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 –.

The Ghosts of Crashes Past, Recent, and Future as they Appeared on this Blog

It’s not boasting to state plainly that you were right if you are equally direct about your errors. I have until now rightly predicted all of the stock market’s major downturns, starting with the one in 2007 that gave us the Great Recession. The first of those led to the writing of this blog. The next two were predicted and recorded as they happened on this blog, and the latest, whether it proves right or wrong, waits shortly in the future. Each time I made such a prediction here, I bet my blog on it. The blog is still here, but will it continue to be?
I am using the term ‘crash’ loosely in this article because one time I clearly stated the impending plunge would not technically amount to a crash (a sudden drop of more than 20%) but it would be much more significant than just a correction (a decline of 10%) because of how drastically it would change the nature of the market. I’ll show here how it did. The next time, I predicted a ‘crash’ that did not quite turn out as significant as I claimed it would be, but it was an historic event in that the Dow fell further in January than it had ever done in its entire history, and it did so exactly the timing (to the day) that I laid out in advance.
I let myself off easy on that one as being both a hit and a miss because, after all, getting timing of a major plunge right to the exact day as well as the counter-intuitive manner by which it would start on that day is not something one typically sees.
Now we are about to see whether I will survive the prediction I made many months ago for January 2018.
The ghost of crashes past
On September 3rd, 2014, I wrote an article titled ‘Will There be a 2014 Stock Market Crash?’ In that article I predicted something big and wicked appeared to be coming right around the corner:

This post was published at GoldSeek on 28 December 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.

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.

“You All Just Got A Lot Richer” – Trump Confirms The Biggest Problem With The GOP Tax Cut

As we’ve pointed out time and time again, the biggest problem with the Trump tax cuts is that they overwhelmingly benefit the rich. In fact, shortly after the initial nine-page outline of the program was unveiled by Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released an analysis that showed the wealthiest 1% of Americans would accumulate more than 80% of the benefit from the tax bill.
One need only glance at this chart from JP Morgan to see how shabbily middle- and working-class voters are treated by the tax bill.
This is a big problem – particularly if the administration hopes to come anywhere near the 2.9% rate of GDP growth sustained over the next 10 years, a feat that would amount to the longest period without a recession in US history. That’s because when the wealthy receive tax breaks, they tend to save the money instead of putting it to productive use – at least at first – as we discussed last week.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 24, 2017.

“I’m Truly Starting To Fear The Worst For The US Car Industry…”

Authored by Ethan Gaines via A Cold War Relic blog,
I love selling cars, the industry gave me a purpose after the shitty experience of being a corporate cog. But I’m truly starting to fear the worst for the American car industry.
The industry has shown growth since the dark days of the recession but the business model morphed into an ugly free for all.
Automotive credit has become easier in the last few years, and manufacturers are still seeking whatever growth they can come up with in our market at any cost.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 22, 2017.

The West Proves That Poland’s Loyalty Was Worthless

Authored by Andrew Korybko via Oriental Review,
Poland, one of the most loyal EU members, was just stabbed in the back by Brussels after the bloc initiated punitive Article 7 proceedings against it, proving that Warsaw’s unwavering loyalty to the West was worthless this entire time and thus giving Poles a reason to reconsider whether it’s time that they attempted to restore their long-lost Great Power status in Europe.
Many Poles were shocked to hear that Brussels had begun the process to sanction their country, despite knowing in the back of their minds all along that this was a very probable scenario. The EU had been warning Poland for months now that it wouldn’t tolerate the ruling Law & Justice party’s (PiS) judicial reforms, labelling them as ‘anti-democratic’ in spite of the same envisioned changes already being in place in many Western European countries. All that PiS wants to do is make it so that judges are accountable to the people, not to one another, and break the backs of the communist-era clique that still controls the country’s courts. This is crucial in the modern context because PiS follows a EuroRealist ideology that aspires to improve Poland’s sovereign standing in the EU, a vision which is directly at odds with EU-hegemon Germany’s EuroLiberalism that instead wants all member states to be subservient to an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels.
EuroRealism vs. EuroLiberalism
The matter is an urgent one for Poland because PiS’ Civic Platform (PO) predecessors stacked the courts with their allies before leaving power after the ruling party won the first-ever post-communist electoral majority in the country’s history in 2015. PO’s former leader is the current President of the European Council Donald Tusk, and he and his organization are popularly regarded as Germany’s proxies in Poland. PiS, on the other hand, is allied with Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party, with which it shares a strident belief in the conservative ideology of EuroRealism. It had long been the case that EuroLiberalism was on the ascent in Europe ever since the end of the Cold War, but the 2008 global economic recession and the 2015 Migrant Crisis sparked a grassroots movement all across Central and Eastern Europe which has seen the rapid rise of EuroRealism.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 23, 2017.

