We thought yesterday's absurd story of former hedge fund manager James Crombie, founder of Paron Capital Management, who was arrested after found squatting in a million dollar Maryland house, would be as strange as it gets for hedge fund stories this weekend. We were wrong: moments ago the WSJ reported that Thomas Gilbert, founder of the $200 million Wainscott hedge fund, whose success Gilbert said previously had come from investing in biotech funds, was found dead with a single bullet to the head in his Manhattan apartment this afternoon, allegedly shot by none other than his 30-year-old son.
In Canada, there seems to be a cult belief that housing simply will not correct. They are full on drinking the good old tasting real estate Kool-Aid. Canada has enjoyed many years of the global commodities boom and now finds itself contending with a market full of debt and inflated housing values. Short of oil rising back up to $80 a barrel or higher, Canada is likely going to face some short-term pain. The housing market is due for a correction.
Today we update where China stands on its path to a very hard landing. As the charts below show, what has been so far a controlled descent is rapidly sliding out of control.
The speculative fever in Chinese stocks has reached 11 on the Spinal Tap amplifier of euphoria. Last week saw a stunning 900,000 new stock trading accounts opened - the most since October 2007 (right before the Shanghai Composite collapsed 70% in the following 9 months). With real estate prices floundering, everyone and their pet rabbit is piling into Chinese stocks, as one 'investor' explained to The NY Times, "almost everyone I know is investing, so I think I should be investing, too."
Should I buy a house in 2015? No one can answer that question for anyone else, but it seems prudent to ask the question in the context of an Echo Bubble in valuations that appears to be deflating and household income that is potentially at risk of declining further in a global recession that eventually impacts the U.S. economy.
In a few brief minutes, Professor Bob Shiller calmly and eloquently crushed the hopes and dreams of CNBC's cheerleading muppetry as they desperately tried to spin today's house price data as great news.. when Simon Hobbs says "my reading of this is actually very optimistic," and begs Shiller to look at the glass-half-full side of the argument, the "anxious" Professor retorts, that home sales rates "trouble him" and warns the real estate market is "fragile." Shiller then concludes that not only are stocks extremely expensive but that housing is not a good investment... the anchor fades to black...
China's Leading Index has fallen to its lowest since Feb 2009 this evening, down 4 straight months from credit-driven 18 month highs. This economic weakness has exaggerated the already weak tone in Yuan trading this evening pushing CNY to its weakest in almost 7 months (against the USD), its furthest on record from the CNY Fix (10-month highs), and very close to the PBOC's upper +2% band for CNY trading. At 6.23, USDCNY is over 1000 pips weaker than the CNY fix.
While inflation (explicit in price rises or implicit in USD debauchery) over the past 30 years has eaten away at the average American's standard of living, it is the cost of living the 1%-life that has truly soared. As Forbes' "Cost of Living Extremely Well" index (CLEWI) shows, since 1982, the 1% have seen prices for their goods rise at double the pace of the average joe. However, do not feel too sorry for them, as their net worth, courtesy of various Fed interventions has outpaced the cost of living extremely well by over 4 times.
All of this is political theater. The big story for the markets is not interest rates. It is the US Dollar.
Despite the widely held belief that 2015 will be the year in which a patient Fed finally begins to normalize rate policy, we believe the Fed has no possibility of withdrawing the stimulus to which it has addicted us. QE4 was always much more probable than anyone in government or on Wall Street cares to admit. A recession and a financial panic caused by sub $60 oil will significantly quicken the timetable by which the Fed cranks up the presses. When it does, oil could once again increase in price, along with all the other things we need on a daily basis. That should finally dispel any remaining illusions that the Fed could successfully land the metaphorical plane. More QE may minimize the damage in the short-term, but we believe it will keep us trapped in our current cocoon of endless stimulus, where we will slowly suffocate to death.
Following the start of Abenomics in 2012, Japan moved back to the center of attention of global financial markets. After two and a half decades of economic stagnation, hopes were high that Japan would escape its long stagnation and deflation. Plenty of economists around the globe hoped that, in so doing, Japan would show the western world, mainly the Eurozone, the way to do the same and avoid a similar long period of low growth and stagnating incomes. Conversely, the failure of Abe’s plan for Japan’s recovery would not only be a disaster for the country of the rising sun. It would also be very bad news for central bankers and politicians in the west as well. It would prove that Keynesian policies don’t work in a world of too much debt and shrinking populations.
- Police officers' slaying raises pressure on New York mayor (Reuters)
- People Call for Cooling of Racial Tensions After Murder of NYPD Officers (BBG)
- The $6.3 Trillion Frenzy That Vanquished Treasury Bears (BBG)
- China Investigates Possible Stock-Price Manipulation (WSJ)
- Citigroup Was Wary of Metals-Backed Loans (WSJ)
- UPS Turns Parking Lots Into Sorting Centers to Add Speed (BBG)
- U.S. Move to Normalize Cuba Ties Boosts Firms’ Asset Claims (WSJ)
- Meredith Whitney’s Fund Said to Drop 11% as Office Put on Market (BBG)
- Railcar Bottleneck Looms for Oil (WSJ)
Fast forward to today when we are about to learn that Newton's third law of Keynesian economics states that every boom, has an equal and opposite bust. Which brings us to Texas, the one state that more than any other, has benefited over the past 5 years from the Shale miracle. And now with crude sinking by the day, it is time to unwind all those gains, and give back all those jobs. Did we mention: highly compensated, very well-paying jobs, not the restaurant, clerical, waiter, retail, part-time minimum-wage jobs the "recovery" has been flooded with. Here is JPM's Michael Feroli explaining why Houston suddenly has a very big problem.
Despite the authorities' best efforts to keep everything orderly, we know how this global Game of Geopolitical Tetris ends: "Players lose a typical game of Tetris when they can no longer keep up with the increasing speed, and the Tetriminos stack up to the top of the playing field. This is commonly referred to as topping out."
"I’m tired of being outraged!"