In April of 2010, Zero Hedge first brought up the topic of the Fed's DV01, or the implicit duration risk borne by the Fed's burgeoning balance sheet which at last check will approach 25% of US GDP by the end of 2013 (tangentially, back in 2010 the Fed's DV01 was $1 billion - it is nearly $3 billion now and rising fast). Recently, we have noticed that the mainstream media has, with its usual 2 year delay, picked up on just this topic of the implicit and explicit risk borne by Bernanke's grand (and final) monetary experiment. And slowly but surely they are coming to the inevitable conclusion (which our readers knew two years ago), that the Fed has no way out? Why? Ray Stone of Stone McCarthy explains so simply, a Nobel prize winning economist can get it.
Further asset purchases would compromise the Fed's longer run profitability in two ways.
First, because the securities have been purchased during a period of economic distress the yields on these securities are unusually low. The purchase of these securities has been financed by reserve creation. The cost of reserve creation is the interest rate paid on reserves (IOER) currently only 25 bps.
Of course, the interest rates on IOER, RRPs, and Term Deposits all represent variable interest rates, while the yields on SOMA are effectively all fixed rates. Thus, there is an asset/liability mismatch, which could compromise the Fed's Net Interest Income (NIM) should short term interest rates rise. The Fed's exit from the extraordinarily low funds rate regime will not be compromise by the prospect of reduced or negative NIM. Instead, the remittances to the Treasury would be reduced or suspended.
How high do these short-term interest rates have to go before the NIM become negative?
In 2012 the Fed generated $80.5 bln in interest income on an average $2.606 bln in SOMA holdings, or about 3.1%. The SOMA was funded by paying only 0.25% on average reserve balances of $1.527 trillion or about $3.8 bln. In other words NIM was about $77 bln.
Had the IOER been consistent with what FOMC participants regard as normal in the longer-run, say 4-1/4%, NIM in 2012 would have been only about $15 bln, with a slightly restrictive posture, say 5-1/4% NIM would be close to zero, and with at 5-1/2% NIM would have been negative.
Now if we do the same arithmetic with a SOMA that is increased by $1 trillion due to the asset purchase programs, even keeping the effective yield at 3.1%, we see that NIM turns negative at a lower funds rate. Gross interest income from SOMA would increase to around $115 bln. At the same time if the IOER was set at 4-1/4%, NIM would fall from $15 bln to only $4 bln. At a 4-1/2% NIM becomes negative.
In other words, at Dec. 31, 2013, a 4.5% interest rate (or, as we call it, the D-Rate) is where the Fed starts losing money.
And then, if the Fed waits another year, the NIM breakeven is 3.5%... if the Fed then waits another year, the NIM breakeven drops to a minuscule 2.5%... and so on until year after year, the tiniest rise in rates will force the Fed approach Congress and explain why suddenly, not only is it notremitting interest income to the Treasury, but why just as suddenly, there is now a credit balance, that has to be funded by the Treasury (a move which monetarily will require the Fed to bail itself out, but which politically and economically will be an epic and final hit to the credibility of the Fed, as the Fed will be officially printing money just to print money).
Of course, the above analysis assumes the Fed delays and avoids exiting QE in 2013, and then 2014 (and so on) as this is thelast instrument Bernanke and his successor have to push up the stock market, never mind the economy, the unemployment rate or inflation. Which the Fed will have no choice but do, and yet the longer it build the wall of QE worry, the greater thenegative sensitivity to even the smallest increase in interest (and IOER) rates, if and when inflation picks up and Bernanke is taken to task with his "15 minutes" promise of eliminating hyperinflation.
In other words, while QE4EVA may be unlimited in the eye of the beholding Chairman, it is very much limited by the amount of reserves pumped into the system, and the amount of cash that Ben will have to pay banks as interest on their excess reserves.
Finally, as once again Zero Hedge readers know well ahead of everyone, it will be theforeign banks that will be the proud recipients of the tens or hundreds of billions of IOER funds when the inevitable IOER rate hike starts. This was explained here:
[S]ince it is improbable that excess reserves held by any banks will decline at all in the coming years, one can also assume that the annualized interest paid to foreign banks, which would amount to at least $5 billion pear year, every year, will continue indefinitely as a direct Fed subsidy to the bottom line of Foreign banks.
All of this, of course, ignores what happens should the Fed hike interest rates across the board, which will also mean rising the rates on IOER, once inflation finally strikes: simple math means a 1% IOER means some $20 billion in interest paid to foreign banks, 2% - $40 billion, 5% - $100 billion paid to foreign banks, and so on. Putting these numbers in perspective, let's recall that Italy's third largest bank just got a €3.9 billion bailout (its third), and has a market cap of some €2.9 billion.
