Since the March lows, the markets have rallied on optimism of a “V-shaped” economic recovery and constant stimulus from the Fed. So far, that has been the right call. However, in recent weeks, the threats to the bullish thesis have grown.
We recently discussed the Fed’s inflation of an asset bubble. The crux of the analysis was the unprecedented amount of monetary stimulus to counter the “pandemic.”
“The Fed was able to inflate another asset bubble to restore consumer confidence and stabilize the credit markets. The problem is that since the Fed never unwound their previous policies, current policies will have a more muted long-term effect.
However, this time there are 50+ million unemployed, wage growth is declining, and bankruptcies are on the rise. The Fed’s attempt to inflate another bubble to offset the damage from the deflation of the last bubble, will likely not work.”
In the short-term, the Fed’s actions had the intended outcome by providing “stability” to the financial markets.
What is most imperative for the Fed is those market participants, and consumers “believe” in their actions. With the financial ecosystem more heavily levered than ever, the “instability of stability” remains the most significant risk.
“The ‘stability/instability paradox’ assumes that all players are rational. That assumption implies participants will avoid complete destruction. In other words, all players will act rationally, and no one will push ‘the big red button.’”
The problem the Fed, and Global Central banks, currently face is an inability to extract themselves from ongoing monetary policy measures. After the “Financial Crisis,” the Fed had hoped they would be able to reduce their accommodation as economic growth and inflation returned.
Neither ever happened.
A Diminishing Rate Of Return
Instead, as each year passed, more monetary policy was required just to sustain economic growth. Whenever the Fed tightened policy, economic growth weakened, and financial markets declined. The table shows it takes increasingly larger amounts of QE to create an equivalent increase in asset prices.
As with everything, there is a “diminishing rate of return” on QE over time. Since QE requires more debt to be issued, the consequence is slower economic growth over time.
“The relevance of debt growth versus economic growth is all too evident. Debt issuance initially exploded during the Obama administration. It further accelerated under President Trump, and has taken ever-increasing amounts of debt to generate $1 of economic growth.”
In other words, without debt, there has been no organic economic growth.
Importantly, after a decade of unprecedented monetary policy programs in U.S., the risks in the system have been expanded. It is now imperative that everyone continues to “act rationally.”
By not letting the system correct, letting weak companies fail, and allowing valuations to mean revert, the Fed has trapped itself. Such was a point we discussed previously:
“One way to view this problem is by looking at the Nasdaq 100 versus the S&P 500 index. That ratio is now at the highest level ever.”
These levels of extremes rarely exist for extended periods. It currently seems as if “nothing can stop the bullish market.” However, it is always an unexpected, exogenous event, which pops the bubble.
The Bear Case
My colleague Doug Kass recently penned an interesting post on this issue:
“In aggregate terms, COVID -19 will likely have a sustained impact on the domestic economy. Such will be seen in reduced production and profitability for several years and forever in some industries.
At the core of my concerns:
Important Industries Gutted: Several key labor-intensive industries, such as education, lodging, entertainment, restaurant, travel, retail, and non-residential real estate, all face an existential threat. For these industries, they simply cannot survive the conditions they face. For these gutted industries, we face, at best, an 80% to 85% recovery in the years to come. In the case of some of these sectors like retail, Covid-19 only sped up what was already a secular decline.
A Negative Knock-On Effect: Tangential industries, like food and other services surrounding less utilized offices, malls, and other spaces, will also get hit. They, too, face at best, an 80% recovery.
Widening Income and Wealth Inequality: The combined unemployment impact will run deep and cause adverse economic ramifications and intensified social imbalances.
A Battered Public Sector: With a lower revenue base, the Federal government and municipalities will cut services (and employment).
Rising Tax Rates and Redistribution: To fund the revenue shortfall tax rates will steadily increase. Such will exacerbate the disruption described above, and create a less than virtuous cycle.
Negative Impact To Stocks
As Doug also notes, there are substantial impacts to companies individually, which will eventually manifest in lower asset prices.
