This post was published at George Gammon
The optimism on world trade didn’t last very long.
It was only late September when the WTO issued a ‘strong upward revision’ to their estimate for 2017 world trade. WTO economists raised their forecast to 3.6% from 2.4%, which was at the top end of the previous 1.8-3.6% range. This marked a sharp acceleration from the 1.3% growth in 2016. The IMF’s forecast for 2017 world trade, also made in September, was even higher at 4.2%. Now the Copenhagen-based Maersk, the world’s number one container shipping company, is sounding a warning about softer demand and downward pressure on freight rates. According to Bloomberg.
The world’s largest container shipping line says international freight rates are reversing after climbing for most of this year, raising questions about the sustainability of the global trade recovery. Decade-old oversupply issues swamped demand for containerized sea trade in the third quarter, a senior official at Maersk Line Ltd. said in an interview last week. Over 90 percent of trade is routed through ships, making the industry a bellwether for the worldwide economy. “We have started to see some pockets of downward pressure,” said Steve Felder, Mumbai-based managing director of Maersk’s South Asian unit. The global trade order book at around 13.5 percent of capacity isn’t high, “however, given that freight rates are largely determined on the basis of supply-demand balance, they remain fragile,” he said.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2017.
Like any other market, there are many opinions on what a currency ought to be worth relative to others.
With certain currencies, that spectrum of opinions is fairly narrow. As an example, for the world’s most traded currency – the U. S. dollar – the majority of opinions currently fall in a range from the dollar being 2% to 11% overvalued, according to organizations such as the Council of Foreign Relations, the Bank of International Settlements, the OECD, and the IMF.
For other currencies, the spectrum is much wider. The Swiss franc, which some have called the world’s most perplexing currency, has estimates from those same groups ranging from about 13% undervalued to 21% overvalued.
As VisualCapitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, such a variance in estimates makes it hard to come up with any conclusive consensus – so in today’s chart, we refer to a more caffeinated and fun measure that also approximates the relative value of currencies.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 7, 2017.
“The Trump administration has lambasted China’s bid for recognition as a market economy in the World Trade Organization, citing decades of legal precedent and what it sees as signs that China is moving in the opposite direction under Xi Jinping. The US move to oppose China’s longstanding efforts to be recognised as a market economy in the WTO came in a legal submission filed last week and due to be released publicly on Thursday in a case brought by Beijing against the EU.”
Here are background slides to the dispute from my recent lecture @MIIS :
First, what’s behind the WTO dispute: the fight between the U. S. and the EU against China and other emerging economies in core Bretton Woods institutions – the IMF and the World Bank
This post was published at True Economics on Thursday, November 30, 2017.
Holger Zschaepitz @Schuldensuehner posted earlier today the latest data on ECB’s balance sheet. Despite focusing its attention on unwinding the QE in the medium term future, Frankfurt continues to ramp up its purchases of euro area debt. Amidst booming euro area economic growth, total assets held by the ECB rose by another 24.1 billion in October, hitting a fresh life-time high of 4.4119 trillion.
Thus, currently, ECB balance sheet amounts to 40.9% of Eurozone GDP. The ‘market economy’ of neoliberal euro area is now increasingly looking more and more like some sort of a corporatist paradise. On top of ECB holdings, euro area government expenditures this year are running at around 47.47% of GDP, accord to the IMF, while Government debt levels are at 87.37% of GDP. General government net borrowing stands at 1.276% of GDP, while, thanks to the ECB buying up government debt, primary net balance is in surplus of 0.589% of GDP.
This post was published at True Economics on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.
Just over a month ago, Kyle Bass discussed why he was long effectively “long Greece.”
Bass penned a Bloomberg editorial in which the hedge fund founder and CIO called on the IMF to stop bullying Greece – publicizing the fact that he is now effectively long Greece. Greek government bonds have performed reasonably well so far this year: They’re up about 16%, and if Bass is right, they could have another 20% to 30% over the next 18 months if the IMF abandons its insistence on austerity and acknowledges that debt relief will need to be part of the long-term alleviation of debt. Bass added that, in the near future, voters will elect a more business-friendly government that will help reestablish the country’s creditworthiness, much like the government of Mauricio Macri did for Argentina.
