Category Archives: Investment Planning

Here’s What the Next Recession Could Look Like

Bruegel-village-sceneMy Comments: There is no doubt that both politicians and financial people generate success by evoking fear in those to whom they are talking. Sometimes it’s legitimate, but much of the time its BS designed to persuade you to part with your vote and/or your money. What follows here is consistent with my belief that while there will be another downturn, it’ll be nothing like the last one.

 

Corey Stern Jun. 20, 2015

Since World War II, the average expansion period for US gross domestic product has lasted less than five years — and the current expansion is now in its sixth year. Does that mean we’re due for another recession?

The GDP slowdown in Q1 of this year had some economists fearing that a recession was near. But recent strong economic data has calmed those fears.

Recessions don’t just happen because they are overdue; they need to be induced by some event.

In a note Thursday, Dario Perkins of UK-based Lombard Street Research pointed to the stock bubble as the most likely cause for an upcoming “lesser recession.”

“Asset prices have risen sharply over the past five years in response to low long-term interest rates and aggressive central bank stimulus,” Perkins wrote. “This presents an important risk to the global economy, perhaps the most likely trigger for the next recession.”

He added, on a positive note, that unlike the most recent economic downturn, the next one would likely only be tied to stock prices. This is because while stock values have skyrocketed over the past few years, home values in developed economies have made modest gains. Though a stock market crash would be a bad thing, it wouldn’t nearly have the same effect on GDP a housing market crash.

Think dotcom bust, not global credit crisis

Perkins illustrated his point by comparing the effect on GDP from both the dotcom crash and the subprime-mortgage crisis. During the dotcom bust, which didn’t affect housing prices, GDP continued to rise for the most part in the quarters following the stock market peak.

He also pulls research from the Bank of England showing that credit trends, while very similar to the trajectory of the business cycle, have peaks that are twice as large and twice as long. The worst recessions are those that coincide with a credit crunch, as in 2009. But we are still in a credit upswing since then. In other words, the next recession isn’t likely to be accompanied by a credit bust, which will further mitigate the harm done.

The next downturn will also be protected by the still sluggish recovery from 2009. That is, there are fewer imbalances, less systematic risk, less household debt, and less bank leverage.

A more mild recession will be good for central banks that have limited tools left to respond to an economic crisis. Interest rates — already near zero — can only go so much lower, and a very high benchmark would be needed to justify restarting QE.

Perkins explains: Suppose, for example, the next recession is caused by the bursting of a bubble in equity prices. Would QE be able to reverse such a decline? And if central banks were blamed for causing this bubble, would they be willing to try to reflate the bubble with the same policy? Obviously we can only speculate about this, but it is clear both the Fed and the Bank of England were anxious to stop doing QE because they were concerned about its potential impact on financial stability.

In short, while Perkins thinks a stock market crash could cause a recession soon, the effects will be nothing like those felt in 2009.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/what-the-next-recession-could-look-like-2015-6#ixzz3djPsygjj

A Groundwater Crisis?

CharityMy Comments: Jeb Bush may call me intellectually arrogant, and others will think I’m a kook. However, I think anyone hoping to join the elite fraternity of global thought leaders needs to take this very seriously. Imagine the California drought on a global scale.

Most of us have little ability to change and survive if there is no water to drink. It’s pretty basic to the survival of the species. One of the large acquifers included in this study is under the Southeastern United States. You can find the whole article HERE:

By Hilary Hanson – 06/18/2015

The earth’s biggest groundwater basins are being depleted far more quickly than previously believed, according to two new studies by the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

The studies used data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites gathered between 2003 and 2013 to examine the 37 largest aquifers on the planet. Twenty-one of those aquifers have exceeded their sustainability “tipping points,” meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt, said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator in the two studies.

Out of those 21, eight were found to be “overstressed,” meaning there is “nearly no natural replenishment” to restore water used by humans, according to a statement from UCI. Another five were designated “extremely or highly stressed,” signifying that they are “still in trouble” but have “some water flowing back into them.”

