Even if you don't have a Nobel Prize, it should be glaringly apparent to anyone with half a brain - the financial markets have been soaring while the overall economy has been stagnating. Despite assurances from the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve that everything is just fine, many Americans are beginning to realize that we have seen this movie before. We saw it during the dotcom bubble, and we saw it during the lead up to the horrible financial crisis of 2008. So precisely when will the bubble burst this time? Nobody knows for sure, but without a doubt this irrational financial bubble will burst at some point. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts, and the following are 15 signs that we are near the peak of an absolutely massive stock market bubble...
In Feb 2007, Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks wrote 'The Race to the Bottom', providing a timely warning about the capital market behavior that ultimately led to the mortgage meltdown of 2007 and the crisis of 2008 as he worried about "carelessness-induced behavior." In the pre-crisis years, as described in his 2007 memo, the race to the bottom manifested itself in a number of ways, and as Marks notes, "now we’re seeing another upswing in risky behavior." Simply put, Marks warns, "when people start to posit that fundamentals don’t matter and momentum will carry the day, it’s an omen we must heed," adding that "the riskiest thing in the investment world is the belief that there’s no risk."
- China to Ease One-Child Policy (WSJ), China announces major economic and social reforms (Reuters)
- Consumers line up for launch of PlayStation 4 (USAToday)
- Trust frays between Obama, Democrats (Politico)
- Yellen Stands by Fed Strategy (Hilsenrath)
- Hero to zero? Philippine president feels typhoon backlash (Reuters)
- Brussels warns Spain and Italy on budgets (FT)
- Moody’s Downgrades Four U.S. Banks on Federal Support Review (BBG)
- CIA's Financial Spying Bags Data on Americans (WSJ)
- Germany Digs In Against Risk Sharing in EU Bank-Failure Plan (BBG)
- Bill Gates wants Norway's $800 billion fund to spend more in Africa, Asia (RTRS)
It seemed as if this morning's exuberant run into US equities would never stop but it would appear that comments from none other than Dan Loeb has (for now) put an end to the exuberance. With fundamentals collapsing, and even Cramer's "Cult stocks" tumbling, today's rally was yet another blindlingly obvious insight into the fact that this market is entirely artificial and Third Point's Dan Loeb, worried about the global economy, has reduced his exposure to equities. Furthermore, he plans to return 10% of capital to investors. Not exactly the wealth-effect enhancing, confidence-inspiring action that the Fed hoped for...
Och-Ziff were perhaps a little early but used the last 10 months to unwind their real estate and exit the landlord business as the hedge-fund sponsored echo-bubble in housing rolled over into the mainstream. "American-Homes-4-Rent"'s IPO suggested a scramble to exit. With 60% of home purchases now being cash-only (explains the ongoing and massive layoffs in the mortgage business not just due to rate-driven weakening of demand), it is therefore a concern when one of the biggest funds playing in this space - OakTree Capital - announces plan to exit the buy-to-rent trade - selling roughly 500 fully-leased homes. As Reuters notes, it is yet another indication that early investors are looking to cash-out on the "recovery" in U.S. housing prices. Who will be left holding the bag this time?
"When things are going well people become greedy and enthusiastic, and when times are troubled, people become fearful and reticent. That’s just the wrong thing to do. Another mistake that people often make is that they compare themselves with others who are making more money than they are and conclude that they should emulate the others’ actions ... after they’ve worked. This is the source of the herd behaviour that so often gets them into trouble... As long as human nature is part of the investment environment, which it always will be, we’ll experience bubbles and crashes.... People talk about the wisdom of the free market – of the invisible hand – but there’s no free market in money today. Interest rates are not natural. They are where they are because the governments have set them at that level. Free markets optimise the allocation of resources in the long run, and administered markets distort the allocation of resources. This is not a good thing..." - Howard Marks
Housing Bubble Pop Alert: Colony Pulls IPO On "Market Conditions", Blue Mountain Rushes To Cash Out Of Own-To-RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/04/2013 22:08 -0500
Here is a simple way to test if the last year of housing market gains have been due to a real, fundamental, consumer-led recovery, or nothing but the latest iteration of the Fed's money bubble machine manifesting itself in the place of least du jour resistance - houses: Assume rising interest rates.
Just three weeks ago we noted Apollo Group's Leon Black's comment that his firm was "selling everything not nailed down," and that he sees "the market is pricey... in our view, priced for perfection." It seems he is not alone in the 'buy-low-sell-high' crowd. If wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits? Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?
