Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the central bank could begin shrinking its $4.5tn balance sheet “relatively soon“, and while she demurred on a specific date, some analysts have now pegged that announcement for September — although others aren’t so sure.
Over the past few months, analysts have tried to piece together a clearer picture of the Fed’s timing for moving on the three expected interest-rate increases this year, as well as when it intends to start the process of unwinding its massive balance sheet.
On Wednesday, the Fed moved forward with its second rate rise of 2017 and unveiled some details of its plan to shrink the balance sheet that has grown to a massive size in the wake of the financial crisis. That has left analysts to ponder when to expect the Fed’s next moves at its four remaining meetings of the year.
In a note following today’s announcement, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said in a report that they now expect the balance sheet normalisation to begin in September, with the third rate increase of 2017 penciled in for December:
The RBI has trained its guns on a dozen bank accounts that are awash with bad loans for action under insolvency rules that could lead to the liquidation of the companies.
An internal committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has identified the 12 accounts that would be considered for resolution under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
These accounts account for around 25 per cent of the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of the banking system. Bad loans in the banking system are estimated at over Rs 8 lakh crore, meaning the NPAs in the 12 accounts are at over Rs 2 lakh crore.
The RBI had constituted an Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) comprising independent members of its board to advise it on cases that may come under the insolvency code.
This was part of an action plan of the central bank against bad loans under Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017.
According to the ordinance, the RBI can issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency proceedings against defaulters.
This week, it’s all about the central banks, and monetary policy-watchers will have their plates full with decisions on deck from the US, UK, Russia and Japan.
Here is what investors will be watching in the days ahead:
It’s that time of year, again — Federal Open Market Committee policymakers are set for their once-every-two-months powwow in Washington on Wednesday to decide whether to raise interest rates for the second time this year. Analysts fully expect them to do so — although some on Wall Street have expressed their doubts about whether economic conditions — including softness in first-quarter GDP growth and stubbornly slow inflation, even as unemployment remains low — fully support its charge forward.
The real focus will be on Fed chair Janet Yellen’s press conference following the meeting. She is likely to give some insight into how the Fed perceives the mixed bag of economic readings and whether that will knock the central bank off of its expected path for the year.
There could also be some adjustments on tap for the Fed’s inflation or unemployment projections in light of recent data. And, more importantly, Ms Yellen may offer some insight on the Fed’s plans for starting to reduce the size of its $4.5tn balance sheet, which bank officials have been teasing for several months now. The biggest question analysts are asking is whether that plan gets debuted at the September meeting or if central bankers would prefer to wait until December.
UBS economists offered this to help read the tea leaves next week:
The Bank of Japan has stepped up purchases of exchange-traded funds as part of its monetary easing policy, with the balance surging to 15.93 trillion yen ($144 billion) as of March 31.
The total marks an 80% rise from a year earlier and more than a sevenfold increase since the central bank kicked off its quantitative and qualitative easing — adding riskier assets to its balance sheet — in April 2013. ETF purchases have gradually increased under the unconventional policy, expanding to 6 trillion yen a year in July 2016 from 3.3 trillion yen.
The bank apparently buys frequently on days when the stock market dips in the morning, serving to stabilize share prices.
“The BOJ’s ETF purchases help provide resistance to selling pressure against Japanese stocks,” says Rieko Otsuka of the Mizuho Research Institute.
Should the current pace of buying continue, the BOJ’s ETF holdings would reach about 30 trillion yen in about two years. The market capitalization of the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first-section companies comes to 550 trillion yen.
The bank’s growing market presence has raised concerns about the repercussions when the easing policy eventually winds down. When speculation of a BOJ exit grows, the anticipated cutbacks on ETF purchases would accelerate selling of Japanese stocks. As a precaution against a sharp market decline, “the BOJ many need to set aside provisions,” Otsuka says.
The US dollar will almost certainly remain the world’s most important reserve currency for the foreseeable future, as no other offers the same set of advantages to money managers, including central banks, or is as deeply embedded in the global financial system. The primary cost to the US is surrendered competitiveness due to dollar appreciation, but lower interest rates and unrivalled government access to funding bestow considerable benefits, ultimately supporting the sovereign’s ‘AAA’ rating.
As the Fed tightens, expect calls for an alternative to US dollar dominance, but no real change.
Congress is the most plausible medium-term threat.
EM FX closed last week on a mixed note, with markets struggling to find a compelling investment theme. The US jobs data this week could provide some more clarity on Fed policy. We still think markets are still underestimating political risk in the big EM countries, including Brazil (Moody’s outlook moved to negative), Mexico (election in state of Mexico), South Africa (ANC debates Zuma’s fate), and Turkey (ongoing crackdown on opposition).
Bank of Israel meets Monday and is expected to keep rates steady at 0.10%. CPI rose 0.7% y/y in April, below the 1-3% target range. With the shekel remaining firm, the central bank is likely to keep rates steady whilst continuing to buy USD/ILS.
South Africa reports April money and private sector credit data Tuesday. Both are expected to pick up modestly from March. It reports April trade data Wednesday. Q1 unemployment will be reported Thursday, and is expected at 27.0% vs. 26.5% in Q4. SARB kept rates steady last week. Next policy meeting is July 20. If current trends persist, we think it will give a stronger signal that it could cut rates in H2. Results of the ANC meeting are not yet known as of this writing.
Chile reports April IP Tuesday. Central bank releases its minutes Friday, while April retail sales will also be reported. The economy remains weak while price pressures remain low. While the bank signaled that the easing cycle is over for now, we do not see tightening until 2018. Next policy meeting is June 15, and rates are likely to remain steady at 2.5%.
Two weeks ago Bank of America caused a stir when it calculated that central banks (mostly the ECB & BoJ) have bought $1 trillion of financial assets just in the first four months of 2017, which amounts to $3.6 trillion annualized, “the largest CB buying on record.”
One week after we observed the biggest monthly short squeeze in 10Y TSYs in history, it was a relatively calm week in the longer-end of the Treasury curve.
According to the latest CFTC data, spec net shorts in aggregate Treasury futures was little changed from the previous week at 612K contracts in TY equivalents. While, they continued to pare net shorts in TU and TY by 18K and 14K contracts, respectively, they increased their net shorts in FV and TN by 35K contracts and 6K contracts, respectively. Spec net shorts as share of open interest was unchanged at -5.8% over the week and was at about -2.0 standard deviations away from neutral.
While net Treasury futures shorts are now back to the lowest levels since early December 2016, traders continued to pile into the short-end betting massively on further rate hikes as Eurodollar shorts push on beyond $3 trillion: in the last week specs sold another 73K contracts in Eurodollar futures, taking their net shorts to the seventh successive week of record high of -3,129K contracts.
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).”