On Economy

     

 

 

Credit Market Bifurcation

By all accounts, credit markets remain on fire. 2019 is already a record year for corporate bond issuance, beating the previous record set in 2017 by a sizable margin. Demand for the debt of governments and government-related issuers remains extremely strong as well, despite non-existent and often even negative issuance yields. Even now, with economic activity clearly slowing and numerous  threats to the post-GFC recovery looming on the horizon, the occasional rise in credit spreads is routinely reversed. And yet, under the placid surface problems are beginning to percolate. Consider exhibit A:

 

The chart shows option-adjusted credit spreads on three rating categories – while spreads on ‘BB’ rated (best junk bond grade) and ‘BBB’ rated (weakest investment grade) bonds remain close to their lows, spreads on ‘CCC’ rated bonds continue to break higher – considerably so. An increase by 473 basis points from their late 2018 low indicates there is quite a bit of concern.

 

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Poland’s Gold and the Conspiracy Theorists

The price of gold was up enough to buy a bottle of Two Buck Chuck wine, and the price of silver was up enough to buy a wooden nickel (well, not enough to buy a real nickel nickel).

 

Poland’s gold bars are packaged by employees of G4S International Logistics to be transported from London to Poland. Poland’s gold was originally transferred to London at the beginning of WW II, when Stalin and Hitler invaded and partitioned the country in the late 1930s. For some reason Poland’s post-war communist government left it there – presumably because it was easier to sell in London. [PT]

Photo credit: G4SI

 

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The Bubble Machine

The launch angle of the U.S. stock market over the past decade has been steep and relentless. The S&P 500, after bottoming out at 666 on March 6, 2009, has rocketed up over 370 percent. New highs continue to be reached practically every day.

 

S&P 500 weekly, since the low of 2009. A party of roaring 20s proportion in terms of duration, extent and end point valuations (a post-war inflation episode triggered a devastating bear market from November 1919 to August 1921, in which the DJIA fell from ~120 to ~64 points. It then rose until early September 1929, topping at ~380 points. By the time it peaked, Wall Street had created all sorts of new-fangled instruments such as the then highly popular investment trusts, everybody was speculating on margin and the equivalent of today’s FANGs such as RCA (“Radio”) traded at previously unheard of multiples – as did the rest of the market. Numerous sharp corrections along the way had eradicated the perception of risk in investors’ minds. We have discussed the parallels between the two eras before, and in the meantime another parallel can be discerned in the charts. In late 1928 the market suffered a sharp sell-off in the normally seasonally strong period, very similar to what occurred in 2018. It was the biggest correction of the entire bull market, but the market swiftly rallied again and by February 1929 it made new highs. It then proceeded to build a chart formation known as “three peaks and a domed house”. The three peaks of 2019 are not a perfect replica of the basic schematic of the formation, but the timing is in line with it (they are supposed to be established within 6-10 months). George Lindsay’s original schematic is very detailed, it is therefore unlikely that the pattern will repeat perfectly every time. The so-called domed house can take up to 7 months to form, but we would focus on the shape rather than the precise duration. Whether the formation does indeed form remains to be seen. It is definitely something worth keeping an eye on. [PT]

 

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Monetary Lunacy, Nipponese Version

Earlier this month, Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Haruhiko Kuroda commented that Japan’s central planners are considering a 50-year government bond issue as a long-term means of putting a floor under super-long interest rates.  How this floor would be placed is extremely suspect; we will have more on this in a moment.  But first, the dual benefits – according to Japan’s central planners…

 

Kuroda-san: the man with a plan, or rather, a plethora of plans (過剰な計画). [PT]

 

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Prettifying Toxic Waste

The promise of something for nothing is always an enticing proposition. Who doesn’t want roses without thorns, rainbows without rain, and salvation without repentance?  So, too, who doesn’t want a few extra basis points of yield above the 10-year Treasury note at no added risk?

 

The yield-chasing hamster wheel… [PT]

 

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Two Interesting Recent P&P Interviews

Our friend Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable has recently conducted two interviews which we believe will be of interest to our readers. The first interview  is with Brien Lundin, the president of Jefferson Financial, host of the famed New Orleans Investment Conference and publisher & editor of the Gold Newsletter – an investment newsletter that has been around for almost five decades, which actually makes it the longest-running US-based investment newsletter focused on precious metals. Its staying power speaks for itself.

 

Brien Lundin speaking at the 2012 New Orleans Investment Conference.

 

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The Rise of Total War

Prior to the modern age, when war was engaged in, combatants, for the most part, acted by a code of conduct which attempted to minimize civilian deaths and the destruction of non-participants’ property. With the onset of the democratic age and the idea of “total war” such modes of conduct have tragically fallen by the wayside, the consequence of which has made warfare far more bloody and destructive.

 

Iranian Seiji-2 missile. Of course, we cannot really be certain whether or not the mullahs running Iran are fibbing about their nuclear ambitions – but the fatwa against nuclear armaments discussed below does indeed exist. [PT]

Photo via farsnews.com

 

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Wildfire Surge

The hillsides are always brown in the land of fruits and nuts come autumn.  After baking away all summer long in the hot sun, the dense sage and chaparral covering the coastal hillsides and canyons are dry and toasty. Though, before conditions get better, they must first get worse.

 

California is ablaze again… as every year.  [PT]

Photo credit: Noah Berger / AP

 

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Planning on Your Behalf 

Watch out! At this very moment, professional economists of all stripes are making plans on your behalf. They are dreaming and scheming new and innovative ways to spend your money long before you have earned it.

 

Strange and strangely persistent beliefs… [PT]

 

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True Money Supply Growth Rebounds in September

In August 2019 year-on-year growth of the broad true US money supply (TMS-2) fell to a fresh 12-year low of 1.87%. The 12-month moving average of the growth rate hit a new low for the move as well. The main driver of the slowdown in money supply growth over the past year was the Fed’s decision to decrease its holdings of MBS and treasuries purchased in previous “QE” operations. This was partly offset by bank credit growth in recent months, which has moved to 6.6% y/y after being stuck below 4% y/y throughout 2018.

 

US broad true money supply TMS-2, year-on-year growth w. 12-month moving average. After establishing a new 12-year low at  1.87% in August, TMS-2 growth has rebounded to 3.09% in September. In 2000, the low in y/y growth coincided almost precisely with the peak in the S&P 500 index. The next major low was established in 2006, about one year before the stock market peak. It is worth noting that in both cases, money supply growth actually soared during the subsequent bear markets and recessions. This illustrates the fact that slowing and/or accelerating money supply growth exerts its effects with a considerable lag.

 

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Under the Influence

 

“This feels very sustainable.” 

– Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, October 8, 2019

 

Understandable confusion… [PT]

 

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21st Century Hooverville

There are places in Los Angeles where, although the sun always shines, they haven’t seen a ray of light in over 100-years.  There’s a half square mile of urban decay centered on the Union Rescue Mission at 545 South San Pedro Street, where depravity, chaos, addiction, insanity and archaic diseases multiply and ricochet about like metastatic cancer.

 

One of LA’s modern-day Hoovervilles in San Pedro Street…  In 2015 it was reported that Union Rescue Mission CEO Reverend Andy Bales had caught three different bacterial infections from merely walking around in the area. One of the infections rendered him unable to ever walk again (doctors eventually had to amputate his foot, which had fallen prey to flesh-eating bacteria). In short, this is not exactly the most hygienic and healthy environment. [PT]

Photo credit: Mike Blake / REUTERS

 

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