December 5th 1996: After rising 210% off the 1987 crash lows, Alan Greenspan speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, asks: "But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?" The next day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumps by 1% to close at 6,381.94; over the next three years, the market nearly doubles...then crashes...then doubles... then crashes... and then triples in the last five years... "rational exuberance"
In some respects we’re in danger of running out of appropriate descriptive superlatives for the current bout of “irrational exuberance” (we’re open for suggestions). The current asset bubble is in many respects reminiscent of the late 1990s tech bubble, but it also differs from it in a number of ways. One of the major differences is that the exuberance recorded in the data is largely confined to professional investors, while the broader public is still licking its wounds from the demise of the previous two asset bubbles and remains largely disengaged (although this has actually changed a bit this year). Monetary pumping merely redistributes existing real wealth (no additional wealth can be created by money printing) and falsifies economic calculation. This in turn distorts the economy’s production structure and leads to capital consumption, thus the foundation of real wealth that allows the policy to seemingly “work” is consistently undermined. At some point, the economy’s pool of real funding will be in grave trouble (in fact, there are a number of signs that this is already the case). Widespread recognition of such a development can lead to the demise of an asset bubble as well.
The financial, economic and political system has been captured by corporate fascist psychopaths. The Federal Reserve has aided and abetted this takeover. Their monetary manipulations have resulted in this deformity. The American middle class has been murdered. Decades of declining real wages have left them virtually penniless, in debt up to their eyeballs, angry, frustrated, and unable to jump start our moribund economy by buying more Chinese produced crap. Yellen, her Wall Street puppeteers, and the corporate titans should enjoy those record profits and record stock market highs. The artificial boom will lead to a real depression. Luckily for the oligarchs, most middle class Americans are already experiencing a depression and won’t notice the difference.
Bankruptcies in Japan more than doubled in the first nine months of 2014 compared with the same period a year ago. Japan has embarked on a radical monetary experiment to spur inflation. But it may backfire and lead to stagflation and in a worst case scenario a German ‘Weimar’ style hyperinflation ...
This week has seen some market volatility (see VIX Chart) reminiscent of the functioning market from days of old. The markets are spooked, bad news is overtaking good news and bearish views are becoming vogue. We are seeing a titanic battle taking place between the various bull and bear camps and they are starting to unleash some serious firepower.
“We are mindful of the potential for a build-up of excessive risk in financial markets, particularly in an environment of low interest rates and low asset price volatility,” the G-20 officials said in a communique released in Cairns, Australia. “We welcome the stronger economic conditions in some key economies, although growth in the global economy is uneven.”It is unclear just what that statement means: BTFATH, but only on a downtick?
As the marginal investing bot continues to invest his marginal leveraged dollar-on-the-sideline on an equity market that, as Janet Yellen has explained to the poor, will create a "wealth effect" to sustain everyone through rainy days and retirement, we thought some context worthwhile. On December 5th 1996, Alan Greenspan - upon the recognition that equity market capitalization has bubbled to over 100% of nominal GDP - opined that investors had succumbed to "irrational exuberance." Since then, that 'exuberance' has become increasingly rational as the Fed pulls all its monetary-base expanding, deficit-funding, asset-purchases to keep the American Dream alive for a select (and shrinking) few...
Rising rates would hurt bonds and equities but would support gold. This was clearly seen in the 1970s when rising interest rates corresponded with rising gold prices. Gold becomes vulnerable towards the end of an interest rate tightening cycle when there are positive real interest rates and savers earn something on their deposits.
Given that this is 'officially' the worst-recovery-ever, one wonders why does the abysmally failed and dangerous monetary experimentation continue unabated — as Yellen will undoubtedly confirm at Jackson Hole? Self-evidently, it is irresistibly convenient to both Wall Street and Washington. Yet these screaming juxtapositions are lost in the recency bias of the mainstream narrative. Invariably, the “in-coming” data is tortured and rationalized to prove that just a few more doses of money and debt will do the trick. Consequently, the pattern and signal is obscured amidst the immediate noise. It is therefore perhaps useful to consider a more advanced case of this Keynesian debauch from elsewhere in the world. Consider Italy.
With regard this week’s market debacle, the question, of course, is whether this was simply a blip – yet another one-day BTFD opportunity – or the start of something bigger and worse. The answer, we think, depends on how the media Narrative surrounding the week takes shape over the next several days. Right now the media Narrative about the week is in complete disarray, because there was no obvious “reason” for the sell-off. Or rather, there were too many possible reasons, from bad earnings reports to the Argentina default to worries about a strong jobs number to Espirito Santo cracking up to new Russian sanctions to just a generic “we were overdue for this”. From a game theory perspective, this sort of seemingly out-of-the-blue sharp move had very little to do with anything that happened this week, but is a natural by-product of the Common Knowledge Game in action.
One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...
As part of Bernanke's and now Yellen's experiment in market central-planning, in which newsflow no longer matters to a market that has lost all ability to discount anything except how big a central bank's balance sheet will be and where HFT momentum is far more important than fundamentals, one of the greatest investing perversions to emerge has been our finding from two years ago since confirmed on a monthly basis, that the best performing asset classes happens to also be the most hated one, as the most shorted stocks have outperformed the market better than twofold just since 2012.
"The head of the International Monetary Fund warned on Friday that financial markets were "perhaps too upbeat" because high unemployment and high debt in Europe could drag down investment and hurt future growth prospects." To summarize: first the BIS, then the Fed and now the IMF are not only warning there is either a broad market bubble or a localized one, impacting primarily the momentum stocks (which is ironic in a new normal in which momentum ignition has replaced fundamentals as the main price discovery mechanism), they are doing so ever more frequently.
"... signs of risk-taking have increased in some asset classes. Equity valuations of smaller firms as well as social media and biotechnology firms appear to be stretched, with ratios of prices to forward earnings remaining high relative to historical norms. Beyond equities, risk spreads for corporate bonds have narrowed and yields have reached all-time lows. Issuance of speculative-grade corporate bonds and leveraged loans has been very robust, and underwriting standards have loosened. For example, average debt-to-earnings multiples have risen, and the share rated B or below has moved up further for leveraged loans." - Janet Yellen
"Whatever one feels about financials and the wider financial system, credit markets did arguably get a small glimpse of what things will be like when this cycle does actually end as the structurally impaired liquidity that exists in credit caused a small amount of panic yesterday morning before markets recovered in the European afternoon session. Liquidity is really poor in credit these days which doesn't matter when markets are in buy only mode as they have been for many quarters now, but it does matter on the days when you get a negative story."