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Blain’s Morning Porridge – Nov 15th 2019

Blain’s Morning Porridge – Nov 15th 2019

“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”

As it’s a Friday I am contractually entitled to have a rant and whine about whatever I want to write about. Which, today, isn’t really the cut and thrust of markets. 

To be brutally frank – we all know what the problems are: Too much money in the markets pushing up the prices of market assets. The fact is too much of that too much money is owned by too few people who use their too much money to buy all these financial assets. These too few people who own all the financial assets get richer everyday as their too much money makes their too many financial assets even more valuable. And these too few people get even richer by getting even more too much money to put into the already too expensive financial markets by “persuading” central banks to keep rates low, to buy financial assets through QE, and get their in-the-pocket politicians to enact tax cuts so their too much money is even more too much money… 

With me so far??

Meanwhile, politicians pay for the too much money they give to too rich people, by taking it away from the much more numerous too many too poor people through Austerity. The too many people who don’t have any assets and owe any money they have to the people who have too much money and too many assets – aren’t happy. They blame society, they blame governments and as they get even more unhappy they get angry. These too poor too angry people then get very angry and start blaming people. which is what is happening across the globe..

Still there?… 

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

Black Swan Watch: China Has Added Over $50 TRILLION in Financial Assets Since 2014

Black Swan Watch: China Has Added Over $50 TRILLION in Financial Assets Since 2014

The biggest black swan facing the financial system is China.

China has been the primary driver of growth for the global economy since the 2008 Crisis. Despite only accounting for 15% of global GDP, China accounts for 25%-30% of GDP growth.

Put simply, from an economic perspective,  if China catches cold, the world gets sick…  and if China goes into a coma…

Which is why anyone paying attention should be truly horrified by the latest round of data from China’s economy.

In December, China’s Manufacturing PMI came in below 50, signaling a contraction is underway.

This is a massive deal because this was an OFFICIAL data point, meaning one that China had heavily massaged to look better than reality.

Let me explain…

Over the last 30 years China’s economic data has ALWAYS overstated growth. The reason for this is very simple: if you are an economic minister/ government employee who lives in a regime in which leadership will have you jailed or executed for missing your numbers, the numbers are ALWAYS great.

Indeed, this is an open secret in China, to the degree that former First Vice Premiere of China, Li Keqiang, admitted to the US ambassador to China that ALL Chinese data, outside of electricity consumption, railroad cargo, and bank lending is for “reference only.”

With that in mind, we have to ask… how horrific is the situation in China’s financial system that even the heavily massaged data is showing a contraction is underway?

Think “systemic risk” bad.

I’ve already outlined how China is sitting atop 15% of all junk debt in the global financial system, resulting in the country’s “bad debt” to GDP ratio exceeding 80% (a first in history).

However, it now appears that even that assessment was too rosy.

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

The Biggest Emerging Market Debt Problem Is in America

Getty Images

The Biggest Emerging Market Debt Problem Is in America

A decade after the subprime bubble burst, a new one seems to be taking its place in the market for corporate collateralized loan obligations. A world economy geared toward increasing the supply of financial assets has hooked market participants and policymakers alike into a global game of Whac-A-Mole.

CAMBRIDGE – A recurrent topic in the financial press for much of 2018 has been the rising risks in the emerging market (EM) asset class. Emerging economies are, of course, a very diverse group. But the yields on their sovereign bonds have climbed markedly, as capital inflows to these markets have dwindled amid a general perception of deteriorating conditions.

Historically, there has been a tight positive relationship between high-yield US corporate debt instruments and high-yield EM sovereigns. In effect, high-yield US corporate debt is the emerging market that exists within the US economy (let’s call it USEM debt). In the course of this year, however, their paths have diverged (see Figure 1). Notably, US corporate yields have failed to rise in tandem with their EM counterparts.

What’s driving this divergence? Are financial markets overestimating the risks in EM fixed income (EM yields are “too high”)? Or are they underestimating risks in lower-grade US corporates (USEM yields are too low)?

Taking together the current trends and cycles in global factors (US interest rates, the US dollar’s strength, and world commodity prices) plus a variety of adverse country-specific economic and political developments that have recently plagued some of the larger EMs, I am inclined to the second interpretation.

In what is still a low-interest-rate environment globally, the perpetual search for yield has found a comparatively new and attractive source in the guise of collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) within the USEM world.

