The notion that individual conviction and bravery is a #MassiveFail when compared to a machine gun nest seems obvious and trite to us today. Strangely enough, though, when it comes to prevalent notions of market behavior it feels like we’re still in 1936. What I mean is that there is still a dominant belief in individual decision-making as the most effective route to successful investing, that if we could just learn a little bit more about Company X or Sector Y we will win the day. Is your individual knowledge and conviction level in Company X important for investing success? Absolutely, in exactly the same way that physical and psychological bravery is important for war-fighting success. Still more important, though, is the strength and cohesion of the groups that share your investment philosophy. Not your specific investment opinions, any more than one soldier has the same amount and type of instantiated bravery as another soldier in his unit, but the coherence of investment goals and operational practices across your fellow market participants in a particular market segment.
Global monetary conditions remain easy and despite the Fed's decision to taper, peak monetary accommodation is not here yet.
Wave of Radiation from Fukushima Will Be 10 Times Bigger than All of the Radiation from Nuclear Tests CombinedSubmitted by George Washington on 12/22/2013 02:32 -0500
Putting Fukushima In Perspective
When the USS Ronald Reagan responded to the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, Navy sailors including Quartermaster Maurice Enis gladly pitched in with rescue efforts. But months later, while still serving aboard the aircraft carrier, he began to notice strange lumps all over his body. Testing revealed he'd been poisoned with radiation, and his illness would get worse. And his fiance and fellow Reagan quartermaster, Jamie Plym, who also spent several months helping near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, also began to develop frightening symptoms, including chronic bronchitis and hemorrhaging. They and 49 other U.S. Navy members who served aboard the Reagan and sister ship the USS Essex now trace illnesses including thyroid and testicular cancers, leukemia and brain tumors to the time spent aboard the massive ship, whose desalination system pulled in seawater that was used for drinking, cooking and bathing.
"We simulated an adverse interest rate shock to estimate losses by bond funds from an instantaneous parallel shift in the yield curve of 100 basis points from current levels. We then compared the impact of such losses in today’s context to loss rates from a similar hypothetical scenario during the three previous periods of U.S. monetary policy tightening. Losses during each tightening cycle are calculated by averaging monthly estimated losses, where the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is used as a proxy for duration and mutual fund bond holdings are based on data from the Investment Company Institute. Figure 15 shows that losses could rise to nearly $200 billion, underscoring that current bond portfolios are vulnerable to a sudden, unanticipated rise in long-term rates."
From the United States to Europe and Asia: The world's central banks are flooding markets with liquidity and pushing deeper into unknown monetary policy territory. Jim Grant tells Germany's Finanz und Wirtschaft that he "fears that this journey will not end well." The sharply thinking Wall Street veteran doesn’t trust the theoretical models of the central banks and warns of irrational exuberance in the financial markets adding that "the stock market is increasingly full of stocks that are borne aloft by hope rather than demonstrated performance."
- China cash injection fails to calm lenders (AFP)
- European Union Stripped of AAA Credit Rating at S&P (BBG)
- Last-Minute Health-Site Enrollment Proves a Hard Sell (WSJ)
- Bernanke’s Recession-Fighting Weapon Developed by 1900s Banker (BBG)
- Asia Stocks Are Little Changed Amid China Funding Concern (BBG)
- Regulators' Guidance on Volcker Rule Gives Banks Little Relief on Debt Sales (WSJ)
- On one hand: Man Who Said No to Soros Builds BlueCrest Into Empire (BBG); on the other: Michael Platt's BlueCrest Capital Poised for Rough Close to 2013 (WSJ)
- BOJ Keeps Record Easing as Fed Taper Helps Weaken Yen (BBG)
- Bank of England becomes more cautious on economic predictions (FT)
- Gold Climbs From Lowest Close Since 2010 as Goldman Sees Losses (BBG)
Overnight one of the main stories is that the European Union has been downgraded to AA+ from AAA by S&P. While the market digests the impact of the downgrade, all eyes remain on the US treasury market. As Deutsche Bank notes, treasuries are increasingly being viewed as a potential sign of the success or not of the Fed taper in early 2014. From the lows in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s FOMC, 10yr UST yields have added more than 10bp. Yields continue to leak this morning (-2bp to 2.95%) though we’re still hovering at levels last seen in early September just before the Fed surprised markets with its non-taper. Despite this, US equities and credit were both reasonably well supported yesterday. However the combination of higher UST yields and a stronger dollar resulted in a fairly difficult day for EM. In EMFX, the Brazilian Real fell 1.1% against the USD, underperforming most other EM currencies. The move was exacerbated by the announcement from the BCB that it would wind back its intervention in the currency market, following the initial positive reaction to tapering on Wednesday. Other EM currencies also struggled including the TRY (-0.7%), MXN (-0.7%) and IDR (-0.3%). A number of EM equity markets struggled including in Poland (-0.7%) and Turkey (-3.5%).
