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A Financial Professional’s Perspective

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A Financial Professional’s Perspective

What’s the current market volatility signalling?

Given the recent volatile gyrations of the markets, we thought it an opportune time ask a full-time financial advisory firm whom we respect for their take on the current environment.

As most PeakProsperity.com readers are aware, we highly advise investors to work in concert with a professional financial advisor whose strategy takes into account the “Three E” macro risks highlighted in our foundational series, The Crash Course.

If folks experience difficulty finding such a professional, we refer them to Peak Prosperity’s endorsed financial advisor: New Harbor Financial. The folks at New Harbor have been mindful of our analysis — as well as that of other experts we admire, such as John Hussman — for over a decade now.

We aked them for their latest evaluation of the current situation in the markets, how they’re positioned right now, and what guidance they’re offering to their clients.

Here’s what they have to say:

Environment

Risk in global stock markets is exceedingly high at the present time in our opinion. Much of the work that we do in evaluating risk levels in the stock market at any given time is derived from valuations, and other key market metrics like stock market breadth, sentiment, and technicals.  Valuations, measured the way that we think they should be, have never been higher. Both the cyclically adjusted price earnings (CAPE) ratio developed by Robert Shiller, and the margin-adjusted CAPE, as developed by John Hussman, are at or near historic extremes.  Valuations cannot be used to precisely time the short-term movements of stock indices, but over the long-term of 5 to 10 years or more, valuations have a very high correlation to actual realized returns over those timeframes.

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

Is The Long-Anticipated Crash Now Upon Us?

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Is The Long-Anticipated Crash Now Upon Us?

Is this the market’s breaking point?

I admit: I’m a permabear.

This is no surprise to those who know and have followed me over the years. But I’m publicly proclaiming my ‘bearishness’ because doing so might open up a needed and long overdue dialog.

Here’s my fundamental position:  Infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. 

Cutting to the chase, this is why I predict a major crash/collapse across stocks, bonds and real estate is on the way.

The recent market weakness seen over the past two weeks is nothing compared to what’s in store.  As we’ve been carefully chronicling, bubbles burst from ‘the outside in’, starting at the weaker places at the periphery before progressing to the center.

Emerging market equities are now down -26% from their January highs and -18% year-to-date.  China’s stocks market is down -32%, even with substantial intervention by the government to prop things up.

The periphery has been weakening all year, and the contagion has now spead worldwide.

Taken as a whole, global equities have shed some $13 trillion of market capitalization for a -15% decline:

The rot has spread to the core with surprising speed. Now even the formerly bullet-proof US equity markets are stumbling.

The S&P 500 is now negative on the year:

It’s been obvious for a long time to those who have watched The Crash Course that endless growth is simply not possible. Not for a bacteria colony in a petrie dish, not for an economy, not for any species on the planet. Eventually, when finite resources are involved, limits matter.

But the vast majority of society pretends as if this isn’t true.

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

Wolf Richter: Making Sense Of The Recent Market Gyrations

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Wolf Richter: Making Sense Of The Recent Market Gyrations

Which triggers are driving the action? What’s next?

Every week at PeakProsperity.com, we record a podcast exclusive for our premium subscribers titled Off The Cuff, where Chris and a weekly expert discuss the notable developments of the week. Every once in a while, we’ll share one of these episodes with the general public, which we’re doing this week. Here’s Chris Martenson in discussion with Wolf Richter, evaluating the causes and repercussions of last week’s violent drop across the stock and bond markets.

Recorded last week as the market was in full melt-down mode, Chris and Wolf Richter decode the underlying drivers of the sudden reversal, and peer into the future to predict what is most likely to happen next. Both agree that, whether stocks are briefly ‘rescued’ in the ensuing days, the long-awaited downward re-pricing of the ‘Everything Bubble’ is nigh.

As Wolf puts it:

The emerging market stock index is down 22% from January. So they have gotten hit pretty hard. There’s this trend from the outside toward the core. So when something deteriorates, it starts at the outside and moves toward the core, the core being the higher quality US financial instruments. So that’s probably a dynamic that has already started. And I agree with you. The central banks removing liquidity is a big thing, and it has a big impact.

And people have said, for years, well, QE didn’t cause stocks to go up. So when that goes away, it’s not going to cause stocks to go down. But that’s just not true. The purpose of QE, as Bernanke himself explained it in a Washington Post editorial in 2010, is to create the wealth effect, to bring asset prices up so that the wealthy feel wealthier and spend more money and then this someone trickles down.

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

Has “It” Finally Arrived?

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Has “It” Finally Arrived?

