This Stock Market is Priced to Sell

By Vitaliy Katsenelson – Re-Blogged From IMA

If you feel that you have to own stocks no matter the cost; if you tell yourself, “Stocks are expensive, but I am a long-term investor,” — there’s help for you yet.

First, let’s scan the global economic landscape. The health of the European Union has not improved, and Brexit only increased the possibility of other nation’s “exits” as the structural issues that render this union dysfunctional go unfixed.

Meanwhile, Japan’s population isn’t getting any younger — in fact, it’s the oldest in the world. Japan is also the world’s most-indebted developed nation (though, in all fairness, other countries are desperately trying to take that title away from it). Despite the growing debt, Japanese five-year government bonds are “paying” an interest rate of negative 0.10%. Imagine what will happen to the government’s budget when Japan has to start actually paying to borrow money commensurate with its debtor profile.

Regarding China, the bulk of Chinese growth is coming from debt, which in fact is growing at a much faster pace than the economy. This camel has consumed a tremendous quantity of steroids over the years that have weakened its back — we just don’t know yet which straw will break it.

n the U.S., meanwhile, S&P 500 SPX, -0.12% earnings have stagnated since 2013, but this has not stopped analysts from launching into a new year with forecasts of 10%-20% earnings growth — only to gradually take expectations down to near-zero as the year progresses. The explanation for the stagnation is surprisingly simple: Corporate profitability overall has been stretched to an extreme and is unlikely to improve much, as profit margins are close to all-time highs (corporations have squeezed about as much juice out of their operations as they can). And interest rates are still low, while corporate and government indebtedness is very high — a recipe for higher interest rates and significant inflation down the road, which will pressure corporate margins even further.

I am acutely aware that all of the above sounds like a broken record. It absolutely does, but that doesn’t make it any less true. We are in the final innings of this eight-year-old bull market, which in the past few years has been fueled not by great fundamentals but by a lack of good investment alternatives.

Starved for yield, investors are forced to pick investments by matching current yields with income needs, while ignoring riskiness and overvaluation. Why wouldn’t they? After all, over the past eight years we have observed only steady if unimpressive returns and very little realized risk. However, just as in dating, decisions that are made due to a “lack of alternatives” are rarely good decisions, as new alternatives will eventually emerge — it’s just a matter of time.

The average stock (that is, the market) is extremely expensive. At this point it almost doesn’t matter which valuation metric you use: price to 10-year trailing earnings; stock market capitalization (market value of all stocks) as a percentage of GDP (sales of the whole economy); enterprise value (market value of stocks less cash plus debt) to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) — they all point to this: stocks were more expensive than they are today only once in the past century — during the late 1990s dot-com bubble.

Investors who are stampeding into expensive stocks through passive index funds are buying what has worked — and will likely stop working. Mutual funds are not much better. When I meet new clients, I get to look at their mutual-fund holdings. Even value-oriented funds, which in theory are supposed to be scraping equities from the bottom of the stock-market barrel, are full of pricey companies. Cash (which is another way of saying, “I’m not buying overvalued stocks”) is not a viable option for most equity-fund managers.

Thus this market has turned professional investors into buyers not of what they like but of what they hate the least. In 2016 less than 10% of actively managed funds outperformed their benchmarks (their respective index funds) on a five-year trailing basis. Unfortunately, the last time this happened was in 1999, during the dot-com bubble, and we know how that story ended.

To summarize the requirements for investing in an environment where decisions are made not based on fundamentals but due to a lack of alternatives, look to Mark Twain: “All you need in this life [read: lack-of-alternatives stock market] is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

To succeed in the market that lies ahead of us, one will need to have a lot of confidence in his ignorance and exercise caution and prudence, which will often mean taking the much less-traveled path.

So, how does one invest in this overvalued market? Our strategy is spelled out in this fairly lengthy article.

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Blow Off Top…Could It Happen?

By David Chapman – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

Every time we pick up some article on the stock market of late, all we read is the stock market is on the verge of a devastating wipeout, or that the next collapse is just around the corner. One of the best headlines we saw recently was from a famed market guru with a headline of “2017 Is Going to Be Worse than the Great Depression!” It is enough to make you run home, pour a long hot bath, slit your wrists, and climb in to the tub.

Okay, maybe that is extreme. Naturally, there are many reasons writers give to back up their case. Those range from the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, rising interest rates in the US, and of course the best one—that the bull market is now into its ninth year from the major low of March 2009 without a correction exceeding 20% and is in the mother of all bubbles. All of that is true. But none of that makes for a final top just because the stock market has been rising for eight years plus.

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Brexit, Germany And Asia

By Alasdair Macleod – Re-Blogged From http://www.Silver-Phoenix500.com

Britain’s general election went horribly wrong, with the Conservatives forced into a putative coalition with the Democratic Ulster Party. Theresa May’s failure to secure a clear majority has provoked indignation, bitterness, and widespread pessimism. The purpose of this article is not to contribute to this outcry, but to take a more measured view of the situation faced by the British government with regards to Brexit, and the consequences for Europe. In the interests of an international readership, this article will only summarize briefly the current situation in the UK before looking at the broader European and geopolitical consequences.

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How Gold Can Rescue Pensions

By Alasdair Macleod – Re-Blogged From http://www.Gold-Eagle.com

The World Economic Forum, in conjunction with Mercers (the actuaries) recently estimated that the combined pension deficit currently stands at $66.9tr for eight countries, rising to $427.8tr in 2050. The eight countries are Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Netherlands, UK and US. Of the 2016 figure, $50.5tr is unfunded government and public employee pension promises. Yes, we are now talking in hundreds of trillions. Other welfare-providing states missing from the list have deficits that are additional to these estimates.

$66.9tr is roughly 1.5 times the GDP of the eight countries combined, and $427.8tr is nearly ten times. Furthermore, if we take out the non-productive government element, the figures relative to the private sector tax-paying base are closer to twice productive GDP today, and thirteen times greater in 2050. That 2050 deficit assumes a 5% compound annual growth rate. This is a linear projection, but the deterioration in finances for unfunded government pensions may turn out to be exponential, in line with the accelerated increase in the broad money quantity since the great financial crisis.

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Searching for Yield

By Vitaliy Katsenelson – Re-Blogged From Contrarian Edge

The Great Recession may be over, but seven years later we can still see the deep scars and unhealed wounds it left on the global economy. In an attempt to prevent an unpleasant revisit to the Stone Age, global governments have bailed out banks and the private sector. These bailouts and subsequent stimuli swelled global government debt, which jumped 75 percent, from $33 trillion in 2007 to $58 trillion in 2014. (These numbers, from McKinsey & Co., are the latest we have, but we promise you they have not shrunk since.)

A lot of things about today’s environment don’t fit neatly into economic theory. [tweet_dis]Ballooning government debt should have brought higher — much higher — interest rates. [/tweet_dis]But central banks bought the bonds of their respective governments and corporations, driving interest rates down to the point at which a quarter of global government debt now “pays” negative interest.

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Exploding Debt, Inverted Yield Curve, and Then “Economic Armageddon”

By Mike Gleason – Re-Blogged From http://www.PentoPort.com

Listen to the Podcast Audio: Click Here

Mike Gleason: Michael, how are you today? Welcome back.

Michael Pento:  I’m doing fine, Mike. Thanks for having me back.

Mike Gleason:  When we had you on last you commented that you believed the market was pricing in President Trump getting virtually all of his policy agenda pushed through Congress, the tax cuts, repealing Obamacare, and so forth. To say Trump has encountered some resistance in Washington would be a major understatement. The establishment of the right doesn’t seem to like him. The left and the mainstream media of course hate him. So, Michael before we get into the effects this will have on the markets here, first off, handicap for us the chances of Trump, based on what’s been transpiring in recent weeks, miraculously gaining enough allies in Congress in order to get his initiatives passed.

Michael Pento:  I did say that the market was pricing in the imminent effect of a massive tax cut — and I meant tax cut, not a tax reform package. In other words, cutting the rate from 30% to 15% or even 20%, but certainly not offset by any spending cuts or an elimination of deductions. The market is still pricing in a lot of that hope and hype, in my opinion. But I had said and warned from the beginning, this was back right after the election, I did say that the Trump “stimulus” package — and I’ll put “stimulus” in quotes and I’ll explain why in a second — I said that the Trump “stimulus” plan would be both diluted and delayed.

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