Category Archives: Financial markets

An “Extreme Warning” From Our Doom Index, by Bill Bonner

Here’s another bearish prognostication, from Bill Bonner at bonnerandpartners.com:

BALTIMORE – When we left you yesterday, we were describing why the situation is getting dangerous for investors, and how the lessons learned over the last 30 years may backfire in the next crisis.

“Dow over 26,000… bitcoin under $10,000,” reports this morning’s news… “but could crypto panic spill over into stocks?”

Investors are accustomed to depending on the Greenspan-Bernanke-Yellen Put… which is to say, they are pretty sure that the feds will come in with more booze when the party starts to flag.

“Buy the dip,” they tell each other, confident that the feds can be counted on in a pinch.

Many think the recently passed tax bill is 80-proof, too – sure to rev things up by putting more money in the hands of shareholders and consumers.

Maybe it will raise stock prices. Or maybe it won’t. What it won’t do is make the next crisis disappear.

Bad Tidings

We hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but bad tidings are all we have to bear.

Corporate America is already pretty flush. The price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for the S&P 500 is now 70% above its long-term average.

In fact, the price of stocks relative to earnings has only been near this high three times in the last 118 years… each time caused by the aforementioned Fed party favors.

And if stocks go higher, it merely gives them further to fall.

In order to get back to more traditional levels, notes Martin Feldstein in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, the next bear market would have to wipe out some $10 trillion of stock market wealth.

This, he says, would take 2% off annual GDP… tipping the country into recession.

Extreme Warning

How close is this crisis?

We turn to our Doom Index, put together by our ace researcher, Joe Withrow:

The Doom Index spiked back up to “7” this month – our extreme warning level.

After a surprisingly expansive third quarter in 2017, credit growth fell back to 1.6% in the fourth quarter. Paraphrasing your friend and economist Richard Duncan, bad things happen when credit growth falls below 2%.

Looking at the credit markets, corporate bond downgrades continued to come in at an elevated level last quarter. And junk bonds are starting to show some cracks, falling more than 1% on the quarter. That said, junk bonds still closed out 2017 in positive territory.

To continue reading: An “Extreme Warning” From Our Doom Index

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Punch-Drunk Investors & Extinct Bears, Part 1: by Pater Tenebrarum

The age old question: if everybody’s bullish (or bearish) who’s left to buy (or sell)? From Pater Tenebrarum at acting-man.com:

The Mother of All Blow-Offs

We didn’t really plan on writing about investor sentiment again so soon, but last week a few articles in the financial press caught our eye and after reviewing the data, we thought it would be a good idea to post a brief update. When positioning and sentiment reach levels that were never seen before after the market has gone through a blow-off move for more than a year, it may well be that it means something for once.

Sloshed as we are…   a group of professional investors prepares for a day of hard work on Wall Street. The tedium of a market that goes up a little bit every day, day in day out, is taking its toll.

Interestingly, the DJIA has fully participated in the blow-off this time, contrary to what happened at the end of the 1990s bull market and the first echo boom that ended in 2007. On the monthly chart the venerable Dow Industrials Average now sports on RSI of roughly 90, which is really quite rare.

 

The “slightly overbought” DJIA sports an RSI of 89.59 on its monthly chart in the wake of the blow-off move over the past year.

If you think this looks like the exact opposite of what we have seen at the lows in 2009, you are entirely correct – it is indeed the opposite in every conceivable respect. In 2009 the news were uniformly bad; nowadays, we are flooded with good news on the economy and corporate earnings. In 2009 stocks were cheap  – if not really historically cheap – now they are in many ways at their most expensive in history, particularly if one considers the median stock rather than  just the capitalization-weighted indexes.

Singing From the Same Hymn Sheet

We recall that the reading of the Daily Sentiment Index of S&P futures traders stood at just 3% bulls on the day of the March 2009 low. Looking at sentiment data today, there are probably 3% bears left. What prompted us to take a closer look at the data was an article at Marketwatch about the positioning of Ameritrade customers – in other words, self-directed retail investors. The article is ominously entitled “Retail investor exposure to stock market is at an all-time high”. An all time high? Isn’t this supposed to be the “most hated” bull market ever? That hasn’t been true for quite a while actually. Ameritrade helpfully provided a chart of its “Investor Movement Index” (IM Index), which measures the aggregate stock market exposure of its clients.

At the height of the Fed’s QE3 operation in 2014, retail investors were almost “pessimistic” compared to today. The Ameritrade IM Index is currently above 8, but it already established a new record high when it crossed 7.0 for the first time last summer.

