Tag Archives: Term repo

Stocks Bubble Up From More Money Printing

The stock market spiked up last week as Trump started in with his trade war optimism tweets, which excited the algos and momentum chasers. As Monday rolled around, however,  it was determined that a “Phase 1” trade agreement amounted to nothing more than a commitment from China to buy some farm products. On Tuesday China made the purchases contingent on Trump removing tariffs. So there is no “Phase 1” trade deal.

But the hedge fund computers don’t care.  Now the market is bubbling higher on the reimplementation of Federal Reserve money printing. Call it whatever your want – QE, balance sheet growth, term repos, whatever. But the bottom line is that Fed is printing money and injecting it into the banking system, which thereby acts as a transmission mechanism channeling some portion of this liquidity into the stock market.

The semiconductor sector is traveling higher at the fastest rate as hedge fund computers and daytraders are chasing the highest beta stocks up the most. The SOXX index is pressing its all-time today.   This is in complete disregard to underlying fundamentals in the sector which are melting down precipitously.

For the 1st ten days of October, exports from South Korea fell 8.5% YoY with chip exports down a staggering 27.2%. Remember back in January when the CEO of Lam Research forecast an upturn in 2H of 2019? Does that look like an industry upturn? Two of the world’s five largest chip manufacturers are based in S Korea:  Samsung is the world’s largest and Hynix is ranked fourth.

Today the Fed’s daily money printing repo program surged to $87.7 billion, which is the highest since “QE Renewed”  began in mid-September.  Recall back then the popular Orwellian narrative explained that the “temporary” funding was necessary  to address quarter-end cash needs by corporations and banks.  Well, certainly the banks need the money…

But on Friday the Fed announced that it was going to extend the overnight and term repo operations at least until January. In addition, the Fed added a  $60 billion per month T-bill purchasing program. The Fed explained that it was implementing the  operation to supplement the liability side of its balance sheet.  Besides currency and coin issued by the Fed, deposits from “depository institutions” –  aka demand deposits from banks – represent the largest liability on the Fed’s balance sheet.

This means that this liability account needs more funding because either bank customers are holding less cash at banks OR banks need to increase reserves to maintain regulatory reserve ratios. The latter issue would imply that bank assets – aka loans – are deteriorating more quickly than the banks can raise the funds needed to meet reserve requirements. Given the recent data on MZM, it would appear that customer cash deposits at banks have increased recently. This implies that banks are experiencing stress in the performance of the loans and derivatives on their balance sheet, thereby requiring more reserve capital.

Money printing apologists want to point at DB or JPM as the target of the Fed’s money printing.  And I’m certain they are among the largest contributors to the problem.   But GS, MS, BAC, HSBC, C should be included in there as well.  They’re all connected via derivatives and I’m guessing subprime asset exposure at all the big banks is blowing up,  causing cash flow shortfalls and counterparty derivatives defaults on credit default and interest rate swaps.  Just look at the dent  WeWork is putting into the exposure to the failed unicorn at JPM and GS.  Then there’s the melt-down going in energy/shale sector debt…

Eventually the Fed will have to announce that it is permanently implementing temporary liquidity relief programs – or “organic” balance sheet growth operations.  Jerome Powell will take painstaking measures to assure the market this is not Quantitative Easing.   And he’ll be right. That’s because it is outright money printing.

I expect the stock markets to get a temporary “meth” fix that pushes the SPX back up to the 3,000 area of resistance.  I also expect that it will fail there again, triggering a sharp sell-off into the end of the year, similar to last year. The risk the Fed is running here by using more money printing to juice the stock market is that eventually – like all heroin or meth addicts – stocks will become immune to increasing doses of the happy drug.   At what point will the Fed be forced administer a dosage level that kills the market?

An Unavoidable Global Debt Implosion

“[Whatever] the repo failure involved, it is likely to prove a watershed moment, causing US bankers to more widely consider their exposure to counterparty risk and risky loans, particularly leveraged loans and their collateralised form in CLOs. a new banking crisis is not only in the making, for which the repo problem serves as an early warning, but it could escalate quite rapidly.” Alasdair Macleod, “The Ghost of Failed Bank Returns”

The delinquency and default rate on consumer and corporate debt is rising. This creates funding gaps and cash flow shortfalls at banks. In a fractional banking system, banks only have to put up $1 of reserve for every $9 of money loaned. When the value of the loans declines because of non-performance, it requires capital – cash liquidity – to make up the shortfall in debt service payments received by the banks. In simple terms, the banks are staring at a systemic “margin call.”

To be sure, the current repo funding shortfall may subside. But it will not fix the underlying causes (Deutsche Bank, CLO Trusts, subprime debt, consumer debt, derivatives), which are likely leading up to another round of what happened in 2008 – only worse this time.

Chris Marcus of  Arcadia Economics  invited me to discuss my thoughts on the meaning behind the sudden need for the Fed to inject $10’s of billions into the overnight bank lending system:

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Repo Madness – An Enormous “Margin Call”

“Central Banks are panicking…the whole system is on the verge of disappearing into a black hole.” – Egon Von Greyerz on USAWatchdog.com

On Wednesday, after Wednesday’s overnight Repo operation had $92 billion in demand for the $75 billion operations, announced that it was increasing overnight Repos to $100 billion and doubling the two-week term Repo operations to $60 billion. Well, that escalated quickly.

The rationalization is “end of quarter liquidity needs” by the banks who have to increase reserves against assets (loans) or face taking earnings write-downs. But this dynamic occurs every quarter and Repo operations have not been required to keep the banking system from seizing up since QE was initiated.

Note that overnight repo operations were not necessary when the Fed flooded the banking system with QE funds.  The banking system requires immediate liquidity for the first time since QE commenced.  Why?  Recall how you go bankrupt: gradually then suddenly.

Typically the repo rate should correlate tightly with the Fed Funds Rate. But last Tuesday it spiked up briefly to 10%. The media and Wall Street analysts did a good job reporting that there was an obvious liquidity squeeze in the banking system but they did nothing to explain the underlying causes. Moreover, there’s still $1.3 trillion remaining from QE sitting in the Fed’s Excess Reserve Account,  which means banks with cash have plenty of cash to lend overnight to banks which need money.

But the banks with cash were unwilling to lend that cash even on an overnight basis.  So why did the Fed have to inject, by last Wednesday, $75 billion in liquidity into the banking system?

Think about what happened as the start of a giant “margin call” on a global financial system that is likely reaching its limit on credit creation. The enormous increase in derivatives magnifies the problem.  One immediate contributing factor may been losses connected with the cliff-dive in the price of the 10yr Treasury bond.  Hedge funds loaded up on Treasuries chasing the momentum higher using margin provided by the banks (prime brokerage loan agreements). The 10yr Treasury price dropped $4 in eight trading days – i.e. the 10yr benchmark yield jumped 55 basis points.

This may not sound like a lot in stock price terms, but losses on speculative Treasury bond and Treasury bond futures positions likely ran into the  billions. Several entities lost a lot of money during that rate rise, which means there had to have been some margin calls and derivatives blow-ups which required cash collateral or faced liquidation.  Banks themselves carry large Treasury positions which fell $10s of millions in value over that 8-day period.

In addition to losses on Treasury bonds, I’m certain there’s been a general erosion of bank assets – primarily debt-based securities and loans, which have led to enormous losses when Credit Default Swap derivatives are factored into the mix. In effect, there likely was a large systemic margin call which has created a cash and collateral squeeze in the banking system with the primary dealers, which is why the overnight funding mechanism required a cash injection by the Fed eight days in a row now. This is similar what happened in 2008.

For now the Fed is going to plug the funding gap at the banks with these Repo operations. But my bet is that the problem is escalating rapidly.  It is much bigger in aggregate globally than anyone can know,  just like in 2008.  In all probability the Fed has no clue how big the potential problem is and these Repo operations will eventually morph into outright money printing.