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Shortest Recession In History Sets Up Next Recession

Shortest Recession In History Sets Up Next Recession

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

It’s now official that the recession of 2020 was the shortest in history. 

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, t

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Shortest Recession In History Sets Up Next Recession
Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com, It’s now official that the recession of 2020 was the shortest in history.  According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the contraction lasted just two months, from February 2020 to April 2020. However, during those two months, the economy fell by 31.4% (GDP), and the financial markets plunged by 33%. Both of those declines, as shown in the table below, are within historical norms. Here it is graphically. The chart shows the historical length of each recession and the corresponding market decline. However, while the effects of the “recession” were all within historical norms, the recession itself was not. Let me explain.

A Non-Standard Recession

The statement from the NBER is as follows:
“In determining that a trough occurred in April 2020, the committee DID NOT conclude that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. The committee decided that any future downturn of the economy would be a new recession and not a continuation of the recession associated with the February 2020 peak. The basis for this decision was the length and strength of the recovery to date.”
As I said, the recession was non-standard. Conventionally, the NBER defines a recession as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Notably, while the recession did technically meet the criteria after GDP fell 5% in Q1, recessions tend to last more than three months historically. The difference was the massive interventions of 20% of GDP beginning in Q2, which created an “artificial growth surge” in the economy by pulling forward consumptive activity. That led to an explosive recovery in GDP in Q3 of nearly 30%. It is essential to note that the NBER stated that any subsequent downturn would get labeled as a “new” recession. That view accounts for the recovery driven by massive interventions even though that growth is not sustainable. As such, the “next recession” may not be as far off as many currently expect.

Why Recessions Are Important

Our discussion must begin with a basic concept: “recessions” are not a “bad thing.”  It is a given you should never mention the “R” word. People immediately assume you mean the end of the world: death, disaster, and destruction. But, unfortunately, the Federal Reserve and the Government also believe recessions “are bad.” As such, they have gone to great lengths to avoid them. However, what if “recessions are a good thing,” and we just let them happen?
“What about all the poor people that would lose their jobs? The companies that would go out of business? It is terrible to think such a thing could be good.”
Sometimes destruction is a “healthy” thing, and there are many examples we can look to, such as “forest fires.”
Wildfires, like recessions, are a natural part of the environment. They are nature’s way of clearing out the dead litter on forest floors, allowing essential nutrients to return to the soil. As the soil enrichens, it enables a new healthy beginning for plants and animals. Fires also play an essential role in the reproduction of some plants.
Ask yourself this question: “Why California has so many wildfire problems?”  Is it just bad luck and negligence? Or, is it decades of rushing to try and stop fires from their natural cleansing process as noted by MIT:
“Decades of rushing to stamp out flames that naturally clear out small trees and undergrowth have had disastrous unintended consequences. This approach means that when fires do occur, there’s often far more fuel to burn, and it acts as a ladder, allowing the flames to climb into the crowns and takedown otherwise resistant mature trees.
While recessions, like forest fires, have terrible short-term impacts, they also allow the system to reset for healthier growth in the future.

No Tolerance For Recessions

Following the century’s turn, the Fed’s “constant growth mentality” not only exacerbated rising inequality but fostered financial instability. Rather than allowing the economy to perform its Darwinian function of “weeding out the weak,” the Fed chose to “mismanage the forest.” The consequence is that “forest fires” are now more frequent. Deutsche Bank strategists Jim Reid and Craig Nicol previously wrote a report that echos this analysis.
“Actions are taken by governments and central banks to extend business cycles and prevent recessions lead to more severe recessions in the end.” 
Prolonged expansions had become the norm since the early 1970s, when President Nixon broke the tight link between the dollar and gold. The last four expansions are among the six longest in U.S. history. Why so? Freed from the constraints of a gold-backed currency, governments and central banks have grown far more aggressive in combating downturns. They’ve boosted spending, slashed interest rates or taken other unorthodox steps to stimulate the economy.” – MarketWatch
But therein also lies the problem.