To continue reading: Punch-Drunk Investors & Extinct Bears, Part 1:

Stock Buybacks Are Nothing but Margin Speculation, by Valentin Schmid

If you borrow money to buy stocks, you make more on the upside and lose more on the downside. If, by some weird chance, the downside has not been abolished, corporations who borrowed money to buy in their own stock may find themselves in a bind. From Valentin Schmid at theepochtimes.com:

Not only individual speculators are all-in the stock market; companies are, too

Let’s say you have $10,000 in an account with your stockbroker. Under normal circumstances, you could buy up to $30,000 worth of stock with a $20,000 loan from the broker. Let’s assume you are lucky and the stock goes up 50 percent. The position is now worth $45,000, and your equity has increased by $15,000 to $25,000. This means you can increase your position size again to $75,000 and buy more stock, because most brokers only require you to keep 30 percent of cash or stock as collateral.

This is why using margin is so powerful in a rising market and why margin debt in the accounts of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has kept pace with the records in the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average, reaching an all-time high of $581 billion in November 2017.

In a falling market, the whole exercise becomes less fun, and speculators trading on margin were one of the reasons behind the vicious crash of 1929.

The biggest companies in the United States run the risk of ending up like speculators caught in a margin call.

Let’s assume you just bought more stocks and your total position in company A was $75,000 with your initial cash outlay, with profits totaling $25,000, as in the example above.

If the market moves 10 percent against you, your position is worth $67,500 and your equity is worth $18,500, but the loan is still worth $50,000 and you are supposed to keep $20,250 as collateral. In order to make up the difference between your collateral value ($18,500) and the margin requirement ($20,250) of $1,750, you can either deposit more cash or sell some securities to decrease the margin position.

To continue reading: Stock Buybacks Are Nothing but Margin Speculation

The Great Reset, by Bob Moriarity

Bob Moriarity thinks cryptocurrencies have topped and a top in stocks is imminent. From Moriarity at 321gold.com:

The “Everything Bubble” is bursting. This is going to get ugly.

I suspect it began with the top in Bitcon and the other 1300-1400 related pseudo currencies back in December. I did an interview in the first week of December where I said Bitcon was in a bubble. I believed it would do the same thing every other bubble in history did. It was going to crash and take all the money of most of the investors. The piece was posted on the 10 th of December. When I did the interview, Bitcon had been going virtually straight up for months and was about $16,858, a new high.

The interview allowed for comments. There were 136 in total. I just went through them to read what people were saying. 65% were convinced I am nothing but a senile old man long past his prime who doesn’t understand that “This time it’s different.” That may well be true, Barbara reminds me half a dozen times a day I’m a senile old man. She may well have a point. But as I pointed out in Nobody Knows Anything, “This time it’s different” is the bell they ring at the top of every bubble. The book has been out for almost two years now and it’s still selling hundreds of copies a month. There must be something to it.

I did yet another interview on Bitcon and the pseudo currencies that went up on the 13 th of December and I made it perfectly clear that we were at a top and the bubble was about to burst. I made an interesting comment that can only be appreciated in hindsight, “If Bitcoin is $50,000 in a month then I’m obviously wrong. I’m either right or I’m wrong, it’s really simple. But I’ve never seen a clearer bubble than Bitcoin, this makes the Florida land boom and even the dot com bubble look tame by comparison.

John McAfee made an even more interesting comment quoted in the same article that will grow with time when he said, “Bubbles are mathematically impossible in this new paradigm. Gold is laughable compared to cryptocurrencies. How do you fractionalize gold? How do you ship it? It’s physical so how do you safely store it. It was good for people 3,000 years ago. Today it is inherently worthless. Soon it will drop in value as crypto currencies climb.”

It is a month later. One of us got it dead right. And regardless of McAfee’s IQ or wealth for him to say, “bubbles are mathematically impossible in this new paradigm” goes beyond stupid. That is shit house rat crazy. He needs to go to Amazon or any bookstore and spend $15 to learn about bubbles in history and how human behavior never changes.

To continue reading: The Great Reset

 

The Fascinating Psychology of Blowoff Tops, by Charles Hugh Smith

Parabolic market runs are fun to watch, but not the inevitable crashes that follow. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Central banks have guaranteed a bubble collapse is the only possible output of the system they’ve created.
The psychology of blowoff tops in asset bubbles is fascinating: let’s start with the first requirement of a move qualifying as a blowoff top, which is the vast majority of participants deny the move is a blowoff top.
Exhibit 1: a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJ-30):
Is there any other description of this parabolic ascent other than “blowoff top” that isn’t absurdly misleading? Can anyone claim this is just a typical Bull market? There is nothing even remotely typical about the record RSI (relative strength index), record Bull-Bear ratio, and so on, especially after a near-record run of 9 years.
The few who do grudgingly acknowledge this parabolic move might be a blowoff top are positive that it has many more months to run. This is the second requirement of qualifying as a blowoff top: the widespread confidence that the Bull advance has years more to run, and if not years, then many months.
In the 1999 dot-com blowoff top, participants believed the Internet would grow at phenomenal rates for years to come, and thus the parabolic move higher was fully rational.
In the housing bubble’s 2006-07 blowoff top, a variety of justifications of soaring valuations and frantic flipping were accepted as self-evident.
In the present blowoff top, the received wisdom holds that global growth is just getting started, and corporate profits will soar in 2018. Therefore current sky-high valuations are not just rational, they clearly have plenty of room to rise much higher.
Skeptics are derided as perma-bears who’ve been wrong for 9 long years. This is the third requirement of qualifying as a blowoff top: Bears and other skeptics are mocked and/or dismissed as irrelevant.