Expect the MSM to figure out that it is precisely the foreign banks operating in the US, which now hold well more than half of all excess reserves in circulation, that will be the majority benefactors of the dollar bonanza that will be unleashed once the IOER begins its trickle up, in the next few years (or months at the rate record gasoline prices are soaring). Sadly, by then will we have far greater problems as a result of nobody once again understanding what is really going on behind the scenes.
Since institutional memories are short, it is time to remind readers that it was the threat, and subsequent reality, of China overheating in the spring and summer of 2011 (when record high food prices sent the entire North African region in a state of coordinated revolt and gradually moved far east), when even the Great firewall of China could not block news of frequent break outs of localized violence from hungry and angry mobs, that halted and broke the spine of the great reflation trade then (and yes, 2013 has so far been a carbon copy replica of 2011 as we summarized in "It's Deja Vu, All Over Again: This Time Is... Completely The Same").
Furthermore, as only Zero Hedge forecast back in mid-2012, when ever othercommentator was shouting over the rooftops that an RRR or interest rate cut out of Beijing was imminent, the PBOC would be the last to stimulate the market with monetary easing as it was well-aware that an entire developed world reflating at the same time would hit none other than China the fastest as the hot money flew straight into Shanghai. Just as it did in 2011. So instead China proceeded to engage in a series of daily reverse repos, or ultra-short term liquidity injections that prevented the advent of wholesale inflation: after all the Fed, the BOJ, the ECB and soon, the BOE, were doing it for them. And the last thing the country with the highest allotment of CPI, or book inflation, to food and energy can afford, is to let foreign central banks dictate its price level. After all, it has more than enough of its own.
Well, the Chinese New Year celebration is now over, the Year of the Snake is here, and those following the Shanghai Composite have lots to hiss about, as two out of two trading days have printed in the red. But a far bigger concern to not only those long the SHCOMP, but the "Great Reflation Trade - ver. 2013", is that just as two years ago, China appears set to pull out first, as once again inflation rears its ugly head. And where the PBOC goes, everyone else grudgingly has to follow: after all without China there is no marginal growth driver to the world economy.
End result: China's reverse repos, or liquidity providing operations, have ended after month of daily injections, and the first outright repo, or liquidity draining operation, just took place after eight months of dormancy.
Chinese authorities took a step to ease potential inflationary pressures Tuesday by using a key mechanism for the first time in eight months.
The move by the central bank to withdraw cash from the banking system is a reversal after months of pumping cash in. That cash flood was meant to reduce borrowing costs for businesses as the economy slowed last year—but recent data has shown growth picking up, along with the main determinants of inflation: housing and food prices.
The People's Bank of China used a liquidity-draining tool in the interbank market that enables the central bank to borrow money from commercial lenders. It withdrew 30 billion yuan ($4.81 billion) by offering 28-day repurchase agreements, alternatively known as repos. The PBOC hadn't offered repos since June.
"The central bank is trying to send a message that it will not tolerate too-easy liquidity conditions," Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist at Crédit Agricole, ACA.FR +0.22% wrote in a research note.
The central bank had pumped a record amount of cash into the interbank market ahead of the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, which ended Friday. The break typically spurs increased spending for gifts and travel, and shuts down financial markets.
Also pumping cash into the system have been overseas investors, as the economy picks up steam and expectations of yuan appreciation grow. The central bank and financial institutions bought a net 134.6 billion yuan of foreign currency in December, almost double the 73.6 billion yuan in November, according to Wall Street Journal calculations based on official data.
"The PBOC's move Tuesday was also likely triggered by an increase in capital flows into China and worries about inflation," said Yang Weixiao, a senior fixed-income analyst at Lianxun Securities.
The next question is how soon until the PBOC makes a courtesy call to the Fed, the ECB, and all other central banks, and politely requests that they shut it all down. Because while there may be slack elsewhere, China will no longer absorb the same systemic excess liquidity that has pushed gas prices to the highest level on this day in history, at the fastest pace in years.
Finally, for those wondering just what signal gold was waiting for to surge in the same parabolic fashion as it did in 2011, the answer is: this. Because unless the PBOC can get inflation under control, and this time it means getting one more central bank to cooperate with the BOJ now acting on behalf of Goldman's open-ended easing paradigm, the locals will hardly be preserving their purchasing power by warehousing pork and rice...