Category Archives: Bonds

Fed Warns Markets “Vulnerable to Elevated Valuations” [charts]

Hussman Predicts Massive Losses As Cycle Completes After Fed Warns Markets “Vulnerable to Elevated Valuations”

Buried deep in today’s FOMC Minutes was a warning to the equity markets that few noticed…

This overall assessment incorporated the staff’s judgment that, since the April assessment, vulnerabilities associated with asset valuation pressures had edged up from notable to elevated, as asset prices remained high or climbed further, risk spreads narrowed, and expected and actual volatility remained muted in a range of financial markets…

According to another view, recent rises in equity prices might be part of a broad-based adjustment of asset prices to changes in longer-term financial conditions, importantly including a lower neutral real interest rate, and, therefore, the recent equity price increases might not provide much additional impetus to aggregate spending on goods and services.

According to one view, the easing of financial conditions meant that the economic effects of the Committee’s actions in gradually removing policy accommodation had been largely offset by other factors influencing financial markets, and that a tighter monetary policy than otherwise was warranted.

Roughly translated means – higher equity prices are driving financial conditions to extreme ‘easiness’ and The Fed needs to slow stock prices to regain any effective control over monetary conditions.

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/08/14/20170816_FOMC11.png

And with that ‘explicit bubble warning’, it appears the ‘other’ side of the cycle, that Hussman Funds’ John Hussman has been so vehemently explaining to investors, is about to begin…

Nothing in history leads me to expect that current extremes will end in something other than profound disappointment for investors. In my view, the S&P 500 will likely complete the current cycle at an index level that has only 3-digits. Indeed, a market decline of -63% would presently be required to take the most historically reliable valuation measures we identify to the same norms that they have revisited or breached during the completion of nearly every market cycle in history.

The notion that elevated valuations are “justified” by low interest rates requires the assumption that future cash flows and growth rates are held constant. But any investor familiar with discounted cash flow valuation should recognize that if interest rates are lower because expected growth is also lower, the prospective return on the investment falls without any need for a valuation premium.

At present, however, we observe not only the most obscene level of valuation in history aside from the single week of the March 24, 2000 market peak; not only the most extreme median valuations across individual S&P 500 component stocks in history; not only the most extreme overvalued, overbought, over bullish syndromes we define; but also interest rates that are off the zero-bound, and a key feature that has historically been the hinge between overvalued markets that continue higher and overvalued markets that collapse: widening divergences in internal market action across a broad range of stocks and security types, signaling growing risk-aversion among investors, at valuation levels that provide no cushion against severe losses.

We extract signals about the preferences of investors toward speculation or risk-aversion based on the joint and sometimes subtle behavior of numerous markets and securities, so our inferences don’t map to any short list of indicators. Still, internal dispersion is becoming apparent in measures that are increasingly obvious. For example, a growing proportion of individual stocks falling below their respective 200-day moving averages; widening divergences in leadership (as measured by the proportion of individual issues setting both new highs and new lows); widening dispersion across industry groups and sectors, for example, transportation versus industrial stocks, small-cap stocks versus large-cap stocks; and fresh divergences in the behavior of credit-sensitive junk debt versus debt securities of higher quality. All of this dispersion suggests that risk-aversion is rising, no longer subtly. Across history, this sort of shift in investor preferences, coupled with extreme overvalued, overbought, over bullish conditions, has been the hallmark of major peaks and subsequent market collapses.

The chart below shows the percentage of U.S. stocks above their respective 200-day moving averages, along with the S&P 500 Index. The deterioration and widening dispersion in market internals is no longer subtle.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/08/14/20170816_huss.png

Market internals suggest that risk-aversion is now accelerating. The most extreme variants of “overvalued, overbought, over bullish” conditions we identify are already in place.

https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/08/14/20170816_huss1_0.png

A market loss of [1/2.70-1 =] -63% over the completion of this cycle would be a rather run-of-the-mill outcome from these valuations. All of our key measures of expected market return/risk prospects are unfavorable here. Market conditions will change, and as they do, the prospective market return/risk profile will change as well. Examine all of your investment exposures, and ensure that they are consistent with your actual investment horizon and tolerance for risk.

