What makes for a good investment is price. Price is everything. You need to receive value in excess of the price paid. An investment’s value is the amount of real cash its underlying assets can reasonably be expected to deliver to its shareholders in the future, discounted for its risk – period. The investment’s price will either be higher than its value (an uncompensated risk), the same as (neutral) or lower than its value (a compensated risk). But since value is an imprecise measurement, the best one can do is to build in a margin of safety by buying investments that are at deep discounts to a reasonable estimated value. Too many investors let an investment’s short-term price movements, or perceptions of short-term price movements drive their decisions. But since short-term price moves are unknowable, irrelevant and independent of investment merits, this is not worthy of any time spent analyzing. If short-term price moves were knowable, then a cadre of top-performing chartists and market technicians would have far greater net worths than Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and the Saudi Royal Family. They would need only apply leverage to their process and repeat it a few times in order to accrue hundreds of billions of dollars. Question: How many market technicians occupy the Forbes 400? Answer: Zero. Why? Because successfully guessing future price moves based on charts, MACD indicators or tea leaves is not a repeatable process. Investors who do this generally have poor outcomes because they are pursuing answers to the wrong question.
The right question is: where is the value?
Did a BIS gold trader just spill coffee on his keyboard not once but twice, or did we just have another ye olde algo trick of stopping the hunts (get it?) out of all marginal players? We will never know. What we will know is that paper prices of physical objects are becoming increasingly more meaningless.
If yesterday's global intervention rumor was a feeler of market response to the next latest and greatest intervention then we may have big problems: the EURUSD is now unchanged, Spanish bond yields are now unchanged, stocks are doing their quad witching thing which means all stops will be taken out before the day is done, but most importantly the euphoria such an announcement would have created before is now completely gone (as per The Diminishing Returns Of Central Planning). What is actually worse, and how the G-20 rumor may have backfired, is that as we pointed out, suddenly there has been a significant shift in expectations: if Syriza does not have an outright win on Sunday then there will be no immediate central bank response, which was predicted to be "if needed". Remember: for this market, when all that matters is the next 10 minutes of trading, this is the only relevant metric. Which means that suddenly from a Risk On event, Syriza's loss has become Risk Off! Of course, the reality is that Sunday will almost certainly be a replay of the last election, where the parliament continues to be empty, and Greece continues to be "Belgium" - recall from May 3, "Previewing The First Of Many Greek Elections." In either case, as others have suggested holding on to positions over the weekend may not be the most prudent thing.
Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others besides have fallen into the trap of bribing their electorates with promises that become ever more unsustainable. In each of these states, expectations have been created that cannot be met and that cannot now be undone. This is surely a recipe for social unrest. These will not be the only countries to succumb to failure. The national debt, the unaffordable long-term cost of social security, health care and a myriad other entitlements and the mounting evidence of the insolvent state point to the same outcome for the UK and the US. Failure is ensured; the more pressing question is, what happens next?
As we witness the riotous dissolution of corrupted capitalism, we need not wait for the history books to identify the mile markers of self-destruction. If we are to rebuild capitalism, even as it is tearing itself down, then we will need to become street-smart detectives in analyzing the current economic murder-suicide in progress. Every fall has its tell-tale confirmations and corrupt capitalism is no exception. There arrive key points where a system’s own contradictions become so evident and self-damaging, where motive, means, and opportunity become so clear, that one can mount an informed, effective counter-offensive.
My stop loss over the next 4-6 weeks while I expect this risk-on phase to play out is simple: a weekly S&P close below 1267 would for me be very bearish and likely change things. But as mentioned, instead I expect to see markets struggle with headlines and volatility, but ultimately climb the wall of worry up towards 1400, perhaps 1450 S&P....
And then?... My forecast for this extremely bearish risk-off phase over late Q3 and Q4 is that the S&P500 trades below the low of last year, perhaps as low as 1000 +/- 20. The iTraxx Crossover index should over that period widen from around 550/600bp (my end July/early August risk-on target) out all the way to certainly 800bp, and more likely closer to 1000bp. And we should see core bond yields rally hard – I expect 10yr UST yields to rally from my 2.35%/2.45% end July or early August target, all the way down to 1.5%, maybe even lower.
SemGroup in 2008 and the London Whale in 2012 have given the people a blueprint to kill JP Morgan's alleged massive manipulative position in the silver market.