The Darwinian Process Of Recessions

As we discussed in our series on “Capitalism,” if allowed to operate, is a “Darwinian System.” As with Darwin’s theory of evolution, corporate evolution has the same essential components as biological evolution: competition, adaptation, variation, overproduction, and speciation. In other words, as an economic system, companies either adapt, evolve, and survive or become extinct.  However, in 2008, the Government and Federal Reserve began a process of “bailing” out companies that should have been allowed to go “bankrupt.”  The consequence of that process is the failure to enable the system to “clear itself” of the excess debt, which diverts capital away from productive uses. I have illustrated the continual increases in debt used to create minimal economic growth. Specifically, since 2008, the Federal Reserve and the Government have pumped more than $43 Trillion into the economy. But, in exchange, that debt generated just $3.5 trillion in economic growth, or rather, $12 of monetary stimulus for each $1 of growth. Such sounds okay until you realize it came solely from debt issuance. As Ruchir Sharma previously penned:
“Modern society looks increasingly to government for protection from major crises. Whether recessions, public-health disasters or, as today, a painful combination of both. Such rescues have their place. Few would deny that the Covid-19 pandemic called for dramatic intervention. But there is a downside to this reflex to intervene, which has become more automatic over the past four decades. Our growing intolerance for economic risk and loss is undermining the natural resilience of capitalism and now threatens its very survival.”
Such is an important concept to comprehend. Just as poor forest management leads to more wildfires, not allowing “creative destruction” to occur in the economy leads to a financial system that is more prone to crises.

Structural Fagility

Given the structural fragility of the global economic and financial system, policymakers remain trapped in the process of trying to prevent recessions from occurring due to the extreme debt levels. Unfortunately, such one-sided thinking ultimately leads to skewed preferences and policymaking. As such, the “boom and bust” cycles will continue to occur more frequently at the cost of increasing debt, more money printing, and increasing financial market instability. It is clear the Fed’s foray into “policy flexibility” did extend the business cycle. However, those extensions led to higher structural budget deficits. The cancerous byproduct of increased private and public debt, artificially low-interest rates, negative real yields, and inflated financial asset valuations is problematic. However, these policies have all but failed to this point. From “cash for clunkers” to “Quantitative Easing,” economic prosperity worsened. Pulling forward future consumption, or inflating asset markets, exacerbated an artificial wealth effect. Such led to decreased savings rather than productive investments.

The Fed’s “Moral Hazard”

A growing body of research shows that constant government stimulus is a significant contributor to many of modern capitalism’s most glaring ills. Wealth inequality is the most obvious. However, another more important but not noticeable side effect is that it keeps alive heavily indebted “zombie” firms.  When a company is “kept alive,” it comes at the expense of startups, which typically drive innovation. All of this leads to lower productivity which is the prime contributor to the slowdown in economic growth and a shrinking pie for everyone. (See chart above.) By not allowing “recessions” to perform their natural “Darwinian” function of “weeding out the weak,” it creates a macroeconomic problem. As previously noted by Axios:
“Zombie firms are less productive, and their existence lowers investment in, and employment at, more productive firms. In short, a side effect of central banks keeping rates low for a long time is it keeps unproductive firms alive. Ultimately, that lowers the long-run growth rate of the economy.”
If “recessions” are allowed to function, the weak players will fail. Stronger market players would acquire failed company assets. Bond-holders would receive some compensation for their debt holdings. Shareholders, the ones who accepted the most risk, would get wiped out. Furthermore, assuming capitalism was allowed to function, investors would require appropriate compensation for the risk when loaning money to companies. As such, credit-related investors would get compensated for their risk rather than the current state of abnormally low yields for junk-rated debt. The consequence, of course, is that since the “Darwinistic process” of a recession did not occur, and the macroeconomic system is even more fragile than previously, the next downturn could happen sooner than later.

