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The End of (Artificial) Stability

The End of (Artificial) Stability

The central banks’/states’ power to maintain a permanent bull market in stocks and bonds is eroding.
There is nothing natural about the stability of the past 9 years. The bullish trends in risk assets are artificial constructs of central bank/state policies. As these policies are reduced or lose their effectiveness, the era of artificial stability is coming to a close.
The 9-year run of Bull-trend stability is ending as a result of a confluence of macro dynamics:
1. Central banks are under pressure to reduce, end or reverse their unprecedented monetary stimulus, and the consequences are unpredictable, given the market’s reliance on the certainty that “central banks have our back” is ending.
2. Interest rates / bond yields may well plummet in a global recession, but if we look at a 50-year chart of interest rates, we see a saucer-shaped bottoming in play. Technician Louise Yamada has been discussing the tendency of interest rates/bond yields to trace out a multi-year saucer bottom for over a decade, and we can now discern this.
Even if yields plummet in a recession, as many analysts predict, this doesn’t necessarily negate the longer term trend of higher yields and rates.
3. The global economy is overdue for a business-cycle recession, which is characterized by a retrenchment of credit and the default of marginal debt. The “recovery” is the weakest recovery in the past 60 years, and now it’s the longest expansion.
4. The mainstream financial media is telling us that everything is going great in the global economy, but this sort of complacent (or even euphoric) “it’s all good news” typically marks the top of stocks, just as universal negativity marks secular lows.
5. What happens to markets characterized by uncertainty? Once certainty is replaced by uncertainty, markets become fragile and thus exposed to sudden shifts of sentiment. This destabilization is expressed as volatility, but it’s far deeper than volatility as measured by VIX or sentiment indicators.

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

Raising Interest Rates Is Like Starting a Fission Chain Reaction

Raising Interest Rates Is Like Starting a Fission Chain Reaction

Central bankers seem to think that adjusting interest rates is a nice little tool that they can easily handle. The problem is that higher interest rates affect the economy in many ways simultaneously. The lessons that seem to have been learned from past rate hikes may not be applicable today.

Furthermore, there can be quite a long time lag involved. Thus, by the time a central banker starts seeing an effect, it may be clear that the amount of the interest rate change is far too large.

A recent Zerohedge article seems to suggest that problems can arise with 10-year Treasury interest rates of less of than 3%. We may be facing a period of declining acceptable interest rates.

Figure 1. Chart from The Scariest Chart in the Market.

Let’s look at a few of the issues involved:

[1] The standard reason for raising interest rates seems to be concern about inflationary impacts occurring as a result of rising food and energy prices. In practice, the impact of such an interest rate change can be quite severe and quite delayed. 

Figure 2 is an illustration from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website showing one of today’s concerns: rising energy costs. Food prices are not yet rising. Normally, however, if oil prices rise, the cost of producing food will also rise. This happens because modern agricultural methods and transportation to markets both require the use of petroleum products.

Figure 2. Figure created by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing percentage change in the Consumer Price Index between January 2017 and January 2018, for selected categories.

In fact, raising short-term interest rates seems to have been associated with trying to bring down rising food and energy costs, as early as the 1970s and early 1980s.

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

Fred Hickey: Why A Lifelong Technology Expert Favors Owning Gold

Fred Hickey: Why A Lifelong Technology Expert Favors Owning Gold

It’s the safest & most undervalued asset today

Fred Hickey, frequent cited expert on Bloomberg News and Barron’s Roundtable, has been publishing his author extremely well-respected investment newsletter, The High-Tech Strategist, for 31 years. And he is more worried about the state of the financial markets today than he’s ever been.

While his primary focus has been on analyzing Tech stocks, over the years he has expanded into macro trend analysis as the central banks starting increasingly intervening in world markets and distorting the price of money.

He now finds asset prices dangerously overvalued (within Tech and without) and worries — as we do — about the risk of a major market correction and possible currency crises.

Ironically, this lifelong expert in “all things technology” has concluded that gold (the “barbaric relic”) is the sanest asset to put one’s capital in these days — both due to its safety factor and it’s current level of undervaluation. He expects the precious metals to fare well during the downward market volatility he foresees, and he is now tracking the mining stocks closely as he predicts they will experience dramatic appreciation from here.

What’s happening to gold mining stocks right now is an amazing story. They’re extremely undervalued. Just this year, we’ve seen the price of gold hold up during this market decline, yet the miners have been getting slaughtered.

