Why is Trump about to have a huge headache?

During the Great Leap Forward in Mao’s China, there was a plan introduced in order to kill four different pests (aptly and creatively called ‘The Four Pests Campaign’).

These four pests were rats, sparrows, mosquitoes and flies; they were to be eradicated to prevent the spread of disease and to stop the destroying of crops.

This was a huge failure.

Documentation shows that this was one of the largest reasons as to why the Great Famine occurred since the extermination of sparrows led to locusts massively increasing in population size as the food chain was disrupted.

This led to locusts destroying crops on a scale larger than the sparrows affected stored supplies of grains, corn and other soft agricultural food items.

The connotation here is a bit crude, I must admit, but one that has some pertinence: potentially well meaning policy to protect people can go entirely the wrong way.

QZ released an article on Friday explaining that Trump’s trade policy has had wildly the opposite effect of what the US president has expected it to have, with China hitting a record $34bn trade surplus with the US this month.

I’m not sure how well this will go down in Washington, with this being one of Trump’s leading policies – that is, if the policy was to less China’s surplus rather than affect demand for Chinese goods to the rest of the world. If the latter is the case, then the policy is actually going rather well since RoW Chinese exports have decreased while US exports have increased by a fair whack.

The quote from the article above speaks about there being a headwind to the Chinese economy – the slowdown in Chinese credit growth.

This may be the case, but I do not think that there is anything for the Chinese government to worry about just yet.

Take a look at the below chart.

This shows the 3M Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate. It’s the equivalent of LIBOR although less used on the international stage as a tool of pricing of some assets.

Something to notice is that China has been easing pretty stealthily since the start of 2018; this was when Trump put his first tariff on Chinese solar panel imports.

PBoC easing was absolutely a direct response to this.

You can see this from the USDCNH relationship too.

A cheaper Yuan pretty much counters Trump’s policy on Chinese trade since goods become relatively cheaper… the party is likely to be short lived for the PBoC though.

Something key that has always popped up is how China has been holding US treasuries for a long time and has dumped some…

But that is irrelevant in a world were the Fed are so adamantly shedding their own holdings of the US government’s debt, which is the main reason as to why yields have spiked and emerging markets have been under the cosh. It’s also relatively a pointless remark to make since if China dump them all then they have 0 leverage at all.

You only have to look at the positioning of traders on US treasuries to see that Fed rate rises are the reason as to why everyone and not just China have sat on the offer of US treasuries through 2018.

Late October 2017 is when we saw the temporary net long position (green line) start to turn long term net short.

This coincided with the Fed beginning their aggressive balance sheet shedding policy, and the USD liquidity issues that we see now.

The pertinence of this can be shown below.

That is 3m USD LIBOR. The upticks (monetary tightening) actually began in 2015 with the end of QE, but the effects on the dollar began later when the rate hike cycle began and increased in velocity when the Fed started to allow their bonds to mature. Naturally, this leads to the current uptick in yields – something which has affected the EMs hugely since they are laden with cheap USD denominated debt through the QE years.

Remember, LIBOR shows the cost of lending between each other and therefore, LIBOR can be a proxy for global liquidity and the corresponding creditworthiness of the interbank market (SOFR is too new a contract for me to have any thoughts on yet).

But back to China.

The LIBOR/SHIBOR spread is increasing, and this ultimately means that with the geo-politicking that is currently occurring we are likely going to face a tough reversal at some point where both parties find that they can no longer withstand the policies going either way (easing vs tightening). By then, Trump’s trade policy will be thrown in the dirt and will not matter one bit.

I see China going first – they cannot survive 305% debt to GDP. It’s untenable.

But so is the situation with USD.

Mehul Daya, an analyst who I think is absolutely bang on with the USD fundamentals, of Nedbank in South Africa reckons that the USD is about to face a collapse once a real risk free rate of return comes back… that is when r > CPI. He refersto it as ‘the straw that will break the camel’s back’.

However, I see it being made up of two factors – the first being that USD funding issues makes hedging too costly so assets are hedged in other currencies (I do not know which ones as I am not that smart) and the second being the issue Mehul raised.

This will lead to decompression of risk assets and a massive repricing/rebalancing of portfolio risk. This in turn will mean a collapse in US yields and therefore the dollar, probably to levels seen when we began QE in 09.

