Nobel Prize Economist Warns of U.S. Stock Market Bubble

An American who won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said.

“I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

He had also looked at “drastically” higher house prices in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil in the last five years.

“There, I felt a bit like in the United States of 2004,” he said, adding he was hearing arguments about investment opportunities and a growing middle class that he had heard in the United States around the year 2000.

The collapse of the U.S. housing market helped trigger the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“Bubbles look like this. And the world is still very vulnerable to a bubble,” he said.

Bubbles are created when investors do not recognize when rising asset prices get detached from underlying fundamentals.

Related Stories

Is The Fed Running A Ponzi Scheme

Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme Looks Like a Joke Compared to This

By Michael Lombardi, MBA for Profit Confidential

 

The “Bernie” Madoff name became famous while the stock market was falling during the credit and financial crisis. He was responsible for running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history—if I recall correctly, it was a $65.0-billion scheme. But as the scam got bigger, Madoff couldn’t go on. He was caught, prosecuted, and sentenced to more than 100 years in jail.

What did we learn from the Madoff ordeal? At the very least, we learned Ponzi schemes eventually become impossible to hide, no matter how smart and cunning the perpetrator.

Wednesday of this week, we learned that the Federal Reserve’s Ponzi scheme of printing paper money and giving it to the government via the purchase of U.S. Treasuries will go on.

While the Fed says it wants to keep the “stimulus” going until the economy gets better, as I have written in these pages many times, the Fed cannot stop printing because if it did stop, three things would happen: 1) the stock market would collapse; 2) housing prices would fall; and 3) the government would have no real buyer for its debt (especially in light of China and Japan pulling back on buying U.S. Treasuries).

Madoff’s $65.0-billion Ponzi scheme is nothing when I look at the U.S. national debt figures. While it looks like we are beyond the point of no return, our national debt level would have to double from $17.0 trillion to $34.0 trillion before our debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio matches that of Japan. (And don’t for a moment think that’s not going to happen!)

In 2011, only two years ago, we heard Congress debate whether they should increase our national debt limit or not. The theater of a government shutdown was on for a while; it drove key stock indices lower and bond yields higher. Now we’re at square one again. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew sent a letter requesting an increase in our national debt limit by October, or the U.S. economy would face a risk of default.

The bottom line, dear reader, is that the U.S. government is broke. To keep the government afloat from now until Congress passes a new national debt limit, the government has stopped investing into the pensions of federal government workers.

I don’t for a second doubt that Congress won’t raise the national debt limit—it will; it has done just that 78 times since 1960. Why would this time be any different?

What has happened so far—the massive printing of paper money—is just one part of the puzzle. The Ponzi scheme is complex and has many moving parts. The government’s failure to clamp down on spending is the main problem.

In the 11 months of the fiscal 2013 year, the U.S. government has incurred a budget deficit of $755 billon, according to the Bureau of Fiscal Services. (So much for those estimates that said the U.S. government budget deficit would be below $700 billion this year!)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the U.S. government to continue posting budget deficits until 2015, when it says the annual budget deficit will equal two percent of the gross domestic product of the U.S. economy. (Source: Congressional Budget Office, September 17, 2013.) I don’t buy that prediction for a moment. Interest costs on the national debt alone could be a huge problem going forward.

For the government’s fiscal year ending this September 30, the U.S. government expects to have incurred $414 billion in interest payments alone. Assuming a national debt of $16.7 trillion, this equates to an interest rate of about 2.5%. But interest rates are rising!

And the more the national debt increases, the higher the interest payment. Think what will happen once interest rates in the U.S. economy start to climb higher, and when creditors start asking for higher returns due to our massive amount of national debt. Even if our national debt doesn’t change and interest rates go back to normal (it’s going to happen), the interest payments on the national debt would rise to over $900 billion a year!

Bring Social Security liabilities into the picture, and the future looks even more gruesome. According to the Pew Research Center, every day 10,000 Americans reach retirement age. (Source: Pew Research Center, December 29, 2010.) With the financial crisis having placed pressure on retirement savings, retirees are now relying on Social Security more than ever.

Right now we are seeing the government hoping investors will keep re-investing in U.S. bonds while the Fed picks up the slack. But what happens when they say, “We want our money back?” It will make Madoff’s Ponzi scheme look like a joke.

 

Who Will Replace Bernanke At The Fed ?

