The Magic Number Is Revealed: It Costs Central Banks $200 Billion Per Quarter To Avoid A Market Crash

By Tyler Durden, ZeroHedge

We have all seen it countless times before: visual confirmation that without the Fed’s (and all other central banks’) liquidity pump, the S&P would be about 70% lower than were it is now.

Most recently, this was shown last Friday in “Another Reminder How Addicted Markets Still Are To Liquidity” in which Deutsche bank’s Jim Reid said:

The recovery from the lows after Bullard spoke yesterday is another reminder how addicted markets still are to liquidity. Indeed in today’s pdf we reprint and update a table from our 2014 Outlook showing the various phases of the Fed’s balance sheet expansion and pausing over the last 5-6 years and its impact on equities and credit. We have found that the relationship broadly works best with markets pricing in the Fed balance sheet move just under 3 months in advance. We’ve also included our oft-used chart of the Fed balance sheet vs the S&P 500 to help demonstrate this. So end July / early August 2014 was always the time that this relationship suggested markets should enter a new more difficult phase. So we still think central bankers hold the key to markets going forward and there seems to be a hint of change in the Fed.
Another view was shown over the weekend, in “The Chart That Explains Why Fed’s Bullard Wants To Restart The QE Flow” which shows that when the Fed’s excess reserve firehose is turned on Max, stocks surge; when it isn’t – as has been the case recently – they tumble.

So now that “best Keynesian practices” are out of the window, and everyone has once again turned Austrian, and only the “flow of money” (either inside or outside) matters, the question is how much do central banks need to inject to keep the stock market from crashing, let alone continuing to levitate. Luckily, Citi’s Matt King has just done the math, and the answer is…

Here is his answer:

We think the markets’ weakness owes more to an almost belated reaction to a temporary lull in central bank stimulus than it does to any reduction in the effect of that stimulus in propping up asset prices. Figure 5 shows the rolling 3m combined liquidity injection by the Fed, the ECB, the BoE and the BoJ, plotted against the rolling 3m change in spreads. While the relationship is not perfect – liquidity flows across asset classes and across borders, and there are announcement and confidence effects in addition to the straightforward impact on net supply – it is this, not fundamentals, which we would argue has been the major driver of markets for the past few years (Figure 6 shows the same series plotted against global equities).

In case anyone missed it, and in case there is still any debate about this issue which we first explicitly stated nearly 6 years ago and were widely mocked by the all too serious intelligentsia, here is the key sentence again:

 “it’s the liquidity injections, not fundamentals, which we would argue has been the major driver of markets for the past few years.

And with that piece of New Normal trivia behind us, we continue:

For over a year now, central banks have quietly being reducing their support. As Figure 7 shows, much of this is down to the Fed, but the contraction in the ECB’s balance sheet has also been significant. Seen from this perspective, a negative reaction in markets was long overdue: very roughly, the charts suggest that zero stimulus would be consistent with 50bp widening in investment grade, or a little over a ten percent quarterly drop in equities.
Put differently, it takes around $200bn per quarter just to keep markets from selling off.
If anyone ever needed any confirmation of what we said in June 2012, that “The Stock Is Dead, Long-Live The Flow: Perpetual QE Has Arrived“, now you have it, and only qualified but quantified. Because to translate what Matt King – Citi’s most respected strategist and the only person on Wall Street to warn about the Lehman collapse and its consequences before it happened, just said – if and when the global central bank liquidity tracker ever drops to $200 billion per quarter or less, the market will crash.

Drop in Global Trade Signals Collapse Is Near

By Brandon Smith

Much has been said about the Baltic Dry Index over the course of the last four years, especially in light of the credit crisis and the effects it has had on the frequency of global shipping. Importing and exporting has never been quite the same since 2008, and this change is made most obvious through one of the few statistical measures left in the world that is not subject to direct manipulation by international corporate interests; the BDI. Today, the BDI is on the verge of making headlines once again, being that is plummeting like a wingless 747 into the swampy mire of what I believe will soon be historical lows.

The problem with the BDI is that it is little understood and often dismissed by less thoughtful economic analysts as a “volatile index” that is too “sensitive” to be used as a realistic indicator of future trends. What these analysts consistently seem to ignore is that regardless of their narrow opinion, the BDI has been proven to lead economic derision in the market movements of the past. That is to say, the BDI has been volatile exactly BECAUSE markets have been volatile and unstable, and is a far more accurate thermometer than those that most mainstream economists currently rely on. If only they would look back at the numbers further than one year ago, they might see their own folly more clearly.

Introduced in 1985, the Baltic Dry Index first and foremost is a measure of the global shipping rates of dry bulk goods, mostly consisting of vital raw materials used in the creation of other products. However, it is also a measure of demand for said materials in comparison to previous months and years. This is where we get into the predictive nature of the BDI…

In late 1986, for instance, the BDI fell to its lowest level on record, then, began a slow crawl towards moderate recovery, just before the Black Monday crash of 1987.

Coincidence? Not a chance. From 2001 to 2002, a similar sharp collapse in the BDI preceded a progressive drop in the Dow of around 4000 points, ending in a highly suspect (Fed engineered) illegitimate recovery. In 2008, the index fell to near record lows once again just before the derivatives and credit crisis hit stocks full force. To imply that the BDI is not a useful measure of future economic trends seems like an astonishingly ignorant proposition when one examines its very predictable behavior just before major financial downturns.

This is not to suggest that the BDI can be used as a way to play the stock market from day to day, or often even month to month. MSM analysts rarely look further than the next quarter when considering any financial issue, and that is why they don’t understand the BDI. If an index cannot be used by daytraders to make a quick buck in a short afternoon, then why bother with it at all, right? The BDI is not an accurate measure of the daily market gamble. It is, though, an accurate measure of where markets are headed in the long run and under extreme circumstances.

Over the course of the past month, the BDI has fallen around 65% from above 1600 to 726. Mainstream economists argue that the BDI’s fall in 2008 was a much higher percentage, and thus, a 65% drop is nothing to worry about. They fail to mention that shipping rates never recovered from the 2008 collapse, and have hovered in a sickly manner near lows reached during the initial credit bubble burst. By their logic, if the BDI was at 2, and fell to 1, this 50% drop should be shrugged off as inconsequential because it is not a substantial percentage of decline when compared to that which occurred in 2008, even though the index is standing at rock bottom. Yes, the useful idiots strike again…

Looking at the rate and the speed of decline this past month, it’s hard to argue that the current 65% drop is meaningless:

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