Central Banks Wade Into Stocks

Readers may recall that we have frequently remarked that the fact that central banks have reportedly become fairly large net buyers of gold over the past two years was at best irrelevant and at worst a contrary indicator. What it never was and never will be, is bullish. There is some hope that it may not be a big negative signal, due to the fact that the central banks doing the buying are not the same ones that sold between $250 and $600 and because they only buy fairly small amounts. However, it sure hasn't been a positive signal so far. Central banks as a rule are the worst traders in the world.

It is therefore interesting that the latest central bank fad is apparently to buy stocks. They didn't buy stocks in early 2009, mind. They probably had to wait for the markets to 'look safe' or something like that.

Bloomberg reports:

 

Central banks, guardians of the world’s $11 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, are buying stocks in record amounts as falling bond yields push even risk- averse investors toward equities.

In a survey of 60 central bankers this month by Central Banking Publications and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, 23 percent said they own shares or plan to buy them. The Bank of Japan, holder of the second-biggest reserves, said April 4 it will more than double investments in equity exchange-traded funds to 3.5 trillion yen ($35.2 billion) by 2014. The Bank of Israel bought stocks for the first time last year while the Swiss National Bank and the Czech National Bank have boosted their holdings to at least 10 percent of reserves.

[…]

The survey of 60 central bankers, overseeing a combined $6.7 trillion, found that low bond returns had prompted almost half to take on more risk. Fourteen said they had already invested in equities or would do so within five years. Those conducting the annual poll had never before asked that question.

“I definitely see other central banks doing or considering equities,” said Jan Schmidt, the executive director of risk management at the Czech National Bank in Prague, which has built up stocks to 10 percent of its $44.4 billion in reserves since 2008.

[…]

Central banks’ purchases of shares show how the “hunger for yield” is changing the behavior of even the most conservative investors, according to Matthew Beesley, head of equities at Henderson Global Investors Holding Ltd. In London, which oversees about $100 billion.

“Equities are the last asset class standing,” Beesley said in a phone interview on April 18. “When you have dividend yields in excess of bond yields, it’s a very logical move.”

 

(emphasis added)

Good grief. Yes, it's only 'logical' to invest in the 'last asset class standing' – which means in translation: the one asset class that's recently been in an uptrend. We weren't actually aware that central banks had a 'hunger for yield'. Aren't they supposed to be out there 'fighting inflation'? Just kidding.

However, they are supposed to be the stewards of the currencies they issue, and it is not entirely clear why that suddenly requires them to pile into equities. One thing is certain though: it is an example of very interesting timing.

 

NYSE Margin Debt Back at Nominal Record High

Just as central bankers eagerly eye stocks as a means to 'diversify' their reserves, margin debt at the NYSE is finally back at its 2007 record high. It may well grow even larger this time around though, as the annual rate of change has not yet achieved a spike similar to those seen in 1999/2000 and 2007.

Still, in spite of rising stock prices, investor net worth has now been negative for more than three years (with a few brief interruptions). That's not as long as during the 1990s mania, but longer than the period preceding the 2007 peak. Naturally, investors have nothing to worry about, since it is well known that the DJIA is going to 36,000 next. Even if it is 'impossible to predict how long it will take'.

 


 

margin debt
NYSE margin debt is back at its 2007 peak. It may make an even higher peak this time around, but it would probably be a mistake to completely ignore this datum – click to enlarge.

 


 

But then again, mutual funds have seen large inflows lately, so surely they have lots of cash to deploy? Unfortunately their cash amounts to only 3.7% of their assets, 40 basis points above an all time low. The small wiggles that can be seen on the chart in recent months are likely the result of said inflows.

 


 

mufu cash
Mutual fund cash-to-assets ratio – it has never been as low as over the past three years – click to enlarge.

 


 

Surely that doesn't mean much though, since it hasn't meant anything for three years running. And besides, investors are bearish, so stocks can only go higher.

 


 

Consensus Inc
Consensus Inc. bullish consensus on stocks – click to enlarge.

 


 

OK, so some investors are bearish. But it isn't as if speculators were heavily long futures on speculative stocks, something like small caps, say.

 


 

CoT RUT
A new record high in speculative net long positions on Russell 2000 futures – click to enlarge.

 


 

Enough already…who cares about these technicalities? Fundamentals are sound! Companies are throwing off oodles of cash!


 

corporate cash flow
Corporate net cash flows turn negative – click to enlarge.

 


 

That seems to leave only one thing: central banks are buying stocks and they know best!

We must admit that the above amounts to some extent to an exercise in cherry-picking of data. Not every stock market-related sentiment and positioning datum looks as stretched as the ones shown above. There are surveys like Consensus Inc. and Market Vane that are pretty much at the top of their historical range, but others like the Investors Intelligence survey look  less extreme. Speculators don't hold record net long positions in all stock index futures, but their long positions are nevertheless historically large in all of them (they are not far from records in most of them – and the records were all set within the past year).

Economic conditions are meanwhile at best middling in the US, and downright atrocious in Europe and Japan. China is growing, but less than it used to and it has a debt problem to boot (of course, everybody has a debt problem).