Bond Market Smells Inflation, Begins to React, by Wolf Richter

The bond market probably topped out in July 2016. Interest rates are starting to move up again. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Inflation expectations now exceed the Fed’s target.

The 10-year US Treasury yield breached 2.5% on January 9 and hasn’t looked back since, closing on Friday at 2.55%. The three year yield closed at 2.12%, the highest since October 2008. The two year yield, after breaching 2% on Friday intraday, closed at 1.99%, the highest since September 2008.

Bond prices fall when yields rise. And the selloff in three-year maturities and below shows that the short end of the bond market is reacting to the Fed’s rate-hike environment.

The moves in the 10-year yield, however, defied the Fed in much of 2017, with the yield actually dropping. With long-term yields falling and short-term yields rising, the yield curve “flattened,” and there were fears that the yield curve would “invert,” with 10-year yields dropping below two-year yields – a scenario that has proven dreadful in the past, including just before the Financial Crisis. But recently, the 10-year yield too has begun to respond.

Though the “new Fed” in 2018 hasn’t fully taken shape yet, with several key vacancies still to be filled, there is already tough talk even among the “doves.” And that’s where tough talk matters.

On Thursday it was New York Fed President William Dudley who outlined the “two macroeconomic concerns” he is “worried about”: “The risk of economic overheating,” and that the markets are blowing off the Fed. In the end, the Fed “may have to press harder on the brakes,” he said.

On Friday, it was Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren who told the Wall Street Journal that he expected “more than three” rate hikes this year to get this under control before it’s too late. “I don’t want to get to a situation where we have to tighten more quickly,” he said, citing specifically the “fairly ebullient financial markets,” and the risks of waiting too long.

These “doves” are worried that the Fed will have to speed up its rate hikes to get a grip on asset price inflation, wage inflation, and consumer price inflation before they become difficult to control.

To continue reading: Bond Market Smells Inflation, Begins to React, by Wolf Richter

Party While You Can – Central Bank Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble, by Brandon Smith

A new chairperson of the Federal Reserve sets the state for a thunderous financial market crash. From Brandon Smith at alt-market.com:

Many people do not realize that America is not only entering a new year, but within the next month we will also be entering a new economic era. In early February, Janet Yellen is set to leave the Federal Reserve and be replaced by the new Fed chair nominee, Jerome Powell. Now, to be clear, the Fed chair along with the bank governors do not set central bank policy. Policy for most central banks around the world is dictated in Switzerland by the Bank for International Settlements. Fed chairmen like Janet Yellen are mere mascots implementing policy initiatives as ordered.  This is why we are now seeing supposedly separate central banking institutions around the world acting in unison, first with stimulus, then with fiscal tightening.

However, it is important to note that each new Fed chair does tend to signal a new shift in action for the central bank. For example, Alan Greenspan oversaw the low interest rate easy money phase of the Fed, which created the conditions for the derivatives and credit bubble and subsequent crash in 2008. Ben Bernanke oversaw the stimulus and bailout phase, flooding the markets with massive amounts of fiat and engineering an even larger bubble in stocks, bonds and just about every other asset except perhaps some select commodities. Janet Yellen managed the tapering phase, in which stimulus has been carefully and systematically diminished while still maintaining delusional stock market euphoria.

Now comes the era of Jerome Powell, who will oversee the last stages of fiscal tightening, the reduction of the Fed balance sheet, faster rate increases and the final implosion of the ‘everything’ bubble.

As I warned before Trump won the election in 2016, a Trump presidency would inevitably be followed by economic crisis, and this would be facilitated by the Federal Reserve pulling the plug on fiat life support measures which kept the illusion of recovery going for the past several years. It is important to note that the mainstream media is consistently referring to Jerome Powell as “Trump’s candidate” for the Fed, or “Trump’s pick” (as if the president really has much of a choice in the roster of candidates for the Fed chair). The public is being subtly conditioned to view Powell as if he is an extension of the Trump administration.

 

To continue reading: Party While You Can – Central Bank Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble