With just a tad more than three weeks left in the year it is time to start focusing on what 2014 will likely bring. Of course, what really happens over the next twelve months is likely to be far different than what is currently expected but issuing prognostications, making conjectures and telling fortunes has always kept business brisk on Wall Street.
End America’s central bank because it caused the crashes of 2008, 1987, and 1929 and will blunder again. That’s what many critics are saying about the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), which turns 100 on December 23. They note that on the Fed’s watch America has endured numerous bubbles, crashes, and inflationary cycles that have greatly devalued the dollar. The Fed, they say, has caused or aggravated several crashes. “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein. “History and current experience,” Joe Salerno adds, “reveal to us that groups endowed with a legal monopoly over any area of the economy are prone to use it to the hilt to enrich themselves, their friends and allies.”
JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli smells the November jobs report, smells the Fed's balance sheet, and concludes "smells a little like tapering."
As equities celebrate today's better than expected jobs report (for now), apparently comfortable in the knowledge that it's good-enough-but-not-too-good, we are reminded that just six short months ago, none other than the Fed chairman himself uttered these crucial words during his June 19th press conference:
"...when asset purchases ultimately come to an end the unemployment rate would likely be in the vicinity of 7%"
So here we are at 7.0%... and no taper in sight as excuse after excuse is rolled out for keeping the floodgates open. Whocouldanode? This appears to right up there with "subprime is contained", "nobody really understands gold", and "tapering is not tightening." But still we are supposed to give great credibility to their forward guidance?
Today's nonfarm payroll number critical "make or break" margin, as estimated earlier by Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid, is a tiny 30K: "anything above +200k (net of revisions) will lead to a further dip in risk as taper fears intensify and anything less than say +170k will probably see a decent relief rally after a tricky week for markets." Goldilocks of course will be the expected 185K but what economists forecast rarely if every happens. So it is likely that what the BLS reports will either be good for the economy and horrible for market, or vice versa. So we decided to put this 30K in context. The charts below show both the average and the annual seasonal adjustment between the unadjusted and the final, adjusted nonfarm payroll print. In the past decade, the average November seasonal adjustment is the highest of all months, amounting to 1.165 million jobs! In other words, the 30K critical difference will fit nearly 40 times in just what the BLS' Arima X 13 smoothing simulator adjusts the actual print by in order to get what it believes is the appropriate trendline, ignoring entirely that in the New Normal all historical seasonal adjustments are no longer applicable.
Nearly a year ago, we penned "Return = Cash + Beta + Alpha": in which we performed "An Inside Look At The World's Biggest And Most Successful "Beta" Hedge Fund. The fund in question was Bridgewater, and Bridgewater's performance was immaculate... until the summer when the sudden and dramatic rise in yields as a result of the Bernanke Taper experiment, blew up Bridgewater's returns for 2013 and at last check, at the end of June, was down 8% for the year. As further explained in ""Yield Speed Limits" And When Will "Risk Parity" Blow Up Again", an environment in which rates gap suddenly higher (and in the current kneejerk reaction market all moves are purely in the form of gaps as risk reprices from one quantum to another in milliseconds) is the last thing Ray Dalio's strategy wants. Be that as it may, and successful as Dalio's fund may have been until now, tonight James Montier of Jeremy Grantham's GMO takes none other than Bridgewater to task, in a letter in which among other things, he calls risk parity "just old snake oil in new bottles", and sums up his view about the strategy behind Bridgewater in the following equation:
Risk Parity = Wrong Measure of Risk + Leverage + Price Indifference = Bad Idea
and proceeds to skewer it: 'At a fundamental level, risk parity is the antithesis of everything that we at GMO hold dear. " Read on for his full critique.
The Hong Kong branch of Spink & Son, a British firm originally founded in the mid-1600s, was putting a series of Bruce Lee memorabilia under the hammer. When the bidding for the first lot opened, the price immediately surpassed the auctioneer’s initial estimates. It was a frenzy. Now, we know that modern auctions are supposed to be a pure form of the free market– buyers from around the world meeting for the purpose ‘price discovery’, with the item eventually going to the highest bidder. Further, economists and university finance often teach that such markets are ‘efficient’, meaning that prices always reflect the most relevant information and are hence an accurate reflection of an asset’s value. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The auction was an emotional frenzy. It’s not an efficient market. It’s full of fear, euphoria, and aggression. The stock market is the same way. Even though just about every rational metric suggests that many global markets (especially the US) are absurdly overvalued, emotional investors keep bidding prices up.
