Posts Tagged ‘China’

 

In his trade war with China, President Donald Trump wields one seeming advantage: The United States could ultimately slap tariffs on more than $500 billion in imported Chinese goods. Beijing has much less to tax: It imported just $130 billion in U.S. goods last year.

Yet that hardly means China would be powerless to fight back once it ran out of U.S. goods to penalize. It possesses a range of other weapons with which to inflict pain on the U.S. economy.

Indeed, China’s Commerce Ministry has warned of “comprehensive measures” it could take against the United States. It has given no details but possible tactics could include harassing automakers, retailers or other American companies that depend on China to drive revenue to selling U.S. government debt or disrupting diplomatic efforts over North Korea.

Some of those steps might harm China’s own interests. But Beijing might still be willing to deploy them, at least temporarily, if its trade war with Washington were to drag on.

On Friday, Washington imposed its first tariffs in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressuring companies to hand over technology. China swiftly announced retaliatory tariffs on a similar amount of U.S. goods.

A look at some of China’s options:

TARGET AMERICAN COMPANIES

China’s state-dominated and heavily regulated economy gives authorities an arsenal of tools to disrupt U.S. companies by withholding licenses or launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations.

Also open to retaliation are services such as engineering and logistics in which the United States runs a trade surplus.

“The U.S. focus is on goods, while China could very well look at services, as well as the operation of U.S. companies in China,” said Taimur Baig, chief economist for DBS Group.

In one prominent case, U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc. has waited for months for word on whether Chinese regulators will accept its proposed $44 billion acquisition of NXP Semiconductors. All other major governments have approved the deal.

China’s entirely state-controlled media have encouraged consumer boycotts against Japanese, South Korean and other products during previous disputes with those governments.

Last year, Beijing destroyed Korean retailer Lotte’s business in China after the company sold land in South Korea to the Seoul government for an anti-missile system opposed by Chinese leaders.

Beijing closed most of Lotte’s 99 supermarkets and other outlets in China. Seoul and Beijing later mended relations, but Lotte gave up and sold its China operations.

FINANCIAL LEVERAGE

Nationalists point to China’s $1.2 trillion holdings of U.S. government debt as leverage. Beijing might suffer losses if it sold enough to influence U.S. debt financing costs — but such sales might become necessary.

China’s yuan has sagged against the dollar this year, which might require the central bank to intervene in currency markets.

To get the dollars it needs, the People’s Bank of China might “become a net seller of U.S. Treasurys,” said Carl B. Weinberg of High-Frequency Economics in a report.

“Punishing the U.S. Treasury market is one of the tactics China has available to retaliate against unilateral U.S. tariffs,” said Weinberg.

DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

Beijing can appeal for support to U.S. allies that are miffed by Trump’s “America first” approach and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.

Trump’s unilateral actions have allowed China to position itself as a defender of free trade despite its status as the most-closed major economy. That could help Beijing win over governments that have criticized Trump for acting outside the World Trade Organization.

“China could strike a common ground with the EU, Canada, Japan and other economies impacted by the U.S. tariffs,” said Citigroup economists Li-Gang Liu, Xiaowen Jin and Xiangrong Yu in a report.

Chinese leaders have tried, so far without success, to recruit European and other governments as allies.

More broadly, Chinese commentators have suggested Beijing also could disrupt diplomatic work over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs or other initiatives. But political analysts say that would risk setting back work Chinese leaders see as a priority.

Advertisements

 

China has been actively expanding its influence to the Middle East, and engaging war-torn Syria as part of its signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been a case in point.

On November 24, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Political and Media Advisor to the Syrian President Bouthaina Shaaban in Beijing. During the meeting, Wang offered to support Syria’s reconstruction.

In early November, Syrian government forces and their pro-government allies announced that they won another victory over Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants and were in full control of Deir el-Zour, the largest city in eastern Syria. The Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad appears to be winning the war against ISIS for now.

According to Chinese foreign ministry, during his meeting with Bouthaina Shaaban, Wang proposed three focal points — counter-terrorism, dialogue and reconstruction –for solving the Syrian issue as “the situation in Syria is turning into a new stage.” He emphasized that anti-terrorism as the foundation, dialogue as the way out and reconstruction as the guarantee.

