This past week has seen a continuation of market volatility unlike anything witnessed over the last several years. Of course, this volatility all coincides at a time where market participants are struggling with a global economic slowdown, pressures from China, collapsing oil prices, a lack of liquidity from the Federal Reserve and the threat of rising interest rates. It is a brew of ingredients that would have already likely toppled previous bull markets, and it is only by a hairsbreadth the current one continues to breathe.
The economic data has continued to disappoint on virtually all fronts, earnings are weak and markets are grossly extended. Yet, investors are more bullish than ever...
Anthrax Was As Important As 9/11 In "Justifying" the War on Terror, the Iraq War, and the Patriot Act
Everyone has heard of "inflation" and "deflation" and, when things go really bad and another recession is just around the corner coupled with soaring prices and plunging wages like in Japan for example, "stagflation." But have you heard about its optimistic, happy-go-lucky cousin?
As an investor, it is simply your job to step away from your "emotions" for a moment and look objectively at the market around you. Is it currently dominated by "greed" or "fear?" Your long-term returns will depend greatly not only on how you answer that question, but to manage the inherent risk. “The investor’s chief problem – and even his worst enemy – is likely to be himself.” - Benjamin Graham
Though, if history is anything to go by, it offers a potential for outsized returns
The worst thing about the government’s reckless response to the financial crisis of 2008, even worse than the trillions in taxpayer bailouts and backstops granted to the financial criminals that created the disaster, is the primary lesson that it sent to American society as a whole. Some people like to call it “moral hazard,” but in more pedestrian terms it really just boils down to: The Bad Guys Got Away with It... "The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos from a DUI suspect’s phone told investigators that he and his fellow officers have been trading such images for years, in a practice that stretches from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station."
Andy Hall - known as the God of Crude Oil Trading to some of his peers - has, according to Bloomberg, built his success on a simple creed: Everyone who disagrees with him is wrong. He was one of the few traders who anticipated both the run-up in and the eventual crash of oil prices in 2008. Hall has made billions for the companies for which he’s traded by placing one aggressive bet after another; and now, he is all-in again. Hall is going all in on a bet that the shale-oil boom will play out far sooner than many analysts expect, resulting in a steady increase in prices to as much as $150 a barrel in five years or less. As one industry CEO warned, "anybody who bets against Andy Hall might be making a poor bet."
Ssshh... The trade only works if everyone is lulled into staying on the long side until it's too late.
The trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no respect for it. Markets have been around for at least 2,000 years. Since then they have evolved in many directions, with fancy and sophisticated techniques… and elaborate systems and complicated instruments that take a PhD to understand. But despite all the brain power put into trying to figure them out, markets still surprise, confound and puzzle everyone. You’d think Janet Yellen and other central bankers would take a step back and stand in awe. Heaven and hell are full of people who thought they could take the risk out of markets. Some went broke. Some blew their brains out... others both.
Corporations continue to push the boundaries of wage and employment suppression, productivity increases and accounting gimmickry to support elevated profit margins. All of these functions are finite in nature, and despite much hope to the contrary, the current set of fundamental variables are more usually witnessed at the end of cyclical expansions rather than the beginning. With corporate profits being driven primarily by "accounting magic" rather than strongly rising revenue, the sustainability of the current level of corporate profits is in question. Fed actions leave a void in the future that must eventually be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth doesn't appear.
Beginning by disavowing Mario Gabelli of any belief that rising stock prices help 'most' people, Marc Faber discusses his increasingly imminent fears of the markets in this recent Barron's interview. Quoting Hussman as a caveat, "The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There's no calling the top," Faber warns there are a lot of questions about the quality of earnings but "statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy." His first recommendation - short the Russell 2000, buy 10-year US Treasuries ("there will be no magnificent US recovery"), and miners and adds "own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed."
In the world these days the markets often believe the rhetoric. This would be political rhetoric, corporate rhetoric or the prayers and hopes of the talking heads. This is especially true in the equity markets. Critical advice in this environment is, "forget what they tell you; just look at the numbers." So what is the Fed doing? As of July 31, 2013 they have parked $1,157 billion in foreign banks as compared with $1,112 billion in U.S. banks. To us this is a telling sign. The European banks are in trouble and the Fed is propping them up. One of the consequences of tapering, when it comes, may well be less available cash for this task and then the cracks in the European banks may well blow into gaping holes... "There is the plain fool, who does the wrong thing at all times everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks he must trade all the time."
There are lot of similarities between the 1920s and today. In fact Livermore’s quote says it all: “There is never anything new on Wall Street, because speculation is as old as the hills.” 1924-1929 bull market was rigged by stock manipulators. Ninety-some years later the market is still (or at least is perceived to be) rigged by ...