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Why Fiscal Sustainability Is An Unsustainable Concept

Why Fiscal Sustainability Is An Unsustainable Concept

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One frequently encounters variations of the phrase "unsustainable debt trajectory" (or similar) in statements by mainstream economists. The phrase is popular as it offers what appears to be a sophisticated criticism of some fiscal policy setting that is disapproved of, but without having any content that can be used to prove the speaker wrong. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) largely rejects that "debt sustainability" has theoretical validity for a floating currency sovereign. I will focus on the analysis of a paper by Scott Fulwiler to justify this stance.

(Note: This article is a draft section in a chapter on fiscal policy in my MMT primer. I will cover some important concepts in earlier sections, but not repeat them here. The first is the notion that inflation is the constraint on fiscal policy, which comes from Functional Finance (primer). The next concept is that a floating currency sovereign can always avoid default. I would note that this chapter is covering much of the material seen in Chapter 7 of Understanding Government Finance.)


The concept of "debt sustainability" is the usual alternative to the argument that inflation is the only constraint on floating currency sovereigns. Technically, there is the related idea of the inter-temporal governmental budget constraint, which is a mathematical construct that appears in neoclassical models. I discussed this constraint in Section 7.4 of Understanding Government Finance. The complexity level of that constraint is beyond what I wish to discuss in this text. Unless one wants to get into the mathematics, the notion of "fiscal sustainability" I use here covers most of the issues of the governmental budget constraint.

This section is based on some of the discussions found in the paper "The debt ratio and sustainable macroeconomic policy," by Scott Fullwiler.[1]  I am simplifying certain concepts, and not attempting to cover all the topics in that paper; they will be addressed in later sections. Much of the content of that paper is a critique of neoclassical theory. Since I am not assuming that my readers are familiar with that theory, discussing that material would be mainly a source of confusion. Readers with a more advanced knowledge of economic theory would be advised to read that article if they wish to have further details on what distinguishes MMT from neoclassical theory.

Sustainability

A formal definition of fiscal sustainability is that the interest burden of government debt does not rise beyond the productive capacity of the economy, or alternatively, the debt-to-GDP ratio does not become arbitrarily large.[2] (The looser way of describing the debt-to-GDP ratio condition is to say that the ratio does not go to infinity.) For simplicity, I will drop the discussion of the interest burden, and just use the notion of the debt-to-GDP ratio being bounded.

The first thing to keep in mind is that we are looking at a ratio, and if we assume that the economy is growing forever, both the level of debt and the size of nominal GDP will become arbitrarily large ("go to infinity"). The absolute level of debt does not matter, what matters is its size relative to the economy.

In less formal discussions (such as opinion columns), mainstream commentators are typically using a looser version of this definition. The issue is not what is happening at times infinitely far in the future, rather a concern about the debt-ratio on some forecast horizon (like 75 years). Shortening the horizon is reasonable, as we should not be worried about what is happening to government debt long after the Sun has reduced the Earth to a cinder. However, by moving away from this formal definition, "fiscal sustainability" is quite vague, and it does not have much more theoretical content than saying "Gee willikers, the debt-to-GDP ratio will get really high!" (What percentage is "really high"?) This lack of precision on such an important topic is rather awkward.

Primary Deficits and Long Run Averages

We cannot really hope to create an exact forecast of the long-run trajectory of the economy. We mighty be able to get a handle on the upcoming year, but we do not what will cause future business cycles. The usual convention is to assume that the economy will revert to a long-run average behaviour.

The usual assumption made is that the economy will revert to some average growth rate in real terms, which cannot be controlled by policymakers. The idea is population growth cannot be determined by policymakers, and the productivity of workers will follow trends in technology. Although this might be misleading, it is safe to say that there is no easy method for a country to decide that it would like its output to grow faster; development economics is a difficult problem.

Conversely, average inflation rates appear to be under the control of policymakers. For example, if inflation is too high, there are many mechanisms by which a recession can be forced, and recessions tend to reduce inflation rates. One may note that countries like Canada were able to hit their 2% inflation targets from the mid-1990s until the Financial Crisis (but many were below target afterward).[3]

Taken together, we can see that nominal or GDP growth is assumed to tend to some average level, with average nominal GDP growth equaling real GDP growth plus the inflation target.

We then need to come up with a way of specifying the long-term tendency for fiscal policy settings. The conventional way of specifying fiscal policy is in terms of the primary fiscal balance (which can either be a deficit or surplus). This is the fiscal deficit without interest expenses. For example, if the fiscal deficit is 4% of GDP, and interest expense is 3% of GDP, the primary fiscal balance is a deficit of 1% of GDP.

The apparent reason for looking at the primary fiscal balance is that it is the difference between taxes and programme spending -- and programme spending is to accomplish desired goals (medical care, military, welfare programmes). Interest expenses are just welfare payments for bond holders. The long-term tendency of fiscal policy is expressed by assuming that the primary fiscal balance is steady near some value.

Sustainability Conditions

Whether or not a steady state fiscal policy is sustainable depends upon the relationship between the growth rate of the economy, and the interest rate on debt. Please note that the relationship described here is outlined in the Fullwiler paper, but I am giving a longer explanation that explains it without relying up on the use of equations.

We can understand this easily by approximating the relationship that determines the debt-to-GDP ratio in a particular year. It is the sum of two terms.
  1. Take the previous debt-to-GDP ratio, and multiply it by the factor of one plus difference between the interest rate on debt minus the GDP growth rate. (This can be described as the growth differential between the debt stock on its own, and GDP.) For example, if the interest rate is 4%, and the GDP growth rate is 5% (variables could either be both real or nominal), multiply the previous debt-to-GDP ratio by 0.99 (=1 - 1%). If the debt-to-GDP ratio was 50%, the new ratio is 50(0.99) = 49.5%. Note that this term is multiplying the debt ratio, not adding to it.
  2. Add the year's primary balance as a percent of GDP. So if the primary deficit in the previous example is 4%, the debt-to-GDP ratio is 53.5% (=49.5% + 4%).
(Author's note: I might add a technical appendix to justify that claim. The approximation comes from assuming that we are working with annual data, and more importantly, using a first order approximation of debt and GDP growth rates. The error would be small for small growth differentials, which is normally the case. It would start to break down if the differential 10% or above.)

If we assume that growth rates and the primary deficits are constants[4], we can use the above approximation to see that the debt-to-GDP ratio will remain bounded if GDP growth is greater than the interest rate. In that case, the first term in the approximation is shrinking by the growth rate different. Once the debt-to-GDP ratio is large enough, that shrinkage will be larger than the addition provided by the primary deficit.

For example, assume that the primary deficit is a whopping 10% of GDP, while the GDP growth rate is 1% greater than the interest rate. If the debt-to-GDP ratio somehow reached 2000%, the first term of the approximation tells us that the debt-to-GDP ratio falls by 20% (1% of 2000%), then the primary deficit adds back 10% -- so the debt-to-GDP ratio would fall. According to the approximation, the two terms imply an equilibrium ratio of 1000%. (The growth differential implies a drop of 10%, and the primary deficit adds back 10%.)

Conversely, if the interest rate on government debt is greater than the GDP growth rate, the debt-to-GDP ratio will spiral off to infinity unless there is a primary surplus to stop growth. As the debt-to-GDP ratio rises, larger surpluses are needed to stop the spiral.

Implausibility of an Ever-Rising Ratio

The possibility of the debt-to-GDP ratio rising to infinity is quite curious. If we were to take the model seriously, the economy would evolve such that interest payments are more than 100% of GDP. That is, bond holders receive more interest from the government than is needed to buy everything produced by the economy, and put the excess income into buying more bonds.

This seems like an implausible outcome. Why would you want to hold more debt, when you can already buy everything within the economy? Instead, you might as well bid up the price of goods and services, so that you get a bigger portion of real output (remembering that it is extremely unlikely that all the debt is owned by a single individual, and that workers get incomes that will also want to buy goods and services).

Fullwiler describes the situation as follows:
In other words, a primary budget balance not at least as high as 0.6 percent of GDP on average would grow deficits, the national debt, and debt service all to the point that eventually paying the debt service would result in high and rising inflation. While this second row puts the convergence ratios at infinity for convenience, in fact at some point the increased debt service would simply pass through to inflation to raise nominal GDP in kind. Thus, CBO’s [CBO = U.S. Congressional Budget Office] regular practice of assuming a long run nominal GDP growth rates equal to the potential real GDP growth rate plus inflation at around 2 percent is inconsistent with its own projections of unbounded growth in debt service payments.
The problem appears straightforward: the assumption that long-run GDP growth rates and interest rates are fixed (at "natural rates") makes very little sense. If we look at stock-flow consistent (SFC) models (as discussed in my book An introduction to SFC Models Using Python),we see that SFC models do not exhibit such behaviour. An increase in government debt implies that private sector wealth is rising, and we should see increased consumption out of that wealth. If the increase in nominal demand is beyond the capacity of the economy to provide real goods and services, the price of goods and services would be bid higher. That is, the debt-to-GDP ratio would be inflated away by nominal GDP growing faster than the nominal interest rate.

In other words, the entire premise of debt sustainability analysis is based on obviously defective macroeconomic models. It is abundantly clear that the debt-to-GDP ratio will not go to infinity, rather the issue is the inflation risks posed by excessive aggregate demand.

Continuing the Discussion

The next article in this sequence will turn to the meatier aspects of the Fullwiler paper: the issue of what determines the interest rate on government debt. To spoil the argument, the interest rate is a policy decision, and not set by natural laws of economics.

Footnotes:

[1] Fullwiler, Scott T. "The debt ratio and sustainable macroeconomic policy." World Economic Review 7 (2016): 12-42.

[2] If we allow for permanently zero or even negative interest rates, we might have to drop the notion of interest burden, and just look at the debt-to-GDP ratio. For example, if we lock the interest rate at 0%, interest burden is always zero, no matter what the debt-to-GDP ratio is.

[3] The exception to this might be Japan, which was unable to hit a 2% inflation target; instead inflation was below target. I am unconvinced about the seriousness of the desire to hit that target; it may have been announced to stop the lectures by Western neoclassical economists.

[4] If we wanted a more realistic situation where these variables are changing, we would need to put bounds on these variables. For example, we could assume that the primary deficit is no larger than 5% of GDP.

(c) Brian Romanchuk 2020

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Economics

Where Are Interest Rates Headed? Is The Fed Correct Or The Eurodollar Curve?

Where Are Interest Rates Headed? Is The Fed Correct Or The Eurodollar Curve?

