Gold bugs can’t understand how the public can be so unaware, how highly intelligent policy makers can be so immoral, and how the mainstream media can be so incurious. We can’t understand why more men and women in the investment business haven’t joined some of the more successful ones that have come around to precious metals and have taken substantial positions in them for their funds and personal accounts. Conventional financial asset selection guidelines for professional investors are becoming increasingly uneconomic and problematic. Current macroeconomic conditions leave little doubt as to why. A zero-bound rate structure across developed economies, heavy monetary policy intervention, guaranteed negative real returns of benchmark financial assets and cash, impossible discount cash flow models,cacophonous (and economically meaningless) fiscal political wrangling diverting attention from legitimate budget arithmetic ($800 billion over ten years when we’re running $1 trillion-plus annual deficits?), dubious short and intermediate-term prospects in already-emerged emerging economies, and non-trending financial markets, all suggest something has changed. Regardless of whether one is investing personally or as a fiduciary, conventional financial asset allocation models and procedures are obviously failing and the reason is simple: the currencies in which financial assets are denominated are gravely flawed.
Yesterday's trading was a balance between Italy fears and fiscal cliff hopes-fears-and-hopes-again. While UBS' Art Cashin notes that on the bright side, this will all be over on December 21st when the Mayans predicted the end of the world, he also details what is perhaps even more fearsome - not-the-end-of-the-world as, in his words, demographics, destiny, and the fiscal cliff loom very large not just for the next few weeks but heading out over the next decade as baby boomers retire. As Cashin so wisely points out: "Somewhat lost in the posturing is the fact that the Fiscal Cliff was put in place to force Washington to address the exploding government debt problem. That problem is greatly exacerbated by the rapidly changing demographics in this country. If you fast forward 20 years until all the boomers are retired government debt (taking into account unfunded liabilities) soars to $202 trillion. Perhaps worth remembering that "The real problem is that regardless of the resolution it will not solve anything. We have passed the point of no return. We cannot mathematically solve this debt problem. We can only slow its progression."
... in under 140 characters no less
Bill Gross' latest monthly missive begins with some political commentary on the latest presidential election, pointing out the obvious: after the euphoria comes the hangover, completely irrelevant of what happens to the Fiscal Cliff: 'whoever succeeds President Obama, the next four years will likely face structural economic headwinds that will frustrate the American public. “Happy days are here again” was the refrain of FDR in the Depression, but the theme song from 2012 and beyond may more closely resemble Strawberry Fields Forever, as Lennon laments “It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out.” Why is it so hard to be someone these days, to pay for college, get a good-paying job and retire comfortably?" And while political campaigns were just that, the truth is that nobody has the trump card to a perfect quadrangle of problems which will mire the US economy for years to come, among which i) debt/deleveraging; ii) globalization, iii) technology, and iv) demographics. Gross' outlook is thus hardly as optimistic as all those sellside reports we have been drowned by in the past 2 weeks, hoping to stir the animal spirits one more time: 'We may need at least a decade for the healing.... it is getting harder to maintain the economic growth that investors have become accustomed to. The New Normal, like Strawberry Fields will “take you down” and lower your expectation of future asset returns. It may not last “forever” but it will be with us for a long, long time." Sad: looks like it won't be different this time after all...
Those curious why Goldman Sachs felt compelled to undertake a quiet an unexpected by most (if not us) peaceful coup of the Bank of England, it is because the oldest central bank still has among its ranks people such as Andy Haldane, who in a world populated by deranged textbook economists who don't understand that it is the central bank policies' fault the world will be forever mired in substandard growth and soaring unemployment, is a lone voice of reason (recall BOE's Andy Haldane Channels Zero Hedge, Reveals The Liquidity Mirage And The Collateral Crunch). And since the BOE has no choice but to join all its peers in a global race to the bottom (largely futile in a world in which currencies exist in a closed loop, and in which if everyone devalues, nobody devalues as even Bill Gross figured out yesterday), it is prudent to listen to Haldane's warnings while he is still in the employ of Her Majesty the Queen. Such as his latest one, in which he says that the scale of the loss of income and output as a result of the crisis started by the banks was as damaging as a "world war."
One of the best bond traders on Wall Street said this recently: “Get ready for The Great Bond Shortage in North America. If it has a cusip and it is rated, it is going higher/tighter.” The compression in bond spreads since the Fed started all of their “made-up/newly printed money for free” antics is the root of all of this and we do not expect a change anytime soon. There are various estimations for the 2013 net new issue supply in all sectors of Fixed Income but I peg it around $400 billion. Around $800 billion will be paid to bond holders during the year in coupon payments and, if reinvested, will cause a supply deficit of about $400 billion for the year. Exacerbating all of this is the Fed, who will buy around $500 billion in MBS this year and perhaps the same amount in Treasuries which could take $1 trillion out of the market all by itself. Consequently we face a lack of bonds denominated somewhere between $900 billion and $1.4 trillion, depending upon the Fed, which will increase the rolling train of compression, lower interest rates further in all likelihood and cause great angst for investors who will find very little of value left in the Fixed Income markets. Safety; yes but yield; no. Inflation and Deflation, it should be noted, only work in operative systems; but it is not Inflation or Deflation that are going to matter in the short run, though it will later; it will be the lack of bonds of any sort to purchase and a stock market that may be dangerously out of sync with the fundamentals opening the possibility of a crash. If so much money is printed and so little regard is placed upon fundamental economic principles then the Real Estate crash of several years ago will look like child’s play by comparison. “Systemic Breakdown” would be the functioning words.
