Another Early Warning Siren Goes Off
Our friend Jonathan Tepper of research house Variant Perception (check out their blog to see some of their excellent work) recently pointed out to us that the volume of mergers and acquisitions has increased rather noticeably lately. Some color on this was provided in an article published by Reuters in late May, “Global M&A hits record $2 trillion in the year to date”, which inter alia contained the following chart illustrating the situation. This snapshot was taken shortly after a particularly busy “Merger Monday” in May, which saw $28 billion in takeover announcements:
Getting frisky: captains of industry and private equity funds evidently feel supremely confident again and have embarked on a major shopping spree. This mainly goes to show that no-one ever learns a thing in financial markets (presumably this goes for “learning from history” generally, but the remarkable thing in this case are the small time intervals between the markets teaching lessons and the subsequent collective forgetting exercise). The people responsible for all this breathless activity get paid more than at any other time in history, both in nominal and real terms – and one of their major characteristics is apparently that they have the attention span of gnats.
Almost needless to say, this is a nigh perfect medium to long term contrary indicator. When stocks are actually cheap, most of our corporate chieftains behave like deer in the headlights, i.e., they basically freeze and do nothing. The backdrop they prefer to see before they feel compelled to really swing into action full-speed-ahead with maximum recklessness is “one of the most overvalued markets in history”. Only then do they feel truly safe.
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