Weak Capital Spending: With a large output gap and higher debt loads ($2.5 trillion of Federal Debt and $16 trillion of non-financial debt), the outlook for capital spending is weak over the next several years.
Higher Costs And Lower Profit Margins: The surviving companies in a post-virus world will face higher costs of doing business.
The Competitive Influence of Zombie Companies Exacerbate Lower Profitability: Corporations will face further pressure on profit margins from “zombie companies.” These companies compete aggressively on cost, and take longer to die due to low interest rates and weak loan covenants.
Small Businesses Gutted: The greatest brunt from the pandemic is faced by small businesses that historically account for the largest job creators.
The Specter of a Secular Erosion in Unemployment: Permanent job losses will be surprisingly large, ultimately killing consumption.
More Cautious Business Confidence and Spending: The surviving companies were ill-prepared operationally and financially, in early 2020 for the disruptive impact of COVID- 19. Such will force companies to maintain a “buffer” of additional capital (and cash) in the event of another unforeseen event or tragedy. In all likelihood, this will make for less ambitious capital spending and expansion plans relative to the past.
Financial Repression Holds Multiple Risks: A sustained period of low-interest rates, necessary (by some) to offset reduced economic growth, could backfire. Repressing interest rates runs the risk of a pension fund crisis, and intransigence on the part of businesses to expand and may impair the U.S. banking system.
A Political Stasis: Political divisiveness and partisanship could intensify – dimming the probability of effective, pro-growth fiscal policy necessary in a low growth economy.
When reading through Doug’s list, the immediate response from readers who have a “bullish bias,” is “yeah…but what about the Fed?”
In the short-term, the Fed’s monetary interventions can certainly lift asset prices. As noted in the table above, the biggest “bang for the buck” is when asset markets are profoundly depressed, and negative sentiment is exceptionally high.
Such is not the case currently with retail investors chasing momentum in the markets with reckless disregard of the underlying investment risk. The sharp rise in the Russell 2000 index, as noted by Sentiment Trader, supports this view:
“Below is the percentage of Russell 2000 firms that have negative operating earnings over the trailing-12 months. It just moved above 30%, the most in over a decade. Only twice before in 20 years have such a high proportion of these small companies lost money. Those two periods were in April 2002 and December 2009 through February 2010.”
Furthermore, you have a near-record number of small traders speculating on asset prices through the use of options.
As noted previously, investors are also using 24-month forward estimates to justify overpaying for assets.
But, by nearly any metric, stocks are extremely expensive. There is only so much “future growth” that can be pulled forward. Eventually, “the piper must be paid.”
The Risks Of Being Bullish
At the moment, none of these risks seem to matter.
What is vital to understand none of these issues will “cause” the “bear market.”
They are just the “fuel” that will exacerbate an eventual decline when the right catalyst is applied. Much like a can of gasoline stored in your garage, gas is inert until introducing the proper catalyst (a match.)
Concerning the financial markets, it will most likely not be a resurgence of the virus, weak economic data, or even a dismal earnings season. Such has already been “priced in” by the market. However, as stated, it will require an unexpected, exogenous event to ignite the fuel. At the point, it will become hard to contain the flames.
From an investment standpoint, it is critical to understand the “risk” under which you deploy capital into overvalued and extended assets.
While it may seem like a “no-lose” scenario due to the Fed’s liquidity programs, mean reversions can, and have previously, occurred.
As Doug concluded:
“While the Federal Reserve can provide the necessary ammunition (and liquidity) to stabilize activity briefly – it is unlikely a longer-term solution.
As we pass another Independence Day, the downcast prospects will impact the markets in the coming weeks and months
These are not an ingredient for a “Bull Market” or rising valuations. Instead, the above factors may be an ingredient to:
Increased market volatility.
Increasing economic uncertainty and cautiousness in the C-suite.
An irregular period of growth.
Lower price-earnings ratios.
More social unrest.
The U.S. economy and our financial markets now face a crossroad – they are once again decoupling. The test of economic aspiration and market optimism will come in the years ahead.”
