August 17, 2018

5 Signs That Global Financial Markets Are Entering A Bear Market, And 11 Ways That You Can Get Prepared For The Chaos That Is Coming…

We haven’t seen carnage like this in the global financial marketplace in quite some time.  On Wednesday, U.S. stocks were down some, but things were much, much worse around the rest of the world.  Global banking stocks are plunging, emerging market stocks are cratering, and emerging market currencies continue their stunning decline.  This represents a dramatic change from the relative stability that we have seen throughout most of 2018.  It is almost as if someone flipped a switch once the month of August began, and the shakiness of global financial markets has many investors wondering what trouble fall will bring.  What we are witnessing right now is not a full-blown panic yet, but it definitely has the potential to turn into one.

The term “bear market” is being thrown around a lot lately, but a lot of people don’t understand what a “bear market” actually is.

A bear market is generally considered to be when we see a decline of 20 percent or more from the 52-week high, and after the carnage of this past week a lot of those thresholds are now being crossed.

It would probably be too early to call this a “global stock market crash”, but we are well on the way to getting there.  The following are 5 signs that global financial markets are entering a bear market…

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August 16, 2018

Yuan, Futures Jump On Report China Delegation Coming To US To Discuss Trade

The Yuan is surging, alongside S&P futures, while the Japanese Yen has erased its gains and US Treasury futures are slumping on a Bloomberg report that China's Vice Commerce Minister, Wang Shouwen, will lead a delegation to the U.S. in late August, the Ministry of Commerce says on website, adding that the visit comes at the invitation of the US.

Additionally, China reiterates that it opposes unilateralism and trade protectionism, and won’t accept any unilateral trade restriction measures. It also "welcomes communications and dialogue on the basis of equality and integrity."

The news is quickly being interpreted by the market as a possible thaw in the trade war tit-for-tat, and has sent H-shares sharply higher, while S&P futures jumped 10 points:

The news may explain why the PBOC fixed the onshore far stronger than the offshore yuan suggested, because as some desks have suggested, the last thing China will want when it comes to the US is a plunging Yuan.

So is this the end of the trade war? Hardly: after all, a Chinese delegation visited the US not that long ago, and just before Trump announced even more tariffs. Furthermore, why would Trump seek to end the "trade war" when the US is clearly winning based on the US vs Chinese stock market, and the divergence in economic growth.

For the time being, however, the market mood is clearly risk on.

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August 15, 2018

This Political Event Will Be Unlike Anything We've Seen In 50 Years

Do you ever feel—despite the supposed economic "recovery" of recent years—that something in America is still not quite right?

If so, you are not alone.

After all, how can things be "OK" when nearly half the men ages 18-34 now live with their parents—the highest level since the Great Depression?

How can it be "normal" when in one of America's richest cities (Seattle) there are now 400 unauthorized homeless camps under bridges and along freeway medians?

How can it be a "recovery" when 78% of the U.S. population now lives paycheck to paycheck, with essentially zero savings?

How can you explain things like the dramatic rise of the militant left-wing group ‘Antifa'... the resurgence of White Supremacists... and the booming popularity of the Democratic Socialists—they've doubled membership in recent months.

Sure, some people—CEOs, tech entrepreneurs, and other members of the "1%"—are doing great. There's never been a better time for wealthy Americans. But the truth is, for most people, the situation is getting much, much worse.

Today I want to share a few facts our politicians are afraid to tell you—including the secret reason why working class Americans have gotten dramatically poorer over the past 40 years.

I've never seen this information published anywhere else. It's a secret that explains why the rich are really getting so much richer—while everyone else is falling behind.

Once you understand this secret, you'll see why, for millions of Americans, a crisis is coming.