So does Trump have a headache?

Yes, but the answer is much closer to home for him, and that is with the hawkishness of Jerome Powell.

As we know, last week Trump has a bit of a dig at Powell since he knows that Fed tightening is at odds with his China trade policy. I personally think that Trump knows the Fed has created this illusion of a strong economy.

Zombie companies have not gone under since their operational costs are kept low through cheap credit and low (but now rising) financial costs and so unemployment stays low… but so does investment.

This is a surefire reason as to why Trump is so averse to Fed hiking, and is (again in my view) the real reason why he may need something a bit stronger than paracetamol for the inevitable migraine he is going to face.


$AUDJPY: Can an FX pair signify recession?

I wrote this last June:


AUDJPY: Are We Heading For An Extended Period Of Risk Off Behavior?

Jun. 15, 2017 3:45 PM


• AUDJPY, if it hits the target I have outlined, signifies that we would likely be in recession.

• Japanese yields steepening putting downside pressure on the pair in the long run.

• China slowing down affects the Aussie hugely.

I use AUDJPY heavily to assess risk sentiment, since AUD is very sensitive to economic conditions surrounding production (more demand for iron ore, copper, etc., means higher GDP, construction indicators, overall happiness) while yen is bid during periods of uncertainty. I have been watching and waiting to see what price does around the ¥80-86 mark.

For me, the future looks quite bleak for the pair.

Take a look at the monthly chart below.

As I said in previous articles, I only consider head and shoulders patterns significant on the weekly and monthly – and looking at the technical context of the pair, this head and shoulders is hugely significant as it provides a target to past the price we have seen during recessionary periods.

Firstly, note the top blue rectangle. Price has tested and retested the financial crisis high and has fallen off pretty harshly. This supply has been consumed, and for me, this indicates that the upside of the overall structure is exhausted. From my experience, the probability of the support structure breaking and heading lower is very high.

Secondly, let’s consider this support structure (middle blue zone) at approximately ¥75.

We’ll look at this on the below candlestick chart.

The blue zone has been touched 5 times now with no price breakthrough.

The 2010 low of the range ¥71.91) is still very much intact. What is vital to understand here is that longer term traders are likely to still have stops under this support level.

The market is going to want to target these if we start to probe around ¥72-75. If the conditions would allow, then we could see a slip to ¥68-¥69 and an upside retest of that ¥70 level.

Now, speaking of conditions, Japan’s monetary policy has been relatively unwavering – there has been stability from the BoJ and in terms of being a risk off currency, this is hugely attractive to traders looking for safety or a long term position trade (the only problem with shorting this is that carry will be paid when holding a position overnight).

One aspect that you can add to being bearish AUDJPY is that the Japanese 10YY is pushing to above 0% again.

Chart from Bloomberg

The BoJ are also looking to steepen the long end of the yield curve in order to satisfy Japanese financial institutions.

It is also mentioned that the Japanese may pursue ‘stealth tapering’ so as not to affect the financial markets akin to the US in 2013.

This can provide certain confidence to traders being long yen vs. commodity backed currencies such as the Aussie.

Consider also the Chinese situation.

Below is Chinese GDP.

Chart from Trading Economics

Remember previously I said that the Aussie is heavily affected by productive demand? China is a huge importer of Aussie copper, gold and iron ore.

China is Australia’s best customer with $45bn being exported there annually. China is currently experiencing a slowdown and I do not believe the full effects are yet apparent, not just in the Aussie, but globally (Chinese credit bubble in the shadow banking sector has been named one of the biggest tail risks to the financial system).

If the Chinese slowdown proliferates, then I’d expect certain effects on the Aussie long term.

Note the first chart again. I think it’s important to note what occurs to AUDJPY during downturns.

I have noted 1 (early 90s recession), 2 (Asian crisis – yen bid in risk off environment) and 3 (financial crisis of 2008 – again, yen bid in risk off climate).

The head and shoulders target measure of taking the length of the neckline to head, and mirroring that from the neckline to the downside identifies that ¥50 is a potential target if the support at ¥70 breaks.

I’d be almost certain to argue that we would be in a recession if this were to occur if we examine history, and history, in the end, does repeat itself especially in the financial markets.

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