Still unnoticed by a large part of the population is that we have been living through a period of relative impoverishment. Money has been squandered in welfare spending, bailing out banks or even — as in Europe — of fellow governments. But many people still do not feel the pain. Many people believe the paper wealth they own in the form of government bonds, investment funds, insurance policies, bank deposits, and entitlements will provide them with nice sunset years. However, at retirement they will only be able to consume what is produced by the real economy. Savers and pensioners will at some point find out that the real value of their wealth is much less than they expected. In which way, exactly, the illusion will be destroyed remains to be seen.
There comes a time in every bubble's life when participants who have a stake in its continuation have to employ ever more tortured logic to justify sticking with it. We have come across an especially amusing example of this recently. “Good news!” blares a headline at CNBC “Bubble concern is at a 5-year high”. Ironically, since at least 1999 if not earlier, the source of this headline has been referred to as 'bubble-vision' by cynical observers (or alternatively as 'hee-haw'). It definitely cannot hurt to be aware of market psychology and sentiment. However, the argument that a surge in searches for the term 'bubble' on Google can be interpreted as an 'all clear' for a bubble's continuation seems to have things exactly the wrong way around. The misguided behavior of financial market participants that can be observed during bubbles is merely mirroring the clusters of entrepreneurial error monetary pumping brings about.
A new opportunity to play "What's wrong with this picture" arose recently, with Larry Summers’ recent speech at the IMF and Paul Krugman’s follow-up blog. The two economists’ messages are slightly different, but combining them into one fictional character we shall call SK, their comments can be summed up "...essentially, we need to manufacture bubbles to achieve full employment equilibrium." With this new line of reasoning, SK have completely outdone themselves, but not in a good way. Think Jamie Dimon’s infamous “that’s why I’m richer than you” quip. Or, Bill Dudley’s memorable “but the price of iPads is falling” excuse for increases in basic living costs. Dimon and Dudley managed to encapsulate in single sentences much of what’s wrong with their institutions. Yet, they showed baffling ignorance of faults that are clear to the rest of us.
Late in the life of every financial bubble, when things have gotten so out of hand that the old ways of judging value or ethics or whatever can no longer be honestly applied, a new idea emerges that, if true, would let the bubble keep inflating forever. During the tech bubble of the late 1990s it was the “infinite Internet.” During the housing bubble the rationalization for the soaring value of inert lumps of wood and Formica was a model of circular logic: Home prices would keep going up because “home prices always go up.” Now the current bubble – call it the Money Bubble or the sovereign debt bubble or the fiat currency bubble, they all fit – has finally reached the point where no one operating within a historical or commonsensical framework can accept its validity, and so for it to continue a new lens is needed. And right on schedule, here it comes: Governments with printing presses can create as much currency as they want and use it to hold down interest rates for as long as they want. So financial crises are now voluntary. The illusion of government omnipotence is no crazier than the infinite Internet or home prices always going up, but it is crazy.
The U.K. faces a housing-market bubble unless the government boosts the supply of new homes, the OECD warned yesterday. U.K. home values have climbed 36.6% since 2004, the seventh-biggest rise among OECD nations and back near their 2007/8 bubble highs. The Bank of England said last week mortgage approvals had surpassed 60,000-a-month six months earlier than it had predicted. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, while the OECD raised its forecasts for U.K. economic growth, it said risks to the recovery include “vigorous” house-price increases that may curtail affordability. We are sure this will all end well - a speculative real estate bubble as the key driver of nominal economic growth? What could go wrong?... Is it any wonder that UK realtors see the crash coming and are asking the government to step back from this policy-induced euphoria?
It it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck... Is it really a platypus? After all, this time is different... Right?
"Every American family deserves a false sense of security," said Chris Reppto, a risk analyst for Citigroup in New York. "Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal." Despite the overwhelming support for a new bubble among investors, some in Washington are critical of the idea, calling continued reliance on bubble-based economics a mistake. Regardless of the outcome of this week's congressional hearings, however, one thing will remain certain: The calls for a new bubble are only going to get louder. "America needs another bubble," said Chicago investor Bob Taiken. "At this point, bubbles are the only thing keeping us afloat."
