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Don't Underestimate the Central Banks


Uncanny correlation between currency declines and efforts to raise private-sector bank capital, don't you think?

I'm just back from the road and have two thoughts this morning.

First, contrary to every press report that you've read, consumer credit didn't shrink during August. Once again, the media have focused on the "seasonally adjusted" figures instead of the actual figures. For what its worth, those show an increase of $7.3 billion.

But considering the components, I wouldn't get too excited. Government-extended credit -- largely student loans -- increased by a little less than $5 billion as college students headed back to school, while other non-revolving credit -- likely Cash for Clunkers-related auto loans -- rose by about $6 billion. These were offset by reductions in revolving debt -- largely from credit cards.

Second, in the context of the US dollar and the euro vis-a-vis gold, I wouldn't underestimate the role of central banks as the caretakers of their related financial systems. And to me, it's very interesting to note the correlation of currency declines with private-sector bank capital raising efforts.

Or put differently, are weaker currencies the price being paid by the public sector for the re-syndication of risk (i.e. additional capital raises by the major banks) back into the private sector?

But once this effort is complete -- and I'd note the enormous issues in just the past two weeks alone by Nomura (NMR), SocGen, BNP Paribas (BNPQY), and Santander (and by many US regional banks during the month of September) -- I don't know how important equity values may be to the central bankers, particularly as their foreign debt holders have likely already had more than enough.

Not sure?

Check out the chart for gold. From May 1 to June 1, while the US banks were issuing equity left and right in the post Stress Test euphoria, gold rose 10 points from $87 to $97. But once the banks were done, both gold and the equity markets both declined into the July low.

And of late, it all feels eerily familiar.

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