Our operating hunch is that US stocks, Treasuries and gold have all turned over recent months. After 33 years of falling, Treasury yields are now climbing higher … After two years of correcting, gold prices are rising again … And after 4 years … or 12 years … or 31 years of rising prices, depending on how you count it, US stocks are starting to look vulnerable to a real setback. It’s still summertime. We don’t expect much action in the next few days. But already, kids are going back to school and parents are getting back to work. And pretty soon, investors could notice that Mr. Market is taking over the controls from the Mr. Bernanke.
Mom and Pop are back in stocks. Meanwhile, sentiment, prices, margin debt – all are at extremely high levels. (There is $377 billion in margin debt on Wall Street, for example. That’s just below its all-time high… and well above its highs before the dot-com crash and the collapse of Lehman Brothers.)
Take away the jive profits of the big banks, and real earnings are weak. The relationship between Fed policy and stock prices is weakening too.
From John Hussman at Hussman Funds:
Our estimates of prospective risk are surging … At present, we have what might best be characterized as a broken speculative peak, in that market internals (particularly interest-sensitive groups), breadth and leadership have broken down uniformly following an extreme overvalued, overbought, overbullish syndrome. If you recall, the market also recovered to new highs in October 2007, weeks after the initial, decisive break in market internals at that time. Presently, we’re looking at the same set of circumstances. On some event related to tapering or the Fed Chair nomination, we may even see another push higher. It isn't simply short-term risk, but deep cyclical risk that is of concern.
Deep Cyclical Risk
What’s the “deep cyclical risk” Hussman is talking about? It’s the risk of a market that has been bubbled up due too much cheap credit. Like any bubble, it floats around until it finds its pin. This leads us to do something we do very rarely. Today, we’re hoisting our tattered “Crash Alert” flag over our Diary headquarters here in Baltimore. Watch out!
Not that we know anything you don’t know. We gave up trying to predict the future long ago, after we realized we were no good at it. Our Crash Alert flag is not a forecast. It is like a tornado warning. Market conditions are exceptionally ripe for a bad storm. Yesterday, the Dow fell 105 points. Gold barely moved. Treasury prices continued to fall. Markets move in cycles of trust. They begin tentatively, with investors unwilling to pay more than eight or nine times for a dollar’s worth of reported earnings… and too scared to lend money without at least 10% interest coming their way. Gradually, as things improve and asset prices rise, investors become more confident. Soon, they are buying stocks with P/Es of 12 to 15… and borrowing at only 5% interest. Then investors become convinced that the good times will last forever. They put aside their doubts. They find reasons to believe that what never happened before is now guaranteed to go on forever. Ordinary people have come to think that Wall Street is there to help them make money. Progress, prosperity and rising asset prices – now and everlasting. Amen.
These beliefs are tested. There are setbacks. Shocks. And brief corrections. But if these are overcome quickly enough, say by Fed policy, a kind of blind faith takes hold. Investors begin to believe the impossible. Now, for example, investors think the Fed “will not allow” a serious correction. It should be pointed out, tout de suite, that the Fed can influence the markets. But it does not control them. And the more it influences them, the harder they are to control. Why? Investors trust the Fed to protect their money… just as the Fed makes their investments less trustworthy! Because the more influence the Fed exerts over prices, the farther they move away from where they ought to be.
If the Fed offers makes credit too cheap for too long, for example, stock prices adjust…and soon become higher than they should be. At some point, they are so high – and so far removed from solid values – that the proud tower wobbles, and then collapses, regardless of what the Fed is doing. And based on what’s happening in the bond market, it appears as though the Fed has already lost control. Ah yes, dear reader, that is one of the curious, always-fascinating feedback loops that keeps life on planet Earth ‘normal.’ Whenever things get too weird, something intervenes to make them less weird. And one of those things is a certain Mr. Market. It’s all very well for investors to believe the Fed won’t allow them to lose money. That’s what makes it possible for non-delusional investors to make a lot of money.
Again, John Hussman:
Collective belief can create its own reality, and at least for the past few years, collective belief is that Fed actions simply make stocks go up, and so they have. The problem is that this outcome is based almost wholly on perception and confidence bordering on superstition – not on any analytical or mechanistic link that closely relates the quantity of monetary base created by the Fed to the equity prices (despite the correlation-presumed-to-be-causation between the two when one measures precisely from the 2009 market low).
Some of the deepest market losses in history have occurred in environments of aggressive Fed easing. Markets move in cycles, bear markets wipe out more than half of the preceding bull market gains, and this one is likely to be no different.
Mr. Market is watching. He allows bulls to make money. He allows bears to make money. He allows smart people to make money. And dumb people too.