A Merrier Christmas Sales Season

Our theme that a new business cycle expansion began in 2016 is easy to see when looking at the renewed strength in the basic industrial and material sectors, which we have highlighted in past newsletters. Less obvious – and just as important however – is the persistent consumption trends since the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
While consumers have been the backbone of most expansion cycles, they have been the only GDP component keeping our economy from a long economic winter this decade. Now that the industrial sector is making a comeback with a rare boost to the investment component of GDP, consumers are even more optimistic. Euphoria surged upon Trump’s election and boosted our merriment to finish 2016. It looks like 2017 will be even merrier as the National Retail Federation estimates record spending in their most recent survey after the subdued decade that preceded

This post was published at FinancialSense on 12/22/2017.

Is California Already In Recession?

When it comes to the health of his state’s economy, California Governor Jerry Brown has been walking on eggshells this year.
Twice each year, once in January and again in May, Gov. Jerry Brown warns Californians that the economic prosperity their state has enjoyed in recent years won’t last forever.
Brown attaches his admonishments to the budgets he proposes to the Legislature – the initial one in January and a revised version four months later.
Brown’s latest, issued last May, cited uncertainty about turmoil in the national government, urged legislators to “plan for and save for tougher budget times ahead,” and added:
“By the time the budget is enacted in June, the economy will have finished its eighth year of expansion – only two years shorter than the longest recovery since World War II. A recession at some point is inevitable.”
It’s certain that Brown will renew his warning next month. Implicitly, he may hope that the inevitable recession he envisions will occur once his final term as governor ends in January, 2019, because it would, his own financial advisers believe, have a devastating effect on the state budget.
Unfortunately for Governor Brown, the recession he fears may already have arrived in California.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 2017.

11 Of 19 Bear Market Indicators Have Now Been Triggered: BofA

Two weeks ago, Bank of America tripped recession-watcher alarms, when it announced out that one of its surest bear-market indicators, one which has never had a false negative, had just been triggered. As we said at the time, according to BofA’s Savita Subramanian in November the S&P 500’s three-month earnings estimate revision ratio (ERR) fell for the fourth consecutive month to 0.99 (from 1.03), indicating that for the first time in seven months, there were more negative than positive earnings revisions, needless to say a major negative inflection point in the recent surge in profits.
Why was this significant? Becase as BofA explained, the three-month S&P 500 ERR has been used by the bank as one of its 19 key “bear market signposts”, and with the one-month ERR falling below 1.0 for the second time in six months, this marks the trigger for the 11th bear market signpost. BofA’s ERR rule is triggered when, over a six-month window, all of the following criteria are met: 1) the one-month ERR falls from above 1.0 to below 1.0; 2) the one-month ERR is below 1.0 for two or more months; and 3) the three-month ERR falls below 1.1 for at least one month. Incidentally, the hit rate of the “ERR” bear market indicator, meaning its historical accuracy in predicting a bear market is 100%, the only question is how long it takes. The last time this trigger was set was mid-2003, and here is the punchline from Bank of America:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 2017.

