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The Weighted Average Cost Of Capital

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The Weighted Average Cost Of Capital

When it goes up, prices go down. It’s going up…

This is a revisitation of a report I wrote back in late 2016, predicting the imminent end of zero-bound interest rates and warning of the downward pressure that rising rates, mathematically, must place on today’s elevated asset prices.

Since the publication of that report, interest rates have indeed vaulted higher. Look at how the 3-month US Treasury yield has exploded since the start of 2017:

A Little Background

When I was fresh out of college in the mid-90s, I landed a job at Merrill Lynch. I was an “investment banking analyst”, which meant I had no life outside of the office and hardly ever slept. I pretty much spoke, thought, and dreamed in Excel during those years.

Much of my time there was spent building valuation models. These complicated spreadsheets were used to provide an air of quantitative validation to the answers the senior bankers otherwise pulled out of their derrieres to questions like: Is the market under- or over-valuing this company? Can we defend the acquisition price we’re recommending for this M&A deal? What should we price this IPO at?

Back then, Wall Street still (mostly) believed that fundamentals mattered. And one of the most widely-accepted methods for fundamentally valuing a company is the Discounted Cash Flow (or “DCF”) method. I built a *lot* of DCF models back in those days.

I promise not to get too wonky here, but in a nutshell, the DCF approach projects out the future cash flows a company is expected to generate given its growth prospects, profit margins, capital expenditures, etc. And because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, it discounts the further-out projected cash flows more than the nearer-in ones. Add everything up, and the total you get is your answer to what the fair market value of the company is.

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

Does Subjective Valuation Mean Arbitrary Valuation?

Why do individuals pay much higher prices for some goods versus other goods? The common reply to this is the law of supply and demand.

However, what is behind this law? To provide an answer to this question economists refer to the law of diminishing marginal utility.

Mainstream economics explains the law of diminishing marginal utility in terms of the satisfaction that one derives from consuming a particular good.

For instance, an individual may derive vast satisfaction from consuming one cone of ice cream.

However, the satisfaction he will derive from consuming a second cone might also be big but not as big as the satisfaction derived from the first cone.

The satisfaction from the consumption of a third cone is likely to diminish further, and so on.[1]

From this, mainstream economics concludes that the more of any good we consume in a given period, the less satisfaction, or utility, we derive out of each additional, or marginal, unit.

It is also established that because the marginal utility of a good declines as we consume more and more of it, the price that we are willing to pay per unit of the good also declines.

Utility in this way of thinking is presented as a certain quantity that increases at a diminishing rate as one consumes more of a particular good. Utility is regarded as a feeling of satisfaction or enjoyment derived from buying or using goods and services.

According to the mainstream way of thinking, an individual’s utility scale is wired in his head. This scale determines for the individual whether he will purchase a particular good. The valuation scale is given and there is no explanation on how it was established.

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

Playing for All the Marbles

Playing for All the Marbles

Global Plunge Protection Teams must be ordering take-out food; every night is a long one now.

The current stocks/bonds game is for all the marbles, by which I mean the status quo now depends on valuations and interest rates remaining near their current levels for the system to function.

If interest rates soar and/or stocks plummet, the game is over: pension funds collapse, tax revenues drop, debt based on high asset valuations defaults, employment craters and the much-lauded “wealth effect” reverses into a “negative wealth effect” (i.e. everyone looking at their IRA or 401K statement feels poorer every month).

Let’s scan a few relevant charts to understand why this game is for all the marbles. Given the systemic fragility of the global economy, a crash in one asset class or a rise in interest rates trigger defaults, sell-offs, etc. that forcibly revalue other assets.

So the Powers That Be can’t afford to let any asset crash, as a crash will bring down the entire system. Why is this so? The resiliency of the system has been eroded by permanent central bank/central state intervention/stimulus. Withdrawing the stimulus means markets have to go cold turkey, and they’ve lost the ability to do so.

Permanent stimulus creates dependencies and distortions, and both the distortions and the dependencies introduce a host of unintended consequences. What’s the “market price” of assets? You must be joking: the “market” prices assets based on policies of permanent stimulus and asset purchases by central banks.

