After meeting the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke, last October – I met the current Bank of Japan governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, this October.
I asked Mr. Bernanke a question and did the same for Kuroda. This time, I also got a handshake.
We’ll come back to that.
The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization, hosted a conversation with the governor on Saturday, October 8. The event was held in Washington D.C., where the think tank is based. The event was nearly 1.5 hours long, starting 4:00 P.M.
I live in New York City. It took about 10 hours on a bus to go to D.C. and come back, as well as about $70….all for an hour of event. At least I got some work done on the bus. Time well spent.
It was all worth it since I’m in love with economics and finance.
Kenneth Tjonasam, also a student at Baruch College and the smartest person I ever met, went there as well. He asked a question before me.
I asked “What do you think is the biggest threat to the financial markets today? Lack of liquidity? Regulations? Algos and HFTs? Or whatever?” (I should have said “Or something else?”). There’s video available below. I ask the question at 1:17:55. Kenneth asks his question at 1:17:18.
This is a question I ask nearly everyone in the financial services industry. Some have said illiquidity. Some have said regulations. No one have said algos/HFTs. One person I met on Thursday said “lack of growth.”
I find this question quite fascinating, considering regulations and algos/HFTs (technology) are partly responsible (or you can argue entirely responsible) for the lack of liquidity.
Did Mr. Kuroda answer my awesome question? No!
After Kuroda answered the first 3 questions, the moderator, David Wessel, took 4 more questions. I was the 6th, which is my favorite number. When it came time to answer my question, David said “We don’t have time for more questions.” (1:26:05).
I’m sure Kuroda is happy for dodging my question.
Besides the disappointment of time, the experience was great. I’m thankful to the Brookings Institution for the opportunity to be at the event. It’s only matter of time before I’m on stage there and a moderator asks me questions. Who’s the next high-profile person I will meet? Janet Yellen?
….and Kuroda is really short, with a perfect smile.
A conversation with Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, Bank of Japan.
12….11…10…9….IGNITION SEQUENCE START….6….5….4….3….2….1….0….ALL ENGINES RUNNING….LIFTOFF….WE HAVE A LIFTOFF!
The Fed finally raised rates after nearly a decade. On December 16, the Fed decided to raise rates – for the first time since June 2006 – by 0.25%, or 25 basis points. It was widely expected by the markets and I only expected 10bps hike. Well, I was wrong on that.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) unanimously voted to set the new target range for the federal funds rate at 0.25% to 0.50%, up from 0% to 0.25%. In the statement, the policy makers judged the economy “has been expanding at a moderate pace.” Labor market had shown “further improvement.” Inflation, on the other hand, has continued to “run below Committee’s 2 percent longer-run objective” mainly due to low energy prices.
Remember when the Fed left rates unchanged in September? It was mainly due to low inflation. What’s the difference this time?
In September, the Fed clearly stated “…survey—based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.”
Now, the Fed clearly states “…some survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations have edged down.”
So…umm…why did they raise rates this time?
Here is a statement comparison from October to December:
On the pace of rate hikes looking forward, the FOMC says:
In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments. In light of the current shortfall of inflation from 2 percent, the Committee will carefully monitor actual and expected progress toward its inflation goal. The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.
They clearly stated one of the things they look for, which is inflation expectations. But, they also did state that “inflation expectations have edged down.”
It seems to me that the Fed did not decide to raise rates. The markets forced them. Fed Funds Futures predicted about 80% chance of a rate-hike this month. If the Fed did not raise rates, they would have lost their credibility.
I believe the Fed will have to “land” (lower back) rates this year, for the following reasons:
Growing Monetary Policy Divergence
On December 3, European Central Bank (ECB) stepped up its stimulus efforts. The central bank decided to lower deposit rates by 0.10% to -0.30%. The purpose of lower deposit rates is to charge banks more to store excess reserves, which stimulates lending. In other words, free money for the people so they can spend more and save less.
ECB also decided to extend Quantitative Easing (QE) program. They will continue to buy 60 billion euros ($65 billion) worth of government bonds and other assets, but until March 2017, six months longer than previously planned, taking the total size to 1.5 trillion euros ($1.6 trillion), from the previous $1.2 trillion euros package size. During the press conference, ECB President Mario Draghi said the asset eligibility would be broadened to include regional and local debt and signaled QE program could be extended further if necessary.
ECB might be running out of ammunition. ECB extending its purchases to regional and local debt raises doubts about its program.
Not only ECB is going the opposite direction of the Fed. Three weeks ago, Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced a fresh round of new stimulus. The move was hardly significant, but it is still a new round of stimulus. The central bank decided to buy more exchange-traded fund (ETF), extend the maturity of bonds it owns to around 7-12 years from previously planned 7-10 years, and increase purchases of risky assets.
The extensions of its QE are beginning to become routine or the “new normal”.
The move by BoJ exposes the weakness of its past actions. It suggests the bank is also out of ammunition. Already owning 52% or more of the Japan’s ETF market and having a GDP-to-Debt ratio around 245%, it is only a matter of time before Japan’s market crashes. Cracks are already beginning to be shown. I expect the market crash anytime before the end of 2019.
So, what are the side-effects of these growing divergence?
For example, the impact of a US dollar appreciation resulting from a tightening in US monetary policy and the impact of a depreciation in other currencies resulting from easing in its monetary policies. Together, these price changes will shift global demand – away from goods and services produced here in the U.S. and toward those produced abroad. In others words, US goods and services become more expensive abroad, leading to substitution by goods and services in other countries. Thus, it will hurt the sales and profits of U.S. multinationals. To sum up everything that is said in this paragraph, higher U.S. rates relative to rates around the global harms U.S. competitiveness.
Emerging markets were trouble last year. It is about to get worse.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) decided to include China’s currency, renminbi (RMB) or Yuan, to its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket, a basket of reserve currencies. Effective October 1, 2016, the Chinese currency is determined to be “freely usable” and will be included as a fifth currency, along with the U.S. dollar, euro, Japanese yen, and pound sterling, in the SDR basket.