Source: ZeroHedge

Greenspan Nervous About Bond Bubble

https://tse4.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.y37-EDY0aF-MRQCrDknuwQERDk&w=256&h=200&c=7&qlt=90&o=4&pid=1.7Equity bears hunting for excess in the stock market might be better off worrying about bond prices, Alan Greenspan says. That’s where the actual bubble is, and when it pops, it’ll be bad for everyone.

“By any measure, real long-term interest rates are much too low and therefore unsustainable,” the former Federal Reserve chairman said in an interview. “When they move higher they are likely to move reasonably fast. We are experiencing a bubble, not in stock prices but in bond prices. This is not discounted in the marketplace.”

While the consensus of Wall Street forecasters is still for low rates to persist, Greenspan isn’t alone in warning they will break higher quickly as the era of global central-bank monetary accommodation ends. Deutsche Bank AG’s Binky Chadha says real Treasury yields sit far below where actual growth levels suggest they should be. Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, says it’s only a matter of time before inflationary pressures hit the bond market.

“The real problem is that when the bond-market bubble collapses, long-term interest rates will rise,” Greenspan said. “We are moving into a different phase of the economy — to a stagflation not seen since the 1970s. That is not good for asset prices.”

Stocks, in particular, will suffer with bonds, as surging real interest rates will challenge one of the few remaining valuation cases that looks more gently upon U.S. equity prices, Greenspan argues. While hardly universally accepted, the theory underpinning his view, known as the Fed Model, holds that as long as bonds are rallying faster than stocks, investors are justified in sticking with the less-inflated asset.

https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/ihXc5XfbOfv0/v2/800x-1.png

Right now, the model shows U.S. stocks at one of the most compelling levels ever relative to bonds. Using Greenspan’s reference of an inflation-adjusted measure of bond yields, the gap between the S&P 500’s earnings yield of 4.7 percent and the 10-year yield of 0.47 percent is 21 percent higher than the 20-year average. That justifies records in major equity benchmarks and P/E ratios near the highest since the financial crisis.

If rates start rising quickly, investors would be advised to abandon stocks apace, Greenspan’s argument holds. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Economist David Kostin names the threat of rising inflation as one reason he isn’t joining Wall Street bulls in upping year-end estimates for the S&P 500.

While persistently low inflation would imply a fair value of 2,650 on the benchmark gauge, the more likely case is a narrowing of the gap between earnings and bond yields, Kostin says. He is sticking to his estimate that the index will finish the year at 2,400, implying a drop of about 3 percent from current levels.

That’s no slam dunk, as stocks have proven resilient to bond routs so far in the eight-year bull market. While the 10-year Treasury yield has peaked above 3 percent just once in the past six years, sudden spikes in yields in 2013 and after the 2016 election didn’t slow stocks from their grind higher.

Those shocks to the bond market proved short-lived, though, as tepid U.S. growth combined with low inflation to keep real and nominal long-term yields historically low.

That era could end soon, with the Fed widely expected to announce plans for unwinding its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and central banks around the world talking about scaling back stimulus.

“The biggest mispricing in our view across asset classes is government bonds,’’ Deutsche Bank’s Chadha said in an interview. “We should start to see inflation move up in the second half of the year.”

By Oliver Renick and Liz McCormick | Bloomberg

LIBOR Index To Be Phased Out By 2021

https://i0.wp.com/www.occupy.com/sites/default/files/medialibrary/ss-120718-libor-scandal-04.ss_full.jpg

Unofficially, Libor died some time in 2012 when what until then was a giant “conspiracy theory” – namely that the world’s most important reference index, setting the price for $350 trillion in loans, credit and derivative securities had been rigged for years – was confirmed. Officially, Libor died earlier today when the top U.K. regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority which regulates Libor, said the scandal-plagued index would be phased out and that work would begin for a transition to alternate, and still undetermined, benchmarks by the end of 2021.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/07/20/20170727_libor_0.jpg

As Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, explained the decision to eliminate Libor was made as the amount of interbank lending has hugely diminished and as a result “we do not think markets can rely on Libor continuing to be available indefinitely.”

He is right: whether as a result of central banks effectively subsuming unsecured funding needs, or simply due to trader fears of being caught “red-handed” for simply trading it, the number of transactions directly involving Libor have virtually ground to a halt. According to the WSJ, “in one case banks setting the Libor rate for one version of the benchmark executed just 15 transactions in that currency and duration for the whole of 2016.”

