Nobel Laureate

Nope, 'Still' No Bubble Here...

Even the most ardent of bulls would 'admit' that the period of the last 90s was a bubble in US equities. What started at the margin quickly morphed into a euphoric valuation for any and everything that could be pitched. Even The Fed's Jim Bullard 'knew' there was a bubble back then... Today's recovery of the NASDAQ to 4,000 - levels not seen since this period - is quickly dismissed by those that need things to go higher on the basis of earnings, multiples, or some such forward-looking hope-based methodology that reinforces their bias. However, Tobin's Q - among the longest-lived and most well-respected of longer-term valuation methodologies has just reached levels only ever seen during the 1999/2000 bubble. BTFATH valuation?

Circular Bubble Logic

There comes a time in every bubble's life when participants who have a stake in its continuation have to employ ever more tortured logic to justify sticking with it. We have come across an especially amusing example of this recently. “Good news!” blares a headline at CNBC “Bubble concern is at a 5-year high”. Ironically, since at least 1999 if not earlier, the source of this headline has been referred to as 'bubble-vision' by cynical observers (or alternatively as 'hee-haw'). It definitely cannot hurt to be aware of market psychology and sentiment. However, the argument that a surge in searches for the term 'bubble' on Google can be interpreted as an 'all clear' for a bubble's continuation seems to have things exactly the wrong way around. The misguided behavior of financial market participants that can be observed during bubbles is merely mirroring the clusters of entrepreneurial error monetary pumping brings about.

"The Course of Empire": A Retrospective On The US Housing Crisis

A decision by the FHFA requiring the GSEs to finally release detailed information on loans they acquired and guaranteed uncovers an ugly truth about the GSEs that many should be aware of (as we noted the exuberance here). The release was only required on 35 million fully-amortizing, full documentation, 30-year fixed rate mortgages, which means as JPMorgan's Michael Cembalest notes the underwriting histories on another 20-30 million loans (e.g., the riskier ones) remain a mystery (and likely will forever). As Cembalest concludes, some people made up their minds on all the factors causing the housing crisis in 2009, and others in 2011. As long as new information keeps coming out, it seems premature to close the book on it, he adds, first, the private sector descent into underwriting hell took place well after the multi-trillion dollar GSE balance sheets had gone there first; and second, there are many reasons to wonder how bad the former would have been had the latter not preceded it.

Nobel Winner Dares To Go There: "No Reason To Fear Deflation... Greece May Benefit From Gold Standard"

"Historically, there is no reason to fear deflation," Nobel Laureate Thomas Sargent explains to Germany's Wiwo.de, "we all benefit from lower prices." Crucially, he continues, "countries with declining prices, such as Greece, must improve the competitiveness they have lost in recent years," requiring falling wages and rising productivity (and falling unit labor costs) which will lead to companies cutting prices, "this is not a dangerous deflation, but part of the necessary correction so that these countries are internationally competitive again." That central banks pursue an inflation rate of around 2%, Sargent blasts, is because they consider it their job to "make bad debt good debt," adding that inflation is "a major redistribution machine - reducing the real debt burden for the benefit of creditors and devaluing the assets of the creditors." A return to a gold standard,he concludes, to prevent governments and central banks from limitless money-printing "would not be foolish."

Guest Post: Bubbles And Central Banks - Is There A Connection?

According to the popular way of thinking, bubbles are an important cause of economic recessions. The main question posed by experts is how one knows when a bubble is forming. It is held that if the central bankers knew the answer to this question they might be able to prevent bubble formations and thus prevent recessions. Contrary to Shiller, in order to establish that a bubble is forming we don’t need to apply the same methodology employed by psychologists. What we require is the establishment of a correct definition of what bubbles are all about. Once it is done, one discovers that bubbles have nothing to do with some kind psychological malfunction of individuals – they are the result of loose monetary policies of the central bank.

What An Ex-FOMC Governor Really Wants To Tell You About The Fed

Hunting season is off to a good start this week, and I’m not just talking about deer hunting. It seems that former Fed officials declared open season on their ex-colleagues. First, Andrew Huszar, who once ran the Fed’s mortgage buying operation, let loose in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Huszar apologized to all Americans for his role in the toxic QE programs. And then today, the WSJ struck again, this time with an op-ed by former FOMC Governor Kevin Warsh. Warsh is a former Morgan Stanley investment banker whose 2006 to 2011 stint on the FOMC spanned the end of the housing boom and the first few years of “unconventional” policy measures. After such a solid grounding in the ways of the Fed and Wall Street, he recently morphed into a critic of the status quo. His criticisms are welcome and we believe accurate, but they’re also oh so carefully expressed. They’re written with the polite wording and between-the-lines meanings that you might expect from such an establishment figure. He seems to be holding back. So, what does he really want to say?