“Freely useable” – not so well defined, is it?
Chinese government or should I say People’s Bank Of China (PBOC), cannot keep its hands off the currency (yuan). It does not want to let market forces take control. They think they can do whatever they want. As time goes on, it is highly unlikely. As market forces take more and more control of its exchange-rate, it will be pushed down, due to weak economic fundamentals and weak outlook.
China, no need to put a wall to keep market forces out. Let the market forces determine the value of your currency. It is only a matter of time before they break down the wall.
In August, China changed the way they value their currency. PBOC, China’s central bank, said it will decide the yuan midpoint rate based on the previous day’s close. In daily trading, the yuan is allowed to move 2% above or below the midpoint rate, which is called the daily fixing. In the past, the central bank used to ignore the daily moves and do whatever they want. Their decision to make the midpoint more market-oriented is a step forward, but they still have a long way to go.
China saw a significant outflows last year. According to Institute of International Finance (IFF), an authoritative tracker of emerging market capital flows, China will post record capital outflows in 2015 of more than $500 billion. The world’s second largest economy is likely to see $150 billion in capital outflow in the fourth quarter of 2015, following the third quarter’s record $225 billion.
Ever since the devaluation in August, PBOC has intervened to prop yuan up. The cost of such intervention is getting expensive. The central bank must spend real money during the trading day to guide the yuan to the level the communists want. Where do they get the cash they need? FX reserves.
China’s foreign-exchange reserves, the world’s largest, declined from a peak of nearly $4 trillion in June 2014 to just below $3.5 trillion now, mainly due to PBOC’s selling of dollars to support yuan. In November, China’s FX (forex) reserves fell $87.2 billion to $3.44 trillion, the lowest since February 2013 and largest since a record monthly drop of $93.9 billion in August. It indicates a pick-up in capital outflows. This justifies increased expectations for yuan depreciation. Since the Fed raised rates last month, I would not be surprised if the capital flight flies higher, leading to a weaker yuan.
Depreciation of its currency translates into more problems for “outsiders,” including emerging markets (EM). EMs, particularly commodities-linked countries got hit hard last year as China slowed down and commodity prices slumped. EMs will continue to do so this year, 2016.
The anticipation of tightening in the U.S. and straightening dollar put a lot of pressure on EM. EM have seen a lot of significant capital outflows because they carry a lot of dollar denominated debt. According to the October report from IFF, net capital flows to EM was negative last year for the first time in 27 years (1988). Investors are estimated to pull $540 billion from developing markets in 2015. Foreign inflows will fall to $548 billion, about half of 2014 level and lower than levels recorded during the financial crisis in 2008. Foreign investor inflows probably fell to about 2% of GDP in emerging markets last year, down from a record of about 8% in 2007.
Also contributing to EM outflows are portfolio flows, “the signs are that outflows are coming from institutional investors as well as retail,” said Charles Collyns, IIF chief economist. Investors in equities and bonds are estimated to have withdrawn $40 billion in the third quarter, the worst quarterly figure since the fourth quarter of 2008.
A weaker yuan will make it harder for its main trading partners, emerging markets and Japan, to be competitive. This will lead to central banks of EM to further weaken their currencies. Japan will have no choice but to keep extending their QE program. And to Europe. And to the U.S. DOMINO EFFECT
Why are EMs so important? According to RBS Economics, EMs have accounted for 50%-60 of global output and 70% of global economic growth each year since the 2008 crisis.
Some EM investors, if not all, will flee as U.S. rates rise, compounding the economic pain there. Corporate debt in EM economies increased significantly over the past decade. According to IMF’s Global Financial Stability report, the corporate debt of non-financial firms across major EM economies increased from about $4 trillion in 2004 to well over $18 trillion in 2014.
When you add China’s debt with EM, the total debt is higher than the market capitalization. The average EM corporate debt-to-GDP ratio has also grown by 26% the same period.
The speed in the build-up of debt is distressing. According to Standard & Poor’s, corporate defaults in EM last year have hit their highest level since 2009, and are up 40% year-over-year (Y/Y).
According to IFF (article by WSJ), “companies and countries in EMs are due to repay almost $600 billion of debt maturing this year….of which $85 is dollar-denominated. Almost $300 billion of nonfinancial corporate debt will need to be refinanced this year.”
I would not be surprised if EM corporate debt meltdown triggers sovereign defaults. As yuan weakens, Japan will be forced to devalue their currency by introducing me QE which leaves EMs with no choice. EMs will be forced to devalue their currency. Devaluations in EM currencies will make it much harder (it already is) for EM corporate borrowers to service their debt denominated in foreign currencies, due to decline in their income streams. Deterioration of income leads to a capital flight, pushing down the value of the currency even more, which leads to much more capital flight.
“Firms that have borrowed the most stand to endure the sharpest rise in their debt-service costs once interest rates begin to rise in some advanced economies. Furthermore, local currency depreciations associated with rising policy rates in the advanced economies would make it increasingly difficult for emerging market firms to service their foreign currency-denominated debts if they are not hedged adequately. At the same time, lower commodity prices reduce the natural hedge of firms involved in this business.”
According to its Global Financial Stability report, EM companies have an estimated $3 trillion in “overborrowing” loans in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004 and 2014.
Rising US rates and a strengthening dollar will make things much worse for EMs. Jose Vinals, financial counsellor and director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, said in his October article, “Higher leverage of the private sector and greater exposure to global financial conditions have left firms more susceptible to economic downturns, and emerging markets to capital outflows and deteriorating credit quality.”
I believe currency war will only hit “F5” this year and corporate defaults will increase, leading to the early stage of sovereigns’ defaults. I would not be surprised if some companies gets a loan denominated in euros just to pay off the debt denominated in U.S dollars. That’s likely to make things worse.
