I realise that it is not normal to have a bearish risk view for December through to mid-January. Normally markets tend to ramp up in December and early January before selling off later in January. But this year I do think things are different. One look at the moves in core bond markets over 2014, when almost everyone I talked to had been bearish bonds, paints a stunning picture. I would entitle this picture ‘The Victory of Deflation’, or (as many folks now talk about (but still generally dismiss)) ‘The Japanification of the World’. I may end up eating my words in 2015 if the US consumer does come through, but if he or she does not, then we may well need QE4 from the Fed to battle the incredibly strong headwinds of deflation around the world. And I will revert on this subject, but to me the coming ECB QE and more BOJ QE are woefully inadequate substitutes for USD Fed QE.
“Can a debt crisis be cured with more debt?” it is difficult to envision a return to normalcy within my lifetime (shorter than it is for most of you). I suspect future generations will be asking current policymakers the same thing that many of us now ask about public smoking, or discrimination against gays, or any other wrong turn in the process of being righted. How could they? How could policymakers have allowed so much debt to be created in the first place, and then failed to regulate their own system accordingly? How could they have thought that money printing and debt creation could create wealth instead of just more and more debt? How could fiscal authorities have stood by and attempted to balance budgets as opposed to borrowing cheaply and investing the proceeds in infrastructure and innovation? It has been a nursery rhyme experience for sure, but more than likely without a fairytale ending.
"We all are in a Ponzi world right now. Hoping to be bailed out by the next person. The problem is that demographics alone have to tell us, that there are fewer people entering the scheme then leaving. More people get out than in. Which means, by definition, that the scheme is at an end. The Minsky moment is the crash. Like all crashes it is easier to explain it afterwards than to time it before. But I think it is obvious that the endgame is near."
"Today central banks give money to institutions, which are not solvent, against doubtful collateral for zero interest. This is not capitalism."
The decline in oil prices is a clear message that "something is awry" globally and investors should take heed that risks of a market decline have risen markedly. While I am not saying that the economy is about to slide off into a recession, previous declines in oil prices of the current magnitude have been associated with poor outcomes for investors. Caution is advised.
While the argument that declines in energy and gasoline prices should lead to stronger consumption sounds logical, the data suggests that this is not actually the case.
"You might think legions of retiring Baby Boomers are to blame, or perhaps the swelling ranks of laid-off workers who’ve grown discouraged about their re-employment prospects. While both of those groups doubtless are important (though just how important is debated by labor economists), our analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests another key factor: Teens and young adults aren’t as interested in entering the work force as they used to be, a trend that predates the Great Recession." - Pew
Here is the BIS once again with its noble - and now thorughly 'Austrian' - public service announcement, this time warning about the implications of a global "debt trap" and how everything will end in tears (stop us when this becomes familiar). We have just one request. Next time, instead of sharing these profoundly Austrian observations with the general public, maybe you can just discuss them at the next BIS Board of Directors' meeting which consists of...
At the end of 2008, the U.S. Federal Reserve embarked upon a monetary policy so extreme and so reckless that it had to invent a (new) euphemism for what it was doing, since if it simply used the old euphemism, even the puppet-politicians of the U.S. government would have rebelled at this monetary insanity.
From a market perspective the move today was almost perfectly timed coming on the heels of a Federal Open Market Committee meeting which ended quantitative easing and expose the big difference on future monetary paths between the BoJ and the Fed. There is, however, a dark side to this big move.. telling a story of how central banks, even the desperate ones like BoJ, are and remain one-trick-pony institutions: "this is the final round – Japan was ALWAYS going to give it one more shot – now it happened."
On eliminating investment risk...
When it comes to the future of the US, the biggest question mark by far is anything relating to the Millennial generation, those Americans born between 1980 and 2000, which happens to be one of the biggest generations in US history. Here are the most relevant charts seeking to answer some of the outstanding questions.
The problem for a city like Houston (or many others like it), with deep ties to the production and oil, is a "shock" from a supply/demand reversion could bring the economic "boom" quickly to an end. We are certainly not saying that the "wheels are about to come off of the cart." However, we do suggest that there is a potential for a very negative shock in the energy space given the extreme complacency that current exists. History suggests that true "miracles" are few and far between as most tend to just "illusions of hope."
Yesterday afternoon's "recovery" has come and gone, because just like that, in a matter of minutes, stuff just broke once again courtsy of a USDJPY which has been a one way liquidation street since hitting 106.30 just before Europe open to 105.6 as of this writing: U.S. 10-YEAR TREASURY YIELD DROPS 15 BASIS POINTS TO 1.99%; S&P FUTURES PLUNGE 23PTS, OR 1.2%, AS EU STOCKS DROP 2.54%.
Only this time Europe is once again broken with periphery yields exploding, after Spain earlier failed to sell the maximum target of €3.5 billion in bonds, instead unloading only €3.2 billion, and leading to this: PORTUGAL 10-YR BONDS EXTEND DROP; YIELD CLIMBS 30 BPS TO 3.58%; IRISH 10-YEAR BONDS EXTEND DECLINE; YIELD RISES 20 BPS TO 1.90%; SPANISH 10-YEAR BONDS EXTEND DROP; YIELD JUMPS 29 BPS TO 2.40%.
And the punchline, as usual, is Greece, whose 10 Year is now wider by over 1% on the session(!), to just about 9%.