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The Coming Financial Crisis of 2021

Economist Steve Keen predicts that even if the covid-19 health crisis subsides next year, a brewing financial crisis on par with the 2008 Great Recession is in the making.

He sees the pandemic as having delivered an “unprecedented shock” to the global economy, and the response from authorities as nothing less than a “catastrophe”.

With tens of millions of households having lost their income this year, personal savings becoming exhausted, government support programs on their way to drying up, and lots more company layoffs/bankruptcies/closures ahead — Steve expects a punishing recession to arrive in full force in 2021.

And on a larger scale, he sees modern neoclassical economics — which ignores the importance of natural resources and the health of our ecosystems — as completely unsuited for the reality in which we live today. He warns that if we don’t adapt a more informed approach to managing the global economy, we will only continue to make the mess we’re in worse:

Unspoken Truth

Unspoken Truth

We all know it yet the unspoken truth deserves to be said out aloud.

You all heard the phrases ‘Don’t fight the Fed’, and ‘ there is no alternative’. Can we be clear what these phrases really mean? They mean people are buying assets at prices they otherwise wouldn’t because a central planning committee is putting in market conditions that changes their market behavior.

People are paying forward multiples that are higher than they would if they earned higher interest income. The ‘desperate search for yield’ they call it. Think of it as a forced auction. You must pay, and you must pay more because you can’t bid on anything else and neither can anyone else hence there are now bidders for ever less available product (i.e. think shrinking share floats) driving prices wildly higher. And as central banks have become permanently dovish over the past decade Fed meetings are the principal impetus for rallies. Indeed most gains in markets come around days that have Fed Day written on them, a well established history going back decades now.

A fact the Fed itself is very well aware of:

“In a 2011 paper, New York Fed economists showed that from 1994 to 2011 almost all the S&P 500’s returns came in the 3 days around an FOMC decision. Over this period the index rose by 270%, and most of those gains happened the before, the day of, and the day after a Fed meeting.”

So Pavlovian has the response become that shorts automatically cover ahead of Fed meetings and investors buy ahead of Fed meetings expecting a positive response. The Fed is the market as it’s driving its entire behavior. The “Fed put” they call it. Another phrase that explicitly acknowledges that investors are orienting their risk profile behavior on what this unelected committee does.

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

UNIDOS HACIA EL FUTURO

“The markets are the product of 1999 & 2007 hooking up for a one night stand.”
Tweet by Danielle DiMartino Booth (@DiMartinoBooth), 25th August 2020.

“In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to / Myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost.”
Dante, Inferno.

“Zoom is now worth more than IBM.”
“I don’t know if that says more about Zoom or IBM.”
Tweets by Morgan Housel (@morganhousel), 31st August 2020.

By the mid 1970s, film director William Friedkin was on a roll. 1971’s The French Connection bagged him an Oscar and widespread critical acclaim; 1973’s The Exorcist became the highest grossing Warner Bros film of all time. How did Friedkin follow up on all this monstrous success ? He decided to adapt Georges Arnaud’s novel The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur), in which down-on-their-luck truck drivers in Latin America attempt to ferry nitroglycerine across a treacherous mountain range in order to extinguish an oil well fire. The resultant 1977 release was called Sorcerer. It sank more or less with all hands.

Which is a shame, because Sorcerer – or Wages of Fear as it was somewhat unimaginatively titled in the UK (see poster below) – has moments that are pure cinema. The sequence where Roy Scheider and Francisco Rabal pilot their ramshackle truck over a threadbare rope bridge across a river in flood is one of the most extraordinary in film history (and very Werner Herzog). All of which vindicates screenwriter William Goldman’s assessment that in the movie business, nobody knows anything.

Source: https://www.originalfilmart.com/products/sorcerer-quad

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

“Prolonged Period of Risk to Institutional and Retail Investors of Further – Possibly Significant – Market Corrections”

“Prolonged Period of Risk to Institutional and Retail Investors of Further – Possibly Significant – Market Corrections”

European Market Regulator flags big issues, including the “decoupling of financial market performance and underlying economic activity.”

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) warned of a “prolonged period of risk to institutional and retail investors of further – possibly significant – market corrections and very high risks” across its jurisdiction.

“Of particular concern” is the sustainability of the recent market rebound and the potential impact of another broad market sell-off on EU corporates and their credit quality, as well as on credit institutions.

