by ilene - August 11th, 2010 2:33 pm
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Nassim Taleb is out making waves once again, this time at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg today, where he said he was “betting on the collapse of government bonds” and that investors should avoid stocks. To be sure this is not a new position for Nassim, who in February had the same message, when he said that "every single human being" should be short U.S. treasuries. Indeed since then bonds have gone up in a straight line as the bond bubble has grown to record levels, and with the ongoing help of the Fed, is it any wonder. The only question is when will this last bubble also pop.
More from Bloomberg:
“I’m very pessimistic,” he said at the . “By staying in cash or hedging against inflation, you won’t regret it in two years.”
Treasuries have rallied amid speculation the global economic recovery is faltering, driving yields on two-year notes to a record low of 0.4892 percent today. The Federal Reserve yesterday reversed plans to exit from monetary stimulus and decided to keep its bond holdings level to support an economic recovery it described as weaker than anticipated. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index retreated 16 percent between April 23 and July 2, the biggest slump during the bull market.
The financial system is riskier that it was than before the 2008 crisis that led the U.S. economy to the worst contraction since the Great Depression, Taleb said.
Will the Black Swan author be correct? Perhaps (and given enough time, certainly), although as virtually everyone is expecting a dire outcome in both the public and private sector, courtesy of the untenable balance sheet, the surprise will most certainly have to come from some other place. And with even The Atlantic now posting cover stories on the Iran war spark, it is increasingly less likely that geopolitics will be the issue. Is every possible dire outcome priced in? If so, Taleb should focus his formidable intellect on answering just what the market is missing.
Should China Dump Dollars for Commodities? What about the “Nuclear Option” of Dumping Treasuries? Can Global Trade Collapse?
by ilene - July 30th, 2010 5:59 pm
Should China Dump Dollars for Commodities? What about the "Nuclear Option" of Dumping Treasuries? Can Global Trade Collapse?
Courtesy of Mish
Every time there is a little blip by China in its purchasing or holding of US treasuries, hyperinflationists come out of the woodwork ranting about the "Nuclear Option" of China dumping treasuries en masse.
Such fears are extremely overblown for several reasons.
1. China’s purchasing of US assets is primarily a balance of trade issue. If the US runs a trade deficit, some other countries run a trade surplus and thus accumulate dollars. This is purely a mathematical function as I have pointed out many times.
2. If China dumps treasuries for Euro-based assets, oil-based assets, yen-based assets or for that matter anything other than dollar based assets, the problem merely shifts elsewhere and those buyers would have to do something with the dollars such as buying US treasuries or other US assets. This too is purely a mathematical function.
3. If China dumped treasuries it would tend the strengthen the RMB and China has been extremely reluctant to let the RMB appreciate. Indeed, the US is begging China to revalue the RMB upward, but China resists.
While China may make short-term moves in its reserve holdings, the odds of China dumping treasuries or dollars in size is quite remote.
Capital Tsunami Is The Bigger Threat
Michael Pettis discusses those ideas and more in The capital tsunami is a bigger threat than the nuclear option.
An awful lot of investors and policymakers are frightened by the thought of China’s so-called nuclear option. Beijing, according to this argument, can seriously disrupt the USG bond market by dumping Treasury bonds, and it may even do so, either in retaliation for US protectionist measures or in fear that US fiscal policies will undermine the value of their Treasury bond holdings. Policymakers and investors, in this view, need to be very prepared for just such an eventuality.
… the idea that Beijing can and might exercise the “nuclear option” is almost total nonsense.
In fact the real threat to the US economy is not the dumping of USG bonds. On the contrary, in the next two years the US markets are likely to be swamped by a tsunami of foreign capital, and this will have deleterious effects on the US trade deficit, debt levels, and employment.
by ilene - July 23rd, 2010 5:18 am
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
I have had some interesting discussions recently with correspondents about the problem which China has with its very large US dollar reserves.
To summarize what I think, China is attempting to diversify their portfolio of US Treasury dollar holdings. They are obviously accumulating ‘real goods’ including stockpiles of basic materials, gold, silver, oil and investments in the means of production in their own region and in key regions around the world.
