Tag Archives: money printing

“Rates Were Pushed Off The Cliff By The Central Banks”

The title quote is from Tad Rivelle, Chief Investment Officer of TCW (Los Angeles based fixed income management company), who manages one of the largest actively managed bond funds. He goes on to comment about the implications of the negative rate policy that has been implemented by Japan and the EU: “Credit markets look late cycle, manufacturing looks pretty late cycle and corporate profitability, as well. So the proliferation of negative rates may also suggest that central bank policy has reached exhaustion. It’s almost like negative rates are the last thing central bankers are trying to make it work.”

Many investors and market observers wonder why the Fed/Central Banks just can’t print money forever and drive the markets even higher. The answer can be found in the law of diminishing returns. When Central Banks print money – in our case dollars – at a rate that exceeds the amount of wealth produced to “back” that money printed, it begins to diminish the value of each extra dollar created. As the system becomes saturated with dollars, the Central Banks then try to force the market to use the oversupply of currency bu taking rates negative. This problem is reflected in the velocity of money (the number of times each currency unit changes hands):

That chart is the essence of the law of diminishing returns as it applies to the money supply. Think of it as the “productivity” of each dollar in the system.  Greenspan initiated the paradigm of using money printing to “fix” credit market and stock market problems.  These “problems” were in fact the market’s price discovery and risk discounting mechanisms . He was given the name “Maestro” because seemingly fixed economic and financials problems, though all he really did was defer their resolution.

In fact, Greenspan used money printing to paper over the underlying system structural problems going back to the market crash in 1987.  Greenspan, who was installed as Fed Chairman two months prior to the crash, confirmed that the Fed stood ready “to serve as a source of liquidity to support the economic and financial system.”

In effect, the chart above reflects the fact that a large portion of the printed money, rather than circulating in a chain of economic transactions, sits stagnant in “pools.” As an example, the money printed and given to the banks in the first three QE programs sat in the Fed’s excess reserve account “earning” a tiny rate of interest which is nothing more than additional printed money used to boost bank earnings and give the banks no-risk, unearned cash flow.

As printed money sits idly, the Central Banks artificially lower the “cost” of money, which is also known as the interest rate, thereby making an attempt to force money into the system and incentivizing companies and consumers to use this money by making it nearly costless. Currently Central Banks are cutting interest rates at the fastest pace since December 2009.

Lowering rates toward zero is a temporary fix – i.e. it only serves to defer the inevitable economic bust cycle. But an oversupply of currency which can be used – or borrowed – at little to no cost also ushers in credit bubbles which become manifest in the form of the various asset bubbles, like the housing and stock bubbles, or is used for purposes which do not create economic value. The best example of the latter is when corporations borrow money at near-zero interest rates and use that borrowed money to buyback shares. There is absolutely no economic benefit whatsoever from share buybacks – none, zero – other than for the corporate insiders who dump their shares into buybacks.

This brings me to the quote at the beginning from Tad Rivelle: “the proliferation of negative rates may also suggest that central bank policy has reached exhaustion; it’s almost like negative rates are the last thing central bankers are trying to make it work.” The velocity of money chart is evidence that printing money and forcing interest rates to zero are measures which eventually fall victim to the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Central Banking policy of near zero and zero interest rates combined with unfettered money creation has lost its “traction.” We are approaching the point at which money printing will not produce the intended effects. In response “rates have been pushed off a cliff by Central Banks.” It’s been acknowledged that Trump discussed negative rates with Fed Chairman Powell just a few weeks ago.

The imposition of negative interest rates on the financial system perversely turns the laws of economics inside-out. Ironically, perhaps fittingly, it’s a desperate act of economic treason that will boomerang back and decapitate the global economy, including the U.S. This reality is already reflected in the rapidly contracting manufacturing reportsand the confirmed by the freight transportation data, which have been collapsing for the better part of the last year.

The commentary above is from a recent issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. Despite the melt-up in the stock market, several stocks are sectors are diverging negatively and I have presented some short ideas that have been making money – Lending Tree (TREE) is a good example.  To learn more follow this link: Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

 

Junior Exploration Stocks Are Generationally Undervalued

Gold and silver are set up potentially for an explosive move, fueled by the inevitable escalation of Central Bank money printing. The Federal Reserve has led the charge on this account over the last three months as the financial system has begun to veer off the rails.

