Posts Tagged ‘US Treasuries’
by Bud Conrad
October 17, 2011
Foreign central banks buy US Treasury and Agency debt through accounts at the Federal Reserve, where it is held in custody. Without these central banks buying our debt, the US federal government would have to find a new source of funds or the result could be higher interest rates. Looking at the data on a monthly basis (and then multiplied by 12 to give the annual rate), here is the dramatic picture of how foreign central-bank purchases of our debt have shifted, from buying $500 billion to selling off $1 trillion. At this rate of selling over several months, interest rates would go higher – if other things were equal. Of course, things are not equal because the Fed has been forcing rates lower with its massive QE2 and other programs. QE 2 was $600 billion over nine months, or an annualized rate of $800 billion per year. Since foreigners are selling off our government debt, Fed purchases of government debt are even more necessary.
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Here are the data on the amount of Treasuries purchased in the last quarter of the year at an annualized rate: Foreigners have decreased their holdings for the first time since 2007.
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Here’s another chart worth considering. This is a comparison to the ten-year Treasury, with the purchases of Treasuries inverted.
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In my latest article in The Casey Report on interest rates, I discuss the above chart and cover the broader issues driving interest rates.
What could be the cause of all this? The Senate passed a controversial bill that threatens to punish China for “currency manipulation” which will bring mandatory tariffs. China’s opposition to the Senate action could be the power behind the big shift in direction of these custody holdings. In an election year, government action against Chinese imports may be seen as supportive for US jobs, thus garnering votes. But unintended consequences of decreasing liquidity in the credit markets will put pressure on financial markets. The movement shown in these charts could be the result of China’s reaction to some of those anticipated policies. We can’t tell what country is doing the selling until two months have gone by and the TIC data are published. In some senses, it doesn’t matter which country is behind the shift. If rates begin to rise rapidly, even in the face of continued Fed manipulation, it could call into question confidence in the Fed’s ability to keep supporting the economy. The rate on the ten-year Treasuries jumped from 1.8% to 2.2% in the last week. Foreign selling of this magnitude is dangerous for the dollar, and it could be very bad for US interest rates.
[Whether this shift is temporary or a long-term reversal remains to be seen – but the end of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency is all but certain. How can one prepare for such a life-changing move? Listen to the audio recordings of the recently held Casey Research/Sprott Summit, When Money Dies, to gain insights and actionable advice from experts including Adam Fergusson and Doug Casey on how you can not just survive what’s coming, but thrive. Order your set today.]
Additional Links and Reads
Banking Corporatism in 1912 (Ludwig von Mises Institute)
The Mises Institute dug up a great cartoon from 1912, representing what would happen to the US with the creation of a central bank. The picture says it all. That’s essentially what did happen.
Kinder Morgan to Buy El Paso for $21.1 Billion (Bloomberg)
In the biggest energy transaction of the year thus far, Kinder Morgan purchased El Paso Corp. to form the country’s largest national gas pipeline network. The natural gas market is an interesting beast. On the one hand, natural gas prices are dirt cheap. On the other, they can’t say low forever, but as Doug Casey says just because something is inevitable doesn’t mean that it’s imminent. There are some who have given up on investing in natural gas, while others are willing to put big bucks into it.
What I find interesting about the whole field is that involves so much hard science. Whether the general economy will go up or down is the realm of economics – not exactly a science. And of course, the economy will affect oil and gas prices, but natural gas requires making estimates of scientific facts. How much gas is left in the ground? What are the well decline rates? How damaging are fracking chemicals? While in economics we can argue back and forth without getting anywhere, these questions will have clear answers in the future. Someone will be right, and someone will be wrong.
The second table of results from this poll, copied below, showed some particularly noteworthy findings which I’ve discussed before. This table represents only workers and the unemployed who are searching for a job. At the top of the unemployment pile are workers aged 18 to 29 with 14% unemployment and 30% underemployment. That’s pretty crazy – only 56% are working full time. And of those 56%, how many do you think actually have a good, career-track job versus something like flipping burgers?
This relates to today’s intro. If one graduated college in 1998, one could get a job at Goldman Sachs. Graduate ten years later, and one will be lucky to find a position as an assistant accounting clerk with the exact same qualifications.
Read the entire article HERE.
While the impact on Treasurys as a result of the downgrade may be limited (after all the other side of the Atlantic is about as ugly as the US, so where could $8 trillion in marketable USTs practically go… at least for now), the same may not be said about the far smaller, $2.9 trillion municipal market, which is about to see a blanket downgrade tomorrow as S&P warned on Friday night, and of which Matt Fabian of Municipal Market Advisors earlier said that “There will be hundreds and hundreds of municipal downgrades, which will not do well to bolster investor confidence.” The scary bit: “Treasuries may be able to shake off a real impact from the downgrade. Munis I’m less sure about.” Indeed, with futures already trading, and most risk assets experiencing a brief knee jerk reaction on a global coordinated PPT response by the G-7, there is still little clear understanding of what will really happen to not only the traditional system but to shadow liabilities such as repos and money markets. And munis are just one part of all of this. So what will happen if tomorrow the muni market starts unravellling, as Whitney, among so many others, has predicted? For that we turn to JP Morgan’s Peter DeGroot for some quick observations.
