Unknown California State Automobile Association signage 1925
I can repeat this every single day: China is in much worse shape than we know from official numbers.
The capitulation of the Chinese consumer threatens to drag stock markets around the world into a death spiral as one of the pillars of global growth is undermined. Figures from the world’s largest consumer goods groups last week laid bare the shocking weakness of consumer demand in China, which threatens to pull down global stock markets that have been priced to perfection by more than five years of extraordinary monetary policy and asset price inflation. For China to avoid a hard landing it was essential for consumer spending to pick up from where centrally planned infrastructure spending left off, but there are signs this simply isn’t happening. Unilever, the world’s third largest consumer goods company, said they were surprised by the “unusually rapid” slowdown in Chinese consumer demand. The company said that sales growth had slumped to about 2pc during the nine months ended September, down from about 8pc growth last year. The slowdown in Chinese sales growth to about 2pc is also an average – there are pockets where trading is far worse.
The company added that sales to the big hypermarkets in the country are less than 2pc or even negative in some cases. Nestle, the worlds largest food company, recently reported falling sales for the first nine months of the year and also warned of “challenging” Chinese trading conditions. The fear of China going backwards is now becoming a reality, as the Chinese consumer is not picking up from where capital investment left off. Immediately after the 2008 banking crisis China launched the largest stimulus package and infrastructure investment program the world has ever seen. China has used 6.6 gigatons of cement in the last three years compared to 4.5 gigatons the USA has used in 100 years. The stimulus package increased fixed capital investment to 50pc of GDP, while domestic consumption withered to only 35pc. The lopsided economy led Hu Jintao, the President of China until 2012, to call the period of growth “unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated and unsustainable.” The hope was it would eventually kick start consumer spending.
Should we be worried that China’s prodigious foreign-exchange accumulation has gone into reverse? Last week, China’s forex regulator reassured markets that there was no need to worry about a $100 billion fall in reserves in the third quarter — the largest such drop since 1996. China’s foreign reserve pile fell to $3.89 trillion from $3.99 trillion at the end of June. Guan Tao, head of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange’s balance-of-payments department, cited the end of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policy as a main factor contributing to the decline, adding there were no risks or problems. But some analysts are less sanguine, especially when this rare dwindling of China’s cash pile coincides with the economy growing at its slowest pace in five years, according to third-quarter data.
Société Générale strategist Albert Edwards writes that a reserve decline of this magnitude reflects deteriorating Chinese competitiveness from its excessively strong real foreign-exchange rate. Daiwa Research, meanwhile, highlights the significance of these outflows in undermining the ability of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) to expand its balance sheet. In recent decades, China’s reserve accumulation has been the fuel for its massive money-supply growth. Thanks to twin capital and trade surpluses, the PBOC was able to behave like a massive money-printing machine. Now, as reserve accumulation goes into reverse, so too does the money supply. M2 – which includes currency, checking deposits and some time deposits — grew at just at 12.9% year-on-year for September, versus 14.7% year-on-year for June. SocGen’s Edwards warns that China faces a looming credit crunch and is already on a deflationary precipice. China’s consumer inflation rate slowed to 1.6% in September, down from 2% previously.
Fed meeting to announce end of QE on Wednesday.
The Federal Reserve in the coming week is expected to end its quantitative easing program – the much-anticipated action that’s been at the very heart of the market’s fears. After a two-day meeting, the Fed Wednesday is expected to announce the completion of its bond purchases, based on improvements in the economy. Markets will now look forward to the time – expected at some point next year—when the Fed believes the economy is strong enough for it to raise short-term interest rates from zero. The economic calendar also heats up in the week ahead, with durable goods Tuesday; third-quarter GDP Thursday, and income and spending and employment costs data Friday. All of the data becomes even more important as the markets attempt to interpret the Fed’s process of normalizing rates.