Those are some of the risks I see that will force the Fed to lower back the rates. I will address more risks, including lack of liquidity, junk bonds, inventory, etc, in my next article. Thank you.
On October 22 (Thursday), European Central Bank (ECB) left rates unchanged, with interests on the main refinancing operations, marginal lending, and deposit rate at 0.05%, 0.30% and -0.20, respectively. But the press conference gave an interesting hint. Mario Draghi, the President of ECB, was most dovish as he could be, “work and assess” (unlike “wait and see” before).
The central bank is preparing to adjust “size, composition and duration” of its Quantitative Easing (QE) program at its December meeting, “the degree of monetary policy accommodation will need to be re-examined at our December monetary policy meeting”, Draghi said during the press conference. They are already delivering a massive stimulus to the euro area, following decisions taken between June 2014 and March 2015, to cut rates and introduce QE program. In September 2014, ECB cut its interest rate, or deposit rate to -0.20%, a record low. Its 1.1 trillion euros QE program got under way in March with purchases of 60 billion euros a month until at least September 2016.
When ECB cut deposit rate to record low in September 2014, Mr. Draghi blocked the entry to additional cuts, “we are at the lower bound, where technical adjustment are not going to be possible any longer.” (September 2014 press conference). Since then, growth hasn’t improved much and other central banks, such as Sweden and Switzerland, cut their interest rates into much lower territory. Now, another deposit rate-cut is back, “Further lowering of the deposit facility rate was indeed discussed.” Mr. Draghi said during the press conference.
The outlook for growth and inflation remains weak. Mr. Draghi – famous for his “whatever it takes” line – expressed “downside risks” to both economic growth and inflation, mainly from China and emerging markets.
Given the extent to which the central bank provided substantial amount of stimulus, the growth in the euro area has been disappointing. The euro area fell into deflation territory in September after a few months of low inflation. In September, annual inflation fell to 0.1% from 0.1% and 0.2% in August and July, respectively. Its biggest threat to the inflation is energy, which fell 8.9% in September, down from 7.2% and 5.6% in August and July, respectively.
As the ECB left the door open for more QE, Euro took a dive. Euro took a deeper dive when Mr. Draghi mentioned that deposit rate-cut was discussed. Deposit rate cut will also weaken the euro if implemented. After the press conference, the exchange rate is already pricing in a rate-cut. Mentions of deposit rate-cut and extra QE sent European markets higher and government bond yields fell across the board. The Euro Stoxx 50 index climbed 2.6%, as probability of more easy money increased. Swiss 10-year yield fell to fresh record low of -0.3% after the ECB press conference. 2-year Italian and Spanish yields went negative for the first time. 2-year German yield hit a record low of -0.32.
Regarding the exchange rate (EUR/USD), I expect it to hit a parity level by mid-February 2016.
As I stated in the previous posts, I expect more quantitative easing by ECB (and Bank of Japan also). I’m expecting ECB to increase its QE program to 85 billion euros a month and extend it until March 2017. When ECB decides to increase and extend the scope of its QE, I also expect deposit rate-cut of 10 basis points.
ECB will be meeting on December 3 when its quarterly forecasts for inflation and economic growth will be released. The only conflict with this meeting is that U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers meets two weeks later. ECB might hold off until the decision of the Fed, but the possibility of that is low.
U.S. Federal Reserve:
On October 28 (Wednesday), the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged. The bank was hawkish overall. It signaled that rate-hike is still on the table at its December meeting and dropped previous warnings about the events abroad that poses risks to the U.S. economy.
It does not make sense to drop “Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” (September statement) I’m sure the events abroad has its risks (spillover effect) to the U.S. economy and the Fed will keep an eye on them.
In its statement, it said the U.S. economy was expanding at a “moderate pace” as business capital investments and consumer spending rose at “solid rates”, but removed the following “…labor market continued to improve…” (September statement). The pace of job growth slowed, following weak jobs report in the past several months.
Let’s take a look at the comparison of the Fed statement from September to October, shall we?
The Fed badly wants to raise rates this year, but conditions here and abroad does not support its mission. Next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting takes place on December 15-16. By then, we will get important economic indicators including jobs report, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), retail spending and Consumer Price Index (CPI). If we don’t see any strong rebound, rate-hike is definitely off the table, including my prediction of 0.10% rate-hike for next month.
The report caused investors to increase the possibility of a rate increase in December. December rate-hike odds rose to almost 50% after the FOMC statement.
Housing market continues to pose financial stability risk. House price inflation is way higher. Median house prices are about nine times the average income. Short supply caused the house prices to increase significantly. “While residential building is accelerating, it will take some time to correct the supply shortfall.” RBNZ said in a statement. Auckland median home prices rose about 25.4% from September 2014 to September 2015, “House price inflation in Auckland remains strong, posing a financial stability risk.”
Further reduction in the Official Cash Rate (OCR) “seems likely” to ensure future CPI inflation settles near the middle of the target range (1 to 3%).
Although RBNZ left rates unchanged, Kiwi (NZD) fell because the central bank sent a dovish tone, “However, the exchange rate has been moving higher since September, which could, if sustained, dampen tradables sector activity and medium-term inflation. This would require a lower interest rate path than would otherwise be the case.” It’s a strong signal that RBNZ will cut rates to 2.5% if Kiwi continues to strengthening. I will be shorting Kiwi every time it strengthens.
“The sharp fall in dairy prices since early 2014 continues to weigh on domestic farm incomes…However, it is too early to say whether these recent improvements will be sustained.” RBNZ said in the statement. Low dairy prices caused RBNZ to cut rates. New Zealand exports of whole milk powder fell 58% in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2014. But, there’s a good news.
Recent Chinese announcement that it would abolish its one-child policy might just help increase dairy prices, as demand will increase. How? New Zealand is a major dairy exporter to China. Its milk powder and formula industry is likely to benefit from a baby boomlet in China.
