Category Archives: Words Of Wisdom

Recession

Albert Edwards observes that history implies that recession is starting now:

recession now

Jeff Gundlach Interview

Jeffrey Gundlach is the billionaire founder and CEO of DoubleLine, a Los Angeles based investment boutique mainly specializing in bonds, ranks among America’s highest-profile investors. His bold calls and correct prediction of the 2007 housing crash have earned him a solid reputation. A recent interview is most interesting in that he clearly, if intuitively, understands the instability inherent in the Fed’s attempts to control the economy by hindsight.

The next shock is that we’re having to put in a big overreaction to the inflation problem which we created from our initial reaction of excess stimulus. My guess is that we will end up creating momentum that’s more deflationary than a lot of people believe is even possible.

Of course he is very probably correct. A deflationary economic collapse is very likely to follow the inflationary phase. So long as the Fed is willing to make massive interventions in the economy without understanding the dynamics of control, we are utterly screwed. There comes to mind a well-known class of control systems known as bang-bang control.

That’ll Buff Out

Well I got that one wrong, fortunately my trading system had no dog in the hunt. Yes, Powell did hint at slowing rate increases. But the markets were shocked, shocked I say, by his acknowledgement of the 15 years of futile attempts to curb inflation before Volcker took matters in hand. That an economist should consider history rather than models and calculus is pretty much unprecedented, at least in modern times. His academic credentials may be called into question. The calculus thing was introduced because economists – it was called, correctly, “political economy” at the time – felt they were underpaid, relative to the physical sciences, and therefore needed to emulate them. It helped their prestige but not their forecasts.

Sarcasm aside, it’s a good thing. But the bad thing is there is way too much money in circulation. Consider the following mantra from Milton Friedman in 1963, years before the 1970s inflation.

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”

Then please consider the following:

fredgraph

money to gdp

That’s going to take a lot of buffing. And yes, Mr Powell, it is the product of years of central bank economic idiocy and arrogance. First chart St. Louis Fed, second John Hussman.

Inflation Projection

John  Hussman posted an inflation estimate on his Twitter account.

Hussman inflation forecast

Just One Chart

When you buy shares in a company, you are really buying a share of the stream of profits yet to come. This chart from John Hussman shows what is going to happen as labor reclaims its share of company income.

labor costs vs profits

The extra profits in the early 2000s were financed by the housing bubble, while the recent spike is mostly the result of massive government deficit spending on subsidies and handouts of various kinds. These are coming to an end despite the best efforts of the Dems to blow up inflation.

Seriously?

Jeremy Grantham made the headlines with a pronouncement that was labelled “Apocalyptic” in the financial press. Grantham warned of a 50% fail in the stock market and the largest wealth destruction in US history. Assuming that he meant the S&P, that means an apocalypse is simply a return to the lows set in early 2020. Yes, the Fed has managed to double the stock market since then. But in 2020 it was already in bubble territory, even by Grantham’s measurement at the time.

No, this puppy is looking at an 80-90% fall – and a depression – before this is over. Think the 1930s were bad? Just wait for the 2020s. Years of money-printing and deficit spending (go together like a horse and carriage) have created an unrepayable and unserviceable mountain of debt.

Choice

I just have to include this quote from John Hussman’s latest screed:

“the Federal Reserve has fashioned itself into a reckless circus clown handing out lollipops to diabetic toddlers. Having taught them that they will be continually appeased, regardless of the long-term consequences, even a “taper” is now met with wails of surprise, crisis, and tantrum.”

The Top Of The Cycle

Jeremy Grantham is the expert on bubbles. This interview was a month ago, but is still extremely relevant. I recommend reading the whole transcript.

Jeremy Grantham (02:15):
I wouldn’t say necessarily, that we’re at the peak, I think it’s clear that we’re deep into bubble territory. Bubbles are characterized typically at the end of a long bull market by a period where they accelerate, and they start to rise at two or three times the average speed of the bull market, which they did last year, of course. And the Russell 2000 actually went up an amazing 50% in three months, ending in early February this year, which compares very favorably to the 50% rally in ’99 of the super tech bubble. And the NASDAQ went up 50% in six months. So, this was bigger and better.

Jeremy Grantham (03:01):
And, of course, they’re always extremely overpriced by average historical standards. And this one, there are a few people who would still argue that 2000 was higher, but most of the data suggest that this is the new American record or highest-priced stocks in history. And then, there’s the most important thing of all, which is crazy behavior, the kind of meme stock, high participation by individuals, which has kind of tripled in 18 months to an abnormally high level, enormous trading volume in penny stocks, enormous trading volume in options, and huge margin levels, peak borrowing of all kinds.

Jeremy Grantham (35:21):
No, I am not. I am leaving currency worries to other people. I have enough to worry about. With every real asset category, badly overpriced, that is quite enough for me to worry about. And history is quite complicated enough anyway without attempting to think about every aspect of the system. So, I will leave that to that. What is slightly unusual about this bubble on a global basis is that, yes, real estate has bubbled everywhere and often worse than in the US. Yes, commodities are everywhere. Yes, bonds are everywhere overpriced and interest rates are negligible everywhere.

Small Craft Warning

Looks like the time is right for financial hurricanes.

storm warnings

Playing With Fire

Warren Buffett’s market valuation metric is a simple one – The market capitalization of  all U.S. equities (financial + nonfinancial) as reported in the Fed’s Z.1 flow of funds data. divided by GDP.

In 1999, Buffett said “If the ratio approaches 200% you are playing with fire.” Which it did in 1999 and 2000. The ratio is now about 275%.

A similar but not identical indicator is the Wilshire 5000 market cap, which reached about 140% in 2000.