From JP Morgan on munis:
- Market volatility should continue next week with S&P’s US downgrade following this week’s manic capital market performance
- Tax-exempt yield movements will likely remain unstable, as dictated by benchmark Treasury yields, despite low long-term new issue volume next week
- Instability in the US credit may further net outflows in the municipal space. Net issuance, however, remains supportive of liquidity
- After S&P’s announcement of the US downgrade, expect follow-through on municipals directly supported by the US credit, as well as those highly reliant on the federal government
- The Central Falls bankruptcy case will be important to follow because of its potential broad implications for local government credit
- While we have been warning for some time of the elevated strain on local government fiscal positions, Central Falls could potentially have ramifications that could support local credit quality by (i) bringing clarity to the priority of the GO credit, (ii) providing a model for state activism, and (iii) adding steam to the momentum of some small cities using Chapter 9 to reduce fixed labor costs
What follows for munis as a result of the US rating action:
We anticipate some period of volatile/higher Treasury yields over the short horizon. We do not expect materially higher US borrowing costs as a result of the downgrade given that we do not expect sizable forced selling of Treasury bonds; rate movement of other sovereigns has been muted when faced with similar ratings actions; Treasuries quickly retraced their yield movements following the initial warning by the rating agencies; and the spot metrics for the US are arguably within the range for a AAA sovereign rating (see Treasuries).
We can expect S&P will downgrade all municipals backed by the US credit such as pre-refunded bonds and agency-backed municipal debt. Further, those credits with large fiscal transfer dependencies would also likely see in-kind downgrades. The rating implications are likely similar to those specified by Moody’s in their 7/13/2011 note.
Moody’s suggested moving approximately 7,000 muni bond ratings totaling $130bn, “directly linked” credits in lock-step with the US credit. Moody’s also reviewed “indirectly related” credits and placed five of the fifteen states they rate as Aaa on review for potential downgrade. These would also move in lock-step with the federal government rating.
Issuance limps along in August
The tax-exempt bond market will again take cues from the broader US fixed income markets, based on news of the US downgrade. Yield movements will likely remain unstable, despite low long-term new issue volume. Next week we expect supply of just $3bn based on late adds to the calendar.
Issuance in this range would be the lowest in four months (excluding the holidayshorted week of 7/5/11; Exhibit 3). This follows $4.9bn in primary market supply this week. The largest deal currently on next week’s docket is a $300mn Los Angeles Department of Water remarketing followed by $268mn Florida State Board of Education bonds. The expected light calendar should tick higher as refundings rush to take advantage of fight to quality yield levels if they hold after the S&P downgrade news.
The lack of a primary calendar and investor need for yield against the backdrop of low and dropping highgrade yields provide a fertile environment for paring typically hard to trade structures and credits. Investors may be motivated to lock in gains on these names and structures while demand is robust to preserve total return performance in the event of an unexpected shift in liquidity between now and year-end.
Municipal fund net outflows resurge on global risk-off trade
Broader credit market uncertainty may prolong muni outflows in the near term.
For the period ending 8/3/2011, combined weekly and monthly municipal reporters registered the highest net outflows (-$232mn) since the first week of June. Highyield funds (-$117mn) and long-term funds (-$726mn) also experienced net outflows. Intermediate funds (+$314mn) enjoyed positive flows for the ninth consecutive week.
Municipal funds who report weekly were also negative (-$861mn) for the period ending 8/3/2011. High-yield funds (-$118mn), long-term funds (-$732mn) and intermediate funds (-$55mn) all experienced net outflows (Exhibit 4).
And a quick primer on Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection from DeGroot as pertains to not only last week’s Central Falls bankruptcy filing, but to what me be “hundreds and hundreds” just over the horizon.
And after all that, the conclusion is that there is no conlusion, and only time will tell what will ultimately happen. That said, anyone actually predicting that a historic US downgrade will have no impact, is an idiot.
Read the entire article HERE.
After Getting Smoked On Treasuries, Bill Gross Joins The Ranks Of Silver Market Conspiracy Theorists
Jun. 24, 2011, 12:21 PM
Despite the imminent end of QE2 — and the fact that Bernanke has made it fairly clear that QE3 is not imminent — Treasuries keep grinding higher, moving against bond god Bill Gross, who has said they’re due to tank.
Nonetheless, he’s been vocal about his belief bondholders will get screwed in various ways, and that inflation is on the march.
Now he’s even getting conspiratorial.
Here’s the latest tweet from PIMCO (which is actually probably one of the best corporate twitter feeds).