The Fed “tries to reinvigorate corporate risk taking, and finally we get to the point where corporate risk taking picks up again, and they’re supposed to remove the accommodation. That was just a bridge,” said Tobias Levkovich, chief equity strategist at Citigroup. While recent market volatility has been blamed on everything from Ebola to a global growth scare, one common thread going through all markets is the underlying concern that the Fed’s removal of its easing program will be the financial equivalent of taking off the training wheels. Markets already have stumbled, and analysts expect more volatility ahead as they continue to move closer to a world with more normal interest rate levels.
“Graham says the next bear will hit around election time 2016. The third $10 trillion stock crash early in this new 21st century.”
Big Oil investors beware: “The day of the huge international oil company is drawing to a close,” warned the Economist last year. Since then, Big Oil sell signals have gotten louder, more frequent, confirming fears of a crash in Big Oil, in the entire energy industry, rippling through Wall Street stocks, the global economy. When? Before the new president is elected, in 2016. Scenario like 2008, when McCain lost. Yes, the overhyped shale boom was supposed to make America energy independent, investors happy. Wrong. Risks are rocketing, volatility increasing. Why? Big Oil is vulnerable, they’re running scared, making bigger, costlier, deadlier and dumber bets that threaten the global economy. Worse, Big Oil is in denial about their high-risk, self-destructive gambles.
Main Street’s also in denial. Yes, we’re in a rare historical event now. Two bulls back-to-back, with no bear market in between. Makes investors feel it’ll go forever, like 1999. True, stocks have been roaring since March 2009 when the bottom hit at 6,547 on the Dow after a 54% drop from the October 2007 high of 14,164. Since, a steady climb to a recent DJIA record at 17,279, with gains over 250%. But now our Double Bull has stopped roaring. But market giants are warning, bye-bye bull. Jeremy Grantham, founder of the $117 billion GMO money-management firm, predicts another megatrillion dollar crash, repeating the bears of 2000 and again in 2008. Wall Street lost roughly $10 trillion each time. Graham says the next bear will hit around election time 2016. The third $10 trillion stock crash early in this new 21st century.
“People came in and tried to pick the bottom, and they picked wrong.”
Hedge funds rushed back into oil too quickly, boosting bullish bets amid a rebound last week, only to then watch surging U.S. crude supplies push prices right back down to a two-year low. The net-long positions in West Texas Intermediate futures rose 5.7% in the seven days ended Oct. 21, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Short bets shrank 20%, the most in three months, while longs dropped 2.8%. After rising as analysts speculated prices had reached a floor, WTI sank again after stockpiles climbed nationally and at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for New York Mercantile Exchange futures. It fell to $80.52 on Oct. 22, the lowest settlement since June 2012, and ended the week down 24% from the year’s high.
The U.S. benchmark, which slipped into a bear market Oct. 9, may dip to $75 by the end of year, Bank of America Corp. said Oct. 23. The “swiftness of the selloff” attracted bargain hunters, John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy, said by phone Oct. 24. “People came in and tried to pick the bottom, and they picked wrong.” U.S. oil inventories increased 7.11 million barrels in the seven days ended Oct. 17 to 377.7 million, the Energy Information Administration said Oct. 22. Supply has grown by about 21 million in three weeks.
A good call for once?
Goldman Sachs cut its forecasts for Brent and WTI crude prices next year on rising global supplies, predicting OPEC will lose influence over the oil market amid the U.S. shale boom. The bank is becoming more confident in the scale and sustainability of U.S. shale oil production and said U.S. benchmark prices need to decline to $75 a barrel for a slowdown in output growth. Brent will average $85 a barrel in the first quarter, down from a previous forecast of $100, and West Texas Intermediate will sell for $75 a barrel in the period, from an earlier estimate of $90, analysts including Jeffrey Currie wrote in a report. The biggest members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are discounting supplies to defend market share rather than cutting production to boost prices that have collapsed into a bear market.
