Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.US Paving the Way for Massive First Strike on North Korea Nuclear and Missile Infrastructure - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Trump Reset: US War With China, North Korea Nuclear Flashpoint - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Silver Junior Mining Stocks 2017 Q2 Fundamentals - Zeal_LLC
4.Soaring Inflation Plunges UK Economy Into Stagflation, Triggers Government Pay Cap Panic! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.The Bitcoin Blueprint To Your Financial Freedom - Sean Keyes
6.North Korea 'Begging for War', 'Enough is Enough', is a US Nuclear Strike Imminent? - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Bitcoin Hits All-Time High and Smashes Through $5,000 As Gold Shows Continued Strength - Jeff_Berwick
8.2017 is NOT "Just Another Year" for the Stock Market: Here's Why - EWI
9.Gold : The Anatomy of the Bottoming Process - Rambus_Chartology
10.Bitcoin Falls 20% as Mobius and Chinese Regulators Warn - GoldCore
Last 7 days
Stock Market Time to Go All-in. Short, That Is - 19th Oct 17
How Gold Bullion Protects From Conflict And War - 19th Oct 17
Stock Market Super Cycle Wave C May Have Started - 19th Oct 17
Negative Expectations, Will the Stock Market Correct? - 19th Oct 17
Knowing the Factors Affect your Car Insurance Premium - 19th Oct 17
Getting Your Feet Wet In Crypto Currencies - 19th Oct 17
10 Years Ago Today a Stocks Bear Market Started - 19th Oct 17
1987 Stock Market Crash 30th Anniversary Greatest Investing Lesson Learned - 19th Oct 17
Virgin Media Broadband Down, Catastrophic UK Wide Failure! - 19th Oct 17
The Passive Investing Bubble May Trigger A Massive Exodus from Stocks - 18th Oct 17
Gold Is In A Dangerous Spot - 18th Oct 17
History Says Global Debt Levels Will Lead to Another Crisis - 18th Oct 17
Deflation Basics Series: The Quantity Theory of Money - 18th Oct 17
Attractive European Countries for Foreign Investors - 18th Oct 17
Financial Transcription Services – What investors should know about them - 18th Oct 17
Brexit UK Vulnerable As Gold Bar Exports Distort UK Trade Figures - 18th Oct 17
Surge in UK Race Hate Crimes, Micro-Racism, Sheffield, Millhouses Park, Black on Asian - 18th Oct 17
Comfortably Numb: Surviving the Assault on Silver - 17th Oct 17
Are Amey Street Tree Felling's Devaluing Sheffield House Prices? - 17th Oct 17
12 Real-Life Techniques That Will Make You a Better Trader Now - 17th Oct 17
Warren Buffett Predicting Dow One Million - Being Bold Or Overly Cautious? - 17th Oct 17
Globalization is Poverty - 17th Oct 17
Boomers Are Not Saving Enough for Retirement, Neither Is the Government - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Trading Dow Theory - 16th Oct 17
Stocks Slightly Higher as They Set New Record Highs - 16th Oct 17
Why is Big Data is so Important for Casino Player Acquisition and Retention - 16th Oct 17
How Investors Can Play The Bitcoin Boom - 16th Oct 17
Who Will Be the Next Fed Chief - And Why It Matters  - 16th Oct 17
Stock Market Only Minor Top Ahead - 16th Oct 17
Precious Metals Sector is on Major Buy Signal - 16th Oct 17
Really Bad Ideas - The Fed Should Have And Defend An Inflation Target - 16th Oct 17
The Bullish Chartology for Gold - 15th Oct 17
Wikileaks Mocking US Government Over Bitcoin Shows Why There Is No Stopping Bitcoin - 15th Oct 17
How to Wipe Out Puerto Rico's Debt Without Hurting Bondholders - 15th Oct 17
Gold And Silver – Think Prices Are Manipulated? Look In The Mirror! - 15th Oct 17
Q4 Pivot View for Stocks and Gold - 14th Oct 17
Gold Mining Stocks Q3’17 Preview - 14th Oct 17
U.S. Mint Gold Coin Sales and VIX Point To Increased Market Volatility and Higher Gold - 14th Oct 17
Yuan and Gold - 14th Oct 17
Tips for Avoiding a Debt Meltdown - 14th Oct 17
Bitcoin Hits New All-Time High Above $5,000 As Lagarde Concedes Defeat and Jamie Demon Shuts Up - 13th Oct 17
Golden Age for GOLD, Dark Age for the Stock Market - 13th Oct 17
The Struggle for Bolivia Is About to Begin - 13th Oct 17
3 Reasons to Take Your Invoicing Process Mobile - 13th Oct 17
What Happens When Amey Fells All of a Streets Trees (Sheffield Tree Fellings) - Video - 13th Oct 17
Stock Market Charts Show Smart Money And Dumb Money Are Moving In Opposite Directions—Here’s Why - 12th Oct 17
Your Pension Is a Lie: There’s $210 Trillion of Liabilities Our Government Can’t Fulfill - 12th Oct 17
Two Highly Recommended Books from Bob Prechter - 12th Oct 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

