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“It’s not just tapering that is putting pressure on markets,” Marc Faber warns in thie brief clip. “Emerging economies have practically no growth and we have a slowdown in China that is more meaningful than strategists are willing to believe,” he adds and this is “causing a vicious circle to the downside” in inflated asset markets as most of the growth in the world over the last five years has come from emerging markets. Faber suggests Treasuries as a safe haven in the short-term; but is nervous of their value in the long-term as “debt is becoming burdensome on the system.”
“A lot of economic growth was driven by soaring asset prices”
“For the next three to six months probably they are a better place to be than equities,”
“I don’t like [10-year Treasurys] for the long-term because the maximum you can earn is something like 2.65 percent per annum for the next 10 years, but Treasurys are expected to rally because of economic weakness and a stock market decline. In the last few years at least there was a flight into quality – that is, a flight into Treasurys.”
On China and shadow banking defaults:
“China can handle it by printing money but it will again have unintended negative consequences… but the
problem is real… but it’s not just in China…”
Faber warned of the risks of the present global credit bubble and said another slowdown could follow on the back of rising consumer debt levels – which had previously helped to create growth.
“Total credit as a percent of the global economy is now 30 percent higher than it was at the start of the economic crisis in 2007, we have had rapidly escalating household debt especially in emerging economies and resource economies like Canada and Australia and we have come to a point where household debt has become burdensome on the system—that is, where an economic slowdown follows.”
Marc Faber Warns “Insiders Are Selling Like Crazy… Short US Stocks, Buy Treasuries & Gold” | Zero Hedge
Beginning by disavowing Mario Gabelli of any belief that rising stock prices help ‘most’ people (“Fed data suggests half the US population has seen a 40% drop in wealth since 2007“), Marc Faber discusses his increasingly imminent fears of the markets in this recent Barron’s interview.
Quoting Hussman as a caveat, “The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top,” Faber warns there are a lot of questions about the quality of earnings (from buybacks to unfunded pensions) but “statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy.”
His first recommendation – short the Russell 2000, buy 10-year US Treasuries (“there will be no magnificent US recovery”), and miners and adds “own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed.”
Faber: This morning, I said most people don’t benefit from rising stock prices. This handsome young man on my left said I was incorrect. [Gabelli starts preening.] Yet, here are some statistics from Gallup’s annual economy and personal-finance survey on the percentage of U.S. adults invested in the market. The survey, whose results were published in May, asks whether respondents personally or jointly with a spouse have any money invested in the market, either in individual stock accounts, stock mutual funds, self-directed 401(k) retirement accounts, or individual retirement accounts.Only 52% responded positively.
Gabelli: They didn’t ask about company-sponsored 401(k)s, so it is a faulty question.
Faber: An analysis of Federal Reserve data suggests that half the U.S. population has seen a 40% decrease in wealth since 2007.
In Reminiscences of a Stock Operator [a fictionalized account of the trader Jesse Livermore that has become a Wall Street classic], Livermore said, “It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It was always my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight.” Here’s another thought from John Hussmann of the Hussmann Funds: “The problem with bubbles is that they force one to decide whether to look like an idiot before the peak, or an idiot after the peak. There’s no calling the top, and most of the signals that have been most historically useful for that purpose have been blaring red since late 2011.”
I am negative about U.S. stocks, and the Russell 2000 in particular. Regarding Abby’s energy recommendation, this is one of the few sectors with insider buying. In other sectors, statistics show that company insiders are selling their shares like crazy, and companies are buying like crazy.
Zulauf: These are the same people.
Faber: Precisely. Looking at 10-year annualized returns for U.S. stocks, the Value Line arithmetic index has risen 11% a year. The Standard & Poor’s 600 and the Nasdaq 100 have each risen 9.4% a year. In other words, the market hasn’t done badly. Sentiment figures are extremely bullish, and valuations are on the high side.
But there are a lot of questions about earnings, both because of stock buybacks and unfunded pension liabilities. How can companies have rising earnings, yet not provision sufficiently for their pension funds?
Good question. Where are you leading us with your musings?
Faber: What I recommend to clients and what I do with my own portfolio aren’t always the same. That said, my first recommendation is to short the Russell 2000. You can use the iShares Russell 2000 exchange-traded fund [IWM]. Small stocks have outperformed large stocks significantly in the past few years.
Next, I would buy 10-year Treasury notes, because I don’t believe in this magnificent U.S. economic recovery. The U.S. is going to turn down, and bond yields are going to fall. Abby just gave me a good idea. She is long the iShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF, so I will go short.
What are you doing with your own money?
Faber: I have a lot of cash, and I bought Treasury bonds.
Faber: I have no faith in paper money, period. Next, insider buying is also high in gold shares. Gold has massively underperformed relative to the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. Maybe the price will go down some from here, but individual investors and my fellow panelists and Barron’s editors ought to own some gold. About 20% of my net worth is in gold. I don’t even value it in my portfolio. What goes down, I don’t value.
Which stocks are you recommending?
Faber: I recommend the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF [GDXJ], although I don’t own it. I own physical gold because the old system will implode. Those who own paper assets are doomed.
Zulauf: Can you put the time frame on the implosion?
Faber: Let’s enjoy dinner tonight. Maybe it will happen tomorrow.
There is a colossal bubble in assets. When central banks print money, all assets go up. When they pull back, we could see deflation in asset prices but a pickup in consumer prices and the cost of living. Still, you have to own some assets. Hutchison Port Holdings Trust yields about 7%. It owns several ports in Hong Kong and China, which isn’t a good business right now. When the economy slows, the dividend might be cut to 5% or so. Many Singapore real-estate investment trusts have corrected meaningfully, and now yield 5% to 6%. They aren’t terrific investments because property prices could fall. But if you have a negative view of the world, and you think trade will contract, property prices will fall, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury will drop, a REIT like Hutchison is a relatively attractive investment.
Faber: The outlook for property in Asia isn’t bad because a lot of Europeans realize they will need to leave Europe for tax reasons. They can live in Singapore and be taxed at a much lower rate. Even if China grows by only 3% or 4%, it is better than Europe. People are moving up the economic ladder in Asia and into the middle class.
Are you bullish on India?
Faber: I am on the board of the oldest India fund [the India Capital fund]. The macroeconomic outlook for India isn’t good, but an election is coming, and the market always rallies into elections.The leading candidate is pro-business. He is speaking before huge crowds.
In dollar terms, the Indian market is still down about 40% from the peak, because the currency has weakened. In the 1970s, stock market indexes performed poorly and stock-picking came to the fore. Asia could be like that now. It is a huge region, and you have to invest by company. Some Indian companies will do well, and others poorly. Some people made 40% on their investments in China last year, but the benchmark index did poorly.
I like Vietnam. The economy has had its troubles, and the market has seen a big decline. I want you to visualize Vietnam. [Stands up, walks to a nearby wall, and begins to draw a map of Vietnam with his hands.] Here’s Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, the border with China, and the Mekong River. And here in the middle, on the coast, is Da Nang.
Faber: I recommend shorting the Turkish lira. I had an experience in Turkey that led me to believe that some families are above the law. When I see that in an emerging economy, it makes me careful about investing.
Nouriel Roubini, Davos Speakers, Kyle Bass, Larry Edelson, Charles Nenner, James Dines, Jim Rogers, Marc Faber, Jim Rickards and Martin Armstrong Warn of Wider War
Well-known economist Nouriel Roubini tweeted from the gathering of the rich and powerful at Davos:
Many speakers compare 2014 to 1914 when WWI broke out & no one expected it. A black swan in the form of a war between China & Japan?
Both Abe and an influential Chinese analyst don’t rule out a military confrontation between China and Japan. Memories of 1914?
Kyle Bass writes:
Trillions of dollars of debts will be restructured and millions of financially prudent savers will lose large percentages of their real purchasing power at exactly the wrong time in their lives. Again, the world will not end, but the social fabric of the profligate nations will be stretched and in some cases torn. Sadly, looking back through economic history, all too often war is the manifestation of simple economic entropy played to its logical conclusion. We believe that war is an inevitable consequence of the current global economic situation.
Larry Edelson wrote an email to subscribers entitled “What the “Cycles of War” are saying for 2013″, which states:
Since the 1980s, I’ve been studying the so-called “cycles of war” — the natural rhythms that predispose societies to descend into chaos, into hatred, into civil and even international war.
I’m certainly not the first person to examine these very distinctive patterns in history. There have been many before me, notably, Raymond Wheeler, who published the most authoritative chronicle of war ever, covering a period of 2,600 years of data.
However, there are very few people who are willing to even discuss the issue right now. And based on what I’m seeing, the implications could be absolutely huge in 2013.
Former Goldman Sachs technical analyst Charles Nenner – who has made some big accurate calls, and counts major hedge funds, banks, brokerage houses, and high net worth individuals as clients – saysthere will be “a major war starting at the end of 2012 to 2013”, which will drive the Dow to 5,000.
Veteran investor adviser James Dines forecast a war is epochal as World Wars I and II, starting in the Middle East.
Billionaire investor Jim Rogers notes:
A continuation of bailouts in Europe could ultimately spark another world war, says international investor Jim Rogers.
“Add debt, the situation gets worse, and eventually it just collapses. Then everybody is looking for scapegoats. Politicians blame foreigners, and we’re in World War II or World War whatever.”
Marc Faber says that the American government will start new wars in response to the economic crisis:
- “The next thing the government will do to distract the attention of the people on bad economic conditions is they’ll start a war somewhere.”
We’re in the middle of a global currency war – i.e. a situation where nations all compete to devalue their currencies the most in order to boost exports. And Brazilian president-elect Rousseff said in 2010:
The last time there was a series of competitive devaluations … it ended in world war two.
