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Finally The Taper Tantrum, Or What’s Wrong With August?

If you’re fortunate to be able to do this long enough, you’re absolutely assured to get caught with your pants down and almost certainly more than once….

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This article was originally published by Alhambra Investment Market Research

If you’re fortunate to be able to do this long enough, you’re absolutely assured to get caught with your pants down and almost certainly more than once. In the short run, it’s all a crapshoot anyway. Markets fluctuate and never, ever go in a straight line. And just when you claim to be right on top, they yank the rug right out from under your conceit(s).

I’ve spent the past few weeks, really months pointing out how Federal Reserve policymakers via their compliant media hasn’t been able to provoke anything out of bonds. Not for lack of trying. Zilch. Nada. Forget tantrum, a whole lot of nothing even though taper – we’re always told – would spell the death of the bond “bull.” I’ve been almost gleefully highlighting how this policy farce has been greeted as a complete non-issue across all of those markets.

Until yesterday.

Finally, yields backed up both then and today in a notable selloff. Is this the long-awaited tantrum? Could it be something else?

For the former, start with Fed Governor Christopher Waller. Recall on August 2nd how Mr. Waller had appeared on CNBC and became the first voting FOMC member to encourage not just taper but a very quick one so as to clear enough calendar for a hard 2022 liftoff in rates.

Just two days later, it might appear his “go early, go fast” mantra caught on with at least some parts of the yield curve. From August 5 forward, the long end of the Treasury curve has been backing up from that recent mid-year low. August 4 was the last time before what is now a multi-week somewhat modest possibly reflationary action.

Before crowning Waller’s confidence, that particular date – August 4 – should ring a bell. Wasn’t it just last year, 2020, that longer-term bond yields had likewise bottomed out on this same day?

Yes, yes it was:

Obviously, the past two years began under very different circumstances; 2020 taking over from 2019 already close if not in recession (especially outside the US) and then the COVID errors. This year, 2021, opened in nearly opposite fashion with allegedly the whole world picking itself back up from all that damage and doing so boosted by every “stimulus” means known to man. Not just rebound, a fiery inflation-filled recovery. 

Yet, in the middle of both there’s more the same than different – questions about the initial “V” shaped recovery (which did not pan out) last year and then a pretty conspicuous “growth scare” this year many are plain hoping they can blame on delta COVID for the “unexpected” soft patch.

You probably also remember how that same label “growth scare” was also thrown around quite liberally in 2019, too. Back then, the only part of the yield curve anyone is told to pay attention to had inverted, not just provoking rate cuts out of a befuddled Jay Powell but raising mainstream alarms as to impending recession (which may actually have happened, but we’ll never know for sure given the timing of the coronavirus pandemic).

Wouldn’t you know it, the low point for LT UST’s in 2019 turned out to have been…August 28!

If twice could be random coincidence, yet three times is a pattern, what is four or five? Believe it or not, this same calendar shape can be found inside every one of the last five years – even 2018 when yields were more distorted as they neared their Reflation #3 peak. That year, the same sort of mid-year downward drift reaching its floor by August 20, 2018.

And the year before, during globally synchronized growth’s reported arrival, UST rates were, for the most part, moving lower (curve flattening) as the market kept rejecting the idea that there was some legitimately inflationary recovery taking shape. The low in yields for 2017? September 5 (OK, so not August but more than close enough).

Even 2015 and 2016 were pretty close in matching this seasonality; during the latter, yields bottomed out early July and then went up (a lot) later in the Autumn. The year before, 2015, as Euro$ #3 “matured”, again a mid-year low on August 24 (following CNY’s big theatrics) which had been the same day as the eurodollar shortage striking Wall Street equities (flash crash).

While there were a couple days later on in 2015 when the 10-year yield dropped a few bps lower than August 24, still the same general trend overall.

And that trend seems to have become intriguingly normal, manifested as a regular uptick in yields especially during September and October and then lasting through the end of each year (2018 the obvious exception given the eruption of Euro$ #4’s landmine). Quite simple enough, LT yields go up after August

Given this clear regularity, could any of these annual BOND ROUTs!!!! be considered reflationary?

