Bob Doll highlighted the disconnect between long-term and short-term rates in his latest review. The chart below plots the 3-month T-bill rate against 10-year Treasury yields.
At this stage, the disconnect is not significant. But a disconnect as in 2004 – 2005 is far more serious. Large Chinese purchases of Treasuries prevented long-term rates from rising in response to Fed tightening, limiting the Fed’s ability to contain the housing bubble.
“Never trade against the central bank” is a golden rule of trading. Rule #2 should be: “When the central bank behaves erratically, stay clear.” The PBOC announced a crackdown on wealth management products in May but alarm at the rapid contraction elicited a quick retraction.
The Shanghai Composite Index broke support at 3050/3100 signaling a primary decline. But the PBOCs sudden reversal spurred a recovery, with the index now likely to test resistance at 3300. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates buying pressure. Reversal below 3050 is unlikely but would confirm a primary down-trend.
Philip Parker – veteran fund manager decides to sell all shares in Altair’s Trusts to hand back cash and hands back mandates for SMA/IMA’s and also sells MDA family office mandates to cash from shares.
AUSTRALIAN EAST COAST PROPERTY MARKET BUBBLE AND THE IMPENDING CORRECTION
CHINA PROPERTY AND DEBT ISSUES LATER THIS YEAR
THE OVERVALUED AUSTRALIAN EQUITY MARKETS AND
OVERSIZED GEO-POLITICAL RISKS AND AN UNPREDICTABLE US POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT
The underlined above are some of the more obvious reasons to exit the riskier asset markets of shares and property – in my opinion.
As a result of the above and after 25 years as a fund manager and 30 years in this industry I am taking around 6 to 12 months off. The main reason is in my opinion that there are just too many risks at present, and I cannot justify charging our clients fees when there are so many early warning lead indicators of clear and present danger in property and equity markets now….
The Shanghai Composite Index recovered above primary support at 3100, after the state moved quickly to ease contractionary pressures from the recent crackdown on wealth management products. Rising Twiggs Money Flow signals buying pressure but the situation is artificial. Normally breach of primary support would elicit strong selling.
Copper rallied off long-term support at 5400. The reaction is secondary and breach of 5400 remains likely, signaling a primary down-trend.
Iron ore is consolidating in a narrow bearish pattern above support at 60. Breach seems likely and would signal another decline, with a target of 50*.
* Target: 60 – ( 70 – 60 ) = 50
Shanghai’s Composite Index rallied to test its new resistance level at 3100, after breach signaled a primary down-trend. Respect would confirm the decline, with a medium-term target of 2800*, but government intervention may bolster support. Recovery above 3100 would mean all bets are off for the present.
Copper is testing long-term support at 5400, suggesting weak demand from China. Breach would signal a primary down-trend.
The Yuan has enjoyed a respite, consolidating in a narrow line for several weeks. But this is likely to prove temporary, with further advances of the Dollar against the Yuan eroding PBOC foreign exchange reserves.
Shanghai’s Composite Index broke support at 3100, signaling a primary down-trend, but the long tail indicates buying support. Recovery above 3100 would suggest a false signal (or government intervention) while respect of resistance would confirm the down-trend.
Copper is widely considered to be a barometer of the global economy, with prices rising when the outlook improves. Currently A-grade Copper is testing support at 5400. Breach would confirm Chinese selling pressure, offering a target of long-term support at 4500.
….China’s commodity futures markets are the ‘canary in the coalmine’ for hints that the markets may be in for an even wilder ride.
Most WMPs [wealth management products] have a maturity between 1-4 months and managers of these WMPs need their Chinese retail investors to roll over by buying new WMPs. If this stops or slows, (which is happening now – see Bloomberg) it will result in assets being force-sold by fund managers to pay back expiring WMPs. The liquid assets that have boomed in recent months such as iron ore futures, will be, and have been, the first to be sold. Next to be sold will be shares, international assets and local property and local corporate bonds if there is still a functioning market for them.
Lars Christensen is one of the founding members of the Market Monetarism school of economic thought, having coined the term himself. Market Monetarists advocate that central banks target nominal GDP, instead of inflation, in order to achieve more responsive monetary policy and more stable economic growth.
