Tag: Systemic risk (page 1 of 8)

The Stage Has Been Set For The Next Financial Crisis

Authored by Constantin Gurdgiev via CaymanFinancialReview.com,

Last month, the Japanese government auctioned off some US$4 billion worth of new two-year bonds at a new record low yield of negative 0.149 percent. The country’s five-year debt is currently yielding minus 0.135 percent per annum, and its 10-year bonds are trading at -0.001 percent. Strange as it may sound, the safe haven status of Japanese bonds means that there is an ample demand among private investors, especially foreign buyers, for giving away free money to the Japanese government: the bid-to-cover ratio in the latest auction was at a hefty US$19.9 billion or 4.97 times the targeted volume. The average bid-to-cover ratio in the past 12 auctions was similar at 4.75 times. Japan’s status as the world’s most indebted advanced economy is not a deterrent to the foreign investors, banking primarily on the expectation that continued strengthening of the yen against the U.S. dollar, the U.K. pound sterling and, to a lesser extent, the euro, will stay on track into the foreseeable future. See chart 1

In a way, the bet on Japanese bonds is the bet that the massive tsunami of monetary easing that hit the global economy since 2008 is not going to recede anytime soon, no matter what the central bankers say in their dovishly-hawkish or hawkishly-dovish public statements. And this expectation is not only contributing to the continued inflation of a massive asset bubble, but also widens the financial sustainability gap within the insurance and pensions sectors. The stage has been set, cleaned and lit for the next global financial crisis.

Worldwide, current stock of government debt trading at negative yields is at or above the US$9 trillion mark, with more than two-thirds of this the debt of the highly leveraged advanced economies. Just under 85 percent of all government bonds outstanding and traded worldwide are carrying yields below the global inflation rate. In simple terms, fixed income investments can only stay in the positive real returns territory if speculative bets made by investors on the direction of the global exchange rates play out.

We are in a multidimensional and fully internationalized carry trade game, folks, which means there is a very serious and tangible risk pool sitting just below the surface across world’s largest insurance companies, pensions funds and banks, the so-called “mandated” undertakings. This pool is the deep uncertainty about the quality of their investment allocations. Regulatory requirements mandate that these financial intermediaries hold a large proportion of their investments in “safe” or “high quality” instruments, a class of assets that draws heavily on higher rated sovereign debt, primarily that of the advanced economies.

The first part of the problem is that with negative or ultra-low yields, this debt delivers poor income streams on the current portfolio. Earlier this year, Stanford’s Hoover Institution research showed that “in aggregate, the 564 state and local systems in the United States covered in this study reported $1.191 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities (net pension liabilities) under GASB 67 in FY 2014. This reflects total pension liabilities of $4.798 trillion and total pension assets (or fiduciary net position) of $3.607 trillion.” This accounts for roughly 97 percent of all public pension funds in the U.S. Taking into the account the pension funds’ penchant for manipulating (in their favor) the discount rates, the unfunded public sector pensions liabilities rise to $4.738 trillion. Key culprit: the U.S. pension funds require 7.5-8 percent average annual returns on their assets to break even on their future expected liabilities. In 2013-2016 they achieved an average return of below 3 percent. This year, things are looking even worse. Last year, Milliman research showed that on average, over 2012-2016, U.S. pension funds held 27-30 percent of their assets in cash (3-4 percent) and bonds (23-27 percent), generating total median returns over the same period of around 1.31 percent per annum.

Not surprisingly, over the recent years, traditionally conservative investment portfolios of the insurance companies and pensions funds have shifted dramatically toward higher risk and more exotic (or in simple parlance, more complex) assets. BlackRock Inc recently looked at the portfolio allocations, as disclosed in regulatory filings, of more than 500 insurance companies. The analysts found that their asset books – investments that sustain insurance companies’ solvency – can be expected to suffer an 11 percent drop in values, on average, in the case of another financial crisis. In other words, half of all the large insurance companies trading in the U.S. markets are currently carrying greater risks on their balance sheets than prior to 2007. Milliman 2016 report showed that among pension funds, share of assets allocated to private equity and real estate rose from 19 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2016.

The reason for this is that the insurance companies, just as the pension funds, re-insurers and other longer-term “mandated” investment vehicles have spent the last eight years loading up on highly risky assets, such as illiquid private equity, hedge funds and real estate. All in the name of chasing the yield: while mainstream low-risk assets-generated income (as opposed to capital gains) returned around zero percent per annum, higher risk assets were turning up double-digit yields through 2014 and high single digits since then. At the end of 2Q 2017, U.S. insurance companies’ holdings of private equity stood at the highest levels in history, and their exposures to direct real estate assets were almost at the levels comparable to 2007. Ditto for the pension funds. And, appetite for both of these high risk asset classes is still there.

The second reason to worry about the current assets mix in insurance and pension funds portfolios relates to monetary policy cycle timing. The prospect of serious monetary tightening is looming on the horizon in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and the eurozone; meanwhile, the risk of the slower rate of bonds monetization in Japan is also quite real. This means that the capital values of the low-risk assets are unlikely to post significant capital gains going forward, which spells trouble for capital buffers and trading income for the mandated intermediaries.

Thirdly, the Central Banks continue to hold large volumes of top-rated debt. As of Aug. 1, 2017, the Fed, Bank of Japan and the ECB held combined US$13.8 trillion worth of assets, with both Bank of Japan (US$4.55 trillion) and the ECB (US$5.1 trillion) now exceeding the Fed holdings (US$4.3 trillion) for the third month in a row.

Debt maturity profiles are exacerbating the risks of contagion from the monetary policy tightening to insurance and pension funds balance sheets. In the case of the U.S., based on data from Pimco, the maturity cliff for the Federal Reserve holdings of the Treasury bonds, Agency debt and TIPS, as well as MBS is falling on 1Q 2018 – 3Q 2020. Per Bloomberg data, the maturity cliff for the U.S. insurers and pensions funds debt assets is closer to 2020-2022. If the Fed simply stops replacing maturing debt – the most likely scenario for unwinding its QE legacy – there will be little market support for prices of assets that dominate capital base of large financial institutions. Prices will fall, values of assets will decline, marking these to markets will trigger the need for new capital. The picture is similar in the U.K. and Canada, but the risks are even more pronounced in the euro area, where the QE started later (2Q 2015 as opposed to the U.S. 1Q 2013) and, as of today, involves more significant interventions in the sovereign bonds markets than at the peak of the Fed interventions.

How distorted the EU markets for sovereign debt have become? At the end of August, Cyprus – a country that suffered a structural banking crisis, requiring bail-in of depositors and complete restructuring of the banking sector in March 2013 – has joined the club of euro area sovereigns with negative yields on two-year government debt. All in, 18 EU member states have negative yields on their two-year paper. All, save Greece, have negative real yields.

The problem is monetary in nature. Just as the entire set of quantitative easing (QE) policies aimed to do, the long period of extremely low interest rates and aggressive asset purchasing programs have created an indirect tax on savers, including the net savings institutions, such as pensions funds and insurers. However, contrary to the QE architects’ other objectives, the policies failed to drive up general inflation, pushing costs (and values) of only financial assets and real estate. This delayed and extended the QE beyond anyone’s expectations and drove unprecedented bubbles in financial capital. Even after the immediate crisis rescinded, growth returned, unemployment fell and the household debt dramatically ticked up, the world’s largest Central Banks continue buying some US$200 billion worth of sovereign and corporate debt per month.

Much of this debt buying produced no meaningfully productive investment in infrastructure or public services, having gone primarily to cover systemic inefficiencies already evident in the state programs. The result, in addition to unprecedented bubbles in property and financial markets, is low productivity growth and anemic private investment. (See chart 2.) As recently warned by the Bank for International Settlements, the global debt pile has reached 325 percent of the world’s GDP, just as the labor and total factor productivity growth measures collapsed.

The only two ways in which these financial and monetary excesses can be unwound involves pain.

The first path – currently favored by the status quo policy elites – is through another transfer of funds from the general population to the financial institutions that are holding the assets caught in the QE net. These transfers will likely start with tax increases, but will inevitably morph into another financial crisis and internal devaluation (inflation and currencies devaluations, coupled with a deep recession).

The alternative is also painful, but offers at least a ray of hope in the end: put a stop to debt accumulation through fiscal and tax reforms, reducing both government spending across the board (and, yes, in the U.S. case this involves cutting back on the coercive institutions and military, among other things) and flattening out personal income tax rates (to achieve tax savings in middle and upper-middle class cohorts, and to increase effective tax rates – via closure of loopholes – for highest earners). As a part of spending reforms, public investment and state pensions provisions should be shifted to private sector providers, while existent public sector pension funds should be forced to raise their members contributions to solvency-consistent levels.

Beyond this, we need serious rethink of the monetary policy institutions going forward. Historically, taxpayers and middle class and professionals have paid for both, the bailouts of the insolvent financial institutions and for the creation of conditions that lead to this insolvency. In other words, the real economy has consistently been charged with paying for utopian, unrealistic and state-subsidizing pricing of risks by the Central Banks. In the future, this pattern of the rounds upon rounds of financial repression policies must be broken.

Whether we like it or not, since the beginning of the Clinton economic bubble in the mid-1990s, the West has lived in a series of carry trade games that transferred real economic resources from the economy to the state. Today, we are broke. If we do not change our course, the next financial crisis will take out our insurers and pensions providers, and with them, the last remaining lifeline to future financial security.

http://WarMachines.com

ECB Proposes End To Deposit Protection

Submitted by GoldCore

It is the 'opinion of the European Central Bank' that the deposit protection scheme is no longer necessary:

'covered deposits and claims under investor compensation schemes should be replaced by limited discretionary exemptions to be granted by the competent authority in order to retain a degree of flexibility.'

To translate the legalese jargon of the ECB bureaucrats this could mean that the current €100,000 (£85,000) deposit level currently protected in the event of a bail-in may soon be no more. But worry not fellow savers, as the ECB is fully aware of the uproar this may cause so they have been kind enough to propose that:

"…during a transitional period, depositors should have access to an appropriate amount of their covered deposits to cover the cost of living within five working days of a request."

So that's a relief, you'll only need to wait five days for some 'competent authority' to deem what is an 'appropriate amount' of your own money for you to have access to in order eat, pay bills and get to work.

The above has been taken from an ECB paper published on 8 November 2017 entitled 'on revisions to the Union crisis management framework'.

