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Beware An “Instability Cascade”: One Bank Warns That Stocks Are About To Hit Record Fragility

Beware An "Instability Cascade": One Bank Warns That Stocks Are About To Hit Record Fragility

Back in late 2017, Bank of America’s derivatives…

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This article was originally published by Zero Hedge
Beware An "Instability Cascade": One Bank Warns That Stocks Are About To Hit Record Fragility

Back in late 2017, Bank of America's derivatives strategists made a remarkable, if hardly original, observation - the bank said what everyone knew but was afraid to voice namely, that "In Every Market Shock Since 2013 Central Banks Have Stepped In To Protect Markets."

Since then, the market's Pavlovian response to unconditional central bank intervention has gotten so embedded in the collective trader psyche that neither fundamentals, nor adverse news matter any more as everyone is convinced that central banks will step in the moment there is another dip in risk assets. In fact, on Friday another BofA strategist, Michael Hartnett, wrote that in the past 18 months "the Fed has bought $4 trillion bonds, twice the amount the US spent on War in Afghanistan past 20 years as it, and other global central banks, have spent $834 million every hour buying bonds since COVID." Add to this that the US government has spent $875 million every hour in ’21 and one gets a staggering number of $1.7 billion spent between central banks and the US government to prevent even a modest market correction.

As Hartnett put it, "little wonder everyone believes in TINA & BTD."

Little doubt indeed, and that's why we now live in a world where a 1% "drop" in the market is considered a biddable dip.

There is just one problem with this Pavlovian approach to "investing" in manipulated markets: as Bank of America also explained back in 2017, indiscriminate dip-buying leads to unprecedented fragility and risks of a crash so powerful not even the Fed will be able to reverse it.

Incidentally, that was the subtext of observations published yesterday by Goldman's derivatives strategist Rocky Fishman who observed several increasingly alarming trends in the options market, most notably the gaping chasm that has opened between realized and implied vol, not just spot by 1 year forward. As Fishman noted, "the one-year VIX index has risen to 26 — close to the top of its Q2/Q3 range, well above spot, though below its Q1 median of 28." As Fishman noted, "since 1940, the only times the S&P 500 has had realized volatility well above 26 for a full year have been around the 1987 crash, the GFC, and the coronavirus crisis." This means that, all else equal, while stocks may be levitating ever higher on ever lower volumes and ever shrinking breadth, the options market is preparing for a crash similar to those observed on Black Monday, the Global Financial Crisis and the Covid Crash, which wiped out a third of market cap in days.

Of course, one wouldn't know this by looking just at the S&P500 which on Friday again closed just a hair away below its all time high.

Which brings us back to the topic of market fragility, initially popularized by BofA back in 2017 and one which the bank's derivatives team addressed again last week, noting that after the latest ramp higher which is on the verge of breaking core records, "history suggests caution against this calm backdrop, as similar periods of extremely steady grinds higher have preceded large fragility shocks."

As BofA's Benjamin Bowler writes, echoing many of the same observations made by Goldman's Rocky Fishman, "swelling taper talk and the rise of the Delta variant have failed to make a meaningful mark this summer on the US equity market, which continues its steady drift higher at low realized vol." To demonstrate this point, in the chart below Bowler and team show that the S&P has now gone 200 trading days (it was 196 as of Monday) without a 5% pullback, making this the 5th longest streak in 50yrs. Notably, in the post-GFC era, the two previous such streaks both ended in the "large fragility events" of the Aug 2015 yuan devaluation and the Feb 2018 Volmageddon.

Meanwhile, underscoring the complacency in the market, the index is on track to a near-record number of all-time highs in 2021.

Expanding this analysis from stocks to balanced portfolios, BofA notes that the two largest fragility shocks in the history of 60/40 portfolios - Feb-18 and Mar-20 - were both preceded by near record risk-adjusted returns, similar to what we are seeing today, "suggesting momentum chasing and depressed volatility are two of the key drivers of today’s fragile markets." Needless to say, while implied vol may be a somewhat elevated, realized vol is near record lows while momentum chasing... well, just take one look at what happens to any meme stock du jour.

The bottom line, as Bank of America concludes is that "history suggests caution against this calm backdrop, as similar periods of extremely steady grinds higher have preceded large fragility shocks." Echoing what he wrote 4 years ago, Bowler repeats the most important mantra of modern markets, namely that "stability breeds fragility, particularly when (i) the stability is grounded in the tight grip of central banks, who force investors into low-conviction, momentum-driven positions, and (ii) those central banks turn less accommodative, a prospect that is now upon US investors."

Bowler's advice: watch Jackson Hole (26-Aug), August payrolls (3-Sep), and the 22-Sep FOMC meeting for potential risk off catalysts, although as the BofA strategist warns "fragility can also be triggered by seemingly innocuous events" when they reach a point of peak  instability, triggering a liquidation cascade.

Our only counterargument here is that even, or rather especially if, stocks indeed crumble as the market instability finally manifests itself into a selloff, the most likely outcome is that the Fed will step in even more forcefully, with many expecting that Powell will buy single stocks and equity ETFs during the next crisis, and thus refuse to sell expecting an even bigger bounce after the next Fed bailout. And since the Fed has now staked its entire reputation on not allowing what was once a market and is now merely a policy vehicle to give the impression that all is well, to crash ever again, these cynical skeptics are likely right inexpecting an even more powerful meltup just after the next crisis strikes.

Tyler Durden Sat, 08/21/2021 - 20:00

Precious Metals

Is Silver a good buy in October 2021?

Silver extended its correction from the recent highs above $24, and we could see even lower prices in the weeks ahead if the U.S. dollar remains strong….

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Silver extended its correction from the recent highs above $24, and we could see even lower prices in the weeks ahead if the U.S. dollar remains strong. The demand for the dollar continues to grow, although it remained below its weekly high of 0.86 compared to the euro.

Fundamental analysis: Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that interest rates could rise quicker than expected

Since the beginning of September, the silver price has weakened more than 5% and reached the price levels that we had seen in November 2020. The U.S. central bank reported on Wednesday it could begin reducing its monthly bond purchases by as soon as November 2021, which positively influenced the U.S. dollar, and the most significant force behind the silver price slide is the appreciation of the U.S. dollar.

“The U.S. central bank is preparing the ground to possibly begin dialing back some of the extraordinary support it has given the economy during the pandemic. The timing and pace of the coming reduction in asset purchases will not be intended to carry a direct signal regarding the timing of interest rate liftoff,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday.

The U.S. Federal Reserve switched to a more hawkish tone, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that interest rates could rise quicker than expected by next year. Jerome Powell also said that Fed achieved its goal on inflation, while more than half of Fed members believe that the economy reached the employment goal.

The global business activity is recovering, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 5.2% in August, and the rapid price increases are also a reason to begin raising rates. The prospect of interest rate hikes positively influences the U.S. dollar, and those whose interest is to invest in precious metals like Silver should have the U.S. dollar on their “watch list.”

Technical analysis: $20 represents a strong support level

Those whose interest is to invest in commodities like Silver should consider that the risk of further decline is still not over.

Data source: tradingview.com

The important support level currently stands at $20, and if the price falls below this level, it would be a firm “sell” signal. The next price target could be around $18 or even below.

On the other side, if the price jumps above $25, it would be a signal to trade Silver, and we have the open way to $27.

Summary

Silver price remains under pressure after the U.S. central bank reported that it could begin reducing its monthly bond purchases by as soon as November. The most important driving force behind the price slide is the appreciation of the U.S. dollar, and investors will continue to pay attention to the U.S. Federal Reserve comments.

The post Is Silver a good buy in October 2021? appeared first on Invezz.

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Economics

Market-Based Indicators of Inflation, Growth and Risk

Medium term inflation expectations are muted, growth expectations are recovering slightly, and perceived risk seems contained. Figure 1: Top panel: Five…

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Medium term inflation expectations are muted, growth expectations are recovering slightly, and perceived risk seems contained.

Figure 1: Top panel: Five year inflation breakeven calculated as five year Treasury yield minus five year TIPS yield (blue), five year breakeven adjusted by inflation risk premium and liquidity premium per DKW (red), all in %. Middle panel: 10 year-3 month Treasury spread (blue), 10 year-2 year Treasury spread (red), both in %. Bottom panel: VIX (teal, left scale), Economic Policy Uncertainty, 7 day centered moving average (salmon, right scale).  NBER defined recession dates shaded gray (from beginning of month after peak month to end of trough month). Source: FRB via FRED, Treasury, KWW following D’amico, Kim and Wei (DKW) , FRED, policyuncertainty.com, NBER and author’s calculations.