As the WSJ adds, the U.K. regulator has the power to compel banks to submit data to calculate the benchmark. “But we do not think it right to ask, or to require, that panel banks continue to submit expert judgments indefinitely,” he said, adding that many banks felt “discomfort” at the current set up. The FCA recently launched an exercise to gather data from 49 banks to see which institutions are most active in the interbank lending market.

Commeting on the decision, NatWest Markets’ Blake Gwinn told Bloomberg that the decision was largely inevitable: “There had never been an answer as to how you get market participants to adopt a new benchmark. It was clear at some point authorities were going to force them. The FCA can compel people to participate in Libor. What can ICE do if they’ve lost the ability to get banks to submit Libor rates?”

Gwinn then mused that “in the meantime, what’s today’s trade? The U.K. has Sonia, but the U.S. doesn’t have a market. There’s still so much uncertainty at this point” Yesterday, “a Libor swap meant something. Now you can’t rely on swaps for balance-sheet hedging.”

And so the inevitable decision which many had anticipated, was finally made: after 2021 Libor will be no more.

Below is a brief history of what to many was and still remains the most important rate:

  • 1986: First Libor rates published.
  • 2008: WSJ articles show concerns with Libor. Regulators begin probes.
  • 2012: Barclays becomes first bank to settle Libor-rigging allegations. U.K. regulator pledges to reform the benchmark.
  • 2014: Intercontinental Exchange takes control of administering Libor.
  • 2015: Trader Tom Hayes gets 14-year prison sentence after Libor trial.
  • 2017: U.K. regulator plans to phase in Libor alternatives over five years.

Yet while anticipated, the surprising announcement of Libor’s upcoming death has taken many traders by surprise, not least because so many egacy trades still exist. As BLoomberg’s Cameron Crise writes, “There is currently an open interest of 170,000 eurodollar futures contracts expiring in 2022 and beyond – contracts that settle into a benchmark that will no longer exist. What are existing contract holders and market makers supposed to do?

Then there is the question of succession: with over $300 trillion in derivative trades, and countless billion in floating debt contracts, currently referening Libor, the pressing question is what will replace it, and how will the transition be implemented seamlessly?

The FCA’s CEO didn’t set out exactly what a potential replacement for Libor might look like but a group within the Bank of England is already working on potential replacements. “However, any shift will have to be phased in slowly.”

Bailey said it was up to the IBA and banks to decide how to move Libor-based contracts to new benchmarks. After 2021 IBA could choose to keep Libor running, but the U.K. regulator would no longer compel banks to submit data for the benchmark.

The Fed has already been gearing up for the replacement: last month the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a group made up of the largest US banks, voted to use a benchmark based on short-term loans known as repurchase agreements or “repo” trades, backed by Treasury securities, to replace U.S. dollar Libor. The new rate is expected to be phased in starting next year, and the group will hold its inaugural meeting in just days, on August 1.

The problem with a repo-based replacement, however, is that it will take the placidity of the existing reference rate, and replace it with a far more volatile equivalent. As Crise points, out, “since 2010 the average daily standard deviation of three month dollar Libor is 0.7 basis points. The equivalent measure for GC repo is 4.25 bps. That’s a completely different kettle of fish.”

So as the countdown to 2021 begins, what replaces Libor is not the only question: a bigger problem, and perhaps the reason why Libor was so irrelevant since the financial crisis, is that short-term funding costs since the financial crisis were virtually non-existent due to ZIRP and NIRP. Now that rates are once again rising, the concern will be that not does a replacement index have to be launched that has all the functionality of Libor (ex rigging of course), but that short-term interest rates linked to the Libor replacement will be inevitably rising. And, for all those who follow funding costs and the upcoming reduction in liquidity in a world of hawkish central banks, this means that volatility is guaranteed. In other words, this forced transition is coming in the worst possible time.

Then again, as many have speculated, with the next recession virtually assured to hit well before 2021, it is much more likely that this particular plan, like so many others, will be indefinitely postponed long before the actual deadline.

Source: ZeroHedge

Exploring The Death Spiral Of Financialization [video]

Each new policy destroys another level of prudent fiscal/financial discipline.

The primary driver of our economy–financialization–is in a death spiral. Financialization substitutes expansion of interest, leverage and speculation for real-world expansion of goods, services and wages.