One of the things we look at is the HUI-to-gold ratio, or the gold miner index to gold. That is down to 0.133. Now, that’s lower than it was at the 20-year bear market bottom in 2000. It was slightly lower than that at the end of 2015, but we’re talking about near record lows here when the price of gold is up. It looks to me that gold is in a bull market.

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

Latest Wealth Data Shows Disproportionate Gains to the Rich During Era of QE

LATEST WEALTH DATA SHOWS DISPROPORTIONATE GAINS TO THE RICH DURING ERA OF QE

The latest ONS Wealth and Assets Survey, released last Thursday, once again showed the sheer extent of wealth inequality in the UK. A comparison of percentile figures with those from the previous wave suggests households in the wealthiest 10% gained on average nearly 700 times as much as the poorest 10% between 2012-2014 and 2014-2016.

The average total wealth of the of the bottom 10 percentile households rose by £330 between 2012-2014 and 2014-2016 (from £5,293 to £5623). The average total wealth of the top 10 percentile households increased by £229,541 over the same period (from £1,663,912 to £1,893,453).

The distribution of total wealth across UK households is extremely unequal. Naturally, so too are the gains in wealth in recent years.

The figures are significant because they are the latest to contradict the position taken by Bank of England governor Mark Carney in a 2016 speech, when he used the ONS data to claim that the “poorest have gained the most” from the Bank’s quantitative easing programme. As Positive Money showed in an analysis from October last year, the Bank painted a misleading picture by using relative rather than absolute figures. Data from the the 2006-08 to 2012-14 waves of the Wealth and Assets Survey showed an absolute gain for the wealthiest 10% almost 200 times greater than that for the poorest.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 4: The Folly Of 2.00% Inflation Targeting

The dirty secret of Keynesian central banking is that under current circumstances its interventions have almost no impact on its famous dual mandate—-stable prices and full employment on main street.

That’s because goods and services inflation is a melded consequence of global central banking. The capital, trade, financial and exchange rate movements which result from the tug-and-haul of worldwide central banking policies generate incessant shape-shifting impacts on the CPI; and the ebb and flow of these forces completely dwarfs FOMC actions in the New York money and bond markets.

In today’s world, there is no such thing as inflation in one country. In that regard, the traditional Fed tool of pegging the funds rate is especially obsolete, impotent and ritualistically mindless. After all, if the 2.00% inflation target is meant as a long haul objective, it was achieved long ago. The CPI index for January 2018 at 249.2 compared to a level of 169.3 back in January 2000, thereby representing exactly a 2.17% compound annual gain over the 18 year period.

So where’s the Eccles Building beef about missing its target from below—even if that wasn’t one of the more ludicrous notions of “failure” ever to arise from the central banking fraternity?

On the other hand, if 2.00% is meant as a short-run target, how much more evidence do we need? Since the Fed shifted to deep pegging at or near the zero bound in December 2008, there has been no inflation rate correlation with the funds rate whatsoever.

In the sections below we will resolve the inflation matter once and for all by demonstrating that the very idea of 2.00% inflation targeting (or any other target) is singularly stupid and destructive.

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

Hackers Used SWIFT To Steal $6 Million From Russian Bank

In the latest revelation about the Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunication’s vulnerability to hackers – who’ve stolen tens of millions of dollars from banks and central banks mostly by stealing the special private keys used to sign off on transactions – Russian authorities revealed that hackers had made off with about 340 million rubles ($6 million) during an attack carried out last year,according to Reuters.

While that’s not the largest sum ever stolen by infiltrating SWIFT (indeed it pales in comparison to the more than $80 million stolen from the Bank of Bangladesh’s reserve account at the New York Fed back in 2016) the news comes just days after Russian authorities said the country’s banking system would be ready to abandon SWIFT if the US and European Union tried to cut off its banks.

In a report about the incident, the Russian authorities said hackers had gained control of a computer at a Russian bank and used SWIFT to transfer the money to their own accounts. Of course, the bureaucrats who run SWIFT from Brussels insist that the SWIFT system itself has never been infiltrated – and that the vulnerabilities exploited by hackers are solely the responsibility of the participating institutions. The irony here is that this is the same excuse advanced by bitcoin evangelists and others who wax about the “immutable” blockchain and its security features, only to overlook that hundreds of millions of dollars in cryptocurrencies have been stolen by hackers over the past few years.

To be sure, SWIFT officials have warned that hacking attacks are becoming “increasingly prominent” after the theft of the Bangladesh funds, which disappeared after landing in accounts based in the Philippines and then Macau.

