Overview of the week's economic and poltiical calendar in the context of the investment climate.
Grant Williams "pulls no punches" in this all-encompassing presentation as the "Things That Make You Go Hmmm" author reflects on what is behind us and looks ahead at the ugly reality that we will face when "the impurities of QE are finally flushed from the system." Central bankers of today have "changed everything" he chides, "in ways that will ultimately end in disaster." Following extraordinarily easy monetary policies across all of the world's central banks, Williams explains why "we are now near the popping point of the 3rd major bubble of the last 15 years," each bigger than the last. The only way Janet Yellen avoids being at the helm when this ship goes down is to blow an even bigger bubble than Bernanke's government bond experiment, "which is highly unlikely." From how QE works, why many don't "feel" wealthy anymore, to the fact that "the geniuses that gave this thing life, don't have the guts to kill it," Williams warns, ominously, "the bills have come due on the blissful latst 30 years."
"We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party. The advice of Solid Ground is leave now as it is increasingly likely that one event will be the catalyst to very rapidly change inflationary into deflationary expectations... So perhaps it is global deflationary forces creating a bankruptcy event, somewhere in the world, that is the catalyst for a sudden change in inflationary expectations in the developed world. It can all happen very quickly; and it is dangerous to stay at an equity party driven by disinflation when it can spill so rapidly into deflation... When there is plenty of leverage in the system and any key price starts to decline then a credit event and a sudden change in inflationary expectations are much more possible than the consensus believes. So watch the TIPS, BAA bond spreads and copper if you must, but this analyst prefers to observe the party from outside.... Each investor must decide for themselves just how close to midnight they want to leave this particular party."
- Russell Napier, CLSA
1974 Enders To Kissinger: "We Should Look Hard At Substantial Sales & Raid The Gold Market Once And For All"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/30/2013 15:57 -0400
Four years ago we exposed what appeared to be a 'smoking gun' of the Fed's willingness to manipulate the price of gold. Then Fed-chair Burns noted the equivalency of gold and money, and furthermore pointed out that if the Fed does not control this core relationship, it would "easily frustrate our efforts to control world liquidity." Through a "secret understanding in writing with the Bundesbank that Germany will not buy gold," the cloak-and-dagger CB negotiations were exposed as far back as 1975. Recently, we exposed Paul Volcker's fears of "PetroGold" and the importance of the US remaining "masters of gold." Today, via a transcript of then Secretary of State Kissinger's 1974 meeting we see how clearly they understood that demonetizing gold was a critical strategy to maintaining a dominant power position in the world, and "raiding the gold market once and for all."
You've probably read many articles about money - what it is (store of value and means of exchange) and its many variations (metal, paper, etc.). But perhaps the most important distinction to be made in our era is between metallic money and credit money. As the following 16 reasons make very clear, it is no exaggeration to say that the transition from gold money to credit money changes everything. The key distinction of all these important differences is the ephemeral nature of credit-money (and any form of fiat currency). History teaches us that a financial-political crisis of sufficient magnitude reveals the underlying value of credit-money - i.e. zero - in a brief but cataclysmic loss of faith/trust.
As the S&P 500 continues to make higher highs, Citi's FX Technicals group attempts to identify important levels to watch. As they have highlighted before, while they respect the price action and the fact that the markets are making higher highs, there is an underlying degree of skepticism surrounding the sustainability of this uptrend from a more medium term perspective. Important levels/targets on the S&P 500 converge between 1,806 and 1,833. A convincing rally through this range (weekly close above) may open the way for a test of the 1,990 area (coincidentally the Fed balance-sheet-implied levels for end-2014); however, at this stage they are watching closely over the coming weeks as we approach the New Year.
"We have to be careful of these kind of exponentially rising markets," chides Marc Faber, adding that he "sees no value in stocks." Fearful of shorting, however, because "the bubble in all asset prices" can keep going due to the printing of money by world central banks, Faber explains to a blind Steve Liesman the difference between valuations and bubbles (as we noted here), warning that "future return expectations from stocks are now very low."