While we, as well as the few bearish peers we have, have warned of a pending “credit event” in China for some time now – admittedly incorrectly (China has proved much more resilient than expected) – the more recent red flags are among the most profound we’ve seen in years – in short, we agree with fresh observations made by some of the world’s most famous iron ore bears. Thus, while it is nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly when the credit bubble will definitively pop in China, a number of recent events, in our view, suggest the threat level is currently at red/severe.
WHERE IS CHINA AT TODAY VS. WHERE THE US WAS AT AHEAD OF THE SUBPRIME CRISIS? At the peak of the US subprime bubble (before the failure of Bear Stearns in Mar. ‘08, and subsequently Lehman Brothers in Sep. ’08, troubles in the US credit system emerged as early as Feb. ’07), the asset/liability mismatch was 2% when compared to the total banking system. However, in China, currently, there is a massive duration mismatch in wealth management products (“WMPs”). And, at $4tn in total WMPs outstanding, the asset/liability mismatch in China is now above 10% – China’s entire banking system is ~$34tn, which is a scary scenario. In our view, this is a very important dynamic to track given it foretells where a country is at in the credit cycle.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS WE ARE SEEING? In short, we see a number of signs that point to what could be the beginning of the “popping” of the credit bubble in China. More specifically: (1) interbank rates in China are spiking, meaning banks, increasingly, don’t trust each other – this is how any banking crisis begins (Exhibit 1), (2) China’s Minsheng Bank recently issued a ghost/fraudulent WMP (they raised $436mn in funds for a CDO-like asset that had no assets backing it [yes, you heard that right] – link), (2) Anbang, the Chinese conglomerate who has used WMP issuance as a means to buy a number of assets globally (including the Waldorf Astoria here in the US), is now having issues gaining approval for incremental asset purchases (link), suggesting global investors may be getting weary of the way in which Anbang has “beefed up” its balance sheet, (3) China’s top insurance regulator, Xiang Junbo, chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, is currently under investigation for “severe” disciplinary violations (link), implying some/many of the “shadow” forms of transacting in China could become a bit harder to maneuver (which would manifest itself in higher rates, which his exactly what we are seeing today), and (4) as would be expected from all of this, as was revealed overnight in China, bank WMP issuance crashed 15% m/m in April to 10,038 from 11,823 in March, a strong indicator that faith in these products is indeed waning.
Exhibit 1: Interbank Rates in China
DOES CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING HAVE ALL OF THIS UNDER CONTROL? In a word, increasingly, it seems the answer is no. What’s the evidence? Well, in March, interbank rates spiked WAY past the upper corridor of 3.45% to ~11% (Exhibit 2), a strong indicator that the PBoC is losing its ability to “maintain order”. And, admittedly, while there are levers the PBoC can pull, FX reserves are at scary low levels (discussed below), suggesting the PBoC is quickly running out of bullets. Furthermore, corporate bond issuance in China was negative in C1Q, which means M2 is going to be VERY hard to grow (when MO is negative); at risk of stating the obvious, without M2 growth in China, economic growth (i.e., GDP) will undoubtedly slow – this is not the current Consensus among market prognosticators who think things are quite rosy right now in China; yet, while global stock markets are soaring, the ChiNext Composite index is down -7.5% YTD vs. the Nasdaq Composite Index being up +12.8% YTD. In our view, given China’s importance to the global commodity backdrop, we see this as a key leading indicator (the folks on the ground in China are betting with their wallets, while global investors continue to place their hopes on: [a.] a reflationary tailwind that we do not believe is ever coming [China is now destocking], and [b.] hope that President Trump will deliver everything he’s promised [which, in this political environment, we see is virtually impossible]).
