Category Archives: Strategy & Scenarios

Wag The Dog

As I have said many times before, I believe the biggest mistake the CFTC has ever made is the securitization of VIX. This decision has allowed VIX futures, options and ETFs, trading in any and all of which provides staggering leverage on the overall market. Here’s a piece which shows both how easy it is to manipulate VIX, and the effect of VIX manipulation on the overall market.

I’m watching this as I write, as the manipulators crush price discovery. Of course the eventual consequences of this will be catastrophic – the “Volgasm” of early February was just the fat lady clearing her throat.

Perspective

“Just a flesh wound,” said the Black Knight.

Credit Impulse

The credit impulse isn’t the sudden urge to borrow – it is the additional income and concomitant spending that results from an increase in aggregate debt. Spending capacity = net income + credit impulse. Credit impulse (annual) = current debt amount – year ago debt amount. Not complicated.

The credit impulse is how easy money creates economic expansion as economic entities – households, corporations, governments, etc. are able to spend more than they earn.

The downside is that, sooner or later, the entities reach the limit of their ability to borrow. The credit impulse disappears and the economy shrivels. Incomes diminish and defaults begin as entities can no longer service their debt. Credit becomes very difficult to obtain, lenders fail as capital losses mount and the economy accelerates downhill as the credit impulse goes negative as borrowers are unable to roll over their debt.

Let’er Rip, Potato Chip

Larry Kudlow, newly minted economic advisor, was on CNBC last night, advising that the Fed should “Let the economy rip.”

Larry, if you want to see what happens when a country monetizes its deficits, look south.

Credit Impulse

US household debt ended the year at $13.15 billion, a y-o-y increase of $402 billion and a record. This means that about 2% of GDP came from the increase in household debt alone. It is likely that when corporate and government debt increases are taken into account that the economy is operating at a substantial loss.

A Little Late

Maybe a few folks at the BIS now realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is, in fact, a train.

The previous analysis suggests that there is a prima facie case for monetary policy to pay closer attention to the financial cycle than in the past. We may have been underestimating the influence of benign disinflationary forces and overestimating the ability of monetary policy to fine-tune inflation, especially to push it up towards targets in the face of powerful headwinds. If so, we may also have been underestimating the collateral damage that such strategies may generate in terms of financial and macroeconomic stability over longer horizons, especially by amplifying the financial cycle.

Fed Minutes

Another day, more blather from the Fed. Risk is “on” with a vengeance as the Fed continues to demonstrate its unwillingness to “take away the punch bowl” as Fed Chairman Martin put it.  Apparently there is no such thing, in their minds, as too much stimulus. We’ll see about that. In my view, a financial catastrophe is almost inevitable at this point. Overpriced stocks and the fear of inflation have always been a toxic mixture. Add in the overhang of aggregate debt somewhere in the neighborhood of 350-400% of GDP and you have a recipe for a protracted decline to well below fair value, unlike 1987’s brief shock.

 

Look Out Below

The volatility shorts are back with a vengeance, slamming the VIX at the open this morning. Rebuilding these positions at this point virtually guarantees a serious crash.

Inflation Is About To Disappear

The main factor is U.S. oil production,” the IEA said. “In just three months to November, crude output increased by a colossal 846 kb/d, and will soon overtake that of Saudi Arabia. By the end of this year, it might also overtake Russia to become the global leader.

Calm Before The Storm

It is the last day of 2017. The blog has been quiet this year because nothing much has changed as the indexes were pumped higher and higher with repeated volatility slams. However, while you can move risk around you can’t reduce it. The Fed and the other CBs are simply pushing risk off into the future, where it is accumulating. The Greenspan and Bernanke bubbles burst, but were rapidly re-inflated by the succeeding Fed chairman. What will be the fate of the Yellen bubble?

Here is an excellent view of what the Fed has wrought, from Lacy Hunt.