"By dumping the responsibility for the heavy lifting for growth on central banks, we have ended up with asset bubbles, rampant speculation, lack of investment in productivity and in the real economy, significant levels of financial engineering to artificially boost earnings, and merely the (now failed) hope that “trickle down” still works. The outcome has been almost unprecedented levels of rising inequality in the global economy. I suspect that it is this inequality that was behind a fair chunk of last week’s Brexit outcome and which has driven the rise of extremism across other important nations/blocs."
So what do you do? Play the short-term chase the market game or the longer-term wealth devastation game. The choice is yours to make, the consequences will be for all to share. “I will tell you my secret: I never buy at the bottom and I always sell too soon.” – Baron Nathan Rothschild
“The typical investor has usually gathered a good deal of half-truths, misconceptions, and just plain bunk about successful investing.” With the month of April winding up the seasonally strong time of the year, earnings season just ahead and economic growth weak, the risks to the downside far outweigh “hope” of higher prices. Or, is “bad news” still the bear market deterrent?
It is important to remember that in bear markets the strength is to the downside, the violence is to the upside, with counter-trend rallies in bear markets often being the most painful. Markets simply do not go down (or up) in straight lines. The over-reach of central bankers and their failed policies is not news to me. What is news to us, especially after the BOJ's easing in January, is that markets are now either at or very close to losing all confidence in the post-GFC policy response crafted by the Fed/ECB/BOJ et al much earlier in 2016 than even we had expected.
"Experience in other countries that have entered into this territory should sober you up on the likely economic and inflation impact. No country that has gone into negative rates has experienced major shifts in its growth and inflation profile – minor, yes; major, no. As a consequence every dip into negative rates has been followed by additional moves."
Having correctly foreseen in September that "China's devaluations are not over yet" it appears Nomura's infamous 'bear' Bob Janjuah has also nailed The Fed's subsequent actions (hiking rates into a fundamentally weakening economy in a desperate bid to "convince markets that strong growth and inflation are on their way back"). In light of this, his latest note today should be worrisome to many as he warns the S&P 500 will trade down around 20% to 25% from current levels in H1, down to the 1500s and for dip-buyers, it's over: "I now feel even more certain that debt-driven asset bubble implosions cannot merely be 'fixed' with even more debt and another round of central bank-driven asset bubbles."
"financial markets are NOT yet pricing for a recession, rather they are merely flirting with the idea. I suspect this largely reflects faith/hope in policymakers within market participants. The events of the past few weeks, both going into and after the most recent BOJ and FOMC meetings, should give those heavily invested in policymaker faith/hope a lot of food for thought... the next Fed “put” is not likely until the S&P 500 is trading in the 1500s at least (so more likely to be a Q1 2016 item rather than Q4 2015); and in terms of what the Fed could do, clearly QE4 has to be in the Fed’s toolkit"
"... this time we would see deeply negative interest rates in the US (and Europe). Sweden has led the way, dipping their toe below the water line with their current -0.35% policy rates but there will be more, much more along these lines. For if -0.35% is possible, why not - 3.5% or less? It goes without saying that deeply negative interest rates would be accompanied by a massively expanded QE4 in the US. The last seven years of exploding central bank balance sheets will seem like Bundesbank monetary austerity compared to what is to come."
"My concern is not just that markets are mis-pricing Greece contagion, mis-pricing deflation, mis-pricing street liquidity and mis-pricing the (now negative) trend in corporate (US) revenues and earnings (Q2 earnings season is upon us and may well show year-over-year earnings down 5%/5%+). My concerns are also that markets are way too optimistic about global growth (especially the US), about China, about the ability of policymakers to do anything new and/or effective to alter things meaningfully to the upside,"
I realise that it is not normal to have a bearish risk view for December through to mid-January. Normally markets tend to ramp up in December and early January before selling off later in January. But this year I do think things are different. One look at the moves in core bond markets over 2014, when almost everyone I talked to had been bearish bonds, paints a stunning picture. I would entitle this picture ‘The Victory of Deflation’, or (as many folks now talk about (but still generally dismiss)) ‘The Japanification of the World’. I may end up eating my words in 2015 if the US consumer does come through, but if he or she does not, then we may well need QE4 from the Fed to battle the incredibly strong headwinds of deflation around the world. And I will revert on this subject, but to me the coming ECB QE and more BOJ QE are woefully inadequate substitutes for USD Fed QE.
"We all hear nonsense in the course of our lives. Sometimes we talk it. Over the past 48 hours I have heard that this apparently unforeseeable re-pricing of global markets is down to Greece, down to Ebola, and/or down to the fact that the street is not offering much liquidity. However, I think the re-pricing was foreseeable and has – so far – barely anything to do with these first two items. At some point I’m sure the market will accept that the re-pricing is much more about reassessing global growth and deflation expectations and collapsing policymaker credibility. And as for the liquidity argument – which HAS been a factor, in my view – how can this be a surprise? After all, as I see it, one of the cornerstones of regulation over the past five or six years has been to ensure that banks are unable to provide liquidity when clients really need it en masse."
The fact that the US economy is nowhere near strong enough to offset the deflation it would import and is already importing through USD strength vs EUR and JPY in particular, has now become a key market theme. Crucially, markets are now collectively having to consider what Bob Janjuah thinks is the reality – that annual trend global growth is converging down at around 2.5%, well short of the pre-crisis levels of over 4%. Janjuah believes "we will see UST 10yr yields closer to 1.5% before they get anywhere near 3.5%, with 10yr Bund yields at 50bp; and a weekly close on the S&P 500 below 1905 was and remains his key pivot point - targeting 1770 as the next stop."
As I have said for at least a year now, until and unless we see a weekly close (ideally consecutive weekly closes) in the VIX index below 10, then I judge risk-on has more to go. We got close in June/early July, but we did not get there. I would expect that, if I am right about the next quarter or two, then VIX should hit this target during this timeframe. At that point, positioning for the big turn and reversal of large chunks of the nominal wealth/asset price gains since early 2009 would take over as my key investment strategy.