Ever since the beginning of 2016 and especially in the last few weeks, while Hugh Hendry has been chugging horse doses of blue pills, Joe LaVorgna has finally discovered the red pill, and perhaps because he has been focusing a little to much on the performance of the stock price of his employer, or for whatever other reason, gradually Wall Street's biggest bull has mutated into its most outspoken bear.
"I Used To Be A Big Deal... And Then A Billion Dollars Walked Out The Door" - Hugh Hendry's Sad StorySubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/10/2016 20:45 -0400
"A funny thing happened at the end of 2013 I wrote a letter to my new clients and I began with the preface "what if I was to tell you that I'd become bullish on equities; is that something you'd be interested in." The resounding message no. A billion dollars walked out the door.... "What, really, you're bullish?" - Hugh Hendry
- Headline of the day: Oil prices fall as investors' faith in rally wanes (Reuters)
- Europe shares, dollar gain as investors look to Yellen (Reuters)
- Chinese Bidder for Starwood Has Mysterious Ownership Structure (WSJ)
- Germany wants refugees to integrate or lose residency rights (Reuters)
- BlackRock Joins Pimco Warning Investors to Seek Inflation Hedge (BBG)
- Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns: A Financial-Crisis Mystery Is Solved (WSJ)
"Tomorrow we wake up and China has devalued 20%, the world is over. The world is over. Euro breaks up. The world is over. The euro breaks up. Everything hits a wall. There's no euro in that scenario. The US economy, I mean everything hits a wall! Everything hits a wall! It's a 'Mad Max' movie, right. OK, China gets to be the king in 'Mad Max' world. How appealing is that?"
We already suspected in mid 2013 (worrying about the market far too early as it has turned out in hindsight) that there were parallels to what happened in the late 1990s bull market, specifically near its end in the year 2000. However, in the meantime, even more such parallels have become noticeable.
Ben Bernanke is no longer the Fed's chairman, but this article is even more relevant today then it was when I wrote it
"The "bailout culture" often coincides with sustained weak growth because, among other consequences, successful companies have to compete with companies who are alive only because of cheap credit. Overcapacity and inefficient production are engendered by such policies, causing price and profit declines. Failure is an essential element of capitalism, and if failure is politically denied, the most effective, efficient and innovative solutions cannot "win" over the "living dead" who clutter markets and consumer baskets."
"It is ironic that we are perhaps best known for advising “that you panic”. However, if you are anxious at the wrong time it can prove very painful. Today, we would advise that you don’t panic!
... by withdrawing the “Greenspan put” and using their asset purchase schemes to eviscerate any notion of value, the authorities have paradoxically created a safer yet more paranoid market."
- Hugh Hendry
Central banks are fearful and unwilling to normalize but artificially high valuations across asset classes cannot be sustained indefinitely absent fundamental global growth. Central banks are in a prison of their own design and we are trapped with them. The next great crash will occur when we collectively realize that the institutions that we trusted to remove risk are actually the source of it. The truth is that global central banks cannot remove extraordinary monetary accommodation without risking a complete collapse of the system, but the longer they wait the more they risk their own credibility, and the worse that inevitable collapse will be. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, global central banks have set up the greatest volatility trade in history.
June was a bad month for most hedge funds. With China crashing, oil prices resuming their slide, volatility returning, and even momo favorite biotechs no longer rising at their conservative 10% monthly clip, few looked forward to writing their monthly investor letters, and nowhere was the carnage more indicative than in our favorite named hedge fund, the Tulip Trend Fund, which after soaring earlier in the year tumbled 15% in June and is now down almost 20% for the year.
It is unknowable how much more pronounced these excesses can become, especially in light of extremely loose monetary policy around the world. Things could easily become quite dicey as soon as tomorrow, but it is just as easily possible that valuations will continue to expand for some time yet. However, these data do indicate one thing: risk has increased enormously, and it will keep increasing the longer the bubble persists. Frankly, the situation also scares us a bit, because we expect that governments and their agencies (such as central banks) will find it extremely difficult to deal with the next crisis. They have become quite overstretched as a result of the last one. After having gone “all in” last time around, what are they supposed to do for an encore? The only options that come to mind are repressive measures such as capital controls, confiscation of private wealth, and a host of other unpleasantries.
Considering that Chinese equities are the best performing market in USD terms (second only, oddly enough, to Russia) in 2015, one can see why after a disappointing 2012 and 2013, and modest 2014, Hendry has hit 2015 out of the park with a bang, generating a 10.6% return in the first two monthes of the year. So is Hendry still bullish on China's stock market prospects? Why yes, and then some. But is he is contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian? Does he see something in China that nobody else does? Or is he simply right... or wrong, as the case may be? We will let readers decide.
The current premise is that global equities markets will rise regardless of economic fundamentals. Money must flow into equities [perceived as the only asset class capable of producing “acceptable” returns] because the alternatives offer virtually no return…with interest rates pinned near zero in most western economies. Just buy any equity [akin to dart throwing] and a “greater fool than you” will buy after your purchase, at a higher price, ad infinitum... thus ever increasing the asset’s value This is such an obviously flawed argument on so many levels... albeit, like almost any strategy, is surprisingly effective from time to time.
The problem is inherent in the knowing “that it will end badly” and yet turning a blind eye and making money anyway. For that’s what a good Wall Street aficionado does after all, right? I mean, who cares about arguing about real economics or fundamentals. Who cares – I’m up 8%!! As if that’s all that now matters. For if that’s all that matters why don’t we embrace crony capitalism, embrace stagnant wages, embrace the 99% vs the 1% as that’s the best it’ll ever be. Who cares, as long as we’re getting ours. This disgusting bloated behemoth of an adulterated Central Bank infused market is now getting downright scarier.
We will readily admit that one cannot know with certainty whether the bubble in risk assets will become bigger. However, it seems to us that avoiding a big drawdown may actually be more important than gunning for whatever gains remain. We don’t think it is a good idea to simply “take the blue pill” and rely on the idea that the effects of the money illusion will last a lot longer. It is possible, but it becomes less and less likely the higher asset prices go and the more money supply growth slows down. If no-one can say when, then the “blue pill” strategy has a major weakness. It means that things could just as easily go haywire next week as next year.