Regarding “dialogue,” Wang claimed that it is the “only way out” for solving the Syrian issue. “In this process, we must safeguard the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and maintain the core status of the Syrian people in the political settlement process,” Wang said.

Wang also expressed willingness to help with Syria’s reconstruction. He said that “only by advancing reconstruction steadily can we give the Syrian people hope and provide guarantee for the long-term peace and stability in Syria. ”

“The international community should attach importance to and actively support the reconstruction of Syria,” Wang added. “China will also make its own efforts to this end.”

Yet, this stance seems to be at odds with that of many Western and Arab countries.

In September, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States issued a joint statement, stressing that “Recovery and reconstruction support for Syria hinges on a credible political process leading to a genuine political transition that can be supported by a majority of the Syrian people.”

Thus, China, together with Russia and Iran, has become the major potential helper with reconstruction for current Syrian government.

At the regular press briefing on November 29, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang explained China’s motive for actively engaging Syria and other Middle East countries recently. He said:

Too many people in the Middle East are suffering at the brutal hands of terrorists…We support countries in the region in exploring a development path suited to their national conditions and are ready to share governance experience and jointly build the Belt and Road and promote peace and stability through common development.

On November 21, China just delivered 1,000 tons of rice to Syria as part of its food aid plan under the BRI. According to China’s state media, China has already signed three agreements with the Syrian government to provide humanitarian aid to Syria worth over $40 million in the first half of 2017.

In September, while attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Wang also directly asked Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to join China’s BRI, since “Syria is an important node in the ancient Silk Road and that the ‘Belt and Road’ construction can serve as an important opportunity for bilateral cooperation in future. ”

In response, Syria has shown enthusiasm to attract Chinese cash, too. For instance, early in July, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy in Beijing held a special event, inviting 1,000 representatives of Chinese companies to invest on Syria’s reconstruction. During the event, Syrian Ambassador in Beijing Imad Mustafa said that Chinese companies are expected to play a big role in the future reconstruction phase and the Syrian government will give top priority to Chinese companies in investment and reconstruction opportunities.

 

Will the rise of China mean the fall of America? In a word, yes. Although decline might be more accurate.

Why do I think this? Because China is about to launch the PetroYuan and when it does the demand for dollars and for dollar denominated debt will shrink. When it does, I question whether the world will be so sanguine about the level of debt that America carries. If that happens then the value of the dollar is in question.

At the moment no matter what level of debt America carries, other countries need dollars. Dollars to pay for oil, since oil is traded in dollars. Dollars for their financial system so their banks can settle contracts for goods and services traded in dollars.

But over the last few years China has been systematically putting in place everything it needs to launch the Yuan as not only a rival to the dollar in trading and settling oil contracts but as a rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. At the moment the only rival to the dollar is the Euro. I think it fair to say the relationship between the two currencies and their issuing powers, has been… ‘delicate’. The news that Sadam Hussein was going to start trading his oil in Euros came just a few months before America and its lap dog GB, decided Sadam was a threat to world peace and went to war with him. Something similar happened to Colonel Qaddafi.

Under Qaddafi Libya’s currency was backed by the country’s large holdings of gold and silver. This had allowed Qaddafi to finance, for example, the entire construction of the Great Man Made River without going to Western banks for a single loan. Libya was debt free and owned its own resources and infrastructure. Obviously a very unsatisfactory state of affairs for any third world country to get ideas so far above their station. Worse, he had a very public plan which he had laid before the Pan African Congress, to create a pan African currency backed by gold and silver to be launched by 2023. It was not too long before Hilary Clinton arrived in a freshly bombed Libya and crowed to CBS, “We came, we saw, he died.” Charming woman. I was only surprised she didn’t say “Mission accomplished.”

Libya and Iraq were small enough, that their pretensions to threaten the hegemony of the dollar and have the jumped up arrogance to think they could trade their own resources in their own currency or a currency of their choice, could be dealt with by shock, awe and death. I think China might not be so easily dealt with.

China’s plans for the replacement of the dollar and the positioning of their own currency are very like Libya’s. China too has had the idea to back its new settlement and perhaps one day its reserve currency, with gold. And China is not alone. Russia has been a part of the BRIC group with an interest in the plan. Russia, like China has been a very large buyer of gold.

