A month ago we presented a must read interview by Swiss Finanz und Wirtschaft with respected value investor Howard Marks, in which, when explaining the motives driving rational investing he summarized simply, "in the end, the devil always wins." Today, we are happy to bring our readers the following interview with one of our favorite strategists, GMO's James Montier, in which true to form, Montier packs no punches, and says that the market is now overvalued by 50% to 70%, adding that there is "nothing at all" that has an attractive valuation, and that he sees a "hideous opportunity set."
Yellen’s press conference was panned by some as confusing and ambiguous. The press conference was not as “boring” as some have stated, because the FOMC (represented by Yellen) now appears to be struggling between theory and practice. This marks a significant shift from the majority of members who had almost entirely been relying on models (theory). The one thing that seemed perfectly clear is that the Fed plans to continue to unwind the QE program barring some type of disaster. After that, we will all have to reassess and see how things unfold...“Theory is when you understand everything, but nothing works. Practice is when everything works, but nobody understands why. When theory and practice are untied, nothing works and nobody understands why.”
A dispassionate discussion of the major forces impacting the investment climate in the week ahead.
Today's nonfarm payroll number is set to be a virtual non-event: with consensus expecting an abysmal print, it is almost assured that the real seasonally adjusted number (and keep in mind that the average February seasonal adjustment to the actual number is 1.5 million "jobs" higher) will be a major beat to expectations, which will crash the "harsh weather" narrative but who cares. Alternatively, if the number is truly horrendous, no problem there either: just blame it on the cold February... because after all what are seasonal adjustments for? Either way, whatever the number, the algos will send stocks higher - that much is given in a blow off top bubble market in which any news is an excuse to buy more. So while everyone is focused on the NFP placeholder, the real key event that nobody is paying attention to took place in China, where overnight China’s Shanghai Chaori Solar defaulted on bond interest payments, failing to repay CNY 89.9mln (USD 14.7mln), as had been reported here extensively previously. This marked the first domestic corporate bond default in the country's history - indicating a further shift toward responsibility and focus on moral hazard in China.
Though many may reckon the U.S. government (and its Deep State) are not so much incompetent as merely evil, we suggest incompetence sows the seeds of evil consequences. Why is our government so incompetent? Short answer: because incompetence has been fully institutionalized in every branch, every agency and every nook and cranny of the state.
The word “tantrums” referenced in the title was the paper’s attempt to explain adverse market reactions, e.g., last year’s reaction from ‘taper-talk’. The authors stated that risk premiums can jump quickly, simply because non-bank market participants (read: mutual funds) are motivated by their peer performance rank. The authors had 3 subsequent conclusions: 1) the relative peerperformance race causes momentum in return; 2) return chasing can reverse sharply; and 3) changes in the stance of monetary policy can trigger heavy fund inflows and outflows. These conclusions partially explain (empirically) the herd mentality and momentum in recent years behind tight credit spreads and elevated equity prices. Investors are so fearful of missing the upside and underperforming peers that they frantically scramble to remain ahead of them (i.e., seek risk). However, the conference and paper suggests that there is a threshold point during the Fed’s attempt to normalize policy where the tide reverses and investors join in a selloff in a race to avoid being left behind. This is why I’ve been calling it the greater fool theory. The most surprising part of the conference was Rubin’s keynote speech. Rather than speak about Washington’s messy politics or such, he basically gave a speech that criticized and questioned Fed policy.
The following exchange between then-Kansas Fed president (and current FDIC director) Thomas Hoenig and the Chairsatan, uttered during the historic Sept 16, 2008 FOMC meeting, is of particular importance for four reasons: 1) it appears to be the first instance in the Fed records, where the phrase "too big to fail" is memorialized; 2) it highlights something that has become all too clear by now: in giving to a culture of moral hazard, the Fed is now being openly "played" by the market (read the big banks); 3) it confirms that the Fed has learned zero lessons from the crisis and 4) the thinking behind the "Bernanke (global) Put" is laid out for all to see.