The “decoupling of financial market performance and underlying economic activity” — the worst economic crisis in a lifetime — is raising serious questions about “the sustainability of the market rebound,” ESMA says in its Trends, Risks and Vulnerabilities Report of 2020.

Beyond the immediate risks posed by a second wave of infections, other external events, such as Brexit or trade tensions between the US and China, could further destabilize fragile market conditions in the near term.

From a long-term perspective, the crisis is likely to affect economic activity permanently, “owing to lasting unemployment or structural changes, which might have an impact on future earnings.” The increase in private and public sector debt could also give rise to solvency and sustainability issues.

In corporate bond markets, spreads have narrowed but they remain well above pre-crisis levels, owing to heightened credit risk and underlying vulnerabilities related to high corporate leverage. There was also a wide divergence across sectors and asset classes in April and May. Across non-financials, the automotive sector suffered the largest decline, followed by the energy sector.

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

Weekly Commentary: Moral Hazard Quagmire

Weekly Commentary: Moral Hazard Quagmire

The Nasdaq100 jumped another 3.5% this week, increasing 2020 gains to 32.3%. Amazon gained 4.3% during the week, boosting y-t-d gains to 77.8% – and market capitalization to $1.626 TN. Apple surged 8.2% this week, increasing 2020 gains to 69.4%. Apple’s market capitalization ended the week at a world-beating $2.127 TN. Microsoft rose 2.0% (up 35.1% y-t-d, mkt cap $1.612 TN). Google rose 4.8% (up 18.2% y-t-d, mkt cap $1.073 TN), and Facebook gained 2.2% (up 30.1%, mkt cap $761bn). The Nasdaq100 now trades with a price-to-earnings ratio of 37.4.
This era will be analyzed and debated for decades to come – if not much longer. Market Bubbles, over-indebtedness, inequality, financial instability and economic maladjustment – festering for years – can no longer be disregarded as cyclical phenomena. Ben Bernanke has declared understanding the forces behind the Great Depression is the “Holy Grail of economics”. It’s ironic. That the Fed never repeats its failure to aggressively expand the money supply in time of crisis is a key facet of the Bernanke doctrine – policy failing he asserts was a primary contributor to Depression-era financial and economic collapse. Yet this era’s unprecedented period of monetary stimulus is fundamental to current financial, economic, social and geopolitical instabilities.

August 18 – Bloomberg (Craig Torres): “The concentration of market power in a handful of companies lies behind several disturbing trends in the U.S. economy, like the deepening of inequality and financial instability, two Federal Reserve Board economists say in a new paper. Isabel Cairo and Jae Sim identify a decline in competition, with large firms controlling more of their markets, as a common cause in a series of important shifts over the last four decades. Those include a fall in labor share, or the chunk of output that goes to workers, even as corporate profits increased; and a surge in wealth and income inequality, as the net worth of the top 5% of households almost tripled between 1983 and 2016. 

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

They’ve Done It Again

They’ve Done It Again

The stars are back in their courses. The angels are back in the heavens. And the Perfections are back within sight…

For merely 148 trading days after bottoming… the S&P returned to record heights today.

The index closed the day at 3,389 — eclipsing its February 19 height of 3,386.

Thus Jerome Powell’s maniacal persistence has yielded a reward truly fantastic. He has successfully reflated the bubble.

The Federal Reserve has itself become the market.

Shannon Saccocia, Boston Private’s chief investment officer:

Equity markets are reflecting the massive monetary and fiscal stimulus that has been injected over the past four months… the rationale to diversify away from risk assets is hard to pinpoint.

For many the rationale to diversify away from risk assets is indeed hard to pinpoint…

No Longer Considered a Bear Market Rally

Bank of America has concluded its August Global Fund Manager survey. This survey revealed that:

The majority of professional investors no longer believe this market spree represents a bear market rally.

It is as genuine as gold itself, they believe.

What is more, 31% of those surveyed believe it is “early cycle” — the highest percentage since the financial crisis.

Meantime, Deutsche Bank reports, “companies have already restarted buybacks or are considering doing so.”

Buybacks were of course a primary source of helium for the bubble presently reflating.

And the Federal Reserve’s artificially depressed rates opened the taps…

Corporations Take on More Debt Than Ever

These exorbitantly low rates enabled corporations to pile on cheap debt.

With this debt they often purchased their own stock… which reduced shares outstanding… and raised the price per share.

That is, corporations often took on debt to conduct financial sorcery.

And now — as Deutsche Bank reports — the sorcerers are at their tricks again.