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

The World Embraces Debt At Exactly The Wrong Time

The World Embraces Debt At Exactly The Wrong Time

Self-destruction usually happens in stages. At first there’s a binge in which the thrill outweighs the sense of transgression. This is usually followed by remorse, acknowledgement of risks, and an attempt to reform.

But straight-and-narrow is exhausting, and because of this is frequently just temporary, eventually giving way to a kind of capitulation in which the addict drops even the pretense of self-control.

2018 is apparently the year in which the world enters this final stage of its addiction to debt. Wherever you look, leverage is soaring as governments, corporations and individuals just give up and embrace the idea that borrowing is no longer a necessary evil, but simply necessary. Some recent examples:

China January new loans surge to record 2.9 trillion yuan, blow past forecasts

(Reuters) – China’s banks extended a record 2.9 trillion yuan ($458.3 billion) in new yuan loans in January, blowing past expectations and nearly five times the previous month as policymakers aim to sustain solid economic growth while reining in debt risks.

Net new loans surpassed the previous record of 2.51 trillion yuan in January 2016, which is likely to support growth not only in China but may underpin liquidity globally as major Western central banks begin to withdraw stimulus.

Corporate loans surged to 1.78 trillion yuan from 243.2 billion yuan in December, while household loans rose to 901.6 billion yuan in January from 329.4 billion yuan in December, according to Reuters calculations based on the central bank data.

Outstanding yuan loans grew 13.2 percent in January from a year earlier, also faster than an expected 12.5 percent rise and compared with an increase of 12.7 percent in December.

———————–

Total US household debt soars to record above $13 trillion

(CNBC) – Total household debt rose by $193 billion to an all-time high of $13.15 trillion at year-end 2017 from the previous quarter, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data report released Tuesday.

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

Lynette Zang: ‘The CRIMINAL BANKS Know Something Is VERY WRONG’

Lynette Zang: ‘The CRIMINAL BANKS Know Something Is VERY WRONG’

lynettezang

Lynette Zang from ITM Trading recently joined the SGT Report to discuss the economy, precious metals, and the disastrous storm that’s brewing. According to Zang, the criminal banks have stopped lending to each other because they know something is very wrong with the economy.

The interview jumps straight to the point.  The big banks are not lending to each other.  What is Zang’s take on the drop in interbank lending?

“During the 2008 crisis, it absolutely plummeted but they’ve been trying to keep it a little supported at the levels back in the 80’s and…it’s plunged below where it was when they came out in ’73; and what I find interesting…is that banks don’t trust each other. They know they’re insolvent. They’re not gonna get the money back.”

Zang is then asked about Deutsche Bank.  Since it’s leveraged “to the gills” is it the first bank to go?

“I don’t know whether Deutsche Bank will be the first to go, but their leverage ratio remains at 3.8%, which means if the value of their assets falls 3.9%, they are insolvent. But that can really start anywhere. It doesn’t have to start at Deutsche Bank, but Deutsche touches every single financial product in every bank. I wouldn’t say this is ‘the canary in the coal mine,’ because I’ve really been talking about pattern shifts that I’ve been witnessing since October. The pattern shifts really started in 2017. People think nothing happens until it becomes visible, but you have to look a little below…to see what you’re not seeing…the banks know that they’re not loaning to each other. And the central banks know that they’re attempting to support the mortgage markets and keep everything floating.

We’re inside of a great experiment…this is an accident that’s in the process of unfolding.

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

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

Central Banks Will Let The Next Crash Happen

If you have been following the public commentary from central banks around the world the past few months, you know that there has been a considerable change in tone compared to the last several years.

For example, officials at the European Central Bank are hinting at a taper of stimulus measures by September of this year and some EU economists are expecting a rate hike by December. The Bank of England has already started its own rate hike program and has warned of more hikes to come in the near term. The Bank of Canada is continuing with interest rate hikes and signaled more to come over the course of this year. The Bank of Japan has been cutting bond purchases, launching rumors that governor Haruhiko Kuroda will oversee the long overdue taper of Japan’s seemingly endless stimulus measures, which have now amounted to an official balance sheet of around $5 trillion.

This global trend of “fiscal tightening” is yet another piece of evidence indicating that central banks are NOT governed independently from one another, but that they act in concert with each other based on the same marching orders. That said, none of the trend reversals in other central banks compares to the vast shift in policy direction shown by the Federal Reserve.

