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Stocks, Yields Tumble As Quad-Witching Fears Add To Broader Market Slide

Stocks, Yields Tumble As Quad-Witching Fears Add To Broader Market Slide

US futures tumbled after hitting an all time high less than 24 hour ago, as the favorable if paradoxical bounce in risk from the hawkish FOMC pivot faded from memory…

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Stocks, Yields Tumble As Quad-Witching Fears Add To Broader Market Slide

US futures tumbled after hitting an all time high less than 24 hour ago, as the favorable if paradoxical bounce in risk from the hawkish FOMC pivot faded from memory and as investors questioned whether global stocks are due for a rough ride on the backdrop of growing risks from inflation and the omicron virus variant. S&P 500 futures slumped about 0.5% Friday morning, while the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield fell for a second straight day to 1.394%, the lowest since Dec. 6.

Futures were dragged down by tech stocks as volatility surged amid mounting concerns about monetary tightening and the omicron coronavirus variant.

“Rates hikes do not end bull markets, but reversal of central banks’ liquidity means less speculative froth and more volatility,” said Barclays strategist Emmanuel Cau. “Policy angst may be here to stay, but following months of unclear guidances and conflicting signals, the direction of travel is clear now.”

Investors are also bracing for the quarterly rebalancing of the S&P 500 Index after the market close and the triple witching expiration of equity derivatives that could magnify market moves.

General Motors dropped in premarket trading after the company said Cruise unit Chief Executive Officer Dan Ammann is leaving the company.  Here are some of the other notable premarket movers today:

  • Tesla (TSLA US) shares fall as much as 2.4% in U.S. premarket trading as CEO Elon Musk sells another chunk of shares in the electric vehicle maker.
  • FedEx (FDX US) boosted its adjusted earnings-per-share forecast for the full year, with the guidance beating the average analyst estimate. Shares rose about 4.8% in premarket trading.
  • Spruce Biosciences (SPRB US) shares soar as much as 30% in U.S. premarket trading after Oppenheimer initiated coverage with an outperform rating and a $15 price target that implies 500% upside in the stock from Thursday’s closing price.
  • Cerner (CERN US) shares rise 17% in U.S. pre- trading hours amid a report that Oracle is in talks to buy the medical-records company for about $30b.
  • Rivian Automotive (RIVN US) shares slump 9% in U.S. premarket trading after the electric pickup maker reported results. Piper Sandler says that after- hours share-price loss is “noise,” and remains positive following earnings call.
  • General Motors (GM US) dropped postmarket after it said Cruise Chief Executive Officer Dan Ammann is leaving the company.
  • Steelcase (SCS US) declined in the after hours session after the furniture company reported 3Q revenue that missed the average analyst estimate due to supply chain disruptions.
  • U.S. Steel Corp. (X US) shares declined premarket after it warned fourth-quarter results will be lower than Wall Street had been expecting.

In Europe, technology companies and carmakers were among the worst-performing industries, dragging the Stoxx Europe 600 Index down 1%. Tech, autos and utilities are the weakest sectors. Miners and travel are the only Stoxx 600 sectors in small positive territory.  Cellnex slumped 4.1% to a six-month low after a British regulator said the Spanish company’s purchase of CK Hutchison Holdings’s European telecommunication towers raised “significant” competition concerns.

Asian stocks slid, as a risk-off mode resumed amid concerns over tighter monetary policies and ongoing tensions between the U.S. and China. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped as much as 1%, set for the fifth decline over the past six days. Technology shares around the region took a hit, led by Chinese giants including Tencent and Alibaba Group, as a global sector selloff continued on higher rate fears. China was among the region’s worst performers after the Biden administration added 34 Chinese targets to its banned-entity list, weighing on sentiment. Japanese stocks held their losses after the Bank of Japan lengthened its cautious withdrawal from emergency pandemic aid. Asia’s benchmark was set to cap a more than 1% slide this week as central banks around the world attempt to curb inflation, dampening prospects for the usual year-end rally. The Federal Reserve plans to double the pace of its asset-tapering program and the Bank of England hiked interest rates, prompting investors to edge away from riskier assets. “I expect the choppy price action to continue to spoof fast-money players into the year-end, both in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at Oanda.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1% to close at 7,304.00, snapping a three-day losing streak. Material and energy shares led the advance on the back of strong commodity prices. Gold miner Norther Star was the best performer on the benchmark. Domain Holdings was the worst performer, followed by Afterpay, after the U.S. government said it launched a regulatory probe into buy now, pay later companies. In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5% to 12,717.94

In rates, treasuries were mixed with the yield curve flatter as U.S. trading begins, retracing a portion of Thursday’s bull-steepening move that unfolded as futures further marked down likelihood of Fed rate increases beyond mid-2022. Yields out to the 10-year are within 1bp of Thursday’s closing levels, with longer maturities lower by 1bp-2bp; 5s30s is flatter by ~2bp after steepening 7.2bp Thursday, remains ~4bp steeper on week. Yields remain lower on week led by the 5Y, which declined 8.1bp Thursday.  Bunds bull flatten a touch, long-end richer by ~2bps, brushing off some hawkish comments from ECB’s Muller. Peripheral spreads tighten slightly. Gilts are bear steeper, cheaper by 2.5bps at the back end.