 

As reported just a few weeks ago by the Irish Independent,

…the Bank of Russia has more than doubled the pace of gold purchases, bringing the share of bullion in its international reserves to the highest of Mr Putin’s 17 years in power, according to World Gold Council data.

In the second quarter alone, it accounted for 38pc of all gold purchased by central banks.

The article goes on to explain how purchasing gold has meant that Russia has not had to buy foreign currencies. For foreign currencies think Dollars.

The gold rush is allowing the Bank of Russia to continue growing its reserves while abstaining from purchases of foreign currency for more than two years.

China and Russia have very large holdings of gold between them. China actually produces 12% of the world’s gold and keeps much if not most of what it produces. The new Petro Yuan will be backed by Gold, Something the IMF decades ago, said no paper currency should have. A clear break with the Bretton Woods Dollar-world agreement.

Who will use this new currency? Over the past few years a network of bilateral agreements has been created around China and Russia. Back in 2012, in an article called A new Reserve currency to challenge the dollar – What’s really going on in The Straits of Hormuz, I pointed out that not only had China and Russia agreed to bypass the dollar and trade direct in their own currencies but that,

the India Times reported that India was talking to Iran about moving out of dollar settlements so as to be able to buy Iranian oil despite a US embargo. India said it was discussing settling in Gold. Remember, India has just signed a settlement agreement with China to use the Yuan.

Remember also, Russia recently eclipsed Saudi as the number one supplier of China’s oil. And if I remember correctly Angola was number two. Promoting perhaps the recent state visit this year of Saudi’s King Salman to see Mr Putin. As The Guardian put it,

 

Saudi king’s visit to Russia heralds shift in global power structure

King Salman agrees new areas of cooperation with Vladimir Putin on first official trip by Saudi monarch to Moscow

In addition Japan and China have agreed to trade in Yuan, by-passing the dollar, as has Iran. They are now trading their oil in Yuan or euros, but not the dollar. Ever wondered why Iran is ‘the axis of evil? It’s because they don’t use the dollar.

Then came the news in 2015 that Qatar had opened the first and so far only financial centre in the Middle East, for trading and clearing oil, gas and anything else, in Yuan. China’s ICBC is the central banking concern in the hub, allowing any Middle Eastern country to trade oil and gas and settle in Yuan. In the previous few years China’s trade with Qatar had tripled. And now, guess what? Qatar has been declared by the US to be a sponsor of terrorism and US allies in the gulf , led by Saudi, have begun to blockade Qatar’s trade. Hmm. Any pattern emerging?

The problem for the US is how much debt is too much for any country or business? Clearly it is not any magic figure or particular debt to GDP ratio. America and China carry huge debts and no one has balked…yet. How much debt you can carry is a function of debt to the estimated future productive capacity of the country in question. That creates the demand for its currency and the demand for the currency creates a market and demand for debt denominated in that currency.

At the moment the US can carry a huge debt load because everyone needs dollars to trade oil. And China can carry a huge debt because everyone needs yuan to buy the goods whose production was off-shored to China by our globalist leadership.

But what happens to demand for Dollars and dollar debt when, not if, oil starts to be traded less and less in dollars? I suggest the world’s appetite will diminish quite quickly. As it does so, the world will start to see US debt in a different light. While the opposite will happen to China. And this is what interests me and makes me think China has a plan.

At the moment China also has a very large debt load. I have argued that the Central Chinese authorities have not got the control they would like to have over the growth of that debt. Of course I have no inside information. But the on again/ off again attempts of the Chinese central authorities to deflate its housing-debt bubble and its quite out-of-control shadow banking lending suggests, to me at least, that the central authorities have not and can not control the level of debt being accumulated by provincial governments, their off-book, arm’s length financial vehicles, regional banks, property developers and the vast, largely unregulated trade in wealth management vehicles.

