- 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
During the last 129 months, the Fed has held 86 meetings. On 83 of those occasions it either cut rates or left them unchanged.
So you can perhaps understand why Wednesday’s completely expected (for the last three weeks!) 25 bips left the day traders nonplussed. The Dow rallied over 100 points that day.
Traders understandably believe that this monetary farce can continue indefinitely, and that our Keynesian school marm’s post-meeting presser was evidence that the Fed is still their friend.
No it isn’t!
Our monetary politburo has expanded its balance sheet by a lunatic 22X during the last three decades and in the process has systematically falsified financial asset prices and birthed a mutant debt-fueled of simulacrum of prosperity.
But once it begins to withdraw substantial amounts of cash from the canyons of Wall Street as per its newly reaffirmed “normalization” policy, the whole house of cards is destined to collapse.
There will be a stock market implosion soon, and that will in turn generate panic in the C-suites as the value of stock options vanish. Like in the fall of 2008 — except on an even more sweeping and long-lasting scale — corporate America will desperately unload inventories, workers and assets to appease the robo-machines of Wall Street.
But there is nothing left to brake the casino’s fall.
As the vulture pundits in the mainstream media pick apart hollow political scandals, the essential bankruptcy of the federal government looms just ahead. The national debt is creeping toward 20 trillion dollars, and the United State’s largest problem is once again staring the world in the face.
Just before the government was slated to shut down in 2015 (as it did in 2013), Congress was able to pass a delay on the debt ceiling decision until March 15th of this year — Wednesday of this week. Recurring uncertainty caused by events like this has implications that extend far beyond our own borders. The amount of leverage in the current system has already forced foreign holders of U.S. debt to question the real value of America’s full faith and credit.
2016 was a record-setting year for the liquidation of foreign-held U.S. bonds, topping out at nearly $405 billion. The selling was led by China, America’s second-biggest creditor, which currently holds over $1 trillion of U.S. debt, almost 28% of the total held by foreign central banks. They weren’t alone, though, and even the U.S.’ number one lender, Japan, has rolled back their positions to protect themselves as the reality of U.S. insolvency comes into focus. A gradual change has been set in motion, and the global superpower status of the United States may be systematically eroded — not militarily, but economically.
If the government does shut down again, the Treasury Department reportedly has as little as $66 billion in reserves and just enough income from taxes to meet its essential obligations.
Just as everyone was finally accepting the idea of deflation and negative interest rates, inflation decides to pay a return visit. In the past week, articles with the following headlines appeared in major publications around the world:
What happened? Well, towards the end of 2015 most of the world’s major governments apparently got spooked by deflation and decided to ramp up their borrowing and money creation. China, for instance, generated the following stats in 2016:
- New loans totaling 12.65 trillion yuan, or $1.8 trillion.
- M2 money supply growth of 11%.
- Debt-to-GDP ratio jump from 254% to 277%.
In Europe, the European Central Bank ramped up its bond buying program, pumping about a trillion newly-created euros into the Continental economy:
After yet another round of inconclusive bailout talks in Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he believed a comprehensive deal with creditors could be reached by April while taking a dig at the International Monetary Fund over its tough stance on labor rights.
In comments to reporters at the end of a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, Tsipras said he believed a technical-level agreement could still be reached in time for a March 20 Eurogroup, with a broader accord, including the specification of medium-term debt relief measures, coming in April.
Tsipras indicated, however, that tough talks on collective wage bargaining would be harder to conclude. “That issue can’t be solved at the technical level. There’s a disagreement,” he said, adding that the IMF must understand that Greece is a European country and that non-European labor models cannot be imposed on it.
In a related development, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Tsipras asked the Fund “to stand by Greece” in its third bailout program.
“To commit to Greece, as the Greek prime minister has requested, in addition to reforms, the debt should be sustainable,” Lagarde told French newspaper Le Parisien in an interview.
As China gears up for its annual legislative session, all eyes are on the economy: specifically, how fast the Communist leaders intend China to grow, and what they are willing to sacrifice for that goal.
The most hotly awaited event of the National People’s Congress will come on March 5 — opening day — when Premier Li Keqiang will announce the government’s economic growth target for 2017. Many expect a downgrade from 2016’s goal of 6.5-7% to “around 6.5%,” according to a major bank.