First came the taper of QE, which almost no one thought would happen. Then came the interest rate hikes, which most analysts both mainstream and alternative said were impossible, and now the Fed is also unwinding its balance sheet of around $4 trillion, and it is unwinding faster than anyone expected.

Now, mainstream economists will say a number of things on this issue — they will point out that many investors simply do not believe the Fed will follow through with this tightening program.

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

Do Financial Markets Still Exist?

Do Financial Markets Still Exist?

For many decades the Federal Reserve has rigged the bond market by its purchases. And for about a century, central banks have set interest rates (mainly to stabilize their currency’s exchange rate) with collateral effects on securities prices. It appears that in May 2010, August 2015, January/February 2016, and currently in February 2018 the Fed is rigging the stock market by purchasing S&P equity index futures in order to arrest stock market declines driven by fundamentals, and to push prices back up in keeping with a decade of money creation.

No one should find this a surprising suggestion.  The Bank of Japan has a long tradition of propping up the Japanese equity market with large purchases of equities. The European Central Bank purchases corporate as well as government bonds.  In 1989 Fed governor Robert Heller said that as the Fed already rigs the bond market with purchases, the Fed can also rig the stock market to stop price declines. That is the reason the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) was created in 1987.

Looking at the chart of futures activity on the E-mini S&P 500, we see an uptick in activity on February 2 when the market dropped, with higher increases in future activity last Monday and Tuesday placing Tuesday’s futures activity at about four times the daily average of the previous month.  Futures activity last Wednesday and Thursday remained above the average daily activity of the previous month, and Friday’s activity was about three times the previous month’s daily average. The result of this futures activity was to send the market up, because the futures activity was purchases, not sales.  http://www.cmegroup.com/trading/equity-index/us-index/e-mini-sandp500_quotes_volume_voi.html 

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

Its Different This Time

IT’S DIFFERENT THIS TIME

Remember all those bullish studies market pundits were passing around in early January? Do you recall the parroting about “how goes January, the rest of the year follows?” It’s easy to forget, but many market strategists were falling all over themselves bullish just a couple of weeks ago (see Parabolic Moves Don’t End by Going Sideways).

Now, some 300 handles lower in the S&P 500, many of these same forecasters are talking about the extensive technical damage and advocating caution.

I am not here to pick on any pundits – I subscribe to the Yogi Berra school of forecasting – it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. But I take issue with one major aspect of the current investing environment. Most market players are using the playbook from the last few decades in their forecasts. They are mistakenly thinking the rules of the game haven’t changed.

Their predictions from last month are still ringing in my ears; low volatility January rises have been followed with stock market strength, so there’s no way anyone could predict that stocks would swoon 10% in a week and a half for no real reason at all. Yet that’s exactly what they did.

What’s different today?

I find myself hesitant to type out these next few lines. As I struggle to find the words to communicate my thoughts, I worry they will be misconstrued. Yet I don’t know how else to say it – except to blurt it out. So at the risk of being labeled a fool, here it goes – it’s different this time.

Yup. I said it. I committed the cardinal sin of investing. I uttered the most expensive four words in the history of markets.

Before you call me a Luddite and hit delete on your email or click the home button on your browser, hear me out.

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

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Swan Song Of The Central Bankers, Part 1: Last Week Wasn’t An Error

Last week’s twin 1,000 point plunges on the Dow were not errors. Instead, these close-coupled massacres, which wiped out $4 trillion of global market cap in two days, marked the beginning of a bear market that will be generational, not a temporary cyclical downleg.

What hit the casino wasn’t an air pocket; it was a fundamental change of direction, signaling that the three decade long central bank experiment with Bubble Finance has now run its course.

Moreover, this epochal pivot is not tentative or reversible in any near-term time frame that matters. That’s because the arrogant but clueless Keynesian academics and apparatchiks who run the Fed think they have succeeded splendidly and that the US economy is on the cusp of full-employment.

So they’re now hell-bent on positioning the central bank for the next downturn. That is, they are reloading their recession-fighting “dry powder” thru interest rate normalization and a second giant experiment—-this time in shrinking their balance sheet by huge annual amounts under a regime called quantitative tightening (QT).

Needless to say, both the magnitude and the automaticity of this impending monetary shock are being completely ignored by Wall Street in favor of bromides like “the market knows” QT is coming because the Fed has been transparent in its forward guidance.

