A View from the Trenches, December 21, 2010: "End of 2010 comments"
This is our last letter of the year. Briefly, we want to go over the main themes that we leave with:
To have structure, we will classify the themes according to their respective currency zones. Starting with the US, we must say we’re impressed by the level of optimism expressed in the many research notes we’ve read in the past week. The outlook for 2011 is too good and shared by too many, which is a recipe for deception. Most of it is based on the fact that from a fundamental perspective, 2011 will “suffer” from a negative net issuance in almost every credit/fixed income class, exacerbated by the Fed’s announced purchase of $600BN in Treasuries. This shortage in net issuance is to us the main theme, the basis of an expected asset reflation trade. Do we agree with this view? No! This view is not dynamic. This view assumes market participants will be comfortable once the negative net issuance is over and we enter 2012. This could never occur, because once the force behind the reflation weakens, the pain will be even less tolerable and a new source of price inflation will be sought.
For the European Monetary Union, next year will be quite the test. We differ with those who see indecision in European politicians to take the next step towards a fiscal union. But we fear more the idiocy or lack of understanding by politicians, of certain economic fundamentals. To tell sovereign debt investors they will be subordinated to supranational debt (i.e. European Financial Stability Facility), to threaten those they call speculators but provide liquidity to the market, will only take the pricing of future badly needed issuances to unsustainable levels, seriously jeopardizing any chance of survival.
In the meantime, in 2011, we think the UK will keep playing its Keynesian game of debasing real wages (i.e. inflation) and cutting fiscal spending, as long as investors allow it. The UK has an enviable sovereign debt maturity profile (i.e. long-term skewed), where the benefits of a small inflation surpass the political costs of frugality….for now…
We see China’s oligarchy further condemning the masses to coerced saving, by increasing the segmentation of its capital markets. Hong Kong will profit, while mainland Chinese labour will foot the bill, continuing to work at suppressed wages for the party to continue in the West. How do you segment capital markets? You disrupt the credit multiplier raising the reserve requirement ratios, forcing exporters to clear payments in Hong Kong, taxing capital inflows, raising the exit costs for foreign capital. All in the name of a pegged Yuan. Can this last another year? We think it can.
Finally, Emerging markets and the “other dollars” will walk the tight rope, as they try to keep their economies open and at the same time, seek to prevent the import of inflation from Helicopter Ben. This, as David Hume back in 1752 wrote, is futile. It’s a losing proposition. In the case of Canada, we would not be surprised if the Bank of Canada abuses its repurchase agreements or the if Canadian Home Mortgage Corp., on behalf of the export lobby, injects liquidity in the market by repurchasing mortgages. All this to keep the Canadian dollar from going beyond parity. It will be sad, but it will happen.
We want to thank everyone for accompanying us on our second year and wish you all a great 2011!
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