Category Archives: Banking

Bank Of America: “Previously This Has Only Happened In 2000 And 2008”

Although it will not come as a surprise to regular readers that, for various reasons, loan growth in the US has not only ground to a halt but, for the all important Commercial and Industrial Segment, has dropped at the fastest rate since the financial crisis, some (until recently) economic optimists, such as Bank of America’s Ethan Harris, are only now start to realize that the post-election “recovery” was a mirage.

A quick recap of where loan creation stood in the last week: according to the Fed’s H.8 statement, things continued to deteriorate, and C&I loans rose just 2.8% Y/Y, the worst reading since the start of the decade and on pace to print a negative number – traditionally associated with recessions – within the next four weeks, while total loans and leases rose by just 3.8% in the last week of March, less than half the stable 8% growth rate observed for much of 2014 and 2015.

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Yet while ZeroHedge readers have been familiar with this chart for months, it appears to have been a surprise to BofA’s chief economist. However, in a report titled “Is soft the new hard data?”, Ethan Harris confirms that he has finally observed the sharp swoon lower and is not at all happy by it.

As he writes in his Friday weekly recap note, “this week saw some softness in hard data as auto sales and jobs growth declined sharply. While two observations do not make a trend, this occurrence nevertheless is noteworthy as on the one hand very positive sentiment indicators suggest activity should pick up… 

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… while on the other hand loan data suggests everybody is in wait-and-see mode pending details of fiscal stimulus (=tax reform) – which highlights the risk of softer hard economic data.”

A frustrated Harris then admits that such a sharp and protracted decline in loan creation has only happened twice before: the 2000 and 2008 recessions.

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… the first period of no growth for at least six months since the 2008-2011 aftermath of the financial crisis, and prior to that after the early 2000s recession (Figure 3).

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At the same time, consumer loan growth has slowed substantially – just up 1.4% since last November US elections compared with 3.1% the same period the prior year (figure 4).

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Then again, with tax reform seemingly dead, not even a formerly uber bullish Harris find much room for optimism…

As tax reform by House Speaker Ryan’s own account is not going to happen anytime soon, and likely will be watered down as the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) is replaced by a Value Added Tax (VAT) and the elimination of net interest deductibility for corporations, the biggest near term risk to our bullish outlook for credit spreads we maintain is a correction in equities – most likely prompted by weak hard data.

… and concludes by echoing Hans Lorenzen’s recent warning, that “the biggest near term risk to our bullish outlook for credit spreads we maintain is a correction in equities – most likely prompted by weak hard data.”

Fed Announced They’re Ready To Start Shrinking Their 4.5T Balance Sheet ― Prepare For Higher Mortgage Rates

Federal Reserve Shocker! What It Means For Housing

The Federal Reserve has announced it will be shrinking its balance sheet. During the last housing meltdown in 2008, it bought the underwater assets of big banks.  It has more than two trillion dollars in mortgage-backed securities that are now worth something because of the latest housing boom.  Gregory Mannarino of TradersChoice.net says the Fed is signaling a market top in housing.  It pumped up the mortgage-backed securities it bought by inflating another housing bubble.  Now, the Fed is going to dump the securities on the market.  Mannarino predicts housing prices will fall and interest rates will rise.

Moscow And Beijing Join Forces To Bypass US Dollar In Global Markets, Shift To Gold Trade

The Russian central bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing on March 14, marking a step forward in forging a Beijing-Moscow alliance to bypass the US dollar in the global monetary system, and to phase-in a gold-backed standard of trade.

According to the South China Morning Post the new office was part of agreements made between the two neighbours “to seek stronger economic ties” since the West brought in sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and the oil-price slump hit the Russian economy.

According to Dmitry Skobelkin, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, the opening of a Beijing representative office by the Central Bank of Russia was a “very timely” move to aid specific cooperation, including bond issuance, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism measures between China and Russia.

The new central bank office was opened at a time when Russia is preparing to issue its first federal loan bonds denominated in Chinese yuan. Officials from China’s central bank and financial regulatory commissions attended the ceremony at the Russian embassy in Beijing, which was set up in October 1959 in the heyday of Sino-Soviet relations. Financial regulators from the two countries agreed last May to issue home currency-denominated bonds in each other’s markets, a move that was widely viewed as intended to eventually test the global reserve status of the US dollar.

Speaking on future ties with Russia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in mid-March that Sino-Russian trade ties were affected by falling oil prices, but he added that he saw great potential in cooperation. Vladimir Shapovalov, a senior official at the Russian central bank, said the two central banks were drafting a memorandum of understanding to solve technical issues around China’s gold imports from Russia, and that details would be released soon.

If Russia – the world’s fourth largest gold producer after China, Japan and the US – is indeed set to become a major supplier of gold to China, the probability of a scenario hinted by many over the years, namely that Beijing is preparing to eventually unroll a gold-backed currency, increases by orders of magnitude.

* * *

Meanwhile, as the Russian central bank was getting closer to China, China was responding in kind with the establishment of a clearing bank in Moscow for handling transactions in Chinese yuan. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) officially started operating as a Chinese renminbi clearing bank in Russia on Wednesday this past Wednesday. 

“The financial regulatory authorities of China and Russia have signed a series of major agreements, which marks a new level of financial cooperation,” Dmitry Skobelkin, the abovementioned deputy head of the Russian Central Bank, said.

“The launching of renminbi clearing services in Russia will further expand local settlement business and promote financial cooperation between the two countries,” he added according to.

Irina Rogova, a Russian financial analyst told the Russian magazine Expert that the clearing center could become a large financial hub for countries in the Eurasian Economic Union.

* * *

Bypassing the US dollar appears to be paying off: according to the Chinese State Administration of Taxation, trade turnover between China and Russia increased by 34% in January, in annual terms. Bilateral trade in January 2017 amounted to $6.55 billion. China’s exports to Russia grew 29.5% reaching $3.41 billion, while imports from Russia increased by 39.3%, to $3.14 billion. Just as many suspected, with Russian sanctions forcing Moscow to find other trading partners, chief among which China, this is precisely what has happened.

The creation of the clearing center enables the two countries to further increase bilateral trade and investment while decreasing their dependence on the US dollar. It will create a pool of yuan liquidity in Russia that enables transactions for trade and financial operations to run smoothly.

In expanding the use of national currencies for transactions, it could also potentially reduce the volatility of yuan and ruble exchange rates. The clearing center is one of a range of measures the People’s Bank of China and the Russian Central Bank have been looking at to deepen their co-operation, Sputnik reported.

One of the most significant measures under consideration is the previously reported push for joint organization of trade in gold. In recent years, China and Russia have been the world’s most active buyers of the precious metal. On a visit to China last year, the deputy head of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov said that the two countries want to facilitate more transactions in gold between the two countries.

“We discussed the question of trade in gold. BRICS countries are large economies with large reserves of gold and an impressive volume of production and consumption of this precious metal. In China, the gold trade is conducted in Shanghai, in Russia it is in Moscow. Our idea is to create a link between the two cities in order to increase trade between the two markets,” First Deputy Governor of the Russian Central Bank Sergey Shvetsov told Russia’s TASS news agency.

In other words, China and Russia are shifting away from dollar-based trade, to commerce which will eventually be backstopped by gold, or what is gradually emerging as an Eastern gold standard, one shared between Russia and China, and which may day backstop their respective currencies.

Meanwhile, the price of gold continues to reflect none of these potentially tectonic strategic shifts, just as China – which has been the biggest accumulator of gold in recent years – likes it.

Source: ZeroHedge

4th Person Connected to Madoff Ponzi Scheme Scandal Just Committed Suicide

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A 56-year-old partner at Paulson & Co., who was best known for losing billions of his clients’ money to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme when he ran the Fairfield Greenwich fund of funds, leaped to his death from the luxury Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan. Charles W. Murphy was wearing a dark business suit when he plunged to his death from the 24th floor of the 45 W. 44th St. building at around 4:42pm on Monday.

Murphy was working at the Fairfield Greenwich Group when Madoff was arrested in December 2008; as a result of the fraud Fairfield Greenwich lost $7.5 billion of its customers’ cash. In December 2013, Fairfield Greenwich settled a class action suit for $80. 2million, according to a website for Madoff’s victims. They were sued for failing to protect investor assets.  Almost 3,000 investors claimed a portion of the settlement.  Murphy was a Partner and Member of the Executive Committee.

The group’s Fairfield Sentry Fund was the disgraced financier’s biggest feeder fund. Up until the scandal, the fund had been paid more than 11 percent interest each year following a 15-year relationship with Madoff.

At the time of his death, Murphy was working with Paulson & Company.

Founder John Paulson released a statement on Monday night saying ‘We are extremely saddened by this news. Charles was an extremely gifted and brilliant man, a great partner and a true friend.’

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Charles Murphy, above with his second wife Annabella. Murphy was renting a room at the time, even though he owns a $36 million townhouse just 20 blocks away on the Upper East Side.

The father-of-two financier, who was married to his second wife, plummeted 20 floors before hitting a fourth floor terrace, according to the NYPD, and died at the scene according to the Mail.

The Sofitel hotel where Murphy killed himself made headlines in 2011, when French politician and head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was accused of raping a maid in one of the hotel’s suites. Three months later, all charges were dismissed. In 2012, he settled a lawsuit with the maid.

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Murphy jumped from the 24th floor of the Sofitel hotel in midtown Manhattan. He landed on a terrace four stories above the street; medics had difficulty reaching him.

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Murphy’s limestone townhouse on 67th street is still on the market for $36MM

On the day Madoff was taken into federal custody in 2008, Murphy was working with Fairfield to set up a new fund.  The Koch brothers, Charles and David, moved $2 billion overseas that they managed to make from Madoff before his scheme collapsed.  Most of that involved transfers from funds that were operated by Fairfield Greenwich Group.

Murphy is now the fourth person connected to Madoff to commit suicide in the years following the Ponzi scheme scandal.  French aristocrat Rene Thierry Magon De La Villehuchet was found dead in 2008 just after the news broke. His AIA Group lost $1.5 billion. Ex-U.S. Army major William Foxton, 65, killed himself in 2009. A year later, Madoff’s son Mark was found dead after he hanged himself in his New York apartment.

Murphy was previously a research analyst at Morgan Stanley, and was cohead of the European financial institutions group at Credit Suisse.  He graduated from Harvard Law School and MIT Sloan School of Management according to the Mail.

In 2007, before the Madoff collapse, Murphy bought the East 67th Street townhouse of Matthew Bronfman for $33 million.  Murphy reportedly tried to off-load the limestone gem, built in 1899, during the Madoff crisis but found no takers. He listed it again in 2016 for $50million, according to The Real DealThe house is now for sale at an asking price of $36 million, listed with Corcoran

It appears that at least part of Murphy’s troubles have been financial: a parking attendant at a nearby garage told the New York Post that Murphy’s wife, Annabella , crashed their Honda Odyssey last summer but could not afford to fix it. ‘She didn’t even have enough money to pay for the damage,’ the attendant said.

Murphy’s first wife, former Heather Kerzner, got married to hotel billionaire Sol Kerzner after the pair split. They were married for 11 years before their marriage ended in divorce.

According to the Daily News, Murphy was being treated for depression before his suicide.

Source: ZeroHedge

Retail Store Traffic & Used Vehicle Prices Are Declining

Retail:

According to Wells Fargo’s Ike Boruchow, it’s “increasingly clear that retail is under significant pressure” adding that store traffic remains weak (likely to get softer this week due to Easter shift), while markdown rates are not only elevated on an annual basis, but also getting sequentially worse. He concludes that “retailers are running out of time” to reach elevated Q1 numbers as consumption is failing to rebound.

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S&P Retail Stocks

Whether due to displacement (from online vendors), due to concerns about border tax, or simply because the US consumer’s plight – despite the recent surge in Trump induced animal spirits – has not changed one bit, the pain for US retailers continues, and as a result, the outlook for malls and other retail-associated secondary industries will remain bleak for the foreseeable future.

Used Vehicles:

Desutche Bank is gravely concerned: We’ve grown increasingly concerned about U.S. Used Vehicle Pricing down 7.7% yoy during February, per NADA. A decline in used prices has been widely anticipated given a significant increase in used vehicle supply (off-lease vehicles). But the magnitude of the recent drop was nonetheless surprising (February’s drop was largest recorded for any month since Nov. 2008). Used prices have a significant impact on New Vehicle demand/pricing through their effect on affordability (most new car purchases involve a trade-in).

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Let us hope this is all because consumers are focused on buying houses instead.