Is this week’s 6% market drop the start of the Big One?

With the recent plunge in the S&P 500 of over 5%, has the long-anticipated (and long-overdue) market correction finally begun?

It’s hard to say for certain. But the systemic cracks we’ve been closely monitoring definitely got an awful lot wider this week.

After nearly a decade of endless market boosting, manipulation and regulatory neglect, all of the trading professionals I personally know are watching with held breath at this stage. The central banks have distorted the processes of price discovery and market structure for so many years now, that it’s difficult to know yet whether their grip on the markets has indeed failed.

But what we know for certain is that bubbles always burst. Inevitably. Each is built upon a fallacy; and when that finally becomes apparent to enough people, the mania ends.

And today, there are currently massive bubbles in stocks, bonds and real estate. Every one courtesy of the central banks (as we have written about in great detail here at PeakProsperity.com over the years).

And with no Plan B in place to gracefully exit the corner they have painted themselves — and thereby the global economy — into, the only option available to them is to double-down on the pretense that we’d all be screwed without their stewardship. They have to do this I suppose. To admit the truth would throw the world into panic and themselves out of a job.

Who knows what they think privately? But in public, they give us real gems like these:

Williams Says Fed Rate Hikes Helping Curb Financial Risk-Taking

U.S. interest-rate increases will help reduce risk-taking in financial markets, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said.

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

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

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The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Tom Petty’s anthem for today’s investors

Man, what an awful stretch of events.

When I penned last week’s article on tragedy, little did I expect something as horrible as the Las Vegas massacre would immediately follow. And nearly lost in the headlines was the untimely passing of rock legend, Tom Petty, one of my all-time favorite musicians. Sure can’t wait for this week to be over…

In memory of Tom, I’ve been listening to a lot of his and the Heartbreakers’ best hits. The lyrics to one song in particular, The Waiting, well-captures an important message today’s investors should take to heart:

The waiting is the hardest part
Don’t let it kill you baby, don’t let it get to you

Those waiting for the financial markets to experience some sort (any sort!) of pullback have been waiting a long, looong time. How long?

  • It has been over 100 months (more than 8.5 years) since the current bull market began in April of 2009
  • It has been 15 months since the last (and very brief) drop of 5% in the S&P 500
  • This past September saw record low volatility, including a stretch now claimed to be “the most peaceful days in the history of the markets
  • Since last year’s presidential election, at which point the markets were already considered dangerously overvalued, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 20%
  • As of this article’s publishing, the Dow, the S&P and the NASDAQ are all trading at record highs

Or, to put it visually:

The stock market is now 70% higher than it was at the previous bubble peak immediately preceding the 2008 Great Financial Crisis.

Reflect for a moment how painful the crash from Oct 2008-March 2009 was. How much more painful will a crash from today’s much dizzier heights be?

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

Van Halen, M&Ms, And The Next Market Downturn

Van Halen, M&Ms, And The Next Market Downturn

How watching the right indicators will avoid disaster

The planet-sized egos of rock & roll performers are legendary.

Few things symbolize this better than the outrageous requests they often make when on tour.

These requests are referred to as “riders”, and appear in the contract a tour venue receives in advance of the artist’s arrival. These contract riders specify the physical conditions that the singer/band requires to be in place before arriving to perform. Stage lighting settings, sound equipment, furnishings, etc — that kind of stuff.

And these rider requests can get pretty funky – often extremely so — when it comes to backstage perks the performers want.

For example: A wooden pond filled with koi carp (Eminem). A driver who will not speak or make eye contact (Katy Perry). 20 white kittens and 100 doves (Mariah Carey). Seven dwarves (Iggy Pop). 50,000 bees (Slayer). A sub-machine gun (Mötley Crüe). And, yes, even a great white shark (Hank III).

The practice of making these kind of outrageous demands stems from a rider Van Halen inserted into the contract for its 1982 world tour, which insisted on a bowl of M&Ms to be provided backstage, but with all of the brown M&Ms removed.

As this image below of the actual rider shows, the band was very explicit in its seriousness about this:

Once the media got whiff of this, it had a field day roasting the band’s narcissistic chutzpah. A new high-water mark of diva capriciousness had been established, which quickly became legend. A feat of prima donna pampering that subsequent performers have been trying to top ever since.

But as crazy as it sounds, Van Halen’s “no brown M&Ms” rider had nothing to do with caprice. There was a solid rationale behind it.

In fact, it was quite brilliant.

