THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED

Takeaway: There appears to be no end in sight for desert-like liquidity conditions across the Chinese financial system.

SUMMARY BULLETS:

 

  • There appears to be no end in sight for desert-like liquidity conditions across the Chinese financial system. For example, the benchmark weighted-average seven day repo rate jumped +143bps DoD to close at 8.07%, which is the highest close since the rate hit 8.1% in JAN ’12. On a monthly average basis of 6.21%, China’s benchmark seven-day repo rate is at all-time highs (data going back to JAN ’04).
  • What we find interesting about Premier Li’s latest commentary is that Chinese officials aren’t responding to the dire monetary conditions with a rapid reach for the monetary stimulus gun, but rather with a calculated, conservative approach that favors ridding the system of its excesses, rather than perpetuating them. This is new as it relates to how China has handled such liquidity constraints over the past several years and has clearly caught consensus investors and corporations (i.e. those that blindly clamor for Chinese stimulus in a Pavlovian manner) offsides.
  • At any rate, all of the recent negative developments across the Chinese financial system are very much in line with our recent work on the Chinese economy, including our 61-slide presentation on Chinese financial system risks (among other topics). In the event you missed that come through, we’ve included a hyperlinked compendium of that work at the conclusion of this note.
  • Specifically, we think recent [bubbly] trends in the Chinese property market will keep the PBOC on the sidelines with respect to the intermediate term. Additionally, we think a delayed recognition of NPL exposures will continue to effectively tighten/keep tight liquidity conditions across the Chinese financial system as incremental credit is increasingly allocated to servicing existing liabilities, rather than generating economic output that ultimately allows for the retirement of debt. That will ultimately equate to sustainably slower GDP growth, which will, in turn, exacerbate the problem in a reflexive manner.
  • All told, no change to our dour outlook for the Chinese financial system and the equity values that underpin it. We reiterate our bearish bias on Chinese banks and property developers (CHIX is the ETF we are using to #TimeStamp the position) and our structural bearish thesis for emerging markets broadly. The recent developments in China are clearly not positive for sentiment among EM investors; nor are they supportive of EM economic fundamentals, particularly given that so much of EM growth was perpetuated by China’s fixed asset investment bubble – which we clearly view as in the process of popping.

 

There appears to be no end in sight for desert-like liquidity conditions across the Chinese financial system. The benchmark weighted-average seven day repo rate jumped +143bps DoD to close at 8.07%, which is the highest close since the rate hit 8.1% in JAN ’12. On a monthly average basis of 6.21%, China’s benchmark seven-day repo rate is at all-time highs (data going back to JAN ’04).

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 1

 

More signs of stress:

 

  • The overnight repo rate jumped +203bps to close at 7.58%, while overnight Shibor increased +206bps to close at 7.66%. On a monthly average basis, those rates are up +339bps and +348bps, respectively. On a quarterly average basis, those rates are up +114bps and +115bps, respectively.
  • Looking to O/N Shibor specifically, it’s interesting (and dangerous) to see that the monthly average of 6.40% is a full 40bps above the PBOC’s benchmark 1Y lending rate. Assuming SOE borrowers have been taking advantage of the 30% reduction in the lending rate floor, the JUN-to-date average for overnight interbank deposits is a whopping +220bps above what Chinese banks are likely to have been extending 1Y credit at! Obviously, negative carry is neither a safe nor sustainable environment for any bank to operate in.
  • The 1Y on-shore interest rate swap (i.e. the fixed cost needed to receive the benchmark seven-day repo rate) increased +50bps DoD to 4.49%, which is a full 149bps premium to the PBOC benchmark 1Y household deposit rate and good for the highest close of all-time (data going back to APR ’06). On a period-average basis, the 1Y swap rate is up +30bps MoM and +12bps QoQ, respectively.

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 6

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 2

 

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With stress like this across the Chinese financial system, it’s no surprise to see that the Ministry of Finance’s auction of of 30B yuan ($4.9B) of 10Y paper closed with a bid-to-cover ratio of 1.43x, which was the lowest since AUG ’12.

 

Perhaps more important than the aforementioned signals we continue to receive from Chinese money markets was the commentary we received from Primer Li overnight, suggesting that, “China should further support the development of real economy by improving the use of money stock on the market.”

 

He followed up by saying, “Although the amount of capital invested into the real economy remains considerable, the marginal effect of money supply in economic growth becomes small. From January to May, the volume of social financing had reached CNY 9.11 trillion, a year-on-year increase of CNY 3.12 trillion, but China’s economic growth was still on a downward trend. This is mainly due to the oversized debts and inefficient use of capital in the real economy.”

 

What we find interesting about this is the fact that Chinese officials aren’t responding to the dire monetary conditions with a rapid reach for the monetary stimulus gun, but rather with a calculated, conservative approach that favors ridding the system of its excesses, rather than perpetuating them. This is new as it relates to how China has handled such liquidity constraints over the past several years and has clearly caught consensus investors and corporations (i.e. those that blindly clamor for Chinese stimulus in a Pavlovian manner) offsides.

