Yesterday saw something quite unusual in the New York trading session. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority bought $715 million (selling HKD) in the FX markets to manage its currency peg, injecting the money into the banking system (and expanding its balance sheet) to prevent HKD from rising above its permitted range. HKMA projects its balance sheet to grow to the end of July, but as Simon Black (of Sovereign Man blog) notes, this could well be the start of a bigger shift - an end to the US Dollar peg..."The US is no longer the undisputed superpower it once was. The US dollar is dragging them down. Hong Kong is easily strong enough to stand on its own."
Economic laws are not optional. They are like the laws of physics - inexorable!
Just as the Federal Reserve cannot directly force you to stick the needle of monetary heroin (debt) into your arm, it also can't force employers to pay employees more. The ultimate hubris of the Keynesian Cargo Cult (which includes the global economy's central banks) is the naive notion that they can manipulate an entire system with a few levers such that the desired outcome--and only the desired outcome--is the output. The idea that you can change one input in an interconnected system of systems and only affect the one output you want is not just naive and simplistic: it requires a level of blindness and incompetence that is off the charts.
If one looks past headline figures, things are not really getting better. As shown in Figure 1, real disposable income per capita in the U.S. has increased only modestly since the Great Recession. However, all of this increase is due to Government Transfers, not from an improvement in the real economy.
With U.S. rates higher than those of major foreign markets, investors are provided with an additional reason to look favorably on increased investments in the long end of the U.S. treasury market. Additionally, with nominal growth slowing in response to low saving and higher debt we expect that over the next several years U.S. thirty-year bond yields could decline into the range of 1.7% to 2.3%, which is where the thirty-year yields in the Japanese and German economies, respectively, currently stand.
While we have again and again explained why Abenomics is ultimately doomed as you simply cannot print your way to prosperity (a message The Fed appears to be discovering rapidly), when Goldman Sachs unleashes an Abenomics-bashing piece, one has to wonder just what options Abe has left as economic data starts to collapse (and approval ratings drop just as fast). Simply put, as we concluded before, "Monetary debasement does NOT result in an economic recovery, because no nation can force another to pay for its recovery... Eventually the monetary debasement raises all costs and this initial benefit to exporters vanishes. Then the country is left with a depleted capital base and a higher price level. What a great policy!"
To those who believe the correlation of Fed monetary heroin and the stock market is eternal and cannot possibly come undone, please consider this line from songwriter Jackson Browne: "Don't think it won't happen just because it hasn't happened yet."
The continuity bias is astounding as many with assets address this as an “extra rough patch” to get through rather than the clear paradigm shift it has been telegraphed to be.
This week was interesting to say the least and it is ending with a bang. We are covering a number of brief subjects this week. I hope you enjoy them.
It’s vogue, trendy and appropriate to look to dystopian literature as a harbinger of what we’re experiencing at the hands of the government. Certainly, George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm have much to say about government tyranny, corruption, and control, as does Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report. Yet there are also older, simpler, more timeless stories - folk tales and fairy tales - that speak just as powerfully to the follies and foibles in our nature as citizens and rulers alike that give rise to tyrants and dictatorships. One such tale, Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, is a perfect paradigm of life today in the fiefdom that is the American police state, only instead of an imperial president spending money wantonly on lavish vacations, entertainment, and questionable government programs aimed at amassing greater power, Andersen presents us with a vain and thoughtless emperor, concerned only with satisfying his own needs at the expense of his people, even when it means taxing them unmercifully, bankrupting his kingdom, and harshly punishing his people for daring to challenge his edicts.
Will investing based on fundamentals eventually find favor once again with investors? The problem is that market participants no longer view the financial markets as a place to invest savings over the "long term" to ensure future purchasing power parity. Today, they view the markets as a place to "create" wealth to offset the lack of savings. This mentality has changed the market dynamic from investing to gambling. As Seth Klarman warned, "There is a growing gap between the financial markets and the real economy. Not surprisingly, lessons learned in 2008 were only learned temporarily. These are the inevitable cycles of greed and fear, of peaks and troughs." Simply put, fundamentals will matter, but only after the fact.
You feel poorer because you are poorer.
So far the 21st Century has not been especially kind to equity investors. Yes, markets usually do bounce back, but often in time frames that defy optimistic expectations. Thhe real (inflation-adjusted) purchasing power of that $1,000 is currently, over 14 years later, only $218 above break-even. That equates to a 1.39% annualized real return.