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was steady and the greenback was mixed versus its Group-of-10 peers, with most currencies confined to narrow ranges. Treasury yields rose by up to 2bps, led by the belly. The euro was flat at $1.1330 and bund yields were little changed. The pound steadied amid seasonal flows into the dollar and as the boost from Thursday’s surprise Bank of England rate hike wore off. U.K. retail sales last month rose 1.4% from October, when they grew a revised 1.1%, the Office for National Statistics said. Economists had expected an increase of 0.8%. Sales excluding auto fuel grew 1.1%. The yen edged higher on concerns about the risk that eventual draw-down in central bank liquidity could trigger a reversal in the rally. Japanese government bonds were in ranges as they shrugged off the Bank of Japan’s status quo outcome. Australian and New Zealand dollar led G-10 declines as falling stocks and mounting virus numbers sapped demand for risk currencies. Turkish lira once again goes sharply offered, briefly weakening over 9% to print through 17/USD before further central bank intervention.

In commodities, WTI dropped 1.5%, holding above $71 so far; Brent trades slips below $74. Spot gold holds Asia’s gains, near $1,804/oz. Base metals are in the green with LME tin outperforming. Bloomberg’s Markets Live team is running an anonymous survey on asset views for 2022. It takes about two minutes and the results will be shared in the latter part of December.

Looking at the day ahead, data releases include Germany’s Ifo business climate indicator for December, as well as November data on German PPI and UK retail sales. From central banks, we’ll also hear from the Fed’s Waller and the ECB’s Rehn.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.8% to 4,635.00
  • MXAP down 0.9% to 191.41
  • MXAPJ down 0.8% to 618.58
  • Nikkei down 1.8% to 28,545.68
  • Topix down 1.4% to 1,984.47
  • Hang Seng Index down 1.2% to 23,192.63
  • Shanghai Composite down 1.2% to 3,632.36
  • Sensex down 1.5% to 57,011.01
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.1% to 7,303.97
  • Kospi up 0.4% to 3,017.73
  • STOXX Europe 600 down 0.6% to 473.64
  • German 10Y yield little changed at -0.36%
  • Euro little changed at $1.1330
  • Brent Futures down 1.4% to $73.99/bbl
  • Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,808.56
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 95.98

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • Boris Johnson suffered a seismic political upset as his ruling Conservatives lost a key parliamentary election, a result that will heap intense pressure on the U.K. prime minister and may even call his position into question
  • Leading central banks made a big call this week, deciding that the coronavirus is no longer calling the shots in their economies, and inflation is now the bigger threat
  • Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said the difference between the new forecast for 1.8% inflation in 2023 and 2024 and the ECB’s 2% target is within the “margin of uncertainty.” In a Bundesbank report showing German inflation will run above 2% through 2024, Jens Weidmann urged vigilance as he sees “risks to the upside” throughout the currency bloc
  • ECB Governing Council member Olli Rehn said “there’s considerable uncertainty about the path which inflation will take”
  • Germany’s main gauge of business expectations slipped to 92.6 in December, falling for a sixth month, according to the Ifo institute. That’s a bigger decline than predicted by economists in a Bloomberg survey. Current conditions were also assessed as weaker than in November
  • EU leaders failed to reach a deal on how to react to the unprecedented gas crisis that sent energy prices to record levels after Poland and the Czech Republic demanded stronger action to cap the costs of pollution

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asian equity markets were mostly lower with sentiment in the region downbeat after the tech-led declines in the US and yesterday’s central bank frenzy. Overnight US equity futures held a downside bias. The ASX 200 (+0.1%) traded positively amid notable outperformance in the commodity-related sectors which was spearheaded by gold miners as the precious metal reclaimed with the USD 1800/oz level and with sentiment also helped by the announcement of a UK-Australia trade deal. The Nikkei 225 (-1.8%) was the biggest laggard as exporters suffered from detrimental currency inflows and following the BoJ announcement to scale back its pandemic relief measures in March. The Hang Seng (-1.2%) and Shanghai Comp. (-1.2%) were lacklustre after further restrictive measures by the US on Chinese companies including the passage of the Uyghur bill aimed at China which bans imports from Xinjiang unless the US government determines they were not produced with forced labour, while tech suffered after the US included several Chinese companies to its investment and trade restrictions lists. Finally, 10yr JGBs were flat despite the steepening seen in the US and underperformance of Japanese stocks, with demand subdued amid the BoJ decision to scale back pandemic relief measures.

