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Category: Fed, Central Bank and Banking Macro Liquidity

Analysis of the major forces of macro liquidity that drive markets. Click here to subscribe. 90 day risk free trial!

Here’s Why More QE Won’t Be Enough for the Markets

Here’s the problem. When rates are falling, there are more sales, and especially more refi. So the prepayments go up, and the Fed sees a greater reduction in its MBS holdings. Those reductions had been running at the rate of $65-70 billion per month through last month, based on the prepayment rate in the market in prior months. The Fed then bought that much from the dealers in the following months.

As always, those settlements were held in the third week of the month. The Fed would settle a total of $100-110 billion in prior forward MBS purchases that week, and the dealers would suddenly be flush with cash.

Good thing too. Because the 15th of the month is when the Treasury issues a pantload of new notes and bonds. The amount of Fed MBS purchases typically provided enough cash to the dealers for them to cover nearly all of the Treasury issuance. They could either buy it outright, or provide the repo financing to customers so that they could buy it. Then there was even some left over for them to play markup games with their equities inventories.

But mortgage rates have been rising since August. Prepayments are falling as a result. Home sales are holding up, but refis are cratering. As a result, the nearly final figure for the Fed’s MBS settlement in mid December is only $69 billion. That’s $30-40 billion less than in recent months.

At the same time, the TBAC says that the Treasury will issue $98 billion in new notes and bonds on December 15. The day before, the Fed’s MBS purchases will only total $52 billion.

That’s a problem. But there’s an even bigger problem next week. And an even bigger problem after that when the US Government passes new stimulus. Here’s why, and what to do about it.

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Another Liquidity Indicator Shows Stocks Being Oversold – Wait, What?

Yesterday we looked at the overview of the CLI and the issue of new and secondary stock offerings. The CLI is still bullish. And the supply of new stock issues has not been sufficient to absorb enough of the demand to stop the advance of stock prices, although it has probably contributed to slowing the rise. Likewise, new corporate debt issuance, while massive, hasn’t been sufficient to pull enough of the demand for securities to cause a reversal of the rise in stock prices.

In this Part 2 of the report, I cover the remaining interesting and important indicators that comprise the CLI. Each has its own story to tell, but they all lead to the same conclusion. Still bullish, and, unbelievably, one key component says that the stock market is oversold.

I find it difficult to wrap my head around that. But I won’t argue with it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 53 years of watching markets virtually every day, it’s not to argue with impartial indicators. They don’t care what I think should happen. They just show what is happening.

So here we are. The Fed is creating enormous amounts of excess liquidity, “liquidity” being a fancy word for “money.” I use the words interchangeably.

The Fed is creating that excess by pumping money directly into the markets via its POMO operations—buying bonds from Primary Dealers and paying for them by crediting the dealers’ accounts at the Fed with newly imagined money. That leads to secondary effects of increasing money in the system via credit growth, particularly increasing margin credit that results from rising securities prices.

This works, and will continue to work, for as long as the players have enough confidence in the game to keep buying. This keep pushing prices higher, increasing the value of collateral. That, in turn, allows for and promotes ever more credit creation. It’s the quintessential nature of bubble finance. Circular, and more. Always more.

There are those who say that this isn’t sustainable. There are also those who say that an expanding universe isn’t sustainable, that it will collapse in on itself.

In a few trillion years.

I’m agnostic about whether this must finally end in collapse within the foreseeable future. I assume that it will, but I sure as hell don’t know when. So I’ll just operate in the here and now, and respect the trend. We’ll always be alert for signs of change, but at the same time, never forgetting Rules Number One and Number Two.

Don’t fight the Fed.

The trend is your friend.

Meanwhile, as Yogi said, you can observe a lot by watching. I’m confident that by always being vigilant, and open to anything, we’ll be ready just in time to take advantage of, or at least protect ourselves from, whatever is to come.

Now to the indicators.

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Composite Liquidity Indicator (CLI) – Shows Stocks As Oversold

Are You Kidding Me?

Can this be right? Did the stock market become oversold in mid October versus Composite Liquidity. This chart said that it did. And even after this huge 2 week rally, it’s still much closer to oversold than overbought. The S&P 500 is still near the bottom of the liquidity band.

It’s very similar to a look it had in July 2011. That preceded 4 years of a relentless, virtually unbroken bullish string.

What should cause us to expect change?

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This is Part 1 of a 2 part report. Part 2 will be published later today.

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Short Term Liquidity Relief Will Turn To Big Pain

We’ve had two working theses over the past few months. One is that the Fed is no longer pumping enough cash into dealer accounts to keep an endless bull trend going. Instead, at best, there’s only enough for rotation between stocks and bonds.

The second thesis was that because dealers are so leveraged, any fall in bond prices, reflected in an increase in bond yields, would mean big trouble for the markets. Based on technical analysis, I guessed that the Maginot Line for the bond market was 0.80 on the 10 year Treasury yield.