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

Market Update: Overstimulated!

The melt-up discussed last week remains in full force, with the S&P 500 hitting a new intraday all-time high on Wednesday.

Just to make sure we’re all clear on this: stocks are back to their highest prices BEFORE the coronavirus pandemic exploded. Before Q2 GDP plummeted -33% in the US. Before 50+ million Americans lost their jobs.

Thanks to the $trillions shoved into the system by both central banks and national legislatures since April, “investors” now believe the markets are a 1-way ride to forever-increasing wealth.

As the chart below from the National Association of Active Investment Managers shows, financial advisory firms that manage client capital are more fully-invested in the markets than at any other time in the past several years:

NAAIM chart

So everyone in “all-in” on the belief that the markets are both fully backstopped and rising higher from here.

How realistic is this belief?

Michael Pento, this week’s Market Update video expert guest, thinks it’s willful delusion. History is crystal clear that disconnects like we have today between (over-inflated) asset prices and the underlying (contracting) economic reality always result in crisis — either a deflationary repricing, or a destruction of the purchasing power of the currency.

Michael shares the 20 financial and economic metrics on the dashboard of indicators he tracks to determine where we are in this story, and which outcome is looking most likely to happen when. This week’s interview is worth listening to for that list alone.

Not one to mince words, Pento believes this is the most treacherous time ever for investors — which means those blindly long the current melt-up will get slaughtered if indeed the risks he predicts play out. As always, we recommend working in partnership with an independent financial advisor who appreciates these risks, prioritizes preservation of your investment capital, and can help you chart the turbulent waters ahead when the reckoning arrives:

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

 

Buyer Beware–Gold ETFs Like GLD Own No Gold

BUYER BEWARE – GOLD ETFs LIKE GLD OWN NO GOLD

Two major asset classes are major beneficiaries of the unlimited money printing and credit creation that is now taking place globally. One of them will end in tears and the other one has just started a major secular bull market.

As the world economy and financial system is disintegrating, investors are under the illusion that all is well with many stock markets still not far from their all time bubble highs.

THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN STOCK AND THE REAL ECONOMY CONTINUES

Many companies and services are haemorrhaging cash and are not going to recover for years and some never. As very few people are travelling, many airlines, cruise lines, hotels and restaurants for example will not survive. This is a global industry that employs 330 million people and represents 10% of global GDP. International tourism could fall as much as 60-80% in 2020 according to some estimates. The car industry is 3% of global GDP and is expected to drop 25% in 2020.

Real and hidden unemployment is a major problem and if furlough or social benefits are stopped many people will not survive. As many can’t pay their rents they will also become homeless.

Currently 31 million Americans are on some kind of unemployment benefits. That is 20% of all workers.

But if we include workers who are not receiving any benefits the total unemployment is 30% according to Shadow Government Statistics. This is worse than in the 1930s depression.

DREAMLAND STOCK INVESTORS IGNORE DEFICITS

Stocks market investors still live in dreamland and translate all the bad news to good news as the continuous flood of printed money and credit inject liquidity. This has always worked before so why won’t it this time? No one knows what the US deficit will be at the end of calendar 2020 but it could easily be $10 trillion as the debt grows to over $30t and on to $40 trillion within a year or two.

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

Memo from Insiders: Dear Bagholders, Thanks for Buying Our Shares at the Top

Memo from Insiders: Dear Bagholders, Thanks for Buying Our Shares at the Top

The self-sustaining recovery is a fantasy that’s evaporated.

What looks like a powerful, can’t-lose rally to newbies is recognized as distribution by old hands. In low-volume markets (as in the past few months), insiders holding large positions can’t dump all their shares at once or the price of the stock would plummet due to the thinness of the bid.

The only way to get top-dollar for one’s overvalued shares is to play distribution games: sell a little each day on the upticks, and buy back shares when they threaten to drop below the key support levels followed by trading algos.

When insiders have finished distributing their shares to naive and trusting bagholders at the top, then the price can flush lower with a velocity that shocks the complacent bagholders who saw only the inevitability of an endless rally rather than the inevitability of a collapse of bubble valuations.

Stocks are priced for a V-shaped recovery and/or $1 trillion in federal giveaways per month. Neither is possible. The V-shaped recovery hopes were based on $6 trillion in federal/Federal Reserve stimulus washing over the nation, boosting household incomes and opening spigots of cash for enterprises and local governments.

