Posts filed under “Think Tank”

The Great Reflation Experiment

The question we have been focused on for some time now is whether we end up with inflation, or deflation, and what that endgame looks like. It is one of the most important questions an investor must ask today, and getting the answer right is critical. This week, we have a guest writer who takes on the topic of the great experiment the Fed is now waging, which he calls The Great Reflation Experiment.

One of my favorite sources of information for decades has been and remains the Bank Credit Analyst. It has a long and
storied reputation. One of their enduring themes has been the debt super cycle. Investors who have paid attention to it have been served well. I am taking a little R&R this weekend, but I have arranged for my friend Tony Boeckh to stand in for me. Tony was chairman, chief executive, and editor-in-chief of Montreal-based BCA Research, publisher of the highly regarded Bank Credit Analyst up until he retired in 2002. He still likes to write from time to time, and we are lucky enough to have him give us his views on where we are in the economic cycles. Gentle reader, we are all graced to learn from one of the great economists and analysts of our times. Pay attention. Central bankers do. You can read his extensive bio at www.boeckhinvestmentletter.com and I will tell you how to get his letter free of charge at the end of this letter.
And, he told me to mention that his son Rob is now helping him write, so there is a double byline here. Now, let’s just jump in.

By Tony Boeckh and Rob Boeckh

The Crash of 2008/9 should be seen as yet another consequence of long-term, persistent US inflationary policies.
Inflation doesn’t stand still. It tends to establish a self-reinforcing cycle that accelerates until the excesses in money and credit become so extreme that a correction is triggered. The bigger the inflation, the bigger the correction. Once a dependency on credit expansion is well established, correcting the underlying imbalances becomes extremely difficult. Reflation has occurred after each major correction, and this one is proving no exception. Return to discipline in the current environment would be too painful and dangerous. Once on the financial roller coaster, it is very hard to get off. Moreover, the oscillations between peaks and valleys become increasingly large and unstable.

Policymakers, money managers, and most forecasters have argued that the crash was a “black swan” event, meaning
that it had an extremely low probability of occurrence. That is grossly misleading, as it implies that the crash was so far beyond the realm of normal probabilities that it was unreasonable to expect anyone to have foreseen it. That argument has been used to justify the widespread complacency that prevailed in the years leading up to the crash. Policymakers are still failing to recognize the systemic causes of the crash and seem to believe that enhanced regulation will prevent history from repeating. While it is true that regulators were asleep at the switch or looking the other way, they were not the cause.

The Debt Super Cycle

The real culprit is the US debt super cycle, which has operated for decades, mostly in a remarkably benign manner. The inflationary implications of the twin deficits (current account and fiscal), as well as the steady increase in private debt, have been moderated by the integration of emerging markets into the global economy. The massive increase in industrial output from China, India, and others has enabled persistent credit inflation in the US to occur with virtually no consequence to date (other than periodic asset price bubbles and shakeouts). How long the disinflationary impact of emerging-market productivity growth will persist and how long these nations will continue loading up on Treasuries, will be instrumental in determining the course that the Great Reflation will take.

Tougher regulation is surely appropriate, but it will not stop the next inflationary run-up unless the system is fixed. In the final analysis, newly minted money and credit must find a home somewhere.

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Category: Think Tank

My friend and colleague Janet Tavakoli sent me this scathing comment.  She is one of the most respected analysts in the world of structured finance and risk.  When I see Janet rant, I read.  Also, 7/30/09 reply from Jim Rogers at bottom. Enjoy –  Chris

Where Were Drama Pundits [Whitney, Taleb and Gasparino] When It Mattered?

TSF (Opinion) Roundup Commentary – July 29, 2009

By Janet Tavakoli

Hundreds of people from clergymen to lawyers have claimed decorations for bravery that they never earned.  Why should finance be any different?

Meredith Whitney’s Unreported Death Threats (See also: “Reporting v. PR”)

In the early part of 2007, Meredith Whitney appeared on Cavuto on Business with Jim Rogers and opposed his viewpoint.  She rated Citigroup “sector perform.” Rogers was short.  By the end of October 2007, three other prominent analysts already had a sell on Citi; Whitney followed by rating it sector underperform and said Citigroup could trade in the low ‘30’s and would have to cut its dividend.  The dividend cut was a good call.  Rogers made it months earlier when he shorted the stock.  It was too late to give an early warning about Citigroup’s toxic assets.  Securitization had already ground to a halt, and everyone was taking losses.  Citi hit $5 in January 2009, just as Rogers said it would.

According to Reuters, Whitney said she got “several death threats” as a result of her Citi call.  The rumored death threats were widely reported.  But who told the press about death threats? Security consultants advise the target of death threats not to discuss it, particularly not with the press.  The threats were downgraded faster than Whitney downgraded Citigroup—a Fortune interview said she received “one death threat.”  Whitney rated Bear Stearns perform and downgraded it to underperform on March 14, 2008 as it tumbled 53% in one day.  Clues to Bear Stearns’ problems were publicly reported in May 2007 when the Everquest IPO became news, and CDOs from BSAM’s hedge funds landed on Bear Stearns’s balance sheet.  Reportedly, Whitney hesitated Bear’s fateful week of March 2008 due to her perceived pressure over her Citi dividend call, but pressure or not, she was already too late.

Jim Rogers also warned about Lehman when Bear Stearns imploded in mid-March 2008, but Whitney continued to rate Lehman outperform.  Whitney downgraded Lehman to “perform” at the end of March 2008—so much for taking a hint or issuing an early warning.  Lehman went under September 2008.

I first took an interest when Whitney was billed as the woman who gave early warning about AIG, because she did not as far as I know.  In August 2007, I challenged AIG’s earnings—specifically its failure to take losses on credit derivatives protecting “super senior” structures, the type of products on which we eventually paid out TARP money.

When asked by an economist to comment on my analysis of her calls that missed some death threats, Whitney retorted: “She is just jealous.”  Not true.  My feeling is akin to that which I have for Rosie Ruiz, who appeared to run a marathon in record time, but had merely jumped in at the end of the race—it’s a different feeling entirely.

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Category: Think Tank

Is Big Really Beautiful?

Bill Dunkelberg is currently a professor of economics at Temple University where he served as dean of the School of Business from 1987-95. Prior appointments were at Purdue, Stanford and the University of Michigan. He has served as the Chief Economist for the National Federation of Independent Business for 35 years, is the Chairman of…Read More

Category: Credit, Markets, Think Tank

Chicago manufacturing PMI

The July Chicago PMI was 43.4, about in line with expectations of 43 and up from 39.9 in June and it’s the highest level since the Sept ’08 reading of 55.9. New Orders remained below 50 but jumped 6.4 points to 48. Backlogs however fell 5.5 points to 32.1. Inventories remained extremely lean, falling to…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

King Report: Reasons to Rally?

> Initial Jobless Claims were 9k more than expected. But Continuing Claims were 103k less than expected. As we have regularly noted, Street spinmeisters ignore Continuing Claims when they are worse than expected but herald the rebound in the job market when they are better than expected. We noted almost two months ago that Continuing…Read More

Category: Think Tank

Q2 GDP, thanks for the deflator

Q2 GDP fell 1%, .5% better than expected but the breakdown was very mixed as NOMINAL GDP fell more than expected as the deflator rose just .2% vs expectations of a gain of 1%. If the deflator was in line, REAL GDP would have fallen 1.8%. Personal consumption dropped 1.2%, .7% more than the consensus…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

morning note/Q2 GDP

Today we’ll quantify to what extent the US economy is one step closer to ending the recession when Q2 GDP is expected out with a decline of 1.5%, the 4th Q in a row of contraction. Trade and inventories are the two components that will lead the slowing rate of decline as personal consumption, 70%…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

New Classifications for Personal Consumption Expenditures (Wonky)

Today, we get the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)  comprehen­sive, or benchmark, revision of the national income and product accounts (NIPAs). The last such revision was released in December 2003. ture components of gross domestic product (GDP) and some of the income components. For those of you who want more info, consider the following sources:…Read More

Category: Economy, Think Tank

Backbone Not Likely in Fed’s Exit Strategy Toolkit

Good Evening: Just when market participants had grown used to the stock market’s recent pattern of falling in the morning and rising in the afternoon, U.S. share prices pulled a George Costanza and did the opposite today (if you are unsure what this “Seinfeld” reference means, click here). Higher markets overseas, some decent earnings reports,…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

7 year note auction

The 7 year note auction was good as the yield was about 3 bps less than expected. The bid to cover of 2.63 was above the average seen in the previous 5 of 2.4 but below the June auction of 2.82. The level of indirect bidders totaled 62.5%, below the 67.2% seen in June which…Read More

Category: MacroNotes