This is more difficult than it might appear on the surface. Real goods are often strategic, and governments are sometimes reluctant to allow them to be acquired by a government considered a potential threat. The first difficulty is the strategic importance of some assets, such as the China’s offer for the purchase of Unocal.
But there is also a need for confidentiality, stealthiness if you will. If word were to leak out that ‘China is dumping its Treasuries’ there would be a run on the market and the Chinese could lose a portion of their reserve wealth rather quickly.
Now, would it matter. Well, yes. It would matter because US dollars are still the currency of choice for most international trade including the all important international commodity, oil. If you think that philosophically dollars have no value because they are just paper, I would be more than happy to dispose of them for you. Limited time offer, of course.
I also posited that China, while accumulating its real goods quietly against the constraint of perturbing the markets, could do short term hedges against the less catastrophic scenario of further dollar devaluation by going into the very deep and liquid financial assets markets, and hedging risk with CDS and other obvious investments including shorts of various types.
As anyone who has attempted to acquire a company or take a substantial position in or out of an asset or company, at some point you can affect the price, making other participants aware that the asset is in play, and end up selling or buying against yourself. In the case of China it could also trigger a run on the bank of the US, which is an immediate endgame.
by ilene - July 12th, 2010 3:51 am
Courtesy of JOHN RUBINO at Dollar Collapse
In this recent CNN interview, Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson predicts that, barring a radical change in policy, “nasty fiscal arithmetic” will send the U.S. into a “death spiral.” Some representative quotes:
“Fiscal tightening is baked in the cake. Tax increases are coming and coming soon… The US has a kind of stay of execution while the European crisis unfolds, but at some point the nasty fiscal arithmetic will get everyone, including the U.S… Treasuries are a safe haven the way Pearl Harbor was a safe haven in 1941. It’s safe until it’s not safe anymore.”
by ilene - July 8th, 2010 5:06 pm
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith Of Two Minds
The con of the decade (Part I) involves the transfer of private debt to the public (the marks), who then pays interest forever to the con artists.
I’ve laid out the Con of the Decade (Part I) in outline form:
1. Enable trillions of dollars in mortgages guaranteed to default by packaging unlimited quantities of them into mortgage-backed securities (MBS), creating umlimited demand for fraudulently originated loans.
2. Sell these MBS as "safe" to credulous investors, institutions, town councils in Norway, etc., i.e. "the bezzle" on a global scale.
3. Make huge "side bets" against these doomed mortgages so when they default then the short-side bets generate billions in profits.
4. Leverage each $1 of actual capital into $100 of high-risk bets.
5. Hide the utterly fraudulent bets offshore and/or off-balance sheet (not that the regulators you had muzzled would have noticed anyway).
6. When the longside bets go bad, transfer hundreds of billions of dollars in Federal guarantees, bailouts and backstops into the private hands which made the risky bets, either via direct payments or via proxies like AIG. Enable these private Power Elites to borrow hundreds of billions more from the Treasury/Fed at zero interest.
7. Deposit these funds at the Federal Reserve, where they earn 3-4%. Reap billions in guaranteed income by borrowing Federal money for free and getting paid interest by the Fed.
8. As profits pile up, start buying boatloads of short-term U.S. Treasuries. Now the taxpayers who absorbed the trillions in private losses and who transferred trillions in subsidies, backstops, guarantees, bailouts and loans to private banks and corporations, are now paying interest on the Treasuries their own money purchased for the banks/corporations.
9. Slowly acquire trillions of dollars in Treasuries--not difficult to do as the Federal government is borrowing $1.5 trillion a year.
10. Stop buying Treasuries and dump a boatload onto the market, forcing interest rates to rise as supply of new T-Bills exceeds demand (at least temporarily). Repeat as necessary to double and then triple interest rates paid on Treasuries.
11. Buy hundreds of billions in long-term Treasuries at high rates of interest. As interest rates rise, interest payments dwarf all other Federal spending, forcing extreme cuts in all other government spending.
by ilene - June 25th, 2010 2:29 am
Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon
I’ve leveled many criticisms at the so-called experts in the financial community. Apart from being blatantly conflicted, many wouldn’t know how to analyze their way out of a paper bag even if their lives depended on it. Generally speaking, they are good communicators but lousy thinkers.