The Next Recession

While the interventions certainly salvaged the economy from a more prolonged recessionary event, they also made the economy more fragile. Furthermore, by dragging forward future consumption, the interventions only gave the appearance of economic activity. As excess stimulus fades and assuming interventions don’t repeat, the economy will return its pre-covid growth trend of 2% or less. Such should not be a surprise given that economic growth is roughly 70% consumption. With wage growth well below inflationary pressures, consumption will get impacted by higher prices. With Treasury yields dropping and the yield curve reversing, these are early warning signs that economic growth is indeed slowing. While the NBER declared the 2020 recession the shortest in history, such does not preclude another recession from occurring sooner than later. All the excesses that existed before the last recession have only worsened since then.
  • Excess Debt
  • High Stock Market Valuations
  • Investor Complacency
  • Financial System Fragility
  • Weak Economic Underpinnings
  • Declining Monetary Velocity
  • Low Interest Rates Detering Productive Activity
  • Financial Liquidity Required To Keep Asset Prices Elevated
Given the dynamics for an economic recession remain, it will only require an unexpected, exogenous event to push the economy back into contraction. Such is why the NBER is clear in saying they will classify the next downturn as a separate recession. If you are quick to dismiss the idea, remember no one expected a recession in 2020 either. But we did warn you about it in 2019.
Tyler Durden Sat, 07/24/2021 - 10:30

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Economics

Fed Urged To Fire Officials Over “Pandemic Profiteering”

Fed Urged To Fire Officials Over "Pandemic Profiteering"

Two weeks ago, Fed Presidents Robert Kaplan and Eric Rosengren (and to a lesser, though still notable extent, Fed Chair Powell himself) were ‘outed’ for their multi-million-dollar stock

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Fed Urged To Fire Officials Over "Pandemic Profiteering"

Two weeks ago, Fed Presidents Robert Kaplan and Eric Rosengren (and to a lesser, though still notable extent, Fed Chair Powell himself) were 'outed' for their multi-million-dollar stock and bond trades, sparking widespread outrage, bolstering claims that not only is the market rigged and manipulated by the Fed but that it is rigged directly for the benefit of Fed members like Kaplan and Rosengren who - whether they intended or not - benefited monetarily from their own decisions and their inside information that nobody else was privy to..

While none of the transactions appears to violate the Fed's code of conduct, CNBC reported, municipal bonds are an asset class that are far more niche that stocks or ETFs. 

Officials “should be careful to avoid any dealings or other conduct that might convey even an appearance of conflict between their personal interests, the interests of the system, and the public interest," the Fed's code of conduct says.

It was such 'bad optics' that less than two days after the widespread public fury at this grotesque discovery, the presidents of the Federal Reserve banks of Boston and Dallas said they would sell their individual stock holdings by Sept. 30 amid "ethics concerns", and invest the proceeds in diversified index funds or hold them in cash.

While we are sure the Fed officials hoped this would satisfy the ignorant masses... it has not. And as The Wall Street Journal reports, two advocacy groups and a former Fed adviser have said that The Fed should fire at least one (and perhaps both) of the Fed officials over their "pandemic profiteering trading conduct."

Better Markets, a group that pushes for tighter financial regulation; the left-leaning Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up campaign; and Andrew Levin, a former top Federal Reserve staff member and now a professor at Dartmouth College, are calling for the Fed to take action against Messrs. Kaplan and Rosengren.

“It’s time for the Fed to do what leaders are supposed to do:  Lead by example,” Better Markets president and chief executive officer Dennis Kelleher wrote in a letter sent to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell Tuesday.

Messrs. Kaplan and Rosengren, both should resign or be fired “for having lost the confidence and trust of the American people and, one would think, the Chairman of the U.S. central bank,” Mr. Kelleher said.

As The Fed is about to shift policy regimes into a taper of its unprecedented fre-money-gasm-machines, Mr. Kelleher added:

“This is no time for the American people to lose confidence and trust in the Fed, which must be above reproach, not set the lowest bar for ethical and legal conduct,”

Some Fed watchers say the trading raises questions about who policy was designed to help.