  • Larry Summers, the man suspected to become the next Federal Reserve chairman, withdrew his name from the running last night. “I have reluctantly concluded that any possible confirmation process for me would be acrimonious and would not serve the interest of the Federal Reserve, the Administration or, ultimately, the interests of the nation’s ongoing economic recovery,” Summers wrote to the president.
  • The dollar immediately weakened on the news that Summers was out. Emerging markets, on the other hand, rallied. Market-watchers are pointing to the fact that Summers was perceived as more hawkish — meaning less likely to use monetary policy to juice the economy —than his main rival and current frontrunner Janet Yellen.
  • Many are now predicting (and for some, hoping) that Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen will win the nomination. Writes our Josh Barro: “She’s a key architect and proponent of the Fed’s appropriately accommodative monetary policies. Her selection would reassure financial markets that easing would continue as appropriate. And she doesn’t have Summers’ track record of undermining his initiatives by unnecessarily alienating people.” Other names being floated are Jack A. Bass, former Fed Vice Chairmans Don Kohn and Roger Ferguson. Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has held steady that he does not want the job.

Today In the Market

    • This morning at 9:15 A.M. we’ll get U.S. industrial production figures. Economists are expecting a 0.5% increase in August after July’s 0% print.
    • Later this week, the Federal Reserve will hold its two-day FOMC meeting. Economists are expecting the Fed to “taper” its $85 billion a month purchasing plan of Treasury notes and mortgage-backed bonds. On weaker economic news, many on Wall Street are predicting a “taper lite” – a reduction in bond purchases of $10 billion per month, bringing the total monthly purchase down to $75 billion (as opposed to the previous market consensus of $70 billion).
  • UPDATE
  • Stocks & bonds rally, dollar dips as Summers quits Fed race
    1 hour ago – Reuters
    Stocks & bonds rally, dollar dips as Summers quits Fed raceBy Ryan Vlastelica

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks and Treasuries rallied on Monday as investors saw the withdrawal of Lawrence Summers from the running to head the Federal Reserve as making a more gradual approach to monetary tightening more likely.

    Further boosting risk assets around the world, and weighing on the U.S. dollar, were signs of progress in Syria following a Russian-brokered deal aimed at averting U.S. military action, all of which helped propel world shares <.MIWD00000PUS> to a five-year high.

    Summers’ surprise decision came just before the U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide when, and by how much, to scale back its asset purchases from the current pace of $85 billion a month.

    Investors wagered that U.S. monetary policy would stay easier for longer should the other leading candidate for Fed chair, Janet Yellen, get the job.

    The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 142.01 points, or 0.92 percent, at 15,518.07. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index <.SPX> was up 13.20 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,701.19. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 16.20 points, or 0.44 percent, at 3,738.39. Gains in the Nasdaq were limited by a 1.7 percent decline in Apple Inc <AAPL.O> shares.

    European shares <.FTEU3> rose 0.5 percent while the MSCI all-country world equity index rose 1 percent. Markets had perceived Summers as less wedded to aggressive policies such as quantitative easing and more likely to scale stimulus back quickly than Yellen, who is second in command at the Fed.

    “His passing as a contender for the top role has left in its wake a significant risk-on rally,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

    It was even possible a first Fed interest rate rise could be pushed out to 2016, rather than 2015 as currently expected, added Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Going by Yellen’s past speeches, he said she would most

    probably prioritize reducing unemployment.

    “Yellen looks like the clear front-runner and seems to be the public’s popular choice,” he said. “The Fed will shoot to lower the unemployment rate to the full employment level, and this means the new target could be more 5.5 percent, not 6.5 percent.”

    DOLLAR DIVE

    The dollar <.DXY> slipped to a near four-week low against a basket of currencies, with the euro up more than half a U.S. cent at $1.3370 after hitting its highest in almost three weeks and sterling at an eight-month high. <GBP/>

    The greenback proved more resilient against the yen, which was hampered by its status as a safe haven and pared early losses to stand at 98.76. Liquidity was lacking, with Japanese markets closed for a holiday on Monday.

    In the latest U.S. data, industrial output rose 0.4 percent in August, as expected, while manufacturing output rose 0.7 percent, a slightly faster rate than had been forecast.

    MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> had gained 1.8 percent overnight as South Korean shares <.KS11> added 1 percent, Australia’s <.AXJO> rose 0.5 percent and Indonesian stocks climbed 3.4 percent <.JKSE>.

    PUSHING OUT THE HIKE

    Sentiment was underpinned by Saturday’s deal between Russia and the United States to demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad account for his chemical arsenal within a week and let international inspectors eliminate all the weapons by the middle of next year.

The Debt Ceiling End Game

Citi FX guru Steven Englander has a new note out this evening titled: No coin + temporary debt ceiling extension + sequester = USD negative.

 

In it he notes that the rejection of the trillion dollar coin idea to avert the debt ceiling is not alone a market moving event, but that the hard language taken by the White House that the choices boil down to clean lift or default raises the odds of a debt ceiling breach.