It's 58 pages long, the majority of which are proposed amendments to the Union crisis management framework and the current text of the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD).

It's pretty boring reading but there are some key snippets which should be raising a few alarms. It is evidence that once again a central bank can keep manipulating situations well beyond the likes of monetary policy. It is also a lesson for savers to diversify their assets in order to reduce their exposure to counterparty risks.

Bail-ins, who are they for?

According to the May 2016 Financial Stability Review, the EU bail-in tool is 'welcome' as it:

 
 

…contributes to reducing the burden on taxpayers when resolving large, systemic financial institutions and mitigates some of the moral hazard incentives associated with too-big-to-fail institutions.

As we have discussed in the past, we're confused by the apparent separation between 'taxpayer' and those who have put their hard-earned cash into the bank. After all, are they not taxpayers? This doesn't matter, believes Matthew C.Klein in the FT who recently argued that "Bail-ins are theoretically preferable because they preserve market discipline without causing undue harm to innocent people."

 

Ultimately bail-ins are so central banks can keep their merry game of easy money and irresponsibility going. They have been sanctioned because rather than fix and learn from the mess of the bailouts nearly a decade ago, they have just decided to find an even bigger band-aid to patch up the system.

 
 

'Bailouts, by contrast, are unfair and inefficient. Governments tend to do them, however, out of misplaced concern about “preserving the system”. This stokes (justified) resentment that elites care about protecting their friends more than they care about helping regular people.' – Matthew C. Klein

But what about the regular people who have placed their money in the bank, believing they're safe from another financial crisis? Are they not 'innocent' and deserving of protection?

When Klein wrote his latest on bail-ins, it was just over a week before the release of this latest ECB paper. With fairness to Klein at the time of his writing depositors with less than €100,000 in the bank were protected under the terms of the ECB covered deposit rules.

This still seemed absurd to us who thought it questionable that anyone's money in the bank could suddenly be sanctioned for use to prop up an ailing institution. We have regularly pointed out that just because there is currently a protected level at which deposits will not be pilfered, this could change at any minute.

The latest proposed amendments suggest this is about to happen.

 

Why change the bail-in rules?

The ECB's 58-page amendment proposal is tough going but it is about halfway through when you come across the suggestion that 'covered deposits' no longer need to be protected. This is determined because the ECB is concerned about a run on the failing bank:

 
 

If the failure of a bank appears to be imminent, a substantial number of covered depositors might still withdraw their funds immediately in order to ensure uninterrupted access or because they have no faith in the guarantee scheme.

This could be particularly damning for big banks and cause a further crisis of confidence in the system:

 
 

Such a scenario is particularly likely for large banks, where the sheer amount of covered deposits might erode confidence in the capacity of the deposit guarantee scheme. In such a scenario, if the scope of the moratorium power does not include covered deposits, the moratorium might alert covered depositors of the strong possibility that the institution has a failing or likely to fail assessment.

Therefore, argue the ECB the current moratorium that protects deposits could be 'counterproductive'. (For the banks, obviously, not for the people whose money it really is:

 
 

The moratorium would therefore be counterproductive, causing a bank run instead of preventing it. Such an outcome could be detrimental to the bank’s orderly resolution, which could ultimately cause severe harm to creditors and significantly strain the deposit guarantee scheme. In addition, such an exemption could lead to a worse treatment for depositor funded banks, as the exemption needs to be factored in when determining the seriousness of the liquidity situation of the bank. Finally, any potential technical impediments may require further assessment.

The ECB instead proposes that 'certain safeguards' be put in place to allow restricted access to deposits…for no more than five working days. But let's see how long that lasts for.

 
 

Therefore, an exception for covered depositors from the application of the moratorium would cast serious doubts on the overall usefulness of the tool. Instead of mandating a general exemption, the BRRD should instead include certain safeguards to protect the rights of depositors, such as clear communication on when access will be regained and a restriction of the suspension to a maximum of five working days by avoiding a cumulative use by the competent authority and the resolution authority.

Even after a year of studying and reading bail-ins I am still horrified that something like this is deemed to be preferable and fairer to other solutions, namely fixing the banking system. The bureaucrats running the EU and ECB are still blind to the pain such proposals can cause and have caused.

Look to Italy for damage prevention

At the beginning of the month, we explained how the banking meltdown in Veneto Italy destroyed 200,000 savers and 40,000 businesses.

In that same article, we outlined how exposed Italians were to the banking system. Over €31 billion of sub-retail bonds have been sold to everyday savers, investors, and pensioners. It is these bonds that will be sucked into the sinkhole each time a bank goes under.

A 2015 IMF study found that the majority of Italy’s 15 largest banks a bank rescue would ‘imply bail-in of retail investors of subordinated debt’. Only two-thirds of potential bail-ins would affect senior bond-holders, i.e. those who are most likely to be institutional investors rather than pensioners with limited funds.

Why is this the case? As we have previously explained:

 
 

Bondholders are seen as creditors. The same type of creditor that EU rules state must take responsibility for a bank’s financial failure, rather than the taxpayer. This is a bail-in scenario.

 

In a bail-in scenario the type of junior bonds held by the retail investors in the street is the first to take the hit. When the world’s oldest bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena collapsed ordinary people (who also happen to be taxpayers) owned €5 billion ($5.5 billion) of subordinated debt. It vanished.

Despite the biggest bail-in in history occurring within the EU, few people have paid attention and protested against such measures. A bail-in is not unique to Italy, it is possible for all those living and banking within the EU.

Yet, so far there have been no protests. We're not talking about protesting on the streets, we're talking about protesting where it hurts – with your money.

As we have seen from the EU's response to Brexit and Catalonia, officials could not give two hoots about the grievances of its citizens. So when it comes to banking there is little point in expressing disgust in the same way. Instead, investors must take stock and assess the best way for them to protect their savings from the tyranny of central bank policy.

To refresh your memory, the ECB is proposing that in the event of a bail-in it will give you an allowance from your own savings. An allowance it will control:

"…during a transitional period, depositors should have access to an appropriate amount of their covered deposits to cover the cost of living within five working days of a request."

Savers should be looking for means in which they can keep their money within instant reach and their reach only. At this point physical, allocated and segregated gold and silver comes to mind. This gives you outright legal ownership. There are no counterparties who can claim it is legally theirs (unlike with cash in the bank) or legislation that rules they get first dibs on it. Gold and silver are the financial insurance against bail-ins, political mismanagement, and overreaching government bodies. As each year goes by it becomes more pertinent than ever to protect yourself from such risks.

 

http://WarMachines.com

“People Ask, Where’s The Leverage This Time?” – Eric Peters Answers

One of the Fed’s recurring arguments meant to explain why the financial system is more stable now than it was 10 years ago, and is therefore less prone to a Lehman or “Black monday”-type event, (which in turn is meant to justify the Fed’s blowing of a 31x Shiller PE bubble) is that there is generally less leverage in the system, and as a result a sudden, explosive leverage unwind is far less likely… or at least that’s what the Fed’s recently departed vice Chair, and top macroprudential regulator, Stanley Fischer has claimed.

But is Fischer right? Is systemic leverage truly lower? The answer is “of course not” as anyone who has observed the trends not only among vol trading products, where vega has never been higher, but also among corporate leverage, sovereign debt, and the record duration exposure can confirm. It’s just not where the Fed usually would look…

Which is why in the excerpt below, taken from the latest One River asset management weekend notes, CIO Eric Peters explains to US central bankers – and everyone else – not only why the Fed is yet again so precariously wrong, but also where all the record leverage is to be found this time around.

This Time, by Eric Peters

“People ask, ‘Where’s the leverage this time?’” said the investor. Last cycle it was housing, banks.

 

“People ask, ‘Where will we get a loss in value severe enough to sustain an asset price decline?’” he continued. Banks deleveraged, the economy is reasonably healthy.

 

“People say, ‘What’s good for the economy is good for the stock market,’” he said.

 

“People say, ‘I can see that there may be real market liquidity problems, but that’s a short-lived price shock, not a value shock,’” he explained.

 

“You see, people generally look for things they’ve seen before.”

 

“There’s less concentrated leverage in the economy than in 2008, but more leverage spread broadly across the economy this time,” said the same investor.

 

“The leverage is in risk parity strategies. There is greater duration and structural leverage.”

 

As volatility declines and Sharpe ratios rise, investors can expand leverage without the appearance of increasing risk.

 

“People move from senior-secured debt to unsecured. They buy 10yr Italian telecom debt instead of 5yr. This time, the rise in system-wide risk is not explicit leverage, it is implicit leverage.”

 

“Companies are leveraging themselves this cycle,” explained the same investor, marveling at the scale of bond issuance to fund stock buybacks.

 

“When people buy the stock of a company that is highly geared, they have more risk.” It is inescapable.

 

“It is not so much that a few sectors are insanely overvalued or explicitly overleveraged this time, it is that everything is overvalued and implicitly overleveraged,” he said.

 

“And what people struggle to see is that this time it will be a financial accident with economic consequences, not the other way around.”

http://WarMachines.com

Who’s Next? Venezuela’s Collapse Puts These Nations At Risk

"It's a wake-up call for a lot of people who will say ‘Look, the stuff I own is actually very risky'…" warns Ray Jian, who oversees about $6 billion at Pioneer Investment Management Ltd. in London. "People have been ignoring risks in places like Lebanon for a long time," and the official default of Venezuela this week has emerging-market money managers are looking to identify countries that might run into trouble down the road.

While Bloomberg reports that while none are nearly as badly off as Venezuelawhere a combination of low oil prices, economic mismanagement and U.S. sanctions did the country in –  traders are scouting for credit risk, from Lebanon, where Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sudden resignation has once again thrust the nation into a Saudi-Iran proxy war, to Ecuador, where recently elected President Lenin Moreno continues to expand the debt load in a country with a history as a serial defaulter.

1. Lebanon:

One of the world’s most indebted countries, Lebanon may hit a debt-to-gross domestic product ratio of 152 percent this year, according to International Monetary Fund forecasts. That’s coming at a time when political tension is rising. Hariri’s abrupt resignation, announced from Riyadh on Nov. 4, triggered about $800 million of withdrawals from the country as investors speculated that the nation would be in the crosshairs of a regional feud between the Saudis and Iranians. While the central bank says the worst may be over, credit-default swaps have hit a nine-year high.