Currently, the Fed is printing money at the fastest rate in its history. The brown stuff is hitting the fan blades in the financial system.  By mid-January the Fed’s balance will be close its all-time high.  Fiat currency devaluation aka QE aka money printing is like rocket fuel for gold and silver.

A lot of mining stock analysts are drooling over the charts of the large cap stocks. And kudos to Crescat Capital for sharing the chart of above (with my edit in yellow). But the junior exploration “venture capital” stocks are the most undervalued relative to the prices of gold and silver in at least the last 19 years, which is the amount of time I’ve been involved in the precious metals sector.

Last Thursday gold  spiked up $14 before the stock market opened. But when Trump tweeted that a trade war “Phase 1” deal was close, gold went $20 off the cliff.  However, February gold closed flat vs Wednesday’s close and March silver has reclaimed the $17 level.  It’s a big positive that the “Phase 1” trade deal was signed because now Trump won’t have the ability to jerk the markets around with his silly “positive trade talks” tweets.

More important to the gold bull market, the Fed once again expanded the repo money printing QE operations. Early today (Thursday, December 12th) the Fed announced an additional $275 billion in repo operations around year-end. Adding all of it up, the Fed will be pumping half a trillion dollars into the repo system over year-end. This is unequivocally due to bank assets melting down and the need to finance new Treasury debt issuance.

The Fed’s re-liquification program will be given creative names – anything but “QE.”  It started off with “balance sheet expansion” but that term was abandoned because of its transparency. The best one I’ve heard so far is “yield curve capping operation.”  Watching Jerome Powell try to camouflage the Fed’s money printing  is like watching a baby  smoke a cigarette.

It’s a good bet that eventually the repo activity will be converted into a permanent “QE” money printing program.  The best way to make this wager  is via the precious metals sector.

The Fed’s Repo QE: The Underlying Problems Are Escalating

Pressures are already building on the financial stability front that will make the next economic downturn messier than anticipated.” – Bill Dudley, former President of the NY Fed

I get irritated when I see mainstream media and alternative mainstream media parroting the propaganda used to cover up the truth. This morning Zerohedge echo’d the “corporate tax payments liquidity squeeze” narrative first used back in September to justify the re-start of the repo QE program. I would have thought that idiotic excuse would have been proved wrong after this:

It’s truly amazing that Fed officials come clean after they leave their post at the Federal Reserve. We’ve seen this dynamic for sure with Greenspan. Not so much with Bernanke, but I always considered Bernanke to be a bad liar and it seems that he’s chosen largely to fade from public exposure. Ditto with Janet Yellen.

Bill Dudley, however, is a former partner of Goldman Sachs and thus highly intelligent (as is Greenspan – Bernanke and Yellen not so much). Dudley clearly sees the writing on the wall. Now that he’s not in a position at Goldman in which it’s advantageous for him to promote stocks in exchange for big bonuses, or at the Fed where it’s politically correct to rationalize a bullish narrative (“Fed-speak”), he’s coming “clean” per the quote at the top.

The Fed’s current posture, based on the Fed officials’ weekly speeches ad nauseum, is that the economy is healthy with moderate growth and a strong labor market. If this is the case, however, why is the Fed printing money on a monthly basis in an amount that is close to the peak monthly “QE” after the financial crisis?

The question, of course, is strictly rhetorical. In fact the Fed once again quietly increased the amount of money it is printing and handing over to the banks. On November 25th the Fed released an updated repo operation schedule which showed additional repo operations totaling at least $50 billion. The Fed has also made its website less user-friendly in terms of tracking the total amount by which the repo operations have increased since the first operation in mid-September.