But as with most generalizations, there are exceptions to the rule. Some eloquent experts do know what they are talking about, including David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff, Albert Edwards and Dylan Grice of Societe General, Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust, and John Hussman of Hussman Funds.
Based on what he has to say, another person who should probably be added to that very short list is the individual interviewed in the following Yahoo! Finance Tech Ticker report, "America’s Ticking Debt Bomb: Like Greece, ‘Only Worse,’ Pento Says":
America’s debt bomb is ticking and is likely to detonate in five years or less, says Michael Pento, senior market strategist at Delta Global Advisors.
"It could be much sooner when we hit the debt wall," Pento says. "My opinion doesn’t matter: Math tells me we’re in a serious problem."
The math Pento refers to is the Treasury Department’s recent estimate that total U.S. debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and rise to 102% of GDP by 2015. Moreover, the publicly traded debt (debt excluding intra-governmental obligations) will rise to $14 trillion by 2015, up from "just" $7.5 trillion in 2009.
At $14 trillion, the interest payments on the public debt will total about $1 trillion in 2015, he continues; even assuming solid growth and low inflation, that would equal about 30% of total government revenue. "What do you think that does to our bond market?," Pento wonders. "It leads to a dollar crisis and a bond market crisis. That’s why gold refuses to go down. "
Demand for U.S. Treasuries and the dollar currently remain high, especially in the wake of the euro’s slow-motion implosion. Pento admits timing this debt crisis is difficult but predicts we’ll be "like Greece, but worse," in four years or less, unless we make a sudden turn toward austerity.
by ilene - May 25th, 2010 1:00 pm
Tensions Mount in Asia; North Korea Prepares for Combat; South Korea Won Sinks to 8-Month Low; Futures Sink, Nikkei Hammered Again
Courtesy of Mish
Smack in the midst of a "global recovery" tensions are heating up in Asia. Please consider Kim Jong II Orders Military to Get Ready for Combat
North Korean leader Kim Jong II ordered the country’s military to get ready for combat in a message televised nationwide last week following South Korea’s announcement that North Korea torpedoed the South’s warship.
South Korea’s President Lee Myung Bak said yesterday the country will push for United Nations censure against North Korea for the March 26 sinking of a naval ship, which killed 46 sailors. A multinational team concluded on May 20 that North Korea fired a torpedo to split apart the 1,200-ton Cheonan.
Tensions are rising in the Korean peninsula following the report, with both sides threatening counter-measures should they come under attack. South Korea plans to define North Korea as its “main enemy” when it maps out military strategy, Yonhap reported today, citing a government official it didn’t identify.
South Korea’s Won Sinks to 8-Month Low
Inquiring minds may be interested to note South Korea’s Won Sinks to 8-Month Low on Tensions With North.
South Korea’s won slumped to an eight-month low on growing hostilities with the North over the sinking of one of the South’s warships with the loss of 46 lives.
The U.S. yesterday announced plans to conduct joint anti- submarine exercises with South Korea as “a result of the findings of this recent incident.” Japan will consider imposing financial sanctions on North Korea, Finance Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference in Tokyo today.
“We won’t see the bottom of this fall until we hear some good news on North Korea,” said Cho Hyun Seok, a currency dealer at Kookmin Bank in Seoul. “The won’s exchange rate can go as high as 1,260 won per dollar.”
The military exercises are among steps the U.S. and South Korea are pursuing, including possible further United Nations sanctions, in response to the March sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan. The U.S. and South Korea say evidence shows the explosion was caused by a North Korean torpedo.