2. Ecuador:

After a borrowing spree, the Andean nation’s external debt obligations over the next 12 months ballooned to a nine-year high relative to the size of its GDP. Ecuador probably has the highest default risk after Venezuela, according to Robert Koenigsberger, the chief investment officer of Gramercy Funds Management. The country will be vulnerable “when the liquidity environment changes and they can no longer go to the market to get $2.5 billion to plug the hole," he said. Finance Minister Carlos de la Torre told Bloomberg in an email on Thursday that there is "no default risk" for any of Ecuador’s debt commitments and the nation’s indebtedness is nowhere near "critical" levels.

3. Ukraine:

While the Eastern European nation’s credit-default swaps have declined from their 2015 highs, persistent economic struggles are giving traders reason for caution. GDP expansion has slowed for three consecutive quarters and the World Bank warns that the economy is at risk of falling into a low-growth trap. Ukraine’s parliament approved next year’s budget on Tuesday as it eyes a $17.5 billion international bailout.

4. Egypt:

Egypt’s credit-default swaps are hovering near the highest since September. The cost for protection surged in June as regional tensions heated up amid a push by the Saudis to isolate Qatar. While Egypt has been able to boost foreign-currency reserves and is on course to repay $14 billion in principal and interest in 2018, its foreign debt has climbed to $79 billion from $55.8 billion a year earlier.

5. Pakistan:

Pakistan’s credit-default swaps surged in late October and linger near their highest level since June. South Asia’s second-largest economy faces challenges as it struggles with dwindling foreign reserves, rising debt payments and a ballooning current account deficit. Pakistan is mulling a potential $2 billion debt sale later this year. Speaking at the Bloomberg Pakistan Economic Forum last week, central bank Deputy Governor Jameel Ahmad played down concerns over the country’s widening twin deficits.

6. Bahrain:

Bahrain’s spread rose dramatically in late October to the highest since January after it was said to ask Gulf allies for aid. The nation is seeking to replenish international reserves and avert a currency devaluation as oil prices batter the six Gulf Cooperation Council oil producers. Although its neighbors are likely to help, Bahrain could still be left with the highest budget deficit in the region, according to the IMF.

7. Turkey:

Despite high yields, investors are still reluctant to buy Turkish bonds. The nation has been caught up in a blur of political crises, driving spreads on credit-default swaps to their highest level since May. Turkey was the only holdover on S&P Global Ratings’s latest “Fragile Five” list of countries most vulnerable to normalization in global monetary conditions.

http://WarMachines.com

“This Just Feels Like Death”: Analysts Flee Research Positions Amid MiFID II Changes

For the past couple of months, we’ve frequently shared our views that Europe’s MiFID II regulations, which force investment banks to charge for equity research instead of “giving it away” in return for trading commissions, could be a wake up call for 1,000’s of highly paid research analysts who were about to have their true ‘value add’ subjected to a market bidding test.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Now, per a note from Reuters, it seems that a growing number of equity research analysts are finally waking up to the fact that hedge funds don’t really have a burning desire to drop $400,000 per year on reports drafted by a 23-year-old recent college grad that do little more than summarize free SEC filings.  Who could have known?

Having covered financial stocks at big and small banks for more than two decades, David Hilder was accustomed to the ebb and flow of Wall Street job cuts and hiring sprees.

 

But he threw in the towel as an analyst last year after deciding customers simply will not pay what it costs to produce research in the years ahead, especially after a regulation called MiFID II upended the pricing model.

 

“It certainly seemed that the difficulty of being paid for research was going to increase, not decrease,” said Hilder, who is now trying to reinvent himself as an investment banker.

 

Many share Hilder’s grim outlook. Reuters spoke to dozens of current and former analysts who moved to independent research shops or investment firms, joined companies in industries they covered, or have launched new careers or are considering doing so, after nearly a decade of cost-cutting that is likely to accelerate under MiFID.

ER

Not surprisingly, a study from Frost Consulting recently found that major global investment banks have slashed their equity research budgets by more than half, from a peak of $8.2 billion in 2008 to $3.4 billion in 2017.  And, as we noted back in the summer, McKinsey & Co. thinks the pain is just getting started and that banks will have no choice but to fire a ton of equity research analysts who write a bunch of stuff that no one ever reads…which seems like a reasonable guess.

Europe’s impending ban on free research will cost hundreds of analysts their jobs with banks set to cut about $1.2 billion of investment on the area, according to a report by McKinsey & Co.

 

The consultancy estimates the $4 billion that the top-10 sell-side banks currently spend on research annually is likely to fall by 30 percent as clients become pickier about what they pay for, McKinsey Partner Roger Rudisuli said in an interview. Investment banks’ cash equity research headcount has fallen 12 percent to 3,900 since 2011 compared with as much as 40 percent in sales and trading, leaving the area facing “big cuts” to catch up, he said.

 

“Two to three global banking players will preserve their status in the new era, winning the execution arms race and dominating trading in equities around the globe,” McKinsey said in a report Wednesday, which Rudisuli helped write. “Over the coming five years, banks will need to make hard choices and play to their strengths. Not only will the top ranks be thinned out, there will be shakeouts in regional markets.”

Meanwhile, in light of the MiFID II writing on the wall, Evercore ISI analyst Glenn Schorr admits that his research has become a bit morbid of late…

Evercore ISI analyst Glenn Schorr recently titled a research note “Writing My Obituary,” with a follow-up called “Stay of (my) Execution.”

 

“For the last few years, it’s been all about morgue humor like ‘flat is the new up’ and ‘no bonus, but at least you get to keep your job,’” said one former analyst who recently left a large bank but would not be quoted by name to avoid upsetting former or future employers.

 

“Contrast that with Silicon Valley,” he continued. “It’s not even the money; it’s the optimism that I envy. Those guys are building a brighter future and this just feels like death.”

 

Sean McGowan spent 25 years covering consumer stocks at small and mid-size brokers before losing his job early last year amid broad cost-cutting.

 

“The more I started to do research on the impact of MiFID and what was likely to happen to the industry, the more I realized that going back to that world would be like swimming upstream,” said McGowan. “A lot of the jobs on the sell-side are going to disappear and inevitably some of the more enjoyable parts will be peeled back. I don’t want to haggle someone about the price of a phone call.”

Of course, the inevitable result of these changes is that the world’s hedge funds will have employ their “buy the fucking dip” strategies without the support of 50 research analysts…maybe just 20 instead.

http://WarMachines.com

Bill Blain: “Stock Markets Don’t Matter; The Great Crash Of 2018 Will Start In The Bond Market”

Blain’s Morning Porridge, Submitted by Bill Blain of Mint Partners

The Great Crash of 2018? Look to the bond markets to trigger Mayhem!

I had the impression the markets had pretty much battened down for rest of 2017 – keen to protect this year’s gains. Wrong again. It seems there is another up-step. After the People’s Bank of China dropped $47 bln of money into its financial system (where bond yields have risen dramatically amid growing signs of wobble), the game’s afoot once more. The result is global stocks bound upwards. Again. It suggest Central Banks have little to worry about in 2018 – if markets get fraxious, just bung a load of money at them.

Personally, I’m not convinced how the tau of monetary market distortion is a good thing? Markets have become like Pavlov’s dog: ring the easy money bell, and markets salivate to the upside.

Of course, stock markets don’t matter.

The truth is in bond markets. And that’s where I’m looking for the dam to break. The great crash of 2018 is going to start in the deeper, darker depths of the Credit Market.

I’ve already expressed my doubts about the long-term stability of certain sectors – like how covenants have been compromised in high-yield even as spreads have compressed to record tights over Treasuries, about busted European regions trying to pass themselves off as Sovereign States (no I don’t mean the Catalans, I mean Italy!), and how the bond market became increasingly less discerning on risk in its insatiable hunt for yield. Chuck all of these in a mixing bowl and the result is a massive Kerrang as the gears of finance explode!

Well.. maybe..

I’m convinced bond markets are the REAL bubble we should be watching. 

I’m convinced it’s going to start in High Yield.. so let’s start by talking about Collateralised Loan Obligations – the CLO market. Did you know that since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008 only 20 out of 1392 deals have seen their riskiest tranches default? (I pinched the numbers from a Bloomberg article.) When I quoted these numbers in the office everyone was surprised.. Surely losses were greater?

Of course not.

It wasn’t just banks that benefitted from Too-Big-To-Fail. (TBTF) Most CLOs did very well. In 2008 smart credit funds realised they would benefit on the back of TBTF and did exceeding well out buying cheap CLOs from panicked sellers. As the GFC unfolded in the wake of Lehman’s default, the global financial authorities pulled out the stops to stop contagion. Banks were unwilling to realise further losses, interest rates plummeted, meaning the highly levered companies issuing the debt backing CLOs survived and were better able to repay their existing debt.

The 2008 GFC was about consumer debt – triggered by mortgages. We still have consumer debt crisis problems ahead (in credit cards, autos and student loans). There is also the fact Consumers have suffered most these past 10-yrs as massive income inequality has left them paid less and paying more for everything – which is most definitely going to come back and haunt markets at some point.

But, I do think the next Financial Crisis is likely to be in Corporate debt, and will be an credit market analogue to the consumer debt crisis of 2008. The Hi-yield market is the likely source – as markets recovered banks started lending again, and low rates forced investors out the credit-risk curve to buy returns. The funds who used to buy nothing but AAAs are now buying speculative single B names. Such is the demand for assets, these companies have been able to lever up and refinance, increase leverage and refinance further, at ever faster rates.

It’s been exacerbated by private equity fuelling returns through debt.  As demand has increased exponentially, borrowers have been able to slash Covenants, making it easier and simpler for over-indebted companies to raise more and more dosh.

Where does it end?

As rates rise we’re going to see the “Toys’R’us” moment repeated on a grand scale. The rise of and fall of Zombie companies that simply can’t meet debt payments is bound to contage not just the rest of the credit market, but also stocks. 

More immediately, the realisation a crisis is coming feels very similar to June 2007 when the first mortgage backed funds in the US started to wobble. (The first few pebbles rolling down the hill before the landslide?) It explains why we’re seeing the highly levered sector of the Junk bond markets struggle, and companies correlated to struggling highly levered consumers (such as health and telecoms) also in trouble.

Basically, the very little is really fixed since the 2008 financial crisis. 10-years later, here we are with the next bubble about to burst. Corporate debt watch out.