So what? Knowing the steamroller is coming doesn’t stop you from getting crushed if you remain in its path. In fact, the $600 billion annualized bond dumping rate incepting in October is a fearsome number; it’s larger than the entire $500 billion Fed balance sheet as recently as the year 2000.

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

Don’t Expect A Central Bank Bailout This Time, ECB’s Nowotny Warns

To all those hoping for a sign or signal from central bankers that the recent correction in US stocks was necessary and sufficient for intervention, here are some disappointing examples of what they have said recently:

“If stock prices or asset prices more generally were to fall, what would that mean for the economy as a whole?” asked outgoing Fed Chair Yellen during her exit interview, selling the all-time highs. “The financial system is much better capitalized. The banking system is more resilient,” the former US central banker added, listing her accomplishments. “I think our overall judgment is that, if there were to be a decline in asset valuations, it would not damage unduly the core of our financial system.”

That was that moment when the “Yellen Put” instantly vanished, and stocks – predictably – plunged, while the industry’s most obviously ill-conceived financial innovations – inverse VIX ETFs – collapsed to essentially zero in the space of thirty minutes on the first day of new Fed chair’s Jay Powell tenure.

* * *

“I think it’s basically a market event, and these things can be healthy,” stated Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan, diagnosing Monday’s -4.1% S&P 500 epileptic fit. “I don’t think it will have economic implications. 2018 will be a strong year in America. We’re at or near full employment. I continue to expect three rate hikes this year,” explained the former Goldman banker.

* * *

This is the most predicted selloff of all time because the markets have been up so much and they have had so many days in a row without meaningful down days,” said Philly Fed president Bullard. “Something that has gone up 40% like the S&P tech sector would at some point have a selloff.” he added philosophically.

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

The stock market swoon and our hatred of (some kinds of) volatility

The stock market swoon and our hatred of (some kinds of) volatility

The steepest one-day point drop in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week shook stock investors into an awareness that all is not sweetness and light in the financial markets. The sudden downside stock market volatility had been preceded by the breathless upside volatility of a months-long melt-up—one that had financial gurus outbidding each other to increase their targets for major stock indices. (See here and here.) Investors, too, felt that heaven had arrived on Earth, at least financial heaven.

After years of steady gains—with only the occasional drop—stock and bond market investors had gotten used to narrow swings in price that didn’t disturb their sleep. In fact, whenever the stock (or bond market) looked like it might crash, the world’s central banks offered reassurance both in words and deeds. The deeds included unprecedented buying of bonds (which kept interest rates low) and in some cases the purchase of stocks. The Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank are two central banks which buoyed stocks through purchases though they bought stocks for different reasons.

Whether the current volatility presages a market meltdown or not, I’ll leave to others. But volatility in the stock market isn’t the only kind of volatility humans don’t like. In fact, the entire project of human civilization might be characterized as an attempt to dampen volatility. The basis of civilization, that is, living in settlements, is agriculture, especially agriculture devoted to the production of grains. Why grains? Because grains can be stored from season to season and thereby smooth out food supplies throughout the year and cushion an unexpected drop in supplies from year to year due to drought, floods or other natural catastrophes.

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

Red Screen At Morning, Investor Take Warning

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Red Screen At Morning, Investor Take Warning

It’s time for safety. And it’s beginning to pay better, too

Growing up as I did in coastal New England, this old rhyme was drilled into us as children:

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight;

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.

Because many of the people in town still made their living on the sea, the safety of person and property depended on being able to recognize the signs of approaching danger.

A notably red sky at morning is usually due to sunrise reflection off of moisture-bearing clouds, signifying an arriving a storm system bringing rain, wind and rough seas. Those who ignored a red sky warning often did so at their peril.

Red Sky In The Markets

I’m reminded of that childhood rhyme because the markets are giving us a clear “red sky” warning right now. One that comes after (too) many years of uninterrupted fair winds and smooth sailing.

The markets have plunged nearly 8% over just a single week. And the losses are across the board. Nearly every asset class from stocks to bonds to commodities to real estate are participating in the pain. Market displays are a sea of red.

We’ve written so often and recently of the dangerous level of over-valuation in asset prices (caused by years of central bank intervention) that to re-hash the premise again feels unnecessary.

But the chart below is worth our attention now, as it really drives home just how dangerously over-extended the markets have become. It’s a 20-year chart of the S&P 500, showing how it has traded vs its 50-month moving average (the thin green line).

Importantly, the chart also plots the Bollinger bands for this moving average. These are the thin red (upper) and purple (lower) lines above and below the green one.

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

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