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

The Eurodollar curve…

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Where Are Interest Rates Headed? Is The Fed Correct Or The Eurodollar Curve?

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

The Eurodollar curve implies four quarter-point cuts are on the way starting in 2023. The Fed believes otherwise. Let's discuss stock market implications.

Data from CME and Fed via Wall Street Journal.

Eurodollar Curve

The eurodollar curve has nothing to do with euros or dollars. Rather it is an interest rate curve and one of the world's most widely traded futures.

After peaking at about 3.9% this year, eurodollar betters believe the Fed will then cut rates all the way down to 2.8%. 

Five Not-Quite-Impossible Things the Market Believes

Wall Street Journal Contributor James Macintosh discussed the above chart in Five Not-Quite-Impossible Things the Market Believes

  1. Inflation is transitory. 

  2. The Fed realizes this in time.

  3. The jobs market cools enough to slow wage rises. 

  4. But not so much it means falling household spending.

  5. So consumer spending rises in real terms. 

In reference to the led chart, Macintosh says "The first assumption is the hardest to believe."

I disagree. The hardest thing to believe is the overall goldilocks scenario and that the current rally makes any sense at all. 

Inflation may easily come down if the Fed tightens too much too fast causing a severe recession. What would that do to corporate profits? 

But assume otherwise, that inflation does not come down more. What would that do to corporate profits? 

While any of the first three points may easily be correct, the combination of all five being correct and that stocks will rise in a goldilocks scenario is what I find hard to believe.

Is the Market Forward Looking?

Goldilocks proponents will tell you that the market is forward looking. 

The market isn't forward looking and never was. It is a coincident indicator of current sentiment, wildly wrong at major turns.

If the market was forward looking, what precisely was it looking forward to at the November 2007 peak with recession starting the next month? 

What was it looking forward to at the 1929 peak, the 1933 bottom, the 2009 bottom or any other top or bottom?

The Fed Will Hike Until It Breaks Something

I believe the eurodollar curve is more likely to be correct than the Fed. When has the Fed gotten much of anything correct?

The eurodollar view has two ways to win. The first is the Fed actually does tame inflation to the degree that it wants.

That's possible in a severe enough recession. And the global picture is easily weak enough for that to happen.

The second way the eurodollar curve might be correct is if the Fed breaks the credit market. 

The Fed would immediately reverse course, regardless of inflation, should that happen. 

Neither a credit event nor strong recession would be good for the stock market.

The least likely thing is that the Fed achieves a goldilocks soft landing. Yet, assume that happens. 

Macintosh says, and I agree, "The bull case that stocks and corporate bonds are pricing requires the combination of low joblessness and wage rises to allow spending to rise faster than inflation even after pandemic savings run out. But not so much faster that it hits capacity constraints and accelerates inflation."

The problem with goldilocks is stocks are priced so much beyond perfection that they may decline anyway. 

Globally Speaking 

  1. China Does Surprise Rate Cut to Help Its Economy, But It Won't Work

  2. German Costs to Ship by Barge are up Twenty Times and May Soon Be Impossible

  3. UK Average Electricity Cost Will Soar to $5,370 Per Year By 2023

  4. US Industries Are Buckling Under Pressure of Surging Electricity Costs

Good luck with goldilocks, especially with the Fed still hiking. 

*  *  *

Please Subscribe to MishTalk Email Alerts.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/17/2022 - 09:45

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Bonds

Futures Tumble After UK Double-Digit Inflation Shock Sparks Surge In Yields

Futures Tumble After UK Double-Digit Inflation Shock Sparks Surge In Yields

Futures were grinding gingerly higher, perhaps celebrating the…

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Futures Tumble After UK Double-Digit Inflation Shock Sparks Surge In Yields

Futures were grinding gingerly higher, perhaps celebrating the end of the Cheney family's presence in Congress, and looked set to re-test Michael Hartnett bearish target of 4,328 on the S&P (which marked the peak of yesterday's meltup before a waterfall slide lower when spoos got to within half a point of the bogey), when algos and the few remaining carbon-based traders got a stark reminder that central banks will keep hammering risk assets after the UK reported a blistering CPI print, which at a double digit 10.1% was not only higher than the highest forecast, but was the highest in 40 years.

The print appeared to shock markets out of their month-long levitating complacency, and yields - both in the UK and the US - spiked...

... and with yields surging, futures had no choice but to notice and after trading at session highs just before the UK CPI print, they have since tumbled more than 40 points and were last down 0.85% or 37 points to 4,271.

Nasdaq 100 futures retreated 0.9% signaling a selloff in technology names will continue. The dollar rose as investors awaited the minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting for clues on policy makers’ sensitivity to weaker economic data.

