates and the general level of wholesale prices, and not their rate of change. This correlation is consistent with a businessman’s economic calculation: in order to calculate the profitability of an investment, he must consider the price he will expect for his production, by necessity always referring to current levels. He can then calculate the interest cost he is prepared to pay to secure the capital necessary for his project, and therefore assess its profitability. The hope harboured by Keynes, that the state can stimulate the economy at the expense of savings beyond the very short term is incorrect. His paradox of thrift, which Keynes used to try to dissuade a propensity to save, was a conclusion drawn from these errors. They are in large part responsible for the plight in which the US, the UK, and various member states of the EU now find themselves.  Savings in the context of national finances More than any other factor, the propensity to save is a major influence on national finances, being a “swing factor” between a government’s budget and the national trade position. There is an important question most analysts ignore. It is the twin deficit hypothesis, whereby if the savings rate doesn’t change, a budget deficit leads to a matching trade deficit.  The reason the two deficits are linked in this way is because of the following national accounting identity: (Imports - Exports) ≡ (Investment - Savings) + (Government spending - Taxes) In other words, a trade deficit is the result of a budget deficit not funded by savings but by additional credit. This can be confirmed by following the money. For a budget deficit, there are only two sources of funding. Consumers put aside some of their spending to increase their savings in order to subscribe for government bonds. Otherwise, the banking system comes up with funding in the form of credit issued by the central bank or by commercial banks, putting additional credit into circulation which didn’t exist before. The financing of a budget deficit by credit expansion leads to excess credit in an economy without matching production. This is the point behind Say’s law, which defines the division of labour. We produce to consume, and the function of money and credit is one of intermediation between the two. Injecting extra credit into an economy does nothing to raise production, but it does increase overall demand, at least until it is absorbed into the economy in accordance with the Cantillon effect. Directly or indirectly, this excess demand can only be satisfied by imported consumer goods, because an increase in domestic production is unavailable.  The role of savings in the context of national finances is very important. An increase in savings is at the expense of consumption, which is why economists often refer to savings as consumption deferred. For consumption to remain deferred requires it to be invested, either into production or government debt usually through the banks, pension funds, insurance companies or other financial channels acting on the savers’ behalf. If the destination of additional savings is investment in government debt, they are turned into consumption by the government. By not being spent on additional consumer goods, the trade deficit falls relative to the budget deficit.  As noted above, despite the destructive Keynesian policies of its government, Japanese savers habitually respond to an increase in credit by retaining it in their savings accounts. Consequently, consumer price inflation is subdued, relative to that in other countries. While the Eurozone has employed similar interest rate policies and is suffering CPI-recorded debasement of over 10%, in Japan it is about 4%. As we note below, in China whose savings ratio is 45%, CPI measured inflation is currently less than 2%. The deployment of capital by Japan’s corporations, which is the counterpart of increased savings, is invested in improvements in technology and production methods, keeping consumer prices lower than they would otherwise be. Because Japanese savers are so consistent in their savings culture, Japanese corporations have benefitted from a relatively low and stable cost of capital, making business calculation more reliable. For Japan, savings are the positive swing factor in the twin deficit hypothesis. The same is true of any economy where there is a government deficit while at the same time there is a propensity in the population to save rather than spend. It is the driving force behind China’s export surpluses, because with the sole exception of Singapore, the Chinese are the biggest savers on the planet. The position of nations whose economic policies have been to tax savings and to encourage immediate consumption is diametrically different. It is consumption funded by the expansion of money and credit without increases in savings which has led to persistent US trade deficits, twinned with budget deficits.  The evidence confirms that a savings driven economy is more successful than a consumption driven economy. Not only does the former protect the currency’s purchasing power by reducing the need for reliance on foreign capital inflows to finance internal deficits, but empirical evidence clearly shows savings-driven economies are more successful at creating wealth for their citizens. Importantly, a currency backed by a savings culture can weather a greater level of credit expansion by its central bank without adverse consequences for prices. The condition which must apply is that fiat currencies continue to operate as media of exchange. The moment a major currency such as the US dollar fails, then all fiat currencies are likely to be destabilised. The cure for that risk is to tie currencies to legal money, which is gold. In the absence of that link, even the strongest fiat currency loses purchasing power over time. The Japanese yen has lost 95% of its purchasing power relative to gold since 1970, an average of 1.83% every year. But including tax-free bank interest, the Japanese housewife has probably just about retained the value of her post office savings account, unlike her taxed equivalents in the other major currencies. Supplying a reserve currency  As Robert Triffin, the Belgian-American economist put it, for a currency to be available internationally to act as the reserve currency requires irresponsible short-term domestic economic and monetary policies. Triffin originally described why this is the case in evidence before the US Congress in 1959. It was a dilemma, which would eventually lead to an erosion of confidence in the currency. He was proved right eight years later when the London gold pool failed, leading to the abandonment of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971. In a twist of Triffin’s earlier warning whereby his predicted outcome is ignored, in recent years the dilemma has been taken to justify continual trade deficits, the counterpart of which is the accumulation of dollars in foreign hands. The eventual consequences are ignored. Currently, these dollars and the US financial assets in which they are invested total over $30 trillion, significantly more than US GDP. This total has fallen by over $3 trillion in the year to September, mainly due to a fall in market valuations. But there has been net foreign selling of existing US dollar assets as well, while the US trade deficit has added to the outflow by an additional trillion dollars. The US now appears to be in a similar position to that described by Triffin as the inevitable outcome of providing the world with its reserve currency. Furthermore, the scale of dollar and dollar denominated financial asset accumulation has been encouraged by a bond bull market on the back of a declining interest rate trend which has lasted forty years. Crucially, domestic funding of budget deficits as recorded by the savings rate has failed to match this foreign interest. However, domestic investors have made substantial portfolio gains along with foreign holders of dollars. Driving these gains has been the inflation of credit directed into financial activities thereby sustaining the bubble, while the Fed goosed valuations by suppressing interest rates to the zero bound. When the rate of consumer price inflation unexpectedly broke the bounds of statistical management — independent analysts had it far higher than official figures for many years citing changes in methodology — it became clear that the bull market in US asset values was over. Being in the early stages of a bear market, this fundamental change is yet to be widely recognised, but with official interest rates well below the CPI rate of increase, foreign investors are certain of yet more portfolio and currency losses. Domestic investors and bulls of their own currency assume foreigners will still demand dollars, when the evidence from the continuing trade deficit and the US Treasury’s TIC figures confirm they are already turning sellers. This dichotomy between foreigner and domestic users of a currency is not unusual. An examination of previous episodes of currencies in trouble confirms that the foreign exchanges are usually first to recognise they should be sold, while domestic users usually continue to believe that they will retain their value.  If it is not too late, the solution to stabilising today’s fiat currencies is to remove all obstacles to savers, in an attempt to increase the savings ratio. But when a currency is already on its way to eventual extinction, removing tax disincentives may not be enough, and other measures to reduce the budget deficit must be taken in order to reduce the trade deficit. But then we run into Keynes’s savings paradox: discouraging consumption in favour of savings is viewed by neo-Keynesians as recessionary when economic growth is already stalling. The Saudi’s decision to ditch dollars in favour of yuan — turning from petrodollars to petroyuan — couldn’t have come at a worse time for the dollar. In addition to facing a bear market for their dollar assets, foreign holders now find its mainstay justification is distinctly frayed. Almost certainly, the dollar is on the verge of a Triffin crisis. The future role of China’s yuan  This time, it appears that the dollar has nowhere to turn. Asia is now the most important geopolitical region, with some 3.8bn people rapidly industrialising. Member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Union, and BRICS are increasingly determined to move away from dollars, its hegemony, and influence. As the Saudis and the whole Gulf Cooperation Council of oil exporters are demonstrating, China’s yuan is being seen as the dollar’s replacement for inter-Asian payments. The roles of the euro, yen, and sterling in foreign reserves are also likely to diminish with the dollar as well.  At this stage the new global currency reserve position is still unclear, with the Eurasian Economic Union planning a trade settlement currency, and the Russians sending vague signals but yet to prognosticate. But in the context of Triffin and savings rates, China could hardly be more different from the US.  China has a savings rate of about 45% of its GDP. With this propensity to save, it is unsurprising that consumer price inflation is under two per cent. Moreover, government finances have taken a hit from China’s covid lockdown policies and a property development crisis, leaving a deficit of over $1 trillion equivalent for 2022. But even so, with such a high savings rate the surplus on the balance of trade for 2022 was still positive at $890bn. The Triffin dilemma suggests that for the yuan to become a replacement reserve currency the Chinese government will have to start spending like drunken sailors while taxing domestic savings to the hilt. Only then can a trade deficit be expected to arise. But such a volte face in economic policy would surely destroy the yuan’s credibility. After all, it took ten years from the suspension of the Bretton Woods agreement and interest rates rising to 20% for the dollar to then assume the role of a reserve currency in gold’s stead. We must question the need for central banks to maintain currency reserves in the future. Not only did the western alliance send a signal that they could be made worthless by its cartel at the stroke of a pen, but the shift from the petrodollar to the petroyuan is symbolic of a currency regime that has had its time. The possession of reserves originated with the requirement for central banks to back their currencies with legal money — gold. It is the abandonment of this link with money that led to possession of currency reserves, with dollar holdings at their core. But other than for limited international intervention purposes there seems to be little reason to hold them, particularly for those central banks who have become aware of the western alliance’s declining influence. China with its trade surplus while maintaining a balance in its payments by exporting capital has no need for other currency reserves beyond some minor liquidity. The capital being exported is in yuan in the form of bank credit, and it suits China with her plans for the industrialisation of Greater Asia and its suppliers in Africa and South America to make substantial investments for her greater good. The Chinese government controls its major banks and can direct the application of this surplus credit. There is no need therefore for China to destroy its finances to provide yuan as a reserve currency, as Triffin originally suggested. Clearly, there must be a revolution in central bank thinking underway in the broader Asian camp. Central banks are beginning to replace the major currencies in their reserves with yuan and even roubles. But these currencies are not available in sufficient quantities to replace their dollars, euros, yen, and sterling. This is why they are turning the clock back and beginning to accumulate physical gold. In a few words, it is China’s high savings rate which gives its government the resources, the power, and the opportunity to displace the American dollar and its hegemony from Greater Asia and much of the developing world. Our mistake leading to our relative decline was to listen to Keynes and his paradox of thrift. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/15/2023 - 20:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 15th, 2023

Macleod: The Evolution Of Credit & Debt In 2023

Macleod: The Evolution Of Credit & Debt In 2023 Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, The evidence strongly suggests that a combined interest rate, economic and currency crisis for the US and its western alliance will continue in 2023. This article focuses on credit, its constraints, and why quantitative easing has already crowded out private sector activity. Adjusting M2 money supply for accumulating QE indicates the degree to which this has driven the US tax base into deep recession. And the wider effects on credit in the economy should not be ignored.  After a brief partial recovery from the covid crisis in US government finances, they are likely to start deteriorating again due to a deepening recession of private sector activity. Funding these deficits depends on foreign inward investment flows, which are faltering. Rising interest rates and an ongoing bear market make funding from this source hard to envisage. Meanwhile, from his public statements President Putin is fully aware of these difficulties, and a consequence of the western alliance increasing their support and involvement in Ukraine makes it almost certain that Putin will take the opportunity to push the dollar over the edge. Credit is much more than bank deposits Economics is about credit, and its balance sheet twin, debt. Debt is either productive, in which case it can extinguish credit in due course, or it is not, and credit must be extended or written off. Money almost never comes into it. Money is distinguished from credit by having no counterparty risk, which credit always has. The role of money is to stabilise the purchasing power of credit. And the only legal form of money is metallic; gold, silver, or copper usually rendered into coin for enhanced fungibility. Credit is created between consenting parties. It facilitates commerce, created to circulate existing commodities, and to transform them into consumer goods. The chain of production requires credit, from miner, grower, or importer, to manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer and customer or consumer. Credit in the production chain is only extinguished when the customer or consumer pays for the end product. Until then, the entire production chain must either have money or arrange for credit to pay for their inputs.  Providers of this credit include the widest range of economic actors in an economy as well as the banks. When we talk of the misnamed money supply as the measure of credit in an economy, we are looking at the tip of an iceberg, leading us to think that debt in the form of bank notes and deposit accounts owed to individuals and businesses is the extent of it. Changes in the banking sector’s risk appetite drive a larger change in unrecorded credit conditions. We must accept that changes in the level of officially recognised debt are merely symptomatic of larger changes in payment obligations in the economy.  The role of credit is not adequately understood by economists. Keynes’s General Theory has only one indexed reference to credit in the entire book, the vade mecum for all macroeconomists. Even the title includes “money” when it is actually all about credit. Von Mises expounds on credit to a considerable degree in his Human Action, but this is an exception. And even his followers today are often unclear about the distinction between money and credit. Economists and commentators have begun to understand that credit is not limited to banks, by admitting to the existence of shadow banking, a loose definition for financial institutions which do not have a banking licence but circulate credit. The Bank for International Settlements which monitors shadow banking appears to suspect shadow banks of creating credit without the requirement of a banking licence. There appears to be a confusion here: the BIS’s starting point is that credit is the preserve of a licenced bank. The mistake is to not understand the wider role of non-bank credit in economic activity. But these institutions, ranging from insurance companies and pension funds to various forms of financial intermediaries and agents, unconsciously create credit by allowing time to elapse between a commitment giving rise to an obligation, and its settlement. Even next day settlement is a debt obligation for a buyer, or credit extended by a seller. Delivery against settlement is a credit obligation for both parties in a transaction. Futures, forwards, and options are credit obligations in favour of a buyer, which can be traded. And when a broker insists a client must have a credit in his account before investing, or to deliver securities before selling, credits and obligations are also created. Therefore, credit has the same effect as money (which is very rarely used) in every transaction, financial or non-financial. All the debts in the accounts of businesses are part of the circulating medium in an economy, including bills of exchange and other tradable obligations. And at each transfer a new credit, debt, or right of action is created, while others are extinguished. A banking system provides a base for further credit expansion because all credit transactions are ultimately settled in bank notes, which are an obligation of the note issuer (in practice today, a central bank) or through the novation of a bank deposit, being an obligation of a commercial bank. Banks are simply dealers in credit. As such, they facilitate not just their own dealings, but all credit creation and expunction.  The reason for making the point about the true extent of credit is that it is a mistake to think that the statistical expansion, or contraction of it, conventionally measured by the misnamed money supply, is the true extent of a change in outstanding credit. Central banks in particular act as if they believe that by influencing the height of the visible tip of the credit iceberg, they can simply ignore the consequences for the rest.  It is also worth making this point so that we can assess how the economies of the western alliance will fare in the year ahead — the American-led NATO and other nations adhering to its sphere of influence. With signs of bank credit no longer expanding and, in some cases, contracting, and with price inflation continuing at destructive levels and a recession threatened, it is rarely so important to understand credit and its role in an economy.  We also need to have a true understanding of credit to assess the prospects for China’s economy, which appears to be set on a different course. Emerging from lockdown and in the light of favourable geopolitical developments while the western alliance is tipping into recession, the prospects for China’s economy are rapidly improving. Interest rates in 2023 That the long-term trend of declining interest rates for the major fiat currencies over the last four decades came to an end in 2021 is now beyond question. That this trend fostered a continuing appreciation of asset values is fundamental to an understanding of the consequences. And that the expansion of bank credit supporting a widening plethora of financial credit has stopped, is now only beginning to be register. If we look at the quarterly rate of change in US M2 money supply, this is now evident. Since the Bretton Woods agreement was abandoned in 1971, there has not been as severe a contraction of US dollar bank credit as witnessed today. It follows a massive covid-related spike when the US Government’s budget deficit soared. And its rise and fall is contemporaneous with a collapse in government revenues and soaring welfare costs. In fiscal 2020 (to end-September), the Federal Government’s deficit was $3.312 trillion, compared with revenue of $3.42 trillion. It meant that spending was nearly twice tax income. Some of that excess expenditure was helicoptered directly into citizens’ bank accounts. The rest was reflected in bank balances as it was spent into public circulation by the government. Furthermore, from March 2020 the Fed commenced QE at the rate of $120bn per month, adding a total of $2.6 trillion in bank deposits by the end of fiscal 2021.  Deflating M2 by QE to get a feel for changes in the aggregate level of bank deposits strictly related to private sector origination tells us that private sector related credit was already contracting substantially in fiscal 2020—2021. This finding is consistent with an economy which suffered a suspension of much activity. This is illustrated in our next chart, taken from January 2020. In this chart, accumulating QE is subtracted from official M2 to derive the red line. In practice, one cannot make such a clear distinction, because QE credit goes directly into the financial sector, which is broadly excluded from the GDP calculation. Nevertheless, QE inflates not just commercial bank reserves at the Fed, but their deposit liabilities to the insurance companies, pension funds, and other members of the shadow banking group. A minor portion of QE might relate to the commercial banks themselves, which for practical purposes can be ignored. Through QE, state-origination of credit effectively crowds out private sector-origination of credit. A Keynesian critic might dismiss this on the basis that he believes QE stimulates the wider economy. That may be true when a monetary stimulus is first applied, since it takes time for market prices to adjust to the extra quantity of credit. Furthermore, QE stimulates financial market values and not the GDP economy, only affecting it later in a roundabout way. But when QE eventually leaks out into the wider economy, it leads to higher prices for consumer goods, confirmed by the dramatic re-emergence of consumer price inflation. Furthermore, regulated banks are limited in their ability to create credit by balance sheet constraints, so to accommodate QE they are necessarily restricted in their credit creation for private sector borrowers. Given the far larger quantities of non-bank credit which depend for its facilitation on bank credit, the negative impact on the economy of banks becoming risk averse is poorly understood. It is ignored on the assumption that state-origination of credit through budget deficits stimulates economic activity. What is less appreciated is that QE has already driven the non-government portion of the US economy into a deepening recession, yet to be reflected in government statistics. Furthermore, that the extra credit burden on the commercial banking system has exceeded their collective balance sheet capacity is confirmed by the Fed’s reverse repo facility, which offers deposit facilities additional to the commercial banking system. Currently standing at $2.2 trillion, it represents the bulk of excess credit created by QE since March 2020. Adjusted for QE, the falling level of private sector deposits in the M2 statistic is consistent with an economic slump, only concealed statistically by the expansion of state spending and the loss of the dollar’s purchasing power. The economic distortions arising from QE are not restricted to America but are repeated in the other advanced economies as well. The only offset to the problem is an increase in private sector savings at the expense of immediate consumption and the extent to which they absorb increasing government borrowing. That way, the consequences for price inflation would have been lessened. But in America, much of the EU, and the UK, savings have not increased as a proportion of GDP, so there has been little or no savings offset to soaring budget deficits. A funding crisis is in the making Returning to the US as our primary example, we can see that national monetary statistics are concealing a slump in economic activity in the “real economy”. This real economy represents the state’s revenue base. On its own, this is going to lead to higher government borrowing than expected by forecasters as tax revenues fall and welfare commitments rise. And interest expense, already estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to cost $442bn in the current fiscal year and $525bn in fiscal 2024, are bound to be significantly higher due to unbudgeted extra borrowing. Officialdom still assumes that a recession will be mild and brief. Consequently, the CBO’s calculations are unrealistic in what is clearly an unfolding economic slump given the evidence from bank credit. Even without considering additional negative factors, such as bankruptcies and bank failures which always attend a deep recession, borrowing cost estimates are almost certainly going to be far higher than currently expected. In addition to domestic spending, the western alliance appears to be stepping up its war in Ukraine against Russia. US Defence spending is already running at nearly $800bn, and that can be expected to escalate significantly as the conflict in Ukraine worsens. The CBO’s estimate for 2024 is an increase to $814bn; but in the face of a more realistic assessment of an escalation of the Ukraine conflict since the CBO forecast was made last May, the outturn could easily be over $1,000bn.  To the volume of debt issuance must also be added variations in interest cost. Bond investors currently tolerate negative yields in the apparent belief that falling consumer demand in a recession will reduce the tendency for consumer prices to rise. This is certainly the official line in all western central banks. But as we have seen, this “transient inflation” argument has had its timescale pushed further into the future as reality intervenes.  This line of thinking, which is based on interpretations of supply and demand curves, ignores the plain fact that a general fall in consumption is tied irrevocably to a general fall in production. It also ignores the most important variable, which is the purchasing power of a fiat currency. It is the loss of purchasing power, which is primarily reflected in the consumer price index following the dilution of the currency by its debasement. In the absence of a sheet anchor tying credit values to legal money there is the thorny question of its users’ confidence being maintained in it as the exchange medium. Should that deteriorate, not only have we yet to see the consequences of earlier QE work their way through to undermining the dollar’s purchasing power, but the cost of government borrowing is likely to remain higher and for longer than official forecasts assume.  Funding difficulties are ahead We can now identify sources of ongoing credit inflation, which at the least will serve to continue to undermine the dollar’s purchasing power and ensure that a rising trend for interest rates will continue. This conclusion is markedly different from expectations that the current catalogue of problems facing the US authorities amounts to a series of one-off factors that will diminish and disappear in time. We can see that in common with the Eurozone, Japan, and the UK, the US financial system will be required to come up with rising levels of credit to fund government debt, the consequence of continuing high levels of budget deficits. Furthermore, after a brief respite from the exceptional levels of deficits over covid, there is every likelihood that these deficits will increase again, particularly in the US, UK, and the PIGS grouping in the Eurozone. Not only do these nations have a problem with budget deficits, but they have trade deficits as well. This is bad news particularly for the dollar and sterling, because both currencies are overly dependent on inward capital flows to balance their governments’ books. It is becoming apparent that with respect to credit policies, the authorities in America (and the UK) are faced with mounting funding difficulties to resolve. We can briefly summarise them as follows: Though they have yet to admit it, despite all the QE to date the evidence of a gathering recession is mounting. It has only served to conceal a deteriorating economic condition. The Fed is prioritising tackling rising consumer prices for now, claiming that that is the immediate problem. Along with the US Treasury, the Fed still claims that inflation is transient. This claim must continue to have credibility if negative real yields in bond markets are to endure, a situation which cannot last for very long. Monetary stimulus is confined by a lack of commercial banking balance sheet space. Further stimulation through QE will come up against this lack of headroom.  With early evidence of a declining foreign appetite for US Treasuries, it could become increasingly difficult to fund the government’s deficits, as was the case in the UK in the 1970s. This author has vivid recollections of a similar situation faced by the UK’s monetary authorities between 1972—1975. In those days, the Bank of England was instructed in its monetary policy by the Treasury, and often its market related advice was overridden by Treasury mandarins lacking knowledge of financial markets. During the Barbour boom of 1971—1972, the Bank suppressed interest rates and encouraged the inflation of credit. Subsequently, price inflation started to rise and interest rates belatedly followed, always reluctantly conceded by the authorities. This rapidly became a funding crisis for the government. The Treasury always tried to issue gilt-edged stock at less than the market was prepared to pay. Consequently, sterling’s exchange rate would come under pressure, and with a trend of rising consumer prices continuing, interest rates would have to be raised to get the gilt issue of the day subscribed. Having reflected a deteriorating situation, bond yields then fell when it was momentarily resolved. The crunch came in Autumn 1973, when the Bank of England’s minimum lending rate was increased from 9% on 26 July in steps to 13% on 13 November. A banking crisis suddenly ensued among lenders exposed to commercial property, and a number of banks failed. This episode became known as the secondary banking crisis. As bond yields rose, stock markets crashed, with the FT30 Share Index falling from 530 in May 1972, to 140 in January 1975. The listed commercial property sector was virtually wiped out. In an air of crisis, inept Treasury policies continued to contribute to a growing fear of runaway inflation. Long maturity gilt issues bore coupons such as 15 ¼% and 15 ½%. And finally, in November 1976, the IMF bailed Britain out with a $3.9bn loan.  Today, these lessons for the Fed and holders of dollar denominated financial assets are instructive. Future increases in interest rates were always underestimated, and as the error became apparent bond yields rose and equities fell. While the Fed is notionally independent from the US Treasury, the Federal Open Market Committee’s approach to markets is one of control, which was not so much shared by the Bank of England in the 1970s but reflected the anti-market Keynesian view of the controlling UK Treasury.  In common with all other western central banks today, official policy at the Fed is to deny that price inflation is related to the quantity of credit. It is rare that money or credit in the context of a circulating medium is even mentioned in FOMC policy statements. Instead, interest rate setting is the dominant theme. And there is no acknowledgement that interest rates are primarily compensation to depositors for loss of purchasing power — a dangerous error when national finances are dependent on foreigners buying your treasury bonds.  Foreign ownership of dollars and dollar assets In the 1970s, sterling’s troubles were compounded by a combination of trade deficits and Britain’s dependence on inward (foreign) investment. In short, the nation was, and still is savings deficient. Consequently, at the first sign of rising interest rates foreign holders recognised that the UK government would drag its heels at accepting reality. They would turn sellers leading to perennial sterling crises. Today, the dollar has been protected from this fate because of its status as the world’s reserve currency. Otherwise, it shares the same characteristics as sterling in the 1970s — twin deficits, reliance upon foreign investment, and rising yields on government bonds.  According to the US Treasury’s TIC statistics, in the 12 months to September last, foreign holders purchased $846bn long-term securities. Breaking these figures down, private sector foreigners were net buyers, while foreign governments were net sellers. This reflects the difference between the trade deficit and the balance of payments: in other words, importers were retaining and investing most of their dollar payments on a net basis. Table 1 shows the most recent position. Over the last year, the total value of foreign long-term and short-term investments in dollars (including bank deposits) fell by $3.531 trillion to $30.270 trillion. $2.532 trillion of this decline was in equity valuations, and with the recent rally in equity and bond markets, there will be some recovery in these numbers. But they are an indication of market and currency risks assumed by foreign holders of these assets if US bond yields start to rise again. And here we must also consider relative currency attractions. The decline of the petrodollar and rise of the petroyuan It is in this context that we must view Saudi Arabia’s move to replace petrodollars with petroyuan. Through its climate change policies, the western alliance against the Asian hegemons has effectively told its oil and natural gas supliers in the Gulf Cooperation Council that their carbon fuel products will no longer be welcome in a decade’s time. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Middle East sees its future trade being with China, along with her associates in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian economic Union, and the BRICS. Saudi Arabia has indicated her desire to join BRICS. Along with Egypt, Qatar, Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia are also on the list to become dialog partners of the SCO.  Binding the membership of the SCO together is China’s plans to accelerate a communications and industrial revolution throughout Asia, and with a savings rate of 45% she has the capital available to invest in the necessary projects without undermining her currency. While America stagnates, China’s economy will be powering ahead. There are further advantages to China’s plans with respect to the security and availability of cheap energy. While the Asians pay lip service to the western alliance’s insistence that fossil fuels must be reduced and then eliminated, in practice SCO members are still building coal-fired power stations and increasing their demand for all forms of fossil fuel. Members, associates, and dialog partners of the SCO, representing over 40% of the world’s population now include all the major oil and gas exporters in Asia. The economic consequences are certain to impart significant advantages to China and her industrialisation plans, compared with the western alliance’s determination to starve itself of energy. While it will take some time for the Saudis to fully declare the petrodollar dead, the signal that she is prepared to accept petroyuan is an important one with more immediate consequences. We can be sure that besides geopolitical imperatives, the Saudis will have analysed the relative prospects between the two petro-currencies. They appear to have concluded that the risk of loss of the yuan’s purchasing power is at least no greater than that of the dollar. And if the Saudis are arriving at this conclusion, we can assume that other Asian governments holding dollars in their reserves will as well. Russia is likely to stir the currency pot With the western alliance increasing its support and involvement in the Ukraine proxy war, the military pressure on Russia is mounting. If President Putin has learned anything, it should be that military attempts to secure Eastern Ukraine carry a high risk of failure. Furthermore, with the alliance bringing more lethal weaponry to bear on his army, his prospects of military success are declining. Compounding his military problems is the recent decline in oil and gas prices, particularly of the latter which has taken the energy squeeze off the EU. There can be little doubt that the greater these negative factors become, the greater the pressure on Putin to resort to a financial solution. Putin’s strategy is likely to be simple and has already been telegraphed in his speech to the delegates at the St Petersburg Economic Forum last June. In short, he understands the weakness for the dollar’s position and by extension those of the other alliance currencies. Ideally, a cold snap in Middle and Eastern Europe will help lift oil and gas prices, increasing the prospects for price inflation, thereby bringing renewed pressure for interest rates in the alliance currencies to rise. This will lead to renewed losses on US and EU bonds, further falls in equities, and therefore dollar liquidation by foreigners. The eventual outcome of Triffin’s dilemma, a final crisis for the reserve currency, is certainly in the wings. With the situation in Ukraine likely to escalate, Putin can ill afford to delay. On another front, he has authorised Russia’s National Wealth Fund to invest up to 60% in Chinese yuan and 40% in physical gold. This is probably a move to protect the fund from Putin’s view of future currency trends and from their declining value in gold. It is consistent with what the Saudis are doing with respect to getting out of dollars into yuan, and probably some gold bullion through the Shanghai International Gold Exchange. If this demand for gold extends beyond both Russia and Saudi Arabia, then the mechanism for dollar destruction could be accelerating demand for gold from multiple governments and entities in the Russian Chinese axis. Tyler Durden Sat, 01/14/2023 - 17:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 14th, 2023

