Ten Members of the U.S. Congress – along with 32 of their staff members – received secret payments from Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company to travel to Baku in 2013, to cover the cost of travel, including souvenirs of “silk scarves, crystal tea sets and Azerbaijani rugs.”
A look at the drivers for the week ahead.
There is a financial crisis on the horizon. It is a crisis that all the Central Bank interventions in the world cannot cure. It is a financial crisis that will continue to change the economic landscape of America for decades to come. No, we are not talking about the next Lehman event or the next financial market meltdown. Although something akin to both will happen in the not-so-distant future. It is the lack of financial stability of the current, and next, generation that will shape the American landscape in the future.
84% of JPMorgan’s 10-year long-term mutual fund AUM is ranked in the top two quartiles, while 70% and 81% of JPM US equity mutual funds have outperformed their benchmark on a 1- and 3-year timeframe, respectively according to an investor presentation. In last year’s presentation, the bank cited Morningstar and Lipper (who know a thing or two about calculating mutual fund returns) as sources. The only problem is that it later turned out that Morningstar and Lipper had no idea how JPM calculated the returns.
As the dash-for-trash continues in US equities, Neuberger Berman sums up the state of investing currently, "there has certainly been little reward for owning high-return, superior business models that are conservatively financed," as Bloomberg notes, Fed policy has had the “unintended consequence” of boosting the stocks of companies with heavy debt and little or no earnings. Typically after a recession, such companies lose out to firms that generate more cash and have better balance sheets; this time, no “Darwinian” shakeout happened and low-quality stocks ruled. Managers say they haven’t changed, the market has.
The overwhelming mainstream media message continues to be everything is strong and the future is absolutely as bright as ever, as measured by the all time high markets; but the facts and the data clearly tell a different story. While memories are short, 2008/9 (and 199/2000) taught us that pundits will always tout the ‘everything is great’ story until it is too late. They laugh and ostracize anyone who attempts to rock the boat with a message of reality. And they do it to deter others from delivering such a message. That message is that there exists no catalyst mechanism to pull us out of this economic slumber. So you can listen to and laugh along with the ‘all knowing’ pundits or you can take heed of history and protect yourself now. But do remember the choice was yours. You will have nobody to blame but yourself when and if it all comes tumbling down and you were too busy laughing.
This past week has been a virtual tennis match watching the evolution of the Greek bailout negotiations. No Deal, Deal, No Deal, Deal. However, despite the fallout that would likely come from a Greek "exit," the markets have largely managed to ignore the risk and hit an all-time high this week. Market valuations, bullish sentiment and complacency are all pushing higher as the focus remains on the ignition of the ECB's QE program as a stimulus for the markets. In fact, this is so much the case that the net percentage of managers overweight Eurozone equities is at the highest level on record.
- 'Glimmer of hope' for Ukraine after deal at Minsk peace summit (Reuters)
- Ruble Rebounds, Russian Stocks Surge on Ukraine Cease-Fire Deal (BBG)
- Greek PM Tsipras in Brussels as clock ticks on EU bailout (Reuters)
- Emerging-Market Currencies Rout Not Over for Traders (BBG)
- Little noticed, new Saudi king shapes contours of power (Reuters)
- In Wake of Financial Crisis, Goldman Goes It Alone (WSJ)
- AmEx Is Losing Its Millionaires (BBG)
- Thousands to Lose Health Insurance Over Residency Questions (WSJ)
"Michael Hasenstab is all about the big trade," is the 'masters-of-the-universe'-esque introduction by Bloomberg for Franklin Templeton's "famous" bond fund manager. “His success speaks for itself, but he does take bets,” notes one financial planner but it appears Hasenstab has BTFD one time too many - after loading up on more than $7 billion of Ukraine's bonds (equal to almost half of all Ukraine’s foreign bonds) he has seen them almost cut in half to around $4 billion. And it appears clients are seeing the bond guru's BTFD-iness for what it is - extreme risk with OPM - as investors last year pulled a record $14 billion from the U.S. and European versions of the Templeton Global Bond Fund.
- Welcome to the recovery:
- Oil Extends Retreat With European Stocks as Dollar Gains (BBG)
- California police, protesters clash again after 'chokehold' death (Reuters)
- Ruble’s Rout Is Tale of Failed Threats, Missteps (BBG), not to be confused with "Yen's Rout Is Tale Of Keynesian Success, Prosperity"
- Uber banned from operating in Indian capital after driver rape (Reuters)
There are things going on with the financial markets currently that seem just a bit "out of balance." For example, asset prices are rising against a backdrop of global weakness, deflationary pressures and rising valuations. More importantly, there is a rising divergence between sentiment and hard data. While weather can't be blamed yet, it will likely be the main "excuse" in the months ahead as early record snowfall is already impacting economic production. However, it isn't just the manufacturing data that seems "out of whack."
- LOL@Fundamentals: European Stocks Fall as Investors Seek Stimulus Clarity (BBG)
- Obama, Republicans sound conciliatory note but battles loom (Reuters)
- Firms drop Pimco funds from managed accounts (Reuters)
- Not All QE Is Created Equal as U.S. Outpunches ECB-BOJ (BBG)
- Ukraine Accuses Russia of Sending Troops as Truce Wobbles (BBG)
- Lenovo Slumps After Projecting China ‘Hypergrowth’ to End (BBG)
- Palo Alto Networks discovers new malware targeted at Apple devices (Reuters)
- IPO That Brought In $1 Billion in March Implodes in Denmark (BBG)
- Canada PM vows crackdown after capital shocked by fatal attacks (Reuters)
- Canada Gunman Was Convert to Islam With Criminal Record (BBG)
- Some U.S. hospitals weigh withholding care to Ebola patients (Reuters)
- But... Great rotation... Bond funds stock up on Treasuries in prep for market shock (Reuters)
- Saudis at War With Islamic State Confront Echo of Kingdom’s Past (BBG)
- EU’s Top Banker Warns of Rule Fixation ‘Going Beyond Reason (BBG)
- U.S.-led air strikes killed 521 fighters, 32 civilians in Syria (Reuters)
- Growing Kurdish Unity Helps West, Worries Turkey (WSJ)
- Don’t Be Distracted by the Pass Rate in ECB’s Bank Exams (BBG)
- Hedge Funds Add to Venture-Capital Bounty (WSJ)
- Speed-of-Light Trading Grows in Europe With McKay Network (BBG)
This could be the hidden message of Bill Gross’ departure...
Things are rapidly shifting from bad to worse for PIMCO. In a triple whammy this morning, Bloomberg reports the Total Return Fund ETF (managed previously by Bill Gross) has suffered $446 million outflows (or over 12.5% of assets) so far; Morningstar downgrades the fund from 'gold' to 'bronze' citing "uncertainty regarding outflows and the reshuffling of management responsibilities"; and perhaps most concerning - given our previous warnings over bond market illiquidity - The FT reports, US regulators are monitoring trading and fund flows surrounding PIMCO's Total Return Bond fund warning investors they should contemplate the unintended consequences of pulling their money and the possibility of systemic risk disruptions, fearful of "runs."