- EU to weigh extensive sanctions on Russia (FT)
- U.S. lifts flight ban to Israel (Reuters)
- Russia says will cooperate with MH17 probe led by Netherlands (Reuters)
- Norway faces ‘concrete and credible’ terrorist threat (FT)
- Don’t Tell Anybody About This Story on HFT Power Jump Trading (BBG)
- But... but... PMI: Unilever Sales Growth Misses Estimates on Asian Slowdown (BBG)
- World’s Biggest Wealth Fund Reviews $8 Billion Russian Stake (BBG)
- Qualcomm latest US tech company to reverse in China (FT)
- Hamptons Home Sales Rise as Buyers Find More Inventory (BBG)
Borrowing heavily from Albert Edwards "Ice Age" analogy of our new normal, PIMCO's Bill Gross, after explaining why he does not have a cell phone, discusses the "frigidly low" levels of "The New Neutral" in this week's letter. Confirming Ben Bernanke's "not in my lifetime" promise for low rates and a lack of normalization, Gross explains that the "the new neutral" real policy rate will be close to 0% as opposed to 2-3% (just as in Japan) leaving an increasingly small incremental rise in rates as potentially responsible for popping the bubble. Gross concludes, "if 'The New Neutral' rates stay low, it supports current prices of financial assets. They would appear to be less bubbly," clearly defending the valuation of bonds knowing that he can't expose stocks as 'bubbly' without exposing his firm to more outflows.
Like Bush Saying “You’re Either With Us or Against Us”
... the most effective alpha-generating investment strategies are parasites. An alpha-generating strategy of the type I’m describing uses the market itself as its habitat. It’s not an investment strategy based on the fundamentals of this company or that company – the equivalent of a geographic habitat – but on the behaviors of market participants who are living their investment lives in that fundamentally-derived habitat. A parasitic strategy isn’t the only way to generate alpha – you can also be better suited for a particular investment environment (think warm-blooded animal versus cold-blooded animal as you go into an Ice Age) and generate alpha that way – but I believe that the investment strategies with the largest and most consistent “edge” are, in a very real sense, parasites.
We would be the first to espouse the view that, in speculative markets, the 'sentimentals' can long trump the fundamentals, but there is a counterpoint to such a projection, not that many wish to countenance it. The dispiriting truth is that some of the steam has already gone out of the US and were this to continue to be the case, given that esteemed institution’s pathological aversion to short-term difficulty, the Fed's "taper" might yet prove an all too short-lived gesture in the direction of a belated restoration of monetary sanity. As the following 3 charts suggest, equity 'sentimental' valuations are at extremes and fundamentals are deteriorating rapidly, making for an uncomfortable rock- and hard-place-straddle for a Fed that faces 4 reasons it has to Taper (sentiment, deficits, technicals, and international resentment).
If You Don't Buy Global Warming, Great ... Use This Info to Talk to Your Friends Who Do
The bloodbath in the bond markets has led some 'greatly rotating' commentators to see this as the end of the long bull market (and the beginning of a lost decade for Treasuries); in fact, as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, the financial wreckage left in the wake of Bernanke's taper talk has generated a lot of interesting commentary. But, he asks (and answers eloquently in this far-reaching anatomy of all-the-world's-views-on-what-the-Fed-is-doing) what if (as we have noted) tapering has nothing to do with the US economy having reached a sustainable take-off velocity? From Janjuah to Rosenberg, and from Wolf to Faber, Edwards explains how his Ice-Age thesis (lower lows and lower highs for nominal economic quantities in each cycle... with each recovery bringing a partial reversal to the process and each recessionary phase taking us to shocking new lows, both in bond yields and in equity multiples) is very much still in play (despite the risks that are evident) since governments will take the path of least resistance, which is to print their way out of this looming fiscal catastrophe. Marc Faber is right. QE99 here we come.
"The late Margaret Thatcher had a strong view about consensus. She called it: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects.” The same applies to most market forecasts. With some rare exceptions (like our commodity analysts? recent prescient call for a slump in the gold price), analysts don?t like to stand out from the crowd. It is dangerous and career-challenging. In that vein, we repeat our key forecasts of the S&P Composite to bottom around 450, accompanied by sub-1% US 10y yields and gold above $10,000."
If You Don't Believe In Global Warming, Please Forward This to Your Friends Who Do
From Albert Edwards: "In 2005 when Alan Greenspan was being hailed as a “maestro” I wrote that his policies would ruin the world and history would judge him to be “an economic war criminal”. I now think Ben Bernanke’s policies will prove even more ruinous than Sir Alan’s (yes unbelievably he still retains his honorary knighthood). Hence we are lowering our equity weighting to 30%, the minimum possible. The last time I did this was 8 May 2008.... I'm reading some insanely stupid stuff at the moment. Okay, I know some of my writing is pretty insane, but when I read direct quotes and commentary about Bernanke's policy of driving up asset prices in general and equity prices in particular, I almost want to cry over the ludicrousness of this position. The Fed is pursuing the same road to ruin as it did between 2003-2007. I'm becoming more and more convinced that, Gloom, Boom, & Doom's Marc Faber is right when he says that "the Fed will destroy the world."
Whether it is the EU running to the G-20, nations in Asia, the IMF or Spain and Italy and their brethren calling for Eurobonds the distinction is easily made; you pay or you pay or you pay because I cannot. That is the cry in the wilderness as politely, very politely, quite politely everyone says, “No thank you.” The curtain is going down on the show and the normal pleas are being made to keep the spectacle in operation but the pocketbooks are closed and Germany and the rest are not going to bet the family farm when the final act draws nigh. The Elves in the boulders cackle and the “invisible people” move on and sigh as the ending of one more chapter is inscribed in the Book of Life.
How to Adapt to Any Climate Change – Global Warming or Cooling – and Save Money In the Process
The black swan is probably the most widely misunderstood philosophical term of this century. I tend to find it being thrown around to refer to anything surprising and negative. But that’s not how Taleb defined it. Taleb defined it very simply as any high impact surprise event. Of course, the definition of surprise is relative to the observer. To the lunatics at the NYT who push bilge about continuing American primacy, a meteoric decline in America’s standing (probably emerging from some of the fragilities I have identified in the global economic fabric) would be a black swan. It would also be a black swan to the sorry swathes of individuals who believe what they hear in the mainstream media, and from the lips of politicians (both Romney and Obama have recently paid lip service to the idea that America is far from decline). Such an event would not really be a black swan to me; I believe America and her allies will at best be a solid second in the global pecking order — behind the ASEAN group — by 2025, simply because ASEAN make a giant swathe of what we consume (and not vice verse), and producers have a historical tendency to assert authority over consumers. But black swans are not just events. They can also be non-events. To Harold Camping and his messianic followers who confidently predicted the apocalypse on the 21st of May 2011 (and every other true-believing false prophet) the non-event was a black swan. Surprising (to them at least) and high impact, because it surely changed the entire trajectory of their lives. (Camping still lives on Earth, rather than in Heaven as he supposedly expected). To true-believing environmentalists who warn of Malthusian catastrophe (i.e. crises triggered by overpopulation or resource depletion), history is studded with these black swan non-events.
An Oregon University professor has controversially compared skepticism of global warming to racism. Sociology and environmental studies professor Kari Norgaard wrote a paper criticising non-believers, suggesting that doubters have a ‘sickness’. The professor, who holds a B.S. in biology and a master’s and PhD in sociology, argued that ‘cultural resistance’ to accepting humans as being responsible for climate change ‘must be recognised and treated’ as an aberrant sociological behaviour.