Apple’s market capitalization of $730 billion may now be more than double that of Exxon Mobil, but when it comes to taxes paid to the US government, it’s no contest: the company with record profitability that so many progressive hipsters adore and for whose products they line up with annual regularity is billions of dollars below its “fair” contribution to the US Treasury. Ironically, it is eclipsed by that other company that so many progressives love to hate: Exxon Mobil, which paid $4 billion more in tax than Apple, yet whose valuation has been cut by 15% over the past year as a result of the collapse in oil prices.
With talk that Greek banks have hit their emergency lending limit with the ECB (which has prompted a teleconference this morning among ECB polcy-makers), it seems the newly-found position of negotiating strength for Greece (perhaps encouraged by China or Russia behind the scenes) has prompted more demands:
- GREECE’S SYRIZA CHIEF ECONOMIST JOHN MILIOS PROPOSES OVERALL EURO ZONE DEBT OVERHANG REDUCTION BY ECB
- ECB COULD BUY ALL EURO ZONE DEBT MATURING IN 2016-2020 AND ALL INTEREST PAYMENTS-SYRIZA’S MILIOS
- ECB WOULD FOOT THE BILL NOW, BUT BY 2040 IT WOULD BE ABLE TO ERASE ALL LOSSES THROUGH PROFIT RETENTION-MILIOS
Roughly translated – “Get back to work, Mr.Draghi” and monetize all of Europe’s debt. With negative net issuance (i.e. central banks already monetizing over 100% of 2015’s expected issuance) already here, this demand merely pushes the ‘independent’ monetary policymakers to enable more fiscal profligacy.
Recall that the stated purpose behind the reason why Mario Draghi’s ECB is about to launch a European government debt monetization program ranging between EUR500 and 1000 billion is to halt deflation, spark credit creation and rekindle inflation. Alas, if that is indeed the case, then as Deutsche Bank said has already determined apriori, it will be a failure. Here’s why from the biggest German bank.
First, a broad strokes preview of what the world’s most confused Central bank will do this week:
[The ECB] is trapped down a dark alley and they will bite. For all the pros and cons of public QE as well as the hows and whens, at the end of the day the market has pushed the ECB into that corner. Within the context of the practical limitations of QE, we have no doubt that Draghi once again will leave a warm fuzzy feeling that they are prepared to do all that it takes. Of course, like OMT, it probably doesn’t mean they are buying BTPs come February 1st, but that doesn’t matter for BTPs. It also doesn’t matter for the Euro zone outlook given the dubitancy of QE efficacy.
As expected, the Federal Reserve has released its Permanent Open Market Operations (POMO) non-monetizing-of-the-debt schedule for April with $30 billion of Treasury purchases (and $25 billion MBS). This is a 33% reduction from the ‘normal’ $45 billion Treasury purchase of last year. The POMO schedule very generously allows traders 3 days of non-money-printing potential shorting opportunities (Friday 4th, Thursday 17th, and Wednesday 30th)… however, this Friday is non-farm payrolls day and we will not be allowed a red day after that…
For all complaints about painful, unprecedented (f)austerity, the PIIGS (even those with restructured debt such as Greece) sure have no problems raking up debt at a record pace. Over the weekend, Spanish Expansion reported that Spanish official debt (ignoring the contingent liabilities) just hit a new record. “The debt of the whole general government reached 942.8 billion euros in the second quarter, representing an increase of 17.1% compared to the same period last year. Debt to GDP of 92.2% exceeds the limit set by the government for 2013…” Moments ago, it was Italy’s turn to show that with employment still plunging, the only thing rising in Europe is total debt. From Reuters, which cites a draft Treasury document it just obtained: “Italy’s public debt will rise next year to a new record of 132.2 percent of output, up from a previous forecast of 129.0 percent.”
The Treasury is due to officially update its economic and public finance forecasts on Friday.
The debt-to-GDP ratio came in at a record 127.0 percent last year and is forecast at 130.4 percent for 2013. The document did not contain any new forecast for this year.
Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the Fed’s announcement of “open-ended” QE, or as we dubbed it, QEternity. A few months later, as Operation Twist expired, the Fed also announced the current distribution of securities subject to monthly monetization: $45 billion in Treasurys, and $40 billion in Mortgages. Sadly, QEternity has failed at stimulating the US economy: in fact, in the last two quarters, nominal GDP growth was 3.1% and 3.1%, which is about 30% lower than in the two quarters preceding last year’s announcement, when it was 4.8% and 4.5%. However, the bigger issue, i.e., “permissive” factor that allowed the Fed to unleash QE, had nothing to do with the economy, and everything to do with monetizing gross US bond issuance in both the Treasury (deficit funding) and Mortgage (stimulating housing) markets. And while we will follow up on how the dynamics of the MBS market have changed in the past year later, one thing is absolutely certain: the amount of bonds available to the Fed for purchasing has declined substantially.
Moments ago the Treasury reported its deficit for the month of August, which was $148 billion, slightly less than the $150 billion expected. More importantly, it was over 22% less than the deficit from August 2012 when it was $191 billion. And that, in a nutshell, is the main reason why the Fed has no choice but to taper.
What the chart below shows is the cumulative deficit of the US for fiscal 2012 and 2013. What becomes immediately obvious is that with the total deficit Year to Date of $755.3 billion running 35% below the $1,165 billion from a year ago, the Fed has far less room to monetize gross issuance.