“There are a lot of reasons that working people are right to wonder if the Fed has their best interests in mind,” said Benjamin Dulchin, campaign director for Fed Up.

“These trades are only the most obvious reason, but it makes it harder for the Fed to do its job,” Mr. Dulchin said, adding if he were Mr. Kaplan or Mr. Rosengren, “I would resign.”

There is, however, one man supportive of Kaplan - his predecessor at the Dallas Fed, Rich Fisher, who shrugged off the million-dollar trades as nothing, noting that in fact, Kaplan was "talking against his own book..."

But, 'Dick', actions speak louder than words eh? And now that he has been shamed into cutting all market exposure, who cares whether he is hawkish or dovish - he's made his!

Source: NorthmanTrader
Tyler Durden Wed, 09/22/2021 - 08:25

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Economics

Nomura Fears ‘Hawkish Surprise’ In Dot-Plot As ‘Vol Expansion’ Window Closes

Nomura Fears ‘Hawkish Surprise’ In Dot-Plot As ‘Vol Expansion’ Window Closes

Is history going to repeat itself today?

The last time the US equity market ‘hiccupped’ was following the FOMC meeting in September 2020…

As Bloomberg notes,..

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Nomura Fears 'Hawkish Surprise' In Dot-Plot As 'Vol Expansion' Window Closes

Is history going to repeat itself today?

The last time the US equity market 'hiccupped' was following the FOMC meeting in September 2020...

As Bloomberg notes, the environment looks similar in several ways to today’s:

  • In September 2020, the Fed noted the limits of monetary policy in dealing with the economic shock caused by the pandemic. Now, the Fed is hamstrung by high inflation and will likely have to start pulling back on accommodation.

  • Back then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was pushing out a stopgap funding plan without Republican support in an effort to avoid a government shutdown. Now, she is brokering a truce within her own party to push through a multi-trillion dollar spending bill while averting a government shutdown and a Treasury default.

  • Concerns over the Covid-19 virus heading into autumn were also a worry then as they are now. This headline from Sept. 18, 2020, “Wall Street’s Return-to-Office Push Finds Virus Won’t Cooperate” could easily be swapped onto stories over the past month.

And while the market is rebounding on Evergrande headlines (which, if one scratches below the surface of the headline alone, do not offer much hope for the majority of bondholders... especially dollar bondholders), and the usual pre-FOMC 'drift', Nomura's econ team is far less sanguine and sees a number of hawkish risks across the statement, updated forecasts and press conference:

  • While we do not expect a formal tapering announcement this meeting, the Committee is likely to finalize the tapering plan ahead of a November announcement. Chair Powell may provide an update on tapering parameters that have gained a consensus, potentially including the size and frequency of adjustments.

  • Data have softened and the pandemic outlook has become more uncertain but, if anything, the FOMC appears to be increasingly concerned that the primary impact of subsequent COVID disruptions will be prolonged upward pressure on inflation as opposed to depressed demand.

  • We see upside risk to the September “dot plot.” While we think the median 2022 policy rate forecast will stay at the effective lower bound (ELB), the bar for a half or full hike is low. We think 2023 will continue to show two rate hikes, while 2024 – a new addition in September – will show an additional two hikes. Concerns over inflation could result in more than four forecasted cumulative hikes by end-2024.

  • The FOMC’s updated economic projections are likely to show a flatter growth path – with downward revisions to 2021 but stronger numbers in 2022-23 – along with notably higher near-term inflation forecasts as supply chain disruptions prove more persistent than the Committee expected just a few months ago.

  • The post-meeting FOMC statement will likely include new language to signal an imminent tapering announcement, and we believe the Committee may nuance the language describing inflation as rising “largely reflecting transitory factors.”

