by ilene - September 13th, 2010 9:09 pm
One of my favorite analysts is Albert Edwards of Societe Generale in London. Acerbic, witty and brilliant. Emphasis on brilliant. The fact that he is a Doppelganger for James Montier (who long time readers are well acquainted with) is a coincidence (or he would say vice versa). I only kind of have permission to forward this note to you, but better to ask forgiveness… So, this week he is our Outside the Box. And a short but good one he is.
I am in Amsterdam and it is late, but deadlines have no time line. Tomorrow more work on the book. It is getting close to the end. Most books are finished when the authors quit in disgust. How many edits can you do? I am close.
I wonder late at night, with maybe a few too many glasses of wine, why I feel like a book is so much more than an e-letter. Really? The last ten years of what I have written are on the archives. Good (ok, sometimes really good) is there. But some are an embarrassment. What was I thinking?
But somehow in my Old World brain, a book is more than a weekly letter. It is somehow more permanent than an “online” letter. Which may be archived forever. The book is “paper” and may be around for a few years. But the online version is here for a long time.
I know that is stupid. Really I do. But what is a 61 year old mind to do? A strange world we live in.
It is really time to hit the send button. More than you know! The conversation tonight has been too deep!
Your trying to figure out the purpose of life analyst,
Market still deluding itself that it can escape the inevitable dénouement
By Albert Edwards
The current situation reminds me of mid 2007. Investors then were content to stick their heads into very deep sand and ignore the fact that The Great Unwind had clearly begun. But in August and September 2007, even though the wheels were clearly falling off the global economy, the S&P still managed to rally 15%! The recent reaction to data suggests the market is in a similar…
by ilene - September 7th, 2010 11:36 am
Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon
Since I started publishing Financial Armageddon in late-2006, I’ve often railed against the incompetence and tomfoolery of highly-paid Wall Street "strategists" (note the double quotes). Many of these so-called experts are clueless data-regurgitators or ivory tower economists with above average communications skills. Indeed, it seems to me that most of the "stars" of the forecasting game are simply being rewarded for having the gift of gab, rather than their ability to look past the trees and size up the layout of the forest.
But as with most generalizations, there are exceptions. Surprisingly — yes, I am cynical — a very small number of those who know what they are talking about, have something intelligent to say, and know how to translate their insights into clear and interesting prose have been recognized as such. I am referring in particular to Albert Edwards, the number-one ranked global strategist for I-don’t-know-how-many-years running, and his sidekick Dylan Grice, who placed second overall in the 2010 Thomson Reuters Extel Survey, both of whom are members of the strategy team at Societe Generale.
In his most recent Global Strategy Weekly, Mr. Edwards touches upon two topics near-and-dear to my heart: the real state of the economy and the utter cluelessness of most equity investors [italics mind]:
The current situation reminds me of mid 2007. Investors then were content to stick their heads into very deep sand and ignore the fact that The Great Unwind had clearly begun. But in August and September 2007, even though the wheels were clearly falling off the global economy, the S&P still managed to rally 15%! The recent reaction to data suggests the market is in a similar deluded state of mind. Yet again, equity investors refuse to accept they are now locked in a Vulcan death grip and are about to fall unconscious.
The notion that the equity market predicts anything has always struck me as ludicrous. In the
by ilene - August 26th, 2010 4:03 pm
The equity cult players are in for some deep pain… – Ilene
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
The hypocrisy behind those calling for a bond “bubble” is enormous. Almost all of these people are equity owners in some form or another. This, “cult” as RBS has previously called them, does not even see the hypocrisy in their statements. Albert Edwards of SocGen agrees. FT Alphaville recently posted a portion of his latest note and the comments are not friendly towards this “cult”:
“Until the mantra changes from “
Equitiesfor the long term” to “Bonds at any price”, we will not have completed our Ice Age journey. It has been a difficult road for me personally for the last 14 years during which I have been laughed at and my ideas dismissed as the attention-seeking ravings of a lunatic. But as we complete the path set out below over year (see chart), the Japanese template of supposedly “expensive” bonds outperforming supposedly “cheap” equities; this will feel nothing like a flesh wound…”
“The structural bear
markethas not reached the end. We have long said that the de-bubbling process would end only when equities became very cheap and revulsion in equities as an asset class hangs in the air like a fog.”
