The last time we observed one of our long-standing favorite topics (first discussed in early 2009), namely the global USD-shortage which manifests itself in times of stress when the USD surges against all foreign currencies and forces even the BIS and IMF to notice, was in March of this year, when we explained that “unlike the last time, when the global USD funding shortage was entirely the doing of commercial banks, this time it is the central banks’ own actions that have led to this global currency funding mismatch – a mismatch that unlike 2008, and 2011, can not be simply resolved by further central bank intervention which happen to be precisely the reason for the mismatch in the first place.”
Furthermore JPM conveniently noted that “given the absence of a banking crisis currently, what is causing negative basis? The answer is monetary policy divergence. The ECB’s and BoJ’s QE coupled with a chorus of rate cuts across DM and EM central banks has created an imbalance between supply and demand across funding markets. Funding conditions have become a lot easier outside the US with QE-driven liquidity injections and rate cuts raising the supply of euro and other currency funding vs. dollar funding. This divergence manifested itself as one-sided order flow in cross currency swap markets causing a decline in the basis.”
To which we rhetorically added: “who would have ever thought that a stingy Fed could be sowing the seeds of the next financial crisis (don’t answer that rhetorical question).”
All this was happening when the market was relentlessly soaring to all time highs, completely oblivious of this dramatic dollar shortage, which just a few months later would manifest itself quite violently first in the Chinese devaluation and sale of Treasurys, and then in the unprecedented capital outflow from emerging markets as the great petrodollar trade – just as we warned in November of 2014 – went into reverse. In fact, there are very few now who do not admit the Fed is responsible for both the current cycle of soaring volatility, or what may be a market crash (as DB just warned) should the Fed not take measures to stimulate “inflation expectations” (read: more easing).
In any event, since March we have received numerous requests for follow-up of where said funding shortage is now. So here are the latest observations on the current level of the global dollar funding shortage as measured by the Dollar fx basis, courtesy of JPM:
The dollar fx basis declined further over the past two months. The 5-year dollar fx basis weighted across six DM currencies declined to a new low for the year and the lowest level since the summer of 2012 during the euro debt crisis.
In other words: the USD funding shortage is even worse than it was when we looked at it in March, it still is a function of conflicting central bank liquidity flows, and while not as bad as it was at its all time worst levels in late 2011, it is slowly but surely getting there with every passing week that the Fed does not ease monetary conditions.
A brief history of the three key periods of global USD-funding shortfalls:
- The first episode immediately after the Lehman bankruptcy coincided with a US banking crisis that quickly became a global banking crisis via cross border linkages. Financial globalization meant that Japanese banks had accumulated a large amount of dollar assets during the 1980s and 1990s. Similarly European banks accumulating a large amount of dollar assets during 2000s created structural US dollar funding needs. The Lehman crisis made both European and Japanese banks less creditworthy in dollar funding markets and they had to pay a premium to convert euro or yen funding into dollar funding as they were unable to access dollar funding markets directly.
- The second episode of very negative dollar basis took place during the Euro debt crisis. The sovereign crisis created a banking crisis making Euro area banks less worthy from a counterparty/credit risk point of view in dollar funding markets. As dollar funding markets including fx swap markets dried up, these funding needs took the form of an acute dollar shortage. European banks and companies that had dollar assets to fund had to pay a hefty premium in fx swap markets to convert their euro funding into dollar funding. Those European banks and companies that were unable to do so, were forced to liquidate dollar assets such as dollar denominated bonds and loans to reduce their need for dollar funding
- The third phase of very negative dollar basis started at the end of last year. Monetary policy divergence has for sure played a role during the end of 2014 and the beginning of this year. The ECB’s and BoJ’s QE has created an imbalance between supply and demand across funding markets. Funding conditions have become a lot easier outside the US with QE-driven liquidity injections raising the supply of euro and yen funding vs. dollar funding. This divergence manifested itself as one-sided order flow in cross currency swap markets causing a decline in the basis. And we did see these funding imbalances in cross border corporate issuance.
More from JPM:
Similar to the beginning of this year, the decline in the dollar fx basis is raising questions regarding shortage in dollar funding. This is because the fx basis reflects the relative supply and demand for dollar vs. foreign currency funds and an even more negative basis currently points to more intense shortage of USD funding relative to the beginning of the year.
Figure 5 shows that the current negativity of the dollar fx basis represents the third major episode since the Lehman crisis. Before the Lehman crisis the fx basis was remarkably stable hovering around zero as funding markets were well balanced. After the Lehman crisis, funding markets experienced persistent imbalances with an almost structural shortage of dollar funding.
In all, continued monetary policy divergence between the US and the rest of the world as well as retrenchment of EM corporates from dollar funding markets are sustaining an imbalance in funding markets making it likely that the current episode of dollar funding shortage will persist.
What does this mean in simple terms? Think back to what David Tepper said several weeks ago on CNBC when, contrary to popular opinion, he admitted he was bearish on risk assets mostly as a result of the “reserve streams” going in two different ways. This is precisely what the dollar shortage as quantified by the negative dollar basis is telling us: the policy divergence between the “tight” Fed and the ultra loose ECB and BOJ is starting to reach extreme levels, and will likely continue until the basis blows out to its theoretical limit of -50bps as set by the Fed-ECB swap line.
At that point either the Fed will be forced to admit it was beaten by the market, and either cut rates (to negative) while perhaps unleashing even more QE to offset the monetary imbalance with the rest of the world, or it will once again engage in even more swap lines with foreign central banks as the dollar funding shortage moves beyond simply synthetic and into an actual shortage of USD “bills” all in electronic credit format of course, because as we further explained last week, it is simply impossible to satisfy all global USD-denominated claims.