I think you also have an interesting political situation in Greece where I think there’s going to be a handoff from the current Syriza government to kind of a more slightly-center-right but very economically independent new leadership in the next, call it, 18 months.
And so, I think you asked why now? And I think you’re starting to see green shoots. You’re starting to see the banks do the right things finally in Greece and you are about to have new leadership.
So, I think that you’re going to see – and if you remember Argentina as Kirschner was going to hand-off – hand the reins over to someone that was much more let’s say focused on business and economics than being a kleptocrat, I think you’re going to see something again slightly similar in Greece where you have leadership today that might not be the right leadership and the government-in-waiting, I believe, and I think you know Mr. (Mitsutakous) – I think you’re going to see something great happen to Greece in the and next, kind of, two years.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 16, 2017.
In what will come as a big surprise to many Fed watchers, moments ago the WSJ reported that among other candidates, Mohamed El-Erian, former deputy director of the IMF, former head of the Harvard Management Company, Bill Gross’ former partner at Pimco until the duo’s infamous falling out, and one of the few people who – together with John Taylor – actually deserve the nomination, is being considered for the Fed Vice Chairman role. DJ also added that Kansas banking regulator Michelle Bowman is also being considered. From the WSJ:
The White House is considering economist Mohamed El-Erian as one of several candidates to potentially serve as the Federal Reserve’s vice chairman, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The process of selecting the Fed’s No. 2 official began this month after President Donald Trump nominated Fed governor Jerome Powell to succeed Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen when her term expires next February.
The WSJ adds that there is a broad range of candidates under consideration for post, and that the White House will focus on monetary policy experience for post.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 14, 2017.
NAFTA 2.0 gets complicated. With the fifth round of NAFTA negotiations scheduled to begin next week, Mexico finds itself facing a very uncertain future. The free trade agreement upon which its entire national economic model was built is now looking precariously fragile. Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico’s economy minister, told the Mexican Congress last week that the way things stand, an end to NAFTA ‘cannot sanely be ruled out.’
In such an event, the resulting economic pain for Mexico could be considerable, according to calculations from Banco Santander. It forecasts a 15% drop in exports and a 16% fall in imports if the US declared a full trade war rather than reverting to World Trade Organization tariff rules. Moody’s Investors Service estimates Mexico’s economy could shrink as much as 4%.
The biggest problem for Mexico’s economy is the sheer scale of its dependence on trade with the US: 81% of its exports go to the U. S., and about half of its imports come from there. Mexico is so deeply integrated into US supply chains, particularly manufacturing production that the IMF describes Mexican and American industrial production as ‘co-integrated.’ Increases in American economic output are transmitted one-for-one to Mexican output.
This post was published at Wolf Street on Nov 13, 2017.
Reverting to one of his favorite topics – namely how the application of a statistical average of a sharply bimodal sample tends to muddle the resulting signal, something Ray Dalio expounded on as recently as last month– on Monday morning, SocGen’s Andrew Lapthorne explains not only why the true story of US corporate balance sheets is far worse than the average data makes it appears, but also why “US balance sheet performance is increasingly polarized”.
As the SocGen strategist writes, “we have been highlighting for some time now the risks associated with highly leveraged US companies, particularly among the smaller capitalisation names. Our message has been clear; US corporate leverage is abnormally high for this stage in the cycle and a handful of cash-rich mega caps are masking significant problems elsewhere.”
To be sure, the market has noticed this growing balance sheet chasm, and as a result aversion to highly leveraged companies has become increasingly visible:
“over the last few weeks the beta of bad balance to good balance sheet companies has been negative. Or to put it more simply, one group has been going up whilst the other has been going down. For those still holding the weak companies, the relative performance consequence is painful, leading to further selling and further polarisation.”
To be fair, Lapthorne picks up on a point that was brought up by the IMF back in April, when it not only warned that over 20% of US corporations are at risk of default should rates rise even modestly, but that the generous use of an average distribution when instead median is more appropriate, is masking some substantial problems below the surface, including the risks to US corporate from rising interest costs and possibly a reduction in
interest cost tax deductibility.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 13, 2017.
