China Unleashes Godzilla-like Credit Injection To Start 2019 (PBOC’s Godzilla Versus Fed’s Mothra?)

China’s teetering economy has led to a godzilla–like credit injection.

Check out China’s all-system financing aggregate.

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Since all Central Banks are stimulating their economies with monetary easing except the US Federal Reserve, will the US Fed counter? I feel like I am watching Godzilla versus Mothra.

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Yes. Godzilla is Japanese, but it is a short trip across the East China Sea to Shanghai.

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Here are The Fed’s Esther George and Lael Brainard invoking the Moth Spirits (as opposed to animal spirits) to combat China’s massive infusion of credit into their economy.

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Are Declining Federal Tax Receipts A Harbinger Of Recession? Or Tax Cuts?

Typically, before and during economic recessions, Federal government tax receipts plunge like a paralyzed falcon. And they are plunging again.

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Could it be the tax cuts taking effect? Or is it a precursor to a recession? Or both?

Inquiring minds want to know!

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My favorite!

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Or this Federal Reserve newspaper cover!

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Divergence! Hong Kong’s HIBOR/LIBOR Spread Largest Since Financial Crisis While PBOC’s Balance Sheet Diverges From US Fed’s (China Default Crisis?)

There is considerable divergence between China and the US in terms of financial condition. The trade disagreement between China and the US comes to mind.

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First, there is considerable divergence between Hong Kong’s 1-month interbank lending rate, HIBOR, and the US 1-month interbank lending rate LIBOR. In fact, the divergence is the greatest since the financiak crisis. For the moment, the US Fed is engaged in quantitative tightening (QT) while China is frantically going the opposite direction.

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Second, Central bank balance-sheet divergence is reducing the impact of China’s government-induced liquidity injections, contributing to an increase in corporate defaults. Since Fed run-off began in October 2017, the impact of People’s Bank of China (PBOC) balance-sheet expansion has diminished considerably, as the FX-adjusted effect of last year’s 1 trillion yuan in central bank stimulus resulted in a $160 billion contraction when converted into U.S. dollars. Total assets at China’s central bank rose 2.6% to a record 37.2 trillion yuan in 2018. Yet, when expressed in dollars, the PBoC’s balance sheet fell by 2.9% to $5.4 trillion.

Chinese onshore defaults rose to a record $16.5 billion in 2018, and are up $1.4 billion year-to-date. China offshore defaults rose to $3.3 billion in 2018, and are up another $275 million in 2019.

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The Dow is up over 200 points on a deal preventing a US government shutdown. Democrats agreed to build a wall between the US and Mexico … 55 miles of the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border. As if drug traffickers (and cartels), human traffickers and gangs like MS-13  can’t figure out how to bypass the 55 miles of additional walls. 

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The Crazy World Of Libor, Swaps And Treasury Yield Curves (Fire? or Ice Axe Cometh?)

Financial markets are experiencing “The Crazy World of Libor, Swaps and Treasury Yield Curves.” 

In other words, all three curves have a downward sloping section, all at different times, but all short-term (less than 6 year maturities).

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What uncertainties are in financial markets and the unlying economies, you may ask? How about trade (e.g., US and China trade flows), Brexit, China’s recession, Japan’s ongoing stagnation (despite negative interest rates), Italy and Germany’s slipping into darkness, not to mention uncerainty about The Fed’s path for balance sheet unwind.

The Fed’s balance sheet is a particular concern since the 10-year Treasury Note yield began to rise when the unwind began, but rates have gone DOWN when the unwind got serious in 2018. Or is Fed Chair Jerome Powell really “The Iceman”?”

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Here is a photo of Fed Chair Jerome Powell weiliding his “ice axe.”

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Storm Ahead? Baltic Dry (Shipping) Index Founders In Rough Trade Sea

The Baltic Dry Index seems to be signalling declining shipping costs … or foundering trade between the US and China.

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The Baltic Dry Index is a composite of the Capesize, Panamax and Supramax Timecharter Averages. It is reported around the world as a proxy for dry bulk shipping stocks as well as a general shipping market bellwether.

Yes, the BDI is measuring some distress for China Imports YoY in USD.

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No, that isn’t the SS Minnow foundering.

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“Bond King” Gross Retires, Dudley “Amazed and Baffled” About Fed’s Balance Sheet Unwind And World’s Largest Pension Fund Suffers Catastrophic Quarter (Boogie In The Dark?)

I feel like investors are doing the “Boogie In The Dark” when it comes to understanding this broken market.

What’s going on?

First, bond king Bill Gross (formerly of PIMCO then Janus-Henderson) has thrown in the towel after 50 years.  His success at PIMCO was in the greatest bond bull run in modern history. But his Janus fund started near the peak of The Fed’s QE3 balance sheet expansion. Then his fund underperformed when The Fed started unwinding their balance sheet (and raising their target rate). Translation: The Fed got bond king Gross dizzy … and he retired.

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And that brings me to the former New York Fed President William Dudley.

(Bloomberg) — Former Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley said he’s “amazed and baffled” at the attention the wind-down of the U.S. central bank’s balance sheet has been receiving from investors, pointing to other culprits as the likely cause of recent volatility in financial markets.

Amazed and baffled? Just ask Bill Gross about the importance of Fed’s wind-down.

Then we have the world’s largest pension fund, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund that lost 9.1 percent, or 14.8 trillion yen ($136 billion), in the three months ended Dec. 31. The decline in value and the rate of loss were the steepest based on comparable data back to April 2008. Domestic stocks were the fund’s worst performing investment, followed by foreign equities. Assets fell to 150.7 trillion yen at the end of December from a record 165.6 trillion yen in September.

