#ecb

Central banks are climate change experts now. If only they possessed such skill in their core competency

Are these people for real? Does the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) truly believe that world’s central banks will become “climate rescuers of last resort”? Do we really want our central banks to be more proactive in pushing governments toward a greener economy by suggesting a carbon tax as “first-best solution“? The problem with central bankers is that every problem looks like a nail when they only have a hammer in the toolkit.

First, on what level do central banks have a clue about climate change? If they had even the foggiest notion about the science they would never have embarked on a set of reckless monetary policy measures that created the very conditions for excessive debt, mal-investment and over-consumption which they now seek to punish us for via the adoption of a carbon tax.

We should not forget the almost $300 trillion of global debt now racked up thanks to abnormally low interest rates. It is politically expedient to run budget deficits too because central banks are only too happy to keep (near) ZIRP or NIRP which makes servicing ballooning deficits appear almost perpetually affordable with short term focused politicians. It is but a figment of their imagination.

How easy it is to sound the alarm on climate change to mask the policy blunders of the last two decades. It would be nice if we could believe they possessed expertise in their mandated role before embarking into a field they have no sound base to work from. It is a dangerous distraction.

It is worth citing a few examples of the record of central banks around the world since GFC.

In 2018, the US Fed stopped reporting changes in the balance sheet. It did this to prevent spooking the markets over tapering. It reminds FNF Media of the day Bernanke’s Fed announced it would no longer report M3 money supply a year before the financial markets headed into the GFC. Why is there a need for a lack of transparency if it wishes to instill market confidence via its policy settings?

Has the Fed reflected on the fact that over half of listed corporates have a credit rating of BBB or below? Ford Motor Co’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s to junk. $84bn worth of debt now no longer investment grade. It will be the first of many Fortune 500s to fall foul to this reality. In 2008, there was around $800bn of BBB status credit. That number exceeds $3.186 trillion today. Brought to you courtesy of low interest rates.

The Bank of Japan (BoJ) is now responsible for 60% of all ETF market ownership. Latest reports confirm the Bank of Japan (BoJ) has now become a top 10 shareholder in almost 50% of listed stocks. In a sense, we have a trend which threatens to turn Japan’s largest businesses into quasi-state-owned enterprises (SoE) by the back door. The BoJ now owns $250bn of listed Japanese equities. It is the top shareholder in household Japanese brands such as Omron, Nidec and Fanuc. At current investment rates, the BoJ is set to own $400bn worth of the market by 2020-end.

The BoJ’s manipulation of the JGB market caused several of the major Japanese banks to hand back their trading licenses because they served no purpose anymore given the central bank’s manipulation.

The ECB has dropped the ball in Europe. Jonathan Rochford of Narrowroad Capital wrote,

Many European banks have failed to use the last decade to materially de-risk. The most obvious outworking of this is that European banks continue to receive taxpayer funded bailouts, with Germany’s NordLB and Italy’s Banca Popolare di Bari both receiving lifelines this monthOne final issue that lurks particularly amongst European banks is their gaming of capital ratios. European banks have become masters of finding assets that require little risk capital but can generate a decent margin. Government debt from Italy is one example, with pressure now being put on the ECB to allow for unlimited purchases of Greek government debt. This would substantially increase the already significant “doom loop” risk. This risk arises from the potential for a default on government debt to bankrupt the banks, and the converse situation where failing banks look for a taxpayer bailout and bankrupt the country.

The list goes on and on. Central banks are in no position to lecture the rest of us on anything given their command of their core competence remains so flawed.

Global money velocity has been declining for two decades. Every dollar printed creates an ever shrinking fraction of GDP impact. Yet all we did was double down on all the failed measures that led us into the GFC

What we do know is that the BIS has sought the advice of literature professors to come up with the phrase that climate change presented a “colossal and potentially irreversible risk of staggering complexity.”

Really?

It is easy for the BIS to shout that a “green swan” event could send us into the financial abyss. However the reality is that dreadful stewardship of monetary conditions has set us up for a huge fall. Not a bushfire, storm or flood. Perhaps we might view a green swan event as wishful thinking by central banks because it would allow them to absolve themselves of all responsibility in getting us into this mess in the first place. They want to see themselves as saviors, not culprits.

Rochford sums up central banks brilliantly with this comment,

When it comes to central banks, I would prefer to believe it is a combination of groupthink, an unwillingness to take career risk by speaking the truth and a willingness to either ignore or disregard counter evidence that has resulted in the detrimental decisions since the financial crisis. However, the increasing amount of evidence, often produced by central banks themselves, points to central banks being more culpable than gullible.