Tying this FOMC today back into the recent US Equities spasm, Nomura's Charlie McElligott points out that it is becoming clear to me that the “window for volatility expansion” will soon be closing again thanks to “clearing” of Op-Ex- and Fed meeting- event risks, which will only further drive resumption of “reflexive vol / gamma selling” as well as hedge monetization flows that will then see spot rally (VIX ETN Net Vega has now DECREASED by 7.2mm over the past 1w into the Vol squeeze)…

UNLESS we can again realize larger daily changes (i.e. 1.5% type moves) on Index-level again in order to justify UX1 at 23 / 24 which would be prompted by a 'hawkish surprise'...

Because, have no doubt, there is still “energy” there to overshoot in either direction with some very real accelerant flows remaining on account of Dealer options positioning: currently we see SPX / SPY Dealers short ~$9.2B of $Gamma (6.6%ile, flips positive above 4411) while $Delta remains negative at -$139.1B (11.2%ile, flips positive above 4400); similar for QQQ, with REALLY negative $Gamma at -$709.6mm (1.3%ile, flips up at 375.02) and negative $Delta at -$16.5B (2.7%ile, flips positive above $373.85)

But overall, SpotGamma notes that the key to the last several days has been this: we have not see any data to suggest material put buying, despite market weakness.

If puts were bought then that would add market pressure because dealers have to short futures to hedge.  If traders come out of the FOMC needed to buy downside put hedges then that adds additional selling.

The bottom line is that we expect some large swings today, and for the market to “stage” at either 4430 or 4300 into the close today, which could set the direction for a large move into Friday.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/22/2021 - 09:30

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China Syndrome? Is Evergrande A Symptom Of Deeper Malaise

China Syndrome? Is Evergrande A Symptom Of Deeper Malaise

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“If that’s true, we are very close to the China Syndrome ”

Evergrande’s imminent default is rocking markets – but few believe…

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China Syndrome? Is Evergrande A Symptom Of Deeper Malaise

Authored by Bill Blain via MorningPorridge.com,

“If that’s true, we are very close to the China Syndrome ”

Evergrande’s imminent default is rocking markets – but few believe the collapse of a Chinese property developer could trigger a global financial crisis. What if Evergrande is just a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Chinese economy and its political/business structures? Maybe there is more at stake than we realise? What if Emperor Xi decides he needs a distraction?

Amid this week's market turbulence, and the overnight headlines, Evergrande dominates thinking this morning. The early headlines say the risk is “easing”. Don’t be fooled. S&P are on the wires saying it’s on the brink of default and is unlikely to get govt support. It’s Asia’s largest junk-bond issuer. Anyone for the last few choc-ices then?

The market view on the coming Evergrande “event” is mixed. Some analysts are dismissing it as an internal “China event”, others reckon there may be some systemic risk but one Government can easily address. There is some speculation about “lessons” to be learnt… There are even China supporters who reckon its proof of robust China capitalism – the right to fail is a positive!

I’ve got a darker perspective.

The massive shifts we’ve seen in China’s political/business public persona over the past few years have been variously ascribed: a reaction to Trump’s protectionism, China taking its place as a leading nation, Xi flexing his military muscle, and now a clampdown on divisive wealthy businesses to promote common prosperity.

What if Evergrande is just a symptom of something much deeper?

That that last 30-years of runaway Chinese growth has resulted in a deepening internal crisis, one that we barely perceive in the west? What if the excesses that have spawned Evergrande and the illusion every Chinese can afford luxury flats and a western standard of living is about to implode? Crashing oriental minor chords!

The looming Chinese property debacle will be fascinating, but it many respects will be similar and yet very different to the multiple market unwinds we’ve seen in the west. How it plays out will have all kinds of implications for growth, speculation and how global investors perceive China in the future. Folk are variously describing it as China’s Lehman Brothers, or the next “Minsky Moment” when speculation ends with a sharp jab of reality to the kidneys.

