Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an article highlighting the surge in what it calls “ultralong” bonds, defined as having a maturity of more than 30 years. The findings are simply stunning. In what may seem counterintuitive, bond yields at hundred year plus lows in many countries has led major investment firms to rush into ever riskier and longer duration fixed income securities just to earn some income. This has opened the floodgates to governments and corporations looking to lock in low yields on debt they won’t have to pay back for a generation. Just to name a few, this year we have already seen a 100-year bond sale by Mexico, two separate 50-year bond issuances by Canada, and wait for this one, Spain of all countries is set to try to sell a 50-year bond!
Yellen’s acting routine is worthy of an Academy Award. In her role, she plays a caring, sweet, grandmotherly type figure all concerned about the poor and middle-class, when reality points to a career as a staunch, frontline protector of the bankster oligarchy.
This week was very busy with economic data. For the most part, the majority of the data came basically inline with expectations. However, the internals of the various reports were much less encouraging. The most noteworthy report, and the least important from an investment standpoint, was the monthly employment report which came in at 288,000 jobs for the month. As with the bulk of other reports, the more important details were lost to the headlines... full-time employment relative to the working age population has remained primarily stagnant since the financial crisis and actually fell in the latest month. This is a key reason why economic growth continues to struggle.
In light of the stunning upset Dave Brat just pulled off against House Majority Leader Eric Cantor earlier this week, many are asking the question as to whether or not we are seeing a genuine political shift against the incredibly corrupt status quo. One thing that is abundantly clear is that any candidate with strong ties to Wall Street will be attacked like a piñata. While the mainstream media likes to talk nonsense about how Brat won because of his opposition to immigration reform, it appears the opposite is true. His winning issue was actually crony capitalism and Wall Street theft. Charlie Rangel has been a U.S. Representative. since 1971 and is currently the third longest serving Congressperson in America. He turned 84 years old this past Wednesday, and was at the center of a tax avoidance scandal several years ago. Of course, if a mere pleb like us were caught avoiding taxes we’d likely face harsh consequences. However, for a crony politician like Charlie Rangel all is forgiven and is allowed to continue to “represent” his constituents... his primary is June 24th.
The massive consolidation of wealth, combined with the removal of any limits on money in campaigns, has allowed for the purchase of our government. Americans know that something is wrong, deeply wrong. They see signs of the problem everywhere: income inequality, growing concentration and power of mega corporations, political donations/corruption, the absence of jobs with decent salaries, the explosion of the US prison population, healthcare costs, student loan debt, homelessness, etc. etc. However, the true causes and benefactors behind these problems are purposely hidden from view. What Americans see is Kabuki Theater of a functioning form of capitalism and democracy, but beyond this veneer our country has devolved into the exact opposite.
Mr. Bowden, who heads the SEC’s examinations unit, speaking at a private equity conference, explained that “more than 50 percent of private equity firms it has audited have engaged in serious infractions of securities laws.” What is so incredible about the talk, is that while Bowden goes into details of shady practice after shady practice, he ultimately admits that the SEC isn’t being particularly aggressive with the private equity industry because “we believe that most people in the industry are trying to do the right thing, to help their clients, to grow their business, and to provide for their owners and employees.” What the SEC is basically admitting, is that private equity firms are also “too big to regulate” and, of course, “too big to jail.”
As another week passes by the markets have made no real movement in months. News flow, outside of Yellen's testimony, was also rather slow as first quarter's earnings season begins to come to a close. However, there were a few articles that we read this week that we thought you might find interesting as well... from the dangers of hidden leverage (in the re-burgeoning CDO markets) to the history if bubbles (and their lack of logic) and the demise of the US small business.
Banks are NOT looking to hang onto REO property. Read Basel III. 150% risk weight for distressed...
How Much Are Intelligence Analysts Front Running Markets?
The whispers about private equity exiting the rental market are now out in the open. A few reports are highlighting that some private equity investors are testing the waters for an exit via IPOs. Some have asked why it is necessary for these investors to hold onto properties for a few years before exiting. One of the main reasons is for valuation purposes given that it takes a few years to gather enough workable data on say a block of 1,000 homes and their overall vacancy rates, rental rates, and expense ratios. This would be important if this pool of homes were to be converted into an income stream for investors. Yet many are now looking to exit given how hot the stock market is. You want to sell into momentum. A few other key points include rents falling in places like Las Vegas where investor demand has been incredibly high. Is the hot money planning an exit?
How Another Housing Bubble Was Blown … And Why
A trade is officially deemed "crowded" when everyone is rushing into the market with eyes only on the upside and little concern for the downside--for example, buying homes as rentals. Why could the buy-to-rent housing party be running out of air? The basic reason is the difference between buying real estate as rental housing, which is a speculative market, and the rental property market itself, which is grounded in real-world supply and demand. Simply put, if the supply of rental housing exceeds demand, rents (the cost of renting shelter) decline. That jeopardizes the fat returns the speculative buyer was counting on. Crowded trades are often described as boats with everyone on one side. Boats loaded in this fashion tend to capsize once exposed to the slightest volatility (wave action). The buy-to-rent boat is looking rather overloaded, and the bullish side's gunwales are only a few inches above the water for these six reasons.
Who knows? I might even become an EE'er. This joke is on me.
It must be pointed out that gold is certainly no longer the bargain it was at the lows over a decade ago (at which time Warren Buffett undoubtedly hated it just as much as today). This is by no means akin to saying that there is no longer a bull market in force though. What seems however extremely unlikely to us is that the long term bull market is anywhere near to being over. After all, the people in charge of fiscal and monetary policy all over the globe are applying their 'tried and true' recipe to the perceived economic ills of the world in ever bigger gobs of 'more of the same'. Until that changes – and we feel pretty sure that the only thing that can usher in profound change on that score is a crisis of such proportions that the ability of said authorities to keep things under control by employing this recipe is simply overwhelmed – there is no reason not to hold gold in order to insure oneself against their depredations.
While Krugman does not by any means endorse the level of centralism that Diocletian introduced, his defence of bailouts, his insistence on the planning of interest rates and inflation, and (most frighteningly) his insistence that war can be an economic stimulus (in reality, war is a capital destroyer) all put him firmly in Diocletian’s economic planning camp. So how did Diocletian’s economic program work out? Well, I think it is fair to say even without modern data that — just as Krugman desires — Diocletian’s measures boosted aggregate demand through public works and — just as Krugman desires — it introduced inflation. And certainly Rome lived for almost 150 years after Diocletian. However the long term effects of Diocletian’s economic program were dire. Have the 2008 bailouts done the same thing, cementing a new feudal aristocracy of bankers, financiers and too-big-to-fail zombies, alongside a serf class that exists to fund the excesses of the financial and corporate elite? Only time will tell.