China’s Credit Defaults and Tremors, and Bank Tech war fallout
The Default Blowouts
CNY 3 B default: Shanxi largest steelmaker
Overnight, Hong Kong’s The Standard reported that in addition to the solar, coal and real-estate developer companies that are on everyone’s radar as potential future bankruptcy candidates, one can also add steel makers to the list, with its report that Highsee Group, the largest private steel makers in Shanxi province has defaulted on CNY3 billion of debt, unable to repay its bonds on time.
Dropping like flies now.
Second Chinese Bond Company defaults: HYB
when overnight Xuzhou Zhongsen Tonghao New Board Co., a privately held Chinese building materials company, failed to pay interest on high-yield bonds, according to the 21st Century Business Herald.
The company located in the eastern province of Jiangsu, missed the 10 percent coupon payment due March 28 on the notes, which it sold 180 million yuan ($29 million) of last year in a private placement.
As predicted, once Chaori Solar opened the gates for China’s default superhighway two months ago, and the realization that China will no longer bail out any and everyone, the default deluge has begun.
After Chaori: Zhejiang Xingrun
Solvency Rumors start a mini bank run (by China standards)
The photo below, which shows hundreds of people rushing today to withdraw money from branches of two small Chinese banks after rumors spread about solvency at one of them, are sufficiently informative about just how jittery ordinary Chinese have become in recent days, and reflect the growing anxiety among investors as regulators signal greater tolerance for credit defaults.
Domestic media reported, and a local official confirmed, that ordinary depositors swarmed a branch of Jiangsu Sheyang Rural Commercial Bank in Yancheng in economically troubled Jiangsu province on Monday. The semi-official China News Service quoted the bank’s chairman, Zang Zhengzhi, as saying it would ensure payments to all the depositors.
what happens when the default wave that has claimed solar, coal, and real estate developers finally impacts a deposit-holding institution? How will China – which has far more total deposits within its banking system than in the US (since the US banks fund themselves mostly using ultra-short term, overnight shadow funding) – survive a nationwide bank run we wonder?
The rumour spread quickly. A small rural lender in eastern China had turned down a customer’s request to withdraw 200,000 yuan ($32,200). Bankers and local officials say it never happened, but true or not the rumour was all it took to spark a run on a bank as the story passed quickly from person to person, among depositors, bystanders and even bank employees.
Savers feared the bank in Yancheng, a city in Sheyang county, had run out of money and soon hundreds of customers had rushed to its doors demanding the withdrawal of their money despite assurances from regulators and the central bank that their money was safe.
The panic in a corner of the coastal Jiangsu province north of Shanghai, while isolated, struck a raw nerve and won national airplay, possibly reflecting public anxiety over China’s financial system after the country’s first domestic bond default this month shattered assumptions the government would always step in to prevent institutions from collapsing.
Rumours also find especially fertile ground here after the failure last January of some less-regulated rural credit co-operatives.
And since nothing beats a first person account here is just that, courtesy of Jin Wenjun who saw the drama unfold.
He started to notice more people than usual arriving at the Jiangsu Sheyang Rural Commercial Bank next door to his liquor store on Monday afternoon. By evening there were hundreds spilling out into the courtyard in front of the bank in this rural town near a high-tech park surrounded by rice and rape fields.
Bank officials tried to assure the depositors that there was enough money to go around, but the crowd kept growing.
Housing Bubble Bubble Pop Bubble Pop
Ss companies bend the rules, risks shift outside the banking system into the universe of networks of seemingly unrelated firms connected by murky financial deals. For example, trade loans subsidized by the government to help selected sectors are quietly re-directed by companies to other unrelated businesses, firms say. New financing methods also emerge as easy credit dries up.
The latest plan hatched by a cash-strapped aluminum end-user involves having banks buy the metal and re-selling it to firms who pay out monthly loan plus interest.
How do you spell re-re-rehypothecation again… while selling the collateral…. again? Remember this: it really does explain all one needs to know about China.
The Scramble of cash, by selling houses in Hong Kong (note that Li Ka Shing had gotten out of Hong Kong and Singapore early)
Cash-strapped Chinese are scrambling to sell their luxury homes in Hong Kong, and some are knocking up to a fifth off the price for a quick sale, as a liquidity crunch looms on the mainland.
The biggest irony: after creating ghost towns at home, the Chinese “uber wealthy” army is doing so abroad.
Morgan Stanley Austrian approach China Minsky Moment
(comes after ponzi finance)
Downstream effects, starting with commodities, letters of credit
People smuggling out of China via gold and diamonds
As The South China Morning Post reports, just week after a man was stopped at the China-Hong-Kong border with 4 kilograms of gold in his shoes, customs officers caught a man smuggling more than 7000 diamonds in plastic bags in his underwear. The tell, officers noticed he was walking in a pculair manner.
Commodity Financing Schemes
So what has changed since last May, in addition to the realization that virtually every hard asset is now being used by China to mask hot money inflows into the Chinese economy taking advantage of rate differentials between the Renminbi and the Dollar?
In other words, the day when the Commodity Funding Deals finally end is fast approaching.
One thing deserves special notice: in 2013 the market focus fell almost exclusively on copper’s role as a core intermediary in China Funding Deals, which subsequently was “diluted” into various other commodities after China’s SAFE attempted a crack down on copper funding, which only released other commodities out of the Funding Deal woodwork. We discussed precisely this last week in “What Is The Common Theme: Iron Ore, Soybeans, Palm Oil, Rubber, Zinc, Aluminum, Gold, Copper, And Nickel?”
We emphasize the word “gold” in the previous sentence because it is what the rest of this article is about.
Just what are CCFDs?
