Total Non-Financial Debt (NFD) expanded (nominal) $721 billion (strongest growth since Q2 ’18) during the quarter to a record $52.579 TN. NFD expanded $2.504 TN, or 5.0%, year-on-year. For perspective, annual NFD growth averaged $1.602 TN over the decade 2008-2017. NFD expanded $2.432 TN in 2006 and $2.478 TN in 2007. NFD has now expanded $17.514 TN, or 50%, since the end of 2008.
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Financial sector debt expanded $127 billion during the quarter ($368bn y-o-y) to $16.444 TN, and Foreign U.S. borrowings increased $130 billion ($88bn y-o-y) to $4.051 TN. Total (NFD, Financial and Foreign) System debt expanded $978 billion during the quarter to a record $73.073 TN. Going all the way back to Q4 2017, Q1’s system-wide Credit expansion was second only to Q1 ‘18’s $1.002 TN.
Total Credit grew at a 5.6% rate during the quarter, up from Q4’s 2.72% to the strongest pace since Q1 2018’s 6.51%. Federal government borrowings jumped to an 8.57% rate, up from Q4’s 2.50% to the strongest pace since Q1 ‘18’s 13.38%. Total Corporate borrowings accelerated to a 6.62% pace, up from Q4’s 3.88% to the strongest rate since Q2 2017. Non-financial Corporate borrowings jumped to a 7.58% pace (from Q4’s 3.35%), the briskest rate since Q1 2016. Total Household Borrowings slowed to a 2.33% pace (from Q4’s 2.82%), with Household Mortgages and Consumer Credit expanding 2.43% and 4.34%. The Domestic Financial Sector increased borrowings at a 3.28% pace, up from Q4’s 2.71%.
In seasonally-adjusted and annualized rates (SAAR), total system Credit expanded $2.884 TN during Q1, double Q1 to the strongest pace since Q1 2018’s SAAR $3.207 TN. Federal borrowings surged SAAR $1.531 TN (up from Q4’s SAAR $444bn). Total Corporate borrowings expanded SAAR $1.014 TN, the strongest since Q1 2016’s SAAR $1.150 TN. Household borrowings grew SAAR $363 billion (mortgage SAAR $252bn, Consumer Credit SAAR $174bn), the weakest pace since Q1 2016’s SAAR $334 billion. Financial Sector debt expanded SAAR $535 billion, the strongest rate since Q3 2016’s SAAR $557 billion.
Q1 Federal Expenditures were up 5.9% y-o-y to SAAR $4.659 TN, while Federal Receipts increased 3.9% y-o-y to $3.564 TN. State & Local Expenditures were up 2.4% y-o-y to SAAR $2.862 TN, with Receipts up 3.0% to $2.641 TN.
Bank (“Private Depository Institutions”) Assets rose nominal $103 billion during the quarter to a record $19.296 TN. For Q1, Loans were little changed at $11.270 TN, while Debt Securities jumped $83.3 billion to a record $4.384 TN. Over four quarters, Loans expanded $535 billion, or 5.0%, while Debt Securities expanded $167 billion, or 4.0%.
Broker/Dealer Assets slipped $5.6 billion during the quarter to $3.353 TN. Over four quarters, Broker/Dealer Assets gained $262 billion, or 8.5%. It appears growth was isolated in off-balances sheet vehicles (also helping to explain Q1’s tepid bank Loan growth). Wall Street “Funding Corps” jumped $88 billion during Q1 (SAAR $255bn!) to $1.518 TN. Fed Funds & Repo surged $136 billion to $4.032 TN, the high since Q4 2012. Fed Funds & Repo jumped $538 billion, or 15.4% over the past year.
Money Market Fund Assets gained $41 billion during Q1 to $3.079 TN (high since Q4 ’09), with a four-quarter gain of $286 billion, or 10.2%.
Retail sales have bounced back over recent months, recovering from a weak start to 2019 and poor end to 2018. It’s not surprising that household spending tracks the fortunes of the bloated Household Balance Sheet. Household (& Non-Profits) Assets surged $4.697 TN during Q1 to a record $124.694 TN. And with Liabilities expanding just $5.9 billion, Household Net Worth surged $4.691 TN – the strongest ever quarterly increase in Net Worth (2nd place Q4 ‘99’s $3.114 TN). Household Net Worth jumped to 516% of GDP, just below the record 522% from Q3 2018. This compares to peak ratios of 484% in Q1 2007 and 444% during Q1 2000.