In US premarket trading, retail giant Target slumped 4% after reporting earnings that missed expectations despite still predicting a rebound. Applied Materials and PayPal dropped at least 1.3%. Tech stocks are the forefront of the growing pessimism over equity valuations on the back of Fed rate increases. The S&P 500 had posted a small gain on Tuesday, aided by earnings reports from retailers Walmart Inc. and Home Depot. Here are some of the other biggest U.S. movers today:

  • Manchester United (MANU US) rises as much as 17% in US premarket trading before trimming most of the gains, after Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he was buying the English football club but later added that he was joking.
  • Hill International (HIL US) shares rise 61% in premarket trading hours after it announced Global Infrastructure Solutions will commence an all-cash tender offer for $2.85/share in cash, representing a premium of 63% to the last closing price.
  • BioNTech (BNTX US) was initiated with a market perform recommendation at Cowen, which expects demand for Covid-19 vaccines to mirror annual flu trends as the pandemic enters its endemic phase.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY US) shares surge 20% in premarket trading, putting the stock on track for its sixth day of gains. The home-goods company has helped reinvigorate a wave of meme stock buying
  • Agilent (A US) saw its price target boosted at brokers as analysts say the scientific testing equipment maker’s results were strong thanks to growth in biopharma and a recovery in China, while the company’s guidance was on the conservative side. Shares rose .
  • Jefferies initiated coverage of Waldencast Plc (WALD US) class A with a buy recommendation as analyst Stephanie Wissink sees 29% upside potential.
  • Sea Ltd. (SE US) ADRs slipped as much as 2.1% in US premarket trading, extending Tuesday’s declines, as Morgan Stanley cut its PT on expectations of slowing growth at the Shopee owner’s e-commerce business in the third quarter.
  • Weber (WEBR US) downgraded to sell from neutral at Citi, which says there are too many concerns to remain on the sidelines, including a decline in point-of-sale traffic and macro factors like inflation weighing on consumer demand

In the past two months, US stocks rallied on signs of peaking inflation and an earnings-reporting season that saw four out of five companies meeting or beating estimates. Boosted by relentless systematic (CTA) buying and retail-driven short squeezes, as well as a surge in buybacks, stocks recovered more than 50% of the bear market retracement. Yet, continuing rate hikes and the likelihood of a recession in the world’s largest economy are weighing on sentiment. Meanwhile, concern is growing that Fed rate setters will remain focused on the fight against inflation rather than supporting growth.

“We expect the FOMC minutes to have a hawkish tilt,” Carol Kong, strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia Ltd., wrote in a note. “We would not be surprised if the minutes show the FOMC considered a 100 basis-point increase in July.”

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 fell after a strong start amid signs the continent’s energy crisis is worsening. Benchmark natural-gas futures jumped as much as 5.1% on expectations the hot weather will boost demand for cooling. In the UK, consumer-price growth jumped to 10.1%, sending gilts tumbling. Real estate, retailers and miners are the worst performing sectors. The Stoxx 600 Real Estate Index declined 2%, making it the worst-performing sector in the wider European market, as focus turned to UK inflation that soared to double digits for the first time in four decades and also to today's FOMC minutes. German and Swedish names almost exclusively account for the 10 biggest decliners. TAG Immobilien drops 5.4%, Wallenstam is down 4.7%, Castellum falls 4% and LEG Immobilien declines 3.3%. The sector tumbles on rising bond yields, with 10y Bund yield up 11bps, and dwindling demand for Swedish real estate amid rising rates.

Earlier on Wednesday, stocks rose in Asia amid speculation that China may deploy more stimulus to shore up its ailing economy while Japanese exporters were boosted by a weaker yen. After a string of weak data driven by a property-sector slump and Covid curbs, China’s Premier Li Keqiang asked local officials from six key provinces that account for 40% of the economy to bolster pro-growth measures. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index advanced as much as 0.8%, with consumer-discretionary and industrial stocks such as Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda among the leaders on Wednesday. The benchmark Topix erased its year-to-date loss. Chinese food-delivery platform Meituan also rebounded after dropping more than 9% in the previous session on a Reuters report that Tencent may divest its stake in the firm. Chinese stocks erased declines early in the day, as investors hoped for more economic stimulus after a surprise rate cut on Monday failed to excite the market. Premier Li Keqiang has asked local officials from six key provinces that account for about 40% of the country’s economy to bolster pro-growth measures.

“I believe policymakers have the tools to prevent a hard landing if needed,” Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco, said in a note. “I find investors are overly pessimistic about Chinese stocks -- which means there is the potential for positive surprise.” Asia’s stock benchmark is trading at mid-June levels as traders attempt to determine the trajectory of interest-rate hikes and economic growth globally -- as well as the impact of China’s property crisis and Covid policies. Meanwhile, minutes of the US Federal Reserve’s July policy meeting, out later Wednesday, will be carefully parsed. New Zealand stocks closed little changed as the country’s central bank raised interest rates by a half percentage point for a fourth-straight meeting. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to close at 7,127.70, supported by materials and consumer discretionary stocks. South Korea’s benchmark missed out on the rally across Asian equities, as losses by large-cap exporters weighed on the measure

In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose as the dollar gained versus most of its Group-of-10 peers. The pound was the best G-10 performer while gilts slumped, led by the short end and sending 2-year yields to their highest level since 2008, after UK inflation accelerated more than expected in July. The yield curve inverted the most since the financial crisis as traders ratcheted up bets on BOE rate hikes in money markets, wagering on 200 more basis points of hikes by May. The euro traded in a narrow range against the dollar while the region’s bonds slumped, led by the front end. Scandinavian currencies recovered some early European session losses while the aussie, kiwi and yen extended their slide in thin trading. EUR/NOK one-day volatility touched a 15.12% high before paring ahead of Norges Bank’s meeting Thursday where it may have to raise rates by a bigger margin than indicated in June given Norway’s inflation exceeded forecasts for a fourth straight month, hitting a new 34-year high. Consumer sentiment in Norway fell to the lowest level since data began in 1992, according to Finance Norway. New Zealand’s dollar and bond yields both rose in response to the Reserve Bank hiking rates by 50bps, while flagging concern about labor market pressures and consequent wage inflation; the currency subsequently gave up gains in early European trading. The Aussie slumped after data showing the nation’s wages advanced at less than half the pace of inflation in the three months through June, backing the Reserve Bank’s move to give itself more flexibility on interest rates.