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

Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond

Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond

Photo Source wongaboo | CC BY 2.0

One of the key characteristics of the 2008-09 crash and its aftermath (i.e. chronic slow recovery in US and double and triple dip recessions in Europe and Japan) was a significant deflation in prices of global oil. After attaining well over $100 a barrel in 2007-08, crude oil prices plummeted, hitting a low of only $27 a barrel in January 2016. They slowly but steadily rose again in 2016-17 and peaked at about $80 a barrel this past summer 2018. Now the retreat has started once again, falling to a low of $55 in October and remain around $56 today, likely to fall further in 2019 now that Japan and Europe appear entering yet another recession and US growth almost certainly slowing significantly in 2019. With the potential for a US recession rising in late 2019 oil price deflation may continue into the near future. What will this mean for the global and US economies?

The critical question is what is the relationship between global oil price deflation, financial instability and crises, and recession–something mainstream economists don’t understand very well? Is the current rapid retreat of oil prices since August 2018 an indicator of more fundamental forces underway in the global and US economy? Will oil price deflation exacerbate, or even accelerate, the drift toward recession globally now underway? What about financial asset markets stability in general? What can be learned from the 2008 through 2015 experience?

In my 2016 book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’ and its chapter on deflation’s role in crises, I explained that oil is not just a commodity but, since the 1990s, has functioned as an important financial asset whose price affects other forms of financial assets (stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, etc.).

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

The “Nightmare Scenario” For Beijing: 50 Million Chinese Apartments Are Empty

Back in 2017, we explained why the “fate of the world economy is in the hands of China’s housing bubble.” The answer was simple: for the Chinese population, and growing middle class, to keep spending vibrant and borrowing elevated, it had to feel comfortable and confident that its wealth would keep rising. However, unlike the US where the stock market is the ultimate barometer of the confidence boosting “wealth effect”, in China it has always been about housing as three quarters of Chinese household assets are parked in real estate, compared to only 28% in the US, with the remainder invested financial assets.

Source: Xinhua

Beijing knows this, of course, which is why China periodically and consistently reflates its housing bubble, hoping that the popping of the bubble, which happened in late 2011 and again in 2014, will be a controlled, “smooth landing” process.  For now, Beijing has been successful in maintaining price stability at least according to official data, allowing the air out of the “Tier 1” home price bubble which peaked in early 2016, while preserving modest home price appreciation in secondary markets.

How long China will be able to avoid a sharp price decline remains to be seen, but in the meantime another problem faces China’s housing market: in addition to being the primary source of household net worth – and therefore stable and growing consumption – it has also been a key driver behind China’s economic growth, with infrastructure spending and capital investment long among the biggest components of the country’s goalseeked GDP. One result has been China’s infamous ghost cities, built only for the sake of Keynesian spending to hit a predetermined GDP number that would make Beijing happy.

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

Is the Greatest Bull Market Ever Finally Ending? (Hint: Follow the Money)

Is the Greatest Bull Market Ever Finally Ending? (Hint: Follow the Money)

The key here is the gains generated by owning US-denominated assets as the USD appreciates.

Is the Greatest Bull Market Ever finally ending? One straightforward approach to is to follow the money, i.e. global capital flows: assets that attract positive global capital flows will continue rising if demand for the assets exceeds supply, and assets that are being liquidated as capital flees the asset class (i.e. negative capital flows) will decline in price.

Global capital flows are difficult to track for a number of reasons. A significant percentage of global mobile capital is held in secretive offshore tax havens and “shadow banking,” and tracking global corporate capital flows is not easy. Capital held in precious metals may not be reported, and assets such as enterprises and collectible art may be grossly undervalued for tax purposes.

Toss in shadow holding companies, LLCs with obscure trails of ownership, etc. and a definitive account of global capital flows is ultimately a guesstimate.

Despite the limitations of tracking global wealth, Credit Suisse Research Institute’s (CSRI) issued Global Wealth Report 2017 gives us some clues about where capital is flowing in and where it’s leaving for safer, higher-yield climes.

The first step in measuring global capital flows is to note that conventional capital is denominated in currencies which fluctuate in relative value. Of the roughly $300 trillion in global assets (Credit Suisse pegs the total in 2017 at $280 trillion, but other estimates range well above $300 trillion), about $8 trillion or so is in precious metals, and a tiny sliver is in cryptocurrencies. (Bitcoin’s total market capitalization is currently around $112 billion and Ethereum’s market cap is around $21 billion–signal noise in the $300 trillion sloshing around the world seeking safety, low/zero taxes, capital gains and high yields.)

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

Most Bearish of Economic Charts Are Reason To Be Most Bullish on Financial Assets

Most Bearish of Economic Charts Are Reason To Be Most Bullish on Financial Assets

In the land of the blind (economics), the one eyed man is king.  So, forget everything you know (or don’t know) about economics and follow some very simple math that economists (and financiers, Fed chiefs, and administration after administration) are unwilling to publicly acknowledge.  Disregard theories about ever greater production equating to economic growth…all that truly matters is the ability to consume that production (otherwise production turns into excess inventories).

