From a valuation perspective, Chinese equities do not, at first glance, look to be a likely candidate for trouble. The PE ratios are either 12 or 15 times on MSCI China, depending on whether you include financials or not, and do not scream 'bubble'. And yet, China has been a source of worry for GMO over the past three years and continues to be one. China scares them because it looks like a bubble economy. Understanding these kinds of bubbles is important because they represent a situation in which standard valuation methodologies may fail. Just as financial stocks gave a false signal of cheapness before the GFC because the credit bubble pushed their earnings well above sustainable levels and masked the risks they were taking, so some valuation models may fail in the face of the credit, real estate, and general fixed asset investment boom in China, since it has gone on long enough to warp the models' estimation of what "normal" is. Of course, every credit bubble involves a widening divergence between perception and reality. China's case is not fundamentally different. In GMO's extensive discussion below, they have documented rapid credit growth against the background of a nationwide property bubble, the worst of Asian crony lending practices, and the appearance of a voracious and unstable shadow banking system. "Bad" credit booms generally end in banking crises and are followed by periods of lackluster economic growth. China appears to be heading in this direction.
China Narrowly Averts Credit Bubble Pop With Latest Government Bailout Of First Domestic Bond DefaultSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/23/2013 10:58 -0400
A Chinese solar firm which nearly produced the country's first domestic bond default will complete an interest payment on schedule after a local government intervened on its behalf. Investors say the latest instance of a government riding to the rescue of a troubled Chinese firm has led to moral hazard and inefficient credit allocation. In previous near-defaults, local governments had stepped in directly to arrange bailout funding. But as in past cases, the deal flouts legal notions of debt seniority by allowing one group of creditors - bondholders - to get paid in full, even as a pre-existing default remains un-cured. Analysts say the market does not effectively price in risk because investors assume the government will never allow a default.
According to “Economics 101”, quantitative easing, on the heroic scale we have witnessed thus far, should already have led to rampant if not hyper inflation. That it hasn’t is down to the continuing decline in the velocity of circulation of money. In simple terms the banks aren’t lending (compared with the amount of money available to them), but instead are punting on financial assets, which is where “inflation” is ending up and benefitting their balance sheets. Markets generally front run the economy, but if, as many folk believe, including our commentator above, that quantitative easing has been a failure from the start, then why are equity markets indicating an upturn in economic activity? At the end of the day, if the central banks continue to believe they have no other option than money printing and you can put up with the volatility, it’s all aboard the equity train. Bond yields won’t rise much either; if at all. The gold price should give some indication of whether this strategy is working or not, but that is a market that is far easier to rig than sovereign debt – the Germans seem to think so as they contemplate repatriating some of their bullion held by other central banks.
The fundamental Keynesian project is that the Central State and Central Bank should manage market forces whenever the market turns down. In other words, the market only "works" when everything is expanding: credit, profits, GDP and employment. Once any of those turn down, the State and Central Bank "should" intervene to force the market back into "growth." The sharper the downturn, the greater the State/Central Bank intervention. This accounts for the martial analogies of State/CB responses: "bazookas," "nuclear option," etc., as the market is overwhelmed with ever greater fiscal/monetary firepower. After basically voiding the market's ability to price risk and assets, the Keynesians believe the market will naturally resume pricing risk and assets at "acceptable to Central Planning" levels once fiscal and monetary stimulus is dialed back. Keynesian policy is to punish capital accumulation and reward leveraged debt expansion. Rather than enforce the market's discipline and transparent pricing of risk, debt and assets, Keynesians have explicitly set out to re-inflate destructive, massively unproductive credit bubbles. The entire Keynesian Project, however, has numerous blindspots.
By the Deceptive means of Misinformation and Manipulation of economic data the Federal Reserve has set the stage for broad based moral hazard. Through Distortions caused by Malpractice and Malfeasance, a raft of Unintended Consequences have now changed the economic and financial fabric of America likely forever. The Federal Reserve policies of Quantitative Easing and Negative real interest rates, across the entire yield curve, have been allowed to go on so long that Mispricing and Malinvestment has reached the level that markets are effectively Delusional. Markets have become Dysfunctional concerning the pricing of risk and risk adjusted valuations. Fund Managers can no longer use even the Fed's own Valuation Model which is openly acknowledged to be broken.
