Financial markets are broken. Fundamental analysis and Modern Portfolio Theory are relics of the past. Investors used to care about maximizing a portfolio’s expected return for a given amount of targeted risk. Fed policies have led to (investor) herd behavior that has plunged market volatilities and manipulated asset prices and correlations to lofty levels. The allure of the Fed’s magic spell has lapsed investors into a soporific state of cognitive dissonance, with them focusing more on trying to justify valuations, rather than on the Upside Downside Capture Ratio. Markets have thus mutated into one of two possible combustible states. Either financial assets have all transcended into prodigious bubbles, or stocks and bonds are signifying two completely separate outcomes. Either possibility will have dangerous repercussions for the economy, and for portfolios and investors.
Wondering why US and European stocks knee-jerked higher in the last hour - wonder no more. JPMorgan released a report stating they expect the ECB to ease next week, masking some policy changes next week to make TLTROs more attractive and even a slight disappointment in data may trigger sovereign QE (30% chance next week and 50% by year-end). Of course, the kicker in all of this discussion of QE is that the ECB is already doing it - willing to buy whetever bonds European banks buy via repo agreements (with no haircut) - and with yields already at record lows (or negative) in the face of record-high 'real' financing costs for non-financials, the exuberance appears misplaced.
With the FOMC Minutes in the books, the only remaining major event for the week is the Jackson Hole conference, where Yellen is now expected to talk back any Hawkish aftertaste left from the Minutes, and which starts today but no speeches are due until tomorrow. And while the Minutes were generally seen as hawkish, stocks continue to levitate, blissfully oblivious what tighter monetary conditions would mean to an asset bubble, which according to many, is now the biggest in history. And speaking of equities, US futures climbed to a fresh record high overnight on just the right mix of bad news.
Why can't, or rather won't, the Fed let the bubble market collapse once again? Simple - as the following chart shows, the illusion of wealth is now most critical when preserving the myth of the welfare state: some 50% of all US pension fund assets are invested in stocks and only 20% in Treasurys.
The global monetary system is diverging and fraying. Central bank post-crisis quasi-coordination has broken down. Initially, foreign central banks unhappily followed the Fed in cutting rates toward zero; or else risked an appreciating currency affecting competitiveness. As domestic challenges developed and the Fed initiated ‘tapering’, many central banks pushed rates back up. Developed world economies have grown from around 30% of global GDP 20 years ago to 50% today. This improvement has helped motivate the unfolding of a new international economic order between developed and developing world economies.
Practically since the day Lehman went down in September 2008 Washington has been conducting a monumental farce. It has been pretending to up-root the causes of the thundering financial crisis which struck that month and to enact measures insuring that it would never happen again. In fact, however, official policy has done just the opposite. The Fed’s massive money printing campaign has perpetuated and drastically enlarged the Wall Street casino, making the pre-crisis gamblers in CDOs, CDS and other derivatives appear like pikers compared to the present momentum chasing madness. In a nutshell, the Fed’s prolonged regime of ZIRP and wealth effects based “puts” under risk assets has destroyed two-way markets.
There are many ways to look at the United States government debt, obligations, and assets. But TrimTabs's Charles Biderman cuts straight to the bottom line and add it all up - $89.5 trillion in liabilities and $82 trillion in assets. There. It’s not a secret anymore, and although these are all government numbers, for some strange reason the government never adds them all together or explains them - but we will. No one can really know what will have value in this politicized crony capitalistic system as the hyper-monetization ramps up... all I can suggest is to hedge your bets with some physical precious metals and some minimal leveraged real estate. Unfortunately, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know... invest and live accordingly.
Economic laws are not optional. They are like the laws of physics - inexorable!
The Money Market "gates" which we predicted in January 2010 are coming, have finally arrived.
Today we’re going to explain what the “final outcome” for this process will be. The short version is what happens to a cancer patient who allows the disease to spread unchecked (death).
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win." Mahatma Gandhi
"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics... but it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." - Murray Rothbard
Ever since 2012, when we first revealed that the biggest problem plaguing Europe's financial sector is the $2 trillion+ in bad debt on the books of European banks (not our numbers, the IMF's), it became clear that the only way Europe can avoid a complete financial meltdown coupled with currency disintegration, is if it can constantly keep rolling over said bad debt (obviously the only way to do that would be to create an epic debt bubble leading managers of other people's money to do idiotic things like buy Spanish debt at 2.75%). This is why not only the BOJ launched its mega QE in 2013, but why Draghi also kicked in with NIRP a month ago: the logic - do anything and everything to reflate the biggest credit bubble possible as otherwise European banks will have no choice but to face up to their trillions in bad loans.
The boom is unsustainable. Investment and consumption are higher than they would have been in the absence of monetary intervention. As asset bubbles inflate, yields increase, but so do inflation expectations. To dampen inflation expectations, the Fed withdraws stimulus. As soon as asset prices start to fall, yields on heavily leveraged assets are negative. As asset prices decline, increasingly more investors are underwater. Loan defaults rise as mortgage payments adjust up with rising interest rates. When asset bubbles pop, the boom becomes the bust.
The American financial establishment has an incredible ability to celebrate the inconsequential while ignoring the vital. Last week, while the Wall Street Journal pondered how the Fed may set interest rates three to four years in the future (an exercise that David Stockman rightly compared to debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin), the media almost completely ignored one of the most chilling pieces of financial news that I have ever seen. According to a small story in the Financial Times, some Fed officials would like to require retail owners of bond mutual funds to pay an "exit fee" to liquidate their positions. Come again? That such a policy would even be considered tells us much about the current fragility of our bond market and the collective insanity of layers of unnecessary regulation.