Reuters reports that Japan's public pension fund, the world's largest with a pool of $1.1 trillion, and which until recently was the mystery buyer ex machina that was supposed to buy up the Nikkei past 16,000 and on its way to 20,000, 30,000 and more (a dream that fizzled as quickly as it appeared following our explanation that buying stocks means selling bonds), may start buying real estate to boost returns in a move that could involve tens of billions pouring into cities such as London and Paris. Or New York.
Is recent market behavior the beginning of a market turndown? No one knows, although it is easy to find people providing “answers.” The value of these predictions approach those of astrologers and fortune-tellers.
Fear, like greed, makes people, and that would include investors, behave irrationally. Two major equity bear markets in the last 13 years have traumatized investors. The belief in Modern Portfolio Theory in general and the Efficient Markets Hypothesis (EMH) in particular has been shaken and finance theory will have to be re-written. So, Absolute Return Partners' Niels Jensen asks, what is it specifically that has changed? Human behavior certainly hasn’t. Greed and fear have been factors to be reckoned with since day nought. When faced with the unknown, people (in this case, fund managers) will use whatever information they can get hold of. Hence we shouldn’t really be surprised that fund managers extrapolate current earnings trends when forecasting future earnings, despite the evidence that it is a futile exercise. Occasionally, the Wisdom of Crowds turns into the Madness of Mobs and all rational behavior goes out the window. History provides many examples of that. EMH is entirely unsuited to deal with froth. What made economists love the EMH is that the maths behind it is so neat whereas the alternative truth is a little messy.
As the markets elevate higher on the back of the global central bank interventions it is important to keep in context the historical tendencies of the markets over time. Here we are once again with markets, driven by inflows of liquidity from Central Banks, hitting all-time highs. Of course, the chorus of justifications have come to the forefront as to why "this time is different." The current level of overbought conditions, combined with extreme complacency, in the market leave unwitting investors in danger of a more severe correction than currently anticipated. There is virtually no “bullish” argument that will withstand real scrutiny. Yield analysis is flawed because of the artificial interest rate suppression. It is the same for equity risk premium analysis. However, because the optimistic analysis supports the underlying psychological greed - all real scrutiny that would reveal evidence to contrary is dismissed. However, it is "willful blindness" that eventually leads to a dislocation in the markets. In this regard let's review the three most common arguments used to support the current market exuberance.
Corruption thrives when good people do nothing. Societies rebound when good people do something. Isn't it time to make democratic capitalism happen. Democratic capitalism is about worthwhile production and exchange by communities of people who give a damn. It is expressly not about either crony-driven concentration of wealth or government redistribution.
As the global equity and bond markets grind ever higher, abundant signs exist that we are once again living through an asset bubble – or rather a whole series of bubbles in a variety of markets. This makes this period quite interesting, but also quite dangerous. This can be summarized in one sentence: How could this be happening again so soon?
The political class set in motion the eventual obliteration of our economic system with the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. Placing the fate of the American people in the hands of a powerful cabal of unaccountable greedy wealthy elitist bankers was destined to lead to poverty for the many, riches for the connected crony capitalists, debasement of the currency, endless war, and ultimately the decline and fall of an empire. The 100 year downward spiral began gradually but has picked up steam in the last sixteen years, as the exponential growth model, built upon ever increasing levels of debt and an ever increasing supply of cheap oil, has proven to be unsustainable and unstable. Those in power are frantically using every tool at their disposal to convince Boobus Americanus they have everything under control and the system is operating normally. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In 1996 it was Alan Greenspan with his "irrational exuberance" call, is Janet Yellen sending the same message, as she warns...
- *YELLEN SEES SIGNS `SOME PARTIES ARE REACHING FOR YIELD'
- *YELLEN SAYS LOW INTEREST RATES MAY PROMPT `TOO MUCH LEVERAGE'
Did the Fed's most dovish member, and likely next chairperson just suggest that, while 'lower for longer' rates will continue, that stocks and high-yield credit look a little more than frothy.
While budgets are thrown around that tax wealth in every way possible and transfer payments are ever-increasing, it seems the post-election euphoria among the poor in the USA has worn off just as rapidly as it did in 2008. Bernanke's irrational exuberance has pushed the 'comfort' of the 'rich' (earning over $100k) to its highest since October 2010 while the comfort of the 'poor' (those earning under $15k per year) has slumped back to the lowest comfort in three months. We need moar wealth transfer.
Sam Zell: "This is a very treacherous market," thanks to the giant tsunami of liquidity, "the problems of 2007 haven't been dealt with," and given the poor macro data and earnings, "we are suffering through another irrational exuberance," leaving the entire CNBC audience speechless when he concludes, "the stock market feels like the housing market of 2006."
We live in a world that is dislocated, on a different axis, where the economy is doing one thing and the markets are doing something else that is not connected. As political nonsense becomes the world's normal banter; the official language in the Press is little more than printed or spoken noise - all caused by the Fed's outpouring of money into the system. Rational reactions become irrational when confined to an irrational world. The world will return to its senses once again either driven by some "event" or by the Fed beginning some sort of withdrawal. In the meantime the markets are beginning to back-up some as moved by becoming accustomed to the continuing flood of money. It is rather like a fine Bordeaux. One meal, two meals, a week's worth of meals and the experience is marvelous but if you drink it every night for dinner the magic begins to dissipate. It is no longer special; it is something expected, it is just the normal fare.
The overtly inflationary policy stance of the FOMC is especially significant when you consider that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is no longer in control of monetary policy.
Physical gold and silver demand remains robust in many markets internationally. Demand from the Middle East remains robust as seen in the near record imports of gold and silver into Turkey. Turkey’s gold imports climbed to an eight-month high in March as prices averaged the lowest since May, according to the Istanbul Gold Exchange. Silver imports rose 31% from a month earlier according to Bloomberg. Gold imports increased to 18.26 metric tons, the most since July. That’s up from 17.34 tons in February and compared with 2.91 tons a year earlier, data on the exchange’s website show. The country shipped in 120.8 tons last year. Turkey was the fourth-biggest gold consumer in 2012, according to the London-based World Gold Council. Bullion averaged $1,593.62 an ounce last month and is trading about 17% below the record nominal high of $1,921.15 set in September 2011.
Barclays index of high yield bond total returns is now 63% higher that its pre-crisis peak. This compares to an equivalent total return index for the S&P 500 was only 12% (and it has yet to break the October 2007 highs). These numbers are astronomical in the face of micro- and macro-fundamentals and while equity markets remain the policy tool du jour for the central planning elite, it appears they are perhaps starting to become a little concerned that driving all the retiring boomers 'safe' money into risky bets may not end so well. Just as Alan Greenspan stepped on the throat of equity markets with his now infamous 'irrational exuberance' speech, we wonder, as Bloomberg notes, if last night's speech to the Economic Club of New York by Bill Dudley is the new normal equivalent, as he noted, "some areas of fixed income - notably high-yield and leveraged loans - do seem somewhat frothy," just as we warned here. With the high-yield index trading at 5.56% yield - the lowest in over 25 years and loans bid at 98.27 (the highest since July 2007), perhaps he is right to note, "we will need to keep a close eye on financial asset prices."
Events in Cyprus stem from precisely the same source as the surge in US home prices, namely monetary expansion by the Fed.