Financial “wealth” created by leveraging more debt on a base of real-world collateral that doesn’t actually produce more goods and services flows to the top of the wealth-power pyramid, driving the soaring wealth-income inequality we see everywhere in the global economy.

As this phantom wealth pours into assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate, it has pushed the value of these assets into the stratosphere, out of reach of the bottom 95% whose incomes have stagnated for the past 16 years.

The core problem with financialization is that it requires ever more extreme policies to keep it going. These policies are mutually reinforcing, meaning that the total impact becomes geometric rather than linear. Put another way, the fragility and instability generated by each new policy extreme reinforces the negative consequences of previous policies.

These extremes don’t just pile up like bricks–they fuel a parabolic rise in systemic leverage, debt, speculation, fragility, distortion and instability.

This accretive, mutually reinforcing, geometric rise in systemic fragility that is the unavoidable output of financialization is poorly understood, not just by laypeople but by the financial punditry and professional economists.

Gordon Long and I cover the policy extremes which have locked our financial system into a death spiral in a new 50-minute presentation, The Road to Financialization. Each “fix” that boosts leverage and debt fuels a speculative boom that then fizzles when the distortions introduced by financialization destabilize the real economy’s credit-business cycle.

Each new policy destroys another level of prudent fiscal/financial discipline.

The discipline of sound money? Gone.

The discipline of limited leverage? Gone.

The discipline of prudent lending? Gone.

The discipline of mark-to-market discovery of the price of collateral? Gone.

The discipline of separating investment and commercial banking, i.e. Glass-Steagall? Gone.

The discipline of open-market interest rates? Gone.

The discipline of losses being absorbed by those who generated the loans? Gone.

And so on: every structural source of discipline has been eradicated, weakened or hollowed out. Financialization has consumed the nation’s seed corn, and the harvest of instability is ripening in the fields of finance and the real economy alike.

Source: ZeroHedge

Bob Rodriguez: “We Are Witnessing The Development Of A Perfect Storm”

Bob Rodriguez: “We Are Witnessing The Development Of A Perfect Storm”

Robert L. Rodriguez was the former portfolio manager of the small/mid-cap absolute-value strategy (including FPA Capital Fund, Inc.) and the absolute-fixed-income strategy (including FPA New Income, Inc.) and a former managing partner at FPA, a Los Angeles-based asset manager. He retired at the end of 2016, following more than 33 years of service.

He won many awards during his tenure. He was the only fund manager in the United States to win the Morningstar Manager of the Year award for both an equity and a fixed income fund and is tied with one other portfolio manager as having won the most awards. In 1994 Bob won for both FPA Capital and FPA New Income, and in 2001 and 2008 for FPA New Income.

The opinions expressed reflect Mr. Rodriguez’ personal views only and not those of FPA.

 I spoke with Bob on June 22.

In a recent quarterly market commentary Jeremy Grantham posited that reversion to the mean may not be working as it has in the past. What are your thoughts on mean reversion?

There will be a reversion to the mean. We are in a very difficult and challenging time for active managers, and in particular, value style managers. Many of these managers are fighting for their economic lives.

Given that I am no longer involved professionally in managing money, I believe the standards in the industry are being compromised; monetary policy has so totally distorted the capital markets. You are now into the eighth year of a period that is unprecedented in the likes of human history.

The closest policy period to what we have now would have been between 1942 and 1951, when the Fed and Treasury had an accord to keep interest rates low. Interest rates were artificially held lower to help finance the World War II effort. With the renewal of inflation after the war, a policy war developed between the Treasury and the Fed on the continuation of a low interest rate policy. The Treasury-Fed of 1951 brought this period to a close. But that is the only time we’ve had a period of nine years of manipulated, price-controlled interest rates.

This was a historical policy I discussed with my colleagues upon my return from sabbatical in 2011: what could unfold were controlled, manipulated and distorted pricing that could disrupt the normal functioning of the capital markets. The historical cycles that Jeremy would be referring to that entailed a reversion to the mean could be distorted, for a period of time, by this type of monetary policy action.

But I do not believe the economic laws of gravity have been permanently changed.

At a Grant’s Conference last year Steven Bregman asserted that indexation in general and ETFs in particular were factors in the under-performance of active managers and are potentially a bubble. Are you familiar with his work and what are your thoughts on ETFs? What is driving the flow of mutual fund assets to passive strategies and what can or should fund companies do in the face of this trend?