BoJ expects to hit its 2% inflation target in late 2016 or early 2017 vs. previous projection of mid-2016. Again and Again. This is the second time BoJ changed its target data. The last revision before this week was in April. It also lowered its growth projections for the current year by 0.5% to 1.2%.
They also lowered projections for Core-CPI, which excludes fresh food but includes energy. They lowered their forecasts for this fiscal year to 0.1%, down from a previous estimate of 0.7%. For the next fiscal year, they expect 1.4%, down from a previous estimate of 1.9%. Just like other central banks, BoJ acknowledged that falling energy prices were hitting them hard.
Low inflation, no economic growth, revisions, revisions, and revisions. Nothing is recovering in Japan.
Haruhiko Kuroda, the governor of BoJ, embarked on aggressive monetary easing in early 2013. So far he hasn’t had much success.
In the second quarter (April-June), Japan’s economy shrank at an annualized 1.2%. Housing spending declined 0.4% in September from 2.8% in August. Core-CPI declined for two straight months, falling 0.1% year-over-year both in September and August. Annual exports only rose 0.6% in September, slowest growth since August 2014, following 3.1% gain in August.
Exports are part of the calculation for Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Another decline in GDP would put Japan into recession, which could force BoJ to ease its monetary policy again. Another recession would be its fourth since the 2008 financial crisis and the second since Shinzo Abe (Abenomics), the Prime Minister of Japan, came to power in December 2012.
Its exports to China, Japan’s second-biggest market after the U.S., fell 3.5% in September. The third-quarter (July-September) GDP report will be released on November 16.
April 2014 sales tax (sales tax increased from 5% to 8%) increase only made things worse in Japan. It failed to boost inflation and weakened consumer sentiment.
In April 2013, BoJ expanded its QQE (or QE), buying financial assets worth 60-70 trillion yen a year, including Exchange Traded Funds (ETF).
QQE stands for Quantitative and Qualitative Easing. Qualitative easing targets certain assets to drive up their prices and drive down their yield, such as ETF. Quantitative Easing targets to drive down interest rates. Possibility of negative interest rates has been shot down by BoJ. But, why trust BoJ for their word? Actions speak louder than words.
In October 2014, BoJ increased the QQE to an annual purchases of 80 trillion yen. When is the next expansion? December?
Did you know that the BoJ owns 52% of Japan’s ETF market?
For over a decade, BoJ’s aggressive monetary easing through asset purchases did not help Japan’s economy. Since 2001, the central bank operated 9 QEs and is currently operating its current 10th QE (or QQE). The extensions of its QE are beginning to become routine or the “new normal.”
Growth and prices are slowing in China, with no inflation in United Kingdom, Euro-zone, and the U.S. The chances that Japan will crawl out of deflation are very slim.
US Market Reactions (ECB and FOMC):
Next week, both Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and Bank of England (BoE) will meet. Will be very interesting to watch.
Markets were pricing less than 30% chance of rate-hike and most people in the financial markets were not expecting rate-hike. Well, not me. I was actually expecting 0.25%, 10 basis points rate increase, as I stated in my previous post.
“Recent global economic and financial developments may restrain economic activity somewhat and are likely to put further downward pressure on inflation in the near term.” Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said in statement. They are referring to events that took place in August, that can be described in one word; uncertainty.
Before we go any further, let’s compare the last two Fed statements.
According to the Fed’s famous “Dot Plot” – that is where committee members think interest rates are going – one committee member, for the first time ever, thinks the U.S needs to move to negative interest rates until the end of 2016.
During the press conference, Janet Yellen – the chairwoman of the Fed – indicated that negative rates were not “seriously considered at all today” and that the policymaker in question was “concerned by the inflation outlook”. The Fed looks at a model “Phillips Curve” which states that inflation and unemployment have a stable and inverse relationship. It hasn’t been working lately.
She said something that I found very interesting, “That’s something we’ve seen in several European countries. It’s not something we talked about today. Look. If not– I don’t expect that we’re going to be in the path of providing additional accommodation but if the outlook were to change in a way that most of my colleagues and I do not expect and we found ourselves with a weak economy that needed additional stimulus, we would look at all of our available tools and that would be something that we would evaluate in that kind of context.” This shows that even the Fed is uncertain about the future and another quantitative easing is a possibility.
If you want to see the body language from Yellen as she said it, go watch the press conference video. It can be very interesting. Any body language experts here?
The Fed also raised growth forecast for the year and cut unemployment projection.
Yellen expressed that some countries other than China are also danger to the U.S, “…we saw a very substantial downward pressure on oil prices and commodity markets…significant impact on many emerging market economies that are important producers of commodities, as well as more advanced countries including Canada, which is an important trading partner of ours that has been negatively affected by declining commodity prices, declining energy prices….important emerging markets have been negatively affected by those developments. And we’ve seen significant outflows of capital from those countries, pressures on their exchange rates and concerns about their performance going forward. So, a lot of our focus has been on risks around China but not just China, emerging markets, more generally in how they may spill over to the United States.”
Back to “wait and see” mode again. Weak start in the year hammered the chances of rate-hike in June. Now, outsiders hammered the chances of rate-hike in September. Next stop?
If the current situation stays unchanged, I expect rate increase of 0.10% (again) in October (FOMC press conference will be called if the Fed decides to change rates). But, the current situation might get much worse. The bad news might come from China again.
Xi Jinping, China’s president and Communist Party chief, will arrive in the U.S next week to meet President Obama and business leaders. After the meeting when Mr. Xi is back in China, unpredictability arrives.
China would not want to create tension with the U.S before they meet face-to-face. Thus, unpredictability comes in two or three weeks. China might devalue their currency again, by 5% or more. They might even dump much more U.S Treasuries again.
It’s reported that China dumped U.S Treasurys of $83 billion and $94 billion in the month of July and August, respectively. Why would China sell U.S Treasurys? China is in dire need of cash. Capital outflows are increasing substantially and their stock market are declining substantially. China would want to cut its holdings of treasurys to support the yuan.
According to latest data from the U.S Treasury Department, China’s holdings of U.S Treasuries was $1.240 trillion in the end of July (is probably much less now), the smallest since February 2015. In end-June, China held $1.271 trillion. China remains the world’s largest holder of U.S debt. What does that mean for the U.S?
If U.S’s #1 lender stops supporting or stops buying U.S debt, the cost of everything that depends on Treasury rates could rise, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve and prevent the Fed from raising rates. Treasury yields (inverse relationship with prices) are the benchmark that sets the cost of borrowing.
China’s abandonment of U.S Treasury debt is a warning.
Imagine if China’s major trading partner, Japan, joins China in selling U.S Treasuries. Japan is the second-largest holder of U.S. Treasuries, with $1.197 trillion in July. The devaluation of Yuan will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics. As I stated in my post “Global Markets Crash + Asian Crisis Part 2“, Abenomics has failed. Soon enough, Japan might also be in dire need of cash and they might start cutting their holdings of U.S Treasuries.
Recently, Standard & Poor’s slashed its ratings on Japanese debt from AA- to A+ because of weak economic growth, blaming Abenomics “…we believe that the government’s economic revival strategy–dubbed “Abenomics”–will not be able to reverse this deterioration in the next two to three years.” According to Standard & Poor, Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio currently stands at 242.4%, a dangerous level for developed country.
I believe Bank of Japan (BoJ) will increase its purchases of government debt to cover the danger of Japan’s Debt/GDP ratio and will sell portion of U.S Treasurys.
We can conclude everything will probably get much worse. The Fed will have no other choice, but to start another round of quantitative easing. In other words, debt monetization, a process of buying Treasury and corporate debt on the open market, increasing money supply. When increasing money supply, interest rates should fall.
The Fed is being held hostage by outsiders, such as China and Brazil. It probably won’t end well for the U.S, promoting another round of Quantitative Easing.
Global markets crash. Currency wars. What’s next? Good buying opportunity?
US markets: Markets plunged dramatically on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 530.94 points (3.12%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis). The index is now down 10.2% (correction territory) below the May 19 closing and all-time high of 18,312, for the first time since 2011. For the week, the index is down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.
S&P 500 fell 64.84 points (3.19%), the worst one-day loss since November 2011 (on a % basis) and falling below 2,000 level for the first time since February. For the week, the index is also down 5.8%, the steepest decline since September 2011.
NASDAQ fell 171.45 (3.52%). For the week, the index is down 6.8%, the biggest weekly decline since August 2011.
European Markets: European stocks fell into correction territory on Friday. The Stoxx European 600 1.3% to 368.59. The index is down 11% from April 15 closing and all-time high of 414.06. For the week, the index is down 4.6%, the worst weekly performance since December. Other indexes fell into correction territory also. Germany’s DAX Index is down 18% from its highs. So far, 13 out of 18 western-European markets have lost 10% or more from their highs.
US oil prices fell just below $40 for the first time since February 2009, due to demand concerns and increasing supplies. US oil prices fell for their 8th consecutive week, the longest losing streak since 1986.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) (also known as “Fear Index”) jumped 46.45% to $28.03 on Friday. For the week, the index rose 118.47% (from $12.83 to $28.03), largest % move ever in a week.
Three factors driving the free-fall of the global markets:
Growing concerns (or uncertainty) about China’s economy
US rate-hike uncertainty. Uncertainty is the market’s worst foe
Plunging oil prices
There are concerns about slowing growth in emerging economies, particularly China. Economic data from China showed manufacturing PMI in China fell to a 77-month low of 47.1 in August, down from July’s final reading of 47.8. A reading below 50 represent a contraction. About two weeks ago, China’s trade data showed that July exports declined by 8.3% year-over-year (Y/Y) due to a strong yuan and lower demand from its trading partners. Exports to the Japan, European Union, and United States fell 13%, 12.3%, and 1.3%, respectively. Exports are China’s strongest growth machine. The weakness in the fundamentals started (still is) putting pressures on policymakers. Then, a surprise move came.
On August 11 (days after the exports data), the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) made a surprising move to devalue its currency (so called “one-time” move), the renminbi (RMB) (or yuan), against the US dollar (greenback) by 1.9%, the biggest devaluation since 1994 and first devaluation since the yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005. PBOC decided to lower daily reference rate – which sets the value of yuan against the greenback – to make yuan more market-oriented exchange rate.
Three reasons behind China’s move:
Weak fundamentals, including exports
Desire to be included in IMF SDR basket
Impending US rate-hike
China’s move increased concerns over the health of its economy (second largest economy in the world) and shocked the global markets which continues today. China’s devaluation signaled that the economy there must be worse than what everybody believes. Continuous slowdown as it shifts from an export-led economy to a consumer-led economy has led Chinese government (or PBOC) to help stimulate economic activity. Over the past year, they cut interest rates four times and cut RRR (Reserve Requirement Ratio) several times. The goal is to combat slowing growth by strengthening liquidity and boosting lending (so far, unsuccessful). The recent devaluation will make imports expensive and help boost exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July).
Another reason behind China’s recent move is its desire for the yuan to be included in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a basket of reserve currencies, in which the US Dollar, Euro, Japanese Yen, and British Pound are part of. Earlier this week, IMF decided to extend its scheduled revision of SDR basket (revision takes place every five years) by nine months (to September 30, 2016), giving China more time to make yuan (or Renminbi ) “freely usable”, a key requirement join the SDR basket.
Last reason behind China’s recent move is impending rate-hike in the US, which would support the greenback and would have consequences for China. The recent devaluation ended the era of Yuan appreciation which began in 2005 (reminder: yuan was de-pegged from the dollar in 2005). Ever since “Strong Yuan” policy began in 2005, Yuan (CNY) appreciated 28% against the US Dollar (USD), 30% against the Euro (EUR), and 65% against the Japanese Yen (JPY)
Rise of Yuan against most of its trading partners’ currencies has made its trading partners exports attractive. US rate-hike would have made China’s export rivals even more attractive. Now that China devalued its currency in the wake of falling exports (reminder: exports fell 8.3% Y/Y in July), its trading partners would want to protect their exports share. Therefore, China has fired the first shot to start currency wars.
