Rate of Change
In the past few years the stock market has always recovered from corrections to make new highs, and we cannot be sure if the party is indeed over. However, both from a fundamental and technical perspective, the probability that it is over seems quite high. Should market internals and trend uniformity to the upside improve again, this assessment would obviously have to be revised. However, there are surely more than enough warning signs extant now and every financial asset bubble must end at some point.
By now it is well known that Argentina has been declared in default by the major credit rating agencies. However, the default is really a sideshow to Argentina's real problem, which is a profligate government financing its spending increasingly via the printing press, while publishing severely falsified “inflation” data in order to mask this fact. Inflationary policy is and always will be extremely destructive. In the developed world, a situation like that observed in Argentina has so far been avoided, but that doesn't exactly mean that central banks in the industrialized nations are slouches in the money printing department. Their actions buy us what appear to be “good times” by diverting scarce resources into various bubble activities, but in reality they impoverish us.
The question of whether 'tapering is tightening' is often discussed but what is really meant is - when the Fed tapers, will risk assets suffer (and bonds benefit)? The answer is - yes. As Gavekal finds, long-dated US government bonds are following the reduction in QE nearly perfectly so far. The link between Fed asset accumulation and these various bond yields is unmistakable, especially for longer duration bonds, and this simple model shows how even lower bond yields may be in the offing as the Fed puts on the breaks. For junk bonds, this seems to portend higher spreads, which may help to put the recent widening of spreads in context.
This is it! The holy grail of forecasting, Jeffrey Kleintop has discovered it. You'll never have to worry about actual earnings reports, a massive bubble in junk debt, the sluggishness of the economy, new record levels in sentiment measures and margin debt, record low mutual fund cash reserves, the pace of money supply growth, or anything else again. Just watch the yield curve! Unfortunately, as we showed here in the US, this advice could turn out to be extremely dangerous for one's financial health - and has been across many nations throughout time. People remain desperate for excuses as to why the latest bit of asset boom insanity will never end
With the market firmly under the control of the Fed, VIX plunging and the S&P at all time highs is the a different indicator to look at for "fear"? For one possible answer we refer to the latest note by FBN's JC O'Hara who looks at a different "fear" index, namely the Credit Suisse Fear Barometer. He finds that, at 37%, it has never been higher.
Anyone reading the regular Federal Open Market Committee press releases can easily envision Chairman Yellen and the Federal Reserve team at the economic controls, carefully adjusting the economy’s price level and employment numbers. The dashboard of macroeconomic data is vigilantly monitored while the monetary switches, accelerators, and other devices are constantly tweaked, all in order to “foster maximum employment and price stability." The Federal Reserve believes increasing the money supply spurs economic growth, and that such growth, if too strong, will in turn cause price inflation. But if the monetary expansion slows, economic growth may stall and unemployment will rise. So the dilemma can only be solved with a constant iterative process: monetary growth is continuously adjusted until a delicate balance exists between price inflation and unemployment. This faulty reasoning finds its empirical justification in the Phillips curve. Like many Keynesian artifacts, its legacy governs policy long after it has been rendered defunct.
It was interesting this week to watch the media explode in a frenzy of reporting over the "stronger than expected" auto sales. The increase in auto sales to 16.9 million units was certainly a welcome number. However, was it really the "long awaited" sign of economic recovery that it was portrayed to be?
Draghi Reveals More: Will Do Targeted LTRO, Suspends Sterilization, Prepares ABS Purchases; No QE RevealedSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/05/2014 08:39 -0400
The much anticipated additional measures have been revealed:
- DRAGHI UNVEILS PACKAGE OF TARGETED LTROS, WORK TO PREPARE QE
- DRAGHI SAYS INITIAL SIZE OF TARGETED LTRO PLAN IS 400BLN EUROS
- ECB EXTENDS FIXED RATE FULL ALLOTMENT, SUSPENDS SMP STERILIZING
- DRAGHI SAYS PACKAGE INCLUDES PREPARATIONS FOR ABS PURCHASES
In other words, even more actions along what was expected: keep in mind the last time the ECB did €1 trillion in LTROs it did exactly nothing to boost inflation or the "real economy." Furthermore, the ABS purchases aren't activated: just being "prepared." However, what was not revealed was the biggest wildcard: European QE, which as we said repeatedly, won't happen until Europe's deflation is far worse, if ever.
With the economy now more than 5 years into an expansion, which is long by historical standards, the question for you to answer by looking at the charts below is: "Are we closer to an economic recession or a continued expansion?" How you answer that question should have a significant impact on your investment outlook as financial markets tend to lose roughly 30% on average during recessionary periods. However, with margin debt at record levels, earnings deteriorating and junk bond yields near all-time lows, this is hardly a normal market environment within which we are currently invested. Therefore, we present a series of charts which view the overall economy from the same perspective utilizing an annualized rate of change. For the Federal Reserve, these charts make the case that continued monetary interventions are not healing the economy, but rather just keeping it afloat by dragging forward future consumption. The problem is that it leaves a void in the future that must be continually filled.
On the 'growth' side, Commercial and Industrial loans are rising at a double digit annual rate of change (although it is unclear whether this is an indication of business optimism or stress - after all, we did see a big jump in these loans leading into the last recession). On the flip side, the bond market and the US dollar index seem to be flashing some warning signs about future growth. Simply put, the outlook for the economy is decidedly uncertain right now and we think so is the confidence in Janet Yellen. We think the more dire outcome for stocks would be if Toto fully pulled back the curtain on monetary policy and revealed it to be nothing more than a bunch clueless economists sitting in a conference room with no ability to control the economy or the markets. If US growth disappoints after all the Fed has done, how could anyone continue to view the Fed wizards as omnipotent? That would send the stock market back over the rainbow to the reality of an economy with big structural problems that can only be solved through political negotiation, something that has been notable only by its absence over – at least – the last 6 years. Are we headed back to Kansas?
Why Mainstream Economists Like Krugman Are So WRONG and So DANGEROUS
The Zagat-style summary, the market is "extremely overvalued", but it will rise on an "increase in the level of profits" and "we expect an 8% rise in the level of earnings this year", even though "we expect many firms will issue negative earnings guidance ahead of 1Q 2014 reporting season that takes place from mid-April to mid-May."
Does anything about 2014 remind you of 2008? The long lists of visible stress in the global financial system and the almost laughably hollow assurances that there are no bubbles, everything is under control, etc. etc. etc. certainly remind me of the late-2007-early 2008 period when the subprime mortgage meltdown was already visible and officialdom from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on down were mounting the bully pulpit at every opportunity to declare that there was no bubble in housing and the system was easily able to handle little things like defaulting mortgages. The party, once again, is clearly ending and raises the question: "If asset bubbles no longer boost full-time employment or incomes across the board, what is the broad-based, “social good” justification for inflating them?"