Chinese debt already overflowed once back in the 90’s. Four companies were created to take the debt off the banks’ books and trade it away. Decades later these companies still exist and still have the bad debts from the 90’s hanging around. You will see headlines telling you how those companies have been doing well, making money. Suggesting their trade in bad chinese debt has been going well. The reality, if you dig a little deeper, is that those companies lobbied for and were given permission to engage in ‘proper’ banking activities. Which meant they began to make their own loans – to property developers. As the property bubble continued to inflate over the last decade and a half they have ridden it and that, not trading the old bad-debt, is why they have made a profit. But now those ‘bad’ banks, have themselves started to find some of their own loans going bad. In any hard-landing or financial paroxysm the ‘bad-banks’ will need to be rescued by a new bad banks. Bad banks for bad banks is not really a solution.

I think the Chinese authorities can see this. It doesn’t take a genius after all. What can they do? Well if you already have a huge debt problem and know many of them are going to go bad and will do so overnight in the event of another global banking crisis, and know you are not able to reign it all in, then a very tempting alternative would be to get the world to agree that you can carry more debt – a lot more. And what could help convince the world? Well if your currency could become far more sought after, that would be peachy.

And so I think the long standing Chinese goal of making the yuan

an important international currency which China, and Hong Kong in particular, have been working towards for years, has now taken on a far greater import and urgency. I think the Chinese central government’s best way of avoiding a politically disastrous domestic debt implosion is to get the Yuan to be used as a settlement currency for oil and not long after that to become a de facto rival to the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

Recently I argued at length with a military analyst who disagreed that China would risk such a break with America. Too dangerous he felt. China, he pointed out has such huge holdings of American debt. He argued that the Chinese would prefer to work alongside the dollar. I feel that even if the Chinese would prefer to ‘work alongside’ the dollar, this will prove very difficult if not impossible. Once a flow of countries and trade moves away from the dollar there will be a momentum the Chinese will not be in control of. Cooperation between dollar and Yuan as clearing and reserve currency, especially for oil, will be like trying to dock two super-tankers in a high sea. In theory possible. In practice – not going to work.

As for Chinese holdings of US debt – I think the advantages of avoiding a domestic debt implosion and projecting the Yuan to world centre stage, will outweigh the losses. I also think, If I were the Chinese, I would imagine a scenario where the dollar does begin to look vulnerable. Its value begins to be questioned, nations holding dollars and dollar debt will feel America’s profligate indebtedness is a global danger. They will blame America. How wonderful then, for China to arrive and say to a worried world, on the edge of a huge crisis, “Fear not, we have thought ahead and can offer you the use of a new currency – one backed by GOLD not paper debts. We are here to save you. To offer a ride on a sound ship as an alternative to the rotten and leaking ship you have been riding on.” China will be able to position their rise not as an aggressive act, not as trying to destabilise the world, but as trying to save it, from the collapse of an internally divided, corrupt, aggressive and indebted America.

America’s decline will be both financial and political. Financial due to the recalibration of what the world thinks of America’s debt load, and therefore their confidence in and need for the dollar. Political, because America

has got used to being able to enforce its foreign policy through sanctions and embargoes. But once oil and other goods and the nations trading in them, no longer need the dollar for their trade, and do not have to use US clearing or custodial banks, then this power evaporates.

Try to imagine the shift in power when Wall Street’s banks are no longer guaranteed top position as the world’s custodial banks and Manhattan’s Southern District Court (Wall Street’s court) is no longer in a position to dictate to whole nations via decisions upon Wall Street Custodial banks, what debts those nations and their custodial banks must pay and to whom. The whole edifice of Bilateral Investment Treaties and the trade agreements they sit inside, depends for enforcement upon the US banks being the custodial banks and the Southern District court’s rulings being able to tell those banks what they must do. Take that power away, which will happen if the dollar is no longer pre-emininent, and America will no longer be able to enforce its foreign policy or world view via economic sanction.

I think the main US banks will be positioning themselves to try to bridge this decline by having a major presence in Hong Kong. They are all already there but will be working to be part of the new Yuan-world of trade and clearing.

Of course this is speculation. But it seems to me the underlying evidence of the previous decade makes it worth thinking about.

If I am in any way correct then I think other things follow.

