There is a reason why every fiat currency in the history of the world has eventually failed. At some point, those issuing fiat currencies always find themselves giving in to the temptation to wildly print more money. Today, the Fed finds itself faced with a scenario that is very similar to what the Weimar Republic was facing nearly 100 years ago. Like then, the U.S. economy is struggling and like the Weimar Republic, the U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt. Unfortunately, the Fed has decided to adopt the same solution that the Weimar Republic chose. The Fed is recklessly printing money out of thin air, and in the short-term some 'positive things' have come out of it. But quantitative easing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while too.
While the commemoration of the 5 year anniversary of the start of the Great Financial Crisis is slowing but surely fading, another just as important anniversary is revealed when one goes back not 5 but 15 years into the past, specifically to September 23, 1998. On that day, the policy that came to define the New Normal more than any other, namely the bailout of those deemed Too Big To Fail, a/k/a throwing good (private or taxpayer) money after bad was enshrined by Wall Street as the official canon when faced with a situation where capitalism, namely failure, is seen as Too Dangerous To Succeed. This was first known as the Greenspan Put, subsequently the Bernanke Put, and its current iteration is best known as the Global Central Banker All-In Systemic Put. We sow the seeds of bailing out insolvent financial corporations to this day, when instead of making them smaller and breaking them up, they are rewarded by becoming even bigger, even more systemics, and even Too Bigger To Fail, and their employees are paid ever greater record bonuses.
In a world in which all the matters is "scale", the ability to Martingale down on losing bets as close to infinity as possible (something which JPMorgan learned with the London Whale may not be the best strategy especially when one can't print money out of thin air), and being as close to the Fed's Heidelberg rotary printer as possible, it was expected that that "expert" of government backstops and bailouts, the Octogenarian of Omaha, Warren Buffett, would have only kind words for Ben Bernanke. But not even we predicted that Buffett would explicitly admit what we have only tongue-in-cheek joked about in the past, namely that the Fed is the world's greatest (and most profitable) hedge fund. Which is precisely what he did: "Billionaire investor Warren Buffett compared the U.S. Federal Reserve to a hedge fund because of the central bank’s ability to profit from bond purchases while accumulating a balance sheet of more than $3 trillion. "The Fed is the greatest hedge fund in history,” Buffett told students yesterday at Georgetown University in Washington. It’s generating “$80 billion or $90 billion a year probably” in revenue for the U.S. government, he said.
Speaking at Georgetown University's Business School alongside his best-bailed-out buddy BofA's CEO Brian Moynihan, Warren Buffett has some rules (or goals) for the "wealthy" that are summed up perfectly in this quote:
- *BUFFETT: RICH MUST LEARN TO LIVE ON $500 MILLION, DONATE REST
- *BUFFETT SAYS WE HAVEN'T LEARNED WELL ENOUGH HOW TO SHARE WEALTH
- *BUFFETT SAYS PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE MISTAKE OF GREED
- *BUFFETT: SOCIETY MUST ENSURE PEOPLE DON'T FALL TOO FAR BEHIND
We suspect more than a few of the "rich" will be calling for Mr. Bernanke to get back to work (which ironically is exactly what Buffett himself just did - calling for another term for the printer-in-chief) so they can 'share the wealth' from the poor just a little longer.
If there is any one strikingly obvious feature of the U.S. economy in the past 15 years, it's the serial asset bubbles, one after another. So who benefits from serial bubbles? The financial sector and the central government...
"When things are going well people become greedy and enthusiastic, and when times are troubled, people become fearful and reticent. That’s just the wrong thing to do. Another mistake that people often make is that they compare themselves with others who are making more money than they are and conclude that they should emulate the others’ actions ... after they’ve worked. This is the source of the herd behaviour that so often gets them into trouble... As long as human nature is part of the investment environment, which it always will be, we’ll experience bubbles and crashes.... People talk about the wisdom of the free market – of the invisible hand – but there’s no free market in money today. Interest rates are not natural. They are where they are because the governments have set them at that level. Free markets optimise the allocation of resources in the long run, and administered markets distort the allocation of resources. This is not a good thing..." - Howard Marks
One of the most published academics on gold in the world is Dr Brian Lucey of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and he and another academic who has frequently covered the gold market, Dr Constantin Gurdgiev have just this week had an excellent research paper on gold published.