Source: FT Alphaville
Morgan Stanley On Why The US Will Not Be Japan, And Why Treasuries Are Extremely Rich (Yet Pitches A 6:1 Hedge In Case Of Error)
by ilene - August 8th, 2010 9:14 pm
Morgan Stanley On Why The US Will Not Be Japan, And Why Treasuries Are Extremely Rich (Yet Pitches A 6:1 Deflation Hedge)
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
We previously presented a piece by SocGen’s Albert Edwards that claimed that there is nothing now but to sit back, relax, and watch as the US becomes another Japan, as asset prices tumble, gripped by the vortex of relentless deflation. Sure enough, the one biggest bear on Treasuries for the past year, Morgan Stanley, is quick to come out with a piece titled: "Are We Turning Japanese, We Don’t Think So." Of course, with the 10 Year trading at the tightest level in years, the 2 Year at record tights, and the firm’s all out bet on curve steepening an outright disaster, the question of just how much credibility the firm has left with clients is debatable.
Below is Jim Caron’s brief overview of why Edwards and all those who see a deflationary tide sweeping the US are wrong. Yet, in what seems a first, Morgan Stanley presents two possible trades for those with access to the CMS and swaption market, in the very off case, that deflation does ultimately win.
Morgan Stanley’s rebuttal of the "Japan is coming" case:
There are many arguments that suggest the US is going the way of Japan, and while UST yield valuations may appear expensive, a regime shift has occurred and we should use the deflation experience of Japan as a guideline. We respect this point of view, and our colleagues in Japan provide some compelling charts.
In Exhibit 3 we show how the richening in the JGB 5y led to a significant flattening of the curve. Ultimately CPI turned negative and Japan did in fact move into a period of deflation. It makes sense for the 5y to outperform, as investors believed in a low rate and inflation regime for an extended period. Most money is managed 5 years and in, which thus makes the 5y point so attractive in low rate regimes because it represents the greatest opportunity for money managers to own duration, yield and return. The same is happening in the US as the 5y point is richening extensively as investors seem to be surrendering to a low rate and low return environment. But this may be premature.
Note that it took ~2-years before the
Albert Edwards Explains How The Leading Indicator Is Already Back Into Recession Territory And Why The Japan “Ice Age” Is Coming
by ilene - August 8th, 2010 6:54 pm
Albert Edwards Explains How The Leading Indicator Is Already Back Into Recession Territory And Why The Japan "Ice Age" Is Coming
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Albert Edwards reverts to his favorite economic concept, the "Ice Age" in his latest commentary piece, presenting another piece in the puzzle of similarities between the Japanese experience and that which the US is currently going through. A.E. boldly goes where Goldman only recently has dared to tread, by claiming that he expects negative GDP – not in 2011, but by the end of this year. After all, if one looks beneath the headlines of even the current data set, it is not only the ECRI, but the US Coference Board’s Leading Index, Albert explains, that confirms that we are already in a recesion.
If one takes out the benefit of the steep yield curve as an input to the Leading Indicator metric, and a curve inversion physically impossible due to ZIRP and the zero bound already reaching out as far out as the 2 Year point (it appears the 2 Year may break below 0.5% this week), the result indicates that the US economy is already firmly in recession territory. Edwards explains further: "one of the key components for Conference Board leading indicator is the shape of the yield curve (10y-Fed Funds). This has been regularly adding 0.3-0.4% per month to the overall indicator, which is now falling mom! The simple fact is that with Fed Funds at zero, it is totally ridiculous to suggest there is any information content in the steep yield curve, which will now never predict a recession. Without this yield curve nonsense this key lead indicator is already predicting a recession."