Navigating The Risk
Whenever I write an article that discusses a “bearish view” on the financial markets, readers construe it to mean I am sitting in cash, or short the “bull market.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. As stated over the last few weeks, we are currently “uncomfortably long” the market on our portfolios’ equity side. While we continue to hedge our risks to some degree through our bond, gold, and cash holdings, we are still well exposed to potential downside risks.
Having a thorough understanding of the “risk” is to have better control over long-term outcomes. While it is essential to make money while markets are rising, it is even more critical to control the losses. Spending a bulk of your time getting “back to even” is not a long-term investment strategy.
In January and February of this year, we discussed taking profits in stocks like AAPL, MSFT, AMZN, and others. The reason was not some prediction about the impact of the virus, but rather the gross deviation and extension of these positions from long-term means.
That risk reduction benefited us much when the crash came in March.
On Wednesday, we took profits in AAPL, MSFT, NFLX, and AMZN. (Taking profits does not mean we sold the entire position.)
I don’t know what might cause the next correction, or if there will even be one. But what I do know is that when stocks are this extended, overbought, and deviated above long-term means, bad things tend to happen.
Yom Kippur is coming soon – what does Judaism actually say about forgiveness?
Many religions value forgiveness, but the details of their teachings differ. A psychologist of religion explains how Christian and Jewish attitudes co…
The Jewish High Holidays are fast approaching: Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. While the first really commemorates the creation of the world, Jews view both holidays as a chance to reflect on our shortcomings, make amends and seek forgiveness, both from other people and from the Almighty.
Jews pray and fast on Yom Kippur to demonstrate their remorse and to focus on reconciliation. According to Jewish tradition, it is at the end of this solemn period that God seals his decision about each person’s fate for the coming year. Congregations recite a prayer called the “Unetanah Tokef,” which recalls God’s power to decide “who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the ends of his days and who shall not” – an ancient text that Leonard Cohen popularized with his song “Who by Fire.”
Forgiveness and related concepts, such as compassion, are central virtues in many religions. What’s more, research has shown that it is psychologically beneficial.
But each religious tradition has its own particular views about forgiveness, as well, including Judaism. As a psychologist of religion, I have done research on these similarities and differences when it comes to forgiveness.
Person to person
Several specific attitudes about forgiveness are reflected in the liturgy of the Jewish High Holidays, so those who go to services are likely to be aware of them – even if they skip out for a snack.
In Jewish theology, only the victim has the right to forgive an offense against another person, and an offender should repent toward the victim before forgiveness can take place. Someone who has hurt another person must sincerely apologize three times. If the victim still withholds forgiveness, the offender is considered forgiven, and the victim now shares the blame.
The 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe” – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the days between – is a popular time for forgiveness. Observant Jews reach out to friends and family they have wronged over the past year so that they can enter Yom Kippur services with a clean conscience and hope they have done all they can to mitigate God’s judgment.
The teaching that only a victim can forgive someone implies that God cannot forgive offenses between people until the relevant people have forgiven each other. It also means that some offenses, such as the Holocaust, can never be forgiven, because those martyred are dead and unable to forgive.
To forgive or not to forgive?
In psychological research, I have found that most Jewish and Christian participants endorse the views of forgiveness espoused by their religions.
As in Judaism, most Christian teachings encourage people to ask and give forgiveness for harms done to one another. But they tend to teach that more sins should be forgiven – and can be, by God, because Jesus’ death atoned vicariously for people’s sins.
Even in Christianity, not all offenses are forgivable. The New Testament describes blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin. And Catholicism teaches that there is a category called “mortal sins,” which cut off sinners from God’s grace unless they repent.
One of my research papers, consisting of three studies, shows that a majority of Jewish participants believe that some offenses are too severe to forgive; that it doesn’t make sense to ask someone other than the victim about forgiveness; and that forgiveness is not offered unconditionally, but after the offender has tried to make things right.
Take this specific example: In one of my research studies I asked Jewish and Christian participants if they thought a Jew should forgive a dying Nazi soldier who requested forgiveness for killing Jews. This scenario is described in “The Sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal, a writer and Holocaust survivor famous for his efforts to prosecute German war criminals.
