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Guest Post: A Bubble So Big We Can't Even See It

Tyler Durden's picture


Authored by Steve Keen via Real-World Economics Review,

Before the current turmoil began, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's hope was that rising asset prices would lead to a "wealth effect" that would encourage the American consumer to start spending again, and thus help the American economy finally leave the "Great Recession" behind.

His predecessor Alan Greenspan argued in February that this would work because:

"...the stock market is the really key player in the game of economic growth... The data shows that stock prices are not only a leading indicator of economic activity, they are a major cause of it. The statistics indicate that 6 percent of the change in GDP results from changes in market value of stocks and homes." (Greenspan 2013)

This is the so-called "wealth effect": an empirical relationship between change in the value of assets and the level of consumer spending which implies that an increase in wealth will cause an increase in consumption.

Greenspan's sage status is somewhat tarnished post-2007, so I don't think anyone should be surprised that his definitive statement involves a sleight of mouth. The "6 cents extra spending for every dollar increase in wealth" found in the research he alluded to was for the relationship between changes in the value of housing wealth and consumption, not stocks. In fact, the authors argued that the wealth effect from stocks was "statistically insignificant and economically small":

"Consistent and strong evidence is found for large but sluggish housing wealth effects... the MPC [marginal propensity to consume] out of a one dollar change in two-year lagged housing wealth is about 6 cents...

Furthermore, a statistically insignificant and economically small stock wealth effect is found ...

Additionally, there is evidence that the housing wealth effect is significantly larger than the stock wealth effect... these results suggest that it is necessary to take into consideration the potentially substantial difference between consumers' respective reactions to fluctuations in the housing markets and stock markets." (Carroll and Zhou 2010, p. 18. Emphasis added)

So the empirical data does not support Greenspan's notion that the stock market drives the economy (though the housing sector might). But equally the economy isn't booming sufficiently to make the reverse case that the economy drives the stock market. So what is causing the markets to boom right now?

Let's start by taking a closer look at the data than Alan did. There are a number of surprises when one does - even for me. Frankly, I did not expect to see some of the results I show here: as I used to frequently tell my students before the financial crisis began, I wouldn't dare make up the numbers I found in the actual data. That theme continues with margin debt for the USA, which I've only just located (I expected it to be in the Federal Reserve Flow of Funds, and it wasn't - instead it's recorded by the New York Stock Exchange).

The first surprise came when comparing the S&P500 to the Consumer Price Index over the last century - since what really tells you whether the stock market is "performing well" is not just whether it's rising, but whether it's rising faster than consumer prices. Figure 1 shows the S&P500 and the US CPI from the same common date-1890—until today.

In contrast to house prices, there are good reasons to expect stock prices to rise faster than consumer prices (two of which are the reinvestment of retained earnings, and the existence of firms like Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway that don't pay dividends at all). I therefore expected to see a sustained divergence over time, with of course periods of booms and crashes in stock prices.

Figure 1: The S&P 500 and the CPI from 1890 till today


That wasn't what the data revealed at all. Instead, there was a period from 1890 till 1950 where there was no sustained divergence, while almost all of the growth of share prices relative to consumer prices appeared to have occurred since 1980. Figure 2 illustrates this by showing the ratio of the S&P500 to the CPI - starting from 1890 when the ratio is set to 1. The result shocked me - even though I'm a dyed in the wool cynic about the stock market. The divergence between stock prices and consumer prices, which virtually everyone (me included) has come to regard as the normal state of affairs, began in earnest only in 1982.

Until then, apart from a couple of little bubbles in stock prices in 1929 (yes I'm being somewhat ironic, but take a look at the chart!) and 1966, there had been precious little real divergence between stock prices and consumer prices.

Figure 2: Ratio of stock prices to consumer prices from 1890 till todays


And then, boom! What must certainly be the biggest bubble in stock prices in human history took off—and it went hyper-exponential in 1995.

In 1982, the ratio of stock prices to consumer prices was only 1.8 times what it was in 1915. By 1990, the ratio was substantial at 4 times - well above the level of 1929 (2.6:1) but below the peak reached back in 1966 (4.1:1). Then it just exploded to 12.5 times by the peak of the DotCom bubble in 2000.

Since then, it's been doing the Jitterbug. The current rally has erased the crash of 2008 in nominal terms, but at a ratio of just over 10:1 today, it still stands shy of the two previous peaks of 12.5:1 in 2000 and 10.5 in 2008.

So are stocks in a bubble? On this view, yes - and they have been in it since 1982. It has grown so big that - without a long term perspective - it isn't even visible to us. It has almost burst on two occasions - in 2000 and 2008 - but even these declines, as precipitous as they felt at the time, reached apogees that exceeded the previous perigees in1929 and 1968.

But this of itself doesn't truly establish that there is a bubble however, since as noted, even I expected to see a trend in the ratio of stock prices to consumer prices over time. Perhaps 1890-1950 was the abnormal and this is now a restoration of it?

So is there any other series that looks anything like this? Oh, let's try one at random - say, the ratio of margin debt (on the New York Stock Exchange) to GDP (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: NYSE Margin debt as percentage of GDP


OK, I had my tongue in my cheek, but again this data had even me gob smacked when I first plotted it. I had not expected this correlation: my analysis actually runs from change in margin debt, rather than its level. So this outright match blew me away - particularly when I put the two series on the same chart (see Figure 4 - and yes Alan, feel free to use this one on the ABC News!).