Simply put, every person on earth is a unit of consumption multiplied by their income, savings, and access to and/or utilization of credit (even if it is government provided via social programs).  Thus, it is the annual change in the population (multiplied by these levers) which is the primary driver for the annual change in consumption.  But population growth among the nations with the income, savings, and access to credit has fallen in half since peaking decades ago…and growth among the all important work force is facing imminent and ongoing decline.
Thus to maintain consumptive growth, a series of stop-gap steps have been undertaken, each more drastic than the last.  First, unfunded governmental social programs alongside interest rate cuts were used to entice higher consumption absent higher income or savings.  Once this broke down, governments and central banks took over debt creation and asset eradication in an attempt to maintain still higher consumption without the concomitant rise in income/savings.
However, these policies and actions to maintain consumptive growth (enabling higher production) are about to become far more difficult if not impossible.  The lack of population growth among the consumer nations coupled with the negative distribution of that growth (almost solely among the elderly) is set to slow growth to a crawl or cause outright declines.  Why?

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

The Stock Market Falls Another 724 Points! What In The World Is Happening On Wall Street?

The Stock Market Falls Another 724 Points! What In The World Is Happening On Wall Street?

We just witnessed the 5th largest single day stock market crash in U.S. history.  On Thursday the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 724 points, and many believe that this is just the beginning of another huge wave down for stock prices.  After this latest dramatic decline, the Dow is now down 3.1 percent so far in 2018, and overall it is down 9.99 percent from the all-time high in January.  A 10 percent decline is officially considered to be “correction” territory, and that means that we are just about there.

So why are stock prices falling so much?  Well, USA Today is blaming the potential for a trade war with China, the latest Facebook scandal and “the impact of rising interest rates on the economy”…

U.S. stocks sold off sharply Thursday, with the Dow tumbling more than 700 points amid growing fears of a trade fight between the U.S. and its trading partners after President Trump said he will impose billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports.

The heavy selling on Wall Street was exacerbated by continued weakness in shares of Facebook as well as concerns about the impact of rising interest rates on the economy.

Of course the possibility of a trade war between the two largest economies on the planet is certainly the greatest concern that the markets are grappling with at the moment.  According to Ian Winer, any sign of retaliation by China “will really spook people”…

“A global trade war, whether it’s real or perceived, is what’s weighing on the market,” said Ian Winer, head of equities at Wedbush Securities. “There’s this huge uncertainty now. If China decides to get tough on agriculture or anything else, that will really spook people.”

Trump announced tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports on Thursday afternoon. It’s not clear which products will be hit, but the action is aimed at curbing China’s troubling theft of US intellectual property.

And we can be quite sure that China will retaliate.

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

The Dow Jones Industrial Average Falls Another 420 Points As Investors Panic About A Potential Trade War

The Dow Jones Industrial Average Falls Another 420 Points As Investors Panic About A Potential Trade War

Many had been hoping that the financial shaking on Wall Street that we witnessed in February would subside in March, but so far that is definitely not the case.  On Thursday, the Dow fell another 420 points as investors fretted about the potential for a trade war.  Over the past month, we have seen many days when stock prices have been way down and other days when stock prices have been way up.  This is precisely the sort of wild volatility that we would expect to see if a major financial crisis was brewing, and the truth is that our financial system is far more vulnerable today than it was back in 2008.

Many Americans have assumed that the U.S. economy must be in great shape since the stock market has just kept going up for the past several years.  But the reality of the matter is that stock prices are no longer connected to economic reality whatsoever.  The U.S. economy has not grown by 3 percent or more in 12 years, but stock prices have been shooting into the stratosphere thanks to relentless central bank intervention.

But what goes up must eventually come down, and on Thursday we witnessed another stunning decline

The Dow Jones industrial average closed 420.22 points lower at 24,608.98 after rising more than 150 points earlier in the day. The 30-stock index fell as much as 586 points.

The S&P 500 declined 1.4 percent to end at 2,677.67 — erasing its year-to-date gains — with industrials as the worst-performing sector. It also briefly broke below its 100-day moving average, a key technical level. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.3 percent to 7,180.56 and dipped below its 50-day moving average.

So why did this happen?

