Distortions in financial markets keep growing, as central banks all over the world are desperately intensifying monetary pumping. What is currently happening in various bond markets as a result of this and other interventions is simply jaw-dropping insanity. It is not so much that it defies rational explanation – in fact, all of these moves can be explained. What makes the situation so troubling is the fact that investors seem to be oblivious to the enormous risks they are taking. They are sitting on a powder keg.
Gold buying surged to record levels in H1, 2016 due to increasing concerns about the political, economic and monetary outlook. In particular, deepening concerns about the negative interest rate money "madness" of central banks today.
Due to the latest government intervention, differentiating between the signal of real market stress and the noise resulting from the shift due to 2a-7 reform, will now be impossible, and thus it will also be impossible to gauge if there is something truly broken with the market, at least until such a "breakage" becomes all too apparent for everyone to see.
In September, interbank credit markets flashed a quick and brief warning that something was up... and Janet folded. Three months later and following The Fed's oddly-timed rate-hike, interbank counterparty risk - as proxied by The TED-Spread - has spiked over 45% in 2 days, the most since Sept 2008 (Lehman).
Wall Street’s proclivity to create serial equity bubbles off the back of cheap credit has once again set up the middle class for disaster. The warning signs of this next correction have now clearly manifested, but are being skillfully obfuscated and trivialized by financial institutions. Nevertheless, here are ten salient warning signs that astute investors should heed as we roll into 2016.
From time to time, the data (from economic activity, inflationary pressure, risk appetite and asset valuations) points unambiguously in a single direction and experience tells us that such confluences are worth watching. We are today at such a point, and the worry is that each indicator is flashing red.
Last week we warned of the ominously rising risks evident under the surface in US financials. Following Yellen's decision to chicken-out yesterday, it appears interbank counterparty risk is even ominous-er. With bank stocks prices tumbling, catching down to credit market's concerns, the TED Spread - implicitly measuring interbank credit risk - jumped over 21% yesterday - to its highest in 3 years.
We have been anxiously reminding investors of the drip-drip-drip increases in market-perceived credit risk for US financials for much of 2015. Having risen to almost 90bps amid the chaos of 2 weeks ago (almost double the lowest levels post-Lehman hit in June of last year), it appears systemic counterparty risk is very much on the rise. What is more concerning however, as Alhambra's Jeffrey Snider notes, the TED spread has exploded higher (since China's devaluation) indicating, as convention has it, a marked increase in perceptions of interbank credit risk.
In another well-funded research study, the New York Fed has, via its Liberty Street Economics blog, unveiled its explanation for why volatility is low (obviously missing the Kevin Henry-Citadel dark-pool VIX-slamming machinations that are so evident on an almost daily basis). Their findings are a little awkward for The Fed... the current volatility environment appears substantially different from what happened prior to the financial crisis. However, the Fed's conclusion, as Helen Thomas notes, is worrisome - low interest rates tend to mute volatility (something we already knew) - but if that is the case (from their findings) then implicitly: If low volatility is caused by low rates which in turn cause low volatility, what happens when rates go up?
Just a month ago, Goldman Sachs' head progonsticator David Kostin went full bulltard, telling clients to buy high-beta, high-momentum stocks because (paraphrasing) "hedge funds suck" and will need to play catch-up. Today, his tune has changed. The "dash-for-trash" meme has outperformed dramatically in the last few years as Fed experimentation breathed life into the zombie-est weak-balance-sheet companies and traders rode that artificial wave. However,as Kostin notes, tightening financial conditions have the greatest impact on firms with high leverage and weak balance sheets; and thus, with the Fed more biased towards tightening than loosening (and the market discounting that),the "dash-for-trash" is over (as we noted in July).