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The Fed and Asset Bubbles

In his speech on April 7 2010 at the Economic Club of New York the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley argued that asset bubbles pose a serious threat to real economic activity.

The New York Fed chief is of the view that the US central bank should develop effective tools to counter this menace.

According to Dudley, it should be the role of the Fed to stop the expansion of the bubble whilst it is still in the making.

By an asset bubble, I mean price increases (or declines) that become unmoored from fundamental valuations.[1]

Dudley is of the view that the way people trade also generates bubbles. On this, he suggests that,

Bubbles may simply emerge from the way market participant’s process information and trade. In many carefully controlled experiments in which the intrinsic value of the asset could be determined with certainty, participants still bid prices up far above fundamental valuations, with the bubbles being followed by sharp declines in prices.[2]

Furthermore, Dudley is of the view that,

A bubble is difficult to discern and, second, each bubble has unique characteristics. This implies that a rules-based approach to bubbles is likely to be ineffective and that tackling bubbles to diminish their potential to destabilize the financial system requires judgment.[3]

In conclusion, the New York Fed President has suggested,

Let me underscore the challenge that central bankers face in combating asset price bubbles. Doing so effectively requires us to be successful in both identifying the incipient bubble and in developing and implementing a response that will limit bubble growth and avert a destructive asset price crash. This is not easy because asset bubbles are hard to recognize in real time and each asset bubble is different. However, these challenges cannot be an excuse for inaction.[4]

The Fed and bubbles – is there any relation?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blame the Fed — Not Investors — For Asset Bubbles

Blame the Fed — Not Investors — For Asset Bubbles

investors.PNG

In his speech on April 7 2010 at the Economic Club of New York the President of the New York Fed, William Dudley argued that asset bubbles pose a serious threat to real economic activity.

The New York Fed chief is of the view that the US central bank should develop effective tools to counter this menace.

According to Dudley, it should be the role of the Fed to stop the expansion of the bubble while it is still in the making.

By an asset bubble, I mean price increases (or declines) that become unmoored from fundamental valuations. 1

Dudley is of the view that the way people trade also generates bubbles. On this, he suggests that,

Bubbles may simply emerge from the way market participant’s process information and trade. In many carefully controlled experiments in which the intrinsic value of the asset could be determined with certainty, participants still bid prices up far above fundamental valuations, with the bubbles being followed by sharp declines in prices.

Furthermore, Dudley is of the view that,

A bubble is difficult to discern and, second, each bubble has unique characteristics. This implies that a rules-based approach to bubbles is likely to be ineffective and that tackling bubbles to diminish their potential to destabilize the financial system requires judgment.

In conclusion, the New York Fed President has suggested,

Let me underscore the challenge that central bankers face in combating asset price bubbles. Doing so effectively requires us to be successful in both identifying the incipient bubble and in developing and implementing a response that will limit bubble growth and avert a destructive asset price crash. This is not easy because asset bubbles are hard to recognize in real time and each asset bubble is different. However, these challenges cannot be an excuse for inaction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Just Changed?

What Just Changed?

The illusion that risk can be limited delivered three asset bubbles in less than 20 years.

Has anything actually changed in the past two weeks? The conventional bullish answer is no, nothing’s changed; the global economy is growing virtually everywhere, inflation is near-zero, credit is abundant, commodities will remain cheap for the foreseeable future, assets are not in bubbles, and the global financial system is in a state of sustainable wonderfulness.

As for that spot of bother, the recent 10% decline in stocks: ho-hum, nothing to see here, just a typical “healthy correction” in a never-ending bull market, the result of flawed volatility instruments and too many punters picking up dimes in front of the steamroller.

Now that’s winding up, we can get back to “creating wealth” by buying assets–$2 million homes in Seattle that were $500,000 homes a few years ago, stocks, bonds, private islands, offshore wealth funds, bat guano, you name it. Just borrow whatever you need to borrow to buy more.

