“Q1 Stock Market Outlook: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Slide”

Submitted by FFWiley
If 2018 rings in a bear market, it could look something like the Kennedy Slide of 1962.
That was my conclusion in ‘Riding the Slide,’ published in early September, where I showed that the Kennedy Slide was unique among bear markets of the last eighty years. It was the only bear that wasn’t obviously provoked by rising inflation, tightening monetary policy, deteriorating credit markets or, less commonly, world war or depression.
Moreover, market conditions leading up to the Slide should be familiar – they’re not too far from market conditions since Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. In the first year after Kennedy’s election, as in the first year after Trump’s election, inflation seemed under control, interest rates were low, credit spreads were tight, and the economy was growing. And, in both cases, the stock market was booming.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Sat, 12/30/2017 –.

Mohamed El-Erian: “The World Is Nearing A Tipping Point”

Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, expects a fundamental shift in the global economy that will either result in a powerful economic boom or in renewed tremors at the financial markets.
In the world finance, there are few people as highly respected as Mohamed El-Erian. Not only is the chief economic adviser at Allianz well versed when it comes to navigating the global financial markets, he’s also brilliant at explaining complex developments in a comprehensible way. The most prominent example is the concept of the New Normal which he and his colleagues developed in early 2009 when he was at the helm of Pimco together with Bill Gross. Today, this concept of a new economic reality, defined by slow growth and super low interest rates, is widely accepted. However, Mr. El-Erian predicts that the New Normal won’t continue much longer. He sees significant changes ahead that will either lead to a powerful economic boom or to a recession with renewed tremors in the financial markets.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Thu, 12/28/2017 –.

Squeezing The Consumer From Both Sides

The Federal Reserve raised the Federal Funds rate on December 13, 2017, marking the fifth increase over the last two years. Even with interest rates remaining at historically low levels, the Fed’s actions are resulting in greater interest expense for short-term and floating rate borrowers. The effect of this was evident in last week’s Producer Price Inflation (PPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Within the report was the following commentary:
‘About half of the November rise in the index for final demand services can be traced to prices for loan services (partial), which increased 3.1 percent.’
While there are many ways in which higher interest rates affect economic activity, the focus of this article is the effect on the consumer. With personal consumption representing about 70% of economic activity, higher interest rates can be a cost or a benefit depending on whether you are a borrower or a saver. For borrowers, as the interest expense of new and existing loans rises, some consumption is typically sacrificed as a higher percentage of budgets are allocated to meeting interest expense. On the flip side, for those with savings, higher interest rates generate more wealth and thus provide a marginal boost to consumption as they have more money to spend.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Great Recession 10 Years Later: Lessons We Still Have To Learn

Ten years ago this month, a recession began in the U. S. that would metastasize into a full-fledged financial crisis. A decade is plenty of time to reflect on what we have learned, what we have fixed, and what remains to be done. High on the agenda should be the utter unpreparedness for what came along.
The memoirs of key decision-makers convey sincere intentions and in some cases, very adroit maneuvering. But common to them all are apologies that today strike one as rather lame.
‘I was surprised by the sudden crisis,’ wrote George W. Bush, ‘My focus had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies. … We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.’
Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed wrote, ‘Clearly, many of us at the Fed, including me, underestimated the extent of the housing bubble and the risks it posed.’ He cited psychological factors rather than low interest rates, a ‘tidal wave of foreign money,’ and complacency among decision-makers.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 27, 2017.

