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. “
As noted yesterday, for the first time in three years, and only the second time in history, bitcoin rose above $1,000 in Yuan-denominated Chinese trading, however it was limited to the lower side of this “round number” psychological barrier in US trading, as BTC flirted with $999.99 for most of the day on the popular Coinbase exchange, without crossing it.
Overnight, however, Chinese demand proved too great and US markets had no choice but to arb the difference. So with Bitcoin trading in China at an implied price of over $1,050 at this moment, bitcoin finally soared above $1,000 in the US as well, trading just around $1,024 on Coinbase as of this moment.
Two months ago, when looking at an alternative measure of Chinese capital outflows using SAFE data, Goldman found that contrary to official PBOC reserve data, “China’s Capital Outflows Are Soaring Again”, having hit $78 billion in September.
Over the weekend, and following the latest PBOC data which revealed an outflow of $56 billion in November (which was only $34 billion when FX adjusted), Goldman repeated its FX flow calculation using SAFE data, and found the China continues to mask the full extent of its outflows, which in November spiked to $69 billion, and that “since June, this data has continued to suggest significantly larger FX sales by the PBOC than is implied by FX reserve data”, once again suggesting that China is eager to mask the true extent of reserve outflows, perhaps in an attempt to not precipitate the feedback loop of even further panicked selling of Yuan and even more outflows, and thus, even more reserve depletion.
According to Goldman’s MK Tang, money has been leaving in yuan payments for 14 consecutive months, while the central bank’s yuan positions have slumped the most since January. The situation could get worse, said Banny Lam, head of research at CEB International Investment Ltd, cited by Bloomberg.
It was just one year ago when the biggest worry for the market – which culminated with a near 10% S&P correction in in early 2016 – was the daily plunge in the Yuan driven by the surging dollar, which in turn prompted China to engage in an unprecedented reserve liquidation (in which it sold both government bonds and equities), leading to a daily selloff in risky assets on days when the Yuan was fixed lower.
Fast forward a year later, when the US Dollar has blown through last year’s highs and is now at levels not seen since 2003, the Yuan is trading at record lows, just shy of 7.00, and yet stocks stubbornly ignore the one catalyst that led to so much headache for the bulls one year ago.
In his daily note, RBC’s cross-asset strategist Charlie McElligott points out that while the market may be oblivious, what is taking place in China is something to be concerned about:
ONE IMPORTANT TACTICAL MACRO POINT WITH REGARDS TO THE NEAR-TERM DIRECTION OF USTs / GLOBAL LONG-END: The yuan ‘slow bleed’ devaluation by the PBoC versus the USD seen since the start of October has without question been tied to at least some of the weakness in the US long-end, as the central bank sells USTs to try and mitigate the depreciation of the yuan against the SDR basket—see here: