Tag Archives: bubbles

The Economic Bubble Bath, by Jeff Thomas

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere. Pop one and the rest will burst, too. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:

At the end of a long, tiring day, we may choose to treat ourselves to a soothing bubble bath. Surrounded by steaming water and a froth of sweet-smelling bubbles, it’s easy to forget the cares of everyday life.

This fact is equally true of economic bubbles. When the markets are up, we’re inclined to feel as though life is rosy. Unfortunately, it does seem to be the norm that investors fail to recognize when a healthy up-market transforms into a dangerous bubble. We tend to be soothed into overlooking the fact that we’re in hot water, and economically, that’s not an advantageous situation to be in.

Periodically, any economy will experience bubbles. It’s bound to happen. Human nature dictates that, if the value of an asset is on the rise, the more success it experiences, the more we want to get in on the success.

Sadly, the great majority of investors have a tendency to fail to educate themselves on how markets work. It’s easier to just trust their broker. Unfortunately, our broker doesn’t make his living through our success; he makes it through brokering transactions. The more buys he can encourage us to make, the more commissions he enjoys.

It’s been said that a broker is “someone who invests your money until it’s gone,” and there’s a great deal of truth in that assessment.

And so, we can expect to continue to witness periodic bubbles in the markets. They’ll occur roughly as often as it takes for us to forget the devastation of the last one and we once again dive in, only to be sheared once again.

But we’re presently seeing an economic anomaly – a host of bubbles, inflating dramatically at the same time.

Continue reading

You Should Fear the Emerging Market Debt Bubble, by Nomi Prins

Actually, you should fear all debt bubbles, especially in our current hyperindebted world. Any one bubble that pops can set off a chain reaction. From Nomi Prins at daily reckoning.com:

Global debt has ballooned since the financial crisis as central banks have distorted markets and fueled debt bubbles in particular.

A lot of the increase in global debt has come from emerging market (EM) economies, especially China. In fact, a record amount of EM debt has accumulated during the past decade, mostly in dollars. A large portion of that debt is therefore denominated in U.S. dollars.

That’s why I’ve long argued that the first shoe to drop in the next crisis would likely be EM debt.

Borrowing is not a problem when dollars are cheap. Low interest rates mean the cost of servicing that debt is low.

The problem starts when the Fed raises rates or the dollar strengthens, even temporarily. The more the dollar rises, the more EM currencies and related markets fall. Dollar-denominated debt then becomes too expensive to repay or service as the dollar rises relative to EM currencies. Before long default becomes the only viable option.

This situation becomes more dangerous than even asset bubbles because debt is required to be repaid on a set schedule. If a country misses a debt payment, it could set off a chain reaction of defaults.

That’s why an EM crisis could quickly become a global crisis. In today’s world of financial globalization, any remote crisis can become an international problem in seconds. That’s the reality of today’s markets. Obviously, it could also have major ramifications for your own finances and investments.

How did we get here?

Because of the Fed’s rate hike cycle and quantitative tightening (QT) stance, the dollar has become much stronger. The dollar has risen 6.8% since late January alone. And that’s put emerging markets under considerable pressure.

Dollars are fleeing emerging market economies as investors are pouring into dollar assets and U.S. Treasuries.

As the Fed itself has warned about such a scenario, “If these risks materialized, there could be an increase in the demand for safe assets, particularly U.S. Treasuries.”

That starts a vicious cycle that only strengthens the dollar and weakens EM currencies further. In other words, emerging markets are being deprived of dollars at a time when they need them most.

Enter Turkey.

To continue reading: You Should Fear the Emerging Market Debt Bubble

Here We Go Again: Our Double-Bubble Economy, by Charles Hugh Smith

Blowing bubbles has become the official economic policy. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The bubbles in assets are supported by the invisible bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Well, folks, here we go again: we have a double-bubble economy in housing and stocks, and a third difficult-to-chart bubble in greed, euphoria and credulity.
Feast your eyes on Housing Bubble #2, a.k.a. the Echo Bubble:
Here’s the S&P 500 stock index (SPX): no bubble here, we’re told, just a typical 9-year long Bull Market that has soared from a low in 2009 of 666 to a recent high of 2802 in January of this year:
Here’s a view of the same bubble in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA):
Is anyone actually dumb enough not to recognize these are bubbles? Of course not. Those proclaiming that “these bubbles are not bubbles” know full well they’re bubbles, but their livelihoods depend on public denial of this reality.
And so we’re inundated with justifications of bubble valuations, neatly bound with statistical mumbo-jumbo: forward earnings (better every day in every way!), P-E expansion, and all the rest of the usual blather that’s spewed by status quo commentators and fund managers at the top of every bubble.
The problem with bubbles is they always pop. The market runs out of Greater Fools and/or creditworthy borrowers, and so sellers overwhelm the thinning ranks of buyers.
Those dancing euphorically, expecting the music will never stop, are caught off guard (despite their confidence that they are far too clever to be caught by surprise), and the panic-driven crowd clogs the narrow exit, leaving a ballroom of bag-holders to absorb the losses.
The other problem with bubbles is that we’ve become dependent on them as props holding up a rotten, corrupt status quo. Since the economy can no longer generate sufficient prosperity to go around via actual increases in productivity and efficiency, those skimming most of the gains rely on “the wealth effect” generated by expanding asset bubbles to create a dreamy illusion of prosperity.
Here’s the third consequence of bubbles: the gains flow to the very top of the wealth-power pyramid: there is no other possible output of the bubble, since roughly 80% of all assets are owned by the top tier of households, and the majority of financial assets are owned by the top .1% (one-tenth of one percent).

The Biggest Ponzi in Human History, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

The title is not hyperbole. We are living through the biggest series of interrelated Ponzi schemes in history. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Here’s the story in a nutshell: Ultra low interest rates mark a shift away from people’s wealth residing in their savings and pension plans, and into to so-called wealth residing in their homes, which are bought with ever growing levels of debt. When interest rates rise, they will lose that so-called wealth.

It is grand theft auto on an unparalleled scale, and it’s a piece of genius, because while people are getting robbed in plain daylight, they actually think they’re winning. But as I wrote back in March of this year, home sales, and bubbles, are the only thing that keeps our economies humming.

We haven’t learned a thing since March, and we haven’t learned a thing for many years. People need a place to live, and they fall for the scheme hook line and sinker. Which in a way is a good thing because the economy would have been dead without that ignorance, but at the same time it’s not because it’s a temporary relief only and the end result will be all the more painful for it.

Whatever Yellen decides as per rates, or Draghi, it doesn’t really matter anymore, this sucker’s going down something awful. This is a global issue. Housing bubbles have been blown not only in the Anglosphere, though they are strong there, many other countries have them as well, Scandinavia, Netherlands, even Germany and France. It’s what ultra low rates do.

First, here’s what I said in March:

Our Economies Run On Housing Bubbles

What we have invented to keep big banks afloat for a while longer is ultra low interest rates, NIRP, ZIRP etc. They create the illusion of not only growth, but also of wealth. They make people think a home they couldn’t have dreamt of buying not long ago now fits in their ‘budget’. That is how we get them to sign up for ever bigger mortgages. And those in turn keep our banks from falling over.

Record low interest rates have become the only way that private banks can create new money, and stay alive (because at higher rates hardly anybody can afford a mortgage). It’s of course not just the banks that are kept alive, it’s the entire economy. Without the ZIRP rates, the mortgages they lure people into, and the housing bubbles this creates, the amount of money circulating in our economies would shrink so much and so fast the whole shebang would fall to bits.

That’s right: the survival of our economies today depends one on one on the existence of housing bubbles. No bubble means no money creation means no functioning economy.

To continue reading: The Biggest Ponzi in Human History

Einhorn Vents his Frustrations about the Crazy Markets, by Wolf Richter

Markets become much less nerve wracking when you quit looking for “logic” in them and realize they are exercises in quite illogical crowd psychology. Hedge fund guru David Einhorn highlights the super-abundant absurdity of the stock market. As an aside, SLL would not at all be surprised if the stock market’s intraday high yesterday turned out to be the ultimate top, and that the devastating bear market of which we’ve frequently warned, most recently in “Hard Core Doom Porn,” has begun. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Why trying to bet against this madness is a widow-maker trade. Logic has nothing to do with it.

Investors who’ve approached this stock market and its ludicrous valuations over the past few years from a point of view of fundamentals and “value” – thus, often on the side of short-selling those stocks – have gotten clobbered, or were at least left in the dust by buy-buy-buy fundamentals-don’t-matter automatons.

This has become an exercise in frustration-management for many – including, apparently, David Einhorn, founder and president of Greenlight Capital, a $7 billion hedge fund that became successful by searching for overvalued and undervalued companies and betting one way or the other. This strategy has hit the rocks in recent years. So far this year, the fund is up 3.3% while the S&P 500 is up 14%.

In a letter to Greenlight’s clients, reported by Business Insider, he unloaded his frustrations about this crazy market.

“The market remains very challenging for value investing strategies, as growth stocks have continued to outperform value stocks. The persistence of this dynamic leads to questions regarding whether value investing is a viable strategy.

“The knee-jerk instinct is to respond that when a proven strategy is so exceedingly out of favor that its viability is questioned, the cycle must be about to turn around. Unfortunately, we lack such clarity. After years of running into the wind, we are left with no sense stronger than, ‘it will turn when it turns.’”

On the short side, he cited Amazon, Tesla, and Netflix, whose ludicrous valuations are glaring examples of what a good short-target looks like, but so far, most of those daring souls who tried to follow logic and profit from shorting these stocks over the past few years have gotten their head handed to them.

