- Malaysia’s central bank said it will allow investors to fully hedge their currency exposure.
- Egypt declared a 3-month state of emergency after two deadly church attacks.
- South Africa’s parliamentary no confidence vote has been delayed
- Argentina central bank surprised markets with a 150 bp hike to 26.25%.
- Brazil central bank accelerated the easing cycle with a 100 bp cut in the Selic rate.
Raghuram Rajan, Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, warns of more turmoil ahead if the developed world fails to adapt to the fundamental forces of global change.
It is a pivotal moment on the eve of the financial crisis. In the late summer of 2005, the world’s most influential central bankers and economists gather in Jackson Hole at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. The atmosphere is carefree. Financial markets have nicely recovered from the bust of the dotcom bubble and the global economy is humming. Under the topic »Lessons for the Future» the presentations celebrate the era of Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who has announced to resign in a few months. Since 1987 at the helm of the world’s most powerful central bank, he presided over a period of continuous growth and was one of the leading forces of deregulation in the financial sector.
But when Raghuram Rajan steps to the podium the mood suddenly turns icy. At that time the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, the native Indian warns that unpredictable risks are building up in the financial system and that the banks are not prepared for an emergency. His dry analysis draws spiteful remarks. »I exaggerate only a bit when I say I felt like an early Christian who had wandered into a convention of half-starved lions», he recollects.
Soon, however, his prediction turns out to be correct. Less than one year later, the US housing boom runs out of steam which triggers the worst recession since the Great Depression. Today, Mr. Rajan who governed the Reserve Bank of India until last fall and now teaches finance at the University of Chicago, is reputed as one of the most distinguished economic thinkers on the planet. So what prompted him to voice his concerns at that time in Jackson Hole? Where does he think the world stands in the spring of 2017? And what is his outlook for the coming years?
Citigroup’s crack trio of credit analysts, Matt King, Stephen Antczak, and Hans Lorenzen, best known for their relentless, Austrian, at times “Zero Hedge-esque” attacks on the Fed, and persistent accusations central banks distort markets, all summarized best in the following Citi chart…
… have come out of hibernation, to dicuss what comes next for various asset classes in the context of the upcoming paradigm shift in central bank posture.
In a note released by the group’s credit team on March 27, Lorenzen writes that credit’s “infatuation with equities is coming to an end.”
What do credit traders look at when they mark their books? Well, these days it is fair to say that they have more than one eye on the equity market.
Understandable: after all, as the FOMC Minutes revealed last week, even the Fed now openly admits its policy is directly in response to stock prices.
As the credit economist points out, “statistically, over the last couple of years both markets have been influencing (“Granger causing”) each other. But considering the relative size, depth and liquidity of (not to mention the resources dedicated to) the equity market, we’d argue that more often than not, the asset class taking the passenger seat is credit. Yet the relationship was not always so cosy. Over the long run, the correlation in recent years is actually unusual. In the two decades before the Great Financial Crisis, three-month correlations between US credit returns and the S&P 500 returns tended to oscillate sharply and only barely managed to stay positive over the long run (Figure 3).”
Ghana’s central bank has cut its main policy rate by 200 basis points this month after the west African economy saw a drop in inflation at the start of the year.
The move to lower rates to 23.5 per cent marks only the second rate cut since 2011 after interest rates were trimmed back in November. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had forecast no change this month.
- the People’s Bank of China has injected hundreds of billions of yuan into the financial system after some smaller lenders failed to make debt payments in the interbank market
- Tuesday’s injections followed missed interbank payments on Monday
- The institutions that missed payments included rural commercial banks
A series of top-flight global banks assisted in helping Russian criminals launder enormous sums of money, the Guardian reports.
HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks that played a role in a scheme from 2010-2014 that laundered at least $20 billion and up to $80 billion.
An estimated 500 people were involved in laundering the money and include oligarchs, Moscow bankers and people connected to the government.
This looks like the first report in what will be a series. Leaked documents include details of about 70,000 banking transactions, including 1,920 that went through UK banks and 373 via US banks. The transactions used the offshore system to hide and move money.
If the UP government fulfils its farm loan waiver promise, banks are likely to take a hit of Rs 27,420 crore and the scheme will lead to some stress on the state’s fiscal arithmetic, warns a report.