Many expect Mr. Jerome H. Powell to be President Trump pick for Fed Chairman. Trump is resisting pressure by conservatives to make a larger change at the Fed. Many conservatives, including Vice President Mike Pence, preferred John B. Taylor, who is an economist at Stanford and an outspoken critic of the Fed’s monetary policy. Taylor previously served in the Treasury Department during the Bush administration. However, he is best known as an academic economist with no real experience hands-on. He wrote an approach to monetary policy, known as the ‘Taylor Rule,’ where he suggested that the Fed should be raising rates more quickly. That was obviously based on the economic theory of the Quantity of Money leads to inflation. He also has closely advised House Republicans on legislation that would require the Fed to adopt such a policy rule taking a hawkish approach to monetary policy.
Representative Warren Davidson, a Republican on the House Financial Services Committee’s monetary policy panel, is one of the people who want a change in policy toward more conservative and austerity. He is circulating a letter opposing Yellen’s reappointment. Personally, I believe Yellen has done a good job. She has been under international pressure not to raise rates from the IMF and just about everyone else because Europe is still floundering and higher rates would be expected to push the ECB and emerging markets off into the deep-end of the pool.
This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Nov 3, 2017.
The IMF estimated that Saudi Arabia will need oil prices to trade at about $70 per barrel in 2018 for its budget to breakeven, a dramatic improvement from the $96.60 per barrel it needed just last year. Saudi’s improvement is the most dramatic out of all the Middle Eastern oil producers, and it also suggests the combination of austerity, cuts to wasteful subsidies, new taxes and economic reforms are starting to bear fruit.
The improvement is all the more important because Saudi Arabia and its fellow OPEC members are restraining output as a way to boost oil prices. Selling fewer barrels means less revenue, although that is offset by the coordinated production cuts through the OPEC deal, which has helped raise prices.
Nevertheless, there is something glaring about Saudi Arabia’s breakeven price: It is still far higher than the current oil price, which means Riyadh is still feeling the economic and fiscal pressure from low crude prices. ‘The reality of lower oil prices has made it more urgent for oil exporters to move away from a focus on redistributing oil receipts through public sector spending and energy subsidies,’ the IMF said in its report. Saudi Arabia and other Middle East oil producers ‘have outlined ambitious diversification strategies, but medium-term growth prospects remain below historical averages amid ongoing fiscal consolidation,’ the IMF added. In other words, austerity might help narrow the budget deficit to some degree, but it can also be self-defeating if it slows growth.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 2, 2017.
Another week, another warning regarding financial crash scenarios from those keen minds at the IMF.
In ‘Here Is The IMF’s Global Financial Crash Scenario’ last week, we highlighted the institution’s surprisingly candid discussion hidden away in its latest Financial Stability Report ‘Rising Medium-Term Vulnerabilities Could Derail the Global Recovery”…or as we paraphrased the IMF’s ‘politically correct way of saying the financial system is on the verge of crashing’.
As we noted previously, in the section also called “Global Financial Dislocation Scenario” because “crash” sounds just a little too pedestrian, the IMF uses a DSGE model to project the current global financial situation, and ominously admits that “concerns about a continuing buildup in debt loads and overstretched asset valuations could have global economic repercussions” and – in modeling out the next crash, pardon “dislocation” – the IMF conducts a “scenario analysis” to illustrate how a repricing of risks could “lead to a rise in credit spreads and a fall in capital market and housing prices, derailing the economic recovery and undermining financial stability.”
This week the IMF has gone a step further, courting the mainstream financial media to publicise its warning about the dangers of historically low volatility and related short volatility strategies.
As The FT reports, The International Monetary Fund has warned that the increasing use of exotic financial products tied to equity volatility by investors such as pension funds is creating unknown risks that could result in a severe shock to financial markets. In an interview with the Financial Times Tobias Adrian, director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department of the IMF, said an increasing appetite for yield was driving investors to look for ways to boost income through complex instruments.