Guest Post: The Market In Pictures

There is currently a debate being waged on Wall Street.  On one side of the argument are individuals who believe that we have entered into the next "secular bull market"  and that the markets have only just begun what is an expected multi-year advance from current levels.  The other side of the argument reiterates that the current market advance is predicated on artificial stimulus and that the "secular bear market" remains intact, and the next major reversion is just a function of time. The series of charts below is designed to allow you to draw your own conclusions. While it is certainly easy to be swept up in the daily advances of the stock market casino, it is important to remember that eventually the "house always wins."  What has always separated successful professional gamblers from the weekend sucker is strictly the difference of knowing when to cash in your chips and step away from the table.

Nobel Prize Winner: Bubbles Don't Exist

No wonder investors don't take economists seriously. Or if they do, they shouldn't. Since Richard Nixon interrupted Hoss and Little Joe on a Sunday night in August 1971, it's been one boom and bust after another. But don't tell that to the latest Nobel Prize co-winner, Eugene Fama, the founder of the efficient-market hypothesis. No matter the facts, Fama has his story and he's sticking to it. "I think most bubbles are 20/20 hindsight," Fama told Cassidy. The rest of us, who lived through the tech and real estate booms while Fama was locked in his ivory tower, know that in a boom people go crazy. There's a reason the other term for bubble is mania.

 

Goldman: Entire S&P Move Higher Is Due To Multiple Expansion; Shiller P/E Says 30% Overvalued So... Buy

To summarize Goldman:

  • All upside is multiple expansion-driven, i.e. relentless Fed pumping of risks as the final bubble grows to unprecedented proportions,
  • A market which even tenured economists say is a disaster waiting to happen.
  • But hey, the music is still playing so everyone must dance all the way until Goldman's 2100 target... in 2015.

All of this has come and gone before, but since this time will be different, one can just ignore the recurring past.

Guest Post: Did Capitalism Fail?

Until six days before Lehman Brothers collapsed five years ago, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s maintained the firm’s investment-grade rating of “A.” Moody’s waited even longer, downgrading Lehman one business day before it collapsed. How could reputable ratings agencies – and investment banks – misjudge things so badly? Regulators, bankers, and ratings agencies bear much of the blame for the crisis. But the near-meltdown was not so much a failure of capitalism as it was a failure of contemporary economic models’ understanding of the role and functioning of financial markets – and, more broadly, instability – in capitalist economies. Yet the mainstream of the economics profession insists that such mechanistic models retain validity.

Guest Post: Paul Krugman The Marxist

Someone once wrote that criticizing economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and his "vulgar Keynesianism" is the internet’s favorite pastime. All along, the Princeton prof has stayed true to the cause of aggressive government action to forestall the downtrodden economy. Large fiscal expenditures, aggressive monetary stimulus, increased legal privileges for organized labor, and boosting the degree of state pillaging – Krugman is the caricature of a tyrannical apologizer who will defend the cause of rampant statism at any cost. But now, it appears Krugman has gone overboard with his progressive moaning. Instead of getting bogged down in the economic imbecility that frequents Krugman’s twice-weekly diatribes; there is a fallacy more fundamental in this latest theorizing. What Krugman is embracing in his latest attack on historical cases has much more to do with the man’s epistemological bent and approach toward economics.

Guest Post: Our American Pravda

Through most of the 20th century, America led something of a charmed life, at least when compared with the disasters endured by almost every other major country. We became the richest and most powerful nation on earth, partly due to our own achievements and partly due to the mistakes of others. The public interpreted these decades of American power and prosperity as validation of our system of government and national leadership, and the technological effectiveness of our domestic propaganda machinery - our own American Pravda - has heightened this effect. Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Guest Post: China's Urban Dream Denied

China is in the midst of an urban revolution, with hundreds of millions of migrants moving into cities every year.  Since 2011, for the first time in history, more than half of China’s 1.3 billion citizens (690 million people) are living in cities.  Another 300-400 million are expected to be added to China's cities in the next 15-20 years.  New Premier Li Keqiang recently proposed accelerating urbanization in China, and said urbanization is a “huge engine” of China’s future economic growth. Yet, China’s urban dream may be derailed by the lack of affordable housing in cities for the massive influx of urban residents.