Sometimes we are convinced it was completely by design, and not a weird little coincidence, that one of Germany’s most sprawling red light districts is just steps away from the European Central Bank. This fact becomes comically obvious right around happy hour... as self-congratulatory ECB economists and their bureaucratic bank underlings crowd the bars and cafes after work which are simultaneously frequented by pimps, thugs, and other assorted low-lifes. One would be forgiven for legitimately asking the question: which of these professions has done more damage to humanity? My [fiat] money’s on the bankers.
The world’s central bankers have given companies the urge to merge. Merger and Acquisition (M&A) activity has already reached $2.2 trillion this year according to Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence, up 70% from this time a year ago. The deals are big, with eight acquisitions, each over $5 billion, being announced in just a single week in July. However CEO buying sprees do not create new jobs and new products that make our lives better, but are instead just wasteful malinvestments that destroy capital. The cost of capital is integral to making these assumptions. The lower the assumed interest rate or cost of capital, the higher the price for the acquisition that the models will justify. Once interest rates go up, these valuation models will be blown to pieces.
I was left slack-jawed as I listened to an interview on financial media between the host and guest. I have always enjoyed as well as respected the host even though many times I may totally disagree. However, as for the guest being interviewed, not only did I disagree: I lost quite a bit of respect for. During the interview the questions were posed as to why people (investors et al) harbor these feelings of angst as to whether or not they should get in, get out, etc,, etc. The guest then went on to use data points, math, trend references, and any other metric available within a snake oil sales bag as to prove his point: Where people not believing in this market rally along with those who’ve not participated are, (and I quote) “Idiots.” I have only one answer to that statement: What you’ve just demonstrated is exactly why people with more than half a brain aren’t buying your message: You are insulting their/our intelligence.
It is the effective manipulation of our belief systems that enslaves us to the present day insanity.
The irony of maintaining a veneer of authenticity over a fundamentally inauthentic market is rich: the more the authorities manipulate the market to maintain high valuations and suppress turbulence, the greater the odds of a collapse of trust as inauthentic markets cannot self-correct or discover the price of assets, capital and risk. Once risk has been effectively hidden by perception management, participants lack the essential information they need to make informed decisions. And so their decisions will be catastrophically mis-informed. This is how declines morph into crashes.
The fundamental mistake is to think in terms of a low yield telling you anything about the economy, as it is price that you should be focusing on.
Even though government surveillance is becoming more and more invasive, there are ways to shield yourself from prying eyes. If you agree with the premise that every person has the right to protect their personal matters and privacy from the Big Brother, there are free options to use out there that can ensure your communications, your digital presence and activity, and your data remain secure and private.
The first half of this week has been very interesting from an economic, financial and geopolitical viewpoint. Despite what appears to be globally increasing risks, the financial markets have seemed relatively unfazed. Historically, such calm has always existed prior to the eventual storm. This week’s “3 Things” takes a look at some of the “rising risks” that we believe are being ignored which could potentially be harmful to individual's portfolios.
Global crises wreak havoc on all levels of existence, not to the mention the great cost to human lives. If we are to learn from history, however, it seems as though we might have to nevertheless brace ourselves for yet another one in the near future, as it marks the end of one saeculum and the start of a new economic paradigm aligned more positively with proper balances of trade, debt, and policies. The US is trying to postpone the crisis by printing money, however this is creating currency wars with nearly all major central banks in the world. As history has shown us time and again, causing this delay through money printing will only aggravate the problem, not only not preventing the inevitable, but indeed making the transition more painful and costly.
This is especially the case in Ukraine where the currency has lost more than half of its value versus gold (see chart above and below). Gold in Ukraine Hrvynia is up 70% since the start of 2014. People who own gold in Ukraine would laugh at you, if you said that gold is not a safe haven. As would people in many countries in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
Now that everyone is finally focusing on the strategy of bloating any available company with massive leverage in order to use the proceeds to either buyback stock or engage in "synergy-creating" M&A (leading to countless pink slips), which is affectionately known as "activism", here is Bill Ackman's latest, Q2, letter with his take on this topic of how massive leverage which is great for shareholders now, but a disaster waiting to happen for employees and bondholders in the future as soon as rates rise, is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Interestingly, the FT also reports that there may be significant buying of silver in the coming days: “Indeed, there are already rumours in the market place that some big silver producers and consumers are preparing to pepper the market with orders.” This creates the possibility of the short squeeze that many market participants and silver analysts have been expecting for some time.
If it was crashing German business confidence yesterday setting the somber mood for European economic "growth" in the second half, with a European GDP decline if not outright contraction now almost practically inevitable, then overnight it was disappointing data from virtually every other spot in the globe (and Europe again) to hammer the message in, starting with a historic 6.8% drop in Japanese GDP driven by a record plunge in consumption, quickly followed by total social financing out of China which in aggregate rose by only RMB273.1bn in July, or just 18% of what was expected, with missing industrial production and retail sales just the cherry on top. Then it was Europe's turn again, where June Industrial Production contracted -0.3% on expectations of a 0.4% increase, to set the stage for tomorrow's Eurozone GDP print which, following Italy's triple-drip recession shocker last week, probably means it will be not only Japan but also Europe which are about to have taken a sharp move for the worse. All of which of course, explains why just as Europe opened, the USDJPY blasted off and took both EuroSTOXX and US equity futures higher with it, and at last check ES was some 10 higher.