[This blog post is an excerpt from a commentary posted at TSI about three weeks ago]
TARGET2 is the system set up in the euro-zone to clear inter-bank payments. The Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank) describes it as a payment system that enables the speedy and final settlement of national and cross-border payments. The problem is that often there is no “final settlement” under TARGET2. Instead, credits and debits can build up indefinitely.
To understand the issue it first must be understood that although the 19 countries that comprise the euro-zone use a common currency, the euro-zone isn’t really a unified monetary system. It is more like 19 separate monetary systems, each of which is overseen by a National Central Bank (NCB). These NCBs are, in turn, overseen and coordinated by the ECB. TARGET2 is the means by which money is transferred quickly and efficiently between these 19 separate monetary systems. The transfer may well be quick and efficient, but, as noted above, it often doesn’t result in final settlement.
We’ve enjoyed years of “recovery” since the Great Financial Crisis by literally papering over our problems with newly-printed money, instead of addressing their root causes.
For example, The Federal Reserve dropped their benchmark target rate to 25 basis points in December 2008 just after President Obama was elected to his first term as President, and began their asset purchases (QE) in September 2008. The Fed raised their target rate only once during Obama’s eight years as President (December 2015) and only stated shrinking its balance sheet in earnest in 2018 (while Trump was President).
February 8 – Bloomberg (Brian Chappatta): “Bond traders are dusting off their tried and true post-crisis playbook after the Federal Reserve’s pivot last month. What they don’t realize is that the game has most likely changed. In an unabashed reach for yield, investors suddenly can’t get enough of the riskiest debt, with the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate High Yield Bond Index posting a staggering 5.25% total return in the first five weeks of 2019, led by those securities rated in the CCC tier. In the largest CCC borrowing since September, Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc. received orders this week of more than $5 billion for a $2.2 billion deal, allowing it to price its debt to yield 9.25%, compared with whisper talk of about 10%.”
A Friday headline from a separate Bloomberg article: “Corporate Bonds on Fire as Dovish Fed Soothes Investors,” with the opening sentence: “Fear is turning to exuberance in credit markets.” According to Lipper, corporate investment-grade funds enjoyed inflows of $2.668 billion last week, with high-yield funds receiving $3.859 billion. Bloomberg headline: “High-Yield Bond Funds See Biggest Inflow Since July 2016.” This follows the biggest high-yield inflows ($3.28bn) since December 2016 from two weeks ago.
I reserve most of the work on precious metals for NFTRH weekly reports and in-week updates because it is done on a consistent basis, with the work done previously key to the narrative making sense in real time and going forward. In other words, in order to not be out there stabbing in the dark you need to have an ongoing, adjustable plan that makes sense at all times with the macro markets around it.
So that said, let’s take a snapshot of where things stand currently with the understanding that this work will need future updates, which will probably not be made publicly. It is up to the reader to do the work required to put context to the picture. Meanwhile, this will free up more space in next week’s NFTRH 538 to focus on some quality miner charts, which sometimes take a back seat to the macro/sector stuff.
One of the world’s most important borrowing benchmarks staged its biggest one-day decline in a decade on Thursday.
The three-month London interbank offered rate for dollars sank 4.063 basis points to 2.697 percent, the largest one-day slide since May 2009. The move may reflect a benchmark that’s making up ground following a repricing of short-end Treasuries and associated instruments in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s dovish pivot in recent weeks.
The 3-month LOIS spread (3-month Libor – Overnight Indexed Swap rate) has been receding … again as of Feb 5th (Libor rates on Bloomberg as not updating on Feb 7).
Here’s some of the standout economic and markets charts on my radar. I aim to pick a good mix of charts covering key global macro trends, and ones which highlight risks and opportunities across asset classes. Hope you enjoy!
1. Global Deflatometer: Back in the spot-light, this was the number 1 chart from the Ten Charts to Watch in 2019 article. This is going to be one of those charts I keep referring back to as the year progresses – it’s also highly relevant to chart number 5 in this week’s email. Key point: while the global equity route has begun to abate, the deterioration in activity data remains a concern.
With tonight being the State of the Union Address I decided to take another look at an old study that examined SPX performance following past speeches. The data table below looks back to 1982. There were a few instances, such as 2001 and 2009 where the speech was not an official “State of the Union”, but was delivered under a different name. I have included those speeches in the results as well.
The stats do not suggest much of an edge. But the profit curves seem to tell a more interesting story. Here is the 5-day curve.
As the earnings season starts to wind down, it seems the big message from the FAANG stocks is that, earnings projections be damned, this market wants to go up. Just look at what we’ve seen from the components:
FB: reported after the close on the 30th; company clearly has turned itself around and price exploded nearly 20% the next day;
AMZN: reported after the close on the 31st; stock got absolutely reamed, losing nearly $100 the next day; market didn’t budge;
AAPL: reported after the close on the 29th; in spite of softening sales and weakness from China, stock skyrocketed the next day;
NFLX: reported after the close on the 17th; stock slumped for a few days but has since recovered and is now rumored to be a buyout candidate from fellow FAANG member AAPL;
Bank reserves are a throwback to a time when the amount of receipts for money (gold) that could be issued by a bank was limited by the amount of money (gold) the bank held in reserve. Under the current monetary system bank reserves have no real meaning, since it isn’t possible for a dollar in a bank deposit to be genuinely backed by a dollar held somewhere else. The dollar can’t back itself! However, it is still important to understand what today’s bank reserves are/aren’t and how changes in the reserves quantity are linked to changes in the economy-wide money supply. Remarkably, these bank-reserve basics are misunderstood by almost everyone who comments on the topic.
The simplest way for me to deal with the common misunderstandings about bank reserves is in point form, so that’s how I’ll do it. Here goes: