This might just be the cruelest time to be an asset allocator. Normally we find ourselves in situations in which at least something is cheap; for instance when large swathes of risk assets have been expensive, safe haven assets have generally been cheap, or at least reasonable (and vice versa). This was typified by the opportunity set we witnessed in 2007. Likewise, during the TMT bubble of the late 1990s, the massive overvaluation of certain sectors was offset by opportunities in “old economy” stocks, emerging market equities, and safe-haven assets. However, today we see something very different. As Exhibit 2 shows, today we see something very different. As Exhibit 2 shows, today’s opportunity set is characterized by almost everything being expensive. As I noted in “The 13th Labour of Hercules,” this is a direct effect of the quantitative easing policies being pursued by the Federal Reserve and their ilk around the world.
"Today’s markets have a vulnerability that has not existed through most of history. Today’s valuations only make sense in light of low expected cash rates. Remove that expectation, and pretty much every asset across the board is vulnerable to a fall in price, as the rising real discount rate plays no favorites. There is no asset class you can hold that would be expected to do well if the real discount rate rises from here. Under normal circumstances, a rising real discount rate would probably come on the back of rising inflation or stronger than expected growth, which are diversifiable risks in a portfolio. But May’s shock to the real discount rate came not because inflation was unexpectedly high or because growth will be so strong as to lift earnings expectations for equities and other owners of real assets, but because the Fed signaled that there was likely to be an end to financial repression in the next few years. And because financial repression has pushed up the prices of assets across the board and around the world, there is unlikely to be a safe harbor from the fallout, other than cash itself." - GMO
Back in June 2011 we first reported how "Goldman, JP Morgan Have Now Become A Commodity Cartel As They Slowly Recreate De Beers' Diamond Monopoly" in an article that explained, with great detail, how Goldman et al engage in artificial commodity traffic bottlenecking (thanks to owning all the key choke points in the commodity logistics chain) in order to generate higher end prices, rental income and numerous additional top and bottom-line externalities and have become the defacto commodity warehouse monopolists. Specifically, we compared this activity to similar cartelling practices used by other vertically integrated commodity cartels such as De Beers: "the obvious purpose of "warehousing" is nothing short of artificially bottlenecking primary supply." Over the weekend, with a 25 month delay, the NYT "discovered" just this, reporting that the abovementioned practice was nothing but "pure gold" to the banks. It sure is, and will continue to be. And while we are happy that the mainstream media finally woke up to this practice which had been known to our readers for over two years, the question is why now? The answer is simple - tomorrow, July 23, the Senate Committee on Banking will hold a hearing titled "Should Banks Control Power Plants, Warehouses, And Oil Refiners."
By now even the most confused establishment Keynesian economists agree that when it comes to economic "growth", what is really being measured are liabilities (i.e., credit) in the financial system. This is seen most vividly when comparing the near dollar-for-dollar match between US GDP, which stood at $16 trillion as of Q1 and total liabilities in the US financial system which were just over $15.5 trillion in the same period. What, however, few if any economists will analyze or admit, and neither will financial pundits, is the asset matching of these bank liabilities: after all since there is no loan demand (and creation) those trillions in deposits have to go somewhere - they "go" into Fed reserves (technically it is the reserves creating deposits but that is the topic of a different article). It is here that we can discern directly just what the contribution of the Fed to US GDP, or economic growth.
The bigger question is why it's taken 5 since after the financial crisis to realize these big banks are bad market participants?
We get to what is perhaps the most important topic related to the end game for the Fed. Oh, and MMT and a Sheila Bair interview too.
Are we likely forming a market top? It is very possible. We saw the same type of market action towards the last two market peaks. However, it will only be known for sure in hindsight. The many similarities between the last cyclical bull market cycle and what we are currently experiencing should be at least raising some warning flags for investors. The levels of speculation, leverage, price extensions, duration of the rally, earnings trends and valuations are all at levels that have historically led to not so pleasant outcomes. The reality, however, is that the current "liquidity driven exuberance" could keep the markets "irrational" longer than logic, technicals or fundamentals would dictate.
"Things are different now. I’ve turned my savings into spending, rung up thousands of dollars’ worth of purchases on my credit cards and in the process paid a lot more in taxes. And I’ll probably keep spending like this until I nearly run out of money. In other words, I’ve bought a house. Since the recession materialized in 2008, policymakers in Washington have been urging Americans to buy homes, because no single purchase does more to generate economic activity. The housing market and everything associated with it accounts for around one-sixth of the entire economy, which is why a housing bust can drag the whole nation into a recession (basically what happened starting in 2007) while a housing boom can make nearly everyone better off, including people who don’t even own homes."
The secret is the world is more indebted now than it was at the height of the financial bubble in 2007. And big changes are needed to avoid further trouble.
We bail everybody else out in this country, why not middle-class Americans via an SPR Release to counter high prices at the pump?
Everything is going to be just great. Haven't you heard? The stock market is at an all-time high, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says that inflation is incredibly low, and the official unemployment rate has been steadily declining since early in Barack Obama's first term. Of course we are being facetious, but this is the kind of talk about the economy that you will hear if you tune in to the mainstream media. They would have us believe that those running things know exactly what they are doing and that very bright days are ahead for America. And it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Unfortunately, as I made exceedingly clear yesterday, the U.S. economy has already been in continual decline for the past decade.
Claiming he wasn't afraid to let everyone in attendance know about "the real mess we're in," Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke reportedly got drunk Tuesday and told everyone at Elwood's Corner Tavern about how absolutely fucked the U.S. economy actually is. Bernanke, who sources confirmed was "totally sloshed," arrived at the drinking establishment at approximately 5:30 p.m., ensconced himself upon a bar stool, and consumed several bottles of Miller High Life and a half-dozen shots of whiskey while loudly proclaiming to any patron who would listen that the economic outlook was "pretty goddamned awful if you want the God's honest truth." "Look, they don't want anyone except for the Washington, D.C. bigwigs to know how bad shit really is," said Bernanke, slurring his words as he spoke. "Mounting debt exacerbated—and not relieved—by unchecked consumption, spiraling interest rates, and the grim realities of an inevitable worldwide energy crisis are projected to leave our entire economy in the shitter for, like, a generation, man, I'm telling you."
The multi-bubble machine called the Fed is at it again. This time they managed to create a gigantic bond bubble which will dwarf both the dot-com- and the housing bubble combined.
As part of the Appendixed disclosures in the aftermath of JPM's London Whale fiasco, we learned the source of funding that Bruno Iksil and company at the firm's Chief Investment Office used to rig and corner the IG and HY market, making billions in profits in what, on paper, were supposed to be safe, hedging investments until it all went to hell and resulted in the most humiliating episode of Jamie Dimon's career and huge losses: it was excess customer customer deposits arising from a $400+ billion gap between loans and deposits. After JPM's fiasco went public, the firm hunkered down and promptly unwound (or is still in the process of doing so) its existing CIO positions at a huge loss. However, that meant that suddenly the firm found itself with nearly $400 billion billion in inert, nonmargined cash: something that was unacceptable to the CEO and the firm's shareholders. In other words, it was time to get to work, Mr. Dimon, and put that cash to good, or bad as the case almost always is, use. So what has JPM allocated all those billions in excess deposits over loans? Courtesy of Fortune magazine we now know the answer - CLOs.
In testimony yesterday on Capitol Hill before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke remarked:
“Gold is an unusual asset. It's an asset that people hold as disaster insurance. A lot of people hold gold as an inflation hedge. But movements of gold prices don't predict inflation very well, actually. But anyway, the perception is that by holding gold you have a hard asset that will protect you in case of some kind of major problem.