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August 14, 2018

That Escalated Quickly: The Emerging Market Currency Crisis Of 2018 Threatens To Destabilize The Entire Global Financial System

We haven’t seen emerging market currencies crash like this in over a decade, and analysts are warning that if this continues we could witness a devastating global debt crisis.  Over the past decade, there has been an insatiable appetite for cheap loans in emerging market economies, and a very substantial percentage of those loans were denominated in U.S. dollars.  When emerging market currencies crash relative to the U.S. dollar, lending dries up and servicing the existing loans becomes extremely oppressive, and that is precisely what we are witnessing right now.  This week, most of the top headlines in the financial media have been about the crisis in Turkey.  The Turkish lira fell another 8 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday, and it is now down about 35 percent over the past week.  Overall, the lira has fallen 82 percent against the U.S. dollar in 2018, and this is putting an enormous amount of stress on the Turkish financial system

“It is about credit, since Turkey has been a huge borrower in global capital markets over the past number of years when the world’s central banks were encouraging investors to stretch for yield,” David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, said in his daily market note. “Over half of the borrowing is denominated in foreign currencies, so when the lira sinks, debt-servicing costs and default risks rise inexorably.”

Turkey’s economy, just like all of the other major economies around the world, is utterly dependent on the flow of credit, and now lending is becoming greatly restricted.

Meanwhile, any existing loans that were made during the lending spree of the past decade that are denominated in foreign currencies are going to be causing major problems.  The following comes from CNBC

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August 13, 2018

South African Rand Flash-Crashes 10% As Turkey Contagion Spreads

As Simon Black warned back in March, when Ramaphosa to push for the constitutional change required to confiscate white farmers' lands, this would guarantee a banking crisis for the country. Here's why - a lot of this land that the government wants to confiscate probably has quite a bit of bank debt.

Imagine – you just bought a farm for, say, 50 million rand (that’s about USD $3 million). And in order to do so, you took out a hefty loan from a South African bank.

Now the government comes along and steals your property.

Are you seriously going to keep paying the loan?

Of course not.

This means that the banks are going to be stuck with massive defaults and bad debts, leading to a wave of bank failures.

So in their crusade to bring Social Justice to South Africa, the government is effectively engineering a banking crisis in their country.

This is criminally stupid behavior that puts South Africa on the same path that Zimbabwe followed in the late 1990s.

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August 10, 2018

Tesla Board Confirms It Never Saw LBO "Financing Plan" From Musk

Three days into the Tesla "going private" saga, everyone continues to scramble for more information on the biggest wildcard in the entire equation: the "committed funding" as represented by Elon Musk: shareholders are asking where it is; bankers - i.e., those who should have arranged it - are asking where it is; even the SEC is asking where it is (and probing if Musk was being "truthful" with the alternative being stock manipulation which opens up Tesla to fraud lawsuits), and now Reuters reports that even the Tesla Board of Directors wants to know where it is.

According to Reuters, Tesla's board of directors is seeking more information from CEO Elon Musk about the finance for his plan to take the U.S. electric car maker private.

And here is the punchline: While Tesla's board has held multiple discussions about the proposal - as it documented in its statement on Wednesday - it has "not yet received a detailed financing plan from Musk and specific information on who will provide the funding."

As a reminder, in a statement on Wednesday, Tesla's board said its discussion with Musk "addressed the funding" for the deal, without offering more details. And now we know why: because it had none, and one increasingly wonders if the Board simply made up the fact that it had multiple discussions just to cover Musk's back.

But there is another big problem, if only from a timing/legal standpoint: if the board has no idea where the funding is coming from, there is no way it could have signed off on it, thereby "securing it", which means that all else equal, Musk's tweet that sent the stock price soaring was a fabrication.

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August 9, 2018

Bankrupt America: Bankruptcy Soars As The Country Grapples With An Unprecedented Debt Problem

America, you officially have a debt problem, and I am not just talking about the national debt.  Consumer bankruptcies are surging, corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis, state and local government debt loads have never been higher, and the federal government has been adding more than a trillion dollars a year to the federal debt ever since Barack Obama entered the White House.  We have been on the greatest debt binge in human history, and it has enabled us to enjoy our ridiculously high standard of living for far longer than we deserved.  Many of us have been sounding the alarm about our debt problem for a very long time, but now even the mainstream news is freaking out about it.  I have a feeling that they just want something else to hammer President Trump over the head with, but they are actually speaking the truth when they say that we are facing an unprecedented debt crisis.