Among those classified as “highly stressed” is the California Central Valley Aquifer System. In dry years, groundwater typically supplies 46 percent or more of the state’s water, according to the California Department of Water Resources. California is now in its fourth year of exceptional drought. Many communities rely on groundwater exclusively for their water needs, the department noted.

The world’s most overstressed groundwater source, according to researchers, is the Arabian Aquifer System, which supplies water for more than 60 million people.

Researchers used readings from NASA’s two GRACE satellites, which measure variations in the earth’s gravitational pull, Famiglietti told The Huffington Post. When an area either gains or loses a large volume of water, the change in mass allows the satellites pick up the difference in the gravitational pull. This lets researchers determine the rate at which large aquifers are being depleted.

Though scientists are able to tell how quickly the water is being depleted, they do not know exactly how much is left.

It would be possible to determine the present groundwater supply by drilling into the aquifers, Famiglietti said, but scientists currently lack the funding to do so.

He believes it’s crucial to determine the exact amount of water still in the ground.

“Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left,” he said in the UCI statement.

Read the full studies, which were published Tuesday in Water Resources Research, here and here.

Bond Crash Across the World As Deflation Trade Goes Horribly Wrong

Interest-rates-1790-2012My Comments: You can call me an alarmist if you like, I really don’t care. We are long overdue for a market correction, from both a stock value perspective and interest rate perspective. If you don’t believe it’s coming, I have some nice real estate just east of Daytona Beach I can sell you for peanuts.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard / 10 Jun 2015

The global deflation trade is unwinding with a vengeance. Yields on 10-year Bunds blew through 1pc today, spearheading a violent repricing of credit across the world.

The scale is starting to match the ‘taper tantrum’ of mid-2013 when the US Federal Reserve issued its first gentle warning that quantitative easing would not last forever, and that the long-feared inflexion point was nearing in the international monetary cycle.

Paper losses over the last three months have reached $1.2 trillion. Yields have jumped by 175 basis points in Indonesia, 160 in South Africa, 150 in Turkey, 130 in Mexico, and 80 in Australia.

The epicentre is in the eurozone as the “QE” bet goes horribly wrong. Bund yields hit 1.05pc this morning before falling back in wild trading, up 100 basis points since March. French, Italian, and Spanish yields have moved in lockstep.

A parallel drama is unfolding in America where the Pimco Total Return Fund has just revealed that it slashed its holdings of US debt to 8.5pc of total assets in May, from 23.4pc a month earlier. This sort of move in the staid fixed income markets is exceedingly rare.

The 10-year US Treasury yield – still the global benchmark price of money – has jumped 48 points to 2.47pc in eight trading sessions. “It is capitulation out there, and a lot of pain,” said Marc Ostwald from ADM.

The bond crash has been an accident waiting to happen for months. Money supply aggregates have been surging all this year in Europe and the US, setting a trap for a small army of hedge funds and ‘prop desks’ trying to squeeze a few last drops out of a spent deflation trade. “We we’re too dogmatic,” confessed one bond trader at RBS.

Data collected by Gabriel Stein at Oxford Economics shows that ‘narrow’ M1 money in the eurozone has been growing at a rate of 16.2pc (annualized) over the last six months. You do not have to be monetarist expert to see the glaring anomaly.

Broader M3 money has been rising at an 8.4pc rate on the same measure, a pace not seen since 2008. Economic historians will one day ask how it was possible for €2 trillion of eurozone bonds – a third of the government bond market – to have been trading at negative yields in the early spring of 2015 even as the reflation hammer was already coming down with crushing force.

“It was the greater fool theory. They always thought there would be some other sucker to buy at an even higher price. Now we are returning to sanity,” said Mr Stein.

M3 growth in the US has been running at an 8pc rate this year, roughly in line with post-war averages. The growth scare earlier this year has subsided, as was to be expected from the monetary data.

(If you want to see the charts associated with this article, go HERE)

The economy has weathered the strong dollar shock and seems to have shaken off a four-month mystery malaise. It created 280,000 jobs in May. Bank of America’s GDP ‘tracker’ is running at a 2.9pc rate this quarter.