Top Asian News

  • Japan Expedites Virus Boosters for Some as Omicron Looms
  • Hong Kong Stock Exchange to Allow SPAC Listings Next Month
  • Thailand May Impose Stock-Trading Tax to Lift Government Revenue
  • Asian Stocks Drop as Worries on Global Policy Tightening Linger

European equities have succumbed to the weakness seen on Wall Street and across most APAC markets (Euro Stoxx 50 -1.1%; Stoxx 600 -0.6%) as global central banks turn hawkish and Quad Witching gets underway in holiday-thinned liquidity. US equity futures have also drifted lower, with the March 2022 contracts softer to the tune of 0.1-0.3% across the ES, NQ, YM and RTY. On the recent central bank pivots, analysts at Barclays suggest that rate hikes do not end bull markets, but reduced liquidity means “less speculative froth”. Barclays sees persisting inflation as a risk to markets and Omicron as an increasing downside risk to European growth, albeit the impact is contained thus far. Back to trade, Eurozone bourses see broad-based weakness whilst the UK’s FTSE 100 (+0.2%) holds its head above water – aided by outperformance in the basic materials sector and a softer Sterling. Overall sectors kicked off the day with a defensive bias, albeit that theme has since faded, with some cyclicals making their way up the ranks. Sectors are mostly in the red, however. Auto names are the laggards, with European car registrations -17.5% in November (prev. -30% MM). Tech also resides towards the bottom amid outflows from growth, and with the hefty valuations state-side also stoking some concerns. Chip names are also hit amid news Apple (-0.8% pre-market) is reportedly planning to build a new office to bring wireless chips in-house which may replace parts from Broadcom and Skyworks. STMicroelectronics (-3%), ASM (-2.4%), BE Semiconductor (-2.6%) are among the biggest losers in the Stoxx 600.

Top European News

  • European Gas Plunges After Russia Books Pipeline at Last Minute
  • Stellantis Revamps Auto-Finance Business With BNP, Santander
  • Cellnex Drops Most in 11 Months on CK Hutchison Deal Woes
  • Johnson Suffers Humiliating Defeat in U.K. Special Election

In FX, it feels like Friday fatigue has set in and markets are already in weekend mode as the Greenback sticks to relatively tight lines against most G10 peers and the index holds close to the 96.000 level within a narrow 96.118-95.875 band. Consolidation and sideways price action is hardly a surprise given this week’s extremely volatile trade on a combination of thin seasonal volumes and the abundance of final global Central Bank policy meetings for the year all scheduled within a few days. However, the Dollar and a few of its key counterparts may also be tied up in option expiry interest that ranges from large to huge in certain cases, awaiting comments from Fed’s Waller as the first official post-FOMC speaker.

  • CHF/EUR/GBP/JPY - The Franc remains above 0.9200 vs the Buck and is testing 1.0400 against the Euro again in wake of an unchanged SNB yesterday, while the single currency is holding above 1.1300 vs the Greenback even though Germany’s latest Ifo survey was downbeat and perhaps underpinned by hawkish remarks from ECB’s Simkus and Muller over the comparatively neutral/dovish Rehn. Elsewhere, Sterling retains an element of its post-BoE hike momentum, but not enough for Cable to breach the 30 DMA that comes in at 1.3344 today or stay above a Fib retracement at 1.3321 irrespective of Chief Economist Pill expressing the view that further tightening is likely. Conversely, the BoJ stuck to its dovish stance and balanced the termination of corporate and commercial QE by extending the COVID-19 funding facility for SMEs another 6 months, to leave the Yen meandering between 113.86-44, though nearer 113.50 amidst the latest bout of risk aversion. Note also, Usd/Jpy will likely be contained by a swathe of option expiries stretching from 113.00 up to 114.50 and the same can be said for Eur/Usd and the Pound given the sheer size of interest at various strikes rolling off today - see 7.24GMT post on the Headline Feed for details.
  • NZD/AUD/CAD - A further deterioration in NBNZ business outlook and decline in own activity have compounded the aforementioned downturn in overall sentiment to the detriment of the Kiwi more than Aussie or Loonie that is feeling the heat from renewed weakness in WTI crude. Hence, Nzd/Usd is nearer 0.6750 than 0.6800, while Aud/Usd is hovering within a 0.7185-53 range and Usd/Cad sits just above 1.2800.

In commodities, WTI and Brent futures have been trundling lower in tandem with risk appetite – with WTI Jan closer to USD 71/bbl (vs high USD 72.26/bbl) whilst Brent Feb resides under USD 73/bbl (vs high USD 74.98/bbl). The morning did see updates on the Iranian nuclear front whereby sources suggested the parties in the Vienna talks have been able to reach a new draft by incorporating Iran's views, which, if finalised, will be the basis for upcoming talks. Although nothing is yet set in stone, this is much more constructive than had been the case this time last week. Further, the oil complex juggles the fluid COVID situation as the steeper rise in global cases backs the notion of stricter measures. That being said, reports thus far continue to suggest the lower severity of the Omicron variant. Analysts at Goldman Sachs said Omicron hasn't had much of an impact on mobility and oil demand, while it sees strong oil demand in 2022 from rising CAPEX and infrastructure construction. Furthermore, it stated that average oil demand is to hit record highs in 2022 and 2023. Elsewhere, spot gold remains firm after topping the group of DMAs yesterday (21 at 1787, 100 at 1788, 200 at 1794 and 50 at 1798) alongside the USD 1,800/oz mark. LME copper hovers around the USD 9,500/t mark awaiting the next catalyst, whilst Dalian iron ore continued to gain overnight with traders citing a recovery in steel demand.

