Chinese Data Dump Confirms Hard Landing Imminent
Update (2210): On the heels of data showing land sales collapsing, tonight's smorgasbord of data (absent only GDP) on consumption, industrial output and investment will reveal the extent of the damage caused by an outbreak of the delta variant.
As a reminder ahead of tonight's August data, the latest official composite purchasing manager’s index fell to the lowest since February 2020, its first contraction after the virus lockdowns, signaling China’s robust economic recovery from last year’s coronavirus trough is losing momentum.
Industrial Production YTD YoY MISSED at +13.1% vs +13.5% exp DOWN from +14.4% prior
Retail Sales YTD YoY MISSED at +18.1% vs +18.9% exp DOWN from +20.7% prior
Fixed Asset Investment YTD YoY MISSED at +8.9% vs +9.0% exp DOWN from +10.3% prior
Property Investment YTD YoY MISSED at +10.9% vs +11.3% DOWN from +12.7% prior
Surveyed Jobless Rate IN LINE at 5.1% vs 5.1% exp IN LINE with 5.1% prior
Perhaps most notably, year-over-year retail sales rose just 2.5% in August, dramatically worse than the +7% expected and well below the +8.5% in July...
Retail weakness was most pronounced in communication appliances, clothing, household electronics, automobiles and eating out; and as Bloomberg's Kevin Kingsbury notes, retail sales data are liable to be worse for September (and possibly October) as folks are apt to stay home during the upcoming holidays.
Notably, the PBOC rolled over 600 billion yuan of funding in a move that signals Beijing is keeping liquidity levels amid the slowdown. The question is, with China's credit impulse is at its most contractionary in 3 years, is this the turning point once again?
Policy makers have so far refrained from large-scale stimulus this year, instead resorting to some low-profile tools to increase credit supply to parts of the economy, especially small businesses. It will be hard for Xi to back down from his ivory tower to suddenly flip-flop to support the economy - systemically or idiosyncratically - without appearing to kowtow to the elites at at time when he is clearly focused on avoiding social unrest among the non-elites.
* * *
As we detailed earlier, one month after we warned that China had just unleashed a stagflation shockwave, as inflation - and especially factory price inflation - hit the highest in 13 years, crushing corporate profits, while GDP disappointed, and weeks after we also pointed out that China's credit growth in August had collapsed to the lowest level since the peak of the covid crisis in Feb 2020, Bloomberg writes in its economic preview of China's economic data dump scheduled for tonight that the country's economy "likely slowed further in August, with data on consumption, industrial output and investment due Wednesday to reveal the extent of the damage caused by an outbreak of the delta variant."
The extent of the slowdown will be closely watched for sign that it’s serious enough to prompt authorities to change their current stance of slowly withdrawing liquidity from markets and keeping stimulus limited. The ongoing regulatory crackdown on sectors like education, the internet and property may have exacerbated the recent economic weakness.
And while Bloomberg expects substantial disappointments across the board for the month of August when China was hit hard by another round of covid restrictions, including disappointing consumption, property, infrastructure and unemployment data, the reality is that China may be this close to a hard landing.
The reason for that is that while it won't be featured in tonight's data lineup, high-frequency data - actual data, not that kind "filtered" by Beijing's National Statistics Bureau - points to an absolute disaster for China’s property sector, which has imploded over the past two weeks (coinciding roughly with the terminal collapse of Evergrande).
According to Nomura, year-over-year growth in volume terms of new home sales, existing home sales and land sales dropped further to -26.6%, -46.6% and -38.3% in the first 11 or 12 days of September from -22.5%, -39.5% and -21.9% in August, respectively. It gets worse: land sales in value terms plunged to -90.4% y-o-y for 1-12 September from -65.0% in August. Some more details from Nomura:
New home sales growth data for WIND’s 30-city sample serves as a good tracker of official NBS new home sales growth, thanks to their high correlation coefficient of 0.92 during the period from January 2018 to July 2021. Based on our estimates, year-on-year growth in new home sales (hereinafter in volume terms for new home sales) for the WIND 30-city sample declined further to -26.6% for 1-11 September from -22.5% in August and -4.4% in July (Figure 1), while its annualized 2y-o-2y growth also fell to -10.3% in month-to-date September from -5.2% in August and 3.4% in July (Figure 2).