The Fed Plays the Economy Like an Accordion

We talk a lot about how central banks serve as the primary force driving the business cycle. When a recession hits, central banks like the Federal Reserve drive interest rates down and launch quantitative easing to stimulate the economy. Once the recovery takes hold, the Fed tightens its monetary policy, raising interest rates and ending QE. When the recovery appears to be in full swing, the central bank shrinks its balance sheet. This sparks the next recession and the cycle repeats itself.
This is a layman’s explanation of the business cycle. But how do the maneuverings of central banks actually impact the economy? How does this work?
The Yield Curve Accordion Theory is one way to visually grasp exactly what the Fed and other central banks are doing. Westminster College assistant professor of economics Hal W. Snarr explained this theory in a recent Mises Wire article.
The yield curve (a plot of interest rates versus the maturities of securities of equal credit quality) is a handy economic and investment tool. It generally slopes upward because investors expect higher returns when their money is tied up for long periods. When the economy is growing robustly, it tends to steepen as more firms break ground on long-term investment projects. For example, firms may decide to build new factories when the economy is rosy. Since these projects take years to complete, firms issue long-term bonds to finance the construction. This increases the supply of long-term bonds along downward-sloping demand, which pushes long-term bond prices down and yields up. The black dots along the black line in the figure below gives the 2004 yield curve. It slopes upward because a robust recovery was underway.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

2007 All Over Again, Part 7: Borrowers Start Scamming Desperate Lenders

One of the hallmarks of late-stage bubbles is a shift of power from lenders to borrowers. As asset prices soar and interest rates plunge it becomes harder to generate a decent yield on bonds and other fixed income securities, so people with money to lend (like pension funds and bond mutual funds) are forced to accept ever-less-favorable and therefore far-more-risky terms.
Recall the liar loans that were popular towards the end of the 2000s housing bubble and you get the idea. Lenders were so desperate for paper to feed the securitization machine that they literally stopped asking mortgage borrowers to prove that they could cover the interest.
Here we go again, but this time in the market for leveraged buyout loans:
Yield-Starved Investors Giving In to the Demands of Bond Sellers
(Wall Street Journal) – Demand for leveraged loans is allowing private-equity firms to water down legal safeguards for investors Hellman & Friedman LLC and other investors sought last month to borrow money in the bond market to finance a takeover.
The U. S. private-equity firm offered a yield of about 3%, but few of the protections once considered routine.
Still, the investors bought.

This post was published at DollarCollapse on DECEMBER 27, 2017.

Stockman: US Fiscal Path Will Rattle the Rafters of the Casino

As we’ve reported, the US government is spending money like a drunken sailor. But nobody really seems to care.
Since Nov. 8, the US national debt has risen $1 trillion. Meanwhile, the Russell 2000 (a small-cap stock market index) has risen by 30%. Former Reagan budget director David Stockman said this makes no sense in a rational world, and he thinks the FY 2019 is going to sink the casino.
In a rational world operating with honest financial markets those two results would not be found in even remotely the same zip code; and especially not in month #102 of a tired economic expansion and at the inception of an epochal pivot by the Fed to QT (quantitative tightening) on a scale never before imagined.’
Stockman is referring to economic tightening recently launched by the Federal Reserve. It’s not only the increasing interest rates. By next April the Fed will be shrinking its balance sheet at an annual rate of $360 billion and by $600 billion per year as of next October. By the end of 2020, the Fed will have dumped $2 trillion of bonds from its books. Stockman puts this into perspective.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 26, 2017.

The Yield Curve Accordion Theory

The yield curve (a plot of interest rates versus the maturities of securities of equal credit quality) is a handy economic and investment tool. It generally slopes upward because investors expect higher returns when their money is tied up for long periods. When the economy is growing robustly, it tends to steepen as more firms break ground on long-term investment projects. For example, firms may decide to build new factories when the economy is rosy. Since these projects take years to complete, firms issue long-term bonds to finance the construction. This increases the supply of long-term bonds along downward-sloping demand, which pushes long-term bond prices down and yields up. The black dots along the black line in the figure below gives the 2004 yield curve. It slopes upward because a robust recovery was underway.
***
Yield curves flatten out when investors believe a recession is looming. This results from the demand for long-term bonds rising as investor confidence wanes. As demand shifts out along upward sloping supply, long-term bond prices rise and yields fall. On the other end of the yield curve, short-term bond rates rise. This is a result of investors demanding fewer short-term securities and more long-term securities. In response, suppliers of short-term securities lower prices to attract investors. The black dots along the red line in the above figure gives the 2007 yield curve. It is flat because the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 was just around the bend.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 26, 2017.

