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The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory

The Stock Market Has Officially Entered Crazytown Territory.

Looney Tunes - Photo by Ramon F VelasquezIt is time to crank up the Looney Tunes theme song because Wall Street has officially entered crazytown territory.  Stocks just keep going higher and higher, and at this point what is happening in the stock market does not bear any resemblance to what is going on in the overall economy whatsoever.  So how long can this irrational state of affairs possibly continue?  Stocks seem to go up no matter what happens.  If there is good news, stocks go up.  If there is bad news, stocks go up.  If there is no news, stocks go up.  On Thursday, the day after Christmas, the Dow was up another 122 points to another new all-time record high.  In fact, the Dow has had an astonishing 50 record high closes this year.  This reminds me of the kind of euphoria that we witnessed during the peak of the housing bubble.  At the time, housing prices just kept going higher and higher and everyone rushed to buy before they were “priced out of the market”.  But we all know how that ended, and this stock market bubble is headed for a similar ending.

It is almost as if Wall Street has not learned any lessons from the last two major stock market crashes at all.  Just look at Twitter.  At the current price, Twitter is supposedly worth 40.7 BILLION dollars.  But Twitter is not profitable.  It is a seven-year-old company that has never made a single dollar of profit.

Not one single dollar.

In fact, Twitter actually lost 64.6 million dollars last quarter alone.  And Twitter is expected to continue losing money for all of 2015 as well.

But Twitter stock is up 82 percent over the last 30 days, and nobody can really give a rational reason for why this is happening.

Overall, the Dow is up more than 25 percent so far this year.  Unless something really weird happens over the next few days, it will be the best year for the Dow since 1996.

It has been a wonderful run for Wall Street.  Unfortunately, there are a whole host of signs that we have entered very dangerous territory.

The median price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 has reached an all-time record high, and margin debt at the New York Stock Exchange has reached a level that we have never seen before.  In other words, stocks are massively overpriced and people have been borrowing huge amounts of money to buy stocks.  These are behaviors that we also saw just before the last two stock market bubbles burst.

And of course the most troubling sign is that even as the stock market soars to unprecedented heights, the state of the overall U.S. economy is actually getting worse…

-During the last full week before Christmas, U.S. store visits were 21 percent lower than a year earlier and retail sales were 3.1 percentlower than a year earlier.

-The number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low.

-The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries just hit 3 percent.

For many more signs like this, please see my previous article entitled “37 Reasons Why ‘The Economic Recovery Of 2013’ Is A Giant Lie“.

And most Americans don’t realize this, but the U.S. financial system and the overall U.S. economy are now in much weaker condition than they were the last time we had a major financial crash back in 2008.  Employment is at a much lower level than it was back then and our banking system is much more vulnerable than it was back then.  Just before the last financial crash, the U.S. national debt was sitting atabout 10 trillion dollars, but today it has risen to more than 17.2 trillion dollars.  The following excerpt from a recent article posted on thedailycrux.com contains even more facts and figures which show how our “balance sheet numbers” continue to get even worse…

Since the fourth quarter of 2009, the U.S. current account deficit has been more than $100 billion per quarter. As a result, foreigners now own $4.2 trillion more U.S. investment assets than we own abroad. That’s $1.7 trillion more than when Buffett first warned about this huge problem in 2003. Said another way, the problem is 68% bigger now.

And here’s a number no one else will tell you – not even Buffett. Foreigners now own $25 trillion in U.S. assets. And yet… we continue to consume far more than we produce, and we borrow massively to finance our deficits.

Since 2007, the total government debt in the U.S. (federal, state, and local) has doubled from around $10 trillion to $20 trillion.

Meanwhile, the size of Fannie and Freddie’s mortgage book declined slightly since 2007, falling from $4.9 trillion to $4.6 trillion. That’s some good news, right?

Nope. The excesses just moved to a new agency. The “other” federal mortgage bank, the Federal Housing Administration, now is originating 20% of all mortgages in the U.S., up from less than 5% in 2007.

Student debt, also spurred on by government guarantees, has also boomed, doubling since 2007 to more than $1 trillion. Altogether, total debt in our economy has grown from around $50 trillion to more than $60 trillion since 2007.

So don’t be fooled by this irrational stock market bubble.

Just because a bunch of half-crazed investors are going into massive amounts of debt in a desperate attempt to make a quick buck does not mean that the overall economy is in good shape.

In fact, much of the country is in such rough shape that “reverse shopping” has become a huge trend.  Even big corporations such as McDonald’s are urging their employees to return their Christmas gifts in order to bring in some much needed money…

In a stark reminder of how tough things still are for low-income families in America, McDonalds has advised workers to dig themselves “out of holiday debt” by cashing in their Christmas haul.

“You may want to consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did,” said a website set up for employees.

“Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

This irrational stock market bubble is not going to last for too much longer.  And a lot of top financial experts are now warning their clients to prepare for the worst.  For example, David John Marotta of Marotta Wealth Management recently told his clients that they should all have a“bug-out bag” that contains food, a gun and some ammunition…

A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, theNSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.

David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”

His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won’t result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.

So what do you think is coming in 2014?

 

Fed Creating More Financial Market Uncertainty | Euro Pacific Capital

Fed Creating More Financial Market Uncertainty | Euro Pacific Capital.

By:

John Browne

Monday, December 9, 2013

Although the U.S. stock market continues to hit new nominal highs on a nearly daily basis, the U.S. economy bumps along at a lackluster pace. This disconnect has been achieved by a massive Fed experiment in monetary stimulation. Through the combination of seemingly endless maintenance of zero interest rates and the injection of some $1trillion a year of synthetic money into fixed-income markets, the Fed is hoping that the boom it is creating on Wall Street will lead to a boom on Main Street. In reality, this a very dangerous economic gamble of enormously high stakes.  As we have seen in the recent past, financial bubbles can leave catastrophe in their wake.

In October 2013, Professor Robert Schiller, the renowned Yale economist, was awarded a Nobel Prize together with two others for research into asset bubbles and resulting values. In a recent interview in the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, he said, “I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets. That could end badly. I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable.”

However, there are many in the financial establishment who disagree with the professor, including, most interestingly, Professor Karl Case, the co-creator of the famous Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Most markets either believe that current share prices are fully justified by corporate metrics or they believe the Fed has expertise, and the ability, to prevent an ugly sell-off if things turn out badly. This debate has become the defining conversation as we head into the end of the year.

However, those who believe that QE will produce positive results to compensate for the risks are finding their position to be increasingly difficult to defend. At the International Monetary Fund’s November annual conference in Washington, Mr. David Wilcox, reputed to be one of the Fed’s most important economic advisors, offered insight into some problems facing QE. In essence, he maintained that the Fed’s QE-3 program is producing only very limited results in terms of U.S. economic growth. At the same time, he seemed to hint that unlimited QE could create serious financial market distortions.

Many market observers, including myself, think that the Fed’s open-ended QE program has been a massively expensive failure. As a result, market watchers have become increasingly eager for the program to be wound down, and many do not understand the Fed’s reluctance to taper its monthly bond purchases.

Although many of the more open-minded members of the Fed’s Open Market Committee may have lost faith in the ability of QE to deliver tangible gains in the real economy, they have also shown some concern that a diminishing of QE could trigger stock and bond market turmoil. There can be little doubt that such an outcome could usher in a new round of recession. In other words the “good” that the Fed sees in QE may merely be the prevention of a potentially worse reality.

A majority of investors have seemed to convince themselves that QE has become an unneeded crutch that the Fed will be more than happy to abandon by the end of next year. Many believe that such an outcome will place limited downward pressure on stocks, bonds and real estate. These views are Pollyannish in the extreme. The recent sell-off in the bond market should attest to that. On the other hand, some investors, including some aggressive hedge funds, seem to be operating under the belief that QE will not be ended any time soon, if ever. They have even borrowed massively to invest on booming financial markets that stand already at record highs. Today, total New York Stock Exchange margin debt stands at $412 billion, an all-time record.

The disagreements of the investing public are of little weight in comparison to the opinions of the FOMC members themselves (such is the world we have created). The key point for 2014 is how many voting members of the new Yellen-led FOMC will follow her down the Keynesian cul-de-sac. Should a majority of the FOMC feel forced, in the national interest, to vote against an expansion of the Bernanke-era stimulus policies (which we believe Ms. Yellen is sure to propose), financial markets could be in for a severe shock.

Those who wish to continue equity investing in face of this risk might be well-advised to ensure they have adequate hedging policies in place. Investors in both equities and bonds must question how the Fed can coax a market into a continued boom in a manner disconnected from economic reality.

John Browne is a Senior Economic Consultant to Euro Pacific Capital. Opinions expressed are those of the writer, and may or may not reflect those held by Euro Pacific Capital, or its CEO, Peter Schiff.

 

GHOST OF 1929 « The Burning Platform

GHOST OF 1929 « The Burning Platform.

Ghost of 1929 crash reappears

Commentary: Pay attention to the signals

By Anthony MIrhaydari


Library of Congress

Crowd of people gather outside the New York Stock Exchange following the Crash of 1929.

They say those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

As a student of market history, I’ve seen that maxim made true time and again. The cycle swings fear back to greed. The overcautious become the overzealous. And at the top, the story is always the same: Too much credit, too much speculation, the suspension of disbelief, and the spread of the idea that this time is different.

