For those who follow folksy Uncle Warren, here is the breakdown of Berkshire's Q4 and full year results, as well as his latest letter to investors.
- Yellen's first test (Reuters)
- Let weak banks die, says eurozone super-regulator (FT)
- Yellen, Carney Face Explaining Policy as Benchmarks Near (BBG)
- Commerzbank Said Seeking Debt Buyers in $6.8 Billion Spain Exit (BBG)
- Junk Yield Premiums Soar on China’s Looming First Default (BBG)
- Millions Trapped in Health-Law Coverage Gap (WSJ)
- Mandel Tops Best-Earning Hedge Funds for Clients in 2013 (BBG)
- Swiss Brace for Sour EU Relations After Immigration Vote (BBG)
- Detroit Bankruptcy Talks to Resume (WSJ)
The point isn't that "the Fed can't do that;" the point is that the Fed cannot create a bid in bidless markets that lasts beyond its own buying. The Fed can buy half the U.S. stock market, all the student loans, all the subprime auto loans, all the defaulted CRE and residential mortgages, and every other worthless asset in America. But that won't create a real bid for any of those assets, once they are revealed as worthless. The nuclear option won't fix anything, because it is fundamentally the wrong tool for the wrong job. Holders of disintegrating assets will be delighted to sell the assets to the Fed, of course, but that won't fix what's fundamentally broken in the American and global economies; it will simply allow the transfer of impaired assets from the financial sector and speculators to the Fed.
The decay of the "build it and they will come" model of commercial real estate is gathering speed for a simple systemic reason: the decline is self-reinforcing in several critical ways. Before we start the analysis, let's ask a basic question: How much of the stuff and services purchased at retail outlets, malls, strip malls, etc. is absolutely necessary and how much is excess consumption? Conventional "Growth by any means" Cargo Cultists such as Paul Krugman never ask this basic question, because the answer (very little is essential, most is excess consumption) undermines the entire narrative that all growth is good, even the most marginal, unsustainable, wasteful and fiscally imprudent. I've captured the essence of retail in America with this photo:
As a result of this, the financial sector remains rife with fraud and impossible to accurately value (how can you value a business that is lying about its balance sheet?).
When it comes to the topic of China's epic credit bubble, we have beaten that particular dead horse again and again and again and, most notably, again. However, since in China the concept of independent bank is non-existent, and as all major financial institutions are implicitly government backed, by the time the "big" bubble bursts, it will be time to hunker down in bunkers and pray (why? Because while the Fed creates $1 trillion in reserves each year, and dropping post taper, China is responsible for $3.6 trillion in loan creation annually - yank that and it's game over for a world in which "growth" is not more than debt creation). But just because the big banks can continue to ignore reality with the backing of the fastest marginally growing economy in the world (inasmuch as building empty cities can be considered growth), the same luxury is not afforded to China's smaller lender, such as its peer-to-peer industry. That particular bubble seems to have just popped: "The main reasons are the intense competition in the P2P industry, the liquidity squeeze at the end of the year and a loss of faith by investors," said Xu Hongwei, chief executive of Online Lending House. He estimated that 80 or 90 per cent of the country’s P2P companies might go bust. Oops.
What's not to "Like"?
Bottom line for financials is that 2014 is looking to be a tough year, even if the Sell Side wants to believe that growing earnings is still possible on flat revenue
It has been a while since we heard from the rational folks over at GMO. Which is why we are happy that as every possible form of bubble in the capital markets rages, Jeremy Grantham lieutenant Ben Inkster was kind enough to put the raging Fed-induced euphoria in its proper context. To wit "the U.S. stock market is trading at levels that do not seem capable of supporting the type of returns that investors have gotten used to receiving from equities. Our additional work does nothing but confi rm our prior beliefs about the current attractiveness – or rather lack of attractiveness – of the U.S. stock market.... On the old model, fair value for the S&P 500 was about 1020 and the expected return for the next seven years was -2.0% after inflation. On the new model, fair value for the S&P 500 is about 1100 and the expected return is -1.3% per year for the next seven years after inflation. Combining the current P/E of over 19 for the S&P 500 and a return on sales about 42% over the historical average, we would get an estimate that the S&P 500 is approximately 75% overvalued."
Asia Slides As China Overnight Repo Soars On Fears Of Another Domestic "Tapering" Episode, Preparations For Bank Loan DefaultsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/23/2013 04:48 -0500
Following the past two days of reports in which we noted that both the broader Chinese housing market was overheating and reflating at an unprecedented pace as 69 of 70 cities posted Y/Y home price gains, while a separate report showed a blistering 12% price increase in Shanghai new homes in one week, it was only a matter of time before the PBOC resumed its tighter policy posturing, which infamously sent short-term repo rates to 25% briefly in June and nearly led to a collapse of the already fragile local banking system, in an attempt to pretend it is still in control of what is now the world's fastest growing credit bubble and of course, Chinese inflation which is now impacted not only by record domestic credit production but by hot money flows from both the Fed and the BOJ. Predictably enough, as reported overnight by the Global Times, the PBOC suspended its open market operations Tuesday without injecting money as usual, a move that analysts said was in response to a surge in foreign capital inflows in September. And just like the last time the PBOC proceeded to "surprise" the market with its own tapering intentions, overnight funding rates soared, with the one-day repo rate surged 67 bps, most since June 20, to 3.7561%; while the seven-day repo rate rose 42 bps, most since July 29, to 4.0000%. This, however, brings us to the far more important story, one reported by Bloomberg overnight, and one which we predicted is inevitable over a year ago: namely that the Chinese banks, filled tothe gills with bad and non-performing debt, are finally preparing for the inevitable default onslaught and as a result have suddenly tripled their debt write offs in what can be best described as preparing for an avalanche of defaults.
Goldman: Entire S&P Move Higher Is Due To Multiple Expansion; Shiller P/E Says 30% Overvalued So... BuySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/19/2013 09:24 -0500
To summarize Goldman:
- All upside is multiple expansion-driven, i.e. relentless Fed pumping of risks as the final bubble grows to unprecedented proportions,
- A market which even tenured economists say is a disaster waiting to happen.
- But hey, the music is still playing so everyone must dance all the way until Goldman's 2100 target... in 2015.
All of this has come and gone before, but since this time will be different, one can just ignore the recurring past.
Hong Kong's richest are busy offloading local assets which institutions are happy to buy. It's exhibit A why institutional money often represents dumb money.
So are you going to be among the few, the proud, the surprised Sell Side analysts?
Over the weekend, we humbly suggested that the dream of ongoing US equity market multiple expansion may be over. It would appear SocGen not only agrees but finds current valuations very stretched. On the basis of Price-to-Book (valuation) and return-on-equity (profitability), the US equity market is extremely 'expensive'; and "hoping" for further expansion on the RoE to save the day is whimsical given the limits to leverage. Still, despite Obama's sell signal, it appears from today's open that the BTFATH crowd remains alive and well.
The Euro area is no longer the centre of all the stress... EM countries are! Despite their significant correction in recent months, SocGen notes that valuations remain far more extreme (or cheap) and outflows are dominating (despite a 24% discount on a price-to-book basis across EM stocks, they reain rich historically). Significant structural issues like balance of payments, deficit or inflation may lead to further turmoil in emerging markets, potentially destabilising the underlying economies. Simply put, SocGen warns, valuations have further to fall; do not catch the falling knife (yet).