The highest U.S. output in almost 30 years is helping increase stockpiles as exporters including Saudi Arabia reduce prices to stimulate demand. “We believe that OPEC will no longer act as the first-mover swing producer and that U.S. shale oil output will be called upon to fill this role,” Goldman said in the report. “Our forecast also reflects the realization of a loss of pricing power by core-OPEC.” Any near-term OPEC production cut will be modest until there is sufficient evidence of a slowdown in U.S. shale oil production growth, according to the report. Global producers may need to cut almost 800,000 barrels a day of output next year to limit a build in inventories and ultimately balance the global oil market in 2016, Goldman said.
“the global debt drama would end with an epic US dollar rally, a dramatic reversal in capital flows, and an absolute bloodbath for emerging markets … ”
In the autumn of 2009, Kyle Bass told me a scary story that I did not understand until the first “taper tantrum” in May 2013. He said that – in additon to a likely string of sovereign defaults in Europe and an outright currency collapse in Japan – the global debt drama would end with an epic US dollar rally, a dramatic reversal in capital flows, and an absolute bloodbath for emerging markets. Extending that outlook, my friends Mark Hart and Raoul Pal warned that China – seen then by many as the world’s rising power and the most resilient economy in the wake of the global crisis – would face an outright economic collapse, an epic currency crisis, or both. All that seemed almost counterintuitive five years ago when the United States appeared to be the biggest basket case among the major economies and emerging markets seemed far more resilient than their “submerging” advanced-economy peers.
But Kyle Bass, Mark Hart, and Raoul Pal are not your typical “macro tourists” who pile into common-knowledge trades and react with the herd. They are exceptionally talented macroeconomic thinkers with an eye for developing trends and the second- and third-order consequences of major policy shifts. On top of their wildly successful bets against the US subprime debacle and the European sovereign debt crisis, it’s now clear that they saw an even bigger macro trend that the whole world (and most of the macro community) missed until very recently: policy divergence. Their shared macro vision looks not only likely, not only probable, but IMMINENT today as the widening gap in economic activity among the United States, Europe, and Japan is beginning to force a dangerous divergence in monetary policy.
In a CNBC interview earlier this week from his Barefoot Economic Summit (“Fed Tapers to Zero Next Week”), Kyle Bass explained that this divergence is set to accelerate in the next couple of weeks, as the Fed will likely taper its QE3 purchases to zero. Two days later, Kyle notes, the odds are high that the Bank of Japan will make a Halloween Day announcement that it is expanding its own asset purchases. Such moves only increase the pressure on Mario Draghi and the ECB to pursue “overt QE” of their own.
Such a tectonic shift, if it continues, is capable of fueling a 1990s-style US dollar rally with very scary results for emerging markets and dangerous implications for our highly levered, highly integrated global financial system.
“No other country buys more than it sells to the rest of the world”. The curse of the reserve currency.
No other country buys more than it sells to the rest of the world: America’s net contribution to the growth of the world economy in the first eight months of this year amounted to $480.8 billion, or about 3% of its GDP. And here is a striking contrast: Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy, is currently getting a net contribution from the rest of the world to the tune of $280 billion – nearly 7% of its GDP. Not even China is sucking so much demand out of the world economy. In the year to the second quarter, China’s trade surplus is estimated at about 2% of its GDP. Those taking potshots at the U.S. government’s foreign policy have a point here that could strongly resonate with the American public, because exports directly or indirectly support more than 11 million American jobs, or close to one-tenth of the country’s latest employment numbers.
It might, therefore, be a good idea to help the Fed’s efforts to steady the economy by getting Germany, China and other large surplus countries to generate more growth from their domestic demand. We may then be able to sell them something instead of being their dumping ground: In the first eight months of this year, our trade deficits with Germany and China were up 14% and 4%, respectively, from the year earlier. But don’t hold your breath for such actions by Washington, or by multilateral agencies whose job it is to ensure balanced trade relationships in the world economy. Nothing of the sort will happen. As in the past, large trade surplus countries won’t budge. They know that during the forthcoming elections – starting with the mid-term Congressional elections next month and culminating with the U.S. presidential contest in 2016 – the Fed will do everything possible to keep economy and employment in a reasonably good shape.
That, of course, means that the locomotive USA will be an increasingly steady pillar of global output, and an expanding market for export-led economies. Germany’s sinking economy, for example, will continue to force local companies to seek salvation on external markets. An apparently rising political hostility with Russia seems to be turning German businesses toward an open, properly regulated and welcoming American market. Problems with China will also cause Germany to lower its formidable export boom on the U.S. That is a conclusion one may draw from the analysis of Sebastian Heilemann, a prominent German sinologist and a director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin. Ominously, he is talking about the “dark clouds” in Chinese-German relations, saying that German companies are suffering from Chinese (get the euphemism) “reverse engineering,” and from increasing administrative difficulties of doing business in the Middle Kingdom.
There’s no such thing as good deflation.
When it comes to deflation there’s the good – and there’s the bad and ugly. Europe faces the risk of the latter as it teeters on the edge of a recession that could trigger a debilitating dive in prices and wages. The U.S., meanwhile, may end up with the more benign version as surging oil and gas supplies push energy costs down and the economy ahead. “Bad deflation weakens growth,” Nancy Lazar, co-founder and a partner at Cornerstone Macro LP in New York, wrote in a report to clients this month. “Good deflation lifts growth.” Lazar also co-founded International Strategy & Investment Group LLC more than 20 years ago. That’s welcome news for U.S. investors. Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, one of the most successful hedge-fund managers, said on Oct. 20 that U.S. stocks will outperform other equity markets for the rest of the year, according to two people who heard him speak at the closed-door Robin Hood Investors conference in New York.
Hedge fund manager David Tepper, who runs the $20 billion Appaloosa Management LP, told the same conference the following day that investors should bet against the euro, two people familiar with his remarks said. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 6.3% so far this year, while the Stoxx Europe 600 Index has fallen 0.3%. The euro is down 7.8% against the dollar since the start of 2014. Treasuries have returned 5.3% this year, compared with 7.6% for German bunds and 15% for Greek debt, according to Bloomberg World Bond Indexes. The U.S. has the “best hand” among nations, while Europe is “the sick one,” Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, said at an Oct. 21 event held by the Urban Land Institute in New York.
Pushing wages down with unemployment at 27.5% is the easy part. In a currency union, you’re going to export those low wages too, though. And that will implode the EU.
[..] A deal reached with Renault after much soul-searching in 2012 cuts entry pay for new workers by 27.5pc, to roughly €17,000 a year (£13,400). Older workers keep their jobs at frozen pay, but with fewer holidays and tougher conditions. Joaquin Arias from the trade union federation CCOO said the terms amounted to blackmail. “The alternative was slow death. We would never have accepted such a plan if the crisis hadn’t been so bad.” Wage costs are now 40pc below levels in comparable French plants in France, the chief reason why Renault and Peugeot have cut their output of vehicles in their home country by half over the last decade. French unions may rage against “social dumping”, but they now face the asphyxiation of their industry unless they too knuckle under. “The French factories are going through exactly what we faced five years ago. It is very hard for everybody, but they too are having to follow the Spanish model,” said Mr Estevez. [..]
Fernando de Acuña, head of Spain’s top property consultancy RR de Acuña, warns that the country is going through an illusionary mini-bubble, with people betting on a fresh cycle in the housing market when the crippling effects of the last boom-bust cycle have yet to be cleared. “We think prices will fall by another 20pc over the next three years. There is still an overhang of 1.7m unsold homes in an annual market of around 230,000. The developers have 467,000 units on their books, and half of these are indirectly controlled by the banks. It is extend and pretend. There are another 150,000 in foreclosure proceedings that are backed up because the courts are saturated,” he said. “People don’t want to hear any of this. We were called criminals and terrorists when we warned in 2007 the country was going to Hell, but we were right, because we base our analysis on the facts and not on wishful thinking,” he said.