Jewish participants often didn’t think the question made sense: How could someone else – someone living – forgive the murder of another person? The Christian participants, on the other hand, who were all Protestants, usually said to forgive. They agreed more often with statements like “Mr. Wiesenthal should have forgiven the SS soldier” and “Mr. Wiesenthal would have done the virtuous thing if he forgave the soldier.”
It’s not just about the Holocaust. We also asked about a more everyday scenario – imagining that a student plagiarized a paper that participants’ friends had written, and then asked the participants for forgiveness – and saw similar results.
Jewish people have a wide variety of opinions on these topics, though, as they do in all things. “Two Jews, three opinions!” as the old saying goes. In other studies with my co-researchers, we showed that Holocaust survivors, as well as Jewish American college students born well after the Holocaust, vary widely in how tolerant they are of German people and products. Some are perfectly fine with traveling to Germany and having German friends, and others are unwilling to even listen to Beethoven.
In these studies, the key variable that seems to distinguish Jewish people who are OK with Germans and Germany from those who are not is to what extent they associate all Germans with Nazism. Among the Holocaust survivors, for example, survivors who had been born in Germany – and would have known German people before the war – were more tolerant than those whose first, perhaps only, exposure to Germans had been in the camps.
Forgiveness is good for you – or is it?
American society – where about 7 in 10 people identify as Christian – generally views forgiveness as a positive virtue. What’s more, research has found there are emotional and physical benefits to letting go of grudges.
But does this mean forgiveness is always the answer? To me, it’s an open question.
For example, future research could explore whether forgiveness is always psychologically beneficial, or only when it aligns with the would-be forgiver’s religious views.
If you are observing Yom Kippur, remember that – as with every topic – Judaism has a wide and, well, forgiving view of what is acceptable when it comes to forgiveness.
Adam B. Cohen does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.white house pandemic covid-19 germany
EasyJet share price has collapsed by 53% in 2022. Is it a buy?
The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest…
The EasyJet (LON: EZJ) share price has hit turbulence as concerns about demand and soaring costs remain. It dropped to a low of 293p, which was the lowest level since November 2011. It has plummeted by more than 82% from its all-time high, giving it a market cap of more than 2.5 billion pounds.
Is EasyJet a good buy?
EasyJet is a leading regional airline that operates mostly in Europe. It has hundreds of aircraft and thousands of employees. In 2021, the firm’s revenue jumped to more than 1.49 billion pounds, which was a strong recovery from what it made in the previous year.
EasyJet’s business is doing well as demand for flights rises. In the most recent results, the firm said that forward bookings for Q3 were 76% sold and 36% sold for Q4. For some destinations, bookings have been much higher than before the pandemic.
EasyJet’s business made more than 1.75 billion in revenue in the first half of the year. This happened as passenger revenue rose to 1.15 billion while ancillary revenue jumped to 603 million pounds. The firm managed to make a loss before tax of more than 114 million pounds. It attributed that loss to higher costs and forex conversions.
As I wrote on this article on IAG, EasyJet share price has collapsed as investors worry about the soaring cost of doing business. Besides, jet fuel and wages have jumped sharply in the past few months. Also, analysts and investors are concerned about flight cancellations in its key markets.
Still, there is are two key catalysts for EasyJet. For one, as the stock collapses, it could become a viable acquisition target. In 2021, the management rejected a relatively attractive bid from Wizz Air. Another bid could happen if the stock continues tumbling.
Further, the company could do well as the aviation industry stabilizes in the coming months. A key challenge is that confidence in Europe and the UK.
EasyJet share price forecast
The daily chart shows that the EasyJet stock price has been in a strong bearish trend in the past few months. During this time, the stock has tumbled below all moving averages. It has also formed what looks like a falling wedge pattern, which is usually a bullish sign.
The Relative Strength Index (RSI) has dropped below the oversold level while the Awesome Oscillator has moved below the neutral point.