I go back to a speech I gave in 2009, Reflections and Outrage, and buried within that speech is a section that said that if active managers did not get their act together then the likelihood would be that passive strategies would continue to take market share. When you have a market that is distorted by zero interest rate policy, David Tepper said it very well many years ago, “Well, you’ve got to ride it.”

It’s a rocket ship that’s going up. If you are fully invested in the right areas, you have a shot at out-performing. However, if you are an active manager who has a valuation discipline, given the valuation excesses in the capital markets now and that have been developing for the past several years, then an elevated level of liquidity would be held, if you were allowed to do so. As such, you will likely underperform the market.

Active managers have not demonstrated a value-add to an appreciable extent over the last 20 years. When I look back at what happened prior to 2000, if an active growth stock manager could not see the most extraordinary distortion and elevated, speculative market in history, when will they? In the lead up to the 2007-2009 financial crisis, many value-style managers did not cover themselves in glory either. If you looked at what their major stock ownership concentrations were, they were very much in large banks and various types of financial institutions that were going to get crushed in the credit downturn. If they couldn’t acknowledge or identify the greatest credit excess in history, when will they?

I’m picking on both growth- and value-style managers for missing two of the great bubbles in history. This miss led to capital destruction. Now we have a clueless Fed, in my opinion, that has never known what a bubble is beforehand. It is accentuating one that has been developing as a result of its policy insanity of QE. Markets are going straight up predicated on it.

The public looks at these outcomes and says, “Why should I pay higher fees to managers who can’t outperform or can’t even identify a major speculative blow off. I might as well be fully invested. I might as well be in an ETF or index fund.”

Thus, since 2007, indexing or passive activities have risen from approximately 7% to 9% of total managed assets to almost 40%. As you shift assets from active managers to passive managers, they buy an index. The index is capital weighed, which means more and more money is going into fewer and fewer stocks.

We’ve seen this act before. If you didn’t own the nifty 50 stocks in the early 1970s, you underperformed and, thus, money continued to go into them. If you were a growth stock manager in 1998-1999 and you were not buying “net” stocks, you underperformed and were fired. More and more money went into fewer and fewer stocks. Today you have a similar case with the FANG stocks. More and more money is being deployed into a narrower and narrower area. In each case, this trend did not ended well.

When the markets finally do break, as they always have historically, ETFs and index funds will be destabilizing influences, because fear will enter the marketplace. A higher percentage of assets will be in indexed funds and ETFs. Investors will hit the “sell” button. All you have to ask is two words, “To whom?” To whom do I sell? Index funds and ETFs don’t carry any cash reserves. The active managers have been diminished in size, and most of them aren’t carrying high levels of liquidity for fear of business risk.

We are witnessing the development of a “perfect storm.”

The Wall Street Journal has reported that central banks from Switzerland to South Africa are investing their reserves in equities. How should investors respond to the participation in the price discovery system by players that can print money and may not be performance-driven?

The last thing I ever wanted to do as a professional was allocate capital to areas that government was buying. With governmental-driven decisions there are virtually no penalties for bad decision making. Look at the rank stupidity of Dodd-Frank, or Paulson, Bernanke, and Greenspan. They were clueless before each of the last crises. They helped drive a system off the tracks. What penalty have they paid? None! They get to keep their pensions.

But when you have central banks deploying capital and their cost of money is zero, they destroy the capital-asset pricing mechanism; they destroy comparability; the distortions continue.

As a dedicated contrarian, the last place I want to invest money is where governments are deploying the capital because they are so totally distorting the market.

How did the discipline of value investing as you practiced it at FPA, change over the course of your career, particularly since the financial crisis?

It’s an interesting question and I’ve asked myself that many times.

The markets moved more slowly prior to this century – the ebbs and flows, the decision-making and the conveyance of information. With the advance of electronics and the internet, the speed of dissemination of news accelerated. I don’t believe that judgments have improved; just the speed has accelerated and the time frames of patience have shortened.

I bet my entire business in the spring of 1998 when for the prior 11 or 12 years I ran my mutual fund, the FPA Capital Fund, on fumes, with 1% to 2% cash and sometimes even less than 1%. Had you held liquidity, with short-term bond yields in the high-single to double-digits, you would have underperformed the stock market by anywhere from 900 to 1,100 basis points. By 1998 the consultant’s mantra was to be “fully invested.”