It gets even worse, because a breakdown of the data shows that low-tier cities fared much worse: developers’ net bond financing fell into deeper negative territory in August in both onshore and offshore markets, pointing to a further tightening in developer financing conditions.
According to WIND, growth in land sales in value terms in the 100-city sample, a proxy for land purchases by property developers, slumped to -90.4% y-o-y during 1-12 September form -65.0% in August. In volume (floor space) terms, it also dropped sharply to -38.3% y-o-y from -21.9% (Figure 6).
Although high-frequency land sales data may be under-reported to some extent, as WIND may not receive all cities’ data in a timely manner; the downtrend in land sales growth is quite evident.
These data support the cautious view of Nomura's Ting Lu of China’s property sector and macro economy. As Lu writes, "we believe the ongoing property curbs are unlikely to be eased in the near term, as Beijing has attached national strategic importance to reining in property bubbles, directly intervening in credit supply for the property sector, leaving it little room to dial back these curbs."
The likelihood of Beijing easing its property curbs is quite low. Actually, despite the worsening property sector, a number of cities have further tightened their curbs over the past two weeks.
This brings us to another observation made by Nomura last month in the bank's must read report "Asia Special Report - China: Beijing’s Volcker moment" (available for pro ZH subs at the usual place) namely that the country is facing its "Volcker moment", as Beijing seems to be willing to sacrifice some growth stability for achieving long-term targets, namely
- less dependence on foreign high-tech goods,
- achieving a higher birth rate and
- reducing wealth inequality.
Here, Lu repeats his dire conclusion, warning that "there is likely to be a much worse-than-expected growth slowdown, more loan and bond defaults, and potential stock market turmoil."
It’s also clear that so far low-tier cities have borne the brunt of the ongoing property sector downturn, due to Beijing’s unprecedented tightening measures, the tapering of the PBoC’s pledged supplementary lending and continued population outflows towards large cities.
Finally, the latest covid breakout (in the nation that created covid) isn't helping. As we reported earlier, over the weekend, Putian city in East China’s Fujian province reported 64 local positive cases and the city already imposed locality-based lockdown and "discouraged" people from leaving the city - translation: another multi-million city is under massive quarantine. Of course, it has failed and the outbreak has already spread to neighboring cities in Fujian province, including Xiamen and Quanzhou, with several districts and hospitals put under lockdown there. The situation will get worse as some analysis estimate around 30,000 people have already traveled out from Putian.
Bottom line: Beijing is facing an economy whose wheels have suddenly come off, and unless China's political elite is willing to unleash another massive monetary and fiscal tsunami and bail out the economy all over again - something Beijing has repeatedly vowed it won't do this time - a hard landing, whether or not accompanied by a Volcker Moment, is virtually guaranteed.
All Eyes On Inventory
You’ve heard of the virtuous circle in the economy. Risk taking leads to spending/investment/hiring, which then leads to more spending/investment/hiring….
You’ve heard of the virtuous circle in the economy. Risk taking leads to spending/investment/hiring, which then leads to more spending/investment/hiring. Recovery, in other words.
In the old days of the 20th century, quite a lot of the circle was rounded out by the inventory cycle. Both recession and recovery would depend upon how much additional product floated up and down the supply chain. Deflation, too.
On the contraction side, demand might fall off a bit for whatever reason(s), retailers getting stuck with a small inventory overhang. If they think it more than temporary, or don’t have the internal cash to finance it, the retail level scales back pushing inventory to wholesalers who then cut orders from producers.
Serious enough, producers begin to cut back their own activities, maybe to the point of forgoing new hires, perhaps laying off some workers already employed. Whatever necessary to equalize reduced order flow with cost structure and input utility.
When those layoffs hit, almost certainly it cuts further into demand (unemployed workers are far more careful and constrained consumers), more inventory stuck at retailers and wholesalers, then even fewer orders for producers who must sharpen their payroll axe all over again. This vicious cycle is what used to make up the balance of any recession.
But what if inventory first accumulates for other reasons?
It may be a different look to the cycle, though not necessarily an entirely different outcome. Suppose retailers (outside of automobiles) grow concerned about supply availability or shipping times. They might naturally react by boosting their current order flow if only to increase their chances some product makes it through the clogged shipping channels.
