5 Things To Ponder: Heterogeneous Contemplations

Submitted by Lance Roberts via STA Wealth Management,

As another week passes by the markets have made no real movement in months. News flow, outside of Yellen's testimony, was also rather slow as first quarter's earnings season begins to come to a close. However, there were a few articles that I read this week that I thought you might find interesting as well. 

1) Modern Bubble Doctrine Needs Not Logic by Jeffrey Snider via Alhambra Partners

"Bubbles are not just the perfect analogy to runaway asset inflation because of the similarity of inflating behavior on surface tension and the inevitability of the burst, but also because bubbles encapsulate. An asset bubble is one in which the greater proportion sees nothing but what they want to see.


To accept his [Bullard’s] premise is to discount mania. If bubbles were so obvious, then they would never occur except in the risk of not being the Greater Fool. But while some acknowledge that risk, most charge headlong into the craze with little or no reservation. Or, more precisely, it is the rationalizing of why risk is overstated, over-emphasized or just plain non-existent. It is the rationalizations that create and sustain bubbles, and their primary effect is to render the bubble un-obvious."


2) The Threat Of Hidden Leverage by Yves Smith via Naked Capitalism

"Wolf is correct to focus on the danger of multiple layers of leverage. That sort of fragile financial edifice was a major driver of the crisis just past. One example was unrestricted rehypothecation, which is not permitted in the US per the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, but in London, . Another leverage-on-leverage vehicle was CDOs.


We don’t know what hedge fund manager Steven Cohen will do with the money he’s borrowing from Goldman Sachs’s GS Private Bank. We don’t even know how much he’s borrowing. But it’s a lot, given that the personal loan is backed by his collection of impressionist, modern, and contemporary art estimated to be worth $1 billion.


Cheap leverage, the holy grail these days. It’s the driver behind the asset bubbles all around.


So Cohen, using these multiple layers of leverage, might earn a return of 8% a year on his art loan that costs him 2.5% a year. Multiply that out to a billion, and it’s a money machine. That would be on top of the art itself that has seen phenomenal increases in value under the Fed’s money-printing binge.


Absurd? Sure, but this sort of absurdity, an outgrowth of the biggest credit bubble in history, has become the lifeblood of the US economy and its lopsided income distribution."


3) David Stockman On Yellen's Bathtub Economics by David Stockman via ZeroHedge

"Stated differently, the Federal funds rate is the price of trading risk—the regulator that drives the carry trades. It is the mechanism by which credit is expanded in the Wall Street gambling channel through the process of re-hypothecation.  When the funds rate is ultra low for ultra long it massively expands the carry trades. That is, any financial asset with a yield or short-run appreciation potential gets leveraged one way or another through repo, options or structured trades—- because re-hypothecation produces a large profit spread from a tiny sliver of equity.


Needless to say, the massive carry trades minted in the Fed’s Wall Street gambling channel are a deep and dangerous deformation of capitalism. In money markets that are not pegged by the central banking branch of the state, outbreaks of fevered speculation drive short-term market rates skyward in order to induce more true savings from the market or choke off demand for funds. The money market rate is therefore the economic cop which keeps the casino in check."


4) The Decline Of Small Business & The Middle Class by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds

"It is not coincidental that the middle class and small business are both in decline.Entrepreneurial enterprise and small business have long been stepping stones to middle class incomes and generational wealth, i.e. wealth that is passed down to future generations rather than consumed. As the headwinds to entrepreneurial enterprise and small business rise, the pathway to middle class prosperity narrows.


The Washington Post published a study that found U.S. businesses are being destroyed faster than they’re being created. While not exactly a surprise, it was sobering evidence that small enterprise is in structural decline:"



5) A History Of Bubbles by Paul Farrell via WSJ MarketWatch

".Great bubbles tend to coincide with strong credit growth,' says Chancellor. So far that’s missing. We need it before a 'full-blown stock market bubble,' and right now 'the credit cycle is not close to a peak.' So unfortunately, the Fed will probably passively watch while a 'full-blown stock market bubble' builds to critical mass.


In short, Yellen will do exactly what Greenspan and Bernanke did earlier ... fail to plan ahead ... passively endure more irrational exuberance mania ... waiting for the ticking time bomb to blow up ... before finally stepping in ... cleaning up their mess ... again ... bailing out incompetent banks ... while letting the taxpayers suffer through the third major crash this century... third recession ... third megatrillion loss of Main Street’s retirement market cap.


But beware, while as yet GMOs market sentiment indicators don’t provide 'a sure-fire signal that the U.S. stock market is about to collapse,' investors 'shouldn’t take much comfort from this.' This cocktail of valuations, sentiment and global macro trends has been quite accurate in 'forecasting future equity returns.'


Bottom line: 'Anyone who bought U.S. stocks in the past when sentiment was at today’s elevated level, lost money.'”