I went out in the spring of 1998 arguing that the equity market was becoming excessively priced, and it continued to do so. I sought permission to move my liquidity limits from 7% to 10% which were the typical maximums, to upward of 30%. I had to fight every client on that. By the spring of 2000, without losing any money and avoiding the carnage, I took a little bit over a 50% reduction in my assets under management. I got fired. In 2007-2009, I did far more preparation and communication prior to that crisis and entered it with 45% cash.

In the first phase of a debacle like what went on in the financial crisis, it doesn’t matter whether you are a virgin or are the opposite. When they raid the entertainment house and you happen to be a person walking by, just out of the church right next door, you get caught with all of the people there.

In the aftermath the police discover, “Oh, you shouldn’t be here.” Well, it’s the same way in a crash; virtually everything gets hit. Then in the second and third stages, the real values start to unfold and you get a greater differentiation. That is what happened with my fund between 2007 and 2009 and subsequently.

A cash level of 45% was a real tough strategy for clients to handle. I had one client say, “Please stay fully invested for my account and just do your thing with the others.” I said, “No, the price you ask me to pay is too high. By being fully invested managing your money, I will contaminate my thinking, which will negatively affect my other clients. I’m sorry, that’s a price too high to pay.” I said, “Where do you want me to return the money?” He said, “Let me think about it.” The next day his response was, “Okay, you’ve got flexibility.” But I still took over a 50% hit in redemptions during that crisis.

Looking back at these two prior major cycles, it is far more difficult for a value manager to hold liquidity today in light of the policies that are being deployed. These are the worst fiscal and monetary policies in human history.

If I were still professionally managing money, despite my background of pain-and-suffering from being redeemed, my liquidity allocation would be north of 60% today.

So-called “smart-beta” products have become very popular, particularly those that incorporate a quantitatively-driven value strategy based on the Fama-French factor models. For investors that want a value-oriented portfolio, what concerns should they have with these strategies?

I have never seen a quantitative strategy succeed longer term. They are predicated on models. The models are predicated on history. When history changes, they have to develop a new factor model.

We witnessed this in the last cycle. There was an article in the WSJ quoting a quant manager who said on a Wednesday, we had experienced a 1-in-10,000 year event. On Thursday, we had a 1-in-10,000 year event. On Friday we had a 1-in-10,000 year event. A former colleague wrote an email that weekend that said, “I have a quick question to ask. On Monday, are we safe for the next 30,000 years?”

All of these strategies are meant to enhance or give an essence of how you are going to try and minimize risk and enhance return. When you are in an environment where the lead entity, the Federal Reserve, has its foot on the scale and is distorting the information coming out of the capital markets, where interest rates can go to zero, what is the proper hurdle rate for budgetary or capital allocation decisions? These actions distort the price comparison or discovery process in the capital asset-pricing model. This is highly disturbing.

By the way, I wrote a piece in 2008 before the Fed even knew they were going to balloon their balance sheet. It said they would have to increase the balance sheet by at least a trillion to a trillion and a half. They hadn’t got to that realization yet.

After 45 years of watching the Fed, the only Fed chairman that was worth spit was Paul Volcker. The last great central banker that we had in the last 110 years other than Volcker was J.P. Morgan. The difference is, when Morgan tried to contain the 1907 crisis, he wasn’t using zeros and ones of imaginary computer money; he was using his own capital. As long as you have anointed centralized bureaucratic decision makers like the Federal Reserve, that in many ways is similar to the concentrated decision making structure of the former Soviet Union, decisions will be late and generally wrong. The Fed is a large organization and like all large organizations, there are internal pressures where they try to come to a consensus, and so they do.

This is not how you make your greatest decisions.

If there is one piece of investment advice you would offer to a young professional embarking on a career now, what would that be?

I will give the same advice that I got when I was a very young professional back in 1973. I was two years into the field and a gentleman spoke before my investment class. After everybody had walked out, I walked up to Mr. Munger and I asked him, “Sir, if I could only do one thing that would make myself a better investment professional, what would you recommend?” He responded, “Read history, read history, read history.” I have done that over the years. Had you read about the banking crisis of 1907 and what preceded it in the 1890s, you would have recognized it in a form in 2007.