In effect, markets have been hijacked to function as signaling mechanisms(everything’s great because your IRA account balance keeps going up) and as floors supporting pensions, insurance companies, IRAs/401Ks, etc.: all these financial promises are only plausible if asset valuations keep rising.

Fly in the ointment #1: equity valuations have lost touch with the real economy, as measured (imperfectly) by GDP:

 

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

THE U.S. STOCK MARKET: Highly Inflated Bubble To Super-Charged Tulip

THE U.S. STOCK MARKET: Highly Inflated Bubble To Super-Charged Tulip Mania

Investors need to be concerned that the U.S. Stock Market is well beyond bubble territory as it has now entered into the final stage of a Super-Charged Tulip Mania.  Not only are stock prices inflated well above anything we have ever seen before, but valuations are also reaching heights that are totally unsustainable.  Unfortunately, these highly inflated share prices and insane valuations seem normal to investors who are suffering from brain damage as years of mainstream propaganda have turned the soft tissue in their skulls to mush.

Also, we are way beyond “Boiling Frogs” now.  Yes, we passed that stage a while back.  Today, the typical U.S. investor has been fried to death.   Investors now resemble a super-crisp chicken-wing with very little meat on it but at least will offer, one hell of a crunch.  Please realize I don’t mean to be harsh about my fellow investor.  However, when I look around and see what 99% of the market is doing, it reminds me of a famous line from the movie Aliens.  The star of the movie, after being found lost in deep space for many years, said the following in a meeting, “Did IQ’s drop sharply while I was away?”

We find out in the rest of the movie that the so-called Mainstream experts were totally wrong about their assessment of the situation.  However, billions of dollars were still spent and many lives lost because high-level individuals infected with stupidity (in the Aliens Movie) still controlled the shots.  No different than today.

Regardless, the U.S. Stock Market has entered into the last stage, which I call the Super-Charged Tulip Mania.  In this stage, it wouldn’t matter if the North Koreans launched a nuclear missile and declared war on the rest of the world, the universe and all Aliens floating around in space.

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

Why the next stock market crash will be faster and bigger than ever before

Why the next stock market crash will be faster and bigger than ever before

US stock markets hit another all-time high on Friday.

The S&P 500 is nearing 2,600 and the Dow is over 23,300.

In fact, US stocks have only been more expensive two times since 1881.

According to Yale economist Robert Shiller’s Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings (CAPE) ratio – which is the market price divided by ten years’ average earnings – the S&P 500 is above 31. The last two times the market reached such a high valuation were just before the Great Depression in 1929 and the tech bubble in 1999-2000.

Some of the blame for high valuation goes to the so-called “FANG” stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), whose average P/E is now around 130.

But there’s something different about today’s bull market…

Simply put, everything is going up at once.

Leading up to the tech bubble bursting, investors would dump defensive stocks (thereby pushing down their valuations) to buy high-flying tech stocks like Intel and Cisco – the result was a valuation dispersion.

The S&P cap-weighted index (which was influenced by the high valuations of the S&P’s most expensive tech stocks) traded at 30.6 times earnings. The equal-weighted S&P index (which, as the name implies, weights each constituent stock equally, regardless of size) traded at 20.7 times.

Today, despite sky-high FANG valuations, the S&P market-cap weighted and equal-weighted indexes both trade at around 22 times earnings.

Thanks to the trillions of dollars printed by the Federal Reserve (and the popularity of passive investing, which we’ll discuss in a moment), investors are buying everything.

In a recent report, investment bank Morgan Stanley wrote:

We say this not as hyperbole, but based on a quantitative perspective… Dispersions in valuations and growth rates are among the lowest in the last 40 years; stocks are at their most idiosyncratic since 2001.

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

The Curious Case of Missing the Market Boom


Rembrandt Old man with a beard 1630
“The Cost of Missing the Market Boom is Skyrocketing”, says a Bloomberg headline today. That must be the scariest headline I’ve seen in quite a while. For starters, it’s misleading, because people who ‘missed’ the boom haven’t lost anything other than virtual wealth, which is also the only thing those who haven’t ‘missed’ it, have acquired.