I think the House of Saud knows it’s future is in question. I have written a lot about how I see Qatar rising to rival Saudi. Qatar not Saudi has the Yuan clearing house. Saudi is late to the party. Can Saudi risk being seen to move away from its

traditional ally, America? If it does, too quickly, and signs yuan trade deals it risks falling as soon as Americal turns its back. If it doesn’t move quickly enough it risks being completely eclipsed by Qatar, having to go to Qatar cap in hand to trade its oil with Russia and China.

I see the political changes within the House of Saud as signs of the internal struggles to decide which way to go. I personally think the House of Saud will fall.

I also think the position of Israel under its present leadership is also very fragile. Israel needs Saudi. While they may seem to be on opposite sides, in many ways they are on the same side. If the House of Saud falls or changes allegiances from America to Russia/China then Israel will become even more isolated than it is. And of course if America is eclipsed and does enter a period of decline, then Israel will go with it.

If any of the above is near the mark, will it mean the end of America? Of course not. American’s will still work and sleep and raise their children like everyone else. But the pre-eminence of the dollar and American finance will decline as the stock of dollar denominated bonds and debt agreements expires, and with it the power and wealth of many of America’s elite. How that decline will sit alongside America’s still overwhelming military power I don’t know.

Of course what I have suggested above is merely speculation but personally I think another debt crisis will happen, because never ending QE and Central Bank debt buying cannot go one for ever, and what China does in the next few months could very well destabilise the whole unstable system. Many people will suffer and lives will be blighted. But I wonder if, when we all look back from a decade or a generation after, if we won’t think it lucky the crisis did finally come and the system we have been slaving under since 2007 as well as those who have forced it upon us for their own enrichment, were called to account.

It is difficult to accept that such historic changes could occur. But history has not ended despite what some have claimed.

Rumours of History’s end have been, in my opinion, greatly exaggerated. History is very much alive and happening to us, now. We are, as the Chinese saying goes, living in interesting times.

 

The petrodollar system is being undermined by exponential growth in technology and shifting geopolitics. What comes next is a paradigm shift…

 

In the summer of 1974, Treasury Secretary William Simon traveled to Saudi Arabia and secretly struck a momentous deal with the kingdom. The U.S. agreed to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia, provide weapons, and in essence guarantee the preservation of Saudi oil wells, the monarchy, and the sovereignty of the kingdom. In return, the kingdom agreed to invest the dollar proceeds of its oil sales in U.S. Treasuries, basically financing America’s future federal expenditures.

Soon, other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries followed suit, and the U.S. dollar became the standard by which oil was to be traded internationally. For Saudi Arabia, the deal made perfect sense, not only by protecting the regime but also by providing a safe, liquid market in which to invest its enormous oil-sale proceeds, known as petrodollars. The U.S. benefited, as well, by neutralizing oil as an economic weapon. The agreement enabled the U.S. to print dollars with little adverse effect on interest rates, thereby facilitating consistent U.S. economic growth over the subsequent decades.

An important consequence was that oil-importing nations would be required to hold large amounts of U.S. dollars in reserve in order to purchase oil, underpinning dollar demand. This essentially guaranteed a strong dollar and low U.S. interest rates for a generation.

[ZH: Still, the underlying concept of how Petrodollar recycling, or as some call it, petrocurrency mercantilism works, leaves some confusion. So in order to alleviate that, here courtesy of Cult State, is a quick and simple primer that should hopefully answer all questions. From CultState:

So what is petrocurrency mercantilism?

It’s when a national bank and an energy producer collude to generate artificial demand for a currency at the expense of the purchasing power of other currencies.

The flowchart below shows how it all works.

Given this backdrop, one can better understand many subsequent U.S. foreign-policy moves involving the Middle East and other oil-producing regions.

Recent developments in technology and geopolitics, however, have already ignited a process to bring an end to the financial system predicated on petrodollars, which will have a profound impact on global financial markets. The 40-year equilibrium of this system is being dismantled by the exponential growth of technology, which will have a bearish impact on both supply and demand of petroleum. Moreover, the system no longer is in the best interest of key participants in the global oil trade. These developments have begun to exert influence on financial markets and will only grow over time. The upheaval of the petrodollar recycling system will trigger a resurgence of volatility and new price trends, which will lead to a renaissance in macro investing.

Let’s examine these developments in more detail.