Although the probability of any one of the predictions coming true is low, they are deduced strategically by Saxo Bank analysts based on a feasible - if unlikely - series of market and political events. As Saxo's chief economist notes, "This isn't meant to be a pessimistic outlook. This is about critical events that could lead to change - hopefully for the better. After all, looking back through history, all changes, good or bad, are made after moments of crisis after a comprehensive failure of the old way of doing things. As things are now, global wealth and income distribution remain hugely lopsided which also has to mean that significant change is more likely than ever due to unsustainable imbalances. 2014 could and should be the year in which a mandate for change not only becomes necessary, but is also implemented."
We think not as increasing signs of corporate distress in China will weigh on emerging market growth.
After having followed a zero interest rate policy strategy and facing a further deteriorating economy in an environment of falling prices (deflation), the Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced the introduction of QE on 19 March 2001 and kept it in place until 9 March 2006. The BoJ chose for a very orderly and gradual unwinding of its government securities portfolio, by continuing its regular purchases of these securities (i.e a taper and not sale). The market rejoiced at the normalization for a week or 2... before dropping 24% in the following 2 months. Of course, that was a "policy mistake"; the Fed knows this time is different.
The effects of the massive monetary inflation of recent years are so far mainly reflected in asset prices. Modern art has become a major magnet for investors, whereby one gets the impression that this is truly a gargantuan bubble by now. Works of art are unique, so there is really no yardstick by which one could make sensible comparisons regarding their valuations, except to note that prices today are at multiples of the prices paid in the not-too-distant past. When a Japanese insurance company bought van Gogh's 'Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers' for $39.7 million in 1987, the world was shocked that anyone would shell out so much money for a single painting. It was rightly seen as an outgrowth of Japan's bubble excesses of the 1980s at the time. Today it actually looks like they made a great investment. No-one bats an eyebrow anymore at anything that is not sold for more than $100 million. So if you ever wonder whether there is really an inflationary bubble underway, the answer is clearly, yes, there is.
Last Friday we reported of a freak near-incident in the South China Sea, when a US warship nearly collided with a Chinese navy vessel, operating in close proximity to China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, although details were scarce. Today, with the usual several day delay, China reported what was already widely know, admitting that "an incident between a Chinese naval vessel and a U.S. warship in the South China Sea, after Washington said a U.S. guided missile cruiser had avoided a collision with a Chinese warship maneuvering nearby." According to experts this was the most significant U.S.-China maritime incident in the disputed South China Sea since 2009. Which naturally warranted the question: whose actions nearly provoked a potential military escalation between the world's two superpowers. Not surprisingly, China's version is that it was all the US' fault.
Of the 8 "most important ever" FOMC decisions in 2013, this one is undisputedly, and without doubt, the 8th. As Jim Reid summarizes, what everyone wonders is whether today’s decision by the FOMC will have a bearing on a few last-minute Xmas presents around global financial markets. No taper and markets probably breathe a sigh of relief and the feel-good factor might turn that handheld game machine into a full-blown PS4 by Xmas day. However a taper now might just take the edge off the festivities and leave a few presents on the shelves. Given that the S&P 500 has pretty much flat-lined since early-mid November in spite of better data one would have to say that some risk of tapering has been priced in but perhaps not all of it. Alternatively if they don’t taper one would expect markets to see a pretty decent relief rally over the rest of the year. So will it be Santa or Scrooge from the Fed tonight at 2pm EST?
During 2013, America continued to steadily march down a self-destructive path toward oblivion. As a society, our debt levels are completely and totally out of control. Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino on the entire planet and our big banks are behaving even more recklessly than they did just before the last financial crisis. We continue to see thousands of businesses and millions of jobs get shipped out of the United States, and the middle class is being absolutely eviscerated. Due to the lack of decent jobs, poverty is absolutely exploding. Government dependence is at an all-time high and crime is rising. Evidence of social and moral decay is seemingly everywhere, and our government appears to be going insane. If we are going to have any hope of solving these problems, the American people need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and finally admit how bad things have actually become.