His take:

So it is possible that we will get a technical default for a few days, but more likely that Congress will give in, vote the debt ceiling up temporarily, and let the automatic sequesters kick in. Mounting risk of a technical default was USD positive in 2011 because it led to cutting of long-risk positions and the USD/Treasury market remained safe havens.  However, it also occurred in an environment of slowing EM growth and intensifying euro zone sovereign risk pressure, so the USD support came from external forces as well. Given that investors are now somewhat long risk again, the position cutting is again likely to be USD positive, however, unattractive US assets were. As was the case in 2011, it is very unlikely that the Treasury will not pay its bills, although even a technical default could have very unforeseen consequences, given the multiple functions that Treasuries play in global financial markets. The more likely scenario of sequester plus grudging debt ceiling rise is USD negative.

It will put more pressure on the Fed to keep pumping liquidity into the US economy without giving any reassurance to investors that long-term fiscal issues are close to resolution.

That seems reasonable. A debt ceiling hike + a full sequester, which would equal a weaker economy and more pumping.

With Europe healing and China rebounding, USD would be the big loser.

QE 4 Update/ Review

English: President Barack Obama confers with F...

English: President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Big Picture

Link to The Big Picture

  • Our market letter will return in the New Year
What Is The Purpose of QE?

Posted: 25 Dec 2012 02:00 PM PST

As detailed earlier in the month, the Federal Reserve announced more stimulus, otherwise known as QE4, at its recent meeting.

Lots of the discussion thus far has focused on whether or not QE will happen and not on the purpose of QE.

What we discuss below is a good example of economists discussing the probability of QE rather than why QE is necessary or what it will accomplish.

So, what is QE supposed to do?  Bernanke told us in his speech over the summer in Jackson Hole:

“After nearly four years of experience with large-scale asset purchases, a substantial body of empirical work on their effects has emerged. Generally, this research finds that the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases have significantly lowered long-term Treasury yields. For example, studies have found that the $1.7 trillion in purchases of Treasury and agency securities under the first LSAP program reduced the yield on 10-year Treasury securities by between 40 and 110 basis points. The $600 billion in Treasury purchases under the second LSAP program has been credited with lowering 10-year yields by an additional 15 to 45 basis points.12 Three studies considering the cumulative influence of all the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases, including those made under the MEP, found total effects between 80 and 120 basis points on the 10-year Treasury yield.13 These effects are economically meaningful.

LSAPs also appear to have boosted stock prices, presumably both by lowering discount rates and by improving the economic outlook; it is probably not a coincidence that the sustained recovery in U.S. equity prices began in March 2009, shortly after the FOMC’s decision to greatly expand securities purchases. This effect is potentially important because stock values affect both consumption and investment decisions.

While there is substantial evidence that the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases have lowered longer-term yields and eased broader financial conditions, obtaining precise estimates of the effects of these operations on the broader economy is inherently difficult, as the counterfactual–how the economy would have performed in the absence of the Federal Reserve’s actions–cannot be directly observed. If we are willing to take as a working assumption that the effects of easier financial conditions on the economy are similar to those observed historically, then econometric models can be used to estimate the effects of LSAPs on the economyModel simulations conducted at the Federal Reserve generally find that the securities purchase programs have provided significant help for the economy. For example, a study using the Board’s FRB/US model of the economy found that, as of 2012, the first two rounds of LSAPs may have raised the level of output by almost 3 percent and increased private payroll employment by more than 2 million jobs, relative to what otherwise would have occurred.15

This is not the first time the Federal Reserve has laid out this argument.  In a November 4, 2010 Washington Post op-ed, the day after QE2 was approved, Ben Bernanke defended their actions with the following passage:

Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke said Thursday that a controversial $600 billion bond buying plan has contributed to a stronger stock market. “Our policies have contributed to a stronger stock market just as they did in March 2009 when we did the first iteration of this program,” Bernanke said at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. forum on small businesses. “A stronger economy helps small businesses more than larger businesses. Interest rates are higher but that’s mostly because the news is better. It has responded to a stronger economy and better expectations.”

To sum it all up:

• The Federal Reserve buys Treasury bonds in order to push down interest rates, making them an unattractive investment (last shown here, page 6) .

• Investors respond by moving out the risk curve and buying assets like corporate bonds and stocks, pushing them higher.  The Federal Reserve believes this happens via the portfolio balance theory.

• But according to the Federal Reserve, moving out the risk curve does not include buying agricultural or crude oil futures, so do not blame them for higher food or gasoline prices.

• Higher asset prices create a wealth effect, which increases spending and confidence and improves the economy. The Federal Reserve believes this has helped create 2 million jobs.

We agree with half of what is written above.

• QE does produce lower interest rates, or at least the belief that rates are too low.  This then pushes investors out the risk curve which is why stocks have such an immediate and positive reaction whenever QE is speculated.

