"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.
This is a macro global trend well underway and I don't see anything in the cards stopping it.
In order to offset the lack of loan creation by commercial banks, the "Big 4" central banks - Fed, ECB, BOJ and BOE - have had no choice but the open the liquidity spigots to the max. This has resulted in a total developed world "Big 4" central bank balance of just under $10 trillion, of which the bulk of asset additions has taken place since the Lehman collapse. How does this compare to what China has done? As can be seen on the chart below, in just the past 5 years alone, Chinese bank assets (and by implication liabilities) have grown by an astounding $15 trillion, bringing the total to over $24 trillion. In other words, China has expaneded its financial balance sheet by 50% more than the assets of all global central banks combined!
- M&A Mystery: Why Are Takeover Prices Plummeting? (WSJ)
- Hedge-Fund Fight Club Traded Illegal Tips Not Punches (BBG)
- Speed Traders Meet Nightmare on Elm Street With Nanex (BBG)
- A new wave of U.S. mortgage trouble threatens (Reuters)
- Penny Lane: Gitmo's other secret CIA facility (AP)
- US hardens threat to leave Afghanistan with no troops (WSJ)
- Russian Prison Stuns Captain of Greenpeace’s Bombed Ship (BBG)
- ECB's Weidmann Warns Central Banks Might Be Too Dominated by Fiscal Concerns (WSJ)
- China Air Move Splits Japan as Carriers Obey New Rules (BBG)
- Inside the Breakup of the Pritzker Empire (WSJ)
Goldman Reveals "Top Trade" Recommendation #2 For 2014: Go Long Of 5 Year EONIA In 5 Year Treasury TermsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 11/26/2013 07:27 -0500
If yesterday Goldman was pitching going long of the S&P in AUD terms (the world renowned Goldman newsletter may cost $29.95 but is only paid in soft dollars) as its first revealed Top Trade of 2014, today's follow up exposes Top Trade #2: which is to "Go long 5-year EONIA vs. short 5-year US Treasuries." Goldman adds: "The yield differential between these two financial instruments is currently -61bp, and we expect it to reach around -130bp. On the forwards, the differential is priced at around -95bp at the end of 2014 at the time of writing. We have set the stop-loss on the trade at a spread of -35bp. The choice of Treasuries over OIS or LIBOR on the short leg is motivated by the fact that yields on the former could underperform more than they have already in relative space as the Fed scales down its asset purchase program."
"London Gold Market Fixing Ltd., a company controlled by the five banks that administers the benchmark, has no permanent employees. A call from Bloomberg News was referred to Douglas Beadle, 68, a former Rothschild banker, who acts as a consultant to the company from his home in Caterham, a small commuter town 45 minutes south of London by train. Beadle declined to comment on the benchmark-setting process."
A great many long refuted Keynesian shibboleths keep being resurrected in Krugman's fantasy-land, where economic laws are magically suspended, virtue becomes vice and bubbles and the expropriation of savers the best ways to grow the economy. According to Paul Krugman, saving is evil and savers should therefore be forcibly deprived of positive interest returns. This echoes the 'euthanasia of the rentier' demanded by Keynes, who is the most prominent source of the erroneous underconsumption theory Krugman is propagating. Similar to John Law and scores of inflationists since then, he believes that economic growth is driven by 'spending' and consumption. This is putting the cart before the horse. We don't deny that inflation and deficit spending can create a temporary illusory sense of prosperity by diverting scarce resources from wealth-generating toward wealth-consuming activities. It should however be obvious that this can only lead to severe long term economic problems. Finally it should be pointed out that the idea that economic laws are somehow 'different' in periods of economic contraction is a cop-out mainly designed to prevent people from asking an obvious question: if deficit spending and inflation are so great, why not always pursue them?