It has always been debatable whether Spain can hope to pull itself out of a low-growth trap by relying on exports alone, given that it still has a relatively closed economy with a trade gearing of just 34pc of GDP, far lower than Ireland at 108pc. The current account is already slipping back into deficit in any case as imports surge, suggesting that Spain is still nowhere near a competitive equilibrium within the eurozone. It is already “overheating” in a sense even with 5.6m people unemployed. The International Monetary Fund says Spain’s exchange rate is up to 15pc overvalued. Ominously, the export boom has been fading despite the success of the car industry. Total shipments rose just 1pc in the year to August compared with the same period in 2013, with falls of 11pc to Latin America, and of 13pc to the Middle East. Exports actually contracted by 5pc in August from a year earlier.
“One-fifth of European banks are at risk of insolvency … ”
Investors were spared immediate pain on Sunday after the European Central Bank’s landmark banking health check did not force massive capital hikes amongst the euro zone’s top lenders. But the sector’s long-term attractiveness has been damaged by revelations of extra non-performing loans and hidden losses that will dent future profits. The ECB said on Sunday the region’s 130 most important lenders were just €25 billion ($31.69 billion) short of capital at the end of last year, based on an assessment of how accurately they had valued their assets and whether they could withstand another three years of crisis. The amount of new money needed falls to less than €7 billion after factoring in developments in 2014, well shy of the €50 billion of extra cash investors surveyed by Goldman Sachs in August were expecting.
That means existing investors will only be asked for a fraction of the demand they expected in order to maintain their shareholdings. But, those who read the details of the ECB’s proclamation on the health of the euro zone banking sector would have seen more ominous signs too, as the ECB pointed to the amount of work that remains to be done to restore the region’s lenders. The review said an extra €136 billion of loans should be classed as non-performing – increasing the tally of non-performing loans by 18% – and that an extra €47.5 billion of losses should be taken to reflect assets’ true value. “Banks face a significant challenge as the sector remains chronically unprofitable and must address their €879 billion exposure to non-performing loans as this will tie-up significant amounts of capital,” accountancy firm KPMG noted.
Others took a bleaker view. “One-fifth of European banks are at risk of insolvency,” said Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore, referencing the fact that one-fifth of banks fell shy of the ECB’s pass mark at the end of last year. He added that the ECB’s efforts to boost the euro zone’s sluggish growth through pumping money into the economy would not work if banks were too poorly capitalised to lend. After the ECB adjusted banks’ capital ratios to reflect supervisors’ assessments of banks’ asset values, 31 had core capital below the 10% mark viewed by investors as a safety threshold, while a further 28 had ratios just 1 percentage point above.
That headline could just as well be 5 years old. Nothing changed. Just new shades of porcine lipstick.
The bottom line is that none of the tools currently on the table will get the job done. There are not enough assets to purchase or finance and the timetable to get anything done is too long. Policy makers do not have the luxury of a year or two to figure this out. The ECB balance sheet shrinks virtually daily and as it shrinks, the monetary base of Europe is contracting and putting downward pressure on prices. Europe is clearly in danger of falling into the liquidity trap, if it is not already there. The likelihood of a “lost decade” like that experienced in Japan is rapidly increasing. The ECB must act and act quickly. How is this affecting the markets? The recent rally in US fixed income is materially different than when rates last approached 2%. Previously, the Federal Reserve was actively managing the yield curve to reduce long-term borrowing costs in order to stimulate the economy. The current rally is caused by a massive deflationary wave unleashed upon the US by beggar-thy-neighbour policies in Europe and Asia.
