In what may be some of the best, and most lucid, writing on everyone's favorite topic, namely "what happens next" in the evolution of the financial system, Deutsche Bank's Dominic Konstam, takes a look at the current dead-end monetary situation, and concludes that in order for the system to transition from the current state of financial repression, which has made a mockery of all asset values due to central bank intervention, to a semi-credible system driven by fiscal stimulus, there will have to be a crash, one which jolts policymakers out of their stupor that all is well simply because stocks are at all time highs.
And since a legitimate fiscal stimulus is what is needed to re-ignite the economy, US and global GDP will continue declining, even as stocks keep rising to new all time highs, not on fundamentals (which are all pointing in the opposite direction), but due to even more central bank intervention and financial repression, thus a Catch 22, which ultimately – according to DB – ends in the only possible way: with a major crash.
As Konstam puts it, "the status quo could continue for several years yet – if nothing “breaks” in the system" but "without an external economic shock it is hard to see policymakers being prepared to take dramatic, fiscal action to jumpstart the global economy and bounce it out of a financial repression defined by low and falling real yields to one that at least initially is defined by rising nominal yields through higher inflation expectations."
As for the conclusion, or why a financial shock is long overdue, KOnstam says that "ironically the shock that is needed would require a collapse in risk assets for policymakers to then really panic and attempt dramatic fiscal stimulus. "
This is critical – and inevitable – as only a shock can lead to an "unwind of the falling yield/rising equity market where all financial assets trade badly."
In other words the end of financial repression will see price levels fall so that yields once again look attractive, or said otherwise, there will be a demand for Treasuries, even without the perpetual implicit backstop of central bank purchases.
For such a move to be sustainable itself requires the economic fundamentals to shift – inflation needs to be more secure against an underlying backdrop of robust real growth. Most people now understand that this is not a job for monetary policy alone. Yet the current reach for yield simply prolongs the status quo for policy disappointment.
Which brings us full circle: recall that over the past few months virtually every prominent investment bank, from JPMorgan to Goldman Sachs have warned clients that a selloff is coming. Now, Deutsche Bank has taken it to a whole new level, explaining why a financial crash has to happen to purge the system from the toxic aftereffects of 7 years of financial repression, and to kickstart a fiscal stimulus that will not happen unless markets tumble in the first place.
And while Konstam's line of reasoning is absolutely correct, we doubt just how his employer would look upon a market plunge that wipes out 30%, 40%, or even 50% of global equity values: would Deutsche Bank even survive such a crash? As such we doubt that the strategist's analysis and forecast, correct as it may be, will be endorsed by his employer, even if by now it is clear to all that only a major crash,i.e. a global reset, can kick start the world out of its zombie-like, centrally-planned existence, into the long overdue phase of whatever it is that comes next.
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Below is Konstam's full must read analysis:
Stocks must fall for yields to rise – but unlikely to happen anytime soon
It is pretty much understood that we are in full on financial repression mode, as witnessed by super benign core yields lead by lower real yields with more recently the further downward drift in euro peripheral yields, including the UK. The new high in equities is consistent with our view of financial repression that necessarily has yield returns on all assets being incrementally replaced by price returns – stretched relative valuations follow already increasingly stretched absolute valuations. The last round of economic data does little to suggest any change in this dynamic. As we highlighted last week the conundrum for the US is how an overly strong labor market without meaningful wage inflation resolves itself against markedly weak productivity data with a GDP cake that if anything seems to be stagnating.
With the current status quo, it is clear to us that US yields if anything are still too high – we think they are near the upper bound of a range that pivots closer to 1.25 percent with real yields in particular too high. This probably still reflects a reluctance of investors to get meaningfully long the market although much of the short base has been covered and this in turn reflects a still fairly strong consensus on the economics front that the labor market strength can still resolve itself through higher wages and a virtuous circle of rising demand and productivity – a scenario we would not rule out but not our central view.
More importantly however are what prospects there may be to jolt us out of this financial repression and to what extent regardless of proactive policy, is there a natural end to financial repression – at some point does something have to break in the system. On the former the most likely candidate is obviously some form of global fiscal stimulus. Despite optimism around this in early July we have not exactly had the green light on either helicopter money in Japan or Italian bank bailout. It is still too early to call the US election and stimulus prospects here but the general sense is that it is still difficult to sense the urgency when equities make new highs. Policymakers aren’t used to dealing with financial repression and that unfortunately is one of the defining characteristics of stagnation.
We suspect the fall will be defined by markets looking for dramatic policy news that somehow “responds” to super low bond yields and underwrites rising risk asset prices but only to be disappointed precisely because policymakers don’t bide the urgency. The result is that yields can fall still further even with risk assets still trading well – hanging onto their relative valuation rationale.
The failure of a policy response allows for more financial repression. We are anyway already beyond the point of preemptive policy since preemption is supposed to recognize and avoid looming problems beforehand. It is clear that the nature of those problems are already material including squeezed interest margins for banks, insurance solvency issues etc. But to be fair, the lack of a fiscal response itself bears witness to the perceived fiscal stress during the 2008 crisis and the need to insulate taxpayers. Additional fiscal burdens can be thought of as a variant of financial repression where future inflation and negative real rates do the redistribution as opposed to the structure of the fiscal regime. Helicopter money fuses financial repression from the money side with the fiscal response in a potentially dramatic way whereby the would be spenders get to spend a lot more directly at the expense of the ongoing savers. And while it may have its own political hurdles that ultimately are insurmountable, it offers a perfectly reasonable alternative equilibrium option where the goal is to raise the price level as well as improve the real growth outlook by overcoming excess savings. The fusion of fiscal with monetary policy can also be appreciated in the context of the fiscal theory of price where monetary policy can offer infinite paths for money growth and potential nominal growth but fiscal policy effectively selects which path is realized based on an equilibrium condition that the NPV of all future budget deficits needs to sum to zero.
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The status quo could continue for several years yet – if nothing “breaks” in the system. There are ways of course for either avoiding breaks or at least patching them – mitigating the impact of negative rates on banks is now in vogue with subsidized bank loans for on lending. And we may yet see soft forms of bank bailout still being allowed. This is similar to the use of alternative yield curves for discounting insurance liabilities.
The conclusion is that without an external economic shock it is hard to see policymakers being prepared to take dramatic, fiscal action to jumpstart the global economy and bounce it out of a financial repression defined by low and falling real yields to one that at least initially is defined by rising nominal yields through higher inflation expectations. Ironically the shock that is needed would require a collapse in risk assets for policymakers to then really panic and attempt dramatic fiscal stimulus.
The logic would also fit with the same correlation structure for financial assets – an unwind of the falling yield/rising equity market where all financial assets trade badly. In other words the end of financial repression will see price levels fall so that yields once again look attractive. For such a move to be sustainable itself requires the economic fundamentals to shift – inflation needs to be more secure against an underlying backdrop of robust real growth. Most people now understand that this is not a job for monetary policy alone. Yet the current reach for yield simply prolongs the status quo for policy disappointment.