Which leads us to the UK Housing Sector…

A few days I commented on how UK house prices have risen 50% over the last 5-years – a period which has seen incomes stagnate. The result is its practically impossible for anyone on a normal salary to even contemplate ever affording their own house – a very good article in the FT yesterday saw the author explain he’d have to save 20% of his gross income for 60 years to be able to put down a deposit on the bed-sit he lives in!

In short, the great myth of the Thatcher generation is dead. The dream of home ownership in the UK won’t happen for our children’s generation.. They will be forced to rent, and that’s a very expensive market here in London. At the moment a mortgage is far cheaper than renting – but as rates rise that will correct a little. 

Somehow we have to create decent rental accommodation at a cost comparable or below mortgages. After all, if you own a house you save money on accommodation, and you get all the upside from appreciation of the asset. Historically, housing has been a better performing asset to own than even stocks – so perhaps there is even a tax angle there, but one no sane politician would date to broach. 

To make it happen we need to encourage public and private landlords with the where-with-all to build new quality rentals – and surprisingly this may be possible under current government polices announced yesterday such as privatising the Housing Associations. As this point regular readers will be in shock – “Blain praising the government? Pass the smelling salts”!

Insurance and pension funds will fund the assets – they know house are literally “safe as houses”!  There is a clear role for Housing Associations to become even more important quality providers of rental/social accommodation.

The big risk is some political fool will decide to enhance their electoral prospects with some ill-conceived “right-to-buy” policy which will simply fuel expectations, drive up consumer borrowing, and fuel a boom market once more putting property out of reach for the masses. 

Meanwhile, I suppose we should be worrying about the fact Merkel still can’t put a government together, the fact it’s now pay to get out of jail in Saudi, and all the other noise. Will anyone be listening to Theresa Maybe in Brussels today?

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BOE Warns Weekly Fund Redemptions Of 1.3% Would Break Corporate Bond Market

The Bank of England has done some timely and truly eye-opening research into the resilience of corporate bond markets. The research is contained in the Bank of England Financial Stability Paper No.42 and is titled “Simulating stress across the financial system:  the resilience of corporate bond markets and the role of investment funds” by Yuliya Baranova, Jamie Coen, Pippa Lowe, Joseph Noss and Laura Silvestri.

The starting point of the analysis is to revisit the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) which saw $300 billion of related to subprime mortgages amplified to well over $2.5 trillion of write-downs across the global financial system as a whole. One of the problems was that the system was structured in a way that did not absorb economic shocks, but amplified them. The amplification came via a feedback loop. As the crisis unfolded, fears about credit worthiness of banks led to the collapse of interbank lending. Weaker banks had their funding withdrawn, which led to a downward spiral of asset sales and the strangling of credit in the broader economy.

The paper notes that, since then progress has been made and the Bank of England’s stress tests now include the feedback loop created by interbank loans.

Indeed, the 2016 test showed that the potential for solvency problems to spread between UK banks through this channel has “fallen dramatically” since the crisis. Furthermore, interbank lending has been cut back and is more often secured against collateral.

The report cautions that other feedback loops might be present, especially since banks only account for about half of the UK financial system. Indeed, a key objective for regulators is to assess how the non-bank part of the system – termed “market-based finance” in the paper, responds to economic shocks. In particular, could the non-bank system, which trades “market-based finance” (principally bonds), amplify shocks in a similar way to the banking system during the last crisis? The report characterises market-based finance and the related risks as follows.

The system of market-based finance includes, among other parts, investment funds, dealers, insurance companies, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds. It supports the extension of credit and transfer of risks through markets rather than banks. It has expanded rapidly since the crisis.  At the global level, assets held by non-bank financial intermediaries increased by more than a third since the financial crisis. The potential spillover effects in market-based finance centre on ‘fire sales’ of assets, which affect prices of financial assets and functioning of markets.  Participants in this part of the system can face incentives, or be forced into, sudden asset sales.

The report sees the potential for another dangerous feedback loop developing from falling asset prices which lead to declines in net worth, prompting a withdrawal of funding which leads to more asset sales and further falls in prices. They are hardly reinventing the wheel here and what they’re really describing is the evidence that investors often behave pro-cyclically. It raises the valid concern that pro-cyclical behaviour is most dangerous in less liquid assets with short-notice redemption – the classic liquidity mismatch. The post-Brexit problem in 2016 in UK commercial property funds was a great example.

These dynamics were illustrated clearly in 2016 in funds investing in UK commercial property.  With the property market in hiatus following the United Kingdom’s referendum on membership of the European Union, these open-ended funds faced redemption requests from investors concerned about the prospect of future price falls and fearing that other redemptions would force the funds to suspend.  The process was self-fulfilling and many funds were forced to suspend redemptions.

The report goes on to highlight the challenges for broker-dealer liquidity and hedge funds if asset managers aggressively sell securities in a crisis. It’s obvious stuff, i.e. that broker-dealer are less able to warehouse securities and less able to provide funding to hedge funds, which might be buyers, and could become forced sellers. The BoE models what would have when one type of shock – redemptions by open-ended funds – trigger selling by the funds with spillover effects for broker-dealers and hedge funds.

The paper that follows seeks to model how the aggregate behaviour of several sectors within the system of market-based finance, including investment funds and dealers, could interact to spread and amplify stress in corporate bond markets.  That focus stems from the growing importance of bond markets to the financing of the economy, alongside the rapid growth in holdings of such bonds in fund structures.  It does not focus on individual companies; the analysis is conducted at a sector level.  It is not concerned with the capacity of the sectors to absorb losses.

Basically, the model estimates the sensitivity of investment grade corporate bonds yields in Europe if funds sell the equivalent of 1% of their total assets on a weekly basis – which was similar run rate to the redemptions in October 2008 (4.2% over the month – see below). Since then, however, broker-dealer capacity has contracted and investment grade issue issuance risen sharply. Importantly, it also addresses the scale of redemptions which might overwhelm the ability of broker-dealers and hedge funds to absorb the selling. The model assumes that there is a shock leading to an initial round of redemptions which prompts investment funds to make asset sales. Broker-dealers require lower prices to compensate them for absorbing the selling which leads to a second round of redemptions and selling. After that, further selling “breaks” the market and leads to dislocated prices on the downside.

 

The paper explains the market-breaking points as follows.

The level of redemptions at which the second-round price impact line ends is where dealers reach the limit of their capacity to absorb those asset sales by funds not purchased by hedge funds.  We assume that market liquidity is tested at this point and refer to it as the market-breaking point. Transactions could still occur beyond this point — for example, if a dealer can immediately match a buyer and seller or if it sells other assets to purchase corporate bonds — but are assumed to take place at highly dislocated prices.  

Conclusion:
The BoE paper estimates that a weekly level of redemptions from funds equivalent to 1% of their assets would increase investment grade corporate bond yields by 40 basis points. However…this is the key…it estimates that initial redemptions equivalent to only 1.3% of assets on a weekly basis would be “needed to overwhelm the capacity of dealers to absorb those sales, resulting in market dysfunction”, i.e. the market-breaking point. It describes this as an “unlikely but not impossible event.”

We disagree, we are in a far bigger bubble than 2007-08.

http://WarMachines.com

Venezuela, PDVSA CDS Triggered: ISDA Says Credit Event Has Occured

In a long overdue, and not exactly surprising decision, moments ago the ISDA Determination Committee decided, after punting for three days in a row, that a Failure to Pay Credit Event has occured with respect to both the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as well as Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.

Specifically, in today’s determination, in response to the question whether a “Failure to Pay Credit Event occurred with respect to Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.?” ISDA said that the Determinations Committee voted 15 to 0 that a failure to pay credit event had occurred with respect to PDVSA.

ISDA said the DC also voted 15 to 0 that date of credit event was Nov. 13 and that the potential failure to pay occurred on Oct. 12. ISDA also announced that the DC agreed to reconvene Nov. 20 to continue talks regarding the CDS auction, now that the Credit Default Swaps have been triggered.

Over the past week, all three rating agencies, with Fitch Ratings most recently, declared PDVSA in default, citing the state oil company’s repeated payment delays. The oil company failed to pay yet another $80 million in interest that was due in mid-October on bonds maturing in 2027, and whose buffer period expired over the weekend. Venezuela was declared in default by S&P Global ratings for a similar issue. According to Bloomberg, Fitch said that it expects PDVSA’s creditors to recover as little as 31 percent on their investment.

The panel will now meet next week to discuss whether to hold an auction to set the rate at which the CDS will pay out. When credit swaps are triggered, buyers of the contracts have their losses covered by the counterparties that sold them the insurance-like derivatives.

As recently as last month, traders had bought a net $250 million of default protection through the swaps market, according to the ISDA. Of course, with the PDVSA CDS already trading at a price which implied 100% certainty of default, none of this will be a surprise.

* * *

And moments after declaring PDVSA CDS triggered by a failure to pay event, the ISDA Americas DC also found that an identical Failure to Pay Credit Event had occurred with respect to Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  The Determinations Committee voted 15 to 0 that a failure to pay credit event had occurred with respect to Venezuela, and added that the Determinations Committee voted 15 to 0 to reconvene Nov. 20 to continue talks on an auction.

Just like with PDVSA, the CDS triggering has been fully priced in.

The only question now is when the CDS auction will be, whether it will proceed smoothly and who is revealed as the biggest seller of Venezuela and PDVSA CDS.

http://WarMachines.com

Venezuela Signs $3.2 Billion Debt Restructuring Deal With Russia

As Venezuela teeters right on the brink of complete financial collapse, Bloomberg reports that Russia has agreed to restructure roughly $3.2 billion in outstanding obligations.  While details of the restructuring agreement are scarce, both sides reported that the deal spreads payments out over 10 years with minimal cash service required over the next six years.

Russia signed an agreement to restructure $3.15 billion of debt owed by Venezuela, throwing a lifeline to a crisis-wracked ally that’s struggling to repay creditors.

 

The deal spreads the loan payments out over a decade, with “minimal” payments over the first six years, the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement. The pact doesn’t cover obligations of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to its Russian counterpart Rosneft PJSC, however.

 

“The terms are flexible and very favorable for our country,” Wilmar Castro Soteldo, Venezuela’s economic vice president, told reporters in Moscow after the signing. “We will be able to return to the level of commercial relations with Russia that we had before,” he added, noting that a deal to buy Russian wheat will be signed next week.