Consequences of China’s actions:
Countries like Australia, Thailand, New Zealand, Malaysia and Canada are likely to suffer from China’s devaluation. These countries are largest exporter to China. Don’t also forget that these countries can affect other countries. Basically, it is “Domino Effect” economically.
Earlier this week, Kazakhstan – whose top trading partners are China and Russia – switch to a free float (which means that the central bank stopped managing the exchange rate), causing its currency, the tenge (KZT), to fall 25%. The move comes due to three reasons; crude prices (Kazakhstan is central Asia’s biggest crude exporter) fell 55% in the past year, Russian has allowed its currency (ruble) to depreciate significantly as commodity prices plummeted, and due to the yuan devaluation. The motivation for the move is to preserve its export competitiveness.
Vietnam has also allowed its currency, the dong, to weaken further due to the recent devaluation by its biggest trading partner, China. Who will be next to devalue their currency in this crisis; Asian Crisis Part 2.
Commodities denominated in US dollars will become more expensive to buyers in China, the world’s largest consumer of raw materials. When China’s economy slows, demand for raw materials, such as copper, Iron-ore, etc decreases and the lower demand puts downward pressure on commodity prices.
China, second-largest oil consumer, is causing oil prices to drop non-stop, which will hurt oil exporters, such as Canada (possibly leading to another rate-cut).
Falling commodity prices mean one other thing; deflationary pressures.
Slow growth and lower commodity prices most likely will lead other central banks, especially large commodity exporters to maintain their easy monetary policies for longer. Countries with large current account deficits and/or corporations with large amount of debt denominated in US dollars could see their economic/financial conditions worsen, causing them to further increase/expand their easy monetary policy (rate-cuts, for example). Not only commodity exporters and emerging countries will suffer, but also US companies.
US companies with significant exposure to China will suffer from China’s devaluation. Such companies are Wynn Resorts, Micron Technology, Yum Brands, and Apple, accounting for China sales exposure of 70%, 55%, 52% and 30%, respectively.
When I noticed China economic getting worse earlier this year, I knew Apple depended on China a lot, so I said that Apple was overvalued as more competitors were emerging and China’s economy was about to get worse. Even though Apple’s earnings came out better than expected, I went ahead on twitter and responded to Carl Icahn’s comments on the Apple and the market. He expected (maybe still expects) Apple’s stock price to double, which I did not (and I still don’t). More competitors are starting to emerge and China’s economic conditions are getting worse (debt bubble coming).
Mr. Icahn believed the market was extremely overheated and expected market bubble. I have to agree with him. I preferred (still prefer) to use the term “correction”. At this time, I believe current market sell-off is temporary and the dust will be settled in a month (good-buying opportunity). I expect “market bubble” after the Fed raises interest rates to the range of 0.70% and 0.80% (early 2017?). That’s when market sell-off will be much worse than the current situation.
I’m calling Mr. Icahn to respond to my questions; how do you think China’s action will affect global economies (or markets)? Do you still think Apple could double in price?
Now, let’s get back to how else China can affect global economies (deflationary pressures). I expect Europe’s economy and Japan’s economy to slow down.
Europe’s economy will slow down due to export demand decreasing and the uncertainty created by Greece (Yes, they did get a bailout deal, but it’s not over). That’s why I believe European Central Bank (ECB) will either lower interest rates even further or they will increase current Quantitative Easing (QE) program, pushing Euro currency lower. Current falling prices in the European markets are a golden opportunity. Lower interest rates and/or increased QE program will send European equity prices higher>>>all-time highs will be made.
Japan, China’s largest trading partner, will also suffer due to export demand decreasing. The devaluation of yuan (or, Renminbi) will make Japanese exports less competitive. Japan’s economy is still suffering despite Abenomics (similar to QE). Recent data showed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) falling at annual pace of 1.6% in 2nd quarter, due to slowing exports and lack of consumer spending. Abenomics has failed. Additional monetary easing coming? If the economy does not get any better in the next several months, I expect additional monetary easing by the Bank of Japan (BoJ).
I don’t believe the Federal Reserve will stop its plan to hike the rates, but it will slow the pace of it. On Wednesday (August 19), Fed minutes of July meeting (leaked earlier) showed that Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) members “…judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point.” They also said that “…the recent decreases in oil prices and the possibility of adverse spillovers from slower economic growth in China raised some concerns.” US dollar has been falling ever since the release of fed minutes, as expectations for September rate-hike decreased.
Now more troubles emerged, I wonder what the Fed will say or do. There are many US economic reports that will come until the Fed’s September meeting. The reports will decide the fate of rate-hike for September. At this time, I expect the Fed to hike the rates in September by 10 basis points (or 0.10%).
If the current China situation (or Asian Crisis Part 2) gets out of control, there will be no rate-hike for the rest of year even if there’s strong US economic reports.
All comments welcomed. Thank you.
Disclaimer: The posts are not a recommendation to buy or sell any stocks, currencies, etc mentioned. They are solely my personal opinions. Every investor/trader must do his/her own due diligence before making any investment/trading decision.
Update on MSFT: I’m still watching MSFT (Microsoft stock ticker) for good entry. I will go long on it in the future at a good entry price. Microsoft stock and other blue chip stock fell after Intel slashed revenue outlook due to weak PC demand. The decrease in the price of MSFT is still a good buying opportunity.
Last Wednesday, Reserve Bank of New Zealand left the Official Cash Rate unchanged at 3.5%. NZD (Kiwi) quickly reacted by rising as it disappointed traders who were looking for rate cut. In a statement by the Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler, cited that the New Zealand dollar “…remains unjustifiably high and unsustainable in terms of New Zealand’s long-term economic fundamentals.” I still believe that RBNZ will intervene and send NZD down, if not by rate-cut. I would be short on NZD/USD, at this time.