Fiscokiller, fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa
Just because Jack Handey never got to manage $1+ trillion in debt...
Gross: US fiscal cliff deeper than advertised. Its a Grand Canyon. Washington will defer entitlement cuts & raise revenues only marginally.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 11, 2012
The U.S. Presidential race is now behind us. And this morning the world woke up and realized that all the issues the election postponed now lie before us. It's becoming increasingly clear the way our leaders will "address" these challenges will be to throw increasing gobs of our citizens' current and future wealth at them. Until, of course, that simply doesn't work anymore...
Presented without comment - adding anything to this concise summation of the state of the union is superfluous...
Gross: Whew! It’s over. To the victor belongs the spoils of political power but to the US voter only continuing frustration will accrue.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) November 6, 2012
"Obama/Romney, Romney/Obama – the most important election of our lifetime? Fact is they’re all the same – bought and paid for with the same money. Ours is a country of the SuperPAC, by the SuperPAC, and for the SuperPAC. The “people” are merely election-day pawns, pulling a Democratic or Republican lever that will deliver the same results every four years. “Change you can believe in?” I bought that one hook, line and sinker in 2008 during the last vestige of my disappearing middle age optimism. We got a more intelligent President, but we hardly got change. Healthcare dominated by corporate interests – what’s new? Financial regulation dominated by Wall Street – what’s new? Continuing pointless foreign wars – what’s new? I’ll tell you what isn’t new. Our two-party system continues to play ping pong with the American people, and the electorate is that white little ball going back and forth over the net. This side’s better – no, that one looks best. Elephants/Donkeys, Donkeys/Elephants. Perhaps the most farcical aspect of it all is that the choice between the two seems to occupy most of our time. Instead of digging in and digging out of this mess on a community level, we sit in front of our flat screens and watch endless debates about red and blue state theologies or listen to demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or his ex-cable counterpart Keith Olbermann."
"The price action over the past few weeks in the wake of the markets getting more from the Fed than they could have ever expected heading into an election is a clue that the times indeed could be a changing. The 1987 paradigm underwent a similar period of choppy trade before melting down. Of course, crashes by their nature are a rare breed and the probability of one occurring is astronomically low. That said, should the S&P 500 fail to hold the 1400 level over the next few days (especially on a closing basis) we wouldn’t wait around too long in anticipation that the modern day version of LOR will save the day. The chart makes it clear that quantitative easing has diminishing returns. Soon they could be negative."
Bill Gross has become quite the expert at explaining the Fed's flawed, ruinous and destructive "policies" in 140 characters or less. Today is no exception.
Gross: Fed merry-go-round: inflate stocks til 2000. Then inflate housing til 2007. Then inflate stocks til 2012. Now inflate housing again.
— PIMCO (@PIMCO) October 22, 2012
This past Friday, on the 25th anniversary of Black Monday, Bill Gross warned that in the current centrally-planned market "central bank puts" are the modern day equivalent of "portfolio insurance", and he is right. By sending complacency to record levels, and essentially forcing investors to no longer worry, hedge and generally ignore tail risk, the central planners, in their futile attempts to reflate stocks at all costs, are guaranteeing that the market will experience just the type of fat tail event they promise will never occur. As for the catalyst that will make sure of it is none other than our old friend: high frequency trading. Because while central planning is the mechanism by which investing is dragged away from mean reversion, price clearing and fair value discovery, it is HFT that is Bernanke's analogue in the millisecond trading world (as all those who had stop limit orders (that did not get DKed) on May 6, 2010 very well remember). Because when the next Black ___day does happen, it will be due to central planning, but it will be enacted courtesy of HFT (which will never go away until the next and probably final market crash: too much exchange revenue depends on the perpetuation of this parasitic liquidity drain). Which is why it is only appropriate to warn readers that when it comes to system market fragility, the frequency and magnitude of "wild price spike" events (to put it simply) are now both rising at an exponential rate, and fast approaching Flash Crash levels.
So far the Fed's 4 year old QEasing strategy has failed for the simple reason that the smart money instead of being "herded", has far more simply decided to just front-run the Fed thus generating risk-free returns, while the "dumb money", tired of the HFT and Fed-manipulated, and utterly broken casino market, has simply allocated residual capital either into deposits (M2 just hit a new all time record of $10.2 trillion) or into "return of capital" products such as taxable and non-taxable bonds. Alas none of the above means that the Fed will ever stop from the "strategy" it undertook nearly 4 years ago to the day with QE1. Instead, it will continue doing more of the same until the bitter end. But how much more is there? To answer this question, below we present the entire universe of marketable US debt, in one simple chart showing the average yield by product type on the Y-axis, and the total debt notional on the X.