"We think that something structurally has changed since the GFC, a change that seems destined to continue to hold back growth in the near-term and more worryingly has lowered the longer-term trend rate of growth. In the absence of structural reforms, a lack of appetite for debt restructuring and no ability to pursue more aggressive fiscal policy, the temptation will be strong globally to continue to throw liquidity at the problem which is likely to continue to have more impact on asset prices than the actual economy. Bubbles could easily form which could ultimately be the catalyst for the imbalances that will likely lead to the next recession or crisis... Our base case is that the world needs low yields and high liquidity given the huge amount of outstanding debt that we’re still left with post the leverage bubble and the GFC. There’s still too much leverage for us to believe that accidents won’t happen with the removal of too much stimulus. If we’re correct, we may see a reaction somewhere to tapering and this in turn may force the Fed into a much slower tapering path than it wants."
As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets, Marc Faber is fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes.; and more often than not, bailouts (short-term fixes) create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution. Faber sides with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”. Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis.
With the world almost in total agreement that rates can only go up, that the 30-year bull market in rates is over and a return to "normal" rates is timely, perhaps a glance at the following chart of 700 years of government bond yields will enlighten a little as to where the anomalies and what the "normal" is. All too often investors are caught up in their cognitive dissonance-driving recency bias when a bigger picture may just help those who always proclaim to invest for the long-term.
- Apple, China Mobile Sign Deal to Offer iPhone (WSJ)
- Japan approves $182 billion economic package, doubts remain (Reuters)
- Volcker Rule Won't Allow Banks to Use 'Portfolio Hedging' (WSJ)
- He went, he saw, he achieved nothing: Biden's Trip to Beijing Leaves China Air-Zone Rift Open (WSJ)
- Britain announces sharp upward revision to growth forecasts (Reuters)
- U.S. Airlines to Mortgage-Backed Debt Top List of Best ’14 Bets (BBG)
- Thaksin's homecoming hopes dashed as Thai crisis reignites (Reuters)
- Age of Austerity Nearing End May Boost Global Economy (BBG) - or it may expose that it was just corruption and incompetence at fault all along
- China aims to establish network of high-level FTAs (China Daily)
While most of the world's elites are bathing in a sea of liquidity and propagandizing the status quo to keep the dream alive, Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert has unleashed a torrent of uncomfortable truthiness this morning:
- *REMGRO CHAIRMAN RUPERT 'VERY CONCERNED' ABOUT GLOBAL ECONOMY
- *GLOBAL ECONOMY 'VERY, VERY PRECARIOUS,' RUPERT SAYS
- *WORLD HEADING FOR 'BIG INFLATION' OR `BIG DEPRESSION': RUPERT
- *GLOBAL ECONOMY HEADED FOR 'TEARS': REMGRO, RICHEMONT CHAIRMAN
- *RUPERT SAYS HIS BIGGEST CONCERN IS JOBLESS GROWTH
And while things are good now, the owner of the Cartier brand warned if the global economy doesn’t do well, Richemont is not well positioned.
"What keeps us up at night? Well I can’t speak for the others, having spoken too much already to please PIMCO’s marketing specialists, but I will give you some thoughts about what keeps Mohamed and me up at night. Mohamed, the creator of the “New Normal” characterization of our post-Lehman global economy, now focuses on the possibility of a” T junction” investment future where markets approach a time-uncertain inflection point, and then head either bubbly right or bubble-popping left due to the negative aspects of fiscal and monetary policies in a highly levered world. ... investors are all playing the same dangerous game that depends on a near perpetual policy of cheap financing and artificially low interest rates in a desperate gamble to promote growth. The Fed, the BOJ (certainly), the ECB and the BOE are setting the example for global markets, basically telling investors that they have no alternative than to invest in riskier assets or to lever high quality assets. “You have no other choice,” their policies insinuate.... Deep in the bowels of central banks research staffs must lay the unmodelable fear that zero-bound interest rates supporting Dow 16,000 stock prices will slowly lose momentum after the real economy fails to reach orbit, even with zero-bound yields and QE." - Bill Gross
It seems only apropos the current exuberance that, having been put on hold due to the economic crisis, an ambitious project to build the world's biggest ship and create "a community that offers unique lifestyle opportunities" is back on track and seeking investors. With calls for wealth taxes increasing and "the 1%" becoming increasingly separate from the rest of the world, what better way that the ironically named "Freedom Ship," which as IBTimes reports, will be a vast floating city that will be more than a mile long and 25 storeys high. It will cost $10bn to build and will constantly circumnavigates the globe; and while US residents may still need to pay taxes, residents of other countries "may realise tax savings by residing in or running businesses in the Freedom Ship Community."
So, we have investor sentiment showing record bullishness, investors are piling into stocks at a pace not seen since 1999-2000: at the height of the Tech Bubble, earnings are generally falling, the global economy is contracting, and the Fed is already buying $85 billion worth of assets per month.
Forget "A Tale Of Two Cities," the entire world is "A Fiction Of Two 'Economies'"...
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.
Goebbel, Goebbel, Goebbel!!!
Here’s the crucial part of what Summers and Krugman are saying: this is not a temporary gig. This isn’t going to just “get better” on its own over time. This really is, as Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO would call it, the New Normal. And if you’re Jeremy Grantham or anyone for whom a stock has meaning as a fractional ownership stake in a real-world company rather than as a casino chip that gives you “market exposure” … well, that’s really bad news... Just don’t kid yourself into thinking that your deep dive into the value fundamentals of some large-cap bank has any predictive value whatsoever for the bank’s stock price, or that a return to the happy days of yesteryear is just around the corner. It doesn’t and it’s not, and even if you’re making money you’re going to be miserable and ornery while you wait nostalgically for what you do and what you’re good at to matter again. Spoiler Alert: Godot never shows up.