The correlation between stock prices and margin debt continues to rise (to new records of exuberant "Fed's got our backs" hope) as NYSE member margin balances surge to new record highs. Relative to the NYSE Composite, this is the most "leveraged' investors have been since the absolute peak in Feb 2000. What is more worrisome, or perhaps not, is the ongoing collapse in investor net worth - defined as total free credit in margin accounts less total margin debt - which has hit what appears to be all-time lows (i.e. there's less left than ever before) which as we noted previously raised a "red flag" with Deutsche Bank. Relative to the 'economy' margin debt has only been higher at the very peak in 2000 and 2007 and was never sustained at this level for more than 2 months. Sounds like a perfect time to BTFATH...
"When things are going well people become greedy and enthusiastic, and when times are troubled, people become fearful and reticent. That’s just the wrong thing to do. Another mistake that people often make is that they compare themselves with others who are making more money than they are and conclude that they should emulate the others’ actions ... after they’ve worked. This is the source of the herd behaviour that so often gets them into trouble... As long as human nature is part of the investment environment, which it always will be, we’ll experience bubbles and crashes.... People talk about the wisdom of the free market – of the invisible hand – but there’s no free market in money today. Interest rates are not natural. They are where they are because the governments have set them at that level. Free markets optimise the allocation of resources in the long run, and administered markets distort the allocation of resources. This is not a good thing..." - Howard Marks
It is well-known that as part of the S&P500's ascent to new records, investor margin debt has also surged to all time highs, surpassing for the past three months previous records set during both prior, the dot com and the housing, stock market bubbles. And as more attention has shifted to the topic of speculator leverage once more, inquiries into the correlation between bets upon bets and stock performance are popping up once more, in this case in a study by Deutsche Bank titled "Red Flag! - The curious case of NYSE margin debt." Of particular note here is a historical comparison of margin-debt warnings that have recurred throughout history but especially just before major stock bubble crashes, such as in the period 1999/2000, 2007/2008 and of course today, which have time and again been ignored. Here is what was said then, what is being said now, and what is ignored always.
When we as a species use language to communicate and engage with one another, we have a certain understanding that certain words mean certain things. That is the entire purpose of language, effective communication between human beings that can be easily understood. As a result, we should be able to assume that when government bureaucrats utilize words that are commonplace within society, that these words represent specific commonly understood meanings. That would be a huge mistake. Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU have compiled an excellent list of some commonplace words used by the NSA to mislead us into thinking they aren’t doing the bad things that they are actually doing. Words such as “surveillance,” “collect,” and “relevant.”
There is no greater crime in Washington today than speaking truth about the US economy in public. This is why Ben Bernanke is not being reappointed for another term as Fed Chairman.
No, American Banks DON'T Need to Be Big to Compete with Bigger Foreign Rivals
Following a brief infomercial for Gordian Group's apparent skills in bringing dough-makers and yeast-cooking perfection to the table - arguing that they are here to preserve jobs (for skilled workers who have been apparently working for below-market wages) - and maximizing value for the Bakery Union; Peter Kaufman stops the pretense of helping and goes straight for the threat. "We are here to work with credible bidders to get started right away with a great work-force; on the other hand, if bidders don't want to work with us (and re-hire Hostess employees), the union will ask the AFL-CIO to put any Hostess product on its 'boycott product' list." But "we're here to help," he reminds the somewhat stunned CNBC anchor. It seems beggars are once again choosers... as the entitled roll on.
And now it's on us to mobilize and make sure at least one of us in each district contact our representatives and do what we can to inform them. The longer this goes on, the more bad algo's will manipulate the system
MARTIN SMITH: Is that really the job of a prosecutor, to worry about anything other than simply pursuing justice?
LANNY BREUER: Well, I think I am pursuing justice. And I think the entire responsibility of the department is to pursue justice. But in any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.
...the pushback from Wall Street was intense and multi-pronged. The Blob oozed through the halls of government, seeking, through its glutinous embrace, to immobilize the legislative and regulatory apparatus, thereby preserving the status quo. The executive jets of the Wall Street air force flew sortie after sortie, transporting high-ranking emissaries from new York to Washington to meet with the SEC, [Senator Chris] Dodd and [Senator Richard] Shelby staff, and the staff of other senators on the Banking Committee. Some of the executives, no doubt less enthusiastically, even met with Josh and me. The research companies and market experts Wall Street employs also raised their voices against us. At times it got ugly. Ted was called a crackpot and dangerously uninformed. He was accused of “politicizing” market regulation (a strange notion considering he wasn’t running for election). It seemed as if Wall Street, which wasn’t used to someone on Capitol Hill asking in-depth questions about arcane issues, wished to silence or marginalize its critics. Industry people would always ask me, “What got Kaufman so interested in this stuff?” Used to politicians whose top priorities were to please their home-state business interests and raise money, they had trouble fathoming that Ted was so interested because it was the right thing to do. He believed in fair markets. And because he was genuinely concerned about emerging issues that threatened the stock market, where half of all Americans keep a sizable portion of their retirement savings.
Solyndra, Ener1, and now Kaufman Bros - The current economy may not be very good at creating jobs, even minority-focused ones, but its track record in inverse job creation is rapidly becoming second to none. Bloomberg reports that "Kaufman Bros. LP, the minority-owned investment bank that helped unwind U.S. stakes in bailed-out financial companies, ceased operations as of yesterday, according to a notice posted on its website. Chief Executive Officer Benny Lorenzo told employees that New York-based Kaufman was closing immediately in a meeting yesterday after trading closed, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Neither Lorenzo nor Chief Financial Officer Gerard Durkin returned messages left on their office and mobile phones yesterday and today." More amusing is the following description: "The company, which also has offices in San Francisco, said it was sought out by institutional investors, hedge funds and government agencies to help meet diversity goals." No comment. The closure notice can be found on the company's website. And so another bank bites the dust. Many more coming.
The real outlook of Monetary Easing vs Treasury Yields
But ballet is beset by serious ailments that threaten its future in this country...
Legendary ex-Bear commentator Sal Catrini summarizes it best: "Whether this solves our long-term problems remains to be seen, but when you flood the market with liquidity, risk assets go much higher"
Back in August when Bloomberg first scoured the depraved depths of the almost-30,000 pages of FOIA-released Fed documentation surrounding the biggest ever bailout in history, the sheer volume of the loans, ultra-low cost of funds, and lying-through-their-teeth nature of the bank CEOs was enough for some vindication of tin-foil-hat-wearing fringe blogs. In this month's Bloomberg Markets magazine, much of this is rehashed but the truly incredible part - though not entirely shocking to us - is the magnitude of the profits that the banks amassed directly as a result of these 'secret' bailouts. Almost a quarter of their entire income was generated during this period from bailout-related sub-market funds. Over $13bn profit was 'appropriated' during the crisis with Citi and BofA among the largest profiteers.