Catch that about the silver?
Back in May, when silver was literally going parabolic, the CME hiked margins on speculators. Conspiracy theorists thought this was a deliberate attempt to keep the price down, though the CME (and others) noted that the exchange has established formulas for hiking margins when volatility spikes.
We’re not interested in joining that debate right now, though we’ll just note that Bill Gross (or at least PIMCO) has thrown his lot in with the conspiracy crowd.
Read the entire article HERE.
After Dumping 30% Of Its Treasury Holdings In Half A Year, Russia Warns It Will Continue Selling US Debt
by Tyler Durden
06/18/2011 17:04 -0400
Just in time for the end of QE2, when the US needs every possible foreign buyer of US debt to step up to the plate, we get confirmation that yet another major foreign central bank has decided to not only not add to its US debt holdings, but to actively sell US Treasurys. The WSJ reports that “Russia will likely continue lowering its U.S. debt holdings as Washington struggles to contain a budget deficit and bolster a tepid economic recovery, a top aide to President Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday. “The share of our portfolio in U.S. instruments has gone down and probably will go down further,” said Arkady Dvorkovich, chief economic aide to the president, told Dow Jones in an interview on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.” Well, with Russia out, at least we have China and Japan continuing to buy US debt…. Oh wait, China is contemplating dumping two thirds of its debt you say? And the biggest buyer of Japanese bonds is now in the process of selling Japanese bonds in the open market for the first time (so not really in the market of US bonds).
Well, surely US households will step up to the plate. After all they all have so much “cash on the sidelines” courtesy of the RecoveryTM ©® that they can’t wait to dump it all into paper yielding less than 3% a year, and has negative real rates of return. Wait, what’s that: according to the Fed, in Q1 US “households” sold $1.1 trillion annualized in Treasurys to the Fed? So, let’s get this straight: China, Japan, and now very much openly Russia, the three countries with the largest financial reserves in the world, are threatening, if not already dumping US bonds, just in time for US households to sell their holdings of US paper to Brian Sack. And this is happening 2 weeks before QE2 ends… Um… Are we and Bill Gross (and certainly not Morgan Stanley) the only ones to see a problem with this?
More on the latest confirmation that the time of US superpower supremacy has ended…
Asked if U.S. debt was as solid an investment now as it was 10 years ago, Mr. Dvorkovich said: “On an absolute basis, yes. On a relative basis, compared to other investments, of course not.”
“When we take decisions and compare, we’re not thinking in absolute terms,” he said.
Russia’s financial reserves—which stood at $528 billion as of June 10—are the world’s third largest, after China and Japan’s. As of May, according to Russia’s central bank, 47% of reserves were in dollars and 41% in euros, compared with 45.2% in dollars and 43.1% in euros on Jan. 1.
The central bank recently diversified the stash to include the Canadian dollar, which makes up 1% of the total, and plans to put 0.8% into the Australian dollar starting in September.
And next, presenting the monthly status update of the second cold war, which is now held entirely between central bank trading accounts. Russia has now cut 30% of its Treasury holdings in the past 7 months. When the caption above the blue thingy hits zero, the “Evil Empire” wins.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Terence P. Jeffrey
Friday, June 03, 2011
China has dropped 97 percent of its holdings in U.S. Treasury bills, decreasing its ownership of the short-term U.S. government securities from a peak of $210.4 billion in May 2009 to $5.69 billion in March 2011, the most recent month reported by the U.S. Treasury.
Treasury bills are securities that mature in one year or less that are sold by the U.S. Treasury Department to fund the nation’s debt.
Mainland Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury bills are reported in column 9 of the Treasury report linked here.
Until October, the Chinese were generally making up for their decreasing holdings in Treasury bills by increasing their holdings of longer-term U.S. Treasury securities. Thus, until October, China’s overall holdings of U.S. debt continued to increase.
Since October, however, China has also started to divest from longer-term U.S. Treasury securities. Thus, as reported by the Treasury Department, China’s ownership of the U.S. national debt has decreased in each of the last five months on record, including November, December, January, February and March.
Prior to the fall of 2008, acccording to Treasury Department data, Chinese ownership of short-term Treasury bills was modest, standing at only $19.8 billion in August of that year. But when President George W. Bush signed legislation to authorize a $700-billion bailout of the U.S. financial industry in October 2008 and President Barack Obama signed a $787-billion economic stimulus law in February 2009, Chinese ownership of short-term U.S. Treasury bills skyrocketed.
By December 2008, China owned $165.2 billion in U.S. Treasury bills, according to the Treasury Department. By March 2009, Chinese Treasury bill holdings were at $191.1 billion. By May 2009, Chinese holdings of Treasury bills were peaking at $210.4 billion.
However, China’s overall appetite for U.S. debt increased over a longer span than did its appetite for short-term U.S. Treasury bills.
