by ilene - November 8th, 2010 9:11 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Written by John Hussman of Hussman Funds
Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Crash, Bubble…
"Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion."
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Washington Post 11/4/2010
Last week, the Federal Reserve confirmed its intention to engage in a second round of "quantitative easing" – purchasing about $600 billion of U.S. Treasury debt over the coming months, in addition to about $250 billion that it already planned to purchase to replace various Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac securities as they mature.
While the announcement of QE2 itself was met with a rather mixed market reaction on Wednesday, the markets launched into a speculative rampage in response to an Op-Ed piece by Bernanke that was published Thursday morning in the Washington Post. In it, Bernanke suggested that QE2 would help the economy essentially by propping up the stock market, corporate bonds, and other types of risky securities, resulting in a "virtuous circle" of economic activity. Conspicuously absent was any suggestion that the banking system was even an object of the Fed’s policy at all. Indeed, Bernanke observed "Our earlier use of this policy approach had little effect on the amount of currency in circulation or on other broad measures of the money supply, such as bank deposits."
Given that interest rates are already quite depressed, Bernanke seems to be grasping at straws in justifying QE2 on the basis further slight reductions in yields. As for Bernanke’s case for creating wealth effects via the stock market, one might look at this logic and conclude that while it may or may not be valid, the argument is at least the subject of reasonable debate. But that would not be true. Rather, these are undoubtedly among the most ignorant…
by ilene - November 3rd, 2010 11:52 am
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
Given that the economy faces $15 trillion in writedowns in collateral and credit, the Fed’s $2 trillion dollars in new credit/liquidity is insufficient to trigger either inflation or another speculative bubble.
"Don’t fight the Fed" is supposed to be a strong argument for being bullish on the U.S. economy and stocks. We all know the Federal Reserve is about to unleash a torrent of money into the financial markets via its QE2 (quantitative easing) campaign of buying Treasury bonds directly and pulling various other monetary levers to open the liquidity gates.
But before we succumb to the excitement that accompanies the unleashing of the Fed’s supernatural powers, perhaps we should look at some numbers first.
Size of U.S. economy: $14 trillion. Probable size of QE2: $1 trillion. That means QE2 is perhaps 7% of GDP. Even a whopping $2 trillion QE would equal about 14% of GDP.
In contrast, by some measures China opened the floodgates of credit to the tune of fully 35% of their GDP to combat the contraction caused by the global financial meltdown in late 2008: China’s Creative Accounting.
How much collateral and credit will be destroyed as the U.S. economy rolls over into recession/depression in 2011-14? Based on the latest (September 17, 2010) Fed Flow of Funds, here is my back-of-the-envelope estimates of losses yet to be booked in assets (collateral) and credit (debt):
1. Residential real estate: current value, $18.8 trillion. Estimated value in 2014: $13.8 trillion, i.e. a decline of $5 trillion or 26%. If all impaired mortgages are written down or sold for fair market value, I am guessing the full $5 trillion will need to be written off by somebody, somewhere.
My 26% estimate is conservative; according to the Case-Shiller Index chart, a decline of 40% would be required to return the index to the year-2000 level.
2. Commercial real estate (CRE): The Flow of Funds only reports "nonfarm nonfinancial corporate business" so the CRE number of $6.5 trillion is a few trillion light (that is, we need to add in CRE owned by financial corporations). I am estimating writedowns of $3 trillion--a number others have also guesstimated.
by ilene - October 29th, 2010 4:31 pm
Courtesy of Mish
China is pointing the finger at the US, complaining about "Out of Control" US dollar Printing by the Fed.
Dollar issuance by the United States is "out of control", leading to an inflation assault on China, the Chinese commerce minister said in comments reported on Tuesday.
"Because the United States’ issuance of dollars is out of control and international commodity prices are continuing to rise, China is being attacked by imported inflation. The uncertainties of this are causing firms big problems," Chen was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua news agency.
Chinese officials have criticised U.S. monetary policy as being too loose before, but rarely in such explicit language.
Decoupling Theories Renewed
I will get to loose monetary policy in just a bit, but first consider More than decoupled, China is in league of its own
Two years on from the global financial crisis, the contrast with the rich world is striking. In the United States and Europe, growth is sluggish, a slump into outright deflation is a real risk and central banks look set to loosen policy further.
So the evidence is in: China is decoupled, influenced by, but ultimately independent from other major economies.
"The crisis was a test and China passed the test. Decoupling has become a much more solid thesis now than three years ago when we only talked about it hypothetically," said Qing Wang, Morgan Stanley’s chief economist for greater China.
Chinese Money Supply Numbers from People’s Bank of China
Money and Quasi Money Jan 2009 – 496135.31
Money and Quasi Money Sep 2010 – 696384.86
"Out Of Control" Monetary Expansion Irony
I am certainly not about to defend the Fed’s misguided policies, but the complaint from Chinese commerce minister that US monetary printing is "out of control" is the ultimate in "pot calling the kettle black" irony.
Over the past few weeks I have exchanged quite a few Emails regarding China with my friend "BC" who writes …
Total Chinese money supply is up over 4 times since ’03, a 17%/yr. rate at a doubling time of just 4 years; up 66% since Jan. ’08, a 19%/yr. rate at a doubling time of 43 months; and
by ilene - October 29th, 2010 4:20 pm
Courtesy of Eric Falkenstein of FALKENBLOG
- expected real interest rates
- expected inflation
- risk premium
As current interest rates are around 2.5%, and current inflation expectations are around 3%, even with a slight convexity adjustment there’s a negative real expected return here. To guys like Campbell, that means, bonds are some kind of insurance, because the only reason investors would accept this is if they pay off in a very bad state of nature, just as you pay for car insurance. Specifically, everyone is supposedly afraid of a recession that would also bring with it deflation.
While the CAPM betas of bonds have historically been positive, they have been negative lately. If you believed in the CAPM, that would mean the expected negative return makes sense, it is a negative ‘risk premium’. Of course, the positive beta previously did not explain why bonds cratered from 1960 to 1980, and the CAPM does not work at all within equities, the arena it was designed for. It also does not work in corporate bonds, REITs, options, etc. But looked at in isolation it is a plausible explanation, and hope springs eternal.
I think a better explanation of the current interest rates is that the Federal Reserve has been buying hundreds of billions of dollars in US Treasuries. Considering, they have an infinite supply of capital to do this (they create the money when they write the check), the market is not going to offset this via expectations of future inflation. So, the expectations are there, but US Treasuries are a rigged market, with one huge buyer debasing the world’s most powerful currency because it’s in the standard Keynesian manual for how to treat excess unemployment when inflation is currently low. Once the evidence of this short-sighted policy becomes clear, the inflation toothpaste will be out of the tube, and on to the next bubble-crash.
That is, the expected return on bonds is negative, because bonds are in a Fed-supported bubble. Just look at gold to see what an
by ilene - October 29th, 2010 3:29 pm
Courtesy of Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism
I’m so offended by the latest Obama canard, that the financial crisis of 2007-2008 cost less than 1% of GDP, that I barely know where to begin. Not only does this Administration lie on a routine basis, it doesn’t even bother to tell credible lies. .And this one came directly from the top, not via minions. It’s not that this misrepresentation is earth-shaking, but that it epitomizes why the Obama Administration is well on its way to being an abject failure.
On the Jon Stewart Show (starting roughly at the 1:10 mark on this segment) Obama claims the cost of this crisis will be less than 1% of GDP, versus 2.5% for the savings and loan crisis (hat tip George Washington, sorry, no embed code, you need to go here):
The reason Obama makes such baldfacedly phony statements is twofold: first, his pattern of seeing PR as the preferred solution to all problems, and second, his resulting slavish devotion to smoke and mirrors over sound policy.
The savings & loan crisis led to FDIC takeovers of dud banks and the creation of a resolution authority to dispose of bad assets. That produced costs which were largely funded by the Federal government. I’ve heard economists repeatedly peg the costs at $110 to $120 billion; Wikipedia puts it at about $150 billion. This approach, of cleaning up and resolving banks, has been found repeatedly to be the fastest and least costly way to contend with a financial crisis.
The reason Obama can claim such phony figures is that many of the costs of saving the financial system are hidden, the biggest being the ongoing transfer from savers to banks of negative real interest rates, which is a covert way…
by ilene - October 26th, 2010 1:28 am
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
I wish I could say that I am surprised that Ben Bernanke’s
“In my darkest moments, I have begun to wonder if the monetary accommodation we have already engineered might even be working in the wrong places.”
Welcome to your darkest moments Mr. Fisher. The one thing we can positively confirm about QE2 is that it has not created one single job. But what has it done? It has caused commodities and input prices to skyrocket in recent months. Reference these 10 week moves that have resulted in the Fed already causing “mini bubbles” in various markets:
- Cotton +48%
- Sugar +48%
- Soybeans +20%
- Rice +27%
- Coffee +18%
- Oats +22%
- Copper +17%
Of course, these are all inputs costs for the corporations that have desperately cut costs to try to maintain their margins. With very weak end demand the likelihood that these costs will be passed along to the consumer is extremely low. What does this mean? It means the Fed is unintentionally hurting corporate margins. And that means the Fed is unintentionally hurting the likelihood of a recovery in the labor market.
by ilene - October 24th, 2010 5:21 pm
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
I made several attempts to edit this piece down a bit, but Davies’ command of language, anecdote and illustrative reference is so strong that in the end I resisted all but the most cursory deletion.
Listen well to what he says about the markets and how to trade them. I have said this myself many times in different ways, but rarely so concisely and so well.
Remarks by Ben Davies,
CEO, Hinde Capital, London
Committee for Monetary Research and Education
Fall Dinner Meeting
Union League Club, New York
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Ben Davies and I co-founded Hinde Capital, a UK-based investment manager, with a gentleman called Mark Mahaffey…
The Federal Reserve chairman has said: "The economic outlook remains unusually uncertain." But economic predictions are not uncertain; they portend serious woes.
For once I agree with my namesake Ben — the outlook remains unusually uncertain. A quite stunning observation, no less. But I would not just agree with the assertion that economic predictions are not uncertain. Note the double negative there.
Economics has sought to blend epistemology, physics, mathematics, and behavioral science to try to measure uncertainty. They aim to try to predict when we might have an economic collapse, but no model has been created that manages this with much confidence, if any at all. How do you measure a risk that is unmeasurable?
No, there is nothing certain about economic predictions. Donald Rumsfeld, the former U.S. defense secretary, unwittingly declared it so at a NATO press conference in 2002, when he responded to a question on intelligence gathering:
"It’s not the certainties that make life interesting; it’s the uncertainties. There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the things we don’t know we don’t know."
"Unknown unknowns" — at the time this was ridiculed as a piece of deliberate and meaningless obfuscation. Rumsfeld even won an award from the British Plain English Campaign for the most nonsensical remark made by a public figure. I would add that he narrowly pipped California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who commented,
by ilene - October 15th, 2010 3:36 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Lower interest rates are not typically synonymous with rising inflation, but Bernanke foolishly thinks he can get that magic pair with the power of persuasion in conjunction with Quantitative Easing.
Please consider Fed Considers Raising Inflation Expectations to Boost Economy
Federal Reserve policy makers may want Americans to expect inflation to accelerate in the future so they spend more of their money now.
Central bankers, seeking ways to boost flagging growth after lowering interest rates almost to zero and buying $1.7 trillion of securities, are weighing strategies for raising inflation expectations as well as expanding the balance sheet by purchasing Treasuries, according to minutes of the Fed’s Sept. 21 meeting released yesterday.
Some Fed officials are concerned that expectations of lower inflation will become self-fulfilling, damping demand by increasing borrowing costs in real terms, the minutes said. By encouraging Americans to believe prices will start rising at a faster pace, the Fed would reduce inflation-adjusted interest rates and stimulate the economy. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in 2003 that Japan could beat deflation by using a “publicly announced, gradually rising price-level target.”
“The Fed is on the verge of actively targeting a higher inflation rate,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. U.S. stocks advanced, sending benchmark indexes to five-month highs, the dollar fell and gold declined for the first time in three days after the minutes were released.
Trying to raise inflation expectations is untested in the U.S. The policy may backfire if actual inflation drifts higher than the Fed would like, potentially eroding gains won in the early 1980s by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who raised interest rates as high as 20 percent to subdue prices.