(But don’t buy bitcoin. No no no, a thousand times no. It is going to zero, Goldman Sachs guaranteed it.)

Ahem. And then there’s reality: something has changed, something important.What changed? The endlessly compelling notion that risk has magically vanished as the result of financial sorcery is now in doubt. If risk hasn’t been made to disappear, and even worse, can’t be corralled into a shortable instrument like VIX, then–gasp–every asset and instrument might actually be exposed to some risk.

As I’ve noted many times here, risk cannot be made to disappear; it can only be transferred onto others or off-loaded into the financial system itself. Risk can be cloaked or masked, and indeed, that is the beating heart of financial alchemy: we can eliminate risk by hedging via exotic instruments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the Financial System Will Break: You Can’t “Normalize” Markets that Depend on Extreme Monetary Stimulus

Why the Financial System Will Break: You Can’t “Normalize” Markets that Depend on Extreme Monetary Stimulus

Central banks are now trapped.

In a nutshell, central banks are promising to “normalize” their monetary policy extremes in 2018. Nice, but there’s a problem: you can’t “normalize” markets that are now entirely dependent on extremes of monetary stimulus. Attempts to “normalize” will break the markets and the financial system.

Let’s start with the core dynamic of the global economy and nosebleed-valuation markets: credit.

Modern finance has many complex moving parts, and this complexity masks its inner simplicity.

Let’s break down the core dynamics of the current financial system.

The Core Dynamic of the “Recovery” and Asset Bubbles: Credit

Credit is the foundation of the current financial system, for credit enables consumers to bring consumption forward, that is, buy more stuff today than they could buy with the cash they have on hand, in exchange for promising to pay principal and interest with their future income.

Credit also enables speculators to buy more assets than they otherwise could were they limited to cash on hand.

Buying goods, services and assets with credit appears to be a good thing: consumers get to enjoy more stuff without having to scrimp and save up income, and investors/speculators can reap more income from owning more assets.

But all goods/services and assets are not equal, and all credit is not equal.

There is an opportunity cost to any loan (i.e. credit), as the income that will be devoted to paying principal and interest in the future could have been devoted to some other use or investment.

So borrowing money to purchase a product or an asset now means foregoing some future purchase.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Causes Asset Bubbles?

What Causes Asset Bubbles?

As we showed yesterday, the price of bitcoin has finally surpassed “Tulips” in the global bubble race.

Overnight the former Bridgewater analysts Howard Wang and Robert Wu, who make up Convoy Investments, released their thoughts on what happens next… and most importantly, what causes asset bubbles

When we see a dramatic rise in asset prices, there is often an internal struggle between the two types of investors within us.

The first is the value investor, “is this investment getting too expensive?”

The second is the momentum investor, “am I missing out on a trend?”

I believe the balance of these two approaches, both within ourselves and across a market, ultimately determines the propensity for bubble-like behavior. When there is a new or rapidly evolving market, our conviction in the value investor can weaken and the momentum investor can take over. Other markets that structurally lack a basis for valuation are even more susceptible to momentum swings because the main indicator of future value is the market’s perception of recent value. In this commentary, I quantify the balance of value vs. momentum in a market to explore how that tug of war can result in incredible asset bubbles.

The balance of value vs. momentum determines a market’s serial correlation

I believe the outcome of the tug of war between value and momentum in any market can be largely captured by a statistical measure called serial correlation – how likely is the recent past to determine the near future? A value of -1 means future returns are the exact opposite of recent past returns, a value of 0 means they are independent of each other, and a value of 1 means recent past returns are perfectly predictive future returns. After a dramatic price change, value investing would generally expect a reversion to the mean, suggesting a negative serial correlation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Eric Peters: “This Is The Nightmare Scenario For The Next Fed Chair”

Eric Peters: “This Is The Nightmare Scenario For The Next Fed Chair”

While we will have much more to share from the latest weekend letter by One River’s Eric Peters shortly, we found the following section on inflation vs asset bubbles – a topic which BofA’s Michael Hartnett has been focusing extensively on in the past year and which serves as the basis for the “Icarus Rally” – particularly notable as it explains all of today’s comments from Janet Yellen and other central bankers, discussing why it is only a matter of time before inflation returns, as the alternative, as Peters’ explains, is a world in which yields simply refuse to go up, leading to a nightmare scenario for the next Fed chair, who will be forced to pop the world’s biggest asset bubble.

