Dr. Michael "The Big Short" Burry's "Brutal Hangover Is Inevitable" State-Of-The-World UCLA Commencement SpeechSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/22/2012 22:01 -0400
Infamous for his prediction of the great recession, Europe's demise, and the collapse of the US financial system (as well as profiting extremely handsomely from said predictions), so well captured in Michael Lewis' book "The Big Short", UCLA's Dr. Michael Burry undertakes UCLA's Economics Department's commencement speech with much aplomb. In this "age of infinite distraction", the astounding truthiness of this 15 minute speech is stunning from single-sentence summation of Europe's convulsions that "when the entitled elect themselves, the party accelerates, and the brutal hangover is inevitable" he reminds us that Californians, and indeed all Americans, should take note. A quarter-of-an-hour well spent from a self-described 'chicken-little' who was "just trying to figure it all out".
One week to solve all problems, or else....
The no frills summary of the past week's key bullish and bearish macro events.
Beginning in 2011 the Federal Reserve begin releasing its economic forecast for the present year and two years forward covering GDP, Unemployment, and Inflation. The question is after 18 months of forecasting - just how good has the Fed at forecasting these economic variables? I have compiled the data from each of the releases for each category and compared it to the real figures and used a current trend analysis for future estimates.... The Fed has been slowly guiding economic forecasts lower since 2011. The reality is that 2.6% economic growth is not a boon of economic prosperity, corporate profitability, increasing incomes or a secular bull market. It is also not the "death of America" or the return to the stone age. What is important to understand, as investors, is the impact on investment portfolios, expectated real rates of returns and the realization that higher levels of market volatility with more frequent "booms and busts" are here to stay.
If we pursue the line of inquiry established by Chris Martenson’s recent call to Buckle Up -- Market Breakdown in Progress, we come to these basic questions: When will the market reflect the fundamental weakness of the global economy? And when will the market finally hit bottom? Clearly, the correlation between market action and the underlying economy is weak. While many would declare the stock market to be a “lagging indicator” of recession, even that may be overstating the connection. If we have learned anything in the past three years, it’s that weakening the dollar to foster the illusion of rising corporate profits, central bank monetary easing (QE), and central state borrow-and-spend stimulus can goose the market higher even as the underlying economy remains weak or recessionary. Will the Fed continue to support the U.S. market with QE programs every time it sags? Will QE always work as well as it did in 2010 and 2011? If the history of the deflationary-era Nikkei is any guide (and the BoJ's unprecedented monetary easing while the central government has borrowed and spent unprecedented sums on fiscal stimulus), the bottom could be a year away.
The XLE closed yesterday at 63 - only a buck above the June 1 lows. For the year, XLE is now down a whopping 8 bucks. And of course oil, which started the year at 103 and peaked at 110, has dropped to 78. Jefferies' David Zervos offers some critical insight into the energy sector bloodbath in the last few months, which of course begs the question - what in the world is going on? Shouldn't all this accomodative policy by the Fed, ECB, SNB, BoE and BOJ be sending commodities to the moon? The answer, he believes, is straightforward - central banks are NOT being accomodative enough. These downward trends in the energy and commodity complex should be a warning sign to anyone with a "price stability" mandate. For now we should look at this energy cliff as an early warning sign for stress in the system. And as such we should expect the usual central bank backstopping to come out in force if this trend picks up material steam! Its the same old story, reflation or bust - and Zervos is still betting the central bankers deliver the former!
In the next days Greece will present her magic tricks at court and while the Dukes and Barons cheer in the wings it will be up to the Red Queen, this would be the bearer of the Holstein emblem, to decide if the tricks performed are worth the cost. There is a very good chance of the hand wave of dismissal here and then the theatrical event of the season, “Off with their Heads,” will begin. Then the savant of Madrid will be allowed in to show his wares claiming they are all of silk but coarse wool is closer to the truth. The money, if it comes, will be provided by the EFSF by the way because the ESM is not yet in existence. Then the plan is to transfer the loan to the ESM which will be senior to the holders of the Spanish sovereign debt. So this morning you must rush out and by the debt of Spain. You love to be subjugated; you delight in the masochism of the whip. Losing money is what you live for and why you breathe. Oh no; this is not you? Well then; maybe better not.
