Five years ago, we were the first to bring the world's attention to the staggering profitability of several firms that engaged in 'high frequency' trading that presented themselves as 'liquidity providers' and suggested (in our ever so humble way) that mark liquidity was in fact shrinking and this could lead to a 'black swan of black swans' long before the flash crash was even dreamed of. Fast forwarding to today, after hundreds of articles, not only is the mainstream "getting it" but such behemoths as Cliff Asness - who happens to run one of the world's biggest quant funds - are forced to pen a WSJ op-ed to explain it's all a fallacy and blame a lowly blogger (or digital dickweed) for starting all this naysaying five years ago.
Once again the smell of NAPALM is in the air
Citi's credit group is bullish; but, as they admit, for all the wrong reasons. Bullish, because they still believe that the extraordinary liquidity environment which has dominated the last four years will remain in place this year (despite tapering) and for the wrong reasons because aside from their doubts about the foundations of much of the economic recovery itself, nearly all the factors that they would normally base their view on the markets on seem to be pulling in the opposite direction. In their own words, "everything is expensive; and the market is driven purely by a variant of the Greater Fool's Theory."
As we begin 2014, it is important to recognize the levels of INSANITY currently existent in the world enabling us to understand the apocryphal nature of the times we live in and prepare ourselves to meet the challenges it represents. The world is leveraged to an extent that has never before seen in history! Debt now masquerades as NOMINAL growth and REAL growth has ceased. Headline economic reports are now nothing more than POLITICALLY CORRECT HOAXES to FOOL the public at large and mask the betrayal of the public by the leaders who hold the reins of power. ECONOMIC Stagnation emerged after the 2008 Global financial crisis and in real terms has NEVER ENDED!
Propaganda, phony fixes and more debt can only cover the widening gap between fiscal reality and official fantasy for so long. So what else besides the potential for another global financial meltdown bears watching in 2014? Here are a few worthy prospects... as we doubt the same illusions and tricks will get the global economy through 2014-2015 unscathed.
"When it comes to market events, there have been no impactful black swans - the so-called unexpected 'tail events," Mark Spitznagel notes in his excellent new book, The Dao Of Capital: Austrian Investing in a Distorted World, explaining that, "what were unseen by most, were indeed highly foreseeable" by others. The Fed planted the seeds for the last financial crisis and "when you prevent the natural balancing act, you get growth that shouldn't be happening."
The financial crisis of 2008 could have been the wake-up tall that, like the Yellowstone fires of 1988, alerted so-called managers to the dangers of trying to override the natural governors of the system. Instead, the Federal Reserve, with its head "ranger," Ben Bernanke, has deluded itself into thinldng ft has tamped down every little smolder from becoming a destructive blaze, but instead all it has done is poured the unnatural fertilizer of liquidity onto a morass of overgrown malinvestment making a even more highly flammable. One day - likely sooner than later, it will burn, and when that happens, the Fed will be sorely lackng in buckets and shovels and must succumb to the flames.
At the center of any military campaign is the art of deception. In the military nothing is done without a strategy, generally planned well in advance, and the misdirection of the enemy is always part of any campaign. It would be a political disaster for Israel to attack Iran. We may begin our consideration with this premise. On the other hand, it would be politically acceptable for Israel to respond to any aggression that was inaugurated by Iran. Self-protection is always a respectable retort. The Israeli attacks are not irrelevant.
First it was floating dead pigs, then ducks, then black swans, then mass chicken exterminations, then fish, and now more pigs and also a brand new entrant to the Chinese animal apocalypse: dogs. AP reports that hundreds more pigs have been found dead in China - this time together with dozens of dogs. "A total of 410 pigs and 122 dogs were discovered in homes and at farms earlier this week in a village that comes under Yanshi city's jurisdiction in central Henan province, authorities said Wednesday. The city's propaganda office said that the deaths were being investigated but that they suspected they had to do with nearby chemical factories. The factories have been ordered to suspend production and help police with a criminal investigation into the incident, according to a report on a Henan provincial news website."