Here’s what Einhorn said about the three heroes that he considers “our three most well-known ‘bubble’ shorts”:

Amazon: “Our view is that just because Amazon can disrupt somebody else’s profit stream, it doesn’t mean that Amazon earns that profit stream. For the moment, the market doesn’t agree. Perhaps, simply being disruptive is enough.”

Tesla: “Tesla had an awful quarter both in its current results and future prospects. In response, its shares fell almost 6%. We believe it deserved much worse.”

Netflix: “On the second quarter conference call, the CEO stated, ‘In some senses the negative free cash flow will be an indicator of enormous success.’ To us, all it indicates is that Netflix is capable of dramatically changing the economics of stand-up comedy in favor of the comedians.”

Yet Amazon is up 30% this year, Tesla and Netflix 58%! This market simply doesn’t tolerate logic other than buy, buy, buy – until something changes.

To continue reading: Einhorn Vents his Frustrations about the Crazy Markets

Arms Race in Bubbles, by Doug Noland

Bubbles have become the foundation of economic policy around the globe. From Doug Noland at creditbubblebulletin.blogspot.com:

The week left me with an uneasy feeling. There were a number of articles noting the 30-year anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash. I spent “Black Monday” staring at a Telerate monitor as a treasury analyst at Toyota’s US headquarters in Southern California. If I wasn’t completely in love with the markets and macro analysis by that morning, there was no doubt about it by bedtime. Enthralling.

As writers noted this week, there were post-’87 crash economic depression worries. In hindsight, those fears were misplaced. Excesses had not progressed over years to the point of causing deep financial and economic structural maladjustment. Looking back today, 1987 was much more the beginning of a secular financial boom rather than the end. The crash offered a signal – a warning that went unheeded. Disregarding warnings has been in a stable trend now for three decades.

Alan Greenspan’s assurances of ample liquidity – and the Fed and global central bankers’ crisis-prevention efforts for some time following the crash – ensured fledgling financial excesses bounced right back and various Bubbles hardly missed a beat. Importantly, financial innovation and speculation accelerated momentously. Wall Street had been emboldened – and would be repeatedly.

The crash also marked the genesis of government intervention in the markets that would evolve into the previously unimaginable: negative short-term rates, manipulated bond yields, central bank support throughout the securities markets, Trillions upon Trillions of central bank monetization and the perception of open-ended securities market liquidity backstops around the globe. Greenspan was the forefather of the powerful trifecta: Team Bernanke, Kuroda and Draghi. Ask the bond market back in 1987 to contemplate massive government deficit spending concurrent with near zero global sovereign yields – the response would have been “inconceivable.”

Articles this week posed the question, “Could an ’87 Crash Happen Again.” There should be no doubt – that is unless the nature of markets has been thoroughly transformed. Yes, there are now circuit breakers and other mechanisms meant to arrest panic selling. At the same time, there are so many more sources of potential self-reinforcing selling these days compared to portfolio insurance back in 1987. Today’s derivatives markets – where various strains of writing market insurance (“flood insurance during a drought”) have become a consistent and popular money maker – make 1987’s look itsy bitsy.

To continue reading: Arms Race in Bubbles

 

 

The Greatest Financial Bubble in History, by Jim Rickards

China may not be the greatest financial bubble in history, but it’s certainly one of them. (There have been so many lately, it’s hard to rank them.) From Jim Rickards at dailyreckoning.com:

China is in the greatest financial bubble in history. Yet, calling China a bubble does not do justice to the situation. This story has been touched on periodically over the last year.

China has multiple bubbles, and they’re all getting ready to burst. If you make the right moves now, you could be well positioned even as Chinese credit and currency crash and burn.

The first and most obvious bubble is credit. The combined Chinese government and corporate debt-to-equity ratio is over 300-to-1 after hidden liabilities, such as provincial guarantees and shadow banking system liabilities, are taken into account.

Paying off that debt requires growth, but the growth itself is fueled by more debt. China is now at the point where enormous new debt is required to achieve only modest new growth. This is clearly non-sustainable.

The next bubble is in investment instruments called Wealth Management Products, or WMPs. You may remember hearing about in the Daily Reckoning and also covered in Bloomberg’s article China Is Playing a $9 Trillion Game of Chicken With Savers.

Picture this. You’re a middle-class Chinese saver and you walk into a bank. They offer you two investment options. The first is a bank deposit that pays about 2%. The other is a WMP that pays about 7%. Which do you choose?

In the past ten years, bank customers have chosen almost $12 trillion of WMPs. That might be fine if WMPs were like high-quality corporate or municipal bonds. They’re not. They’re more like the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

Here’s how they work. Proceeds from sales of WMPs are loaned to speculative real estate developers and unprofitable state owned enterprises (SOEs) at attractive yields in the form of notes.

So, WMPs resemble collateralized debt obligations, CDOs, the same product that sank Lehman Brothers in the panic of 2008.

The problem is that the borrowers behind the WMPs can’t pay their debts. They’re relying on further bubbles in real estate or easy credit from the government to meet their interest obligations.

To continue reading: The Greatest Financial Bubble in History