Brian Sack, whom we have all grown to love and loathe, and whose mysterious Citadel trade tickets seemingly out of nowhere have prevented financial meltdowns on more than one occasion, may be leaving us next Friday, but that does not mean the Plunge Protection Team will remain headless. Meet Brian's replacement: Simon Potter, who before joining the NY Fed was... assistant professor of economics at UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, New York University and Princeton University and who " has written extensively on nonlinear dynamics over the business cycles. Recent topics have included forecasting the probability of recession, large panel forecasting models, modeling structural change and inflation expectations." So now we have a Keynesian economics professor with an expertise in "modeling inflation expectations" in charge of the S&P. Swell.
With West Texas Intermediate crude oil trading with an $80 handle, near two year lows, while stocks remain within a few percent of their four-year highs, one has to question just what it is that stocks believe about our bright new future of growth and demand that the all-important energy markets do not. Between Europe's recession, last night's dismal China PMI, and a significantly trending rise in US unemployment claims, it seems more likely that the global demand picture painted by the oil market is a better reflection of reality than the earnings/multiple picture painted by the nominal price of US equities. We know that bad is good when it comes to the front-running of Bernanke's print button but wouldn't bad being good raise the USD-nominal price of oil also?
The middle class has a gut feeling they are being screwed by somebody, they just can’t figure out who to blame. The ultra-wealthy elite keep up an endless cacophony of propaganda and misinformation designed to confuse an increasingly uneducated and willfully ignorant public while blurring the facts for those educated few capable of understanding the truth. They have been able to keep the masses dumbed down through government run education; distracted by sports, reality TV, Facebook, internet porn, and igadgets; lured by mass media messages of materialism; and shackled with the chains of debt used to acquire the goods sold by mega-corporations. We’ve become a society oppressed by a small faction of ultra-wealthy masters served by millions of impoverished, uneducated, sedated slaves. But the slaves are getting restless and angry. The illegally generated wealth disparity chasm is growing so large that even the ideologue talking head representatives of the elite are having difficulty spinning it. Even uneducated rubes understand when they are getting pissed on.
Hours before Spain is expected to present the bank "assessment" from Roland Berger and Oliver Wyman on its comprehensive bank insolvency status, the country sold €2.22 billion of two-, three- and five-year government bonds, in a sale which saw solid demand but yields that are simply laughable and are completely unsustainable, culminating with a record yield on 5 year paper. Per Reuters, the Treasury sold 700 million euros worth of a 2-year bond, 918 million euros worth of a 3-year bond and 602 million euros of a 5-year bond, beating a target to issue up to 2 billion euros of the debt... In a nutshell: big demand for paper that will leave Spain pennyless. Not very surprising, and as Elisabeth Afseth from Investec summarized, "They got it away, it's about the most positive thing you can say about it." Elsewhere the German economy continues to deteriorate from carrying the weight of the PIIGS on its shoulders, with the Mfg PMI and Services PMI both missing estimates of 45.2 and 51.5, and printing at 44.7 and 50.3, respectively. This was a 3 year low for German PMI and now all but confirms that the economy will enter a recession at the next GDP update. But all this pales in comparison with the latest update of the Greek comedy where we learn that the three parties forming Greece's new coalition government have agreed to ask lenders for two more years to meet fiscal targets under an international bailout that is keeping the country from bankruptcy, a party official said on Thursday. This came a few hours after a German parliamentary group officially spoke against a time trade-off for Greece. Which means that beggas will not be choosers after all.
They're all Blowtards....
The focus of the markets these days is driven by the headlines that are pumped out by the European Union. Hope is promised, the next big summit to fix all issues is touted, Germany is going to come around any day is offered up as Ms. Merkel denies any such thing and “muddling through” holds up prices as the by-word of belief as the blinders of the great propaganda machine direct everyone’s attention away from what is most important. As one example of this is some firewall, no matter what size, that does not do one thing to address the core issues of Italy and Spain which both have too much debt and too many other liabilities in a time of recession where contingent liabilities become outright liabilities and hidden in a vast variety of ways. These firewalls accomplish nothing except to dissuade investors from being involved and their capitalization weakens the finances of the countries providing the capital, whether counted or not, and ends up weakening the balance sheets of the core countries of Europe as we roll from promises and guarantees to moments when real money must be put up. If you stand far enough back you can visualize what is going on; “look at our firewall and do not pay attention to the countries which are having severe economic declines” and so the head fake continues until it cannot any longer as the bills overcome the ability of a nation to pay them.
Gold dipped today despite Wall Street hopes that the US Fed will embark on more QE. As we have said for some time QE3, or a new term for electronic and paper money creation, is a certainty and this will lead to inflation hedging and safe haven demand for gold.