Futures Slump Ahead Of Powell Speech

Futures Slump Ahead Of Powell Speech US futures dropped as investors waited to see whether Fed Chair Jerome Powell will differentiate himself from hawkish comments made by two policy makers on Monday when he speaks later at an event in Sweden at 9am ET. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped to session lows around 7:15am ET after trading little changed for much of the overnight session. Traders are also reluctant to take strong directional bets before US inflation data is published on Thursday and visibility clears up on the trajectory of interest rates. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was near session after trading earlier in a tight range, while the rest of the currencies in the Group of 10 were mixed. Treasuries also broke out above a range, hitting session highs around 3.57% around the time stocks stumbled. Oil rose with gold and Bitcoin rallying for a seventh-straight day. Among US premarket movers, Virgin Orbit slumped as much as 27%, putting the stock on track for its biggest drop since June 2022, after the failure of a rocket that Richard Branson’s satellite company launched from a Boeing 747. Among winners, Oak Street Health rose 33% after Bloomberg reported that drugstore operator CVS is exploring an acquisition of the primary care provider, in a deal which could exceed $10 billion, including debt. Shares in Frontline, listed both in the US and Norway, surged as much as 20% in Oslo after the shipping giant controlled by billionaire John Fredriksen walked away from its plans to acquire Belgium’s Euronav, which dropped 21% on the news. Bed Bath & Beyond shares also jumped as much as 20%, poised to continue its rebound from the previous session, ahead of its earnings report and after the troubled home furnishings retailer saw its long-term rating upgraded at S&P. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Boeing stock slides 2.7% as Morgan Stanley downgraded its rating on the planemaker to equal-weight from overweight, saying the stock is now approaching fair value following recent outperformance. Frontline (FRO US) shares surge 22% after the company said it wouldn’t make a voluntary conditional exchange offer for all outstanding shares of the oil tanker operator Euronav. The decision not to proceed follows opposition from Belgium’s Saverys family - a major holder in Euronav. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY US) shares jump 20%, poised to continue their rebound from the previous session before its earnings report. The troubled home furnishings retailer also saw its long-term rating upgraded at S&P. HP Enterprise shares were down 1.9% after Barclays downgraded them to equal-weight, taking a cautious view on IT hardware stocks in 2023 given a challenging macro backdrop. The broker also cut NetApp (NTAP US) and upgraded Keysight (KEYS US) shares. Barclays expects a difficult 1H for US software stocks as estimates still look too high, even if valuation levels are “interesting.” The broker upgrades DoubleVerify (DV US) and Confluent (CFLT US), cuts Dynatrace (DT US). RBC anticipates a challenging start for US software stocks in 2023, which will eventually give way to “green shoots” of optimism. The broker outlines its top picks in the sector and cuts Box (BOX US) to underperform. Watch Chemours (CC US) after the stock was cut to sector perform from outperform at RBC on expectations that a challenging fourth quarter for the chemicals firm will feed into the first half of 2023. Keep an eye on PPG Industries (PPG US) as it was cut to sector perform from outperform at RBC with limited upside seen for the paint-maker’s stock amid expectations that volumes will come under pressure. Sentiment was dented on Monday, as a 1.4% gain in the S&P was fully reversed, after the San Francisco and Atlanta Fed presidents poured cold water on hopes that monetary tightening would soon ease off by calling for interest rates to rise above 5% and staying there, a scenario strategists believe would be negative for stock markets. It's also what they have been saying for months, but the market is always happy to keep pricing in the same flashing red headline as if it was new. "Sentiment is torn between the fear of missing out good news on inflation and, by opposite, angsts the Fed will be stubborn in its fight against inflation which reinforces the risk of a recession,” said Sarah Thirion, a Paris-based strategist at TP ICAP Europe. Fears about Covid in China and the trend of corporate guidance which will be unveiled during the next earnings season are also weighing on stocks, Thirion said. "The same pattern keeps emerging, with investors clinging onto any data which appears to show the economy is cooling off, only to see their hopes dashed by policymakers who clearly believe the inflation-busting job is far from over,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. Thursday’s US inflation report, which will come out almost a week after the latest jobs data showed wage growth has decelerated, will be among the last such readings Fed policy makers will see before their Jan. 31-Feb. 1 gathering. European stock markets, which have outperformed Wall Street since September, were also in a cautious mood with the Stoxx 600 down 0.6% after hitting an eight-month high yesterday. Retailers, industrials and miners are the worst performing sectors. Here are some of the most notable European movers: Orsted gains as much as 4.1% after being named among preferred picks in the renewables space by both Morgan Stanley and Exane. Card Factory jumps as much as 9.4% after raising full-year pretax profit guidance in a trading update. Liberum said the greetings-card retailer delivered another “impressive” update. Plus500 gains as much as 3% after giving an update for the year-end, with Liberum saying the trading platform saw an “excellent” performance in FY22. AO World rises as much as 18% after raising guidance for FY adjusted Ebitda. Jefferies says the update shows that efforts to cut costs and improve margins are working. European staffing stocks drop following a warning from UK recruiter Robert Walters and with Dutch peer Randstad downgraded by Degroof Euronav slumps 21% after Frontline said it won’t make a voluntary conditional exchange offer for all outstanding shares of the oil tanker operator. Husqvarna falls as much as 4.6%, the most since Dec. 15, after Danske Bank cut its recommendation to hold from buy, expecting a “challenging” first half of 2023. Kahoot shares fall as much as 18%, the most since November, after the company published below-forecast fourth- quarter preliminary adjusted Ebitda on weak macro conditions. Games Workshop falls as much as 6.9% after reporting 1H results that Jefferies said contained highs and lows, highlighting the challenges flagged by management. Optimism for the region is rising with economists at Goldman Sachs no longer predicting a euro-zone recession after the economy proved more resilient at the end of 2022, natural gas prices fell sharply and China abandoned Covid-19 restrictions earlier than anticipated. GDP is now expected to increase 0.6% this year, compared with an earlier forecast for a contraction of 0.1%. Economists led by Jari Stehn warn in a report to clients of weak growth during the winter given the energy crisis, and say headline inflation will ease faster than thought, to about 3.25% by end-2023. As reported previously, BofA CIO Michael Hartnett said a new era may have started with the ratio of the S&P 500 index to the Stoxx Europe 600 breaking its 100-week moving average, a support that has held strong for more than a decade. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks declined as Chinese equities halted their rally, which had pushed a key regional benchmark to a bull market, amid profit-taking and renewed caution on the Fed’s rate-hike path.  The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped as much as 0.3% as of 4:17 pm in Singapore, dragged lower by Alibaba and Ping An Insurance. Trading volume was about 4% lower than the three-month average, according to data complied by Bloomberg. Tuesday’s breather comes as Asia’s benchmark index a day earlier entered bull territory, driven by China’s reopening and a weakening dollar that lured investors back to the region after facing a downward spiral for much of 2022.  Benchmarks in Hong Kong posted moderate losses while stock gauges in India, Singapore and Indonesia dropped more than 1%. Indonesian stocks were on track to enter a technical correction as investors looked to cash out from one of Asia’s hottest markets for 2022. Japanese equities climbed as traders returned from a holiday; as investors assessed the impact of China’s reopening and US job data that showed slower-than-expected average wage growth. The Topix Index rose 0.3% to 1,880.88 as of the market close in Tokyo, while the Nikkei advanced 0.8% to 26,175.56. Daikin Industries Ltd. contributed the most to the Topix Index gain, increasing 5.3%. Out of 2,162 stocks in the index, 1,092 rose and 953 fell, while 117 were unchanged. “Japanese stocks benefited from the belief that the Fed’s next rate hike will be more moderate,” said Tomo Kinoshita, a global market strategist at Invesco Asset Management. “China’s reopening has a positive impact on Japanese stocks, and inbound demand will resume once regulations around Chinese tourists are eased.” “After the sharp rally, Asian markets could see a bout of profit taking amid headwinds from tighter financial conditions and no respite in Fed rate-hike outlook,” said Nitin Chanduka, a strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence.  Two Fed officials said the central bank will likely need to raise interest rates above 5% before pausing and holding for some time. Still, the recent rally in Chinese equities may have more legs as consumption-driven firms drive the reopening rebound further and China shifts its focus to economic growth. Investors expect a strong 2023 for both Chinese stocks and the yuan as Asia’s largest economy bucks the global trend of weakening expansion. Morgan Stanley turned even more bullish on the market, raising price targets further and expecting China to top global equity-market performance in 2023.  “We remain of the view that Asian investors should use this volatility in 1Q23 as an opportunity to raise exposure,” said Chetan Seth, an Asia equity strategist at Nomura Holdings.  Australian stocks nudged lower after Fed speakers dampened risk sentiment. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3% to close at 7,131.00 as investors assessed hawkish commentary from Fed officials. The retreat halted the benchmark’s four-day run of gains. Miners and banks were the biggest drags on Tuesday. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 11,665.26 Stocks in India resumed a decline after bellwether Tata Consultancy’s quarterly earnings showed increasing caution over technology spending amid an uncertain economic outlook. The S&P BSE Sensex fell 1% to 60,115.48 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index declined by an equal measure. Both the gauges are close to extending their losses from peak levels last month to 5% as investors resort to profit-taking at the start of the earnings season. Sixteen of BSE Ltd.’s 20 sector sub-gauges declined, led by telecom companies, while Reliance Industries was the biggest drag on the Sensex, plunging 1.5%. Tata Consultancy Services closed 1% lower after its net income for the fiscal third quarter trailed estimates. Foreign investors have been sellers of local shares this month, taking out about $602 million through Jan. 6 after $167m of outflows in December. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Index jumped near session highs after the greenback initially slipped against most of its Group-of-10 peers. The dollar finds itself at a make-or-break technical moment, with its two-year rally under threat as key US inflation data looms. The euro rose to a daily high of around $1.0750 in European session. The euro hit fresh cycle highs Monday and options pricing is coming to reflect a more constructive outlook in the short-term. Bunds and Italian bonds dropped, underperforming Treasuries The Canadian dollar was steady. USD/CAD’s downward path is being refueled in the options space as traders position for an extended period of US dollar weakness The Australian dollar was the worst G-10 performer. Sovereign bonds inched up The yen was steady at 131.80 per dollar. Tokyo’s inflation outpaced forecasts to hit 4% for the first time since 1982, suggesting the underlying price trend is stronger than expected by economists, a factor that could further fuel speculation the Bank of Japan will adjust policy again In rates, Treasuries ease lower, following wider losses across core European rates amid supply pressures and ahead of a Riksbank conference on central bank independence where ECB’s Schnabel, BOE Governor Bailey and Fed Chair Powell are all scheduled to speak. US 10-year yield around 3.56%, cheaper by 3bp on the day with bunds and gilts lagging by additional 2.5bp and 2bp; long-end Treasuries outperformance flattens 5s30s by 1.5bp vs Monday’s close.  Front-end and intermediates lead slight losses in Treasuries, flattening 5s30s spread. After Powell appearance, the year's first auction cycle begins at 1pm ET with $40bn in 3-year new issue, followed by $32b 10-year, $18b 30-year reopenings on Wednesday and Thursday.  European bonds are also in the red with Bund futures underperforming their UK counterparts. The Gilt curve bear steepens with 2s10s widening 2.1bps. In commodities, crude futures reversed an earlier drop to trade higher. WTI Has added 0.5% to trade near $75.00. Spot gold rises roughly $5 to trade near $1,877/oz. Bitcoin is support above the USD 17k mark, holding towards the top-end of USD 17133-17294 parameters. Looking to the day ahea, at 9 a.m., Fed Chair Jerome Powell will speak at an event hosted by the Swedish central bank. Other speakers include  BoE Governor Bailey, BoJ Governor Kuroda, BoC Governor Macklem, and the ECB’s Schnabel, De Cos, and Knot. An hour later, we’ll get the latest data on wholesale inventories. At 10:30 a.m., President Joe Biden will meet Canada’s Justin Trudeau, while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen meets Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland at 1:30 p.m. The US will sell $40 billion 3-year notes at 1 p.m. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures down 0.5% to 3,896 STOXX Europe 600 down 0.7% to 445.05 MXAP little changed at 161.72 MXAPJ down 0.3% to 534.27 Nikkei up 0.8% to 26,175.56 Topix up 0.3% to 1,880.88 Hang Seng Index down 0.3% to 21,331.46 Shanghai Composite down 0.2% to 3,169.51 Sensex down 1.1% to 60,097.38 Australia S&P/ASX 200 down 0.3% to 7,131.00 Kospi little changed at 2,351.31 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.27% Euro up 0.2% to $1.0751 Brent Futures up 0.1% to $79.73/bbl Brent Futures up 0.1% to $79.74/bbl Gold spot up 0.3% to $1,876.70 U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 103.06 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg Cost pressures in corporate Germany appear to be easing, with fewer companies planning price increases during the coming months. Price expectations for the whole economy fell to 40.3 points in December from 46.2 points the previous month, according to a survey by the Ifo Institute published Tuesday Back in October equities and bonds were breaking from their normal settings to move together far more tightly than at almost any stage in history. Since then, the ties have only become tighter, as the prospects of an end to Fed rate hikes helps to drive gains for both Treasury futures and S&P 500 contracts East European nations started 2023 with a flurry of dollar issuance, putting the region on track for a record year as it rediscovers the foreign-debt market beyond its traditional euro-denominated sales Deflationary pressure in China worsened in the fourth quarter as the economy slumped, with price-growth likely to be subdued even when the economy rebounds later this year, according to China Beige Book International Egypt’s urban inflation accelerated at its fastest pace in five years as several rounds of currency devaluation filtered through to consumers A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk APAC stocks traded mostly lower as the risk appetite in the region stalled following a similar handover from Wall St where the major indices failed to sustain early gains despite a further dovish Fed repricing. ASX 200 was lacklustre amid weakness in industrials and mining stocks, although price action was rangebound amid the lack of any major fresh drivers. Nikkei 225 outperformed as it played catch-up to Monday’s advances on return from the extended weekend but with upside capped as participants also reflected on weak Household Spending and firm Tokyo CPI data releases. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were indecisive as the border reopening euphoria faded and despite reports that China will cut VAT for small businesses, while the PBoC also continued to drain liquidity. Top Asian News Chinese state media noted that the COVID-19 wave is past its peak in many parts of China. China's embassy in South Korea stopped issuing short-term visas for Korean citizens visiting China and said it will adjust policy subject to the lifting of South Korea's discriminatory entry restrictions against China, according to Reuters. Subsequently, the embassies in Japan took the same step. China's State Planner publishes registration rules for mid- & long-term foreign borrowings by companies, aimed at promoting orderly offshore financing. PBoC is to increase financial support for domestic demand and the supply system, to guide the balance sheets of high-quality real estate enterprises back to a safe range, ensure steady and orderly property financing. European bourses are underpressure, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.5%, in a continuation of the tepid APAC tone amid minimal newsflow. US futures are similarly contained and are diverging slightly around the unchanged mark pre-Powell. Amazon (AMZN) intends to close three UK warehouses (will impact 1,200 jobs), according to the PA. Top European News ECB's Schnabel says greening monetary policy requires structural changes to our monetary policy framework rather than adjustments to our reaction function. Preliminary inflation data for December point to a persistent build-up of underlying price pressures even as energy price inflation has started to subside. Interest rates will still have to rise significantly at a steady pace to reach levels that are sufficiently restrictive. Adyen, Nexi to Be Hit by Weaker Card Spending, Barclays Says Teneo Is Said to Near Deal to Buy British PR Firm Tulchan RBC Sees Good Growth For European Luxury and Premium Brands Uniper Says CEO and COO to Resign After Government Takeover FX Dollar is trying to regroup ahead of Fed Chair Powell, but DXY is heavy on the 103.000 handle and mixed vs majors. Kiwi marginally outperforming as Aussie retreats with Yuan after some Chinese officials warn about 2-way volatility in 2023. AUD/NZD cross reverses towards 1.0800 from 1.0860+, USD/CNH bounces from 6.7585 to almost 6.8000. Euro consolidates on a 1.0700 handle vs Buck, but Pound runs into resistance pips from 1.2200 PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 6.7611 vs exp. 6.7613 (prev. 6.8265) Fixed Income Bonds retreat further from peaks in consolidation and consideration of heavy conventional and syndicated issuance. Bunds sub-137.00 and very close to Monday's base, Gilts mostly under 102.00 and T-note below par within a 114-19+/11 range. Focus on Central Bank speakers at a Riksbank symposium where ECB's Schnabel has already been hawkish. Saudi Arabia has begun marketing a three-part USD bond, via Bloomberg. Commodities Crude benchmarks spent much of the European morning little changed, but have recently broken out of and eclipsed initial parameters, with upside of circa. USD 0.50/bbl as such. Barclays remains constructive on the space reiterating its Brent 2023 forecast of USD 98/bbl; writing there is the potential for USD 15-25/bbl of downside if the slump in global manufacturing worsens.. Goldman Sachs cut its Summer 2023 TTF price forecast by EUR 80 to EUR 100/MWh, citing exceptionally warm realised and forecast weather, as well as strong energy conservation. Iraq's December crude production was unchanged from November at 4.43mln BPD; in-line with its OPEC+ quota. Large Chinese nickel producer Tsingshan is in talks with struggling Chinese copper plants regarding processing its material which could double Chinese refined nickel output this year, according to LME says further work will be required to prepare and communicate to the market a detailed implementation plan re. the Oliver Wydman review. Spot gold and silver are diverging a touch and remain in close proximity to the unchanged mark in similarly narrow ranges, base metals are generally contained though the negative APAC bias remains in play. Geopolitics US Pentagon is mulling sending Stryker armoured vehicles to Ukraine in an upcoming aid package, according to people familiar with the matter cited by Politico. UK is willing to send battle tanks to Ukraine with PM Sunak supportive of Challenger II supply that could provide Ukrainian President Zelensky with a ‘knockout punch’, according to The Telegraph. Russian Defence Minister Shoigu says Moscow will develop its nuclear triad and be the main guarantee of Russian sovereignty, according to Interfax. Crypto Bitcoin is support above the USD 17k mark, holding towards the top-end of USD 17133-17294 parameters. US Event Calendar 06:00: Dec. SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM, 89.8; est. 91.5, prior 91.9 10:00: Nov. Wholesale Trade Sales MoM, est. 0.2%, prior 0.4% 10:00: Nov. Wholesale Inventories MoM, est. 1.0%, prior 1.0% Central Bank Speakers 05:10: Bailey, Schnabel, Macklem Speak in Stockholm 09:00: Powell Discusses Central Bank Independence at Riksbank Event DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Markets looked set to start the week off with a positive start across the globe yesterday until the last hurdle as the S&P 500 slipped around 1.5% from the European close to end -0.07%. The narrative explaining the reversal centred around more hawkish Fed speak but short-end markets didn’t move at all over this period so one has to be cautious on the reasons for the dip. For the record though, Atlanta Fed President Bostic indicated that the Fed was committed to raising interest rates into a “5-5.25% range” and then holding there through 2024 in order to stamp down on excess demand in the economy. The length of time and the implication that rate cuts were not imminent seems to have been what the market grabbed on to, and this mirrors the comments from the FOMC minutes earlier this month, which indicated the Fed’s concern over a “pause” being mistaken by the market as a “pivot”. Bostic also was in favour of slowing rate hikes to 25bps in February if the inflation print on Thursday showed consumer prices cooling after the payrolls data last Friday showed slowing wage growth. Separately, San Francisco Fed President Daly said that she expected the fed funds rate to reach above 5% but that the final level is dependent on incoming inflation data, while highlighting how core services ex-housing has been a persistent source of pricing pressures. Neither Fed presidents are voting members this year, but offer a window into the FOMC’s thinking but as we said, Fed pricing was also little changed after these comments. Those remarks come ahead of Fed Chair Powell today, who’ll be speaking at an event on central bank independence at 14:00 London time. It’s uncertain whether the topic in question will lead to an in-depth policy discussion, but if we do get any, a key question will be whether he entertains the prospect of a further downshift in the pace of rate hikes to 25bps. That’s currently the base case in markets, but clearly the CPI release on Thursday will be an influence on this and to future FOMC meetings too. Most of the US session was more about pricing in less Fed hikes over the coming months with the 10yr yield down -2.59bps to 3.532% (fairly flat in Asia this morning). Investors also continued to downgrade their expectations for further hikes from the Fed, with the year-end rate at just 4.44%, down -4.2bps on the day. Those moves were given a further boost by data from the New York Fed, whose data on inflation expectations showed that 1yr expectations fell to a 17-month low in December of 5.0%. That said, the news wasn’t quite as positive when it came to longer time horizons, with 3yr expectations remaining at 3.0%, and 5yr expectations ticking up a tenth to 2.4%. Even though US equities gave up gains, Tech stocks outperformed with yields lower, with both the NASDAQ (+0.63%) and particularly the FANG+ index (+2.41%) holding on to larger gains. Tesla (+5.9%) was the best performing member of the large-cap index and reduced its YTD losses to -2.77%. And back in Europe, the STOXX 600 (+0.88%) continued to move higher, bringing its 2023 YTD gains to +5.52%, and marking out European equities as one of the top 2023 performers so far. However, one area that struggled yesterday were European sovereigns, with yields on 10yr bunds (+1.8bps) and OATs (+1.1bps) both rising, even if both had come off their earlier session highs. That followed data showing that Euro Area unemployment remained at a record low of 6.5% in November, which points to a historically tight labour market that could lead to further wage and hence inflationary pressures. Gilts were one of the biggest underperformers, with the 10yr yield up +5.4bps on the day amidst a speech from BoE chief economist Pill. In his remarks, he said that “the distinctive context that prevails in the UK… creates the potential for inflation to prove more persistent”. In terms of currencies, the US Dollar index (-0.85%) weakened to its lowest level since early June, which brings its declines to almost -10% (-9.73%) since its peak in late-September, back when the UK mini-budget turmoil was at its height and global markets were selling off more broadly. This decline in the dollar very much leans into our strategists’ latest FX blueprint, where they write that various forces such as a reversal in the European energy shock and the economic reopening in China have bearish implications for the dollar with a target of $1.15 by year-end (current $1.07). You can read their full piece here. That dollar weakness went hand-in-hand with noticeably tighter CDS spreads for most of the day, hitting levels we haven’t seen in months. For instance in Europe, the iTraxx Crossover tightened -8.4bps to 417bps, meaning it’s now more than -250bps beneath its own peak in late-September and the tightest since April. Meanwhile in the US, the CDX HY spread was down -10bps to 438bps at one point, its tightest level since August, before the late turn in risk assets saw CDX HY spreads wider (+1.9bps) on the day. A reminder that we revised our already bullish Euro Q1 credit spreads forecasts tighter over the weekend. See the piece here. Asian equity markets are mixed this morning with the Hang Seng (-0.34%), the Shanghai Composite (-0.18%) and the CSI (-0.10%) lower whilst the KOSPI (+0.31%) and Nikkei (+0.76%) are edging higher with the latter reopening following a public holiday. DM stock futures are pricing in a weaker start with contracts on the S&P 500 (-0.28%), NASDAQ 100 (-0.35%) and the DAX (-0.85%) all trading in the red. Early morning data showed broadening signs of inflationary pressures in Japan after Tokyo’s core consumer prices advanced +4.0% y/y in December - the fastest pace in four decades and beating market expectations of a +3.8% gain and against a +3.6% increase last month. With the core inflation figure staying above the BOJ’s 2% price target for the seventh consecutive month, it further heightens the possibility of an additional rise in the nationwide CPI. There wasn’t much in the way of other data yesterday, although German industrial production grew by +0.2% in November (vs. +0.3% expected), and the previous month’s decline was revised to show a larger -0.4% contraction (vs. -0.1% previously). To the day ahead now, and there are an array of central bank speakers including Fed Chair Powell, BoE Governor Bailey, BoJ Governor Kuroda, BoC Governor Macklem, and the ECB’s Schnabel, De Cos, and Knot. Otherwise, data releases include French industrial production for November, and in the US there’s the NFIB’s small business optimism index for December. Tyler Durden Tue, 01/10/2023 - 08:08.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 10th, 2023

Futures Rise On China Reopening, End Of Tech Crackdown As Asia Enters Bull Market