 

Conclusion:

Either the stock market 'knows' something we don't – and we frankly don't think so, because it usually knows very little – or it is indeed rising on fumes. No doubt the fact that central banks continue to be 'accommodating', i.e., are printing gobs of money, currently lends support to stocks. One must however be careful with such simplistic cause-effect schemata. One could for instance ask, why is this additional money no longer lifting commodity prices? And how does the persistent bid enjoyed by 'safe haven' type government bonds jibe with rising stock prices? To be sure, warning signs like the ones discussed above have been noticeable for many months and this hasn't kept the rally from continuing. It was easy to underestimate its persistence, and may still persist for even longer. However, once even central banks are beginning to buy stocks, a few extra alarm bells should start ringing.

Oh well, at least stocks are cheap.

 


 

S&P 500 Average 12-Year PE
SPX, average 6 year and 12-year p/e ratio 1877- today (chart via our friend BC) – click to enlarge.

 


 

Oops! Sorry! : )

 

 

Charts by: Sentimentrader, St. Louis Fed, BC


 

 
 

Emigrate While You Can... Learn More

 
 

 
 

Dear Readers!

It is that time of the year again – our semi-annual funding drive begins today. Give us a little hand in offsetting the costs of running this blog, as advertising revenue alone is insufficient. You can help us reach our modest funding goal by donating either via paypal or bitcoin. Those of you who have made a ton of money based on some of the things we have said in these pages (we actually made a few good calls lately!), please feel free to up your donations accordingly (we are sorry if you have followed one of our bad calls. This is of course your own fault). Other than that, we can only repeat that donations to this site are apt to secure many benefits. These range from sound sleep, to children including you in their songs, to the potential of obtaining privileges in the afterlife (the latter cannot be guaranteed, but it seems highly likely). As always, we are greatly honored by your readership and hope that our special mixture of entertainment and education is adding a little value to your life!

   

Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke

   
 

3 Responses to “Central Banks and Their Unerring Sense of Timing”

  • Jimmy, there won’t be any redemption cash problems. Those people will get out at the bottom.

    As far as the charts, the bottom one says all. They are all out there saying, stocks are cheap. Compared to what? The whole mess is in its current structure for a reason, that business conditions are in doubt. But, there isn’t a view of risk any more, despite the financial tragedies that have occurred over the past, especially the recent past. Dividend yields are part of the long term risk return on stocks and they are historically low, not high. If long term inflation is 3%, long term real growth 1%, dividends need to be 5% to reach 9%, the nonsense long term return on stocks. As the bottom chart shows, we have been in a historic bubble that is outside the bounds of anything else on the charts. That includes the bottom in 2008.

    Stocks are no different than any financial product, the long term return is established by the purchase price, not by the perceived future. There is over 100 years of data to look at what the future will hold on the broad market and its growth potential. The sizable returns have been made almost exclusively from periods of high dividends and low PE’s and never from peaks. Note the real return made from the 2000 peak in the SPX and even the Dow, which has outperformed, mainly due to timely splits and the replacement of corpses with live entities. The credit bubble influenced high level of corporate profits hasn’t eliminated the overvaluation, only put values on a more unstable slope, as outliers always return to the norm. Corporate earnings have reached almost double prior peaks in percentage of GDP and added to other factors, promise a huge fall in stock valuations. A return to normal would entail a loss of roughly 50% of corporate earnings across the board, not a welcome prospect. What won’t go on forever won’t. The rest of the economy no longer has the resources to support such a transfer of wealth or credit.

  • SavvyGuy:

    “I definitely see other central banks doing or considering equities,” said Jan Schmidt, the executive director of risk management at the Czech National Bank in Prague, which has built up stocks to 10 percent of its $44.4 billion in reserves since 2008.

    ***************

    Monkey see, monkey do!

  • jimmyjames:

    But then again, mutual funds have seen large inflows lately, so surely they have lots of cash to deploy? Unfortunately their cash amounts to only 3.7% of their assets, 40 basis points above an all time low.

    ************

    So when everyone heads for exits at once- where will the redemption cash come from in a possible no bid market?
    No problem–Mutual Funds have forever had the same sort of “bail in” eg: Cypress type of clause that’s become the latest trendy fad across the world now-
    If selling freezes up in a crashing market- they can simply issue you shares “of the fund” in lieu of cash and then you will be allowed to watch your cash disappear from a different angle-

