by ilene - February 26th, 2011 4:55 pm
Courtesy of EDWARD HARRISON, Credit Writedowns
Bill Fleckenstein was back talking to Dylan Ratigan about the source of rising oil prices. (See the last Fleckenstein video here). Clearly, supply constraints and increased demand in emerging markets play the central role in creating a supply demand imbalance for a commodity where demand is price inelastic. I am not just talking about natural disasters and riots, I am also talking about peak oil, of course. That means prices for oil soar until we hit a recession and the resulting demand destruction.
However, at the margin there are other factors at play, one of which is pro-inflationary central bank policy. I have mentioned this a couple of times in the past. For example, regarding food price inflation, I wrote in November:
[Morgan Stanley Chief Economist Richard] Berner sees four forces at play, pushing up food prices: strong global demand, weather, energy costs, low food stock inventories. You can read the full note at the link below.
My take is a bit different. The rise in food and energy prices should be taken into consideration by government officials conducting pro-inflationary policies. What should be of concern regarding commodity price inflation is how it represents a regressive tax on lower income workers and consumers in emerging markets and developing countries. Lower income consumers spend a much greater percentage of income on food and energy. So when commodity prices increase, it has a disproportionate effect on them. One reason we saw food riots in emerging markets in 2008 has much to do with this.
Bill Fleckenstein gives his take in the video below.
by ilene - October 29th, 2010 4:31 pm
Courtesy of Mish
China is pointing the finger at the US, complaining about "Out of Control" US dollar Printing by the Fed.
Dollar issuance by the United States is "out of control", leading to an inflation assault on China, the Chinese commerce minister said in comments reported on Tuesday.
"Because the United States’ issuance of dollars is out of control and international commodity prices are continuing to rise, China is being attacked by imported inflation. The uncertainties of this are causing firms big problems," Chen was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
Chinese officials have criticised U.S. monetary policy as being too loose before, but rarely in such explicit language.
Decoupling Theories Renewed
I will get to loose monetary policy in just a bit, but first consider More than decoupled, China is in league of its own
Two years on from the global financial crisis, the contrast with the rich world is striking. In the United States and Europe, growth is sluggish, a slump into outright deflation is a real risk and central banks look set to loosen policy further.
So the evidence is in: China is decoupled, influenced by, but ultimately independent from other major economies.
"The crisis was a test and China passed the test. Decoupling has become a much more solid thesis now than three years ago when we only talked about it hypothetically," said Qing Wang, Morgan Stanley’s chief economist for greater China.
Chinese Money Supply Numbers from People’s Bank of China
Money and Quasi Money Jan 2009 – 496135.31
Money and Quasi Money Sep 2010 – 696384.86
"Out Of Control" Monetary Expansion Irony
I am certainly not about to defend the Fed’s misguided policies, but the complaint from Chinese commerce minister that US monetary printing is "out of control" is the ultimate in "pot calling the kettle black" irony.
Over the past few weeks I have exchanged quite a few Emails regarding China with my friend "BC" who writes …
Total Chinese money supply is up over 4 times since ’03, a 17%/yr. rate at a doubling time of just 4 years; up 66% since Jan. ’08, a 19%/yr. rate at a doubling time of 43 months; and
by ilene - October 17th, 2010 5:48 pm
Courtesy of Yves Smith
A couple of articles in the Wall Street Journal, reporting on a conference at the Boston Fed, indicates that some people at the Fed may recognize that the central bank has boxed itself in more than a tad.
The first is on the question of whether the Fed is in a liquidity trap. A lot of people, based on the experience of Japan, argued that resolving and restructuring bad loans was a necessary to avoid a protracted economic malaise after a severe financial crisis. But the Fed has consistently clung to the myth that the financial meltdown of 2007-2008 was a liquidity, not a solvency crisis. So rather than throw its weight behind real financial reform and cleaning up bank balance sheets (which would require admitting the obvious, that its policies prior to the crisis were badly flawed), it instead has treated liquidity as the solution to any and every problem.
Some commentators were concerned when the Fed lowered policy rates below 2%, but there we so many other experiments implemented during the acute phases that this particular shift has been pretty much overlooked. But overly low rates leaves the Fed nowhere to go if demand continues to be slack, as it is now.
Note that the remarks by Chicago Fed president John Evans still hew to conventional forms: the Fed needs to create inflation expectations, and needs to be prepared to overshoot.