Futures Rise On China Reopening, End Of Tech Crackdown As Asia Enters Bull Market Futures extended their Friday post payrolls gain on the back of Chine reopening optimism coupled with speculation that China's tech crackdown is finally ending - just as we speculated this weekend when reporting on Jack Ma's ceding control of Ant Financial. S&P futures rose 0.4% as of 7:30 am ET while Nasdaq contracts 100 added 0.5%. And while European stocks were mostly in the green, the bulk of overnight action was in Asia where the Hang Seng Tech Index jumped 3.2% Monday, led by Alibaba Group after a top central bank official said the clampdown on the Internet sector was drawing to a close. The broader market also advanced, with a gauge of Chinese equities listed in Hong Kong rising 2%, helping push the MSCI Asia Index up 20% from its October low, setting it up for a bull market. The dollar weakened to a seven month low and oil rallied. Among premarket movers, Bed Bath & Beyond shares surged as much as 75%, set to rally after losing nearly half of their value in the previous week on bankruptcy worries amid mounting losses, and ahead of the company’s earnings due Tuesday. Coinbase and Riot Platforms led cryptocurrency-exposed stocks higher in premarket trading as Bitcoin rallied to extend gains for a sixth consecutive session — its longest streak in nearly a year. Lululemon dropped after the athletic apparel maker forecast a weaker gross margin. Here are other notable premarket movers: Oracle is upgraded to overweight from neutral at Piper Sandler as its cloud transformation takes hold. The brokerage also noted that fiscal 2024 might be a watershed year for the software company, where growth in operating profits and earnings per share could accelerate to more than 10%. Oracle shares are up 1.3%. Piper Sandler upgrades Uber to overweight and cuts DoorDash to underweight, recommending a pair-trade between the two as it favors ride-hailing over delivery in 2023. Elsewhere, Jefferies starts DoorDash with an underperform rating, with a buy on Uber. Uber shares rose 2.3%. Dash shares down 4.2%. Ally Financial upgraded to neutral from underweight at Piper Sandler, with headwinds seen as now priced into the stock. Shares rise 1.9%. Credit Suisse says fertilizer prices are on a downward trajectory in a note double-downgrading Mosaic (MOS) to underperform. Shares fall 1.1%. Elf Beauty is downgraded to hold from buy at Jefferies, with broker saying risk-reward is balanced for the cosmetics company against an uncertain macroeconomic backdrop. Shares fall 1.1%. Ipsen shares drop after it agreed to acquire Albireo for $42/share in cash plus a contingent value right (CVR) of $10/share related to the U.S. FDA approval of Bylvay in biliary atresia. Albireo shares soar 93%. Jefferies sees another year of uncertainty ahead for US bank stocks, in a note upgrading its ratings on Truist (TFC) and First Republic (FRC) and downgrading both Signature Bank (SBNY) and Regions Financial (RF). TFC falls 0.09%. FRC rises 1.2%. SBNY shares fall 0.4%. RF falls 1%. KeyBanc trims its natural gas price estimates for 2023 following a relatively mild winter to date and cuts its ratings on Comstock Resources (CRK) and Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD). CRK shares rise 0.8%. PXD rises 1%. There is a strong industry backdrop for Harmonic (HLIT), with greater competition in the broadband service market pushing cable multiple-system operators (MSOs) to invest aggressively, Jefferies writes in note that upgrades the stock to buy. Shares rise 1.8%. Lanvin Group is rated neutral at Citi, which initiated coverage on the stock noting that the luxury fashion group has solid brands but clear evidence of a turnaround is required to merit a buy call. Shares rise 3.5%. Markets closed last week solidly in the green, encouraged by Friday's jobs report which showed wage growth slowing, lifting the S&P 500 2.3% to notch its first winning week in over a month. They face another test on Thursday with CPI data that will likely help determine the size of the Federal Reserve’s next interest-rate increase. After the easing in wage inflation, swaps contracts showed investors expect the policy rate to peak at under 5% this cycle, down from 5.06% just before Friday’s jobs report. While traders remain divided about the size of February’s hike, with 32 basis points of tightening priced in, it appears that a quarter-point move is seen as more likely than a half-point increase. While pressure on the Fed to hike by 50 basis points on Feb. 1 has eased, “policy makers appear to be increasingly frustrated by market-pricing at odds with Fed signaling in terms of both the terminal funds rate and timing of initial rate cut,” BNP Paribas economists led by Carl Riccadonna wrote in a note to clients. “This could tilt their bias toward a more forceful response at the next meeting.” And while market pessimism is still dominant, analysts at Wells Fargo said Friday’s gains may be more durable than some expect, being “driven by a pro-cyclical post-jobs report reaction — not by risk/short-covering.” This market action “probably creates some positive investor sentiment since long-only’s are making money and short-sellers are faring better than one might expect.” On the other hand, Morgan Stanley strategists said US equities face much sharper declines than many pessimists expect with the specter of recession likely to compound their biggest annual slump since the global financial crisis. The bank's equity strategist, Michael Wilson, long one of the most vocal bears on US stocks, said while investors are generally pessimistic about the outlook for economic growth, corporate profit estimates are still too high and the equity risk premium is at its lowest since the run-up to 2008. That suggests the S&P 500 could fall much lower than the 3,500 to 3,600 points the market is currently estimating in the event of a mild recession, he said. At the same time, US stocks have been lagging the rebound in European, Asian and emerging-market peers as American equities trade at a hefty valuation premium. European markets also started the week amid a generally buoyant mood, as continental bourses opened higher, after posting the best week since March on optimism about China’s reopening, an easing energy crisis and signs of cooling inflation. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index climbed 0.5%, touching the highest since mid-December with construction, technology and energy leading gains amid optimism over China’s demand for raw materials.  On the data front, euro zone unemployment was unchanged in November at 6.5% as expected. Here are some of Europe's biggest movers: UCB gains as much as 4.9%, the most in almost 11 months, after the Belgian biopharma company said its 2022 results should come in toward the high end of guidance Geberit shares climb as much as 3.5% after Goldman Sachs raised its recommendation on the Swiss manufacturer to neutral from sell, citing reduced risk related to energy prices BioArctic rises as much as 29% after Eisai and Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Leqembi (lecanemab-irmb) received accelerated approval from the FDA. The treatment originates from BioArctic TGS gains as much as 15%, the most intraday since 2020, after a 4Q update that DNB said showed a strong beat on late sales and supportive management comments on order inflow SAES Getters shares surge as much as 36%, the most on record, after SAES Group entered an agreement with Resonetics to sell its Nitinol production business for about $900m in cash AstraZeneca falls after agreeing to buy US biotech CinCor Pharma for as much as $1.8 billion. Analysts say the acquisition is a good fit for the firm’s existing cardiovascular franchise Fresnillo falls as much as 2.5% as RBC Capital Markets downgrades stock to sector perform, as it sees operational momentum widely priced in and expects limited growth in the pipeline Frontier Developments shares fall as much as 42%, its biggest intraday decline on record, after the video-game firm said it no longer expects to meet FY23 consensus expectations Ambea drops as much as 6.9%, the most since Dec. 23, after the Swedish elder care company saw its target price cut at DNB to SEK52 from SEK73 on continued headwinds due to inflation Devolver Digital shares fall as much as 9.5%, dropping to a record low, after downgrading profit expectations for FY22 in a trading update. Goodbody called the update “disappointing.” Earlier in the session, Asia’s benchmark stock index was on track to enter a bull market, as China’s reopening and a weakening dollar lure investors back to the region. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed as much as 1.9% on Monday, taking its advance from an Oct. 24 low to more than 20%. The Asian benchmark is up 3.7% so far in 2023, beating the S&P 500 Index by about two percentage points. That’s after they both slumped about 19% last year, their worst performance since 2008. Gauges in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea led gains in the session, while Japan was closed for a holiday. Strategists have predicted a better year for Asian equities after a dismal 2022, especially as stocks in China, which carry the second-highest weighting in the regional gauge after Japan, turned a corner in November following the nation’s shift away from stringent virus curbs. The bull market milestone comes after the MSCI Asia gauge tumbled nearly 40% from a peak in early 2021. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is on track to enter a bull market after surging more than 20% from its October low, boosted by Chinese stocks after the nation pivoted on its Covid strategy and offered more policy support for the economy.   “The rally has been fast and furious, so it is only natural to expect some profit-taking,” said Charu Chanana, senior strategist at Saxo Capital Markets Pte. “There are also some risks to keep a tap on, such as BOJ’s hawkish shift and company earnings. But that being said, there is still room for Asian markets to outperform global peers in 2023.” Australian stocks climbed for a fourth day as miners advanced. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6% to close at 7,151.30, capping four consecutive days of advances. The winning streak is the benchmark’s longest since Nov. 25. The gauge followed Wall Street shares higher after US economic data boosted optimism for slower Fed rate hikes. Miners and energy shares contributed the most to the Australian index’s move. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 11,646.45. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell to its lowest level since June as the dollar weakened against all of its Group-of-10 peers apart from the yen. It pared the drop in European hours. NOK, NZD are best performers among G10’s. The euro pared gains after rising to $1.07. Bunds and Italian bonds underperformed Treasuries, with the largest losses seen in the belly of curves, while money markets added to peak ECB rate wagers. Focus is also on the EU’s first bond sales of the year The pound advanced, while gilts bear flattened. Bank of England Chief Economist Huw Pill comments are due later Norway’s krone and the Australian dollar led G-10 gains, with the latter climbing to $0.6947, its highest level in more than four months, supported by China’s reopening. AUD curve bull steepens with 3-year yield ~13bps lower Turkey’s lira weakened as investors weighed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s signal that general elections will be held in early May, a month earlier than scheduled In rates, Treasuries were pressured lower with losses led by long-end, continuing Friday’s post-payrolls steepening move amid wave of block trades. US yields are higher by as much as 4bp at long-end, steepening 5s30s, 2s10s spreads by around 2bp; 10-year around 3.595%, cheaper by 3.5bp on day but outperforming bunds in the sector by ~2.5bp.  Treasuries took their cue from wider bear-steepening move across core European rates following first EU bond sales of the year. Another heavy IG credit issuance slate is expected this week, which also includes December CPI data Thursday and Fed Chair Powell appearance Tuesday.   In commodities, crude futures advanced, pushing Brent up almost 3.5% to trade near $81.11. Spot gold rises roughly $8 to trade near $1,873/oz while base metals are in the green. In crypto, Bitcoin is firmer and has managed to surpass and gain a more convincing foothold above USD 17k, after fleeting breaches of the figure in recent sessions, with the 16th Dec USD 17524 peak into play The only event on today's quiet calendar is the consumer credit print at 3pm ET. There are two Fed speakers on deck as well, Bostic and Daly, speaking shortly after noon. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.4% to 3,932.00 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.5% to 446.56 MXAP up 1.7% to 161.51 MXAPJ up 2.4% to 535.12 Nikkei up 0.6% to 25,973.85 Topix up 0.4% to 1,875.76 Hang Seng Index up 1.9% to 21,388.34 Shanghai Composite up 0.6% to 3,176.08 Sensex up 1.4% to 60,752.44 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.6% to 7,151.33 Kospi up 2.6% to 2,350.19 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.27% Euro up 0.3% to $1.0677 Brent Futures up 3.0% to $80.90/bbl Brent Futures up 3.0% to $80.89/bbl Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,873.06 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.27% to 103.60 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg Central banks aren’t giving up their inflation fight yet with the peak in interest rates still to come in most economies, but pauses will come at some point in 2023 — and perhaps even pivots The ECB predicts wage growth — a key indicator of where inflation is headed — will be “very strong” in the coming quarters, strengthening the case for more interest-rate hikes, the institution said Monday in an article to be published in its Economic Bulletin UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is set for talks with the union leaders directing the wave of strikes that have hobbled the UK since the start of the year, as the threat of more widespread action hangs over the country Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to squeeze Europe by weaponizing energy look to be fizzling at least for now. Mild weather, a wider array of suppliers and efforts to reduce demand are helping, with gas reserves still nearly full and prices tumbling to pre- war levels The SNB expects an annual loss of about 132 billion francs ($143 billion), more than five times the previous record, it said Monday in preliminary results. The largest part of this, 131 billion francs, stems from collapsed valuations of its large pile of holdings in foreign currencies, accrued as a result of decade-long purchases to weaken the franc A ship has been refloated after running aground in the Suez Canal and briefly disrupting traffic in the waterway that’s vital for global trade Brazil’s capital was recovering early Monday from an insurrection by thousands of supporters of ex-President Jair Bolsonaro who stormed the country’s top government institutions, leaving a trail of destruction and testing the leadership of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva just a week after he took office Chinese officials are considering a record quota for special local government bonds this year and widening the budget deficit target as they ramp up support for the world’s second- largest economy, according to people familiar with the matter Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said careful explanation and communication with markets would be part of consideration on monetary policy, when asked about possible future changes in the Bank of Japan’s ultra-loose policy A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks gained with the MSCI Asia Pacific index on course to enter a bull market as the region took impetus from last Friday’s rally on Wall St. ASX 200 was led higher by strength in the commodity-related sectors and with sentiment also helped by China’s border reopening which JPMorgan predicts could boost Australia’s economy by nearly one percentage point over the next two years, although gains are capped following disappointing building approvals data. KOSPI outperformed with the index and shares in LG Electronics unfazed by the Co.’s softer preliminary Q4 earnings. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were supported after China’s border reopening over the weekend added to the hopes of an economic recovery and with Alibaba shares spearheading the advances in Hong Kong after Jack Ma ceded control of affiliate Ant Group. Top Asian News Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the importance of remaining committed to advancing reform, exploring new ground and carrying forward the fighting spirit, in a bid to modernize the work of judicial, procuratorial, and public security organs, according to China Economic Net. PBoC official Guo Shuqing said China’s growth will return to a normal path as China provides further support to households and companies to help recover following the end of the zero-Covid policy, according to People’s Daily. Tens of thousands of travellers began to fly in and out of mainland China on Sunday following the removal of nearly all of China’s border restrictions, according to WSJ. China’s health security administration said talks to include Pfizer’s (PFE) Paxlovid in the drug list for basic state health insurance failed due to the Co.’s high quotation for the antiviral medicine, according to Reuters. Six Chinese cities set GDP targets for this year ranging from 5.5%-7.0%, according to Securities Daily. Japanese PM Kishida said they must choose a successor to BoJ Governor Kuroda best suited for the post at the time when Kuroda’s term ends in April and must discuss with the next BoJ Governor the relationship between the government's and BoJ's policies. Kishida added that the government and BoJ must work closely together and each should play their own roles in achieving sustained price stability, while he noted that the government is ready to respond flexibly using reserves when asked if further steps could be taken to soften the blow on households from rising prices, according to Reuters. China reportedly considering a record special debt quota and a wider budget deficit, via Bloomberg; considering a deficit ratio of circa. 3% for the year. New special bond quota of up to CNY 3.8tln. European bourses are firmer across the board, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.3%, as the constructive APAC tone continues amid a limited European docket. Sectors are primarily in the green, with defensive names lagging somewhat in-fitting with the risk tone. US futures are in the green, ES +0.4%, in-fitting with the above sentiment ahead of Fed speak and a NY Fed Consumer Expectations survey. Apple's (AAPL) iPhone exports from India have doubled to a record USD 2.5bln, via Bloomberg. Top European News BoE’s Mann said energy price caps could be lifting inflation in other sectors by boosting consumer spending and noted it is unclear what would happen to inflation when caps are removed, according to Bloomberg. UK PM Sunak said inflation is not guaranteed to decline this year and that the government will need to be disciplined to ensure inflation is brought down, according to Reuters. In other news, PM Sunak said he was willing to discuss pay increases for nurses in an effort to end strikes as ministers prepare to meet union leaders on Monday, according to FT. Czech Central Bank Governor Michl said they expect a significant drop in inflation from spring and are ready to raise rates further if the baseline scenario of a decline in inflation does not materialise, while he added that policy will be strict until inflation begins declining, according to Reuters. FX   DXY continues to slip below the 104.00 mark between 103.860-420 parameters towards key technical support and its December low (103.380). Action which is benefitting peers across the board ex-JPY, which is suffering amid the easing in USTs/EGBs and a Japanese holiday, with USD/JPY above 132.50. Antipodeans are the current outperformers with AUD surpassing 0.69 and Kiwi eclipsing 0.64 vs USD, before waning slightly. EUR/USD hit, but failed to breach, 1.07 while Cable is off best but still above 1.21 in a 1.2089-1.2174 range. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 6.8265 vs exp. 6.8276 (prev. 6.8912)   Fixed Income EGBs under pressure and continuing to retreat from Friday's best, with Bunds down by nearly 100 ticks and Gilts similarly dented though managing to retain 102.00 at present USTs are similarly softer, though have largely been consolidating towards the APAC trough given the absence of Japanese participants ahead of Fed speak and NY survey, with yields modestly firmer across the curve. Commodities Crude benchmarks are bid this morning, with WTI Feb and Brent Mar posting upside in excess of 3.0% or USD 2.0/bbl respectively. Action has been driven by China’s ongoing reopening and fresh geopolitical headlines, alongside other crude-specific developments (see below). Qatar set February marine crude OSP at Oman/Dubai plus USD 0.75/bbl and land crude OSP at Oman/Dubai plus USD 2.10/bbl. In relevant news, Qatar Energy is to sign Ras Laffan Petrochemicals Complex agreements with the project to cost USD 6bln and it created a JV with Chevron Phillips Chemicals of which it owns 70% and Chevron (CVX) owns 30%, according to Reuters. Iraq’s Oil Minister said the Karbala oil refinery will begin commercial production in mid-March, according to Reuters. US DoE rejected the initial batch of bids from oil companies to resupply a small amount of oil to the SPR in February, according to Reuters. Colonial Pipeline said repairs at the Witt Booster Station were completed and Line 3 returned to normal operations as of 17:51 EST on Sunday, according to Reuters. China has issued a second batch of 2023 crude oil import quotas to independent refiners totalling 111.82mln/T, via Reuters citing sources. Iraq February Basrah medium crude OSP to Asia -USD 1.40/bbl vs Oman/Dubai average, via Somo; to Europe at -USD 8.95/bbl vs Dated Brent. Spot gold is fairly contained around the mid-point of USD 1864-1880/oz parameters, with the yellow metal deriving some upside from the DXY struggling to attain a positive foothold; next resistance mark is USD 1885/oz from the 9th of May. Geopolitics Ukrainian President Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were repelling Russian attacks on Bakhmut in eastern Donbas and were holding position in nearby Soledar under very difficult conditions, according to Reuters. Russia’s Defence Ministry said it struck a building in eastern Ukraine which killed more than 600 Ukrainian troops in retaliation for Ukraine’s deadly strike against a Russian barracks, although Ukrainian officials denied there were any casualties and said the strike by Russia only damaged civilian infrastructure, according to Reuters and ITV. Russia and Belarus will conduct joint air force drills on January 16th-February 1st, according to the Belarusian Defence Ministry cited by Reuters. Russian Kremlin has rejected suggestions from Ukraine that Russian official Kozak is sounding out officials in Europe about a potential peace deal. Swedish PM Kristersson said they have fulfilled commitments made to Turkey at the Madrid summit but noted that Turkey is demanding concessions that Stockholm cannot give to approve its application to join NATO, according to FT. China's military said it carried out combat drills around Taiwan on Sunday, while Taiwan's Defence Ministry stated 28 Chinese aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait median line and entered the air defence zone in the past 24 hours. Furthermore, Taiwan's presidential office said it condemns China's recent military drills around Taiwan and that Taiwan's position is very clear whereby it will not escalate conflict nor provoke disputes but added that it will firmly defend its sovereignty and national security, according to Reuters. Crypto Bitcoin is firmer and has managed to surpass and gain a more convincing foothold above USD 17k, after fleeting breaches of the figure in recent sessions, with the 16th Dec USD 17524 peak into play. Bafin warns of Godfather malware attack on banking/crypto apps. US Event Calendar 15:00: Nov. Consumer Credit, est. $25b, prior $27.1b Central bank Speakers 12:30: Fed’s Bostic Takes Part in Moderated Discussion 12:30: Fed’s Daly Interviewed in WSJ Live event DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap I hope your Sunday was more peaceful than mine. I played my first round of golf since back surgery (don't tell my consultant) and got stuck at the golf course afterwards as there was a big police search with helicopters over the area I walk home across. My wife and kids were out in the garden at the time and had to rush in as the copter nearly landed in the adjoining field. So at least they knew I wasn't making up being delayed. Had it not been pouring with rain I would have had time for another 9 by the time I could make it home via a huge detour. To be fair for me there are worst places to be stuck but it was a touch concerning. That capped the end of a week where if you thought 2023 might start calmer than 2022 then you may have wanted to think again as there was plenty to debate and plenty of big swings in markets and data. In fact, after weak European headline inflation last week and a bad miss for the US Services ISM on Friday it was the best week for 10yr German bunds (-35.8bps) since data on Bloomberg starts around reunification in 1990. This week the main highlights are a speech from Powell in Sweden tomorrow morning, US and China CPI on Thursday, and Q4 US earnings season starting in earnest with 3 big financials on Friday. Before we go through things in more detail it's worth recapping Friday's US data which resulted in a major shift lower in yields. Payrolls were firm as expected with the headline at +223k and unemployment unexpectedly falling a tenth to 3.5%, the lowest since Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. As our US economists discuss here though, there were signs of slowing growth in the report with, for example, hours worked (34.3hrs vs. 34.4hrs) and average hourly earnings (+0.3% vs. +0.4%) declining. These factors led US yields lower after the report but the Services ISM dropping from 56.5 to 49.6 was a bit of shocker, especially when the consensus was at 55. There’s a chance the exceptionally cold weather could have artificially depressed the survey but the associated commentary wasn’t great and new orders fells 10.8 points to 45.2 which outside the pandemic is the lowest since the GFC and levels only previously associated with recessions. 2 and 10yr yields fell -21bps and -16bps on the day but around 15-16bps of both moves came after the ISM which shows its impact. Ironically the S&P 500 climbed +2.28% on the day but c.1.75% of this was after this shocker of a print showing that the influence of rates on equities outweighed the economic concerns. Such an equity move couldn't possibly last if this ISM print heralded in a stream of recessionary data. It can only last if the data suggests an environment weak enough to merit the Fed pausing soon with the economy managing a soft landing. Remarkably European PMIs now stand near a record high relative to the US which is part of the reason for preferring European credit given it still trades wide to the US. A fuller review of the week for assets (a significant one to start the year) can be found at the end as usual. Let's move on to this week now and start with the US CPI print for December on Thursday which will be the pivotal data point in January. In terms of the MoM rate, the headline CPI is expected at -0.15% at DB (consensus 0.0% vs. +0.10% previously) with core CPI expected at +0.22% at DB (+0.3% consensus vs. +0.20% previously). In terms of YoY, headline is expected to drop from 7.1% to 6.3% at DB (6.5% consensus) with core falling from 6% to 5.6% (5.7% consensus). Another inflation-related data point will come from the University of Michigan survey on Friday, where the gauge of consumer inflation expectations will be in focus. Other US data releases will include consumer credit (DB forecast +$30.5B vs +$27.1 in October) today and the NFIB small business optimism index on Tuesday. Central bank speakers will also be in the spotlight with appearances from Fed Chair Powell and BoE Governor Bailey at the Riksbank's International Symposium on Central Bank Independence tomorrow. We will also hear from a number of other Fed and ECB speakers throughout the week (see day by day calendar for the list). In Europe, key data releases will include industrial production and trade data in Germany, France and the Eurozone. Over in the UK, all eyes will be on the monthly GDP report for November on Friday. Elsewhere, retail sales (Wednesday) figures will be published in Italy along with the unemployment rate (today) for November. Over in China, the CPI and the PPI on Thursday will be the standout. Turning to earnings now and some of the largest American banks including JPMorgan, Citi and BofA will kick off the earnings season on Friday. We will also hear from BlackRock and UnitedHealth that day. The day before all eyes will be on results from TSMC as concerns over supply-demand dynamics and US-China tensions continue to weigh on the sector, with the Philadelphia semiconductor index down -35% in 2022. Asian equity markets are continuing their buoyant start to the year overnight and carried on where Wall Street left off it on Friday night. As I type, the KOSPI (+2.33%) is the strongest performer across the region with the Hang Seng (+1.60%), the CSI (+0.67%) and the Shanghai Composite (+0.54%) also edging higher amid receding risk-off sentiment after Hong Kong and China resumed quarantine-free travel over the weekend thereby marking the end of the Covid Zero policy. Elsewhere, markets in Japan are closed for a holiday. Futures on the S&P 500 (+0.36%), the NASDAQ 100 (+0.54%) and the DAX (+0.75%) are trading higher as well. Crude oil prices are also higher with Brent futures (+1.18%) at $79.50/bbl and WTI (+1.25%) at $74.69/bbl as we go to print. Early morning data showed that Australia’s building approvals (-9.0% m/m) dropped further in November compared to a downwardly revised -5.6% decline in October. In the US, the House Republican leadership standoff came to an end over the weekend after Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected as speaker after 14 failed attempts following days of gruelling negotiations. Recapping last week now, and markets put in a strong start to 2023 as signs of economic weakness and declining inflationary pressures raised hopes that central banks wouldn’t be as aggressive as feared on hiking rates. In particular, the aforementioned ISM services index on Friday created a major bond and equity rally to end the week. However ominously it means December was the first month since May 2020 that both the ISM US services and manufacturing components were in contractionary territory. On the back of ISM and payrolls, investors immediately moved to price in a less aggressive pace of rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. For instance, futures pricing for the end-2023 rate came down by -10.3bps over the week (-19.0bps on Friday) to 4.48%. That was a big catalyst for risk assets, with the S&P 500 surging +2.28% on Friday, which brought the index back into positive territory for the week at +1.45%. It also led to a massive decline in Treasury yields, with the 10yr down -31.7bps over the week (-16.0bps Friday) to 3.558%. Over in Europe there was a similarly optimistic picture, aided by the news on Friday from the flash Euro Area CPI release. That showed headline inflation falling to +9.2% in December (vs. +9.5% expected), although core inflation did hit a record high of +5.2%. This backdrop meant equities and bonds surged across the continent, with the STOXX 600 up +4.60% (+1.16% Friday) to mark its strongest weekly performance since March. At the same time, 10yr bund yields fell -35.8bps (-10.5bps Friday), marking their largest weekly decline in records going back to German reunification in 1990. Let's see what week 2 of 2023 brings Tyler Durden Mon, 01/09/2023 - 08:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 9th, 2023

Luongo On 2023: Biden Impeached, Riyal De-Pegged, & Fed Terminal Rate Closer To 7%