US Event Calendar

  • No economic events
  • 1pm: Fed’s Waller Discusses the Economic Outlook

DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap

Well this is my last EMR of 2021. Henry will be in charge on Monday and Tuesday of next week but by then I’ll be catching up on sleep to prepare myself for the onslaught of Xmas with three hyper excitable kids. Thanks for all your support and interactions over the past year. Hopefully you’ll continue to read in 2022. Try to have as exciting a holiday season as the virus permits and see you on the other side. As I have done most years, at the end today I’m listing my favourite TV series and films of the year. I used to do favourite albums of the year but I’m ashamed to say that the person who used to buy a few hundred albums a year and try out all sorts of new music has turned into someone who listens to playlists and old albums. All a bit dull. The odd film and lots of TV continues to keep me sane after a day working in financial markets. So I hope you enjoy the countdown.

Talking of countdowns, yesterday was probably the last active market day of the year with a slew of Central Bank activity over the last 36 hours. However the FOMC-inspired risk rally peaked out by lunchtime in Europe and the S&P 500 eventually shed -0.87% amidst significant declines in technology stocks (Nasdaq -2.47%). Meanwhile there was continued caution about the Omicron variant among investors, as many of the key economies await a fresh wave of cases over the coming weeks.

We’ll start with the ECB, who yesterday said that they would be ending net asset purchases under their Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) at the end of March 2022, and that purchases over Q1 would be “at a lower pace than in the previous quarter”. Nevertheless, they also moved to soften the blow by confirming a step up in purchases by the Asset Purchase Programme (APP) to €40bn a month in Q2 2022, followed by a reduction to €30bn in Q3, and then €20bn a month from October “for as long as necessary to reinforce the accommodative impact of its policy rates.” They also said that they expected net purchases would conclude “shortly before it starts raising the key ECB interest rates.”

Overall this was a somewhat hawkish decision (see European economists’ recap here), since although APP purchases will be increasing, those volumes are fixed and will taper out, whilst expectations were that the ECB may retain more flexibility with the APP. That flexibility seems confined to PEPP reinvestments, which will grant policy optionality as the inflation outlook remains uncertain. That said, it seems like the ECB communicated a set path for policy during 2022, with rate hikes not coming until 2023, according to our economists.

Sovereign bond yields ended the day higher across most of the continent, although they gave up some of that increase towards the close, with those on 10yr bunds (+1.1bps), OATs (+2.2bps) and BTPs (+5.5bps) all rising. However, some shorter-dated yields did move lower, with those on 2yr bunds (-1.3bps) and OATs (-0.2bps) declining. When it comes to the ECB’s inflation forecasts, these were upgraded yet again, with the central bank now expecting 2022 inflation at +3.2% (vs. +1.7% in September), whilst their 2023 and 2024 projections now stand at +1.8%. However, the 2023 and 2024 projections are still beneath the ECB’s 2% target, and in their forward guidance they’ve said that they wouldn’t raise raises until inflation was seen reaching the target “durably for the rest of the projection horizon”, so even with the upgrade to 2023 they’re still forecasting inflation beneath target then.

The other central bank decision came from the BoE yesterday, who hiked rates by 15bps to 0.25%. The consensus had been expecting them to keep rates on hold given the Omicron variant, hence the decision came as something of a surprise to markets, although we should say that DB’s own UK economist made an out-of-consensus but accurate call for a 15bps hike. In the minutes, the decision was described as “finely balanced” due to the uncertainty around Covid, but an 8-1 majority on the MPC voted in favour, and Governor Bailey said afterwards in a BBC interview that “We’ve seen evidence of a very tight labour market and we’re seeing more persistent inflation pressures, and that’s what we have to act on”. It comes as inflation has continued to surpass the BoE’s own forecasts, and the summary of the latest meeting said that Bank staff were now expecting inflation to peak “around 6% in April 2022”, up from its current level of 5.1%.

Given the decision came as a surprise to many, there was a sharp rise in gilt yields in response, with those on 10yr gilts initially up +10bps before following the global bond rally which meant we only closed up +2.2bps to 0.75%. That move was entirely driven by higher real rates, and the 10yr inflation breakeven fell -5.5bps as investors moved to price in a lower trajectory for inflation, with the 5yr breakeven down by an even larger -12.3bps. Meanwhile investors also moved to price in a faster pace of hikes over the coming months, with the next 25bps hike fully priced in by the time of the March 2022 meeting, and a +73% chance of one priced in at the next meeting in February. In terms of DB’s own expectations, our UK economist writes in his reaction note (link here) that he now expects the next 25bps hike as soon as February 2022, followed by two further hikes in November 2022 and May 2023.

Against this backdrop there was a fairly mixed equity reaction on either side of the Atlantic. The S&P 500 fell -0.88% as mentioned, with the NASDAQ seeing a major -2.47% decline, erasing their post-FOMC gains. In Europe however there was a much stronger performance as they caught up with the US rally following the Fed’s policy decision, and the STOXX 600 advanced +1.23%. Separately, US Treasuries also diverged from their European counterparts, with the 10yr yield down -4.6bps at 1.41%.