Exhibit 2: Overnight Reverse Repo Rate
CHINA’S FOREIGN EXCHANGE (“FX”) RESERVES ARE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO LOW LEVELS THAT WILL LIKELY CAUSE AN INFLECTION LOWER IN THE CURRENCY. Based on a fine-tuning of its formula to calculate “reserve-adequacy” over the years, the International Monetary Funds’ (“IMF”) approach can be best summed up as follows: Minimum FX Reserves = 10% of Exports + 30% of Short-term FX Debt + 10% of M2 + 15% of Other Liabilities. Thus, for China, the equation is as follows: 10% * $2.2tn + 30% * $680bn + 10% * (RMB 139.3tn ÷ 6.6) + 15% * $1.0tn = $2.7tn of required minimum reserves. Furthermore, when considering China’s FX reserve balance was roughly $4tn just 2 years ago, we find it concerning that experts now peg China’s unofficial FX reserve balance somewhere in the $1.6-$1.7tn range. Why does this differ from China’s $3.0tn in reported FX reserves as of Feb. 2017? Well, according to our contacts, when adjusting for China’s investment in its own sovereign wealth fund (i.e., the CIC) of roughly $600bn, as well as bank injections from: (a) China Development Bank (“CDB”) of roughly $975bn, (b) The Export-Import Bank of China (“EXIM”) of roughly $30bn, (c) the Agricultural Development Bank of China (“ADBC”) of roughly $10bn, as well as capital commitments from, (d) the BRICs Bank of roughly $50bn, (e) the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (“AIIB”) of $50bn, (f) open short RMB forwards by agent banks of $300bn, (g) the China Africa Fund of roughly $50bn, and (h) Oil-Currency Swaps with Russia of roughly $50bn, the actual FX reserve balance in China is closer to $1.69tn (Exhibit 3).
Stated differently, based on the IMFs formula, sharply contrasting the Consensus view that China has years of reserves to burn through, China is already below the critical level of minimum reserve adequacy. However, using expert estimates that $1.0tn-$1.5tn in reserves is the “critical level”, and also considering that China is burning $25bn-$75bn in reserves each month, the point at which the country will no longer be able to support the renminbi via FX reserves appears to be a 2017 event. At that point, there would be considerable devaluation in China’s currency, sending a deflationary shock through the world’s commodity markets; in short, we feel this would be bad for the steel/iron ore stocks we cover, yet is being completely un-discounted in stocks today (no one ever expects this event to occur).
The early 2007 analogy is a good one. This is coming at some point in the next few years. I remain on guard but skeptical at this point given China does have other levers it can pull to keep the credit running and is indeed pulling them in fiscal policy. As well, the problem can always be made worse before it’s made better. Authorities are, after all, bringing this on.
It’s a fascinating question. Could China endure a “sudden stop” in credit if counter-party risk exploded, much like happened to Wall St in 2008? The usual analysis reckons that China’s publicly owned banks can always be ordered to lend more but what if they lose faith in each other? It’s probably true that Chinese authorities could still force feed credit into the economy but, equally, it’s difficult to see how an interbank crash in confidence would not slow the injection, at minimum via choked off-balance sheet vehicles like WMPs.
There is no doubt, at least, about what happens when it does arrive:
the final washout of commodity prices;
Australian house price crash;
multiple sovereign downgrades, and
an Aussie dollar at 40 cents or below.
It’s the great reset event for Australia’s bloated living standards. That is why we say to you get your money offshore today. We can help you do that when the MB Fund launches in the next month with 70% international allocation.
Comment from Colin:
I share Macrobusiness’ skepticism over the timing of a possible Chinese crash, especially because they have in the past shown a preparedness to kick the can down the road rather than address thorny issues – making their problems worse in the long run. But I do see China’s stability as a long-term threat to the global financial system which could precipitate a major down-turn on global stock markets.
The Dollar Index broke support at 100 despite strengthening interest rates, warning of a down-trend. Target for a decline would be the May 2016 low of 93.
China has burned through a trillion dollars of foreign reserves in the last 3 years, attempting to support the yuan. I believe the sell-off is unlikely to abate and plays a major part in the Dollar’s weakness.
A falling Dollar would strengthen demand for gold. Spot Gold is retracing from resistance at $1300/ounce and is likely to find support at $1240/$1250. Respect of support would suggest another advance; confirmed if gold breaks $1300.
Spot Silver displays a more bearish medium-term outlook, however, with a stronger correction testing support at $17.00/ounce. Breach of support would test the primary level at $15.65 and warn of further gold weakness.