Jim Rickards agrees:
Currency wars lead to trade wars, which often lead to hot wars. In 2009, Rickards participated in the Pentagon’s first-ever “financial” war games. While expressing confidence in America’s ability to defeat any other nation-state in battle, Rickards says the U.S. could get dragged into “asymmetric warfare,” if currency wars lead to rising inflation and global economic uncertainty.
As does Jim Rogers:
Trade wars always lead to wars.
Martin Armstrong wrote in August:
Our greatest problem is the bureaucracy wants a war. This will distract everyone from the NSA and justify what they have been doing. They need a distraction for the economic decline that is coming.
Armstrong argued last month that war plans against Syria are really about debt and spending:
The Syrian mess seems to have people lining up on Capital Hill when sources there say the phone calls coming in are overwhelmingly against any action. The politicians are ignoring the people entirely. This suggests there is indeed a secret agenda to achieve a goal outside the discussion box. That is most like the debt problem and a war is necessary to relief the pressure to curtail spending.
In addition, historians say that the risk of world war is rising because the U.S. feels threatened by a rising China … and the U.S. government considers economic rivalry to be a basis for war
Moreover, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said that the Iraq war was really about oil, and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And see this and this. If that war was for petroleum, other oil-rich countries might be invaded as well.
And the American policy of using the military to contain China’s growing economic influence – and of considering economic rivalry to be a basis for war – are creating a tinderbox.
Finally, multi-billionaire investor Hugo Salinas Price says:
What happened to [Libya’s] Mr. Gaddafi, many speculate the real reason he was ousted was that he was planning an all-African currency for conducting trade. The same thing happened to him that happened to Saddam because the US doesn’t want any solid competing currency out there vs the dollar. You know Gaddafi was talking about a golddinar.
Indeed, senior CNBC editor John Carney noted:
Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power? It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.
This suggests we have a bit more than a ragtag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences. “I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising,” Wenzel writes.
“The Fed’s policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world,” Marc Faber begins his discussion with Bloomberg TV’s Trish Regan, especially “people in the lower income groups [who] spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline.” The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report author goes on to discuss everything from how the Fed is creating a two-class system around the world, the inexorable growth of governments, buying votes, Bitcoin, interest rates, wealth taxes, and overall market valuations. “We are in a gigantic financial asset bubble,” Faber explains, “everybody’s bullish,” but he sees a slowing global economy (as do we e.g. Baltic Dry Index); “[The bubble] could burst any day. I think we are very stretched.” Faber is on fire…
Take 10 minutes and listen…
Prepare yourself… “In China, if I say what I am saying about the USA, they would not let me in the country”
Faber on the Fed and how far the ‘rubber band can be stretched’:
“We have to distinguish between the financial economy, the financial sector, and the economy of the well-to-do people that benefit from rising asset prices, from rising prices of wines, and paintings and art, and bonds, and equities, and high-end properties in the Hamptons and West 15 here in New York and so forth — and the average person, the typical household, the so-called ‘median household’, or the working class people. And the Fed’s policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world in the sense that they’re not only responsible, but partly responsible that energy prices are where they are, they’re up from $10 or $12 in 1999 to now around $100 a barrel. Food prices are up and a lot of other prices are up. So on your income, energy prices have very little impact because you at Bloomberg – you, young man – you make so much money. But for the poor people, it has an impact.Some people in the lower income groups, they spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline.”
On whether the Fed is creating a two-class system:
“Correct, largely. The problem is then that you have people like Bill de Blasio, they come in and say: ‘you know what’s the problem? All these rich guys. Because of these rich people, you are poor. They take advantage of you. So, let’s go and tax them.’ The IMF has come out with a paper in Europe that essentially the well-to-do people should pay a 10% wealth task — a one-time wealth tax. I can assure you, a one-time wealth tax, 10%, will become an every-year’s tax eventually.”
On how to help the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum:
“This is the point I’d like to make. All of these professors and academics at the Fed who never really worked in the private sector a single day in their lives, and write papers nobody reads and nobody’s is interested in. Why would they want not write about how you structure an economic system that lifts the standard of living of most people? You can’t lift everybody.”
“We had that in the 19th century in the U.S. because we had very small government at the time. The entire government — local, state federal — was less than 20% of the economy. Now it is close to 50% of the economy.”
On whether the government is spending too much money:
“The larger the government becomes, the less economic growth you have and the more crony capitalism and corruptions you have. Because big corporations — and especially the money printers, they’re the most powerful people in the world, they control the governments. The U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the government is one and the same. The Fed, they finance the Treasury, so the government can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then they finance transfer payments to essentially buy votes so you can get elected.”