As that increased order flow unrelated to demand continues to move back through the supply chain, it probably would only make the transportation issues that much worse. It’s already a mess, and because it’s already a mess the entire supply chain tries to stuff more goods through it rather than less, rather than giving the system some time and space to work out enough kinks.
This, of course, would probably convince retailers to do it all over again, ordering even more they don’t need now or in the near future, now more desperate to try and raise their chances of receiving anything. More trouble for the shippers and so on.
Having intentionally over-ordered, and then over-ordered again (and again?), this time what happens when the logistics get more sorted out and then deliveries rather than trickle through come pouring out? This is the cyclical question for early 2022, not the unemployment rate.
Some companies have said they are ready, and have confidently declared how they will be able to manage holding such excessive levels of product. Maybe they can. But what happens to orders down at the lower reaches? Having received all this extra inventory, retailers and wholesalers aren’t going to keep double and triple ordering.
Before even getting to demand considerations, the orders are going to drop and producers are going to become less busy. The inventory glut having been forwarded up to the retail level, maybe wholesale, it will have to be worked down over time.
This is where demand comes into it. If demand stays as robust as some might currently assume, it might not take that much time to normalize inventory, then get past the whole issue and imbalance with nothing much lost.
And if demand isn’t as good, then we’re right back into the 20th century again.
The way the supply bottlenecks of 2021 have worked out, there is going to be an inventory overhang at some point. When it does come about and how bad it will be, that’s really the demand question. There seems to be quite a bit of optimism about it, to the point of complacency while corporate CEO’s bark in the media instead about all the massive inflation they plan on throwing your way.
Inflation today (therefore not inflation) but potentially too many goods tomorrow. However the inventory cycle manifests, the one thing each would have in common is its trough – disinflationary at the least.
Manufacturing PMI’s, for what it’s worth, remain elevated as if the upward segment of that unusual cycle remains relatively intact (note: ISM for September won’t be released for another week). With ships still stacking up on the US West Coast, this makes sense. Regardless of current levels of demand, these supply problems would only feed the imbalance for another month.
IHS Markit’s manufacturing index retreated again for the flash September 2021 estimate, but it remains above 60 therefore still in the post-2008 stratosphere. At 60.5 in the latest update, it is down, though, for the second month in a row since hitting the high of 63.4 back in July. And the index was 62.6 back in May, meaning it’s been four months treading.
It is the services side which has materially declined, leading many to assume it must be due to delta COVID if goods flow is largely uninterrupted at the same time. Markit’s services PMI dropped to 54.4 in September from 55.1 in August, while its employment component fell back to just 50.
This meant the composite, accounting for both manufacturing and services, declined to a very similar 54.5. Using this measure as a guide for possible GDP in Q3, that’s working down to a very disappointing 3% or less which might otherwise raise suspicions when it comes to the sustainability of demand.
If this more serious setback really is pandemic-related, then thinking it a temporary one might keep up the order flow as well as the logistical nightmare. Then the artificial inventory cycle gets even more artificial.
It could very well be that manufacturing remains high because of inventory and not because current potential weakness is only about delta.
Should it turn out to be unrelated, or only somewhat attributable to renewed disease measures, then inventory stops being a pesky annoyance of shipping bottlenecks and potentially starts being more like its old self. While that wouldn’t necessarily mean recession in early 2022, even a substantial downturn (chances would have it globally synchronized) having yet fully recovered from the last two would be enough trouble.
This Has To Be A Mistake
This Has To Be A Mistake
While we were digging through the data for today’s household net worth report we stumbled upon something that seem…
While we were digging through the data for today's household net worth report we stumbled upon something that seem beyond ridiculous: the ratio of Household Net Worth to Disposable Net Income. At 786% in the latest quarter, the chart at first appears to be a mistake but we triple checked it, and... well, here it is.
The latest, all-time high print is an increase from 698% in Q1 and also represents the biggest quarterly increase in history!
This number is so ridiculous, it is almost 50% higher than the long-term average of 540%. More importantly, it means that the total net worth number we reported earlier today, which in Q2 hit a record high of $142 trillion, is massively inflated on the back of what is obviously the biggest asset bubble on record.