Shanghai just can't catch a break - first it was floating dead pigs, then ducks, then black swans, then mass chicken exterminations, and now fish. From the Telegraph: " Just weeks after over 16,000 putrefying pigs were pulled from Shanghai's Huangpu river, more than 250kg of dead carp had to be retrieved from a river in the city's Songjiang district. Mystery still surrounds the cause of death, but numerous explanations have surfaced in the Chinese media since residents first complained about the foul-smelling fish last Monday. Theories reportedly include climate change, electrocution, an explosion or even a drug overdose. The Shanghai Daily quoted a local government official who "speculated" the fish could have been "drugged." So, in China things are so good, even the fish are ODing on sleeping pills? Hardly, but the fact that this is even floated "out there" just shows how miserably The Onion has missed its IPO window.
First it was thousands of dead pigs floating in the Shanghai water supply (at last estimate over 16,000), then a thousand dead ducks were pulled from a river in the Sichuan province, and now, pushing the meme beyond even its most grotesque boundaries, we learn that five black swans were found floating lifeless on the pond of Anhui University’s old campus in Hefei, traditionally inhabited by a bevy of black swans. From Danwei: "The latest instance of floating dead animals in China – first pigs, then ducks, and now black swans – these mere five black swans became an object of heated discussion on the Internet right after the announcement was made. How did they die? Was it a natural disaster or another man-made one? As Star News tells us today, upon hearing of the news yesterday it immediately sent a journalist to the scene to find out exactly what happened. What he found was just one more filthy pond filled with oily water and garbage."
The financial world is used to bubbles. We like to speak about them, point to them, bet upon their comings and goings and wave facts and figures about them like wild men when we appear in the media. It is the way of the markets. We have had bubbles in Real Estate, dot.com, bonds, stock markets and all kinds of other singular spaces. What we are faced with now is also a bubble but one unlike we have ever seen before because all of the major central banks have acted in concert which pumped money in from everywhere while, at the same time, limited what could be done with our new found small bits of paper because they playing field was leveled by distortion en masse. I would say that the entire financial system, every market, every space is in a bubble as a result of what they central banks have done.
Forecasting the future with any accuracy is a difficult affair. Being right about the facts, often obscured by various governments, and then correct in your deductions is never enough as macro impacts such as Draghi’s “Save the World” plan can often change the face of market outcomes in a New York minute. This is why so few people can predict the future of the markets with much accuracy. The central banks of the world have accumulated balance sheets of about 15 trillion dollars. There will be consequences of this including inflation, valuation of currencies and ultimately defaults as motivated by political and economic decisions. In the spring keep your eye on Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy as nationalism returns to protect the various nations. In the United States rancor will resurface. Like in Europe, the “have-nots” control the votes but the push-backs will come and the intensity of them may startle many as the House refuses to accede to the demands and cries for the sharing of wealth. Polarization will continue and a shift in the population base will bring intense rivalry from one State to the next.
Sometimes you just have to laugh; or else committing harakiri comes dangerously close to mind. Japan's increasingly terrifying fiscal situation combined with a central bank that is rapidly becoming the laughing stock of the world (though all the other central banks are merely mimicking its actions) is becoming so self-referential (with its almost total domestic ownership of government debt), so short-termist (with its dramatically high short-term funding requirements constantly rolling), and demographically challenged (with its elderly almost entirely reliant upon government transfer payments) that it is hard to comprehend how much longer this farce can carry on. We have previously discussed Japan's WTF charts, but the following collection from Deutsche Bank's Torsten Slok must be seen to be believed. For now - the problem in a nutshell is government-debt per working-age person in Japan will be $140,000 in 2016 - almost triple the rest of the G7.
Forget black swans, Nigel Farage is rapidly turning himself into the black sheep of the EU Parliament with his constant stream of truthiness and honest pragmatism. It seems the broadly nodding-donkeys that fill the chamber remain cognitively dissonant to any and everything in the real world - hanging instead on the next soundbite from Van Rompuy or Barroso on how well things are going, or how the crisis is 'almost' over. If only the Germans would bless them all with their money. In one his plainest-speaking rants, Farage provides clarity to his 'peers' on just exactly what the bailouts of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and soon to be Spain and Italy are actually about - the "total subjugation of the states to a completely undemocratic structure in Brussels." Is it any wonder Samaras and crew - while happy to accept cash and make promises - are pulling away from yet another (this time is the last time) Troika-driven austerity push? "The euro-zone is in a very dark place; economically, socially, and politically."
Blowout quarter, or do US bank numbers just blow?