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Great Depression

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Guest Post: The Slow Death Of The Old Global Order





"Only through a historical perspective can we fully understand the profound developments of our time and glean, perhaps only dimly, where they are taking us. One thing is clear: they are taking us into a new era. The only question is how much disruption, chaos and bloodshed will attend the transition from the Old Order to whatever emerges to replace it."

 
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Do You Belong In The Stock Market?





Within the last fourteen years, there have been two major market corrections, both of which saw drops of 55% from their highs. That, or more, is the potential for what lies ahead. For those who went through these markets, it was not enjoyable... and those who 'stayed long' have been lucky. To put into perspective how lucky he was, it took 25 years for the Dow Jones to recover to its pre-crash highs after the Great Depression. Likewise, the Dow hit an intraday high of 1,000 in 1962 but never closed above 1,000 until about twenty years later. Whether recent market behavior proves to be merely a dip in the chart is almost irrelevant. The country and financial markets are nearing what could very well be an existential event. Do not be investing like your father or grandfather. Markets today are more like casinos than a way to invest in American growth. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve has made it impossible to go elsewhere other than your mattress.

 
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Chief Economist Of Central Banks' Central Bank: "It's Extremely Dangerous... I See Speculative Bubbles Like In 2007"





Yet again, it seems, once senior political or economic figures leave their 'public service' the story changes from one of "you have to lie, when it's serious" to a more truthful reflection on reality. As Finanz und Wirtschaft reports in this great interview, Bill White - former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (who admittedly has been quite vocal in the past) - warns of grave adverse effects of the ultra loose monetary policy everywhere in the world... "It all feels like 2007, with equity markets overvalued and spreads in the bond markets extremely thin... central banks are making it up as they go along." Some very uncomfortable truths in this crucial fact-based interview.

 

 
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Deflating the Deflation Myth





The fear of deflation serves as the theoretical justification of every inflationary action taken by the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world. It is why the Federal Reserve targets a price inflation rate of 2 percent, and not 0 percent. It is in large part why the Federal Reserve has more than quadrupled the money supply since August 2008. And it is, remarkably, a great myth, for there is nothing inherently dangerous or damaging about deflation. Now unmoored from any gold standard constraints and burdened with massive government debt, in any possible scenario pitting the spectre of deflation against the ravages of inflation, the biases and phobias of central bankers will choose the latter. This choice is as inevitable as it will be devastating.

 
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The US Is #1 (In Global Income Inequality)





Widening income disparity has been a feature of many advanced and developing economies for the past few years and has myriad investment implications. As we noted yesterday, the USA is at levels of income disparity not seen since the roaring 20s (and by some counts worse) but how does that stack up to the rest of the world? Fed fans will be proud to say that once again USA in Number 1... in global income inequality.

 
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The "Massive Gift" That Keeps On Giving: How QE Boosted Inequality To Levels Surpassing The Great Depression





A week ago, the official truth about QE finally emerged when the Fed's Fisher admitted that "QE was a massive gift intended to boost wealth." Fisher did not need to clarify just who the gift was aimed at - it was clear . But just in case there is any confusion, here is a chart confirming that all the events of the past 5 years have done, courtesy of the Fed's manipulation of the stock market to all time artificial highs, is to push the ratio of the average income of the "Top 10%" to the "Bottom 10%" to a previously unseen level, wildly surpassing the previous record inequailty highs that culminated in the Great Depression, and which were subsequently rapidly "equalized" by WWII.

 
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FOMC Asset Purchases And The S&P 500





If the current pace of reductions continues it is reasonable to assume that the Fed will terminate the current QE program by the October meeting. If we assume the current correlation remains intact, it projects an advance of the S&P 500 to roughly 2000 by the end of the year. But... the question is, can the US economy can stand on its own when QE completely winds down, not to mention when the Fed actually hikes rates? Amid such weak levels of economic growth does not leave much wiggle room to absorb an exogenous event, or even just a normal downturn, in an economic cycle. If the Fed is indeed caught in a liquidity trap, then the current withdrawal of support will quickly show the cracks in the economy pushing the Fed back into action. It is at the point of "monetary impotence" where the word "risk" takes on a whole new meaning.