For example, the New York Times just published a piece that discussed the fact that the bankruptcy rate among retirees is about three times higher than it was in 1991…

For a rapidly growing share of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality: bankruptcy.

The signs of potential trouble — vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings — have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem: The rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991, the study found, and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

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August 8, 2018

Market Stunned After Musk Discloses Intention To LBO Tesla, Lawsuits Threatened

Update 10: After all that, nobody has any idea what just happened, and a word being increasingly thrown around is lawsuit. As Yahoo's Rick Newman writes, if the LBO deal described by Musk with "funding secured" is true, it’s a boon for shareholders. But if it’s not true, Tesla is in trouble, and shareholders may feel the pain.

“If funding is secured, then it’s a factual statement,” says John C. Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School. “But if he can’t prove that, he’s in some danger of a big lawsuit because short sellers will be devastated by this.”

On Aug. 7, Musk tweeted: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” Those nine words sent the stock soaring from $342 to around $370, an 8% jump. Then the Nasdaq exchange temporarily halted trading in the shares, pending clarification of material news by the company.

About three hours after his momentous tweet, Musk posted a message to employees explaining his rationale for going private. He cited “wild swings” in the stock price and frequent attacks by short sellers as “a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla.” He cited Space X, the  rocket-launching company where Musk is also CEO, as an example of a privately owned company better able to focus on a complex long-term mission. “A final decision has not yet been made,” he said.

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August 7, 2018

"It's Been Crazy": Meet The Source Of China's Next Debt Crisis: Millennials With Credit Cards

Last October, when looking at the breathtaking growth in Chinese new debt, we pointed out the one segment where the danger was most acute: household debt, which in mid 2017 had surged by a whopping 43% in one year even as the growth across other debt categories was relatively stable.

In fact, as the next chart shows, Chinese households are on the verge of surpassing the nation's corporations as the biggest source of credit demand.

But what was behind the surge in household loan demand? As it turns out, it was merely the reality of China's surging prices coupled with stagnant incomes, forcing countless, mostly young Chinese residents to do what Americans have been doing for decades: charge it.

In a report on China's brand new infatuation with consumer credit, the FT highlights the case of Tom Wang, a graduate from a middle-ranked Chinese university, who struggling to find well-paid work after arriving in Shanghai turned to the only possible source to fund his spending: credit cards.

“Using credit cards did not feel like spending money, and the debt grew and grew,” said the 26-year-old, whose starting salary of Rmb3,000 ($470) a month could not cover rent and the consumption habits he called “irrational”, such as buying the latest smartphone.

To cover repayments and keep spending, Wang took on more debt,  borrowing Rmb60,000 over four credit cards , before turning to online lenders for a further Rmb70,000. The problem is that interest payments quickly “snowballed” to an untenable Rmb1,500 a month, eating up half of his entire pretax income.

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August 6, 2018

China Is Now Left With Just Three Options, And They Are All Equally Bad

Last Friday's forceful intervention by the PBOC, in which the central bank hiked the reserve requirement for FX forwards trading from 0% to 20%, was a warning shot at the gathering yuan shorts who managed to briefly send the Chinese currency below 6.90 against the dollar last week, after losing 4% of its value in the past month, and bringing the cumulative decline against the dollar to 10% since April, a far steeper drop than seen during the 2015 devaluation.

The yuan slide had come amid growing speculation that Chinese authorities are more willing to let their currency weaken along with market forces and an escalating trade war, at least for as long as they felt any capital account leakages are contained and manageable.

And yet, despite China's long overdue intervention - after all, once capital flight begins as new holes in the capital account are uncovered, it would be too late to prevent a repeat of the 2015 scenario - the debate about Chinese currency depreciation and what happens next with Chinese policy gathered pace, with ING last week proposing that this latest attempt to "nuke the shorts" is doomed to failure, just like previous unilateral FX interventions.