I’m thinking back to a story I read a few years ago about the Shanghai Auto-fair pre-pandemic. Evergrande New Electric Vehicles had the largest stand and was showing off 11 different EVs. Not one of these were actually available to buy – they were all models of as-yet unproduced cars. The company was valued at billions and yet never sold a single vehicle. This morning, it’s just another worthless business Evergrande is trying to flog. (See this story on Bloomberg TV: China’s Zombie EV Makers.)

The market is asking itself a host of questions about Evergrande’s collapse: How bad will its tsunami of Chinese contagion deluge global markets? When it’s going to happen? What knock-on effects will cascade through markets?

Perhaps the most important question is: Who will be exposed “swimming naked” when the Evergrande tide goes out? Who will be left with the biggest losses? As the company is definitely bust, these losses rather depend on just how China’s authorities respond.

Step back and think about it a moment – try putting these in context:

  • Fundamentally all business is about identifying a consumer need and filling it.

  • Fundamentally, greedy businessmen tend to get carried away because the political-financial system enables them.

  • Fundamentally, it’s just another burst bubble and who cleans up the mess.

  • In Evergrande’s case a thousand flowers of capitalism with Chinese characteristics grew into an unsustainable business – fundamentally no different from debt-fuelled sub-prime mortgages, or CDOs cubed, in the West.

The big difference this time is its China! China has done things… differently. The path China pursued in its recovery and growth since 1980 has not been without… consequences.

Thus far we’ve praised China for its spectacular growth and the creation of valuable companies under the red banner of Chinese capitalism. It is going to be “interesting” to see how the subsequent mess is cleared out. Questions about Moral Hazard are going to be shockingly simple – Government has made it abundantly clear that any wrongdoing by company executives will be punished in the harshest possible way.

More importantly, Chinese politics and business works on a very different playing field to the west. Forget the rule of law or the T&C’s of Evergrande bonds. It easy to dismiss and characterise the way Chinese business works as institutionalised systemic corruption – but it’s a system Ancient Roman Emperors would recognise as a patron/client relationship. Emperor Xi’s clients and his princelings will continue to benefit from his patronage in return for their support at his court, and will be protected in a meltdown. The system Xi presides over will have little motivation to intervene to protect western investors who find themselves caught in the Evergrande fiasco.

Where Xi will have to take notice is outside the rich, wealthy princeling cadre which increasingly owns and runs China. There will be massive implications for wealth/inequality among the Chinese people from a property collapse. With a third of Chinese GDP dependent on the property sector, (and about 4 million jobs at Evergrande), the collapse of one of the biggest players, and the likelihood others will follow is much more than just a systemic risk.

Property is a key metric in the aspirations to wealth of the rising Chinese middle classes. The same smaller Chinese investors and savers will likely prove the largest losers from the property investment schemes they were sucked into. These real losses will rise if hidden bank exposures trigger a domestic banking crisis – which apparently isn’t likely (meaning it is..). There are reports of investor protests in key China cities – putting pressure on the govt to act to mitigate personal losses.

Xi’s clampdown on big tech is painted as the Party’s programme to engineer a more socially-equal economy. He has pinned the blame for rising inequality on “corrupt” business practices and has his cadre’s waving books on Xi thought, mouthing slogans about “common prosperity” and “frugality”. These are going to look increasingly hollow if the middle classes bear the coming Evergrande pain, and the Party Princelings continue to prosper.

The really big risk in China is not that Evergrande is going to default – it’s much bigger. If the Party is seen to fail in its promise to deliver wealth, jobs and prosperity for the masses – then that is very serious. China’s host of failed EV companies, an economy still reliant on exporting other nations tech, and a massively overvalued property sector (that the masses still equate with prosperity) all suggest a much less solid economy than the Party promotes.

If the illusion of a strong economy is unravelling – who knows what happens next, but in Ancient Rome the answer would be simple… Blame someone else, and invade..

This could get very “interesting…” and not in a good way.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/22/2021 - 08:45

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