“I prefer physical gold and silver, platinum to bitcoin. Bitcoin can have a lot of competition. Gold, silver, platinum — they have no competition. How do you value a bitcoin? I can value gold to some extent and compare say gold to the quantity of money that is floating around the world, to the wealth increase, and to the monetary base increase, to the credit increase, and so forth and so on, and to the production costs. So I have an idea of where gold should be. I’m not sure because prices overshoot. How do you value Netflix? Is it overpriced or underpriced? Is Tesla overpriced, underpriced?”
On interest rates:
“But one thing I wanted to show you and talk about because you said that lower interest rates help people. Well, if money trending helps everybody, then why does not everybody in the whole world always have zero interest rates? And everybody would be rich. You keep on printing money and you don’t need to work here, you don’t need to put on makeup. I could stay in bed the whole day and go drinking in the evenings. So, let’s just print money and be all happy. It doesn’t add up. One thing about the figures you showed: first of all, you live in New York. Do you really think that your cost-of-living increase is a 1.2% per annum? You really believe that? It doesn’t feel like more, it feels like five times more, or even ten times more.”
“Number two, by keeping interest rates at zero percent on the Fed fund rate — i want to emphasize that this is now going on in March of 2014 for five years. It is not something new. For five years this has happened. You penalize the income earners, the savers who save, your parents, why should your parents be forced to speculate in stocks and in real estate and everything under the sun?“
On his view of overvalued stocks, including Facebook:
“I think it is to a large extent a fad. People they go on Facebook – what they do is they put pictures on and the only people that watch these pictures are themselves. They all want to be stars. It is a very distractive kind of occupation. I can’t imagine that this would have a lot of value. I would rather own – I don’t own it because I think it is very highly priced – I would rather own a company like Alibaba or Amazon or Google, than Facebook, personally. This is my view. Other people have different views. That’s what makes the market. Some people are buying it and some people are selling it.”
On overall market valuation concerns:
“I think we are in a gigantic financial asset bubble. But it is interesting that that despite of all the money printing, bond yields didn’t go down. They bottomed out on July 25, 2012 at 1.43% on the 10-years. We went to over 3.0%. We’re now at 2.85% or something thereabout. But we’re up substantially. Now, this hasn’t had an impact on stocks yet. In fact, it pushed money into the stock market out of the bond market. But if the 10-years goes to say 3.5% to 4.0%, then the 30-year goes to close to 5.0%, the mortgage rates go to 6.0%. That will hit the economy very hard.”
“[The bubble] could burst before. It could burst any day. I think we are very stretched. Sentiment figures are very, very bullish. Everybody’s bullish. The reality is they’re very bullish because they think the economy will accelerate on the upside. But my view is very different. The global economy is slowing down, because the global economy’s largely emerging economies nowadays, and there’s no growth in exports in emerging economies, there’s no growth, in the local economies. So, I feel that the valuations are high, the corporate profits have been boosted largely because of the falling interest rates.”
Marc Faber has 3 very contrarian predictions for 2014 that we are sure will have the yammering yay-bobs screaming. While “everyone thinks stocks can continue to rise,” Faber sees “the US market as expensive,” and will return very little over the next few years. Furthermore, he adds, while “some stocks are not terribly expensive; but just like in the year 2000, [social media] stocks are grossly over-valued,” and a short basket in the most egregious will return at least 30% next year. Lastly, Faber exclaims, “given all the money printing that is going on globally… physical gold is a good insurance.”
Click image for interview (no embed)
In an interview with Talking Numbers’ Brian Sullivan, Faber offers what he thinks is next for the world in 2014:
1. The market will decline from current levels
Faber says: “My sense is that at the present time, the US market is relatively expensive compared to foreign markets, especially to European markets and to emerging markets. On a cyclically-adjusted P/E [price-to-earnings] basis, it is actually going to return very little over the next seven to 10 years.
2. Best shorts for 2014: Facebook, Tesla, Twitter, Netflix, and Veeva Systems
Faber says: “If you look at the entire market, some stocks are not terribly expensive and some stocks are very expensive. It’s like in year 2000, not every stock was overpriced. At that time, the NASDAQ was grossly overvalued but, say, resource shares and so-called ‘old economy’ companies were relatively inexpensive or absolutely cheap. In the present instance, I think that stocks like Facebook, Tesla, Twitter, Netflix, [and] Veeva Systems are grossly overvalued and that the basket of shorts in these stocks will return you at least 30% next year.”
3. Best longs for 2014: Gold, gold shares, and Vietnamese stocks
Faber says: “Given all the money printing that is going on globally – and not just in the US – and given that the total credit as a percent of the advanced economies is now 30% higher than in 2007 before the crisis hit, I think that gold is a good insurance.”
“I’d rather buy something that is reasonably priced. And, I think gold shares are very inexpensive. So a basket of gold shares I think next year could easily appreciate 30%.”
“I think the Vietnamese stock market, which this year was up 22% [and] which is not bad for an emerging market, will continue to go up.”
“The Fed will never end QE for good…” blasts Marc Faber, “they may do some cosmetic adjustments, but within a few years, [Fed] asset purchases will be substantially higher than they are today.” There will be another weakening in the US economy, Faber warns, and “the Fed will argue it hasn’t done enough and will do more… they have been irresponsible for 20 years.”
Noting that investors should “not buy stocks but be in cash”, the stunned CNBC anchor exclaims “How could you sit in cash when th emarket is on fire and interest rates are so low?” to which Faber blasts, “The market is not on fire, look at IBM, Cisco, and Intel – all lower than 2011; it’s on fire if you are in Facebook or Twitter and not everyone owns them.”
Use rallies to reduce exposure, he warns, “we will go up until it is over; and when it is over the drop will be larger than 20%”
Some of the most respected prognosticators in the financial world are warning that what is coming in 2014 and beyond is going to shake America to the core. Many of the quotes that you are about to read are from individuals that actually predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis of 2008 ahead of time. So they have a track record of being right. Does that guarantee that they will be right about what is coming in 2014? Of course not. In fact, as you will see below, not all of them agree about exactly what is coming next. But without a doubt, all of their forecasts are quite ominous. The following are quotes from Harry Dent, Marc Faber, Gerald Celente, Mike Maloney, Jim Rogers and nine other respected economic experts about what they believe is coming in 2014 and beyond…
–Harry Dent, author of The Great Depression Ahead: “Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest.”
–Marc Faber, editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: “You have to say that we are again in a massive financial bubble in bonds, in equities, in [other] asset prices that have gone up dramatically.”
–Gerald Celente: “Any self-respecting adult that hears McConnell, Reid, Boehner, Ryan, one after another, and buys this baloney… they deserve what they get.
And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.
That’s our forecast.
We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.”
–Mike Maloney, host of Hidden Secrets of Money: “I think the crash of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event… the consequences are gonna be horrific… the rest of the decade will bring us the greatest financial calamity in history.”
–Jim Rogers: “You saw what happened in 2008-2009, which was worse than the previous economic setback because the debt was so much higher. Well now the debt is staggeringly much higher, and so the next economic problem, whenever it happens and whatever causes it, is going to be worse than in the past, because we have these unbelievable levels of debt, and unbelievable levels of money printing all over the world. Be worried and get prepared. Now it [a collapse] may not happen until 2016 or something, I have no idea when it’s going to happen, but when it comes, be careful.”
–Lindsey Williams: “There is going to be a global currency reset.”
–CLSA’s Russell Napier: “We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.”
–Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks: “Certainly risk tolerance has been increasing of late; high returns on risky assets have encouraged more of the same; and the markets are becoming more heated. The bottom line varies from sector to sector, but I have no doubt that markets are riskier than at any other time since the depths of the crisis in late 2008 (for credit) or early 2009 (for equities), and they are becoming more so.”
–Financial editor Jeff Berwick: “If they allow interest rates to rise, it will effectively make the U.S. government bankrupt and insolvent, and it would make the U.S. government collapse. . . . They are preparing for a major societal collapse. It is obvious and it will happen, and it will be very scary and very dangerous.”
–Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies: “Disappointingly, it is much more probable that the government has brought us out of the Great Recession, only to set us up for the Greater Depression, which lies just on the other side of interest rate normalization.”
–Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff:”Eventually somebody recognizes this and starts dumping the bonds, and interest rates go up, and inflation takes off, and were off to the races.”
–Mexican Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price: “I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies. I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis. This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).
There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates. The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off. What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.”
–Robert Shiller, one of the winners of the 2013 Nobel prize for economics: “I’m not sounding the alarm yet. But in many countries the stock price levels are high, and in many real estate markets prices have risen sharply…that could end badly.”
–David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan: “We have a massive bubble everywhere, from Japan, to China, Europe, to the UK. As a result of this, I think world financial markets are extremely dangerous, unstable, and subject to serious trouble and dislocation in the future.”
And certainly there are already signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down as we head into the final weeks of 2013. For example, on Thursday we learned that the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 68,000 last week to a disturbingly high total of368,000. That was the largest increase that we have seen in more than a year.
In addition, as I wrote about the other day, rail traffic is way down right now. In fact, for the week ending November 30th, U.S. rail traffic wasdown 16.3 percent from the same week one year earlier. That is a very important indicator that economic activity is getting slower.
And we continue to get more evidence that the middle class is being steadily eroded and that poverty in America is rapidly growing. For example, a survey that was just released found that requests for food assistance and the level of homelessness have both risen significantly in major U.S. cities over the past year…
A survey of 25 American cities, including many of the nation’s largest, showed yearly increases in food aid and homelessness.The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of seven percent compared with the previous period a year earlier, according to the US Conference of Mayors study, published Wednesday.
All but four cities reported an increase in demand for assistance between the period of September 2012 through August 2013.
Unfortunately, if the economic experts quoted above are correct, this is just the beginning of our problems.
The next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and things are going to get much worse than this.
So what do you think?
Which of the individuals quoted above do you think are right on the money and which ones do you think are way off base?
By Marc Faber
As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets I am fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes. The First World War is explained as a consequence of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne; the Depression in the 1930s as a result of the tight monetary policies of the Fed; the Second World War as having been caused by Hitler; and the Vietnam War as a result of the communist threat.
Similarly, the disinflation that followed after 1980 is attributed to Paul Volcker’s tight monetary policies. The 1987 stock market crash is blamed on portfolio insurance. And the Asian Crisis and the stock market crash of 1997 are attributed to foreigners attacking the Thai Baht (Thailand’s currency). A closer analysis of all these events, however, shows that their causes were far more complex and that there was always some “inevitability” at play.
Take the 1987 stock market crash. By the summer of 1987, the stock market had become extremely overbought and a correction was due regardless of how bright the future looked. Between the August 1987 high and the October 1987 low, the Dow Jones declined by 41%. As we all know, the Dow rose for another 20 years, to reach a high of 14,198 in October of 2007.
These swings remind us that we can have huge corrections within longer term trends. The Asian Crisis of 1997-98 is also interesting because it occurred long after Asian macroeconomic fundamentals had begun to deteriorate. Not surprisingly, the eternally optimistic Asian analysts, fund managers , and strategists remained positive about the Asian markets right up until disaster struck in 1997.
But even to the most casual observer it should have been obvious that something wasn’t quite right. The Nikkei Index and the Taiwan stock market had peaked out in 1990 and thereafter trended down or sidewards, while most other stock markets in Asia topped out in 1994. In fact, the Thailand SET Index was already down by 60% from its 1994 high when the Asian financial crisis sent the Thai Baht tumbling by 50% within a few months. That waked the perpetually over-confident bullish analyst and media crowd from their slumber of complacency.
I agree with the late Charles Kindleberger, who commented that “financial crises are associated with the peaks of business cycles”, and that financial crisis “is the culmination of a period of expansion and leads to downturn”. However, I also side with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”.
Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis. Usually, as was the case in Asia in the 1990s, macroeconomic conditions deteriorate long before the onset of the crisis. However, expansionary monetary policies and excessive debt growth can extend the life of the business expansion for a very long time.
In the case of Asia, macroeconomic conditions began to deteriorate in 1988 when Asian countries’ trade and current account surpluses turned down. They then went negative in 1990. The economic expansion, however, continued — financed largely by excessive foreign borrowings. As a result, by the late 1990s, dead ahead of the 1997-98 crisis, the Asian bears were being totally discredited by the bullish crowd and their views were largely ignored.
While Asians were not quite so gullible as to believe that “the overall level of debt makes no difference … one person’s liability is another person’s asset” (as Paul Krugman has said), they advanced numerous other arguments in favour of Asia’s continuous economic expansion and to explain why Asia would never experience the kind of “tequila crisis” Mexico had encountered at the end of 1994, when the Mexican Peso collapsed by more than 50% within a few months.
In 1994, the Fed increased the Fed Fund Rate from 3% to nearly 6%. This led to a rout in the bond market. Ten-Year Treasury Note yields rose from less than 5.5% at the end of 1993 to over 8% in November 1994. In turn, the emerging market bond and stock markets collapsed. In 1994, it became obvious that the emerging economies were cooling down and that the world was headed towards a major economic slowdown, or even a recession.
But when President Clinton decided to bail out Mexico, over Congress’s opposition but with the support of Republican leaders Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, and tapped an obscure Treasury fund to lend Mexico more than$20 billion, the markets stabilized. Loans made by the US Treasury, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements totalled almost $50 billion.
However, the bailout attracted criticism. Former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin used funds to bail out Mexican bonds of which Goldman Sachs was an underwriter and in which it owned positions valued at about $5 billion.
At this point I am not interested in discussing the merits or failures of the Mexican bailout of 1994. (Regular readers will know my critical stance on any form of bailout.) However, the consequences of the bailout were that bonds and equities soared. In particular, after 1994, emerging market bonds and loans performed superbly — that is, until the Asian Crisis in 1997. Clearly, the cost to the global economy was in the form of moral hazard because investors were emboldened by the bailout and piled into emerging market credits of even lower quality.
Above, I mentioned that, by 1994, it had become obvious that the emerging economies were cooling down and that the world was headed towards a meaningful economic slowdown or even a recession. But the bailout of Mexico prolonged the economic expansion in emerging economies by making available foreign capital with which to finance their trade and current account deficits. At the same time, it led to a far more serious crisis in Asia in 1997 and in Russia and the U.S. (LTCM) in 1998.
So, the lesson I learned from the Asian Crisis was that it was devastating because, given the natural business cycle, Asia should already have turned down in 1994. But because of the bailout of Mexico, Asia’s expansion was prolonged through the availability of foreign credits.
This debt financing in foreign currencies created a colossal mismatch of assets and liabilities. Assets that served as collateral for loans were in local currencies, whereas liabilities were denominated in foreign currencies. This mismatch exacerbated the Asian Crisis when the currencies began to weaken, because it induced local businesses to convert local currencies into dollars as fast as they could for the purpose of hedging their foreign exchange risks.
In turn, the weakening of the Asian currencies reduced the value of the collateral, because local assets fall in value not only in local currency terms but even more so in US dollar terms. This led locals and foreigners to liquidate their foreign loans, bonds and local equities. So, whereas the Indonesian stock market declined by “only” 65% between its 1997 high and 1998 low, it fell by 92% in US dollar terms because of the collapse of their currency, the Rupiah.
As an aside, the US enjoys a huge advantage by having the ability to borrow in US dollars against US dollar assets, which doesn’t lead to a mismatch of assets and liabilities. So, maybe Krugman’s economic painkillers, which provided only temporary relief of the symptoms of economic illness, worked for a while in the case of Mexico, but they created a huge problem for Asia in 1997.
Similarly, the housing bubble that Krugman advocated in 2001 relieved temporarily some of the symptoms of the economic malaise but then led to the vicious 2008 crisis. Therefore, it would appear that, more often than not, bailouts create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution.
We’ve recently been treated to two mutually exclusive forecasts: that the Great Bull Market will run until 2016 or 2018, so no worries; and that markets are exhibiting bubble-like characteristics that presage another crash.
So which forecast is more likely the correct one?
Analysts of every stripe—fundamental, quantitative and technical—pump out reams of data and charts to support one forecast or another, and economists (behavioral, macro, etc.) weigh in with their prognostications as well. All sorts of complexities are spun as a by-product of producing research that’s worth paying for, and it all becomes as clear as…mud.
As an experiment, let’s strip away as much of the complexity as possible and look at a few charts of what many observers see as the key components of the U.S. economy and stock market.
Let’s start with a basic chart of the S&P 500 (SPX), a broad measure of U.S. stocks:
Without getting fancy, we can discern three basic phases: what we might term “the old normal,” from the late 1950s to 1982; an amazing Bull Market from 1982 to 1994 that saw the SPX more than double; and a third phase that some consider “the new normal,” a leap to the stratosphere in the 1990s, followed by sharp declines and equally sharp rises to new highs.
This third phase of extreme volatility does not look like the previous phases; that much is clear. Is this a new form of volatile stability; i.e., are extreme bubbles and crashes now “normal”? Or are these extremes evidence of systemic instability? About the only things we can say with confidence is that this phase is noticeably different from the previous decades and that it is characterized by repeating bubbles and crashes.
Let’s zoom in on this “new normal” from 1994 to the present. Does any pattern pop out at us?
Once again, without getting too fancy, we can’t help but notice that this phase is characterized by steeply ascending Bull markets that last around five years. These then collapse and retrace much of the previous rise within a few years.
The reasons why these Bull phases only last about five years are of course open to debate, but what is clear is that some causal factors arise at about the five-year mark that cause the market to reverse sharply.
The ensuing Bear markets have lasted between 2.5 and 1.5 years. We only have three advances and two declines to date, but the regularity of these advances and declines is noteworthy.
Next, let’s consider other potential influences on this “new normal” of wild swings up and down. Some have observed a correlation between the cycles of the sun’s activity and the stock market, and indeed, there does seem to be a close correlation—not so much with the amplitude of the market’s recent moves but with the economic tidal forces of recession and Bull/Bear sentiment.
But there is nothing here to explain why the highs and lows in the stock market have become so exaggerated in the “new normal.”
Many have attempted to correlate key dynamics in the U.S. and global economy to the stock market’s gyrations. Let’s look at a handful that are often offered up as important to the U.S. markets: the bond market (TLT, the 20-year bond index), the Japanese yen, gold, and the U.S. dollar.
If there is some correlation between the SPX and the TLT, it isn’t very visible.
How about the Japanese yen? Once again, there is no correlation to the SPX that is obvious enough to be useful.
Some analysts see the yen and gold as tightly correlated; here is GLD, a proxy for gold:
There is a clear correlation here, but as we all know, correlation is not causation, which means that some underlying forces could be causing the yen and gold to act in a similar fashion. Alternatively, the yen is acting on gold in a causal role.
In either case, the problem with correlations is that they can end without warning. Since neither the yen nor gold correlate with the S&P 500, neither one helps us forecast a continuing Bull or a crash.
Lastly, let’s look at the U.S. dollar (DXY).
As I have noted elsewhere, the dollar doesn’t share any meaningful correlation with the S&P 500, yen, gold, or bonds in terms of trends, highs, or lows. Here is a longer-term view of the Dollar Index, and once again we see no useful correlation to the SPX:
Proponents of cycles (17.6 years, for example) claim a high degree of correlation with actual highs and lows, but these cycles do not exhibit the fine-grained accuracy we might hope for in terms of deciding to buy, short, or sell stocks.
Analyst Sean Corrigan has described a remarkable 33-year cycle of highs and lows in the SPX: lows in 1949, 1982, and (forecast) 2015, and highs in 1967 and 2000, (forecast of next high, 2033). While interesting on multiple levels, these cyclical data points are rather sparse foundations for decisions on whether to sell or hold major positions in the stock market, and they do not provide a forecast of the amplitude of any high or low. Given the extremes of the “new normal,” we would prefer a forecast, not just of time, but also of amplitude.
Though it is unsatisfyingly imprecise, the “new normal” phase strongly implies that future declines will be as dramatic as the advances and that the five-year clock is ticking on the current Bull market. Forecasting an advance that lasts years beyond this five-year pattern is equivalent to forecasting that the “new normal” phase is now ending and a new phase of much longer Bull advances is beginning.
That is a bold claim, and there is little historical data to give it much weight. Stripped of complexity, the charts suggest that the current run will top out within the next few months and retrace most of the advance from 2009; i.e., a crash of significant amplitude.
In Part II: The Case for Cash, we analyze the indicators that help us determine the likelihood of a coming crash similar in magnitude to 2000-02 and 2008-09, and why a strategy of selling risk assets now, and holding the cash until income-producing assets “go on sale” at the trough of the next market decline, seems especially prudent at this time.
It is no wonder that, according to a Gallup Poll conducted in early October, a record-low 14% of Americans thought that the country was headed in the right direction, down from 30% in September. That’s the biggest single-month drop in the poll since the shutdown of 1990. Some 78% think the country is on the wrong track.
Some readers will, of course, ask what this expose about the political future has to do with investments. It has nothing to do with what the stock market will do tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in the next three months. But it has a lot to do with the future of the US (and other Western democracies where socio-political conditions are hardly any better).
I have written about the consequences of a dysfunctional political system elsewhere. In May 2011 I explained how expansionary monetary policies had favoured what Joseph Stiglitz called ‘the elite’ at the expense of ordinary people by increasing the wealth and income of the ‘one percent’ far more than that of the majority of the American people.
I also quoted at the time Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813), who opined as follows: ‘A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the Public Treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship‘.
Later, Alexis de Tocqueville observed: ‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.‘
To be fair to Mr. Obama, the government debt under his administration has expanded at a much slower pace in percentage terms than under the Reagan administration and the two Bush geniuses. In fact, as much as I hate to say this, Mr. Obama has been (or has been forced to be) a fiscal conservative.
However, what 18th and 19th century economists and social observers failed to observe is that democracies can also collapse over loose monetary policies. And in this respect, under the Obama administration, the Fed’s balance sheet has exploded. John Maynard Keynes got it 100% right when he wrote:
‘By a continuing process of inflation, Governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some…
‘Those to whom the system brings windfalls…become ‘profiteers’ who are the object of the hatred… The process of wealth getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery… Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.’
The Fed takes great pride in the fact that US household wealth has now exceeded the 2007 high. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I recently attended a presentation by Larry Lindsey, at my friend Gary Bahre’s New Hampshire estate. He unmistakably showed, based on the Fed’s own Survey of Consumer Finance and Flow of Funds, that the recovery in household wealth has been extremely uneven.
Readers should focus on the last column of Table 1, which depicts the change in household wealth between 2007 and 2013 by wealth percentile. As can be seen, the bottom 50% of the population is still down more than 40% in terms of their ‘wealth’ from the 2007 high. (Lindsey is a rather level-headed former Member of the Board of the Governors of the Federal Reserve System, in which capacity he served between 1991 and 1997.)
Besides the uneven recovery of household wealth among different wealth groups, a closer look at consumer credit, which is now at a record level, is also revealing. Furthermore, consumer credit as a percentage of disposable personal income is almost at the pre-crisis high.
But what I found most interesting is how different income and wealth groups adjusted their outstanding total debt (including consumer credit, mortgage debt, etc.) following the crisis.
Larry Lindsey showed us a table – again based on the Fed’s own Survey of Consumer Finance and Flow of Funds data – which depicts total debt increases and decreases (in US$ billions) among these different income and wealth groups.
I find it remarkable that the lower 40% of income recipients and the lower 50% of wealth owners actually increased their debts meaningfully post-2007. In other words, approximately 50% of Americans in the lower income and wealth groups who are both voters and consumers would seem to be more indebted than ever. A fair assumption is also that these people form the majority of the government’s social benefits recipients.
Now, since these lower income and wealth groups increased their debts post-2007 and enjoyed higher social benefits, they were also to some extent supporting the economy and corporate profits. But what about the future?
Entitlements are unlikely to expand much further as a percentage of GDP, and these lower-income recipients’ higher debts are likely to become a headwind for consumer spending. Simply put, in my opinion, it is most unlikely that US economic growth will surprise on the upside in the next few years.
It is more likely there will be negative surprises.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia
Publisher’s Note: Household Wealth Leans Over an Uneven Recovery originally appeared in the Daily Reckoning USA.