“It’s the Dollar Stupid” – Paul Brodsky
This article does an outstanding job of describing the real policies behind the headlines that are driving both policy and the markets. I regard it as a must read for investors, with so many great points made, and even a highly credible map for future developments.
Here are some key highlights, with the full article in the link below.
“We think the markets have it fundamentally wrong. US investors are anticipating a cyclical shift towards economic expansion via new tax incentives, business de-regulation and Keynesian government spending that promise to increase output, demand and asset prices. However, there is a far more influential driver of future asset prices – a structural shift that has begun but has yet to be acknowledged by economic and political authorities, and, judging by financial asset markets, by most investors. We expect weak equity markets and a strong treasury market beginning in 2017.
The financial model used by advanced economies since 1971 is quickly losing its ability to support economic growth and rising asset prices. Western economic policy, which had previously relied heavily on credit creation from 1971 to 2008, was replaced in 2009 by monetary policy that relied heavily on base money creation through asset purchases. The structural shift in central bank focus from credit to monetary creation marked a paradigm shift in the decades-long finance-based economic model – from the leveraging phase to the de-leveraging phase.
The Fed shifted to relying on a communications policy in 2013, which focused on renewing the broad perception that by “normalizing” US interest rates the economy would again begin to react to credit incentives it could manage. It also emphasized the need for fiscal stimulus, which would ostensibly create demand and stimulate production growth.
Fed rate hikes tighten credit conditions in the US and, given the continued execution of QE by other major global central banks, increase the exchange value of the dollar. A stronger dollar theoretically increases other economies’ exports into the US, provided that US consumers and businesses are able to maintain the same level of demand for foreign goods and services. This is an open question.
We believe fiscal measures like those being speculated about now in the US, even if successfully executed, would fail to generate meaningful new production and demand within the US and global economies. Financial markets are vulnerable to a reversal of their recent trends.
Stock and bond markets in advanced, financially-oriented economies, have devolved more into political imperatives necessary to maintain social services and the perception of wealth, rather than serving as the traditional means to build and price wealth and capital. They no longer serve societies or global trade.
In over-leveraged economies, stock and bond markets become co-dependent. To sustain market prices, debt and equity require nominal output growth. To sustain market values, they require real output growth. The only way to increase nominal output growth and raise nominal equity prices in a highly leveraged economy with leveraged currency is to raise the quantity of credit, which must eventually reduce real output and asset values. The question before us is whether “eventually” is occurring now.
The primary reason we think stocks are peaking is scale. Aggregate market caps, valuations, revenues and earnings of public companies cannot be sustained by the level of real production in the underlying US and global economy. We think bonds are on the eve of reconciliation for the same basic reason: the scale of systemic leverage has already begun to reduce incentives to expand credit for capital formation, which, in turn, promotes debt deflation.
We expect debt deflation coincident with central bank monetary inflation, which would offset the deflation…on paper (like feet in the oven, head in the freezer producing a reasonable average). Before this occurs, we expect a financial or economic event that focuses public attention on the leverage problem.”
Thus, investors seeking to create wealth by investing in broad equity markets face a fundamental structural problem caused by the irreconcilability of 1) naturally occurring commercial deflation, 2) economies and political systems that rely on inflation, and 3) the crowding out of consumption and investment by necessary debt service.
As discussed above, we think the Fed’s “fear of inflation”, which is ostensibly driving the new rate hike regime, is a necessary public narrative that will let the Fed pursue its true objective – a stronger dollar and deflation amid a contracting real economy.
Even if US domestic economic activity were to somehow reverse its secular downtrend enough to warrant current equity valuations, it is difficult to conceive how much more asset prices could rise – especially in real terms. Simple math, anachronistic economic policies and poor demographics pose insurmountable barriers for creating wealth through public share ownership
We expect global monetary authorities to protect the dollar as long as they can and we expect them to fail. Stocks and bonds will react violently; stocks and weak credits falling, treasuries prices rising (at first). That failure will lead to hyperinflation – not driven by demand, but rather by central bank money printing. A new global monetary understanding will then emerge.
We expect weak equities and a strong treasury market in 2017, as they begin to discount this fundamental structural shift.”