• The Federal Reserve is playing politics in regards to the effect of QE on commodity prices.  There is no reason to believe the risk curve ends at low-rated stocks.  How much QE affects food and gasoline prices can be debated, but to argue there is no effect at all, and will never be an effect under any scenario, merely because the Federal Reserve does not want to answer for these higher prices, is just wrong.

• The argument that higher asset prices produce a wealth effect is only partially correct.  Two conditions must be met for a wealth effect to ensue.  Net worth must reach a new high and it must be perceived to be permanent.  This is why housing produced such a powerful wealth effect before 2006.  Home prices always went up and their gains were perceived to be permanent.  Currently we have a retracement of losses and a widespread distrust of financial markets.  These conditions will not produce any wealth effect and we believe they have not.

QE is great for Wall Street as it produces more volatility (brokers like this), higher stocks prices (fund managers like this) and draws lots of attention (analysts like this).  It is not good for Main Street because it does not create wealth.  QE’s effects are not perceived to be permanent, so it does not lead to higher GDP or job growth.

What Will The Federal Reserve Do?

In Septmber we noted that the median expectation in a survey of primary dealers calls for $500 billion of additional purchases heavily tilted toward mortgage-backed securities.   If the purpose of QE is to push stock prices higher, then the Federal Reserve has to deliver at least $500 billion in purchases.  Otherwise it will disappoint risk markets.

Right now, if we have to guess, we believe the Federal Reserve will announce purchases of less than $500 billion. In January the Federal Reserve adopted an inflation target of 2.0%.  As we detailed in a conference call last month (transcripthandoutaudio), inflation expectations are running well above this target.  One measure of inflation expectations, the 10-year TIPS inflation breakeven rate, is shown below.  Further, in April, when Bernanke was asked if he would adopt a suggestion from Paul Krugman to expand the target to 3%, he flatly rejected the idea (explained here).

The hawks will argue expected inflation is too high to add more stimulus, an argument which will carry some weight.  The compromise will be a program of less than $500 billion in purchases which will disappoint the markets.

Click to enlarge:

Source: Arbor Research

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumors of QE4

Go Away Federal Reserve System!

Go Away Federal Reserve System! (Photo credit: r0b0r0b)

The Federal Reserve will hold its last policy meeting of the year next week, and two key issues are expected to dominate the gathering and the market’s attention — the expiration of “Operation Twist” and a potential change in interest rate guidelines.

Implemented in September 2011, Operation Twist was designed to lower rates for mortgages and corporate bonds. The program, which expires at the end of this month, entailed the Fed buying $667 billion (roughly $45 billion per month) in longer-term Treasuries above 6-year durations, while selling the same amount in shorter-term securities under 3-year durations.

The goal of the monetary twist has been to lower long-term rates to fuel consumer and corporate borrowing and spending.

“With Operation Twist ending, that means they’ve run out of short-dated securities to sell in order to purchase more [longer-term securities], so what they’ve got to move to now is buying up pure $40 billion per month of mortgage-backed securities [QE3],” says Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. “They probably have to compensate for that loss of $40 [billion] to $45 billion per month.”

Rumors of QE4

Wilkinson is touching on concerns that have recently been addressed by various Fed governors. That is, that simply carrying out the third round of quantitative easing is not enough to boost the economy. QE3 is an open-ended program that has the Fed buying $40 billion per month in mortgage-backed securities.

So will the Fed turn Operation Twist into another outright securities purchasing program, essentially becoming QE4? Or are they more confident in the economy given the improvement in the November jobs report?

The market will be watching very closely to see if the Fed changes its tune. The decision on handling Twist’s expiration will be very telling as to how the committee views the recovery and how much stimulus will be pumped into the economy in 2013.

 

FOMC Rate Policy: Debating Numerical Thresholds

“There’s something else on the table with the Fed though,” says Wilkinson. “They may move to targeting a specific rate of unemployment as a guarantee to when they can stand by the promise of low interest rates.”

The Fed’s current policy is to hold rates near zero through mid-2015. Chatter is growing louder that the Fed will change its guidelines, and instead of tying interest rate policy to a calendar date, they will link it toward set goals for the unemployment and inflation rates. This would directly link rates to the Fed’s dual mandate to promote maximum employment and price stability.

Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen recently joined several other Fed officials calling for specific thresholds to guide policy. These thresholds would not be triggers to change policy, merely guidelines for debate.

“For now, it doesn’t really matter,” Wilkinson says of the possible shift. “As next year progresses we’ll hear more in terms of jawboning from the Fed, how it’s going to go about this process, how it’s going to anchor its inflation expectations, and whether we should be focused on more than purely employment. Inflation is equally important, but there’s a lid on it at around 2%, according to the Fed’s projections. We also have to factor in GDP as well.”