In rates, treasuries held losses incurred during European morning as gilt yields climbed after UK inflation rose more than forecast. US 10-year around 2.87% is 6.5bp cheaper on the day vs ~13bp for UK 10-year; UK curve aggressively bear-flattened following inflation data, with long-end yields rising about 10bp. Front-end UK yields remain cheaper by ~20bp, off session highs, leading a global government bond selloff. US yields are higher on the day by by 4bp-7bp; focal points of US session are 20-year bond auction and FOMC minutes release an hour later. Treasury auctions resume with $15b 20-year bond sale at 1pm ET; WI 20-year yield at around 3.35% is ~7bp richer than July’s sale, which stopped 2.7bp through the WI level.

In commodities, oil fluctuated between gains and losses, and was in sight of a more than six-month low -- reflecting lingering worries about a tough economic outlook amid high inflation and tightening monetary policy.  Spot gold is little changed at $1,774/oz

Looking at the day ahead, the FOMC minutes from July will be the main highlight, and the other central bank speaker will be Fed Governor Bowman. Otherwise, earnings releases include Target, Lowe’s and Cisco Systems, and data releases include US retail sales and UK CPI for July.

Market Snapshot

  • S&P 500 futures down 0.3% to 4,293.00
  • STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 443.30
  • MXAP up 0.5% to 163.48
  • MXAPJ up 0.2% to 530.38
  • Nikkei up 1.2% to 29,222.77
  • Topix up 1.3% to 2,006.99
  • Hang Seng Index up 0.5% to 19,922.45
  • Shanghai Composite up 0.4% to 3,292.53
  • Sensex up 0.5% to 60,168.83
  • Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to 7,127.68
  • Kospi down 0.7% to 2,516.47
  • German 10Y yield little changed at 1.06%
  • Euro little changed at $1.0178
  • Gold spot down 0.0% to $1,775.21
  • U.S. Dollar Index little changed at 106.50

Top Overnight News from Bloomberg

  • More market prognosticators are alighting on the idea of benchmark Treasury yields sliding to 2% if the US succumbs to a recession. That’s an out-of-consensus call, compared with Bloomberg estimates of about a 3% level by the end of this year and similar levels through 2023. But it’s a sign of how growth worries are forcing a rethink in some quarters
  • The euro-area economy grew slightly less than initially estimated in the second quarter as signs continue to emerge that momentum is unraveling. Output rose 0.6% from the previous three months between April and June, compared with a preliminary reading of 0.7%, Eurostat said Wednesday
  • Egypt became a prime destination for hot money by tethering its currency and boasting the world’s highest interest rates when adjusted for inflation
  • Norway’s $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, posted its biggest loss since the pandemic as rate hikes, surging inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred volatility. It lost an equivalent of $174 billion in the six months through June, or 14.4%

A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk

Asia-Pac stocks just about shrugged off the choppy lead from the US where markets were tentative amid mixed data signals and strong retailer earnings, but with gains capped overnight ahead of the FOMC Minutes and as participants digested another 50bps rate hike by the RBNZ. ASX 200 swung between gains and losses with the index indecisive amid a slew of earnings and with strength in the consumer sectors offset by underperformance in tech, energy and healthcare. Nikkei 225 climbed above the 29,000 level with the index unfazed by mixed data releases in which Machinery Orders disappointed although both Exports and Imports topped forecasts. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were somewhat varied with Hong Kong led higher by tech amid plenty of attention on Meituan after reports its largest shareholder Tencent could reduce all or the bulk of its shares in the Co. which a Tencent executive later refuted, while the mainland was less decisive amid headwinds from the ongoing COVID situation and with power restrictions disrupting activity in Sichuan, although reports also noted that Chinese Premier Li told top provincial officials that they must have a sense of urgency to consolidate the economic recovery and reiterated to step up macro policies.

Top Asian News

  • RBNZ hiked the OCR by 50bps to 3.00%, as expected, while it stated that conditions need to continue to tighten and they agreed that maintaining the current pace of tightening remains the best means. RBNZ also agreed that further increases in the OCR were required to meet the remit objective and that domestic inflationary pressures had increased since May. Furthermore, the RBNZ raised its projections for the OCR and inflation with the OCR seen at 3.69% in Dec. 2022 (prev. 3.41%) and at 4.1% for both Sept. 2023 and Dec. 2023 (prev. 3.95%), while it sees annual CPI at 4.1% by Sept. 2023 (prev. 3.0%).
  • RBNZ Governor Orr stated at the press conference that they are not forecasting a recession but expected below-potential growth amid subdued consumer spending. Governor Orr also stated that they did not discuss a 75bps rate hike today and that 50bps moves have been orderly and sufficient, while he added that getting rates to 4% would buy comfort for the policy committee and that a Cash Rate of around 4% is unambiguously above neutral and sufficient to meet the inflation mandate.
  • Chongqing, China is to curb power use for eight days for industry.
  • China’s Infrastructure Boom Gets Swamped by Property Woes
  • Tencent 2Q Revenue Misses Estimates
  • Hong Kong Denies Democracy Advocates Security Law Jury Trial
  • UN Expert Says Xinjiang Forced Labor Claims ‘Reasonable’
  • Singapore’s COE Category B Bidding Hits New Record
  • Delayed Deals Add to Floundering Singapore IPO Market: ECM Watch

