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Me, You, Madness…no it’s not a story about Roaring Kitty, GameStop and Melvin, though someone has to make that into a film (Michael Lewis will be writing the novel already, I’m sure). It’s actually a 2021 film starring Louise Linton, wife of ex Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin. I have not seen it, but I have seen the trailer. The setup sounds fun – Linton plays a psychopathic hedge fund boss. But while it contains just everything you can cram into a feature film; it looks exceptionally bad. So bad it’s actually good. Maybe. How it ranks in the canon remains to be seen. It’s really a vanity project, which is really a form of excess that we see in lots of corners of the market right now – think Tesla, the meme stocks, Bitcoin (just don’t include the FTSE…).

Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus package is probably excessive. t’s certainly full of waste, full of ways to prop up failing businesses and deliver helicopter money to a lot of people who don’t really need it. The economy is rebounding anyway. Jobs are coming back. A lot of the money will find its way into things like paintings, cars or fine wine. It will also find its way into stocks, or crypto-assets, or even non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

It will also find its way into paying down debt, and this is huge. The US government is embarking on a massive debt transfer from households to government. It can unleash huge potential by transferring the burden from productive capital (private) to unproductive (public) and is potentially one of the most explosive forces in capital markets in several generations. This transfer of debt will unleash entrepreneurial spirits that would otherwise be restricted. I fail to see how it do anything but increase asset prices, including stocks – despite the rise in yields. It allows households to take on more debt, start businesses and buy more stuff. It also lets them invest in stocks directly. The craziest thing is that it won’t help inequality- poor folks need the money for bills, food etc. Middle class folks will put the money to work. Those without big outgoings will reduce debt so they take on more risk in future because they’re not saddled with big debt obligations like student loans. We’re going to be hit by a massive surge in growth and bond yields will spiral. Inflation will spike and unless the fed gets a grip, it will lose control of inflation. I feel like we’re at the start of a massive economic boom, at least in the US, where policy makers have been vastly more ambitious than they have elsewhere.  I might be over-egging the pudding, but I sense people don’t appreciate just how important this debt transfer is going to be for the structure of markets and the economy.

Inflation is dead. Inflation is temporary… 

Year-on-year comps will start to show inflation rising. The NY Fed’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey yesterday contained something interesting in its inflation component: “Input price increases continued to pick up, rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade and selling prices increased significantly.” Other datasets have shown input prices starting to inflate at the fastest pace in years.

Yesterday I touched on the way [some] central banks seemed kind of unconcerned by the rise in yields – last time he spoke Powell didn’t take the opportunity to push back against the rise in yields (no hint of a Twist), and the BoE’s Bailey said yields are rising because of growth. And now we have the RBA – the first to blink by stepping up asset purchases to counter the rise in bond yields – saying in the minutes to its last meeting that the gyrations in bonds are not that significant. And now the ECB – after another communication failure by Christine Lagarde – says yield curve control is unnecessary. ECB chief economist Philip Lane pointed out to the FT that the is not like the last crisis with years of lost output. Which means CBs don’t need to worry about taming yields in the same way.

The mantra seems to be that inflation – previously thought dead – will only be temporary and yields are just moving up because economic activity will hit 2019 levels this year. It’s just not that simple: yields reflect the fact that there is a lot more cash sloshing around – US bank reserves have doubled to about $3.4tn since the start of the pandemic. More stimulus, more growth, more money in the system, more debt issuance – yields are marching higher for number of reasons but mainly reflect growth expectations, inflation expectations and issuance – both real and expected. The extent each exerts a pull on yields (and the extent to which each is affecting the other) is obviously up for a lot of debate and a lot harder to measure. But what seems clear to me is that yields are facing a lot of upwards pressure. Then we have market functioning elements like extending SLR – failure to extend could see a heap of Treasuries come onto the market, making things more volatile.

But I think the big question that we are yet to really answer is how much markets are worrying about debt. I’ve banged on a lot about MMT before – deficits don’t matter and all that – not with any real view on what we should be doing, but rather with an interest in the debate about how we approach fiscal and monetary policy. If markets really are worried about the debt and their ability to absorb all this issuance, then it probably does have some important long-term implications, such as whether you can keep running perpetual deficits, can you always just increase the debt ceiling, and should you look to balance the books? How quickly do you suck the money back out of the system? And with the Democrats gaining those Senate seats in Georgia there is a lot more stimulus coming over the hill.

The back up in long end real rates took off on January 5th – after the Georgia runoffs – indicating people think issuance is a factor.

The back up in long end real rates took off on January 5th.

Inflation expectations are at multi-year highs.

Inflation expectations are at multi-year highs

Stocks in Europe took the cue from a positive session on Wall Street, with the main bourses mounting a fresh stab higher after yesterday’s early promise somewhat fizzled out in the latter part of the session. Positive Zalando and VW updates provided comfort to the Stoxx 600, whilst the DAX rose 0.6% in early trade. The FTSE 100 trades higher with a fresh attempt to clear the big resistance around 6,800 – near-term trend support is about to run into this level so a big test lies ahead with a possible leg up should 6,800 finally be taken out with conviction. Overall the mood in Europe was probably constrained yesterday by several countries halting the AstraZeneca vaccine, but this should prove a major constraint for the market.

The FTSE 100 trades higher.

Did you doubt that the arrival of ‘stimmy’ cheques would do anything other lift stocks? Yields didn’t really do anything so there wasn’t that immediate stress for the growth end of the market. Investors are looking at the yields and probably thinking yes it means multiple compression, but then you have to look at the $1.9tn coming over the hill at a moment of a strong cyclical recovery as fresh juice. US 10-year notes hovered around 1.6%. The Nasdaq 100 ended up 1% and the best of the induces after a big rally into the close. The Dow Jones rose 0.5% to a fresh record high as it notched its 7th straight daily gain. The S&P 500 also made a fresh ATH after rising 0.65% – its 5th straight day of gains. Futures point to another higher open.

Tesla rose 2% despite the company saying that Elon Musk’s title was changing to Technoking of Tesla, whilst CFO Zach Kirkhorn would henceforth be known as ‘Master of Coin’. GameStop sank almost 17%, AMC Entertainment rose 25% as it embarks on reopening cinemas. Keep your eye on these meme stocks as stimulus cheques could do a lot of work for them.

Yields remain the big threat to daily gains – if you see Treasury yields pop it will rock the market, but longer-term stocks can handle higher rates and unless there is another exogenous shock or a meltdown in funding markets like we saw with the repo stress a couple of years ago [watch that SLR decision], the path of least resistance is up. The Fed meeting this week is the clear risk event for yields but today we also have US retail sales to watch.

Sterling retreated to a one-week low vs the dollar. GBPUSD declined to around 1.3830 and may seek a test of the 50day SMA. The yield on 10-year gilts spiked to 0.86%, the highest in a year, but has this morning retreated back under 0.8%.

Sterling retreated to a one-week low vs the dollar.

Bitcoin trades higher this morning with the 200-hour SMA offering the support. MACD bullish crossover seen.

Bitcoin trades higher this morning.

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