Investors who feel that zero interest rate policy offers them “no choice” but to hold stocks are likely choosing to experience negative returns instead of zero. While millions of investors appear to have the same expectation that they will be able to sell before everyone else, the question “sell to whom?” will probably remain unanswered until it is too late. It’s an unfortunate situation, but much of what investors view as “wealth” here is little but transitory quotes on a screen and blotches of ink on pieces of paper that have today’s date on them. Investors seem to have forgotten how that works. Few are likely to realize that apparent wealth by selling. As The BIS warned recently...“The risks of failing to act should not be underestimated.”
The Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing has produced a historically prolonged period of speculative yield-seeking by investors starved for safe return. The problem with simply concluding that quantitative easing can do this forever is that even speculative assets have to compete with zero. When a safe zero return is above the medium or long-term return that one can estimate for a very risky asset, the rationale for continuing to hold the risky asset becomes purely dependent on expectations of immediate short-term price gains. If speculative momentum starts to break, participants often try to get out the door simultaneously – especially if there is some material event that increases general aversion to risk. That’s the dynamic that produces market crashes.
Market extremes generally share a common formula. One part reality is blended with one part misguided perception (typically extrapolating recent trends as if they are driven by some reliable and permanent mechanism), and often one part pure delusion (typically in the form of a colorful hallucination with elves, gnomes and dancing mushrooms all singing in harmony that reliable valuation measures no longer matter). This time is not different.
As student loan bailouts rain down from Washington, we thought it may be useful to consider where the world's wealthiest University alumni are. As Private Wealth reports, following a survey of 70,000 millionaires around the world, eight of the top ten universities with the highest number of rich alumni are based in the U.S., with the U.K. home to the other two. Engineering degrees produced the most millionaires, although most engineering grads made money as entrepreneurs, the study revealed. MBAs, law, accounting, and finance degrees also led to financial success.
We are witnessing implied volatility on all asset classes simply collapse to the lowest levels witnessed in 20 years, or at least the lowest levels achieved prior to the GFC in early 2007.
The destructive consequences of a parasitic Tyranny of the Wealthy and Majority have yet to play out, but they will, and sooner than most believe possible.
Historically, Warren Buffett has seemingly disagreed with his father Howard who called for "a return to a gold standard" and knew the great Austrian economic school economist Murray Rothbard. However, we suspect his recent startlingly crony-laden comments on Tim Geithner's new book would have made his dad roll over his grave... "Sensational... Tim's book will forever be the definitive work on what causes financial panics and what must be done to stem them when they occur."
Having been described by Warren Buffett as "the best single measure of where valuations stand at any given moment," Advisor Perspectives' Doug Short is perplexed at Warren's recent note to his CNBC brethren that "markets are not too frothy." Perhaps, as the following chart will shockingly identify, it is time to listen less and study more as Buffett's "Market Cap to GDP" indicator has risen seven quarters in a row and is only trumped in its absolute bubble exuberance by the very peak in 2000. Maybe, despite all the talking heads trying to explain what he meant, Tepper is right to be concerned, that the market is "dangerous" and given his historical comments - looking at this chart - what would Warren do?
- Bank of England sees 'no housing bubble' (Independent)
- ‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’ (FT)
- India's pro-business Modi storms to historic election win (Reuters)
- Global Growth Worries Climb (WSJ)
- Bitcoin Foundation hit by resignations over new director (Reuters)
- Blackstone Goes All In After the Flop (WSJ)
- SAC's Steinberg loses bid for insider trading acquittal (Reuters)
- Beats Satan: Republicans Paint Reid as Bogeyman in 2014 Senate Races (BBG)
- Tech Firms, Small Startups Object to Paying for Internet 'Fast Lanes' (WSJ) - but they just provide liquidity
- U.S. Warns Russia of Sanctions as Ukraine Troops Advance (BBG)
- Major U.S. hedge funds sold 'momentum' Internet names in first-quarter (Reuters)
I never thought a visit to Omaha would trigger an appreciation of the role Icahn and other activist investors play in corporate America.
When obnoxiously wealthy pricks with the ability to bribe stock exchanges to place their trading computers on the floor of the exchange and financially induce the Wall Street banks to funnel trades through their dark pools in order to know what is happening a nanosecond before everyone else, and use this information to front run unknowing investors to generate risk free profits, it’s wrong. It really is black and white. I don’t care that it is supposedly “legal”. By complying with Regulation NMS the smart order routers of institutional investor firms like Vanguard, Fidelity and Schwab simply funneled naïve investors into various snares laid for them by the unscrupulous high frequency traders. The bad guys always win and the good guys always lose on Wall Street. And no one does anything because they are all on the take. Lewis puts it in terms the average person can understand.
A division of the U.S. military known as the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), which studies threats to national security (i.e., the status quo’s grip on power) has listed Bitcoin amongst a number of potential terrorist threats. Of course, as we and many others have noted repeatedly, anything which threatens the prevailing criminal status quo will be merely labeled a “terrorist threat” in order to neutralize it. Just in case you aren’t yet convinced of how insane the folks at CTTSO are, “also on the CTTSO’s list of terrorism research topics were Android, Motorola, social media and virtual reality.” What has happened to this country...
It now appears the status quo is moving to destroy any last semblance of privacy with regard to your personal brokerage accounts. Yep, in the name of “stopping fraud” and the practices of unscrupulous brokers, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) wants to launch a program called Cards, or the Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System. This electronic system sounds a lot like the so-called metadata the NSA is collecting on everyone’s internet usage. This “robocop” would collect a weekly “record of activity at all of the more than 4,100 brokerage firms nationwide.” For your own good of course. Oh, and yeah, to stop terrorists or something...
"I got to ask [Bernanke] all these questions that had been on my mind for a very long period of time, right? And then on the other side, it was like sort of frightening because the answers weren’t any better than I thought that they might be." - David Einhorn
Economist John Maynard Keynes described the effects of inflation citing Vladimir Ilyich Lenin this way: “Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery. Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.” This is why governments love inflation so much and hate gold.