Luongo On 2023: Biden Impeached, Riyal De-Pegged, & Fed Terminal Rate Closer To 7% Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog, Consider this, Consider this the hint of the century Consider this, the slip, that dropped me to my knees, failed. What if all these fantasies come flailing around? And now, I’ve said…. too much - R.E.M. – Losing My Religion I probably should have codified these before the turn of the new year but I didn’t even think of doing one of these lists until someone mentioned it on Twitter a few days ago. So, here it goes.   My predictions for 2023 and all center around the big theme of 2023, the loss of confidence in the world we’ve always known. In other words 2023 will embody the phrase we use down here in the South, “Losing my Religion.” 1)  Inflation will return with a vengeance.  What we’ve experienced so far came from the big commodity pump-and-dump post-COVID.  Commodities went through a massive run as more money chased broken supply chains in 2020-21. Then in 2022 the inevitable bust happened, but left us with commodity prices across the board at levels which used to be resistance on the long-term price charts which has now become support. The next round of commodity-based cost-push inflation will mix dangerously with the growing realization that we can’t avoid things breaking.  There will be no ‘soft landing.’ The hard landing may not happen in 2023, but the set up for it will certainly take place.  Cost-push will mix with Loss of Institutional Confidence to light the fire of real inflation versus tangible assets in a way we haven’t seen since the late-1970’s.  We should see a return to increasing YoY CPI levels beginning in Q2 after the baseline effects are past and China’s reopening keeps a bid under commodities. January will not set the tone for commodities in 2023, but more likely be a ‘false move’ overcorrecting against the primary trend, which is clearly higher. 2) The Fed’s terminal rate is closer to 7% than the ~5% the markets are handicapping. The Fed hiked by 50 bps in Dec.  The markets are signaling 25 bps on Feb. 1st.  I think it will be another 50.  In fact, my base case now is four 50 bp hikes followed by four 25’s by December for a terminal rate of 7% by this time next year.   Even I was surprised by the violence of Powell’s hawkishness in 2022.  He did what I wanted him to do, be aggressive and attack the source of Davos’ power, the leveraged offshore dollar markets.  He forced out into the open the unsustainability of a weaker dollar based on the clown show on Capitol Hill being worse than the real collapsing governments across Europe. Powell’s plan has worked so far, forcing everyone to climb the wall of worry that The Fed Put is dead. That so many refuse to accept this is why markets this January, like last January, are completely mispriced. Until this is accepted, Powell will use every excuse to keep raising rates as fast as he can to ‘finish the job.’ Today’s job’s number and unemployment rate support this. Revised Q3 2022 GDP at +2.6% is another. The market keeps wanting to believe in a 5.25% to 5.50% terminal rate for this move. But if I’m right about #1 and structural inflation returns in Q2, the Fed will not slow down until we reach near parity with, of all people, the Bank of Russia. Rising inflation makes this prediction a slam dunk 3) The Euro will collapse to $0.80 or lower The ECB is trapped.  It can’t accept higher rates but it can’t afford for the euro to collapse either.  A falling euro means energy input costs skyrocket in real terms.  While a zombie banking system and Sovereigns in debt to someone else’s eyeballs (e.g. $1.1+ trillion in TARGET2 liabilities) see budgets blow out with higher debt servicing costs. ECB Chair Christine Lagarde bought herself some time in 2022 with the TPI — Transmission Protection Instrument — and some big moves to subvert the UK government, putting Brexit on the ropes.  She’s behind the inflation curve worse than Powell is.  But she can’t attract capital today without big rate moves, Powell’s beat her to that punch. Ultimately, Lagarde will protect credit spreads while letting the euro go. The EU still believes it can bolt on more problems like the UK and now Croatia (#20 in the euro-zone) to stave off the collapse of the euro by expanding its reach. We ended 2022 with the euro ‘painting the tape’ at $1.07. It’s already given us a preview of the volatility we should expect in this first week of trading. The Eurocrats in Brussels still believe in the EU’s inevitability, not because it is true, because they have to. The EU is a religion to the political class of Europe and its Davos paymasters.  They, like real communists, see this period as the end-state of capitalism and that the dialectic is true.  History was written, as it were. They are wrong.  And the beginning of the end of the European Union starts in 2023 with another 20% to 25% collapse of the euro. 4) The War in Ukraine Will Continue Dangerously The West is suffering under many illusions about what’s going on in Russia and, by extension, its war in Ukraine.  The UK/US neocons believe, like the EU, that history is already written about Russia’s future –balkanization and collapse. All pressure that the West places on Russia only exacerbates their demographic time bomb.  China’s as well.  And in that sense this is the race they are running.  Can they grind up enough Russians to ensure that even if Russia wins the war in Ukraine the West wins because the long-sought breakup of the USSR/Tsarist Empire will be achieved. For this reason neither the UK/US Neocons nor Davos believe having a reverse gear vis a vis Russia is the right play.  This is their strategic vision, regardless of the costs to the West itself. For Russia there is no other play for them but to continue increasing the costs on the West.  The longer the war goes on the deeper divisions within the EU get.  Those divisions then drive even more animosity within the Eurocracy towards the Brits and the Yanks, who some feel are taking advantage of the situation. When as ardent an Eurocrat as Guy Ver Hofstadt is now frothing at the mouth about the costs of sanctions, you know the Mafiosi in Brussels are getting nervous. They are beginning to crack under the strain of this war of financial and political attrition Russia is so good at playing against its European partners. Even though I’ve argued strenuously that the EU leadership walked into Ukraine with its eyes open, the 2nd tier of the Eurocracy did not.  And those are the ones having cold feet now and who the Russians are hoping will drive a pivot from Davos off Ukraine.   At the same time, expect Putin to keep opening up new fronts for the US/UK to deal with, see my next point. The UK/US Neocons’ only play, then, on the battlefield then is further escalation to the brink of a nuclear exchange, which these insane people think they can win. The other option is assassinating Putin in the hopes that Russia goes mad, nukes someone and that justifies the unthinkable. Either way we’re inching way too close to midnight for my tastes. 5) The US Will Leave Syria in 2023 The recent meeting between Russian, Syrian and Turkish Defense Ministers paves the way for a similar upcoming meeting between the three countries’ Foreign Ministers.   Once that happens, Syrian President Assad and Turkish President Erdogan will presumably sit down with Russian President Putin and end Turkiye’s involvement in Syria.  This will hang their pet jihadists in Idlib out to dry and leave the US forces there heavily exposed.  We’re already seeing them come under rocket fire though you’d never hear about this in the Western press.  I went over this in grave detail in a recent post. By making the deals with Erdogan over becoming the new “Gas Hub” into Europe, Putin has effectively done to the US and UK what they always try to do to Russia, open up another front to distract it from the main problem, i.e. Ukraine. Now Syria becomes the 2nd battleground for the US to decide if it will defend or will it suffer another ignominious retreat like Afghanistan?   6) De-Dollarization Will Accelerate / USDX Will Rise. Along with the collapse of the euro, the US dollar will lose more ground in the global payment system for international commodities and trade.   These two dynamics will create a very weird moment where the USDX — the US Dollar Index — will rise but the US dollar will be under sincere pressure vs. gold, commodities, and other rising emerging/developed market currencies. The USDX is heavily weighted towards the euro and the British pound but the Chinese yuan is not represented at all.  So, from one perspective the US dollar could be in a bull market but from another be in a bear market. The one thing holding gold back has been its lack of bull market versus the dollar. It’s not a ‘secular’ bull market in gold until it’s rising versus all currencies. Even if the USDX does nothing but hold its ground in 2023 versus the rest of its fiat competition, a rally in gold will still be fed by people the world over ‘losing their religion’ with respect to the dollar. That said, that fall in faith will likely not outpace the fall in faith of the “Fed Put.” I expect the ‘religion’ of the Fed Put is still stronger than the dollar itself which should put upward pressure on the US dollar overall. Because, let’s not forget that overseas US dollar synthetic short positions, known as US dollar-denominated debt, are still pretty biblical in size, keeping a strong bid under the dollar globally even as its position as a reserve and trade settlement currency erodes. Because of all of these competing forces — inflation, de-dollarization, war, etc. — the last US dollar bull market for the foreseeable future should be on tap in 2023.  For how long? It’s a good question, I can’t answer.   But I do know that it’s tied to #7 and to the Fed’s need to keep raising rates… 7) Saudi Arabia will de-peg the Riyal  In fact, I also expect the Hong Kong Dollar peg to fall, but maybe not in 2023.  It depends on the strength and rate of internationalization of the Chinese yuan this year. Oil prices are going higher once China’s economy is past the Omicron 2.0 wave crashing over it right now. The Saudis have been tendered the offer by China’s Xi to begin weaning itself off the US dollar.  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seems agreeable to this.   When (not if) the Saudis put their first oil tender up for bid in Shanghai, that will signal the end of the currency peg that created the petrodollar.  It will be a subtle thing that will gain steam over time, just like Russia and China diversifying their holdings into each other’s debt and currencies has taken years to develop. So, the petrodollar will continue to die by a thousand cuts.  The Saudis will lead OPEC+ out of the US dollar arena, validating both China’s onshore futures markets while also moving a significant amount of the gold trade away from London to Hong Kong. By hedging their oil profits in gold on China’s international exchange they strengthen both the onshore (CNY) and offshore (CNH) yuan markets and laying the foundation for a much different financial future, including one where the Hong Kong dollar either floats or re-pegs itself to the yuan, likely the former. 8) Oil will Open 2023 Near the Yearly Low The fundamentals for oil are truly bullish.  China ending Zero-COVID just after the EU put its idiotic price cap on seaborne Russian oil was a strategic move to subvert “Biden’s” wish to refill the now nearly depleted US Strategic Petroleum Reserve at or below $70 per barrel.   He may get that from domestic producers for a while.  But Brent ended 2022 at $86 and a little downside momentum may be in place with early US dollar strength, but then fundamentals easily overcome this. “Biden” will not refill the SPR at $70 per barrel now that China just blew up the entire “deflation through higher rates” narrative.  The US economy has held up better to the Fed than expected.  Even Q3 GDP wasn’t uniquely terrible. The jobs report and low unemployment rate, while possibly artifacts of a changing labor market, still give us signals that the US economy isn’t as bad as many want it to be at 4.5% Fed Funds Rate to validate their place in the commentariat. Europe is getting a small reprieve with the extremely mild winter so far, pushing energy prices down, especially natural gas, for now. The global recession talk is vastly overblown until something fundamentally breaks. Anyone looking at the end of the year book squaring in things like the Reverse Repo balance (+$300b in one week) is overthinking the problem. The banks are allowed to tailor their reserves to present whatever quarterly numbers they want. It’s been going on since the Bernanke Era. As such, I see a kind of perfect storm for oil here.  Russia will pull production off the market and shift exports from St. Petersburg (Urals grade) to Kosmino, near Vladivostok (ESPO grade), nabbing higher prices in the long run. Arab OPEC can’t hit its production quotas as it is and China’s reopening its entire economy. The Davos demanded ESG investment protocols have the oil industry anywhere from $600b to $1trillion underinvested in exploration and production and that number is rising. Increased demand, tight supply, low replenishment investment and WAR.  Even a moron or Joe Biden can see that $70 per barrel Brent is out of the question for any significant period of time. 9) Dow Jones 40,000+ As we enter 2023 the Dow Jones Industrials sit right around 33,000.  It was a tumultuous 2022. After hitting a new all-time high a year ago at 36952.53 it was all downhill for most equity indices. The stronger USD fueled a lot of capital reorganization, interest rates were finally forced higher by the Fed and incessant talk of recession kept everyone selling first and asking questions later. But in this ‘pivot-obsessed,’ low pain environment, relief rally after relief rally was snuffed out until finally in Q4 the Dow made everyone stand up and take a little notice as to what was happening… flight to quality into tangible assets with deep liquidity pools. The Dow lost 8.7% in 2022.  The S&P 500?  15.8%.  The NASDAQ?  27.7% For all of the bitching gold bugs did in 2022, gold was up 1.6%  If we begin to move into the next stage of stagflation (#1) then the Dow will continue to outperform the broader US equity markets as well as major foreign equity markets. 2022 Foreign Performance: German DAX in 2022: -9.2% Euro Stoxxx 50: -7.2% FTSE 100: 1.2% Are those indexes sustainable given the economic outlook for Europe and the ECB following the Fed up the rate curve lest everyone ‘lose their religion’ in it? Or will the still weakly expanding US economy look more tasty to global investors and the hopeless Brits look insanely overvalued? If we have another year like we did in 2022 where high inflation outpacing nominal growth drives tangible asset investment we should see an outperformance from the US vs. Europe as the currencies collapse and the ECB’s tools prove inadequate. Emerging Markets, depending on their proximity to China and the US may have banner years, especially those that underperformed in 2022. 10) Biden is Impeached This looks like the long-shot of 2023, but I think we are very close to the moment where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) goes one step further than Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and not only leaves the Democrats but flips to the GOP, giving them the outright majority in the Senate (50-49-1) Even though Kevin McCarthy didn’t lose his bid for re-election as House Speaker, which has turned CSPAN into must-see TV these past few days, the fight itself is indicative of serious change coming to Capitol Hill. This is the essence of the ‘counter-revolution’ in the US I wrote about a few weeks ago. The soft underbelly for Biden at this point is FTX and divulsions of the US Gov’t’s censorship activities on Twitter.  All of these things, along with corruption in Ukraine, can easily be tied back to Biden.   The majority of people are so black-pilled at this point that they believe nothing will ever change on Capitol Hill.  But the first rule of good investing is remembering that the majority is almost always wrong. And it is the sudden realization of their real power by a critical mass of people that alter the landscape literally overnight. So, while it looks like Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tilted at windmills against a terminally corrupt Uniparty, they are simply fanning the smoldering embers of long-thought-dead principles on Capitol Hill. This was the subject of my latest podcast with Bill Fawell, the state of the revolution in the US. {N.B. Bill and I discussed his Cycle of Revolutions in Episode #110 last summer} And when you read the rules deal that McCarthy signed to get elected, this is a recipe for the weakest Speaker from a Uniparty perspective we’ve had in decades. It’s a win. A small win but a win nonetheless. Since the mid-terms, this transition period has exposed yet even more malfeasance by GOP leadership and the natives are more than restless.  They are angry.  There is no appetite for what the GOPe is selling (out) anymore.   The façade of the two-party system is over.  The 2024 election cycle begins in a few months and the mood of the country will tell you which of those up for re-election that will happily cross party lines to save their skins. It still leaves open the idea of Donald Trump swooping in after McCarthy tries to betray this deal. Matt Gaetz told you the plan when he nominated Trump from the floor. Embedded in the deal crafted are sincere nods to exactly the kind of signals to fiscal conservatism – halting the budget at FY 2022 levels, balanced budget in 10 years, 3/5ths vote on tax increases, etc. — that I’ve argued is needed to back up Powell and the Fed’s monetary tightening. Congress has a bigger wall of worry to climb to regain its credibility than the Fed does, but this is a good first step. It’s the step the world wants as well. Whether it will hold together or not is absolutely up for grabs. But more weakening of the Uniparty in the coming weeks sets the stage for getting rid of Biden and the rest of the vandals on Capitol Hill. There are a ton of ‘manilla envelopes’ being passed out right now. There is a lot of arm-twisting and overt threats happening. The Davos Mafiosi on The Hill will call in every marker.  We will see a lot of surprising behavior from unlikely sources in 2023.  The energy is there for something big and the incentives are lining up. Sacrificing “Biden” on this altar may be a small price to pay. In closing I want you to remember that few of America’s “enemies” want the US to collapse in a disorderly manner, not even China.   Davos is the only one with that agenda in mind because it fuels their megalomania. The strident anti-US commentariat is a curious mix at this point of shills for foreign powers, egoists who can’t bare to be wrong, and anti-capitalist ideologues talking their book.  The thoughtful are few and far between and I fear they’ve been gaslit into making huge analytic errors about what’s really going on. But when you think through what’s happening right now, everyone wants a rational, less arrogant US to settle down, accept a smaller piece of the future pie, and get back to business.  Our criticisms leveled at both Europe and the US is their colonial behavior and their imperial attitude.   So many will ‘lose their religions’ in 2023 that the changes which come will blindside people, including me.  Honestly, looking at this list, I think many of these predictions err on the side of caution. That’s the core issue driving all of these trends and my predictions stem from it. *  *  * Join my Patreon if you are the change you want to believe in. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/08/2023 - 11:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 8th, 2023

An Age Of Decay

An Age Of Decay Authored by Chris Buskirk via, This essay is adapted from "America and the Art of the Possible: Restoring National Vitality in an Age of Decay," by Chris Buskirk (Encounter, 192 pages, $28.99) The fact that American living standards have broadly stagnated, and for some segments of the population have declined, should be cause for real concern to the ruling class... America ran out of frontier when we hit the Pacific Ocean. And that changed things. Alaska and Hawaii were too far away to figure in most people’s aspirations, so for decades, it was the West Coast states and especially California that represented dreams and possibilities in the national imagination. The American dream reached its apotheosis in California. After World War II, the state became our collective tomorrow. But today, it looks more like a future that the rest of the country should avoid—a place where a few coastal enclaves have grown fabulously wealthy while everyone else falls further and further behind. After World War II, California led the way on every front. The population was growing quickly as people moved to the state in search of opportunity and young families had children. The economy was vibrant and diverse. Southern California benefited from the presence of defense contractors. San Diego was a Navy town, and demobilized GIs returning from the Pacific Front decided to stay and put down roots. Between 1950 and 1960, the population of the Los Angeles metropolitan area swelled from 4,046,000 to 6,530,000. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory was inaugurated in the 1930s by researchers at the California Institute of Technology. One of the founders, Jack Parsons, became a prominent member of an occult sect in the late 1940s based in Pasadena that practiced “Thelemic Magick” in ceremonies called the “Babalon Working.” L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology (1950), was an associate of Parsons and rented rooms in his home. The counterculture, or rather, countercultures, had deep roots in the state. Youth culture was born in California, arising out of a combination of rapid growth, the Baby Boom, the general absence of extended families, plentiful sunshine, the car culture, and the space afforded by newly built suburbs where teenagers could be relatively free from adult supervision. Tom Wolfe memorably described this era in his 1963 essay “The Kandy-Colored Tangerine Flake Streamline, Baby.” The student protest movement began in California too. In 1960, hundreds of protesters, many from the University of California at Berkeley, sought to disrupt a hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee at the San Francisco City Hall. The police turned fire hoses on the crowd and arrested over thirty students. The Baby Boomers may have inherited the protest movement, but they didn’t create it. Its founders were part of the Silent Generation. Clark Kerr, the president of the UC system who earned a reputation for giving student protesters what they wanted, was from the Greatest Generation. Something in California, and in America, had already changed. California was a sea of ferment during the 1960s—a turbulent brew of contrasting trends, as Tom O’Neill described it:  The state was the epicenter of the summer of love, but it had also seen the ascent of Reagan and Nixon. It had seen the Watts riots, the birth of the antiwar movement, and the Altamont concert disaster, the Free Speech movement and the Hells Angels. Here, defense contractors, Cold Warriors, and nascent tech companies lived just down the road from hippie communes, love-ins, and surf shops. Hollywood was the entertainment capital of the world, producing a vision of peace and prosperity that it sold to interior America—and to the world as the beau ideal of the American experiment. It was a prosperous life centered around the nuclear family living in a single-family home in the burgeoning suburbs. Doris Day became America’s sweetheart through a series of romantic comedies, but the turbulence in her own life foreshadowed America’s turn from vitality to decay. She was married three times, and her first husband either embezzled or mismanaged her substantial fortune. Her son, Terry Melcher, was closely associated with Charles Manson and the Family, along with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys—avatars of the California lifestyle that epitomized the American dream.  The Manson Family spent the summer of 1968 living and partying with Wilson in his Malibu mansion. The Cielo Drive home in the Hollywood Hills where Sharon Tate and four others were murdered in August 1969 had been Melcher’s home and the site of parties that Manson attended. The connections between Doris Day’s son, the Beach Boys, and the Manson Family have a darkly prophetic valence in retrospect. They were young, good-looking, and carefree. But behind the clean-cut image of wholesome American youth was a desperate decadence fueled by titanic drug abuse, sexual outrages that were absurd even by the standards of Hollywood in the 60s, and self-destructiveness clothed in the language of pseudo-spirituality. The California culture of the 1960s now looks like a fin-de-siècle blow-off top. The promise, fulfillment, and destruction of the American dream appears distilled in the Golden State, like an epic tragedy played out against a sunny landscape where the frontier ended. Around 1970, America entered into an age of decay, and California was in the vanguard.   H. Abernathy/ClassicStock/Getty Images Up, Up, and Away The expectation of constant progress is deeply ingrained in our understanding of the world, and of America in particular. Some metrics do generally keep rising: gross domestic product mostly goes up, and so does the stock market. According to those barometers, things must be headed mostly in the right direction. Sure there are temporary setbacks—the economy has recessions, the stock market has corrections—but the long-term trajectory is upward. Are those metrics telling us that the country is growing more prosperous? Are they signals, or noise? There is much that GDP and the stock market don’t tell us about, such as public and private debt levels, wage trends, and wealth concentration. In fact, during a half-century in which reported GDP grew consistently and the stock market reached the stratosphere, real wages have crept up very slowly, and living standards have flatlined or even declined for the middle and working classes. Many Americans have a feeling that things aren’t going in the right direction or that the country has lost its societal health and vigor, but aren’t sure how to describe or measure the problem. We need broader metrics of national prosperity and vitality, including measures of noneconomic values like family stability or social trust. There are many different criteria for national vitality. First, is the country guarded against foreign aggression and at peace with itself? Are people secure in their homes, free from government harassment, and safe from violent crime? Is prosperity broadly shared? Can the average person get a good job, buy a house, and support a family without doing anything extraordinary? Are families growing? Are people generally healthy, and is life span increasing or at least not decreasing? Is social trust high? Do people have a sense of unity in a common destiny and purpose? Is there a high capacity for collective action? Are people happy? We can sort quantifiable metrics of vitality into three main categories: social, economic, and political. There is a spiritual element too, which for my purposes falls under the social category. The social factors that can readily be measured include things like age at first marriage (an indicator of optimism about the future), median adult stature (is it rising or declining?), life expectancy, and prevalence of disease. Economic measures include real wage trends, wealth concentration, and social mobility. Political metrics relate to polarization and acts of political violence.  Many of these tend to move together over long periods of time. It’s easy to look at an individual metric and miss the forest for the trees, not seeing how it’s one manifestation of a larger problem in a dynamic system. Solutions proposed to deal with one concern may cause unexpected new problems in another part of the system. It’s a society-wide game of whack-a-mole. What’s needed is a more comprehensive understanding of structural trends and what lies behind them. From the founding period in America until about 1830, those factors were generally improving. Life expectancy and median height were increasing, both indicating a society that was mostly at peace and had plentiful food. Real wages roughly tripled during this period as labor supply growth was slow. There was some political violence. But for decades after independence, the country was largely at peace and citizens were secure in their homes. There was an overarching sense of shared purpose in building a new nation.  Those indicators of vitality are no longer trending upward. Let’s start with life expectancy. There is a general impression that up until the last century, people died very young. There’s an element of truth to this: we are now less susceptible to death from infectious disease, especially in early childhood, than were our ancestors before the 20th century. Childhood mortality rates were appalling in the past, but burying a young child is now a rare tragedy. This is a very real form of progress, resulting from more reliable food supplies as a result of improvements in agriculture, better sanitation in cities, and medical advances, particularly the antibiotics and certain vaccines introduced in the first half of the 20th century. A period of rapid progress was then followed by a long period of slow, expensive improvement at the margins. When you factor out childhood mortality, life spans have not grown by much in the past century or two. A study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine says that in mid-Victorian England, life expectancy at age five was 75 for men and 73 for women. In 2016, according to the Social Security Administration, the American male life expectancy at age five was 71.53 (which means living to age 76.53). Once you’ve made it to five years, your life expectancy is not much different from your great-grandfather’s. Moreover, Pliny tells us that Cicero’s wife, Terentia, lived to 103. Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of both France and England at different times in the 12th century, died a week shy of her 82nd birthday. A study of 298 famous men born before 100 B.C. who were not murdered, killed in battle, or died by suicide found that their average age at death was 71. More striking is that people who live completely outside of modern civilization without Western medicine today have life expectancies roughly comparable to our own. Daniel Lieberman, a biological anthropologist at Harvard, notes that “foragers who survive the precarious first few years of infancy are most likely to live to be 68 to 78 years old.”  In some ways, they are healthier in old age than the average American, with lower incidences of inflammatory diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis. It should be no surprise that an active life spent outside in the sun, eating wild game and foraged plants, produces good health. Recent research shows that not only are we not living longer, we are less healthy and less mobile during the last decades of our lives than our great-grandfathers were. This points to a decline in overall health. We have new drugs to treat Type I diabetes, but there is more Type I diabetes than in the past. We have new treatments for cancer, but there is more cancer. Something has gone very wrong. What’s more, between 2014 and 2017, median American life expectancy declined every year. In 2017 it was 78.6 years, then it decreased again between 2018 and 2020 to 76.87. The figure for 2020 includes COVID deaths, of course, but the trend was already heading downward for several years, mostly from deaths of despair: diseases associated with chronic alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicide. The reasons for the increase in deaths of despair are complex, but a major contributing factor is economic: people without good prospects over an extended period of time are more prone to self-destructive behavior. This decline is in contrast to the experience of peer countries. In addition to life expectancy, other upward trends have stalled or reversed in the past few decades. Family formation has slowed. The total fertility rate has dropped to well below replacement level. Real wages have stagnated. Debt levels have soared. Social mobility has stalled and income inequality has grown. Material conditions for most people have improved little except in narrow parts of life such as entertainment. Spencer Platt/Getty Images Trends, Aggregate, and Individuals  The last several decades have been a story of losing ground for much of middle America, away from a handful of wealthy cities on the coasts. The optimistic story that’s been told is that both income and wealth have been rising. That’s true in the aggregate, but when those numbers are broken down the picture is one of a rising gap between a small group of winners and a larger group of losers. Real wages have remained essentially flat over the past 50 years, and the growth in national wealth has been heavily concentrated at the top. The chart below represents the share of national income that went to the top 10 percent of earners in the United States. In 1970 it was 33.3 percent; in 2019 the figure was 45.4 percent. Disparities in wealth have become more closely tied to educational attainment. Between 1989 and 2019, household wealth grew the most for those with the highest level of education. For households with a graduate degree, the increase was 31 percent; with a college degree, it was 17 percent; with a high school degree, about 4 percent. Meanwhile, household wealth declined by a precipitous 60 percent for high school dropouts, including those with a GED. In 1989, households with a college degree had 2.74 times the wealth of those with only a high school diploma; in 2012 it was 3.08 times as much. In 1989, households with a graduate degree had 4.85 times the wealth of the high school group; in 2019, it was 6.12 times as much. The gap between the graduate degree group and the college group increased by 12 percent. The high school group’s wealth grew about 4 percent from 1989 to 2019, the college group’s wealth grew about 17 percent, and the wealth of the graduate degree group increased 31 percent. The gaps between the groups are growing in real dollars. It’s true that people have some control over the level of education they attain, but college has become costlier, and it’s fundamentally unnecessary for many jobs, so the growing wealth disparity by education is a worrying trend. Wealth is relative: if your wealth grew by 4 percent while that of another group increased by 17 percent, then you are poorer. What’s more crucial, however, is purchasing power. If the costs of middle-class staples like healthcare, housing, and college tuition are climbing sharply while wages stagnate, then living standards will decline. More problematic than growing wealth disparity in itself is diminishing economic mobility. A big part of the American story from the beginning has been that children tend to end up better off than their parents were. By most measures, that hasn’t been true for decades. The chart below compares the birth cohorts of 1940 and 1980 in terms of earning more than parents did. The horizontal axis indicates the relative income level of the parents. Among the older generation, over 90 percent earned more than their parents, except for those whose parents were at the very high end of the income scale. Among the younger generation, the percentages were much lower, and also more variable. For those whose parents had a median income, only about 40 percent would do better. In this analysis, low growth and high inequality both suppress mobility. Over time, declining economic mobility becomes an intergenerational problem, as younger people fall behind the preceding generation in wealth accumulation. The graph below illustrates the proportion of the national wealth held by successive generations at the same stage of life, with the horizontal axis indicating the median age for the group. Baby Boomers (birth years 1946–1964) owned a much larger percentage of the national wealth than the two succeeding generations at every point. At a median age of 45, for example, the Boomers owned approximately 40 percent of the national wealth. At the same median age, Generation X (1965–1980) owned about 15 percent. The Boomer generation was 15–18 percent larger than Gen X and it had 2.67 times as much of the national wealth. The Millennial generation (1981–1996) is bigger than Gen X though a little smaller than the Boomers, and it has owned about half of what Gen X did at the same median age. Those are some measurable indicators of the nation’s vitality, and they tell us that something is going wrong. A key reason for stagnant wages, declining mobility, and growing disparities of wealth is that economic growth overall has been sluggish since around 1970. And the main reason for slower growth is that the long-term growth in productivity that created so much wealth for America and the world over the prior two centuries slowed down. Wealth and the New Frontier There are other ways to increase the overall national wealth. One is by acquiring new resources, which has been done in various ways: through territorial conquest, or the incorporation of unsettled frontier lands, or the discovery of valuable resources already in a nation’s territory, such as petroleum reserves in recent history. Getting an advantageous trade agreement can also be a way of increasing resources.  Through much of American history, the frontier was a great source of new wealth. The vast supply of mostly free land, along with the other resources it held, was not just an economic boon; it also shaped American culture and politics in ways that were distinct from the long-settled countries of Europe where the frontier had been closed for centuries and all the land was owned space.  But there can be a downside to becoming overly dependent on any one resource. Aside from gaining new resources, real economic growth comes from either population growth or productivity growth. Population growth can add to the national wealth, but it can also put strain on supplies of essential resources. What elevates living standards broadly is productivity growth, making more out of available resources. A farmer who tills his fields with a steel plough pulled by a horse can cultivate more land than a farmer doing it by hand. It allows him to produce more food that can be consumed by a bigger family, or the surplus can be sold or traded for other goods. A farmer driving a plough with an engine and reaping with a mechanical combine can produce even more.  But productivity growth is driven by innovation. In the example above, there is a progression from farming by hand with a simple tool, to the use of metal tools and animal power, to the use of complicated machinery, each of which greatly increases the amount of food produced per farmer. This illustrates the basic truth that technology is a means of reducing scarcity and generating surpluses of essential goods, so labor and resources can be put toward other purposes, and the whole population will be better off. Total factor productivity (TFP) refers to economic output relative to the size of all primary inputs, namely labor and capital. Over time, a nation’s economic output tends to grow faster than its labor force and capital stock. This might owe to better labor skills or capital management, but it is primarily the result of new technology. In economics, productivity growth is used as a proxy for the application of innovation. If productivity is rising, it is understood to mean that applied science is working to reduce scarcity. The countries that lead in technological innovation naturally reap the benefits first and most broadly, and therefore have the highest living standards. Developing countries eventually get the technology too, and then enjoy the benefits in what is called catch-up growth. For example, China first began its national electrification program in the 1950s, when electricity was nearly ubiquitous in the United States. The project took a few decades to complete, and China saw rapid growth as wide access to electric power increased productivity. The United States still leads the way in innovation—though now with more competition than at any time since World War II. But the development of productivity-enhancing new technologies has been slower over the past few decades than in any comparable span of time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the early 18th century. The obvious advances in a few specific areas, particularly digital technology, are exceptions that prove the rule. The social technologies of recent years facilitate consumption rather than production.As a result, growth in total factor productivity has been slow for a long time. According to a report from Rabobank, “TFP growth deteriorated from an average annual growth of 1.1% over the period 1969–2010 to 0.4% in 2010 to 2018.”  In The Great Stagnation, Tyler Cowen suggested that the conventional productivity measures may be misleading. For example, he noted that productivity growth through 2000–2004 averaged 3.8 percent, a very high figure and an outlier relative to most of the last half-century. Surely some of that growth was real owing to the growth of the internet at the time, but it also coincided with robust growth in the financial sector, which ended very badly in 2008.  “What we measured as value creation actually may have been value destruction, namely too many homes and too much financial innovation of the wrong kind.” Then, productivity shot up by over 5 percent in 2009–2010, but Cohen found that it was mostly the result of firms firing the least productive people. That may have been good business, but it’s not the same as productivity rising because innovation is reducing scarcity and thus leading to better living standards. Over the long term, when productivity growth slows or stalls, overall economic growth is sluggish. Median real wage growth is slow. For most people, living standards don’t just stagnate but decline. Spencer Platt/Getty Images You Owe Me Money As productivity growth has slowed, the economy has become more financialized, which means that resources are increasingly channeled into means of extracting wealth from the productive economy instead of producing goods and services. Peter Thiel said that a simple way to understand financialization is that it represents the increasing influence of companies whose main business or source of value is producing little pieces of paper that essentially say, you owe me money. Wall Street and the companies that make up the financial sector have never been larger or more powerful. Since the early 1970s, financial firms’ share of all corporate earnings has roughly doubled to nearly 25 percent. As a share of real GDP, it grew from 13–15 percent in the early 1970s to nearly 22 percent in 2020.  The profits of financial firms have grown faster than their share of the economy over the past half-century. The examples are everywhere. Many companies that were built to produce real-world, nondigital goods and services have become stealth finance companies, too. General Electric, the manufacturing giant founded by Thomas Edison, transformed itself into a black box of finance businesses, dragging itself down as a result. The total market value of major airlines like American, United, and Delta is less than the value of their loyalty programs, in which people get miles by flying and by spending with airline-branded credit cards. In 2020, American Airlines’ loyalty program was valued at $18–$30 billion while the market capitalization of the entire company was $14 billion. This suggests that the actual airline business—flying people from one place to another—is valuable only insofar as it gets people to participate in a loyalty program. The main result of financialization is best explained by the “Cantillon effect,” which means that money creation, over a long period of time, redistributes wealth upward to the already rich. This effect was first described in the 18th century by Richard Cantillon after he observed the results of introducing a paper money system. He noted that the first people to receive the new money saw their incomes rise, while the last to receive it saw a decline in their purchasing power because of consumer price inflation. The first to receive newly created money are banks and other financial institutions. They are called “Cantillon insiders,” a term coined by Nick Szabo, and they get the most benefit. But all owners of assets—including stocks, real estate, even a home—are enriched to some extent by the Cantillon effect. Those who own a lot of assets benefit the most, and financial assets tend to increase in value faster than other types, but all gain value. This is a version of the Matthew Principle, taken from Jesus’ Parable of the Sower: to those who have, more will be given. The more assets you own, the faster your wealth will increase. Meanwhile, the people without assets fall behind as asset prices rise faster than incomes. Inflation hawks have long worried that America’s decades-long policy of running large government deficits combined with easy money from the Fed will lead to runaway inflation that beggars average Americans. This was seen clearly in 2022 after the massive increase in dollars created by the Fed in 2020 and 2021.  Even so, they’ve mostly been looking for inflation in the wrong place. It’s true that the prices of many raw materials, such as lumber and corn, have soared recently, followed by much more broad-based inflation in everything from food to rent, but inflation in the form of asset price bubbles has been with us for much longer. Those bubbles pop and prices drop, but the next bubble raises them even higher. Asset price inflation benefits asset owners, but not the people with few or no assets, like young people just starting out and finding themselves unable to afford to buy a home. The Cantillon effect has been one of the main vectors of increased wealth concentration over the last 40 years. One way that the large banks use their insider status is by getting short-term loans from the Federal Reserve and lending the money back to the government by buying longer-term treasuries at a slightly higher interest rate and locking in a profit.  Their position in the economy essentially guarantees them profits, and their size and political influence protect them from losses. We’ve seen the pattern of private profits and public losses clearly in the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, and in the financial crisis of 2008. Banks and speculators made a lot of money in the years leading up to the crisis, and when the losses on their bad loans came due, they got bailouts. Moral Hazard The Cantillon economy creates moral hazard in that large companies, especially financial institutions, can privatize profits and socialize losses. Insiders, and shareholders more broadly, can reap massive gains when the bets they make with the company’s capital pay off. When the bets go bad, the company gets bailed out. Alan Krueger, the chief economist at theTreasury Department in the Obama Administration, explained years later why banks and not homeowners were rescued from the fallout of the mortgage crisis: “It would have been extremely unfair, and created problems down the road to bail out homeowners who were irresponsible and took on homes they couldn’t afford.” Krueger glossed over the fact that the banks had used predatory and deceptive practices to initiate risky loans, and when they lost hundreds of billions of dollars—or trillions by some estimates—they were bailed out while homeowners were kicked out. That callous indifference alienates and radicalizes the forgotten men and women who have been losing ground. Most people know about the big bailouts in 2008, but the system that joins private profit with socialized losses regularly creates incentives for sloppiness and corruption. The greed sometimes takes ridiculous forms. But once that culture takes over, it poisons everything it touches. Starting in 2002, for example, Wells Fargo began a scam in which it paid employees to open more than 3.5 million unauthorized checking accounts, savings accounts, and credit cards for retail customers. By exaggerating growth in the number of active retail accounts, the bank could give investors a false picture of the health of its retail business. It also charged those customers monthly service fees, which contributed to the bottom line and bolstered the numbers in quarterly earnings reports to Wall Street. Bigger profits led to higher stock prices, enriching senior executives whose compensation packages included large options grants.  John Stumpf, the company’s CEO from 2007 to 2016, was forced to resign and disgorge around $40 million in repayments to Wells Fargo and fines to the federal government. Bloomberg estimates that he retained more than $100 million. Wells Fargo paid a $3 billion fine, which amounted to less than two months’ profit, as the bank’s annual profits averaged around $19.7 billion from 2017 to 2019. And this was for a scam that lasted nearly 15 years. What is perhaps most absurd and despicable about this scheme is that Wells Fargo was conducting it during and even after the credit bubble, when the bank received billions of dollars in bailouts from the government. The alliance between the largest corporations and the state leads to corrupt and abusive practices. This is one of the second-order effects of the Cantillon economy. Another effect is that managers respond to short-term financial incentives in a way that undermines the long-term vitality of their own company. An excessive focus on quarterly earnings is sometimes referred to as short-termism. Senior managers, especially at the C-suite level of public companies, are largely compensated with stock options, so they have a strong incentive to see the stock rise. In principle, a rising stock price should reflect a healthy, growing, profitable company. But managers figured out how to game the system: with the Fed keeping long-term rates low, corporations can borrow money at a much lower rate than the expected return in the stock market. Many companies have taken on long-term debt to finance stock repurchases, which helps inflate the stock price. This practice is one reason that corporate debt has soared since 1980. The Cantillon effect distorts resource allocation, incentivizing rent-seeking in the financial industry and rewarding nonfinancial companies for becoming stealth financial firms. Profits are quicker and easier in finance than in other industries. As a result, many smart, ambitious people go to Wall Street instead of trying to invent useful products or seeking a new source of abundant power—endeavors that don’t have as much assurance of a payoff. How different might America be if the incentives were structured to reward the people who put their brain power and energy into those sorts of projects rather than into quantitative trading algorithms and financial derivatives of home mortgages. While the financial industry does well, the manufacturing sector lags. Because of COVID-19, Americans discovered that the United States has very limited capacity to make the personal protective equipment that was in such urgent demand in 2020. We do not manufacture any of the most widely prescribed antibiotics, or drugs for heart disease or diabetes, nor any of the chemical precursors required to make them. A close look at other vital industries reveals the same penury. The rare earth minerals necessary for batteries and electronic screens mostly come from China because we have intentionally shuttered domestic sources or failed to develop them. We’re dependent on Taiwan for the computer chips that go into everything from phones to cars to appliances, and broken supply chains in 2021 led to widespread shortages. The list of necessities we import because we have exported our manufacturing base goes on. Financialization of the economy amplifies the resource curse that has come with dollar supremacy. Richard Cantillon described a similar effect when he observed what happened to Spain and Portugal when they acquired large amounts of silver and gold from the New World. The new wealth raised prices, but it went largely into purchasing imported goods, which ruined the manufactures of the state and led to general impoverishment. In America today, a fiat currency that serves as the world’s reserve is the resource curse that erodes the manufacturing base while the financial sector flourishes. Since the dollar’s value was formally dissociated from gold in 1976, it now rests on American economic prosperity, political stability, and military supremacy. If these advantages diminish relative to competitors, so will the value of the dollar. Dollar supremacy has also encouraged a debt-based economy. Federal debt as a share of GDP has risen from around 38 percent in 1970 to nearly 140 percent in 2020. Corporate debt has had peaks and troughs over those decades, but each new peak is higher than the last. In the 1970s, total nonfinancial corporate debt in the United States ranged between 30 and 35 percent of GDP. It peaked at about 43 percent in 1990, then at 45 percent with the dot-com bubble in 2001, then at slightly higher with the housing bubble in 2008, and now it’s approximately 47 percent. As asset prices have climbed faster than wages, consumer debt has soared from 43.2 percent of GDP in 1970 to over 75 percent in 2020.  Student loan debt has soared even faster in recent years: in 2003, it totaled $240 billion—basically a rounding error—but by 2020, the sum had ballooned to six times as large, at $1.68 trillion, which amounts to around 8 percent of GDP. Increases in aggregate debt throughout society are a predictable result of the Cantillon effect in a financialized economy. The Rise of the Two-Income Family The Cantillon effect generates big gains for those closest to the money spigot, and especially those at the top of the financial industry, while the people furthest away fall behind. Average families find it more difficult to buy a home and maintain a middle-class life. In 90 percent of U.S. counties today, the median-priced single-family home is unaffordable on the median wage. One of the ways that families try to make ends meet is with the promiscuous use of credit. It’s one of the reasons that personal and household debt levels have risen across the board. People borrow money to cover the gap between expectations and reality, hoping that economic growth will soon pull them out of debt. But for many, it’s a trap they can never escape. Another way that families have tried to keep up is by adding a second income. In 2018, over 60 percent of families were two-income households, up from about 30 percent in 1970. This change is not a result of a simple desire to do wage work outside the home or of “increased opportunities,” as we are often told. The reason is that it now takes two incomes to support the needs of a middle-class family, whereas 50 years ago, it required only one. As more people entered the labor market, the value of labor declined, setting up a vicious cycle in which a second income came to be more necessary. China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 put more downward pressure on the value of labor. When people laud the fact that we have so many more two-income families—generally meaning more women working outside the home—as evidence that there are so many great opportunities, what they’re really doing is retconning something usually done out of economic necessity. Needing twice as much labor to get the same result is the opposite of what happens when productivity growth is robust. It also means that the raising of children is increasingly outsourced. That’s not an improvement. Another response to stagnant wages is to delay family formation and have fewer children. In 1960, the median age of a first marriage was about 20.5 years. In 2010, it was approximately 27, and in 2020 it was an all-time high of over 29.18  At the same time, the total fertility rate of American women was dropping: from 3.65 in 1960 down to 2.1, a little below replacement level, in the early 1970s. Currently, it hovers around 1.8. Some people may look on this approvingly, worried as they are about overpopulation and the impact of humans on the environment. But when people choose to have few or no children, it is usually not a political choice. That doesn’t mean it is simply a “revealed preference,” a lower desire for a family and children, rather than a reflection of personal challenges or how people view their prospects for the future. Surely it’s no coincidence that the shrinking of families has happened at the same time that real wages have stagnated or grown very slowly, while the costs of housing, health care, and higher education have soared. The fact that American living standards have broadly stagnated, and for some segments of the population have declined, should be cause for real concern to the ruling class. Americans expect economic mobility and a chance for prosperity. Without it, many will believe that the government has failed to deliver on its promises. The Chinese Communist Party is regarded as legitimate by the Chinese people because it has presided over a large, broad, multigenerational rise in living standards. If stagnation or decline in the United States is not addressed effectively, it will threaten the legitimacy of the governing institutions.  But instead of meeting the challenge head-on, America’s political and business leaders have pursued policies and strategies that exacerbate the problem. Woke policies in academia, government, and big business have created a stultifying environment that is openly hostile to heterodox views. Witness the response to views on COVID that contradicted official opinion. And all this happens against a backdrop of destructive fiscal and monetary policies. Low growth and low mobility tend to increase political instability when the legitimacy of the political order is predicated upon opportunity and egalitarianism. One source of national unity has been the understanding that every individual has an equal right to pursue happiness, that a dignified life is well within reach of the average person, and that the possibility of rising higher is open to all. When too many people feel they cannot rise, and when even the basics of a middle-class life are difficult to secure, disappointment can breed a sense of injustice that leads to social and political conflict. At first, that conflict acts as a drag on what American society can accomplish. Left unchecked, it will consume energy and resources that could otherwise be put into more productive activities. Thwarted personal aspirations are often channeled into politics and zero-sum factional conflict. The rise of identity politics represents a redirection of the frustrations born of broken dreams. But identity politics further divides us into hostile camps. We’ve already seen increased social unrest lately, and more is likely to follow. High levels of social and political conflict are dangerous for a country that hopes to maintain a popular form of government. Not so long ago, we could find unity in civic rituals and were encouraged to be proud of our country. Now our history is denigrated in schools and by other sensemaking institutions, leading to cultural dysphoria, social atomization, and alienation. In exchange, you can choose your pronouns, which doesn’t seem like such a great trade. Just as important as regaining broad-based material prosperity and rising standards of living—perhaps more important—is unifying the nation around a common understanding of who we Americans are and why we’re here. Tyler Durden Sat, 01/07/2023 - 23:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 8th, 2023

