The Aussie Dollar met resistance at the former support level of 75 US cents, with a tall shadow on Tuesday’s shooting star candlestick pattern. Respect of resistance is likely and would warn of another test of support at 73.50. Breach of support would offer a target of 72, putting pressure on ASX stocks as international investors retreat.
The Aussie tends to take its direction from commodities. At present iron ore displays a weak rally that coincides with the rally on AUDUSD. Reversal through support at 60 is likely, and would warn of a decline to 50.
Broad commodity indexes like the DJ-UBS Commodity Index are consolidating in a rectangle, between 82 and 90 on the chart below. Commodities have been trending lower since 2011, as shown yesterday. Breakout above 90 is unlikely but would signal a primary up-trend. Breach of support is more likely and would indicate a decline to test support at the January 2016 low, between 72 and 74.
Growth in total monthly hours worked has slowed to 1.3% for the 12 months to April 2017. In fact, growth has been pretty lean over the last 5 years, except for the period January 2015 to February 2016.
High commodity prices in 2004 to 2008 and 2010 to 2011 coincide with periods of strong employment and GDP growth, as indicated on the chart above.
The current down-trend in commodity prices, depicted on the DJ-UBS Commodity Index above, and low growth in hours worked both point to anemic employment (and GDP) growth ahead.
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.
The big banks fell sharply on the week’s turmoil, with the ASX 300 Banks Index breaking support at 8500. Breach signals a primary trend reversal, offering a medium-term target of 8000*.
* Target: 8500 – ( 9000 – 8500 ) = 8000
Resources stocks rallied over the week. Expect strong resistance on the ASX 300 Metals & Mining index at 3000.
Iron ore continues in a bearish narrow consolidation above support at $60. Breach would offer a short-term target of $50*.
* Target: 60 – ( 70 – 60 ) = 50
These are ominous signs for the ASX 200 which is testing medium-term support at 5700. A sharp fall on Twiggs Money Flow flags strong selling pressure. Breach of primary support at 5600* would signal a reversal, offering a target of 5200*.
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.
The big banks fell sharply on news of a new levy on bank liabilities in the latest budget. At this stage the ASX 300 Banks Index merely shows a secondary reaction. Breach of 8500, however, would signal a primary trend reversal, offering a medium-term target of 8000*.
* Target: 8500 – ( 9000 – 8500 ) = 8000
Resources stocks compensated, with the ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index rallying to test resistance at 2850/2900. Breakout is unlikely given the weak lead from iron ore. Reversal below 2700 remains likely and would strengthen the bear signal for resources.
Iron ore formed a bearish consolidation above support at $60. Breach would offer a short-term target of $50*.
* Target: 60 – ( 70 – 60 ) = 50
Selling of the Aussie Dollar continues, with a medium-term test of primary support at 71.50/72.00 now likely.
Consolidation of the ASX 200 above support at 5800 is a bearish pattern. Breach would signal a correction to test primary support at 5600*. Twiggs Money Flow still indicates long-term buying pressure and only a fall below zero would warn of a reversal.
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.
Commodities are falling, with the DJ-UBS Commodity Index testing support at 82.
Despite the Dollar Index breaking support at 100.
Spot Gold followed, breaking medium-term support at $1240/$1250. A test of primary support at $1200/ounce is now likely.
Breach of $1200 would signal a primary down-trend. Respect would confirm the primary up-trend. I still view gold stocks as a form of “Trump insurance” and am reluctant to part with exposure to this sector.
The recent Iron ore rally has faded and the commodity is again testing support at $60. Twiggs Momentum (13-week) below zero indicates a primary down-trend.
The ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index broke support at 2850, warning of a down-trend. A Twiggs Money Flow peak below zero flags strong selling pressure.
Falling ore prices will place strong downward pressure on the ASX and the Aussie Dollar.
ASX 300 Banks Index retreated below 9000. Declining Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term selling pressure. Follow-through below 8900, or Twiggs Money Flow below zero, would warn of a correction.
The large red engulfing candle on the weekly ASX 200 chart also warns of a (secondary) reversal. Breach of support at 5800 would signal a correction. Twiggs Money Flow still shows long-term buying pressure and only a fall below zero would warn of a market top (primary trend reversal).
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.
ASX 300 Banks, the largest sector in the broad index, is consolidating above its new support level at 9000. Declining Twiggs Money Flow warns of medium-term selling pressure. Reversal below 8900 is unlikely but would warn of a correction.
Bank exposure to residential mortgages is the Achilles heel of the Australian economy and APRA is likely to keep the pressure on banks to raise lending standards and increase capital reserves, which would lower return on equity.
Australian economy to boom as unemployment drops, IMF
…The IMF predicts Australia’s economy will grow by 3.1 per cent in 2017 and 3 per cent in 2018. This is better than the most recent forecast by the Australian Treasury and released by the Australian government in December last year, which predicted GDP would “pick up to 2¾ per cent in 2017-18 as the detraction from mining investment eases.”
Broad projections like those of the IMF offer little comfort. The very next headline warns of falling iron ore prices:
Iron ore broke support at 70. Follow-through below the rising trendline would warn that the up-trend is weakening.
Australian resources stocks, represented here by the ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index [$XMM], reflect strong selling pressure with a bearish divergence on Twiggs Money Flow. Follow-through below 2850 would warn of a (primary) reversal.
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
Gerard Minack, courtesy of Macrobusiness, explains why the recent rise in commodity prices will not result in a repeat of the last boom.
There are two main ways the last commodity boom boosted domestic activity. Neither seems likely to be repeated now. The first is that the mining sector lifted its investment spending as commodity prices increased (Exhibit 5). Now, however, mining investment is likely to continue to fall (although most of the declines have been seen).
The second way the mining boom filtered through to domestic activity was via fiscal policy. The boom provided a windfall for governments. For the Federal Government the windfall was several percent of GDP….Almost all the revenue windfall was used to fund a discretionary loosening of fiscal policy….. With the budget now in deficit I expect the Federal Government to trouser the latest windfall. (Yes, there will be political pressure on a behind-in-the-polls-government to spend more, but the countervailing political fear is that to spend the windfall now would lead to a politically damaging downgrade to Australia’s sovereign rating.)
The unforeseen consequence of this government profligacy was a spectacular rise in the Aussie Dollar and subsequent decimation of the manufacturing sector.
….China’s stimulus is finite and demand for raw materials will collapse without it.
Australian Atul Lele, the Bahamas-based chief investment officer of private wealth manager Deltec, says all monetary and fiscal stimulus has a natural conclusion – “it just ends” – and traditional indicators of commodity prices such as global growth and liquidity conditions have been outrun by prices already.
“Right now, commodity prices are consistent with 8 per cent global industrial production. If we saw that, ex of the financial crisis recovery, it would be the strongest rate of global industrial production growth since 1981, at least. Now I’m bullish global growth and more bullish than most people, but it’s not going to happen and even if it does happen, all you’ve done is justify current commodity prices. So why would you buy a resource stock now?”
The iron ore price has slumped to a one-month low as investors fret over the strength of Chinese demand. The commodity weakened 1.7% to $US53.50 a tonne at the end of last week, its lowest price since April 11. It’s the commodity’s seventh red session in the past eight and the price has now dropped to below the [Australian] government’s recent budget forecast of $US55 a tonne.