"While buybacks work great during bull market advances, as individuals willfully overlook the fundamentals in hopes of further price gains, the eventual collision of reality with fantasy has been a nasty event..."
Let me be blunt: this next crash will be far worse and more dramatic than any that has come before. Literally, the world has never seen anything like the situation we collectively find ourselves in today. The so-called Great Depression happened for purely monetary reasons. Before, during and after the Great Depression, abundant resources, spare capacity and willing workers existed in sufficient quantities to get things moving along smartly again once the financial system had been reset. This time there’s something different in the story line...
“Are we closer to an economic recession or a continued expansion?” With the Fed hiking interest rates, and talking a tough game of continued economic strength, the risk of a “policy error” has risen markedly in recent months. The markets, falling inflation indicators, and plunging interest rates are all suggesting the same.
Is the economy “nowhere near recession?” Maybe. Maybe not. But the charts above look extremely similar to where we were at this point in late 2007 and early 2008. Could this time be “different?” Sure. But historically speaking, it never has been.
There’s really one supreme element of this story that you must keep in view at all times: a society (i.e. an economy + a polity = a political economy) based on debt that will never be paid back is certain to crack up. Its institutions will stop functioning. Its business activities will seize up. Its leaders will be demoralized. Its denizens will act up and act out. Its wealth will evaporate. Given where we are in human history - the moment of techno-industrial over-reach - this crackup will not be easy to recover from. Things have gone too far in too many ways. The coming crackup will re-set the terms of civilized life to levels largely pre-techno-industrial. How far backward remains to be seen.
It didn't take long for the momentum-chasing fundamental strategists to readjust their immediate stock price targets on the heels of the i) failure of the Santa Rally and ii) the worst start to the year in Chinese stock market history. Case in point, moments ago JPM's equity strategy team released its first note for the year in which it says that "we take the view that equities are unlikely to perform well on a 12-24 month horizon" adding that "the regime of buying the dips might be over and selling any rallies might be the new one."
With the market now back to oversold conditions and redemptions complete, it is now or never for the traditional “Santa Rally.” Statistically speaking, the odds are high that the market will muster a rally over the next couple of weeks. While the short-term trends are indeed still bullishly-biased, the longer-term analysis (monthly) reveals a more dangerous picture emerging.
"In a worst case scenario, the real economy effects of the oil sector and the earnings slowdown hit the frothy commercial real estate and REIT sector, which in turn begin the widening of the contagion begun by energy high yield. Combine this with the sudden stop to lower quality energy credits I believe is inevitable and you likely have stall speed – or even recession. And that’s where subprime auto ABS, student loan securitization and US munis come into the picture for the US domestic economy. Those markets get hit in recession."
Did algos finally figure out precisely what we said first thing this morning, namely that the market completely ignored what was a hawkish hike, and that as a result, what Yellen has done, now that the kneejerk reaction is over, is policy error, pure and simple?
The mainstream media is increasingly suggesting that we have once again entered into a 'Goldilocks Economy.' The problem is that in the rush to come up with a 'bullish thesis' as to why stocks should continue to elevate in the future, they have forgotten the last time the U.S. entered into such a state of 'economic bliss.' You might remember this: "The Fed's official forecast, an average of forecasts by Fed governors and the Fed's district banks, essentially portrays a 'Goldilocks' economy that is neither too hot, with inflation, nor too cold, with rising unemployment." - WSJ Feb 15, 2007. Of course, it was just 10-months later that the U.S. entered into a recession followed by the worst financial crisis since the 'Great Depression.'
The problem of suggesting that we have once again evolved into a "Goldilocks economy" is that such an environment of slower growth is not conducive to supporting corporate profit growth at a level to justify high valuations. Such a backdrop becomes particularly problematic when the Federal Reserve begins to raise interest rates which removes one of the fundamental underpinnings of an overvalued market which was low interest rates. Ultimately, higher interest rates, particulalry in an economy with a deteriorating economic backdrop, becomes the pin that "pops the bubble." It is true that the bears didn't eat Goldilocks at the end of the story...but then again, there never was a sequel either.
The Fed was out in force yesterday peddling some pretty heavy-duty malarkey about the up-coming rate liftoff at the December meeting..."If we begin to raise interest rates, that’s a good thing." That’s not a bad thing." Goldman is putting out the final mullet call for this Bubble Cycle because it knows that this bull is dying; that insiders still have massive amounts of stock winnings to unload; and that the clock is fast running out. The expiring clock is evident in the S&P 500’s one-year round trip to nowhere. Despite the fact that the Fed has ponied-up a stick save at every single meeting this year, the market’s 27 separate efforts to rally have all failed for the simple reason that the jig is up.
The current stock market melt-up hardly qualifies as limp. Even the robo-machines and hyper-ventilating day traders apparently recognize that their job is to tag the May 2015 highs and then get out of the way. So when and as they complete their pointless mission, the question recurs as to why the posse of fools in the Eccles Building can’t see that they are inflating one hellacious financial bubble; and that when it blows it will deconstruct their entire 7-year project of make-pretend recovery.
You have to hand it to Washington. When it comes to foreign policy blunders, the US certainly isn’t afraid to double and triple down. With the West and its regional allies in full panic mode as the effort to bring about regime change in Syria continues to crumble under pressure from Russian airstrikes and Iranian ground forces, the US and Saudi Arabia have agreed to step up their support for the various proxy armies battling to oust Bashar al-Assad.