‘Markets go up on an escalator, they come down on an elevator. This is the most hideously overvalued market in history.’
Last week’s action by the Fed was an effort to restore normalcy, but in the context of extraordinary action by the central bank. When you tell markets that the risk free rate is zero, it has profound implications for the cost of debt and equity, and resulting in different asset allocation decisions. Ending this regime also has profound implications for investors and markets.
In the wake of the financial crisis, some investors found comfort in the fact that when risk free interest rates are at or near zero, the discounted future value of equity securities was theoretically infinite. Markets seem to have validated this view. But to us the real question is this: If a company or country has excessive and growing amounts of debt outstanding against existing assets, what is the value of the equity? The short answer is non-zero and declining. But hold that thought.
Reading through Grant’s Interest Rate Observer over the weekend, we were struck by the item on China Evergrande Group (OTC:ERGNF), a real estate development company and industrial conglomerate that has reported negative free cash flow since 2006, but has made it up in volume so to speak. The stock is up over 200% this year, Grant’s reports. The real estate conglomerate has its hands into all manner of businesses and seems to typify the China construction craze.
This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on June 19, 2017.