So given this condition why on earth are we paying any attention to their prescriptions on saving the planet? When they quit the excuses and fess up that the last two decades of monetary policy has failed to fix the excesses built in the system then we might lend an ear. Until then they join the list of government agencies who don’t want to be caught out not being in line with the settled politics. Truly sick.

This can only end in tears

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As Sweden’s economy slows to the worst economic growth rate in 5 years under a negative interest rate policy, one would think the Swedish Central Bank (Riksbank) would be seeking to prudently manage its asset book on the basis of appropriate risk/reward as opposed to lecturing Australia and Canada on their respective carbon footprints. What we are witnessing is yet another discrete move by authorities to manipulate markets based on fantasy rather than fact.  The hypocrisy is extreme as we shall discover.

While the Riksbank should have complete freedom in how it wishes to deploy capital, we should view this is a pathetic sop to the cabal at the European Central Bank (ECB). Since when did central bankers become experts on climate change? The RBA is no better. Deputy Governor, Guy Debelle, gave a speech in March 2019 on the risks posed by climate change which based prophecies on the data accident-prone IPCC and Bureau of Meteorology. Why not seek balance? Easier to fold to group think so as not to be outed as a pariah. Utterly gutless. Our own APRA is also pushing this ridiculous agenda on climate change reporting. It is willful negligence.

While it is true that on a per capita basis, Australia and Canada’s emissions are higher than the global average, why doesn’t the Riksbank give us credit for lowering that amount 11.4% since 2000? Even Canada has reduced its carbon emissions by 7.3% over the last 18 years. Admittedly Sweden’s emissions per capita have fallen 21.9% according to the IEA. Greta will be happy.

Why hasn’t the Riksbank taken China or India to task for their 169.9% or 94.7% growth in CO2 emissions respectively? There are plenty of oil-producing nations – Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman that have worse per capita outcomes than Australia or Canada. Do these countries get special dispensation from the wrath of the Riksbank? Clearly.

The US has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. If the US has marginally lower emissions per capita (15.74t/CO2-e) than Australia (16.45t/CO2-e), isn’t a double standard to write,

The conditions for active climate consideration are slightly better in our work with the foreign exchange reserves. To ensure that the foreign exchange reserves fulfil their purpose, they need to consist of assets that can be rapidly converted to money even when the markets are not functioning properly. Our assessment is that the foreign exchange reserves best correspond to this need if they consist of 75 per cent US government bonds, 20 per cent German and 5 per cent British, Danish and Norwegian government bonds.

Essentially Riksbank commitment to climate change is conditional. The US which is responsible for 13.8% of global emissions can be 75% of holdings. Australia at 1.3% can’t. No doubt sacrificing Queensland Treasury Corp, WA Treasury Corp and Albertan bonds from a Riksbank balance sheet perspective will have little impact on the total. In short, it looks to be pure tokenism. The Riksbank has invested around 8% of its foreign exchange reserves in Australian and Canadian central and federal government bonds. So perhaps at the moment, it is nothing but substitution from state to federal. Why not punish NSW TCorp for being part of a state that has 85%+ coal-fired power generation?

At the very least the Riksbank admits its own hypocrisy.

The Riksbank needs to develop its work on how to take climate change into consideration in asset management. For instance, we need a broader and deeper analysis of the issuers’ climate footprint. At the same time, one must remember that the foreign exchange reserves are unavoidably dominated by US and German government bonds. The Riksbank’s contribution to a better development of the climate will, therefore, remain small. This is entirely natural. The important decisions on how climate change should be counteracted in Sweden are political and should be taken by the government and the Riksdag (parliament).

Still, what hope have we got when Benoît Cœuré, member of the Executive Board of the ECB, lecturing those on “Scaling up Green Finance: The Role of Central Banks.” He noted,

2018 has seen one of the hottest summers in Europe since weather records began. Increasing weather extremes, rising sea levels and the Arctic melting are now clearly visible consequences of human-induced warming. Climate change is not a theory. It is a fact.

Reading more of this report only confirms the commitment of the ECB to follow the UN’s lead and deliberately look to misallocate capital based on unfounded claims of falling crop yields and rising prices (the opposite is occurring) and rising hurricane and drought activity (claims that even the IPCC has admitted there is little or no evidence by climate change). Sweden is merely being a well-behaved schoolboy.

Cœuré made the explicit claim, “The ECB, together with other national central banks of the Eurosystem, is actively supporting the European Commission’s sustainable finance agenda.

CM thinks the biggest problem with this “agenda” is that it risks even further misallocation of capital within global markets already drowning in poorly directed investment. It isn’t hard to see what is going on here. It is nothing short of deliberate market manipulation by trying to increase the cost of funding to conventional energy using farcical concocted “climate risks” to regulate them out of existence.

Cœuré made this clear in his speech,

once markets and credit risk agencies price climate risks properly, the amount of collateralised borrowing counterparties can obtain from the ECB will be adjusted accordingly.

What do you know? On cue, Seeking Alpha notes,

Cutting €2bn of yearly investments, the European Union will stop funding oil, natural gas and coal projects at the end of 2021 as it aims to become the first climate-neutral continent.

All CM will say is best of luck with this decision. Just watch how this kneeling at the altar of the pagan god of climate change will completely ruin the EU economy. The long term ramifications are already being felt. The EU can’t escape the fact that 118mn of its citizens (up from 78m in 2007) are below the poverty line. That is 22% of the population. So why then does Cœuré mention, in spite of such alarming poverty, that taking actions (that will likely increase unemployment) will be helped by “migration [which] has contributed to dampening wage growth…in recent years, thereby further complicating our efforts to bring inflation back to levels closer to 2%.

Closer to home, the National Australia Bank (NAB) has joined in the groupthink by looking to phase out lending to thermal coal companies by 2035. The $760 million exposure will be cut in half by 2028. If climate change is such a huge issue why not look to end it ASAP? This is terrible governance.

Why not assess thermal coal companies on the merits of the industry’s future rather than have the acting-CEO Philip Chronican make a limp-wristed excuse that it is merely getting in line with the government commitment to Paris? If lending to thermal coal is good for shareholders in 2036, who cares what our emissions targets are (which continue to fall per capita)? Maybe this is industry and regulator working hand-in-hand?

The market has always been the best weighing mechanism for risk. Unfortunately, for the last two decades, global central bank policy has gone out of its way to prevent the market from clearing. Now it seems that the authorities are taking actions that look like collusion to bully the ratings agencies into marking down legitimate businesses that are being punished for heresy.

This will ironically only make them even better investments down the track when reality dawns, just as CM pointed out with anti-ESG stocks. Just expect the entry points to these stocks to be exceedingly cheap. Buy what the market hates. It looks as though the bureaucrats are set to make fossil fuel companies penny stocks.

A special place in hell

Ah, the EU. With comments like this from EU Co-President Donald Tusk it sure feels like a warm and embracing place to return to. Supposedly the 17.4 million Brits that voted to leave the EU are equally deserved of a reservation in hell too. His comments perfectly sum up the manner in which the EU thinks of sovereign democracy. It doesn’t. It proves yet again to the British as to why there is absolutely no need to be part of this unelected federation by the back door.

Leaving without a deal is the best outcome because it is the one which the EU least desires. It is the one which outwardly shows other sovereign nations within the EU that the grass is greener outside. Such a scenario puts massive pressure on Brussels to reform, which is what it should already be doing.

Project Fear continues to make the case for the dangers of No Deal. Even the Bank of England has brazenly promoted the idea that GDP would fall 8% in such a scenario. It is concerning that the central bank could credibly put its name to such shonky projections. Ironic that former BoE Governor Mervyn King believes the opposite.

Do we not question as to why PM Theresa May – who should have already resigned – heads back for the umpteenth time to the renegotiation table, the EU has flatly rejected within 5 seconds of an amendment proposal being floated? So much for open dialogue and discussion. Recall the first version of Brexit was signed off by the EU inside of 45 minutes.

Why would the Brits want to be part of a body that flatly refuses to yield any ground on anything? Anyone with common sense can see that locking the UK inside the customs union is not only a betrayal of democracy but a sure fire way to trade itself into a worse position than it began with. It’s like requesting the EU to lock them in prison, hand the keys over to the Brussels guards and believe they will be let out when they’re ready to go.

Italy proves the ECB Thinks some banks more equal than others

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The ECB proves it is powerless to push member states into banking solutions. It is in fact nothing more than an accomplice. No sooner had the ECB turned a blind eye to a bailout of two banks last week, this week saw the world’s oldest bank likely to get the same treatment.  The state-backed rescue of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA may be approved by the European Commission as soon as today.

EU approval would pave the way for the third recapitalization of an Italian bank by the state this week. Last month, European authorities and Italian officials reached an agreement in principle on a rescue plan that may include a capital increase of about 8.3 billion euros ($9.4 billion) and the sale of about 26 billion euros of bad loans through securitization. Monte Paschi was forced to seek state aid after it failed to raise capital from investors in December.

All it shows is that for all the rhetoric of bail-ins and tough talk, the ECB has no choice but to let member states handle their own affairs. Italy has a banking sector with 20% NPLs with up to 50% in southern parts of the country.

In reality it shows up the ECB to be powerless to control its members. While the US can openly state it is paring back its balance sheet, the ECB has to be content with rolling over and playing dead. At the same time Italy sets precedents that become the benchmark for others to follow. Must be food for thought for all the banks that have been forced to bail-in…-all banks are equal…some more equal than others!

Rick Santelli rants at central banks and yells “don’t help anymore”

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I don’t often watch CNBC but Rick Santelli made absolute sense when he tore into US Fed Chairman Janet Yellen over her plan to potentially buy equities to support the market like the Bank of Japan does now. Yellen still will have to get approval from Congress to embark on such a journey but it goes against her statement during the FOMC press conference where she boldly claimed “we’re not a body subject to group think”. Santelli correctly pointed out that price discovery would be ruined by such action.

As we know from Japan’s experience, the BoJ has had zero impact on consumer behaviour by buying equities and ruined market dynamics by becoming the largest shareholder in a growing number of companies. If they keep up the good work Japanese corporate’s will become state owned enterprises.

Going back to the Fed. Last week I wrote that Yellen’s language beggars belief. On the one hand she talks about the faster pace of economic growth all the while the Fed cuts long term and 2016 growth to 1.8%. Not one week later the NY Fed has cut 2016 growth to 1.4%.

Im amazed at how blind markets can be. Equitie markets continue to sustain lofty heights based on slowing aggregate earnings, worsening credit ratings and a complete failure by central banks to restore confidence.

Last report from the ECB showed it took €18 to create €1 of GDP given all their asset purchases. This is the problem. Without money velocity the  central banks only highlight to themselves it is the wrong path yet they still watering the lawns with gasoline while smoking. 

The Central Banker’s karaoke song

Alan G

I was listening to World Party’s ‘Ship of Fools‘ today and thought a few changes to the lyrics would be quite apt for Central Bankers to sing…

We’re setting sail
To the place on the map where the economy  we think we can turn
Drawn by the promise of inflation and growth
By the light of the currency we burn
Drawn by the promise of the cycle from negative rates
Not the gold or the savings or pearls
It’s the place where we keep all the printing presses we need
We sail away from the plight of the world on this trip baby
Pay, they will pay tomorrow
They’re gonna pay tomorrow
They will pay tomorrow
Save us, save us from tomorrow
They don’t want to sail with this ship of fools, no no
Oh, save us, save us from tomorrow
They don’t want to sail with this ship of fools, no no
They want to run and hide

Right now
Lies and hope are gonna drive them over the endless sea
We will leave them drifting in the shallows
Drowning in the debts of history
Travellin’ the world, we’re in search of hope
But I’m sure we’ll build their Sodom like we knew we would
Using all their good people for our galley slaves
As our deflating boat struggles through the warning waves
But they will pay, they will pay tomorrow
They’re gonna pay tomorrow
They gonna pay tomorrow
Save us, save us from tomorrow
They don’t want to sail with this ship of fools, no
Oh, save us, save us from tomorrow
They don’t want to sail with this ship of fools, no
Where’s it comin’ from or where’s it goin’ to?
It’s just a, it’s just a ship of fools

Several EU banks headed for insolvency?

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Looks as though several European banks are headed for the dustbin. In the prelude to GFC1 we had words like NINJA loans (no income, no job or assets) which entered financial lexicon. Now the latest word for equity markets is TINA (there is no alternative).

ZeroHedge wrote on the folding of a Belgian bank

Belgium-based Optima Bank has been shut down by both the National Bank of Belgium (which also acts as the Belgian regulating body) as well as the ECB. According to the national supervisor, the bank would have been unable to meet its commitments to its clients and was forced to cease all banking activities after some potentially fraudulent transaction were unveiled.

It’s surprising to see the main media have tried to keep this silent as even the website of the National Bank of Belgium didn’t bother to issue the press release in English (whereas all other press releases on the home page can be read in English). There’s no statement from the ECB either, nor has this news been translated on the English version of website of the state-owned national television station.

The situation is so bad the regulator has already immediately tasked the special fund organizing the Deposit Guarantee Scheme to start paying out the clients of the bank, even though Optima Bank hasn’t filed a bankruptcy procedure just yet. The urgency of the need to pay the clients does indicate the situation is extremely bad and even though it’s a very small one (it had closed the savings accounts division last year), there are two more important things you need to keep in mind.