This is the second time Russia has agreed to reschedule Venezuela’s debt payments after agreeing to an extension last year. Still, Caracas failed to make payments amid an economic crisis triggered by low prices for oil. Rosneft has also provided several billion dollars in advance payments for Venezuelan crude supplies.

The rescheduling pact is a “demonstration of the desire to maintain ties with the current Venezuelan leadership,” Viktor Kheifets, an expert in Venezuela at St. Petersburg State University, said by phone. “Russia isn’t happy with everything that the government there is doing but Venezuela is an ally where Russia has economic interests and Moscow is firmly against a forcible change of regime there.”

 

In a website statement announcing the deal, Russia’s Finance Ministry said, “The debt relief provided to the republic from the restructuring of its liabilities will allow funds to be allocated for the country’s economic development, to improve the debtor’s solvency and increase the chances of all creditors to recoup loans granted earlier to Venezuela.”

Putin Maduro

Of course, the deal with Russia comes as attempts to hold talks with Venezuela’s other creditors faltered this week. President Nicolas Maduro had summoned holders of some $60 billion of bonds issued by the government and PDVSA to begin a renegotiation as the nation’s cash crunch worsens, but as we noted previously (see: S&P Downgrades Venezuela To “Selective Default” After Bondholder Meeting Devolves Into Total Chaos), the meeting turned out to be nothing more than a photo op. 

Meanwhile, as the Financial Times noted yesterday, failure of ISDA committees to determine whether or not a default event actually occurred when Venezuela blew through its grace period, has only added to the confusion of the restructuring process.

A finance industry committee convened to discuss whether Venezuela’s state oil company has defaulted on its debts has elected to delay the decision once again, underscoring the uncertainly swirling around the country’s bond payments.

 

Venezuela belatedly came through with a $1.1bn PDVSA bond payment last week, but only well after a three-day grace period following the bond’s maturity on Nov 3. That led to a request that the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s “determinations committee” consider whether PDVSA was in default.

 

The Isda committees have the power to declare a “failure to pay”, which would trigger insurance-like contracts on PDVSA’s bonds, known as credit-default swaps, even if the actual bondholders haven’t declared it a default. But in a statement on its website on Monday, Isda said that the committee had decided to reconvene on Tuesday at 11am to discuss the PDVA question further.

All of which has left bondholders in limbo…

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So Why Did Capital One “Suddenly” Exit Mortgage Lending??

Last week, Capital One Financial (COF) announced that is was formally withdrawing from the residential mortgage loan market.  Some observers mistook this announcement for news, thinking that COF had actually been engaged in residential lending in a serious way.  Housing Wire, for example, reported that COF had “suddenly” exited the mortgage and home equity business.

In fact, despite several acquisitions, these motivated mostly by a desire to accumulate deposits, COF had never really cared about mortgage lending or anything other than credit cards and consumer loans.  “The challenging rate environment and marketplace … do not allow us to be both competitive and profitable for the foreseeable future,” Sanjiv Yajnik, the president of financial services at COF, said in an internal memo.

At the end of Q2 ’17, COF had about 21% of its loan book in all real estate loans, including residential at 8% and about 12% commercial real estate loans.  Almost 60% of the balance sheet is “loans to individuals,” including credit cards, auto loans and other consumer revolvers.  Most large banks that inhabit Peer Group 1 have a third of their balance sheet in real estate exposures of one sort or another.  COF owns a big slug of mortgage backed securities, however, something to ponder as the Treasury yield curve slowly inverts under the weight of the Yellen Put.

The reason that COF looks askance at asset classes such as resi comes down to simple returns.  COF’s margin on net interest income is almost 7% on a tax equivalent basic compared with an average of 3% for Peer Group 1.  That’s more than 2x JPM, BAC, WFC, etc.  That fat spread comes from consumer loans.  Indeed, the yield on earning assets for COF was over 400bp higher than its asset peers at the end of Q3 ’17.  

Even with all that yield, however, COF still delivers high single digit equity returns overall.  Or put more bluntly, things like residential mortgages were dragging down the overall equity returns for the bank. Indeed, real estate loans including residential and CRE, are currently the lowest yielding loan category on COF’s book at 418bp.  

Credit cards comes in at a handsome 1,400bp and consumer loans is 725bp, according to the FDIC.  With fees and other goodies added in, total net revenue margin for the cards business rises to almost 17%.  Commercial & Industrial loans at 560bp are actually quite respectable for the large banks, with the weaker players such as Citigroup (C) laboring at less than half of that spread for C&I loans.

Real estate loans at COF have been falling as a percentage of total loans for the past five years.  During this same period, COF’s total assets have grown and its deposit base has essentially doubled.  The bank securitizes about $1 billion per quarter, including about $400 million in residential mortgage loan production that will gradually go away.  But this is actually a positive for COF, since the risk-adjusted return on residential lending is probably negative anyway.  Note that the bank is actually pursuing retail investment advisory business alongside the consumer credit products. 

Thanks to the blessing of the Dodd-Frank law and the constant intercessions of the folks at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, who have turned extortion into a form of public policy, residential mortgage lending is now a loss leader for most of the US banking industry.   COF is merely the latest commercial bank to make the obvious decision, namely that residential lending is not a business worth doing – at least without significant scale.  And in any event, the double digit return available from credit cards is pretty hard to argue with any day of the week.

Last thought.  COF is the largest monoline consumer credit card issuer, but Citi is the largest credit card shop in the industry.  Given that the latter has already bailed out of asset management and residential mortgages, may be time to slam these two consumer credit shops together and call it a day.  There may not be much organic growth in the banking industry and even less alpha, but there is always M&A.

http://WarMachines.com

The Unbearable Slowness Of Fourth Turnings

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation and empire. The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.” – Strauss & Howe The Fourth Turning 

This Fourth Turning was ignited suddenly in September 2008 as the housing bubble, created by the Federal Reserve and their criminal puppeteer owners on Wall Street, collapsed, revealing the greatest control fraud in world history. A crisis mood was catalyzed as the stock market dropped 50%, unemployment surged to highs not seen since 1981, foreclosures exploded, and captured politicians bailed out the criminal bankers with the tax dollars of the victims.

The mood of the country darkened immediately as average Americans flooded their congressmen’s websites and phone lines with a demand not to bailout the felonious Wall Street banks with $700 billion of TARP. But they ignored their supposed constituents and revealed who they are truly beholden to.

Trust in the political and financial system disintegrated and has further deteriorated as the ruling elite continue to loot and pillage as if the 2008/2009 global financial meltdown never happened. From the perspective of the archaic social order there is no longer a crisis. The recovery narrative, flogged ceaselessly by the crooked establishment and their propaganda fake news corporate media mouthpieces, has convinced millions of willfully ignorant Americans progress is occurring.

Could they be right? Is the Crisis over? Has this Fourth Turning been managed to a successful conclusion by central bankers issuing tens of trillions in debt, politicians spending tens of trillions supplied by taxpayers, bankers rigging financial markets, and consumers leveraging up to maintain their lifestyles? Has the exiting corrupt social order successfully retained their power, control and influence over the masses by manipulating the levers of society and fending off their demise? Have they already won?

This Fourth Turning just passed its ninth anniversary. The Civil War Fourth Turning lasted only five years, but that was because it was accelerated, with an enormous amount of bloodshed crammed into a short time frame. The American Revolution Crisis lasted twenty one years. The Great Depression/World War II Crisis lasted seventeen years. All three prior American Fourth Turnings ended with an all-out decisive war, with clear victors and vanquished.

Based on historical precedent, this Fourth Turning shouldn’t reach its resolution until the mid-2020’s, with a major global conflict on the near term horizon. Those who understand that something wicked this way comes are frustrated by the apparent slowness of the progression. They shouldn’t be too anxious for an acceleration.

Since Strauss & Howe didn’t formulate their generational theory until 1997, this is the first Fourth Turning in which some people understand the dynamics driving the Crisis. Does knowledge about a cycle change the underlying forces propelling history? Has the establishment oligarchy co-opted the crisis mood of the country to avoid its own demise? Or, is this Fourth Turning just proceeding according to the standard morphology along its two decade long test of survival?

I honestly don’t know. This is my first and only Fourth Turning. What I do know is the Crisis began in the time frame predicted by Strauss & Howe. The catalyst was the 2008 financial meltdown created by Wall Street and the Federal Reserve, just as they had done in 1929 to catalyze the previous Fourth Turning. Strauss and Howe documented the four stages of a Fourth Turning.

  • A Crisis era begins with a catalyst – a startling event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood.
  • Once catalyzed, a society achieves a regeneracy – a new counterentropy that reunifies and reenergizes civic life.
  • The regenerated society propels toward a climax – a crucial moment that confirms the death of the old order and birth of the new.
  • The climax culminates in a resolution – a triumphant or tragic conclusion that separates the winners from losers, resolves the big public questions, and establishes the new order.

The 2008 global financial meltdown most certainly produced a sudden shift in mood. Average working class Americans saw their retirement savings obliterated for the second time in the space of eight years. Millions lost their jobs and got thrown out of their homes by the Wall Street bankers who perpetrated the greatest financial fraud in world history. The American citizens, who overwhelmingly disapproved of TARP, were disregarded as captured corrupt congressmen handed $700 billion of taxpayer funds to the Wall Street criminals.

The darker shift in mood produced the Tea Party movement and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both movements were co-opted by the establishment and effectively extinguished as change agents. Over the next seven years a massive debt produced bubble has been blown in stock, bond and real estate markets to benefit only those in the upper echelon of wealth. Wall Street is winning in a blowout over Main Street.

As 2015 morphed into the historic year of vitriol, hate, fake news, Russians, pussy grabbing, and an all-out establishment effort to discredit and defeat Donald Trump – 2016 saw battle lines drawn and combatants armed. The oligarchs used every propaganda trick in their bag. They used their vast limitless wealth to insure the election of their hand-picked candidate – Hillary Clinton. Black Lives Matter terrorists slaughtered policemen in cold blood. Social justice warriors were triggered on campuses across the land, retreating to safe spaces with crayons and coloring books.

Antifa fascists rioted, beat Trump supporters and attempted to shutdown free speech at every opportunity. Violent clashes, provoked by leftists, roiled the country and hardened the resolve of normal people in flyover America. The fake news corporate media produced fake polls showing an overwhelming victory for Clinton. The ruling elite underestimated the anger among the silent majority. Trump won an unlikely victory.