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http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-20/used-car-prices-crash-most-2008

 

Janet Yellen Explains Why She Hiked In A 0.9% GDP Quarter

It appears, the worse the economy was doing, the higher the odds of a rate hike.

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Putting the Federal Reserve’s third rate hike in 11 years into context, if the Atlanta Fed’s forecast is accurate, 0.9% GDP would mark the weakest quarter since 1980 in which rates were raised (according to Bloomberg data).

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We look forward to Ms. Yellen explaining her reasoning – Inflation no longer “transitory”? Asset prices in a bubble? Because we want to crush Trump’s economic policies? Because the banks told us to?

For now it appears what matters to The Fed is not ‘hard’ real economic data but ‘soft’ survey and confidence data…

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Source: ZeroHedge

Foreign Governments Dump US Treasuries as Never Before, But Who the Heck is Buying Them?

It started with a whimper a couple of years ago and has turned into a roar: foreign governments are dumping US Treasuries. The signs are coming from all sides. The data from the US Treasury Department points at it. The People’s Bank of China points at it in its data releases on its foreign exchange reserves. Japan too has started selling Treasuries, as have other governments and central banks.

Some, like China and Saudi Arabia, are unloading their foreign exchange reserves to counteract capital flight, prop up their own currencies, or defend a currency peg.

Others might sell US Treasuries because QE is over and yields are rising as the Fed has embarked on ending its eight years of zero-interest-rate policy with what looks like years of wild flip-flopping, while some of the Fed heads are talking out loud about unwinding QE and shedding some of the Treasuries on its balance sheet.

Inflation has picked up too, and Treasury yields have begun to rise, and when yields rise, bond prices fall, and so unloading US Treasuries at what might be seen as the peak may just be an investment decision by some official institutions.

The chart below from Goldman Sachs, via Christine Hughes at Otterwood Capital, shows the net transactions of US Treasury bonds and notes in billions of dollars by foreign official institutions (central banks, government funds, and the like) on a 12-month moving average. Note how it started with a whimper, bounced back a little, before turning into wholesale dumping, hitting record after record (red marks added):

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The People’s Bank of China reported two days ago that foreign exchange reserves fell by another $12.3 billion in January, to $2.998 trillion, the seventh month in a row of declines, and the lowest in six years. They’re down 25%, or almost exactly $1 trillion, from their peak in June 2014 of nearly $4 trillion (via Trading Economics, red line added):

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China’s foreign exchange reserves are composed of assets that are denominated in different currencies, but China does not provide details. So of the $1 trillion in reserves that it shed since 2014, not all were denominated in dollars.

The US Treasury Department provides another partial view, based on data collected primarily from US-based custodians and broker-dealers that are holding these securities for China and other countries. But the US Treasury cannot determine which country owns the Treasuries held in custodial accounts overseas. Based on this limited data, China’s holdings of US Treasuries have plunged by $215.2 billion, or 17%, over the most recent 12 reporting months through November, to just above $1 trillion.

So who is buying all these Treasuries when the formerly largest buyers – the Fed, China, and Japan – have stepped away, and when in fact China, Japan, and other countries have become net sellers, and when the Fed is thinking out loud about shedding some of the Treasuries on its balance sheet, just as nearly $900 billion in net new supply (to fund the US government) flooded the market over the past 12 months?

Turns out, there are plenty of buyers among US investors who may be worried about what might happen to some of the other hyper-inflated asset classes.

And for long suffering NIRP refugees in Europe, there’s a special math behind buying Treasuries. They’re yielding substantially more than, for example, French government bonds, with the US Treasury 10-year yield at 2.4%, and the French 10-year yield at 1.0%, as the ECB under its QE program is currently the relentless bid, buying no matter what, especially if no one else wants this paper. So on the face of it, buying US Treasuries would be a no-brainer.

But the math got a lot more one-sided in recent days as French government bonds now face a new risk, even if faint, of being re-denominated from euros into new French francs, against the will of bondholders, an act of brazen default, and these francs would subsequently get watered down, as per the euro-exit election platform of Marine Le Pen. However distant that possibility, the mere prospect of it, or the prospect of what might happen in Italy, is sending plenty of investors to feed on the richer yields sprouting in less chaos, for the moment at least, across the Atlantic.

By Wolf Richter | Wolf Street