The precipitous decline in energy and commodity prices and competitive pressures on prices for traded goods will probably push inflation, as measured by the Fed’s favoured personal consumption expenditures index, back down toward 1%. This raises the likelihood that any increase in the policy rate by the Fed will be pushed into 2016 or later. With inflationary expectations falling and the relative attractiveness of US Treasury yields over German Bunds and Japanese government bonds, US long-term rates are likely to continue to be well supported with limited room to rise and a dynamic that could push them lower from here. In the real economy, the decline in energy prices should offset the effect of reduced exports, which is supportive of US growth in the near term. This will help equities recover from the recent storm of volatility as we move deeper into the fourth quarter, which is a time of seasonal strength for the stock market. However, this may prove to be the rally to sell. Results from currency translations for large, multinational companies will weigh heavily on S&P 500 earnings in the first half of 2015.
Leave the euro, and restructure all bank debt. It’s the only thing that makes any sense at all. But it’s not even considered.
Italy’s central bank was thrown on the defensive on Sunday as its banking sector emerged as the standout loser in health checks aimed at restoring confidence in the euro area’s financial sector. Officials at the Bank of Italy criticised parameters in regulatory stress tests as unrealistically harsh on Italian banks and disputed the exact number of failures, after nine Italian lenders fell short in a comprehensive review unveiled by the European Central Bank. Across the euro area, some 25 banks emerged with capital shortfalls following an unprecedented regulatory effort aimed at dispelling the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the European banking sector’s health.
The announcement represents the culmination of more than a year of intensive work costing hundreds of millions of euros and involving thousands of officials and accountants – all aimed at restoring investor faith in European banks ahead of the launch of a unified banking supervisor in Frankfurt. The biggest failure was Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which has already hired bankers at Citigroup and UBS to advise on its options after it received takeover approaches. German banks emerged largely unscathed, with only one technical failure, while Spain clawed its way through with no shortfalls.
Italy’s “public debt-to-GDP ratio was 134% in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 94% for the euro zone as a whole”.
Italy’s report card was by far the worst from this weekend’s European bank stress tests, with nine of its 15 banks tested failing to reach the levels of capital required. The country’s relationship with European authorities could get increasingly fractious, with the European Commission yet to approve its 2015 budget. And tensions are set to continue as its banks look to raise more capital than any other country to reach ECB requirements at a time when the Italian economy is back in recession. There was a “surgical targeting of Italian banks with asset quality review (AQR) drones (by the ECB),” according to Carlo Alberto Carnevale-Maffe, professor of strategy at Italy’s Bocconi University. “The ECB targeted the banks with the lowest level of transparency and governance, and the highest links with the political system,” he told CNBC.
Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo, the country’s two biggest lenders, both passed the tests, but some of their smaller counterparts are struggling as the economy stagnates, and the level of sovereign debt on their balance sheets starts to look more worrying. While household debt levels in Italy are relatively low, its public debt-to-GDP ratio was 134% in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 94% for the euro zone as a whole. Federico Ghizzoni, chief executive of UniCredit, told CNBC he was “very satisfied” with his bank’s result and added: “For the system in general, the results including what has been done in 2014 is OK.” Ghizzoni predicted there will be an increase in mergers and acquisitions in the Italian banking sector as a result of the tests.
World’s oldest bank turns into merger target.
Italy’s Consob has banned short selling on Monte dei Paschi’s shares on Monday and Tuesday, the Italian market regulator said in a statement. Shares in Italy’s third biggest bank lost more than 17% on Monday after results from a pan-European health check of lenders showed on Sunday that Monte dei Paschi faced a capital shortfall of €2.1 billion – the biggest gap among the 130 lenders under scrutiny.
“In one way, the ECB had good reason to be strict.” Question is then, why didn’t it?
The European Central Bank has just published the results of new “stress tests” on European Union banks, hoping to convince financial markets that the banking system is now strong enough to weather another crisis. This latest exercise is a big improvement over previous efforts, which were widely derided as too soft – but it’s still not good enough. The test had two parts. The first was a detailed examination of loans, to see whether they were worth what the banks said. This found that most of 130 banks under review had overvalued their assets – by a total of €47.5 billion ($60 billion) at the end of last year. The second part asked, with assets correctly valued, whether the banks had enough capital to safely endure another recession and financial-market shock. It found that 25 did not, and 13 of those need to raise €9.5 billion in capital, over and above what they’ve added so far this year.