It’s early yet but, last week we saw evidence in the stock market that these theories are working in practice. The 10 year yield traded persistently above 0.80, and stocks sold off.

Not only wasn’t there rotation, where selling in one market translates to buying the other, but both markets were weak. The selling was contagious, leading to net portfolio liquidation, losses, and equity destruction. This increases the danger of margin calls, which can become self-feeding.

The big question is just how much pain will the Fed tolerate?

Because more pain is coming. A lot more.

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Intervention Attention

The market has the benefit of $115 billion in Fed mid-month QE MBS purchase settlements this week. That would normally be very bullish.

It’s notable that the market has not done more with it. And why not? Still massive Treasury supply along with surging corporate debt and equity issuance is absorbing most QE. There’s not enough left to power an endless bull trend in stocks.

That has been our thesis for the past month or few, and the market seems to be bearing that out. Stocks are stuck in a broad trading range and bonds are weakening.

$83 billion of the MBS settled last Thursday. That helped put $82 billion in Treasury coupon issuance to bed the next day. Whodathunk that the Fed would pump into dealer accounts almost the exact amount that the market needed to absorb the Treasury issuance!

Amazing how that works.

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Normally this much QE every month would be wildly bullish. But the supply of financial assets has risen to meet the demand driven by QE. We’ve reached stasis – equilibrium, so to speak.

But it is fragile. Bonds are teetering on the brink of an abyss. If they go over, and bond prices fall (yields rise), the system would collapse without another round of massive Fed intervention.

So we need to pay attention. Do bonds go over the cliff? How long would it take the Fed to react if they do? And will it be enough, yet again?

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Mr. Minuschin’s Erection To Boost The Election

We have known for a couple of months that there would be a mountain of Treasury supply hitting the market at the end of September. We also knew that Fed QE would be far from adequate to absorb this supply. So I have expected something bearish for stocks at the end of September. This could spill over into the first week of October.

But then things get hairy for bears, with potentially happy days for bulls. Unfortunately, we have a little problem this week. There’s no visibility. We don’t know what they have planned for the next couple weeks. That’s different from usual, where we can usually see ahead for a week or two because we know the Fed’s QE schedule, and also pretty much know how much Treasury supply to expect.

Now, thanks to the exigencies of the past pandemiconomic US Treasury fund raising back in March and April, we don’t have that luxury on Treasury supply, which forces us to surmise some things.

Here they are.

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Macro Liquidity Rising But Other Issues Intrude

Composite liquidity continues to rise, but at a slower pace than in the second quarter as the Fed has slowed QE. That reduces the cash flowing into Primary Dealer accounts, which in turn contributes to a slowing in secondary liquidity drivers.

“Slowing” is a relative word, however. Historically, the numbers remain gargantuan.

No, something else is holding the market back. Here’s what that something is, and what we’re going to do about it.

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Market Dough Gets Punched Down

Surprise, surprise! They pumped the money in but the market didn’t rise.

The Fed has been in the process of pumping $88 billion into Primary Dealer accounts this week in the form of its regular monthly MBS purchase settlements. Most of it is done. $22.7 billion of it will settle on Monday September 21. That will be the last MBS settlement until October 14-21.

Meanwhile, the Fed continues to purchase and settle Treasuries virtually every day. Over the past week that’s amounted to a total of about $37 billion. That means that a total of $103 billion in QE settled this week. That’s how much cash the Fed pumped into Primary Dealer accounts.

It didn’t matter. The stock market sucked gas. Bonds treaded water. It sure looks as though the Fed has somehow managed to magically peg bond yields just below 0.80% on the 10 year. The Treasury issued $104 billion in new coupon paper over the past week and that didn’t depress the market? It’s a miracle.

But isn’t it strange that the amount of QE and the amount of Treasury coupon issuance was virtually the same.

Uh… No.

But some other stuff sure as heck is, and you need to know about it.

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Mr. Minus-chin Conspires With QE for September Happy Ending

Well…

The selloff that we expected as a result of the scheduled month end liquidity shortage happened.

Just one problem.

It came a week later than expected. Unfortunately, in a business where timing is everything, that matters. When the selloff didn’t happen right away, I stopped expecting it. Ooops. Apparently we need to build into our forecasts an allowance for a one week lag between money injections and market reactions.

So this week, the market had a little Wile E. Coyote moment, looked down, and plunged. But suddenly yesterday, it sprang back to life.

Why? The Fed didn’t step in. It is maintaining its schedule of about $18 billion per week in Treasury purchases, and a similar or slightly larger amount of MBS purchases which varies according to the amount of MBS prepaid off the Fed’s balance sheet the prior month. No change there.

As we know, those are forward contracts which only settle in the third week of the month. The September settlements start Monday, September 14. We need to watch out for that.

In the meantime, Dr. Evil’s sidekick, Mr. Minus-chin, the keeper of the US Treasury cash hoard, rode to the rescue yesterday.

Should we expect more of the same?

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