While Paul Singer, Kyle Bass, and Stan Druckenmiller got the headlines, there were in total 14 worthwhile speakers at yesterday's Ira Sohn conference. Though many of the themes were unsurprising, it is nonetheless useful to compare your own views to those of these professional money managers, many of whom are now bludgeoned daily by the 'idiot-maker' rally... of course, that is, until they are proved 100% correct.
When three hedge fund titans all explain in words so simple a financial media channel morning show host can grasp that there is nothing behind this rally but smoke, mirrors, and a bearded academic, it seems more than a few people start to pay attention. Following Paul Singer and Kyle Bass, Stanley Druckenmiller "loves the market short-term, but hates it long-term," since Bernanke is "running the most inappropriate monetary policy in history." He warns, for it is a warning, that "markets will melt up," until the Fed is forced to tighten. He recommends shorting the AUD, and sees the commodity super-cycle as over, because, "supply-demand... is deadly." He also likes Google but not "tech companies that engage in financial engineering under advice of hedge fund managers."
Today's star-studded Ira Sohn conference was led by two behemoths - Elliott's Paulk Singer and Hayman's Kyle Bass. We recently discussed in detail Paul Singer's perspective on the "most dangerous" investing environment but today he summarized and added to those comments at the Ira Sohn conference. "There is no safe haven in today's markets," he explained, "those holding long-term bonds in US, UK, and Japan own assets that are trading at the wrong price," and went on with more brutal honesty, QE causes a distorted recovery - financiers doing well, ordinary person not experiencing recovery. Kyle Bass also stuck to the script noting that in Japan "mindsets are changing - the beginning of the end has begun," and exclaiming in his subtle and forthright manner, "you have to be shitting me, you're adding a ponzi scheme to a ponzi scheme." We leave the summation up to Singer, "the ultimate question for a fiat money regime is at what point does confidence in money disappear?"
Ex-Soros Advisor Sells "Almost All" Japan Holdings, Shorts Bonds; Sees Market Crash, Default And HyperinflationSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/14/2013 20:24 -0500
Former Soros' Japan advisor Fujimaki takes center stage: “The volatility in the JGB market as well as the fact that there is large selling represent fear among investors,” Fujimaki said. “They are early signs of a larger selloff and we should continue to monitor the moves in the long-term bonds.” Fujimaki said he recently bought put options for Japanese government bonds of various maturities, without elaborating. He continues to hold real estate in Japan and options granting the right to sell the yen against the greenback expiring in less than five years. He also holds assets in U.S. dollars and currencies of other developed nations. "Japan’s finance is sinking into the ocean,” Fujimaki said. “There’s no escape from a market crash in the future when you have such enormous debt.” “By expanding the monetary base to 270 trillion yen, the BOJ is making a huge bet which I think it will ultimately lose,” Fujimaki said in an interview in Tokyo on April 11. “Kuroda’s QE announcement is declaring double suicide with the government. The BOJ will have to share the country’s fate and default together. Shirakawa did more than enough and he had good reasons to not do any more,” said Fujimaki. “There will be tremendous side effects from monetary stimulus. QE doesn’t work and has no exit... Things may look rosy for now as stocks rise, but should we see hyper-inflation, JGBs will see a huge selloff, leading to a stock market crash,” said Fujimaki, adding that he sold “almost all” of his Japanese stock holdings some time ago.
For the fourth day in a row, Japanese bond futures markets were halted due to significant (and rapid) price movements. Three of the four halts have been on downside shifts (with the upside surge driven by the BoJ's first attempt at monetization). The daily ranges in longer-dated JGBs are incredible and certainly the last word one would use to describe the quadrillion Yen Japanese bond market since the BoJ's announcement is 'orderly'. As Kyle Bass noted, the volatility in JGBs will be the gauge of the market's qualitative perception that Abenomics can succeed; for now it appears, with longer-dated JGB yields at pre-BoJ levels, having exploded 30-40bps off the lows, and short-dated JGB yields soaring to 11-month highs, things look a little out of control.