The basic idea was to give the economy a needed shot of adrenaline to get to to the point where a recovery would be self-sustaining: companies would hire back laid-off workers, people would start borrowing and over-consuming again, sales and income tax revenues would return to pre-pandemic levels, etc.

The self-sustaining recovery is a fantasy that’s evaporated. The spike in activity was all the giveaways being spent. Now that most of the free-money programs are expiring, there’s no more stimulus to spend.

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

There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch – Part 3

There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch – Part 3

In previous articles, I examined the negative externalities of post-Keynesian measures like unlimited monetary easing. First, I explained that such policies were inflating asset prices, squeezing working and middle classes, and thus leading to a core deflationary impact on the rest of the economy (see There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch – Part 1). Then, I wrote that too many bailouts might lead to moral hazard and zombie companies, undermining future economic growth (see There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch – Part 2).

If such policies tend to weaken the economy, then why assets like stocks, bonds, and real estate keep on rising?

Greed is Good

As already mentioned, bonds and equity markets have been more and more driven by the “Fed put” narrative (see The Fed Put Narrative Era). Besides, households might see the drop of interest rates as a screaming buy signal in the residential real estate space. People have been taught that any correction should be regarded as a huge investment opportunity, so everyone is willing to join the party.

Fear of missing out is a powerful catalyst, especially when wages inflation is so low that all you can do is hope for significant returns on investment markets. If the Fed has our back and if Nancy Pelosi is right about “the stock market floor”, then why not taking risks?

Narratives and Fantasy

Even if people love to state that “the market is not the economy”, assets like, stocks, bonds, and property, are supposed to reflect economic values somehow. And the bad news is that GDP growth has been decreasing for decades in Western economies (see chart below).

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

Is the Dollar Overvalued or Undervalued?

Is the Dollar Overvalued or Undervalued?

The latest claim running around is that the dollar is overvalued relevant to its trading partners, and it will decline as the economy recovers due to imports. You really have to wonder if these analysts are just working from home and have lost all sense of the world because they are locked down. In that forecast, they are ASSUMING that the world economy will recover as if nothing has taken place.

This is the typical analysis that simply focuses on domestic numbers and assumes that if you import more goods, then the dollar must decline. This theory is up there with thinking raising interest rates will be bearish for the economy and the stock market. Interestingly, both the economy and the stock market rallied as long as interest rates were RISING!

This is not a world that you can judge simply by looking at trade statistics. It is pure sophistry. In 2018, exports of goods and services from the United States made up about 12.22% of its gross domestic product (GDP), while US imports amounted to 15.33%. We have allocated trade according to the flag the company flies, and then you will see that the US has a trade surplus. Moreover, I assisted the Japanese on how to reduce their trade surplus buying gold in New York, taking delivery, and exporting it to London and selling it there. It does not matter what is exported; the statistics only look at dollars — not goods. This theory about trade to claim the dollar will decline is laughable.

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

Super Bull

Super Bull

You know where I stand: Markets have been bloated to high heaven via unlimited and unprecedented liquidity injections creating the illusion of a bull market when there is none. Yes indices such as $SPX and $NDX show incredible strength driven by a few single stocks, but as we discussed the rest of the market is far from bullish.

Equal weight keeps lagging:

while virtually all market gains are driven by a handful of stocks:

In fact the broader markets has gone nowhere since mid April:

But still the few stocks are running overall market valuations to never before seen highs:

pushing P/E levels into ever higher extremes:

Who needs earnings growth when all you need is multiple expansion?

Hard to justify valuations with traditional metrics in this environment. You know metrics such as earnings, growth, etc. So best not do it according to none other than Fed hired Blackrock:

‘BlackRock Inc.’s senior quant has bad news for the likes of Bill Gross and Cliff Asness wagering on a comeback for value stocks. In the worldview of Jeff Shen, money managers need new investing methods because there’s no way to tell if betting on ostensibly cheap companies will work again. In fact, comparing share prices to fundamentals like corporate profits or book value is essentially futile in complex markets.

To fix misfiring quant strategies, the co-chief of the $106 billion systematic active equity group has a newfangled suggestion: Investors should scour alternative data for trading signals and end their obsession with valuation metrics.”

Yea, it’s hard to justify valuations in a bubble so best just make things up. It’s different this time. Don’t you know?

