The biggest bubble is in investors' belief that there is no risk.
Among Cliff Asness' top peeves are commonly held and oft-repeated beliefs that are wrong or misleading and can potentially hurt investors. The asset manager politely requests people stop saying - "There is a lot of cash on the sidelines." Everyone should pay attention...
So, we have investor sentiment showing record bullishness, investors are piling into stocks at a pace not seen since 1999-2000: at the height of the Tech Bubble, earnings are generally falling, the global economy is contracting, and the Fed is already buying $85 billion worth of assets per month.
Bitcoin has increased more than tenfold since the beginning of 2013. One of the reasons for the incredible surge is that bitcoin is a freely traded market and not subject to rigging or price manipulation by banks or government. Physical Gold, either in your possession or in allocated accounts, remains a far safer alternative both to bitcoin, to digital gold platforms and to paper and electronic currencies in what is still a vulnerable banking system.
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...
This is the single largest allocation of investor capital to stock based mutual funds since 2000: at the height of the Tech bubble. That year, investors put $324 billion into stocks. We might actually match that inflow this year as we still have two months left in 2013.
- JP Morgan 75K
- Goldman Sachs 100K
- UBS 100K
- Bank of America 110K
- HSBC 120K
- Barclays 125K
- Citigroup 130K
- Deutsche Bank 130K
While Eike Batista's collapse from grace may be the poster child for the country, this deep dive into the Latin American economy concludes Brazil’s flaws are clear. Commodity prices have been volatile; global growth has been weak and inconsistent. Brazil can no longer depend on these factors for growth. A closer look reveals that internal conditions are progressively becoming Brazil’s main economic foe. Ironically this is good news as the country is increasingly in a position to take control of its destiny. What is needed is decisive leadership and effective solutions to the long-term problems plaguing the country. Short-term stimulus measures and even supply-side measures such as reduced taxes have clearly not stimulated the economy. Brazil must invest in its own future.
It has been a very interesting week as the Government shutdown/debt ceiling debate debacle moves into the background. The focus has now turned back towards the fundamentals of the market, economic environment and the ongoing Federal Reserve interventions. What is becoming increasingly evident is that market participants are once again potentially throwing "caution to the wind" betting on a belief that the Fed's ongoing Q.E. programs will continue to trump valuations and economics. After all, that has seemingly been the case up to this point. The problem is that no one really knows how this will turn out. However, as we discussed earlier this week, it is likely that we are close to finding out answer. In the meantime, here is our weekly list of "things to ponder this weekend."
European equities trade negatively as political tensions on both sides of the Atlantic dampens risk appetite and a lower than expected HSBC manufacturing PMI figure from China further weighs upon investor sentiment. In the US, government is on the precipice of the first shutdown since 1996 after House Republicans refused to pass a budget unless it involved a delay to Obama’s signature healthcare reforms. If the Republicans follow through with their threat a shutdown will occur at midnight tonight. As a result a fixed income in the US and core Europe benefit with investors wary of the immediate harm a shutdown will do to confidence in the economy.
This morning we received a research note from a private bank. Buried in the text was a call for lower gold prices, and the analysts listed five reasons why they think gold prices will decline. Our analysis? These guys are completely missing the point. Precious metals are like an insurance policy. It’s a policy you hope you’ll never need to cash in. But if the need ever arises, it’ll probably be because the financial system has collapsed. If that day ever comes, you’ll be thankful that you had the foresight to trade away some paper currency for real savings.
The equity futures euphoria carryover from this weekend, buoyed by sentiment that the Syrian war is postponed if not cancelled, carried over into Tuesday morning despite news that Israel had launched a missile test, which looked at from almost any angle was an attempt at provoking a response from its adversaries. Also the Chinese boost driven by a solid beat in the country's two manufacturing PMIs persisted despite a drop in the August Non-manufacturing PMI reported last night. So once again we have returned to a state where good news is good news and bad news can be ignored. This, even with the Taper announcement just two weeks away. Of note also is that overnight Nokia shares surged 40% after Microsoft announced that it is to buy Nokia mobile business. In tandem, other EU based related names such as STM and Ericsson also gained ground, trading up 3% and 4.5% respectively. Nokia shares traded sharply higher today after Microsoft said it will pay €3.79bln to purchase substantially all of Nokia's devices & services business and will also pay €1.65bln to license Nokia's patents. A fitting farewell present from Steve Ballmer perhaps. Once again, keep an eye on Syria as the president begins his congressional consultations to take the escalation to the next level, with or without provocations from Israel.
As Dirty Harry would say.....
A recent survey of asset managers globally, managing USD 27.4 trillion between them, found that 78% of defined-benefit plans would need annual returns of at least 5% per year to meet their commitments, while 19% required more than 8%, "a target of 5% per year can be reached but only by using leverage, shorting, and derivavtives." And sure enough, as Deutsche Bank (DB) reports, in short, investors have rarely been more levered than today! According to DB, a MoM change in NYSE margin debt >10% has to be taken as a critical warning signal as there are astonishing similarities in the sequence of events among all crises. As the S&P 500 just hit a new all-time high, investors might want to ask themselves when it is a good time to become more cautious – yesterday, in our view. Simply put, the higher margin debt levels rise, the more fragile the underlying basis on which prices trade; with even a less severe sell-off in equities capable of triggering a collapse.
Crashing Australian and a miss in South Korean PMIs, following days of weak Japanese data, and a divergence in the official and HSBC Chinese manufacturing indicators to a 15 month high (HSBC PMI sliding to 11 month low) was just the bad news Asian market needed to break out higher from the recent range and thanks to the return of overnight USDJPY levitation as well as a modest reverse repo liquidity injection by the PBOC overnight, not only did the Nikkei and Shanghai rise 3% and 1.8% respectively, but US futures are right back to where they were before yesterday's dramatic turnaround in the market following a strongly dovish FOMC statement and just shy of the 1700 once more. As for Europe, while there a smattering of noise following the release of final PMIs which did not change the preliminary picture much (Spain 49.8, vs 50.6 exp; Italy 50.4 vs 49.8 exp; France 49.7 vs 49.8 exp; Germany 50.7 vs 50.3 exp) it is all up to the ECB today to preserve the myth of a European improvement coupled with a EUR currency at or near multi-month highs.