The Yen Kowtows

by Michael J. Howell20. October 2017 17:21

Big changes are underway in Asia. Investors may already be seeing this in the recent divergence between the rising Japanese stock market and the sideways-moving Yen. Digging beneath the surface, it seems clear that official BoJ/MoF policy towards the Yen has changed. We have long suggested that a move was imminent, ever since a recent BoJ-led research paper highlighted the changed structure and focus of the Japanese export economy away from supplying final goods to America and Europe, and increasingly towards sending intermediate goods to China. A stable Yen is now important. Put differently, the importance of the Yen/ Yuan cross is fast-rising relative to the Yen/ US dollar cross. It means Japanese liquidity and asset prices become more pro-cyclical. In short, Japan becomes more like another Asian Emerging Market and driven by the Chinese economy.


Gold or Paper Money? Capital is Quitting the US but it is Heading into Euros not Gold

by Michael J. Howell27. September 2017 15:09

The price of gold bullion closely tracks liquidity and capital flows. Latest data point to broad stability in the bullion price and possibly a small future percentage rise. Further upward impetus would require either a collapse in confidence in the US dollar, triggering larger-scale capital outflows, and/ or still stronger QE injection by Central Banks. Looking ahead, we foresee neither. Even after the German Election result, we retain our view that the Euro is more likely to be the main net beneficiary as capital progressively quits the US and Central Banks reverse their QE policies.


Are Central Banks triggering a bear market?

by Michael J. Howell25. September 2017 14:51

Is a 2018 Bear Market Coming? Are the G4 Central Banks About to Make Another Major Error by Reversing QE? Watch Capital Flows to Find Out

This report analyses latest Central Bank QE actions against the background of global capital flows – or a potential clash between Tyrannosaurus and Godzilla? We argue that, although policy-makers have vowed to tread slowly in reversing QE, the facts that often dominant cross-border flows already appear to have peaked and that Central Banks are starting out from a much less accommodative position than widely acknowledged, must heighten systematic risks. Feeding these facts into a statistical probit model that has been informed by machine-learning techniques warns that the consequence may be a bear market in World risk assets starting in 2018. This is not yet certain, but watching the upcoming direction of cross-border flows will tell us a lot more.


Has China made Japan an Emerging Market?

by Michael J. Howell21. September 2017 13:56

As a global supplier of consumer goods, Japan has for decades enjoyed a strong Yen, high street deflation and a surging bond market. Now, re-constituted as predominantly an Asian regional supplier of intermediate goods, Japan faces different challenges and consequently deserves new policy and currency regimes. It may in future behave increasingly like a typical emerging market, choosing a more stable currency against a pan-Asian basket, but at the cost of more volatile domestic liquidity flows, particularly, when Chinese and pan-Asian liquidity are also expanding as now. These increased flows may be channelled initially into Japanese equities and latterly into outward capital flows. On top, upward pressure on Japanese interest rates from higher domestic liquidity will build, so forcing JGB yields higher and likely spilling over negatively into international bond markets. There is a growing risk to the 10-year JGB, which could suffer an upward yield spike from zero to around 30bp.


Two Key Reasons Why The Euro Is Jumping

by Michael J. Howell3. July 2017 14:51

The Euro looks to be 10-15% undervalued, according to BIS real exchange rate data. Changing capital flows prompted by (1) improving economic data and (2) less dovish statements by European policy-makers are pushing back towards this equilibrium. In short, the Euro could be a key beneficiary of US dollar weakness over coming months. What is different in this report is the evidence we bring of the broadness of Eurozone economic recovery and the fact that the long-slated end to ECB QE may already have started.


Why Latest Chinese Data Spell ‘Sell’ For Global Bonds

by Michael J. Howell29. March 2017 16:12

This report argues that World government bond markets are risky because of Chinese reflation and the progressive recovery of the Eurozone economies. Curiously, this threat is only partially explained by rising inflation pressures. The bigger risk comes from a prospective ‘re-normalisation’ of bond term premia. This is largely a capital flow story. Some US$3 trillion poured out of the Chinese and Eurozone economies into ‘safe’ (largely US) government bonds between 2012-15 – it now seems to be heading back. US 10-year governments could test 4% yields and the US dollar could fall 10% over the next 12 months.


Two Critical Prices Are Dangerously Wrong

by Michael J. Howell15. March 2017 16:16

The two most important prices in World financial markets are wrong. The US 10-year Treasury yield and the US dollar, each representing the price of the dominant economy’s debt, are too high and distorted by capital flows. Whatever the future risk outlook, the World’s two primary ‘safe’ assets are mispriced. In large part, they have been distorted by the extraordinary liquidity injections made by World Central Banks since the financial crisis: in short, policy-makers gave us ‘cheap’ money but we chose to buy ‘safety’ with it. The unwinding of these distortions will cause some jitters over the coming two years, but they will essentially mean a 5-10% weaker US dollar and higher, near-4% US Treasury yields.


The Chinese Sleeping Giant Awakens – Capital Flows, Global Bonds and 1987 Redux?

by Michael J. Howell9. March 2017 16:14

As the Chinese and Eurozone economies gain traction, inflation pressures are building. Global bonds must come under further pressure. Yet, inflation is only half the story. Most of the collapse in bond yields in recent years was driven by capital flows: a hefty US$4 trillion-plus poured into US Treasuries, the US dollar and other ‘safe’ assets from ‘offshore’. Central Bank QE policies may have contributed, but they cannot explain the size of the flows. We argue that these flows are economically-related, highly cyclical and already reversing. In February, China actually saw net capital inflows again. They threaten much higher bond yields ahead by forcing depressed bond term premia back up . Capital flows appear to explain most of the 400bp swing in bond yields, more than fluctuating inflation. A reversal could stretch equity valuations like in 1987 and lead to a broader sell-off in ‘safe’ assets. It is predominantly these ‘safe’ assets whose prices look out-of-line. In short, risk may come from where you least expect it. It is critical to understand this capital flow story.


The Return of Gold?

by Michael J. Howell1. March 2017 11:57

We have long-held a bullish view of the gold bullion price, setting a long-term target of US$3,200/oz. (see Global View “Rising Oil and Rising Gold” March 2011). This figure represents the value required to keep the monetary value of the gold stock in line with the vast accumulation of paper debt. The target was never likely to be a straight-line prediction, but the monetary rollercoaster witnessed over recent years is testimony to the uncertainties of Central Bank policies and the associated fragility in credit markets. This report argues two things: first that the two monetary drivers of the gold price are now much better aligned to support a further near-term rally and second that the future trend towards higher gold prices will be set by the monetary consequences of key geo-political change involving the US and China. We reiterate our view that gold and commodities will be star performers in 2017.


Strong Emerging Market Capital Inflows Signal Another Good Year

by Michael J. Howell20. January 2017 16:56

Emerging Markets rely heavily on foreign capital inflows for their performance. This is true even for China. Cross-border capital both directly fuels asset purchases and indirectly leads to greater domestic liquidity as foreign inflows are often monetised by the financial system. 2016 was a year of strong recovery in Emerging Market capital flows. These helped push domestic asset markets higher, but more importantly they have re-ignited a rising EM liquidity cycle. This expansion should continue into 2017. We reiterate our view that Asia is leading global markets under the sway of Chinese economic recovery and, thus far, is undented by fears of further US dollar strength. We also show in this report that EM capital flows follow three trends that feature: (1) China & Emerging Asia; (2) Brazil, India; and (3) South Africa, Russia and, possibly, Turkey. Momentum is currently shifting from the first to the second group, which are seeing a ‘catch-up’.


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