Monday, May 18, 2015

A Shoeshine and a Smile

Every investing age has its own story explaining why It’s Different This Time:  
  • Buy and hold with the Nifty Fifty
  • Stock prices have reached a permanently high plateau
  • Information technology is worth any price, because it's revolutionizing life
  • Real estate can never go down
  • Markets are Too Big to Fail.  Central Bankers won't allow it.
Obviously, central bankers can control market liquidity.  And market prices.  All that central bank chicanery worked after Lehman didn’t it?  See how high stocks and bonds are now.  Look at market multiples.  What could possibly go wrong?

The central bankers will use any amount of financial repression needed to keep the elites in power.  Keep rates low and funds flowing!  Drive rates negative!  Eliminate all “excess savings”!  And so it will go, until their tricks finally fail.

We've been here before.  It's another bubble cycle, and all that’s changed is that the central banks are a little more skilled today at keeping the illusion alive longer.  Market professionals know the drill well, because they lose their positions if they fail to follow the herd.  So, they chase stocks higher as fundamentals and market internals worsen.

I said it several years ago, and it is just my opinion, but I still think that we have a stochastic stopping problem.  How inflated do we expect prices to get?  If you stay in the game, you might eke out an existence, but history suggests that prospects are not good.  History even suggests there’s a fair chance that at some unknown time the bubble will burst and you’ll get something precious chopped off.

All of this financial trickery is just covering over the structural problems.  Developed economies have become zombies.  The people maintain inflated expectations.  Markets are casinos functioning purely on central bank credibility. 

There is no telling how long it will go on, or how high markets can go.  But it is increasingly obvious that central banks cannot solve the underlying problems, and that the facade is cracking.  Too much debt cannot be solved by adding more debt.  

People are catching on, and central bank credibility is at risk.

Willie Loman is out on the road again, on a shoeshine and a smile, totally deluded.