The economic turmoil in Venezuela has received increasing international media attention over the past few months. Earlier this month, in another attempt to ensure “happiness for all people,” Maduro began to hand out Christmas bonuses, in preparation for the coming elections in December. Although not yet officially in hyperinflation, monetary expansion is pushing Venezuela toward the brink. In such an environment, paychecks need to be distributed quickly, before prices have time to rise; hence, early bonuses. This kind of policy is nothing new in economic history: Venezuela’s hyperinflationary episode is unfolding in much the same way Germany’s did nearly a century ago. Consequently, Venezuela’s economic policy is proving to be another example of Ludwig von Mises’s argument that economic intervention, if left unchecked, leads to complete socialism. As disturbing as the thought is, the difference between the U.S. and other Western economies and Venezuela is merely one of degree, not of kind.
There is no free lunch. Either we kill growth via financial repression of savers or we embrace the painful process of debt restructuring for the major industrial nations.
In Feb 2007, Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks wrote 'The Race to the Bottom', providing a timely warning about the capital market behavior that ultimately led to the mortgage meltdown of 2007 and the crisis of 2008 as he worried about "carelessness-induced behavior." In the pre-crisis years, as described in his 2007 memo, the race to the bottom manifested itself in a number of ways, and as Marks notes, "now we’re seeing another upswing in risky behavior." Simply put, Marks warns, "when people start to posit that fundamentals don’t matter and momentum will carry the day, it’s an omen we must heed," adding that "the riskiest thing in the investment world is the belief that there’s no risk."
By any reasonable measure, we think it is safe to say that the last quarter of 2013 has been an insane game of economic Russian Roulette. Even more unsettling is the fact that most of the American population still has little to no clue that the U.S. was on the verge of a catastrophic catalyst event at least three times in the past three months alone, and that we face an even greater acceleration next year. Economic collapse is not necessarily an event, it is a process, the most frightening elements of which usually do not become visible until it is too late for common people to react in a productive way. All of the dangers covered in this article could very well set fires tomorrow, that is how close our nation is to the edge. However, the culmination of events so far seems to be setting the stage for something, an important something, in 2014.
"It's only a question of time before the central banks lose control," David Stockman warns a shocked CNBC anchor, "and a panic sets in when people realize that these values are massively overstated." The outspoken author of The Great Deformation rages "the Fed is exporting its lunatic policies worldwide." If one cares to look, Stockman adds, "there are bubbles everywhere," citing Russell 2000 valuations of 75x LTM earnings as an example, "that makes no sense. It's up 43% in the last year, but earnings of the Russell 2000 companies have not increased at all." This is dangerous, he strongly cautions, "I haven't seen too many bubbles in history" that haven't ended violently.
"Governments cannot reduce their debt or deficits and central banks cannot taper. Equally, they cannot perpetually borrow exponentially more. This one last bubble cannot end (but it must)." What is the alternative to the present system of debt serfdom and rising inequality? Eliminate the Federal Reserve system and revert to the national currency (the dollar) being issued by the U.S. Treasury in sufficient quantity to facilitate the production and distribution of goods and services. Is this possible? Not in our Financialized, Neofeudal-Neocolonial Rentier Economy.
Keep a close eye on China: it is on the cusp between the end of the leverage cycle (where as we reported over the past two days, it has been pumping bank assets at the ridiculous pace of $3.5 trillion per year) and on the verge of having its debt bubble bursting. What happens then is unclear.
As stocks hit new records and small investors—finally—return to the market, some analysts are getting worried. Risk assets have rallied to previous bubble conditions. Powered by unprecedented refinancing and recap activity, 2013 is now the most productive year ever for new-issue leveraged loans, for example. This has been great for corporations as financing and refinancing has put them on a stronger footing. Where M&A activity still lags the highs of the last boom, issuers have jumped into the opportunistic pool with both feet. And why not? Secondary prices are high and new-issue clearing yields remain low. Yet very inadequate movement has been evidenced on the hiring front. And after all the improvement in ebitda, where do we go from here? Forward guidance will clearly be harder. One might argue that we are back in a Goldilocks fantasy world, where the economy is not so strong (as to cause inflation and trigger serious monetary tightening) or so weak (as to cause recession and a collapse in profits) but "just right". Yet, it seems unlikely that issuers with weaker credit quality could find it so easy to sell debt without the excess liquidity created by the Fed and other central banks.