This closer scrutiny has helped. Deutsche Bank AG raised €8.5 billion in equity this year to boost its chances of passing. Weak institutions, such as Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo and Austria’s Volksbanken network, are restructuring or shutting down. By strengthening the system and increasing confidence in it, the ECB’s tests might reverse a two-year slump in private-sector lending. That’s the hope, anyway. Trouble is, even the new tests were pretty soft. Economists at Switzerland’s Center for Risk Management at Lausanne, for example, have put the capital shortfall for just 37 banks at almost €500 billion – as opposed to the roughly €10 billion reported by the ECB for its sample of 130. This more stringent test used a method that mimics how the market value of equity actually behaves under stress.
In one way, the ECB had good reason to be strict. It had to contend with doubts aroused by the previous unpersuasive tests. Also, it takes over as the euro area’s supranational bank supervisor on Nov. 4, so any lingering issues will be its responsibility. But it knew that if it were too tough, the blow to confidence could have plunged the EU back into crisis. The euro area already has a stalled recovery and stands on the brink of deflation; an alarming report on the banks might have done more harm than good. So the design of the exercise was compromised. It used a measure of capital that relies on banks to weight assets by risk — an opportunity to fudge the numbers. It ignored the credit freezes, forced asset sales and contagion that can cause huge losses in bad times. The worst-case scenario projected a fall in euro-area output of just 1.4%in 2015 (in 2009, it dropped 4.5%). And no governments default.
It’s already crystal clear that there’s not enough to purchase: “In reality, it is what follows that will be important, or maybe more importantly, what doesn’t follow.”
Investors will be handed a clue today in to just how aggressive Mario Draghi is willing to be. At 3:30 p.m. in Frankfurt, the European Central Bank will reveal how much it spent on covered bonds last week after returning to that market for a third time as part of a renewed bid to stave off deflation. The central bank bought at least €800 million ($1 billion) of assets from Portugal to Germany in the three days since the program began on Oct. 20, traders said last week. Formal details will help them divine how quickly the ECB president can reach his target of expanding the institution’s balance sheet by as much as €1 trillion. “In terms of the ECB’s aspiration to expand its balance sheet, the market wants it all now,” said Richard Barwell, senior European economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London.
“There’s scope for immediate disappointment to the scale of the purchases we see today.” With the economy stuttering and inflation forecast to have stayed below 1% for a 13th month in October, Draghi is under pressure to do more. While central banks from the U.S. to Japan used large-scale asset purchases to bolster their balance sheets and kick-start lending, the ECB has so far refrained from such a step. German opposition to sovereign-bond purchases means officials have chosen covered bonds and asset-backed securities as the latest tools to help expand the balance sheet. While policy makers say their plans will spark new issuance, economists at firms including Morgan Stanley and Commerzbank say the central bank will probably need to buy other assets to reach the target.
Of the region’s €2.6 trillion covered-bond market, the ECB will only buy assets eligible under its collateral framework for refinancing loans, denominated in euros and issued by credit institutions in the euro area. Purchases will be announced weekly, starting today, and the pool of bonds eligible is about €600 billion, ECB Vice President Vitor Constancio said this month. ABS buying is scheduled to begin later this quarter and there are about €400 billion of such assets eligible to buy, according to Constancio. “Covered bond and ABS purchases appear to be the line of least resistance for the ECB,” said Jon Mawby, a London-based fund manager at GLG Partners LP, which manages $32 billion. “In reality, it is what follows that will be important, or maybe more importantly, what doesn’t follow.”
Lowest in 22 months.