 

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

Better A Year Early Than A Day Too Late

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Better A Year Early Than A Day Too Late

Preparation only has value if it’s done in advance

He who hesitates is lost.
~proverb

Change, especially a collapse scenario, often happens quite fast. So fast that there’s little to no time to react in the short frenzy between “before” and “after”.

This is true throughout nature. Glaciers that took millennia to form calve off into the sea in a matter of moments. Old-growth forests filled with thousand-year-old trees can be decimated by a single wildfire. The bubonic plague “Black Death” pandemic of the Middle Ages killed one-third of the Earth’s human population within just four short years.

Fast change is also a hallmark of human society. Movements and ideas — oftentimes simmering for years, decades or longer — suddenly reach a critical state in which the populace is swept up into history-making action. The outbreak of World War I. The Civil Rights movement. The dissolution of the USSR. The Digital Age.

When it comes, change happens swiftly. And life after — for better or worse — is forever different.

I’ve witnessed this time and time again since co-founding PeakProsperity.com. And in pretty much every instance, I notice that the vast majority of people — including even many of the the watchful and preparation-minded folks who read this site — are caught by surprise.

Fukushima

A good example of this was the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March of 2011. Of course, no one could have foretold the timing and scale of the tsunami, and virtually nobody expected that it could overwhelm the facility as spectacularly as it did. So in the immediate aftermath of the plant’s failure, the world looked on in sympathy, not fear.

But on March 12th, that changed as the first of several hydrogen explosions was observed among the reactors. And then my phone rang.

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

If Everything’s Doing So Great, How Come I’m Not?÷

If Everything’s Doing So Great, How Come I’m Not?

Are you better off than you were 10 years ago?

We’re ceaselessly told/sold that the U.S. economy is doing phenomenally well in our current slow-growth world — generating record corporate profits, record highs in the S&P 500 stock index, and historically low unemployment (4.9% in July 2016).

While GDP growth is somewhat lackluster by historical standards—less than 2% in 2016—it’s growth nonetheless. And the rate of consumer-price inflation is hovering around 1%; negligible by historical standards.

But this uniformly positive statistical view of the U.S. economy raises a question among those not in the top 0.1%: If everything’s going so great, how come I’m not?

Whether it’s struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living, a 0% return on savings, working longer hours while real wages stagnate, scrimping to pay back education loans, despairing at the abuses of power in our banking and political systems, or lamenting the loss of nourishing social interaction in our increasingly isolated and digital lifestyle — most “regular” people find their own personal experiences to be at odds with the rosy “Everything is awesome!” narrative trumpeted by our media.

The Scorecard

To get a more concrete understanding of this gap, let’s establish a scorecard we can individually fill in to make an assessment of just how well we’re doing.

The key point about such a scorecard is this: We can only optimize what we measure. If we don’t measure (for example) leisure time and well-being in our assessment of Are we doing better than we were 10 years ago? then those issues simply aren’t considered.

And this is the flaw in using broad, easily-fudged statistics such as the unemployment rate as the primary measures of how great we’re doing (or not). What actually matters in life—our experiences, our stress level, our leisure time, our well-being and our sense of security, to name a few—is completely ignored by statistics such as GDP and unemployment.

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

Here’s What Fueled the Rally in Stocks since February

Here’s What Fueled the Rally in Stocks since February

A huge force that’s going to fizzle.

We have another post-Financial Crisis record on our hands!

Share buybacks by S&P 500 companies during the three-month period of February through April soared 15.1% from a year ago, to $166.3 billion, according to FactSet, the highest since Q3 2007, which had set an absolute record of $178.5 billion, just as the Financial Crisis was cracking the glossy veneer of the banks.

US-share-buybacks-Feb-Apr-2016

The tech sector, whose revenues have been getting hammered by reality, was the biggest spender at $34.4 billion.

The healthcare sector was second. When insurers and Big Pharma aren’t busy buying each other in the ongoing mega-merger oligopoly or monopoly boom, they’re buying their own shares. Buybacks over the 3-month period soared to $33.2 billion, an all-time record for the sector, blowing away its prior record of $24.5 billion.

The biggest buyback spender overall: Pfizer with $8.1 billion. It reduced its outstanding shares by 1.5% year-over-year. It was part of an existing $11-billion buyback program and a new $5-billion program that was announced to make up for debacles elsewhere, such as the collapse of its $160-billion merger with Allergan.

Gilead was the second biggest spender, more than doubling its buybacks from a year ago to $7.4 billion, which cut its shares outstanding by 8.7% year-over-year, according to FactSet. This was part of its $15 billion repurchase plan, on top of which its board approved another $12 billion.