The BJP had in its UP election manifesto promised to waive farmers’ loans if elected to power. The party and its allies won a whopping 325 seats in the 403-member House.
According to RBI data (2012), 31 per cent of the direct agriculture finance went to marginal and small farmers (landholdings upto 2.5 acre).
“Taking this as a proxy for UP as well, around Rs 27,419.70 crore will have to be waived off in case the farm loan waiver scheme is implemented for the small and marginal farmers, for all banks,” the report said.
As per the Socioeconomic and Caste Census of 2011, 40 per cent of rural UP households are engaged in cultivation. When it comes to landholdings, 92 per cent are marginal and small farmers in the state, according to the 2010-11 Agriculture Census.
The full G20 communique released on March 18, 2017 from Baden-Baden, Germany
G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors
March 18, 2017, Baden Baden
- We met at a time when the global economic recovery is progressing. But the pace of growth is still weaker than desirable and downside risks for the global economy remain. We reaffirm our commitment to international economic and financial cooperation. We reiterate our determination to use all policy tools – monetary, fiscal and structural – individually and collectively to achieve our goal of strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, while enhancing economic and financial resilience. Monetary policy will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability, consistent with central banks’ mandate, but monetary policy alone cannot lead to balanced growth. Fiscal policy should be used flexibly and be growth-friendly, prioritise high- quality investment, and support reforms that would provide opportunities and promote inclusiveness, while ensuring debt as a share of GDP is on a sustainable path. We emphasise that our structural reform and fiscal strategies are important components to supporting our common growth objectives and will continue to explore policy options tailored to country circumstances in line with the Enhanced Structural Reform Agenda. We reiterate that excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates can have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will consult closely on exchange markets. We reaffirm our previous exchange rate commitments, including that we will refrain from competitive devaluations and we will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes. We will carefully calibrate and clearly communicate our macroeconomic and structural policy actions to reduce policy uncertainty, minimise negative spillovers and promote transparency. We are working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies. We will strive to reduce excessive global imbalances, promote greater inclusiveness and fairness and reduce inequality in our pursuit of economic growth. We agree on a set of principles to foster economic resilience which provides an indicative menu to be considered in the update of G20 countries growth strategies under the Hamburg Action Plan. We take note of the work on inclusive growth within the Framework Working Group.
- We will deepen as well as broaden international economic and financial cooperation with African countries to foster sustainable and inclusive growth in line with the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. We launched the initiative “Compact with Africa” aimed at fostering private investment including in infrastructure. The initiative is demand-driven and respects country-specific circumstances and priorities. The initiative provides modules of good practices and instruments that could be applied in tailor-made investment compacts being implemented through the commitment of multiple stakeholders, such as individual African countries, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and bilateral partners. We welcome the report by the African Development Bank (AfDB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group (WBG) and other contributors for the Compact. We support the intention of Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, the AfDB, IMF and WBG, and interested bilateral partners to work on investment compacts and develop strong investment climates. We encourage the private sector to take advantage of the investment opportunities provided and invite other African countries, IOs and interested bilateral partners to join the investment compacts. We will support continuity of this work and its coherence with other initiatives.
The European Central Bank was just a teaser! Plenty more central banker action this week, amongst other things:
- February industrial production, fixed-asset investment growth & retail sales
- Inflation and retail sales data for February
- Oh yeah … and its Federal Reserve FOMC decision day! :-D. A hike is very widely expected. And don’t miss the statement & press conference
- BOJ announcement, likely no change (Kuroda presser to follow later)
Bill Gross, the bond manager, on Thursday renewed his warning that high levels of debt across the world pose a rising risk of derailing the global economic expansion.
The portfolio manager at Janus Capital said that “our highly levered financial system is like a truckload of nitro glycerin on a bumpy road”.
Mr Gross noted that the world economy has generated more debt relative to gross domestic product than it did ahead of the 2008 financial crisis. Credit across the US economy of $65tn equates to 350 per cent of GDP, while China’s leverage ratio has doubled over the past decade to nearly 300 per cent, he noted.
“If rates are too high (and credit as a per cent of GDP too high as well), then potential Lehman black swans can occur,” he said.
“On the other hand, if rates are too low (and credit as a per cent of GDP declines), then the system breaks down, as savers, pension funds and insurance companies become unable to earn a rate of return high enough to match and service their liabilities.”