Getting back to the original question, there’s quite a lot of evidence for something(s) other than Governor Waller’s melodramatic CNBC interview – or even the taper announcement and dots this week – which seems more likely to account for the bond market’s longer end behavior over the past five weeks. And this would also encompass the “big” selloff yesterday and today.

These last two days, then, have not been some unusual, tantrum-y eruption (look above at how far yields jumped in early September 2019 even as recession moved into the global forefront). Quite to the contrary, what’s happened so far over the past two months is entirely consistent with what seems to happen every year. Taper doesn’t. 

This could even mean I’m actually off-the-hook, my britches still fashioned tightly right where they need to be. The Fed’s people will continue trying to provoke a bond tantrum because of their need for the public to believe taper is in charge of interest rates, yet right at this moment there’s only evidence that bonds are just doing what they normally do without regard for dots and QE’s.

This only raises the question, of course, what the hell must be going on during the month of August? Sorry for the cliffhanger, but that I’ll save for another day. Feel free, however, to tweet or comment your theories and hopefully during next week’s podcast Emil Kalinowski and I will be able to discuss them.

 








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Economics

Visualizing The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles In 2021

Visualizing The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles In 2021

Identifying real estate bubbles is a tricky business. After all, as Visual Capitalist’s…

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Visualizing The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles In 2021

Identifying real estate bubbles is a tricky business. After all, as Visual Capitalist’s Nick Routley notes, even though many of us “know a bubble when we see it”, we don’t have tangible proof of a bubble until it actually bursts.

And by then, it’s too late.

The map above, based on data from the Real Estate Bubble Index by UBS, serves as an early warning system, evaluating 25 global cities and scoring them based on their bubble risk.

Reading the Signs

Bubbles are hard to distinguish in real-time as investors must judge whether a market’s pricing accurately reflects what will happen in the future. Even so, there are some signs to watch out for.

As one example, a decoupling of prices from local incomes and rents is a common red flag. As well, imbalances in the real economy, such as excessive construction activity and lending can signal a bubble in the making.

With this in mind, which global markets are exhibiting the most bubble risk?

The Geography of Real Estate Bubbles

Europe is home to a number of cities that have extreme bubble risk, with Frankfurt topping the list this year. Germany’s financial hub has seen real home prices rise by 10% per year on average since 2016—the highest rate of all cities evaluated.

Two Canadian cities also find themselves in bubble territory: Toronto and Vancouver. In the former, nearly 30% of purchases in 2021 went to buyers with multiple properties, showing that real estate investment is alive and well. Despite efforts to cool down these hot urban markets, Canadian markets have rebounded and continued their march upward. In fact, over the past three decades, residential home prices in Canada grew at the fastest rates in the G7.

Despite civil unrest and unease over new policies, Hong Kong still has the second highest score in this index. Meanwhile, Dubai is listed as “undervalued” and is the only city in the index with a negative score. Residential prices have trended down for the past six years and are now down nearly 40% from 2014 levels.

Note: The Real Estate Bubble Index does not currently include cities in Mainland China.

Trending Ever Upward

Overheated markets are nothing new, though the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the dynamic of real estate markets.

For years, house price appreciation in city centers was all but guaranteed as construction boomed and people were eager to live an urban lifestyle. Remote work options and office downsizing is changing the value equation for many, and as a result, housing prices in non-urban areas increased faster than in cities for the first time since the 1990s.

Even so, these changing priorities haven’t deflated the real estate market in the world’s global cities. Below are growth rates for 2021 so far, and how that compares to the last five years.

Overall, prices have been trending upward almost everywhere. All but four of the cities above—Milan, Paris, New York, and San Francisco—have had positive growth year-on-year.

Even as real estate bubbles continue to grow, there is an element of uncertainty. Debt-to-income ratios continue to rise, and lending standards, which were relaxed during the pandemic, are tightening once again. Add in the societal shifts occurring right now, and predicting the future of these markets becomes more difficult.

In the short term, we may see what UBS calls “the era of urban outperformance” come to an end.