This seems to ignore some pretty basic considerations. First, the US is suffering from a great deal of unemployment and excess productive capacity. The idea that inflation fears are going to lead to a resumption of spending (ie anticipatory spending because the value of money will fall in the future) isn’t terribly convincing. Labor didn’t have much bargaining power before the crisis, and it has much less now. Some might content the Fed is already doing a more than adequate job of feeding commodities inflation (although record wheat prices are driven by largely by fundamentals).
From the Wall Street Journal, “Fed’s Evans: U.S. in ‘Bona Fide Liquidity Trap’”:
The Federal Reserve may have to let inflation overshoot levels consistent with price stability as part of a broader attempt to help stimulate the economy, a U.S. central bank official said Saturday.
“The U.S. economy is best described as being in a bona
by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 7:34 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
This is a superb summary of Paul Volcker’s must read comments at the Federal
1) Macroprudential regulation — “somehow those words grate on my ears.”
2) Banking — Investment banks became “trading machines instead of investment banks [leading to] encroachment on the territory of commercial banks, and commercial banks encroached on the territory of others in a way that couldn’t easily be managed by the old supervisory system.”
3) Financial system — “The financial system is broken. We can use that term in late 2008, and I think it’s fair to still use the term unfortunately. We know that parts of it are absolutely broken, like the mortgage
marketwhich only happens to be the most important part of our capital markets [and has] become a subsidiary of the U.S. government.”
4) Business schools — “We had all our best business schools in the United States pouring out financial engineers, every smart young mathematician and physicist said ‘I don’t want to be a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer. I’m a smart guy, I want to go to Wall Street.’ And then you know all the risks were going to be sliced and diced and [people thought] the market would be resilient and not face any crises. We took care of all that stuff, and I think that was the general philosophy that markets are efficient and self correcting and we don’t have to worry about them too much.
5) Central banks and the Fed — “Central banks became…maybe a little too infatuated with their own skills and authority because they found secrets to price stability…I think its fair to say there was a certain neglect of supervisory responsibilities, certainly not confined to the Federal Reserve, but including the Federal Reserve, I only say that because the Federal Reserve is the most important in my view.”
6) The recession — “It’s so difficult to get out of this recession because of the basic disequilibrium in the real economy.”
7) Council of regulators — “Potentially cumbersome.”
8 ) On judgment — “Let me suggest to you that relying on judgment all the time makes for a very heavy burden whether you are regulating an individual institution or whether you are regulating the whole market or whether you are deciding what might be disturbing or what might not be disturbing.
by ilene - September 13th, 2010 9:09 pm
One of my favorite analysts is Albert Edwards of Societe Generale in London. Acerbic, witty and brilliant. Emphasis on brilliant. The fact that he is a Doppelganger for James Montier (who long time readers are well acquainted with) is a coincidence (or he would say vice versa). I only kind of have permission to forward this note to you, but better to ask forgiveness… So, this week he is our Outside the Box. And a short but good one he is.
I am in Amsterdam and it is late, but deadlines have no time line. Tomorrow more work on the book. It is getting close to the end. Most books are finished when the authors quit in disgust. How many edits can you do? I am close.
I wonder late at night, with maybe a few too many glasses of wine, why I feel like a book is so much more than an e-letter. Really? The last ten years of what I have written are on the archives. Good (ok, sometimes really good) is there. But some are an embarrassment. What was I thinking?
But somehow in my Old World brain, a book is more than a weekly letter. It is somehow more permanent than an “online” letter. Which may be archived forever. The book is “paper” and may be around for a few years. But the online version is here for a long time.
I know that is stupid. Really I do. But what is a 61 year old mind to do? A strange world we live in.
It is really time to hit the send button. More than you know! The conversation tonight has been too deep!
Your trying to figure out the purpose of life analyst,
Market still deluding itself that it can escape the inevitable dénouement
By Albert Edwards
The current situation reminds me of mid 2007. Investors then were content to stick their heads into very deep sand and ignore the fact that The Great Unwind had clearly begun. But in August and September 2007, even though the wheels were clearly falling off the global economy, the S&P still managed to rally 15%! The recent reaction to data suggests the market is in a similar…
by Zero Hedge - September 13th, 2010 7:15 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
By Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital
Does the Fed Ultimately Control Interest Rates?