News & headlines from the day
False solutions in sight
While some have discussed the game-theoretic dilemma that Germany faces relative to the 'rest' of Europe, David Santschi of TrimTabs (Biderman's balder buddy) digs into the details of a potential solution (hard as it may be) as Europe's fatal flaw (the currency unionization - but not fiscal or banking union - of a group of nations with strong sovereign identities) becomes all too real. The imbalances are so great right now that the only solution David sees is to breakup the Euro-zone, and simply put the best way to achieve a break up would be for Germany to leave voluntarily - establishing a strong currency and in turn saving itself financially. While not minimizing this as a 'good' or 'easy' solution - many people would lose their livelihoods and many would lose a lot of money - it is the only practical solution that he sees (as Eurobonds, banking unions, and fiscal unions are simply impractical in terms of both effect and timeliness). Quoting W.C.Fields with regard the European press' and politicians' efforts towards investors: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit!", they correctly explain that Europe is a solvency problem and not a currency problem. In one of the sanest (and least hyperbolic) discussions of the reality in Europe, Bidermantschi note that it appears investors have finally wised up to the fact that "bailout loans are nothing but a shell game replacing old debt with new debt" and the heretical proposition that central banks perhaps cannot solve all the world's problems.
We were wondering how long Europe's insolvent, and very much scorned, banks would take the constant downgrade abuse (or reacquaintance with reality as we like to call it, but that is irrelevant) by the rating agencies without retorting. After all the same organizations that allowed bank "credit analysts" to pretend they did work for years, when they all merely fell in place in some lemming-like procession, patting each other on the back, pocketing record bonus after record bonus and praising groupthink encapsulated by the made up letters AAA, are now largely non-grata first in Europe, and soon, following the imminent downgrade of American banks, in the US as well. It appears that the response is finally coming. Sky News reports that "some of Europe's largest banks are intensifying discussions about a move to reduce their co-operation with the big three credit ratings agencies amid widespread dissatisfaction with their decision-making." After all, when all they do is downgrade, as opposed to the old standby, upgrade, who needs them. In fact, why not just shut their mouths entirely. Sadly, this is precisely what is on the horizon.
If we understand the difference between parasitic wealth and real value/wealth creation, we can properly align the tax structure to reality: the tax on authentic wealth creation should be low, to encourage wealth creation and the employment (broad-based wealth creation) generated by legitimate value creation. We must also understand that the Central State now protects and enables parasitic skimming as the primary function of the nation's financial system. Thus the entire financial system is parasitic on the wealth of the nation. Financial parasitic incomes should be taxed at 99%. If Mitt Romney reshuffles assets created by others and skims $100 million, 99% of that parasitic wealth should be returned to the nation via taxes. The parasite still gets to keep $1 million, more than enough to live well but not enough to buy the presidency, the Congress and the regulatory machinery of the Central State.
It is really rather pathetic. The Prime Minister of Spain today called for a deposit guarantee fund, pleaded for the EU to take over the budget of Spain and said Spain would cede its sovereignty over its banks. This is all just one thing; a cry for money and money at any cost. The poor fellow has obviously lost whatever self-respect that he had and is behaving no differently than some street urchin begging for alms. What can be seen from this kind of behavior is the desperate state that Spain is in and it is reflected in his desperate pleas for help. I would speculate that so much has been hidden and so many balance sheets falsified that Spain has suddenly found itself in a sea of their own making which could be termed, “Dire Straits.” When Rajoy termed the bailout for Spain as a “Victory for Europe” I knew that he had left “sense and sensibility” behind and headed into the land of Don Quixote where windmills were imagined to be giants and fantasy had replaced reality. The problem is, unlike the creation of Miguel Cervantes, this guy is the Prime Minister of Spain and not some aged senior chasing after the Knights Templar in his later years.
If yesterday was a repeat of the market action from that day three weeks ago before the last FinMin conference, when everyone expected Germany to announce it had agreed to a bank deposit guarantee, then today is, logically, day after. Because just like back then, so now, Germany has once again made it clear that it will first see the EUR crushed, and all off Europe begging for a bailout (as in the case of Spain - when presented with reality, they all will beg the one with the cash to come to the rescue). To wit from the German Finance Minister, via Stern magazine:
- Schaeuble Rejects European Redemption Fund: Stern Magazine
- German finance minister says redemption fund would violate EU treaties, in interview with Stern magazine
The situation in Europe goes from bad to worse. Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg is back to his bearish roots as he remind us that 'throwing more debt after bad debts ends up meaning more debt'. As he notes, the definition of insanity is (via Bloomberg TV):
When you realize that of the potential $100 billion to spend, 22% of that has to be provided by Italy and their lending to Spain is at 3% but Italy has to borrow at 6%. They have to lend to Spain $22bn at 3% - it is just madness. Everybody is getting worried again. The solution that they seem to have come up with seems to be worse than the problem in the first place.