Business confidence in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, has dropped for a sixth consecutive month as concerns over the turmoil in Ukraine and elsewhere continue to take their toll. The Ifo institute said Monday that its confidence index dropped to 103.2 points in October from 104.7 in September, as business leaders’ assessments of their current situation and their expectations for the next six months both fell. The government and independent economists have cut their growth forecasts for Germany after a string of disappointing industrial data for August. Economists warn if international crises escalate or Africa’s Ebola outbreak spreads the impact could become greater. Ifo’s survey is based on responses from about 7,000 companies in various sectors.
All your bucks are belong to us.
The number of Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship increased 39% in the three months through September after rules that make it harder to hide assets from tax authorities came into force. People giving up their nationality at U.S. embassies increased to 776 in the third quarter, from 560 in the year-earlier period, according to Federal Register data published yesterday. Tougher asset-disclosure rules that started July 1 under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, prompted more of the estimated 6 million Americans living overseas to give up their passports. The appeal of U.S. citizenship for expatriates faded further as more than 100 Swiss banks began to turn over data on American clients to avoid prosecution for helping tax evaders.
The U.S., the only Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nation that taxes citizens wherever they reside, stepped up the search for tax dodgers after UBS paid a $780 million penalty in 2009 and handed over data on about 4,700 accounts. Shunned by Swiss and German banks and with Fatca starting, more than 9,000 Americans living overseas gave up their passports over the past five years. Fatca requires U.S. financial institutions to impose a 30% withholding tax on payments made to foreign banks that don’t agree to identify and provide information on U.S. account holders. It allows the U.S. to scoop up data from more than 77,000 institutions and 80 governments about its citizens’ overseas financial activities..
The decline in Arctic sea ice has doubled the chance of severe winters in Europe and Asia in the past decade, according to researchers in Japan. Sea-ice melt in the Arctic, Barents and Kara seas since 2004 has made more than twice as likely atmospheric circulations that suck cold Arctic air to Europe and Asia, a group of Japanese researchers led by the University of Tokyo’s Masato Mori said in a study published yesterday in Nature Geoscience. “This counterintuitive effect of the global warming that led to the sea ice decline in the first place makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not,” Colin Summerhayes, emeritus associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute, said in a statement provided by the journal Nature Geoscience, where the study is published.
The findings back up the view of United Nations climate scientists that a warmer average temperature for the world will make storms more severe in some places and change the character of seasons in many others. It also helps debunk the suggestion that slower pace of global warming in the past decade may suggest the issue is less of a problem. “Although average surface warming has been slower since 2000, the Arctic has gone on warming rapidly throughout this time,” he said.
The mess the US makes of its ebola response reaches staggering proportions. How is it possible that it has been so hugely unprepared?
Breaking: 5-year old boy monitired for ebola in NY.
Lawyers for a nurse quarantined in a New Jersey hospital say they’ll sue to have her released in a constitutional challenge to state restrictions for health care workers returning to New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel said Kaci Hickox, who was quarantined after arriving Friday at the Newark airport, shows no symptoms of being infected and should be released immediately. He and attorney Steven Hyman said the state attorney general’s office had cooperated in getting them access to Hickox. Late Sunday, a spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement saying that people who had come into contact with someone with Ebola overseas would be subject to a mandatory quarantine at home. It did not explain why Hickox was being held at the hospital, though it did say, “Non-residents would be transported to their homes if feasible and, if not, quarantined in New Jersey.”
Hyman told NBC News he wasn’t sure what the statement meant for Hickox’s release. “I think we’re getting closer to it,” he said. He and Siegel, speaking earlier outside Newark University Hospital, where she is quarantined, said they spent 75 minutes with her on Sunday. They said she was being kept in a tented area on the hospital’s first floor with a bed, folding table and little else — they said she was able to get a laptop computer with wi-fi access only Sunday. But they said she is not being treated. “She is fine. She is not sick,” Hyman said. Photos they released showed her in hospital garb peering through a plastic window of the tented-off area.