Capital Economics calculates that hourly earnings have been rising at a rate of 2.9pc over the last three months, the fastest since the six-year expansion began.

Bond vigilantes – supposed to have a sixth sense for incipient inflation, their nemesis – strangely missed this money surge on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet M1 is typically a six-month leading indicator for the economy, and M3 leads by a year or so. The monetary mechanisms may be damaged but it would be courting fate to assume that they have broken down altogether.

Jefferies is pencilling in a headline rate of 3pc by the fourth quarter as higher oil prices feed through. If they are right, we will be facing a radically different economic landscape within six months.

This has plainly been a bond market bubble, one that is unwinding with particular ferocity because new regulations have driven market-makers out of the business and caused liquidity to evaporate. Laurent Crosnier from Amundi puts it pithily: “rather than yield at no risk, bonds have been offering risk at no yield.”

Funds thought they were on to a one-way bet as the European Central Bank launched quantitative easing, buying €60bn of eurozone bonds each month at a time when fiscal retrenchment was causing fresh supply to dry up. They expected Bunds to vanish from the market altogether as Berlin increases its budget surplus to €18bn this year and retires debt.

Instead they have discovered that the reflationary lift from QE overwhelms the ‘scarcity effect’ on bonds. Contrary to mythology – and a lot of muddled statements by central bankers who ought to know better – QE does not achieve its results by driving down yields, at least not if conducted properly and if assets are purchased from outside the banking system. It works through money creation. This in turn lifts yields.

The ECB’s Mario Draghi has achieved his objective. He has (for now) defeated deflation in Europe. After six years of fiscal overkill, monetary contraction, and an economic depression, the region is coming back to life.

How this now unfolds for the world as a whole depends on the pace of tightening by the Fed. Futures contracts are still not pricing in a full rate rise in September. They are strangely disregarding the message from the Fed’s own voting committee – the so-called ‘dots’ – that further rises will follow relatively soon and hard.

The Fed is implicitly forecasting rates of 1.875pc by the end of next year. Markets are betting on 1.25pc, brazenly defying the rate-setters in a strange game of chicken.

The International Monetary Fund warned in April that this mispricing is dangerous, fearing a “cascade of disruptive adjustments” once the Fed actually pulls the trigger.

Nobody knows what will happen when the spigot of cheap dollar liquidity is actually turned off. Dollar debts outside US jurisdiction have ballooned from $2 trillion to $9 trillion in fifteen years, leaving the world more dollarised and more vulnerable to Fed action than at any time since the fixed exchange system of the Gold Standard.

Total debt has risen by 30 percentage points to a record 275pc of GDP in the developed world since the Lehman crisis, and by 35 points to a record 180pc in emerging markets.

The pathologies of “secular stagnation” are still with us. China is still flooding the world with excess manufacturing capacity. The global savings rate is still at an all-time high of 26pc of GDP, implying more of the same savings glut and the same debilitating lack of demand that lies behind the Long Slump.

As Stephen King from HSBC wrote in a poignant report – “The World Economy’s Titanic Problem”- we have used up almost all our fiscal and monetary ammunition, and may face the next global economic downturn with no lifeboats whenever it comes.

The US is perhaps strong enough to withstand the rigours of monetary tightening. It is less clear whether others are so resilient. The risk is that rising borrowing costs in the US will set off a worldwide margin call on dollar debtors – or a “super taper tantrum” as the IMF calls it – that short-circuits the fragile global recovery and ultimately ricochets back into the US itself. In the end it could tip us all back into deflation.

“We at the Fed take the potential international implications of our policies seriously,” said Bill Dudley, head of the New York Fed. Yet in the same speech to a Bloomberg forum six weeks ago he also let slip that interest rates should naturally be 3.5pc once inflation returns to 2pc, a thought worth pondering.

Furthermore, he hinted that Fed may opt for the fast tightening cycle of the mid-1990s, an episode that caught markets badly off guard and led to the East Asia crisis and Russia’s default.