Doubling GDP over a decade requires 7.2% annual growth on average. Rates that were higher than that from 2011 to 2014 mean the country has only to hit 6.3% during the next few years. Targeting 6.5%, and thus avoiding a steep drop-off from last year’s goal, is a clear attempt to avoid any possible misstep ahead of the party’s twice-a-decade National Congress this autumn, when the group will name its next slate of leaders.
But in today’s China, 6.5% is no slight hurdle. To be sure, exports are recovering thanks to a brisk U.S. economy and a yuan some 10% weaker than at its peak. But areas outside major cities remain mired in vacant housing stock, and private investment is sluggish, leaving public works as one of the only viable drivers of growth.
Nonperforming loans last month posted a major spike of almost 1 billion euros, reversing the downward course set in the last few months of 2016. This has generated major concerns among local lenders regarding the achievement of targets for reducing bad loans, as agreed with the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) of the European Central Bank for the first quarter of this year.
Bank sources say that after several months of stabilization and of a negative growth rate in new nonperforming exposure,the picture deteriorated rapidly in January, as new bad loans estimated at 800 million euros in total were created.
This increase in a period of just one month is considered particularly high, and is a trend that appears to be continuing this month as well. Bank officials attribute the phenomenon to uncertainty from the government’s inability to complete the second bailout review, fears for a rekindling of the crisis and mainly the expectations of borrowers for extrajudicial settlements of bad loans.
Senior bank officials note that a large number of borrowers will not cooperate with their lenders in reaching an agreement for the restructuring of their debts, in the hope that the introduction by the government of the extrajudicial compromise could lead to better terms and possibly even to a debt haircut
One week ago, Deutsche Bank analysts warned that the global economic boom is about to end for one reason that has nothing to do with Trump, and everything to do with China’s relentless debt injections. As DB’s Oliver Harvey said, “attention has focused on President Trump, but developments on the other side of the world may prove more important. At the beginning of 2016, China embarked on its latest fiscal stimulus funded from local government land sales and a booming property market. The Chinese business cycle troughed shortly thereafter and has accelerated rapidly since.”
DB then showed a chart of leading indicators according to which following a blistering surge in credit creation by Beijing, the economy was on the verge of another slowdown: “That makes last week’s softer-than-expected official and Caixin PMIs a concern. Land sales, which have led ‘live’ indicators of Chinese growth such as railway freight volumes by around 6 months, have already tailed off significantly. “
Greece is at risk of being downgraded further into junk territory should its creditors fail to resolve their latest set of differences over the country’s bailout this month, one of the world’s leading rating agencies has warned.
Ahead of its next decision on Greece in less than two weeks, Fitch Ratings said its current “CCC” junk rating on Greece was contingent on the country securing a successful injection of its latest tranche of bailout cash “well ahead of July” when it faces a major a €7bn repayments crunch.
The warning comes as finance ministers are due to thrash out their differences at a meeting in Brussels on February 20 – their last major discussion before a raft of eurozone elections beginning with the Netherlands in March and ending with Germany in September.
Fitch is due to make its next rating decision days after this month’s meeting of the Eurogroup on February 24. Greece has been unable to raise fresh funding on international markets since 2014, undergoing a fresh €86bn bailout in the summer of 2015 having been bought to the brink of default and introducing capital controls on its banking system.
A rating downgrade would also scupper the Syriza government’s ambitious plans to return to the bond markets before the end of its bailout in the summer of 2018.
Still no respite for Greece.
Amid a fresh escalation in a row over its bailout conditions, Greece’s stubbornly high unemployment rate is showing no sign of improvement.
The country’s jobless rate – which is the highest in the eurozone and has been above 20 per cent for six years – stuck at 23 per cent in November despite a general uptick in its economic prospects at the end of 2016.
The IMF has been accused by Athens and Brussels of an “overly pessimistic” view on the Syriza government’s ability to hit a 3.5 per cent budget surplus target over the next decade, which has led it to a wrong-headed forecast on Greece’s “explosive” debt dynamics.
The Fund’s latest report on the Greek economy suggest its debt-to-GDP mountain could reach 275 per cent over the next two decades without major debt restructuring. Unemployment meanwhile will only fall to 21.7 per cent this year, while the country’s long-term growth rate was downgraded to 1 per cent, IMF economists predict.