The “Core” of the Bubble Bursting

Posted | 18/01/2016 / Views | 3358
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Doug Noland is the ‘bubble expert’.  The following are excerpts from his latest missive and are worth everyone reading as strikes to the core of the cracks that are currently appearing in the credit fuelled financial asset bubble..  Even this excerpt piece is longer than we strive to contain are articles to, but if you want to read the full article, click here.

“The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4% over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand 12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.” 

Trouble at the “Periphery” has definitely taken a troubling turn for the worse. Hope that things were on an uptrend has confronted the reality that things are rapidly getting much worse.

Importantly, the past month has seen contagion effects from the collapsing Bubble at the Periphery penetrate the Fragile Core.

Recent weeks point to decisive cracks at the “Core” of the U.S. financial Bubble. The S&P500 has been hit with an 8.0% two-week decline. Notably, favored stocks and sectors have performed poorly.

Bubbles tend to be varied and complex. In their most basic form, I define a Bubble as a self-reinforcing but inevitably unsustainable inflation [….] Such inflations are always fuelled by some type of underlying monetary expansion – typically monetary disorder. Bubbles are always and everywhere a Credit phenomenon, although the underlying source of monetary fuel often goes largely unrecognized.

I’ll posit another key Bubble Dynamic: De-risking/de-leveraging at the Periphery is problematic, with a propensity for risk aversion and associated liquidity constraints to spur contagion effects. At the Core, de-risking/de-leveraging becomes highly destabilizing. Indeed, I would strongly argue that de-leveraging at the “Core of the Core” is tantamount to financial crisis.

It is the “Core of the Core” that now concerns me the most. That is where Federal Reserve (and global central bank) policies have left their greatest mark. It is at the “Core of the Core” where momentous misperceptions and market mispricing have become deeply entrenched. It’s the “Core of the Core” that has attracted enormous amounts of “money” over recent years. It’s also here where I believe leverage has quietly been used most aggressively. Over recent years it became one massive Crowded Trade. Now the sophisticated players must contemplate beating the unsuspecting public to the exits.

A similar dynamic is now unfolding in U.S. and other “Core” equities markets: Sustainability in the (U.S. and global) Credit Bubble - the monetary fuel underpinning the boom - is suddenly in doubt. The bulls, Fed officials and most others see the economy as basically sound, similar to how most conventional analysts argued about the Chinese economy over the past year. Inherent fragility and unsustainability are the key issues now driving securities markets – in China, in the U.S, and globally. And, importantly, sentiment has shifted to the view that policy tools have been largely depleted.

It is worth recalling that my tally of Total U.S. Securities (Treasuries, Agencies, Corp Bonds, Munis and Equities) ended Q2 2015 at a record $76.924 trillion, or 429% of GDP. This was up $30.90 trillion (77%) from 2008’s $46.034 trillion (313% of GDP) – and greatly exceeded 2007’s $53.279 trillion (368% of GDP).

Back in 2000, Dallas Fed president Robert McTeer suggested that our economy’s ills would be rectified “if everyone would hold hands and buy an SUV.” And for the next 15 years Fed policies did the unimaginable in the name of (indiscriminately) stimulating growth of any kind possible. And if epic mortgage finance Bubble financial and economic maladjustment was not enough, the past seven years have seen the type of financial folly and egregious wealth redistribution that tear societies apart. 

The bottom line is that Bubbles destroy and redistribute wealth, though the true effects are masked for a while by inflated securities and asset markets – along with resulting unsustainable spending patterns and economic activity. Regrettably, years of policy mismanagement, gross financial excess, deep structural maladjustment and the most imbalanced economy in our nation’s history will now come home to roost. At this point, I cannot confidently forecast how quickly the bust will unfold. I do, however, believe this process has begun as Bubbles falter at the “Core of the Core.””

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