The basket of deplorables and millions of other disillusioned regular people chose the Grey Champion of this Fourth Turning on November 8, 2016. It was possibly the biggest upset in presidential history. The long awaited regeneracy had arrived. Just as the election of FDR marked the regeneracy of the last Fourth Turning, the election of Donald Trump marks the regeneracy moment of this Crisis.

His election has energized the country in positive and negative ways. He has unified factions for and against his agenda. His election has revealed an ingrained establishment (aka swamp creatures) inhabited by politicians of both parties who are intent on sabotaging his presidency. The first ten months of his presidency has been a tumultuous clash between an entrenched establishment and a tweeting, insulting, volatile, unpredictable, rude outsider real estate mogul from NYC.

The mood of the country has clearly darkened as 2017 has progressed. There is no middle ground or compromise. The tension between the two Americas rises with each mass shooting, Russian collusion revelation, exposure of media bias, proof of Hollywood degradation, judicial overreach, Soros funded staged protests, Donna Brazile tell all book and censorship actions by Twitter, Facebook, and other left wing slanted media outlets.

Only 24% of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction, and they are right. With a $20 trillion national debt, $200 trillion of unfunded welfare liabilities, pension plans underfunded by hundreds of billions, rampant governmental corruption, blatant Wall Street criminality, undeclared wars being waged across the globe, and a feeble minded corporate propaganda media spewing fake news, the nation has already hit the iceberg and the ship is going down.

The level of divisiveness and anger in this country grows exponentially, with the flames being fanned by the corporate media intent on creating a civil war. Battle lines are being drawn between Republicans and Democrats; the establishment GOP and the Steve Bannon alt-right disciples; far left Sanders Democrats and Clinton partisans; BLM terrorists and police; Soros funded Antifa scum and free speech conservatives; SJW’s and normal people; elites and deplorables; whites and blacks; liberals and conservatives; Wall Street and Main Street; Hollywood deviants and people with morals; Muslims and infidels; those who are awake and those who are ignorant; gun owners and gun confiscators; surveillance state and citizens being surveilled; young and old; haves and have nots; workers and parasites; government union workers and taxpayers; left wing academia and those with common sense; arrogant hubristic oligarchs and humble hard working Americans.

If you can’t comprehend the sense of foreboding engulfing the nation and the globe, you aren’t paying attention. Despite a global recovery narrative and record high stock markets supercharged by irresponsible debasing schemes implemented by captured central bankers, the world is hurtling relentlessly toward conflict, war and bloodshed. Every previous American Fourth Turning saw an upwards ratchet in violence, death and technological killing devices. This Fourth Turning will see a continuation of this trend. Fourth Turning wars are always decisive, with clear winners and losers.

The Revolutionary War erupted two years after the Boston Tea Party catalyst and lasted for eight years. The Civil War swept the country into conflict shortly after Lincoln’s election. The Second World War didn’t encroach on the lives of Americans until 12 years after the 1929 Great Crash. Each Crisis will have its own dynamics, pace, and timing, based upon specific events, leadership decisions, and generational reactions to the incidents and episodes driving the crisis. We are in year nine of this Fourth Turning and a looming bloody conflict is just over the horizon, but the vast majority of the American populace is unprepared and unaware for such a trial by fire.

The 2008 volcanic eruption has continued to flow along the channels of distress impacting nations across the globe. Yeoman efforts by the Deep State to keep the molten flow within controlled channels are failing, with the eruption about to burst free and cause global havoc on a grand scale, as predicted by Strauss & Howe.

“Imagine some national (and probably global) volcanic eruption, initially flowing along channels of distress that were created during the Unraveling era and further widened by the catalyst. Trying to foresee where the eruption will go once it bursts free of the channels is like trying to predict the exact fault line of an earthquake. All you know in advance is something about the molten ingredients of the climax, which could include the following:

  • Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
  • Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by walled communities
  • Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
  • Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction” 

 The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe

The American Revolution military conflict was with an external enemy. The Civil War was an internal conflict between Americans. World War II was again an external conflict. Will the coming conflict be domestic, foreign or both? Every Fourth Turning has internal and external struggles and skirmishes. Loyalists battled patriots during the American Revolution. Both sides attempted to seek European support during the Civil War.

A resolute opposition despised FDR and even sought to organize a military coup to seize power of the government. This Fourth Turning is progressing along a dual path of internal and external clashes destined to define the events which will propel the world towards a climax and resolution of this fourth crisis period in U.S. history.

The apparent slowness of this Fourth Turning is not unusual and the rise in the stock market in the midst of the crisis does not alleviate the dire circumstances of the crisis. From its low in 1932 the stock market rose by over 400% by 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, before another 45% plunge. The current Fed financed stock market rally has driven stocks up about 400% from the 2009 lows. Stock markets do not define when a crisis has ended for the majority of Americans because so few people own a significant amount of stock.

The average American suffered economic hardship throughout the 1930s, just as average Americans have continued to suffer economic hardship since 2008. As Americans dealt with privation and poverty in the late 1930s the coming global conflict was brewing. Animosities, prejudices and resentments, exacerbated by economic turmoil, stirred militaristic ambitions of hubristic rulers in Europe and Asia. The parallels with the current international dynamic are eerie. The exact timing of the chaotic dangerous portion of this Fourth Turning is uncertain, but it can’t be escaped.

“Don’t think you can escape the Fourth Turning the way you might today distance yourself from news, national politics, or even taxes you don’t feel like paying. History warns that a Crisis will reshape the basic social and economic environment that you now take for granted. The Fourth Turning necessitates the death and rebirth of the social order. It is the ultimate rite of passage for an entire people, requiring a luminal state of sheer chaos whose nature and duration no one can predict in advance.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

In Part 2 of this article I will examine the devolving global environment and the implications on markets and the course of this Fourth Turning.

http://WarMachines.com

U.K. Litigation Cases On Defaulted Consumer Debts Soar Beyond 2008 Levels

Last month, S&P warned that UK lenders could incur £30 billion of losses on their consumer lending portfolios consisting of credit cards, personal and auto loans if interest rates and unemployment rose sharply.  Much like in the U.S., S&P warned that "loose monetary policy, cheap central bank term funding schemes and benign economic conditions" had fueled an "unsustainable" yet massive expansion of consumer credit that will inevitably end badly.  Per The Guardian:

The rapid rise in UK consumer debt to £200bn from car finance, personal loans and credit cards is unsustainable at current growth rates and should raise “red flags” for the major lenders, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has warned.

 

In detailed analysis of the sector, S&P warned that losses from this form of lending suffered by banks and other financial institutions could be “sharp and very sudden” in an economic downturn and may be exacerbated if the Bank of England increased interest rates.

 

It also warned that it could downgrade banks’ credit ratings if the high growth rate persisted or banks took on too much risk in this sector. But it did not fear any system-wide impact from consumer credit.

 

“Loose monetary policy, cheap central bank term funding schemes and benign economic conditions have supported consumer credit supply and demand,” S&P said.

 

Annual growth rates in UK consumer credit of 10% a year have outpaced household income growth, which is closer to 2%, and become a focus for the Bank which is scrutinising lenders’ approach to the sector.

 

“We believe the double-digit annual growth rate in UK consumer credit would be unsustainable if it continued at the same pace,” S&P said.

Credit Cards

Now, new data surrounding the growing number of court filings related to the recovery of consumer debts highlights just how serious the personal leverage problem has become in the UK.  As the FT points out this morning, there have been over 900,000 court judgements on consumer debts in just the first 9 months of 2017, up 34% compared to the same period in 2016, compared to only 827,000 at  the height of the great recession in 2008.

Consumers who refuse to repay their debts are increasingly being taken to court, with litigation at levels last seen in the run-up to the 2007-08 financial crisis.

 

New figures show there were 910,345 county court judgments in the nine months to the end of September. This is an increase of 34 per cent per on the same period in 2016, and compares with 827,000 in the whole of 2008, at the onset of the financial crisis.

 

The rise in court judgments is another indication of the high levels of unsecured debt weighing on British consumers, with Bank of England data showing that borrowing through credit cards, overdrafts and car loans has topped £200bn for the first time since the global crisis.

 

Although UK unemployment is at all-time lows, growth in real incomes and the savings rate have both deteriorated in recent months, suggesting household finances are worsening. Many economists are predicting a slowdown in what has been robust consumer spending.

This should come as little surprise to our readers as we pointed out earlier this summer that the U.K. auto market had seemingly taken a page from U.S. subprime lenders by offering a brand new car, with no money down, to anyone who walks into a dealership with a pulse (see: Undercover Investigation Exposes Deteriorating Auto Lending Standards In Europe; No Job, No Problem) . As the Daily Mail pointed out, their undercover reporters visited a total of 22 dealerships and were repeatedly offered cars of various values with no money down and despite reporters admitting that they had no job and no source of income.

Reporters visited 22 dealerships in England and Scotland, saying they were in their early twenties and either unemployed, on low incomes or trying to buy a car despite having poor credit ratings. Half of the dealerships – including ones selling Audis, Mazdas, Suzukis, Fords, Vauxhalls and Seats – told them they could have a brand new car without paying a penny up front.

 

In each case they were offered Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) deals – a type of car loan that now makes up nine out of ten car sales bought on finance in Britain.

 

These deals offer smaller monthly payments than traditional car loans.

 

A reporter who said he was working part-time on the minimum wage was offered a £15,000 Seat Ibiza without a deposit at a Seat dealership in Manchester.  Another reporter suggested that he had bad credit, but he was offered an £8,600 Vauxhall Corsa in Birmingham.

 

Kevin Barker, 71, found himself £3,500 in debt when he suffered a heart attack six months into a PCP deal. He said a ‘pushy’ Toyota salesman ‘pressured’ him into taking out a 36-month agreement in November 2014 and he was not told of the repercussions if he fell ill or lost his job.

Car Loans

Of course, excessively levered household balance sheets work wonders for gaming GDP growth…that is, right up until the point that interest rates start to rise and those households realize their ability to "afford" their spending binge was nothing more than a temporary blip courtesy of accomodative interest rate policies…the reversal of which will now render many of them bankrupt.

http://WarMachines.com

Stockman: US Entry Into World War I Was A Disaster

Authored by David Stockman via The Daily Reckoning,

103 years ago, in 1914, the Federal Reserve opened-up for business as the carnage in northern France was getting under way.

And it brought to a close the prior magnificent half-century era of liberal internationalism and honest gold-backed money.

