The hollowing out of corporate strengths to enable short-term profiteering by the handful at the top leads to systemic fragility. No shock is needed to bring down these fragile corporate structures: existing debt and the slightest tremor of global recession will be enough to topple the rickety facade.
The market is extremely tired and the systemic risks underlying the Financial Crisis are in no way resolved. With investor complacency (as measured by the VIX) at record lows, the Fed withdrawing several of its more significant market props, and low participation coming from the larger institutions, this market is ripe for a serious correction.
The "smart money" indicator is at its most extreme degree of selling since November, 2010.
UPDATE: The miss by GOOG and AMZN (accounting for 13% of Nasdaq market cap) is pushing indices lower after hours...
The S&P 500 And Russell bounced once again off post-December-Taper unchanged levels today but the Dow remains flat from 12/18 as the Nasdaq (led by exuberance in momo social media stocks as AAPL closed <$500) jumped the most in almost 4 months (though remains -1% on the year). The rally in stocks was simply remarkable for its tick-for-tick tracking of USDJPY and EM FX and the S&P was unable to make significant progress past its pre-Turkish-rate-hike levels. Treasuries sold off but remain 3-5bps lower in yield than when Turkey was "fixed". The USD rallied on EUR and JPY weakness (but was almost entirely dead once Europe closed). Precious metals were manhandled instantaneously lower at 8amET then spent the rest of the day trying to recover. Stocks did tumble into the close to recouple with USDJPY but bad news was great news it seems...(for now)
The Fed knows this and is now trying to prepare the market for withdrawal. But the market is on total life support from the Fed. Take away the Fed punchbowl and the party stops.
Are we running out of time? For the last several years, we have been living in a false bubble of hope that has been fueled by massive amounts of debt and bailout money. This illusion of economic stability has convinced most people that the great economic crisis of 2008 was just an "aberration" and that now things are back to normal. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. The truth is that the financial crash of 2008 was just the first wave of our economic troubles. We have not even come close to recovering from that wave, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching. Our economy is like a giant sand castle that has been built on a foundation of debt and toilet paper currency. As each wave of the crisis hits us, the solutions that our leaders will present to us will involve even more debt and even more money printing. And each time, those "solutions" will only make our problems even worse. Right now, events are unfolding in Europe and in the United States that are pushing us toward the next major crisis moment. I sincerely hope that we have some more time before the next crisis overwhelms us, but as you will see, time is rapidly running out. The following are 12 things that just happened that show the next wave of the economic collapse is almost here...
While not according to official government statistics (yet), which we have come to trust so Pavlovian-ly, TrimTab's CEO Charles Biderman notes that based on what is important - the growth (or lack thereof) of real-time wages and salaries, the US economy has slowed enough to enter into recession. Following December's aberrant jumps thanks to tax hike concerns, after-tax wages and salaries (net of inflation) have been shrinking year-over-year since the second week in January. But it gets better, withheld income and employment taxes have been running about 8.3% higher year-over-year. While retail is being told to buy-buy-buy, Biderman exclaims that "insiders at U.S. companies have bought the least amount of shares in any one month," and that the ratio of insider selling to buying is now 50-to-1 - a monthly record. "So far the mass delusion is holding."
Chris Martenson is issuing an official warning of a major stock market correction within the next few months. He's only done this once before (in 2008). He's seeing a convergence of both technical and fundamental data that are flashing oversized risks to the downside for asset prices, despite the Federal Reserve's money printing mania (which is showing signs of hitting diminishing returns). He expects the fall in equity prices to happen within the May-September window. This downdraft will be characterized by lots of volatility, formed by market routs and Fed-inspired rescues, alternating until some form of bottom is reached. Along the way there will likely be a flight for "safety" into the dollar and Treasury paper, but only during the first stage of this crisis. Once a bottom is reached - he expects anywhere from 40% to 60% lower than the current ~1500 level on the S&P 500 - the process will begin to be dominated by rising government borrowing which will cause interest rates to begin to rise. When that happens, expect capital to flee the paper market for hard assets. In particular, that's when the upwards price revolution in the gold and silver markets will kick into high gear.
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.
The best gains are behind us especially in the wake of the Fed's vacuum and the lack of any meaningful and sustainable upside catalysts.
Facebook shares took another hellacious dive last week when the lock-up period for insider selling ended on Thursday. Gluttonously coveted by investors in the months leading up to the IPO, the stock has become a pariah after falling 50% from its $38 offering price in May. Was it jinxed from the start, as some have suggested? It is indeed true that technical gremlins on Nasdaq plagued the order book the day Facebook went public. And although some sore losers have sued to get their money back (if not their hands, belatedly, on fire-sale shares) the exchange glitches seemed to us like business as usual. Facebook’s real problem is that it is just another Internet fad that will probably never earn a profit commensurate with the $100 billion valuation it was given by IPO buyers.
Instead of a "botched" event, the Facebook IPO is actually a total success by Wall Street standard, since concerted effort appeared to have been made to ensure an "acceptable" return for the insiders.
It's hard being a bear, except this week wasn't so bad.
We have discussed the money-on-the-sidelines fallacy a few times recently in the context of the circular money-flows (clear misunderstanding of the idea of a buyer and a seller) as well as mutual fund cash levels, retail sentiment, demographic shifts, and insider transactions. There is mounting evidence, as Morgan Stanley's Michael Wilson notes, that 'make no mistake...institutional investors are all-in' as the rolling beta of mutual funds relative to the S&P 500 tops 1.10x at multi-year highs, institutional investors are most exposed to high beta sectors since MS data began, and long/shorts funds are near their most levered long since MS records began. Combine this with the massive surge in Insider Selling transactions in the last few weeks (apropos Charles Biderman's comments on the rally's support by Insider buying til now) and perhaps bearish retail sentiment will lead this market down as we hope that finally 'money-on-the-sidelines' fades from the parlance of all but the most aged and incompetent of market prognosticators.
It appears we are, as a nation of desperately consuming investors, becoming increasingly cognitively dissonant. Charles Biderman, of TrimTabs, leaves the ominous clouds of the Bay Area for New York City and addresses our seemingly Pavlovian response for the third year in a row to a rising stock market (flooded with portfolio-rebalancing duration-destroying Central Bank money) as evidence that the real economy must be doing great. Of course, relying on tried and true facts such as real job growth and real wage growth and understanding the seasonally-abused-adjusted housing data realities, Biderman notes that the only money driving stocks up is corporate buybacks dominating selling pressure. While modestly bullish on these flows, he is growing more anxious. He sees insider selling surging (from 5:1 January to 14:1 February to 35:1 in March), there has been no new 'cash-takeovers' announced this month compared to $15bn per month last year, and the IPO pipeline is ramping up fast (supply will dominate demand) as the end of Operation Twist approaches removing yet another prop to the perceived reality of stocks.