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But who helped break the market by distorting asset prices and returns? The Federal Reserve and other global central banks.

With so many uncertainties in global market (Brexit, trade wars, Venezuela’s meltdown, The Fed’s uncertain policy path, Italian debt crisis. etc., …

(Bloomberg) — Italy is preparing to sell as much as 1.8 billion euros ($2.1 billion) of state-owned real estate as it seeks to rein in soaring debt, people with knowledge of the plan said.

investors should hedge their risk exposure across markets … or move to cash or short-term Treasuries. In other words, take out some insurance.

Lastly, down in Virginia, we are suffering through yet another embarrassing governor (Northam) after McAuliffe and his electric call debacle.

Bye, bye Bill Gross. I can’t stand to see you go.

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Opa! Citi’s US Economic Surprise Index Skyrockets As The Eurozone Resembles Saganaki (304k Jobs Added In January)

The US economy is experiencing a sudden surge of economic reports that exceed expectations. So much so that the Citi Economic Surprise index has skyrocketed.

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The  Eurozone, on the other hand, resembles Saganaki. That is, “Your cheese is on fire!”

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The US economy added another 304,000 jobs in January. A record 100th consecutive month of job gains!

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On the other hand, YoY average hourly earnings slumped.

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I wonder if ECB head Mario Draghi will say Opa!!

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Gold Rewards Bulls in January as Fed’s Message Wounds Dollar (Gold Vol Remains Subdued)

The Federal Reserve’s “maybe we will, maybe we won’t” regarding further shrinking of its balance sheet coupled with keeping its target rate at 2.50% was celebrated by equity investors … and gold investors (including SPDR Gold Shares).

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(Bloomberg) — Gold is poised to close out January with a fourth straight monthly gain after the Federal Reserve signaled it’s done raising interest rates for a while, hurting the dollar, and as investors sought a haven against slowing growth and U.S.-China trade disputes.

Spot bullion traded at $1,321.89 an ounce at 10:33 a.m. in London after hitting $1,323.43 on Wednesday, the highest level since May, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. The precious metal is up about 3 percent this month, while the greenback’s decline in January is the most in a year.

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Gold volatility remains subdued.

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And yes, Powell wounded the dollar.

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Yes, The Fed benefitted equity and gold investors while wounding the US Dollar.

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For excellent gold charts and analysis, see Jesse’s Cafe Americain site!

Mambo Italiano! Italy Falls Into Recession (Again) as Output Shrank More Than Forecast (Italian Bank Assets Plummet, ECB Ineffective)

It is the continuing mambo of Italy falling into recession.

(Bloomberg) —  Italy fell into recession at the end of 2018, capping a year of political turmoil, higher borrowing costs and fiscal tensions that took their toll on the economy.

Output contracted 0.2 percent in the three months through December, following a 0.1 percent fall in the previous quarter, statistics agency Istat said Thursday in Rome. The year-end shrinkage was greater than expected. 

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The data “reflect a marked worsening of the industrial sector’s performance, and of a negative contribution of agriculture,” Istat said in releasing the data. It said services’ activity “stagnated.”

Premier Giuseppe Conte said Wednesday that he expected the fourth-quarter shrinkage, speaking in Milan a day before the official announcement.

Investors have been warily watching Italian economic performance following weeks of negotiations with the European Union over the government’s budget that pushed up bond yields. The latest round of bad news is likely to test market confidence in the government’s expansive program for 2019.

The fourth-quarter contraction was greater than a median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 28 analysts that called for a quarterly shrinkage of 0.1 percent. The economy expanded 0.1 from the same quarter of 2017, while the full-year growth totalled 0.8 percent on a work-day-adjusted basis. 

The December unemployment rate fell to 10.3 percent, Istat said earlier in the day.

In addition to output declining (resulting in a real GDP QoQ reading of -0.20%), total assets of Italian banks have been plummeting. On the bright side, bank nonperforming loan rates are falling (but are still quite high at 14.4%).

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All this despite the ECB’s Main Refinancing Operations Annoucement Rate of … 0%.

Italy’s sovereign yield curve remains steeply upward sloping with short rates negative (courtesy of the ECB). 10Y SR CDS for Italy is 242.8 (elevated risk).

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Italy shows the limits of central bank zero-interest rate policies. Perhaps ECB head Mario Draghi should sing “Mambo Italiano” instead of distorting economies and asset prices.

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Fed Keeps Fed Funds Rate At 2.50%, Tepid On More Balance Sheet Normalization

Today, The Federal Reserve announced that their target rate remained at 2.5%.

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This was expected.

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But on further balance sheet unwinding, Fed Chair Thurston Powell III had this to say:

“In light of global economic and financial developments and muted inflation pressures, the Committee will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate to support these outcomes,”

Wednesday’s statement from the policymaking Federal Open Market Committee struck a more tepid approach.

The committee lowered its assessment of economic growth from “strong” to “solid” and noted that its inflation gauges “have moved lower in recent months.”

*Fed removes reference to further gradual rate increases
*Fed says it plans to continue with current floor approach
*Fed says it’s prepared to adjust balance-sheet normalization
*Fed reiterates federal funds target is primary policy tool
*Fed says economic activity rising at solid rate, jobs strong
*Fed says labor market strengthened, unemployment remained low
*Fed says spending grew strongly, investment moderated
*Fed says core and headline inflation remain near 2%

The reaction on the Dow? Investors seem to like Powell’s tepid message.

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And yield on 10-year Treasury Notes fell on the message.

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Fed Chair Thurston Powell III with wife Lovey (aka, Janet Yellen).

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