What will save the Wunderbund* (and related QE trades)?
Bund sell-off continues. 10yr German govt bond yields jump to 0.66%, hit fresh high for 2015. pic.twitter.com/5KEoszrCXW
— Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner) May 7, 2015
On the back of news “that several Chinese provincial governments have been forced to postpone bond auctions as banks balk at the low yields on offer” — really scuppering the plans of those local governments to restructure their massive debts — some rumours of “Chinese QE” began floating about over the past few days.
But that seems to have passed…. and now it’s chatter of an ECB style LTRO that’s being heard in the wind.
Either way though, we think it would be a better idea to forget the QE or LTRO comparisons this time around — it muddies the water — and instead concentrate on what China is trying to achieve. Read more
Deutsche Bank has long been an unloved stock.
Not only does it trade stubbornly below book-value, a bleak revenue outlook in January led to the promise of a major strategy rethink for the group, including the prospect of job cuts, asset sales and the streamlining of investment banking divisions.
Among options on the table is a sale of the group’s Postbank retail business — a division it acquired in 2008 in the hope of bringing deposit funding to the aid of its investment banking arm. Read more
Economics blogger Ben Bernanke wrote today on why interest rates are lower than they’ve been in the past. His argument is that changing estimates of future growth and inflation are to blame, rather than an overly activist Fed. While we have some sympathy for this view, we’re struck by the fact that it partly contradicts what Bernanke said when he was actually at the Fed.
In particular, compare this passage from Bernanke’s recent post (emphasis ours): Read more
We know there’s been a great deal of change on the asset-side of banks’ balance sheets since the crisis. But if you ever wanted it summed up in one table, look no further than the following:
These came out yesterday courtesy of BofAML’s 2015 look at looong term trends in financial markets by Harnett and Leung…
The obvious place to start:
And the obvious place to continue, asset prices: Read more
Eric Rosengren, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, gave a speech in Frankfurt on Thursday arguing that the Fed’s full employment mandate gave the central bank more flexibility to be aggressive earlier, and that open-ended programmes that are tied to economic targets are more effective than purchases of predetermined size and duration.
Nothing novel there. But his speech also contained, perhaps inadvertently, some interesting arguments that the rounds of bond-buying after the acute phase of the financial crisis did little for the real economy. (We covered the tenuous relationship between asset purchase programmes and inflation here.) Read more
You know how Bitcoin miners get a natural advantage in the cryptocurrency pyramid of inequality because of being early adopters that get first dibs on all new currency that’s created?
Turns out the ECB has a similar problem.
Here’s a nice write up of the distributive problems associated with QE-style helicopter drops in the current asset-purchasing framework from Pierre Monnin, a fellow at the Council on Economic Policies (our emphasis):
In practice, targeted money drops, like quantitative easing (QE), do not spread instantaneously throughout the economy. Like a vaccine, money is injected at one place and then disperses more or less quickly to other areas. Stephen Williamson and Olivier Ledoit have closely looked at how a money injection moves through the economy. They both use a model in which different economic groups trade randomly and repeatedly with each other.
From JPM’s Flows & Liquidity team, this is what ECB QE incontinence looks like:
We know instinctively that the Bank of England doesn’t like to be seen to be inflating stock market bubbles. That money printed for the purposes of quantitative easing might be flowing into the hands of existing equity holders (such as corporate executive management) would reinforce the wholly disagreeable notion that Britain’s central bank was actually fuelling the growth in wealth inequality.
On the potential death of that long awaited negative deposit rate, interesting thoughts from HSBC’s Steven Major below if sovereign quantitative easing does eventually raise its head in Europe.
But first, a necessary nod to QE skepticism from Peter Stella:
Rather amazingly, a crude quantitative measure of ECB stimulus—the sum of refinancing operations and securities held for monetary policy purposes—peaked the very month of Dr. Draghi’s [whatever it takes] speech. Those who are now seeking QE apparently believe that, despite the inverse correlation between quantitative stimulus and actual results, an increase in the size of the ECB balance sheet will lead to an outcome superior to that associated with the increase in policy “size” evident above during the 14 months prior to the Draghi speech. During that time, the sum of ECB monetary operations instruments expanded by 168 percent without any discernible palliative impact on markets. So if the definition of insanity is repeatedly trying the same behavior and expecting different results, the market would appear slightly insane. Or perhaps it is simply guilty of failing to fully comprehend the complexity of monetary operations, and more specifically, which monetary medicines work and which do not.
With the European Central Bank keeping everyone guessing on the prospect of Eurozone QE, uncertainties over exactly how Draghi will choose to act to curb the deflation risk building in the region are beginning to create a headache for non-Eurozone members such as Poland.
Whilst Poland’s economy has proved resilient to the downturn thus far, deflationary trends are creeping into the country putting central bankers under pressure to act decisively sooner rather than later. The key metric everyone is worried about is a dip in Poland’s annual rate of consumer price inflation to a negative 0.3 per cent. Read more
A farewell to QE (of sorts) from Michael Hartnett et al at BofAML:
A recent US Treasury paper calculated that between Jan’09 and Apr’13 the S&P500 index rose 570 points in the weeks the Fed bought $5bn or more securities, 141 points in the weeks it bought up to $5bn, and fell 51 points in the weeks the Fed sold securities.