The bond reductions this week are an early warning that it will not be easy to wean the world off six years of zero rates across the G10, and off dollar largesse on a scale never seen before. Central banks have no safe margin for error.

The Left Is So Wrong On Trade

flag USMy Comments: When I first heard about the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and understood the broad outlines of the idea, I had no problem with it. Then along came Robert Reich, someone whose intellect I respect, saying it was terrible and should be scuttled. So I started looking a little closer, mindful I didn’t have access to the actual language.

The issue has now given the GOP another imaginary arrow to put down the White House. To my mind, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are a breath of fresh air, but are pandering to their base just like Ted Cruz is pandering to his base. I’ve concluded, as an economist and financial professional, that it will be, on balance, a good thing. Does it have flaws? Most certainly. Should they be fixed? Maybe.

The 21st Century is evolving rapidly, and there will be unintended consequences, but to argue that not advancing the TPP will somehow miraculously result in jobs returning the US is nuts. Maybe some CEOs will make hundreds of millions; so what? My professional gut tells me the left has overlooked the benefits and the real chance to boost economic growth in this country, in a way that has to happen. They are just as fixated on their personal bias as are those on the right.

May 14, 2015 / Froma Harrop

The left’s success in denying President Obama fast-track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership is ugly to behold. The case put forth by a showboating Sen. Elizabeth Warren — that Obama cannot be trusted to make a deal in the interests of American workers — is almost worse than wrong. It is irrelevant.

The Senate Democrats who turned on Obama are playing a 78 rpm record in the age of digital downloads.

Did you hear their ally, AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, the day after the Senate vote? He denounced TPP for being “patterned after CAFTA and NAFTA.” That’s not so, but never mind.

There’s this skip on the vinyl record that the North American Free Trade Agreement destroyed American manufacturing. To see how wrong that is, simply walk through any Walmart or Target and look for all those “made in Mexico” labels. You won’t find many. But you’ll see “made in China” everywhere.

Many of the jobs that did go to Mexico would have otherwise left for low-wage Asian countries. Even Mexico lost manufacturing work to China.

And what can you say about the close-to-insane obsession with CAFTA? The partners in the 2005 Central American Free Trade Agreement — five mostly impoverished Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic — had a combined economy equal to that of New Haven, Connecticut.

(By the way, less than 10 percent of the AFL-CIO’s membership is now in manufacturing.)

It’s undeniable that American manufacturing workers have suffered terrible job losses. We could never compete with pennies-an-hour wages. Those low-skilled jobs are not coming back. But we have other things to sell in the global marketplace.

In Washington state, for example, exports of everything from apples to airplanes have soared 40 percent over four years, to total nearly $91 billion in 2014, according to The Seattle Times. About 2 in 5 jobs there are now tied to trade.

Small wonder that Sen. Ron Wyden, a liberal Democrat from neighboring Oregon, has strongly supported fast-track authority.

Some liberals oddly complain that American efforts to strengthen intellectual property laws in trade deals protect the profits of U.S. entertainment and tech companies. What’s wrong with that? Should the fruits of America’s creativity (that’s labor, too) be open to plundering and piracy?

One of TPP’s main goals is to help the higher-wage partners compete with China. (The 12 countries taking part include the likes of Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand.) In any case, Congress would get to vote the finished product up or down, so it isn’t as if the public wouldn’t get a say.

But then we have Warren stating with a straight face that handing negotiating authority to Obama would “give Republicans the very tool they need to dismantle Dodd-Frank.”

Huh? Obama swatted down the remark as wild, hypothetical speculation, noting he engaged in a “massive” fight with Wall Street to get the reforms passed. “And then I sign a provision that would unravel it?” he told political writer Matt Bai.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Warren insisted. Yes, in a twisted way, the hard left’s fixation over big corporations has joined the right’s determination to undermine Obama at every pass.

Trade agreements have a thousand moving parts. The U.S. can’t negotiate with the other countries if various domestic interests are pouncing on the details. That’s why every president has been given fast-track authority over the past 80 years or so.

Except Obama.