European bourses have dipped from initial mixed/flat performance and are modestly into negative territory, Euro Stoxx 50 -0.5%. Stateside, futures are under similar pressure awaiting fresh corporate updates and the July FOMC Minutes, ES -0.6%. Fresh drivers relatively limited throughout the session with known themes in play and focus on upcoming risk events; stocks also suffering on further hawkish yield action. Lowe's Companies Inc (LOW) Q1 2023 (USD): EPS 4.68 (exp. 4.58), Revenue 27.47 (exp. 28.12bln); expect FY22 total & comp. sales at bottom-end of outlook range, Operating Income and Diluted EPS at top-end. Target Corp (TGT) Q1 2023 (USD): EPS 0.39 (exp. 0.72), Revenue 26.0bln (exp. 26.04bln); current trends support prior guidance.

Top European News

  • German Gas to Last Less Than 3 Months if Russia Cuts Supply
  • European Gas Surges Again as Higher Demand Compounds Supply Pain
  • Entain Falls; Citi Views Fine Negatively but Notes Steps by Firm
  • UK Inflation Hits Double Digits for the First Time in 40 Years
  • Crypto.com Receives Registration as UK Cryptoasset Provider

FX

  • Greenback underpinned ahead of US retail sales data and FOMC minutes, DXY holds tight around 106.500.
  • Pound pegged back after spike in wake of stronger than expected UK inflation metrics, Cable hovers circa 1.2100 after fade into 1.2150.
  • Kiwi retreats following knee jerk rise on the back of hawkish RBNZ hike, NZD/USD near 0.6300 from 0.6380+ overnight peak.
  • Aussie undermined by marginally softer than anticipated wage prices and lower RBA tightening bets in response, AUD/USD well under 0.7000 vs 0.7026 at one stage.
  • Yen weaker as yield differentials widen again, but Euro cushioned by more pronounced EGB reversal vs USTs, USD/JPY probes 21 DMA just below 135.00, EUR/USD bounces from around 1.0150 towards 1.0200.
  • Loonie and Nokkie soft amidst latest slippage in oil, USD/CAD closer to 1.2900 than 1.2800, EUR/NOK nudging 9.8600 within 9.8215-9.8740 range.

Fixed Income

  • Debt retracement ongoing and gathering pace ahead of Wednesday's key risk events.
  • Bunds now closer to 154.00 than 156.00 and 157.00 only yesterday, Gilts not far from 114.50 vs almost 116.00 and 117.00+ earlier this week and T-note sub-119-00 vs 119-31 at best on Monday.
  • Sonia strip hit hardest as markets price in aggressive BoE hikes in response to UK inflation data toppy already elevated expectations.

Commodities

  • Crude benchmarks are currently little changed overall, having recovered from a bout of initial pressure; newsflow thin awaiting fresh JCPOA developments
  • Spot gold is little changed overall but with a slight negative bias as the USD remains resilient and outpaces the yellow metal as the haven of choice.
  • Aluminium is the clear outperformer amid updates from Norsk Hydro that they are shutting production at their Slovalco site (175k/T year) by end-September, due to elevated energy prices.
  • OPEC Sec Gen says he sees a likelihood of an oil-supply squeeze this year, open for dialogue with the US. Still bullish on oil demand for 2022. Too soon to call the outcome of the September 5th gathering. Spare capacity at around the 2-3mln BPD mark, "running on thin ice".
  • US Private Inventory Data (bbls): Crude -0.4mln (exp. -0.3mln), Cushing +0.3mln, Gasoline -4.5mln (exp. -1.1mln), Distillates -0.8mln (exp. +0.4mln).
  • Shell (SHEL LN) announced it is to shut its Gulf of Mexico Odyssey and Delta crude pipelines for two weeks in September for maintenance, according to Reuters.
  • Uniper (UN01 GY) says the energy supply situation in Europe is far from easing and gas supply in winter remains "extremely challenging".
  • China sets the second batch of the 2022 rare earth mining output quota at 109.2k/T, via Industry Ministry; smelting/separation quota 104.8k/T.

Geopolitics

  • China's military is to partake in a military exercise in Russia, their participation has nothing to do with the international situation.
  • Taiwan's Defence Ministry says they have detected 21 Chinese aircraft and five ships around Taiwan on Wednesday, via Reuters.
  • Iran is calling on the US to free jailed Iranian's, says they are prepared for prisoner swaps, via Fars.