First, TECHNOLOGY is affecting the energy markets dramatically, and this impact is growing exponentially. The pattern-seeking human mind is built for an observable linear universe, but has cognitive difficulty recognizing and understanding the impact of exponential growth.

Paralleling Moore’s Law, the current growth rate of new technologies roughly doubles every two years. In the transportation sector, the global penetration rate of electric vehicles, or EVs, was 1% at the end of 2016 and is now probably about 1.5%. However, a doubling every two years of this level of usage should lead to an automobile market that primarily consists of EVs in approximately 12 years, reducing gasoline demand and international oil revenue to a degree that today would seem unfathomable to the linear-thinking mind. Yes, the world is changing—rapidly.

Alternative energy sources (solar power, wind, and such) also are well into their exponential growth curves, and are even ahead of EVs in this regard. Based on growth curves of other recent technologies, and due to similar growth rates in battery technology and pricing, it is likely that solar power will supplant petroleum in a vast portion of nontransportation sectors in about a decade. Albert Einstein is rumored to have described compound interest (another form of exponential growth) as the most powerful force in the universe. This is real change.

The growth of U.S. oil production due to new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has both reduced the U.S. need for foreign sources of oil and led to lower global oil prices. With the U.S. economy more self-reliant for its oil consumption, reduced purchases of foreign oil have led to a drop in the revenues of oil-producing nations and by extension, lower international demand for Treasuries and U.S. dollars.

China has agreed with Russia to purchase Russian oil and natural gas in yuan.
◦As an example of China’s newfound power to influence oil exporters, China has persuaded Angola (the world’s second-largest oil exporter to China) to accept the yuan as legal tender, evidence of efforts made by Beijing to speed up internationalization of the yuan. The incredible growth rates of the Chinese economy and its thirst for oil have endowed it with tremendous negotiating strength that has led, and will lead, other countries to cater to China’s needs at the expense of their historical client, the U.S.
◦China is set to launch an oil exchange by the end of the year that is to be settled in yuan. Note that in conjunction with the existing Shanghai Gold Exchange, also denominated in yuan, any country will now be able to trade and hedge oil, circumventing U.S. dollar transactions, with the flexibility to take payment in yuan or gold, or exchange gold into any global currency.
◦As China further forges relationships through its One Belt, One Road initiative, it will surely pull other exporters into its orbit to secure a reliable flow of supplies from multiple sources, while pressuring the terms of the trade to exclude the U.S. dollar.

The world’s second-largest oil exporter, Russia, is currently under sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union, and has made clear moves toward circumventing the dollar in oil and international trade. In addition to agreeing to sell oil and natural gas to China in exchange for yuan, Russia recently announced that all financial transactions conducted in Russian seaports will now be made in rubles, replacing dollars, according to Russian state news outlet RT. Clearly, there is a concerted effort from the East to reset the economic world order.

ALL OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS leave global financial markets vulnerable to a paradigm shift that has recently begun. In meetings with fund managers, asset allocators, and analysts, I have found a virtually universal view that macro investing—investing based on global macroeconomic and political, not security-specific trends—is dead, fueled by investor money exiting the space due to poor returns and historically high fees in relation to performance. This is what traders refer to as capitulation. It occurs when most market participants can’t take advantage of a promising opportunity due to losses, lack of dry powder, or a psychological inability to proceed because of recency bias.

A current generational low in volatility across a wide spectrum of asset classes is another indicator that the market doesn’t see a paradigm shift coming. This suggests that current volatility is expressing a full discounting of stale fundamental inputs and not adequately pricing in the potential of likely disruptive events.

THE FEDERAL RESERVE is now in the beginning stages of a shift toward “normalization,” which will lead to diminished support for the U.S. Treasury market. The Fed’s total assets stand at approximately $4.5 trillion, or five times what they were prior to the financial crisis of 2008-09. The goal of the Fed is to “unwind” this enormous balance sheet with minimal market disruption. This is a high-wire act a thousand feet in the air without a safety net or prior practice. Additionally, at some not-so-distant future date, the U.S. will need to finance enormous and growing entitlement programs, and our historical international sources for that financing will no longer be willing to support us in that endeavor.

