This past Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the US stock market’s death when stocks saw their last high. Market bulls have spent a year looking like the walking dead. They’ve tried to push back up to that distant high that means new life several times, but each time the market falls into a pit again to where the market is once again lower than it was a year ago. These are the last gasps of a stock market (and economy) that is struggling to rise again, which it simply cannot do now that QE has been turned off and the oxygen tank of zero interest is being slowly turned down.
The US energy sector is now trading at a roughly 7x EBITDA multiple compared to a historical average between 1x and 2x. It only gets worse from there.
"Everyday we read headlines on what the central banks are doing. But their policies don’t have any effect. They are just like treading water. All the central banks are doing is substituting one form of debt with another form of debt... I think it means the business of central banks is like pornography: It’s not the real thing."
Government bonds rose and the yen strengthened as investors weighed the timing of the Federal Reserve’s next increase in interest rates and the outlook for inflation. Commodities slid, led by metals, while stocks in Europe declined. Treasury 30-year yields fell for a third day. The yen rose from near this month’s low. Futures on the S&P 500 also declined after initially jumping higher in thinly traded, illiquid tape.
Today we learned that not only was China going through with its unprecedented debt-for-equity swap, but it has already equitized over $220 billion in non-performing loans. Note: these are not traditional, Chapter 11 prepacks where the debt is converted into equity and the debt holder gets the keys to the company. In this case, it is the Chinese government itself which indirectly via state-owned banks, has become the de facto owner of countless companies.
With high-yield bond funds suffering the largest redemptions in their history, this week saw gold fund flows soar to their highest in 2016 as buyers took advantage of the lower prices following the same path as George Soros, Stan Druckenmiller, Jana Partners, and Canada's financial giant CI Financial.
Financial and economic prospects for the Eurozone have many similarities to the 1972-75 period in the UK, which this writer remembers vividly. This time, the prospects facing the Eurozone potentially could be worse. The obvious difference is the far higher levels of debt, which will never allow the ECB to run interest rates up sufficiently to kill price inflation. More likely, positive rates of only one or two per cent would be enough to destabilise the Eurozone’s financial system. Let us hope that these dangers are exaggerated, and the final outcome will not be systemically destabilising, not just for Europe, but globally as well. A wise man, faced with the unknown, believes nothing, expects the worst, and takes precautions.
There is perhaps no other area where the tunnel-vision, hypocrisy, and corruption of the U.S. media is more visible than with respect to its nearly incessant China-bashing. Previous commentaries have exposed such vacuous drivel again and again and again. Admittedly, the numbers involved should give any sober individual cause for concern. They are an obvious symptom of the global phenomenon of worthless, paper currencies being used to pump-up, manipulate, and destabilize our markets – to a degree never before seen in the history of our species. However, singling out China’s markets as being “prone to bubbles” represents hypocritical blindness on the part of the U.S. media which is too absurd to be accidental.
While it most likely is just the usual Friday (past) midnight trial balloon by the Nikkei, a media outlet that has promptly become the BOJ's mouthpiece (recall a week ago the new owner of the FT reported that Abe would delay his 2017 sales tax increase, only to see the premier backpedal when the reaction in the USDJPY was not quite as desired), moments ago the Japanese publication reported that the Bank of Japan will "likely set aside funds for the first time to prepare for losses on its huge holdings of Japanese government bonds should the central bank end its monetary easing policy in the future."
New accounting rules show Chicago has understated its pension liabilities by $11.5 billion. At the end of 2015 the stated liability was $7.1 billion. Today it’s $18.6 billion. That’s a jump in net liabilities of 168%. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has hopes pinned on union concessions and help from the state legislature. Neither is likely. Let’s stop pretending there is another solution, because there isn’t.
BofA summarizes the latest flow as a "reversal in Shanghai Accord flows" noting the "1st outflows from EM debt funds in 13 weeks; largest Japan inflows in 10 weeks; and 1st outflows from TIPS funds in 14 weeks; 1st" and adds that EPFR reports another week of risk-off flows: $5.8bn equity redemptions vs $2.8bn bond inflows & $1.8bn precious metals inflows (= largest in 11 weeks).
Once again the Chicken Littles of the U.S. mainstream media are “warning us” that the sky could fall, because of “bubbles in China”. Somehow, all of the U.S.’s gigantic/precarious bubbles are completely invisible to these Chicken Littles. Whose bubbles are bigger? Whose bubbles are worse? The answer could not be more obvious.
With banker bonuses set to drop this year, it should be no surprise that things are not all sunshine and roses on Wall Street. After 30 years of dramatically outperforming Main Street, Wall Street wages may be set for some mean-reversion as JPMorgan analysts take an ax to the biggest global investment banks' earnings. As Bloomberg reports, "quiet trading floors" are set to depress global investment banks’ second-quarter revenue 24 percent, with weakness across equities, interest rates, currencies, with a regionally-driven weakness from Asia.