Today, another one of the original "big boys" has called it curtains on the landlord business: "We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest", according to the CEO Bruce Rose of Carrington, one of the first investors to use deep institutional pockets (in this case a $450 million investment from OakTree) and BTFHousingD. Rose's assessment of the market? "There’s a lot of -- bluntly -- stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.... We’ll sit back in the weeds for a while and wait for a couple of blowups,” he said. “There’ll be a point in time when we’ll be happy to get back into the market at levels that make more sense.”
Everyone seems to have an opinion on asset valuation these days, even commentators who are normally quiet about such matters. Some are seeing asset price bubbles, others are just on the lookout for bubbles, and still others wonder what all the fuss is about. Simply put, our financial markets weren’t (and still aren’t) structured to be efficient, and consistently rational behavior is a pipe dream, history shows over and over that the idea of a stable equilibrium is deeply flawed. Policies focused on the short-term tend to exacerbate that cycle, as we saw when decades of stabilization policies and moral hazard exploded in the Global Financial Crisis. Maybe if macroeconomics were rooted in the reality of a perpetual cycle - where expansions eventually lead to recessions (stability breeds instability) and then back to expansions - we would see more economists and policymakers balancing near-term benefits against long-term costs. Or, another way of saying the same thing is that mainstream economists should pay more attention to Austrians and others who’ve long rejected core assumptions that are consistently proven wrong.
If there is any market that demonstrates the complete and total misallocation of capital that results from Banana Ben Bernanke’s money printing and artificially low interest rate policy, it the latest phony American housing bubble. With a record numbers of citizens on the food stamp electronic breadline, with unemployment stubbornly high no matter what data you use, billionaire financial oligarchs are running around bidding up “homes for rent” and pricing out the random average person that actually has the capacity or desire to bid. What follows below demonstrates the degree of insanity that has now been unleashed upon the streets of Las Vegas - in their QE-forever induced delirium, homebuilders have gone Chinese and in Las Vegas "permits for new home construction are up 50 percent, twice the national average."
Despite the all-knowing Alan Greenspan confirming there is no irrational exuberance currently, Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks is less convinced. Though he is not bearish, he lays out rather succinctly the current pros and cons for equities - based on the various 'valuation' arguments, discusses the folly of the equity risk premia, and highlights the dangers of extrapolation and what history can teach us... "appreciation at a rate in excess of the cash flow growth accelerates into the present some appreciation that otherwise might have happened in the future... it isn't just a windfall but also a warning sign."
In the following presentation, given by Howard Marks - the world's largest distressed debt investor - he warns of the perils of "investing in uncertain times." As Reuters notes, he fears the "unsound practices" from before the financial crisis are creeping back into credit markets, with private equity firms bidding increasingly high prices for companies. Marks points out the ease with which lowly rated companies were issuing debt this year, how companies were paying out record dividends to their shareholders and the increasingly high debt-to-equity multiples private equity firms were paying for companies amid a resurgence in deals. "We have a world in which nobody is thinking bullish. Everybody's worried and yet people are acting bullish," and predicts a looming "shake-out" in the hedge fund industry as he asks rhetorically, "today there are 8,000 hedge funds. Are there really 40,000 exceptional people (working for hedge funds)?" In conclusion, Oaktree Capital's founder warns that investors, in their search for returns, were becoming overly confident while the economic background was still gloomy.
One can spend all day watching financial media channels stuffed full of self-promoting index-hugging asset-managers and be left with the belief that all is well and that the market does indeed represent our reality... Or, as UBS' Art Cashin notes today (confirming what we first published a month ago - here, here, and here), there is more (well less) to today's global economy and markets than meets the eye or rests in the headlines. His excellent diatribe today reiterates our previous comments of investing icons such as Baupost's Seth Klarman and Oaktree's Howard Marks that "(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors."
Day after day we are inundated with the apparent 'idiocy' of investors putting their hard earned money into Treasury bonds when they only earn 2% yields. Hour after hour, we hear why investors should buy stocks, 'get paid to wait', and bonds are in a bubble. So why is it that day after day, an entire generation appears to have found a new mantra of investing, preferring less risk to more, satisfied with less return as opposed to more. The simple answer comes down to two words - often misunderstood - risk and drawdown. While most consider the former to be some quantifiable measure of uncertainty (more is better because think of the upside potential); it is the latter that ends careers, crushes retirement hopes, and scars pysches for life - and is often ignored. As we discussed here previously - must read, comparing (risky uncertain cashflow stream) equity dividend yields to (risk-free certain cashflow stream) Treasuries is like comparing apples to unicorns, but more importantly as Boomers retire en masse, this chart explains why there is a third leg to the investment decision - risk, reward, and regret; and equity drawdowns are the real 'risk'. Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks explains...