Futures Flat Ahead Of Closely Watched Jobs Report

Futures Flat Ahead Of Closely Watched Jobs Report US equity futures struggled to maintain gains on Friday as traders awaited the December jobs report that will help chart the path forward for Fed monetary tightening. Contracts on the Nasdaq 100 and the S&P 500 were unchanged at 7:15am ET, erasing earlier gains sparked by a report that China was planning to relax restrictions on developer borrowing, and dial its stringent “three red lines” policy that exacerbated one of the biggest real estate meltdowns in the country’s history. US equities dropped on Thursday as separate data showed the labor market remained strong. European markets were steady as data showed euro-area inflation returned to single digits for the first time since August. Treasury 10-year yields steadied after climbing for the first time this week on Thursday following comments from Fed officials, while a  measure of dollar strength climbed for a second day, as the yen fell to levels not seen in a week, after the Bank of Japan unveiled further unscheduled bond buying to control its yield curve. Among notable movers in premarket trading, Tesla tumbled as the electric-car maker made another round of price cuts on its Model 3 and Y electric vehicles in China. Bed Bath & Beyond dropped after the home furnishings retailer began preparing for a bankruptcy filing, also weighing on shares of other retail trader favorites. Here are other notable premarket movers: Apple is little changed as Morgan Stanley says the stock could fall further on worries over wilting demand and production snags. Alvotech & Teva Pharmaceuticals say the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration has accepted for review a Biologics License Application for AVT04, Alvotech’s proposed biosimilar to Stelara, which is prescribed to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions. Alvo shares gain 6.4%, Teva rises 0.4% in light trading. Atai Life Sciences (ATAI) says it may explore steps including strategic partnership options after its Phase 2a trial of PCN-101 (R-ketamine) for treatment-resistant depression missed its primary endpoint. Shares sink 45%. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) slumps 13% after the home furnishings retailer began preparing for a bankruptcy filing, also weighing on shares of other retail trader favorites. CytomX (CTMX) surges 64% as analysts raised their price targets on the biotech after reporting a research collaboration agreement with Moderna, which brokers said demonstrated the strength of CytomX’s platform. Separately, CytomX gave an update on a phase 2 study for its CX-2029 treatment, which brokers said was mixed. Fate Therapeutics (FATE) tumbles 53% after the biotech company terminated a collaboration deal with Janssen Biotech and said it would discontinue its FT596 product candidate. Several analysts slashed their share price targets, with Cantor Fitzgerald describing Fate’s moves as major setbacks. Graphite Bio Inc. (GRPH) plunges 50% as it pauses a study of its experimental gene therapy for sickle cell disease after the first patient had a serious adverse event, prompting at least two analysts to downgrade the stock. Molson Coors (TAP) upgraded to outperform at Cowen with the group seen on a strong footing for 2023, while peer Constellation Brands is cut to market perform on downtrading challenges. TAP gains 1.4% in light trading. Novocure (NVCR) shares fall 6.4% as Wells Fargo cuts the stock to equal- weight from overweight with its positive thesis on the oncology firm now played out. Sight Sciences Inc. (SGHT) shares are up 2.8% after Stifel upgraded the medical device company to buy from hold, seeing a positive near-term setup for the stock. Tesla (TSLA) shares fall 6% as the electric-car maker makes another round of price cuts on its Model 3 and Y electric vehicles in China. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) shares rise 10% after controlling shareholder and former CEO Vince McMahon sought to return to the company and is proposing a possible sale of the business. Zynex (ZYXI) is upgraded to overweight from neutral at Piper Sandler, which notes strong execution from the medical device maker and sees room for possible multiple expansion. Shares gain 1.5%. After their worst annual drop since 2008 and a record underperformance against European stocks in the fourth quarter, US equities began the new year with further declines amid signals from the Fed that it remains staunchly hawkish until inflation cools further. The next clue will in today's December jobs report, with Bloomberg Economics expecting a more subdued increase in employment. Estimates for US nonfarm payroll numbers peg a decline in new jobs added, indicating a cooling in the labor market that would in turn reduce the need for higher interest rates. Median estimate for December nonfarm payrolls change is 202k (vs crowd-sourced whisper number 243k), while average hourly earnings are expected to increase 0.4% vs 0.6% in November. However, private payrolls figures out on Thursday surpassed estimates and a surprise drop in new claims for unemployment benefits underscored a robust jobs market. Our full preview can be found here. “Investors are still highly sensitive to the direction of monetary policy and this has potential to cause fresh headwinds for valuations,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. Any indications of resilience in the labor market or stubborn inflation “are likely to send fresh jitters through stocks,” she said. The Fed has remained “extremely hawkish” to avoid unintentionally easing financial conditions, said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda. “But another strong jobs report today would further justify such a hawkish approach and perhaps send risk assets into a bit of a tailspin as the prospect of a higher terminal rate increases alongside recession risks,” he wrote in a note. Overnight, Citi strategists led by Robert Buckland cut US shares to underweight on the grounds that earnings expectations are still too optimistic. Meanwhile, the latest EPFR fund flows data showed investors continued to flock to cash and out of equities in the week through Jan. 4. Inflows into money market funds were at $112 billion for the week - the most since April 2020, when the pandemic was spreading globally - as equity fund outflows continued. Market pricing for US interest rates to peak in June rose to above 5% following comments from Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, who said the central bank still has “much work to do” to tame inflation. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who is no longer a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, said rates were approaching a sufficiently restrictive zone and that inflation expectations had retreated, offering investors some optimism. In Europe, energy and miners outperformed while financial services and autos lag. The Euro Stoxx 50 was steady with FTSE MIB outperforming peers, adding 0.4%. Here are some of the biggest European movers today: Shell shares gain after the oil and gas group reported higher gas trading in 4Q, though analysts said its update looks “mixed.” Shares rise as much as 1.3%. Nel shares gain as much as 5.9% in Oslo after agreeing with HH2E for FEED (Front End Engineering and Design) study and Letter of Intent for two 60 MW electrolyser plants. Small-cap UK stock Nanoco rises a record 69% in London, after the company said it had settled its litigation with Samsung ahead of a trial that was due to start today. Shares in British shipping company Clarkson rise as much as 9.2%, with Liberum anticipating “strong” 2022 results that will be ahead of current market expectations, including at least £98m profit before tax. Standard Chartered shares fall as much as 2.8% after analysts said they consider a takeover of the London-listed lender as unlikely given the “deal complexity,” with JPMorgan analyst noting that such a transaction would require “a number of regulatory approvals.” Sodexo shares lost as much as 3% after the French catering and services group reported fiscal first- quarter revenue that beat the average analyst estimate but left limited upside after the stock rallied close to 50% in 2H 2022. Rentokil Initial shares drop as much as 5.2% after Exane BNP Paribas initiated coverage with a recommendation of underperform. Danone shares fall as much as 2.8% after Morgan Stanley makes a number of changes to its order of preference within the sector, including a lower rating on Diageo to equal- weight, Danone to underweight. Earlier in the session, Asia stocks rose in the first week of trading in 2023 amid optimism over China’s reopening and a potential bottoming out of earnings in the chip sector. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced as much as 0.8% Friday before paring gains to 0.1%, led by South Korea. Samsung’s worst profit fall in more than a decade cemented expectations of capex cuts and a price boost from reduced chip supplies, supporting sentiment for the sector. China’s CSI 300 Index rose for a fifth day while Hong Kong stocks retreated after a recent rally. The nation is set to reopen its borders to international travelers on Sunday. It’s also planning to relax restrictions on developer borrowing, dialing back the stringent “three red lines” policy that exacerbated its real estate meltdown. China’s Consumer Sentiment Rebounds as Economy Reopens: Chart The Asian stock benchmark is on track for its longest winning streak since September 2021. The gains came ahead of the US nonfarm payroll report due later Friday. Private payrolls data released Thursday surpassed estimates, underscoring a robust jobs market. “Even though the US Fed is expected to remain hawkish, the US economy is most likely to be resilient on the back of strong consumption,” said Daniel Yoo, head of global asset allocation at Yuanta Securities Korea. “This is a positive for Asian exporters in the medium to long term.” Japanese equities erased their morning losses to close higher, as the weakening yen boosted exporting companies.  The Topix Index rose 0.4% to 1,875.76 as of market close Tokyo time, while the Nikkei advanced 0.6% to 25,973.85. Sony Group Corp. contributed the most to the Topix Index gain, increasing 2.4% as analysts were positive on announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show on new products including its self-driving electric vehicle with Honda as well as PlayStation sales. Out of 2,162 stocks in the index, 1,273 rose and 768 fell, while 121 were unchanged. “The ADP jobs data exceeded market expectations, with investor worries that the Fed would continue to be hawkish, which strengthened the dollar and weakened the yen slightly in the foreign exchange market,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management. “The slightly weaker yen has softened the downside from the fall in US stocks.” In FX, the dollar climbs 0.2% to session high ahead of the jobs report, pulling all G-10 FX lower. The yen was the biggest underperformer, falling to its lowest level against the dollar since Dec. 20, trading at ~134.26 per dollar. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose 0.2%; for the week, the gauge is up 1.2% in what’s set to be its biggest rally since the week ended Sept. 23. The Yen extended losses after a Bloomberg report that Bank of Japan officials see little need to rush to make another adjustment to its yield-curve control policy. USD/JPY rose as much as 0.9% to 134.59; The move came as Japan reported that real earnings declined 3.8% in November from a year earlier, the most since May 2014. “Most significant and marginally yen-negative news out of Japan was the weaker-than-expected cash and real earnings data which serves to reinforce the notion that a formal YCC policy change is far from imminent,” said NAB’s Attrill. “We don’t expect one at least until 2H 2023.” EUR/USD fell as much as 0.2% to 1.0497 before paring part of that drop; Data showed that euro-area inflation returned to single digits for the first time since August. While the headline inflation figure fell to 9.2%, below economists’ 9.5% forecast, a measure that strips out energy and food edged up to a record 5.2% The Norwegian krone is set to be the biggest loser of the week vs. dollar, down 4.4%, its worst week since April In rates, this week’s sharp flattening move extends into early US session with long-end yields slightly richer on the day and front-end lagging, guided by wider bull-flattening move seen in the German curve following euro-zone CPI data. US yields are cheaper by up to 2bp across front-end and belly of the curve with 10-year trading around 3.725%, cheaper by 0.5bp vs Thursday’s close and lagging bunds by 3bp in the sector; bunds and UST 10-year yields are little changed, trading within Thursday’s range; comparable gilts yields underperform by about a basis point. In commodities, oil stabilized after a string of declines that wiped nearly 10% from the price of crude. WTI up 0.8% to below $75. Gold climbed after retreating Thursday from a six-month high reached earlier in the week. Spot gold rose ~$3 to near $1,836/oz. Most base metals trade in the green. Looking to the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the US jobs report for December. Otherwise in the US we’ll get the ISM services index for December and factory orders for November, whilst in Europe there’s the flash Euro Area CPI reading for December, along with German factory orders and retail sales for November. Meanwhile from central banks, we’ll hear from the Fed’s Bostic, Cook, Barkin and George, as well as the ECB’s Centeno and Lane. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures little changed at 3,825.75 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 438.97 MXAP little changed at 157.70 MXAPJ little changed at 520.71 Nikkei up 0.6% to 25,973.85 Topix up 0.4% to 1,875.76 Hang Seng Index down 0.3% to 20,991.64 Shanghai Composite little changed at 3,157.64 Sensex down 0.8% to 59,867.28 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.7% to 7,109.59 Kospi up 1.1% to 2,289.97 German 10Y yield little changed at 2.31% Euro little changed at $1.0512 Brent Futures little changed at $78.70/bbl Gold spot up 0.2% to $1,835.99 U.S. Dollar Index up 0.34% to 105.40 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg China is planning to relax restrictions on developer borrowing, dialing back the stringent “three red lines” policy that exacerbated one of the biggest real-estate meltdowns in the country’s history The European Central Bank should complete its interest-rate increases “by the summer” and then be prepared to hold for a potentially sustained period to tame inflation that remains too high, Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau said Japanese workers’ real wages fell by the most in eight years, suggesting that there’s still some way to go before the central bank can achieve its wage-growth accompanied price goal. The Bank of Japan resumed additional bond buying operation after a new benchmark bond yield touched its 0.5% ceiling Japan wants the Group of Seven advanced economies to take a coordinated approach this year aimed at preventing the “economic coercion” that China has applied to some of its trading partners Mexico’s Finance Ministry nominated Banxico adviser Omar Mejia Castelazo to the central bank’s board, an unexpected choice to replace its most dovish member Gerardo Esquivel China’s trade restrictions on Australian wine, lobsters and other commodities could be the next to ease amid a warming of diplomatic ties and expectations that Beijing will soon resume imports of coal The US House adjourned as Kevin McCarthy’s allies tried to strike a deal with members of the group who’ve blocked the California Republican from being elected speaker in a historic 11 rounds of voting A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks traded mostly with cautious gains despite a negative lead from Wall Street, and ahead of the US labour market data. ASX 200 saw gains across the Metals, Mining and Resources names, but the upside was capped by the Healthcare and Tech sectors. Nikkei 225 briefly topped the 26k level whilst the banking sector underperformed after Thursday’s sectoral outperformance. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were firmer with the former initially bolstered by property names, with source reports from Bloomberg flagging further housing market easing measures, although the earlier gains faded throughout the session. Top Asian News BoJ reportedly sees little need to rush major yield adjustments, according to Bloomberg sources BoJ to conduct emergency bond buying for 5yr and 10yr maturities, according to Reuters. China could ease "three red lines" property rules in a major shift, according to Bloomberg sources. It will allow some property firms to add more leverage, and it pushes back the grace period for meeting debt targets, whilst deadlines may be extended by at least six months. PBoC drained a net CNY 1.6tln for the week via OMO - the largest weekly net cash withdrawal on record, according to Reuters. PBoC injected CNY 2bln via 7-day reverse repos with the rate maintained at 2.00%; daily net drain CNY 384bln Samsung Electronics (005930 KS) Prelim Q4 (KRW): Revenue 70tln (exp. 71tln), Operating Profit 4.3tln (exp. 5.9tln, BBG exp. 6.65tln); Memory chip demand fell more than expected in Q4 amid clients' concerns on consumer sentiment. Smartphone sales fell in Q4 due to demand weakness from macro issues. Price of memory chips fell continuously in Q4 due to chipmakers' increased inventory, according to Reuters. China has released the 10th edition of COVID prevention and control protocols, will further optimise clinical catergorisation and treatment method. Adds positive antigen tests as a diagnostic standard. Evergrande (3333 HK) to hold a meeting with offshore bondholders on Wednesday, to discuss debt restructuring proposals, via Reuters citing sources. European bourses are little changed overall but do feature a slim positive skew, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.1%, pre-NFP. US futures are similarly contained with modest divergence around the unchanged mark, ES +0.1%, with attention on the NFP print, subsequent ISM Services PMI and Fed speak thereafter. Tesla (TSLA) to cut Model 3 & Y prices in China, Japan and South Korea according to reports. Subsequent Reuters sources state price cuts outside of China are being done with a view to support plant output. Citi (C) equity updates: cuts US to Underweight, raises continental-Europe to Overweight, raises Australia to Neutral. Top European News German Chancellor Scholz to invite the auto industry for talks on Tuesday, to discuss supply chains, mobility and climate. Lufthansa to Revive Aging A340s Amid Dearth of First Class Seats UK House Prices May Decline by 8% This Year, Halifax Says German Factory Orders Plummet as Manufacturers Under Siege Stellantis May Shut More Plants as Electrification Costs Bite FX DXY maintains its recovery momentum ahead of the US agenda with the index up to a 105.52 peak at best. Though, it has slipped a touch from this in wake of hotter-than-expected core EZ inflation, sending EUR/USD more comfortably above 1.05, though shy of initial best levels. JPY has taken the brunt of the USD's resurgence amid reports that the BoJ sees little need for further hasty YCC tweaks, with USD/JPY surpassing 134.50. More broadly, peers are down across the board vs the USD, though to varying degrees with the overall tone somewhat tentative pre-NFP. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 6.8912 vs exp. 6.8914 (prev. 6.8926) Fixed Income Bunds experienced modest but ultimately fleeting downside in wake of the hot core/super-core EZ inflation print, sending the German benchmark to a 135.74 low. Albeit, the move pared back in short order with EGBs and USTs lower to the tune of around 10/15 and 5 ticks respectively ahead of the PM agenda. Australian government cuts FY22/23 bond issuance by AUD 10bln vs original plans, according to reports. Commodities Crude benchmarks are firmer, but have been subject to two-way price action throughout the morning which has been directionally in-fitting with but slightly more pronounced than equity action. Currently, WTI Feb’23 and Brent Mar’23 are posting gains just shy of 1.0% as the upside stalled a touch around USD 0.30/bbl shy of the USD 75/bbl and USD 80/bbl handles respectively. China Energy has reportedly placed an order for Australian coal - among the first deals since the 2020 unofficial ban, according to Reuters sources. Spot gold is modestly firmer though is yet to recoup all of the marked downside seen in yesterday’s session, which saw the yellow metal surrender the USD 1850/oz handle. Geopolitics US and Japan to hold security talks in Washington on January 11th, according to Bloomberg. Russian State TV says the ceasefire has come into force along the entire front in Ukraine; in-fitting with the order from President Putin. Turkish Defence Minister says Greece is carrying out acts of incitement against us, and we did not get a positive response from them regarding the establishment of a dialogue, via AJ Breaking. US Event Calendar 08:30: Dec. Change in Nonfarm Payrolls, est. 202,000, prior 263,000 Change in Private Payrolls, est. 182,000, prior 221,000 Change in Manufact. Payrolls, est. 8,000, prior 14,000 Unemployment Rate, est. 3.7%, prior 3.7% Labor Force Participation Rate, est. 62.2%, prior 62.1% Underemployment Rate, prior 6.7% Average Weekly Hours All Emplo, est. 34.4, prior 34.4 Average Hourly Earnings MoM, est. 0.4%, prior 0.6% Average Hourly Earnings YoY, est. 5.0%, prior 5.1% 10:00: Nov. Factory Orders, est. -1.0%, prior 1.0% 10:00: Nov. Durable Goods Orders, est. -2.1%, prior -2.1%; Less Transportation, prior 0.2% Nov. Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, prior -0.1% Nov. Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, prior 0.2% Nov. Factory Orders Ex Trans, prior 0.8% 10:00: Dec. ISM Services Index, est. 55.0, prior 56.5 Central Bank Speakers 11:15: Fed’s Cook Takes Part in Panel Discussion on Inflation 11:15: Fed’s Bostic and ECB’s Lane Discuss the Global Economic... 12:15: Fed’s Barkin Speaks on the Economic Outlook 13:00: Fed’s George Discusses the Economic Outlook 15:30: Fed’s Bostic Discusses Lessons From the Pandemic DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Following a strong start to 2023, markets finally fell back yesterday after strong US data and hawkish remarks from Fed officials led investors to price in more rate hikes over the months ahead. The initial catalyst came from the ADP’s report of private payrolls, which showed an unexpectedly strong gain in December of +235k (vs. +150k expected), whilst the previous month was also revised up to +182k (vs. +127k previously). Treasury yields began to rise immediately after that release, which was then followed up by the jobless claims data, which showed that initial claims had fallen to a 3-month low of just 204k in the last week of 2022 (vs. 225k expected). So further evidence pointing to a tight labour market, particularly when you consider the JOLTS report for November from the previous day. Claims likely showed some seasonal distortion but there is little doubting the still strong labour market. That focus on the labour market will continue today, since we’ll get the US jobs report for December at 13:30 London time. In terms of what to expect, our US economists are looking for nonfarm payrolls to have grown by +175k in December, which should keep the unemployment rate steady at 3.7%. Keep an eye on average hourly earnings growth as well, particularly given the Fed’s focus on wage inflation. Our economists are expecting that to step down to +0.3%, having come in at a 10-month high of +0.6% last month. In the meantime, these signs of strength in the labour market data led investors to price in a more aggressive path of rate hikes from the Fed yesterday. For instance, the chances they’ll continue hiking by 50bps at the next meeting in February now stand at 44.2% according to futures, which is up from 32% the previous day. And looking further out, the terminal rate priced in for June hit a 6-week high of 5.03% (cycle high 5.146% - Nov 3rd), with the year-end rate for December also up +13.6 bps to 4.67%. Those views on the future policy path were given added support by the latest speakers from the FOMC. For instance, Kansas City Fed President George said that the Fed should keep rates above 5% into 2024, and Atlanta Fed President Bostic said that inflation was still “way too high”. St. Louis Fed President Bullard last night spoke a little more dovishly when he said that “the policy rate is not yet in a zone that may be considered sufficiently restrictive, but it is getting closer.” In a presentation, Bullard cited the recent FOMC dot plot showing the median projection of 5.1% as being adequately restrictive. Notwithstanding Bullard, the overall backdrop yesterday meant that the sovereign bond rally so far this year came to a halt, with yields on 10yr Treasuries up by +3.5bps to 3.718%. That was echoed in Europe, where yields on 10yr bunds (+4.4bps), OATs (+4.5bps) and BTPs (+5.4bps) all moved higher on the day as well. The moves were driven by higher real yields, with the US 10yr real yield up +1.0bps to 1.49%, whilst the German 10yr real yield was up +10.4bps. Yields on 10yr USTs are fairly stable in the Asian session as we go to press. For equities it was a similarly downbeat picture, with the S&P 500 (-1.16%) moving back into negative territory for 2023, with losses for both the NASDAQ (-1.47%) and the Dow Jones (-1.02%) as well. The main exception to that pattern were energy stocks (+1.99%), which were aided by the rebound in oil prices yesterday that saw WTI (+1.14%) back at $73.67/bbl. This morning, oil prices continue to build on their previous gains with Brent futures (+1.02%) trading just below $80/bbl and WTI (+1.06%) at $74.45/bbl. Otherwise it was a poor performance across the board however, and Europe’s STOXX 600 (-0.20%) lost ground for the first time this year, even as it continued its relative outperformance against the US indices with a c.5pp gap opening up in the first few days of the year. Asian stock markets are generally trading higher this morning, but Chinese related equities have gone from positive to slightly negative as I finish this off. Elsewhere, the Nikkei (+0.42%) and the KOSPI (+0.66%) are losing a bit of momentum after a much more positive first half of the session. Outside of Asia, US stock futures are indicating a positive start with contracts on the S&P 500 (+0.31%) and the NASDAQ 100 (+0.27%) edging higher ahead of the December jobs report, but again off their highs. Early morning data showed that real wages in Japan (-3.8% y/y) fell by the most in eight years and declined for the eighth consecutive month in November (v/s -2.8% expected). It followed the prior month’s revised drop of -2.9%. At the same time, cash earnings (+0.5% y/y) were also disappointing in November (v/s +1.7% expected) against a downwardly revised +1.4% rise in October. In addition, Japan’s services sector activity remained in expansion territory as the final au Jibun Bank services PMI advanced to 51.1 in December following a reading of 50.3 in November. For a third straight day, the US House of Representatives was not able to vote in a new speaker. GOP leader Kevin McCarthy was not able to get Republicans to coalesce around him through another 5 ballots yesterday, taking the overall failed ballot count to 11. This is now the most ballots it has taken in order to elect a new Speaker since 1860. McCarthy had reportedly offered the holdouts one of their bigger demands – allowing any single member to bring forward a motion to vote on ousting the speaker, currently it takes half of the chamber. It would still take 50% of the chamber to remove the speaker, but it raises the risks of disorder around important votes. There continues to be a group of 6 or so Republicans who have declared themselves “Never-Kevin”, which complicates matters as the Republican leader can only afford 5 defections. Some McCarthy supporters have acknowledged that this process could extend into the weekend or longer if the party must find a new consensus candidate. Otherwise on the geopolitical side, yesterday brought an announcement from Russia that there would be an unexpected ceasefire in Ukraine for 36 hours over today and tomorrow. The move coincides with Russian Orthodox Christmas and Putin asked Ukraine to reciprocate, but the request was rejected and Ukrainian presidential aide Mikhailo Podolyak said that Russia “must leave the occupied territories – only then will it have a “temporary truce”.” Finally on the data side, Italian CPI fell to +12.3% in December on the EU-harmonised measure, which was in line with expectations but down from +12.6% in November. That comes ahead of the flash CPI release for the entire Euro Area today, where economists are widely expecting the year-on-year measure will decline for a second consecutive month. To the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the US jobs report for December. Otherwise in the US we’ll get the ISM services index for December and factory orders for November, whilst in Europe there’s the flash Euro Area CPI reading for December, along with German factory orders and retail sales for November. Meanwhile from central banks, we’ll hear from the Fed’s Bostic, Cook, Barkin and George, as well as the ECB’s Centeno and Lane. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/06/2023 - 08:02.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 6th, 2023

