The stock market. Source of unknown riches - but not necessarily for investors. So-called "professional" investors offer to manage your money. However, their fees are based on the level of assets managed, not performance. Hence their goal is to maximize assets, not performance, and prey for markets to behave. You will never hear a bad word about stocks from a professional money manager. the by-laws of many mutual funds do not allow the manager to have cash levels above 5% of assets. He has to be invested at least 95% at all times. On one hand, it is probably right to force money managers to concentrate on stock picking, not market timing. On the other hand, this puts the onus of market timing onto the inidiviual investors. Lighthouse's Alex Gloy's excellent presentation below proves finance doesn't have to be complex (people make it complex). Gloy goes on to discuss the link between GDP and Profits, performance, valuation, inflation, and war and their effect on all markets.
As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets, Marc Faber is fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes.; and more often than not, bailouts (short-term fixes) create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution. Faber sides with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”. Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis.
End America’s central bank because it caused the crashes of 2008, 1987, and 1929 and will blunder again. That’s what many critics are saying about the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), which turns 100 on December 23. They note that on the Fed’s watch America has endured numerous bubbles, crashes, and inflationary cycles that have greatly devalued the dollar. The Fed, they say, has caused or aggravated several crashes. “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein. “History and current experience,” Joe Salerno adds, “reveal to us that groups endowed with a legal monopoly over any area of the economy are prone to use it to the hilt to enrich themselves, their friends and allies.”
This tragic story emanating from the UK just doesn’t seem to go away. Probably because it’s true. The food crisis across the pond first came to our attention in earnest back in October when the Red Cross announced it was set to provide food aid to the UK for the first time since World War II. The latest twist to this unacceptable saga comes via a letter send by a group of doctors and senior academics from the Medical Research Council and two leading universities to the British Medical Journal calling it a “public healthy emergency” and accusing the government of covering up the problem by delaying a report on the subject.
Bitcoin and other Internet currencies are viewed by some as a Beanie baby fad and, as Citi's Steve Englander notes, by others as revolutionizing the financial system. Market acceptance of alternative currencies now looks to be growing a lot faster than the pace at which the supply of Bitcoin and Bitcoin wannabees is expanding the Internet money supply. The responses fell into five categories which we feel are well worth considering before trading or utilizing the digital currency (including Bitcoin's role in reserves management - Bitcoin with its inelastic supply and deflationary bias would look attractive to reserve managers as a complement to gold, and in contrast to fiat currencies in unlimited supply.). Among skeptics, a minority think that security is a much bigger issue than proponents admit. However correct the longer-term concerns, there is nothing obvious to derail the expansion of Internet currencies in the near-term, as they are meeting both legitimate and illicit economic and social needs.
By standards of previous generations, the middle class has been stripmined of income, assets and purchasing power. So what does it take to be middle class nowadays? A recent paper used Census data to discuss what sort of income it takes to qualify as middle class but income is not the only the metric - indeed, it can be argued that 12 other factors are more telling measures of middle class membership than income.
As we have been covering for the past year and a half, most explicitly in "A Record $2 Trillion In Deposits Over Loans - The Fed's Indirect Market Propping Pathway Exposed", when it comes to the pathway of the Fed's excess deposits propping up risk levels, it has nothing to do with reserves sitting on bank balance sheets as assets, and everything to do with excess deposits (of which there are now $2.4 trillion thanks to the Fed) which are used as Initial collateral by banks such as JPM and then funding such derivatives as IG9 in a failed attempt to cover a segment of the corporate bond market.