My causal argument commences from my definition of aggregate demand as being the sum of GDP plus the change in debt—a concept that at present only heretics like myself, Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer and Richard Werner assert, but which I hope will become mainstream one day. Matched to this is a redefinition of supply to include not only goods and services but also turnover on asset markets.

This implies a causal link between the rate of change of debt and the level of asset prices, and therefore between the acceleration of debt and the rate of change of asset prices—but not one between the level of debt and the level of asset prices. Nonetheless there is one in the US data, and it's a doozy: the correlation between the level of margin debt and the level of the Dow Jones is 0.945. 

Figure 4: Margin debt compared to the DJIA—correlation 0.945


Of course there are elements of spurious correlation here: they were both generally rising over 1955-2013. But one can also make a causal argument that increasing levels of debt levered up the gap between asset and consumer prices. This assertion of course directly contradicts a famous proposition in academic finance—the "Modigliani-Miller theorem" that the level of debt has no impact on the level of asset prices—which is another good reason to take it seriously.

In devising my "aggregate demand is income plus change in debt; aggregate supply is goods and services plus net turnover on asset markets" relation, I was never sure whether the measure of asset market turnover should be based on the level of asset prices, or their rate of change: this was something that only empirical research could clarify. And on this point, the US data is again exceptional: both the rate of change of margin debt (relative to GDP) and the rate of acceleration of margin debt correlate strongly with change in the Dow over the past six decades.

Figure 5: Change in margin debt & change in the Dow--correlation 0.59


The correlation of the change in debt with change in the Dow is stronger than the correlation of acceleration - 0.59 versus 0.4 - but both are pretty strong for correlations over more than half a century, especially since conventional wisdom asserts they should both be zero.

Figure 6: Margin debt acceleration & change in the Dow--correlation 0.4


The correlations have risen too as the level of debt has risen - both aggregate private debt and, in the USA's case, margin debt which is specifically used to buy shares.

Figure 7: Change in margin debt & the Dow in recent years—correlation 0.69


Figure 8: Margin debt acceleration & change in the Dow - correlation 0.6


Now comes the complex question: which causes which? Does rising/accelerating margin debt cause the stock market to rise, or does a rising stock market entice more people into margin debt? Obviously there will be some cumulative causation here: both statements are going to be true to some degree. But this also implies a positive feedback loop, which is part of the explanation for why stock prices are so volatile.

Regardless of that complex causal loop, this data scotches Greenspan and his causal argument that a rising stock market causes a rising GDP. The market - and recently the economy - has risen not because of "the wealth effect", but because of "the leverage effect". Leverage has returned to the stock market, driving up stock prices and aggregate demand in the process.

How far can it go? Margin debt is still shy of its all-time high as a percentage of GDP, so there is certainly some headroom for further rises. But at the same time, the market is still in territory that was uncharted before the Loony Zeros (my "Roaring Twenties" candidate for how we should describe the last decade and a half) drove it higher than it has ever been before. Fragility, rather than sustainability is the message I would take from this data.

I'm reassured in this prognosis by the fact that Greenspan made precisely the opposite point in that interview, when he stated that "the price-earnings ratio is at a level at which it cannot basically go down very much." As some other commentators have observed, Greenspan  expressing confidence in the stock market is a reliable contrary indicator.


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Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:20 | 3729048 duo
duo's picture

I guess buying gold miners on margin was a bad idea.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:29 | 3729068 ZerOhead
ZerOhead's picture

Just a whacko idea from a self confessed nutjob here... but what are the chances that the intentional UNDER-REPORTING of inflation through changes in how the CPI is calculated might have something to do with this...

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:50 | 3729117 knukles
knukles's picture

Probably a lot... seems intuitive... good on ya'

Other one would be effect of survivor-ship bias in the DJIA or other equity index composition calculations.  Bias toward (significant) overstating of equity returns as the bankrupt, out of favor, obsolete, etc., fall out of favor/composition over time.

SO essentially CPI is grossly understated while equity returns are grossly overstated meaning.... 
Lemme see here...

My old equity geek bosses would have really blown a gasket at this one!
If the truth hurts, ignore it....

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:55 | 3729130 max2205
max2205's picture

Nflx pe 600

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:39 | 3729211 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

But there are so many barriers to entry,

and it's an obsolete business model no one wants to be in anyway...

say wut?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:10 | 3730545 spine001
spine001's picture

Dear Steve Keen and Zero hedgers: the associasion shown is causal but not in the way described. If you look  arefully there is a time delay between the curves. If you do a causality analysis you will see that the level of the DJI is what driv3s the level of margin debt and not the opposite. The dynamics are complex and I dont disagree that the re is an associati9n between the availability of margin debt and the level of the DJI since one feeds on the other one. But the behavioral model is a lot more complex. With respect to The Modigliani Miller theorem. The author clearly stat3s the assumptions f9r it to be valid in his paper and since those assumtions are never valid in real life "well functioning rational markets" among others, the main use of the theorem is in detrmining from a violation of its assumptions what conditions make the structure of capital relevant to valuation.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:16 | 3729432 Stoploss
Stoploss's picture

Steve, overlay periods of US war on the Margin Debt chart, fills in the gaps of the connection between high margin debt and wars and or acts of war, I.E. 2001 for instance.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 03:28 | 3730084 All Risk No Reward
All Risk No Reward's picture

Steve, nice analysis of the chair defects on the Debt Money Titanic.