The Fed’s balance sheet is no longer in expansion mode, which means it’s time for post-mortems of the most recent asset purchase programme. (Our colleague John Authers has a very good round-up of what did and didn’t happen since QE3 began.)
We want to focus on the fact that the most recent round of bond-buying seemed to have no inflationary impact. If anything, an observer of the data who had no preconceptions about monetary policy operations would conclude that QE3 was disinflationary. Alphaville writers have been exploring this possibility for years (though without firm conclusions).
Reuters is reporting that the European Central Bank might be willing to purchase corporate bonds as part of its €1 trillion effort to restore “the size of [its] balance sheet towards the dimensions it used to have at the beginning of 2012.” The story has also been picked up by the FT and WSJ.
We didn’t immediately get why the ECB would decide to do this, especially since spreads on even the junkiest of junk debt are still quite narrow. (Lufthansa’s recent 5-year note yielding just 1.1 per cent at issuance comes to mind.)
One explanation is that the size of the markets the ECB has already agreed to target — asset-backed securities and covered bonds — is too small for the central bank to achieve its objectives. Read more
Deutsche’s George Saravelos isn’t entirely convinced by the calls for QE4/QEmore rattling through our inbox from those on the receiving end of this correction.
Those looking to the Fed to save the day are looking at the wrong place. First, unlike the September 2013 non-taper, US rates have rallied and American data surprises are close to their highs. Second, this is not about the US but the rest of the world. Bunds and gilts have rallied 9-10% this year compared to a 6% rally in USTs. This is about global, not American fears. It is about how the world transitions away from Fed-driven liquidity (QE winds down this month) to the rest of the world.
Or QEinfinity continued we suppose.
From Deutsche’s Jim Reid the morning after the liquidity crisis before:
With all this going on one wonders what probabilities you’d get that the Fed actually does QE again before it raises rates. I’m sure if you’d have suggested this a month ago many would have thought that there was more chance of Elvis being found living a relaxing retirement on the moon.
Some pre-ECB musings from Lombard Street’s Dario Perkins (with our emphasis):
Market economists remain divided on the issue of whether the ECB will do QE, not because they disagree about whether it is needed – here there is near unanimity – but because they aren’t sure Mr Draghi can overcome philosophical and technical opposition from some of his colleagues…
Fortunately, those opposed to QE at the Bank seem to have softened their stance a little recently.
Governments need to reform their labour markets, reduce taxes that weigh on business, free companies from red tape and continue to repair their public finances. Merely talking about such reforms is not enough…QE would merely enable governments to borrow even more cheaply, giving recalcitrant politicians an easy way out.
[...] Read more
The final report from Smithers & Co has landed, as the septuagenarian scourge of “stockbroker economics” eases into retirement.
We are assured that he’ll still be blogging for the FT, but the regular research output will cease. The valedictory note is, as you might expect, on the bearish side of things:
The US equity market is overvalued to an extent only experienced five times before in the past 212 years. On two occasions, however, it has risen well above the current degree of overvaluation.
Introducing a new series tracking the slow death of the traditional investment banking model (if not banking itself).
Just to round up the recent spate of gawd awful Q1 results from the banking sector: Read more
But the case for expanding the central bank balance-sheet to the population — something which can easily be done via the issuance of sovereign e-money — does not in our opinion necessarily demand the elimination of private money issuance along with it. More than likely both forms of money can co-exist quite healthily. Read more
Anyone who has speculated about the significance and effects of quantitative easing in the last five years should probably have a read. Read more
An interesting job going at the ECB? (Click for the details.)
By downplaying the adverse effects of cross-border monetary transmission of unconventional policies, we are overlooking the elephant in the post-crisis room. I see two dangers here. One is that any remaining rules of the game are breaking down. Our collective endorsement of unconventional monetary policies essentially says it is ok to distort asset prices if there are other domestic constraints to reviving growth, such as the zero-lower bound. But net spillovers, rather than fancy acronyms, should determine internationally acceptable policy.
Otherwise, countries could legitimately practice what they might call quantitative external easing or QEE, whereby they intervene to keep their exchange rate down and build huge reserves. The reason we frowned on QEE in the past is because we believed the adverse spillover effects for the rest of the world were significant. If we are unwilling, however, to evaluate all policies based on their spillover effects, there is no legitimate way multilateral institutions can declare that QEE contravenes the rules of the game. Indeed, some advanced economy central bankers have privately expressed their worry to me that QE “works” primarily by altering exchange rates, which makes it different from QEE only in degree rather than in kind.
Unanimous in its commitment to using also unconventional instruments within its mandate in order to cope effectively with risks of a too prolonged period of low inflation…
– Mario Draghi, April ECB press conference
Don’t try saying that with a mouthful of peas.
More seriously, spot the caveats. A few members of the ECB governing council have since added to the noise around ECB QE — Nowotny, Mersch, Constancio, Coeure and Weidmann — but we feel better no informed than when the presser ended on Thursday. Read more