 

Per the state-run China Securities Journal (a media outlet for the CSRC), “[China] cannot use as fast money supply growth as in the past, or even faster, to promote economic growth. This means that authorities must control the pace of money supply growth.”

 

At any rate, all of the recent negative developments across the Chinese financial system are very much in line with our recent work on the Chinese economy, including our 61-slide presentation on Chinese financial system risks (among other topics). In the event you missed that come through, we’ve included a hyperlinked compendium of that work at the conclusion of this note.

 

Specifically, we think recent [bubbly] trends in the Chinese property market will keep the PBOC on the sidelines with respect to the intermediate term. Additionally, we think a delayed recognition of NPL exposures will continue to effectively tighten/keep tight liquidity conditions across the Chinese financial system as incremental credit is increasingly allocated to servicing existing liabilities, rather than generating economic output that ultimately allows for the retirement of debt. That will ultimately equate to sustainably slower GDP growth, which will, in turn, exacerbate the problem in a reflexive manner.

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 7

 

You’re already seeing our bearish cyclical [and structural] thesis on Chinese economic  growth confirmed by both domestic and international commodity markets, the latter of which China remains the key player in from an incremental demand perspective.

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 4

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 8

 

THE CHINESE FINANCIAL SYSTEM IS FREAKISHLY STRESSED - 5

 

All told, no change to our dour outlook for the Chinese financial system and the equity values that underpin it. We reiterate our bearish bias on Chinese banks and property developers (CHIX is the ETF we are using to #TimeStamp the position) and our structural bearish thesis for emerging markets broadly. The recent developments in China are clearly not positive for sentiment among EM investors; nor are they supportive of EM economic fundamentals, particularly given that so much of EM growth was perpetuated by China’s fixed asset investment bubble – which we clearly view as in the process of popping.

 

Darius Dale

Senior Analyst

 

  • REPLAY PODCAST AND SLIDES: ARE YOU SHORT CHINA [AND OTHER EMERGING MARKETS] YET? (6/12): We think the outlook for Chinese credit growth is structurally impaired. Moreover, we anticipate that growth in non-performing loans will accelerate sustainably over the long term. Lastly, we believe that net interest margins across the Chinese banking industry face immense regulatory headwinds that may ultimately have dire consequences for China’s fixed assets investment bubble. At a bare minimum, investors should steer clear of these obvious value traps over the intermediate-to-long term. Moreover, we continue to believe assets linked to Chinese industrial demand will remain under pressure for the foreseeable future.
  • IS CHINA PREPARING FOR SYSTEMIC FINANCIAL RISK? (6/10): Recent policy developments call attention to the systemic risks facing China’s banking system. Additionally, MAY growth data came in soft.
  • IS A RATE HIKE(S) COMING DOWN THE PIKE IN CHINA? (6/4): No change to our dour view of China’s TREND-duration growth outlook or the pending bifurcation of FAI and consumption growth.
  • IS THE RECENT RALLY IN CHINESE EQUITIES SUSTAINABLE? (5/17): We do not think the recent strength in the Chinese equity market is sustainable, as China’s 2H13 growth outlook appears dicey at best.
  • WHY IS CHINA GOOSING ITS EXPORT FIGURES AND HOW MUCH LONGER WILL IT CONTINUE? (5/8): Chinese firms are goosing exports to drive incremental liquidity into the banking system – a phenomenon that appears set to slow from here.
  • TWO CHINAS? (5/1): Financial system headwinds continue to outweigh consumption tailwinds within the Chinese economy.
  • REPLAY: Will China Break? (4/30): The Party’s use of state owned banks to drive economic growth through fixed asset investment has left the financial system loaded with bad assets.  The bad assets mirror bad investments in the real economy.  They also can limit the ability of Chinese banks to make new loans.  Following the financial crisis, the Chinese government pushed too hard on the FAI growth lever, building infrastructure projects “for the next 10 years.” It has also left the banking sector choked with bad debts that may limit future lending.  Those factors should slow Chinese FAI growth and slower Chinese FAI growth should be negative for commodity prices and resource-related profits, all else equal.
  • CAN CHINA AVOID FINANCIAL CRISIS? (4/26): The risk of a Chinese financial crisis is heightened to the extent that financial sector reforms are not appropriately managed.
  • REPLAY: EMERGING MARKET CRISES (4/23): We currently see a pervasive level of risk across the emerging market space at the country level and have quantified which countries are most vulnerable. China is particularly vulnerable to experiencing a financial crisis.
  • IS CHINA CAREENING TOWARDS FINANCIAL CRISIS? (3/28): Systemic risks are present across China’s financial sector – as is the political will and fiscal firepower needed to avert a crisis.

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