Therefore, in the near term, the stock will likely continue falling as sellers target the support at 270p. In the long-term, however, the shares will likely rebound as the falling wedge reaches its confluence level.
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August data shows UK automotive sector heading for a “cliff-edge” in 2023
With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly…
With an all-out macroeconomic storm brewing in the UK, the Bank of England (BoE) has been forced to intervene in the tumultuous gilt markets, particularly towards the tail end of the yield curve (details of which were reported on Invezz here).
Car manufacturing is a key industry in the UK. Recently, it registered a turnover of roughly £67 billion, provided direct employment to 182,000 people, and a total of nearly 800,000 jobs across the entire automotive supply chain, while contributing to 10% of exports.
Just after midnight GMT, data on fresh car production for the month of August was released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT).
Strong annual growth but monthly decline
Car production in the UK surged 34% year-over-year settling at just under 50,000 units. This marked the fourth consecutive month of positive growth on an annual basis.
However, twelve months ago, production was heavily dampened by a plethora of supply chain bottlenecks, work stoppages on account of the pandemic, and a worldwide shortage of microchips. The August 2021 output of 37,246 units was the lowest recorded August volume since way back in 1956.
Although the improvement in output is a good sign, equally it is on the back of a heavily depressed performance.
To place the latest data in its proper context, production is still 45.9% below August 2019 levels of 92,158 units, showing just how far adrift the industry is from the pre-pandemic period.
Since July, production in the sector fell 14%.
The fact that the UK is facing a deep economic malaise becomes even more evident when we look at full-year numbers for 2020 and 2021.
In 2020, total output came in at 920,928 units, while 2021 was even lower at 859,575. The last time that the UK automotive sector produced less than one million cars in a calendar year was 1986.
Unfortunately, 2022 has seen only 511,106 units produced thus far, a 13.3% decline compared to January to August 2021.
In contrast, the 5-year pre-pandemic average for January to August output from 2014 – 2019 stands well above this mark at 1,030,527 units.
With car manufacturers tending to pass price rises on to consumers, demand was dampened by surging costs of semiconductors, logistics and raw materials.
The SMMT noted,
The sector is now on course to produce fewer than a million cars for the third consecutive year.
Ian Henry, managing director of AutoAnalysis concurred with the SMMT’s analysis,
It is expected that by the end of this year car production will reach 825,000, compared to 850,000 a year ago, but that’s 35% down on 2019 and a whopping 50% on the high figure of 2017.
Other than the obvious fact that the UK’s economic atmosphere is in hot water, the automotive industry (including component manufacturers) has been struggling to stave off the high energy costs of doing business.
In a survey, 69% of respondents flagged energy costs as a key concern. Estimates suggest that the sector’s collective energy expenditure has gone up by 33% in the last 12 months reaching over £300 million, forcing several operations to become unviable.
Although the government enacted measures to cap the price of energy and ease obstacles to additional production, Mike Hawes, the CEO of SMMT, said,
This is a short-term fix, however, and to avoid a cliff-edge in six months’ time, it must be backed by a full package of measures that will sustain the sector.
Due to the meteoric rise in costs across the automotive supply chain, 13% of respondents were cutting shifts, 9% chose to downsize their workforce and 41% postponed further investments.
Uncertainties around Brexit and the EU trade deal are yet to be resolved.
Moreover, the energy crisis is poised to get even more acute unless Russia withdraws from the conflict, or international leaders ease restrictions on Moscow. Last week, I discussed the evolving energy crisis here.
With global central banks expected to tighten till at least the end of the year, demand is likely to be squeezed further pressurizing British car manufacturers.
Electric vehicles made up 71% of car exports from the UK in August, but robust growth in the sector looks challenging in the near term, in the absence of widespread charging infrastructure, high electricity prices and globally low consumer confidence.
Although energy subsidies could provide some relief in the immediate future, the industry will remain in dire straits while investments stay low and the shortage in human capital persists, particularly amid the push for EVs.
Given the prevailing macroeconomic environment, and severe market backlash to Truss’s mini-budget (which I discussed in an earlier article), the sector is unlikely to turn the corner any time soon.
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