They have researched the gold market, along with Dr Cetin Ciner of the University of North Carolina and their paper, ‘Hedges and safe havens: An examination of stocks, bonds, gold, oil and exchange rates’ finds that gold is a hedge against US dollar and British pound risk due to “its monetary asset role.”
The world of Industrial Design is often useful to assess everything from the Federal Reserve's current monetary policy to equity market structure (particularly timely given today's total SNAFU) to the timeless debate over the real value of gold. As ConvergEx's Nick Colas reminds, good design is innovative, useful, aesthetically pleasing, honest and durable, whether those attributes relate to a new electronic gadget or any 'Product' in the world of high finance or economics. Examples of "Good design" include stocks, bonds, and options – all simple, durable constructs. "Bad design" would be the Fed’s "Taper" and current equity market structure.
More of the same downward drift this overnight trading session, with early Asian outflows coupled with a fresh record low in the Indian currency, driven in part by reports the Fukushima leak severity had been raised from Level 1 to Level 3, which however subsequently reversed following a weakening in the JPY and pushed the Nikkei from a steep early drop to a modest green close. China was unchanged even as Fan Jianping, chief economist at the State Information Center, said that a new reasonable range for China’s growth is 7%-9%, Xinhua said and ongoing liquidity additions by the PBOC. In Europe, newsflow was dominated early on by a Suddeutsche report that the third Greek bailout would be likely financed in part by EU budget as the reality that nothing is fixed in Europe slowly returns and fears that the latent and non-existent OMT will eventually have to be used. US futures have seen a modest risk off bias in part driven by concerns what today's key event, the FOMC minutes due out at 2 pm, would reveal (if anything new). Also on deck are Existing home sales at 10:00 am which expect a slight pick up to 5.15 million from a 5.08 million prior print. Moments ago the latest weekly MBA Mortgage Applications number came out and, to nobody surprise, it posted the last weekly decline, dropping another 4.6% with conventional refis dropping for the 10th consecutive week.
"While many of you have asked what our plans are for this holding, as with our other investments, we do not disclose in advance what we intend to do in the future for obvious reasons. After our failed proxy contest at Target, we held our investment for more than 19 months until the price rose to a level where we found better uses for capital. We may choose to exit J.C. Penney after more or less time depending on developments at the Company, the stock price, and the availability of other investment opportunities." - Bill Ackman, August 20
The Fed’s Confession: We Can Avoid A Crash At The End Of QE If Everybody Believes That Everybody Believes In A Mirage....Submitted by testosteronepit on 08/14/2013 11:33 -0500
With impeccable timing.
- JPMorgan Nears Settlement With SEC on London Whale Loss (BBG)
- Without even a wristslap: Iksil to face no U.S. charges in 'Whale' probe (Reuters)
- China’s Credit Expansion Slows as Li Curbs Shadow Banking (BBG)
- China slowdown shows signs of abating (FT), even as...
- Australia central bank Lowers Growth Outlook as Economy Transitions From Mining (BBG)
- SAC Business Plan Goes to Judge, Plan Would Allow Firm to Maintain Business Operations but Restrict Its Ability to Move Assets (WSJ)
- Another buyer of Herbalife? - Norway’s oil fund plans to turn active (FT)
- Mark Carney plays down scepticism over interest rate policy (FT)
- Orders Evaporate for Celebrity Perfumes (WSJ)
The most financially savvy country and western crooner in America, Merle Hazard, returns with the must-watch release of a new economics chart-topper: "The Great Unwind." As Warren Buffett previously noted, "all over the world, everybody that manages money is waiting to catch the signal that the Fed will reverse course," and this two-minutes of country-music magnificence should concentrate the mind as "we've never had the degree of disgorgement that might be called for down the line, and who knows how it'll play out."
This 4 year Bull market has been registering new all-time highs on a nearly daily basis. Days like today’s 57 basis point drop in the S&P 500 are being mocked as a correction or large sell off for the current environment. It appears that after so many years of the “Great Rotation” being hyped, the public has (to an extent) been trained to take their Bond fund proceeds and roll them into equity ETFs. While it is unlikely that baby boomer money will come back to equities and sustain the rotation, there is money flowing in. While we are no fans of the bond market, we are still stunned that there are people selling “safe” assets and rolling the proceeds into “risky” assets at all-time highs. There are three cornerstones to our current view that risk far outweighs opportunity...
Many high profile investors, economists and companies got burned during China's recent woes. We look at the errors they made and what you can learn from them.