US-China Struggle For DR Congo Resources Intensifies

US-China Struggle For DR Congo Resources Intensifies Authored by Conor Gallagher via, As the US intensifies its efforts to cut China off from advanced semiconductors, it is also making a run at the world’s most important source of minerals used in tech: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC is sometimes called the “the Saudi Arabia of the electric vehicle age” because it produces roughly 70 percent of the world’s cobalt, which is a key component in the production of lithium-ion batteries that power phones, computers, and electric vehicles. Electric vehicle sales are predicted to grow from 6.5 million in 2021 to 66 million in 2040. The DRC is also Africa’s largest copper producer with some of the mines estimated to contain grades above 3 percent, significantly higher than the global average of 0.6 – 0.8 percent. It also has 70 percent of the world’s coltan, which is also critical to cell phone and computer manufacturing. All in all, it is estimated that the DRC has $24 trillion worth of untapped mineral resources. On Dec.13, the US signed deals with the DRC and Zambia (the world’s sixth-largest copper producer and second-largest cobalt producer in Africa) that will see the US support the two countries in developing an electric vehicle value chain. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US Export-Import Bank and the International Development Finance Corporation will explore financing and support mechanisms, and the US Agency for International Development, commerce department and Trade and Development Agency will provide technical assistance. Aside from a Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates-backed copper-cobalt mine in northern Zambia, details are sparse, but it does mark a major turning point for the DRC. For more than a decade, Chinese companies have spent billions of dollars buying out U.S. and European miners in the DRC’s Cobalt belt, leading to control of 15 of 19 of the primary cobalt mines in the country. China sources 60 percent of its cobalt needs from the DRC, and about 80 percent of the world’s cobalt processing occurs in China before being incorporated into lithium-ion batteries.The DRC-China relationship is on the rocks, however, and Chinese mining is starting to encounter an increasing amount of bumps in the road. In July the DRC halted exports from the world’s second biggest cobalt mine amid an ongoing dispute between the Chinese mining company and the DRC state mining company. (China Molybdenum  bought the controlling stake in the project in 2016 from US company Freeport-McMoRan.) With US encouragement, last year DRC President Felix Tshisekedi began accusing his predecessors of signing lopsided contracts with Chinese mining companies and is now attempting to renegotiate them. In a rare sign of DRC bipartisanship, opposition politician Adolphe Muzito who was prime minister at the time the deals were signed with China, has also come out in support of renegotiating the deals with Beijing. China defends the deals, saying it has built several projects in the Central African nation despite obstacles, increased tax revenue, created more jobs, and provided investment in infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals and hydropower stations. But the spat over the Chinese deals comes at a time of increased Washington pressure on Beijing and when the cobalt supply chain is already under pressure due to increased demand from the battery sector and Covid-19 logistics issues. *** The Financial Times, citing a Goldman Sachs forecast, reported in November that the US and Europe could cut their dependence on China for electric vehicle batteries by 2030 through more than $160 billion of new capital spending. It appears the West is trying to recoup lost ground and erect roadblocks in China’s supply line from Africa. The West has long criticized China for its loans to African nations, which it claims are designed to seize African assets offered as collateral. (African countries currently owe three times more debt to Western institutions compared to China.) Deborah Bräutigam, the Director of the China Africa Research Initiative at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, has written that this is “ a lie, and a powerful one.” She wrote, “our research shows that Chinese banks are willing to restructure the terms of existing loans and have never actually seized an asset from any country.” Even researchers at Chatham House admit that’s not the case, explaining that the lending has instead created a debt trap for China. That is becoming more evident as nations are unable to repay, largely due to the economic fallout from the pandemic and the US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. While China’s initial instinct has been to try and tackle debt repayment issues at a bilateral level, typically by extending maturities rather than accepting write-downs on loans, it’s increasingly getting involved in multilateral talks that include US-backed institutions like the IMF. China (and the borrowing country) are often getting the short end of the stick. Take the case of Zambia, which got a $1.3 billion loan from the IMF in September. From The Diplomat: Zambia will shift its spending priorities from investment in public infrastructure – typically financed by Chinese stakeholders – to recurrent expenditures. Specifically, Zambia has announced it will totally cancel 12 planned projects, half of which were due to be financed by China EXIM Bank, alongside one by ICBC for a university and another by Jiangxi Corporation for a dual highway from the capital. The government has also canceled 20 undistributed loan balances – some of which were for the new projects but others for existing projects. While such cancellations are not unusual on Zambia’s part, Chinese partners account for the main bulk of these loans… While some of these cancellations may have been initiated by Chinese lenders themselves, especially those in arrears, Zambia may not have needed to cancel so many projects. Since 2000, China has canceled more of Zambia’s bilateral debt than any sovereign creditor, standing at $259 million to date. Nevertheless, the IMF team justified the shift because they – and presumably Zambia’s government – believe that spending on public infrastructure in Zambia has not returned sufficient economic growth or fiscal revenues. However, no evidence is presented for this in the IMF’s report. The IMF deal also relegates China to the backseat, as it allows for 62 concessional loan projects to continue, only two of which will involve China. The vast majority of the projects will be administered by multilateral institutions and involve recurrent expenditure rather than infrastructure-focused projects. In August, China announced the forgiveness of 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations, while also pledging to deepen its collaboration with the continent. Despite that gesture and its efforts to extend maturities, the West continues to hammer home the message that Beijing is engaged in debt-trap diplomacy with the likes of US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen claiming multiple times that Beijing has become the biggest obstacle to “progress” in Africa. While Beijing offers imperfect infrastructure-for-minerals deals, the US, as Biden said at the recent US-Africa Leaders Summit, has cultural ties because of its significant population of African Americans. “I might add that includes my former boss,” he said. According to the South China Morning Post, the DRC is also under pressure from the IMF to “clean up lopsided mining agreements granted to foreign firms” (i.e., China) as a precondition for a new $1.5 billion credit line. And so the deals will likely be reworked to the detriment of the DRC, similar to the IMF deal with Zambia. Back in 2009, former Congolese President Joseph Kabila explained to the New York Times why the DRC signed the deals with China despite US pressure: I don’t understand the resistance we’ve encountered. What is the Chinese deal? We said we had five priorities: infrastructure; health; education; water and electricity; and housing. Now, how do we deal with these priorities? We need money, a lot of money. Not a 100 million U.S. dollars from the World Bank or 300 from the IMF. No, a lot of money, and especially that we’re still servicing a debt of close to 12 billion dollars, and it’s 50 to 60 million U.S. dollars per month, which is huge. You give me 50 million dollars each month for the social sector and we move forward. Anyway, that’s another chapter. But we said: so, we have these priorities, and we talked to everybody. Americans, do you have the money? No, not for now. The European Union, do you have three or four billion for these priorities? No, we have our own priorities. Then we said: why not talk to other people, the Chinese? So we said, do you have the money? And they said, well, we can discuss. So we discussed. *** Washington’s involvement in the DRC stretches back decades. The uranium used to build the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan was sourced from Congo. The US helped plan the assassination of the first democratically elected DRC Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba for trying to control the DRC’s resources and use them to improve the living conditions of the country’s people. In recent years, Washington has played a role in the ongoing conflicts in eastern DRC, which involve hundreds of militant groups. Due to US involvement in assassinating its leaders and fomenting insurgencies in the country, relations between the US and DRC have long been frosty. That changed when Tshiskedi took office in 2019. About that election and the US response, according to Foreign Policy: Independent groups in Congo had detected widespread fraud in the vote, so U.S. officials agreed to condemn the process as rigged and vowed to hold those involved responsible. But the statement that came out of the U.S. State Department on Jan. 23 caught some of the policymakers who worked on the region by surprise. Instead of condemning the election as “deeply flawed and troubling,” following the language of the original draft, the United States endorsed the results—with minor caveats—and offered praise for the election. (At the recent US-Africa Leaders Summit Biden pledged to provide over $165 million to “support elections and good governance in Africa in 2023.”) Tshiskedi’s first trip was to the US, and in 2020 both countries agreed to pursue military cooperation, including Congolese officers being trained in the US. Following Tshikedi’s election, the US began alleging that an ISIS-affiliated group was among the militia’s operating in the DRC (UN experts said they found no evidence of this), and US Special Forces began to deploy to the DRC with the stated goal of fighting the ISIS group. Aside from the supposed ISIS affiliate, it is widely believed that many of these militant groups operating in eastern DRC receive support and training from the militaries of Uganda and Rwanda. And who supports and trains the militaries of Uganda and Rwanda? The US of A. One of the biggest militias is M23, which emerged from and is supported by the Congolese army. A brief background from Black Agenda Report: Back in 2008, the M23’s predecessor, the CNDP, was rampaging through [eastern DRC]. Then in 2009, on Obama’s Inauguration Day, it was announced that the CNDP would be integrated into the Congolese army. Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice actually came out and applauded that the next day. And then in 2013, those same Rwandan troops that had been “integrated” into the Congolese army emerged as M23, claiming that they hadn’t gotten everything they had been promised in the agreement signed on March 23, 2009. Hence the name M23. Nixon Katembo, a Congolese journalist and executive producer with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, explains how the US uses Rwandan military/militias as a proxy force: Recall that the Rwandan and Ugandan militaries have both been built, trained, and funded by the United States. AFRICOM’s first commander, Kip Ward said they were making sure to train them to serve their mutual interests. But their interests were not peace or development of the region but serving the multinational corporations of the United States and the Bretton Woods institutions and securing the natural resources of the DRC. DRC has the critical mineral resources needed by the industries of the US and Western Europe. Congo holds 70% of the world’s coltan, which is critical to cell phone and computer manufacture. The same is true of cobalt, which is critical for the manufacture of aerospace and renewable technologies. DRC holds about 80% of the world’s cobalt reserves. That should tell you how critical it is to the US and the rest of the West to keep Congo in a state of disarray so that it can’t control and benefit from its own resources. However, the US and European nations do not want to put boots on the ground in Africa, so they are using Rwanda as a proxy. And you will recall that tiny Rwanda has become not only the top gold producer but also the top coltan producer in the region, thanks to minerals looted in the DRC. Rwanda is one of the world’s biggest coltan exporters, despite having few producing mines of its own. And the US is the top investor in Rwanda, representing 13.2 percent of the total investment commitments to the country. One of the larger US investors, the mining company Bay View Group, is now in an arbitration case with Rwanda at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. From The Globe and Mail: Bay View, one of the biggest investors in Rwanda’s mining sector from 2006 to 2016, is now seeking US$95-million in damages from the Rwandan government, alleging the regime seized the company’s assets because it refused to participate in the “rampant illegal smuggling” of coltan and other Congolese minerals to Rwanda. One company concession was near the Congolese border, which would have made it “an ideal staging ground for smuggling minerals,” Bay View says. “It is believed that upwards of 50 per cent of all minerals exported from Rwanda originate in the DRC and that upwards of 90 per cent of the coltan exported from Rwanda originates in the DRC,” the company told the arbitration centre in its claim… The company also said Rwanda’s official mineral exports have increased dramatically since 2013, despite its low levels of mining production. “The only way this could be possible is if Rwanda is smuggling minerals from the DRC, tagging them as Rwandan and exporting them to the world as Rwandan.” According to Nixon Katembo, this could stop if the US wanted it to stop: I believe, in no uncertain terms, that if the US told Rwanda and Uganda to back off, the war in the eastern DRC would be over in a week. However, the US and the West would then have to stop trying to destabilize DRC, so that the Congolese can rebuild state institutions and an effective army to defend its borders. Such an outcome could be possible, as it looks like M23 may have reached its sell by date in Washington. In June, the DRC turned to Washington for help with M23. Two days after the US signed its deals with Zambia and the DRC, Blinken called on Rwanda to pull back its troops from eastern DRC and encourage M23 rebels to do the same. The US had previously not publicly accepted Congolese allegations that Rwanda backs the M23 rebellion. European capitals have joined the sudden chorus denouncing M23 and calling on Rwanda to rein in the group. With the DRC signing a ceasefire with Rwanda, Burundi and Angola, and Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan sending forces to stabilize the Eastern DRC, Rwanda and its President Paul Kagame have little choice but to back down and withdraw military, logistical and political support for M23. Despite (or perhaps because of) Rwanda’s useful militias, it continues to rake in massive amounts of military aid from Washington and Brussels. The West may want Rwanda to redirect more of its militias into northern Mozambique in order to protect Western energy interests there, including a massive natural gas concession held by TotalEnergies SE and ExxonMobil. Rwanda also just became the first African country to get a loan ($319 million) from the IMF under its newly established Resilience and Sustainability Facility, which is supposedly meant to help poor countries, small states, and vulnerable middle-income countries address climate change and pandemic challenges. The loan will add to the country’s debt that was 73.3 percent of GDP in 2021. Tyler Durden Tue, 12/27/2022 - 05:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 27th, 2022