Excerpted from the latest weekend notes by One River CIO, Eric Peters:

“Why are we not experiencing deflation?” he asked. “How can the top five stocks in the Nasdaq reduce US GDP but we feel better off?” he asked. “Why are Americans buying no more cars today than in 1978 when our population is 100mm higher?” he asked. “Why compare today to a world of combustion engines when we have so many more interesting things to do without moving an inch?” he asked.

“And why do central banks create endless bubbles to restore an inflation rate from that ancient time?” he asked. “Why is that not the right question?” 

“Global profits are rising, unemployment is falling, growth is up, wages too,” said the strategist.

Yet bond yields seem unable to jump.” US 10yr bond yields are 2.27%, Germany 0.40%, Japan 0.05%. “The cyclical surprise is that the Phillips curve finally kicks in, just as everyone gives in.” US unemployment is 4.2%, a 17yr low. Germany 3.6%, a 37yr low. Japan 2.8%, a 23yr low. “And the biggest structural surprise is that technology has rendered wage inflation a phenomenon for the history books.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Algeria Officially Launches Helicopter Money Amid Sliding Oil Revenue, Budget Crisis

Algeria Officially Launches Helicopter Money Amid Sliding Oil Revenue, Budget Crisis

One year ago, the imminent arrival of helicopter money among endless discussions of pervasive lowflation was all the rage within high-finance policy circles. Then, everything changed as if on a dime, and in recent months the dominant topic has been global coordinated tightening – and in some cases even revisions to central bank mandates and the lowering of inflation targets – perhaps as a result of central banks’ realization that monetizing debt by central banks leads to bad outcomes, not to mention global asset bubbles.

But not everywhere.

On Sunday, Algeria’s prime minister unveiled a plan to plug the country’s budget deficit as the the OPEC member state looks to offset lower oil revenue by directly borrowing from the central bank, while avoiding international debt markets. In other words, direct monetization of debt, which bypasses commercial banks as a monetary intermediate, and is better known as “helicopter money.”

According to Bloomberg, the five-year plan presented by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia aims to balance the budget by 2022, and reverse a deficit that ballooned with the plunge in global crude prices, which also cut foreign reserves by nearly half.

If we turn to external debt, as the IMF suggests, we will need to borrow $20 billion a year to repay the deficit and within four years we will be unable to repay the debt,” Ouyahia said. “This is what made the government look at non-traditional financing.”

With domestic debt currently around 20 percent of gross domestic product, Algeria has room to take on additional borrowing, the IMF has said. Earlier this month, the cabinet authorized the central bank to lend money to the Treasury to narrow the deficit. Businesses and importers would stand to benefit from a cash injection from the regulator, but analysts say the plan has risks.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Trouble with Asset Bubbles: If You Stop Pumping, They Pop

The Trouble with Asset Bubbles: If You Stop Pumping, They Pop

The idea that authorities can massage their pumping to keep asset bubbles inflated at a permanently high plateau is currently being tested.

The trouble with inflating asset bubbles is that you have to keep inflating them or they pop. Unfortunately for the bubble-blowing central banks, asset bubbles are a double-bind: you cannot inflate assets forever. At some unpredictable point, the risk and moral hazard that are part and parcel of all asset bubbles trigger an avalanche of selling that pops the bubble.

This is another facet of The Fed’s Double-Bind: if you stop pumping asset bubbles, they pop as participants realize the music has stopped, and if you keep pumping them, they expand to super-nova criticality and implode.

There are several dynamics at play in this double-bind.