"Finally, we must question the morality of Fed programs that trick people (as if they were Pavlov's dogs) into behaviors that are adverse to their own long-term best interest. What kind of government entity cajoles savers to spend, when years of under-saving and over-spending have left the consumer in terrible shape? What kind of entity tricks its citizens into paying higher and higher prices to buy stocks? What kind of entity drives the return on retiree's savings to zero for seven years (2008-2015 and counting) in order to rescue poorly managed banks? Not the kind that should play this large a role in the economy."
It is oddly ironic that on the day the US bailout of AIG is complete, and with a "profit" at that, the spin goes, even if the spin ignores that the "profit" was only purchased at the expense of trillions in sovereign debt issuance and near immediate monetization by the Fed, which has onboarded a mindbogling amount of duration risk (from under $500MM in DV01 in 2008 to over $2.5 billion currently, but nobody will discuss this issue as few if any grasp just how much risk exposure the Fed has shifted away from entities such as AIG), that we learn just how far the abuse of virtually free taxpayer funds goes. Only instead of some US government apparatchiks blowing through billions in some concrete government building in downtown D.C., we go to the birthplace of Mozart, in Salzburg, Austria to learn that a "civil servant gambled hundreds of millions of euros of taxpayers' money on high-risk derivatives."
Two critical developments give us clues that the days of Central Bank intervention holding the system together are coming to an end.
Just maybe the Greek bailout saga is drawing to a close. While markets set expectations, we now move towards the true impact of what this final deal will do for both Greece and the EU as a whole. Moral hazard is set to be released again, and we get a chance to glimpse the true impact…
Those looking for fundamental newsflow and/or facts to justify the latest bout of overnight risk exuberance will not find it. To be sure, among the few economic indicators reported overnight in the Thanksgiving shortened week, European construction output for September tumbled -1.4% from August, after rising 0.6% previously. How long until Europe copycats the latest US foreclosure sequestration, "demand pull" gimmick and gives hedge funds risk free loans to buy up housing (aka REO-to-Rent)? More importantly, and confirming that Spain is far, far from a positive inflection point, Spanish bad loans rose to a new record high of 10.7%. This was the the highest level since the records began in 1962. The total value of these loans was €182.2 billion ($233 billion) in September, according to the Bank of Spain (more on this shortly). The relentless rise indicates that the Spanish bad bank rescue fund will be woefully insufficient and will need to be raised again and again. So while there was nothing in the facts to make investors happy, traders looked to hope and prayer, instead pushing risk higher on the much overplayed Friday "news" that politicians are willing to compromise in the cliff (which as we reported was merely a market ramping publicity stunt by Nancy Pelosi et al), and that Greece may be saved at tomorrow's Eurogroup meeting, for the third time. That this will be difficult is an understatement, with the Dutch finance minister saying no final decisions on Greece should be expected, and his German counterpart adding that a Greek debt writeoff is "inconceivable." In other words, even hoping for hope is a stretch, but the market is doing it nonetheless.
With the EU searching for any foothold, the U.S. looks poised to follow the Europeans into the fiscal abyss. The U.S. election season is over and the markets have refocused their attention to the looming “fiscal cliff”.
You cannot "reform" away the dysfunction of the Greek Status Quo without dismantling the vested interests and the ruling Elites that benefit from the Status Quo. The same can be said of the Status Quo everywhere from the U.S. to China.
With the US elections approaching next week, as well as the threat of another fiscal cliff showdown looming, we look at how the expansive Central State has come to dominate both private society (i.e., the community) and the marketplace, to the detriment of the nation’s social and economic stability. We examine six critical dynamics that will lead to the devolution of Peak Government. "Governments, desperate for more revenues, ignore public resentment and loss of trust, which only deepens the disconnect between those in government and the public. And the private citizenry sees a lack of accountability, soaring public debt, accounting trickery, political dysfunction, and mal-investment of public funds as the hallmarks of their government."
A PhD super being from outer space...