Jim O’Sullivan, global chief economist at MF Global Ltd. in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that the biggest risk is “boosting long-term inflation expectations more than they lower real interest rates.”
The FOMC could adopt a combination of inflation targeting and price-level targeting to get inflation expectations up, said Mark Gertler, a New York University economist and research co-author with Bernanke.
The Fed could restate its commitment to keep inflation rising annually at around 1.7 percent to 2 percent. At the same time, the FOMC could announce some
by ilene - October 15th, 2010 1:18 am
Damn right they can and they probably will. They did it with commodities like wheat in early 2008 even as the consumption-to-stock ratio actually warranted a decrease in prices. This is now happening again as cotton hits a 15 year high, exploding corn prices drive the price of beef up to 25 year highs and the rest of the agricultural commodity complex takes off into the stratosphere.
When you link a financial derivatives market, which is technically infinite, to a market of actual hard goods (finite in supply), a price bubble becomes highly possible, even probable. When you drop rates to nothing, leave them there and then add the sex appeal of a long-term uptrend for global food consumption, you are tying a goat to a post in the T Rex cage, virtually beckoning the beast to come and gorge himself.
Marshall Auerback quotes an email exchange with commodities trader and portfolio manager Mike Masters over at Naked Capitalism:
Speculation in commodities can be exemplified from the following illustration. Money can be “created” by fiat. Because there is already much more capital available in the world than hard commodities, and also because money can effectively be created in a nearly infinite way; speculators, without limits, and with determination, can increase the price of consumable commodities, like food stuffs or energy, much higher than traditional consumers and producers (hedgers) can react. When derivative markets are linked to real commodity markets, this nearly unlimited capital from the financial sector can cause financially driven excessive price volatility. This is because in the derivative markets, a nearly infinite amount of new commodity derivative contracts can be created to satisfy the demand of financial sector speculators armed with fresh capital. However, because there is only a FINITE amount of bona fide actual hedgers (producers and consumers of the actual commodity), any speculative demand that exceeds the real amount of commodities that can be hedged at that time must be sourced from other speculators. However, these speculators will only supply new contracts via price- i.e. a new speculative demand that exceeds hedger supply must be sourced from new speculative supply at ever higher prices.
by ilene - October 10th, 2010 4:48 pm
Courtesy of Mish
With 10-year treasuries yielding a mere 2.39%, and with 5-year treasuries at an all time low yield of 1.1%, investors have plowed into the riskiest of junk bonds with reckless abandon.
Please consider Bond Distress at 5-Month Low as Junk Rallies
The percentage of corporate bonds considered in distress fell to a five-month low as record sales of high-yield debt and declining borrowing costs convince investors the riskiest companies can pay their lenders.
The number of speculative-grade companies worldwide with yields at least 10 percentage points more than government bonds declined to 290, or 12 percent of the total, the lowest share since April and down from 15.9 percent at the end of August, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data.
Junk-rated borrowers globally sold a record $98.9 billion of bonds last quarter as investors sought higher relative yields, helping the weakest companies shore up their balance sheets. Defaults by high-yield issuers fell to 4 percent last month from 6.2 percent in June, Moody’s Investors Service said yesterday.
At least $13.2 billion of junk bonds have been sold this month, bringing the global total to an all-time high of $263.5 billion, 26 percent higher than the full-year record set in 2009, Bloomberg data show. Junk bond sales in the U.S. have reached $208.9 billion this year, the data show.
“This is obviously a case of too much money chasing too few good bonds,” said Don Ross, who helps oversee $9.5 billion of assets as global strategist for Titanium Asset Management Corp. in Cleveland. “It’s just money changing hands and corporations being the net gainer by being able to issue cheaper and have better balance sheets. In the long run that will help the economy, but holy mackerel, at what cost?”
High-yield spreads in the U.S., which fell yesterday to 613 basis points, are “within shouting distance” of the historical average of 598 basis points, a milestone that doesn’t indicate the market has “run too far too fast,” Martin Fridson, global credit strategist at BNP Paribas Asset Management, said Oct. 6 in an e-mail.
“Investors are being well compensated for risk and talk of a bubble in high-yield bonds is misguided,” Fridson said.
Average Times These Are Not
Saying junk bonds are not in a bubble compared to average times only