A few days ago the market was crashing on Coronavirus fears. But recently, the market has soared back based upon the hopes of a vaccine and some better than expected economic data in the US. The ADP January employment report showed that a net 291k jobs were created, and the ISM Services Index came in at a healthy 55.5. However, a couple of good data points doesn’t change the fact that US economic growth has contracted back to 2% trend growth and will absolutely become more anemic–at least in the short-term. This is because the measures needed to contain the virus are also GDP killers. I have no clue if the virus will become a pandemic or if it will fade away like the SARS and MERS viruses–without long-term economic damage. But, for the stock market to remain at record high valuations, nearly everything has to go perfectly. That is, the Fed has to keep pumping in money, and EPS growth must rebound sharply.
This article posits that the spread of the coronavirus coincides with the downturn in the global credit cycle, with potentially catastrophic results. At the time of writing, analysts are still trying to get to grips with the virus’s economic impact and they commonly express the hope that after a month or two everything will return to normal. This seems too optimistic.
The credit crisis was already likely to be severe, given the combination of the end of a prolonged expansionary phase of the credit cycle and trade protectionism. These were the conditions that led to the Wall Street crash of 1929-32. Given similar credit cycle and trade dynamics today, the question to be resolved is how an overvaluation of bonds and equities coupled with escalating monetary inflation will play out.
With a recession become increasingly certain and the end of the expansionary phase of the credit cycle in sight, we can expect a periodic systemic crisis to be upon us soon. The question arises as to how serious it will be, given that despite the massive injections of extra base money since the Lehman crisis, signs of liquidity shortages are already re-emerging in financial markets.
We don’t know what will trigger the crisis, but a likely candidate is foreign selling of US dollars combining with a collapse in the US government’s finances. Perhaps the coronavirus will turn out to be a black swan event, but the underlying conditions for an economic and monetary crisis already exist.
This article looks at alternative outcomes. It concludes that the current situation bears a worrying resemblance to the collapse of John Law’s Mississippi scheme exactly 300 years ago. The key to understanding why this is so is because of the link forged between asset prices and fiat currencies. One fails, and they both fail, more rapidly than the most bearish bear might expect.
Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome back Michael Pento, President and founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies. Michael’s a well-known money manager, market commentator and author of the book, The Coming Bond Market Collapse: How to Survive the Demise of the U.S. Debt Market. He’s been a regular guest with us over the years and we always love getting his fantastic insights.
Well, we’re having a hard time seeing a big move higher in metals prices until one of two things happen. We’ll start here. The first would be a pickup and safe haven demand. In our view there is too much investor complacency given the circumstances as has been the case for a while now, equity market valuations are sky high. Now we’ve got an election coming up, and there is at least some chance our next president will be an avowed socialist. This does not seem like the time for investors to be all in on risk trades, but we suppose the only thing that really matters is the Fed. They are going to do whatever it takes to keep the party in the stock markets going.
But what are your thoughts? Are we likely to see the markets get a wakeup call anytime soon or is the Fed likely to maintain complete control for the foreseeable future? Let’s start there.
Michael Pento: What a great question. Geez, you hit me over the head with a, a big anvil. That’s the $20 trillion question. I mean, can the market continue to defy gravity – and it is defying gravity, make no mistake about it. If you look at the total market cap to GDP, I look at the Wilshire 5000, that doesn’t have 5,000 stocks anymore. I think it’s like 3,500 but it’s the widest measurement of stocks, their market cap, to the underlying economy. That ratio is now 155%. Outside of March of 2000 when it was 145 or 148 around there, it’s never been near this. The average ratio is 0.8%… 80% or 0.8 in the ratio. So 155%, 1.55% above where the underlying supporting economy is. I mean it’s never been anywhere near this outside of that epic bubble in the NASDAQ debacle where the NASDAQ lost 80% of its value.
The benefits of a deflation of prices brought about by a combination of sound money and markets free from government intervention have been demonstrated to be the best economic environment, the denial of which in favour of inflationary financing has led to repeated monetary and systemic failures.
This article explains how this has come about and puts the record on deflation straight. The development of macroeconomic theory had to deny the benefits of a deflation of prices, unbelievably telling us we need higher prices to stimulate our consumption.
Deflation and investment funded by savings is a far better, natural economic environment than the false gods of easy debt and money printing. There can be no return to the stability of gentle price deflation without seismic shifts in economic thinking and government responsibilities.
It is not at all a mystery as to the cause of the wealth gap that exists between the very rich and the poor. Central bankers are the primary cause of this chasm that is eroding the foundation of the global middle class. The world’s poor are falling deeper into penury and at a faster pace, while the world’s richest are accelerating further ahead. To this point, the 500 wealthiest billionaires on Earth added $1.2 trillion to their fortunes in 2019, boosting their collective net worth by 25%, to $5.9 trillion.
In fact, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, made a quarter of a billion dollars in stock-based compensation in 2019. As a reminder, shares of JPM were plunging at the end of 2018; that is before the Fed stepped in with a promise to stop normalizing interest rates. And then, soon after, began cutting them and launching a bank-saving QE 4 program and REPO facility on top of it in order to make sure Mr. Dimon’s stock price would soar. Slashing interest rates hurts savers and retirees that rely on an income stream to exist, just as the Fed’s QE pushes up the prices for the things which the middle class relies on the most to exist (food, energy, clothing, shelter, medical and educational expenses).