What Will the Tax Law Do to Over-Indebted Corporate America?

A crackdown on excessive debt. Financial engineering gets more expensive. The new tax law is larded with goodies for Corporate America, but there is one shift – a much needed shift – in this debt-obsessed world that will punish over-indebted companies, discourage companies from taking on too much leverage, and perhaps, just maybe, make these companies less risky: The new law sharply limits the deductibility of corporate interest expense.
Starting in 2018, a company can only deduct interest expense of up to 30% of its Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Any amount in interest expense beyond it will no longer be deductible.
This will tighten further in 2022, when the deductibility of corporate debt will be capped at 30% of earnings before interest and taxes but after depreciation and amortization expenses. This is a much smaller number than Ebitda. And interest expense deduction is capped at 30% of that much smaller amount. This will raise the tax bill further.
Most impacted will be highly indebted companies, which often have a junk credit rating. And due to this junk credit rating, they also pay higher interest rates. This made the interest expense deduction very valuable. But now it is getting partially gutted.

This post was published at Wolf Street on Dec 22, 2017.

“In The End, There Was Absurdity” – The Great Crash Of 2018?

Crises always take longer to arrive than you think, and then happen much quicker than they ought to.
– Rudiger Dornbusch
An eerie calm has taken over the world markets. Volatility is crashing, and economic and political shocks come and go without any noticeable effect on the asset markets. Inflation and interest rates are also low. So ‘Goldilocks’ is here, right?
Well, no. I have written a collection of dark pieces about the world economy this year. They have followed the tone set in our business cycle forecasts. In March, we took a deep dive behind the faade of the economic expansion to discover the sources of growth. We found them to be unstable, depending on political decisions and thus prone to crash.
In our latest forecast, we envisaged how the world economy would respond if the foundations of global growth would break. It was not pretty. Here I present the main takeaways.
I consider the Figure 1 (below) to give the most compelling picture on the absurdity we have arrived to. It presents the yield of the US 10 year treasury bond, the yield of Italian 10 year bond and yields of junk bonds of European and US companies as well as the QE:s of the ECB and the Fed. It implies that the default probability of an average European junk-rated company is smaller than that of the US government. This, naturally, is just absurd and it only tells the tale of a massive central bank induced market distortion. The pricing of risk in the normal sense does not exist in the capital markets anymore.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 20, 2017.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

Have you heard of the depression of 1920-21?
Unless you’re a pretty hard-core economics geek, you probably haven’t.
The most striking aspect of this depression was its duration. It lasted just 18 months. And how did the US get itself out of this sharp economic downturn?
By essentially doing nothing.
A collapse in GDP and production led to a sharp spike in unemployment to double-digit numbers. Modern policymakers would immediately launch economic stimulus. Consider the 2008 crash. On top of government programs such as the $700 billion TARP and $800 billion in fiscal stimulus, the Federal Reserve pumped $4 trillion in new money into the system. For 165 out of 180 months, the Fed pushed interest rates down or held them at rock-bottom levels.
The result? A tepid recovery at best with 2 million fewer ‘breadwinner’ jobs than during the 1990s. Oh. And a whole slew of bubbles waiting to pop.
Lew Rockwell compares this to the how things played out in 1920.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 20, 2017.

Economic Stimulus Alive and Kicking in EU

Janet Yellen and company pretty much followed the script during last week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, raising interest rates another .25 percent and signaling three rate hikes in 2018.
We tend to focus primarily on Federal Reserve actions, but it’s important to remember the Fed isn’t the only central bank game in town. While it nudges interest rates slowly upward, the European Central Bank is standing pat on economic stimulus. And there’s no indication that is going to change in the near future.
With its latest rate hike, the Federal Reserve has pushed the Federal Fund Rate to 1.5%. That’s the highest we’ve seen since 2008. Even at that, we’re still well below the 5.25% peak hit during the last expansion.
Meanwhile, ECB chair Mario Draghi announced back in October that quantitative easing would live on in the EU.

