The Red Pill
Ever since the beginning of 2016 and especially in the last few weeks, while Hugh Hendry has been chugging horse doses of blue pills, Joe LaVorgna has finally discovered the red pill, and perhaps because he has been focusing a little to much on the performance of the stock price of his employer, or for whatever other reason, gradually Wall Street's biggest bull has mutated into its most outspoken bear.
"You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." - Morpheus, The Matrix
What would happen, for example, if a large number of holders decided to sell a high yield bond ETF all at once? In theory, the ETF can always be sold. Buyers may be scarce, but there should be some price at which one will materialize. But we can’t get away from depending on the liquidity of the underlying high yield bonds. The ETF can’t be more liquid than the underlying, and we know the underlying can become highly illiquid.... no investment vehicle should promise more liquidity than is afforded by its underlying assets. Do these recent promises represent real improvements, or merely the seeds for subsequent disappointment?
The average American spends more than 10 hours a day using an electronic device... and most of that activity is not even interactive. The vast majority of the time we are just passively absorbing content that someone else has created. Instead of humans being forcefully connected to “the Matrix”, we are all willingly connecting ourselves to it, as the system that defines our reality for us gains greater and greater hold over everything.
A promise is a promise is a promise... especially if it's from a Central Bank. That was true and undeniable for decades of BTFD 'equity market put'-provision by the world's central planners... until Wednesday. But now, on the heels of the Swiss National Bank's 'victory' against the vicious cycle of currency wars and monetary debauchment, The Asian Nikkei Review reports stirrings in the Bank of Japan as one official warns, "we have caused tremendous trouble for the financial industry," and many others growing anxious about continuing its massive purchases of government bonds (confronted with the program's negative side effects) and pressure from the financial industry is strengthening by the day "to scale back monetary easing soon."
The current premise is that global equities markets will rise regardless of economic fundamentals. Money must flow into equities [perceived as the only asset class capable of producing “acceptable” returns] because the alternatives offer virtually no return…with interest rates pinned near zero in most western economies. Just buy any equity [akin to dart throwing] and a “greater fool than you” will buy after your purchase, at a higher price, ad infinitum... thus ever increasing the asset’s value This is such an obviously flawed argument on so many levels... albeit, like almost any strategy, is surprisingly effective from time to time.
It took Wall Street's "best and brightest"to admit what we said would happen back in October. In retrospect, we are amazed it only took them three months...
Bernanke's legacy: a deceptive case for a failed policy.
Sophistry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving. The Federal Reserve's core policy of quantitative easing (QE) is based on a deceptive but appealing argument voiced by former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke.
There’s no question here about identifying the oppressors and the oppressed. There’s no conflict between the internal exercise of your freedom to think for yourself and your external behavior. There’s no omnipresent social media, no cacophony of commercial voices, no GPS chips, no algorithms that can predict your likes and dislikes better than you can yourself. It’s just faceless soldiers with AK-47’s trying to impose their will on Patrick Swayze’s external behavior. It’s a movie that would have made as much sense (more?) in 1784 as it did when released in 1984. Our world isn’t “Red Dawn,” it’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Control over our behaviors isn’t as much physical as it is mental, not so much externally imposed as it is internally embraced. If you’re reading this note, the problem is not that you are in a dogmatic slumber and need to be woken up. The problem is that you know it’s in your best economic interest to act as if you’re still asleep. In a world overrun by pod people, the big losers are the people who can’t fake their pod-ness and ultimately get outed by Donald Sutherland.
The Matrix was a movie released on 33-11-999, or as more commonly formatted (in the USA), 3-31-1999. In the 14 years since it's debut it has become one of the most influential cultural icons of any generation, not only here in America but throughout much of the globe. Everyone, at least those ones in Western sphere societies, somehow, can readily identify with it. I wonder why?
Pinning the blame for the collapse of the Cypriot banking system (and the country itself) on the shoulders of one man may seem harsh but Laiki Bank's chief risk officer Dimitris Spanodimos represents the tip of the spear of mass delusion that encompasses most (if not all) of Europe. Cypriot banks had been swamped with deposits courtesy of their cozy relationship with Russia and this left them with, in Spanodimos' words, "comfortable liquidity and capital position to deepen selectively some highly profitable and highly promising client relationships." In short, they had so much excess that they had to invest it somewhere and given the regulators light tough (which gave the banks a clean bill of health through 2011), they bought Greek government debt and extending huge amounts of mortgage loans (in Greece and Cyprus). So, as the WSJ reports, while everyone else was purging, Spanadimos had swallowed the red pill and decided his banks' gorging on extremely risky investments was tolerable - until of course the EU pulled the plug with the haircuts from the Greek bailout. These losses, and the need for new capital, is why Cyprus needed a bailout - so who is to blame...
I used to like DealBreaker, I really did. Alas that was in my younger years before I made a (very) small name for myself and before I took the red pill offered to me by ZeroHedge's Tyler Durden. Now I realize that sarcastically apologizing for the nefarious character of the financial world is pretty much the same as just plain-old apologizing for it... except funnier. Case in point, here is an excerpt from an article published on DealBreaker a few hours ago entitled "Regulators Close Aquarium Door Behind Escaped Whale":
Few would argue that markets are almost entirely apathetic to even the worst and most negative of headlines in this post-crisis world. As we noted earlier, it seems we are 'shell-shocked' at a 'recovery' that UBS describes as 'not exactly an uplifting experience' – global growth went straight from 'collapse' to 'mid cycle' without ever enjoying the healing properties normally associated with a one to two year recovery process. For economists, one interesting question is whether this 'new normal' is unduly influencing economic sentiment. We would somewhat expect traders/managers to be behaving in an increasingly agitated manner; jumping at sudden noises, overreacting to shifts in economic data and generally exhibiting signs of stress, economic hysteria, and volatility. In reality, both consumers and businesses have become quite blasé about the economy. Sentiment is actually a lot less volatile than the economic circumstances would normally suggest it should be, and so (via UBS) we present 'The Indifference Indicator' to track just how 'subdued' regions have become.
Whether it is a fringe-blog pointing out the statistical un-possibility (here and here), or a previously well-respected 'elite' pointing out the suspiciousness (here), most of the general public (or their media-based oracles) prefer not to swallow the red pill of reality with regard Friday's data SNAFU. However, given the political (and economic) consequence of a single-number, Gallup has decided to weigh in on reality as they note "even though the Household survey tends to be very volatile, this decline seems to lack face-validity, particularly after the prior month's numbers" as they analyse why the household results should be discounted heavily. Critically, they, like us, suggest the 'unemployment rate' needs to be replaced as a measure of joblessness, suggesting a far simpler (and more transparent) measure - Payroll-to-Population - would avoid the 'adjustments' and 'biases' that are inherent in the BLS's bafflement. The Gallup measure suggests, as one would perceive using common-sense, that the real jobs situation was essentially unchanged last month.
Confirming the dismal picture of advanced economy import and export declines we discussed yesterday, the following chart provides everything you need to know about the world's economic quagmire but were afraid to ask. Of course, all the time the central-printers of the world are willing to debauch themselves there will be momentum-chasing monkeys to maintain the blue-pill illusion of a healthy stock market as indicative of a healthy economy - but should you choose to swallow the red pill, this chart of a plunging global trade volume may raise anxiety levels a little above their current multi-year lows.