The Fed’s gathering will end Wednesday with a 12:15 p.m. ET policy statement, and a press conference with Fed chief Ben Bernanke will follow a short time later.

Economic Bears Turn Positive

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Directo...

English: Mohamed A. El-Erian, Managing Director of the Pacific Investment Management Company, speaking at the World Economic Forum Summit on the Global Agenda 2008 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three prominent bears — David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates, Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co., and David Levy, chairman of the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center — separately see some hopeful signs. These include a housing market that is healing, a more competitive manufacturing industry and technological breakthroughs that could boost productivity.

“More so than at any time in the past three years, I’m doing whatever I can to identify silver linings in the clouds,” Rosenberg said.

None of the three is ready to declare the all-clear. While the chances the economy could perform better than expected are “somewhat” higher than before, the downside risks are bigger, said El-Erian, who oversees $1.9 trillion at Pimco in Newport Beach, California. These include the so-called fiscal cliff, which all three agree would trigger a recession if nothing is done to avert its spending cuts and tax increases.

The continued caution of the three economists is reflected in advice they are giving investors. Rosenberg recommends gold- mining stocks and shares of utility companies, the latter as part of a strategy he’s dubbed “Safety and Income at a Reasonable Price.”

‘Be Defensive’

“This is a time to be defensive,” said Levy of the Mount Kisco, New York-based economic forecaster. “We are still in a rocky period.” He has been bullish on Treasury bonds for more than five years and eventually sees yields falling even further. The yield on the 30-year bond was 2.78 percent as of 5 p.m. yesterday in New York, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader data.

El-Erian suggests investors look outside the U.S. for economies that are growing faster and put money in companies and nations with strong balance sheets, includingBrazil’s and Mexico’s local bonds. He said investors also should “actively” manage their portfolios to protect against downside risks and take advantage of upside surprises that might materialize through the use of puts, calls and other trading strategies.

El-Erian and Rosenberg recommended a defensive stance on financial markets about a year ago in separate interviews on Bloomberg Television. Toronto-based Rosenberg said investors should look at dividend-paying health-care, utility and consumer-staples stocks, which are least-tied to changes in economic growth.

Worst Performance

Drugmakers in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index are up 16 percent and producers of household goods have risen 9.7 percent in 2012. Utilities have fallen about 2 percent for the worst performance among the 10 major industries in the gauge.

El-Erian said Dec. 19 that the first part of 2012 would be “risk off” as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis encouraged demand for safety. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose to 2.21 percenton March 30 from 1.88 percent at the start of the year, while theStandard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPXL1) jumped 12 percent. For the year to date, the stock index also is up 12 percent.

The U.S. economy will grow 2 percent next year and 2.8 percent in 2014, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said last month. That is faster than the average for the OECD’s 34 members of 1.4 percent in 2013 and 2.3 percent in 2014.

Both Rosenberg and Levy foresaw the bursting of the housing bubble in 2007, the former when he was chief economist for North America at Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. They’ve generally been more pessimistic than the consensus of economists since then, with Levy saying the U.S. is experiencing a “contained depression,” and Rosenberg incorrectly forecasting the U.S. would relapse into recession at the start of this year. The previous slump began in December 2007 and lasted 18 months.

More Downbeat

El-Erian and his colleagues at Pimco also have tended to be more downbeat. The 54-year-old former International Monetary Fund economist first used the term “new normal” in May 2009 to describe the probable medium-term path of the global economy. For the U.S., that meant annual growth of about 2 percent.

Since the recovery began in the middle of 2009, GDP has expanded by an average of 2.2 percent, in line with the Pimco forecast and short of repeated projections for faster growth by the Federal Reserve and the White House.

Pimco’s Total Return Fund, the world’s largest mutual fund, is up 10.3 percent this year, beating 95 percent of similarly run mutual funds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

‘A Stinker’

It has attracted about $17 billion in net new money in 2012, according to Chicago-based research firm Morningstar Inc., after losing $5 billion to withdrawals in 2011, when it suffered what William Gross, the company’s co-chief investment officer with El-Erian, called “a stinker.” It eliminated U.S. Treasuries early in the year and missed a rally when investors rushed to the safety of government-backed debt.

One reason Rosenberg, 52, is trying to look on the bright side is because many other economists have turned more bearish.

“That’s raised my contrarian antenna,” he said.

GDP probably will grow 2 percent in 2013, down from a projected 2.2 percent this year, according to the median forecast of 74 economists surveyed by Bloomberg last month.

Among the more hopeful signs, Rosenberg said, is the bottoming out of the housing market. New-home construction rose 3.6 percent to a four-year high in October, according to the Commerce Department.