- EU Fines Financial Institutions Over Fixing Key Benchmarks (Reuters)
- Euro-Area Economic Growth Slows as Exports, Consumption Cool (BBG) - someone has a very loose definition of growth
- Ukraine Officials Scour Globe for Cash as Protests Build (BBG)
- Oops: Franklin Boosted Ukraine Bet to $6 Billion as Selloff Began (BBG)
- Japan Plans 18.6 Trillion Yen Economic Package to Support Growth (BBG) - or about 2 months of POMO
- How Peugeot and France ran out of gas (Reuters)
- Iran threatens to trigger oil price war (FT)
- Abe Vows to Pass Secrecy Law That Hurts Cabinet’s Popularity (BBG)
- Brazil economy turns in worst quarter for 5 years (FT)
- Australia’s Slowdown Suggests RBA May Need to Do More (BBG)
- Biden calls for trust with China amid airspace dispute (Reuters)
Ongoing anti-regime demonstrations in Ukraine are weighing on investor's risk perceptions as CDS spike to near three-year highs today (up over 100bps). At a minimum developments lower president Yanukovich's chances of remaining in power beyond the spring 2015 elections and possibly undermine his hold on power earlier, further decreasing the likelihood of sizeable financial support from Russia. With Moody's earlier comments on the nation's "precarious external liquidity" position; as Goldman warns, with even higher political uncertainty ahead, an acceleration of capital outflows might also follow and while they think the authorities will eventually turn to the IMF to avoid a disorderly sell-off of the currency, recent events arguably raise the risks to that view. However, the capital outflows are already having an impact as Reuters notes, Russian banks are considerably exposed as Ukrainian banks should deposit runs escalate.
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
As we explained over two months ago, and as the Fed is no doubt contemplating currently, the primary topic on the agenda of central bankers everywhere and certainly in the Marriner Eccles building, is how to boost inflation expectations as much as possible, preferably without doing a thing and merely jawboning "forward expectations" (or more explicitly through the much discussed nominal GDP targeting) in order to slowly but surely or very rapidly and even more surely, get to the core problem facing the developed world: an untenable mountain of debt, and specifically, inflating it away. Of course, higher rates without a concurrent pick up in economic activity means a stock market tumble, both in developed and emerging countries, as the Taper experiment over the summer showed so vividly, which in turn would crush what many agree is the Fed's only achievement over the past 5 years - creating and nurturing the "wealth effect" resulting from record high asset prices, which provides lubrication for financial conditions and permits the proper functioning of capital markets. Perhaps this is the main concern voiced by JPM's chief US economist Michael Feroli who today has issued an interesting piece titled simply enough: "Raising inflation expectations: a bad idea." Is this the first shot across the bow of a Fed which may announce its first taper as soon as two weeks from today, in order to gradually start pushing inflation expectations higher?
In the most dramatic evidence yet that Britons are paying for the rising cost of living by raiding savings, Yahoo UK reports that households are pulling money out of their savings accounts at the fastest rate in modern record, according to Bank of England figures. Since the recent recession began, millions of workers have suffered repeated effective pay cuts as inflation has outstripped pay rises, and while consumer spending was one of the main contributors to the sharp rise in gross domestic product in the third quarter, "consumer strength usually reflects increased borrowing but this hasn't been the key factor recently."
Something snapped overnight, moments after the EURJPY breached 140.00 for the first time since October 2008 - starting then, the dramatic weakening that the JPY had been undergoing for days ended as if by magic, and the so critical for the E-Mini EURJPY tumbled nearly 100 pips and was trading just over 139.2 at last check, in turn dragging futures materially lower with it. Considering various TV commentators described yesterday's 0.27% decline as a "sharp selloff" we can only imagine the sirens that must be going off across the land as the now generic and unsurprising overnight carry currency meltup is missing. Still, while it is easy to proclaim that today will follow yesterday's trend, and stocks will "selloff sharply", we remind readers that today is yet another infamous double POMO today when the NY Fed will monetize up to a total of $5 billion once at 11am and once at 2 pm.
In Bernanke's centrally-planned, inverse Robin Hood world, record stock prices for the few unfortunately mean record homelessness for the many: this is what the state of Massachusettes found out the hard way after it was flooded with a record number of homeless families who are overwhelming the state's emergency shelter system. As the Boston Globe reports, citing a recent report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the number of homeless people in shelters and living on the streets in Massachusetts has risen 14 percent since 2010 to a record 20,000 in January 2013, even as homelessness has declined nationally. However, in what may be the most curious twist, and yet another example of how perverted the incentive and capital allocation system in the US is, the nearly 2,100 families who could not find place in shelters, were housed in motel rooms at a greater cost to all US taxpayers amounting to tens of millions.