If there is one piece of management advice that you could offer to that same person, what would that the?

You must have two things – discipline and integrity. Compromise either and you will fail.

That’s true in all walks of life.

Yes, but it’s very easy to use the justification that this time is different.

The world has changed. I gave a speech in 2001 to some pension advisors. I said, “Look at you people out there.” I hadn’t shown them my chart yet but I said, “Look at what we have just gone through. We had the greatest, the highest level of computerization in the history of man, the most timely acquisition to information, the highest percentage of advanced degreed professionals and college graduates in the field, and we got an outcome no different than 1974, 1929, 1907. There is something more here going on.”

Then I held up two hand-written stick figures – I was not a good artist. They were cows and they were talking to one another. One cow said to the other, “Glad we’re not part of the herd.” The other cow said, “Yea.” The next exhibit was an aerial shot. It showed the two cows are in a ravine, so they can only see themselves. But all around them is the herd. I looked out and said, “People, whether you realize it or not, you are part of the herd. All you have to understand is one word, now let’s say it all together. Moo.” What a way to influence friends and make new clients.

How are you investing your personal assets?

I am at my lowest exposure to equities since 1971. They represent less than a fraction of one percent. Liquidity is north of 65%, all in Treasury-type securities, nothing beyond a three-year term. I do not trust what is going on fiscally or monetarily, and I’ll circle back on this in a moment. The balance is in rare fully paid-for physical assets.

Circling back, after I stepped down from daily money management at the end of 2009, I took a sabbatical. One of my goals was to meet a gentleman by the name of David Walker, the former comptroller general of the U.S. He wrote a book called Comeback America that I read in January of 2010. I sent my review to Dave. Two days later Dave called me and said, “My name is Dave Walker. Is this Bob Rodriguez? If so, I want to thank you for your review.” That’s how we came to know one another. I’d used his work for over 10 years. For the next three and a half years I was a sponsor of his program, Comeback America. He closed it down in 2013, a complete unmitigated failure.

Think about the budgetary battles of 2011; the only thing that was cut was defense. Two thirds of the expenditure cuts that were going to get controlled under the system would not occur until after 2016. Funny how that works. In the presidential debates, only one candidate used a word that I think has now left the English language, “sequester.” That was Bush and it was to eliminate sequestration to raise defense spending.

The 2016 election was one of the most important elections in the last 80 years. Back in 2009 I said if we do not get our economic house in order sometime between 2014 and 2018, we could see a crisis of equal or greater magnitude than the 2007-2009 crisis. I also argued that we would have a substandard recovery that would be no better than 2% real GDP growth for as far as the eye can see. Productivity and capital spending would be substandard. All of those have played out.

Here we are in 2017. I have seen absolutely nothing that would give me any degree of confidence that Washington will get its act together. We are into a period of expanding deficits. We are hitting a time where the entitlements are worsening in terms of their funding status. We are in a decade that is unprecedented from anything that we’ve seen before with monetary policy and fiscal policy.

Why on Earth should I allocate capital into a system where the scales are completely manipulated, price discovery is distorted, and the Fed doesn’t have a clue what’s going on? They’ve missed every economic forecast for the last nine years straight. Why would anybody pay any attention to what those people are doing?

I have confidence in one thing. The Fed will blow it.

My thoughts are very much analogous to those of Lacy Hunt. Where Lacy and I part company is what happens after the deformation hits. He would argue that we will be in a dis- or deflationary period for an extended period of time; therefore, you should own 30- and 20-year Treasury bonds.

I’m not so sure about that scenario. It occurred in Japan because it has a very cohesive society. That is not the case in the United States or in Europe. Our patience will be far shorter. At some point, in no more than one to two years, the Fed would likely panic and panic big time, and we will see QE on steroids. We will see monetary inflation. Lacy and I have a similar view. But the really big question is what the outcomes will be on the other side of this mess. Both of us could be very right, or very wrong, or partially in between.

I am managing my estate in a hedged fashion because what we are going through is without any precedent in human history. How can anybody have confidence that their particular view is the right view?

Source: ZeroHedge

China Says “Don’t Panic” As Yield Curve Inversion Deepens Amid Liquidity Collapse

The curious case of the inverted yield curve in China’s $1.7 trillion bond market is worsening as WSJ notes that an odd combination of seasonally tight funding conditions and economic pessimism pushed long-dated yields well below returns on one-year bonds, the shortest-dated government debt.