Well, the mainstream media is placing the blame for Thursday’s decline on Trump’s new tariffs

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

-1,175 Points! We Just Witnessed The Largest One Day Stock Market Crash Ever

-1,175 Points! We Just Witnessed The Largest One Day Stock Market Crash Ever

The mainstream media seems so surprised that the stock market is crashing, but the truth is that it isn’t a surprise at all.  In fact, this crash is way, way overdue.  If the Dow Jones industrial average fell another 10,000 points, stock prices would still be overvalued.  I have been warning and warning and warning that this would happen, because stock valuations always return to their long-term averages eventually.  On Monday, the Dow was down a staggering 1,175 points, which was the largest single day decline that we have ever seen by a very wide margin.  In fact, it shattered the old record by nearly 400 points.

Shortly after 3 PM, all hell broke loose on Wall Street.  The Dow dropped by more than 800 points in just 10 minutes.  At one point on Monday, the Dow was down nearly 1,600 points, but a brief rally cut those losses roughly in half.  However, the rally did not last long and stock prices collapsed hard as the market closed.  At this moment, the Dow is already down more than 2,200 points from the peak of the market, and we are not too far from officially entering “correction” territory.

Once stocks start falling, it can trigger a massive rush for the exits, and that is what happened on Monday.  In particular, investors started to panic once the Dow broke through the 50-day moving average

“As soon as we broke the 50-day moving average … we saw volatility spike,” said Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. “It’s just been downhill from there.”

Other waves of selling were triggered once the 25,000 and 24,000 barriers on the Dow were breached.  In order to protect against losing too much money, many investors have stop losses set at psychologically-important levels.  The following comes from MarketWatch

 

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

-666 Points: We Just Witnessed The 6th Largest Single Day Stock Market Decline In U.S. History 

-666 Points: We Just Witnessed The 6th Largest Single Day Stock Market Decline In U.S. History 

On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 666 points (665.75 points to be precise), and many are pointing out that this was the 6th largest single day crash that we have ever seen.  This decline happened on the 33rd day of the year, and it was the worst day for the stock market by far since President Trump entered the White House.  I have been repeatedly warning that we are way overdue for a stock market crash, and many are concerned that we may be on the precipice of another great financial crisis.  We shall see what happens on Monday, because that will set the tone for the rest of the week.  If we see another huge decline early Monday morning, that could easily set off full-blown panic selling on Wall Street.

Rising interest rates appear to have been the trigger for the enormous market drop on Friday.  The following comes from the New York Post

“We all know that many bull markets have ended by the Federal Reserve as they raise the rates to the point of slowing the economy down perhaps too much,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, told The Post.

“It’s come on quickly and it caught the market off guard,”Krosby said.

The Dow sell-off brought it below the 26,000 plateau — to 25,520.96 — the biggest points drop since Dec. 1, 2008.

It is quite rare for the market to drop this much in a single day.  The largest single daily decline was a 777 point drop in 2008, and overall the Dow has fallen by more than 600 points less than 10 times throughout history

The index posted a loss of nearly 666 points, its sixth-worst decline ever on a points basis.

 

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

What Does it Mean, Saving Rate drops to 12-Year Low when 50% of Americans Don’t Have Savings?

What Does it Mean, Saving Rate drops to 12-Year Low when 50% of Americans Don’t Have Savings?

Or what the averages are hiding.

We will start with income and see what’s left over, and for whom.

Personal income increased by 4.1% in December from a year earlier, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today. This includes all income received by all persons from all sources, such as from labor, financial assets (dividends and interest income but not capital gains), business activities, homeownership (rentals), government transfers, etc.

“Real” personal income — adjusted for inflation via “chained 2009 dollars” — rose only 2.37%. This is for the US overall.

Per-capita “real” personal income – which accounts for 0.71% population growth in 2017 and measures income per individual – rose only about 1.7%. If the inflation measure even slightly understates actual inflation as experienced by these individuals, their personal income growth might go away entirely.

Next step down…

Disposable personal income – personal income less personal taxes – increased 3.9% year over year in December. This is the income that folks have available for spending or saving. “Real” disposable personal income rose 2.1%. And on a per-capita basis, it rose only 1.4%. So these are not exactly huge increases.

Not everyone is getting this income growth equally.

The economy can be divided up into layers. Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio sees a split between the top 40% of income earners for whom the economy is doing well, and the bottom 60% for whom the economy is a series of setbacks. Or by it could be 30% and 70%. Wherever the split is drawn, the smaller group of top income earners has had it good while the larger group of income earners at the bottom is struggling.

But consumers, no matter what their income levels, are trying to do their best to prop up the economy, upholding an American tradition. And they’re spending more, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today.

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

A Bedtime Story

A Bedtime Story

We are explaining our money system to our grandson, James, now 14 months old…

His mother tries to get him to go to bed at 9 p.m. But the little boy’s internal clock is still on Baltimore time; it tells him it is much too early to go to sleep.