Now how about addressing the fundamental fraud of loaning a nation its money supply such that the lenders' wealth is, BY DEFINITION, society's INEXTINGUISHABLE DEBT?

Nobody seems to "go there."

I get its scary, but isn't living life hiding the "devil's toolbox" a bit scary, too?

Does every establishment and anti-establishment establishment wonk want that on their tombstone's resume?

Debt Money Tyranny

It is all fine and dandy calling Greenspan and Bernanke deceptive, but let's get to the brass tacks...  they are criminals...  serially breaking Section 2A of the Federal Reserve Act:

Weapons of Mass Debt

It wasn't a stock market bubble, it was a debt money bubble released into stocks.

It wasn't a housing bubble, it was a debt money bubble released into houses.

It isn't a stock market bubble, it is a debt money bubble released iinto stocks again.

The root cause is the Federal Reserve mega banking cartel's Trojan Horse's criminal debt bubble blowing operation!

Someone in the establishment has to man up and call these foul criminals foul criminals.

There is no doubt this is what they are - read Section 2A of the Federal Reserve Act and then look at the exponential debt growth they created contrary to that law.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:16 | 3730568 spine001
spine001's picture

You are correct and the authors article is flawed in several technical levels.see my other post if interested.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 13:06 | 3731132 dadichris
dadichris's picture

Debt Money Bubbles - Made in U.S.A

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:05 | 3729149 RockyRacoon
RockyRacoon's picture

I'm no chartist (either in belief with this manipulated market, nor in practice as a useful tool), but what's that on the right side in Figure 1?   Is it the fabled head-and-shoulders pattern?

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:32 | 3729198 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

I think that's the broke back mountain pattern, but what do I know?

(Knucks nails the jello to the wall.)

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:02 | 3729868 blackbeardz
blackbeardz's picture

my chartleaves say we're at the top of the head stage, pleasurable but sensitive area.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:23 | 3729156 CheapBastard
CheapBastard's picture

The consumers ain't gonna be spending a lot any time soon, fellow. I read their unemployment benefits are getting cut from $289 by a whopping $43  bucks.


What are they going to buy on $1,000 a month (besides pop-eyes, cigarettes and Boon's Farm)?

And, oh yeah, all those rental  houses as an investment in a society where 50,000,000 are on food unemployment is "robust."


Good luck!

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:14 | 3729426 asteroids
asteroids's picture

The stock market "wealth effect"  as a driver is another myth! The average american has no holdings in the stock market. The odds are he is living month to month. He's unemployed and feeding his family with food stamps. How the hell is this guy going to find the cash to invest in GS? Why the hell should he? The average guy understand "moral hazard", why should he put his money with a FED and Obozo that doesn't. The average guy does not believe in the reality distortion field that the FED and Obozo project.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:06 | 3730032 FlipFlop
FlipFlop's picture

M-M theorem refers to company balance sheet? In presence of tax, it does matter.

Now, does it matter if investor levers up on behalf of company?

I am suspicious of anything prof Keen writes.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:22 | 3730596 spine001
spine001's picture

You are correct. The article is technically incorrect. I wonder why was it written? M&M is only useful for determining under what conditi9ns debt structure is relevant since its assumptions are never met in real life.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:20 | 3729049 franzpick
franzpick's picture

The biggest thing in the world to ever hide in plain sight.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:25 | 3729059 AssFire
AssFire's picture

I don't know...have you seen my wife's ass under her hoop skirt?

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:39 | 3729091 Boop
Boop's picture

Thank God, no, I haven't.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:46 | 3729103 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

"More cushion for the pushin'" as the saying goes.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:32 | 3729197 negative rates
negative rates's picture

Yea but watch out for the junk in the trunk.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:18 | 3729172 franzpick
franzpick's picture

She'll be in the running when she pleads for and starts wearing a TARP.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:29 | 3729194 kaiserhoff
kaiserhoff's picture

You're married to Moochelle, too?

Oh wait.  That would be ugliest.  My bad;)

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:51 | 3729839 dwayne elizando
dwayne elizando's picture

Obviously Mr. Keen isn't familiar with this chart by Didier Sornette. Equity bubble shmequity bubble.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:54 | 3729850 dwayne elizando
dwayne elizando's picture

Obviously Mr. Keen isn't familiar with this chart by Didier Sornette. Equity bubble shmequity bubble.

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 00:35 | 3730085 All Risk No Reward
All Risk No Reward's picture

Societal asset stripping debt based money is the answer - it is the biggest fraud ever and hidden in plain sight.

Debt Money Tyranny Exposed

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:22 | 3729052 Al Huxley
Al Huxley's picture

I'm betting cheap money encourages margin debt which results in the rising markets, while rising interest rates trigger deleveraging and corresponding selloffs.  Hence the observation that there's never been a serious bear market in a low interest rate environment (so much for fundamentals).  Equity bulls might want to pay a little more attention to the bond market right now....

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:04 | 3729254 NoDebt
NoDebt's picture

You beat me to it.  Would seem reasonable leverage would be used more when it's cost drops- as it has been doing with few interruptions for 30 years. 

The last month may have been the turn off the bottom, though.  Roughly 100 bps in a month should be enough to grab just about anyone's attention.


Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:27 | 3729064 JJ McApe
JJ McApe's picture

the titanic is unsinkable...

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:55 | 3729131 knukles
knukles's picture

Thank God for some truths in these uncertain times

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:08 | 3729154 Bangin7GramRocks
Bangin7GramRocks's picture

401k created the big boom. If Dubya could've gotten privatized Social Security the market would have tripled again. No fundamentals, just an increase in play money to play with.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:13 | 3730098 SunRise
SunRise's picture

"the titanic is unsinkable! . . . once she bottoms

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:28 | 3729066 falak pema
falak pema's picture

Has the CPI measurement changed over time, since 1890?

I would think that it has, energy for instance.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:48 | 3729088 JustObserving
JustObserving's picture

If inflation was measured now as it was in 1980, it would be about 7% higher than the official number.

If the US govt. has been understating inflation by an average of 3% since 1980, US GDP now is $6 trillion instead of the official $16 trillion figure.  Incidentally, Dagong, the Chinese rating agency, claims that US GDP is about $6 trillion now.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:50 | 3729119 falak pema
falak pema's picture

you can obviously see the implication of this on the S&P/CPI ratio, in the POST 1980 period; as if the old CPI were used rather than the new CPI the ratio would be much smaller; as the denominator would be much larger.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:18 | 3729133 JustObserving
JustObserving's picture

Exactly.  As someone said - "We are an empire now.   We create our own reality."  And we create our own fake CPI and GDP and the biggest stock bubble in history.  But is difficult to argue with 700 military bases in 130 countries.  Or the NSA collecting 97 billion pieces of intelligence every month. Or France, Spain, Portugal and Italy closing their airspace 3 hours into the flight of Evo Morales putting his life at risk.  

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:27 | 3729291 OneTinSoldier66
OneTinSoldier66's picture

I would say that's a pretty Observation of the Situation, JustObserving.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 01:09 | 3729973 August
August's picture

If you're not cop, you're little people.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:53 | 3729123 knukles
knukles's picture

Hah ha ha ha ha
A Chineese entity telling anybody else about fudged numbers.
Sorta like warmongers getting a peace prizez

Or sumptin', Lucy

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:02 | 3729141 JustObserving
JustObserving's picture

You mean to say you would believe Goldman Sachs over Dagong on American economic statistics?

And the most prolific warmonger in the world did get the highest peace prize.  It is a Bizarro world.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:08 | 3729267 MaxThrust
MaxThrust's picture

Sorta like war mongrels getting a peace prize.

Yes they do, Obama.

So you can see, strange things do happen

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:05 | 3729139 socalbeach
socalbeach's picture

According to John Williams' ShadowStats, the CPI has been monkeyed with since 1983, which coincidentally or not is when this article says there's been a divergence between share price and CPI (2nd graph from top - Ratio of S&P500 to CPI).

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:39 | 3729077 Renfield
Renfield's picture

I have often wondered what would have happened had Volker not raised interest rates so high in the early '80s. I may be oversimplifying, but I've thought of this huge decades-long 'wealth effect' bubble as being the only (and predictable) result of going off the gold standard.

Today, the 'wealth effect bubble' has become such a leviathan that I don't think any interest rates can save the fiat system now, even if TPTB were in a position to raise rates. Today, central banks and governments are, I think, too insolvent to pay any real interest at all, and they can't rely on the knock-on effects of some other market's prosperity, because they are ALL now in the same boat.

If interest reflects risk, then in a purely fiat system, there can be no nominal ROI risk and so interest rates are irrelevant except as a measure of confidence rather than risk. A low-rate environment leaves a bank very little room to manoeuvre - zero being the floor, since negative returns are obviously unsustainable even in a short term - and so if low rates last a long time, and there's no apparent way for them to move up, then complete loss of confidence is close. Since the government borrows from the people, then if the people (creditor) find out that the government (debtor) is broke, they will not lend their (labour/assets) to the government any more and govvy fiat becomes useless. We are reaching the point now where people are beginning to understand that their debtor, the government, is broke and they will never be repaid no matter what nominal 'interest rates' may be.

Am I over-simplifying, or is there nothing new in this big picture, except for the 'global' size of it?

All this to say, thank you for putting some detail into the big picture of what happens when any bank/government moves to a purely fiat currency, and specifically what's happening this time.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:59 | 3729140 Dick Buttkiss
Dick Buttkiss's picture

"I may be oversimplifying, but I've thought of this huge decades-long 'wealth effect' bubble as being the only (and predictable) result of going off the gold standard."

Yes, but it was only temporary, so don't worry:

The third indispensable element in building the new prosperity is closely related to creating new jobs and halting inflation. We must protect the position of the American dollar as a pillar of monetary stability around the world. ...

I have directed Secretary Connally to suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets, except in amounts and conditions determined to be in the interest of monetary stability and in the best interests of the United States. — President Richard M. Nixon, August 13, 1971

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:53 | 3729233 bonin006
bonin006's picture

Even more temporary than the income tax, so far.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:45 | 3729330 andrewp111
andrewp111's picture

The next currency system will be a unitary global all-electronic money system. This will make it possible to impose large negative interest rates and put a "color" on money because there is no way to withdraw cash and no foreign currency. The Mark Of The Beast financial system will be the only possible way to maintain the existing world order in desperate times. The ultimate in can-kicking.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:53 | 3729531 Morla
Morla's picture

Capital controls do have some limitations.. As the regime becomes more oppressive, things like government cheese and victory gin become black market money. Try and ration THOSE down and you open a whole different can of worms.

If the real goal, like that of the drug war, is simply to criminalize vast swaths of the population leaving them subject to the arbitrary power of the police, then yes capital controls will do that job nicely.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:36 | 3729081 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

Margin debt is used to bid up stock prices.

Increasingly, millions of Americans are trapped in equities for IRA's and 401K's.

Banks and Wall Street hedge funds use margin debt (with help from the FED) to artificially value stocks higher.

Working Americans have a perception of wealth that is illusory because it is on paper - and most can't get the money out.

This trapped money (and from Pension funds) is used as the base for Wall Street profiteering.

Ramp up equities bought at a low level using margin debt, then sell them and make scads of money.  Rotate in and out of sectors and asset classes as the ramp up is occurring to maximize the amount of cash you make.

The average American is trapped in this casino, and are the ones who lose when the bubbles pop.

To add insult to injury and to try and entice them back into the equity casino and chase yield the FED pays next to nothing or zero on savings, while loaning banks all the cash they can handle at 0.5%.

Need a loan?  That will cost you 4.5%.  Have money you want to save?  We'll give you 0.25%.

The American citizen getting bent over and bled to death by the banker/crony capitalism/government cabal.

It is as plain as day if you open your eyes.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:41 | 3729093 desirdavenir
desirdavenir's picture

Totally agree...just I didn't see you message when I started typing...

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:47 | 3729113 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

You are absolutely correct. There are two things holding up the share market ponzi, debt and granny investor pension money. Paper prices could rise as long as these inflows were increased. But when rates have been lowered to zero, and granny funds stubbornly refuse to get fooled again, what to do.

The wealth effect always struck me as borderline insane though. So if we manipulate asset prices above their fundamentals, then the resultant economic boon from spending will be enough to pay for it all, with improved fundamentals to justify the higher prices effected through manipulation. But if the return is greater than the expenditure in this scheme it would be a perpetual motion machine.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:59 | 3729232 involuntarilybirthed
involuntarilybirthed's picture

401Ks are just a free, scheduled flow of money to Wall Street/Institutions (generic) that is used, manipulate then eventually placed in some fund pool as they wait for the next scheduled flow of money to use and manipulate.  It is like a Wall Street fountain of youth.  See how hard it is to find rules on how institutions handle 401K money once they receive it?  A grand scam between Congress and Wall Street.


Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:13 | 3729275 Dr Benway
Dr Benway's picture

Well put. Here in Australia there is the same deliberate lack of transparency into the black box of the pension scam, and politicians are implementing an increase (9%->12%) in the mandatory pension deductions from wages, which they hope will prop up the ponzi long enough for their wrinkly leathery asses to cash out.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:36 | 3729485 slimething
slimething's picture

You mean to say my 401k, which is 100% vested, is not stored in a company vault?

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:24 | 3729181 fijisailor
fijisailor's picture

I looked through this article for correlations with retirement funds and couldn't find any.  That was a surprise.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 01:28 | 3729990 Hongcha
Hongcha's picture

Well said ebworthen.  In Canticle for Leibowitz, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi written in the 1960's, the population has been bombed back to medieval level and is so impotently furious at the technocrats who brought them ruin, that they actively & irrationally seek & destroy every vestige of technological progress from the wheel on up.  Maybe a future generation does the same with fractional reserve banking and usury. These are truly remarkable and somewhat ghastly times.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:38 | 3729089 desirdavenir
desirdavenir's picture

Why do I feel sympathetic to all these babyboomers who were told to invest their retirement savings in stocks all at the same time, maybe causing this price increase? Now THAT would be a Ponzi scheme...

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:54 | 3729126 falak pema
falak pema's picture

because you don't like the S&P as much as you like the doctored CPI?

CPI statistics...and Reaganomics asset ramping. Both are ponzis.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:43 | 3729098 EclecticParrot
EclecticParrot's picture

An ant traversing the surface of an enormous balloon is convinced he's proceeding in a flat, straight line, yet keeps returning to the starting point, and as the balloon is inflated further, this journey naturally takes longer.

An unnamed finance leader has been known to play a related child's game continuously in his office, curtains drawn:  a birthday balloon is rubbed briskly against his resplendant beard, then stuck to the wall, and his astonishment at how long it remains without dropping causes barely muffled laughter to flood the hallway.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:10 | 3729742 Tinky
Tinky's picture

I'm tempted to believe you, as parrots know a thing or two about ants.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:30 | 3729794 EclecticParrot
EclecticParrot's picture

Ants are tasty, but it's far easier to grab a cracker off the surface of a balloon, particularly in Ben's office, where he tends to prefer Breton Reduced Fat (or is that "Bretton" ?).