Inflation, Recession, & Declining US Hegemony

Inflation, Recession, & Declining US Hegemony Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, In the distant future, we might look back on 2022 and 2023 as pivotal years. So far, we have seen the conflict between America and the two Asian hegemons emerge into the open, leading to a self-inflicted energy crisis on the western alliance. The forty-year trend of declining interest rates has ended, replaced by a new rising trend the full consequences and duration of which are as yet unknown. The western alliance enters the New Year with increasing fears of recession. Monetary policy makers face an acute dilemma: do they prioritise inflation of prices by raising interest rates, or do they lean towards yet more monetary stimulation to ensure that financial markets stabilise, their economies do not suffer recession, and government finances are not driven into crisis? This is the conundrum that will play out in 2023 for the US, UK, EU, Japan, and others in the alliance camp. But economic conditions are starkly different in continental Asia. China is showing the early stages of making an economic comeback. Russia’s economy has not been badly damaged by sanctions, as the western media would have us believe. All members of Asian trade organisations are enjoying the benefits of cheap oil and gas while the western alliance turns its back on fossil fuels. The message sent to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and even to OPEC+ is that their future markets are with the Asian hegemons. Predictably, they are all gravitating into this camp. They are abandoning the American-led sphere of influence. 2023 will see the consequences of Saudi Arabia ending the petrodollar. Energy exporters are feeling their way towards new commercial arrangements in a bid to replace yesterday’s dollar. There’s talk of a new Asian trade settlement currency. But we can expect oil exports to be offset by inward investment, particularly between Saudi Arabia, the GCC, and China. The most obvious surplus emerging in 2023 is of internationally held dollars, whose use-value is set to drop away leaving it as an empty shell. It amounts to a perfect storm for the dollar, and all those who sail with it. Those of us who live long enough to look back on these years are likely to find them to have been pivotal for both currencies and global alliances. They will likely mark the end of western supremacy and the emergence of a new, Asian economic domination. The interest rate threat to the west’s currencies It is a mark of how bad the condition of Western economies has become, when interest rate rises of only a few cent are enough to threaten to precipitate an economic crisis. The blame can be laid entirely at the door of post-classical macroeconomics. And like a dog with a bone, their high priests refuse to let go. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they would now have you believe that inflation is transient after all, though they have conceded the possibility of inflation targets being raised slightly. But the wider concern is that even though interest rates have yet to properly reflect the extent of currency debasement, they have risen enough to tip the world into recession.  In their way of thinking, it is either inflation or recession, not both. A recession is falling demand and falling demand leads to falling prices, according to macroeconomic opinions. When both inflation and a recession are present, they cannot explain it and it does not accord with their computer models. Therefore, government economists insist that consumer price rises will return to the 2% target or thereabouts, because rising interest rates will trigger a recession and demand will fall. It will just take a little longer than they originally thought. They now saying that the danger is no longer just inflation. Instead, a balance must be struck. Interest rate policy must take the growing evidence of recession into account, which means that bond yields should stop rising and after their earlier falls equity markets should stabilise. For them, this is the path to salvation. In pursuing this line, the authorities and a group thinking establishment have had success in tamping down inflation expectations, aided by weakening energy prices.  Since March, West Texas intermediate crude has retraced 50% of its rise from March 2020 to March 2022. Natural gas has fallen forty per cent from its August high. If the western media is to be believed, Russia is continually on the brink of failure, the suggestion being that price normality will return soon. And the inflationary pressures from rising energy and food prices will disappear. What is really happening is that bank credit is now beginning to contract. Bank credit represents over 90% of currency and credit in circulation and its contraction is a serious matter. It is a change in bankers’ mass psychology, where greed for profits from lending satisfied by balance sheet expansion is replaced by caution and fear of losses, leading to balance sheet contraction. This was the point behind Jamie Dimon’s speech at a banking conference in New York last June, when he modified his description of the economic outlook from stormy to hurricane force. Coming from the most influential commercial banker in the world, it was the clearest indication we can possibly have of where we were in the cycle of bank credit: the world is on the edge of a major credit downturn. Even though their analysis is flawed, macroeconomists are right to be very worried. Over nine-tenths of US currency and bank deposits now face a meaningful contraction. This is a particular problem earlier exacerbated by covid lockdowns and for businesses affected by supply chain issues. It gives commercial banks a huge problem: if they begin to whip the credit rug out from under non-financial businesses, they will simply create an economic collapse which would threaten their entire loan book. It is far easier for a banker to call in loans financing positions in financial assets. And it is also a simple matter to call in and liquidate financial asset collateral when any loan begins to sour. This is why the financial sector and relevant assets have been in the firing line so far. Central banks see these evolving conditions as their worst nightmare. They are what led to the collapse of thousands of American banks following the Wall Street crash of 1929-1932. In blaming the private sector for the 1930s slump which followed and was directly identified with the collapse in bank credit, central bankers and Keynesian economists have vowed that it must never happen again. But because this tin-can has been kicked down the road for far too long, we are not just staring at the end of a ten-year cycle of bank credit, but potentially at a multi-decade super-cyclical event, rivalling the 1930s. And given the greater elemental forces today, potentially even worse than that. We can easily appreciate that unless the Fed and other central banks lighten up on their restrictive monetary policies, a stock market crash is bound to ensue. And this is what we saw when the interest rate trend began a new rising trajectory last January. For the Fed, preventing a stock market crash is almost certainly a more immediate priority than protecting the currency. It is not that the Fed doesn’t care, it’s because they cannot do both. Their mandate incorporates unemployment, and their ingrained neo-Keynesian philosophies are also at stake. Consequently, while we can see the dangers from contracting bank credit, we can also see that the Fed and other major central banks have prioritised financial market stability over increasing interest rates to properly reflect their currencies’ loss of purchasing power. The pause in energy price rises together with media claims that Russia will be defeated have helped to give markets a welcome but temporary period of stability. The policy of threatening continually higher interest rates must be temporary as well. In effect, monetary policy makers have no practical alternative to prioritising the prevention of bank credit deflation over supporting their currencies. Realistically, they have no option but to fight recession with yet more inflation of central bank currency funding increased government budget deficits, and through further expansion of commercial bank reserves on its own balance sheet, the counterpart of quantitative easing.  Besides central bank initiatives to keep bond yields as low as practicably possible, runaway government budget deficits due to falling tax income and extra spending to counteract the decline in economic activity will need to be funded. And given that the world is on a dollar standard, in the early stages of a recession the Fed will probably assume that the consequences for foreign exchange rates of a new round of currency debasement can be ignored. While currency debasement can then be expected to accelerate for the dollar, all the other major central banks can be expected to cooperate. The point about global economic cooperation is that no central bank is permitted to follow an independent line. The private sector establishment errs in thinking that the choice is between inflation or recession. It is no longer a choice, but a question of systemic survival. A contraction in commercial bank credit and an offsetting expansion of central bank credit will almost certainly take place. The former leads to a slump in economic activity and the latter is a commitment too large for an inflating currency to bear. It is not stagflation, a condition which according to neo-Keynesian beliefs should not occur, but a doppelgänger rerun of what did for John Law and France’s economy in 1720. The inconvenient truth is that policies of monetary stimulation invariably end with the impoverishment of everyone. The role of credit and the final solution To clarify how events are likely to unfold in 2023, we must revisit the basics of monetary theory, and the difference between money and credit. It is the persistent debasement of the latter which has been the problem and is likely to condition the plans for any nation seeking to escape from the monetary consequences of a shift in hegemonic power from the western alliance to the Russian Chinese partnership. It is probably too late for any practical solution to the policy dilemma faced by monetary policy committees in western central banks today. When commercial bankers collectively awaken to the lending risks created in large part by their earlier optimism, survival instincts kick in and they will reduce their exposure to risk wherever possible. A credit cycle of boom and bust is the consequence. Inevitably in the bust phase, not only are malinvestments weeded out, but over-leveraged banks fail as well. While the intention is to smooth out the cyclical effects on the economy, the response of the state and its central bank invariably makes things worse, with monetary policy undermining the currency. It is important to appreciate that with a sound currency system, which is a currency that only changes in its quantity at the behest of its users, excessive credit expansion must be discouraged. The opposite is encouraged by central banks. Extreme leverage of asset to equity ratios for systemically important banks of well over twenty times in Japan and the Eurozone are entirely due to central bank policies of suppressing interest rates. It is only by extreme leverage that commercial banks, which are no more than dealers in credit, can make profits from the slimmest of credit margins when zero and negative deposit rates are forced upon them. Since bank credit is reflected in customer deposits, a cycle of excessive bank credit expansion and contraction becomes economically destructive. The solution advocated by many economists of the Austrian school is to ban bank credit entirely, replacing mutuum deposits, whereby the money or currency becomes the bank’s property and the depositor a creditor, with commodatum deposits where ownership remains with the depositor. Separately, under these arrangements banks act as arrangers of finance for savers wishing to make their savings available to borrowers for a return. The problem with this remedy is that of the chicken and the egg. Production requires an advance of capital to provide products at a profit in due course. The real world of free markets therefore requires credit to function. And savings for capital reinvestment are also initially funded out of credit. So, whether the neo-Austrians like it or not we are stuck with mutuum deposits and banks which function as dealers in credit.  That is as far as we can go with commercial banks and bank credit. The other form of credit in public circulation is the liability of the issuer of banknotes. To stabilise their value, the issuer must be prepared to exchange them for gold coin, which is and always has been legal money. And once the issuer has established sufficient gold reserves, the issue of any additional banknotes must be covered by additional gold coin backing. But much more must be done. Government budget deficits must not be permitted except strictly on a temporary basis, and total government spending (including state, regional, and local governments) reduced to the smallest possible segment of the economy. It means pursuing a deliberate policy of rescinding legal obligations for government agencies to provide services and welfare for the people, retaining only a bare minimum for government to function in providing laws, national defence and for the protection of the interests of everyone without favour. All else can only be the responsibility of individuals arranging and paying for services themselves. It means that most bureaucrats employed unproductively in government must be released and made available to be redeployed in the private sector productively. A work ethic perforce will return to replace an expectation that personal idleness will always be subsidised. Given political realities, this cannot happen except as a considered response following a major credit, currency, and economic meltdown. It is a case of crisis first, solution second. Therefore, there is no practical alternative to the continual debasement of currencies until their users reject them entirely as worthless. Money is only gold, and all the rest is credit For a lack of any alternative outcome, the eventual collapse of unbacked currencies is all but guaranteed. To appreciate the dynamics behind such an outcome, we must distinguish between money and credit. Currency in circulation is not legal money, being only a form of credit issued as banknotes by a central bank. It has the same standing as credit in the form of deposits held in favour of the commercial banks. The distinction between money and credit, with money wrongly being assumed to be banknotes is denied by the macroeconomic establishment today. Officially and legally, money is only gold coin. It is also silver coin, though silver’s official monetary role fell into disuse in nineteenth century Europe and America.  Gold and silver coin as money were codified under the Roman Emperor Justinian in the sixth century and is still the case legally in Europe today. In English law, the unification of the Court of Chancery and common law in 1875 formally recognised the Roman position, and gold sovereigns, which were the monetary standard from 1820, became unquestionably recognised as money in common law from then on. Attempts by governments to restrict or ban ownership of gold as money must not be confused with the legal position. FDR’s executive order in 1933 banning American citizens from owning gold did not change the status of money. Nor did similar government moves elsewhere. And the neo-Keynesian denigration of a gold standard doesn’t alter its status either. Nor do the claims from cryptocurrency enthusiasts that their schemes are a modern replacement for gold’s monetary role. As John Pierpont Morgan stated in his testimony before Congress in 1912, “Gold is money. Everything else is credit”. He was not expressing an opinion but stating a legal fact. That gold does not commonly circulate as a medium of exchange is explained by Gresham’s law, which states that bad money drives out the good. Originally describing the difference between clipped coins and their wholly intact counterparts, Gresham’s law also applies to gold’s relationship with currency. Worldwide, unrelated societies hoard gold coin, spending currency banknotes and bank deposits first, which are universally recognised as lower forms of media of exchange. Even central banks hoard gold. And as they have progressively distanced themselves from their roles as servants of the public, they refuse to allow the public access to their gold reserves in exchange for their banknotes. The importance of gold as a store of value, that is as sound money, appears to be difficult to understand for people not accustomed to regarding it as such. Instead, they regard it is a speculative investment, which can be held in securitised or derivative form while it is profitable to do so. When it comes to hedging a declining currency’s purchasing power, the preference today is for assets that outperform the cost of borrowing. As an example of this, Figure 1 shows London’s residential housing priced in fiat sterling and gold. Housing is the most common form of public investment in the UK, further benefiting from tax exemptions for owner-occupiers. According to government data, since 1968 when house price statistics began median house prices in London have risen on average by 115 times. But priced in gold, they have risen only 29% in 54 years. With prices having generally risen by less outside London and its commuter belt, some areas might have seen falls in prices measured in gold. It is virtually impossible to get people to understand the implications. They correctly point out the utility of having somewhere to live, which is not reflected in prices. They might also point out that property held by landlords produces a rental income. Furthermore, most buyers leverage their investment returns by having a mortgage. In investing terms, these arguments are entirely valid. But they only prove that the purpose of owning an asset is to obtain a return or utility from it, with which we can all agree. The purpose of money or currency is different: it is a medium for purchasing an asset which will give you a benefit. What is not understood is that far from giving property owners a capital return which exceeds the debasement of the currency, they have just about kept pace with it. And if you had bought property elsewhere in the UK, your capital values might even have fallen, measured in real legal money, which is gold. Since the end of the Bretton Woods agreement, the consequences of currency debasement for asset prices such as residential property have hardly mattered. The debasement of currencies has never been violent enough to undermine assumptions that residential property will always retain its value in the long run. Other assets, such as a portfolio of financial equities are seen to offer similar benefits of apparent protection against currency debasement. But we now appear to be on the cusp of a major currency upheaval. The global banking system is more highly leveraged on balance sheet to equity measures than ever before, and bank credit is beginning to contract. All the major central banks have undeclared loses which wipe out their nominal equity, affecting their own credibility as backstops to their commercial banking systems. Systemic risks are escalating, even though market participants have yet to realise it. And as economic activity turns down, government budget deficits are going to rapidly escalate. A practical remedy for the situation cannot be entertained, so the debasement of currencies is bound to accelerate. Mortgage borrowing costs are already rising, undermining affordability of residential property in fiat money terms. The relationship between currency and real money, which is gold coin, will almost certainly break down. Measured in gold, a banking and currency crisis will have the effect of driving residential property prices significantly lower, while they could be maintained or even move somewhat higher measured in more rapidly depreciating fiat currencies. The transition from financialised fiat currencies to… what? There is an overriding issue which we must consider now that the long-term decline of interest rates appears to have come to an end, and that is how the dollar will fare in future. While the dollar has lost 98% of its purchasing power since the ending of Bretton Woods, it has generally been gradual enough not to undermine its role as the world’s international medium of exchange and for the determination of commodity prices. It has retained sufficient value to act as the world’s reserve currency and is the principal weapon by which America has exercised her hegemony. It is in its role as the weapon for waging financial wars which may finally lead to the dollar’s undoing, as well as undermining the purchasing powers of the currencies aligned with it. By cutting Russia off from the SWIFT settlement system, thereby rendering her fiat currency reserves valueless, the western alliance hoped that together with sanctions Russia would be brought to her knees. The policy has failed, as sanctions usually do, while the message sent to all non-aligned nations was that America and its western alliance could render national currency reserves valueless without notice. Consequently, there has been a worldwide rethink over the dangers of relying on dollars, and for that matter the other major currencies issued by member nations of the western alliance. At this time of transition away from a weaponised dollar, there is a general uncertainty in nations aligned with the Russian Chinese axis over how to respond, other than to sell fiat currencies to buy more gold bullion. But the sheer quantities of fiat currency relative to the available bullion suggests that at current values the bullion is not available in sufficient quantities to credibly turn fiat currencies into gold substitutes. Nevertheless, it would be logical for the gold-rich Russian Chinese axis and nations in their sphere of influence to protect their own currencies from a rapidly developing fiat currency catastrophe. So far, none of them appear to be prepared to do so by introducing gold standards for the benefit of their citizens. Only Russia, under pressure from currency and trade sanctions has loosely tied its rouble to energy and commodity exports. In the vaguest of terms, it might be regarded as a synthetic equivalent of linking the rouble to gold. Why this is so is illustrated in Figure 2. Measured in fiat currencies, the oil price is exceedingly volatile, while in true money, gold, it is relatively stable. Measured in gold, the oil price today is about 20% lower than it was in 1950. Since then, the maximum oil price in gold has been a doubling and the minimum a fall of 85%. That compares with a rise in US dollars of 5,350% and no fall at all. Undoubtedly, if gold had traded free from statist intervention and speculation in currency and commodity markets and from the effects of fiat-induced economic booms and busts, the price of oil in gold would most likely have been even steadier. By insisting that those dubbed by Putin as the unfriendly nations must buy roubles to pay for Russian oil, demand for roubles on the foreign exchanges became linked to demand for Russian oil, which in turn is linked more closely to gold than the unfriendlies’ currencies. But it seems that in official minds, making this link between the rouble, oil, and gold is a step too far. When it comes to replacing the dollar with a new trade currency for the Asian powers, their initial discussions have suggested a more broadly based solution. The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), consisting mainly of a central Asian subset of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) earlier this year announced that plans for a trade settlement currency were being considered, backed by a mixture of commodities and the currencies of member states.  So far, members of the SCO have restricted their discussion to ways of replacing the dollar for the purpose of transactions between them, a long-term project driven not so much by change in Asia but by US trade aggression and American hegemonic dollar policies over time. Following Russian sanctions imposed by the West, it is likely that the dangers of an immediate dollar crisis are now being more urgently addressed by governments and central banks throughout Asia.  With the West plunging into a combined systemic and currency crisis, no national government outside the dollar-based system appears to know what to do. Only Russia has been forced into action. But even the Russians are feeling their way, with vague reports that they are looking at a gold standard solution, and others that they are considering Sergey Glazyev’s EAEU trade currency project. As well as heading a committee set up to advise on a new trade settlement currency, Glazyev is a senior economic advisor to Vladimir Putin. From the little information made available, it appears that Glazyev’s EAEU monetary committee is ruling out a gold standard for the new trade currency. Instead, it has been considering alternative structures without achieving any agreement so far. But for the project to go ahead, proposals reported to include national currencies in its valuation basket must be abandoned. Not only is this an area where Glazyev is unlikely to obtain a consensus easily from member states, but to include a range of fiat currencies is unsound and will not satisfy the ultimate objective, which is to find a credible replacement for the US dollar for cross-border trade settlements. For confidence in the new currency to be maintained, the structure must be both simple and transparent. Since the currency committee’s press release earlier this year, there have been further developments likely to influence it construction. Led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council is turning its back on the dollar as payment for oil and gas. Again, this development is attributable to climate change policies of the US-led western alliance. Not only has the alliance demonstrated that foreign reserves held in its fiat currencies can be rendered valueless overnight, but climate change policies send a clear message that for the GCC the future of their trade is not with the western alliance. For long-term stable trade relationships, they must turn to the Russian Chinese axis. It is happening before our eyes. China has signed a 27-year supply agreement with Qatar for its gas. President Biden attempted to secure a agreement with Saudi Arabia for additional oil output. He left with nothing. President Xi visited earlier this month and secured a long-term energy and investment agreement, whereby Saudi’s currency exposure to the yuan is minimised through Chinese capital investment programmes in the kingdom Already, an increase in China’s money supply is an early indication that propelled by cheap energy and infrastructure investment programmes, her economy is in the early stages of a new growth phase, while the western alliance faces a potentially deep recession. The currency effect is likely to be supportive of the yuan/dollar cross rate, which the Saudis are likely to have factored into their calculations. But they will almost certainly need more than that. They will want to influence settlement currencies for the balance of their trade. Their options are to minimise balances on the back of inward investment flows, as mentioned above. They can seek to influence the construction of the proposed EAEU trade settlement currency. Or they can build their gold reserves, to the extent they might wish to hedge currencies accumulating in their reserves. For the western alliance, the death knell for the petrodollar means that 2023 will see a substantial reduction of dollar holdings in the official reserves of all nations in the Russian Chinese axis and those friendly to it. The accumulation of dollars in foreign reserves since the end of the Bretton Woods regime is considerable, and its reversal is bound to create additional difficulties for the US authorities. Foreign owned US Treasuries are starting to be sold, and the $32 trillion mountain of financial assets and bank deposits are set to be substantially reduced. The potential for a run on the dollar, driving up commodity input prices in dollars, is likely to become a considerable problem for both the US and the entire western alliance in 2023. Conclusion We have noted the deteriorating systemic and monetary prospects for fiat currencies, predominantly those of the dollar-based Western currency system. Both sound economic and Marxist theory indicates that a final crisis leading to the end of these fiat currencies was going to happen anyway, and the financial war against Russia has become an additional factor accelerating their collapse.  After suppressing interest rates to zero and below, rising interest rates are finally being forced upon the monetary authorities by markets. With good reason, it has become fashionable to describe developments as an evolution from a currency environment driven by and dependent on financial assets into one driven by commodities — in the words of Credit Suisse’s Zoltan Pozsar, Bretton Woods II is ending, and Bretton Woods III is upon us. For this reason, there is growing interest in how a new world of currencies based somehow on commodities or commodity-based economies will evolve. This year, Russia successfully protected its rouble by linking it to energy and commodity exports and in the process undermined Western currencies. While it is always a mistake to predict timing, the fact that no one in the financial establishment is debating how to use gold reserves to protect their currencies clearly indicates that we are still early in the evolution of the developing fiat currency crisis. Officially at least, the forward thinkers planning a new pan-Asian trade settlement currency alternative to the dollar are looking at backing it with commodities and not a gold standard. Since Sergei Glazyev announced an enquiry into the matter, the Middle Eastern pivot away from the petrodollar to Asian currencies not only injects a new urgency into his committee’s deliberations but is bound to have a significant bearing on its outcome.  The implications for the western alliance play no part in current monetary policies. Their central banks act as if there’s no danger to their own currencies from these developments. But any doubt that fiat currencies will be replaced by currencies linked to tangible commodities, whether represented by gold or not, is fading in the light of developments. With neither the economic establishment nor the public having a basic understanding of what is money and why it is not currency, it is hardly surprising that current financial and economic developments are so poorly understood, and the correct remedies for our current monetary and economic conditions are so readily dismissed. These errors and omissions are set to be addressed in 2023. Tyler Durden Fri, 12/23/2022 - 21:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 23rd, 2022