Over the weekend, JPMorgan echoed ING's skepticism, writing that despite Friday's PBoC announcement and despite the cumulative depreciation over the past two months, "the pressure on the Chinese renminbi to decline further against the dollar is unlikely to go away if trade tensions with the US escalate further from here."

Meanwhile, in a move that puzzled many China watchers, at the same time that the PBoC announced an increase in the reserve requirement ratio for fx forwards trading, China announced that it would implement tariffs on $60bn of imports in response to a threat by the US earlier this week to raise the tariff rate from 10% to 25% on $200bn of Chinese exports to the US, prompting some to speculate that the FX intervention was merely implemented to prevent a collapse in the yuan beyond 7.00 vs the dollar as the market freaked out about the latest Chinese retaliation.

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August 3, 2018

3% Treasuries, Say Hello To Trillion Dollar Deficits

In two months we will be in fiscal 2019 for the US government, and the OMB projects +$1 trillion/year deficits until 2021. Ten year Treasuries nosed over 3% today on news of some small but unexpected issuance, so where will rates go once deficits kick into high gear? And how will stocks discount higher rates, regardless of reason? Our answers below.

If the 10 Year Treasury were 4.0% at the end of 2019, would you expect US equities to be higher or lower then? It is easy enough to tell a story either way:

Bullish for stocks. Rising inflation caused by economic growth lifts both bond yields and corporate earnings. Companies push for greater efficiency to offset labor/materials costs, limiting margin erosion and (finally) increasing workforce productivity. PE multiples contract, but earnings growth more than offsets the decline and stocks rise.

Bearish for stocks. Rising inflation caused by escalating trade frictions lifts interest rates, but has a chilling effect on the economy and corporate earnings. The Federal Reserve likely avoids going full Volcker, and simply keeps rates constant in 2019 knowing an inflation-induced recession will take inflation lower without their having to become a political pariah. Multiples contract due to higher rates, but earnings are down 10% rather than the current forecast of +10%. The combination pushes US stocks lower.

Capital markets currently see the bull case as much more likely, and the other end of the yield curve – 2 Year Treasuries – supports that interpretation. It sits at 2.68% today, just 1 basis point off its post-Financial Crisis high, and has been moving upward all year. This is entirely consistent with the view that the Federal Reserve will respond to a strengthening US economy with higher rates through 2019. A trade war recession isn’t priced in at all.

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August 2, 2018

BOE Raises Interest Rates In Surprise Unanimous Decision

As expected by the market, the Bank of England raised interest rates only for the second time since the financial crisis, to the highest level since 2009, saying recent data confirmed the bank's view that the first quarter slowdown in UK growth was temporary.

Members of the BOE's Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously for a 25 basis point increase, bringing the BoE’s benchmark rate to 0.75%, the highest since the onset of the global crisis.

While the outcome was widely expected, with the market pricing in the quarter point rate rise fully in the run-up to the meeting well in advance, the surprise was that the decision was unanimous, which adds a hawkish tilt to this decision according to several Wall Street analysts.

The unanimous decision is perplexing because the BOE spent the two years since Brexit to scare the nation just how perilous the economy is. And yet, here they are, with just 8 months left until the final Brexit divorce deadline, to announce how upbeat the central bank is on the country's outlook, and to upgrade its outlook for the coming year.

And it certainly was upbeat: "The MPC continues to judge that the UK economy currently has a very limited degree of slack. Unemployment is low and is projected to fall a little further. In the MPC’s central projection, therefore, a small margin of excess demand emerges by late 2019 and builds thereafter, feeding through into higher growth in domestic costs than has been seen over recent years.”

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August 1, 2018

Five Trillion Dollars! Doomed US Pensions' Shortfall Now The Size Of Japan's Economy

Scores of public pensions across the United States are so massively underfunded that the shortfall is roughly equal to Japan's GDP - the world's third-largest economy, according to Moody's Investors Service.