‘Strong Phase’

“We’re in a strong phase of the recovery,” Martin Connor, chief financial officer of Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL), a Horsham, Pennsylvania-based luxury homebuilder, said during a conference presentation on Nov. 15. “It’s a function of five years of pent-up demand being released.” Affordability and rising prices also are “spurring people to buy.”

The banking industry also is on the mend, Rosenberg said. “The banks are certainly in better position and more willing to lend money than they have been for years,” after buttressing their balance sheets.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank by assets, provided $15 billion of credit for small businesses in the third quarter, up 21 percent from a year earlier, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said in an Oct. 12 press release.

Rosenberg also is encouraged by what he calls a “secular renaissance” of the U.S. manufacturing industry — with output rising 16 percent during the recovery, according to the Fed — and a surge in American energy production.

Net Exporter

U.S. oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s in the next decade, making the world’s largest fuel consumer almost self-reliant and putting it on track to become a net exporter, the International Energy Agency said last month.

Even so, problems remain. Rosenberg said he is particularly worried about continued high unemployment – 7.9 percent in October, up from 4.7 percent five years ago — and its impact on worker earnings.

“This will go down as a wageless recovery,” the Canadian economist said.

Average hourly earnings for production workers rose 1.1 percent in the 12 months to October, the weakest since Labor Department records began in 1965.

The bottom line for Rosenberg: The economy still is “stuck in the mud.”

Pimco’s El-Erian predicts GDP probably will grow 1.5 percent to 2 percent during the next year as President Barack Obama and Congress strike a “mini-bargain” to avoid the fiscal cliff and moderately reduce the budget deficit.

‘Sputnik Moment’

The economy could do better if policy makers can pull off what El-Erian calls a “Sputnik moment” — a critical mass of reforms that restores corporate confidence and unleashes pent-up investment, hiring and demand. Such steps might include measures to tackle youth and long-term unemployment, as well as cutting the deficit.

“There’s tremendous cash on the sidelines,” he said.

David Cote, chief executive officer of Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. (HON), says a budget deal alone could do wonders for the U.S.

“There is a prospect for a robust recovery, something bigger than I think most economists are forecasting,” if the White House and Congress can reach a credible agreement to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, he told Bloomberg Television on Nov. 28.

El-Erian, who re-joined Pimco in 2007 after being in charge of managing Harvard University’s endowment, also sees a chance that technological breakthroughs could give the U.S. a productivity-driven boost. At the top of the list is digitalization: the conversion of pictures, sound and other information into a form computers can process.

Economic Impact

“The whole trend is having an impact on very many sectors of the economy,” he said.

The trouble is that while the potential for such pleasant surprises is bigger than before, it isn’t “meaningfully” bigger, according to El-Erian. And the downside dangers are greater, he said. Besides the fiscal cliff, they include the debt crisis in EuropeChina’s challenge in overhauling its export-driven economy and the risk of continued instability in the Middle East.

Levy said the U.S. private sector is in the middle of a prolonged period of cleaning up its balance sheet after decades in which debt grew faster than income.

“We’ve been at this for five years,” he said. “If we’re lucky, it might take a tiny bit less than a decade.” He added he’d be surprised if the U.S. is able to avoid a recession in the next few years.

More Progress

America, though, has made more progress than Europe and Japan in dealing with its debts, Levy said.

“The U.S. will do generally better in this rocky period than much of the rest of the world, because the risks are higher and the problems are bigger in many places overseas,” the 57- year-old economist said. That includes China, where new leaders face decisions on how — and whether — to curb state enterprises, boost access to credit for private companies and raise consumption.

Levy, who served on the board of the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, from 1986 to 2001, said America also will benefit from a “secular improvement” in its trade balance. Driving that improvement: the manufacturing revival, boom in domestic energy output and increased demand for U.S. agricultural exports as developing nations grow richer.

“By the end of this decade, we might be looking at trade surpluses,” he said. The U.S. ran a$415.5 billion trade deficit through the first nine months of this year.

Future business investment also is being stored up as companies put off capital expenditures because of depressed demand for their products, he said. Eventually, such spending will surge, boosting productivity and profits.

“While the U.S. is going through a long-term, rough adjustment period,” Levy told Bloomberg Radio Nov. 13, “we are weathering it.

‘‘We are going to come out the other side,’’ he added. ‘‘And there is a very bright long-term.’

Nomura Forecasts A Market Spike Then A Dramatic Fall

English: A frame from a screencast from the US...

English: A frame from a screencast from the US House Financial Committee full committee hearing “An Examination of the Extraordinary Efforts by the Federal Reserve Bank to Provide Liquidity in the Current Financial Crisis which took place Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 1:00pm, 2128 Rayburn House Office Building. The frame shows Chairmen Ben Bernanke responding to a question posited by John E. Sweeney Full Committee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nov 13

Nomura’s bearish macro strategist, Bob Janjuah, is out with his latest update on the stock market in nearly two months. 

