Having singularly failed to reform or restructure their dilapidated economies, many governments throughout the West have left it to their central banks to keep a now exhausted credit bubble to inflate further. Unprecedented monetary stimulus and the suppression of interest rates have now boxed both central bankers and many investors into a corner. Bond markets now have no value but could yet get even more delusional in terms of price and yield. Stock markets are looking increasingly irrational relative to the health of their underlying economies. The euro zone looks set to re-enter recession and now expects the ECB to unveil outright quantitative easing. If the West wishes to regain its economic vigour versus Asia, it would do well to remember what made it so culturally and economically exceptional in the first place. We seem to be close to the endgame.
As a reminder, this kind of market action is neither normal or healthy longer term and has only seen near historical major market peaks. Of course, timing is everything. With the current influx of liquidity coming to an end in October, combined with a plan to start to increasing interest rates in 2015, the Fed has clearly begun to signal the end of 5 years of ultra-accommodative policies. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not the economy is actually strong enough to be removed from "life support?" This weekend's "Things To Ponder" is just a smattering of interesting articles cover a wide range of topics that I hope you will find interesting, informative and contemplative.
Six weeks ago we highlighted how "screwed" Las Vegas is as the ongoing 14-year drought weighs on water levels. Today, AP reports, Lake Mead - the main source of fresh water for Las Vegas and its 40 million visitors - just hit record low levels at 1080 feet. Most concerning - at 1,000 feet, drinking water intakes will no longer function and Las Vegas will go dry. As analysts concluded previously, "unless it can find a way to get more water from somewhere, Las Vegas is out of business. Yet they’re still building, which is stupid."
- EU to weigh extensive sanctions on Russia (FT)
- U.S. lifts flight ban to Israel (Reuters)
- Russia says will cooperate with MH17 probe led by Netherlands (Reuters)
- Norway faces ‘concrete and credible’ terrorist threat (FT)
- Don’t Tell Anybody About This Story on HFT Power Jump Trading (BBG)
- But... but... PMI: Unilever Sales Growth Misses Estimates on Asian Slowdown (BBG)
- World’s Biggest Wealth Fund Reviews $8 Billion Russian Stake (BBG)
- Qualcomm latest US tech company to reverse in China (FT)
- Hamptons Home Sales Rise as Buyers Find More Inventory (BBG)
- U.S. Plans to Hit Putin Inner Circle With New Sanctions (BBG)
- Russian Billions Scattered Abroad Show Trail to Putin Circle (BBG)
- GE’s Alstom Bid Gains Steam as Hollande Said Not Opposed (BBG)
- Russia-West tensions pressure stocks, buoy oil prices (Reuters)
- Toyota Said to Plan to Move U.S. Sales Office to Texas (BBG)
- Egyptian court seeks death sentence for Brotherhood leader, 682 supporters (Reuters)
- Greece warned of 14.9 billion euro financing gap (FT)
- Comcast to shed 3.9 million subscribers to ease cable deal (Reuters)
- Big U.S. Banks Make Swaps a Foreign Affair (WSJ)
- Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels, Putin warns of consequences (Reuters)
- Obama to Russia: More sanctions are 'teed up' (AP)
- Vienna Banks Bemoan Russia Sanctions Testing Cold War Neutrality (BBG)
- GE’s $57 Billion Cash Overseas Said to Fuel Alstom Deal (BBG)
- GM posts lower first-quarter profit after recall costs (Reuters)
- Apple Stock Split Removes Obstacle to Inclusion in Dow (BBG)
- U.S. regulators to propose new net neutrality rules in May (Reuters)
Allergan on Tuesday night said that its board of directors had adopted a one-year stockholder rights plan to give it more time to consider takeover proposals. The Valeant offer was made with Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund, which built up a stake in the company. The chief executive officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which made a $47 billion unsolicited offer for competitor Allergan Inc. on Tuesday, said during an interview on CNBC that he was "disappointed" with Allergan's so-called poison pill. "We are disappointed but on the other hand, I think this deal will get done," Valeant CEO Michael Pearson said on Wednesday.