All too obvious double dip aside, Edwards focuses on the disconnect between bonds and stocks, and synthesizes it as follows: "investors are finally accepting that what is going on in the West is indeed very similar to Japan a decade ago. For years my attempts to draw this parallel have been met with hoots of derision but finally the penny is dropping." The primary disconnect in asset classes as the Ice Age unravels, for those familiar with Edwards work, is the increasing shift away from stocks and into bonds, probably best summarized by the chart below comparing global bond and equity yields – note the increasing decoupling. This is prefaced as follows:…
by ilene - July 28th, 2010 8:26 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Just in case there was any confusion which way SocGen’s Albert Edwards may be leaning after the recent however many percent rally in the AUDJPY, sometimes known affectionately as stocks, it is hereby resolved: "My views on the outlook could not be clearer. They may be wrong, but at least they are clear. We still call for sub-2% 10y bond yields and equities below March 2009 lows." In other words, according to AE the market is well over 50% overvalued.
In a surprisingly pithy note, the strategist reverts back to his favorite formulation of the economic New Normal, which he calls the Ice Age, and specifically the current phase which he compares to the period where the Nikkei used to enjoy 40-50% rallies on no news, even as the general market continued its long term collapse over a span of 20 years:
We are at the most dangerous stage in the Ice Age – the ‘post-bubble cycle’. For although it is clear that leading indicators have turned downwards, the choir of sell-side sirens is singing its song of reassurance. The lesson from Japan was that once the cyclical rally is over, any downturn in the leading indicators should find you stuffing beeswax in your ears to block out that lilting melody so as to avoid the jagged rocks of recession.
In addition to remarking on the recession certainty now implied by the ECRI index (which we are confident will post an uptick this Friday just to plant some seeds of doubt in all those who look to forward looking instead of lagging indicators, A.E. notes the change in analyst optimism, which is also signifying a recessionary advent:
Although the closely watched ECRI weekly leading indicator (WLI) is now in the ?recession? zone, other leading indicators such as the OECD and Conference Board are weakening at a far more moderate, reassuring pace. Yet one of our favourites and most over-looked of leading indicators is the change in analyst optimism. Like the ECRI WLI this too is in recession territory and suggests the OECD and Conference Board measures will also be soon! Appealing as the siren song is, we should all know full well that the sell-side will only call the recession long after it has begun and
by ilene - June 25th, 2010 2:29 am
Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon
I’ve leveled many criticisms at the so-called experts in the financial community. Apart from being blatantly conflicted, many wouldn’t know how to analyze their way out of a paper bag even if their lives depended on it. Generally speaking, they are good communicators but lousy thinkers.
But as with most generalizations, there are exceptions to the rule. Some eloquent experts do know what they are talking about, including David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff, Albert Edwards and Dylan Grice of Societe General, Paul Kasriel of Northern Trust, and John Hussman of Hussman Funds.
Based on what he has to say, another person who should probably be added to that very short list is the individual interviewed in the following Yahoo! Finance Tech Ticker report, "America’s Ticking Debt Bomb: Like Greece, ‘Only Worse,’ Pento Says":
America’s debt bomb is ticking and is likely to detonate in five years or less, says Michael Pento, senior market strategist at Delta Global Advisors.
"It could be much sooner when we hit the debt wall," Pento says. "My opinion doesn’t matter: Math tells me we’re in a serious problem."
The math Pento refers to is the Treasury Department’s recent estimate that total U.S. debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and rise to 102% of GDP by 2015. Moreover, the publicly traded debt (debt excluding intra-governmental obligations) will rise to $14 trillion by 2015, up from "just" $7.5 trillion in 2009.
At $14 trillion, the interest payments on the public debt will total about $1 trillion in 2015, he continues; even assuming solid growth and low inflation, that would equal about 30% of total government revenue. "What do you think that does to our bond market?," Pento wonders. "It leads to a dollar crisis and a bond market crisis. That’s why gold refuses to go down. "
Demand for U.S. Treasuries and the dollar currently remain high, especially in the wake of the euro’s slow-motion implosion. Pento admits timing this debt crisis is difficult but predicts we’ll be "like Greece, but worse," in four years or less, unless we make a sudden turn toward austerity.
by ilene - June 11th, 2010 10:49 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
A week ago Hungary had the unfortunate mishap of telling the truth when it compared itself to Greece, resulting in a massive selloff of the Forint and leading to fresh lows for the euro. Today, it is Japan which is using the very same strategy in an attempt to devalue its own currency. So far it’s working.
