Tag Archives: repo operations

“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.

What Is The Fed Hiding With Its “Repo” Operations?

I’m not sure why Trump continues incessantly to harangue the Fed about cutting the Fed Funds rate. The Fed is printing money and sending it to the stock market via the banks. It’s a much more effective policy tool to accomplish Trump’s number one policy agenda, which is to drive the stock market inexorably higher.

I put “repo” in quotes because the term is a thin veil for what is indisputably the return of “QE” money printing.   The statement posted on the Fed’s website announcing the $60 billion per month T-bill purchase operation “explained” that the move is “to ensure that the supply of reserves remains ample even during periods of sharp increases in non-reserve liabilities, and to mitigate the risk of money market pressures that could adversely affect policy implementation.”

I use quotes around “explained” because the policy statement is nebulous. The non-reserve liability on the Fed’s balance consists primarily of the money it prints and releases into circulation. Increasing “non-reserve” liabilities is a fancy term for “printing money.” The T-bill “operation” is funded by printing money. The Fed transmits this money into the banking system – not the real economy – by purchasing the T-bills. Presumably as the T-bills mature, the Fed receives the new T-bills printed and issued by the Treasury used to refinance the existing T-bills. The T-bill operation permanently injects money into the financial system.

I surveyed some friends/colleagues who know at least as much as I do about money market fund operations.  None of us can figure out  the nature of the potential  “money market pressures” referenced by the Fed.  Perhaps the Fed fears a run on money market funds by corporations and the public?  Anyone…Bueller?

The original repo operations in September were supposedly to address third quarter-end liquidity pressures because corporations need cash to pay taxes.  Since the passing of the third quarter, the repo operations have escalated to more than double the size of the original repo operation.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the Fed’s furtive behavior. Pam and Russ Martin – Wall Street on Parade –  encountered the same roadblock I ran into this past weekend when I tried to pull up the Markets & Policy Implementation and the repo operations web pages: “Site Maintenance – the page you are looking for is temporarily unavailable.”  The pages were “temporarily unavailable” all weekend.

I have yet to encounter one reasonable explanation for the reimplementation of money printing – money printing which accelerates in size and frequency almost weekly.  Make no mistake, the Fed-apologetic  Wall Street analysts have no clue what’s happening or why.

We know that the Fed used printed and Taxpayer money to bail out the banks in 2008.  These “Too Big To Fails” would have collapsed without the bailout.  The Fed is going out of its way – with help from the Wall Street and media sycophants – to obscure the truth.  But it’s pretty obvious, at least to me, that big bank balance sheets are starting to melt down again.

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?

The Dutch Central Bank Endorses The Gold Standard

“De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) holds more than 600 tonnes of gold. A bar of gold always retains its value, crisis or no crisis. This creates a sense of security. A central bank’s gold stock is therefore regarded as a symbol of solidity Shares, bonds and other securities are not without risk, and prices can go down. But a bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis.” – DNB’s Gold Stock

The quote above is from the “Payments” section of the Dutch Central Bank’s website. Incredibly, it goes on to suggest the possibility of  a systemic collapse: “If the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again.”

It’s been 48 years since the U.S. Government unplugged the gold standard, thereby enabling the world’s Central Banks to plug in their fiat currency printing presses. This in turn gave rise to a series of asset bubbles and unfettered credit creation. Don’t forget that the junk bond bubble in the 1980’s led to an acceleration in the creation of paper money, which in turn fueled the internet/tech stock bubble, followed subprime debt/real estate bubble and  the current “everything” bubble.” Which may the last bubble…

The chart below,  shows M3/M2 vs the “real” GDP since 1971 and  illustrates the problem:

Note that the Fed discontinued publishing the M3 money supply data in 2006. The U.S. at the time was the only major industrialized country that refused to publicly disclose M3. Also note that “real” GDP is calculated using the Government’s highly muted measure of price inflation. A real real GDP line would be shifted down on the chart and project at a lower trajectory.

The difference between the two lines somewhat measures the degree to which the U.S. fiat currency has been devalued or has “lost its purchasing power.”  However, the graphic does not capture the creation of credit.  Debt issuance behaves exactly like money printing until the debt is repaid. Think about it.  A dollar borrowed and spent is no different than a dollar created by the Fed and put into the financial system.

But think about this:  since 1971, the U.S. Government has never repaid any of the debt it  issues. It has been increasing pretty much in perpetuity.  This means that $22 trillion+ issued and outstanding by the Treasury Department should be included in the money supply numbers – until the amount outstanding contracts – which it  never will…

Alasdair Macleod, in “Monetary Failure Is Becoming Inevitable,” summarizes the eventual consequence embedded in a morally hazardous currency system:

If history and reasoned economic theory is any guide, the demands for credit by the state will terminate in the destruction of government currencies. For the truth of the matter is inflation of money and credit has created the illusion we can all live beyond our income, our income being what we produce.

“Destruction of Government currencies” is really just a politically/socially polite phrase for “systemic collapse.”

Whether intentional or unintentional, the Dutch Central Bank has alluded to this possibility, which I see more as an inevitability, with just the issue of timing yet unresolved.  I would argue, however, that the financial system liquidity issues currently addressed by the reimplementation by the Fed of repo/extended repo operations – and the inclusion of foreign banks in the liquidity injections – reflects the growing instability of the global financial system.

Furthermore,  the suddenness of these systemic “tremors,” suggests that the Central Banks are losing control of a system dependent on fiat currency and credit creation that expands at an increasing rate in perpetuity.  Unfortunately for the paper money maestros running the Central Banks, the value of fiat currency approaches zero as the supply of currency and credit heads toward infinity.

In all likelihood, the recent rise in the price of gold, which has been driven by escalating demand for physical gold – notably by eastern hemisphere Central Banks – reflects the increasing visibility of an inevitable collapse in the global fiat currency system.  The Dutch Central Bank has made it clear that it sees gold as an ideal asset for wealth protection when the next crisis erupts.