Upcoming: Bank of Japan (BoJ, Late Monday/early Tuesday – March 16/March 17 EST), Federal Reserve (Wednesday – March 18 – 2 P.M EST) and Swiss National Bank (SNB, Thursday – March 19 – 4:30 A.M EST).
BoJ will either hold or increase the stimulus package. If they do, JPY (Yen) will be bearish–sending USD/JPY further up–after rising to over 121.00 this week. If they don’t, we have to watch for their tone. It will be either bearish or bulling on the Yen, depending on what BoJ say, or react.
Federal Reserve will be watched very closely after a very positive non-farm payrolls last week. This week, U.S stocks were a roller coaster. There was a hard sell-off in equities and a bullish USD (U.S Dollar), due to an increasing chance of rate-hike. On Thursday (March 12, 2015), Retail Sales came out very negative. Retail Sales fell 0.6% (-0.6%), worse than expected of 0.3%, following -0.8%. Core Retail Sales (excluding automobiles which accounts for 20% of Retail Sales) fell 0.1% (-0.1%), worse than expected of 0.6%, following -1.1%. However, it was little better than previous report in February. I believe people who are saving money from low oil-prices are probably paying off their debts, before they spend on “wants”. The U.S market reacted positively because some people thought that negative Retail Sales would hold-off the Federal Reserve from raising the interest rates. On Wednesday, the Fed might also drop “patient”, signaling that rate-hike is very close.
SNB might set a new floor to the exchange rate (EUR/CHF). I would not trade CHF (Swiss Franc) because of two reasons. One, it’s too violent and there is no clear direction yet. Second, SNB does not know what it’s doing after what they did in January. But, I would still watch out closely, as it might affect other pairs, such as EUR and USD.
This week was full of financial news. I will be talking about some of them, which I consider too important to pass up. I will also give my views on them.
Last Monday (March 2, 2015), a report showed that Consumer Price Index (CPI) Flash Estimate ticked up to -0.3% year-over-year from previous -0.6%. Markets were expecting -0.4. The data was little positive. However, It remained in negative territory for the third consecutive month. There are deflation in euro zone. The deflation might soon end later in the mid-year, as Quantitative Easing (QE) program starts this Monday (March 9, 2015).
Last Thursday (March 5, 2015), European Central Bank (ECB) kept the interest rates unchanged. During the press conference, the President of ECB, Draghi stated that the QE would start on March 9. ECB raised its projections for the euro area, “which foresee annual real GDP increasing by 1.5% in 2015, 1.9% in 2016 and 2.1% in 2017.” Remember that these are just projections and can change anytime. Plus, central banks are not right all the time. Mr. Draghi felt confident as he talked about the future of Euro zone. He believes Euro zone will greatly benefit from QE program and some areas already have since the announcement of QE last January.
This week, EUR/USD fell all the way to 1.0838, lowest level since September 2003, due to positive U.S jobs reports, Greece worries and QE program starting next week. I was already short on EUR/USD and I still believe it has a room to go further down.
Last Monday (March 2, 2015), Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) announced that they will leave the interest rate unchanged at 2.25%. In February meeting, RBA cut by 0.25%. This time, they did not. RBA is in “wait and see” mode, for now. I believe another rate cut is coming in the two meetings, depending on future economic reports. In the Monetary Policy Decision statement by RBA Governor, Glenn Stevens stated that the Australian dollar “remains above most estimates of its fundamental value…A lower exchange rate is likely to be needed to achieve balanced growth in the economy…Further easing of policy may be appropriate…”. I believe RBA is open to further cuts and it will come in the next two meetings. However, positive economic reports might change that direction. As economics reports come out from Australia, we will have better sense of what RBA might do.
Last Monday (March 2, 2015), Building Approvals report came out and it was very positive. It was expected at -1.8%. It came out at whooping 7.9% up 10.7% from previous -2.8%. It shows that more buildings are being built. Thus, creating jobs. However, Building Approvals reports show that building approvals tend to jump around every month. If the report continues to be positive, it might convince RBA to keep the rate unchanged.
Last Tuesday (March 3, 2015), Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came at 0.5%, up only 0.1% from previous report (0.4%). It came out little bit weak from what was expected, 0.7%. It’s still very weak and it might have larger impact on RBA’s future actions. I believe RBA will cut because GDP is not improving much.
Last Wednesday (March 4, 2015), Retail Sales and Trade Balance reports came out from Australia. Retail sales came out at 0.4% as expected from previous 0.2%. Trade balance on goods and services were a deficit of $980 million, an increase of $480 million from December 2014 ($500 million). All these numbers are in seasonally adjusted term. I believe the gap in Trade Balance from the last two reports might convince RBA little bit to cut the rate again.
I would be short on AUD. I believe it has the potential to go further down to 0.7500. The best pair would be to short AUD/USD (Positive U.S news and upcoming rate hike).
Last Thursday, Bank of England (BoE) kept the interest rate unchanged at 0.50% and Quantitative Easing (QE) programme at £375bn. In March 2009, the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) unanimously voted to cut the interest rate to 0.50% from 1.00% (-.50%). The interest rate still stays unchanged and QE stays steady, for now. If future economic reports such as wages, and inflation declines or comes out negative, rate cut might come. If it does not, rate hike might come sooner than expected. I believe it will get better and MPC will decide to raise the rate, sending Pound (GBP) higher.
This week, Pound (GBP) fell after rising last week, due to little negative news from UK and that BoE rejected higher rate for some time being because of concerns in oil prices and inflation. I would not trade GBP at this time. If I’m going to trade GBP, I would analyze its chart first. Did you notice that last week GBP/USD had-daily bearish engulfing pattern and this week there is-weekly bearish engulfing pattern?