1. The process of inflating a bubble (for example, the current bubbles in stocks and real estate) requires pushing investors and speculators alike into risky asset classes. This puts the market at increasing risk as everyone is pushed to one side of the boat.

2. Those on the other side of the boat (i.e. shorts) are slowly but surely eradicated as the pumping keeps inflating the bubble. When the bubble finally bursts, there are no shorts left to cover, i.e. buy stocks at lower prices to reap their profits.

3. As the bubble continues to expand, the money available to enter the market and keep prices rising declines. The very success of the pumping process strips the markets of new sources of new money, leading to a point where normal selling exceeds new-money buying and the bubble collapses.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BofA: Even The Bubbles Are Becoming More “Bubbly” Thanks To Central Banks

BofA: Even The Bubbles Are Becoming More “Bubbly” Thanks To Central Banks

Back in June, Citi’s credit strategist Hans Lorenzen pointed out that while QE had failed to spark inflation across the broader economy, it had achieved something else: “the principal transmission channel to the real economy has been… lifting asset prices.” That however has required continuous CB balance sheet growth, and with the Fed, ECB and BOJ all poised to “renormalize” over the next year, the global monetary impulse is set to turn negative in the coming year. Meanwhile, as financial markets scramble to maximize every last ounce of what central bank impulse remains, we get such bubbles as London real estate, bitcoin and vintage cars, or as Citi puts it: “the wealth effect is stretching farther and farther afield.” 

Three months later, the latest to tackle the issue of central bank bubble creation, is BofA’s Barnaby Martin, who in a note released overnight asks rhetorically “are bubbles becoming more “bubbly”?

Just like Lorenzen, Martin observes the blanket central bank “lower for longer” rates intervention, which leads to “speculative behavior in assets.” Well, technically, Martin hedges by calling it a “risk”, but one look at the chart above and below shows that the bubbles created by central banks are all too real. And as Martin, whose topic is the unprecedented buying spree across credit, notes it’s not just credit markets that are seeing exceptional investor demand at this point in the cycle: so is everything else, or as he puts it:

As chart 3, over the page shows, asset bubbles seem to be becoming more “bubbly” as time goes by.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

Will the Crazy Global Debt Bubble Ever End?

There are multiple sources of friction in the Perpetual Motion Money Machine.

We’ve been playing two games to mask insolvency: one is to pay the costs of rampant debt today by borrowing even more from future earnings, and the second is to create wealth out of thin air via asset bubbles.

The two games are connected: asset bubbles require leverage and credit. Prices for homes, stocks, bonds, bat guano futures, etc. can only be pushed to the stratosphere if buyers have access to credit and can borrow to buy more of the bubbling assets.

If credit dries up, asset bubbles pop: no expansion of debt, no asset bubble.

The problem with these games is the debt-asset bubbles don’t actually expand the collateral (real-world productive value) supporting all the debt. Collateral can be a physical asset like a house, but it can also be the ability to earn money to service debt.

Credit card debt, student loan debt, corporate debt, sovereign debt–all these loans are backed not by physical assets but by the ability to service the debt: earnings or tax revenues.

If a company earns $1 million annually, what’s its stock worth? Whether the market values the company at $1 million or $1 billion, the company’s earnings remain the same.

If a government collects $1 trillion in tax revenues, whether it borrows $1 trillion or $100 trillion, the tax revenues remain the same.

If a government collects $1 trillion in tax revenues, whether it borrows $1 trillion or $100 trillion, the tax revenues remain the same.

If the collateral supporting the debt doesn’t expand with the debt, the borrower’s ability to service debt becomes increasingly fragile. Consider a household that earns $100,000 annually. If it has $100,000 in debt to service, that is a 1-to-1 ratio of earnings and debt. What happens to the risk of default if the household borrows $1 million?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

I was asked: Whatever Happened to Inflation after all this Money-Printing?

I was asked: Whatever Happened to Inflation after all this Money-Printing?

I was asked once again why all this central-bank “money-printing” along with global zero-interest-rate or even negative-interest-rate policies haven’t caused a big bout of inflation, considering how currencies are getting watered down.