The top panel of Figure 1 shows that the standard breakeven for 5 year horizon has stabilized; the adjusted for inflation risk premium/liquidity premium indicator was also stable at end-August, indicating 1.18% inflation on average.

Expectations as proxied by term spreads suggest that growth trends bottomed out in mid-July, after peaking in mid-March. They’re now rising slightly over the last two weeks.

Finally, a market based measure of risk (the VIX) has is relatively quiescent. So too is the newspaper account based Baker-Bloom-Davis measure of policy uncertainty. This is true despite the rising political uncertainty regarding passage of the reconciliation and infrastructure bills, and more importantly, the raising of the debt ceiling. Credit spreads have also failed (so far) to evidence much reaction:

Notes: The ICE BofA High Yield Option-Adjusted Spreads (OASs) are the calculated spreads between a computed OAS index of investment grade bonds BB and below, and a spot Treasury curve.  Source: FRED, accessed 9/25/2021.

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Economics

Welcome To The Central Bank Hotel, Once Inside You Can Never Leave

Welcome To The Central Bank Hotel, Once Inside You Can Never Leave

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Central bank digital currencies…

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Welcome To The Central Bank Hotel, Once Inside You Can Never Leave

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Central bank digital currencies are on the way. The German Central Bank just embraced a digital euro. Let's discuss the risks...

Fintech and Global Payments

 Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank gave the opening speech at the digital conference “Fintech and the global payments landscape – exploring new horizons

Exploring a Digital Euro

The title of Weidmann speech was Exploring a Digital Euro

Emphasis mine with my thoughts in braces [ ]

Paper money, for instance, was first introduced in China about a thousand years ago. This innovation eventually transformed the payments system. Today, digitalisation is on the cusp of overhauling payments.

Central banks have to work out how to respond to this challenge. One possibility is the issuing of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). According to a survey by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the share of central banks conducting work on CBDC for general or wholesale use rose to 86% last year. Many of them have made significant progress.

Two months ago, the Eurosystem launched a project to investigate key questions regarding the design of a CBDC for the euro area. The aim of the investigation is to prepare us for the potential launch of a digital euro. Experiments have already shown that, in principle, a digital euro is feasible using existing technologies.

As my ECB colleague Fabio Panetta has stressed, a digital euro would have “no liquidity risk, no credit risk, no market risk,” in this way resembling cash.

[No Risk? Really] 

The protection of privacy would thus be a key priority in terms of maintaining people’s trust. European data protection rules would have to be complied with. Nevertheless, a digital euro would not be as anonymous as cash. In order to prevent illicit activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing, legitimate authorities would have to be able to trace transactions in individual, justified cases.

[Every Case]

But designing CBDC involves curbing its risks. In order to prevent excessive withdrawals of bank deposits, it has been suggested that a cap be placed on the amount of digital euro that each individual can hold. Or that digital euro holdings in excess of a certain limit could be rendered unattractive by applying a penalty interest rate.

[No Risk? I thought you said there was no risk.]

If a digital euro were accessible for non-residents, this could impact on capital flows and euro exchange rates. What this calls for is international and multilateral collaboration.

[Wait a second, is this another risk?]

Self-reinforcing loops and “lock-in” effects may tie users to one platform and exclude competitors. Some observers have been reminded of “Hotel California”, the famous song by the American rock band “The Eagles”: it’s such a lovely place, with plenty of room; but once inside you can never leave.

[Hotel Central Bank: Once inside you can never leave.]

The Eurosystem has no commercial interest in user data or behaviour. A digital euro could therefore help to safeguard what has always been the essence of money: trust.

[Ah yes, trust that interest rates won't go even more negative, money won't expire, and withdrawals won't be capped].

Central banks need to be at the cutting edge of technology. Otherwise, they cannot provide the backbone of payment systems and offer safe and trusted money for the digital age.

This has prompted all major central banks to start exploring issuance of CBDC. However, our success as a money creator will depend not so much on speed, but on the trust of those who are supposed to use the money.

Europe Moving Ahead

It appears Europe is moving ahead faster than the Fed. 

The risks are obvious.

  • Expiring Money

  • Increasingly Negative Interest Rates

  • Withdrawals Capped

  • Withdrawals Taxed 

  • Gifts Taxed

And once inside you can never leave. 

Livin' it up at the Hotel Fedifornia has a nice ring to it. ECBifornia isn't as catchy. 

* * *

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Tyler Durden Sat, 09/25/2021 - 13:00
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