Have you noticed the avalanche of IPOs in recent weeks? Remember the avalanche of IPOs in early 2000 and early 2007? John Hussman points out the inconvenient fact that 75% of the shitty recent IPOs lose money. Wall Street is dumping this crap on the muppets as fast as possible. They know it is late in the game and the party is just about over, but they will be dancing until the punchbowl is empty and everyone is puking in the bathroom. The lesson of history is that people never learn the lessons of history. Profits and cash flow matter in the long run. Accounting fraud and currency debasement have never sustained an economic system before and they won’t this time. Keep dancing if you choose, but you know the game is rigged and you aren’t part of the privileged rigger class.
As we explained in great detail recently, the abundance of so-called cash-on-the-sidelines is a fallacy, but even more critically the we showed the belief that these 'IOUs of past economic activity' would immediately translate into efforts to deploy them into future economic activity is also entirely false. Simply put, there is no relationship between corporate cash and subsequent capital expenditure, nor is the level of capital expenditure even well-correlated with the level of real interest rates. At this point, as John Hussman explains, it should be clear that the mere existence of a mountain of IOUs related to past economic activity is not enough to provoke future economic activity. What matters instead is the same thing that always matters: Are the resources of the economy being directed toward productive uses that satisfy the needs of others?
As the markets push once again into record territory the question of valuations becomes ever more important. While valuations are a poor timing tool in the short term for investors, in the long run valuation levels have everything to do with future returns. The current levels of profits, as a share of GDP, are at record levels. This is interesting because corporate profits should be a reflection of the underlying economic strength. However, in recent years, due to financial engineering, wage and employment suppression and increase in productivity, corporate profits have become extremely deviated. This deviation begs the question of sustainability. As we know from repeatedly from history, extrapolated projections rarely happen. Could this time be different? Sure. However, believing that historical tendencies have evolved into a new paradigm will likely have the same results as playing leapfrog with a Unicorn. There is mounting evidence, from valuations being paid in M&A deals, junk bond yields, margin debt and price extensions from long term means, "irrational exuberance" is once again returning to the financial markets.
While the only fun-durr-mentals that matter appear to be global central bank liquidity injections (and thus the level of leverage entrusted to the JPY carry trade), the crowd is swayed by truthisms and "common knowledge" memes that recovery is here, that things are improving, that earnings are 'solid', that markets are still cheap, and that historical analogs are different this time. However, with monetary policy at a turning point, we also appear (fundamentally and technically) to be at "the inflection point from self-reinforcing speculation to fragile instability."
Once again the smell of NAPALM is in the air
Citi's Tobias Levkovich sums up the hope... "we have received a fair amount of questions from clients over the last couple of weeks about the effect of share buybacks supporting earnings in the coming year, almost as if they are stretching to find reasons not to cut their numbers." The following charts suggest we are stretched indeed... Quantitative easing has distorted not only financial markets, but financial memory. The awakening is not likely to be gentle.
Today's short squeeze, EM-is-fixed, Fed-hope-fueled relief rally (in the face of compounding errors in earnings expectations and outlooks) we thought reminiscing on what happened the last time stocks were this high and over-levered and debt-bloated entities were rapidly revealed for what they were would be useful. While the 'just three charts' we showed two weeks ago provide plenty of concern, when the NYSE Composite, which accounts for 1,900 companies representing 61% of the world's publicly traded stock market capitalization, shows eery similarities to the tipping point in 2007 as NewEdge's Brad Wishack pointed out earlier, we thought it worth sharing.
While 2014 has not quite panned out (so far) as the traveling-strategist-roadshow would have hoped, the last few days have been outright perilous for the record high numbers with bullish sentiment sucked into a world of central-bank-suppressed volatility and jawboned utopia. The following charts show where the pain has been (e.g. Greece, Spain, Argentina, European banks) and where it has not been (e.g. gold miners, China, Philipinnes, and Egypt) with the US indices sitting squarely in the middle with some of their biggest losses in months. For now, the BTFATH'ers are absent - even though the drooling mouths of asset-gatherers are demanding the 'cash on the sidelines' use this 2-3-4% drop from the all-time highs to load the boat for retirement heaven... However, some have increasing concerns...
On this day in 1980, after more than doubling in the prior month, gold prices peaked amid "trading that reached delirious proportions" at a record $820. Between The Hunt Brothers precious metals miasma and rumors that the Soviet Union had invaded Iran, one trader at the time described gold's bull run as "like going to a strip show knowing the place is about to be raided." The exuberance described in the WSJ's headlines below echo so strongly forward into the current "buying opportunity" that any dip represents in the US equity market... and just as it is never different this time, the WSJ reported, "no one wants to leave until they're sure the party is over."
With today's biggest drop in stocks in over 4 months, we are reminded of three recent charts that raise considerable questions as to the path forward. From Mclellan's 1928 analog to Hussman's bubble trajectory and the extremes of bullish sentiment, this week marks a 'line in the sand' for bulls to take this to the Hendry moon or for it not to be different this time...
Confidence abounds. Last week, Investor’s Intelligence reported a surge in advisory sentiment to the highest bullish percentage since October 19, 2007. John Hussman notes that NAAIM reported that the 3-week average equity exposure among its members increased to the highest level on record. Given the unfortunate resolution of similarly extreme overvalued, overbought, overbullish, rising-yield periods in history, it's almost mind-boggling that investors actually expect the present speculative run to end well. The accelerating pitch and shallowing corrections of the recent advance are worth noting. Based on the fidelity of the recent advance to this price structure, we estimate the “finite-time singularity” of the present log-periodic bubble to occur (or to have occurred) somewhere between December 31, 2013 and January 13, 2014.
As usual, in 2013, sticking to facts was a mistake in a world fueled by misinformation, propaganda, delusion and wishful thinking. Those in power have successfully held off the unavoidable collapse which will be brought about by their ravenous unbridled greed, and blatant disregard for the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and rights and liberties of the American people.
"There is no disputing the facts. The economic situation is deteriorating for the average American, the mood of the country is darkening, and the world is awash in debt and turmoil. Every country is attempting to print their way to renewed prosperity. No one wins a race to the bottom. The oligarchs have chosen a path of currency debasement, propping up insolvent banks, propaganda and impoverishing the masses as their preferred course. They attempt to keep the masses distracted with political theater, gun control vitriol, reality TV and iGadgets. What can be said about a society where 10% of the population follows Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga on Twitter and where 50% think the National Debt is a monument in Washington D.C. The country is controlled by evil sycophants, intellectually dishonest toadies and blood sucking leeches. Their lies and deception have held sway for the last four years, but they have only delayed the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. They will not reverse course and believe their intellectual superiority will allow them to retain their control after the collapse.”
While some individual stocks (cough TWTR cough) may have reached irrational bubble territory, the US equity market is undergoing a seemingly 'rational' bubble. However, as John Hussman illustrates in the following chart, the probability of a stock market crash is growing extremely rapidly.
Even if you don't have a Nobel Prize, it should be glaringly apparent to anyone with half a brain - the financial markets have been soaring while the overall economy has been stagnating. Despite assurances from the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve that everything is just fine, many Americans are beginning to realize that we have seen this movie before. We saw it during the dotcom bubble, and we saw it during the lead up to the horrible financial crisis of 2008. So precisely when will the bubble burst this time? Nobody knows for sure, but without a doubt this irrational financial bubble will burst at some point. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts, and the following are 15 signs that we are near the peak of an absolutely massive stock market bubble...
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.