It also means that if one were to strip away the asset bubble, and net worth was purely a reasonable function of disposable income, then total net worth worth be haircut by 31%, or some $43 trillion, which incidentally, is equivalent to the net worth of the top 1% of US society...
... and which as we showed earlier today is a record 32% of total household net worth.
As an aside, the fact that the top 1% have gained $10 trillion in wealth since the covid pandemic outbreak, is probably just a coincidence, and yet...
Covid has been the best thing ever to happen to the wealthy and powerful. No wonder they don’t want it to end— Hipster (@Hipster_Trader) September 23, 2021
As for the chart which clearly has to be a mistake, we are sad to report that it isn't, and as politicians of both the Democrat and Republican party pretend to fight for the common man, all they are doing is enabling and accelerating the greatest wealth transfer in the world but not for nothing: they too want to be in the top 1%.
“Culture As An Asset”
#CKStrong Stunning. Hedge funds hoovering up trading cards as an “alternative to equities” with the same passion Brooks Robinson hoovered up ground…
Stunning. Hedge funds hoovering up trading cards as an “alternative to equities” with the same passion Brooks Robinson hoovered up ground balls.
This is usually a sign of the endgame for markets, i.e,, the precursor to a bear market. Think the “Great Beanie Baby Bubble” of 1999.
In general, there are two types of assets,
- They can be rare—gold bars, diamonds, houses on Victoria Peak, bottles of 1982 Pétrus, Van Gogh paintings, stamps, beanie babies, or baseball cards or
- They can generate cash flows over time – GaveKal
Creating An Illusion Of Scarcity
Scarcity relative to the money stock is what its all about now, folks.
It probably won’t be long before the Fed has to bailout the baseball card market, no?
Full disclosure, I do own a Mike Trout rookie card.
Given the extreme valuations of all most all asset classes, coupled with the massive amount of money in the global financial system, markets are now really stretching, looking for, and actually attempting to create scarcity as a useful delusion to justify, rationalize, and drive speculation.
Maybe I will start collecting poop as an “anthropological asset,” put it the blockchain and super charge the price ramp by snapping a few pictures of each sample, converting them to NFTs to load up to the internet.
Then again, maybe all this is signaling the start of a big, big inflation cycle and the markets are looking to get out of cash and protect their purchasing power. But that’s too rational.
Can you believe what markets have become, folks? It is hard to see clearly when everybody is making money.
gold inflation markets fed bubble
PVC Prices Hit Record High As Homebuilding Costs Soar
FOMC Signals Taper “Soon”, Shows Rate-Hike In 2022
Looking for the Next Big Crypto to Explode in 2021? Try These 5 Coins
60% Polled Expect Federal Reserve to Taper Bond Purchases Starting December
Three Key Takeaways From The Fed Meeting
When Will “Transitory Inflation” Overstay Its Welcome?
Escobar: Eurasia Takes Shape, Part 1 – How The SCO Just Flipped The World Order
Inflation Still Appears To Be Peaking, But For How Long?
China Syndrome? Is Evergrande A Symptom Of Deeper Malaise
Rabobank: We’re In A Charlton Heston Movie, But Which One?
Precious Metals14 hours ago
Rusoro Mining Stock Jumps After Venezuela Drops Its Appeal of US$1.62B Award
Base Metals14 hours ago
Top 20 Investors Speak on Uranium’s Returned Aura
Energy & Critical Metals13 hours ago
Cameco Signs MOU to Supply Uranium for SMR’s Built by GE Hitachi, Synthos Green Energy and GEH SMR
Energy & Critical Metals16 hours ago
MAHLE Powertrain and Allotrope Energy unveil lithium-carbon battery technology with ultra-fast recharging
Precious Metals10 hours ago
Palladium One Shares Jump 10.26% After Reporting Drill Results 112 metres of 2.08% PdEq at LK, Finland
Energy & Critical Metals8 hours ago
Uranium Rally Signals New Generation of Nuclear Energy Acceptance
Energy & Critical Metals15 hours ago
Today’s Biggest Pre-Market Stock Movers: 10 Top Gainers and Losers on Thursday
Today’s News15 hours ago
CanAlaska Deals Three Uranium Projects in the Athabasca Basin