Rising Rates Lead To Financial Accidents

Rising Rates Lead To Financial Accidents Authored by Alasdair Macleod via, A recent Bank for International Settlements paper warning of unappreciated risks in foreign exchange markets echoes my earlier warning in an article for Goldmoney published over a month ago describing derivative risks in FX markets.[i] In this article I also show evidence that banks in both the US and Eurozone are reducing the deposit side of their balance sheets by turning away big deposits which are ending up in central bank reverse repos, parking unwanted liquidity out of public circulation. The great unwind is well under way. Credit contraction is not only driving a bear market in financial assets, but the exposure to malinvestments by rising interest rates is having negative consequences for the non-financial economy as well. Private equity, which has thrived on cheap finance used to leverage targeted businesses, is showing signs of unwinding with two major Blackrock funds suspending redemptions. As we approach the season for year-end window dressing, we must hope that the volatility in thin markets that often accompanies it does not destabilise global financial markets.  Inflation and stagnation Make no mistake: interest rates have bottomed at the zero bound and can go no lower. The forty-year trend of declining interest rates has ended, with an initial rally, which six weeks ago had halved the value of the 30-year US Treasury bond. The suddenness of this change probably needed a pause, and that is what we have today. Since October, there has been a spectacular recovery in bond prices with this UST bond yield dropping ¾% to 3.5%. Fears of price inflation have been replaced in large measure by fear of recession. Having dismissed monetarism, bizarrely for a Keynesian led establishment analysts and commentators are now frequently citing the slowing of monetary growth as evidence of a looming recession. Perhaps this means that the failure of their economic models has them grasping at straws, rather than being evidence of a conversion to monetarism. But what is definitely not in the Keynesians’ playbook is a combination of inflation and recession, commonly attributed to an unexplained phenomenon of stagflation. A moment’s thought explains the coincidence of the two. Inflation of total credit (both by central banks and commercial banks) transfers wealth from private sector actors to the State, its licenced banks, and their favoured borrowers. It acts as a suffocating hidden tax on economic progress, impoverishing ordinary people, and through their desire to protect themselves from credit debasement, driving otherwise productive capital resources into “safe havens”, such as physical property and financial speculation. There comes a point where the stimulative effects of credit expansion, which is a device to trick markets into thinking that things are better than they really are, becomes outright destructive.  If it was otherwise, currency debasement would work even history plainly shows it to be a destructive, failed policy. And in extremis, nations as diverse as 1920s Germany and today’s Zimbabwe would have been roaring successes from an economic point of view with their nominal GDP soaring off the scale. By way of contrast, post-WW2 Germany and Japan adopted monetary policies which led to strong currencies, yet they still outperformed the socks off the inflationary Anglo-Saxons. Both the empirical evidence and logic are ignored by policy makers and an investment establishment dedicated to believing otherwise for the sake of their macroeconomic dogmas. Like drowning men, they grasp evidence that the initial surge in prices, attributed conveniently to covid, supply chain disruption, and sanctions against Russia is slowing. And that increases in the CPI will subside. Undoubtedly, they will. But this is a statistical aberration because high numbers will drop out of the back end of a rolling statistic. It allows perennial bulls to call an end in sight to interest rate rises, and with a recession in prospect for that trend to be reversed. QT will be replaced again with QE — that is certainly believable. These expectations for the inflation outlook and therefore interest rates are too glib. As well as compensation for temporary loss of possession of credit and for counterparty risk, interest rates are bound to reflect a creditor’s view of changes in a currency’s purchasing power. Much of the time, a central bank can impose an interest rate policy on markets, as the evidence shows. But there comes a point where, recognising the debasement of a currency the market forces a central bank to concede higher rates. The market in question is usually the foreign exchanges. This is why with the path clearing towards a new softening of interest rate policy, the dollar has weakened dramatically against the other principal currencies along with the fall in US Treasury yields for longer maturities.  As to the course of future interest rates, we must make an assessment beyond the visible prospects for a recession. We must anticipate central bank policies and their consequences: will they abandon inflationism and seek to protect their currency, or will they prioritise protecting the economy from recession, from the illusion of financial wealth created by interest rate suppression, and to protect deteriorating government finances? When fiat currencies can be readily expanded to deal with all these escalating problems, whatever the stated intention of monetary policy inflationism proves irresistible.  And all the more so, when the alternative of credit restriction is bound to crash the economy, financial markets, and government finances.  Commercial bankers are not stupid, and with over-leveraged balance sheets are certain to try to protect themselves from mounting bad debts in a recessionary environment. The extent to which they do so throws an additional burden of credit creation onto central banks. But all the evidence shows that central bank monetary policy has a far greater impact on a currency’s valuation on the foreign exchanges than equivalent variations in commercial bank credit. Therefore, the effect of central bank credit replacing commercial bank credit is to rapidly undermine a currency’s value. All major governments are caught in debt traps, which are being sprung by higher interest rates. And when central banks band together to protection their failing economies, as they seem certain to do, exchange rates may appear to be stable. But the loss of purchasing power then begins to be reflected for all currencies in gold, commodity prices, and production costs, despite consumption declining. Therefore, there can only be one conclusion about the future course of interest rates. The trend has turned and after an initial rise have paused. This softening of the interest rate outlook will turn out to be temporary, to be followed by a continuing trend of yet higher rates, reflecting more aggressive currency debasement, awkwardly coinciding with a deepening slump in economic activity. This must be our basic assumption. Financial sector woes The most obvious consequence of a new trend of rising rates is falling values for financial assets. All financial markets take their cue from bond markets. From the commercial bankers’ point of view, they find that collateral values against customer loans start to decline, leading to pressure for additional collateral. Obviously, this leads to the decline in total loans supporting positions in stocks and bonds, as the next chart shows which is of outstanding margin credit in US financial markets. The evidence from FINRA is that banks are reducing their loan exposure to stock and bond markets. It is likely that diminishing collateral margins are causing investment positions to be liquidated, with lenders reluctant to blindly accept additional margin liquidity. We can assume this is so, because of the need for banks to reduce their balance sheet leverage. The recent rally in bond and equity prices might provide some relief (the chart above is up to October), but it is unlikely to be permenant if, as seems likely, central banks stop quantitative tightening and begin easing again. The reason an easing of monetary policy is unlikely to sustain a durable recovery in financial asset values is because by choosing to reflate the economy and markets, the currency is sacrificed. A decline in a currency’s purchasing power is initially foreseen by dealers on the foreign exchanges. Furthermore, any confusion over this relationship between monetary policies and their consequences for a fiat currency has been settled by the link between covid related credit expansion engineered by the central banks and subsequent price inflation. Markets are unlikely to be fooled so easily by the expansion of central bank credit in future.  While stock and bond commentary are relatively easy topics for commentators, the source of unpleasant surprises is hidden from their view. In a previous article,[ii] I described such a situation in derivative markets, pointing out that the notional values of foreign exchange crosses, forwards, and swaps totalled a notional $104 trillion — the BIS’s figure for mid-2021. Foreign exchange contracts are the second largest segment of the $600 trillion OTC total. According to the BIS’s triannual survey, only 84% of foreign exchange contracts are captured in the semi-annual statistics, so a truer figure is $124 trillion. By maturity, they split 80% up to a year, 15% one to five years, and the rest over five years. Because all foreign exchange contracts in the BIS’s statistics represent only one side of foreign exchange contracts, the whole amount of $124 trillion are definitely credit, the majority of which, only excluding options, is duplicated by matching credit obligations for the other counterparties. Therefore, total foreign exchange derivative credit in trillions is at least double notional amounts outstanding, less one side of notional options. This amounts to $236 trillion. According to the BIS, the gross market value of this credit is $2.548 trillion. The BIS defines gross market value as “the sum of the absolute values of all outstanding derivatives contracts with either positive or negative replacement values evaluated at market prices prevailing on the settlement date”. In other words, the extent to which the banking system, non-banks and non-financial counterparties are counterparties to these OTC derivatives, their balance sheets reflect this net mark-to-market figure, and not actual credit obligations, which are almost a hundred times greater. Since my article, Claudio Borio et al in a research paper for the Bank for International Settlements have made the same point adding some additional colour. The graphs below are taken from Borio’s paper, showing only one side of the notional values of FX positions updated to end-June this year.[iii] It should be noted that this OTC market is dominated by US dollar positions, totalling over $80 trillion (Chart A), that there is a preponderance of short-term, liquidity vulnerable maturities (Chart B), and that non-bank financial entities are the largest category by far (shadow banks — Chart C). And the paper also points out that the Fed is responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient dollar liquidity to support these enormous off-balance sheet obligations. The two instances of failure — the financial crisis of 2008/09 and of March 2020 (the repo crisis in September 2019 was unrelated) had the Fed flying blind, not knowing the extent of these obligations and where they were located. In effect, along with all its other obligations the Fed must ensure the integrity of the entire global FX market, which the BIS paper estimates include more than $35 trillion in the hands of foreign non-banks. What could go wrong? Clearly this is a situation made more dangerous in a long-term trend for rising interest rates. Just as this and other OTC markets have grown on the back of forty years of declining interest rates, they will contract in size as the new trend progresses. In a secular financial sector slump, institutions which have come to rely on derivatives for risk protection or for trading profits are bound to be exposed to settlement failures, triggered when one or more counterparties fail to deliver on their obligations. The preponderance of non-bank, foreign, and short-term liquidity-vulnerable FX positions is a combination which is at high risk of leading to an unexpected event. It is tempting to think that a problem is more likely to occur when the dollar is strengthening against other currencies, which until October was the position. This assumes that foreign bank and non-banks were net short of the dollar. But the rising trend for the currency is more likely to be evidence of net long positions. It is possible that this market will be threatened by short-term liquidity dislocations. But surely, there is over $2 trillion of reverse repo liquidity on tap… The dollar liquidity position There is excess liquidity in the US financial system. But the question is, why is it there and will it become available to resolve liquidity issues in the event of an FX crisis? The Fed’s chart above of reverse repurchase agreements (reverse repos, or RRPs) shows that RRPs stand at $2.16 trillion. In an RRP, the Fed temporarily borrows cash using securities on its balance sheet as collateral, agreeing to reverse the transaction for an overnight return currently set at 3.35%, about 0.4% below its current fund rate (Note: these rates were before the FOMC raised the funds rate by 0.5% yesterday). A wide range of counterparties—primary dealers, banks, money market mutual funds, and government sponsored enterprises—are eligible to participate in the Fed’s RRP facility. The Fed sets the overnight RRP rate to provide a floor under money market rates consistent with its Fed funds rate target, which has now been raised to 4.25%—4.5%. A counterparty’s decision whether to lend credit to the Fed at its overnight rate has little to do directly with overall market liquidity, but it is true to say that so long as there is substantial liquidity in the Fed’s RRPs, a repo blow-up, such as that witnessed on 17 September 2019 when on a credit shortage the repo rate soared to 10% is unlikely to happen. It might appear to be a simple matter for the Fed to refuse to roll over RRPs to push liquidity back into the commercial banking system. But that is not how it works. To achieve that objective, the Fed would have to reduce its RRP rate to discourage rollovers, thereby ensuring extra liquidity is returned to the commercial banks. Not only are commercial banks reluctant to take large deposits on board because of Basel 3 net stable funding penalties, but to reduce the RRP rate goes against maintaining current interest rate policies. [Note that Basel 3 regards large deposits as providing a significant risk to bank balance sheets liquidity, while small deposits are seen to be a stable source of funding. Undoubtedly, this is why G-SIBs like JPMorgan Chase are now promoting retail banking services.] Therefore, that over $2 trillion in large deposits has effectively migrated out of bank credit onto the Fed’s balance sheet is evidence of bank credit contraction. As well as complying with Basel 3, being aware of escalating financial and lending risks commercial banks are trying to reduce their overall credit exposure. Liquidating financial assets and refusing to extend loans to desperate borrowers deals with risks the asset side of a bank’s balance sheet. The entire commercial banking network cannot so easily reduce its obligations to depositors, necessary if banks are to reduce leverage on their collective balance sheets. Therefore, the reason liquidity is parked at the Fed in the form of RRPs simply reflects commercial banking reluctance to retain large deposits and is a counterpart to their reduction of balance sheet assets.  So much for the domestic dollar market. But as Borio’s BIS paper points out, the Fed has almost little or no intelligence concerning foreign dollar FX obligations and where the weak points might be. But it is not only a matter of dollar liquidity that might upset the money-market applecart. Each dollar transaction is matched by a foreign currency transaction, likely to be part of a chain. Very few FX transactions do not involve the dollar, because of the way the market works. An importer in India of Chinese goods has to sell rupees to buy dollars, and then sells the dollars for yuan to pay for the goods. In this simple chain, the counterparties are the importer, the importer’s bank, the exporter’s bank, and the exporter. In a deepening global recession, there’s much that can go wrong. The BIS’s FX statistics only capture one side of a transaction, which is off-balance sheet, when double entries should reveal at least a doubling of the BIS’s estimates across all market participants. And a contraction in this outsized derivative market, driven by rising interest rate trends, is likely to expose liquidity problems in a maze of foreign shadow banks as well. Europe’s liquidity position In a marked difference from the US RRPs’ parking of over $2 trillion in short-term liquidity, according to the International Capital Markets Association Europe is also heavily dependent on repos for managing market liquidity. In a repo, an originating bank uses securities (usually government or high-quality corporate bonds) as collateral against cash. It is the other side of a reverse repo, which is how the other party would view it. Repos and reverse repos have been a growing feature of interbank markets. In the past, daily excesses and deficiencies on deposits were negotiated in money markets through interbank rates, involving smaller amounts for agreements that were not collateralised. There were always individual credit limits for these transactions which limited their scope. For this and other reasons which need not detain us, repos became an increasing feature of money markets. What is more to the point is repos are conducted between commercial banks and the euro system because they set the overall level of market liquidity.  According to the last annual survey by the International Capital Market Association conducted in December 2021, at that time the size of the European repo market (including sterling, dollar, and other currencies conducted in European financial centres) stood at a record of €9,198 billion equivalent.[iv] This was based on responses from a sample of only 57 institutions, including banks, so the true size of the market is somewhat larger. Measured by cash currency analysis, the euro share was 56.9% (€5,234bn). It allows European pension and insurance funds to finance geared bond positions through liability driven investment schemes — that’s what nearly crashed UK pension funds recently when it went wrong. This is fine, until the values of the bonds held as collateral fall, and cash calls are then made. This is unlikely to be a problem restricted to the UK and sterling markets. The common explanation is that quantitative easing has led to substantial quantities of high-quality collateral being absorbed by the euro system of the ECB and national central banks, leaving the commercial banking network as a whole short of good collateral and long of liquidity. Consequently, repo rates have been driven lower than the ECB’s marginal lending facility of 2.25% (i.e. its repo rate) as the table below from MTS Markets shows, as collateral is said to be more valuable to commercial banks than cash. The analysis that suggests a lack of collateral is driving reverse repos between the euro system and commercial banks is only valid to a point. Liquidity is required by some banks to resolve temporary liquidity issues on an interbank basis by using repos for which they require collateral. But otherwise, the desire to park cash at the ECB and the national central banks appears to be similar to issues facing American commercial banks in their attempt to reduce the deposit side of their balance sheets. It is the banking cohort’s demand to dispose of cash that suppresses the repo rate. Unwinding commodity derivatives A far smaller OTC subset is commodity contracts, which by last June were recorded at $2.962 trillion. Classified by commodity, $820bn was in gold, $106bn in other precious metals, and $2,036bn in other commodities. While the June total is up 20% from the total at the 2021-year end, liquidity in underlying physical commodities is falling. This is particularly acute in metals such as silver and energy. For bank trading departments, dealing in commodity derivatives has been very profitable, and despite the penalties with respect to Basel 3’s net stable funding ratio for balance sheet liquidity, banks have maintained exposure to this business. They usually take the short side, while speculators take out long positions. The price effect is that banks and their market makers create artificial supply to absorb investment demand, thereby suppressing prices below where they would otherwise be. Suppressed commodity prices feed into fiat currency stability, which is why western governments led by America have condoned the expansion of this inherently speculative business. But the lack of underlying commodity liquidity combined with a trend of rising interest rates now threatens to increase derivative risk as banks turn from chasing profits to become more cautious. These commodity positions are not trivial either. The BIS figure for gold alone amounts to the equivalent of 14,170 tonnes at today’s prices, nearly four times annual mining output.  Additional to the OTC market is regulated futures and options totalling over $38 trillion (September 2022) which are backstopped by bank credit expansion. While positions in OTC derivatives are assumed to provide an offset to regulated futures exposure, in practice they can add to total short positions in marketable commodities such as gold.  Malinvestments in the non-financial economy The example of unidentified risks in FX markets identified by the BIS is just one of several potential accidents in the banking and financial sectors of the global economy, which is unaccustomed to a rising interest rate environment. We must now turn our attention to non-financial entities, which have taken advantage of suppressed interest rates and easy credit to finance projects which would otherwise have been deemed to be unprofitable. Additionally, there will be many businesses which have struggled to survive even with artificially low borrowing costs, the zombie corporations. The dangers to the global economy from these malinvestments were mounting even before the covid lockdowns, during which their costs then continued without any income from customers. Persistent supply chain disruptions added considerably to these businesses’ debts. And now, over-leveraged banks are trying to rein in debt obligations as rising interest rates threaten to bankrupt these entities. It is tempting to think that governments can lean on commercial banks not to make a deteriorating situation even worse. And there is no doubt, that with government guarantees banks will want to cooperate rather than face debt write-offs and public reproach for their role in not extending credit. But it is not just a banking problem. Collateralised loan obligations have been acquired by many banks in lieu of direct loan exposure to corporate debt. And an additional horror is likely to be the unwinding of the private equity industry. According to McKinsey’s 2022 Annual Review of Private Markets, by mid-2021 global private markets had grown to $9.6 trillion. There are a number of categories across a range of activities, but the basic theme is the same. A private equity partnership is able to raise funds at a lower cost than independent cash-generating businesses. It applies that ability to acquire control of the business and to leverage its balance sheet with debt, so that its return on equity is enhanced. Obviously, this strategy is driven by both suppressed interest rates and a continuing trend for them to remain low. Those conditions have gone. Already, there are signs that this industry is running into difficulties. On 7 December, the Financial Times reported that Blackstone’s $69bn Real Estate Income Trust was limiting withdrawals from wealthy investors. The fund is twice leveraged, with $125bn of assets. The following day, Bloomberg reported withdrawals from Blackstone’s $50bn private credit fund. Both these funds are leaders in the US leveraged private market. The mood music around lending to non-financials has certainly changed. And as far as can be seen, the consequences are hardly appreciated by the financial media – yet.  Conclusions Even at this early stage of a new trend of rising interest rates, strains in the global banking system are becoming apparent. Bank balance sheets are as overleveraged as they have ever been particularly in Europe and Japan. And with rising interest rates ensuring a bear market in financial assets and widespread exposure to malinvestments leading to non-performing loans, banker sentiment is swinging firmly towards risk containment. Money supply figures, which are showing a slowing down in the rate of credit expansion, only tell some of the story. Commercial banks in the US and the EU are using reverse repos to jettison liquidity on the deposit side of their balance sheets, to keep pace with the drive to reduce the asset side of their balance sheets. Acting like the canary in a coal mine, we can already see derivative liquidity drying up in regulated gold and silver futures. This is probably being replicated in other commodity markets as well. But a far larger issue is FX crosses, swaps and forwards, whose notional values are not properly reflected on bank balance sheets, just one side of counterparty exposure being more than double the combined global systemically important banks total capitalisation of roughly $40 trillion. As with all credit contractions, when and where the system will break is virtually impossible to predict. But when it happens, the crisis will be sudden. We must hope that the year-end financial window-dressing season passes without incident.  Tyler Durden Tue, 12/20/2022 - 14:32.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 20th, 2022

Deglobalization And The End Of Trust-Based Money Set The Stage For National Bitcoin Adoption

Deglobalization And The End Of Trust-Based Money Set The Stage For National Bitcoin Adoption Authored by Ansel Lindner via Bitcoin, Breakdowns in global trade and credit call for money that doesn’t depend on trust. Bitcoin is the modern answer for international economics... Two forces have dominated the globe economically and politically for the last 75 years: globalization and trust-based money. However, the time for both of these forces has passed, and their waning will bring about a great reset of the global order. But this is not the global, Marxist kind of Great Reset promoted by Klaus Schwab and those who attend Davos. This is an emergent, market-driven reset characterized by a multipolar world and a new monetary system. GLOBALIZATION IS ENDING The first reaction I usually get to my claim that the age of hyper-globalization is ending is flippant disbelief. People have so completely integrated the environment of the dying global order into their economic understanding that they cannot fathom a world where the cost-to-benefit analysis of globalization is different. Even after COVID-19 exposed the fragility of complex supply chains, like when the U.S. very nearly ran out of surgical masks and basic medications or when the world struggled to source semiconductors, people have yet to realize the shift that is happening. Is it that hard to imagine that the businessmen who designed such fragile, overcomplicated production processes didn’t properly weigh the risks? All that is needed to break globalization is for risk-adjusted costs to change a few percentage points and outweigh the benefits. The pennies saved by outsourcing numerous tasks to numerous jurisdictions will no longer outweigh the possibility of complete collapse of supply chains. These concerns about fragile supply chains did not disappear as horrible COVID-19 policies ended. Now, they have shifted to concerns about trade wars and real wars. U.S. trade sanctions against China, the Russian conflict with NATO-proxy Ukraine and subsequent sanctions, the seemingly-erratic U.S. position on Taiwan, the coronation of Xi Jinping and his Marxist revival, the Nord Stream sabotage, the clear split of international consensus in the UN and even the weaponization of these international institutions, and most recently, the Turkish ground offensive versus the Kurds — all these things should be interpreted as a rise in costs. Gone is the time when complex supply chains were robust against typical risks. The risks today are much more systemic. Sure, there were skirmishes around the world and disagreements among parliaments, but great powers did not openly threaten one another’s spheres of influence. Risk-adjusted costs and benefits to globalization have radically changed. CREDIT DOESN’T LIKE CONFLICT Very closely related to deglobalization of supply chains is deglobalization of credit markets. The same factors that affect business peoples’ physical, risk-adjusted costs and benefits are also felt by bankers. Banks don’t want to be exposed to the risk of war or sanctions wrecking their borrowers. In the current environment of deglobalization and rising risks to international trade, banks will naturally pull back on lending to those associated activities. Instead, banks will fund safer projects, likely fully-domestic or friend-shoring opportunities. The natural reaction by banks to this risky global environment will be credit contraction. The deglobalization of supply chains and credit will be as closely linked on the way down as they were on the way up. It will start slowly, but pick up speed. A feedback loop of rising risk leading to shorter supply chains and less credit creation. THE CREDIT-BASED U.S. DOLLAR The prevailing form of money in the world is the credit-based U.S. dollar. Every dollar is created through debt, making every dollar someone else’s debt. Money is printed out of thin air in the process of making a loan. This is different from pure fiat money. When fiat money is printed, the balance sheet of the printer adds assets alone. However, in a credit-based system, when money is printed in a loan, the printer creates an asset and a liability. The borrower’s balance sheet then has an offsetting liability and asset, respectively. Every dollar (or euro or yen, for that matter) is therefore an asset and a liability, and the loan that created that dollar is both an asset and a liability. This system works extremely well if two factors are present. One, highly-productive uses of new credit are available, and two, a relative lack of exogenous shocks to the global economy. Change either of these things and a breakdown is bound to occur. This dual nature of credit-based money is at the root of both the dollar’s spectacular rise in the 20th century, and the coming monetary reset. As global trust and supply chains break down, the comingling of assets in banks becomes more risky. Russia found this out the hard way when the West confiscated its reserves of dollars held in banks abroad. How is trust possible in that sort of environment? When credit-based money’s creation is based on trust... Houston, we have a problem. BITCOIN’S ROLE IN THE FUTURE Luckily, we have experience with a world that doesn’t trust itself — i.e., the entire history of man prior to 1945. Back then, we were on a gold standard for reasons which included all those that bitcoiners are very familiar with (gold scores highly in the characteristics that make good money), but also because it minimized trust between great powers. Gold lost its mantle for one reason — and you’ve probably never heard this anywhere before: because the global economic, political and innovation environment post-WWII created an extremely fertile soil for credit. Trust was easy, the major powers were humbled and all joined the new international institutions under the security umbrella of the U.S. The Iron Curtain provided a stark separation between zones of trust economically, but after it fell, there was a period of roughly 20 years where the world sang “kumbaya” because new credit was still extremely productive in the old Soviet block and China. Today, we are facing the opposite sort of scenario: Global trust is eroding and credit has exploited all productive low-hanging fruit, forcing us into a period that demands neutral money. The world will soon find itself split between regions/alliances of influence. A British bank will trust a U.S. bank, where a Chinese bank will not. To bridge this gap, we need money that everyone can hold and respect. GOLD VS. BITCOIN Gold would be the first choice here, if not for bitcoin. This is because gold has several drawbacks. First, gold is owned mainly by those groups who are losing trust in one another, namely the governments of the world. Much of the gold is held in the United States. Therefore, gold is unevenly distributed. Second, gold’s physical nature, once a positive holding profligate governments in check, is now a weakness because it cannot be transported or assayed nearly as efficiently as bitcoin. Lastly, gold is not programmable. Bitcoin is a neutral, decentralized protocol that can be tapped for any number of innovations. The Lightning Network and sidechains are just two examples of how Bitcoin can be programmed to increase its utility. As globalization of both trade and credit is breaking down, the economic environment favors a return to a form of money that doesn’t depend on trust between major powers. Bitcoin is the modern answer. Tyler Durden Tue, 12/06/2022 - 19:15.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 6th, 2022

Meloni Vs Macron – The Colonial End Game

Meloni Vs Macron – The Colonial End Game Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog, Sometimes the internet being eternal works to our advantage. Recently, there’s been a dustup in European politics over a three-year old video of now Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni stepping on the third rail of European politics. In that video she openly explained that colonialism in Europe isn’t over and she tied it to African immigration into Europe, which Italy has born the brunt of thanks to the EU’s rules which force countries to accept anyone that shows up on their shores. The mechanism for France’s dirty colonial secret is they still control fourteen West African nations through a French colonial currency (CFA Franc) issued by France. Now, since Meloni’s rant, the CFA Franc has been slightly revised but the real source of its power over West Africa was not, more on this later. What’s important is that this video has all of a sudden resurfaced at a time when Italy and France are involved in a major row over France’s (and Davos’) latest attempt to paint Meloni as some heartless Fascist for denying a French NGO boatload of migrants from North Africa into Italy. The boat eventually wound up having to go to France as Meloni stuck to her guns. Remember, folks it was then Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who first tried to defy Davos on this and his reward was to be sued in Sicilian court over ‘human rights abuses.’ This began Salvini’s fall from political power in Rome as he didn’t have enough support from his then coalition partner, Five Star Movement (M5S). Eventually, Salvini was forced out of power, M5S cut a deal with the Rome Mafia to betray its supporters and the rise of Meloni and the Brothers of Italy (FdI) was inevitable. The lame attempt by France to attack Meloni on immigration was met with a much different result this time as she enjoys a far stronger political position than Salvini did in 2017-18. So, the boat went to France and all the French could do was fulminate about it. Enemy at the NGO Gates In fact, the French Foreign Minister Gérald Darmanin went so far as to call Italy France’s enemy over this issue. This level of histrionics over less than 250 migrants is both so predictably French and overblown it borders on the comical. So much for European solidarity, I guess. But it’s all part of the silly Davos PR campaign against Meloni. Nothing changes with these people. They have a pathological need to win every single little battle, because as psychopaths they know any sign of weakness is an invitation to the gallows as people see them for what they are. As always, the timing on this video of Meloni coming out is interesting. It’s a clear counterattack on France’s theatrics. My question, as always, is who did this? Obviously Meloni’s people are part of this but does it imply she has some other support? Stick with me, because I have a theory on this. Ultimately, this dustup fully highlights the mendacity and, frankly, evil of the former colonial powers of Europe. The CFA Franc was something that you ‘just didn’t talk about’ as France continued to extract wealth from West Africa through monetary expropriation. The very idea that the vestiges of colonialism are on the wane in Europe is not only fundamentally false it is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the EU itself in every way. The CFA Franc should be an anachronism, but France holds onto for its benefit, subsidizing its ridiculous government and failing social institutions. Among first world nations France has the highest effective tax rate for upper income earners.  And yet, they still can’t keep things running effectively and have to extract wealth from north Africa. How brutally inefficient and sickly is a French economy that derives nearly 50% of its electricity from a mostly-homegrown nuclear industry and has levels of taxation that make even a nineteenth-century slaveowner blush that it still needs to operate a colonial wealth extraction system in West Africa in the 21st century? But it’s also a microcosm of the euro itself and even the corruption of the US dollar through national control over interest rates thanks to a monolithic central bank. Like many of you, I had no idea the CFA Franc even existed and I’m still wrapping my head around the idea that in 2022 fourteen countries do not have monetary sovereignty, serfs to a feudal lord on a separate continent. Again, just when I thought I’d plumbed the depths of Eurotrash globalist depravity, they make me look naïve. But what’s been very clear is that the CFA Franc has been a no-go in international and inter-European political discussions for decades…. and someone close to Meloni just made it a global issue. So much so, that no less than Le Monde had to put out a fire suppressor article.  It’s a laughably poor piece of apologia.  It’s a typical piece of ‘word parsing’ that picks out specific little exaggerations to discredit Meloni as stupid and uninformed while avoiding the basic problems of France running a wealth vacuum in 14 of the poorest countries in Africa. Le Monde quickly switches to the ‘migrant’ issue to ‘debunk’ Meloni’s claims about African immigration as a result of the CFA Franc.  Sure the country of origin of most migrants are from countries on the shore of the Mediterranean, but where did they come from in the first place? It’s like saying Hondurans who cross into the US from Mexico aren’t Hondurans and that policy in Honduras didn’t contribute to the migration. But, this is really a side issue. Meloni is fundamentally right that the CFA Franc keeps these countries poor through currency arbitrage and contributes directly to North Africa’s instability and lack of economic progress. To think that doesn’t have spillover effects into Algeria, Morocco or anywhere else along the southern Mediterranean is simply laughable. It’s the Currency, Stupid!! The key to understanding the evil of the CFA Franc is no different than understanding the evil of the euro or the Fed Funds Rate. It’s mercantilism through currency arbitrage. The CFA Franc is not just pegged to the euro (formerly the French Franc) it is also tied to the ECB’s monetary policy debt rate.  This is the part no one, especially the writer at Le Monde, wants to touch.   So, as Le Monde states there are the two central banks in Africa that issue the two different CFA Francs. What they fail to state is that both currencies are still pegged to the euro, making local monetary policy a joke. France and the ECB still control their economies. The ECB’s monetary policy is set by Germany for Germany’s benefit.  Having (up until now) the strongest economy in the EU, Germany gets an effective benefit from the euro trading at a single exchange rate. If the euro were to collapse and the Deutschmark returned, it would rise dramatically versus the previous euro exchange rate. For Italy, the return of the lira would see it fall. This is simply the value add/deficit of the labor in the aggregate of the country, represented by the exchange rate through the discounting mechanism.   This is why the euro and the EU are nothing more than colonialist systems designed to do exactly what they have done, impoverish the European periphery, which includes Italy, and concentrate capital in the center, in Brussels’ political power. As much as I’ve used the Hunger Games to describe the US, it is even more apropos for the EU. California and New York have used the singular Fed Funds Rate in the same way Germany has used the euro to dominate US electoral politics, ensuring that for decades their populations stayed high, the capital flowed to them, trapping people there and grinding them out between the twin millstones of inflation and taxation, just like Lenin described. So, now applying that same model to France and it’s former colonies, does anyone believe that the labor efficiency of the Ivory Coast is the same as Germany?  or even France? Of course not. But that’s the situation for these countries. France is running the same mercantilist scam of any colonial power by keeping the home country’s currency weaker than it should be in exchange for real goods from abroad. But we see this effect in the reverse from the colony’s perspective. By setting a peg for the CFA Franc, it is always stronger than it should be if allowed to float. Even if initially set weaker than it should be to attract capital, eventually the exchange rate will become an albatross around the colony’s neck, strangling economic growth while all the wealth is extracted back to the homeland, thanks to the ECB’s monetary policy. While the CFA Franc was reformed slightly under Macron, the essential link between France’s banking system and these colonies remains key, using the ECB’s ruinous monetary policy to take the profit and leave misery behind.  Now, the good news is that mercantilism only works for so long before the currency mismatches become so great that the whole scheme has to collapse. It is, after all just another Ponzi Scheme. In the case of France and Germany running their wealth extraction system across not just the 17 other countries of the euro-zone but 14 African countries as well, we’re reaching that breaking point. Pres. Macron Tear Down This Peg! Italy needs to be let loose from the euro. The populists and everyone not on Herr Schwab’s payroll understand this. Davos will blow up the world before letting that happen. Meloni knows this. And she also knows that France has real designs on annexing parts of northern Italy and will fight very dirty to win here. Macron tried to marginalize her on immigration, tugging on heart strings about denying migrants. She stood her ground, forced France to take the boats and when France tried to publicly shame her, she trotted out the CFA Franc and put that issue right to bed. But here’s the fun part. She just put out her budget proposal for the EU’s consideration. It’s a very crafty proposal, skirting the edges of the rules set out by the EU, violating the spirit of the rules while not actually violating many of them. See this article from Reuters on rescinding the limits of cash use. Martin Armstrong has a quick overview of the budget where he pulls out some of the salient points (from his perspective).  His takeaway is that Meloni is putting real limits on Italy’s welfare state.   So, this is how she can play the game of not radically increasing spending. She’ll increase spending to subsidize rising energy costs clearly imposed on Italy by Germany and Brussels through ruinous sanctions on Russian energy as a stop gap measure. Sound familiar? Because this is what cost Liz Truss her job in the UK. But she is also reforming the entitlement system for the long term which will keep the overall budget deficit which will call Brussels’ bluff on whether they will maintain support of Italy’s bond market. We know this is a bluff otherwise ECB President Christine Lagarde wouldn’t have created the Transmission Protection Instrument to maintain internal credit spreads at the July meeting. She knew this day was coming the minute Mario Draghi walked away from his post as Prime Minister. The TPI was announced the next day. It looks like, at first glance, that Meloni’s found a way to circumvent being forced to implement “German Austerity” — raising taxes and cutting spending to protect bondholders — by cutting long-term entitlement spending while at the same time cutting taxes where they are needed most. If there is a budget proposal that could mollify credit markets over Italy’s fiscal situation it would look something like this. It puts the EU on their back foot in budget talks. Because this plan could actually work. Part of the budget plans includes slashing taxes for the self-employed by extending the 15% single tax rate from an annual income of €65,000 to €85,000, slashing VAT on certain essential goods by half, and conditionally reducing the retirement age to 62, provided that individuals have paid in at least 41 years of contributions. What’s funny about this is that this budget, which explicitly breaks the EU’s cap of a 3% of GDP budget deficit, pushing it to 4.5% thanks to energy subsidies to families, is being hailed by the European press as “More EU Friendly than expected.” What were they expecting, for Meloni to introduce miniBOTs and a new domestic currency like Salvini talked about in 2018?   No, this is clearly messaging that states Brussels isn’t in the position to fight her because she holds all the cards in the negotiations.  Remember, $640+ billion in TARGET2 liabilities are the Bundesbank’s problem, not Italy’s. Having exposed France to the world over the CFA Franc and understanding exactly how vulnerable the ECB and the EU Commission actually are in the Eurodollar markets, Meloni has pushed Italy into a good position to begin reversing the colonial extraction system of the EU itself. A quick look at the polls in Italy has her riding a big lead at 30% support and moving higher.  If she gets this budget past the EU Commission, that number will instantly jump to 40% or higher.  The worry that Salvini and Berlusconi will betray her then drop precipitously.  The Ring Heads South Remember, lurking in the background of all of this is Wall St., the Fed and patriots in the US military. This is who I think is helping Meloni stand firm here. The Fed’s aggressive policy stance has the Eurodollar markets teetering and Lagarde is no longer talking about QEternity but QT and higher rates, albeit very grudgingly. If the price cap on Russian oil fails and Ursula Von der Leyen cannot ride herd on a 9th sanctions package, then Italy will quickly move into the driver’s seat on energy imports into Europe. Wall St. understands this. And with a grateful Meloni in Rome realigning EU policy or forcing a breakup it also paves the way for a new cycle of energy investment now beyond desperately needed. Who wants in on that action? Well, pretty much everyone, especially Wall St. Meloni just told France’s African colonies to stand up and follow Burkina Faso’s lead.  With countries like Algeria, Egypt and Morocco all looking to join the BRICS alliance, the end of France’s colonial control over North Africa could end very quickly and Italy then has massive leverage on the EU to turn back on the sanctioned energy supplies. This is a fight for all the EU marbles folks, and Meloni, I believe knows this.  So, she’ll play the dutiful game of supporting Ukraine publicly.  But, there’s almost nothing Italy can do practically to do that. It’s an empty promise.  They have no money, no domestic military to speak of… what is that promise actually worth? No, France and Germany, the mercantilist powerhouses, are the ones that have to foot this Ukraine bill. Meloni and Italy are happy to support them bankrupting themselves while she lays the groundwork for increasing Italy’s leverage over them. The Fed is doing its job by forcing the euro down, bond yields up and taking options away from Christine Lagarde.   You beat colonialists by taking away their money printing machine. It’s that simple. *  *  * Join my Patreon if you don’t want to be colonized Tyler Durden Wed, 11/30/2022 - 02:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 30th, 2022