During Monday's flurry of tripped circuit breakers and flash crashing mayhem, ETF investors learned the hard way that Howard Marks was precisely correct when he warned that ETFs "can't be more liquid than the underlying and we know the underlying can become highly illiquid." The question now, is whether subsequent flash crashes will trigger even more spectacular divergences between fair value and ETF unit prices on the way to proving, once and for all, that ETFs may indeed be the new financial weapons of mass destruction.
Every Federal Reserve Chair since 1979 has faced a notable challenge in the first 12-20 months of their tenure – something akin to capital markets “Bullies” hazing the new kid at school. Paul Volcker had the 1979-1980 Iranian oil shock/recession, Alan Greenspan the 1987 Stock Market Crash, and Ben Bernanke the 2007 Financial Crisis. Their responses shaped market perceptions about Federal Reserve priorities and set the stage for the remainder of their tenures, from Inflation-Fighting Volcker to Save-the-World Bernanke. Now, it is Chair Yellen’s turn...
Follow the plunge protection.
"In the past 12 months investors traded $18.2 trillion worth of ETF shares. For perspective, that means the amount of dollars exchanging hands through ETFs is now more than the U.S. gross domestic product, which stands at $17.4 trillion," Bloomberg reports. Or, put differently, the financial apocalypse draws near.
In a note by BofA's Michael Hartnett, the bank looks at the latest EPFR fund flows and concludes that the wave of commodity "capitulation" revulsion selling has finally arrived.
"The selling pressure so far has mainly come from stock-related borrowings via various unofficial channels where the leverage is much higher," BofAML says of the dramatic sell-off in Chinese equities. On Wednesday, the country's securities regulator moved to reassure markets as the unwind of hundreds of billions in leveraged trades threatens to collapse China's world-beating stock bubble.
What if Berlin and Frankfurt do not budge? What if they tell Athens to ‘go jump of the tallest cliff’? I have good cause to hope that Berlin will prefer to accommodate the Greek government and to look with a great deal more ‘kindness’ the ‘request’ for a debt relief conference. And if it does not, and wishes to bring the Eurozone down with it, let it do its worst, I say.
Every quarter ConvergEx's Nick Colas reviews a raft of unusual and less examined datasets with an eye to refining and adding perspective to the more traditional macroeconomic analyses. This quarter’s assessment of everything from large pickup truck and firearms sales to Google search autofills for “I want to buy/sell” shows a U.S. economy that is reasonably strong but growing only very slowly. The chief areas of concern: Food Stamp participation is still very high at 45.6 million Americans (14% of the total population) and indicators like used car prices and large pickup sales are flat.
That an ETF can satisfy redemption with underlying bonds or shares, only raises the nightmare possibility of a disillusioned and uninformed public throwing in the towel once again after they receive thousands of individual odd lot pieces under such circumstances.
Anyone trading the Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF should take a cue from Howard Marks and ask themselves the following question: can an ETF be more liquid than the assets it references?
If I'm a fund manager, the idea that ETFs provide liquidity rests on the assumption that when I experience outflows, someone else will be experiencing inflows and thus I can sell ETFs and avoid offloading my bonds into an illiquid corporate credit market. Put another way: I am depending on new money coming into the market to fund redemptions from previous investors who are exiting the market, all so that I can avoid liquidating assets that are declining in value and that I believe will be difficult to sell. There's a term for that kind of business. It's called a ponzi scheme.
"It's starting to get ugly..."
"How long the bubble can continue to inflate is the key question – but necessarily unanswerable. Inherently irrational, bubbles usually last longer than expected, [but they] ultimately burst... they expand continuously, then pop."
"A surprise move by Vanguard to include onshore Chinese A-shares in its flagship emerging market fund will “put pressure” on other asset managers to follow suit," FT reports.