In terms of the latest on the pandemic, there was a further record number of cases in the UK yesterday, with 88,376 reported, which beats the previous record set only the day before. Against that backdrop, France moved to restrict travel from the UK, with tourist and non-essential business travel prohibited. Separately in South Africa, hospitalisations now stand at 7,614, which is currently up +59% on the previous week.

When it comes to the economic impact, yesterday’s release of the December flash PMIs from around the world pointed to weakening growth momentum across the major economies. Indeed, the composite PMI declined on the previous month in the US, Euro Area, Germany, France, UK, Japan and Australia. The headline numbers were the Euro Area composite PMI, which fell to a 9-month low of 53.4 (vs. 54.4 expected), whilst the US composite PMI fell to 56.9. So both still above the 50-mark that separates expansion from contraction, but some way down from their peaks in the middle of the year.

Over in the US, it appears the gap between Democratic senators on President Biden’s Build Back Better bill is just too big, as Democratic leaders acknowledged that negotiations and votes could well drag over into next year. In a statement, President Biden said that “It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote. We will advance this work together over the days and weeks ahead”. Obviously longer-term outlooks will hinge on whether or not the bill passes, but there’s implications for 2022 growth, too, as the bill was set to extend child tax credits that comprise a not-insubstantial portion of consumer income.

Overnight in Asia the main equity indices are trading lower, with the KOSPI (-0.33%), Shanghai Composite (-0.90%), Hang Seng (-1.28%), CSI (-1.31%) and the Nikkei (-1.75%) all declining amidst losses in technology stocks. Some of the main headlines came from the Bank of Japan however, which kept its main policy rates unchanged, announced that it would slowly reduce its corporate debt holdings, but also extended a special covid loans program by six months to end in September 2022, which aims to support small and medium-sized firms. Futures markets in US & Europe are also indicating a slow start, with those on the S&P 500 (-0.14%) and the DAX (-0.67%) both trading in the red.

In terms of yesterday’s other data, the weekly initial jobless claims in the US moved up from their half-century low the previous week to 206k (vs. 200k expected). In spite of the uptick however, it was still enough to push the 4-week moving average down to 203.75k. Otherwise, US industrial production grew by +0.5% in November (vs. +0.6% expected), housing starts accelerated to an annualised rate of 1.679m (vs. 1.567m expected), their highest level in 8 months, and building permits rose to an annualised 1.712m (vs. 1.661m expected).

To the day ahead now, and data releases include Germany’s Ifo business climate indicator for December, as well as November data on German PPI and UK retail sales. From central banks, we’ll also hear from the Fed’s Waller and the ECB’s Rehn.

Tyler Durden Fri, 12/17/2021 - 08:07

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How Inflation Changes Culture

How Inflation Changes Culture

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The midterm elections are over (no Red Wave), but nothing…

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How Inflation Changes Culture

Authored by Jeffrey Tucker via DailyReckoning.com,

The midterm elections are over (no Red Wave), but nothing has changed. In fact, the Biden regime will probably become even more emboldened to pursue destructive economic policies because it will interpret the lack of a Red Wave as some kind of mandate.

Every day seems to be a day of spin, with every regime apologist assuring the public that inflation is getting better. Just look at the wonderful trend line! They point to the latest inflation numbers, which were down a bit from the month prior.

The regime insists that yes, inflation will vex us for a bit more time but will settle down in a few months. Plus, the president is working to fix this! And we know the American people are on board with him since no Red Wave materialized.

But in the footnotes, you’ll find the truth: it was a tiny drop and mostly for technical reasons and the main reason for the drop has already disappeared from the price trends.

Has any political propaganda on this topic ever been this ineffective? It’s truly a joke.

Where’s the Relief Coming From?

The producer price index that came out recently paints a clearer picture. It’s grim. It reveals no softening at all. In fact, it shows that there are plenty of coming price increases. Here is the index by commodities from 2013 to the present.

Remember how last year many people finally came to the conclusion that we had to learn to live with COVID? That was a smart choice because there was no way that the China-style suppression method could work.

Well, here we are now with a preventable inflation pandemic and the realization that we have to learn to live with inflation. Soon we’ll realize that we have to live with recession at the same time.

But what does this mean?

The impact will be felt not just in terms of economics but in culture. Inflation causes a society-wide shortening of time horizons.

True Prosperity

Let’s review some basics. All societies are born desperately poor, fated to live off foraging and just getting by. Prosperity is built through the construction of capital, which is the institution that embodies forward thinking.

To make capital requires the deferral of consumption: you have to give up some today in order to make tools that enable more consumption tomorrow. This means discipline and a future orientation. And it means, above all, savings that can be invested in productive projects. Only through that path can societies grow rich.

A key component of this concerns the stability of the medium of exchange. And not just stability: a currency that rises in value over time incentivizes saving and thus investing for the long term.

The late 19th century provided a good example of this. Under the gold standard, money grew more valuable over time, thus rewarding long-term thinking and instilling that outlook in the culture at large.