The market participants with whom I met theoretically could have the ability to accept cognitively the points made in this article. But the accumulation of many small losses in a low-volatility and generally trendless market has robbed them of confidence and the psychological balance to embrace any new paradigm proactively. They are frozen with fear that the lower- return profile of recent years is permanent—ironic in an industry that is paid to capture price changes in a cyclical world.

One market legend with whom I spoke suggested he wouldn’t have had the success he enjoyed in his career had he begun in the past decade. Whether or not this might be true, it doesn’t mean that recent lower returns are to be extrapolated into the future, especially when these subpar returns occurred during the quantitative-easing era, a period that is an anomaly.

I have been fortunate to ride substantial bets on big trends, earning high risk-adjusted returns using time-tested techniques for exploiting these trends. Additionally, I have had the luxury of not participating actively full-time in macro investing during this difficult period. Both factors might give me perspective. I regard this as an extraordinarily opportune moment for those able to shed timeworn, archaic assumptions of market behavior and boldly return to the roots of macro investing.

The opportunity is reminiscent of the story told by Stanley Druckenmiller, who was promoted early in his investment career to head equity research at a time when his co-workers had vastly more experience than he did. His director of investments informed him that his promotion owed to the same reason they send 18-year-olds to war; they are too dumb to know not to charge. The “winners” under the paradigm now unfolding will be market participants able to disregard stale, anomalous concepts, and charge.

RELATEDLY, THERE IS a running debate as to whether trend-following is a dying strategy. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that short-term and mean-reversion trading is more in vogue in today’s markets (think quant funds and “prop” shops). Additionally, the popularity of passive investing signals an unwillingness to invest in “idea generation,” or alpha. These developments represent a full capitulation of trend following and macro trading.

Ironically, many market players who wrongly anticipated a turn in recent years to a more positive environment for macro and trend-following are throwing in the towel. The key difference is that now there is a clear catalyst to trigger the start of the pendulum swinging back to a fertile macro/trend-following trading environment.

As my mentor, Bruce Kovner [the founder of Caxton Associates] used to say, “Nobody rings a bell at key turning points.” The ability to properly anticipate change is predicated upon detached analysis of fundamental information, applying that information to imagine a plausible world different from today’s, understanding how new data points fit (or don’t fit) into that world, and adjusting accordingly. Ideally, this process leads to an “aha!” moment, and the idea crystallizes into a clear vision. The thesis proposed here is one such vision.

 

The United States is the undisputed capital of the unicorn – private companies worth more than $1 billion. This title though, is becoming more and more under threat, primarily from China.

You will find more statistics at Statista

As Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes, according to CB Insights, there are currently 215 unicorns in the world, of which 108 are from the U.S.

When it comes to the ‘birth’ of new unicorns however, America’s strength is clearly being diluted.

In 2013, 75 percent of new unicorns were born in the United States, fast forward to 2017 though, and this share has fallen to just 41 percent.

The number of new unicorns from around the world has remained reasonably stable over this time, but it is the rapid increase in activity in China – from 0 percent in 2013 to 36 percent this year – that is putting the most pressure on U.S. dominance.

Authored by James Rickards

 

China is a relatively open economy; therefore it is subject to the impossible trinity.

China has also been attempting to do the impossible in recent years with predictable results.

Beginning in 2008 China pegged its exchange rate to the U.S. dollar. China also had an open capital account to allow the free exchange of yuan for dollars, and China preferred an independent monetary policy.

The problem is that the Impossible Trinity says you can’t have all three. This model has been validated several times since 2008 as China has stumbled through a series of currency and monetary reversals.

For example, China’s attempted the impossible beginning in 2008 with a peg to the dollar around 6.80. This ended abruptly in June 2010 when China broke the currency peg and allowed it to rise from 6.82 to 6.05 by January 2014 — a 10% appreciation.

This exchange rate revaluation was partly in response to bitter complaints by U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner about China’s “currency manipulation” through an artificially low peg to the dollar in the 2008 – 2010 period.

After 2013, China reversed course and pursued a steady devaluation of the yuan from 6.05 in January 2014 to 6.95 by December 2016. At the end of 2016, the Chinese yuan was back where it was when the U.S. was screaming “currency manipulation.”

Only now there was a new figure to point the finger at China. The new American critic was no longer the quiet Tim Geithner, but the bombastic Donald Trump.