In forecasting the consequences of current economic policy, many pundits are downplaying the risks associated with the surging national debt and the rapid expansion of marketable Treasury securities. Their comfort stems from the belief that a staggering debt burden will be manageable as long as interest rates remain extremely low; and, as they believe the Fed is in complete control of setting rates across the yield curve, they see no danger of rates ever rising past the point of comfort. Those who subscribe to this fairy tale forget that, in real life, there are many more hands on the interest rate steering wheel.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the 2010 deficit will exceed $1.3 trillion and total US debt now stands at $13.4 trillion (92% of GDP). That’s a lot of debt that needs floating. Yet, the 10-year note is yielding 2.8%-- which is 4.5 points below its 40-year average of 7.3%! Experience teaches that even moderately long-term investors should be expecting rising rates. Regardless of the extreme and obvious misalignment of fundamentals and bond prices, the mantra from the dollar shills remains firm: “The US dollar will always be the world’s reserve currency, and the US bond market will always be regarded as the safe-haven depository for global savings.”
With interest rates having been so low for so long, it’s understandable that many people have forgotten that central banks are not ultimately in control of interest rates. It is true that the Fed can be highly influential across the yield curve and can be especially effective in controlling the short end. But, in the end, the free market has the last word on the cost of money.
Although the Fed has certainly created enough new dollars to send prices higher, recessionary forces are, for now, disguising the evidence of runaway inflation. But when inflation finally erupts into the daylight, it will be impossible for borrowing costs to stay low. No one can realistically be expected to loan money below the rate of inflation. To attract buyers, the Treasury will have to offer a real rate of return.
by ilene - August 11th, 2010 10:51 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
From today’s Breakfast with Rosie
NOT IN KANSAS ANY MORE
Well, it took some patience but it looks like the economic environment I was depicting this time last year just shortly after I joined GS+A is starting to play out. Deflation risks are prevailing and a growing acknowledgment over the lack of sustainability regarding the nascent economic recovery. Extreme fragility and volatility is what one should expect in a post-bubble credit collapse and asset inflation that we endured back in 2008 and part of 2009.
History is replete with enough examples of this — balance sheet recessions are different animals than traditional inventory recessions, and the transition to the next sustainable economic expansion, and bull market (the operative word being sustainability) in these types of cycles take between 5 to 10 years and are fraught with periodic setbacks. I know this sounds a bit dire, but little has changed from where we were a year ago. To be sure, we had a tremendous short-covering and a government induced equity market rally on our hands and it’s really nothing more than a commentary on human nature that so many people rely on what the stock market is doing at any moment in time to base their conclusions on what the economic landscape is going to look like.
So, we had a huge bounce off the lows, but we had a similar bounce off the lows in 1930. The equity market was up something like 50% in the opening months of 1930, and while I am sure there was euphoria at the time that the worst of the recession and the contraction in credit was over, it’s interesting to see today that nobody talks about the great runup of 1930 even though it must have hurt not to have participated in that wonderful rally. Instead, when we talk about 1930 today, the images that are conjured up are hardly very joyous.
I’m not saying that we are into something that is entirely like the 1930s. But at the same time, we’re not in Kansas any more; if Kansas is the type of economic recoveries and market performances we came to understand in the context of a post-World War II era where we had a secular credit expansion, youthful boomers heading into their formative working and spending years and all the economic activity that…
Morgan Stanley On Why The US Will Not Be Japan, And Why Treasuries Are Extremely Rich (Yet Pitches A 6:1 Hedge In Case Of Error)
by ilene - August 8th, 2010 9:14 pm
Morgan Stanley On Why The US Will Not Be Japan, And Why Treasuries Are Extremely Rich (Yet Pitches A 6:1 Deflation Hedge)
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
We previously presented a piece by SocGen’s Albert Edwards that claimed that there is nothing now but to sit back, relax, and watch as the US becomes another Japan, as asset prices tumble, gripped by the vortex of relentless deflation. Sure enough, the one biggest bear on Treasuries for the past year, Morgan Stanley, is quick to come out with a piece titled: "Are We Turning Japanese, We Don’t Think So." Of course, with the 10 Year trading at the tightest level in years, the 2 Year at record tights, and the firm’s all out bet on curve steepening an outright disaster, the question of just how much credibility the firm has left with clients is debatable.
Below is Jim Caron’s brief overview of why Edwards and all those who see a deflationary tide sweeping the US are wrong. Yet, in what seems a first, Morgan Stanley presents two possible trades for those with access to the CMS and swaption market, in the very off case, that deflation does ultimately win.
Morgan Stanley’s rebuttal of the "Japan is coming" case:
There are many arguments that suggest the US is going the way of Japan, and while UST yield valuations may appear expensive, a regime shift has occurred and we should use the deflation experience of Japan as a guideline. We respect this point of view, and our colleagues in Japan provide some compelling charts.