In August 2008, before the bank bailout and the stimulus law, overall Chinese holdings of U.S. debt stood at $573.7 billion. That number continued to escalate past May 2009– when China started to reduce its holdings in short-term Treasury bills–and ultimately peaked at $1.1753 trillion last October.
As of March 2011, overall Chinese holdings of U.S. debt had decreased to 1.1449 trillion.
Most of the U.S. national debt is made up of publicly marketable securities sold by the Treasury Department and I.O.U.s called “intragovernmental” bonds that the Treasury has given to so-called government trust funds—such as the Social Security trust funds—when it has spent the trust funds’ money on other government expenses.
The publicly marketable segment of the national debt includes Treasury bills, which (as defined by the Treasury) mature in terms of one-year or less; Treasury notes, which mature in terms of 2 to 10 years; Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS), which mature in terms of 5, 10 and 30 years; and Treasury bonds, which mature in terms of 30 years.
At the end of August 2008, before the financial bailout and the stimulus, the publicly marketable segment of the U.S. national debt was 4.88 trillion. Of that, $2.56 trillion was in the intermediate-term Treasury notes, $1.22 trillion was in short-term Treasury bills, $582.8 billion was in long-term Treasury bonds, and $521.3 billion was in TIPS.
At the end of March 2011, by which time the Chinese had dropped their Treasury bill holdings 97 percent from their peak, the publicly marketable segment of the U.S. national debt had almost doubled from August 2008, hitting $9.11 trillion. Of that $9.11 trillion, $5.8 trillion was in intermediate-term Treasury notes, $1.7 trillion was in short-term Treasury bills; $931.5 billion was in long-term Treasury bonds, and $640.7 billion was in TIPS.
Before the end of March 2012, the Treasury must redeem all of the $1.7 trillion in Treasury bills that were extant as of March 2011 and find new or old buyers who will continue to invest in U.S. debt. But, for now, the Chinese at least do not appear to be bullish customers of short-term U.S. debt.
Treasury bills carry lower interest rates than longer-term Treasury notes and bonds, but the longer term notes and bonds are exposed to a greater risk of losing their value to inflation. To the degree that the $1.7 trillion in short-term U.S. Treasury bills extant as of March must be converted into longer-term U.S. Treasury securities, the U.S. government will be forced to pay a higher annual interest rate on the national debt.
As of the close of business on Thursday, the total U.S. debt was $14.34 trillion, according to the Daily Treasury Statement. Of that, approximately $9.74 trillion was debt held by the public and approximately $4.61 trillion was “intragovernmental” debt.
Read the entire article HERE.
When Faith In U.S. Dollars And U.S. Debt Is Dead The Game Is Over – And That Day Is Closer Than You May Think
May 27th, 2011
A day is coming when the rest of the world will decide that it no longer has faith in U.S. dollars or in U.S. debt. When that day arrives, the game will be over. Traditionally, two of the biggest things that the U.S. economy has had going for it were the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasuries. The U.S. dollar has been the default reserve currency of the world for decades. All over the globe it was seen as a strong, stable currency that was desirable for international trade. U.S. government debt has long been considered the “safest debt” in the entire world. Whenever there was a major crisis, investors would flock to U.S. Treasuries because they were considered a rock. Sadly, all of this is now changing. Today the rest of the world is losing faith in the U.S. financial system. In fact, even the United Nations is now warning of the collapse of the dollar. But if the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasuries collapse, that will be an absolute nightmare for the U.S. economy. If the rest of the world does not want our dollars someday, then what are we going to give them in exchange for all of the oil and all of the cheap imported goods they send us? If the rest of the world does not want our debt someday, then how in the world are we going to be able to continue to consume far, far more wealth than we produce?
The rest of the world is watching the U.S. government run up record-setting budget deficits and they are watching the Federal Reserve print money like there is no tomorrow and they realize that the U.S. financial system is slowly imploding.
As mentioned above, now even the United Nations is warning that the U.S. dollar could collapse. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent news report put out by Reuters….
The United Nations warned on Wednesday of a possible crisis of confidence in, and even a “collapse” of, the U.S. dollar if its value against other currencies continued to decline.
In a mid-year review of the world economy, the UN economic division said such a development, stemming from the falling value of foreign dollar holdings, would imperil the global financial system.
But it is not just the United Nations that is concerned about the U.S. dollar.
On April 18th, Standard & Poor’s altered its outlook on U.S. government debt from “stable” to “negative” and warned that the U.S. could soon lose its prized AAA rating.
At one time, it would have been unthinkable for Standard & Poor’s to do such a thing.
But today it is amazing that it has taken them so long to make such a move. U.S. government finances are falling apart.
When the credit rating of U.S. government debt starts declining, interest rates will go up. Just ask the government of Greece how painful that can be. Today, Greece is paying over 16 percent on 10 year bonds.