It’s a crucial question that baffled many minds for a while, but now, as this thing has been dragging out for seven years, bouncing from one major central bank to the next, without end in sight, the answer is becoming clearer.

This chart by NBF Economics and Strategy shows the growing pile of assets, expressed in dollars, that the “four big central banks” – Fed, ECB, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England – have heaped on their balance sheets: nearly $11 trillion. This does not include what China is doing. The forecasts for 2016 and 2017 assume that the Fed and the Bank of England will stay away from QE, that the BoJ will add annually ¥80 trillion (with a T) to its pile and the ECB €60 billion, with exchange rates unchanged:

Big-Four-Central-Bank-Balance-sheet-2007-2017

Consumer Price Inflation v. Asset Price Inflation

So this global binge of QE has caused inflation, a lot of it, but not consumerprice inflation. It has caused rampant asset price inflation, with stocks, bonds, real estate, classic cars, art… all skyrocketing over the years.

Just about the only major asset class that didn’t experience gains is the commodities sector. There, prices have collapsed. And we’ll get to that in a moment.

So why has QE caused rampant asset price inflation but little consumer price inflation? Because the money never went to consumers – in form of wages. They would have spent most of it, thus driving up demand that could have created some inflationary pressures in consumer prices. But they never got this money.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Fed Has Created A “Monster” And Just Made A “Dangerous Mistake,” Stephen Roach Warns

The Fed Has Created A “Monster” And Just Made A “Dangerous Mistake,” Stephen Roach Warns

Stephen Roach is worried that the Fed has set the world up for another financial market meltdown.

Lower for longer rates and the proliferation of unconventional monetary policy have created “a breeding ground for asset bubbles, credit bubbles, and all-too frequent crises, so the Fed is really a part of the problem of financial instability rather than trying to provide a sense of calm in an otherwise unstable world,” Roach told Bloomberg TV in an interview conducted a little over a week ago.

To be sure, Roach’s sentiments have become par for the proverbial course. That is, it may have taken everyone a while (as in five years or so) to come to the conclusion we reached long ago, namely that central banks are setting the world up for a crisis that will make 2008 look like a walk in the park, but most of the “very serious” people are now getting concerned. Take BofAML for instance, who, in a note we outlined on Wednesday, demonstrated the prevailing dynamic with the following useful graphic:

Perhaps Jeremy Grantham put it best: “..in the Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully- fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006.”

Indeed. It’s with that in mind that we bring you the following excerpts from a new piece by Roach in which the former Morgan Stanley chief economist and Yale fellow recounts the evolution of the Fed and how the FOMC ultimately became “beholden to the monster it had created”.

*  *  *

From “The Perils of Fed Gradualism” as posted at Project Syndicate

By now, it’s an all-too-familiar drill. After an extended period of extraordinary monetary accommodation, the US Federal Reserve has begun the long march back to normalization.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

ECB, Monetarism and a Greek Half-Decade

ECB, Monetarism and a Greek Half-Decade

Greece really should not matter, at all, outside of the tragic plight of the Greeks themselves. You’ll see that message echoed particularly inside the US where the status quo takes a contradictory turn toward reasonableness in order to justify further what isn’t. This is all about asset prices and how they have been so skewed almost everywhere that when one part of that systemic imbibing threatens to pull back the curtain the rest works overdrive to convince that it doesn’t matter.

Just fourteen months ago, then-Prime Minister of Greece, Antonis Samaras, went on Greek television and confidently proclaimed, “Today, Greece took one more decisive step to exit the crisis. Confidence in our country was confirmed by the most objective judge – the markets.” Going further, then-Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos objected to any other interpretation, “The bond issue proves the debt is sustainable, otherwise the markets wouldn’t have bought it.”