Pfizer and Gilead combined repurchased $15.5 billion of their shares in just three months! They pushed Apple, which had dominated the list, down to third place with $7 billion in buybacks. A third healthcare company made the list of the top ten buyback-spenders: Express Scripts with $3.3 billion, up from zero a year ago.

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

Grinding In Harms’ Way——The Fed’s Sick Wall Street Puppies Will Self-Destruct

Grinding In Harms’ Way——The Fed’s Sick Wall Street Puppies Will Self-Destruct

Whatever is going on in the daily stock market, you can’t call it “price discovery” or even remotely rational.

In fact, it amounts to grinding in harms’ way, and measures the degree to which the Fed and other central banks have turned the Wall Street casino into a giant litter of sick puppies who are bent on rolling the dice until they self-destruct.

Even MarketWatch has noted that the S&P 500 has climbed above 2100 on more than 30 occasions during the last 18 months, but has retreated each and every time.

So buying the dips in that context is based on eyes wide shut speculation; it essentially implies there is no material downside, and that one of these days the market will bust loose from its 2130 top of May 2015 and soar to spectacular new highs.

Source: FactSet

Worst Case Scenario = 73% Down From Here

WORST CASE SCENARIO = 73% DOWN FROM HERE

As the stock market gyrates higher and lower in a fairly narrow range, the spokesmodels and talking heads on CNBC breathlessly regurgitate the standard bullish mantra designed to keep the muppets in the market. They are employees of a massive corporation whose bottom line and stock price depend upon advertising revenues reaped from Wall Street and K Street. They aren’t journalists. They are propagandists disguised as journalists. Their job is to keep you confused, misinformed, and ignorant of the true facts.

Based on the never ending happy talk and buy now gibberish spouted by the pundit lackeys, you would think we are experiencing a bull market of epic proportions and anyone who hasn’t been in the market has missed out on tremendous gains. There’s one little problem with that bit of propaganda. It’s completely false. The Fed turned off the QE spigot at the end of October 2014 and the market has gone nowhere ever since.

QE1 began in September 2008, taking the Fed balance sheet from $900 billion to $2.3 trillion by June 2010. This helped halt the stock market crash and drove the S&P 500 up by 50% from its March 2009 lows. QE2 was implemented in November 2010 and increased the Fed balance sheet to $2.9 trillion by the end of 2011. This resulted in an unacceptable 10% increase in the S&P 500, so the Fed cranked up their printing presses to hyper-speed and launched the mother of all quantitative easings, with QE3 pushing their balance sheet to $4.5 trillion by October 2014, when they ceased their “Save a Wall Street Banker” campaign.

As Main Street dies, Wall Street has been paved in gold. The S&P 500 soared to all-time highs, with 40% gains from the September 2012 QE3 launch until its cessation in October 2014. Like a heroine addict, Wall Street has experienced withdrawal symptoms ever since, and begs for more monetary easing injections.

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

David Stockman CNBC Interview: “I don’t Know What The Bulls Are Smoking”

David Stockman CNBC Interview: “I don’t Know What The Bulls Are Smoking”

Anyone who believes that the global economy isn’t crashing must be delirious, according to David Stockman.

The former director of the Office of Management and Budget argues that a rapidly deteriorating economic environment is going to send stocks and oil prices spiraling even lower than they already have.

“I think your traders are smoking something stronger than what I can legally buy here in Colorado,” Stockman said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”

The S&P 500 has fallen 6 percent year to date, and crude oil has plunged more than 17 percent. However, Stockman still sees a long way to go. He expects the S&P 500 to drop to 1,300 before making any new highs, and sees oil falling below $20.

Investors have been too optimistic about the U.S. economy because they are not factoring in global risk, said Stockman, who expects to see a recession by the end of the year.

“Everywhere trade is drying up, shipping rates are at all-time lows,” he said. “There is a recession that’s going to engulf the entire world economy, including the United States.”

Contributing to the turmoil is the ineptitude of central banks, he said. While Stockman doesn’t expect the Federal Reserve to adopt a negative interest rate policy, he said monetary policymakers have exhausted all other options.

“They should have the good graces to resign. They are lost. None of this is helping the economy,” he said.

Add in the 2016 presidential election, and Stockman said the markets will find themselves in a situation similar to that of the global financial crisis.

“The out-of-control election process will feed into and create an environment that we haven’t seen since the fall of 2008,” he said.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Stockman has been bearish. For years, he has been predicting a crash worse than 2008.

The Recession Isn’t a Few Months Away… It’s Already Started

The Recession Isn’t a Few Months Away… It’s Already Started

So the S&P 500 is out of correction for now and the coast is clear. NOT! This is exactly what we’ve been predicting would happen – after reaching new lows, stocks would have to bounce before they inevitably resume their longer-term trend, which is down.

