Archive for the ‘Debt Market’ Category

Notes From Underground: The Lunacy of Powell’s Inner Volcker

March 12, 2023

A constant theme at NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND¬†has been that the lunacy of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell finding his inner Volcker belongs in the pantheon of fantasy. As I have said before: Paul Volcker wouldn’t be able to find his inner Volcker in a financial system plagued with HUGE amounts of leveraged risk, coupled with a huge overhang of both PUBLIC and PRIVATE DEBT. And yet FED officials are still out there pondering whether to raise 25 or 50 basis points at the next meeting.

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Notes From Underground: Taking a Look at the Plumbing

February 16, 2023

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Joseph Wang, one of the better Fed/interest-rate plumbers, who also has a deep knowledge of all things global macro. Listen closely to the latest podcast as he reveals the many shades of the inner workings of the Fed, especially those insights on Governor Christopher Waller. There are certainly areas where we disagree, which is to be expected, but that is what makes the effort by Richard Bonugli to do these podcasts so richly rewarding.

As always, I advise not rushing into any of our recommendations but to do your own work in context and of course in and levels of risk you are comfortable. The purpose as always is to sift through the amalgam of data/info and find profitable opportunities as we provide a deep dive into context and nuance.

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Notes From Underground: Meet the Dwarves of Dovishness

February 12, 2023

Every day my inbox is filled with tweets and stories about which FOMC member said what. It’s been less than a year since the Fed ended quantitative easing and merely eight months since it started unwinding its balance sheet. The Powell-led Fed kept pumping liquidity into the system, even as they started raising rates, which reflects how little confidence policymakers had in their own models.

And now the media lavishes praise on Neel Kashkari, John Williams, Lael Brainard, Susan Collins, Mary Daly, Rafael Bostic and others as if they were great forecasters by continually bombarding the financial pages with the need to have a “terminal rate” somewhere around 5.5%, prompting others to race ahead with calls for 6% or, as we heard from one pundit last week, 8%.

It is time for the Fed to slow their roll and engage in humility for the true FED policy of ZERO rates is the measure of just how far off FOMC forecasts have been, dating back to Alan Greenspan. Most importantly, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, the progenitor of forward guidance and QE, proclaimed that the SUBPRIME CRISIS was contained just prior to it devolving into the GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS. When Jerome Powell is on target it serves as a reminder to WALL STREET what a poor forecaster the central bank actually is when moving to a much more pragmatic policy.

If you didn’t watch the Powell’s discussion with David Rubenstein last week I would advise doing so as it showed the Fed chair at his best. The most critical part of the interview was when Rubenstein got Powell to walk back his disinflation view that was deemed dovish at the post-FOMC press conference the week before. Many analysts believed Powell would walk back disinflationary rhetoric following the huge jobs number on Feb. 3. Powell didn’t walk it back and seems to be leaning toward slowing the FED in an effort to assess the impact of a year’s rapid increase in interest rates coupled with an effort at quantitative tightening.

Powell has to be careful for in this AGE OF ENORMOUS DEBT there can be no inner VOLCKER. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal Friday by Andrew Duehren titled, “Fed’s Inflation Fight Pushes Up Cost of U.S. Debt.” For several months we at NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND have warned that the politics of percentages was going to come into play as the cost of financing the massive debt piled up by Trump’s ill-conceived tax cuts and Biden’s profligacy was came to be paid. Duehren wrote: “The Treasury’s spending on interest on the debt is up 41% to $198 billion in the first four months of this fiscal year with $140 billion in the same period last year.” The story went on to use the CBO projections about how much the costs of financing the massive deficit will, but the CBO projections were based on INTEREST RATES BEING 1.9% by end of 2022 and 2.6% at the end of 2023.

However, please take this story with a grain of salt because the Congressional Budget Office will release its updated outlook on Wednesday, Feb. 15, which should account for the rise in interest rates.

The key issue for the entire global financial system is how can the price of sovereign debt be able to absorb the blows from inflation at 5% with a massive increase in the cost of financing the debt as central banks seek to remain HIGHER FOR LONGER. Who is buying all the US long-term debt at 3.6%?

***It is also of paramount importance to note that the ECB, BOJ, SNB, BOE, BOC, RBA, RBNZ, as well as many emerging market central banks are striving to raise rates in an effort to keep their currency stable. The ECB will raise rates more aggressively than most as President Lagarde is under extreme pressure from the HAWKS .

Following the Feb. 2 meeting, the hawks were filling the media with calls for faster rate hikes. Lagarde has already committed to a half a percentage point increase at the March meeting in an effort to keep the hawks in place. QT is a dangerous tool for the ECB because it will certainly lead to FRAGMENTATION of the European bond markets, which more concerning for Brussels. If the ECB violates its Lisbon Treaty rules to prevent fragmentation then the anti-EU voices in Germany will be back at the German Constitutional Court creating potential problems for an already besieged Olaf Scholz.