3 Videos + 8 Charts = Opportunities You Need to See - Free

Final Days of the Stock Market Bubble

Stock-Markets / Stock Markets 2014 Jul 15, 2014 - 03:39 PM GMT

By: LewRockwell

Stock-Markets

David A. Stockman writes: The central banks of the world are massively and insouciantly pursuing financial instability. That’s the inherent result of the 68 straight months of zero money market rates that have been forced into the global financial system by the Fed and its confederates at the BOJ, ECB and BOE. ZIRP fuels endless carry trades and the harvesting of every manner of profit spread between negligible “funding” costs and positive yields and returns on a wide spectrum of risk assets.


Moreover, this central bank sponsored regime of ZIRP and money market pegging contains a built-in accelerator. As carry trade speculators drive asset prices steadily higher and fixed income spreads steadily thinner—- fear and short interest is driven out of the casino, making buying on the dips ever more profitable and less risky. Indeed, the explicit promise by central banks that the money market rate will remain frozen for the duration and that ample warning of any change in rate policy will be “transparently” announced is the single worst policy imaginable from the point of view of financial stability. It means that the speculator’s worst nightmare—–suddenly going “upside down” due to a sharp spike in funding costs—-is eliminated by central bank writ.

Stated differently, ZIRP systematically dismantles the market’s natural stability mechanisms.One natural deterrent to excessive financial gambling, for example, is the cost of hedging a speculator’s portfolio of “risk assets” against a broad market plunge. In an honest market environment, hedging costs consume a high share of profits, thereby sharply limiting risk appetites and the amount of capital attracted to speculative trading.

By contrast, an extended regime of ZIRP, coupled with the central banks’ perceived “put” under risk assets, drives the cost of “downside insurance” to negligible levels because S&P 500 put writers are emboldened and subsidized to pick up nickels (i.e. options premium) in front of a benign central bank steamroller. This ultra-cheap downside insurance, in turn, attracts ever larger inflows of speculative capital to the casino.

This corrosive game has been underway ever since the Greenspan Fed panicked on Black Monday in October 1987 and flooded the stock market with liquidity. It is now such an endemic feature of Wall Street that it is falsely assumed to be the normal order of things. But, then, would anyone have been picking up nickels in front of the Volcker steamroller?

This dynamic is evident in the chart of the S&P 500 since the March 2009 bottom. The dips have gotten shallower and shallower as ZIRP and other pro-risk central bank policies have eroded the market’s natural defenses against excessive speculation. As of mid-2014, therefore, it can be fairly said that fear and short interest have been extinguished almost entirely. The Wall Street casino has thus become a one-way market that coils dangerously upward, divorced completely from the fundamentals of earnings and cash flow and real world economic conditions and prospects.

The inverse side of this coin is disappearance of volatility in the equity markets. As shown below, the current readings are at all-time lows, even below bottoms reached on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis. Needless to say, this dangerous condition does not appear by happenstance: its is the inexorable and systematic result of ZIRP and the associated tools of monetary central planning.

But all of this is ignored by the central banks because their Keynesian economic plumbing models contain a fatal flaw. These models purport to capture capitalism at work, but they contain no balance sheets and hardly any proxy for the financial markets which are at the heart of modern capitalist economies. As a result, central banks pursue ZIRP in order to inflate the plumbing system of the macro-economy with more “demand”—and hence more jobs, income, investment and GDP—-while ignoring the systematic destruction of financial stability that results from these very same policies.

As a consequence, Keynesian central bankers are bubble-blind. Whereas they monitor immense amounts of “in-coming” high-frequency macro-economic data that is trivial and “noisy” in the extreme, they ignore entirely “in-coming” financial market data that points to monumental troubles just ahead.

At the present time, for example, 40% of all syndicated loans are being taken down by sub-investment grade issuers. This is materially higher than the 2007 peak, and is accompanied by an even more virulent outbreak of “cov-lite” credit terms. Indeed, upwards of 60% of these junk loans have no protection against debt layering and cash stripping by equity holders—-notwithstanding their nominal “senior” status in the credit structure. The obvious implication, of course, is that the Fed “easy money” is being massively diverted into leveraged gambling and rent stripping by the LBO houses. Three times since 1988 this kind of financial deformation has led to a thundering bust in the junk credit market. Why would monetary central planners, who allegedly watch their so-called “dashboards” like a flock of hawks, think the outcome would be any different this time?

