One of the biggest mistakes that investors make is falling prey to cognitive biases that obfuscate rising investment risks. Here are 5 counter-points to the main memes in the market currently...
Those keeping track and hoping the second default would finally hit have to hold their breath again after yet another last minute bailout has now made a complete mockery of China's "deliberate" intentions to clear up the rot plaguing its bond market. As Reuters reports, Huatong avoided a "landmark bond default at the last minute on Wednesday, raising enough funds to pay off both principal and interest on a 400 million yuan ($64.51 million) bond." Who bailed it out? Why the same government which continues to say one thing and do something totally different.
"People who take short cuts, are political, prioritize themselves above others, take excessive risks for personal gain, don’t value capital, or are unethical are outright cancers. These types of people will not only flourish in the next crisis, but most probably they will cause it."
In Wenzhou - dubbed the capital of China's private businesses - nearly 90 per cent of loan guarantors have failed since the start of the credit crisis arising from the underground banking system, according to the media. As SCMP reports, although their services are critical for the economic system and the millions of small firms - that provide the majority of the mainland's jobs - hundreds of loan guarantee groups are creaking under the weight of bad loans and are simply unable to bear any more. "It could become the last straw that breaks the camel's back," exclaims the head of a local law firm, "without the privately owned small businesses, China's economy won't have a future." But PMIs are up so everything's fine?
Opinions about the U.S. economy boil down to two views: 1) the recovery is now self-sustaining, meaning that the Federal Reserve can taper and end its unprecedented interventions without hurting growth, or 2) the current uptick in auto sales, new jobs, housing sales, etc. is as good as it gets, and the weak recovery unravels from here. The reality is that nothing has been done to address the structural rot at the heart of the U.S. economy. You keep shoving in the same inputs, and you guarantee the same output: another crash of credit bubbles and all the malinvestments enabled by monetary heroin.
Answer: Everything. Just as he did January 2008...
All sorts of promises, explicit and implicit, were issued to win votes. All the promises are now empty, and we might as deal with this reality head-on... if we can muster up the almost-lost ability to deal with reality rather than rely on fantasy/wishful thinking.
Market extremes generally share a common formula. One part reality is blended with one part misguided perception (typically extrapolating recent trends as if they are driven by some reliable and permanent mechanism), and often one part pure delusion (typically in the form of a colorful hallucination with elves, gnomes and dancing mushrooms all singing in harmony that reliable valuation measures no longer matter). This time is not different.
We have commented a few times on the slightly diffuse character of the echo bubble, which has infected a great many nooks and crannies of the economy. One of the areas which has experienced an enormous boom was the sub-prime auto loan sector. It seems however that the party in this sub-sector of the bubble economy is in the process of ending.
Two weeks ago we asked, rhetorically, "Whose Housing Bubble Is Bigger?" and showed the April home price increases in the UK and China. Today, we have our answer. As the WSJ reports, "U.K. house prices rose at the fastest monthly pace in almost 12 years and to the highest level since before the global credit crisis in May, a survey showed Thursday, as demand for homes continues to outpace supply despite tougher new mortgage rules."
If you believe that the U.S. economy is heading in the right direction, you really need to read this article. As we look toward the second half of 2014, there are economic red flags all over the place.
After little more than a year of legitimate revaluation of equities following the 2007-2009 credit crisis, and more than three years of what will likely turn out to be wholly impermanent – if dazzling – Fed-induced speculation, investors have again pushed the stone to the top of the mountain. Despite the devastating losses of half the market’s value in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009, investors experience no fear – no suffering as a result of present market extremes. There is no suffering because at every step, as Camus might have observed, “the hope of succeeding” upholds them. As we discussed several months ago, that hope of succeeding rests on what economist J.K. Galbraith called “the extreme brevity of the financial memory.” Part of that brevity rests on ignoring the forest for the trees, and failing to consider movements further up the mountain in the context of how far the stone typically falls once it gets loose. The charts below display various journeys of Sisyphus - a chronicle of multi-year, increasingly speculative market advances that terminated in the same set of conditions that we presently observe.
Geithner Confirms Mafia-Linked Berlusconi's Forced Ouster, But Says US Did Not "Have Blood On Our Hands"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/14/2014 21:38 -0500
Silvio Berlusconi - ironically nicknamed "The Teflon Don" - has been found to have done business with the Sicilian Mafia for nearly two decades, according to Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation in Rome. Having attacked the "biased judges" who called his actions "a continuous crime," Berlusconi wriggled out from under this result since the link to the Cosa Nostra was, as The Independent reports, via his conduit and former senator Marcello Dell’Utri who was sentenced to 7 years for mafia association. While this confirms as fact yet another conspiracy theory, the bigger story was the confirmation of a broad-based bloodless coup to ouster the Italian Prime Minister at the peak of the credit crisis. "At one point that fall, a few European officials approached us with a scheme to try to force Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi out of power," Tim Geithner writes in his new book, and after telling the President about "this surprising invitation," they decided not to get involved (publicly): "We can't have his blood on our hands."
"Everybody knows interest rates are going to rise." Whether you agree with this premise, or not, is largely irrelevant to this discussion. The current "bullish" mantra is the "great bond bull market is dead, long live the stock market bull." However, is that really the case? When the bond bubble ends this means that bonds will begin to decline, potentially rapidly, in price driving interest rates higher. This is the worst thing that could possible happen.
China is coming under close scrutiny these days, as the leadership scurries to find new sources of economic growth and control its debt. Some analysts have reassured China watchers that the Chinese government can simply write off its bad debt, at least within the major banks, and pass it on to the asset management companies that handle that resale of distressed debt (or have it later purchased by the Ministry of Finance). Others have warned that some of the debt is serious, such as that incurred by local government financing vehicles, and are dubious about the sustainability of these entities. To worry or unwind? How much debt can China really absorb?