This post was published at Schiffgold on DECEMBER 18, 2017.

Rising Interest Rates Starting To Bite

We have long held that interest rates have been so low (especially real rates) that it will take some time to reach a level for them to really matter and impact markets. The 2-year yield crossing over the S&P500 dividend yield this past week for the first time in the last ten years is unlikely to slow the momentum driving risk markets. Nevertheless, they are getting closer to the zip code – after two years since the tightening cycle began – where they will begin to impact fundamental valuations (what is the fundamental value of Bitcoin?) and the relative pricing of risk assets. Keep it on your radar.
Long-term rates are so utterly distorted by the central banks we are not sure if the markets even pay attention anymore. Pancaking of the yield curve? Not the signal it used to be. Meh!

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 18, 2017.

Explaining My Amazement About Those Turning Bullish On The Banking Sector Now

Recent price action
With the Nasdaq continuing higher this past week, it has now reached our minimum target we were looking for before a pullback may be seen. But, I think the XLF may be providing us with certain clues about how 2018 may turn out. And, it may not be as rosy as many believe. Well, at least the first half of the year.
Anecdotal and other sentiment indications
Interest rates are rising. Tax obligations will likely be dropping. And, many believe this could be a wonderful environment for our banks to thrive. In fact, I am seeing many Wall Street analysts picking the banking sector as one of their favorites for 2018. Well, I certainly cannot concur, based upon what I am seeing in my charts, which provide insight into market sentiment.
As markets move higher and higher, for some reason, people turn more and more bullish. I mean, the drive that most consumers have to find the best price for the goods and services they desire is conspicuously absent from the greater investor community.
Why is it that when you want to buy a high priced product, you will do extensive research to find the lowest price available, yet, when it comes to stocks, most will only buy after it has risen substantially? Have you ever considered this question?
For those of us who have studied markets, we would understand that the reason is because financial markets are emotionally driven, rather than logically driven. As prices rise, investors become more and more convinced that they will simply continue to rise in a linear manner. And, when the greatest percentage of investors maintain this belief, that is often the point in time when the market changes direction.
And, I am seeing a potential turn setting up into January of 2018.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Monday, 18 December 2017.

The Yield Curve And The Boom-Bust Cycle

The central bank is not the root cause of the boom-bust cycle. The root cause is fractional reserve banking (the ability of banks to create money and credit out of nothing). The central bank’s effect on the cycle is to extend the booms, make the busts more severe and prevent the investment errors of the boom from being fully corrected prior to the start of the next cycle. Consequently, there are some important relationships between interest rates and the performance of the economy that would hold with or without a central bank, provided that the practice of fractional reserve banking was widespread. One of these relationships is the link between a reversal in the yield curve from flattening to steepening and the start of an economic recession/depression.
Unfortunately, the data we have at our disposal doesn’t go back anywhere near as far as we’d like, where ‘as far as we’d like’ in this case means 150 years or more. For example, the data we have for the 10year-2year spread, which is our favourite indicator of the US yield curve, only goes back to the mid-1970s.
For a longer-term look at the performance of the US yield curve the best we can do on short notice is use the Fed’s data for the 10year-3month spread, which goes back to the early-1960s. However, going back to the early-1960s is good enough for government work and is still satisfactory for the private sector.
As explained in many previous commentaries, the boom phase of the cycle is characterised by borrowing short-term to lend/invest long-term in order to take advantage of the artificial abundance of cheap financing enabled by the creation of money and credit out of nothing. This puts upward pressure on short-term interest rates relative to long-term interest rates, meaning that it causes the yield curve to flatten.

This post was published at GoldSeek on Sunday, 17 December 2017.