Asian Stocks Fall to 10-Month Low, Won Dives, Commodities Drop
Please consider Asian Stocks Fall to 10-Month Low, Won Dives, Commodities Drop
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index
by ilene - February 23rd, 2010 7:19 am
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Good thoughts on the credit markets from this week’s episode of Wealth Track. Nassim Taleb has described treasuries as a “no brainer” short position. Marc Faber refers to treasuries as junk bonds. Bond experts David Darst and Robert Kessler provide their outlooks for obtaining yield in a de-leveraging world:
Source: Wealth Track
by ilene - February 22nd, 2010 12:11 pm
Courtesy of Michael Pettis at China Financial Markets
It is a real toss-up as to which generates more bizarre comment in the international press: Beijing’s long-feared dumping of US Treasuries, or the use and value of the PBoC’s central bank reserves. The revelation last week that Chinese holdings of US Treasury obligations fell in December by $34.2 billion, to $755.4 billion, generated a frisson of fear and excitement, leading one prominent newspaper to worry that “If there is one thing that gets investors twitchy, it is the fear that China is losing its appetite for US government bonds.”
And shouldn’t they get twitchy? After all this reduction in Chinese holdings of Treasury bonds comes from the USG’s TIC data, so it must be true that China is dumping dollars, right?
No need to twitch, it means no such thing. First of all, the data from which this was derived indicates national ownership of USG bonds only to the extent that foreigners are directly registered holders. It says nothing about what happened to the large amount of bonds held by the PBoC and other Chinese investors indirectly or in street names. Those could have easily gone up by more than the reduction in bonds directly held by Chinese investors in their own name. If the PBoC had let maturing Treasury bonds get repaid, for example, and reinvested the proceeds into the USG bond market through another account, or in a street name, its total holdings would have actually increased even though its registered holdings would have declined.
More importantly, the TIC numbers completely fail to disclose whether China’s reduced holding of USG bonds was matched by increased holding of other dollar assets, thereby increasing the pool of capital available to fund USG bonds by an amount equal to its reduced Treasury holdings. If Chinese investors decide to take on more risk, for example, they might sell USG bonds and use the proceeds to buy corporate bonds. Of course the seller of these corporate bonds will then have cash, which must be put to work, and ultimately this ends up back in the USG bond market.
China did not reduce its dollar holdings
So was China a net seller of dollar assets in December? Almost certainly not. Just look at the PBoC balance sheet. PBoC reserves rose in December by
Senior Chinese Military Officers Join Iran In Delivering “Punch” To U.S., Propose Selling Treasuries As Arms Sales Punishment
by ilene - February 9th, 2010 2:51 pm
Senior Chinese Military Officers Join Iran In Delivering "Punch" To U.S., Propose Selling Treasuries As Arms Sales Punishment
And you were worried about Iran. China’s People Liberation Army has come out and openly said that the nuclear option, i.e., selling US Treasuries, is now on the table and should be exercised as "punishment" for U.S.’ arms sales to Taiwan. China undoubtedly realizes that this is a prime example of sado-masochism as the resultant plunge in Treasuries that would follow would hurt the US certainly, but also have a "mild to quite mild" impact on China’s $700 (and likely much greater) UST holdings. Game theory 101 just got interesting.
Senior Chinese military officers have proposed that their country boost defense spending, adjust PLA deployments, and possibly sell some U.S. bonds to punish Washington for its latest round of arms sales to Taiwan.The calls for broad retaliation over the planned U.S. weapons sales to the disputed island came from officers at China’s National Defence University and Academy of Military Sciences, interviewed by Outlook Weekly, a Chinese-language magazine published by the official Xinhua news agency.
The interviews with Major Generals Zhu Chenghu and Luo Yuan and Senior Colonel Ke Chunqiao appeared in the issue published on Monday.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plays no role in setting policy for China’s foreign exchange holdings. Officials in charge of that area have given no sign of any moves to sell U.S. Treasury bonds over the weapons sales, a move that could alarm markets and damage the value of China’s own holdings.
While far from representing fixed government policy, the open demands for retaliation by the PLA officers underscored the domestic pressures on Beijing to deliver on its threats to punish the Obama administration over the arms sales.
"Our retaliation should not be restricted to merely military matters, and we should adopt a strategic package of counter-punches covering politics, military affairs, diplomacy and economics to treat both the symptoms and root cause of this disease," said Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences.
Not only that, but China is now openly escalating vis-a-vis Taiwan.
Chinese has blasted the United States over the planned $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan unveiled in late January, saying it will sanction