Last Tuesday (March 3, 2015), Canadian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came out little positive at 0.3% from previous -0.2% on monthly basis. It was expected at 0.2%. On quarterly basis, it came out at 0.6% following 0.8% in third quarter.
Last Wednesday (March 4, 2015), Bank of Canada (BoC) left the interest rate unchanged at 0.75% following 0.25% cut last month. Ever since BoC cut the rate last month due to falling oil prices; oil prices has risen and been in $50 range. If oil price continue to fall, I believe they will cut the rate again. There is strong relationship between Canada and oil. As oil gets weaker, Loonie (CAD) gets weaker. Why? Canada is ranked 3rd globally in proved oil reserves. When making a trade decision on CAD, I would look at the oil prices. Of course, I would also look at news and technical. For example, if I want to trade USD/CAD, I would look at both U.S and Canada economic news (rate hike/cut, employment, etc) and technical on chart. If U.S economic news are strong, Canada economic news are weak and USD/CAD is just above strong support line, I would definitely go long on it. However, let’s say if USD/CAD is just below strong resistance line, I would wait for confirmation of a breakout and if the news are in my favor, I would go long.
Last Friday (March 6, 2015), Building Permits and Trade Balance reports were strongly negative. Building Permits came out at -12.9%, following 6.1% the previous month, expected of -4.2%. Trade balance on goods and services were a deficit of -2.5 billion, following -1.2 billion the previous month, expected of -0.9 billion. Both reports were negative, which sent CAD lower. At the same time, U.S non-farm payrolls came out strong, which sent USD higher. As a result, USD/CAD skyrocketed. The reports will definitely be on BoC committee’s mind. As of right now, I would be short on USD/CAD.
This week, USD/CAD was mixed as BoC kept the interest rate unchanged, after cutting it last month (negative for USD/CAD) and strong U.S jobs report (positive for USD/CAD). I would be short on it as I said in the last paragraph.
Last Friday (March 6, 2015), U.S jobs report came out very strong except the wages. Employment increased by 295,000 (Expected: 240k) and unemployment rate went down 0.2% to 5.5% (Expected: 5.6%). However, average hourly earning fell 0.1%, following 0.5% the previous month (Expected: 0.2%). But, that hourly wages part of the report did not stop U.S Dollar from rising. It was very positive for the U.S dollar because there is little higher chance of rate hike coming in the mid-year.
Since U.S economic news tends to have impact on global markets, here’s what happened; U.S Dollar rose, U.S stock fell, European stock rose, Euro dived, Gold prices fell and Treasury Yield jumped. EUR/USD fell to 1.0838, lowest level since September 2003. USD/JPY rose to 121.28, a two-month high.
So why did U.S stocks sold off? It sold off because of upcoming rate hike, which can be negative for equities, specifically for dividend stocks. As economy is getting better, it should help boost corporate profits. At the same time, strong dollar can hurt them. Rate hike can only make dollar even stronger.
In two weeks, the Fed will be meeting and I believe they might drop the “patient” in its March policy statement.
I would be long USD. The best pairs would be to short EUR/USD (Euro zone delfation, Greece crisis and QE program) and short NZD/USD (RBNZ keeps saying that NZD is too high and they will meeting next week, rate cut?) as I’m already short NZD/USD, and long USD/JPY (Upcoming U.S rate hike and extra stimulus BoJ might announce).
Follow my twitter account @Khojinur30 or just click twitter icon on the top right to be directed to my twitter account, for my views that are posted any time. Thank you.
On Thursday (January 22, 2015), European Central Bank (ECB) announced Quantitative Easing (QE) program. They left interest rates unchanged. During the press conference, ECB governor, Mario Draghi announced quantitative easing to the tune of €60 billion ($67.5 trillion) per month from March 2015 to September 2016 (19 months). The total amount sums to €1.1 trillion ($1.25 trillion). The day before, there was reports that ECB was going to announces €50 billion per month until year end. On Thursday, we found out the truth, €60B a month until 2016. During the press conference, Draghi said “…conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation which is consistent with our aim of achieving inflation rates below, but close to, 2% over the medium term.” He’s saying that QE program won’t end until they achieve their goal, inflation close to 2% but below.
The interest rates were left unchanged and it was not much market mover. But, during the press conference, when QE was announced, global markets were violent or should I say choppy?. European markets spiked, then dropped. By Friday (the day after QE was announced), European stocks hit 7-year highs. US markets rallied on Thursday. U.S markets rallied because more money are being pumped into U.S. However on Friday, U.S markets were mostly down because of worries that strong dollar will hurt U.S corporate earnings. Announcement of QE also knocked down euro to its knees. During the first 30 minutes of press conference (where QE was announced), EUR/USD was choppy. In the next 23 hours, EUR/USD fell all the way to 1.1113 (Friday 8 A.M EST) from around 1.1600 (post ECB conference), which is almost 500 pips in a day, actually 23 hours (from 9 A.M EST to 8. A.M EST).
Tomorrow, we will find out the results of Greek Elections. I believe Greece is going to stay in Euro-zone, which is going to give EUR some relief. Then, it will be a good place to sell EUR/USD because QE (Bearish) weights more than Greek staying in Euro-zone (Bullish). If Greece leaves Euro-zone, it’s another reason to be bearish on Euro currency.
Why did ECB announce QE?
ECB announced QE to fight back low euro-zone inflation. Many Euro-zone countries are close to deflation while some of them are already there. To boost the economy, ECB will print more money and increase the amount of money available to financial institutions.
What’s great about a weaker euro? It benefits manufacturers and exporting nations. But, it can hurt international companies such as Cisco Systems, IMB, Pepsi, etc.
Unlike Swiss National Bank (SNB), announcement of QE by ECB was much anticipated. We all knew it was coming. Although I thought it was going to be limited for some time before full-blown QE kicks in. I thought ECB would hold off until February or March because of Greek elections. Anyway, QE is starting in a month or March.