The entire banking sector is based on two illusions: 1) Thanks to modern portfolio management, bank debt is now riskless; and 2) Technology only enhances banks' tools to skim profits; it does not undermine the fundamental role of banks. The global financial meltdown of 2008-09 definitively proved riskless bank debt is an illusion. It's not just that banks are no longer needed - they pose a needless and potentially catastrophic risk to the nation. To understand why, we need to understand the key characteristics of risk.
"The Pig In The Python Is About To Be Expelled": A Walk Thru Of China's Hard Landing, And The Upcoming Global Harder ResetSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/21/2014 10:37 -0400
The die has been cast, and it appears that the world is finally on the path to the great "carry-trade unwind" endgame. If so, this is what it will look like...
... We know how "difficult" it was for China to do the wrong thing when it bailed out two insolvent shadow bank Trusts and encourage moral hazard, despite repeated assurances by one after another PBOC director that this time the central bank means business, we have good news: these two narrowly averted Trust defaults are just the beginning - it is all downhill from here.
As we showed over the weekend, it is abundantly clear that for all the talk of reform, Chinese authorities have found the gap between words and deeds uncrossable. First, Chinese authorities bailed out the relatively small CEG#1 Trust (for fear of contagion); second, the PBOC injects CNY 375 bn into short-term repo to save banks from a liquidity crisis at year-end; third, total social financing rose by the largest amount on record in January (despite all the talk of deleveraging following the Plenum); and now, fourth, thanks to a CNY 2bn loan (to an entirely insolvent coal company), Chinese authorities have bailed out a 2nd wealth-management product - this time even smaller - piling on the moral hazard.
As Deutsche Bank revealed in a note overnight, the GCC may have, quite deliberately, opened a Pandora's Box with its decision which according to Europe's largest bank, and the one whose derivatives exposure makes that of JPM pale by comparison, (i) made it clear it regards OMT as exceeding the competences granted to the ECB by the European Treaty and that (ii) would not consider itself bound by a positive ruling of the European Court of Justice. And while in DB's opinion this action does not have any immediate market consequences, the report's authors think that it "alters substantially the level of insurance we could expect from the ECB against any return of sovereign turmoil."
As China Orders Its Smaller Banks To Load Up On Cash, Is The Biggest Ever "Unlimited QE" About To Be Unleashed?Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/10/2014 12:46 -0400
The Chinese new year may be over which following a last minute bailout of its insolvent Credit Equals Gold Trust product was largely uneventful, but already concerns about domestic liquidity are once again rising to the surface following reports that China’s banking regulator ordered some of the nation’s smaller lenders to set aside more funds to avoid a cash shortfall, which as Bloomberg notes signal rising concern that defaults may climb. Which brings us to the question du jour: is the PBOC is laying the groundwork for what developed markets would call an open-ended liquidity injection which can be use to bail out one and all banks on an a la carte basis. Or, in the parlance of our times, the biggest QE bazooka of all because with total banking assets of nearly $25 trillion, said bazooka better be ready to fire at a moment's notice?
No-one knows for sure how big a problem China's economy will eventually face due to the massive credit and money supply growth that has occurred in recent years and no-one know when exactly it will happen either. There have been many dire predictions over the years, but so far none have come true. And yet, it is clear that there is a looming problem of considerable magnitude that won't simply go away painlessly. The greatest credit excesses have been built up after 2008, which suggests that there can be no comfort in the knowledge that 'nothing has happened yet'. Given China's importance to the global economy, it seems impossible for this not to have grave consequences for the rest of the world, in spite of China's peculiar attributes in terms of government control over the economy and the closed capital account.
It's that time again, when a largely random, statistically-sampled, weather-impacted, seasonally-adjusted, and finally goalseeked number, sets the mood in the market for the next month: we are talking of course about the "most important ever" once again non-farm payroll print, and to a lesser extent the unemployment rate which even the Fed has admitted is meaningless in a time when the participation rate is crashing (for the "philosophy" of why it is all the context that matters in reading the jobs report, see here). Adding to the confusion, or hilarity, or both, is that while everyone knows it snowed in December and January, Goldman now warns that... it may have been too hot! To wit: "We expect a weather-related boost to January payroll job growth because weather during the survey week itself - which we find is most relevant to a given month's payroll number - was unusually mild." In other words, if the number is abnormally good - don't assume more tapering, just blame it on the warm weather!