"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.
"Notwithstanding the view that we may see S&P get up to 1950 (+/- a little) over the next fortnight or so, over the rest of Q2 and Q3 we could see a decent correction of up to 20% in the risk-on trade. Low 1700s in the S&P attracts, and thereafter, depending on weekly closes, low 1600s/mid-1500s S&P could be in play. For now, however, the key level to the upside is 2000 as a weekly close on the S&P – if achieved then I would have to revisit my bearish bias for the belly of 2014. To the downside a weekly close below 1770 would, I feel, easily put a 1700 S&P within reach. Beyond that I would need to assess data and price action at the time before highlighting the next set of levels, but I would not be surprised to see policymakers again attempt to boost markets later this year - there should be no surprise if this happens because the reaction function of central bankers has become depressingly predictable."
"... either way 2014 is already proving to be more challenging, more volatile, more illiquid and more bearish than the significantly bullish positioning and sentiment indicators warranted as we came into this year, and way more bearish than the enormously bullish consensus emanating from the sell-side. We will see painful counter-trend rallies, perhaps even to marginal new highs (3A above) – never underestimate the willingness and ability of central bankers to persist with flawed policies – but overall I think the end of the post-2009 QE-driven bull is at hand (or very soon to be at hand) and the onset of the next significant (post-QE) deflationary bear market, which I think will run deep into 2015, should now begin to guide all investment decisions." - Bob Janjuah
"What will drive this "strength"? More of the same I suspect – any weakness in earnings will be ignored (virtually all of last year's equity market gains were NOT earnings or revenue growth driven, but were rather virtually all multiple expansion driven), any bad economic data will be ignored – the weather provides a great cover, and instead markets will I think see (one last?) reason to cheer the Fed and/or the BOJ and/or the ECB and/or the PBoC.... The only real "success" of these current policies is to create significant investment distortions and misallocations of capital, at the expense of the broad real economy, leading to excessive speculation and financial engineering. If I am right about the final outcome over 2014 and into 2015, the non-systemic three-year bear market of early 2000 to early 2003 may well be a better "template". Of course the S&P lost virtually the same amount peak-to-trough in both bear markets, and in real (as opposed to nominal) terms actually lost more in the 2000/03 sell-off than in the 2007/09 crash." -Bob Janjuah
Even if you don't have a Nobel Prize, it should be glaringly apparent to anyone with half a brain - the financial markets have been soaring while the overall economy has been stagnating. Despite assurances from the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve that everything is just fine, many Americans are beginning to realize that we have seen this movie before. We saw it during the dotcom bubble, and we saw it during the lead up to the horrible financial crisis of 2008. So precisely when will the bubble burst this time? Nobody knows for sure, but without a doubt this irrational financial bubble will burst at some point. Remember, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts, and the following are 15 signs that we are near the peak of an absolutely massive stock market bubble...
The third stage of bull markets, the mania phase, can last longer and go farther that logic would dictate. However, the data suggests that the risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle.
"The major themes are unchanged – anaemic global growth/mediocre fundamentals, what I consider to be extraordinarily and dangerously loose (monetary) policy settings, very poor global demographics, excessive debt, an enormous misallocation of capital driven by the state sponsored mispricing of money/capital, and excessive financial market/asset price speculation at the expense of any benefit to the real economy. As I expect marginal higher highs before the big reversal, and while my target for this high in the S&P over the next five months remains anchored around 1800, an ‘extreme’ upside target could see the S&P trade up to 1850. Put it another way – before we see any big risk reversal over 2014 and 2015, we need to see more complacency in markets. I am looking – as a proxy guide – for the VIX index to trade down at 10 between now and end Q1 2014 before I would recommend large-scale positioning for a major risk reversal over the last three quarters of 2014 and over 2015.... Beyond Q1 2014, the longer term will all likely be driven by the growth data and the credibility of policymakers and what seems like an all-in ‘bet’ on QE as the solution to our ills."
The bloodbath in the bond markets has led some 'greatly rotating' commentators to see this as the end of the long bull market (and the beginning of a lost decade for Treasuries); in fact, as SocGen's Albert Edwards notes, the financial wreckage left in the wake of Bernanke's taper talk has generated a lot of interesting commentary. But, he asks (and answers eloquently in this far-reaching anatomy of all-the-world's-views-on-what-the-Fed-is-doing) what if (as we have noted) tapering has nothing to do with the US economy having reached a sustainable take-off velocity? From Janjuah to Rosenberg, and from Wolf to Faber, Edwards explains how his Ice-Age thesis (lower lows and lower highs for nominal economic quantities in each cycle... with each recovery bringing a partial reversal to the process and each recessionary phase taking us to shocking new lows, both in bond yields and in equity multiples) is very much still in play (despite the risks that are evident) since governments will take the path of least resistance, which is to print their way out of this looming fiscal catastrophe. Marc Faber is right. QE99 here we come.
There can be no doubt that the global growth, earnings, incomes and fundamental story remains very subdued. But at the same time financial markets, hooked on central bank ‘heroin’, have created an enormous and – in the long run – untenable gap between themselves and the real economy’s fundamentals. This gap is getting to dangerous levels, with positioning, sentiment, speculation, margin and leverage running at levels unseen since 2006/2007. ‘Tapering’ is going to happen. It will be gentle, it will be well telegraphed, and the key will be to avoid a major shock to the real economy. But the Fed is NOT going to taper because the economy is too strong or because we have sustained core (wage) inflation, or because we have full employment - none of these conditions will be seen for some years to come. Rather, we feel that the Fed is going to taper because it is getting very fearful that it is creating a number of significant and dangerous leverage driven speculative bubbles that could threaten the financial stability of the US. In central bank speak, the Fed has likely come to the point where it feels the costs now outweigh the benefits of more policy.
Following Nomura's Bob Janjuah's 'wine into water... are we there yet?' note in February, the market has followed his script almost perfectly with a continued push to new highs and a small sell-off that was bought excitedly. While he remains convinced that "in terms of positioning and sentiment, we are 'not there yet'," for his 50% S&P 500 plunge; he does believe Q2 will see a 5-10% dip to 1450 as the shambolic policy responses to Cyprus and the 'cat' that #DieselBoom 'let out the bag' add to increasingly weak global growth data. While this dip will also likely be bought, the bearded bear expects the market's comeuppance to arrive late 2013.
Whether you're aware of it or not, a great battle is being waged around us. It is a war of two opposing narratives: the future of our economy and our standard of living. The dominant story, championed by flotillas of press releases and parading talking heads, tells an inspiring tale of recovery and return to growth. The other side, less visible but with a full armament of high-caliber data, tells a very different story. One of growing instability, downside risk, and inequality. As different as they are in substance, they both share one fundamental prediction – and this is why you should care: This battle is about to break. And when it does, one side will turn out to be much more 'right' than the other. The time for action has arrived. To position yourself in the direction of the break you think is most likely to happen. It's time to choose a side.