It sure is hard to be an intelligent leader in this country.

Sine of the Times

200+year interest ratesMy Comments: Many of you have read my comments about interest rates lately. (Yesterday!) For many, many months, the Fed has used its powers to keep them low to encourage economic growth. Now that growth is again endemic, sooner rather than later, pressures will exist to cause interest rates to increase.

The chart at the top of this post shows interest rates in this country going back to the late 1700’s. You can expect the curve to start changing its direction soon. When that happens, you should not own many long term bonds, unless you’re happy watching your net worth decline.

Commentary by Scott Minerd, Guggenheim Partners, April 24, 2015

For the past 30 years, 10-year U.S. Treasury yields have shown a clear downward linear trend, falling from over 10 percent in 1985 to less than 2 percent today. Around this linear trend, yields have also exhibited a fairly consistent cyclical fluctuation, with the size of the fluctuation about 200 basis points from peak to trough, and with the cycle repeating every six years. This fluctuation can be thought of as a sine function, allowing us to model 10-year yields by combining the sine function with the linear trend:Chart-of-the-Week-04232015_600px

If we assume the secular, linear downward trend in yields will continue in the near term, we can predict the short-term outlook based on the model of cyclical fluctuations. This model currently shows that rates are just beginning to undershoot the linear trend, with the model predicting that rates will bottom at 0.82 percent in March 2016. What’s even more interesting is that the average actual bottom in rates has been 73 basis points lower than the model predicts, which would put rates at just 0.09 percent.

Now, I am not necessarily predicting that U.S. 10-year Treasury yields will test zero like its counterpart the German 10-year bund, which currently stands at around 16 basis points and I believe could provide negative yields at some point. What I am saying is that there are many powerful secular and fundamental forces at work that signal the risk to U.S. interest rates remains to the downside.

With Federal Reserve tightening drawing closer, the continuation of this downward trend could be called into question. However, a number of factors, including lower first quarter gross domestic product (GDP) growth, high demand from overseas investors (with yields approaching negative territory in much of Europe), and expectations of a slow liftoff by the Fed, are working to exert downward pressure on U.S. yields, thus limiting any upside in rates in the near term.

The prospect of a stronger dollar as a result of upcoming U.S. rate hikes only serves to heighten foreign demand for U.S. Treasuries. International investors are likely to seek to preempt Fed action and invest while their currency has greater relative strength. Betting against the downward trend in U.S. rates has proved to be a widow-maker trade for many years—and with fundamental and technical factors pointing to downside risks in rates in the near term, there appear to be few reasons to bet against the trend now.

 

Get Ready For The Biggest Margin Call In History

My Comments: Like a broken clock that is right twice every 24 hours, I’ve been talking about the probability of us having a severe market correction for the past 12 months or more. It’s obviously not happened yet.

But every time I turn around, there are new observations from people who understand this better than I do. Most of them agree it’s going to happen. Each of us in our own way, depending on where we are in life and what we expect to achieve with our savings and investments, need to pay attention. There are ways to protect yourself and it won’t cost an arm and a leg to make it happen.

Chris Martenson | Apr. 20, 2015

Economist Steen Jakobsen, Chief Investment Officer of Saxo Bank, believes 2015 will be another “lost year” for the economy. And he predicts the Federal Reserve will indeed start to raise rates later this year, surprising the market and taking the wind out of asset prices.

He recommends building cash and waiting to see how the coming storm – which he calls the “greatest margin call in history” – plays out:
0% interest rates at $0 down has not created the additional momentum to the economy The Fed was hoping for. The trickle down effect, the wealth effect, has instead made for bigger inequality in society. So I think we’re set for a rate hike in either in June or in September. I think this will be the biggest margin call in history on the asset inflation created by the Fed.

That’s where I differ from most Fed watchers. Everyone else is looking at employment, inflation targeting. I don’t think Fed is at all looking at those. They are saying “Listen, the 0% interest rate is getting us absolutely nowhere, we think it’s very, very important for us to move to a more neutral place”. At the same time we will communicate that we are open-minded to additional programs or whatever needs to be done to secure the long term growth of the economy. But that will be on the down side, not on the up side. And as year has progressed, and I’ve said this publicly, I think 2015 is already lost in terms of recovery here. And that will take the market by surprise.