40pc of syndicated loans are to sub-investment grade borrowers

The monetary politburo remains unperturbed, of course, because they are not monitoring the composition and quality of credit. Their models simply stipulate that aggregate business loan growth will lead to more spending on capital assets and operational expansion including hiring. That assumption is manifestly wrong, however, because it is plainly evident that most of the massive expansion of business credit since the last peak has gone into financial engineering—-stock buybacks, LBO’s and cash M&A deals—-not expansion of productive business assets. Indeed, total non-financial business credit outstanding has risen from $11 trillion in December 2007 to $13.8 trillion at present, or by 25%, yet real business investment in plants and equipment is still $70 billion or 5% below its pre-crisis peak.

And that is “gross” spending for plant and equipment as recorded in the “I” term of the GDP accounts. The far more relevant measure with respect to economic health and future growth capacity is “net business investment” after accounting for depreciation and amortization allowances. That is, after accounting for the consumption of capital that occurred in the production of current period GDP. As shown below, that figure in real terms is 20% below the peak achieved two cycles back in the late 1990s.

In short, the combination of faltering investment in real plant and equipment juxtaposed to peak levels of leveraged loan finance should be a warning sign of growing financial instability. Instead, the central bankers bray that valuation multiples are not out of line and financial institution leverage is reasonably well-contained.

The “valuations are normal” line proffered by Yellen and her band of money printers, however, is simply an adaptation of the Wall Street hockey sticks based on projected earnings ex-items. That is to say, the kind of “earnings” estimates that omitted on average 23% of actual P&L charges over the course the 2007-2010 boom and bust cycle owing to non-recurring write-downs of goodwill, plants, leases and restructuring costs, among countless other real expenses—all of which ultimately consume corporate cash and capital. As I demonstrated in “The Great Deformation”, cumulative S&P 500 “earnings less items” over that four-year period amounted to $2.42 trillion compared to GAAP reported earnings—-that is, the kind that you don’t go to jail for reporting to the SEC—of only $1.87 trillion.

Consequently, the Fed fails to see the in-coming data on financial instability because it isn’t looking for it, and is simply tossing out Wall Street sell-side propaganda as a sop. The disappearance of volatility in the S&P 500 chart shown at the beginning, for example, is nearly an identical replica of the run-up to the 2007 stock market peak. Yet the appearance of a proven warning sign of a bubble top has been resolutely ignored.

The fact is, PE multiples are far above “normal” based on GAAP earnings in historical context. During the LTM period ending in Q1 2014, S&P 500 earnings amounted to $100 per share after adjustment for a recent change in pension accounting that is not reflected in the historical data. Accordingly, even the big cap “broad” market is trading at 19.6X reported earnings—a level achieved historically only at points when the stock market was on the verge of implosion.

Moreover, today’s $100 per share of earnings are highly artificial owing to massive share buybacks funded by cheap debt and by deep repression of interest carry costs. The S&P 500 companies carry upwards of $3 trillion in debt, but were interest rates to normalize— earnings per share would drop by upwards of $10. Likewise, profit margins are at an all-time high, indicating that the inevitable “mean-regression” will chop significant additional amounts out of currently reported profits.

In other words, at a point which is month #61 of the current business cycle, and thereby already beyond than the average cycle since 1950, why would any one in their right mind say a market is not bubbly when it’s trading at nearly 20X reported earnings. Indeed, in a world where interest rate and profit rate normalization must inevitably come, the capitalization rate for current earnings should be well below normal—-not extended into the nosebleed section of historical results.

And this applies to almost any other measure of valuation in risk asset markets. The Russell 2000, for example, still stands at the absurd height of 85X reported earnings. The cyclically adjusted S&P stands at 24X, or six turns higher than its half century average. The Tobin’s Q measure is also far more stretched than in 2007.

Likewise, emerging markets have piled on $2 trillion in foreign currency debt since 2008. This makes them far more significant in the global financial scheme than they were in 2008 or even at the time of the East Asia crisis of the late 1990s. And that is not even considering the massive house of cards in China, where credit market debt has soared from $1 trillion at the turn of the century to $25 trillion today.

At the end of the day, the Fed and its fellow traveling central banks have systematically dismantled the natural stability mechanisms of financial markets. Accordingly, financial markets have now become dangerous casinos in which speculative bubbles are guaranteed to build to dangerous extremes as the central bank driven financial inflation gathers force. That’s where we are now. Again.

Former Congressman David A. Stockman was Reagan's OMB director, which he wrote about in his best-selling book, The Triumph of Politics. His latest book is The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. He was an original partner in the Blackstone Group, and reads LRC the first thing every morning.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com

    © 2013 Copyright David A. Stockma, LewRockwell.com - All Rights Reserved
    Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife