Stocks jumped to new record highs and the Dow shot past 20,600 on Wednesday after more reports showed the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 107 points, up 0.5% to a new closing high of 20,611.86.
Also building upon their record highs set in the previous session were the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite, up 0.5% to 2349.25 and 0.6% to 5819.44, respectively.
The encouraging data could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively from the record lows marked during the Great Recession.
Wednesday’s economic reports give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March. Retailers had stronger sales in January than economists expected, and inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. Consumer prices rose 2.5% in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in testimony before a Congressional committee that the strengthening job market and a modest move higher in inflation should warrant continued, gradual increases in interest rates, echoing her comments from a day earlier. The central bank raised rates in December for just the second time in a decade, after keeping rates at nearly zero to help lift the economy out of the Great Recession.
Danielle takes us back to the 20th-century era of World Wars and draws upon Liaquat Ahamed’s. The Lords of Finance. His work was inspired by that 1999 Time magazine cover story “The Committee to Save the World.” You may recall it: the lovely mugs of Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Larry Summers up there, grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Danielle says that Ahamed’s work is “a study [of] the perils of devaluing stores of value by force, the dangers of runaway debts, and the menace of monetary myopia.” Franklin Roosevelt devalued the Depression-weighted US dollar by forcing up the price of gold. At the same time, Germany couldn’t pay its World War I debts. This set off a chain of defaults among US allies. The US then had to bail out Germany’s debt. Central bankers around the world began competitive interest rate rises. That move caused their countries to hold onto their dwindling gold supplies, even though the floundering global economy needed lower interest rates.
Fast-forward to today. Danielle points out that “the debt is simply everywhere, at least to the extent we can see and measure it. Corporate and sovereign debt, of both the developed world and emerging market varieties, are at record levels. China’s debts certainly add to that record but who really knows to what extent? It’s the ultimate black box of leverage on Planet Earth.”
ead on to see why Danielle doesn’t think “a perverted gentlemen’s agreement” among central bankers, politicians, and investors will stave off a quadrillion-dollar reckoning.
Over the last few weeks, I have touched on the impact of valuations and forward returns. However, it is not just valuations that are an issue, but also the surge in corporate debt, balance sheet leverage combined with declining profitability which is a result of weak economic growth. All in all, such a combination of factors have historically been associated with “bear markets”in equities.
However, none of these fundamental concerns seem to be a problem currently. Despite one selloff after another leading to increased volatility, the markets are currently hovering near all-time highs as the “chase for yield” continues. Just recently David Rosenberg made an interesting observation in this regard:
“All this reminds me of what Alan Greenspan said about this type of behavior more than a decade ago:
Thus, this vast increase in the market value of asset claims is in part the indirect result of investors accepting lower compensation for risk. Such an increase in market value is too often viewed by market participants as structural and permanent. To some extent, those higher values may be reflecting the increased flexibility and resilience of our economy. But what they perceive as newly abundant liquidity can readily disappear. Any onset of increased investor caution elevates risk premiums and, as a consequence, lowers asset values and promotes the liquidation of the debt that supported higher asset prices. This is the reason that history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low risk premiums.
What is it about former central bankers who first destroy the fiat system with their monetarist policies, only to go into retirement, and preach the virtues of the one compound they spend their entire professional careers trying to destroy: gold. To be sure, when it comes to polar reversals of opinion, nobody comes even remotely close to Alan Greenspan: the former Fed chairman who is not only instrumental in launching the “Great Moderation”, which unleashed the current unprecedented global debt wave which will lead to unprecedented disaster sooner or later, has in recent years become one of gold’s biggest advocates as demonstrated most recently in “Greenspan’s Stunning Admission: “Gold Is Currency; No Fiat Currency, Including the Dollar, Can Match It.”
Now it’s the turn of his former colleague at the Bank of England, Mervyn King, who in an interview with the WGC’s Gold Investor monthly, pours cold water over Bernanke’s “explanation” that gold is merely a tradition, and says the following:
“I am very struck by the fact that over many many years, central banks, governments and individuals have always, despite the protestations of economists, held some gold in their portfolio. Obviously, there is no high running return, but when unexpected things happen, particularly when governments rise and fall, then gold is a means of payment that everyone is always prepared to accept. And I think that’s why even central banks have always had a role in their portfolios for gold,” he adds.”
Janet Yellen has brushed aside suggestions that the Federal Reserve’s December interest-rate increase was a mistake, as she described “tremendous progress” in the US economy since the financial crisis and defended the central bank’s handling of it.
The Fed chair gave an optimistic assessment of America’s performance, dismissing suggestions put forward by Donald Trump among others that it was a “bubble” economy, as she participated in a public discussion in a New York City lecture hall with her three predecessors as Federal Reserve chair — Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke.
It’s amazing, but nearly a year into the Trump campaign the pundits still don’t get it: the louder established members of the broken, crony capitalist status quo rail against Trump, the higher his popularity. And there are few more entrenched crony capitalists than the partner of Barack Obama’s “tax advisor”, the person who singlehandedly crushed the Keystone XL pipeline project so it would generate more profits for his oil trains, Hillary’s number one supporter (perhaps tied with Lloyd Blankfein), Warren Buffet’s sidekick Charlie Munger.
Earlier today Munger, the vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway Inc., dismissed Republican Donald Trump’s qualifications to be president, during the annual meeting of his Daily Journal Corp. As reported by Bloomberg, Munger, 92, responded to a question whether a person who couldn’t make money in the gaming industry would be a good fit for the top office in the U.S.
“Well, he did make money for quite a while,” Munger said. “My attitude is that anybody who makes money running a casino is not morally qualified.”
The refernce, of course, is to Trump’s several corporate bankruptcies. What was omitted is any discussion of how bankrupt Munger, Buffet and/or Berkshire Hathaway would have been had their extensive financial stakes not been bailed out by the US taxpayer during the financial crisis, something profiled by Reuters in 2009.
Stephen Roach is worried that the Fed has set the world up for another financial market meltdown.
Lower for longer rates and the proliferation of unconventional monetary policy have created “a breeding ground for asset bubbles, credit bubbles, and all-too frequent crises, so the Fed is really a part of the problem of financial instability rather than trying to provide a sense of calm in an otherwise unstable world,” Roach told Bloomberg TV in an interview conducted a little over a week ago.
To be sure, Roach’s sentiments have become par for the proverbial course. That is, it may have taken everyone a while (as in five years or so) to come to the conclusion we reached long ago, namely that central banks are setting the world up for a crisis that will make 2008 look like a walk in the park, but most of the “very serious” people are now getting concerned. Take BofAML for instance, who, in a note we outlined on Wednesday, demonstrated the prevailing dynamic with the following useful graphic:
I’ve seen this study making the rounds on several websites now as a type of neuroeconomic confirmation of Buffetological principles…
Perhaps procedure might be slightly useful as a means of seeing physical brain improvement by training– such as that found through meditative practices.
“Traders who buy more aggressively based on NAcc signals earn less. High-earning traders have early warning signals in the anterior insular cortex before prices reach a peak, and sell coincidently with that signal, precipitating the crash. These experiments could help understand other cases in which human groups badly miscompute the value of actions or events.”
“Seeing what’s going on in people’s brains when they are trading suggests that Buffett was right on target,” says Colin Camerer, the Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics at Caltech.
That is because in their experimental markets, Camerer and his colleagues found two distinct types of activity in the brains of participants—one that made a small fraction of participants nervous and prompted them to sell their experimental shares even as prices were on the rise, and another that was much more common and made traders behave in a greedy way, buying aggressively during the bubble and even after the peak. The lucky few who received the early warning signal got out of the market early, ultimately causing the bubble to burst, and earned the most money. The others displayed what former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called “irrational exuberance” and lost their proverbial shirts.
While America ‘believes’ it is highly productive, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan instantly dispels that myth in another ominous appearance on CNBC this morning, “American productivity has gone nowhere in the last few years,” and that is what is holding back wage growth. Furthermore, reiterating his concerns about the inverse relationship between surging entitlements and weak savings rates, Greenspan noted, “the annual rate of increase in entitlements of 9% per year…and the people that receive it believe they are getting their money back and have a right to it.” There simply is no long-term investment as businesses favor short-term actions as the Maestro explains Fed QE lowering the real rate of interest “has been responsible for the rise in P/E multiples… and when rates normalize, that will reverse,” adding that “we can’t argue that we are extremely overvalued in the marketplace.”
Greenspan explains… Productivity… Savings… Entitlements… Euro Failure… QE…Fed bubble-blowing… stock overvaluation and 1929 looms…
“There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises
The surreal nature of this world as we enter 2015 feels like being trapped in a Fellini movie. The .1% party like it’s 1999, central bankers not only don’t take away the punch bowl – they spike it with 200% grain alcohol, the purveyors of propaganda in the mainstream media encourage the party to reach Caligula orgy levels, the captured political class and their government apparatchiks propagate manipulated and massaged economic data to convince the masses their standard of living isn’t really deteriorating, and the entire façade is supposedly validated by all-time highs in the stock market. It’s nothing but mass delusion perpetuated by the issuance of prodigious amounts of debt by central bankers around the globe. And nowhere has the obliteration of a currency through money printing been more flagrant than in the land of the setting sun – Japan. The leaders of this former economic juggernaut have chosen to commit hari-kari on behalf of the Japanese people, while enriching the elite, insiders, bankers, and their global banking co-conspirators.