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The beginning of the year seems ages ago. Recall how securities markets fell under significant stress. Global central bankers responded (Pavlovian) with more QE and lower rates. Here at home, the Fed suspended its rate “normalization” plan after one single little baby-step. As for the Fed’s Q2 2016 “flow of funds” report, it was almost Like Old Times. Rapid GSE growth helped to liquefy U.S. securities markets, spurring speculative leveraging and Wall Street finance more generally, including securities firms balance sheets, “repos”, funding corps and, even, mortgage lending. Credit inflated, securities markets inflated, Household Net Worth inflated and the mirage of great wealth endured.
For the second quarter, Total Non-Financial Debt (NFD) expanded at a 4.4% rate, down from Q1’s 5.4% (while matching Q2 2015). Household debt growth jumped to a 4.4% pace (from Q1’s 2.7%), the strongest expansion in two years. Total Business (including financial) debt growth dropped to 4.1% from Q1’s 9.4% pace (and vs. Q2 2015’s 7.9%), the slowest expansion in 10 quarters (Q4 2013). State & Local borrowings expanded at a 2.2% rate, up from Q1’s 0.8% to the strongest rate since Q4 2010. Federal government borrowings slowed slightly from 5.6% to 5.0%, which was about double the growth from Q2 2015 (2.7%).
In seasonally-adjusted and annualized (SAAR) dollars, NFD expanded $1.999 TN, right at my theoretical bogey for Credit growth sufficient to sustain the U.S. Bubble. During Q2, Household debt expanded SAAR $622bn, surpassing Total Business ($540bn) for the first time since Q1 2011. State & Local borrowings expanded SAAR $66bn.
Leading the Credit charge – once again – was the federal government. Federal borrowing jumped SAAR $751bn, down from Q1’s $852 but still the strongest Q2 borrowings since 2012. Federal expenditures rose to a record SAAR $4.137 TN, up 41% compared to pre-crisis Q2 2007. At SAAR $3.470 TN, Q2 federal receipts were up 30% compared to Q2 2007. Deficits have this year been running at the fastest pace since 2012.
Also keeping quite occupied in Washington, GSE holdings jumped SAAR $348bn. This was up sharply from Q1’s $9.9bn growth and Q2 2015’s $70.9bn. GSE holdings enjoyed their strongest quarterly expansion since Q2 2008. The second quarter saw FHLB (Federal Home Loan Banks) Loans increase SAAR $168bn (up from Q1’s $51bn), the biggest quarterly growth since Q3 2008. (Worth noting from FHLB financial statements, Advances to Member Banks expanded almost 9% in the year’s first half to $690bn). Again, Like Old Times.
Total Agency- and GSE-backed Securities expanded SAAR $581bn (GSE debt $422bn and MBS $159bn) during Q2, up from Q1’s $60.4bn and Q2 2015’s $216bn. Here as well, Q2 saw the strongest expansion in GSE Securities since Q3 2008. For perspective, GSE Securities increased $293bn in (bond crisis) 1994, $474bn in (Russia/LTCM) 1998, $593bn in (Y2K) 1999, $642bn in (tech crash) 2001 and $547bn in (corporate Credit crisis) 2002. The big buyers of Agency securities during Q2? Money Market Mutual Funds increased GSE holdings by SAAR $403bn during the quarter. ROW snapped up SAAR $104bn.
Security Brokers/Dealer holdings expanded SAAR $301bn (strongest quarter since Q1 2012), up from Q1’s SAAR $195bn and Q2 2015’s SAAR $135bn contraction. Debt Security holdings rose SAAR $174bn and Repos surged SAAR $328bn. Miscellaneous Assets declined SAAR $250bn. On the Liability side, Repos rose SAAR $228bn and Misc. – Other increased SAAR $92bn.
Riding a nice GSE tailwind, securities finance enjoyed a banner quarter. Federal Funds and Security Repurchase Agreements increased SAAR $627bn, the biggest quarterly increase since Q1 2008. This reversed two quarters of Repo contraction, in what has been extraordinary quarter-to-quarter volatility. Funding Corps expanded SAAR $27bn during Q2, increasing one-year growth to $233bn, or 16.8%.
Corporate (and Foreign) Bond issuance slowed to $90.5bn during the quarter, down from Q1’s booming $494bn and Q2 2015’s $591bn. And while there may have been some temporary tightening of corporate Credit, the opposite was true elsewhere. Consumer Credit expanded SAAR $230bn, up from Q1’s SAAR $199bn and compared to Q2 2015’s SAAR $267bn. Trade Credit surged SAAR $250bn, up from Q1’s $53.1bn and Q2 2015’s SAAR $170bn.
Private Depository Institutions (banks) increased Debt Securities holdings SAAR $316bn, up from Q1’s $148bn and Q2 2015’s $142bn. Loans expanded SAAR $679bn, down from Q1’s $783bn and compared to Q2 2015’s $639bn. For comparison, Loans increased $261bn in 2013, $579bn in 2014 and $676bn in 2015. Notably, mortgage loans, held as bank assets, jumped SAAR $390bn during Q2, the strongest mortgage lending since Q3 2007 ($433bn).