US Event Calendar

  • 07:00: Aug. MBA Mortgage Applications, prior 0.2%
  • 08:30: July Retail Sales Advance MoM, est. 0.1%, prior 1.0%
  • 08:30: July Retail Sales Ex Auto MoM, est. -0.1%, prior 1.0%
  • 08:30: July Retail Sales Control Group, est. 0.6%, prior 0.8%
  • 10:00: June Business Inventories, est. 1.4%, prior 1.4%
  • 14:00: July FOMC Meeting Minutes

DB's Tim Wessel concludes the overnight wrap

Starting in Europe, where the looming energy crisis remains at the forefront. An update from our team, who just published the fourth edition of their indispensable gas monitor (link here), where they note the surprisingly fast rebuild of German gas storage, driven by reductions in industrial activity, reduces the risk that rationing may become reality this winter. Many more insights within, so do read the full piece for analysis spanning scenarios. Keep in mind, that while gas may be available, it is set to come at a higher clearing price, which manifest itself in markets yesterday where European natural gas futures rose a further +2.64% to €226 per megawatt-hour, just shy of their closing record at €227 in March. But, that’s still well beneath their intraday high from March, where at one point they traded at €345. Further, one-year German power futures increased +6.30%, breaching €500 for the first time, closing at €507. Germany is weighing consumer relief measures in light of climbing consumer prices and also announced that planned nuclear facility closures would be “temporarily” postponed.

The upward energy price pressure and attenuated (albeit, not eliminated) risk of rationing pushed European sovereign yields higher. 10yr German bunds climbed +7.1bps to 0.97%, while 10yr OATs kept the pace, increasing +7.4bps. 10yr BTPs increased +15.9bps, widening sovereign spreads, while high yield crossover spreads widened +10.2bps in the credit space.

Equities were resilient, however, with the STOXX 600 posting a +0.16% gain after flitting around a narrow range all day. Regional indices were also robust to climbing energy prices, with the DAX up +0.68% and the CAC +0.34% higher. In the States the S&P 500 registered a modest +0.19% gain, with the NASDAQ mirroring the index, falling -0.19%. Retail shares drove the S&P on the day, with the two consumer sectors both gaining more than +1%, following strong earnings reports from Wal Mart and Home Depot.

Treasury yields also climbed, but the story was the further flattening in the curve. 2yr yields were +7.5bps higher while 10yr yields managed to increase just +1.6bps, leaving 2s10s at its second most negative close of the cycle at -46bps. 10yr yields are another basis point higher this morning. A hodgepodge of data painted a mixed picture. Housing permits beat expectations (+1674k vs. +1640k) while starts (+1446k vs. +1527k) fell to their slowest pace since February 2021. However, under the hood, even permits weren’t necessarily as strong as first glance, as single family permits fell -4.3% with gains in multifamily pushing the aggregate higher. Indeed, year-over-year, single family permits have now fallen -11.7% while multifamily permits are +23.5% higher. So the single family housing market continues to feel the impact of Fed tightening. Meanwhile, industrial production climbed +0.6% month-over-month (vs. +0.3%), with capacity utilization hitting its highest level since 2008 at 80.3%.

Drifting north of the border, Canadian inflation slowed to 7.6% YoY in July in line with estimates, while the average of core measures climbed to a record 5.3%. Bank of Canada Governor Macklem penned an opinion piece saying that while it looks like inflation may have peaked, “the bad news is that inflation will likely remain too high for some time.” In turn, Canadian OIS rates by December climbed +16.2bps.

In other data, the expectations component of the German ZEW survey fell to -55.3, its lowest level since October 2008 at the depths of the GFC. In the UK, regular pay (excluding bonuses) fell by -3.0% in real terms over the year to April-June 2022, its fastest decline on record.

On the Iranian nuclear deal, EU negotiators reportedly found Iran’s response constructive, though Iran still had some concerns. Notably, Iran is looking for guarantees that if a future US administration withdraws from the JCPOA the US will "have to pay a price”, seeking insulation from the vagaries of representative democracy.

Asian equity markets are trading higher after Wall Street’s solid performance overnight. The Nikkei (+0.76%) is leading gains across the region with the Hang Seng (+0.57%), the Shanghai Composite (+0.23%) and the CSI (+0.51%) all rebounding from its opening losses this morning. US futures are struggling to gain traction this morning with the S&P 500 (-0.02%) and NASDAQ 100 (-0.09%) trading just below flat.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand lifted its official cash rate (OCR) for the fourth consecutive time by an expected +50bps to 3%, a seven-year high, while bringing forward the estimate of future rate increases. The central bank expects the OCR will reach 3.69% at the end of this year and expects it to peak at 4.1% in March 2023, higher and sooner than previously forecast.

Early morning data coming out from Japan showed that exports rose +19.0% y/y in July (v/s +17.6% expected) posting 17 straight months of gains while imports advanced +47.2% (v/s +45.5% expected) driven by global fuel inflation and a weakening yen. With the imports outweighing exports, the nation reported trade deficit for the 14th consecutive month, swelling to -2.13 trillion yen in July (v/s -1.91 trillion yen expected) compared to a revised deficit of -1.95 trillion yen in June.

In terms of the day ahead, the FOMC minutes from July will be the main highlight, and the other central bank speaker will be Fed Governor Bowman. Otherwise, earnings releases include Target, Lowe’s and Cisco Systems, and data releases include US retail sales and UK CPI for July.

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/17/2022 - 07:55

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Economics

S&P 3500 By Year End If QT Continues

"Don’t Fight the Fed" echoes through the financial media, Wall Street, and in the minds of retail and institutional investors. The phrasing pertaining…

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“Don’t Fight the Fed” echoes through the financial media, Wall Street, and in the minds of retail and institutional investors. The phrasing pertaining to Fed-generated liquidity is often the sole basis for investors to chase bull markets when the Fed employs easy monetary policy. Unfortunately, some investors forget the phrase is equally meaningful when the Fed is not friendly to markets. As we share in this article, we have developed a model to track Fed liquidity, allowing us to quantify the Fed’s influence on the S&P 500.