Shanghai’s Composite Index is experiencing selling pressure, with Twiggs Money Flow crossing below zero for the first time since 2014. Reversal below 3100 would warn of a primary down-trend.
* Target medium-term: May 2016 low of 2800
India’s Sensex is consolidating in a bullish narrow band below major resistance at 30000. Rising Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure. Breakout is likely and would offer a target of 32000*.
Don’t know if he is long, but Donald Trump is doing his best to drive up demand for gold.
From the FT overnight:
Donald Trump has warned that the US will take unilateral action to eliminate the nuclear threat from North Korea unless China increases pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.
In an interview with the Financial Times, the US president said he would discuss the growing threat from Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programme with Xi Jinping when he hosts the Chinese president at his Florida resort this week, in their first meeting. “China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office.
“If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”
But he made clear that he would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. Asked if he would consider a “grand bargain” — where China pressures Pyongyang in exchange for a guarantee that the US would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula — Mr Trump said:
“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
Nothing like the threat of nuclear war to drive up the price of portable assets. Not that it would do much good if you are on the receiving end.
Spot Gold broke resistance at $1250 an ounce. Follow-through above $1260 is likely and would signal an advance to $1300.
Theresa May had a calmer, less belligerent approach: “….encourage China to look at this issue of North Korea and play a more significant role in terms of North Korea … I think that’s where our attention should focus.”
The ASX 200 broke through stubborn resistance at 5800 but is struggling to reach 6000.
There are three headwinds that make me believe that the index will struggle to break 6000:
Shuttering of the motor industry
The last vehicles will roll off production lines in October this year. A 2016 study by Valadkhani & Smyth estimates the number of direct and indirect job losses at more than 20,000.
But this does not take into account the vacuum left by the loss of scientific, technology and engineering skills and the impact this will have on other industries.
…R&D-intensive manufacturing industries, such as the motor vehicle industry, play an important role in the process of technology diffusion. These findings are consistent with the argument in the Bracks report that R&D is a linchpin of the Australian automotive sector and that there are important knowledge spillovers to other industries.
Collapse of the housing bubble
An oversupply of apartments will lead to falling prices, with heavy discounting already evident in Melbourne as developers attempt to clear units. Bank lending will slow as prices fall and spillover into the broader housing market seems inevitable. Especially when:
Australian households are leveraged to the eyeballs — the highest level of Debt to Disposable Income of any OECD nation.
Falling demand for iron ore & coal
China is headed for a contraction, with a sharp down-turn in growth of M1 money supply warning of tighter liquidity. Falling housing prices and record iron ore inventory levels are both likely to drive iron ore and coal prices lower.
Australia has survived the last decade on Mr Micawber style economic management, with something always turning up at just the right moment — like the massive 2009-2010 stimulus on the chart above — to rescue the economy from disaster. But sooner or later our luck will run out. As any trader will tell you: Hope isn’t a strategy.
“I have no doubt I shall, please Heaven, begin to be more beforehand with the world, and to live in a perfectly new manner, if — if, in short, anything turns up.”
~ Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
…..Fully 70% of Chinese television dramas have plots related to war with Japan, he tells us, and in 2012 alone 700 million imaginary Japanese were killed in Chinese movies. Mr. French’s findings on this count are ominous: “Up until the present day,” he writes, “East Asia has never proven large enough for two great powers to coexist peacefully.”
….he points to the enormous demographic shift under way in China as the population ages and birthrates fall far short of replacement. China is on course to have more than 329 million people over the age of 65 by 2050, while the younger, working-age population is set to plummet. The inexorable aging of the population will, Mr. French predicts, restrain the country’s ability to project power in the future. It will halve the size of the military-age population while saddling workers and the government with enormous expenses to care for the elderly. He suggests that the incredible pace with which China is currently trying to assert control over the South China Sea is driven by President Xi Jinping’s awareness that the country has a window of at most 20 or 30 years before demographics catch up to it and such an expansion becomes impossible.
China’s attempt to dominate East Asia (if not Asia) brings it into direct conflict with Japan. Expect increased militarization of Japan as China attempts to expand its sphere of influence. The Korean peninsula and Vietnam are simply sideshows.