Nothing has changed about his long-term view–he is still very pessimistic on markets and the economy.

However, Janjuah thinks we could see a major move higher in the over the medium term, owing to some sort of fiscal cliff deal that kicks the can and full-blown QE from the ECB.

Here’s what Janjuah has to say in his note:

If I look out 3-6 months I am open to the idea of one last parabolic spike higher in risk-on markets in this interim timeframe. I think we will eventually get fiscal and debt ceiling fudges in the US. Of course long-term credible solutions are needed, but are the most unlikely outcome.

Instead we may well be ‘forced’ to celebrate another round of horrible fudges which DO have a consequence. Namely, that the private sector continues to ignore Bernanke and the Washington elite (who between them continue to enjoy printing significant sums of money and/or spending way beyond their means) by instead doing the exact opposite, which means holding onto/building cash and savings, delaying spending/investment/hiring and thus hurting growth.

Markets will I think worry about these negative consequences eventually (see paragraph above), but in the interim the knee jerk reaction of markets to fiscal/debt ceiling fudges will likely be positive. Furthermore, and again on a 6 to 12 month interim timeframe, I think we could also see the ECB finally move to all out QE driven by another round of eurozone panic and driven in particular by the strong deflationary data trends that are emerging in the eurozone and which we in GMS think will get much stronger.

A combo of ECB QE and fiscal/debt ceiling fudges in the US – perhaps also complimented by a short-lived centrally planned but debt fuelled and ultimately wasteful China uptick – could even cause a parabolic spike powerful enough to take S&P – briefly – into the 1500s, before resuming the longer-term march over the rest of 2013 and 2014 to the 800s.

However, for the rest of 2012, in the short-term, Janjuah still remains bearish.

Barry Ridholtz Forecasts Stagflation – and a tough market ahead

Go Away Federal Reserve System!

Go Away Federal Reserve System! (Photo credit: r0b0r0b)

The market diary -results and predictions:

1)The Fed, ECB, BoE, BoJ and SNB will continue to print huge amounts of money, CHECK.

2)Earnings growth globally is slowing with GDP and we’ve seen the peak in profit margins, CHECK.

3)Election is over, DC doesn’t change, taxes are going up at exactly the wrong time, CHECK. An entry today: 1)stop saying “Uncertainty” as the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. 2)stop saying “fiscal cliff” as until market based solutions come to medicare, medicaid and social security, the can will get kicked all over the place and well passed any supposed ‘deal’ in the next two months. 3)Oh yeah, stop saying “kicking the can down the road.”

Bottom line, the stock market correction is not over, earnings will continue to slow, higher taxes of any kind in 2013 will bring a US recession, central banks will print more money (but can’t prevent a cyclical bear market after the near 3 yr bull run) and 2013 will be the most challenging both economically and from a market perspective that we’ve seen in a few yrs. Stagflation here we come is my call. Buy the flation and sell the stag.

Inflation means that gold will rise:

The Gold Investor’s Handbook – click here for  investment profits and much more detail on the ins and outs of investing in gold

and from Kiron Shankar

The European Court of Auditors reported, once again, the the EU made material errors in spending, amounting to 3.9% of its budget. The report will add to the pressure to limit the EU’s budget and will be good news for the Euro sceptics. The UK, in particular, wants a freeze (at worst) in the EU’s budget and the UK PM has little flexibility, given the recent Parliamentary vote (non binding) that he must obtain a cut in the EU budget, let alone a freeze. There is an increasing possibility that the UK will have a referendum as to its continued participation in the EU;

The UK PM meets Mrs Merkel today to try and agree on the EU budget ahead of the 22/23rd November meeting. The EU has proposed a rise of 6.0% in its 2014 to 2020 budget (they have suggested that EU countries cut back on their budgets, by the way), though Mr Cameron wants a freeze, at worst. The Germans have proposed that the EU budget is limited to 1.0% of the EU’s GDP;

The German’s plan of continuing to push austerity is unsustainable. As you know, I expect more pro growth policies, quite possibly as early as Q1 next year. The impact of fiscal multipliers is worsening the fiscal position of countries including Greece, Spain and Portugal and arguably France. This nonsense has to end. The clear downturn in Germany may well be the trigger for a change in policy

German September industrial production (seasonally adjusted) came in at -1.8% M/M, much worse than the -0.7% expected and -0.5% in August, which is yet another confirmation the recent weaker economic data, other than domestic consumption, which to date is holding up, though for how long;