Live for Today

Inflation has the opposite effect. It punishes saving. It forces a penalty on economic behavior that is future-oriented. That means also discouraging investment in long-term projects, which is the whole key to building a complex division of labor and causing wealth to emerge from the muck of the state of nature. Every bit of inflation trims back that future orientation.

Hyperinflation utterly wrecks it.

Living for the day becomes the theme. Taking what you can get now is the method and the theme. Grasping and spending. You might as well because the money is only going down in value and goods are in ever shorter supply.

Better to live hard and short and forget the future. Go into debt if possible. Let the devaluation itself pay the price.

The Seeds of Destruction

Once this attitude becomes instilled in a prosperous society, what we call civilization gradually devolves. If inflation persists, this kind of short-term thinking can wreck everything.

This is why inflation is not just about rising prices. It’s about declining prosperity, the punishing of thrift, the discouragement of financial responsibility, and a culture that gradually falls apart.

Another factor in reducing time horizons is legal instability. This was my first concern when the lockdowns began. Why would anyone start a business if governments can just shut it down on a whim? Why plan for the future when that future can be wrecked by the stroke of a pen?

Many people had assumed that this new path would be short-lived. Surely the politicians would wise up and stop the madness. Surely! Tragically, it got worse and worse. The spending and printing began and ramped up over time. It was a perfect storm of sheer madness, and now we are paying the highest possible price.

The Hinge of History

We need to speak frankly about what’s happening to the global economy. It’s not just about supply chain breakages. Those can be repaired. It’s not just about inflation affecting every country. We are living amidst a fundamental upheaval in the whole world.

The most significant single danger to global prosperity now comes in the form of a devastating and deeply tragic wreckage of the country that was set to lead the world in finance and technology: China.

The WSJ summarizes the current pain:

China in 2021 accounted for 18.1% of global gross domestic product, according to International Monetary Fund data, behind the U.S. at 23.9% but ahead of the 27 members of the European Union at 17.8%. It accounts for almost a third of global manufacturing output, according to United Nations data from 2020. China’s economy expanded modestly at the beginning of the year but data for March and April point to a sharp slowdown.

The trouble there traces to the top. When Xi Jinping locked down Wuhan, the world celebrated him for achieving what no other leader in history had achieved: the eradication of a virus in one country. Even now, he gets accolades for this.

The rest of the world followed, and elites in all countries said that this path was the future.

Going Backwards

Now the virus is on the loose all over the country, and the eradication methods are intensifying. This is crushing economic growth and now threatening genuine economic depression in the country that only a few years ago was seen as the greatest economic engine of the world.

It’s truly the case that Xi Jinping has put his personal pride above the well-being of all people in China. The scientists in the country know that he is wrong about this but no one is in a position to tell him.

We cannot really trust the data coming out of China but officially the rate of infection in that country is one of the lowest in the world. Billions more people need to get the bug and recover in order to have anything close to herd immunity. This means that lockdowns are the way for years to come so long as the present regime remains in power.

American prosperity for decades has relied on: relatively low inflation, fairly stable rules of the game, and widening trade with the world and China in particular. All three are at an end. Yes, it is heartbreaking to watch it all unfold.

I’m not defending China’s human rights abuses. Far from it. But the best way to end these abuses is through engagement, not estrangement.

We all need hope right now but it’s very difficult to find, since we are on a course that is not likely to be fixed for a very long time.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/30/2022 - 19:05

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Spread & Containment

Protests in China are not rare — but the current unrest is significant

Comparisons have been made to the 1989 demonstrations that led to the Tiananmen Square massacre. An expert on Chinese protests explains why that it half…

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Protesters march along a street in Beijing on Nov. 28, 2022. Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Street protests across China have evoked memories of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations that were brutally quashed in 1989. Indeed, foreign media have suggested the current unrest sweeping cities across China is unlike anything seen in the country since that time.

The implication is that protest in China is a rarity. Meanwhile, the Nov. 30, 2022, death of Jiang Zemin – the leader brought in after the bloody crackdown on 1989 – gives further reason to reflect on how China has changed since the Tiananmen Square massacre, and how Communist party leaders might react to unrest now.

But how uncommon are these recent public actions? And how do they compare with the massive weekslong demonstrations of 1989?

Having written extensively on protest in China, I can attest that protests in China are not at all uncommon – but that doesn’t make what is happening now any less significant. Alongside similarities between the current street actions and more typical protests of recent years, there are also parallels between the demonstrations today and those in 1989. Yet differences in China’s international status and domestic leadership reduce the chances for liberal democratic transformation now.

Not so unusual, but still unique

The current protests are ostensibly about the Chinese government’s strict “zero COVID” policies. They were triggered by a deadly fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi on Nov. 24, with some residents blaming lockdown rules for hampering rescue efforts. Unrest has since spread to multiple cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

The specifics are unique to the pandemic. But in many respects, what we are seeing is not new or unusual – protests, in general, are not rare in China.

In fact, from 1990 through the present, popular protests have been more frequent and widespread in China than they were in the years leading up to the Tiananmen Square-centered demonstrations.

According to Chinese government statistics, the yearly count of domestic “mass incidents” or “public order disturbances” – euphemisms used to refer to everything from organized crime to street protests – rose from 5,000 to 10,000 in the early 1990s to 60,000 to 100,000 by the early 2000s.

Despite the lack of official numbers since 2006 – which ceased to be published after that year – verbal statements by Chinese officials and research by scholars and nongovernment organizations estimate the number of yearly protests to have remained in the high tens-of-thousands.

When protests turn political

This is not to say the recent multi-city protests are unsurprising or insignificant. To the contrary, the current media spotlight is, I believe, well-deserved.

Nearly all the thousands of protests appearing every year in the post-Tiananmen Square period have been localized and focused on specific material issues. They occur, for example, when villagers feel they are unfairly compensated for land acquisitions, when private sector workers are not paid, or when residents suffer from environmental degradation caused by waste incinerators.

In contrast, the anti-lockdown protests have emerged in numerous cities – reporting by CNN suggests there have been at least 23 demonstrations in 17 cities. They are also all focused on the same issue: COVID-19 restrictions. Moreover, they are targeted at central Party leaders and official government policy.

For the the closest parallels in terms of size of protest, one has to go back to the late 1990s and early 2000s.

From 1998 to 2002, tens of thousands of state-owned enterprise workers in at least 10 Chinese provinces demonstrated against layoffs and enforced early retirements. And in 1999, roughly 10,000 members of the now-banned spiritual movement Falun Gong amassed in central Beijing to protest their suppression and demand legal recognition.

But these protests were directed at issues that specifically affected only these groups and did not critique China’s top political leaders or system as a whole.

The only post-1989 examples of overt collective political dissent – that is, public action calling for fundamental change to the mainland’s Chinese Communist Party-led political system – have been exceedingly small and transpired off the streets. In 1998, activists formed the China Democracy Party, declaring it a new political party to usher in liberal democratic multi-party governance. Though the party persisted openly for roughly six months, establishing a national committee and branches in 24 provinces and cities, its leaders ultimately were arrested and the party driven underground.

A decade later, a group of intellectuals led by writer Liu Xiaobo posted online a manifesto called “Charter 08” advocating for liberal democratic political reform. Liu, who later received the Nobel Peace Prize, was jailed as a result. He remained in prison until his death, from untreated cancer, in 2017.

And while the massive and sustained protests in Hong Kong over the past decade exemplify political dissent, protesters’ demands have remained confined to political reform in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

Calls for change and for Xi to go

So how much do the current anti-lockdown protests resemble the demonstrations that shook the regime in the spring of 1989?

Both have involved urban residents from various walks of life, including university students and blue-collar workers.

And in each case, the demands of protesters have been mixed. They include specific material complaints: In 1989, it was the impacts of inflation; in 2022, it is the effects of lockdowns and incessant PCR testing.

But they also include broader calls for political liberalization, such as freedom of expression.

A giant white statue with arm aloft stand above 100s of people.
The Goddess of Democracy stood as a symbol of protest during the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. David Turnley/Getty Images

Indeed in some ways, the protesters of 2022 are being more pointed in their political demands. Those on the streets of at least two major cities have called on President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party to step down. Demonstrators in 1989 refrained from such system-threatening rhetoric.

That reflects the changing political realities of China then and now. In early 1989, Party leadership clearly was split, with more reform-oriented leaders such as Zhao Ziyang perceived as sharing the activists’ vision for change. As such, demonstrators saw a way of achieving their aims within the communist system and without a wholesale change in leadership.

The contrast with today is stark: Xi has a firm grip on the party. Even if Xi were to miraculously step down, there is no clear opposition leader or faction to replace him. And if the party were to fall, the resultant political void is more likely to bring chaos than orderly political transformation.

Yet if the Chinese Communist Party is a different entity now than it was in 1989, its response to unrest shares some traits. Central authorities in 1989 blamed the protests on foreign “black hands” seeking to destabilize China. The same accusations have been raised in online posts now.

In fact, the government response to recent protests follows a pattern that has played out time and again in post-1989 protests. There is little to no official media coverage of the protests or acknowledgment by central Chinese Communist Party leaders. At the same time, local authorities attempt to identify and punish protest leaders while treating regular participants as well-intended and non-threatening. Central criticism – and possible sanction – of local officials portrayed as violating national policies follows. Meanwhile, there are moves to at least partially address protester grievances.

It is a messy and inefficient way to respond to public concerns – but it has become the norm since 1989.

Teresa Wright does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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The International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights: Why a New Issuance is Necessary and Feasible at this Time, and Would Save Many Lives

PDF 1. The SDR issuance last year probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives, if we use, e.g., the Bank for International Settlements’ research on…

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1. The SDR issuance last year probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives, if we use, e.g., the Bank for International Settlements’ research on the relation between recessions and mortality. 

2. Yet the US Treasury Department is holding up the proposed issuance for this year and announced just weeks ago that a new allocation of SDRs is “not appropriate at this time.”