The 28-day repo QE for $25 billion that was added to the program Nov 14th was nearly 2x oversubscribed this morning, which means the original $25 billion deemed adequate 3 weeks ago was not nearly enough – a clear indicator the problems in the banking system are escalating at a rate faster than the Fed’s money printing operation. Just wait until huge jump in subprime quality credit card debt that will be used to fund holiday shopping begins to default in the first half of 2020…

The chart to the right shows the Fed’s repo schedule posted on September 23rd on the top and the latest repo operation schedule on the bottom. I suspect this won’t be the last time the Fed will increase the amount of its “not QE” QE money printing. Additionally, the Fed refuses to identify the specific banks which are receiving most of the repo money. One obvious recipient is Deutsche Bank, which is quietly shutting down a large portion of its business operations and is likely technically insolvent. Per a 2016 IMF report, DB is highly interconnected to all of the Too Big To Fail banks (JPM, GS, C etc). This means inter-bank loans and derivatives counterparty exposure, among other financial connections. Aside from the DB factor, as I detailed last week with deteriorating leveraged loan/CLO assets held by banks, I am convinced that the “repo” money is needed to help banks shore up their liquidity as loans and other assets begin to melt-down. This is quite similar to 2008.

For more insight into the truth underlying the Fed’s renewed money printing operations, spend some time perusing articles like this from Wall Street On Parade.

The Truth Behind The “Repo” Non-QE QE Money Printing

“The Fed first tried to justify the loans by saying they were a short-term measure to stem a liquidity crisis. But the so-called “liquidity crisis” has not prevented the stock market from setting new highs since the loan operations began on September 17. And the short-term operation has been running every business day since that time and is currently scheduled to reach into next year or last permanently. A cumulative total of approximately $3 trillion in overnight and longer-term loans has been funneled to unnamed trading houses on Wall Street without either the Senate or House calling a hearing to examine what’s really going on.”Wall St On Parade

The analysis below is an excerpt from my November 24th issue of the Short Seller’s Journal

“Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of a cycle — and that is exactly what Credit Benchmark is finding, particularly in the industrial sector.” – Bloomberg News in reference to a report from Credit Benchmark on the deterioration in credit quality of the industrial sector globally.

Credit Benchmark offers data/analytic services which provide forward-looking insights into the credit quality and liquidity of companies and sectors globally.  Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of an economic cycle. Credit Benchmark also noted last week that U.S. high-yield corporate credit quality has been crumbling since early 2019.

High yield debt sits below and props up leveraged loans held by banks, pension funds and CLO (collateralized loan obligations) Trusts. Leveraged loan credit quality is also declining, with many loan issues trading well below par and a not insignificant portion trading at distressed levels. Banks have been stuck with a lot of leveraged loans that were underwritten with the hope of sticking them in CLO investment structures. But big investors have been pulling away from CLO’s since mid-summer.

A CLO is a type of collateralized debt obligation. An investment trust is set-up and structured into tranches in order of “safeness,” with credit ratings assigned to each tranche ranging from AAA down to the “residual” or mezzanine/equity layer. Each tranche is sliced into bonds which are sold to investors, primarily institutional and wealthy investors, who invest in the various tranches of the CLO based on relative appetite for risk. Typically hedge funds and/or the underwriter of the CLO will provide funding for the mezzanine/equity layer.

Leveraged loans underwritten by Wall Street are pooled together and the interest and amortization payments are used to fund the interest and amortization payments of each layer of the trust. Each tranche receives successively higher rates of return to compensate for the level of risk. In addition each tranche is amortized based on seniority. If and when enough loans in the trust default and cash collected by the CLO trust is insufficient to pay off all of the tranches, the losses are assigned in reverse order from bottom to top. During the financial crisis, losses spread into the highest-rated tranches.

Invariably, as yield-starved investors grab for anything with a higher yield than is available from relatively riskless fixed income investments like Treasuries, agency debt (FNM/FRE) and high-grade corporate bonds, the underwriting standards of leveraged loans deteriorate. Wall Street requires loan product to feed the beast in order to continue raking in fat fees connected to this business. And, as you might have guessed, Wall Street opportunistically offers credit default derivative “insurance” products structured around the CLO trusts.

As I’ve detailed previously, credit rating downgrades in leveraged loans are mounting as the level of distress in the asset class rises. CLO’s purchase roughly 75% of all leveraged loans underwritten. In theory, CLO trusts are “over-collateralized” to account for a certain level of loan default and to ensure the top tranche receives the highest credit rating possible. But it would appear that many of these CLO trusts are starting to incur losses at the lowest tranches. This fact is reflected in the rececent performance of CLO bonds since June. As an example, through June, double-BB rated CLO bonds threw off a 10% ROR (interest payments and bond price appreciation). But by the end of October, this 10% ROR was wiped out, meaning the value of the bonds has fallen 10% since June including 5% alone in October.

The chart above plots the SPX vs an index of “generic” CLO triple-B rated bonds. The negative divergence of the CLO bonds reflects the escalating degree of distress in leveraged loans, which are underlying collateral funding the CLO trusts.

I am certain that part of the reason the Fed has had to start bailing out the banking system with its not-QE QE repo operations is connected to the rapid deterioration in the CLO/leveraged loan market. Chunks of thes CLO’s and leveraged loans are sitting on bank balance sheets.

The 2008 financial crisis was primarily triggered by the collapse of collateralized subprime mortgage CDO’s (these were the securities featured in “The Big Short”). I believe – and I’m not alone in this view – that CLO’s will cause the same type of systemic damage . The CLO market is roughly $680 billion just in the U.S. That was about the same size as the subprime mortgage market by 2008. Including the offshore market, the global leveraged loan market is now $1 trillion, doubling in size since 2010.

Most people think of the Fed when they hear the term “repo.” But the repo market primarily is funded by banks and money market funds. CLO bonds have been used as repo collateral for several years. As the credit quality of this asset class declines, banks are less interested in participating in repo market funding transactions to avoid the rising probability of suffering a counterparty default from use of CLO collateral, thereby reducing liquidity in the repo market.

In addition, many banks have been stuck with leveraged loans that could not be offloaded onto investors or CLO trusts. This inability to off-load loans into CLO’s started this past summer when the largest investor in CLO’s, a large Japanese bank, began to pull away from the CLO market. As the value of these loans declines, banks are forced to increase the amount of capital required to maintain reserve ratios – another reason for the Fed repo market intervention.

As the global economy, including the U.S. economy notwithstanding the insistence to the contrary by the Fed and Trump, continues to contract it’s quite probable that CLOs/leveraged loans will begin to melt-down Chernobyl-style. Referring back to the SPX/CLO bond price chart above, in my view there’s no coincidence that the Fed’s intervention in the repo market commenced at about the same time the triple-B CLO bonds began to take a dive. That price decline is even more pronounced for the tranches with ratings below triple-BBB.

To be sure, CLO’s are not the only financial wildfire outbreak targeted by the Fed’s money printing, but I would wager a healthy amount of gold coins that distress in the CLO market is one of the primary troubles right now. And the problem is magnified when you take into account the credit default swap transactions “wrapped around” these CLO trusts. These derivative trades also require an increasing amount of collateral as CLO tranche distress escalates.

To accompany the above analysis in my Short Seller’s Journal, I presented some ideas for expressing a bearish view based on the the eventual collapse in the CLO/leveraged loan market. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

Repos, Money Printing and Paper Gold: It’s One Massive Manipulation

The paper gold derivative open interest on the Comex continues to hit success all-time highs.  This is no coincidence, as the Fed has restarted the money printing press in what ultimately will be a catastrophically failed effort to prevent the coming global credit and derivatives melt-down.  The successive daily all-time highs in the stock market, believe it or not, is evidence that the wheels are coming off the global financial system.

The melt-up in paper gold contracts mirrors the melt-up in the Dow/SPX – both are frauds. Kerry Lutz me invited onto this FinancialSurvivalNetwork.com podcast to discuss the truth behind the repo programs and why the asset bubbles blown by the Fed could be getting ready to pop:

Click on this LINK or on the graphic below to listen/download the show:

You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Sleepwalking Toward A Crisis – Got Gold?

“By sticking to the new orthodoxy of monetary policy and pretending that we have made the banking system safe, we are sleepwalking towards that crisis.” – Mervyn King, former head of the Bank of England in a lecture at the IMF’s recent annual meeting

The market levitates higher on phony economic data from the Government, Trump tweets, Fed money printing and hedge fund algorithms chasing headline and twitter sound bites. Currently the stock market, dulled by money printing and official interventions, could care less about economic reality and rising global systemic geopolitical and financial risk. Corporate headline earnings “beats” are considered bullish even if the earnings declined YoY or sequentially.

But for those who don’t have their head in the sand, clinging desperately to the “hope” offered by the misdirecting Orwellian propaganda, it’s difficult to ignore the message signaled by the legendary levels of insider selling.

Someone is not telling the truth – The Fed once again last week increased the size of both the overnight and “term” repo operations. Starting Thursday (Oct 24th) the overnight repos were increased from $75 billion to “at least” $120 billion and the term repos (2 week term) of “at least” $35 billion were extended to the end of November, with two “at least $45 billion” term repos thrown in for good measure. The Fed is also outright printing helicopter money for the banks at a rate of $60 billion per month (via “T-bill POMOs).

At the height of the last QE/money printing cycle, the Fed was doing $75 billion per month. So whatever the problem is behind the curtain, it’s already as large or larger than the 2008 crisis.

That escalated quickly – When the repo operations started in September, the Fed attributed the need to “relieve funding pressures.” At the time the public was fed the fairytale that corporations were pulling funds from money market funds to pay quarter-end taxes. Well, we’re over five weeks past that event and the repo operations have escalated in size and duration three times. Someone is not telling the truth…

The rapid increase in Fed money printing in just five weeks reflects serious problems developing in the global financial system. Actually, the problem is easy to identify:   At every level – government, corporate and household – the level of debt has become unsustainable, with not insignificant portions of that debt in non-performing status (seriously delinquent or in default). Thus, the Central Banks have had to resort to money printing to help the banks manage the rising level of distress on their balance sheet and to monetize the escalating rate of Treasury debt issuance.

The quote at the beginning is from the former head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. King is warning that the global financial system is headed toward a crisis and that money printing ultimately won’t save it.  While it’s pretty obvious that a disaster waits on the horizon, when the former head of a big Central Bank delivers a message like that instead of Orwellian gobbledygook, the world should pay heed.  I would suggest that the Fed’s money printing signals that the risk of a crisis intensifies weekly.  Got Gold?

FOMC Statement: Reading Between The Lines

“No more rate hikes period…rate cuts to begin sometime this spring…tapering the balance sheet taper starting in May…QT ends in September even though our balance sheet has only been reduced by roughly 10% of the amount of money we printed…Quantitative Easing  aka “money printing” to resume in October…our hidden dot plot shows that you should buy as much physical gold as you can afford and keep it as far away from any custodial safekeeping as possible.”

Just for the record, the Fed’s “Dot Plot” has to be one of the most idiotic props ever created for public consumption. It far exceeds the absurdity of the “flip chart” that Steve Liesman uses.

The Fed Panics And Gold Soars

First it was the loudly broadcast convening of the Working Group on Financial Markets – aka “the  Plunge Protection Team” – by the PPT’s el Jefe, Steven Mnuchin.  This was followed the “mouse that roared” speech from Fed head, Jerome Powell, hinting that the Fed would moon-walk away from rate hikes.

Today was trial Hindenburg launched by the Wall St Journal suggesting that the Fed was considering curtailing the the FOMC’s balance sheet Weight Watchers program.  The terminology used to describe the Fed’s actions is Orwellian vernacular. “Reserve levels” – as in, “leaving more reserves on the Fed’s balance sheet” – sounds mundane. In plain-speak, this is simply the amount of money the Fed printed and will leave in the financial system or risk crashing the stock market.

I suggested in the January 13th issue of my Short Seller’s Journal that the Fed would likely halt QT: “The economy is headed toward a severe recession.  I’m certain the key officials at the Fed and White House are aware of this (perhaps not Trump but some of his advisors). I suspect that the Fed’s monetary policy will be reversed in 2019. They’ll first announce halting QT. That should be bad news because of the implications but the hedge fund algos and retail day-trader zombies will buy that announcement. We will sell into that spike.”

Little did I realize when I wrote that two weeks ago that the assertion would be validated just two weeks later. When this fails to re-stimulate economic activity, the Fed will eventually resume printing money.  Ultimately the market will figure out that it’s a very bad thing that the only thing holding up the stock market is the Fed.