…[Our investments] should be funded with scarce savings, not financed by the paltry fiction of banking book entries and hence the business of investment should be conducted only in accordance with the balance we can jointly negotiate between our current ends and our ends to come; that is, on a schedule which naturally emerges to reflect our societal degree of time preference and which does not emanate solely from the esoteric lucubrations of some central banking Oz.
Progress may be less spectacular this way, unpunctuated as it will be by the violent outbreaks of first mass delusion and later disillusion which comprise the alternations of Boom and Bust. But it will be, by that same measure, steadier and more self-sustaining.
The past week brought us history: on Tuesday, GETCO and Citadel’s HFT algos were used by the Primary Dealers and the Fed to send the Dow Jones to all time highs, subsequently pushing it to new all time highs every single day of the week, and higher on 8 of the past 9 days: a 5ish sigma event. But there is never such a thing as a free lunch. And here is the invoice: in the past 5 days alone, total Federal Debt rose from$16.640 trillion to $16.701 trillion as of moments ago: an increase of $61 billion in five days, amounting to $198,697,068 for every of the 307 Dow Jones Industrial Average points “gained” this week. Because remember: US debt is the asset that allows the Fed to engage in monetization and as a result, hand over trillions in fungible reserves to banks… mostly foreign banks.
From Debt to the Penny:
The good news is that debt is no longer and issue, and only the level of the stock market matters. Because if the wealth effect at $16.7 trillion and a record DJIA is staggering, just wait until the Obama administration takes the debt to $22 trillion in under 4 years.
At that point, nobody will have ever ever have had more money. Sadly, at some point, all that money will be used to buy a loaf of bread….
Just as Byron Wien publishes his ten surprises for the upcoming year, Morgan Stanley has created a heady list of seventeen macro surprises across all countries they cover that depictplausible possible outcomes that would represent a meaningful surprise to the prevailing consensus. From the return of inflation to ‘Brixit’ and from the BoJ buying Euro-are bonds to a US housing recovery stall out – these seventeen succinctly written paragraphs provide much food for thought as we enter 2013.
Via Morgan Stanley:
Just When You Thought it Was Dead, Inflation Returns (Joachim Fels/Charles Goodhart)
A strong economic rebound in China and the US, adverse supply shocks in agriculture and worries about swelling central bank balance sheets lead to a sharp rise in actual and expected global inflation. Central banks don’t dare to respond, given high debt levels and financial fragilities, and either continue to ignore or abandon their inflation targets. Rising wheat prices lead to bread riots. In the UK, Chancellor Osborne advises the British to eat oatcakes instead.
Debt Cancellation (Spyros Andreopoulos)
The US Treasury, Japan’s Ministry of Finance and Her Majesty’s Treasury jointly announce that the Treasury debt held by the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan and Bank of England respectively as a consequence of QE purchases are cancelled, and that these central banks will operate with negative equity until further notice. As a consequence, government debt/GDP ratios are brought down by 11pp, 18pp and 25pp, respectively. Ratings agencies love it, as does the bond market – until it realizes that large-scale debt monetization has just taken place, and sells off sharply.
US Over the Cliff and Likes it (Vincent Reinhart)
The US goes over the fiscal cliff and likes it. A deal delayed to early 2013 in which politicians compromise because of concerns about financial markets would resolve uncertainty more assuredly than the baseline of stop-gap legislation followed by a plan later in the year. As a consequence, confidence gets a boost, pent-up business investment kicks in and the labour market improves more rapidly.
US Housing Stalls Out (David Greenlaw)
The burgeoning housing recovery in the US begins to stall due to credit tightening. There is still no private mortgage market at this point and financial problems are brewing at the FHA which could lead to a dramatic reduction in credit availability for first-time homebuyers. Meanwhile, putback risk continues to cause originators to increase scrutiny for conforming loans.
In other words, Bank of America just predicted at least 2 years and change of constant monetization, which would send the Fed’s balance sheet to grand total of just over $5,000,000,000,000 as the Fed adds another $2.2 trillion MBS and Treasury notional to the current total of $2.8 trillion.
It gets worse:
Since the Fed is effectively becoming the marginal player in both the MBS and Treasury markets, a very relevant question is how much private market debt is left to sell. Short answer: not much. According to BofA’s calculation, the Fed will own more than 33% of the entire mortgage market by 2014.
That’s half the story.
On the Treasury side, in just over 2 years, “Fed ownership across the 6y-30y portion Treasury curve is likely to reach about 50% by end of 2013 and an average of 65% by end of 2014.” You read that right: in just over 2 years, the Federal Reserve will hold two thirds of the entire bond market with a maturity over 5 years (which by then will be part of the Fed’s ZIRP commitment, yield 0% and essentially be equivalent to cash).
And speaking of hyperinflation (and our earlier note that nothing “else is equal”) the real question is if indeed the Fed will own $5 trillion in “assets” in 27.5 months, what does that mean for gold and crude?
In case it is unclear, the answer is:
- $3350 gold
- $190 oil.
Luckily the Fed has already factored all these soaring input costs (and “alternative money” prices) in its models, and there is nothing to worry about. Lest we forget, the Fed can crush inflation cold in 15 minutes cold… somehow. Even when unwinding its balance sheet would mean sacrificing 30% of US GDP and, let’s be honest about it, civil war.