- Russia says expects answers on NATO troops in eastern Europe (Reuters)
- Dealers say GM customer anxiety rising, sales may take hit (Reuters)
- China Unveils Mini-Stimulus Measure (WSJ)
- Londoners Priced Out of Housing Blame Foreigners (BBG)
- New earthquake in Chile prompts tsunami alerts (Reuters)
- Ukrainian Billionaire Charged by U.S. With Bribe Scheme (BBG)
- Chinese Investments in U.S. Commercial Real Estate Surges (BBG)
- Old Math Casts Doubt on Accuracy of Oil Reserve Estimates (BBG)
- US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest (AP)
- Why did Yellen use criminals in her employment case studies? Hilsenrath explainz (Hilsenrath)
- GM avoided defective switch redesign in 2005 to save a dollar each (Reuters)
- Xuzhou Zhongsen Said to Avert Bond Default on Guarantor Aid (BBG)
- France's New Finance Minister Faces Fiscal Challenge (WSJ)
- The magic is gone: Draghi’s Attempt to Talk Down Euro Lost on Traders (BBG)
- Another John Kerry smashing success: U.S. Gambit on Mideast Peace Talks Falters (WSJ)
- Combat-Ready China Military Seen as Xi’s Goal in Graft Battle (BBG)
- Huge earthquake off Chile's north coast triggers tsunami (Reuters)
- Pressure rises on Gross as investors pull $3.1 billion from Pimco's flagship fund (Reuters)
In the WSJ’s February 24th exposé of the turmoil at the helm of Pimco, we saw a curious bit about tension at “the Beach” increasing in the summer of 2013. During this period, according to the Journal, conflict between then co-CIOs Bill Gross and Mohamed E-Erian became apparent to staff, and Gross restricted trading at the firm. We wanted to see what insights a quantitative analysis of Pimco Total Return Fund (PTTRX) could offer about the summer and Total Return’s recent performance, a topic of increasing scrutiny amongst the investment community.
Following last week's discovery that Mohamed El-Erian was "sick of cleaning up [Bill Gross's] shit" as tensions soared at PIMCO, the "bond king" has struck back blasting to Reuters that he's "so sick of Mohamed trying to undermine me," claiming El-Erian wrote the damaging WSJ article. Furthermore, the somewhat paranoid-sounding Gross indicated that he had been monitoring El-Erian's phone calls but when questioned by Reuters for evidence of El-Erian's undermining, Gross responded "you're on his side. Great, he's got you, too, wrapped around his charming right finger." As one analyst noted, "I've never seen Bill and Pimco scrutinized like this before... a couple of high-profile stumbles and mediocre showings, coupled with some outflows clearly has some investors on edge."
Even as the primary housing market was slowly circling the drain, the one silver lining was that the US rental market, largely dominated by several Wall Street investment firms, most notably Blackstone, was doing relatively well. It was doing so well that equity sponsors such as Blue Mountain couldn't wait to offload their prized REIT property to the public, culminating with last August's IPO of American Homes 4 Rent, the second-largest US homes-for-rent operator after Blackstone. And since the stock price of all these corporations was performing admirably or at all time highs, supported by the record fungible liquidity sloshing among the world's interconnected markets, nobody was very concerned.
It is time to get concerned.
- Comcast Agrees to Buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 Billion (BBG)
- Italian leadership squabble weighs as shares halt hot run (Reuters)
- Russia says Syria aid draft could open door to military action (Reuters)
- China trust assets rise 46% in 2013 (WSJ), China Trust Assets Surge to $1.8 Trillion Amid Default Risks (BBG)
- Australian Unemployment Jumps to 10-Year High (BBG)
- Tea Party Scorns Republicans as House Lifts Debt Ceiling (BBG)
- Peso plunge forces Argentine soya hoarding (FT)
- BNP Paribas Net Falls After $1.1 Billion U.S. Legal Charge (BBG)
- Hacking Joins Curriculum as Businesses Seek Cyber Skills (BBG)
- Android's 'Open' System Has Limits (WSJ)
- Blackstone-Fueled Single-Family Home Boom Lifts Chicago (BBG)
Now that Twitter is officially the second coming of Yahoo Finance message boards, the inundation with offers from clueless hacks who have nothing better to do than sell you $29.95 newsletters with guaranteed get rich quick schemes (one has to be so grateful for this boundless supply of noble humanitarians who would rather see you get rich than follow their own advice, and invest with their own capital...), even more guaranteed than Obama's MyRA ponzi scheme, has hit off the charts levels. However, there is some hope this is ending, and the regulators, as usual 3-5 years behind the curve - are finally be cracking down on these self-acclaimed financial Nostradami following an announcement today that the SEC "charged a New York-based money manager and his firm with making false claims through Twitter, newsletters, and other communications about the success of their investment advice and a mutual fund they manage."