‘The combination of low yields and low volatility facilitates the use of leverage by investors to increase returns, and we have seen rapid growth in some types of products that do this,’ he said. It explains some of the short vol strategies that we’ve been expressing concern about for several years. To wit.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 31, 2017.
That China is a widely accepted global outlier in the context of credit, debt and leverage, look no further than the latest Financial Stability Report from the IMF, which in no uncertain terms lays out where China can be “found” relative to its G-20 peers in the following chart:
Yet according to the IMF, China’s bleak picture is based on a relatively rosy estimate of the country’s non-financial debt to GDP at approximately “only” 242%.
The reality, however, is that China’s true leverage picture is far worse, and while there are far more aggressive and pessimistic estimates in the public domain, we have chosen the latest number calculated by Victor Shih from the Mercator Institute for China Studies, who in a just released report calculates that total non-financial credit in China stood around 254 trillion RMB as of May 2017, equivalent to 328% of 2016 nominal GDP, or nearly 100% higher than the official IMF estimate. This is also 34% increase as a share of GDP compared with the end of 2015.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 23, 2017.
The best performing precious metal for the week was palladium, off 1.44 percent for the week. Citigroup favors palladium in the short term, in response to pollution control, but says substitution risks prevent the bank from taking a more bullish view long term as the price of palladium is now higher than the price of platinum. After the Indian government eased rules on gold purchases, the country’s demand for gold jewelry and branded coins appears to be better than the last quarter, according to P. R. Somasundaram, MD for India at the World Gold Council. The ensuing wedding season is the key for quarterly demand performance, Bloomberg reports, and with a good monsoon season, stable gold prices should encourage consumers. In the month of September, Swiss gold exports doubled month-over-month to 148.4 metric tons, reports Bloomberg. In August, exports were only 72 tons, according to the Swiss Federal Customs Administration. Specifically, Swiss exports to China rose 21 percent and to Hong Kong rose 92 percent. Weaknesses
The worst performing precious metal for the week was platinum, off 2.41 percent as palladium seems to be the more crowded trade. September makes 11 months straight of China officially reporting a zero increase in the level of its gold reserves, writes Lawrie Williams. The only time in recent years that the Asian nation has published any month-by-month gold reserve accumulations was in the 16 months ahead of the yuan being accepted as an integral part of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights basket of currencies, Williams continues. ‘We don’t think it coincidence that such month-by-month reporting effectively ceased once the yuan became part of the SDR, thus paving its way for acceptance as a reserve currency,’ the article reads.
This post was published at GoldSeek on 23 October 2017.
Hidden almost all the way in the end of the first chapter of the IMF’s latest Financial Stability Report, is a surprisingly candid discussion on the topic of whether “Rising Medium-Term Vulnerabilities Could Derail the Global Recovery”, which is a politically correct way of saying is the financial system on the verge of crashing.
In the section also called “Global Financial Dislocation Scenario” because “crash” sounds just a little too pedestrian, the IMF uses a DSGE model to project the current global financial sitution, and ominously admits that “concerns about a continuing buildup in debt loads and overstretched asset valuations could have global economic repercussions” and – in modeling out the next crash, pardon “dislocation” – the IMF conducts a “scenario analysis” to illustrate how a repricing of risks could “lead to a rise in credit spreads and a fall in capital market and housing prices, derailing the economic recovery and undermining financial stability.”
* * *
From the IMF’s Financial Statbility Report:
“Could Rising Medium-Term Vulnerabilities Derail the Global Recovery?”
This section illustrates how shocks to individual credit and financial markets well within historical norms can propagate and lead to larger global impacts because of knock-on effects, a dearth of policy buffers, and extreme starting points in debt levels and asset valuations. A sudden uncoiling of compressed risk premiums, declines in asset prices, and rises in volatility would lead to a global financial downturn. With monetary policy in several advanced economies at or close to the effective lower bound, the economic consequences would be magnified by the limited scope for monetary stimulus. Indeed, monetary policy normalization would be stalled in its tracks and reversed in some cases.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 22, 2017.