AP Police Officer Carries Aylan Kurdi’s Body, Bodrum Sep 2 2015
No year is ever easy to predict, if only because if it were, that would take all the fun out of life. But still, predictions for 2016 look quite a bit easier than other years. This is because a whole bunch of irreversible things happened in 2015 that were not recognized for what they are, either intentionally or by ‘accident’. Things that will therefore now be forced to play out in 2016, when denial will no longer be an available option.
A year ago, I wrote 2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age, and though that was more about geopolitics, it might as well have dealt with the financial press. And that goes for 2015 at least as much. Mainstream western media are no more likely to tell you what’s real than Chinese state media are.
2015 should have been the year of China, and it was in a way, but the extent to which was clouded by Beijing’s insistence on made-up numbers (GDP growth of 7% against the backdrop of plummeting imports and exports, 45 months of falling producer prices and bad loans reaching 20%), by the western media’s insistence on copying these numbers, and by everyone’s fear of the economic and financial consequences of the ‘Great Fall of China‘.
2015 was also the year when deflation, closely linked -but by no means limited- to China, got a firm hold on the global economy. Denial and fear have restricted our understanding of this development just as much.
And while it should be obvious that 2015 was the year of refugees as well, that topic too has been twisted and turned until full public comprehension has become impossible. Both in the US and in Europe politicians pose for their voters loudly proclaiming that borders must be closed and refugees and migrants sent back to the places they’re fleeing due to our very own military interventions. Continue reading
The giant credit fueled boom of the last 20 years has deformed the global economy in ways that are both visible and less visible. As to the former, it only needs be pointed out that an economy based on actual savings from real production and income and a modicum of financial market discipline would not build 65 million empty apartment units based on the theory that their price will rise forever as long as they remain unoccupied!
That’s the Red Ponzi at work in China and its replicated all across the land in similar wasteful investments in unused or under-used shopping malls, factories, coal mines, airports, highways, bridges and much, much more.
But the point here is that China is not some kind of one-off aberration. In fact, the less visible aspects of the credit ponzi exist throughout the global economy and they are becoming more visible by the day as the Great Deflation gathers force.
As we have regularly insisted, there is nothing in previous financial history like the $185 trillion of worldwide credit expansion over the last two decades. When this central bank fueled credit bubble finally reached its apogee in the past year or so, global credit had expanded by nearly 4X the gain in worldwide GDP.
Moreover, no small part of the latter was simply the pass-through into the Keynesian-style GDP accounting ledgers of fixed asset investment (spending) that is destined to become a write-off or public sector white elephant (wealth destruction) in the years ahead.
The credit bubble, in turn, led to booming demand for commodities and CapEx. And in these unsustainable eruptions layers and layers of distortion and inefficiency cascaded into the world economy and financial system.
One of these was an explosion of CapEx in the oil patch and the mining sector in response to massive price and margin gains and the resulting windfall rents on existing assets. In the case of upstream oil and gas, for example, worldwide investment grew from $250 billion to $700 billion in less than a decade. Continue reading
China’s government or the PBOC moved to suspend three foreign banks from participating in cross-border currency transactions. From what I have seen, and nothing has been confirmed, rumors have suggested that Deutsche Bank was one of the three. The move has, as usual, created all manner of confusion in how to frame what the PBOC or Chinese regulators might be attempting. Recall that August’s great “devaluation” was supposed to be exactly that, an intentional “stimulus” of sorts to devalue CNY against the dollar to regain export expansion.
Since then, the PBOC’s various moves, of which there have been many, don’t seem to align with devaluation tactics. The suspension of banks in the “carry trade” between onshore and offshore CNY and CNH is yet another example.
By closing loopholes in its regulations, China is trying to stabilize the yuan after a surprising revamp of its currency-valuation system in August led to capital outflows and prompted policy makers to tap $213 billion of foreign reserves to support the yuan. The risk is that discouraging arbitrage will cause the exchange rates to diverge further, undermining the goal of unifying the two markets.
From devaluation to now “stabilizing the yuan”, the PBOC has caught currency observers in competing narratives. Here’s another:
The spread between the onshore and offshore markets for the yuan, or renminbi, has been growing since the devaluation, making it increasingly difficult for the central bank to manage its currency and stem an outflow of capital from an economy that is facing its slowest growth in 25 years.
The sources told Reuters that authorities had warned the banks that if they engaged in lucrative carry trade, taking advantage of the different exchange rates, the central bank would move to further block arbitrage channels.
“This is part of the PBOC’s expedient means to stabilize the yuan’s exchange rate,” said an executive at a foreign bank contacted separately.