 
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Jeremy Grantham: The Fed Is Killing The Recovery





As Fortune's Stephen Gandel begins, "if you hate the Fed, you have a new hero." He is referring to none other than GMO's Jeremy Grantham who aggressively takes on the status-quo-hugging faith in the omnipotence in Central banking prowess with fact and anecdote in this brief interview..."Higher interest rates would have increased the wealth of savers. Instead, they became collateral damage of Bernanke's policies. The theory is that lower interest rates are supposed to spur capital spending, right? Then why is capital spending so weak at this stage of the cycle. There is no evidence at all that quantitative easing has boosted capital spending. We have always come roaring back from recessions, even after the mismanaged Great Depression. This time we are not..we have never had such a limited recovery."

 
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What's The Primary Cause of Wealth Inequality? Financialization





When the profits from financializing collateral and leveraging those bets to the hilt far exceed generating wealth by creating products and services, the economy is soon hollowed out as the perverse incentives of financialization start driving every business decision and strategy. Fed-funded financialization creates a perverse set of incentives: talent and capital flow to unproductive skimming operations because that's what generates the outsized profits, effectively starving the real economy of talent and capital.

 
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"Surely You Can't Be Serious", Mr. Chairwoman





 

I think we are now even more strongly in a good-news-is-bad-news (and vice-versa) world. If we start seeing some strong economic data come out over the next few weeks and months, then I think the market - particularly the bond market and emerging markets - could get pretty squirrelly. Not that US stocks would be immune from this. Remember, the modern day Goldilocks environment for stocks has nothing to do with a happy medium between growth and inflation, but everything to do with growth being weak enough to  keep an accommodative Fed in play. Strong growth data would augment a Common Knowledge structure that the Fed is on track to raise rates sooner and more rather than later and less, and that's no fun for anyone. Then again, if global growth data remains weak - and you really can't look at what's coming out of China, Europe, or Japan and think that the global growth story is anything but weak - that creates enough uncertainty about the Fed's path (not to mention the cover for political and economic Powers That Be to wage a full-scale media war to keep monetary policy in QE la-la land forever) to support the markets. Sounds a lot like Freedonia to me. Rufus T. Firefly for President?

 
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Guest Post: OMG! Not Another Comparison Chart





Despite much hope that the current breakout of the markets is the beginning of a new secular "bull" market - the economic and fundamental variables suggest otherwise.  Valuations and sentiment are at very elevated levels while interest rates, inflation, wages and savings rates are all at historically low levels.  This set of fundamental variables are normally seen at the end of secular bull market periods. It is entirely conceivable that stock prices can be driven higher through the Federal Reserve's ongoing interventions, current momentum, and excessive optimism.  However, the current economic variables, demographic trends and underlying fundamentals make it currently impossible to "replay the tape" of the 80's and 90's.  These dynamics increase the potential of a rather nasty mean reversion at some point in the future.  The good news is that it is precisely that reversion that will likely create the "set up" necessary to launch the next great secular bull market.  However, as was seen at the bottom of the market in 1974, there were few individual investors left to enjoy the beginning of that ride.

 
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Did SF Fed's John Williams Just Predict The Next Recession??





There are three things that are often spotted, widely believed, and actively sought after with little evidence they actually exist:  Big Foot, Ghosts and Economic "Soft Landings."  Over the past 159 years, there is not much evidence that an economic "soft landing" has ever occurred.  However, it is not without precedent that as the economy reaches the latter stage of the growth cycle that the words "soft landing" are uttered by economists and Federal Reserve members. Why do we bring this up?  Bihnamin Appelbaum, via the New York Times, recently interviewed John Williams, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, who stated: "John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is feeling pretty good about the economy. He is ready to continue the Fed’s retreat from bond-buying and forward guidance. And he says he’s optimistic that this time, the Fed will manage to produce a soft landing."

 
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The Failure of Keynesianism





From a strictly empirical perspective, the Keynesian theory is a disaster. Positivism wise, it’s a smoldering train wreck. You would be hard-pressed to comb through historical data and find great instances where government intervention succeeded in lowering employment without creating the conditions for another downturn further down the line. No matter how you spin it, Keynesianism is nothing but snake oil sold to susceptible political figures. Its practitioners feign using the scientific method. But they are driven just as much by logical theory as those haughty Austrian school economists who deduce truth from self-evident axioms. The only difference is that one theory is correct. And if the Keynesians want to keep pulling up data to make their case, they are standing on awfully flimsy ground.

 
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