Tyler Durden
Sat, 10/23/2021 – 22:00

Author: Tyler Durden

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Precious Metals

JPMorgan Turns Positive On Crypto, Sees “A Bullish Outlook For Bitcoin Into Year-End”

JPMorgan Turns Positive On Crypto, Sees "A Bullish Outlook For Bitcoin Into Year-End"

The launch of the first Bitcoin ETF, BITO, even if based…

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JPMorgan Turns Positive On Crypto, Sees “A Bullish Outlook For Bitcoin Into Year-End”

The launch of the first Bitcoin ETF, BITO, even if based on futures, was the culmination of seven years of anticipation for bitcoin bulls and it certainly did not disappoint: the leaks and the actual news propelled the cryptocurrency to a new all time high above $66,000 (with some profit-taking to follow).

Yet despite the clear impact on the price of bitcoin, which has more than doubled from its July lows, not everyone is uniformly bullish on the impact of the first bitcoin ETF. As JPM’s Nick Panigirtzoglou writes in his latest widely-read Flows and Liquidity note, “the bulls are seeing this ETF as a new investment vehicle that would open the avenue for fresh capital to enter bitcoin markets” while the bears “are seeing the new ETF as only incremental addition to an already crowded space of bitcoin investment vehicles including GBTC in the US, ETFs listed in Canada since last February which have been already accessible to US investors, regulated (CME) and unregulated (offshore) futures, and plenty of direct investment options using digital wallets via Coinbase, Square, Paypal, Robinhood etc.”

For its part, JPM – not surprisingly – falls into the skeptics’ camp (we say not surprisingly because for much of 2021, the largest US bank has been publishing bearish note after note, as we have repeatedly detailed, urging clients to ignore the largest cryptocurrency and if anything, to take profits. In retrospect, this has been a catastrophic recommendation for anyone who followed it). 

According to the JPMorgan quant, the launch of BITO by itself will not bring significantly more fresh capital into bitcoin due to “the multitude of investment choices bitcoin investors already have. If the launch of the Purpose Bitcoin ETF (BTCC) last February is a guide, as seen in Figure 1, the initial hype with BITO could fade after a week.”

Here, once again, JPM’s superficial “analytical” approach shines through and we are confident that Panigirtzoglou, who has been dead wrong about bitcoin for the past year, will once again be wrong in his take on BITO. Instead, for a much more nuanced – and accurate – view of the daily happenings in bitcoin ETF land we recommend Bloomberg’s inhouse ETF expert, Eric Balchunas who points to what is clearly an unprecedented, and rising demand for crypto ETF exposure (one can only imagine what will happen when Gensler greenlights an ETF based on the actual product not spread-draining and self-cannibalizing futures). Indeed, as Balchunas pointed out on Thursday, BITO – which is “maybe too popular for its own good”, has already “used up 2/3 of its total bitcoin futures position limits, only about 1,700 contracts ($600m) left bf it hits 5k total. Could hit in next day or two.”

But what about the ramp in bitcoin prices in recent weeks? Surely the anticipation of the ETF launch was the main catalyst? Well, according to JPM the answer is again no, and instead the JPM strategist writes that “while we accept that bitcoin momentum has shifted steeply upwards since the end of September, we are not convinced the anticipation of BITO’s launch was the main reason.”

Instead, as the Greek quant explained before (see “JPMorgan: Institutions Are Rotating Out Of Gold Into Bitcoin As A Better Inflation Hedge“) he believes that rising inflation concerns among investors “has renewed interest in inflation hedges in general, including the use of bitcoin as such a hedge.”

As he further explains, “Bitcoin’s allure as an inflation hedge has been strengthened by the failure of gold to respond in recent weeks to heightened concerns over inflation, behaving more as a real rate proxy rather than inflation hedge.” This is actually correct, and as we have shown previously gold indeed correlates much more closely to real rates that nominals, although in recent months, even real rates suggest that gold prices should be notably higher, perhaps confirming ongoing precious metal price suppression of the kind we have previously documented to be emanating from the BIS.

In any case, JPM also updates a chart we showed previously, the shift away from gold ETFs into bitcoin funds, which was very intense  uring most of Q4 2020 and the beginning of 2021, has gathered pace in recent weeks.

