The Bank of Japan Makes A Second Big Error

by Michael J. Howell22. September 2016 16:41

The reported September ‘major rethinking’ of Japanese monetary policy is an error that will add risk to markets. That is not to say that the previous BoJ move to push policy rates into negative territory was any better. Fundamentally, the BoJ’s recent actions confirm that policy-makers do not understand the yield curve. The end result will be higher Japanese bond yields, a steeper yield curve and a stronger Yen.

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China’s QE4 or QE3.5?

by Michael J. Howell27. July 2016 17:03

While markets ponder the Fed’s next move, swinging agitatedly between the probabilities of a rate rise and no change, China’s PBoC (People’s Bank) is quietly getting on with its job of reviving the Chinese economy. China is hugely important because her liquidity pool now matches America’s in size and the People’s Bank (PBoC) is one-fifth bigger than the US Fed. Call its actions a ‘QE4’ or something similar? But after last year’s tightening, latest analysis of the PBoC points to a renewed stimulus coinciding with greater stability in Chinese capital flows. The six months to June 2016 saw an annualised jump of 21.7% in the size of the PBoC balance sheet. This compares to an annualised drop of 17.7% in the six months to December 2015. No wonder commodity prices and EM are firm?

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The Four Elephants of the Macro-Apocalypse?

by Michael J. Howell27. July 2016 16:49

If the last twenty five years underscore just how much capital flows matter to markets, then the last two years have seen the build-up of four big trends that are not getting the attention they deserve. As these trends reverse, they will have major implications for markets. Each anomaly represents an ‘elephant in the room’ for investors. Just for starters, we figure that bond prices could tumble, the US dollar skid lower and EM significantly outperform Wall Street.

 

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Emerging Markets Are Looking Better and Better

by Michael J. Howell15. July 2016 15:45

This is a ‘sit-up-and-think’ moment for Emerging Market allocators, according to latest Liquidity data. After more than five years of lacklustre EM, investment returns triggered primarily by poor liquidity conditions and correspondingly high risk, the future is looking far, far better. The key reason is the significant recent improvement in both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of liquidity flows to EM. Not only have both foreign investor net inflows and domestic private sector liquidity jumped higher (virtually across the geographic spectrum of EM), but the currency-sapping dominance of EM Central Bankers has taken a step backwards. Therefore, looking ahead, foreign interest in increasing in what are fast-becoming more healthy, cash-generating economies, with the prospects of greater future currency stability.

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Woof! – Global Capital Flows After Brexit

by Michael J. Howell30. June 2016 12:51

Does the response of international investors to the UK’s Brexit vote tell us more about the peaking US dollar than prospective European weakness? A key question to pose after the UK Brexit vote was why the US dollar did not rally by more? For Sherlock Holmes fans this looks like another ‘dog that did not bark’. On its trade-weighted index the US unit rose by a mere 1.8% in the initial 3-day period of the ‘shock’. As with the trade-weighted Chinese Yuan, the US dollar remains down by around 5% this year. This latest muted response of the US dollar sits uncomfortably alongside many pundits who continue to push the idea of a super-strong US currency. There may be two reasons behind this: (1) the US dollar is being seen less as the ‘safe haven’ currency – gold jumped by 5% and the trade-weighted Yen by 6.2% (since 2008 the Yen index has a whopping negative 0.81 correlation to risk appetite indexes) and/ or (2) global investors have already invested heavily in dollars over the past few years and need no more.

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The World After Brexit

by Michael J. Howell27. June 2016 16:50

Is this Risk On or Risk Off? First, in financial and economic terms, this is not another 2008. Then the markets stopped working. Today, global markets are shocked, but not frozen. Second, the UK is financially stronger and more robust than it was in 2008. Third, the implications of Brexit are likely greater for the World outside of the UK, than for Britain itself. Should we buy or sell? Longer term equities possibly look a tad better because Brexit will shift policy focus towards more use of fiscal policy and away from the demerits of QE. Greater use of fiscal policies will ultimately worry bond markets. Geopolitics will come to the fore. All-in-all, gold looks increasingly attractive. The liquidity cycles have been telling us that 2016 is the year of gold and commodities. That view continues.

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A Third Major Bubble That Looks Set to Finally Burst

by Michael J. Howell7. June 2016 16:04

In 2007/08 World stock markets were pushed too close to the sun by the spiralling shadow banking markets. In 2011/12 gold and commodities, spurred by soaring Central Bank liquidity, followed. Now, driven by a scramble for ‘safe’ assets, it is the turn of government bond markets. Ironically, their term premia have been driven to such low extremes they now look more like risk assets than ‘safe’ ones. In this topsy-turvy World, investors have been buying bonds for capital gain and equities for yield. Treasuries look vulnerable to both domestic inflation shocks and global capital flow shocks.

 

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Could Xi Zap Bonds?

by Michael J. Howell25. May 2016 12:12

If a second hike in US policy rates this July now looks a certainty following a strong FOMC hint, the behaviour of the long-end of the bond markets seems more like a conundrum. In a textbook World, rising short-term rates should bearishly flatten the yield curve. Many investors seem so positioned. Up to now we have been big fans of bonds, but it is time to change. We do not disagree that yields should rise, but we suspect that rising yields may come alongside a steepening yield curve. In other words, the long-end of the market could sell-off. And China may hold the key.

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G4 Bond Risks

by Michael J. Howell18. March 2016 15:13

The US dollar is cracking under pressure from deteriorating fundamentals and maybe a subtle policy co-ordination following the last G20 Shanghai summit. Could this be Plaza2? The asset allocation implications are significant. We focus here on the potential volatility of G4 bond markets. If the links between Chinese capital outflows, surging G4 bonds and a strong US$ are true, then any reversal in flows will cause a further US dollar sell-off and crashing bond prices as investors flee these ‘safe’ assets. 

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Global View March 2016: Why Gold Bullion is Soaring

by Michael J. Howell7. March 2016 16:19

Gold is our high conviction trade for 2016. Think of the gold price as the antithesis of paper money. A strong gold price equates to weak paper money: this often means a falling US dollar, but not always. The last couple of years have seen gold reaching record levels measured in EM currencies, but still languishing against the US unit. However, the next 18 months may see an unambiguously strong gold price against all paper units. We expect it to test US$2,000/oz. by mid-2017. The reasons lie in the changing mix of Global Liquidity.

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