So, while the markets have surged to "all-time highs," the majority of Americans who have little, or no, vested interest in the financial markets have a markedly different view. Currently, mainstream analysts and economists keep hoping with each passing year that this will be the year the economy comes roaring back but each passing year has only led to disappointment. Like Humpty Dumpty, all the Fed stimulus and government support has failed to put the broken financial transmission system back together again. Eventually, the current disconnect between the economy and the markets will merge. Our bet is that such a convergence is not likely to be a pleasant one.
“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”
- Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince July 9, 2007
"Depressingly, our instinct is that those new forecasts are more likely too conservative than too aggressive. Longer-term, sweet dreams really aren't made of this."
- Citigroup Strategist Hans Lorenzen February 20, 2015
You know it's bad when... you start blaming speculators. Very reminiscent of the "it's not us, we have a solid balance sheet, it's the short selling speculators" bullshit in the days before and after the stock crashes of American Insurance Group, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch; mere days after his bank's bonds crashed, the CEO of Raiffeissen Bank (Austria's 3rd largest) has stated (unequivocally) that "panic was created artificially," blaming short-sellers for his bank's demise.
The Fed has been supporting the market since the late 1980s. But there is an important difference between the actions of the Fed under Yellen versus Greenspan and Bernanke. In 2008, the Fed allowed Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers to fail. Given the massive wipeout that followed, this decision is now viewed as a dangerous mistake. Having learned their lesson, the Fed is now rushing in to support the market in response to even routine 20% drops. In this way, the Fed is acting like a value investor who demands a small margin of safety before investing.... Since 2010, however, the Fed has changed tactics. The Fed is now reacting far more quickly. Small market selloffs are followed by immediate responses. By quickly riding to the rescue, the Fed is effectively front-running value investors.
In a fundamentals-driven market you need to look at fund flows; in a Narrative-driven market you need to look at Narrative flows. With Draghi’s announcement last Thursday, there is no longer a marginal provider of market-supportive monetary policy Narrative. Or to put this in game theoretic terms, the 2nd derivative of the Narrative of Central Bank Omnipotence just flipped negative. We’ve shifted from an accelerating Narrative flow to a decelerating Narrative flow, and that inflection point in profoundly important in game-playing. The long grey slide of the Entropic Ending begins.
It’s not entirely clear what will happen in the near term, but the financial markets are already pushed to extremes by central-bank induced speculation. With speculators massively short the now steeply-depressed euro and yen, with equity margin debt still near record levels in a market valued at more than double its pre-bubble norms on historically reliable measures, and with several major European banks running at gross leverage ratios comparable to those of Bear Stearns and Lehman before the 2008 crisis, we're seeing an abundance of what we call "leveraged mismatches" - a preponderance one-way bets, using borrowed money, that permeates the entire financial system. With market internals and credit spreads behaving badly, while Treasury yields, oil and industrial commodity prices slide in a manner consistent with abrupt weakening in global economic activity, we can hardly bear to watch...
The world of investing as we’ve come to know it is over. Financial markets have been distorted to such an extent by the activities, the interventions, of central banks – and governments -, that they can no longer function, period. The difference between the past 6 years and today is that central banks can and will no longer prop up the illusionary world of finance. And that will cause an earthquake, a tsunami and a meteorite hit all in one. If oil can go down the way it has, and copper too, and iron ore, then so can stocks, and your pensions, and everything else.
Thing is, that whole line about how lower oil prices were going to be a boost for our economies was ignorant from the start. And there’s still plenty people believing just that. That may explain those EU stock exchange gains. That sort of thing all comes from people who don’t understand to what extent oil is pivotal to our societies. We’re not in 2008 anymore, when an oil price drop actually helped us crawl out of a tight spot. We’re $50 trillion down the road, and there won’t be another $50 trillion, or another road. For all intents and purposes, we are the center today, and we cannot hold this way.
In December I proclaimed that we'll likely see multiple crashes for 2015. I don't say this lightly & I have a track record on this topic that's foolish to ignore!
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
The actions of central bankers around the globe which have been driving stock prices higher are not a sign of control. They are signs of desperation. They are losing control. Their academic theories have failed. Their bosses insist they turn it up to eleven. Something is going to blow. You can feel it. John Hussman knows what will happen. Do you?
The last time the stock market reached a fevered peak and began to wobble unexpectedly was August 2007. Markets were most definitely not in the classic “price discovery” business. Instead, the stock market had discovered the “goldilocks economy." But what is profoundly different this time is that the Fed is out of dry powder. Its can’t slash the discount rate as Bernanke did in August 2007 or continuously reduce it federal funds target on a trip from 6% all the way down to zero. Nor can it resort to massive balance sheet expansion. That card has been played and a replay would only spook the market even more. So this time is different. The gamblers are scampering around the casino fixing to buy the dip as soon as white smoke wafts from the Eccles Building. But none is coming. For the first time in 25- years, the Wall Street gamblers are home alone.
Yesterday, in a periodic repeat of what he says every 6 or so months, Jamie Dimon - devoid of other things to worry about - warned once again about the dangers hidden within the shadow banking system (the last time he warned about the exact same thing was in April of this year). The throat cancer patient and JPM CEO was speaking at the Institute of International Finance membership meeting in Washington, D.C., and delivered a mostly upbeat message: in fact when he said that the industry was "very close to resolving too big to fail" we couldn't help but wonder if JPM would spin off Chase or Bear Stearns first. However, when he was asked what keeps him up at night, he said non-bank lending poses a danger "because no one is paying attention to it." He said the system is "huge" and "growing." Dimon is right that the problem is huge and growing: according to the IMF which just two days earlier released an exhaustive report on the topic, shadow banking (which does not include the $600 trillion in notional mostly interest rate swap derivatives) amounts to over $70 trillion globally.
The US economy and financial system are in worse condition than the Fed and Treasury claim and the financial media reports. Gold serves as a warning for aware people that financial and economic trouble are brewing. In the 21st century, US debt and money creation has not been matched by an increase in real goods and services. The implication of this mismatch is inflation. Without the price-rigging by the bullion banks, gold and silver would be reflecting these inflation expectations.