These PE Firms Are About To Get Crushed By Their Subprime Auto Bets

In the aftermath of the ‘great recession,’ private equity firms placed massive bets on subprime auto finance companies with the typical “thesis” going something like this: “well, people have to get to work don’t they?”…genius, if we understand it correctly.
Of course, the “thesis” seemed to be confirmed when auto securitizations performed relatively well throughout the financial crisis, amid a sea of mortgage bonds getting wiped out, and private equity titans were off to the races with wall street titans from Perella Weinberg to Blackstone and KKR scooping stakes in small niche lenders.
Unfortunately, as Bloomberg points out today, the $3 billion bet on subprime auto lenders hasn’t played out precisely to plan as the “well, people have to get to work” thesis has proved to be somewhat less than full proof.
A Perella Weinberg Partners fund has been sitting on an IPO of Flagship Credit Acceptance for two years as bad loan write-offs push it into the red. Blackstone Group LP has struggled to make Exeter Finance profitable, despite sinking almost a half-billion dollars into the lender since 2011 and shaking up the C-suite multiple times. And Wall Street bankers in private say others would love to cash out too, but there’s currently no market for such exits.
Since the turn of the decade, buyout firms, hedge funds and other private investors have staked at least $3 billion on non-bank auto lenders, according to Colonnade. Among PE firms, everyone from Blackstone and KKR & Co. to Lee Equity Partners, Altamont Capital and CIVC Partners waded in.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 21, 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.

Waiting for the Curve to Invert

One of the hallmarks of a Bull market is climbing a ‘Wall of Worry’. Certainly, there is plenty of longer-term optimism with Consumer and Small Business surveys showing extreme confidence. Yet analysts seem increasingly focused on what might go wrong. In the early days of 2009 – 2012 most were certain that the Trillions in money printing by central banks would cause massive inflation and thus contraction level node-bleed interest rates. Recently the worry du jour has been on rising short-term rates that is spiraling our Yield Curve towards inversion. It’s perhaps too widely know that Yield Curve inversion has always given an accurate warning of impending economic recession months later. In ‘waiting for the curve’ too many investors are cautious well before some unforeseeable inversion turning point. This chart clearly shows that historically the ‘current’ Yield Curve is not a concern, in fact, it will remain a positive factor as we approach inversion. Furthermore, even after the ominous flat yield spread is reached where short-term rates are equal to or above long-term yields, we often witness another year or more of positive growth before recessionary contraction pressures break the back of the expansion phase. Based on history, we have at least a couple years of expansion before push comes to shove in halting this 8+ year growth period.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 12/15/2017.

2 Charts That Might Define the Fed’s Jerome Powell Era

In September, we proposed a theory of the Fed and suggested that the FOMC will soon worry mostly about financial imbalances without much concern for recession risks. We reached that conclusion by simply weighing the reputational pitfalls faced by the economists on the committee, but now we’ll add more meat to our argument, using financial flows data released last week. We’ve created two charts, beginning with a look at cumulative, inflation-adjusted asset gains during the last seven business cycles:

According to the way that the Fed defines its policy approach, our first chart stamps a giant ‘Mission Accomplished’ on the unconventional policies of recent years. Recall that policy makers explained their actions with reference to the portfolio balance channel, meaning they were deliberately enticing investors to buy riskier assets than they would otherwise hold. Policy makers hoped to push asset prices higher, and they seem to have succeeded, notwithstanding the usual debates about how much of the price gains should be attributed to central bankers. (See one of our contributions here and a couple of other papers here and here.) But whatever the impetus for assets to rise, it’s obvious that they responded. In fact, judging by the data shown in the chart, policy makers could have checked the higher-asset-prices box long ago, and with a King Size Sharpie.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 12/13/2017.

Is A Recession Looming? Low Unemployment And Declining Treasury Curve Occur Just Before Recessions (And Lousy Wage Growth)

US Real GDP is growing at 2.3% YoY. What’s not to like?
How about the lowest unemployment rate since 2000 and the worst wage ‘recovery’ in modern times? AND a flattening Treasury yield curve?
Yes, we are once more staring into the abyss of a recession where unemployment rates are low (as they seemingly always are just prior to the end of a business cycle). Throw in a skidding Treasury curve and … this is it?

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 11, 2017.