The policy reversal by the Fed reflects panic at the Fed. Nothing reflects “Fed Panic” better than the price of gold:

Largest Asset Bubble In History – It’s Not Different This Time

The current asset bubble has been created by a record level of money printing and debt creation globally. Unfortunately, the upward velocity of rising asset prices has seduced investors to recklessly abandon all notion of risk. One would have to be brain-dead to not acknowledge that global Central Bank money-printing has caused the current “everything” asset bubble. Current data that tracks the cash and investment allocation levels shows that investors – and this includes hedge funds and pensions, not just retail/high net worth – are “all in.” IF the Central Banks simply stop printing money and do not shrink their balance sheets who will be left to buy stocks when the selling begins?

Silver Doctors invited me onto their weekly money/metals podcast to discuss why the catalysts driving fiat-currency-based paper assets to historical valuations will unwind and will ultimately drive gold to a valuation level higher by several multiples than the current price. Eventually gold will not be measured in terms of dollars and possibly not in terms of any fiat currency:

If you want to find out more about my investment newsletters, click on either of these links:    Mining Stock JournalShort Seller’s Journal.

Party Like It’s 1999: The Stock Market Is A Propaganda Tool

The degree and level of propaganda now flowing from the Establishment and the Establishment-controlled mainstream media is on par with that of the old Soviet Politburo or German Third Reich.   In fact, I’d confidently propose that this point is incontestable.

With modern technology and regulations which have made Fed operations and accountability tragically opaque, I have zero doubt that the Fed and the Government have managed to turn the stock market into another propaganda tool.  Studies have shown that, over the short term, the direction of the stock market and consumer sentiment measures are highly correlated.

Thus, pushing the stock market a lot higher is a mechanism that can be used to influence the public’s sentiment and willingness to spend.  This is critical after an election in which the political party controlling Capitol Hill changes and – more important – during the holiday shopping season.

Without question the U.S. economy is beginning to quickly crumble.  If you “peel away” the manipulative techniques applied to the economic reporting it reveals that every segment of the economy is now contracting.  Even the factory orders report for October released  yesterday – which showed a 2.7% gain over September – is still down 2.3% YTD vs the same YTD period in 2015.  Strip away the transportation component and it’s down 2.7%.

With interest rates on the long end up over 100 basis points in a very short period of time, the Fed’s balance sheet has taken a big hit. It currently owns over $4 trillion in Treasuries and mortgage securities. Assuming an average duration of 10 years on its holdings, the market value of the Fed’s balance sheet has dropped 8.4%, or approximately $320 billion. As of this past Thursday, the Fed’s balance sheet showed $46 billion in book equity. If the Fed were forced to mark-to-market its fixed income holdings, the Fed’s net worth would be significantly negative – close to $300 billion negative. Think about that: the only thing backing the value of the U.S. dollar right now is the U.S. military and a Central Bank with a massive negative net worth.  – excerpt from IRD’s latest Short Seller’s Journal

Market intervention in this manner is an attempt to convince the public that the economic system is healthy and will be even healthier in the future.  As such it’s another subtle propaganda tool – a perception management device.   If the Fed were step away from the market, the stock market would rapidly re-price to reflect the true underlying economic reality.  In short, stocks would crash and concomitantly gold and silver would soar.

The Fed injected billions into the system in late 1999 ahead of Greenspan’s Y2k scare. It led to the biggest stock market blow-off top of all-time.The current market is quite similar, only the economic and financial fundamentals underlying both the public and private sectors of the system are far worse than they were in 1999.

The ONLY thing that can explain the move in the stock market since around 2:00 a.m. EST after the election is massive Fed stimulus in some form – either direct cash injections done in a format that won’t show up on the Fed’s balance sheet or a massive spike up in the availability of short term credit lines made available to banks and extended to hedge funds. There is no other explanation.

Today for example, the stock market is spiking higher AND bond prices are higher/yields lower. This makes absolutely no sense and can only be explained by official intervention of some sort.

Gold and silver will “sniff” this out and at some point I expect to see gold begin to move a lot higher and the dollar sell-off precipitously. I also expect that the Chinese are going to send their response to Trump’s inimical overtures on Twitter by accelerating their sale of U.S. Treasuries.

lf the same GAAP accounting standards used in 1999 to measure corporate earnings – the standards having been relaxed more almost every year since 2000 to enable companies to report higher GAAP earnings – were applied to today’s earnings numbers, we would see that the current stock market is by far the most overvalued in history.

This will not end well.