Category Archives: Fed

28/8/15: Central Banks’ Activism in a Chart

Having been out of contact due to work and summer break commitments, I will be updating the blog over the next few days with interesting bits of information that have been overlooked over the last 10 days or so. So stay tuned for numerous updates.

To start with, here is a picture of the Central Banks' monetary activism to-date:

Source: @Schuldensuehner 

The chart above sets 2005 = 1000 and indexes the uplift in Central Banks' balancesheets expansions: Fed almost x5.6 times; PBoC almost x6.4 times, ECB almost x2.3 times and heading toward x3.3 times under the ongoing QE, BoJ almost x2.1 times... not surprisingly, the old Fed 'put' is now pretty much every Central Bank's default option...

Much of this mountain of money printing has gone to grease the wheels of sovereign debt markets. Much of the resulting revaluation of financial assets is simply not sustainable under the premise of the Central Banks' 'puts' withdrawal (monetary tightening).

In simple terms, the ugly will get uglier and we have no idea if it will get any better thereafter.

13/3/15: Emerging Markets Corporate Debt Maturity Squeeze

H/T to @RobinWigg for the following chart summing up Emerging Markets exposure to the USD-denominated corporate debt redemptions calls over 2015-2025. The peak at 2017 and 2018 and relatively high levels for exemptions coming up in 2016, 2019-2020 signal sizeable pressure on the EM corporates that coincides with expected tightening in the US interest rates cycle - a twin shock that is likely to have adverse impact on EMs' capex in years to come. With rolling over 2017-on debt becoming a more expensive proposition, given the USD FX rates and interest rates outlook, the EMs-based corporate sector will come under severe pressure to use organic revenue generation to redeem maturing debt. Which means less investment, less hiring and less growth.

The impossible monetary policy trilemma that I have been warning about for some years now is starting to play out, with delay on my expectations, but just as expected - in the weaker and more vulnerable markets first.

24/1/2015: ECB v Fed: Why Frankfurt’s QE is a Damp Squib

A neat chart from Pictet showing balancesheet comparatives for ECB and the Fed.

Setting timing issues aside (which are non-trivial), the quantum of ECB balancesheet expansion planned is still too weak and it is too weak relative to previous peak. The Fed balancesheet expansion followed three stages:

  • Stage 1 in 2008-2009 was sharp and more significant than for ECB.
  • Stage 2 covered Q1 2009-Q2 2011
  • Stage 3 covered Q1 2013 through Q3 2014.
  • There were no major policy reversals, only moderation, over the entire QE period.
In contrast, ECB balancesheet expansions were weaker throughout the period, and were subject to a major reversal in Q1 2013 - Q3 2014 period.

In effect, even with this week's boisterous announcement, the ECB remains a major laggard in therms of monetary policy activism, compared to all other major Central Banks that faced comparable risks.

Now, to timing. ECB is a de facto your family doctor who routinely forgets to apply medicine in time and under-medicates the patient after the fact. Frankfurt slept through the Q1 2009-H1 2011 and went into a delirious denial stage in Q1 2013-H1 2014. The inaction during two key periods meant that nascent recovery of 2010 was killed off and 2013-2014 can be written off as lost years. The lags in policy reaction by the ECB are monumental: as the Fed ramped up monetary expansion in Q4 2012, the ECB will be presiding over a de facto monetary (balancesheet) stagnation, if not contraction, until March 2015. Which means that during the critical years of deleveraging - of banks and the real economy - debt reductions in the European economy were neither supported by the institutions (bankruptcy and insolvency resolution regimes), nor facilitated by the monetary policy. Instead, monetary policy simple delayed deleveraging by lowering the interest rates, without providing funding necessary for the writedowns. This is diametrically different to the US, where deleveraging was supported by both monetary policy and institutional set ups.

Meanwhile, Germans are now at loggerheads with the rest of Europe, whinging about the 'abandoned prudence' of the ECB. Best summary of why they are dead wrong is here:

The circus of the euro area pretence at economic (and other) policymaking rolls on. Next stop, as always, Greece...