The following is what John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics recently had to say about why Standard & Poor’s issued such a warning about U.S. government debt….
S&P is noting the U.S. government’s long-range fiscal problems. Generally, you’ll find that the accounting for unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other programs on a net-present-value (NPV) basis indicates total federal debt and obligations of about $75 trillion. That’s 15 times the gross domestic product (GDP). The debt and obligations are increasing at a pace of about $5 trillion a year, which is neither sustainable nor containable. If the U.S. was a corporation on a parallel basis, it would be headed into bankruptcy rather quickly.
Look, the rest of the world is not stupid. They know that the U.S. government is hurtling towards financial disaster. The appetite among foreigners for U.S. government debt is decreasing rapidly.
In fact, according to Zero Hedge, foreigners are dumping U.S. debt at a very rapid pace right now.
In addition, the cost to insure U.S. debt has risen sharply in recent days.
Right now, the Federal Reserve has been buying up most new U.S. government debt with dollars that it has created out of thin air. This is a giant Ponzi scheme, and it is a major contributing factor to the decline of faith in the U.S. dollar.
The dollar has fallen by 17 percent compared to other major national currencies since 2009. What makes that fact even sadder is that all major currencies have been rapidly losing value compared to hard assets over that time period. The dollar is just sliding faster than almost all of the other global currencies that are constantly losing value as well.
Anyone with half a brain could have seen that this would be the end result of reckless government borrowing, but unfortunately our politicians have been ignoring this problem for decades.
Now a day or reckoning is fast approaching and it is going to be very painful.
The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world. Just consider a few shocking facts about this unprecedented debt….
*If the U.S. national debt (more than 14 trillion dollars) was reduced to a stack of 5 dollar bills, it would reach three quarters of the way to the moon.
*The U.S. government borrows about 168 million dollars every single hour.
*If Bill Gates gave every penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
*It is now being projected that by the year 2021, interest payments on the national debt will amount to $1.1 trillion dollars a year.
In a previous article on The American Dream, I detailed some more absolutely horrifying statistics about U.S. government debt….
#1 If you divide the national debt up equally among all U.S. households, each one owes a staggering $125,475.18.
#2 The federal government has borrowed 29,660 more dollars per household since Barack Obama signed the economic stimulus law two years ago.
#3 During Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined.
#4 In the new budget that the Obama administration has proposed, the U.S. government would spend 3.7 trillion dollars in 2012 and by 2021 the U.S. government would be spending a whopping 5.6 trillion dollars per year.
#5 The U.S. government currently has to borrow approximately 41 cents of every single dollar that it spends.
#6 The total compensation that the federal government workforce earned last year came to a grand total of approximately 447 billion dollars.
#7 The U.S. national debt is currently rising by well over 4 billion dollars every single day.
#8 The U.S. government is borrowing over 2 million more dollars every single minute.
#9 The U.S. national debt is over 14 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.
#10 Unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare are estimated to be well over $100 trillion, and nobody in the U.S. government seems to have any idea how we are actually even going to come close to meeting all of those obligations.
#11 If you were alive when Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now. But this year alone the U.S. government is going to go about 1.6 trillion dollars more into debt.
#12 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.
So have our politicians learned anything from the mistakes of the past?
The U.S. government continues to spend money on some of the most ridiculous things imaginable. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has just announced a brand new $500 million program that will, among other things, seek to solve the problem of 5-year-old children that “can’t sit still” in a kindergarten classroom.
Isn’t it good to see the government investing our hard-earned tax dollars so wisely?
Of course if our kids weren’t being constantly fed foods packed with sugar, high fructose corn syrup and aspartame we wouldn’t have to spend 500 million dollars to deal with this problem.
When it comes to government waste, nobody seems to do it any better than the U.S. government.
Our politicians continue to assume that the rest of the world will always want our dollars and our debt, but that is simply not the case.
Over the past couple of years, global leader after global leader has publicly talked about the need for a new world reserve currency.
In fact, globalist institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank have been very busy discussing what the world is going to use as a global reserve currency after the death of the dollar.
The rest of the world is not sitting around waiting to see if the U.S. financial system is going to recover. They are already making plans for the demise of the dollar. They are increasingly using other currencies to trade with. They are becoming more hesitant to buy more of our debt. They are realizing that the days of U.S. dominance are coming to an end.
So what is that going to mean for us?
It is going to be a complete and total disaster.
Right now, we live far, far beyond our means. We borrow gigantic piles of money to make up the difference between what we produce and what we consume. We are absolutely dependent on the fact that the rest of the world will take our dollars in exchange for the things that we need.
The current situation is not sustainable.
It will come to an end.
When it does, our standard of living is going to feel like it has changed overnight.
Read the entire article HERE.
Road To Hyperinflation: James Turk
by Puru Saxena
Editor and Founder at Money Matters and Puru Saxena Limited
Over the past few weeks, we have spent a lot of time digging into the macro data pertaining to the world’s developed economies. After careful analysis, our research has convinced us that quantitative easing (money creation out of thin air) will not end anytime soon.