The Great War was nothing short of a calamity, especially for the 20 million combatants and civilians who perished for no reason discernible in any fair reading of history, or even unfair one.

Yet the far greater calamity is that Europe’s senseless fratricide of 1914-1918 gave birth to all the great evils of the 20th century – the Great Depression, totalitarian genocides, Keynesian economics, permanent warfare states, rampaging central banks and the follies of America’s global imperialism.

Indeed, in Old Testament fashion, one begat the next and the next and still the next.

The old liberal international economic order – honest money, relatively free trade, rising international capital flows and rapidly growing global economic integration – resulted in a 40-year span between 1870 and 1914 of rising living standards, stable prices, massive capital investment and prolific technological progress that was never equaled either before or since.

The Great War undid it all.

In the case of Great Britain, for example, its national debt increased 14-fold, its price level doubled, its capital stock was depleted, most off-shore investments were liquidated and universal wartime conscription left it with a massive overhang of human and financial liabilities.

Yet England was the least devastated.

In France, the price level inflated by 300% its extensive Russian investments were confiscated by the Bolsheviks and its debts in New York and London catapulted to more than 100% of GDP.

Among the defeated powers, currencies emerged nearly worthless with the German mark at five cents on the pre-war dollar, while wartime debts – especially after the harsh peace of Versailles – soared to crushing, unrepayable heights.

And the Great Depression’s tardy, thoroughly misunderstood and deeply traumatic arrival happened compliments of the United States.

In the first place, America’s wholly unwarranted intervention in April 1917 prolonged the slaughter, doubled the financial due bill and generated a cockamamie peace, giving rise to totalitarianism among the defeated powers and Keynesianism among the victors.

Even conventional historians admit as much.

Had Woodrow Wilson not misled America on a messianic crusade, the Great War would have ended in mutual exhaustion in 1917 and both sides would have gone home battered and bankrupt but no danger to the rest of mankind.

Indeed, absent Wilson’s crusade there would have been no allied victory, no punitive peace, and no war reparations; nor would there have been a Leninist coup in Petrograd or Stalin’s barbaric regime.

Likewise, there would have been no Hitler, no Nazis, no holocaust, no global war against Germany and Japan and no incineration of 200,000 civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Nor would there have followed a Cold War with the Soviets or CIA sponsored coups and assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil and Chile to name a few. Surely there would have been no CIA plot to assassinate Castro, or Russian missiles in Cuba or a crisis that took the world to the brink of annihilation.

There would have been no domino theory and no Vietnam slaughter, either.

Nor would we have had to come to the aid of the mujahedeen and train the future al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Likewise, there would have been no Khomeini-led Islamic counter-revolution, and no U.S. aid to enable Saddam’s gas attacks on Iranian boy soldiers in the 1980s.

Nor would there have been an American invasion of Arabia in 1991 to stop our former ally Saddam Hussein from looting the equally contemptible Emir of Kuwait’s ill-gotten oil plunder – or, alas, the horrific 9/11 blowback a decade later.

Nor would we have been stuck with a $1 trillion Warfare State budget today. But I digress.

Economically, the Great War enabled the already rising American economy to boom and bloat in an entirely artificial and unsustainable manner for the better part of 15 years.

The realities of war finance also transformed the new Federal Reserve into an incipient central banking monster in a manner wholly opposite to the intentions of its great legislative architect – the incomparable Carter Glass of Virginia.

During the Great War America became the granary and arsenal to the European Allies – triggering an eruption of domestic investment and production that transformed the nation into a massive global creditor and powerhouse exporter virtually overnight.

Altogether, in six short years $40 billion of money GDP became $92 billion in 1920 – a sizzling 15% annual rate of gain.

Needless to say, these fantastic figures reflected an inflationary, war-swollen economy – a phenomena that prudent finance men of the age knew was wholly artificial and destined for a thumping post-war depression.

World War I simply gave birth to the modern Fed as we know it.

When Congress created the Federal Reserve on Christmas Eve 1913, just six months before Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, it had provided no legal authority whatsoever for the Fed to buy government bonds or undertake so-called “open market operations” to finance the public debt.

In part this was due to the fact that there were precious few Federal bonds to buy. The public debt then stood at just $1.5 billion, which is the same figure that had pertained 51 years earlier at the battle of Gettysburg, and amounted to just 4% of GDP.

Thus, in an age of balanced budgets and bipartisan fiscal rectitude, the Fed’s legislative architects had not even considered the possibility of central bank monetization of the public debt, and, in any event, had a totally different mission in mind.

The big point here is that Carter Glass’ “banker’s bank” was an instrument of the market, not an agency of state policy. The so-called economic aggregates of the later Keynesian models — GDP, employment, consumption and investment — were to remain an unmanaged outcome on the free market, reflecting the interaction of millions of producers, consumers, savers, investors, entrepreneurs and even speculators.

But WWI crossed the Rubicon of modern Warfare State finance. During World War I the U.S. public debt rose from $1.5 billion to $27 billion – an eruption that would have been virtually impossible without wartime amendments which allowed the Fed to own or finance U.S. Treasury debt.

These “emergency” amendments – it’s always an emergency in wartime – enabled a fiscal scheme that was ingenious, but turned the Fed’s modus operandi upside down and paved the way for today’s monetary central planning.

Washington learned that it could unplug the free market interest rate in favor of state administered prices for money, and that credit could be massively expanded without the inconvenience of higher savings out of deferred consumption.

Effectively, Washington financed Woodrow Wilson’s crusade with its newly discovered printing press – turning the innocent “banker’s bank” legislated in 1913 into a dangerously potent new arm of the state.

It was this wartime transformation of the Fed into an activist central bank that postponed the normal post-war liquidation – moving the world’s scheduled depression down the road to the 1930s.

The Fed’s role in this startling feat is in plain sight in the history books, but its significance has been obfuscated by Keynesians presuming that the state must continuously manage the business cycle and macro-economy.

The Great Depression thus did not represent the failure of capitalism or some inherent suicidal tendency of the free market to plunge into cyclical depression — absent the constant ministrations of the state through monetary, fiscal, tax and regulatory interventions.

Instead, the Great Depression was a unique historical occurrence — the delayed consequence of the monumental folly of the Great War, abetted by the financial deformations spawned by modern central banking.

The “failure of capitalism” explanation of the Great Depression is exactly what enabled the Warfare State to thrive and dominate the rest of the 20th century because it gave birth to what have become its twin handmaidens — Keynesian economics and monetary central planning.

Together, these two doctrines eroded and eventually destroyed the great policy barrier – that is, the old-time religion of balanced budgets – that had kept America a relatively peaceful Republic until 1914.

If only we could rewind the clock to 1917 and keep Wilson out of WWI, history – and economics – likely would have been a lot different.

http://WarMachines.com

What Risk: Deutsche Bank Ramps Up Loans Business In Desperate Scramble For Profit

We have some sympathy for John Cryan, but only to the extent that he has the near impossible task of putting the biggest German bank back on a sound footing regaining market share and generating some elusive revenue growth: a virtually impossible task as long as Europe is choked by NIRP. As we noted two weeks ago, Deutsche’s 3Q 2017 results confirmed that the situation is still getting worse:

Deutsche Bank’s Q3 2017 revenues were €6.78 billion, below market expectations of €6.88 billion. The share price fell 2.7% shortly after the European market open. The problem – like the previous quarter – was a bigger-than-expected drop in trading revenues. Trading revenue was down 30% year-on-year to €1.512 billion versus €2.162 billion in Q2 2017. The challenge for the embattled CEO, John Cryan, is that the trend is still deteriorating. Trading revenues in Q2 2017 fell 18% year-on-year to 1.666 billion euros versus 2.027 billion euros. Earlier this year, Cryan pledged to turnaround the performance of the investment bank as soon as this year.

At the time, we wondered if Cryan’s time wasn't running out: "The countdown to Cryan's replacement is ticking ever louder."

So if you were Deutsche CEO Cryan and you needed revenue growth and you needed it fast, what would you do? One thing is to identify a “hot” sector in capital markets with high margins and go all out for growth, never mind the risk. Which is exactly what Deutsche Bank is doing in the leveraged loan market as Bloomberg implies.

While investors are attracted to the high yields from leveraged loans, investment banks are lured by the fees. “Leveraged finance is juicy, juicy stuff,” said Tim Hall, global head of debt capital markets at Credit Agricole SA until last year. “In corporate banking, it probably hast the best margins.” Yet the fees are lucrative for a reason: banks take the risk that investor appetite for leveraged loans may suddenly disappear before they can sell on the debts. Deutsche Bank lost about 2.5 billion euros on “leveraged loans and loan commitments” in 2007 and 2008 combined, annual reports show. “Anyone getting into this sector today should have a good understanding of where we’re at in the cycle of leveraged loans,” said Knutson. “Are we closer to midnight in terms of the exhaustion of it or are we halfway through?”

So…what is Deutsche doing to generate more revenue in leveraged loans? Here's Bloomberg:

As John Cryan mulls steps to restore growth at Deutsche Bank AG, he’s counting on U.S. companies’ appetite for ever more debt to help lead the charge. The Frankfurt-based lender added 24 managing directors and directors at its U.S. corporate finance business this year, a record hiring pace, according to Mark Fedorcik, co-head of Deutsche Bank’s global capital markets unit. Among the goals: to become a top arranger of leveraged loans again, the risky debt that has surged amid low interest rates and the prospect of a rollback of post-crisis regulations. “Next year will be a robust one for U.S. leveraged finance and we’re going to capitalize on this,” Fedorcik said in an interview. “It’s an area that we’re going to continue to invest in and regain a top-five position.”

As a result, next year might be a “robust one for leveraged finance”, then again it might not. Still, we know three things about banks’ behaviour:

  • They are spectacularly “good” at pro-cyclical investment and the leveraged loan market is very “hot”, especially in the US;
  • Deregulation, which loosens credit standards, always makes banks take more risk, rather than less; and
  • They never learn from one crisis to the next.

 As Bloomberg explains, Deutsche might be able to tick all three of these “boxes”:

Investment banks have arranged $1.2 trillion of U.S. leveraged loans for clients so far this year, more than any other year since at least 2006 and already 18 percent more than all of 2016, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Adding to the frenzy is the U.S. Treasury Department, which has proposed loosening restrictions imposed on Wall Street banks after the 2008 financial crisis. Some analysts fear this could mean a return to the kinds of high-risk loan deals that saddled lenders — including Deutsche Bank — with billions of dollars of debts they couldn’t sell during the crash.