Trump had threatened to label China a currency manipulator throughout his campaign from June 2015 to Election Day on November 8, 2016. Once Trump was elected, China engaged in a policy of currency war appeasement.

China actually propped up its currency with a soft peg. The trading range was especially tight in the first half of 2017, right around 6.85.

In contrast to the 2008 – 2010 peg, China avoided the impossible trinity this time by partially closing the capital account and by raising rates alongside the Fed, thereby abandoning its independent monetary policy.

This was also in contrast to China’s behavior when it first faced the failure of its efforts to beat impossible trinity. In 2015, China dodged the impossible trinity not by closing the capital account, but by breaking the currency peg.

In August 2015, China engineered a sudden shock devaluation of the yuan. The dollar gained 3% against the yuan in two days as China devalued.

The results were disastrous.

U.S. stocks fell 11% in a few weeks. There was a real threat of global financial contagion and a full-blown liquidity crisis. A crisis was averted by Fed jawboning, and a decision to put off the “liftoff” in U.S. interest rates from September 2015 to the following December.

China conducted another devaluation from November to December 2015. This time China did not execute a sneak attack, but did the devaluation in baby steps. This was stealth devaluation.

The results were just as disastrous as the prior August. U.S. stocks fell 11% from January 1, 2016 to February 10. 2016. Again, a greater crisis was averted only by a Fed decision to delay planned U.S. interest rate hikes in March and June 2016.

The impact these two prior devaluations had on the exchange rate is shown in the chart below.

Major moves in the dollar/yuan cross exchange rate (USD/CNY) have had powerful impacts on global markets. The August 2015 surprise yuan devaluation sent U.S. stocks reeling. Another slower devaluation did the same in early 2016. A stronger yuan in 2017 coincided with the Trump stock rally. A new devaluation is now underway and U.S. stocks may suffer again.

 

China cannot keep the capital account closed without damaging badly needed capital inflows. Who will invest in China if you can’t get your money out?

China also cannot maintain high interest rates because the interest costs will bankrupt insolvent state owned enterprises and lead to an increase in unemployment, which is socially destabilizing.

China cannot maintain a strong yuan because that damages exports, hurts export-related jobs, and causes deflation to be imported through lower import prices. An artificially inflated currency also drains the foreign exchange reserves needed to maintain the peg.

Since the impossible trinity really is impossible in the long-run, and since China’s current solutions are non-sustainable, what can China do to solve its policy trilemma?

The most obvious course, and the one likely to be implemented, is a maxi-devaluation of the yuan to around the 7.95 level or lower.

This would stop capital outflows because those outflows are driven by devaluation fears. Once the devaluation happens, there is no longer any urgency about getting money out of China. In fact, new money should start to flow in to take advantage of much lower local currency prices.

There are early signs that this policy of devaluation is already being put into place. The yuan has dropped sharply in the past month from 6.45 to 6.62. This resembles the stealth devaluation of late 2015, but is somewhat more aggressive.

The geopolitical situation is also ripe for a Chinese devaluation policy. Once the National Party Congress is over in late October, President Xi will have secured his political ambitions and will no longer find it necessary to avoid rocking the boat.

 

China’s President Xi Jinping awaits appointment to a second term at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, starting October 18. His reappointment is a foregone conclusion.

China has clearly failed to have much impact on North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions. As war between North Korea and the U.S. draws closer, neither China nor the U.S. will have as much incentive to cooperate with each other on bilateral trade and currency issues.

Both Trump and Xi are readying a “gloves off” approach to a trade war and renewed currency war. A maxi-devaluation of the yuan is Xi’s most potent weapon.

Finally, China’s internal contradictions are catching up with it. China has to confront an insolvent banking system, a real estate bubble, and a $1 trillion wealth management product Ponzi scheme that is starting to fall apart.

A much weaker yuan would give China some policy space in terms of using its reserves to paper over some of these problems.

Less dramatic devaluations of the yuan led to U.S. stock market crashes. What does a new maxi-devaluation portend for U.S. stocks?

We might have an answer soon enough.

A brief perspective on the geopolitical strategic posturing and amalgamation occurring in real time. Political commentary by Chris Anthony.