But stocks haven’t been the only victims of late. Just a couple weeks ago the January nonfarm payroll report came in at 151,000 jobs. So much for the expected 190,000! And of the ones reported, they were mostly low-wage jobs.

Pile that on top of the disappointing Christmas and retail sales in December. Not to mention falling stock earnings and sales growth, the worst December-to-January stock performance to date, and another banking crisis looming in Europe, especially Italy. There’s economic weakness everywhere you look!

All of this is leading me to believe that the next recession – which will lead into an even greater DEPRESSION – is not a few months away. I think it’s already begun.

Think back to the Great Recession in 2008. By the time we figured out it had started, it was months after the fact. It officially started in January 2008, three months after the stock market peaked in early October. And jobs didn’t peak and start to decline until four months later that May. Only then did the stock market see its sharp and deep crash between June and early November.

Well, of course it did! The jobs report is a lagging indicator! It doesn’t tell us anything about where we are now, which is probably why the Fed and markets-on-crack love it. Yet they think it’s the most important report that comes out.

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

Deranged Central Bankers Blowing Up the World

DERANGED CENTRAL BANKERS BLOWING UP THE WORLD

It is now self-evident to any sentient being (excludes CNBC shills, Wall Street shyster economists, and Keynesian loving politicians) the mountainous level of unpayable global debt is about to crash down like an avalanche upon hundreds of millions of willfully ignorant citizens who trusted their politician leaders and the central bankers who created the debt out of thin air. McKinsey produced a report last year showing the world had added $57 trillion of debt between 2008 and the 2nd quarter of 2014, with global debt to GDP reaching 286%.

The global economy has only deteriorated since mid-2014, with politicians and central bankers accelerating the issuance of debt. These deranged psychopaths have added in excess of $70 trillion of debt in the last eight years, a 50% increase. With $142 trillion of global debt enough to collapse the global economy in 2008, only a lunatic would implement a “solution” that increased global debt to $212 trillion over the next seven years thinking that would solve a problem created by too much debt.

The truth is, these central bankers and captured politicians knew this massive issuance of more unpayable debt wouldn’t solve anything. Their goal was to keep the global economy afloat so their banker owners and corporate masters would not have to accept the consequences of their criminal actions and could keep their pillaging of global wealth going unabated.

The issuance of debt and easy money policies of the Fed and their foreign central banker co-conspirators functioned to drive equity prices to all-time highs in 2015, but the debt issuance and money printing needs to increase exponentially in order keep stock markets rising. Once the QE spigot was shut off markets have flattened and are now falling hard. You can sense the desperation among the financial elite. The desperation is borne out by the frantic reckless measures taken by central bankers and politicians since 2008.

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

Something’s Gone Horribly Awry

Something’s Gone Horribly Awry

The S&P 500 has fallen 7.37 percent so far this year.  What to make of it…

Naturally, some people find falling stock prices to be unpleasant.  Others find them distressing.  Another way to look at falling stock prices, however, is like a high-fiber diet.  The effect is necessary to a healthy functioning system.

The simple fact is that stock prices, fueled by speculative liquidity, have long since outrun the real economy.  The disconnect between the two has been widely observable.  The economy’s lagged, incomes have stagnated, yet stocks have soared.

Thus the present, ever so slight reduction in liquidity, and the subsequent lowering of stock prices, is having a cleansing influence.  For it will serve to eliminate marginal businesses, and trim the fat from larger businesses.

Consequently, business owners, managers, and workers of marginal undertakings will have to redirect their efforts into something new…something that’s of greater value.  For example, Walmart recently announced it would be closing 269 stores and laying off 16,000 workers.  Obviously, we don’t wish any harm to hard working Walmart employees.  But we’re also confident many of these 16,000 people will now find a new, more meaningful, and more prosperous purpose in life.

Though it can be painful at times, eliminating and minimizing wasteful activities is how the world becomes more affluent.  On the other hand, propping up negligible endeavors with cheap credit ultimately subtracts wealth from the world.

Mean Reversion

How much more stocks will fall, no one really knows for sure.  Perhaps they’ve already fallen as far as they will.  But we wouldn’t bet our life savings on it.

This is merely conjecture, of course.  But we do recognize that even with the 7.37 percent drop year-to-date, the S&P 500’s Cyclically Adjusted Price Earning (CAPE) Ratio is 23.97.  We also recognize that the CAPE Ratio’s mean, going back to 1881, is 16.65.

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

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