But at some point, Mr. Market gets tired of watching people make money. He likes to see them all lose money too. This could be one of those times …
Dear Readers! We are happy to report that we have reached our turn-of-the-year funding goal and want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have chipped in. We are very grateful for your support! As a general remark, according to usually well informed circles, exercising the donation button in between funding drives is definitely legal and highly appreciated as well.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
3 Responses to “Crash Alert!”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- A Historic Rally in Gold Stocks – and Most Investors Missed It
Buy Low, Sell High? It is an old truism and everybody has surely heard it more than once. If you want to make money in the stock market, you're supposed to buy low and sell high. Simple, right? Successful stock market investing in two simple steps Photo via slideshare.net As Bill Bonner once related, this is how a stock market advisor in Germany explained the process to him: Thirty years ago, at an investment conference, there was a scalawag analyst...
- Gold and Negative Interest Rates
The Inflation Illusion We hear more and more talk about the possibility of imposing negative interest rates in the US. In a recent article former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke asks what tools the Fed has left to support the economy and inter alia discusses the use of negative rates. We first have to define what we mean by negative interest rates. For nominal rates it’s simple. When the interest rate charged goes negative we have negative nominal rates. To get the real rate of...
- Why is the Stock Market so Strong?
Dismal Earnings, Extreme Valuations The current earnings season hasn't been very good so far. Companies continue to “beat expectations” of course, but this is just a silly game. The stock market's valuation is already between the highest and third highest in history depending on how it is measured. Photo credit: Kjetil Ree Corporate earnings are clearly weakening, and yet, the market keeps climbing. The rally is a bit of a “all of worry” type of...
- Cultural Marxism and the Birth of Modern Thought-Crime
What the Establishment Wants, the Establishment Gets If a person has no philosophical thoughts, certain questions will never cross his mind. As a young man, there were many issues and ideas that never concerned me as they do today. There is one question, however, which has intrigued me for the longest time, and it still fascinates me as intensely as it did back then: Does spirit precede matter or is it the other way around? In other words, does human consciousness create what we...
- Why All Central Planning Is Doomed to Fail
Positivist Delusions [ed. note: this article was originally published on March 5 2013 – Bill Bonner was on his way to his ranch in Argentina, so here is a classic from the archives] We’re still thinking about how so many smart people came to believe things that aren’t true. Krugman, Stiglitz, Friedman, Summers, Bernanke, Yellen – all seem to have a simpleton’s view of how the world works. A bunch of famous people with a simpleton view of how the...
- Gold Stampede
Stampeding Animals The mass impulse of a cattle stampede can be triggered by something as innocuous as a blowing tumbleweed. A sudden startle, or a perceived threat, is all it takes to it set off. Once the herd collectively begins charging in one direction it will eliminate everything in its path. Better get out of the way... stampeding bisons Photo credit: Surface Niusance The only chance a rancher has is to fire off a pistol with the hope that the shot...
- Russian Aggression Unmasked (Sort Of)
Provocative Fighter Jocks Back in 2014, a Russian jet made headlines when it passed several times close to the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea. As CBS reported at the time: “A Pentagon spokesperson told CBS Radio that a Russian SU-24 fighter jet made several low altitude, close passes in the vicinity of the USS Donald Cook in international waters of the western Black Sea on April 12. While the jet did not overfly the deck, Col. Steve Warren called the action "provocative and...
- US Economy – Ongoing Distortions
Business under Pressure A recent post by Mish points to the fact that many of the business-related data that have been released in recent months continue to point to growing weakness in many parts of the business sector. We show a few charts illustrating the situation below: A long term chart of total business sales. The recent decline seems congruent with a recession, but many other indicators are not yet confirming a recession - click to enlarge. Wholesale...
- Getting it Wrong on Silver
Erroneous Analysis of Precious Metals Fundamentals We came across an article at Bloomberg today, talking about silver supply troubles. We get it. The price of silver has rallied quite a lot, so the press needs to cover the story. They need to explain why. Must be a shortage developing, right? At first, we thought to just put out a short Soggy Dollars post highlighting the error. Then we thought we would go deeper. Here’s a graph showing the price action in silver since the...
- Political Pundits, or Getting Paid for Wishful Thinking
Bill Kristol - the Gartman of Politics? It has become a popular sport at Zerohedge to make fun of financial pundits who appear regularly on TV and tend to be consistently wrong with their market calls. While this Schadenfreude type reportage may strike some as a bit dubious, it should be noted that it is quite harmless compared to continually leading people astray with dodgy advice. To answer the question posed in the picture with the benefit of hindsight: not really.... (look...
- 100 Years of Mismanagement
Lost From the Get-Go There must be some dark corner of Hell warming up for modern, mainstream economists. They helped bring on the worst bubble ever… with their theories of efficient markets and modern portfolio management. They failed to see it for what it was. Then, when trouble came, they made it worse. But instead of atoning in a dank cell, these same economists strut onto the stage to congratulate themselves. The scalawag himself. Keynes provided governments with the...
- Running Mate Turns Into Fall Girl
Odd Couple While checking on the US primaries a few days ago, we came across a piece of news informing us that pretend candle-swallower Ted Cruz had picked Carly Fiorina as his “vice-presidential running mate”. Our first thought upon hearing this was “WTF”? The match made in heaven... two loooosers find each other. Photo credit: AP It's not so much that he's picking another “loooooser” as The Donald would put it...the real absurdity of it is that...