Having recently cut its estimate of US trend productivity growth to 1.5%, in a shocking move earlier today, Goldman admitted US trend growth is far less than previously speculated and lowered its long-term potential GDP. The bank says: "after adjusting for a drag from government sector productivity and incorporating an updated assessment of trend labor force growth, we now see long-run potential GDP growth at 1¾%, half a percentage point below our prior estimate." This is a huge deal as Goldman just recalibrated every single economic (i.e., inflation, employment) and financial (i.e., bond rates, leverage) equation by more than 20%, not to mention the amount of implied residual slack in the economy. In short, an absolutely massive amount!
"Today, six and a half years after the collapse of Lehman, there is a Bigger Short cooking. That Bigger Short is long-term claims on paper money, i.e., bonds."
A little over two years ago, in the middle of April 2013, there was a gold crash that came seemingly out of nowhere. Worse, for gold investors anyway, that crash was repeated just a few months later. Where gold had stood just shy of $1,800 an ounce at the start of QE3, those cascades had brought the metal price down to just $1,200. For many, especially orthodox economists, it heralded the end of the “fear trade” and meant, unambiguously, that the recovery had finally at long last arrived. However, gold price activity since QE3 has been a warning, and a big one, not cause for victory celebrations.
Retired central banker, blogger, bond guru and hedge fund consultant Ben Bernanke just uttered the following total rubbish...
*BERNANKE: NO LARGE MISPRICINGS IN U.S. SECURITIES, ASSET PRICES
In an effort to save whoever it is that will pay him $250,000 next for these wise words, we offer five charts.
The fact that such books dominate the book sales in this category tells us a thing or two about how the near consensus of approval once enjoyed by the Fed (and other Western central banks) is long gone.
To preserve any idea that the US is not heading into recession, the FOMC is now wholly reliant on statistical processes within the BEA’s use of the Census Bureau’s updated ARIMA-X13 modeling system. It is amazing to see this policy body that once proclaimed, unequivocally and forcefully, that it could perform the monetary equivalent of sorcery and alchemy reduced to quivering about winter. The latest policy statement, a silly farce of its own accord, is, quite simply, an embarrassment.
The uncertainty surrounding the inevitability, if not the exact timing, of multiple and possibly overlapping volatility drivers is itself a source of volatility. For the average person, these signs can be scary. Taking steps to avoid the circus as much as possible, such as extracting money from the markets, securing personal assets, and waiting out the swings, can be a source of emotional comfort and future financial stability.
The economy is growing, the markets are up, stocks are flirting with record highs… The good times are back for investors, so it seems, but are they really?
"To critics who warn that pumping trillions of dollars into the economy in a short period is bound to drive up inflation, today's central bankers point to stagnant consumer prices and say, 'Look, Ma, no inflation.' But this ignores the fact that when money is nominally free, strange things happen, and today record-low rates are fueling an unprecedented bout of inflation across asset prices."
The fact is that much of the globe, particularly the developed west, is up to its eyeballs in debt. Mind, you, this is based solely on official public debt numbers. If you include unfunded liabilities, then the US, most of Europe, Japan, and even China are sporting Debt to GDP ratios well over 300%.
"You said you weren’t monetizing the debt when you talked to Congress. You said the Fed was going to sell the bonds, but none of them have been sold. They’ve all been rolled over. So how are you claiming victory when you haven’t exited? You haven’t raised rates, you haven’t shrunk the balance sheet. You were wrong in the past. You didn’t see the financial crisis coming. You told us there was no housing bubble. You said subprime was contained. So you were certainly wrong then. So how do you know you’re not wrong now? Is there anything that might change your opinion and get you to rethink and maybe admit that your outlook is wrong?"
What is extremely clear is that there is something amiss with the statistical headline employment and economic data. While there are indeed pockets of improvement, which should be expected following a recessionary contraction, there is a lack of widespread recovery. That sentiment is clearly reflected in every major poll of American's over the last year. What is important is that there is a clear disconnect between the financial markets, statistical economic headlines, and the reality of the vast majority of American consumers. So, riddle me this - what happens when that disconnect is eventually resolved?
Bull markets don’t end all at once. Generally a few egregiously-overvalued sectors blow up first and are dismissed by most observers as aberrations. Instead, they turn out to be a sign of things to come. In the previous decade’s bubble it was subprime housing that led the way, while being initially characterized by experts as too small to matter. Click here for Ben Bernanke’s ongoing attempts to convince the world to relax and ignore housing’s problems. This time around we of course won’t know until after the fact which sector is the canary in the coal mine. But these epic fails in the bubbly social media/online marketplace region of tech certainly look like viable candidates.
Why would financial firms pay so much for blogger Ben Bernanke’s thoughts? Aside from the marketing benefits we noted, there is one good reason. In essence, you’d want to know what Bernanke would think if he were wrong or ill-informed about some important economic issue. That is something money managers understand in a way that academics and policymakers do not, for being wrong – and knowing what to do next – is a critical skill for the professional. Getting the most information from Bernanke, either in a one-on-one or just reading his work online, boils down to just two questions: “What doesn’t he know” and “What is he sure of that is actually wrong?”