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • Perfect-InvestmentInsanity, Oddities and Dark Clouds in Credit-Land
      Insanity Rules Bond markets are certainly displaying a lot of enthusiasm at the moment – and it doesn't matter which bonds one looks at, as the famous “hunt for yield” continues to obliterate interest returns across the board like a steamroller. Corporate and government debt have been soaring for years, but investor appetite for such debt has evidently grown even more.   The perfect investment for modern times: interest-free risk! Illuustration by Howard...
  • Factories, new vs oldUS Economy – Something is not Right
      Another Strong Payrolls Report – is it Meaningful? This morning the punters in the casino were cheered up by yet another strong payrolls report, the second in a row. Leaving aside the fact that it will be revised out of all recognition when all is said and done, does it actually mean the economy is strong?   Quo vadis, economy? Image credit: Paul Raphaelson   As we usually point out at this juncture: apart from the problem that US labor force participation has...
  • TurmoilInvesting in Gold in 2016: Global Paradigm Shifts in Politics and Markets
      Crumbling Stability In the past few months, we have witnessed a series of defining events in modern political history, with Britain’s vote to exit the EU, (several) terror attacks in France and Germany, as well as the recent attempted military coup in Europe’s backyard, Turkey.   Global stability continues to be undermined   Uncertainty over Europe’s political stability and the future of the EU keeps growing. These worries are quite valid, as geopolitical...
  • CorporateMediacontrolTrump's Tax Plan, Clinton Corruption and Mainstream Media Propaganda
      Fake Money, Fake Capital OUZILLY, France – Little change in the markets on Monday. We are in the middle of vacation season. Who wants to think too much about the stock market? Not us! Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised to reform the U.S. tax system.   This should actually even appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders: the lowest income groups will be completely exempt from income and capital gains taxes under Trump's plan. We expect to hear...
  • TMS-2 fast versionA Date Which Will Live in Infamy
      President Nixon’s Decision to Abandon the Gold Standard Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the Japanese “surprise” attack on the U.S. occupied territory of Hawaii and its naval base Pearl Harbor, “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy.”  Similar words should be used for President Nixon’s draconian decision 45 years ago this month that removed America from the last vestiges of the gold standard.   Nixon points out where numerous evil speculators were suspected to be...
  • mania1The Great Stock Market Swindle
      Short Circuited Feedback Loops Finding and filling gaps in the market is one avenue for entrepreneurial success.  Obviously, the first to tap into an unmet consumer demand can unlock massive profits.  But unless there’s some comparative advantage, competition will quickly commoditize the market and profit margins will decline to just above breakeven.   Example of a “commoditized” market – hard-drive storage costs per GB. This is actually the essence of economic...
  • Mark Carney starts work as Bank of England governor in Dave Simonds cartoonBank of England QE and the Imaginary “Brexit Shock”
      Mark Carney, Wrecking Ball For reasons we cannot even begin to fathom, Mark Carney is considered a “superstar” among central bankers. Presumably this was one of the reasons why the British government helped him to execute a well-timed exit from the Bank of Canada by hiring him to head the Bank of England (well-timed because he disappeared from Canada with its bubble economy seemingly still intact, leaving his successor to take the blame).   This is how Mark Carney is seen by...
  • old friendsAn Old Friend Returns
      A Rare Apparition An old friend suddenly showed up out of the blue yesterday and I’m not talking about a contributor who had washed out and, after years of ‘working for the man’, decided to return for another whack at beating the market. Instead I am delighted to report that I am looking at a bona fide confirmed VIX sell signal which we haven’t seen for ages here.   Hello, old friend. Professor X and Magneto staring each other down in the plastic...
  • tortoiseThe Fabian Society and the Gradual Rise of Statist Socialism
      The “Third Way”   “Stealth, intrigue, subversion, and the deception of never calling socialism by its right name” – George Bernard Shaw   An emblem of the Fabian Society: a wolf in sheep's clothing   The Brexit referendum has revealed the existence of a deep polarization in British politics. Apart from the public faces of the opposing campaigns, there were however also undisclosed parties with a vested interest which few people have heard about. And...
  • storming the storeRetail Snails
      Second Half Recovery Dented by “Resurgent Consumer” We normally don't comment in real time on individual economic data releases. Generally we believe it makes more sense to occasionally look at a bigger picture overview, once at least some of the inevitable revisions have been made. The update we posted last week (“US Economy, Something is Not Right”) is an example.   Eager consumers storming a store Photo credit: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg   We'll make an...
  • The CongressThe Fed’s “Waterloo” Moment
      Corrupt and Unsustainable James has been a big help. Trying to get him to sleep at night, we have been telling him fantastic and unbelievable bedtime stories – full of grotesque monsters... evil maniacs... and events that couldn’t possibly be true (catch up here and here).   He turned his head until his gaze came to rest on the barred windows of the main building. Finally, he spoke; as far as I was aware these were the first words he had uttered in more than five years....
  • Zimbabwe_$100_trillion_2009_ObverseGood Money and Bad Money
      Confidence Gets a Boost OUZILLY, France – Last week’s U.S. jobs report came in better than expected. Stocks rose to new records. As we laid out recently, a better jobs picture should lead the Fed to raise rates. This should cause canny investors to dump stocks.   Canny investors at work (an old, but good one...) Cartoon via Pension Pulse   But the stock market paid no attention. It follows logic of its own. Headlines told us that last Friday’s report “boosted...

Austrian Theory and Investment

Support Acting Man

Own physical gold and silver outside a bank

Archive

j9TJzzN

350x200

Realtime Charts

 

Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from www.kitco.com]

 


 

USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from www.kitco.com]

 

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

 
Buy Silver Now!
 
Buy Gold Now!
 

Oilprice.com