Before unveiling our liquidity formula and its forecast for the S&P 500, it’s essential to discuss the three primary drivers by which the Fed is influencing liquidity: Reverse Repurchase (RRP), Treasury General Account (TGA), and the Fed’s balance sheet.

Reverse Repurchase Agreements (RRP)

The New York Fed uses numerous repo programs to manage the supply of cash in the banking system, thereby maintaining the Fed Funds rates within the FOMC’s target range. Currently, they are employing its RRP program to accomplish this task. In an RRP transaction, the Fed sells securities to a counterparty and simultaneously agrees to repurchase them at a future date. The duration is often overnight. The transaction temporarily reduces the supply of money from the banking system. Increasing daily RRP balances results in less system liquidity, and a declining balance reduces liquidity.

As shown below, RRP has been around for 20 years but was scarcely used until early 2021. The various pandemic-related rounds of fiscal stimulus and massive Fed liquidity efforts left banks and money market funds with excessive levels of cash. The excess liquidity would have pushed the Fed Funds rate lower than the target rate without the RRP program. As such, RRP sucks up liquidity, making Fed Funds easier for the Fed to manage.

The Fed has other repo tools, such as repurchase agreements and the standing repo facility, which can dampen money market rates by providing the banking system with liquidity.

The RRP facility has been increasing rapidly and now sits at over $2 trillion daily. Rising RRP balances are a drain on liquidity.

As money market yields rise with Fed Funds and asset markets perform poorly, investors tend to prefer higher cash balances. Such should keep RRP levels elevated for the time being.

Treasury General Account (TGA)

The Treasury General Account is the U.S. Treasury Department’s checking account. The account is held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Like your checking account, the TGA receives deposits (tax receipts and proceeds from debt issuance) and makes payments.

The Fed doesn’t manage the TGA balances, but the surplus cash balance held at the Fed affects banking system liquidity. Fed liabilities (bank reserves) must equal its assets. Bank reserves are fodder allowing banks to make loans and, by default, print money. When the TGA account increases, bank reserves must fall, reducing banking system liquidity. Conversely, a shrinking TGA account adds reserves and liquidity to the banking system.

The graph below shows that TGA balances are elevated versus the pre-pandemic years but have fallen as the banking system normalizes from the massive fiscal cash injections. It will likely drop a bit more, but the TGA will not significantly impact liquidity, barring unusual circumstances.

tga account

Fed Balance Sheet

The Fed’s assets, mainly Treasury bonds and Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), are the liquidity elephant in the room. Its assets currently account for 75% of total Fed-sponsored liquidity and historically average over 90%.

When the Fed does Quantitative Easing (QE), they remove securities from the bond markets and, in their place, leaves reserves with the banks. Again, bank reserves can lead to loan creation which is the creation of new money. Ergo, QE adds to the system’s liquidity. Conversely, Quantitative Tightening (QT) removes liquidity and reserves from the system and increases the amount of securities in the market.

For this reason, QE tends to be bullish for stocks, and QT is bearish. 

Liquidity and Stock Prices

With an understanding of the three key factors driving banking system liquidity, we can create a Fed liquidity model. The size of the Fed’s assets less the sum of the TGA and RRP equals the amount of Fed-generated liquidity in the system. Recent changes in net liquidity shed light on how the S&P 500 trends.

The two graphs below compare the liquidity measure and the S&P 500. The first graph shows how the S&P 500 rose in line with liquidity through 2021, and both reversed simultaneously to start 2022. The dotted lines are quarterly moving averages to help smooth out the data. The moving averages track each other almost perfectly this year. The green dashed line forecasts liquidity based solely on the Fed’s plan to reduce its balance sheet by $95 billion a month. The S&P 500 could be close to 3500 by year-end if they follow through with their QT plans and the correlation holds up.

The second graph shares the same data but in scatter plot form. The correlation between liquidity and the S&P 500 is statistically significant, with an R-squared of 0.57. The orange dot shows the S&P 500 is about 3% overpriced based on liquidity.

liquidity Fed
liquidity S&P 500

The model does have an important caveat. Other factors become the predominant driver of market returns when the Fed is inactive and liquidity is relatively stable.  

Summary

The Fed is not the only game in town, but they are the biggest game in town. While many other factors account for stock price performance, liquidity may be the most important to grasp.

To drive home this point, recall March 2020, when covid struck the economy. Global economies were shutting down worldwide. Unemployment was soaring, and the economy was careening toward a depression. Despite zero clarity on the economic future, stocks began to rally strongly in late March. Why? Liquidity via fiscal stimulus and a surge in Fed QE purchases drove markets higher. The economic situation was awful, and earnings outlooks were crumbling, but liquidity trumped fundamentals. 

By accepting what the Fed does, right or wrong, and closely following its actions, we can quantify how liquidity will steer markets. On top of fundamental and technical analysis, this additional layer of research helps us better navigate the market’s twists, turns, and trends when the Fed is active.

The post S&P 3500 By Year End If QT Continues appeared first on RIA.

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