Well, sure, unless they sell their stocks. But a large majority of them won’t, because then they would ‘miss’ out on the market boom… Some aspects of psychology don’t require years of study. Is that what behavioral economics is all about?

And it’s not just the headline, the entire article is scary as all hell. It reads way more like a piece of pure and undiluted stockbroker propaganda that it does resemble actual objective journalism, which Bloomberg would like to tell you it delivers. And it makes its point using some pretty dubious claims to boot:

The Cost of Missing the Market Boom Is Skyrocketing

Skepticism in global equity markets is getting expensive. From Japan to Brazil and the U.S. as well as places like Greece and Ukraine, an epic year in equities is defying naysayers and rewarding anyone who staked a claim on corporate ownership. Records are falling, with about a quarter of national equity benchmarks at or within 2% of an all-time high.

If equity markets in places like Greece and Ukraine, ravaged by -in that order- financial and/or actual warfare, are booming, you don’t need to fire too many neurons to understand something’s amiss. Some of their companies may be doing okay, but not their entire economies. Their boom must be a warning sign, not some bullish signal. That makes no sense. Stocks in Aleppo may be thriving too, but…

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

Its 1929 In China—-Here’s The Chapter And Verse

Its 1929 In China—-Here’s The Chapter And Verse

I’ve mentioned the Chinese stock market mania here briefly in recent weeks. I’ve now compiled a fair amount of data along with some interesting anecdotes that show just how crazy it’s gotten so I thought I’d spend this week’s market comment laying it all out for you.


U.S. Dot-Com Bubble Was Nothing Compared to Today’s China Prices http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-07/u-s-dot-com-bubble-was-nothing-compared-to-today-s-china-prices 

The first thing I like to focus on is valuations. If the dot-com bubble is the gold standard, then China is a bona fide financial bubble. According to Bloomberg:

Valuations in China are now higher than those in the U.S. at the height of the dot-com bubble just about any way you slice them. The average Chinese technology stock has a price-to-earnings ratio 41 percent above that of U.S. peers in 2000, while the median valuation is twice as expensive and the market capitalization-weighted average is 12 percent higher, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Another way to look at it is to compare current valuations around the world:


 

I’ve made the case that US stocks are more overvalued than they appear due to the fact that the median stock is now more highly valued than ever. There’s now a very similar but far more dramatic situation going on in China. Again, from Bloomberg:

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

The problem with the Shanghai Composite is that 94 percent of Chinese stocks trade at higher valuations than the index, a consequence of its heavy weighting toward low-priced banks. Use average or median multiples instead and a different picture emerges: Chinese shares are almost twice as expensive as they were when the Shanghai Composite peaked in October 2007 and more than three times pricier than any of the world’s top 10 markets.

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

 

 

How Much More Extreme Can Markets Get?

How Much More Extreme Can Markets Get?

These charts help us understand that a top is not just price, but a reversal in extremes of margin debt, valuation and sentiment.

In blow-off tops, extremes of valuation, complacency and margin debt can always shoot beyond previous extremes to new extremes. This is why guessing when the blow-off top implodes is so hazardous: extreme can always get more extreme.

Nonetheless, extremes eventually reverse, and generally in rough symmetry with their explosive rise. Exhibit 1 is margin debt: NYSE Margin Debt Hits a New Record High (Doug Short)

Note the explosive rise in margin debt in the past few months:

At tops, soaring margin debt no longer pushes stocks higher. I’ve marked up an excellent chart by Doug Short to highlight the diminishing returns of more margin debt at tops.

It’s clear this same dynamic of diminishing returns is in play now, as margin debt has skyrocketed while the S&P 500 has remained range-bound, with each new high being increasingly marginal.

Exhibit 2 is China’s Shenzhen stock exchange. The price-earnings ratio (PE) is a useful gauge of sentiment: when sentiment reaches extremes of euphoria, PEs go through the roof:

 

…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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