The market will ask in September when the Fed hikes: “Why are you hiking interest rate when growth is below target, inflation below target”? Well, the Fed’s response will be “Because this is the biggest asset inflation we’ve seen in human history and we need to address it“.

What the Fed is saying is that we have unintended consequences of low interest rates. Money is chasing yield: it’s going to real estate making it over-valued, and flowing into the equity markets making them over-valued. And then the Fed says “Well, we have two choices. We can allow the market to run into a bubble, or we can burst the bubble and start all over again”. But they wrongly, in my opinion, believe they can actually micro manage that, even macro manage this. So what they would rather do is “lean up against the market”. To take some of the excess out of prices by going in and telling in the market “We are concerned, we don’t want you to have more leverage. We want you to have less. And we certainly would like to see that market become flat-lined for a while in terms of return.” Which by all metrics of measurements is actually also the expected return of the stock market. Don’t forget three, five and seven years expected return at the present multiples is exactly 0%.

Given this, at a bare minimum, I recommend taking the leverage out of your own portfolio so you sit with a nice pot of cash if the market does correct. If it doesn’t, you’re not really losing out much because again, they expect a return is 0% for the next couple of years.

Some time the best advice to anybody is to do nothing. And of course being, part of an online bank I’m not exactly popular with management for putting this advice out there. But I have to give the advice I believe in and share what I do myself; and I’m certainly reducing whatever equity I have in my portfolio to a minimum. So I’m scaling back to where I was in January last year.

I’ll put it another way. I’m advising a hedge fund in London, analyzing 10,500 stocks from the bottom up. How many do you think of these 10,500 world stocks are cheap? Only 23. Which means 98% of all stocks are either fairly-priced or expensive.

Click the link below to listen to Chris’ interview with Steen Jakobsen (40m:27s)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnp5ETnKylU

The First Sign of an Impending Crash

080519_USEconomy1My Comments: Another in a littany of warnings about pending doom. It gets a little tiresome,doesn’t it? Especially when there are others who swear the signs are there for continued gains. My gut tells me this guy is probably right.

By Jeff Clark Thursday, February 12, 2015

Investors have plenty of reasons to be afraid right now…

There’s the rapidly falling price of oil… The big decline in the value of global currencies… The Russian military action in the Ukraine… And the possibility of the European Union falling apart.

It’s unsurprising that many investors are looking for the stock market to crash. And – as I’ll show you today – we’ve seen the first big warning sign.

But here’s the thing…

Stock markets don’t usually crash when everyone is looking for it to happen. And right now, there are far too many people calling for a crash…

Once we get through this current period of short-term weakness that I warned about on Tuesday, the market is likely to make another attempt to rally to new all-time highs.

This will suck investors in from the sidelines… And get folks to stop worrying.

Then, later this year, when nobody is looking for it… the market can crash.

But for now, just to be on the safe side… Keep an eye on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield…

The 10-year Treasury note yield bottomed on January 30 at 1.65%. Today, it’s at 2%. That’s a 35-basis-point spike – a jump of 21% – in less than two weeks.

And it’s the first sign of an impending stock market crash.

As I explained last September, the 10-year Treasury note yield has ALWAYS spiked higher prior to an important top in the stock market.

For example, the 10-year yield was just 4.5% in January 1999. One year later, it was 6.75% – a spike of 50%. The dot-com bubble popped two months later.

In 2007, rates bottomed in March at 4.5%. By July, they had risen to 5.5% – a 22% increase. The stock market peaked in September.

Let’s be clear… not every spike in Treasury rates leads to an important top in the stock market. But there has always been a sharp spike in rates a few months before the top.

It’s probably still too early to be concerned about a stock market crash… But keep an eye on the 10-year Treasury note yield. If it continues to rise over the next few months, then you can start to worry.

Good investing,

Jeff Clark