Obviously, those were political statements intended to send a political message in that the “objective” market was on the side of that current Greek political makeup and the “austerity” track into which they proclaimed to be amalgamated, inextricably within the euro currency. Under rational expectations theory, of course, the price with which the Greeks floated that bond was believed to be “correct” and thus efficient. The 4.95% yield at the auction, 20 times oversubscribed, certainly seemed to suggest that it was “market clearing” in at least that respect.

ABOOK June 2015 Greece GRE 5s

The problem with all of that view is apparent right now. The 5-year bond, after having a pretty good week last week with all the false deal rumors, is yielding this morning almost 23%. The losses embedded in that yield and its price were uniquely predictable, which is what is so damning about Greece as it relates to everything outside of the “small country on the Aegean.”

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Lesson In China: Don’t Go Bubble In the First Place

The Lesson In China: Don’t Go Bubble In the First Place

There can be no mistaking that Chinese stocks are in a bubble. Since November 21, the Shanghai SSE Composite index has risen more than 100%. Going back to July 22, the gain is nearly 145%. Those dates are not random coincidence, as they mark specific points of PBOC activity. The stock bubble in China is certainly a monetary affair, but in ways that aren’t necessarily comparable to our own stock bubble experience (twice).

There is, of course, great similarities starting with leverage; in China at the moment there is no shortage, which is precisely the problem. It is quite precarious, though, in that the PBOC has at times shown far more open contempt for Chinese stock margin than the Federal Reserve or Bank of Japan ever did.

Stock forecasters in search of an early-warning system for the next Chinese bear market are zeroing in on the country’s record $358 billion pile of margin debt.

When that three-year build-up of leveraged positions starts to unwind, regulators will struggle to limit the selloff, according to Bocom International Holdings Co. and Rabobank International. Almost all of this year’s biggest declines in the Shanghai Composite Index, including a 6.5 percent slump on May 28, were sparked by investor concerns over margin-trading restrictions. The securities regulator announced plans Friday to limit the amount brokerages can lend for stock trading.

Unlike central banks here and elsewhere, the PBOC has a vastly different understanding and appreciation for asset bubbles, at least to the point that in 2014 and 2015 under reform it is not shirking responsibility for them. The Federal Reserve, in particular, had long been against any linkage between monetarism and asset bubbles, believing instead that they were fully contained under “market” irregularities (that has evolved, somewhat, under the relatively new Yellen Doctrine). I’m not sure the PBOC ever went so far as to completely delink its own activities from asset bubbles, but it at one point was clearly embracing of them even if reluctantly part of a greater government mandate.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

BIS Slams The Fed: The Solution To Bubbles Is Not More Bubbles, It Is Avoiding Bubbles In The First Place

BIS Slams The Fed: The Solution To Bubbles Is Not More Bubbles, It Is Avoiding Bubbles In The First Place

On one hand there are hard-core Keynesians who will wave the flag of inflation as the only cure to a world drowning in debt, even after the mushroom cloud results of their policies going off around the globe “assure” GDP hits +? once every window in the world is shattered and has to be replaced…

… on the other, you have the BIS which with every passing day is becoming the citadel of Austrian thought, the latest example thanks to the BIS’ most recent quarterly review in which we read that not only is deflation not the “monster” the Bank of Japan and other Keynesian acolytes would like to make it appear…

The evidence from our long historical data set sheds new light on the costs of deflations.It raises questions about the prevailing view that goods and services price deflations, even if persistent, are always pernicious. It suggests that asset price deflations, and particularly house price deflations in the postwar era, have been more damaging. And it cautions against presuming that the interaction between debt and goods and services price deflation, as opposed to debt’s interaction with property price deflations, has played a significant role in past episodes of economic weakness.

… but more importantly and as Zero Hedge has said from day one, the BIS now says the solution to an asset bubble is not some incomprehensible jibberish of “macroprudential regulation” or a “bubble-busting” SWAT team at the Fednot another asset bubble (especially not one which leads to house price deflation, the same that is slamming the Chinese economy at this moment), which by now has become clear to all is the only “tool” in a central banker’s aresnal, and the remedy to debt isnot even more debt.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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