State and local pension plans in the U.S. now have less than three- quarters of the money they need to meet their promised payouts, their lowest level since at least 2001, according to Public Plans Database figures weighted by plan size. In dollar terms the hole for state and local pensions is now $5 trillion, according to Moody’s Investors Service. -WSJ

If governments don't increase taxes, convince pensioners to take less than they were promised or divert funds from elsewhere, an increasing number of funds face insolvency, reports the Wall Street Journal

In Kentucky, for example, a major pension for state employees had around 16% of what it needs to fulfill its obligations based on 2017 fiscal year figures, according to the Public Plans database which tracks state and local pension funds. A Chicago municipal employee fund had less than 30% of what it needed during the same fiscal year, while New Jersey's state pension is so underfunded it faces insolvency in 12 years according to a Pew Charitable Trusts Study.

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July 31, 2018

US Treasuries, JGBs Rally As Bank Of Japan Shifts To "More Flexible" Bond-Buying Plan

After a few years of relative apathy, today's Bank of Japan statement is greeted with considerable anticipation as it may well have some significant impacts on global markets, judging by the last two weeks' action after hints at BoJ policy shifts.

But the most-watched item in today's statement will be with regard Yield Curve Control (YCC) as recent source articles have suggested that the BoJ will discuss potential policy changes to its YCC framework on the basis of sustainability, not tightening, of monetary policy which could lead to an adjustment of the yield curve target - where the 10Y JGB trades - to allow a long-term natural rise. This is said to be the cause due to the central bank's admission that it may take even longer to hit the 2% price target, and therefore would need to ensure its policy measures can be sustained, while a policy tweak could also help alleviate some of the side-effects from its prolonged ultra-loose policy which has squeezed banks' profits.

And yet, few expect that the BOJ will make an explicit YCC determination today, as an increase in the JGB yield target appears unlikely at a time when it is expected to revise downward its inflation forecast; instead in consideration of the adverse side effects of its policy, the BoJ will likely declare at the end of its statement that, based on its analysis in its quarterly Outlook Report, that it will maintain its easing policy for an extended period but will conduct financial market operations and asset purchasing operations to address the mounting cumulative side effects.

And in case there is a negative reaction to this apparent 'tightening', one likely easing measure to deal with such side effects will include an overhaul of its JPY6 billion ETF purchasing operations, a shift from Nikkei 225-linked ETF to Topix-linked ETF, which would likely spur investors to follow suit in rebalancing their portfolios should this materialize.

And finally, while 'officially' The Bank of Japan has not shifted its bond-buying program's scope, in practice it has been tapering dramatically... forced by liquidity constraints in the market.

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July 30, 2018

"Now The Real Economic War Begins, With America And Europe Allied"

The US and EU account for over 50% of global GDP and have the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship, exchanging $1.1trln of goods and services annually; there’s no more integrated economic relationship on earth. One-third of world trade involves the US and EU - the US is humanity’s #1 customer, accounting for 18% of all imports, the EU is #2 at 15%.

Total US investment in the EU is 3x higher than its investment in all of Asia. EU investment in the US is 8x higher than its investment in India and China combined. The US and EU have 880mm people (12% of total population), $180trln of wealth (65% of global wealth) and own nearly all of humanity’s intellectual property.

To be sure, we have our differences, but heaven help this planet’s divided nations if we set those aside and seek material advantage.

“Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, when I was invited by the President to the White House, I had one intention: I had the intention to make a deal today,” announced Jean-Claude Juncker, camera’s clicking, a media whir, history in the making. “And we made a deal today,” continued the President of the European Commission, as a shockwave circled the planet.

You see, throughout Europe’s timeless saga, never had a single politician cut a real deal on behalf of the entire continent, though not through any lack of effort. Many fought to attain the power of a united Europe - the Romans, Charlemagne, the short Frenchman with an ulcer, Austria’s most famous Adolph. Juncker’s unlike them all. He’s a creature of Europe’s modern union, a concept born of utter exhaustion, profound weakness.

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