The markets have been pushing new all-time highs this past week as earnings season begins to wind down. Starting next week, much of the focus will shift back to the economy and holiday retail sales. Expectations are for a robust season but the early arrival of winter could have a more negative effect on the economy than anticipated should current weather patterns persist.
Simply put, the dollar's rise could destabilize the entire global financial system. To understand why this is so, we have to start with the source of the risk: the world's central banks.
Central banks are printing rules almost as fast as they’re printing money. The consequences of these fast-multiplying directives — complicated, long-winded, and sometimes self-contradictory — is one topic at hand. Manipulated interest rates is a second. Distortion and mispricing of stocks, bonds, and currencies is a third. Skipping to the conclusion of this essay, Jim Grant is worried: "The more they tried, the less they succeeded. The less they succeeded, the more they tried. There is no 'exit.'"
In what may be a resounding echo of March 2006, moments ago the New York Superintendent of Financial Services said that Ocwen had engaged in abuses that could potentially harm hundreds of thousands of borrowers. As AP reports, the state regulator issued a letter Tuesday to Ocwen Financial Corp., documenting the same kinds of suspicious actions that worsened the housing crisis and the Great Recession.
The job market is tightening, and by any normal measure interest rates should be following suit and rising as well regardless of whether the US Dollar also strengthens.
Carmen Segarra said, “I come from the world of legal and compliance, we deal with hard evidence. It’s like, we don’t deal with, you know, perceptions.”
How ironic. Segarra worked at the Fed.
- Argentine holdout NML says government "choosing" to default (Reuters)
- Crunch time for Gaza truce talks as death toll passes 800 (Reuters)
- Don’t Tell Anybody About This Story on HFT Power Jump Trading (BBG)
- U.S. Accuses Russia of Shelling Eastern Ukraine (BBG)
- France’s Wheat Exports in Question as Rain Spoils Quality (BBG)
- Tapering in action: Lower printer sales hurt Xerox's revenue (Reuters)
- No liquidity? No Problem, there's an ETF for that: Bond ETFs Swelling in Europe as Trading Debt Gets Tougher (BBG)
- Herbalife hires ex-Biden chief to fend off regulators (NYPost)
- GM recalls far from calamity for some dealers who find new customers, business (Reuters)
- Bad weather likely cause of fatal Air Algerie crash: French officials (Reuters)
It has been over six months since we first highlighted the growing deterioration in the quality of auto loans and mentioned the 's' word (subprime) as indicative that we learned nothing from the financial crisis. Since then, auto loans (and especially subprime in the last few months) have surged to record highs; and most concerning, recently has seen delinquencies and late payments spike. The reason we provide this background is that, thanks to The NY Times, this story is now hitting the mainstream media as subprime-quality car buyers (new and used) realize the burden they have placed on themselves thanks to exorbitantly high interest rates (and a rapidly depreciating 'asset'). As one car 'owner' exclaimed, "buying the car was the worst decision I have ever made."
Answer: Everything. Just as he did January 2008...
The end game of three decades of excess is upon us, and we can't deny the weight of the debt imbalances that are currently in play. The medicine that the current administration is prescribing is a treatment for the common cold; in this case a normal business cycle recession. The problem is that the patient is suffering from a "debt cancer," and until the proper treatment is prescribed and implemented; the patient will most likely continue to suffer.
After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."
Last month it was a tribute to his cat. This month, the manager of the world's largest bond fund discusses sneezing: "A sneeze is, to be candid, sort of half erotic, a release of pressure that feels oh so good either before or just after the Achoo! The air, along with 100,000 germs, comes shooting out of your nose faster than a race car at the Indy 500. It feels sooooo good that people used to sneeze on purpose." He also discusses the aftermath: "The old saying goes that when the U.S. economy sneezes, the world catches cold. That still seems to be true enough, although Chinese influenza is gaining in importance. If both sneezed at the same time then instead of “God bless you” perhaps someone would cry out “God have mercy.” We’re not there yet, although in this period of high leverage it’s important to realize that the price of money and the servicing cost of that leverage are critical for a healthy economy. " He also talks about some other things, mostly revolving around long-term rates of return assumptions and what those mean for investors.
This eruption of late cycle bubble finance hardly needs comment. Below are highlights from a Bloomberg Story detailing the recent surge of leveraged recaps by the big LBO operators. These maneuvers amount to piling more debt on already heavily leveraged companies, but not to fund Capex or new products, technology or process improvements that might give these debt mules an outside chance of survival over time. No, the freshly borrowed cash from a leveraged recap often does not even leave the closing conference room - it just gets recycled out as a dividend to the LBO sponsors who otherwise hold a tiny sliver of equity at the bottom of the capital structure. This is financial strip-mining pure and simple - and is a by-product of the Fed’s insane repression of interest rates.
In February, we highlighted the fact that subprime loans were about to make a return: Subprime Mortgages are Back…This Time Marketed as “Second Chance Purchase Programs.” In that article, we posited that with the “all cash” private equity shops and hedge funds no longer able to make good returns through buying new homes to rent, these investors would need some sucker to sell to in order to realize a return (Blackstone’s purchases have plunged 70% recently). That sucker, as always, will be the retail muppets, and those muppets will be lured in through subprime. This is now starting to happen in earnest. "We're sorry, but on what sort of bizarro crackhead planet is putting 3% down toward an asset mean you are “buying it.” ... The Truman Show rolls on..."