In fact, we believe that quantitative easing will only end when there is a run on one, or some of the world’s major currencies. Remember, the world is governed by short-sighted politicians and as long as the policymakers continue to ‘kick the can down the road’, quantitative easing (destruction of the purchasing power of money) cannot and will not end.
Figure 1 captures the state of the American currency. It shows that the US Dollar Index has recently broken below an important support level and is currently in free-fall. Furthermore, it is notable that the US Dollar’s downtrend commenced last summer when the Federal Reserve announced the second round of quantitative easing. Now, the Federal Reserve may continue to argue that its quantitative easing program is not inflationary but the market clearly does not like the dilution of the existing money stock.
It is notable that since the credit crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve has created over US$2 trillion new dollars via its various programs. Some of this newly created money was spent on buying dubious mortgage backed securities from the banks at inflated prices. More recently, a large percentage of the money was lent directly to the US government. In fact, PIMCO believes that since last summer, approximately 70% of newly issued US Treasury securities have been bought by the Federal Reserve!
With the latest round of quantitative easing ending in June, the market is now waiting for the Federal Reserve’s next move. However, if a recent Bloomberg news release is any guide, the central bank plans to continue lending money to the US government (by purchasing additional US Treasury securities from the proceeds of the maturing mortgage backed securities).
So, based on the Federal Reserve’s intentions, it should be clear to everyone that Mr. Bernanke will keep financing the American government’s deficit. Given the fact that foreign demand for US Treasury securities is waning and China has been a net seller for four consecutive months, it is hardly surprising that the Federal Reserve has stepped up as the lender of last resort. After all, Mr. Bernanke knows full well that if he stops lending money to the US government, interest rates will rise significantly which in turn will exert tremendous pressure on the American public. If interest rates surge anytime soon, millions of indebted Americans may default on their debt; thereby bankrupting the American financial institutions.
More importantly, rising interest rates will also exert tremendous pressure on the American government. It is noteworthy that America’s federal debt has already climbed to US$14.2 trillion and every one percentage point increase in the cost of capital will cost an extra US$142 billion annually in interest payments alone. Therefore, if short-term interest rates moved up to even 4%, the American government’s annual interest expense will rise by a staggering US$568 billion. Furthermore, when you consider the fact that the American government’s 2011 revenue is expected to be in the region of US$2.3 trillion, you begin to realise that America has a problem on its hands. The reality is plain and simple – America cannot afford higher interest rates.
Thus, in order to keep short-term interest rates artificially low, the Federal Reserve will have to continue with its policy of creating new dollars and lending them to the American government. Our assessment suggests that if the American stock market wavers in the summer, the Federal Reserve will promptly announce another round of quantitative easing. The truth is that once a heavily indebted nation has embarked on a zero interest rate policy, it is very difficult to remove the punch bowl.
To complicate matters even further, the American government continues to spend way more than its revenue permits and this year, its budget deficit will come in at US$1.4 trillion or 10% of America’s GDP! If the White House spends US$1.4 trillion more than its tax receipts in 2011, then it will have to borrow this money from somewhere; thereby adding to the nation’s federal debt. It goes without saying that at record low interest rates, America’s foreign friends are not too keen on lending money to Mr. Obama’s administration. Therefore, it is inevitable that the Federal Reserve will continue to provide cheap funding.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free lunch and the Federal Reserve’s mindless money creation will have dire consequences. If the central bank continues to create new dollars out of thin air and finance Mr. Obama’s deficit spending, the end game will be a severe decline in the value of the American Dollar.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, if America was the only guilty party, its currency would have collapsed against other major currencies (which it has to a certain extent). However, in today’s ‘modern’ day and age, most of the developed countries are in the same sinking boat, thus it is very difficult to forecast which currencies will emerge as the winners.
Consider Europe’s financial health. Defying logic, the Euro area’s debt has increased over the past 3 years. When the house of cards collapsed in 2008, any sane person would have expected debt deleveraging to occur. However, the genius of European ‘bailouts’ and ‘stimulus’ has managed to achieve just the opposite – Euro area’s federal debt has now climbed to 85.3% of GDP! Finally, as far as Japan’s developed economy goes, its federal debt has surged to almost 200% of GDP!
Although federal debt to GDP is a popular yardstick often used by economists to measure a nation’s pulse, a US based hedge fund firm (Hayman Capital) argues that it may be better to compare the debt overhang in each nation with the government’s revenue. In this respect, Figure 2 does a good job of summarising the predicament of the developed world. As you can see, Japan tops this infamous list and its federal debt is over 1900% of the government’s annual revenue. Note that America’s debt burden is very similar to Greece – yet its government debt securities enjoy the highest credit rating!
Look. As long as the politicians refuse to restructure debt and continue to run large deficits with artificially suppressed interest rates, the purchasing power of all currencies will plummet over the years ahead. The unintended consequence of pursuing reckless monetary and fiscal policies will be extreme inflation and a currency crisis.
Perhaps this is the reason why one of the Chinese officials recently opined that China must reduce its foreign exchange reserves by an astonishing 65% to US$ 1 trillion. Interestingly, only a couple of days later, the Chinese media reported that its policymakers are in the process of setting up investment funds specifically to acquire precious metals and energy.
As it turns out, the Chinese are not alone in understanding the true impact of money creation and deficit spending. Ironically, in an article published in 1966, Mr. Greenspan (who later became one of the biggest money printers in history) had the following to say about deficit spending:
“In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves. This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists’ tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.”
Given the ridiculous debt overhang in the developed world, the ongoing deficit spending programs, artificially low interest rates and the endless quantitative easing, we believe there is a genuine risk of very high inflation.
Accordingly, from an investment standpoint, we have allocated a reasonable portion of our managed capital to precious metals. If our assessment proves to be correct and the price of gold and silver sky-rockets over the next 2-3 years, our directional bets will produce very large gains.
Read the entire article HERE.
Rolling Stones Matt Taibbi
The fact that those responsible for the recent economic crisis have not been held accountable is setting a very dangerous trend, believes investigative journalist Matt Taibbi, author and contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.
Submitted by Tyler Durden
05/20/2011 14:57 -0400
It seems like it was only yesterday that the Fed passed the $1 trillion mark in total Treasury holdings (actually it was on that memorable Winter Solstice of 2010 but who’s counting). Well it is not even 5 full months later, and the Fed has already added $500 billion in holdings. Following today’s $6.94 billion Pomo, total Fed holdings of US Treasurys have now passed $1.5 trillion (which is ironic because the net new cash tendered to the Treasury per total Bond, Note and Bill issuance and redemption in 2011 through the most recent settled auction is $350 billion, in other words the Fed has funded about 140% of the total Treasury cash needs). As a reminder there is just under 6 weeks left until QE2 ends, at which poin the Fed’s Treasury holdings will be about $1.6 trillion, and the Treasury will be without its primary (over and above the maximum) source of capital.
The Fed’s lead over China continues. It is probably irrelevant that official Chinese holdings of US debt have now declined for the 5th consecutive month.
-Total holdings increased by $21.2 billion in the week, as Treasury holdings increased by $29 billion, offset by $7.8 billion in MBS/Agency repayments.
-Excess reserves declined by $8 billion, even as the Adjusted Monetary Base increased once again, albeit this is delayed so rather irrelevant.
-Total foreign custodial holdings declined by $11.1 billion primarily due to a $16 billion reduction in Agency debt.
For those concerned about the surge in excess reserves in recent weeks, as we have noted there has been nothing odd about this (the SFP unwind was the primary driver). In fact, the cumulative change in reserves and Fed asset holdings is now precisely zero, meaning the two are in perfect alignment.
Repayments of Agency and MBS holdings continue to be at a very slow rate. Once again, just as we expected.
And lastly, while “Other Fed Assets” dipped in the last week by $6.3 billion, although this appears to be a bimonthly event, where there seems to be a reindexing event occuring. Look for a jump in this series next week.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Bloomberg News
May 17, 2011 8:55 AM PT
China, the biggest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, trimmed its holdings of Treasuries for a fifth straight month in March as lawmakers debate how to expand borrowing after reaching a statutory threshold. The Asian nation owns $1.145 trillion of the debt, down $9 billion, or less than 1 percent, from the previous month, according to Treasury data released yesterday. The holdings reached a record $1.175 trillion in October.
China’s concern that U.S. government securities may become more risky because of the nation’s deficits and debt burden prompted its call this month for President Barack Obama’s administration to lay “a solid fiscal foundation” for long- term growth. Former Chinese central bank adviser Yu Yongding said last month that China should stop buying Treasuries because of the risk that the U.S. may eventually default.
China may “gradually cut its U.S. Treasuries as it seeks to diversify its foreign-exchange holdings,” said Yao Wei, a Hong Kong-based economist with Societe Generale SA. She said “China is probably routing trades through other places such as London,” meaning U.S. data may not give a full picture.
Treasury data show holdings of U.S. government debt in the United Kingdom have increased $53.6 billion, or 20 percent so far this year, to $325.2 billion.
In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats have been arguing over when and how to raise a $14.3 trillion debt limit. Obama has said that a failure to act may disrupt the global financial system and plunge the nation into another recession.
China has offered critiques of U.S. fiscal and monetary policy while continuing to buy the debt. When the Fed announced in March 2009 it would buy $300 billion of Treasuries, the decision was called “irresponsible” by Li Xiangyang, of the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, because it could weaken the dollar.
“We have lent a massive amount of capital to the United States, and of course we are concerned about the security of our assets,” Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in March 2009 after Obama signed his $787 billion stimulus package into law. “To speak truthfully, I do indeed have some worries.”
After the Fed announced its plan to purchase $600 billion of Treasuries through June to stoke inflation expectations and boost employment, China’s vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, said Nov. 5 “many countries are worried about the impact of the policy.”
China increased its Treasury position 23 percent to $894.8 billion in 2009 and 30 percent to $1.16 trillion in 2010, revised Treasury data show.
Year-end revisions to Treasury data on foreign holders of its debt led to a $268.5 billion increase in China’s position in the debt to $1.16 trillion and a $271 billion reduction in the holdings in the U.K. to $272.1 billion.
The discrepancy comes in part from the different methodology used in the monthly statistics and the annual revisions. The monthly figures collect holdings data based on the location of the counterparty at the time of purchase while the revised totals reflect the identity of the owner.
“A lot of central banks have operations in London,” said Ira Jersey, an interest-rate strategist at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York, one of 20 primary dealers that trade directly with the Fed. “A lot of transactions are based in London even though the beneficial owner might be a Middle Eastern central bank or an Asian central bank. That happens quite frequently.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said yesterday that he has used accounting measures to extend the deadline until Aug. 2.
“China has kept on lending money to the U.S. to keep its export machine going, and to prevent losses” on its holdings of Treasuries, Yu said last month. “Perhaps it is too late to do anything about the existing stock without causing a serious political and financial backlash. But at least China should stop continuing building up its holdings.”
Officials including central bank adviser Li Daokui have urged diversification of the nation’s foreign exchange reserves away from U.S. debt.
Japan, the second-largest holder of Treasuries, increased its holdings by $17.6 billion to $907.9 billion in March from $890.3 billion in February. Hong Kong, counted separately from China, reduced its holdings by $2.5 billion to $122.1 billion from $124.6 billion.
Read the entire article HERE.
By Vincent Del Giudice
May 16, 2011 8:21 AM PT
Global demand for U.S. long-term financial assets such as government bonds slowed in March as investors shifted into shorter-term securities and China trimmed its portfolio of Treasuries.
Net buying of long-term equities, notes and bonds totaled $24 billion during the month, compared with net buying of $27.2 billion in February, according to statistics issued today in Washington. Including short-term securities such as stock swaps, foreigners purchased a net $116 billion, compared with net buying of $95.6 billion the previous month.
The Treasury’s reporting on long-term securities helps gauge confidence in the U.S. economy as well as fiscal and monetary policy. The data capture international purchases of government notes and bonds, stocks, corporate debt and securities issued by U.S. agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy home mortgages.
“Foreigners had a little more confidence in the recovery in March,” and they shifted into swaps, equities and riskier assets from Treasury securities, said Kevin Chau, a foreign exchange strategist at IDEAglobal in New York.
China remained the biggest foreign holder of U.S. Treasuries, after its holdings fell by $9.2 billion to $1.145 trillion in March from $1.154 trillion in February, according to the Treasury’s statistics.
Japan, Hong Kong
Japan, the second-largest holder, increased its holdings by $17.6 billion to $907.9 billion in March from $890.3 billion in February. Hong Kong, counted separately from China, reduced its holdings by $2.5 billion to $122.1 billion in March from $124.6 billion in February.
Before today’s report was issued by the Treasury, economists in a Bloomberg News survey projected long-term U.S. financial assets would show net buying of $33 billion in March. Seven economists participated in the survey, and their estimates ranged from $10 billion to $45 billion.
Total foreign purchases of Treasury notes and bonds were $26.8 billion in March compared with purchases of $30.6 billion in February. Foreign demand for U.S. agency debt from companies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac registered net buying of $9.49 billion in March after selling of $1.49 billion in February.
Net foreign purchases of equities were $14.7 billion in March after net purchases of $6.1 billion in February. Investors purchased a net $3.77 billion in U.S. corporate debt in March after selling $2.54 billion in February.
Slower Than Forecast
In the first quarter, the U.S. economy grew at a slower- than-forecast annual rate of 1.8 percent as government spending declined by the most since 1983, according to Commerce Department statistics released April 28. In the fourth quarter of last year, gross domestic product grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate.
In emerging European economies, public finances have “sharply deteriorated” and banks are burdened by “large numbers” of nonperforming loans, the International Monetary Fund said in a report May 12. The European Union and the IMF were forced to organize bailouts for Greece and Ireland last year and are preparing a rescue plan for Portugal.
China and the U.S. remain at odds over foreign exchange policy. After meetings last week in Washington, Chinese Deputy Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said the U.S. and China agree that the yuan should be allowed to strengthen. However, “the view from the U.S. side is that the yuan should rise continuously at a faster appreciation pace,” Zhu said. “We have differences on the degree of appreciation.”
Read the entire article HERE.