China has unveiled its most sweeping reform agenda in more than 30 years, but the market impact is likely to be net-negative.
The establishment desires to acclimate Americans to the idea that being anti-government is wrong; that it is a despicable philosophy embracing social deviance, aimless violence, isolation and zealotry. Looking beyond the mainstream position, my question is, is it really such a bad thing to be anti-government today?
The third stage of bull markets, the mania phase, can last longer and go farther that logic would dictate. However, the data suggests that the risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle.
Discussion of a market bubble (in stocks, credit, bonds, Farm-land, residential real estate, or art) have dominated headlines in recent weeks. However, QEeen Yellen gave us the all-clear this morning that there was "no bubble." Are we currently witnessing a market bubble? It is very possible; however, as STA's Lance Roberts notes, if we are, it will be the first market bubble in history to be seen in advance (despite Bullard's comments in opposition to that "fact"). From a contrarian investment view point, there is simply "too much bubble talk" currently which means that there is likely more irrational excess to come. The lack of "economic success" will likely mean that the Fed remains engaged in its ongoing QE programs for much longer than currently expected - and perhaps Hussman's pre-crash bubble anatomy is dead on...
Investors who believe that history has lessons to teach should take our present concerns with significant weight, but should also recognize that tendencies that repeatedly prove reliable over complete market cycles are sometimes defied over portions of those cycles. Meanwhile, investors who are convinced that this time is different can ignore what follows. The primary reason not to listen to a word of it is that similar concerns, particularly since late-2011, have been followed by yet further market gains. If one places full weight on this recent period, and no weight on history, it follows that stocks can only advance forever. What seems different this time, enough to revive the conclusion that “this time is different,” is faith in the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak...
One of the mysteries surrounding the insolvent, and already once bailed out Spanish banking sector, has been the question why reported bad loans - sharply rising as they may be - are still as relatively low as they are currently, considering the nation's near highest in the Eurozone unemployment rate, and in comparison to such even more insolvent European nations as Greece, Cyprus and Slovenia. Courtesy of the just completed bank earnings season, and a WSJ report, we now know why: it turns out that for the past several years, instead of accurately designating non-performing loans, banks would constantly "refinance" bad loans making them appear viable even though banks have known full well there would be zero recoveries on those loans. In fact, as the story below describes, banks would even go so far as making additional loans whose proceeds would be just to pay interest on the existing NPLs - a morbid debt pyramid scheme, which when it collapses, no amount of EFSF, ESM or any other acronym-based bailout, will be able to make the country's irreparably damaged banks appear even remotely viable.
Still think houses are extremely affordable? Still think rents, especially for rental stream-securitized offerings by Blackstone et al to widows and orphans , will continue rising in perpetuity? Think again. As the following chart from Bloomberg Brief shows, mortgage payments as a % of average consumer incomes has risen to 40%, up from the higher 20% as recently as a year ago, is still rising, and is now back to levels last seen in 2008.
The MSM did their usual spin job on the consumer credit data released earlier this week. They reported a 5.4% increase in consumer debt outstanding to an all-time high of $3.051 trillion. In the Orwellian doublethink world we currently inhabit, the consumer taking on more debt is seen as a constructive sign. The storyline being sold by the corporate MSM propaganda machine, serving the establishment, is that consumers’ taking on debt is a sure sign of economic recovery. They must be confident about the future and rolling in dough from their new part-time jobs as Pizza Hut delivery men. Plus, they are now eligible for free healthcare, compliments of Obama, once they can log-on. Of course, buried at the bottom of the Federal Reserve press release and never mentioned on CNBC or the other dying legacy media outlets is the facts and details behind the all-time high in consumer credit. They count on the high probability the average math challenged American has no clue regarding the distinction between revolving and non-revolving credit or who controls the distribution of such credit. A shocking fact (to historically challenged government educated drones) revealed by the Federal Reserve data is that credit card debt did not exist prior to 1968. How could people live their lives without credit cards? 1968 marked a turning point for America...