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:07 | 3729876 Tinky
Tinky's picture

Presumably Ben was also the original inspiration for "Stoned Wheat Thins".

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:47 | 3729109 Everyman
Everyman's picture

WOW,  Just waht I thought all along.  The Stock prices are based n easy money policy, leveraged debt, and margin.

It is nothing, meaning anything significant.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:50 | 3729118 terryfuckwit
terryfuckwit's picture

i have huge respect for keenes analysis but he never sees how the acceleration of the madness happened when money was no longer related to anything real. settlement of debt with gold is the only thing that can take the delusion out of fairytale balloon money...Regulation has never worked and never will as long as regulators/judges can be bought.. how many times does history have to prove this to us...the core issue is money being as fair as it can be from inception

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 18:52 | 3729122 gwar5
gwar5's picture

...not to mention, CPI and other stats have been molested more times than a choir boy to cover up this whole creeping disaster.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:48 | 3729339 bonin006
bonin006's picture

Good point. If you divide the peak in figure 2 by 4 (rough difference in molested Vs unmolested CPI per Shadowstats), it pulls it down to about 3. Still maybe bubbly, but not hyper.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:03 | 3729145 WTFUD
WTFUD's picture

If we stuck a pin in any 3 names on this site and even if we were unlucky enough to land on one troll, i would feel confident that the un(lucky) trio given the reigns to lead the economy could kickstart us on the correct path.
The current clown circus seem hell bent on digging in at any cost and every month on this path of destruction sacrafices many decent hard working folks to the scrapheap.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:05 | 3729147 g speed
g speed's picture

what I see is a rotation of retail investors out of the market after the DOT COM bubble-- ---(margin change/dow change).

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:17 | 3729168 NipponMarketBlog
NipponMarketBlog's picture



"Greenspan expressing confidence in the stock market is a reliable contrary indicator."


He's not the only one....

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:29 | 3729192 maskone909
maskone909's picture

Yo nippon love your blog good stuff...
Any thoughts on the JGB 10y yield moving forward? Looks to me that we could see it rise along with the weakening yen passed 100

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:20 | 3729173 Duc888
Duc888's picture

"Before the current turmoil began, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's hope was that rising asset prices would lead to a "wealth effect" that would encourage the American consumer to start spending again..."


And that's all you need to know.


Debt.  Feed the beast who feeds off of your heartbeats.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:21 | 3729175 fijisailor
fijisailor's picture

Hey genius.  Any correlation with the invention of the 401k in 1981?  Is this fucking obvious or what?

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:35 | 3729304 andrewp111
andrewp111's picture

It's not obvious unless the margin debt is an effect, not a cause. 401K's are not bought on margin.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:28 | 3730105 fijisailor
fijisailor's picture

Margin doesn't matter.  There was over $17 trillion in retiremnet plans in 2010.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:22 | 3729179 Lady Heather...UNCLE
Lady Heather...UNCLE's picture

This  is a tail wagging dog and chicken or egg clusterfuck

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:25 | 3729182 maskone909
maskone909's picture

Question: does GDP really mean anything when money isnt going into the hands of the lesser 99%?

Does CPI really mean anything when ithe figues are skewed to reflect a false sense of inflation?

Bad news is good news good news is bad?


Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:28 | 3729187 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Before the current turmoil began, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's hope was that rising asset prices would lead to a "wealth effect" that would encourage the American consumer to start spending again, and thus help the American economy finally leave the "Great Recession" behind.

Wrong! In 2008 the banksters went to Bush and said pay up 700 billion or your ass is toast because the ATM's won't be working 12 hours from now and there will be marshall law in the streets. Bush said, "If I agree to this how long can you keep things going to allow me to get the Military Industrial Complex in position to take over the United States of America and bring in the NWO." They said, through fraud, but we will need immunity from the law, bout 4 or 5 years. Bush replied, "Then its on like Donkey Kong motherfuckers."  And that my friends is the cold hard fact behind FED chairSatan Ben Bernanke's actions.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:32 | 3729196 eddiebe
eddiebe's picture

Since consumer spending supposedly is the engine of the economy, just maybe paying them a wage that keeps up with inflation may help.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:32 | 3729199 HardlyZero
HardlyZero's picture

"Game" ?  hopefully someone notices.

"...the stock market is the really key player in the game of economic growth..."

Lets just 'game' the system...or 'play' the market, or Ponzi the fools.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 19:33 | 3729203 toadold
toadold's picture

"Remember that the map is not the actual terrain"

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:07 | 3729263 holdbuysell
holdbuysell's picture

Nice analysis. Thanks, Steve.

Looks like Maria Bartiromo might have to start talking about 'all that debt margin potential on the sidelines'.... oh wait.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:08 | 3729266 Duc888
Duc888's picture

Does any "polititian" tell the truth?

Does any "Government?

Does any talking head on MSM?

Does any Bankster?

Ok, now that THAT is settled, we can move on to our regularly scheduled programming.



Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:19 | 3729284 Tombstone
Tombstone's picture

Actually, if the government and the FED were to become nonfactors, like maybe exist in a vaccumm on another planet,  the US economy could become a great wealth creator, beyond anything we have ever seen.  We do have some $70 trillion available in possible productive assets.  A recent study by John Dawson and John Seater, published in The Journal Of Economic Growth, found that GDP growth has been stunted by federal regulations to the tune of 2% a year since 1949.  This means that actual GDP of $15 trillion in 2011 could have been over $50 trillion if the level of regulations had stayed the same since 1949.  There is more proof of your government hard at work to create wealth and prosperity.  And we all know how hard up the current administration is for creating more and more regulations.  After protecting our nation from invasions , the government is next to useless; that is unless you are a socialist depending on welfare.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 20:40 | 3729320 Kirk2NCC1701
Kirk2NCC1701's picture

"Deregulation", baby. Deregulation.
Anyone remember that Reagan/Bush mantra?

Well, we've had plenty of that since 1980. How's that working out for ya? Got the wealth effect? In the Top 1% yet? /s

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 01:00 | 3729956 NidStyles
NidStyles's picture

I find it amusing seeing you post stuff like that while knowing that Star Trek was written by Gene Roddenberry whom was an avid Rothbardian.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:11 | 3729415 Tulpa
Tulpa's picture

If CPI has been manipulated downward for the last 30 years, as many suspect, that kind of cuts the legs out from under this analysis as that manipulation would explain the trend.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 06:14 | 3730176 BlackSwanCrash
BlackSwanCrash's picture

dead right. Why do these so say intellignet guys keep believeing the CPI data? a mystery to me

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:11 | 3729418 adr
adr's picture

The 1980s started the new generation Wall Street mania, but the growth was real until 88. What happened next destroyed the world.

Wall Street mania turned to publicly traded mania in the 1990s. The rush to IPO everything and usher in the public big box retailer.

It is amazing to think that in 1992 there weren't Walmarts in every town, no Best Buys, Targets, Dick's, etc. Sure the stores existed, but they were regional chains with a couple dozen stores. Within ten years they built thousands of mega stores demolishing the old private enterprise that built middle class America.

Everything became based on the stock market, it became impossible to not deal with a publicly traded entity every day of your life. The stock market took over the economy and there isn't enough private enterprise left to maintain anything.

The bullshit bubble became reality. If it pops, there is nothing left. All to make 1% of the population obscenely wealthy. There might just be enough real economy left to support 1% of the population, probably the purpose of the whole thing.

Sun, 07/07/2013 - 21:46 | 3729499 Aurora Ex Machina
Aurora Ex Machina's picture

ZH has this all wrong.

Only driving the entire thing off the cliff at warp speed can save homo sapiens: R E S E T AND JUBILEE. Otherwise, you're stuck at this 1.0 shitty boring level for ever. Your other choice is global gigacide and the mental death that is having your 'G-D zone' raped for eternity by the other species that eat you (that have always been here, and have always predated you but don't like the light - deal with it, every species needs a predator; your kind can't even see them). Even the Jesuits (hi Pope!) get it.



Sun, 07/07/2013 - 23:30 | 3729792 bunnyswanson
bunnyswanson's picture

It is easier to ___1000 people than a couple billion people.  Seize assets, throw them in Gitmo, read the books and then, return this popsicle stand to normal is my suggestion.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 17:57 | 3732103 trader1
Sun, 07/07/2013 - 22:32 | 3729642 Big Ben
Big Ben's picture

Part of this anomoly is probably because official CPI numbers underestimate actual inflation. For example, the graph shows roughly a 5X increase in the CPI from the mid-60's till now. But when I compare actual prices of things like eggs, milk, gasoline, etc., it seems that prices have gone up by at least 10X since then. And I didn't even factor in things like health care and education that have soared since the 60's.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:01 | 3729862 rosiescenario
rosiescenario's picture

" Fragility, rather than sustainability is the message I would take from this data." .....straight from Taleb, which is a plus.


I'm reassured in this prognosis by the fact that Greenspan made precisely the opposite point in that interview, when he stated that "the price-earnings ratio is at a level at which it cannot basically go down very much."

The most frightening words to be seen in print this year....of course the ratio may stay the same with both the earnings and the prices collapsing....

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:34 | 3729919 dojufitz
dojufitz's picture

Here in Australia farmers have been burning orchards because they cannot sell their fruit.....the mega giants of the supermarket chains have killed them.......they import lemons from Vietnam instead of the local stuff.....

there are 2 chains here and they own fuckin everything.....there are more pokie machines in Australia per head than anywhere else on the planet......

Get on with it and change the name of this place to Pokitralia......

I've said it before.....

the only fucking good thing about Australia is the fact that they make good cheap i need a drink...

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 00:44 | 3729937 Tapeworm
Tapeworm's picture

"but even these declines, as precipitous as they felt at the time, reached apogees that exceeded the previous perigees in1929 and 1968."

 Doesn't Keene have these terms ass backwards?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 01:53 | 3730012 kareninca
kareninca's picture

The last time the DOW was at about its present level, I looked at some very long term historical charts.  I figured that things are cyclical; things go up and down in big ways over long periods of time, so what was a good price to get in on?  I came up with 4500.  Then the DOW went down under 9,000, but I didn't think that was low enough.  Along with historical lows, it's a good general principal to buy things at 2/3rds off their peak.  Unless it's a piece-of-garbage high maintenance McMansion, or similar consumer junk, you're likely to do okay if you buy at that sort of discount.

