One of the great existential debates about U.S. equities is essentially demographic in nature. Nic Colas, of ConvergEx, asks the question, will retiring Baby Boomers cash out of stocks in the coming years, leaving lower valuations in their wake? At least one recent Fed paper pointed to an 8x earnings multiple for stocks – down from 14x currently – in 2025, all due to the changing face (and age) of the typical investor. But all this doom and gloom only fits if every generation has a similar risk tolerance. If younger cohorts – dubbed Generation X and “Next” – have higher risk thresholds, they may actually buy more equities than their parents, alleviating the demographic time bomb behind that dire Fed prediction. Getting a fix on how these nascent investors will evaluate the risk-return tradeoff is tough; they still don’t have much money to put to work. Still, some signs exist. Believe it or not, a third of young Americans have tattoos, an acknowledged sign of risk-loving behavior. And if you think that is just bad decision-making, consider the business rock-stars of the under-30 set. This latest wave of billionaires are all outsized risk takers, and role models to their generation. Stocks may not be dead just yet.
Ten more years of low returns in the stock market. If you are one of the millions of baby boomers headed into retirement - start saving more and spending less because the stock market won't bail you out. Now that I have your attention I will explain why this is the likely future ahead for investors. In this past weekend's newsletter I wrote that “If you put all of your money into cash today and don’t look at the market for another decade – you will be better off..." I realize that this statement is equivalent to heresy where Wall Street is concerned but there is one simple reason behind my apparent madness - the power of "reversion". This is not a new concept by any means as witnessed by Bob Farrell's rule #1 - "Markets tend to return to the mean over time." However, the reality of what "reversion" means is grossly misunderstood by Wall Street, and the mainstream media, as witnessed by the many valuation calls that "stocks are now cheap because the market is now trading in line with its long term average."
Earlier today, thousands listened to Jeff Gundlach live (if with the occasional flash crash) lay out his latest views on the economy and markets. For those who missed it, as well as for those who may want a refresher on why Gundlach is slowly building up a natgas position, or why he is buying gold on dips, here is the full slidedeck used by the DoubleLine manager.
I recently wrote an article that addresses the subject of sociopaths and how they insinuate themselves into society. Although the subject doesn't speak directly to what stock you should buy or sell to increase your wealth, I think it's critical to success in the markets. It goes a long way towards explaining what goes on in the heads of people like Bernie Madoff and therefore how you can avoid being hurt by them. But there's a lot more to the story. At this point, it seems as if society at large has been captured by Madoff clones. If that's true, the consequences can't be good. So what I want to do here is probe a little deeper into the realm of abnormal psychology and see how it relates to economics and where the world is heading. If I'm correct in my assessment, it would imply that the prospects are dim for conventional investments – most stocks, bonds and real estate. Those things tend to do well when society is growing in prosperity. And prosperity is fostered by peace, low taxes, minimal regulation and a sound currency. It's also fostered by a cultural atmosphere where sociopaths are precluded from positions of power and intellectual and moral ideas promoting free minds and free markets rule. Unfortunately, it seems that doesn't describe the trend that the world at large and the US in particular are embarked upon. In essence, we're headed towards economic and financial bankruptcy.
On The Goldman Path To Complete World Domination: Mark Carney On His Way To Head The Bank Of England?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/17/2012 - 17:44
Back in November we penned "The Complete And Annotated Guide To The European Bank Run (Or The Final Phase Of Goldman's World Domination Plan)" in which we described what the long-term reality of Europe, not that interrupted by the occasional transitory LTRO cash injection and other stop-gap central bank measure, would look like. And yet there was one piece missing: after Goldman unceremoniously set up its critical plants in Italy via Mario Monti and the ECB via Mario Draghi, one key target of Goldman domination was still missing. The place? Why the center of the entire modern infinitely rehypothecatable financial system of course: England, which may have 1,000x consolidated debt/GDP, but at least it can repledge any asset in perpetuity thus giving the world the impression it is solvent (no wonder AIG, MF Global, and now the CME are scrambling to operate out of there). Which is why we read with little surprise that none other than former Goldmanite, and current head of the Bank of Canada, is on his way to the final frontier: the Bank of England.
Presented with little comment but given the seemingly unlimited balance sheet of the JPMorgan CIO office and the ability to sell as much protection (implicitly bullish) and gather premium as credit derivative index notionals soared at an incredible rate, are we stretching the point a little too far to claim that perhaps, just perhaps, one of the new transmission mechanisms for the global central banks' liquidity flows is leveraged credit - which implicitly enables stocks to be supported by lower funding costs and exhibit the kind of portfolio rebalancing effect that was desired. Perhaps even more critical is the fact that IG9 (the credit index in question) contains some of the most worrisome of the major corporate credits and thus the highest short-interest in stock-land - which implicitly exaggerates any non-MtM-based entity's ability to create a short-squeeze? Is the entire market now a function of one prop trader (hence forbidden by the Volcker Rule) being forced to (un)wind his trade now that he is finally in the public spotlight as we wonder - are recent market jitters merely the byproduct of Iksil selling some of his excess exposure, and being the marginal price setter across virtually every asset class?
Flashing headlines to conclude tax day:
- BUFFETT DIAGNOSED WITH STAGE I PROSTATE CANCER
- WARREN BUFFETT SAYS NO INCIDENCE OF CANCER ELSEWHERE
- BERKSHIRE SAYS CONDITION ISN'T 'REMOTELY LIFE-THREATENING'
- BUFFETT: TESTS SHOW NO INCIDENCE OF CANCER ELSEWHERE IN BODY
CNBC adds that Buffett will start a two-month treatment course in July.
NASDAQ managed its largest gain in four months as Apple came back into vogue and saved the day. The equity indices were alone in their magnificent exuberance after the European close as Gold, Treasuries, and the USD all tracked sideways in a very narrow range. As we have been warning, the mania is back in equity (and credit markets but less so) as April has now seen six of the last nine days swinging between 2 sigma gains and 2 sigma losses (for the NASDAQ). Volume was average today in ES (the S&P 500 e-mini futures) and NYSE (stocks) but high in Apple's equity and options markets as the schizophrenic behavior pushed the stock from under $572 at the open to almost $610 by the close (though notably stuck between Friday's close $605.19 and its closing VWAP at $610.74). The last day to fund your IRA combined with tomorrow's VIX futures/options expiration likely helped some of this momentum (as we note VIX is about 1 vol higher than it was when the S&P closed at these levels on Friday). Just as in Europe, credit markets were simply not as enamored with the Spanish auction or Apple's awesomeness as equities and drifted sideways to weaker all afternoon (with some late-day weakness in HYG as it starts to fall back towards its NAV). Financials and Materials lost some ground into the close and ES gave all its post-Europe-close gains back as volume and trade size picked up significantly at last Thursday's swing highs (near pre-NFP levels again). The Treasury complex saw all its 'losses' in the early going and went sideways in an extremely narrow range for much of the US day session - ending the day slightly higher in yield (0.5-1.5bps) on the week. Commodities surged early on as the USD slipped but drifted back from mid-morning on (except WTI which broke above $105 (ended above $104) for the first time in 2 weeks. Gold and Silver nose-dived right after the US open only to recover it all by the European close. EUR strength (and USD weakness) occurred early this morning on the Spanish auction and aside from a rip in CAD the rest of the day was relatively tight ranges with a very small drift higher in DXY. All-in-all, it seemed like an oversold snap that saw opportunistic sellers coming in at the end as average trade size surged and ES closed back above its 50DMA again - echoing last week's mania and worryingly raising realized vol for all those hopes and dreamers. Equities look over-their-skis again relative to risk assets in general.
Last night, Goldman entered into unchartered territory with its first observations of the student loan bubble in a piece titled "Are Student Loans Driving Consumer Credit Growth?" Most of the observations are nothing new, although author Alec Phillips does bring up one amusing implication of what the soaring student debt may mean in macro terms. Specifically, to Goldman the rise in debt is merely "A more important source of countercyclical credit. Since federal student lending standards are looser than most other forms of credit, they now rely mainly on Treasury borrowing for financing, and demand for them appears stronger when the labor market weakens, it seems likely that education-related debt will grow fastest at times when the economy slows and other lenders are pulling back." In other words, the rate of change in student debt is inversely proportional to the improvement in the US economy, or directly proportional to its deterioration. So since the student debt chart is, for lack of a better word, parabolic, what does that mean for the broader economy?
(Today, we have the date correct) DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach (whose AUM is now well into the $30 billion area - a scorching ascent for the former TCW manager) will host a live call at 4:15 PM Eastern today, on the ever so salient topic (if somewhat regurgitated soundbite) of whether "To QE3 or Not To QE3: That is the question." As is traditional, Gundlach will accept questions from the audience. And as always, lots of very interesting tangential info to be gleaned from one of the truly objective and original thinkers out there.
It was only last week that we highlighted the facts and fiction behind JPMorgan's prop-trading CIO office activities and Bruno' London Whale' Iksil's magnificent market cornering 'hedging' activity. Well, Bloomberg's chart-of-the-day provides the clearest and most destructive indication of just how ridiculous this supposed 'hedge' position had become. Thanks to Mary Childs and Shannon Harrington's data scrubbing, its turns out that, according to the DTCC, the net notional of contracts on Series 9 on the Investment Grade credit index (this is the credit derivative index that is most closely tied to the massive haul of outstanding tranche deals that remain in the market) surged an incredible 65% (to $148.2bn) in the last 14 weeks. As is clear from the chart, relative to every other credit derivative index this level of activity cornering, which managed to drive the index 18% below its 'fair-value', stands out rather dramatically and perhaps should jog a few regulator's from their porn-surfing lunch-breaks. The footprints of this particular whale seem a little too large to ignore but that then again, Spain did manage to sell some short-term debt so who cares?
First we got Italy telling the world quietly it would not meet its deficit target for 2013, and will in fact experience debt/GDP growth in all outer years, and now we get the Bank of Spain, also taking advantage of today's market rally to dump its own set of bad news, namely that Spanish banks will need to provision another €29.1 billion, and will have higher core capital requirements of €15.6 billion (this is fresh capital). 90 banks have already complied with the capital plan, 45 have yet to find the needed cash. Putting this into perspective, the amount already written-down is €9.2 billion. So, just a little more. And this assumes there are no capital shortfalls associated with any impairment from the YPF -> Repsol follow through, which as Zero Hedge already showed, would leave various Spanish banks exposed. In other news, there is one more hour of trading: we suggest every insolvent entity in the world to quickly take advantage of the interim euphoria, as tomorrow may not be so lucky. Of course, in the worst case, Japan will just bail everybody out.
In the terminal collapse of the Roman Empire, there was perhaps no greater burden to the average citizen than the extreme taxes they were forced to pay. The tax 'reforms' of Emperor Diocletian in the 3rd century were so rigid and unwavering that many people were driven to starvation and bankruptcy. The state went so far as to chase around widows and children to collect taxes owed. By the 4th century, the Roman economy and tax structure were so dismal that many farmers abandoned their lands in order to receive public entitlements. At this point, the imperial government was spending the majority of the funds it collected on either the military or public entitlements. For a time, according to historian Joseph Tainter, "those who lived off the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it." Sound familiar?