"The stress is beginning to show," Kyle Bass warns during a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg TV. "The beginning of the end," is here for Japanese government bonds as he notes that while quantitiavely it is clear they are insolvent, "the qualitative perception of participants is changing." But away from Japan specifically, there is a lot more on the Texan's mind. "Things go from perfectly stable to completely unstable," very quickly; even more so after 20 years of exponential debt build-up and Keynesian cover-ups; and it is this that he warns complacent investors that it is "really important to think about the capital at risk in your strategy." For this reason he prefers to hold gold rather than Treasuries, as, "when you think about the largest central banks in the world, they have all moved to unlimited printing ideology. Monetary policy happens to be the only game in town. I am perplexed as to why gold is as low as it is. I don't have a great answer for you other than you should maintain a position." His discussion varies from housing's recovery to structured credit liquidity "money is being misallocated by the printing press" and the future of the GSEs, concluding with the rather ominous, "at some point in time, I would much rather would own gold than paper. I just don't know when that time is."
While Kyle Bass notably remarks that pinpointing the end of a 70-year debt super-cycle is naive, the combination of the resurgence of nationalism (impacting trade with China) and the dreadful impact of the earthquake/tsunami (drastically changing Japan's supply chain) has secularly shifted Japan's trade balance for the worst at a time when the current account is already negative. "They are all in denial," Bass notes as the government has failed to deal with its problems over the last 20 years. Simply put, Japan needs a Schumpeterian 'creative destruction' moment instead of the constant rolling of debts and expanding of government balance sheets to paper over the cracks. The 'moment' feels like it is now, he notes, expanding that "JPY could hit 200," as they lose control; following two decades of volatility-smoothing, the chance of a disorderly collapse are high. Critically, he fears, "the social fabric of Japan will tear," as with one-third of the nations at retirement age, the fallout from the policies of Abe-Kuroda could cause them to "lose 30-50% of their life savings." What is perhaps even more concerning, he adds, "you are starting to see the central banks not trust each other." At a certain point in time, "nationalist interest takes over the global [G7] kumbaya," and that is occurring now. "The insidious nature of a runaway inflation is that it bankrupts the middle class... leading to social unrest globally."
In just a few short minutes, inspired by Kyle Bass, Addogram presents a short visual explanation of Japan's debt problem. In the time it takes Ben Bernanke to print $13.7 million you'll have a deep understanding of Aso, Abe, and Kuroda's impending debt crisis.
As the fast-money flabber-mouths stare admiringly at the rise in nominal prices of Japanese (and the rest of the world ex-China) stock prices amid soaring sales of wheelbarrows following Kuroda's 'shock-and-awe' last night, it is Kyle Bass who brings these surrealists back to earth with some cold-hard-facting. Out of the gate Bass explains the massive significance of what the Japanese are embarking on, "they are essentially doubling the monetary base by the end of 2104." It is a "Giant Experiment," he warns, but when you are backed into a corner and your debts are north of 20 times your government tax revenue, "you're already insolvent." Simply put, Bass says they have to do something and they have to something big because they are "about to implode under the weight of their debt." For a sense of the scale of the BoJ's 'experimentation', Bass sums it up perfectly (and concerningly), "the BoJ is monetizing at a rate around 75% of the Fed on an economy that is one-third the size of the US!"
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.