It doesn’t matter whether it was the expansion of railroads heading into the crash of 1893 or the excitement over the consolidation of the steel industry in 1901 or the mixing of speculation and banking heading into 1907. Or whether it involves an epic expansion of mortgage credit, IPO activity, or central-bank stimulus. What can’t continue forever ultimately won’t.

The weaknesses of the human heart and mind means the swings will always exist. Our rudimentary understanding of the forces of economics, which in turn, reflect ultimately the fallacies of people making investing, purchasing, and saving decisions, means policymakers will never defeat the vagaries of the business cycle.

So no, this time isn’t different. The specifics may have changed, but the themes remain the same.

In fact, the stock market is right now tracing out a pattern eerily similar to the lead up to the infamous 1929 market crash. The pattern, illustrated by Tom McClellan of the McClellan Market Report, and brought to his attention by well-known chart diviner Tom Demark, is shown below.

Excuse me for throwing some cold water on the fever dream Wall Street has descended into over the last few months, an apparent climax that has bullish sentiment at record highs, margin debt at record highs, bears capitulating left and right, and a market that is increasingly dependent on brokerage credit, Federal Reserve stimulus, and a fantasy that corporate profitability will never again come under pressure.

On a pure price-analogue basis, it’s time to start worrying.

Fundamentally, it’s time to start worrying too. With GDP growth petering out (Macroeconomic Advisors is projecting fourth-quarter growth of just 1.2%), Americans abandoning the labor force at a frightening pace, businesses still withholding capital spending, and personal-consumption expenditures growing at levels associated with recent recessions, we’ve past the point of diminishing marginal returns to the Fed’s cheap-money morphine.

All we’re doing now is pushing on the proverbial string. Trillions in unused bank reserves are piling up. The housing market has stalled after the “taper tantrum” earlier this year caused mortgage rates to shoot from 3.4% to 4.6% between May and August. The Treasury market is getting distorted as the Fed effectively monetizes a growing share of the national debt. Emerging-market economies are increasingly vulnerable to a currency crisis once the taper finally starts.

The Fed knows it. But they’re trapped between these risks and giving the market — the one bright spot in the post-2009 recovery — serious liquidity withdrawals.

But the specifics of the run up to the 1929 crash provide true bone-chilling context for what’s happening now.

The Bernanke-led Fed’s enthusiasm for avoiding the mistakes that worsened the Great Depression—- a mistimed tightening of monetary conditions — has led him to repeat the mistakes that caused it in the first place: Namely, continuing to lower interest rates via Treasury bond purchases well into an economic expansion and bull market justified by low-to-no inflation.

(Side note here: As economist Murray Rothbard of the Austrian School wrote in America’s Great Depression, prices dropped then, as now, because of gains in productivity and efficiency.)

Here’s the kicker: The Fed (mainly the New York Fed under Benjamin Strong) was knee deep in quantitative easing in the late 1920s, expanding the money supply and lowering interest rates via direct bond purchases. Wall Street then, as now, was euphoric.

It ended badly.

Fed policymakers felt like heroes as they violated that central tenant of central banking as outlined in 1873 by Economist editor Walter Bagehot in his famous Lombard Street: That they should lend freely to solvent banks, at a punitive interest rate in exchange for good quality collateral. Central-bank stimulus should only be a stopgap measure used to stem panics, a lender of last resort; not act as a vehicle of economic deliverance via the printing press.

It’s being violated again now as the mistakes of history are repeated once more. Bernanke will be around to see the results of his mistakes and his misguided justification that quantitative easing is working because stock prices are higher, ignoring evidence that the “wealth effect” isn’t working.

Strong died in 1928, missing the hangover his obsession with low interest rates and credit expansion caused after bragging, in 1927, that his policies would give “a little coup de whisky to the stock market.”

140 Years Ago Today, The Great Panic Of 1873 Led To The First Market Closure | Zero Hedge

140 Years Ago Today, The Great Panic Of 1873 Led To The First Market Closure | Zero Hedge.

 

Nasdaq crash triggers fear of data meltdown | Technology | The Guardian

Nasdaq crash triggers fear of data meltdown | Technology | The Guardian.

 

Stock Market Bubbles And Record Margin Debt: A (Repeating) History Of Ignoring All Warnings | Zero Hedge

Stock Market Bubbles And Record Margin Debt: A (Repeating) History Of Ignoring All Warnings | Zero Hedge.

 

Summarizing The Known Rigged Markets | Zero Hedge

Summarizing The Known Rigged Markets | Zero Hedge.

Stock Market Crashes Through the Ages – Part I – 17th and 18th Centuries | Zero Hedge

Stock Market Crashes Through the Ages – Part I – 17th and 18th Centuries | Zero Hedge.

 

Guest Post: Would It Make Sense For The Fed To Not Manipulate The Gold Price? | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Would It Make Sense For The Fed To Not Manipulate The Gold Price? | Zero Hedge.

 

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