"In order for currencies to be 'exchangeable' they have to be backed by something," is the remarkably ironic initial comment from none other than debaser-of-the-entirely-fiat-dollar Alan Greenspan when asked about the "bubble in bitcoin," by Bloomberg TV's Trish Regan. Unable to "identify the intrinsic" backing of Bitcoin (or see bubbles in equity, credit, real estate, or greater fools) Greenspan is, apparently, capable of identifying Bitcoin "as a bubble," because "there is no fundamental means of "repaying' it by any means that is universally accepted." The farcical double-speak continues as the Maestro does a great job of making Bitcoin (which Ron Paul earlier noted could be the "destroyer of the dollar") look even better than the readily-printed fiat we meddle with every day.
First things first. Losing 39% of your purchasing power over the course of 13 years is criminal. This was purposely created by Greenspan/Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. We're quite sure that most Americans have not seen their wages go up by 39% since 2000; therefore the average American has lost ground. No matter how you cut it, Federal Reserve created inflation slowly but surely destroys the middle class and benefits the ruling class. Ben isn’t working for you. His mandate of stable prices has been disregarded. He does not have it contained.
Everyone knows "you never go bull retard," but it seems Eclectica's Hugh Hendry, the hardiest of hardy Scots, has accepted that there is only one way for this farce to end. As Investment Week reports, the bear-turned-bull has bought 3D printing stocks as a play on trend-driven, QE-fuelled equity markets, and said the rise in the valuation of Bitcoin amounts to “the same thing”. Perhaps summing up the "trend-driven, QE-fueled" new normal better than anyone, Hendry added:"I say to my team 'don't tell me the valuations, it is trending'... This is the environment where Bitcoin could go to $1m. There is no qualitative reason, but it is trending. If I could own Bitcoin, I would. It gets worse: Hendry is now chasing the biggest momentum trend of all, that of Bitcoin, which he now "expects" to rise to $1 million! As for his hedge - don't laugh - 3D printing stocks... Sigh. We suspect, as he noted previously, he will be avoiding mirrors even more now. And yes, that this whole series now reeks of an Onion viral marketing campaign, is clear to everyone. Although sadly, we fear it is all too sincere, and a sad consequence of what happens when Bernanke's centrally-planned markets crush one after another talented asset manager and leave the E-Trade momo babies in charge.
Getting ready for Christmas? What’s Santa got in his sack for you this year? Well, if there’s one thing you should be preparing for, then it can only be the big crash of February 2014.
A world, in which former permabears David Rosenberg, Jeremy Grantham and now Hugh Hendry have thrown in the towel and gone bull retard, and where none other than the Chief Investment Officer of General Re-New England Asset Management - a company wholly-owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, has issued one of the direst proclamations about the future to date and blasts the Fed's role in creating the biggest mess in financial history, is truly upside down...
With November in the books, a month in which the S&P rose 2.85%, and a centrally-planned 27% year to date, it is time to check how the most prominent US hedge funds are doing heading into the home stretch. As usual - it is not pretty. And yes, while hedge funds don't benchmark to the S&P, after 5 years of underperformance, their LPs sure start asking themselves why do they pay 2 and 20 at a time when one can buy the SPY for free and thanks to CIO Bernanke, outperform 98% of all hedge funds?
As we explained over two months ago, and as the Fed is no doubt contemplating currently, the primary topic on the agenda of central bankers everywhere and certainly in the Marriner Eccles building, is how to boost inflation expectations as much as possible, preferably without doing a thing and merely jawboning "forward expectations" (or more explicitly through the much discussed nominal GDP targeting) in order to slowly but surely or very rapidly and even more surely, get to the core problem facing the developed world: an untenable mountain of debt, and specifically, inflating it away. Of course, higher rates without a concurrent pick up in economic activity means a stock market tumble, both in developed and emerging countries, as the Taper experiment over the summer showed so vividly, which in turn would crush what many agree is the Fed's only achievement over the past 5 years - creating and nurturing the "wealth effect" resulting from record high asset prices, which provides lubrication for financial conditions and permits the proper functioning of capital markets. Perhaps this is the main concern voiced by JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli who today has issued an interesting piece titled simply enough: "Raising inflation expectations: a bad idea." Is this the first shot across the bow of a Fed which may announce its first taper as soon as two weeks from today, in order to gradually start pushing inflation expectations higher?
A mere two months after the last widespread blackout to hit Venezuela, major parts of the nation are once again dark tonight as a power outage hit during President Maduro's evening address laying out his new economic philosophy (the inverse of Bernanke's):
*MADURO SAYS VENEZUELANS MUST SAVE MORE, CONSUME LESS
The blackoutt has affected some of the nation's oil refineries (even though they are often powered by separate generator plants). Maduro himself said this evening's blackout cause was "strange," hinting at "sabotage" and not caused by excess demand (since the same substation that was sabotaged in September has failed). Perhaps it is time to spend what little discretionary reserves the nation has left on infrastructure instead of Samsung trinkets and military bonuses to keep the people at bay.