My husband is annoyed at me that we've been out of the market since 11,000.  I keep telling him it will go down again; he is skeptical.  He wants to get back in now!!!!  So we're putting our money back in, one percent a month:  a compromise.

So I find this well-researched article very reassuring.  Except that when you really look at historical patterns, we will all (except the elites) be lucky to be living on rations and roof rats and MREs in ten years, and we won't have any teeth left, and we'll all be diabetic and fat due to BPA despite a shortage of calories.  Bummer for my financial planning.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:02 | 3730026 Wilcat Dafoe
Wilcat Dafoe's picture

Remind me, because I didn't study economics in college-  what is the statistic economists use to reflect the percentage of income a household is paying to a bank or financial institution in interest payments.


Whatever it is, this 'X' - the idea seems to be that the economy is good if it goes up, at least as I understand Spendianism.


So...  an economy good for who or what, exactly?  To my mind a productive economy entails people having some good or service to offer, and someone having cash, not credit to pay for it.  And I don't include the financial industry in this notion....  or at least anyone getting rich by trading around debt held by others is manifestly not doing anything for anyone. 


So then, what is 'X'?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:31 | 3730109 GreatUncle
GreatUncle's picture

If it goes up?


Depends on what position you are in. If you have excess and it goes up that is great you believe you make a financial killing. If you are on the bottom of the curve you will see this rocket higher and you are deflated away in the process. There is also a level / limit between rich and poor in their where if you can invest enough you will hold your own worth up. 


Real question though, if the wealthiest get to create the rate of growth the poorest will be doomed forever to the fallout and that is how central banks are behaving. The poorest in such a system need to walk away, pull any value out of the system you may have and bloody walk. 


That would wipe out this kind of mechanism but like fools we keep playing.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:12 | 3730037 put_peter
put_peter's picture

so cpi was reliable measur upto 1982 and since the sp500 is more reliable indicator of inflation.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:20 | 3730049 dariomilano
dariomilano's picture


Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:36 | 3730114 css1971
css1971's picture

Yes. Or put another way.

The stockmarket is just inflation. Which tells you just how hard the ordinary person is being fucked by inflation. Then... Even if you are all in the stock market, you're only just keeping level with inflation.

I came to this conclusion a couple of years back. It makes sense if you think about it. It ain't magic... Where does the money come from to keep the stock market up?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:20 | 3730048 dariomilano
dariomilano's picture

in the first two chart, is there any consideration on the growing world's population??

the stock market is composed of companies that operate in the world (world's CPI is to be used, and in relation with the rise of population)

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:48 | 3730064 pagan
pagan's picture

This is an effect of globaloney and especially the Chimerica trade. 

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 02:52 | 3730066 pcrs
pcrs's picture

Nice way to find the reak CPI and also figure out what real growth was in the past without the underreported CPI taken out. After doing that the Greenspan productivity miracle dissapeared and we are back to the question :whu do we need central banks and lying scum to rule our lives?

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:25 | 3730103 GreatUncle
GreatUncle's picture

Does rising/accelerating margin debt cause the stock market to rise, or does a rising stock market entice more people into margin debt?

Neither, a government / central banker manipulating and using QE / leverage on loans (the rate of money creation) drives people to try and find ever more ways to preserve their worth. That means hoard value into something, anything.Well would you keep say a million bucks in a bank right now or would you say stuff it and put it into somethng else. What is the next easiest mechanism to enter into? Other paper assets of course. You are not going to invest in say a million tins of baked beans there is kind of an issue of handling that quantity of tins of baked beans it.


Mon, 07/08/2013 - 04:33 | 3730112 michaelsuede
michaelsuede's picture

It seems obvious to me what the cause of this correlation is.  A departure from the gold standard allowed for unconstrained debt creation and artificially low interest rates.  The big investment houses took full advantage of this situation.  They levered up and dumped that new debt based money into the stock market.  Since the money supply is now a function of debt instead of gold reserves, the CPI follows.


Mon, 07/08/2013 - 06:06 | 3730169 BlackSwanCrash
BlackSwanCrash's picture

what the esteemed author of this article fails to realise is that the subversion of govt CPI figures started in earnest from 1980, the exact time he starts to see the divergence of stocks from CPI. If he had used J.Williams' stats I doubt he would have had such a divergence. 

SAD! anothe economist basing his intellignet articles on cooked Gubberment statistics. Idiot

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 07:18 | 3730196 MagicMoney
MagicMoney's picture

Yeah, the government started cooking the CPI in the 80's. If you used the original CPI method of the 1970's, you probably wouldn't see such a diversion. Then you can look at the Boskin Commission which understated inflation. Steve Keen is s typical charts, and graphs Keynesian. Not much sense to question the very data he is using to come up with conclusions especially government data that is obviously been manipulated.


To be fair, stock market evaluations did go up higher mainly because of Alan Greenspan's cheap money policies. When there was a problem somewhere in the planet, Alan Greenspan would shower the markets with cheap money. Take note of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Even Greenspan himself admitted that stocks showed unusual valuations if I remember correctly.

Mon, 07/08/2013 - 10:52 | 3730707 BlackSwanCrash
BlackSwanCrash's picture

yep and Helicopter Ben continued Alan's profligate money spewing policies

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