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

Weekly Commentary: Drone Money

Weekly Commentary: Drone Money

In particular, to maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) likely will provide forward guidance about the economic conditions it would need to see before it considers raising its overnight target rate. And it likely will clarify its plans for further securities purchases (quantitative easing). It is possible, though not certain, that the FOMC will also implement yield-curve control by targeting medium-term interest rates.” Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, Testimony on COVID-19 and Response to Economic Crisis, July 17, 2020.

With highly speculative securities markets having fully recovered COVID losses – and Nasdaq sporting a 17% y-t-d gain – why the talk of more QE? And with 10-year yields at 0.63% and financial conditions extraordinarily loose, what’s the purpose for discussing the pegging of Treasury bond prices (aka “yield curve control”)? Aren’t the markets already conspicuously over-liquefied?

Let us suppose now that one day a helicopter flies over this community and drops an additional $1,000 in bills from the sky, which is, of course, hastily collected by members of the community. Let us suppose further that everyone is convinced that this is a unique event which will never be repeated.” Milton Friedman, “The Optimum Quantity of Money,” 1969.

It was Dr. Ben Bernanke that, in the wake of the “tech” Bubble collapse, elevated Friedman’s academic thought experiment to a revolutionary policy proposal. And in this runaway real world experiment, “often repeated” supplanted Friedman’s “will never be repeated” – and it changed everything.

The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.

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

JPMorgan: “Central Banks Have Created A Collective Hallucination Where Valuations Are Entirely Fabricated”

JPMorgan: “Central Banks Have Created A Collective Hallucination Where Valuations Are Entirely Fabricated”

Over a decade ago we were mocked and ridiculed for saying that the Fed was manipulating and rigging stock markets, pushing risk assets higher (either singlehandedly or via Citadel) and its only mandate was to prop up consumer confidence by preventing a stock market crash when instead all it was doing was creating a record wealth and income divide which has now morphed into “Trump”, populism the likes of which have not been seen since WWII, the BLM movement, and a country so torn apart it is unlikely it can ever be put back together again.

Fast forward to today when things are very different, and everyone from SocGen, to Rabobank, to Bank of America trashes the joke that is the Fed, and whose devastating money-printing fetish – just to keep stocks elevated – has become so conventionally accepted that the only ones who can’t see it are either idiots or those whose paycheck depends on not seeing it.

We can now add JPMorgan to the list of those who do see what was obvious to everyone back in 2009.

In an interview with  Bloomberg TV, Oksana Aronov, head of alternative fixed-income strategy tat JPMorgan Asset Management, said that central bank buying has forced rising credit valuations out of line with deteriorating fundamentals, resulting in a market where everything is broken:

European and U.S. credit investors are “locked in this collective hallucination with the central banks around valuations and what they mean and that there is a lack of desire to acknowledge the fact that market valuations are entirely fabricated – or synthetically generated – by all the central bank liquidity and do not reflect fundamentals of the securities that they represent,” Aronov said in a Friday BTV interview, adding that “Central banks continue to run the show and investors need to be really cautious here.”

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

This Is a Financial Extinction Event

This Is a Financial Extinction Event

The lower reaches of the financial food chain are already dying, and every entity that depended on that layer is doomed.

Though under pressure from climate change, the dinosaurs were still dominant 65 million year ago–until the meteor struck, creating a global “nuclear winter” that darkened the atmosphere for months, killing off most of the food chain that the dinosaurs depended on. (See chart below.)

The ancestors of modern birds were one of the few dinosaur species to survive the extinction event, which took months to play out.

It wasn’t the impact and shock wave that killed off dinosaurs globally–it was the “nuclear winter” that doomed them to extinction. As plants withered, the plant-eating dinosaurs expired, depriving the predator dinosaurs of their food supply.

This is a precise analogy for the global economy, which is entering a financial “nuclear winter” extinction event. As I’ve been discussing for the past few months, costs are sticky but revenues and profits are on a slippery slope.

Businesses still have all the high fixed costs of 2019 but their revenues are sliding as the “nuclear winter” weakens consumer spending, investment in new capacity, etc.

Despite all the hoopla about a potential vaccine, no vaccine can change four realities: one, consumer sentiment has shifted from confidence to caution and from spending freely to saving. This is the financial equivalent of “nuclear winter”: there is no way to return to the pre-impact environment.

Two, uncertainty cannot be dissipated, either. There are no guarantees a vaccine will be 99% effective, that it will last more than a few months, that it won’t have side-effects, etc. There are also no guarantees that consumers will resume their care-free spending ways as credit tightens, incomes decline, risks emerge and the need for savings becomes more compelling.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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