3 words... fun durr mentals!
The major sudden bear markets of the last decades were not dreaded “black swan” events at all. They were perfectly predictable, by economic logic alone, the same logic that says governments cannot manipulate market prices without creating distortions that will always, without exception, be counterproductive. In the next stock market crash, we will be told that the fault was some surprising economic or geopolitical shock. Let’s remind ourselves now that this will be false.
Due to the principal-agent problem in the asset management industry, most money managers rationally have a propensity to use a negatively skewed payoff distribution. This kind of behavior, in aggregate, is also evidenced in the historical data, which shows significant losses for professional investors during the largest market downturns. Most investors and asset allocators, in addition to these negatively skewed positions, further view the returns of hedging strategies in a vacuum, rather than as a holistic part of their broader portfolio. Thus, they are likely to consider portfolio hedging programs to be a drag on their performance numbers and further undervalue them. We believe these factors, among others, contribute to a market segmentation that creates an undervaluation in tail-risk hedges.
"Don't fall for the trap of myopically following yesterday's winners. Protect yourself, keep your powder dry, and wait for a better day. Think more about getting rich in 2020 or beyond... The Fed has turned the entire investing population into zombies (with a gambling addiction, I might add) wandering aimlessly in search of any tiny extra return to ravenously consume... This has left stock markets as elevated and overvalued as they’ve been since the dot-com mania (and more than they were in 1929 and 2007), which history has shown will likely lead to significant declines ahead."
We will readily admit that one cannot know with certainty whether the bubble in risk assets will become bigger. However, it seems to us that avoiding a big drawdown may actually be more important than gunning for whatever gains remain. We don’t think it is a good idea to simply “take the blue pill” and rely on the idea that the effects of the money illusion will last a lot longer. It is possible, but it becomes less and less likely the higher asset prices go and the more money supply growth slows down. If no-one can say when, then the “blue pill” strategy has a major weakness. It means that things could just as easily go haywire next week as next year.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"
"Bearish" Mark Spitznagel Profiting Strongly Since 2009, Warns "Only So Much Debt An Economy Can Take"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/25/2014 21:07 -0500
Mark Spitznagel, author of "Dao of Capital" and among Wall Street's most bearish investors, is (profitably) holding out for a disaster. Despite noting that "The Fed has taken it further than it has ever taken it before," NY Times reports that Spitznagel's fund Universa has profited strongly even as stocks hit record highs. Large pessimistic bets usually lose a lot of money when stocks are rising, but Universa is saying that its investment strategy has been able to produce consistent gains since then, including a 30% return last year. While ackowledging Fed policy is capable of driving stock prices higher, Spitznagel warns, it will ultimately be self-defeating, "there is only so much debt that an economy can take on."
- Ferguson in Flames (Reuters)
- Ferguson Cop Told Grand Jury He Feared for His Life (BBG)
- Sharpton: Grand Jury Announcement ‘An Absolute Blow’ (Daily Caller)
- Gunshots echo as violence returns to Ferguson, protests across U.S. (Reuters)
- BoJ members warned on costs of more easing (FT)
- Hagel Exit Shows Obama Has Taken Power Away From Pentagon (BBG)
- Ukraine leader, under pressure from West, pledges new government soon (Reuters)
- Eurozone Stagnation Poses Major Risk to Global Growth, OECD Warns (WSJ)
- ECB’s Coeure Says Officials Won’t Rush as They Debate All Assets (BBG)
The high-yield credit market remains stressed. An active week ended poorly as a heavy pipeline saw Vistaprint pull its deal citing "market conditions" as perhaps both a re-awakening of liquidity fears (Fed hawkishness concerns), price/spread moves, potential downgrades soar, and outflows signal the flashing red light that HY markets are shining is as red as ever. With buybacks having dwindled already - removing a significant leg from the equity rally - it seems CFOs are realizing that maybe they should have used some of that easy money to build as opposed to buy as they face weak growth, a lack of liquidity, and a wall of maturing debt in the next few years that will have to be refinanced at higher yields and spreads.
Mark Spitznagel: "Mises will ultimately be right yet again about the inevitable final collapse of the current asset boom brought about by credit expansion. The term “black swan” (the surprising, unforeseen event) used for bursting financial bubbles has been and will remain a misnomer - we can and, indeed, should expect such tumults to occur at some point as a consequence of massive central bank intervention and economic distortion."
Ron Paul: "As to the unwinding of this mess, I’m convinced that when the current expansion ends it will be abrupt, gigantic, and worldwide. The 43-year expansion of Fed credit and debt, delivered to us by a fiat dollar standard, and held together artificially by an undeserved trust will end badly."
We discussed the major rotation, overvaluation, and underperformance of high-yield credit markets recently as relevering stock-buying-back firms find their source of funding starting to dry up. The question is - why now? Perhaps this chart of the wall of maturing corporate debt ($3.9 trillion by 2019 which will need massive liquidity to roll-over and will eat earnings thanks to higher coupons) is what triggered the anxiety as the end of QE and start of rate-hikes looms close...
- Canada Aims to Sell Its Oil Beyond U.S (WSJ)
- ECB Unanimity May Prove Fleeting (WSJ)
- Chinese military spending exceeds $145 billion, drones advanced: U.S. (Reuters)
- France to sell 10 warships to Russia next? BNP Executive Firings Sought by Top New York Bank Regulator Amid Probe (BBG)
- Vodafone says governments have direct access to eavesdrop in some countries (Reuters)
- Home Price Gains of 20% Vanish as Hottest Markets Cool (BBG)
- G-7 Heads Warn Moscow Before Facing Putin (WSJ)
- Barclays Fine Spurs U.K. Scrutiny of Derivatives Conflict (BBG)
- "Or Costs" - Obama Says Putin Running Out of Time Over Ukraine (BBG)
- Banca Monte Paschi Falls After Offering New Stock at 35.5% Discount (BBG)
"We live in an economic age where we’ve simply lost our ability to look at the world as potentially self-organizing (and of spontaneous order - whereby order naturally emerges from bottom-up individual interactions when things are left alone rather than from top-down control), though we suspect we’ll be reminded of it again sooner rather than later. Perhaps our takeaway from economic crises will finally be different the next time around. By all means, let’s brainstorm and see if there are ways to alleviate problems and provide relief to the suffering. But any proposal that involves using coercion on unwilling citizens should be off the table. Anything else is a slippery slope to what we have today - these serial crises."
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?
To understand economics experts in Feynman’s absence, the best analogy that we can think of is to the methods of a magician. Magicians operate by showing their audience a small window on reality, and then tricking people into mentally filling in the rest incorrectly. Because the economy has so many moving parts, a similar approach also works in economics. Pundits can draw our attention to a couple of indicators, ignore everything else, and make claims that sound realistic even though they make little sense in the bigger picture. One difference between economists and magicians, though, is that economists are often unaware of their trickery because they fool themselves before fooling others. To be clear, we don’t claim to be immune to such deceptions, but we do try to root them out as best we can and will do that here. We’ll look at capital expenditures (capex), in particular...