If any evidence was needed that the market is dying at the zero bound, it came in this week’s violent 15-minute rip when the algos read the Fed’s release to mean there will be no rate hike in June. It put you in mind of monetary rigor mortis - the last spasm of something that’s already dead but doesn’t know it. The Great Financial Bubble dying at the zero bound has been inflating with just three interruptions - 1987, 2000 and 2008-09 - for the last 33 years. As a result, the market value of stocks, bonds and other debts have simply become decoupled from national income.
We heard from several central banks in the last few days, and what they had to say was just one more reminder that we are in a Hill Street Blues financial world. So, hey, let’s be careful out there - and then some!
Today is shaping up to be a rerun of yesterday where another frenzied Asian session that has seen both the Shanghai Composite and the Nikkei close higher yet again (following the weakest Chinese HSBC mfg PMI in one year which in an upside down world means more easing and thus higher stocks) has for now led to lower US equity futures with the driver, at least in the early session, being a statement by the BOJ's Kuroda that there’s a "possibility" the Bank of Japan’s 2% inflation target will be delayed and may occur in April 2016.
Hedge Fund Legend Julian Robertson Warns Of A "Complete Explosion" Unless Fed Contains "Boiling, Bubble" MarketSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 04/06/2015 23:28 -0400
According to hedge fund legend Julian Robertson, the Fed must act and hike rates soon because “the economy warrants it and I think [the Fed is] not crazy enough just to let this thing boil over into complete explosion. I am looking at a bubble that is almost sure to pop at some time and I don't know when it's going to happen, but I know it's going to happen. The bigger this bubble gets, the bigger the burst." What happens then: "I don't think it's at all ridiculous to think of a selloff like we saw in 2008."
So what has transpired is another day and another play in the casino. This ketchup and mac merger could not be more emblematic of how the Fed’s destruction of honest financial markets has fatally deformed American capitalism. Warren and Jorge are understandably singing Janet’s praise. Everyone else should be getting out the torches and pitchforks.
Does it really take purportedly intelligent people six years to see that the macros are not responding? Better still, isn’t it time for the Fed to explain the exact channel by which its interest rate pegging and forward guidance is supposed to be transmitted to the main street economy? After all, if these channels are blocked or ineffective - then its flood of liquidity never leaves the canyons of Wall Street. In that event, the central bank actually functions as a financial doomsday machine, inflating the next financial bubble until it bursts. Then, apparently, its job is to rinse and repeat.
Janet Yellen noted that everything was awesome and that stocks were now slightly "on the high side" of their historical range. It appears no one showed her the Russell 2000 which has a valuation multiple of just about 90x LTM earnings (as reported by the 2000 companies which comprise the index, and which were certified as accurate by 4,000 CEOs and CFOs on penalty of jail time). The mystery of how the Fed remains so stubbornly bubble blind - just like it did during the dotcom and housing bubbles - is thus revealed. The self-evident reason is that the purported geniuses who comprise our monetary politburo drink the Wall Street Cool-Aid about forward ex-items EPS. The Fed is driving a two-ton bubble machine, but has no clue that it has become a financial death trap.
We hate to spoil the surprise, but the answer, as clearly shown by the first blue bar on the chart below, is "Energy"...
Think the current S&P forward PE multiple of 18.1x (which has been higher in the history of the market on only 1% of all observations), and especially when factoring for AAPL which has become the largest contributor to S&P earnings growth on the back of essentially one product, is too high? Unable to find any value in a market which trades where it does only thanks to $13 trillion in central bank liquid "generosity"? Don't be concerned, because Goldman has a trade idea for you. Sell the S&P 500 and instead go "deep value" by buying... the Nasdaq.
The earnings season is all over except for the shouting, but the outcome doesn’t remotely validate Wall Street’s happy times narrative. Reported Q4 earnings for the S&P 500 companies (with about two-thirds reporting) stand at $25.02 per share compared to $26.48 in the year ago quarter. That’s right. So far Q4 profits are down 5% but shrinking corporate profits is something that you most definitely have not heard about on bubble vision. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have had a tremendous inflation of PE multiples during the last three years in anticipation, apparently, of the US economy hitting escape velocity and the overall global economy continuing to power onwards and upwards. As is evident from the financial news and “incoming” data, however, that presumption is not remotely correct.
It was less than 24 hours after we posted that either oil will double from here allowing energy companies to grow into a normal P/E multiple, or energy stocks will have to crash by over 40% for the ridiculous 23x to return to its normal, long-term average of 13.6x. Moments ago energy giant Chevron admitted that not only does it not see oil doubling any time soon, but that energy prices are almost certain to go far lower from here, and as a result the company decided that after buying back $5 billion of its shares in 2014, i.e., buying high and higher before the stock crashes may not be the best use of dwindling cash flow, and as a result has just suspended its stock buyback program of the rest of 2015. Yes, energy giant Chevron just ended its buyback!
The energy market in a nutshell: Either energy sector earnings have to surge by 70%, implying a near doubling of oil prices to $88, for the forward P/E multiple to return to normal, or the Energy sector prices have to crash from 549 today to 323, where it would trade down to its historic forward P/E multiple, suggesting a price drop of over 40%!
The global financial system has come unglued. Everywhere the real world evidence points to cooling growth, faltering investment, slowing trade, vast excess industrial capacity, peak private debt, public fiscal exhaustion, currency wars, intensified politico-military conflict and an unprecedented disconnect between debt-saturated real economies and irrationally exuberant financial markets.
"The decline in asset yields especially during QE3 created large wealth effects. Since the Fed's QE started at the end of 2008 the PE multiple of the S&P500 index (12-month forward) went up by five points, from 10.5 at the end of 2008 to 15.5 currently. This PE multiple expansion is responsible for around 650 index points or 32% of the current S&P500 index level. Extending that to the total stock of US corporate equities ($29tr currently), it implies an equity wealth boost of $9tr."
The last time the stock market reached a fevered peak and began to wobble unexpectedly was August 2007. Markets were most definitely not in the classic “price discovery” business. Instead, the stock market had discovered the “goldilocks economy." But what is profoundly different this time is that the Fed is out of dry powder. Its can’t slash the discount rate as Bernanke did in August 2007 or continuously reduce it federal funds target on a trip from 6% all the way down to zero. Nor can it resort to massive balance sheet expansion. That card has been played and a replay would only spook the market even more. So this time is different. The gamblers are scampering around the casino fixing to buy the dip as soon as white smoke wafts from the Eccles Building. But none is coming. For the first time in 25- years, the Wall Street gamblers are home alone.