Bill’s living room transformed into a makeshift nursery

Grandpa takes over, drawing out the monetary system like a general spreading a map on a field table. “Here is the enemy,” he says gravely. “They have us completely surrounded. We’re doomed.”

James grumbles. He squirms. He has a sunny, optimistic temperament. But we think our explanations are sinking in.

He seems to understand…

…that money is not wealth; it just measures and represents wealth, like the claim ticket on a car in a parking garage.

…that our post-1971 money system is based on fake money that represents no wealth and measures badly.

…that this new money enters the economy as credit… and that the credit industry (Wall Street) has privileged access to it. The working man still has to earn his money, selling his work, by the hour. But Wall Street—and elite borrowers connected to the Establishment—get it without breaking a sweat or watching the clock.

…that a disproportionate share of this new money is concentrated in and around the credit industry—pushing up asset prices, raising salaries and bonuses in the financial sector, and making the rich (those who own financial assets) much richer.

…that this flood of credit helped the middle class raise its living standards, even as earnings stagnated. But it also raised debt levels throughout the economy.

…and that it allowed the average American family to spend American money that Americans never earned and buy products Americans never made…

Instead, Walmart’s shelves were stocked with goods “Made in China.” The middle class lost income as factories, jobs, and earnings moved overseas. Debt stayed at home.

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

Bank Of America Analyst: A ‘Flash Crash’ In Early 2018 ‘Seems Quite Likely’

Bank Of America Analyst: A ‘Flash Crash’ In Early 2018 ‘Seems Quite Likely’

Is the stock market bubble about to burst?  I know that I have been touching on this theme over and over and over again in recent weeks, but I can’t help it.  Red flags are popping up all over the place, and the last time so many respected experts were warning about an imminent stock market crash was just before the last major financial crisis.  Of course nobody can guarantee that global central banks won’t find a way to prolong this bubble just a little bit longer, but at this point they are all removing the artificial support from the markets in coordinated fashion.  Without that artificial support, it is inevitable that financial markets will experience a correction, and the only real question is what the exact timing will be.

For example, Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett originally thought that the coming correction would come a bit sooner, but now he is warning of a “flash crash” during the first half of 2018

Having predicted back in July that the “most dangerous moment for markets will come in 3 or 4 months“, i.e., now, BofA’s Michael Hartnett was – in retrospect – wrong (unless of course the S&P plunges in the next few days). However, having stuck to his underlying logic – which was as sound then as it is now – Hartnett has not given up on his “bad cop” forecast (not to be mistaken with the S&P target to be unveiled shortly by BofA’s equity team and which will probably be around 2,800), and in a note released overnight, the Chief Investment Strategist not only once again dares to time his market peak forecast, which he now thinks will take place in the first half of 2018, but goes so far as to predict that there will be a flash crash “a la 1987/1994/1998” in just a few months.

That certainly sounds quite ominous.

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

The Last Time These 3 Ominous Signals Appeared Simultaneously Was Just Before The Last Financial Crisis

The Last Time These 3 Ominous Signals Appeared Simultaneously Was Just Before The Last Financial Crisis

We have not seen a “leadership reversal”, a “Hindenburg Omen” and a “Titanic Syndrome signal” all appear simultaneously since just before the last financial crisis.  Does this mean that a stock market crash is imminent?  Not necessarily, but as I have been writing about quite a bit recently, the markets are certainly primed for one.  On Wednesday, the Dow fell another 138 points, and that represented the largest single day decline that we have seen since September.  Much more importantly, the downward trend that has been developing over the past week appears to be accelerating.  Just take a look at this chart.  Could we be right on the precipice of a major move to the downside?

John Hussman certainly seems to think so.  He is the one that pointed out that we have not seen this sort of a threefold sell signal since just before the last financial crisis.  The following comes from Business Insider

On Tuesday, the number of New York Stock Exchange companies setting new 52-week lows climbed above the number hitting new highs, representing a “leadership reversal” that Hussman says highlights the deterioration of market internals. Stocks also received confirmation of two bearish market-breadth readings known as the Hindenburg Omen and the Titanic Syndrome.

Hussman says these three readings haven’t occurred simultaneously since 2007, when the financial crisis was getting underway. It happened before that in 1999, right before the dot-com crash. That’s not very welcome company.

In fact, every time we have seen these three signals appear all at once there has been a market crash.

Will things be different this time?

We shall see.

If you are not familiar with a “Hindenburg Omen” or “the Titanic Syndrome”, here are a couple of pretty good concise definitions

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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