In turn, by putting upward pressure on bitcoin prices, JPM argues that this shift away from gold ETFs into bitcoin funds likely triggered mean reversion  across bitcoin futures investors which had reached very oversold conditions by the end of September. This is shown in Figure 3 via the bank’s position proxy based on CME ethereum futures. Looking at Figure 3, JPMorgan now claims that “there had been a steep decline in our bitcoin futures position proxy” which pointed to oversold conditions towards the end of September triggering a bitcoin rebound. This rebound appears to have accelerated over the past days ahead of BITO’s launch with the blue line in Figure 1 fully recapturing all the previous months’ unwinding. In other words, the price ramp into the bitcoin ETF launch was just a coincidence. Yeah right, whatever.

Where JPM is however right, is in its assumption that a significant component of bitcoin futures positioning encompasses momentum traders such as CTAs and quantitative crypto funds. Previously, the bank had argued that the failure of bitcoin to break above the $60k threshold would see momentum signals turn mechanically more bearish and induce further position unwinds; it also claims this has likely been a significant factor in the correction last May in pushing CTAs and other momentum-based investors towards cutting positions. At the end of July, these momentum signals approached oversold territory at the end of July and have been rising since then in reversal to last May-July dynamics. The shor-tterm momentum signal has exceeded 1.5x stdevs, a z-score that we would typically characterize as overbought for other asset classes but still below the exuberant momentum levels of January 2021.

So with both With Figure 3 and Figure 4 pointing to exhaustion of short covering and more crowded bitcoin positioning in futures, Panigirtzoglou sees bitcoin relying more on other flows outside futures to sustain its upswing. To him, this elevates the importance of monitoring Figure 2, i.e. the importance for the current shift away from gold ETFs into bitcoin funds to continue for the current bitcoin upswing to be sustained.

In our opinion, the main problem for bitcoin over the previous two quarters had been the absence of significantly more fresh capital as shown in Figure 5 and Figure 6. Figure 5 shows our estimate of retail and institutional flows into bitcoin with an overall downshift in Q2 and Q3 of this year. Similarly, Figure 6 shows that the previous steepening in the pace of unique bitcoin wallet creation has largely normalized returning to pre-Q4 2020 norms, again implying an absence of significantly more fresh capital entering bitcoin.

And yet, despite this latest (erroneous) attempt to downplay the impact of the bitcoin ETF, which JPMorgan says “is unlikely to trigger a new phase of significantly more fresh capital entering bitcoin”, by now too many JPM clients are invested in the crypto asset as Jamie Dimon (whose opinions on bitcoin have been an absolute disaster for anyone who traded on them) recently admitted, and so while tactically staying bearish on the impact of BITO, not even JPM’s house crypto “expert” can objective stay bearish in general, and as he concludes, “istead, we believe the perception of bitcoin as a better inflation hedge than gold is the main reason for the current upswing, triggering a shift away from gold ETFs into bitcoin funds since September.”

So with Bitcoin now perceived as the best inflation hedge among non-traditional assets, Pnaigirtzoglou concludes that this gold to bitcoin flow shift “remains intact supporting a bullish outlook for bitcoin into year-end.”

 

Tyler Durden
Sat, 10/23/2021 – 19:10


Author: Tyler Durden

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Economics

Different CPIs

A recent exchange [1] on Econbrowser regarding forecasts of CPI reminded me that — even among the official series — there’s more than one CPI. Figure…

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A recent exchange [1] on Econbrowser regarding forecasts of CPI reminded me that — even among the official series — there’s more than one CPI.

Figure 1: CPI-all urban (blue), and CPI-wage earners and clerical workers (red), s.a., in logs 2020M02=0. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BLS, NBER and authors calculations.

 

Figure 2: Year-on-year inflation rates for CPI-all urban (blue), and CPI-wage earners and clerical workers (red), s.a., calculated as log-differences. NBER defined recession dates shaded gray. Source: BLS, NBER and authors calculations.

Inflation for the bundle that wage earners/clerical workers has outpaced that for all-urban, by about 0.6 ppts by September.

Interestingly, the weights for the two CPI bundles indicate that wage earners/clerical workers have a higher weight on food, food away from home, and private transportation, and less weight on housing, than all urban consumers. As elevated housing costs feed into the CPI housing components, the places might switch.

Author: Menzie Chinn

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