The EU has forecast that the French economy will grow by +0.4% next year (half that forecast by the French) – personally, I expect the French economy to decline next year, especially if current policies are maintained. They added that whilst France should achieve its budget deficit target of -4.5% of GDP this year, it will be higher than the -3.0% next year (-3.5% expected). Personally, I believe that France will find it near impossible to meet even the -3.5% budget deficit forecast next year, based on current EZ policies. I continue to believe that France is the real big problem in the EZ, far more so than Italy (similar to Spain) – so long as the Italians deal with their political issues;

The EU forecasts that 2012 GDP will contract by -0.25% this year, with the EZ to decline by -0.4%. The EZ’s 2013 forecast has been slashed to just +0.1%from +1.0% previously - still too optimistic, based on current policies. Inflation is expected to decline to +1.8% in 2013, in line with previous forecasts, with 2012 inflation at +2.5%, rather than +2.4% previously. They have raised the Spanish budget deficit to -8.0%, much higher than the -6.3% target. Basically, a much weaker EZ economy in 2013 – why is anyone surprised. Indeed, unless policies change, a much worse outcome is likely;

The Fiscal Cliff – Deficit Battles : No Easy Choices Or Results

Social Security Poster: old man

Social Security Poster: old man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oct 23  John Mauldin

Massive deficits are projected for a very long time, unless we make major changes.

The problem is that taking away that deficit spending is going to have the reverse effect of the stimulus – a negative stimulus, if you will. Why? Because the economy is not growing fast enough to overcome the loss of that stimulus. We will notice it. It is the “G” component of the above equation, which was first developed by Irving Fisher during the Great Depression. The negative stimulus should be a short-term effect –most economists agree it will last 4-5 quarters – and then the economy may be better, with lower deficits and smaller government.

In order to get the deficit under control, we are talking about reducing the deficit on the order of 1% of GDP every year for 5-6 years. That is a very large headwind on growth, especially in a 2% Muddle Through economy. GDP for the US is now on an anemic 2% growth trend, with very weak final demand. Think what it would be if the full anticipated 2% of spending cuts and tax increases were put into force. It would be very hard to attain positive growth in 2013.

Furthermore, tax increases reduce GDP by anywhere from 1 to 3 times the size of the increase, depending on which academic study you favor. Large tax increases will inevitably reduce GDP and potential GDP. That may be the price we want to pay as a country, but we need to recognize that there will be a cost to growth and employment. Those who argue that taking away the Bush tax cuts will have no effect on the economy are simply not dealing with the facts, based on well-established research. Now, that is different from the argument that says we should allow the cuts to expire anyway.

Those who argue that reducing spending will also have an effect are equally correct. Government has been a large contributor to consumer income and therefore personal consumption, part of the “C” in the above equation (along with business consumption). The chart below, produced by Bridgewater last April, shows the additional effect of government spending on disposable income for the US consumer. Notice that without government support, disposable income would now be significantly lower. Letting the “one-time” Social Security stimulus (which has already been extended for two years) go away, along with extended unemployment benefits, will result in a decline in GDP of almost 1% and the loss of a significant contribution to disposable income.

There are no easy choices. If we do nothing about the deficit, we will quickly find ourselves close to the black hole of too much debt. Yet, trying to do too much too quickly will bring the economy perilously close to recession, which will mean increased government expenses and decreased revenues, making it hard to balance the budget. Forget Greece and Spain; ask the United Kingdom how well their austerity efforts are doing. This is a country making a serious and credible attempt to reduce their deficits, and sadly, they have fallen back into recession.

            No matter what economists with their models and politicians with their agendas will try to tell you, there is no “easy button.” While there may be a correct path to reducing the deficit and keeping us out of recession, that path is not going to be clear from the models. What we will hopefully do is get the direction correct and ease slowly into confronting the deficit-reduction facts. My thought is that if there are going to be tax increases and spending cuts, they should be phased in quarter by quarter. It might be better to simply hold the line on spending on all but essential items, cutting spending where possible to allow for spending growth in areas like health care. The bond market will behave as long as Congress defines a very clear and credible path to a manageable deficit.

            Both Republicans and Democrats will have to compromise. This election is primarily about the direction of the compromise. It is my sincere hope that both parties do not waste this crisis. There will be no better time to engage in comprehensive tax reform than the first six months of next year. True tax reform could actually be a significant stimulus to the economy and partially offset the drag of reducing the deficit. Tax reform in combination with a serious energy policy that encourages more rapid expansion of domestic production, plus control of health-care expenditures, will let us reduce the “fiscal multiplier” – especially important, given that monetary policy is severely constrained with interest rates at the zero bound.

            Finding the right policy mix will be difficult. There has to be deficit reduction each and every year, to be credible, but not so much as to push the economy into recession. Frankly, we will be lucky to find that right mix, given the nature of the political process. 

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