In Deutsche’s defence, it does have “form” in the leveraged loan market, having been a top 5 player before slipping down the rankings as the bank stumbled from one crisis to another. In 2017, Deutsche tumbled to ninth place in arranging US leveraged loans, it’s worst showing since 2012.

Then again, the market is already dominated by JP Morgan and Bank of America who, we suspect, are unlikely to roll over to accommodate more market share for their German rival. Consequently, a critical question is how much risk might Deutsche need to take as it seeks to regain its former market position? None according to Deutsche’s co-head speaking to Bloomberg.

The decline was caused by “a little bit of bad luck,” said Fedorcik. The firm has also been “more selective” on taking risks “in some cases,” further reducing the amount of completed deals, he said. Deutsche Bank has arranged more than 300 U.S. leveraged loans so far this year, helping clients including software giant Dell Technologies Inc. and hotel chain Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. borrow about $61 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The hires in the U.S. corporate finance business bring staffing level back to where they were at the beginning in 2016, before speculation about its financial strength rattled the bank and management introduced the steepest bonus cuts in the bank’s recent history. Hires this year include Philip Pucciarelli and Robert Verdier, two health-care investment bankers who joined from BMO Capital Markets. Deutsche Bank also added professionals in its trading operations, bringing in Alexandra Cannon from Barclays Plc as a director in leveraged-loan sales in July. Paul Huchro, who retired from Goldman Sachs in 2015, is joining to oversee investment-grade trading globally as well as high yield in the U.S. and Europe, the bank said last month.

Okay, but we always get nervous when we sense over-confidence on the part of investment bankers. This was the other co-head speaking to Bloomberg.

Deutsche Bank can revise its stance on how much risk it wants to take on leveraged loans at any time, said Alexander von zur Muehlen, Fedorcik’s co-head. “We have the capital and the ability for the business,” said von zur Muehlen. “U.S. leveraged finance is a core business for us.”

Dial up the risk and dial down the risk. If only it was so easy. Our sense is that Cryan is under so much pressure to deliver growth, his strategy is to close his eyes, hope for the best and go for it. After all, this was the man who last month said that “we are now seeing signs of bubbles in more and more parts of the capital market where we wouldn’t have expected them."

Clearly, he was not referring to leveraged loans. Last month, S&P Global Ratings begged to differ, noting that "the risks of this debt binge are significant, given that excessive leverage can bring down a company as fast as prudent borrowing built it up.”

http://WarMachines.com

Mauldin: The Next Crisis Will Reveal How Little Liquidity There Is

Authored by John Mauldin via MauldinEconomics.com,

This is something I’ve been pondering for some time. I think the next crisis will reveal how little liquidity there is in the credit markets, especially in the high-yield, lower-rated space.

Dodd–Frank has greatly limited the ability of banks to provide market-making opportunities and credit markets, a function that has been in their wheelhouse for well over a century.

However, when the prices of massive amounts of high-yield bonds that have been stuffed into mutual funds and ETFs begin to fall, and the ETFs want to sell the underlying assets to generate liquidity, there will be no buyers except at extreme prices.

My friend Steve Blumenthal says we are coming up on one of the greatest buying opportunities in high-yield credit that he has ever seen. And he has 25 years of experience as a high-yield trader.

There have been three times when you had to shut your eyes, hold your breath, and buy because the high-yield prices had fallen to such extreme levels. That is going to happen again.

But it is going to unleash a great deal of volatility in every other market. As the saying goes, when you need money in a crisis, you sell what you can, not what you want to. And if you can’t sell your high-yield, you end up selling other assets (like equities), which puts strain on them.

But that is not just my view. Dr. Marko Kolanovic, a J.P. Morgan global quantitative and derivative strategy analyst, has written a short essay called “What Will the Next Crisis Look Like?” and it’s this week’s Outside the Box (subscribe to this free weekly publication here). He sees additional sources of weakness coming from other areas, too.

Frankly, the lack of volatility is beginning to scare me a bit. Minsky constantly reminded us that stability begets instability. Stability is a pretty good word to describe the current markets.

But such stability always ends in a "Minsky moment." We don’t know when; we don’t know where it starts; but we know it’s coming.

What Will the Next Crisis Look Like?

By Marko Kolanovic, PhD, and Bram Kaplan
October 3, 2017

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 and also the 50thanniversary of the 1968 global protests against political elites. Currently, there are financial and social parallels to both of these events.

Leading into the 2008 GFC, some financial institutions underwrote products with excessive leverage in real estate investments. The collapse of liquidity in these products impaired balance sheets, and governments backstopped the crisis. Soon enough governments themselves were propped by extraordinary monetary stimulus from central banks. Central banks purchased ~$15T of financial assets, mostly government obligations. This accommodation is now expected to reverse, starting meaningfully in 2018. Such outflows (or lack of new inflows) could lead to asset declines and liquidity disruptions, and potentially cause a financial crisis. We will call this hypothetical crisis the “Great Liquidity Crisis” (GLC). The timing will largely be determined by the pace of central bank normalization, business cycle dynamics and various idiosyncratic events, and hence cannot be known accurately. This is similar to the 2008 GFC, when those that accurately predicted the nature of the GFC started doing so around 2006. We think the main attribute of the next crisis will be severe liquidity disruptions resulting from market developments since the last crisis:

  • Decreased AUM of strategies that buy Value Assets: The shift from active to passive assets, and specifically the decline of active value investors, reduces the ability of the market to prevent and recover from large drawdowns. The ~$2T rotation from active and value to passive and momentum strategies since the last crisis eliminated a large pool of assets that would be standing ready to buy cheap public securities and backstop a market disruption.
  • Tail Risk of Private Assets: Outflows from active value investors may be related to an increase in Private Assets (Private Equity, Real Estate and Illiquid Credit holdings). Over the past two decades, pension fund allocations to public equity decreased by ~10%, and holdings of Private Assets increased by ~20%. Similar to public value assets, private assets draw performance from valuation discounts and liquidity risk premia. Private assets reduce day-to-day volatility of a portfolio, but add liquidity-driven tail risk. Unlike the market for public value assets, liquidity in private assets may be disrupted for much longer during a crisis.
  • Increased AUM of strategies that sell on ‘Autopilot’: Over the past decade there was strong growth in Passive and Systematic strategies that rely on momentum and asset volatility to determine the level of risk taking (e.g., volatility targeting, risk parity, trend following, option hedging, etc.). A market shock would prompt these strategies to programmatically sell into weakness. For example, we estimate that futures-based strategies grew by ~$1T over the past decade, and options-based hedging strategies increased their potential selling impact from ~3 days of average futures volume to ~7 days of average volume.
  • Trends in liquidity provision: The model of liquidity provision changed in a close analogy to the shift from active/value to passive/momentum. In market making, this has been a shift from human market makers that are slower and often rely on valuations (reversion), to programmatic liquidity that is faster and relies on volatility-based VAR to quickly adjust the amount of risk taking (liquidity provision). This trend strengthens momentum and reduces day-to-day volatility, but increases the risk of disruptions such as the ones we saw on a smaller scale in May 2010, October 2014 and August 2015.
  • Miscalculation of portfolio risk: Over the past 2 decades, most risk models were (correctly) counting on bonds to offset equity risk. At the turning point of monetary accommodation, this assumption will most likely fail. This increases tail risk for multi-asset portfolios. An analogy is with the 2008 failure of endowment models that assumed Emerging Markets, Commodities, Real Estate, and other asset classes are not highly correlated to DM Equities. In the next crisis, Bonds likely will not be able to offset equity losses (due to low rates and already large CB balance sheets). Another risk miscalculation is related to the use of volatility as the only measure of portfolio risk. Very expensive assets often have very low volatility, and despite downside risk are deemed perfectly safe by these models.
  • Valuation Excesses: Given the extended period of monetary accommodation, most of assets are at their high end of historical valuations. This is particularly true in sectors most directly comparable to bonds (e.g., credit, low volatility stocks), as well as technology- and internet-related stocks. Sign of excesses include multi-billion dollar valuations for smartphone apps or for ‘initial crypto- coin offerings’ that in many cases have very questionable value.

We believe that the next financial crisis (GLC) will involve many of the features above, and addressing them on a portfolio level may mitigate the impact of next financial crises. What will governments and central banks do in the scenario of a great liquidity crisis? If the standard rate cutting and bond purchases don’t suffice, central banks may more explicitly target asset prices (e.g., equities). This may be controversial in light of the potential impact of central bank actions in driving inequality between asset owners and labor (e.g., see here). Other ‘out of the box’ solutions could include a negative income tax (one can call this ‘QE for labor’), progressive corporate tax, universal income and others. To address growing pressure on labor from AI, new taxes or settlements may be levied on Technology companies (for instance, they may be required to pick up the social tab for labor destruction brought by artificial intelligence, in an analogy to industrial companies addressing environmental impacts). While we think unlikely, a tail risk could be a backlash against central banks that prompts significant changes in the monetary system. In many possible outcomes, inflation is likely to pick up.

The next crisis is also likely to result in social tensions similar to those witnessed 50 years ago in 1968. In 1968, TV and investigative journalism provided a generation of baby boomers access to unfiltered information on social developments such as Vietnam and other proxy wars, Civil rights movements, income inequality, etc. Similar to 1968, the internet today (social media, leaked documents, etc.) provides millennials with unrestricted access to information on a surprisingly similar range of issues. In addition to information, the internet provides a platform for various social groups to become more self-aware, united and organized. Groups span various social dimensions based on differences in income/wealth, race, generation, political party affiliations, and independent stripes ranging from alt-left to alt-right movements. In fact, many recent developments such as the US presidential election, Brexit, independence movements in Europe, etc., already illustrate social tensions that are likely to be amplified in the next financial crisis. How did markets evolve in the aftermath of 1968? Monetary systems were completely revamped (Bretton Woods), inflation rapidly increased, and equities produced zero returns for a decade. The decade ended with a famously wrong Businessweek article ‘the death of equities’ in 1979.

*  *  *

Every week, celebrated economic commentator John Mauldin highlights a well-researched, controversial essay from a fellow economic expert. Whether you find them inspiring, upsetting, or outrageous… they’ll all make you think Outside the Box. Get the newsletter free in your inbox every Wednesday.

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