Total Mortgage Debt expanded SAAR $521bn, the biggest mortgage debt increase since before the crisis (Q1 2008). Total Home Mortgage Debt increased SAAR $259bn (up from Q1’s $205bn and Q2 2015’s $215bn), matched by an almost equal amount of Multifamily and Commercial mortgage debt growth.
Rest of World (ROW) increased holdings of U.S. Financial Assets by a notable SAAR $1.193 TN during Q2, up from Q1’s $444bn to the highest level since Q1 2015. ROW Debt Securities holdings increased SAAR $417bn, led by a SAAR $324bn increase in U.S. Corporate Bonds. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) jumped SAAR $606bn. Also noteworthy, ROW U.S. Liabilities jumped SAAR $1.061 TN, led by a SAAR $383bn increase in Repos. Like Old – 2006 and 2007 – Times.
Total Debt Securities (Fed’s compilation) ended Q2 at a record $40.581 TN, up a nominal $252bn for the quarter and $1.618 TN (4.2%) over four quarters. Total Debt Securities expanded $9.635 TN, or 31%, since the end of 2007. Over this period, Treasury Securities increased to $15.385 TN from $6.051 TN, for growth of 154%. The increase in Treasuries accounted for 84% of the growth of Total Debt Securities. Outstanding GSE Securities increased $926bn (13%) over this period to $8.324 TN. As such, the combined growth of “Washington finance” (Treasury & GSE) amounted to 92% of the Total Debt Securities expansion since the beginning of 2008.
Total Debt Securities ended Q2 at 220% of GDP. This compares to 200% to end 2007. Equities ended Q2 at $36.112 TN (down $1.415 TN y-o-y), or 196% of GDP. Equities peaked at $26.433 TN, or 181% of GDP, during Q3 2007.
Total (Debt and Equities) Securities ended Q2 at $76.693 TN, or 416% of GDP. Total Securities to GDP began the eighties at 117% ($3.086 TN) and the nineties at 193% ($10.937 TN). This ratio ended Bubble year 1999 at 360% ($34.753 TN) and Bubble year 2007 at 378% ($54.768 TN) – (peaked Q3 2007 at 379%).
The Household balance sheet remains fundamental to Bubble Analysis. Household Assets inflated $1.238 TN during Q2 to a record $103.750 TN, with both Real Estate ($25.6 TN) and Financial Assets ($72.3 TN) at record highs. Household Assets increased $3.053 TN (3.0%) y-o-y and were up $8.023 TN (8.4%) in two years. With Household Liabilities increasing $163bn during Q2, Household Net Worth jumped $1.075 TN during the period to a record $89.063 TN. Since the end of 2008, Household Net Worth has inflated $33.30 TN, or 60%. Household Net Worth had peaked previously at $67.744 TN during Q2 2007.
The ratio of Household Net Worth to GDP increased two percentage points to 483%. Net Worth to GDP peaked at 379% (1989) during the eighties Bubble; 435% (Q4 1999) during the “Tech” Bubble; and 473% (Q1 2007) during the mortgage finance Bubble period.
September 21 – Reuters (Leika Kihara and Stanley White): “The Bank of Japan made an abrupt shift on Wednesday to targeting interest rates on government bonds to achieve its elusive inflation target, after years of massive money printing failed to jolt the economy out of decades-long stagnation. While the BOJ reassured markets it would continue to buy large amounts of bonds and riskier assets, the policy reboot appeared to open the door for an eventual winding down of its huge asset purchases, and tried to repair some of the damage caused by its shock move to negative rates early this year. ‘The impression is that the BOJ is starting to pull back some of its troops from the battlefront,’ said Katsutoshi Inadome, senior fixed-income strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. The BOJ’s increasingly radical stimulus efforts are being closely watched by other global central banks which are also struggling to revive growth…”
It was another interesting week. No meaningful surprises from the Fed or the Bank of Japan (BOJ). A Bloomberg headline capture market sentiment: “Kuroda’s Journey From Shock-And-Awe to Bond Market Fine-Tuning.” The Fed again refrained from a second baby step, while forewarning the markets of a likely hike in December. Market participants chuckled as they bought stocks, risk assets and precious metals.
And it’s all been fun and games. Except for the harsh reality that QE hasn’t been working, and the markets know that policymakers know. Policymakers will never admit as much, but they’ve run short of options. Japan is an absolute policy debacle in the making. European bank problems continue to fester – in Italy, Germany and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., a potentially destabilizing election is now just about six weeks away. And let’s not forget the historic Chinese Credit Bubble that gets scarier by the week.
September 23 – CNBC (Katy Barnato): “Toxic loans in the Chinese financial system could be 10 times as high as official estimates suggest, Fitch Ratings has warned. The international ratings agency said in a report on Thursday that, as a proportion of China’s total loan pool, non-performing loans (NPLs) could be as high as 15-21 percent. By comparison, official data put the NPL ratio for commercial banks at 1.8%… ‘There seems a high likelihood that banks’ NPL ratios will continue rising over the medium term, in light of this discrepancy. There are already signs of stress, most obviously in the increased frequency with which banks are writing off or offloading loans, such as those to asset-management companies’… Solving China’s bad loan problem would result in a capital shortfall of 7.4 trillion-13.6 trillion yuan ($1.1-2.1 trillion), equivalent to around 11-20% of China’s economy, Fitch said.”