In Exhibit 3 we show how the richening in the JGB 5y led to a significant flattening of the curve. Ultimately CPI turned negative and Japan did in fact move into a period of deflation. It makes sense for the 5y to outperform, as investors believed in a low rate and inflation regime for an extended period. Most money is managed 5 years and in, which thus makes the 5y point so attractive in low rate regimes because it represents the greatest opportunity for money managers to own duration, yield and return. The same is happening in the US as the 5y point is richening extensively as investors seem to be surrendering to a low rate and low return environment. But this may be premature.
Note that it took ~2-years before the
by ilene - July 23rd, 2010 9:25 pm
Courtesy of MIKE WHITNEY writing at CounterPunch
Credit conditions are improving for speculators and bubblemakers, but they continue to worsen for households, consumers and small businesses. An article in the Wall Street Journal confirms that the Fed’s efforts to revive the so-called shadow banking system is showing signs of progress. Financial intermediaries have been taking advantage of low rates and easy terms to fund corporate bonds, stocks and mortgage-backed securities. Thus, the reflating of high-risk financial assets has resumed, thanks to the Fed’s crisis-engendering monetary policy and extraordinary rescue operations.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:
"A new quarterly survey of lending by the Federal Reserve found that hedge funds and private-equity funds are getting better terms from lenders and that big banks have loosened lending standards generally in recent months. The survey, called the Senior Credit Officer Opinion Survey, focuses on wholesale credit markets, which the Fed said functioned better over the past quarter." ("Survey shows credit flows more freely", Sudeep Reddy, Wall Street Journal)
In contrast, bank lending and consumer loans continue to shrink at a rate of nearly 5 per cent per year. According to economist John Makin, there was a "sharp drop in credit growth, to a negative 9.7 per cent annual rate over the three months ending in May." Bottom line; the real economy is being strangled while unregulated shadow banks are re-leveraging their portfolios and skimming profits. Here’s more from the WSJ:
"Two-thirds of dealers said hedge funds in particular pushed harder for better rates and looser nonprice terms, and they said some of the funds got better deals as a result….(while) The funding market for key consumer loans remained under stress, with a quarter of dealers reporting that liquidity and functioning in the market had deteriorated in recent months." ("Survey shows credit flows more freely", Sudeep Reddy, Wall Street Journal)
As the policymaking arm of the nation’s biggest banks, the Fed’s job is to enhance the profit-generating activities of its constituents. That’s why Fed chair Ben Bernanke has worked tirelessly to restore the crisis-prone shadow banking system. As inequality grows and the depression deepens for working people, securitization and derivatives offer a viable way to increase earnings and drive up shares for financial institutions. The banks continue to post record profits even while the underlying economy is…
by ilene - June 9th, 2010 12:58 pm
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
You want to know where the spikes in the Euro came from today?
That’s "official intervention" by the Swiss National Bank and if they don’t cut this crap out they’re going to cause an equity and credit market collapse.
These jackasses now have double the Euros they held just a short while ago from these "operations", and as you can see, they’re pissing into a hurricane on even a daily basis, say much less on anything more consequential:
Congress does not have the right to get involved in the affairs of a foreign sovereign.
But Congress has every right to demand that Bernanke close his goddamn swap lines right now until this shit stops, lest The Fed be the one who is on the hook when the entire ECB structure comes apart and WE THE TAXPAYERS are on the hook.
This sort of tampering, performed by a private party, is illegal. Of course it’s routine and "expected" in the FX space for sovereigns to interfere, but much of the instability that we have seen of late has been caused by this sort of "intervention." Specifically, today it was responsible for a sixteen point, or 1.5%, jackrabbit move in both directions in the stock market in the space of less than two hours.
There is absolutely no excuse for The United States to support this sort of garbage with our taxpayer backstops. These instabilities in the foreign exchange markets make it impossible for real companies to hedge costs and profits in foreign nations and do severe and irrevocable damage to these firm’s operations.
It is also reflecting into the US Commercial Paper markets and driving spreads wider there as well. This is the very same market that locked up in 2008 and triggered the equity market collapse.
The SNB’s "interest" in doing this is clear: Half of European banks are stuffed full of debt written in Swiss Francs – in nations where the currency is the Euro! These idiots (both the borrowers and the banks that offered these "products") have now seen the principal balance of these loans represented in Euros rise by 11% in the last year.