Category Archives: asset bubbles

9/9/18: Populism, Middle Class and Asset Bubbles


The range of total returns (unadjusted for differential FX rates) for some key assets categories since 2009 via Goldman Sachs Research:


The above highlights the pivot toward financial assets inflation under the tidal wave of Quantitative Easing programmes by the major Central Banks. The financial sector repression is taking the bite out of the consumer / household finances through widening profit margins, reflective of the economy's move toward higher financial intensity of output. Put differently, the CPI gap to corporate costs inflation is widening, and with it, the asset price inflation is drifting toward financial assets:


This is the 'beggar-thy-household' economy, folks. Not surprisingly, while the proportion of total population classifiable as middle-class might be stabilising (after a massive decline from the 1970s and 1980s levels):

 Incomes of the middle class are stagnant (and for lower earners, falling):

And post-QE squeeze (higher interest rates and higher cost of credit intermediation) is coming for the already stretched households. Any wonder that political populism/opportunism is also on the rise?

15/6/18: Italian High Yield Bonds and Markets Exuberance


Nothing illustrates the state of asset valuations today better than the junk bonds tale from Italy. Here is a prime example from the Fitch ratings note from June 7:

"...longstanding Italian HY issuer and mobile operator WindTre sequentially refinanced crisis-era unsecured notes at 12% coupons into 3% area coupons by January 2018, despite losing cumulative revenue and EBITDA of 30% and 25%, respectively, and re-leveraging from 4x to 6x."


Give this a thought, folks:

  1. We expect rates to rise in the future on foot of ECB unwinding its QE, the Fed hiking rates and monetary conditions everywhere around the world getting 'gently' tighter;
  2. Euro is set to weaken in the longer run on foot of Fed-ECB policies mismatch;
  3. WindTre issues replacement debt, increasing its leverage risk by 50%, as its revenue falls almost by a thirds and its EBITDA falls by a quarter;
  4. WindTre operates in the market that is highly exposed to political risks and in an economy that is posting downward revisions to growth forecasts.
And the investors are piling into the company bonds, cutting the cost of debt carry for the operator from 12 percent to 3 percent. 

Per FT (https://www.ft.com/content/31c635f4-64df-11e8-a39d-4df188287fff): "Lending to corporates rose 1.2 per cent in the year to February 2018, according to the Bank of Italy, and the average interest rate on new loans was 1.5 per cent — a historic low."



Say big, collective "Thanks!" to the folks at ECB, who worked hard to bring us this gem of a market, so skewed out of reality, one wonders what it will take for markets regulators to see build up of systemic risks.

7/4/18: Markets Message Indicator: Ouuuuch… it hurts


An interesting chart from the VUCA family, courtesy of @Business:


'Markets Message Indicator', created by Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Weeden Capital Management, takes 5 different data ratios: stock market relative performance compared to the bond market, cyclical stocks performance relative to defensive stocks, corporate bond spreads, the copper-to-gold price ratio, and a U.S. dollar index. The idea is to capture broad stress build up across a range of markets and asset classes, or, in VUCA terms - tallying up stress on all financial roads that investors my use to escape pressure in one of the asset markets.

Bloomberg runs some analysis of these five components here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/paulsen-says-proceed-with-caution-across-many-asset-classes. And it is a scary read through the charts. But...

... the real kicker comes from looking back at the chart above. The red oval puts emphasis on the most recent market correction, the downturn and increased volatility that shattered the myth of the Goldilocks Markets. And it barely makes a splash in drawing down the excess stress built across the 'Markets Message Indicator'.

Now, that is a scary thought.