As Citi's Todd Elmer notes, today's BoJ outcome looks far closer to 'shock and awe' than disappointment. It appears the BoJ's actions may speak as loud as their words for now - JPY is weakening and the Nikkei is rallying after Kuroda's last shot at a first impression appeared to beat expectations (covering for disappointing macro data - despite six months of jawboning and a 20% devaluation). Expectations, though tough to extract given the range of possible actions, appeared centered on extending maturities of bond purchases, increasing the size (median expectations of around JPY5.2tn per month or 50% higher than in Q1), bringing forward the open-ended nature of the program, and increasing scope to foreign bonds and REITs. In his effort to do "whatever it takes", the BoJ is upping asset purchases, extending the maturity of purchases and merging its asset purchase program; increasing the size to JPY7tn and buy securities out to 40 years. Though no mention of foreign bond-buying was made, and increase in ETFs and REITs is included. They have given themselves a two-year window to achieve the 2% inflation goal - paging Kyle Bass - and ironically, as the news broke Tokyo was hit by a significant earthquake.
Bloomberg reported recently that Russia is now the world's biggest gold buyer, its central bank having added 570 tonnes (18.3 million troy ounces) over the past decade. At $1,650/ounce, that's $30.1 billion worth of gold. Russia isn't alone, of course. Central banks as a group have been net buyers for at least two years now. But the 2012 data trickling out shows that the amount of tonnage being added is breaking records. Based on current data, the net increase in central bank gold buying for 2012 was 14.8 million troy ounces – and that's before the final 2012 figures are in for all countries. This is a dramatic increase, one bigger than most investors probably realize. To put it in perspective, on a net basis, central banks added more to their reserves last year than since 1964. The net increase – so far – is 17% greater than what was added in 2011, which was itself a year of record buying. The message from central banks is clear: they expect the dollar to move inexorably lower. It doesn't matter that it's been holding up against other currencies or that the economy might be getting better. They're buying gold in record amounts because they see a significant shift coming with the status of the dollar, and they need to protect themselves against that risk. Embrace the messages central bankers are telling us – the ones they tell with their actions, not their words.
While chart analogs provide optically pleasing (and often far too shockingly correct) indications of the human herd tendencies towards fear and greed, a glance through the headlines and reporting of prior periods can provide just as much of a concerning 'analog' as any chart. In this case, while a picture can paint a thousand words; a thousand words may also paint the biggest picture of all. It seems, socially and empirically, it is never different this time as these 1936 Wall Street Journal archives read only too well... from devaluations lifting stocks to inflationary side-effects of money flow and from short-covering, money-on-the-sidelines, Jobs, Europe, low-volume ramps, BTFD, and profit-taking, to brokers advising stocks for the long-run before a 40% decline.
Kyle Bass, addressing Chicago Booth's Initiative on Global Markets last week, clarified his thesis on Japan in great detail, but it was the Q&A that has roused great concern. "The AIG of the world is back - I have 27 year old kids selling me one-year jump risk on Japan for less than 1bp - $5bn at a time... and it is happening in size." As he explains, the regulatory capital hit for the bank is zero (hence as great a return on capital as one can imagine) and "if the bell tolls at the end of the year, the 27-year-old kid gets a bonus... and if he blows the bank to smithereens, ugh, he got a paycheck all year." Critically, the bank that he bought the 'cheap options' from recently called to ask if he would close the position - "that happened to me before," he warns, "in 2007 right before mortgages cracked." His single best investment idea for the next ten years is, "Sell JPY, Buy Gold, and go to sleep," as he warns of the current situation in markets, "we are right back there! The brevity of financial memory is about two years."
It has been a few years since Kyle Bass suggested the 'nickel trade' and the idea remains as profitable for those with large wheel-barrows now as it ever was. As Bloomberg notes, the penny currently costs almost 2 cents to make and the nickel more than 10 cents - more than double the cost from 2006. In those seven years, the US taxpayer has lost a stunning $436 million thanks to the inflationary devaluation of the USD relative to the metals involved, and while a former Arizona congressman (Jim Kolbe) tried to sponsor a bill to abolish the penny (to save the cost of minting), President Obama noted that "given all the big issues, we're not able to get to it," even as the Canadian Mint just stopped distributing pennies - saving $11mm annually. It seems, while the production process may have costs, the 100% markup for pennies and nickels remains an intriguing disconnect.