We can look at official statistics to get a sense of inflation, but these numbers are totally meaningless. When I was a kid, my father earned enough money to support his family with a single salary. We had a house, a car, an occasional vacation, and we never missed a meal. All on one income. But those days are long gone. Now it’s almost obligatory to live in a dual-income household just to make ends meet. The official statistics never paint this picture.
Call it the rigor mortis of the robo-machines. About 430 days ago the S&P 500 crossed the 1973 mark for the first time - the same point where it settled today. In between there has been endless reflexive thrashing in the trading range highlighted below. As is evident, the stock averages have not “climbed” the proverbial wall of worry; they have jerked and twitched to a series of short-lived new highs, which have now been abandoned. Surely most thinking investors have left the casino by now. So what remains is chart driven trading programs, racing madly up, then down, then back up again - rinsing and repeating with ever more furious intensity.
"The combined levels of bullish optimism, lack of concern about a possible market correction (don't worry the Fed has the markets back), and rising levels of leverage in markets provide the 'ingredients' for a more severe market correction. However, it is important to understand that these ingredients by themselves are inert. It is because they are inert that they are quickly dismissed under the guise that 'this time is different.' Like a thermite reaction, when these relatively inert ingredients are ignited by a catalyst, they will burn extremely hot. Unfortunately, there is no way to know exactly what that catalyst will be or when it will occur. The problem for individuals is that they are trapped by the combustion an unable to extract themselves in time."
The downturn in China is “our” downturn. All the recent happy talk, due to unsuitable extrapolation and nothing more, has melted away yet again. In short, the same trend dating back almost four years now is quite expectedly unaltered by whatever any central bank does or does not do. “Stimulus” is just noise against all that, at best; at worst it actively contributes to the instability of the decline.
What happens when we roll back into the next official recession, unemployment soars, and consumers really stop spending? What is revealed when you look under the hood of this economic recovery is that it is a complete and utter fraud. The recovery is nothing but smoke and mirrors, buoyed by subprime auto debt, really subprime student loan debt, corporate stock buybacks, and Fed financed bubbles in stocks, real estate, and bonds. The four retailers listed below are nothing but zombies, kept alive by the Fed’s ZIRP and QE, as they stumble towards their ultimate deaths. The coming recession will be the knife through their skulls, putting them out of their misery.
The ongoing deterioration in fundamentals, economics and technicals suggest that risk currently outweighs the potential reward for now. With respect to the technical front, the ongoing deterioration in relative strength, momentum, and breadth, combined with a compression of price action, have only been witnessed at more important market peaks in the past. "Bull markets" do not die on their own. Their death is generally dictated by the onset of an unexpected catalyst that creates enough "panic selling" to spark a liquidation cycle. Does the current situation in China rise to such a level? Maybe. It is an issue we began discussing this past June, and there may be a danger in dismissing the issue too quickly.
"I’ve just slogged through all ninety-two pages of Donald Trump’s financial disclosure submission to the Federal Election Commission, and I can’t make heads or tails of it. I cannot tell how much Trump is worth, if anything. His empire, if he has one, is as mysterious as his haircut, and as impervious as his skyscraper in Chicago - a gigantic phallic mirror named after himself."
Simply put, Gold stymies "welfare statists," but back in 1966 no lesser credit-nation-creator than Alan Greenspan still belived in free markets and sound money. You can obstruct price discovery and you can disguise and distort the real value of things. But Mr. Market will get even someday. He always does.
More and more insiders are warning of a potential systemic event.
Following last night's afternoon session melt-up at the hands of a $100bn injection into China's sovereign rescue fund, Chinese stocks opened higher but faded fast, with no follow-through from yesterday's farce. With Warren Buffett's favorite indicator flashing red for China (and US) stocks, and so many rural Chinese citizens "just hoping to get out at breakeven," any assistance in levitating the nation's stocks are simply being sold into as margined traders unwind their positions. One such leveraged 'citizen' is none other than State-Owned-Enterprise GM Yang Shengjun, whose firm was ironically among the most vocal in blaming the crash on "malicious foreign sellers trying tio start an economic war" and is now under investigation for dumping his own shares... do as I say Chinese people, not as I do.
We are seeing a kind of flight forward by investors – promises of future returns that may or may not eventuate continue to be highly rewarded – no price seems too high. This is actually a fairly typical bubble phenomenon. It is impossible to say for how long it will continue and how far it will go, but it is possible to say how it will end: in tears, especially for Johnny-come-lately investors.
When Janet Yellen speaks, investors buy stocks (whether she tells you stock valuations are 'substantialy stretched' or not). When Warren Buffett speaks, investors listen... so when his favorite indicator is flashing a huge "sell signal" trading 80% 'expensive' to its long-term average, perhaps, as BofAML suggests, it is time to listen.
Would you rather have one “Share” of the S&P 500 at $2,124, or 41 barrels of crude oil, or 1.86 ounces of gold? Yes, they are all worth the same amount at the moment, but the price relationship between the three has shifted over the decades.
When Warren Buffet put $5 billion in Berkshire Hathaway funds into Goldman Sachs the week after Lehman failed, amidst total turmoil and panic, it appeared from the outside a high risk bet. Buffet had long tried to portray himself as a folksy engine of traditional stability, investing only in things he could understand, so jumping into a wholesale run of chained liabilities may have seemed more than slightly out of character. We have no particular issue with Buffet making those investments, only the pretense of intentional mysticism that surrounds them. The reason the criticism of crony-capitalism sticks is because this was not Buffet's first intervention to "save" a famed institution on Wall Street. If Buffet's convention is to stick with "things you know" then he has been right there through the whole of the full-scale wholesale/eurodollar revolution.