10-Year China bond yields fell to 3.55% overnight as the 1-Year yield rose to 3.61% – the most inverted in history, more so than in June 2013, when an unprecedented cash crunch jolted Chinese markets and nearly brought the nation’s financial system to its knees.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/06/11/20170613_china2_0.jpgThis inversion is being exacerbated by seasonally tight funding conditions.

June is traditionally a tight time for banks because of regulatory checks, and, as Bloomberg reports, this year, lenders are grappling with an official campaign to reduce the level of borrowing as well.

Wholesale funding costs climbed to the most expensive in history, and the 30-day Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate has jumped 51 basis points this month to the highest level in more than two years.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/06/11/20170613_china1_0.jpg

And this demand for liquidity comes as Chinese banks’ excess reserve ratio, a gauge of liquidity in the financial system, fell to 1.65 percent at the end of March, according to data from the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The index measures the money that lenders park at the PBOC above and beyond the mandatory reserve requirement, usually to draw risk-free interest.

“Major banks don’t have much extra funds, as is shown by the excess reserve data,”
analysts at China Minsheng Banking Corp.’s research institute wrote in a June 5 note. Lenders have become increasingly reliant on wholesale funding and central bank loans this year, they said.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2017/06/11/20170613_china3_0.jpg

As The Wall Street Journal reports, an inverted yield curve defies common understanding that bonds requiring a longer commitment should compensate investors with a higher return. It usually reflects investor pessimism about a country’s long-term growth and inflation prospects.

“But the curve inversion we are seeing right now is one with Chinese characteristics and it’s different from the previous one in the U.S.,” said Deng Haiqing, chief economist at JZ Securities.

The current anomaly in the Chinese bond market is partly the result of mild inflation and expectations of a slowing economy, Mr. Deng said. “At the same time, short-term interest rates will likely stay elevated because the authorities will keep borrowing costs high so as to facilitate the deleveraging campaign,” he said.

Notably, it appears officials are concerned at the potential for fallout from this crisis situation.

In an article published Saturday, the central bank’s flagship newspaper, Financial News, said that the severe credit crunch four years ago won’t repeat itself this month because the central bank will keep liquidity conditions “not too loose but also not too tight.”


Chinese financial markets tend to be particularly jittery come June due to a seasonal surge of cash demand
arising from corporate-tax payments and banks’ need to meet regulatory requirements on capital.

On Sunday, the official Xinhua News Agency ran a similar commentary that sought to stabilize markets expectations. “Don’t panic,” it urged investors.

Sounds like exactly the time to ‘panic’ if your money is in this.

Source: ZeroHedge

Yields Acting Like Economy Is Heading Into Recession

Treasury Yields and Rate Hike Odds Sink: Investigating the Yield Curve

The futures market is starting to question the June rate hike thesis. For its part, the bond market is behaving as if the Fed is hiking the economy into a recession. Here are some pictures.

June Rate Hike Odds

https://mishgea.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/fedwatch-2017-05-17.png?w=768&h=693

No Hike in June Odds

  • Month ago – 51%
  • Week Ago – 12.3%
  • Yesterday – 21.5%
  • Today – 35.4%

10-Year Treasury Note Yield

https://mishgea.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/10-year-2017-05-171.png?w=625

The yield on the 10-year treasury note doubled from the low of 1.32% during the week of July 2, 2016, to the high 2.64% during the week of December 10, 2016.

Since March 11, 2017, the yield on the 10-year treasury note declined 40 basis points to 2.24%.

30-Year Long Bond

https://mishgea.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/30-year-2017-05-17.png?w=625

The yield on the 30-year treasury bond rose from the low of 2.09% during the week of July 2, 2016, to the high of 3.21% during the week of March 11, 2017.

Since March 11, 2017, the yield on the 30-year treasury bond declined 29 basis points to 2.92%

1-Year Treasury Note Yield

https://mishgea.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/1-year-2017-05-17.png?w=625

The yield on the 1-year treasury more than doubled from the low of 0.43% during the week of July 2, 2016, to the high 1.14% during the week of May 6, 2017.

Since March 11, 2017, the yield curve has flattened considerably.

Action in the treasury yields is just what one would expect if the economy was headed into recession.

By Mike “Mish” Shedlock | MishTalk