If this is not enough to concern markets we now have rumors that Ueda Kazuo will be the new Governor of the Bank of Japan. This has not been ascertained but is on the boil and I suggest you read the insightful piece by Tobias Harris at Observing Japan on this appointment. It is important to note that Ueda is an MIT PHD in the same group as Bernanke and many other central bankers and I would further advise looking at the members of G-30 to understand why Ueda would be a comfortable fit. But if Japan begins to alter its YCC policy further bond markets will suffer further stress because of the gigantic impact of Japanese banks, pension funds and insurance companies on global financial flows.

Again, many piles of tinder set to ignite on the global financial situation.

Notes From Underground: Powell, Lagarde and Payrolls, Oh My

February 2, 2023

It was the week that was as three main central bank interest rate decisions from the FEDERAL RESERVE, BANK OF ENGLAND and EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK rocked the markets. There is more to follow Friday morning as the vaunted employment data will be released. The market is expecting 190,000 jobs created, a 3.6% unemployment rate, a 34.4-hour workweek and a 0.3% gain in average hourly earnings. After all of the central bank-induced volatility that last data point carries little weight unless it shocks to the robust economic upside.

If the unemployment rate fell too much — to say, 3.3% — or AHE soared above 0.7% it would send bond yields much higher, reversing the recent sizable rally in global bond prices triggered by central banks preparing to “pause.”

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Notes From Underground: Talking With Louis Gave

January 29, 2023

It is always a great pleasure to be able to discuss the global financial situation with Louis Gave and have Richard Bonugli moderate the discussion. There are several issues discussed in this hour podcast but I want to provide listeners with a key rule of Gave: While it may seem like forecasting it is anything but. It is merely adapting to a changing landscape as global investing is dynamic in nature while so many critical academic models are STATIC. It is up to those who invest in myriad number of relevant asset classes to be aware of the changing conditions in an effort to MINIMIZE losses from ill-conceived trades while seeking to find the greatest profits potential from being able to analyze the changing conditions.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Notes From Underground: ‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

December 18, 2022

Last week, the leaders of the world’s central banks were attempting to regain their souls. FEDERAL RESERVE Chair Jerome Powell told tales of woe as workers were suffering as inflation rose. Crush the evil inflation out of the system is the battle cry¬† in an effort to recreate the melodrama of Andrew Mellon in 1931: liquidate, liquidate, liquidate in an effort to Calvinize the evil from the economy by crushing demand. Powell did note that housing had weakened SIGNIFICANTLY and financial conditions HAVE TIGHTENED CONSIDERABLY but will have to be patient because monetary policy acts with a lag.

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Notes From Underground: Cui Bono? (Who Stands to Gain?)

November 28, 2022

When it comes to making sense of the global financial system I always have to ask the question who is benefitting from monetary policy? The recent podcasts from the Financial Repression Authority has provided a good backdrop to understanding the importance of debt markets — and by default the significance of the US DOLLAR as the bulwark of the financial system. The mobility of money or what serves the process of globalization has revealed many of the fragilities of the DOLLAR as a funding vehicle because of the FEDERAL RESERVE’S policies, which allowed all the other world’s central banks to sustain a prolonged period of zero and even NEGATIVE NOMINAL RATES.

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Notes From Underground: Recapping the Last Two Weeks

November 20, 2022

The day after the FED meeting I sat down with the FINANCIAL REPRESSION AUTHORITY and did a podcast with David Rosenberg and Peter Boockvar. The discussion is still relevant as it speaks a great deal about bond, equity and, in particular, currency valuations. Then on Monday, November 7 Richard Bonugli hosted an hourlong discussion with Brent Johnson and myself, which was also about currency valuations and the precarious global situation of massive debt overhang. Finally, I recorded a third podcast with FRA and Eric Peters about crypto and the possible fallout from the collapse of FTX. There’s lots to digest here but as always I remind readers that the only relevance for traders/investors is to find meaningful trades or investments. Otherwise we are just talking to hear ourselves talk, which is in the very real sense meaningless. Also, it is not always what you make through relevant ideas but the capital preserved by not following the herd.

Click to listen to the Nov. 4 podcast with David Rosenberg and Peter Boockvar.

Click to listen to the Nov. 7 podcast with Brent Johnson.

Click to listen to the latest podcast with Eric Peters.

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Notes From Underground: Returning to the Turmoil

October 20, 2022

After a period of personal introspection it’s time to return to the turmoil of the world. What better way to reenter than with a couple of podcasts.

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Notes From Underground: The Meaning of the Yen/YUAN Cross

April 26, 2022

In the past three weeks I have had the pleasure of doing two major podcasts with two of the most highly regarded global macro thinkers and traders: Zoltan Pozsar and Louis Gave. Our discussions led to an attempt to explain the importance of the Chinese yuan during the current period of CAPITAL ANXIETY. During the past two years the Chinese YUAN has rallied from 7.13/dollar to 6.35, where it has sat for the last six months (a gain of 12%). And, as I have argued for the last 18 months, the strengthening YUAN during the pandemic was a signal that the Chinese were shifting to a more domestic-oriented economy using a stronger currency to enrich its nascent middle class.

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