But, the world economy is vastly worse now than it was on August 2 last year when the SDR issuance was approved by the IMF. In July 2021, the IMF’s World Economic Outlook projected a very high 6.0 rate of growth for the world economy in 2021 (which proved accurate). By comparison, the latest IMF projection is for 3.2 percent this year (2022) and for 2.7 percent next year; this is a dramatic crash, and a possible global recession. (There have been only five global recessions in the past 70 years; see the World Bank’s most recent research [2020]). The impact on human lives is already large and will grow enormously larger unless more is done to aid developing countries

3. A new SDR issuance could make a significant difference in the US economy in the immediate future, due to the loss of export-related jobs here as demand for US exports falls with recessions in other countries.

The US economy lost an estimated 2.2 million export-related jobs (January 2020 to May 2021) due to loss of demand for US exports in the rest of the world because of the pandemic recession. (Reference: Special Drawing Rights Could Help Recover Millions of Export-Related US Jobs, and Create Even More, August 2021. Note also that the International Trade Administration estimates the number of US jobs supported by exports fell by 1.6 million from 2019 to 2020.)[1]

4. The SDRs last year were by far the largest source of any aid to developing countries in any year since the pandemic.

See Figure 7 here: 

No Voice for the Vulnerable: Climate change and the need for quota reform at the IMF, October 2022.

“Figure 1 shows how much larger the SDR allocation is for each group of developing countries covered by these initiatives (the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, DSSI; and the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust)

Note also that under the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments, DSSI countries are eligible but creditor countries failed to produce a single debt restructuring agreement through the framework since its launch in 2020. [2]

5. SDRs create no debt and have no conditions attached, making them 100 percent net positive, unlike, e.g., IMF loans. 

This is especially important right now, given the rise in sovereign debt since the pandemic, and rising interest rates, faced by developing countries.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on October 13

We also must support vulnerable emerging markets and developing countries. It is tough for everybody, but it is even tougher for countries that are now being hit by a stronger dollar, high borrowing costs, and capital outflows—a triple blow that is particularly heavy for countries that are under a high level of debt […] especially for low-income countries where over 60% are at or near debt distress. (Emphasis added.)

6. The US Treasury Department (beginning with former secretary Mnuchin, who immediately killed the proposal for a new allocation of SDRs at the IMF when it was first made by the managing director in March 2020), has made only one argument against an issuance of SDRs: that more than 60 percent of the issuance goes to high-income countries, and that therefore it is more reasonable to “rechannel” those SDRs rather than issue new ones. This argument is deeply flawed: 

  1. It has been more than 14 months since the last issuance of SDRs and few if any SDRs have been effectively rechannelled. This is much too slow; 345 million people are now at risk of starvation, up from 135 million before the pandemic and from 276 million at the start of the year.

    As soon as Treasury gives the OK to SDRs, they can be unlocked for transfer to IMF member countries within weeks.

  2. There is no waste, creation, or use of resources involved in the SDRs distributed to high-income countries, because they cannot use them (countries must show need in order to convert SDRs to hard currency). China is in the same category as the high-income countries because it has more than $3 trillion in reserves. [3]

  3. Perhaps most importantly, the proposed rechanneling would convert SDRs from an international reserve asset that carries no debt and no conditions, to a loan that both creates debt and has conditionalities attached.[4]

7. There is no downside risk to a new issuance, and no economists have put forth credible economic arguments against an issuance.

8. There is no cost to the US budget, at present, or in the future, from a new issuance.

9. IMF-member countries under US sanctions (e.g., Iran, Venezuela, Russia, Myanmar, Belarus, Afghanistan, and Syria) have not been able to access their holdings of Special Drawing Rights.[5]

See figure: SDR Holdings for Member Countries with Sanctioned Central Banks or Unrecognized Governments, August 2021 and July 2022: in Special Drawing Rights One Year Later, By the Numbers, August 2022. 

10. Finally, a related problem: the imposition of IMF surcharges — additional fees that heavily indebted borrowing countries are forced to pay — is another issue that the US Congress is taking up, because of the regressive nature of the surcharges and the damage they cause, which increases as the world economy worsens. Surcharges are added to interest payments that increase with the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes, and with the rising dollar.[6]


[1] Special Drawing Rights Could Help Recover Millions of Export-Related US Jobs, and Create Even More, August 2021. Note also that the International Trade Administration estimates the number of US jobs supported by exports fell by 1.6 million from 2019 to 2020

[2] See also Special Drawing Rights One Year Later, By the Numbers, August 2022.

[3] See IMF here.

[4] The Case for More Special Drawing Rights: Rechanneling Is No Substitute for a New Allocation, October 2022.

[5] See figure: SDR Holdings for Member Countries with Sanctioned Central Banks or Unrecognized Governments, August 2021 and July 2022: in Special Drawing Rights One Year Later, By the Numbers, August 2022.

[6] Why Is the IMF Collecting Surcharges from Developing Countries?, The Hill, October For more detail, see IMF Surcharges: Counterproductive and Unfair, CEPR, September 2021; and A Guide to IMF surcharges, Eurodad, December 2021.

The post The International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights: Why a New Issuance is Necessary and Feasible at this Time, and Would Save Many Lives appeared first on Center for Economic and Policy Research.

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