On the back of the strong recovery in stock prices, Household Financial Asset holdings surged $4.238 TN to a record $88.895 TN, or 422% of GDP. This ratio compares to peaks 379% during Q3 2017 and 359% during Q1 2000. Financial Assets were up $3.218 TN over the past four quarters. House price inflation continues to boost household perceived wealth. Household Real Estate holdings rose $387 billion during the quarter to a record $29.551 TN, with a four-quarter gain of $1.263 TN.
Rest of World (ROW) also benefitted from the big Q1 equities recovery. ROW holdings of U.S. assets jumped $1.372 TN during the quarter – the largest ever quarterly gain – to a record $28.570 TN. ROW holdings have almost doubled since the cycle peak $14.705 TN back in Q1 2008. Over this period, ROW holdings jumped from 100% to 136% of GDP. ROW Equities (Equities and Mutual Funds) rose $838 billion during the quarter to a record $8.187 TN. Debt Securities rose $381 billion (strongest gain since Q3 2010) to a record $11.548 TN, led by a $208 billion increase in Treasuries holdings (to $6.474 TN).
The market now prices in a 21% probability of a rate cut at next week’s FOMC meeting, with an 86% probability for a cut by the July 31st meeting. I have previously addressed the unprecedented nature of commencing a Fed easing cycle with the unemployment rate at 3.6%, financial conditions loose and stocks near all-time highs. Add to this list system Credit expansion near the strongest in a decade. It’s incredible that the Fed would reduce rates in the current backdrop, but markets are sure trying to force the Fed’s hands. That highly speculative markets have come to have such sway over the Fed (and global central bankers) is indicative of the precarious nature of late-cycle market and policy dynamics.
The predicament is illuminated rather poignantly in Z.1 data. When “risk off” took hold during Q4, Non-Financial Debt growth dropped to SAAR $1.404 TN from Q3’s SAAR $2.300 TN. In short, that’s insufficient new Credit to sustain financial and economic Bubbles. Net Issuance of Debt Securities sank from Q3’s SAAR $1.808 TN to Q4’s SAAR $412 billion – with Corporate & Foreign Bonds sinking from SAAR $411 billion to SAAR negative $125 billion.
But the Fed’s January 4th dovish U-turn opened the “risk on” floodgates. Debt Securities expanded SAAR $1.783 TN in Q1, with Corporate & Foreign Bonds expanding SAAR $588 billion. Loose financial conditions powered equities higher, ensuring rapidly inflating Household Net Worth. After suffering a record $3.960 TN quarterly drop during Q4, Household Net Worth jumped a quarterly record $4.691 TN during Q1.
Systems have become acutely unstable. Market-based Credit so dominates system Credit that “risk on”/“risk off” speculative dynamics now exert an acutely destabilizing impact on financial conditions, Credit expansion, securities prices, Household Net Worth and economic performance. In this highly speculative market environment, “risk on” ensures loose financial conditions, Credit and speculative excess and vigorous market inflation, while exacerbating economic maladjustment.
When “risk on” invariably succumbs to “risk off,” financial conditions abruptly tighten, debt issuance tanks, system Credit growth drops sharply, markets turn illiquid, Bubbles falter, equities prices sink, Household Net Worth deflates, and the Bubble Economy commences a downward spiral. Worse yet, these dynamics are a global phenomenon.
Is the Fed really about to further feed “risk on”, stoking Bubble excess in the process? I’ll assume the Powell Fed would rather sit this one out. They are, of course, ready to respond in the event of “risk off.” But at this speculative blow-off Bubble phase, things tend to unwind really quickly. Global bonds appreciate the acute fragility and are priced for rate cuts and aggressive QE deployment.
The global yield collapse is not so much in response to economic weakness and trade war risks. The global financial system is an accident in the making. China is an accident in the making. Markets are demanding: “Give us rate cuts and prepare for aggressive QE – or we’ll give you central bankers the type of vicious market accident you are not prepared to contend with!” The Fed is faced with the Hobson Choice of either stoking the Bubble or waiting for incipient “risk off” – and hoping it possesses the firepower to hold things together. Markets bet confidently the Fed lacks the fortitude to wait.
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