The simple answer: a highly elaborate, if necessarily so, way to bypass official channels (i.e., all those items which comprise China’s current account calculation), and using “shadow” pathways, to arbitrage the rate differential between China and the US.
As Goldman explains, there are many ways to bring hot money into China. Commodity financing deals, overinvoicing exports, and the black market are the three main channels. While it is extremely hard to estimate the relative share of each channel in facilitating the hot money inflows, one can attempt to “ballpark” the total notional amount of low cost foreign capital that has been brought into China via commodity financing deals.
While commodity financing deals are very complicated, the general idea is that arbitrageurs borrow short-term FX loans from onshore banks in the form of LC (letter of credit) to import commodities and then re-export the warrants (a document issued by logistic companies which represent the ownership of the underlying asset) to bring in the low cost foreign capital (hot money) and then circulate the whole process several times per year. As a result, the total outstanding FX loans associated with these commodity financing deals is determined by:
the volume of physical inventories that is involved
the number of circulations
A “simple” schematic involving a copper CCFDs saw shown here nearly a year ago, and was summarized as follows.
n detail, Chinese gold financing deals includes four steps:
- onshore gold manufacturers pay LCs to offshore7 subsidiaries and import gold from bonded warehouses or Hong Kong to mainland China – inflating import numbers
- offshore subsidiaries borrow USD from offshore banks via collaterizing LCs they received
- onshore manufacturers get paid by USD from offshore subsidiaries and export the gold semi-fabricated products to bonded warehouses – inflating export numbers
- repeat step 1-3
This is shown in the chart below:
That bolded, underlined sentence is a direct segue into the second part of this article, namely how is it possible that China imports a mindblowing 1400 tons of physical, amounting to roughly $70 billion in notional, demand which under normal conditions would send the equilibrium price soaring, and yet the price not only does not go up, but in fact drops.
The answer is simple: the gold paper market.
And here is, in Goldman’s own words, is an explanation of the missing link between the physical and paper markets. To be sure, this linkage has been proposed and speculated repeatedly by most, especially those who have been stunned by the seemingly relentless demand for physical without accompanying surge in prices, speculating that someone is aggressively selling into the paper futures markets to offset demand for physical.
Now we know for a fact. To wit from Goldman:
From a commodity market perspective, financing deals create excess physical demand and tighten the physical markets, using part of the profits from the CNY/USD interest rate differential to pay to hold the physical commodity. While commodity financing deals are usually neutral in terms of their commodity position owing to an offsetting commodity futures hedge, the impact of the purchasing of the physical commodity on the physical market is likely to be larger than the impact of the selling of the commodity futures on the futures market. This reflects the fact that physical inventory is much smaller than the open interest in the futures market. As well as placing upward pressure on the physical price, Chinese commodity financing deals ‘tighten’ the spread between the physical commodity price and the futures price .
Goldman concludes that “an unwind of Chinese commodity financing deals would likely result in an increase in availability of physical inventory (physical selling), and an increase in futures buying (buying back the hedge) – thereby resulting in a lower physical price than futures price, as well as resulting in a lower overall price curve (or full carry).” In other words, it would send the price of the underlying commodity lower.
We agree that this may indeed be the case for “simple” commodities like copper and iron ore, however when it comes to gold, we disagree, for the simple reason that it was in 2013, the year when Chinese physical buying hit an all time record, be it for CCFD purposes as suggested here, or otherwise, the price of gold tumbled by some 30%! In other words, it is beyond a doubt that the year in which gold-backed funding deals rose to an all time high, gold tumbled. To be sure this was not due to the surge in demand for Chinese (and global) physical. If anything, it was due to the “hedged” gold selling by China in the “paper”, futures market.
And here we see precisely the power of the paper market, where it is not only China which was selling specifically to keep the price of the physical gold it was buying with reckless abandon flat or declining, but also central and commercial bank manipulation, which from a “conspiracy theory” is now an admitted fact by the highest echelons of the statist regime. and not to mention market regulators themselves.
Which answers question two: we now know that of all speculated entities who may have been selling paper gold (since one can and does create naked short positions out of thin air), it was likely none other than China which was most responsible for the tumble in price in gold in 2013 – a year in which it, and its billionaire citizens, also bought a record amount of physical gold (much of its for personal use of course – just check out those overflowing private gold vaults in Shanghai.
* * *
This brings us to the speculative conclusion of this article: when we previously contemplated what the end of funding deals (which the PBOC and the China Politburo seems rather set on) may mean for the price of other commodities, we agreed with Goldman that it would be certainly negative. And yet in the case of gold, it just may be that even if China were to dump its physical to some willing 3rd party buyer, its inevitable cover of futures “hedges”, i.e. buying gold in the paper market, may not only offset the physical selling, but send the price of gold back to levels seen at the end of 2012 when gold CCFDs really took off in earnest.
In other words, from a purely mechanistical standpoint, the unwind of China’s shadow banking system, while negative for all non-precious metals-based commodities, may be just the gift that all those patient gold (and silver) investors have been waiting for. This of course, excludes the impact of what the bursting of the Chinese credit bubble would do to faith in the globalized, debt-driven status quo. Add that into the picture, and into the future demand for gold, and suddenly things get really exciting.
The ongoing war between China Banks and China Tech
And Alibaba’s pushback
How does Alibaba respond when China cracks down on investment products? It launches another investment product.
This has brought Tencent and Alibaba dumped into the dumpster with bitcoin, which can only be bullish in the far long run (it will definitely be crushing in the short term period, as chinese holders are legislated out) It also means that further pushback and response by the Tech giants will potentially pave the way for bitcoin to piggyback onto.