The BBC reports that Naoto Kan has been a little truthier than the G-20 plenary sessions generally allow. We now look for the PM’s reign of truth to be even shorter than that of his thousands of predecessors during the past couple of years: "Naoto Kan, in his first major speech since taking over, said Japan needed a financial restructuring to avert a Greece-style crisis."Our country’s outstanding public debt is huge… our public finances have become the worst of any developed country," he said." Obviously, none of this is news. However, the market certainly does not appreciate when it is told that what it sees day after day in the non-mainstream media is actually the truth and nothing but the truth. What next – Tim Geithner coming out to say that a downgrade of the US is actually long overdue?
More from BBC:
After years of borrowing, Japan’s debt is twice its gross domestic product.
"It is difficult to continue our fiscal policies by heavily relying on the issuance of government bonds," said Mr Kan, Japan’s former finance minister.
"Like the confusion in the eurozone triggered by Greece, there is a risk of collapse if we leave the increase of the public debt untouched and then lose the trust of the bond markets," he said.
Yet, just like with the SNB’s CHF intervention, the market did not respond at all to this, at least so far. Do the HFT algos need a realism translator when they are not focusing on ephemeral data such as consumer confidence (the US consumer is confident that after once again cutting spending, they may eventually buy that 5th iPad at some point in the future). Or does nobody even care about any fundamentals anymore? Is the entire market a bubble chamber where one bout of buying or selling is all that’s needed to set off the appropriate algo engines?…
by Chart School - October 30th, 2009 10:08 pm
Nic Lenoir of ICAP discusses his thoughts on the market at Zero Hedge. – Ilene
Submitted by Nic Lenoir of ICAP
Today’s PMI data was very strong. There are experts in econometrics much more knowledgeable than I will ever be calling for further strength in production numbers that will lead to a turn in unemployment into Q1 2010. I don’t dispute their models or the indicators they look at. However I can’t come to terms with it. I think this is in great part because the business cycle which is supposed to lead us out of this recession is at odds with a much longer and bigger cycle: the debt cycle. I know this flies in the face of 50 years of econometrics that has made people a lot of money trading, but this is mainly due to the fact that the debt cycle is so long and stretched over time that we don’t really have data to measure its impact on previous cycles. It coincides in a sense with the Kondratieff cycle, but transposed into today’s financial markets, the burst of the debt bubble is a lot more pronounced. Basically modern technology and financial engineering has made it very easy to securitize credit and source funding or financing globally, so that the extent of the debt bubble has been allowed to grow far beyond what could have happened 50 years ago. There is also obviously the global aspect of it. Because financial markets are more and more global, so is the crisis.
Albert Edwards had a great piece the other day discussing the renewed importance in a post-bubble environment of the business cycle. This line of thought has also been outlined by the Global Macro Investor in the past. It relies a lot on the example given by Japan, or the 70s. One could argue that unlike the case of Japan which benefitted of the strong economy of the 90s to have a more robust business cycle due to exports, our current global economy will lack an engine to drive the cycle. The risk is that the consumer has retrenched enough in the US and in Europe that the business cycles becomes a restocking of shelves carrying products there is not necessarily much demand for. I…
by ilene - September 11th, 2009 10:34 am
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Despite a 50% rally in equities and the recent surge in gold prices there continue to be little to no signs of inflation in the economy. Consumer credit is still collapsing and banks are still hoarding cash. Perhaps most importantly, the velocity of money actually continues to decline:
SocGen’s Albert Edwards believes the ECRI’s leading indicators are forecasting a drastic and devastating decline in core inflation:
But it is collapsing core inflation that poses the greatest risk to the global economy going forward. We highlighted last week that core CPI inflation descends rapidly, with a lag, after the recession ends. If core US CPI inflation falls by around the 3% shown in the chart below over the next year, that will take the yoy rate to minus 1.5%! Hence the growth in nominal quantities (e.g. corporate revenues) is set to see disappointing lower highs in this upturn after lower lows. And that, in our view, is just a prelude to a 2010 collapse into outright deflation.
All of this makes you wonder just how real the rally in stocks has been and how much of it has been purely based on government stimulus and the return of confidence – perhaps overconfidence.