Jeremy Grantham: Fed Hell-Bent On Stimulating Asset Prices Until ‘Fully-Fledged Bubble’ Forms

Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (oversees $118 billion in client assets as of March 31, 2015), has just released his latest investment letter on the GMO website. Writing about the first quarter of 2015, Grantham, whose individual clients have included current Secretary of State John Kerry and former Vice President Dick Cheney, focused on U.S. economic growth and the bubble-blowing Federal Reserve. Regarding growth, Grantham wrote:

I am still just about certain about three things: first, our secular growth rate in the U.S. is indeed about 1.5% (at least as stated in traditional GDP accounting, wherein expensive barrels of oil increase GDP; perhaps closer to 1% in real life); second, economists move their estimates slowly and carefully in order to stay near the pack and minimize career risk (despite the recent IMF heroics); and third, that we do not like to give or receive bad news and, when in doubt, we tend to be optimistic…

On the Federal Reserve and asset bubbles, Grantham noted:

In the Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully-fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006. Both of these were in fact stunning three-sigma events, by far the biggest equity bubble and housing bubble in U.S. history. Yellen, like both of her predecessors, has bragged about the Fed’s role in pushing up asset prices in order to get a wealth effect. Thus far, she seems to also share their view on feeling no responsibility to interfere with any asset bubble that may form. For me, recognizing the power of the Fed to move assets (although desperately limited power to boost the economy), it seems logical to assume that absent a major international economic accident, the current Fed is bound and determined to continue stimulating asset prices until we once again have a fully-fledged bubble. And we are not there yet

To remind you, we at GMO still believe that bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2250…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The S&P 500 finished up today at 2,114.

Back on August 4, 2014, I blogged about Grantham’s second quarter 2014 letter, in which he predicted:

I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…

Grantham’s other forecasts in his latest letter on the GMO website included:

• U.S. Economic Cycle- “Still seems only middle-aged, despite its measured long duration”

• U.S. Housing Market- “In terms of houses built is still way below the old average, and house prices are only around long-term fair value; there is room for improvement in both in the next two years.”

• U.S. Stock Market Correction- “We could easily, of course, have a normal, modest bear market, down 10-20%, given all of the global troubles we have. If we do, then the odds of this super-cycle bull market lasting until the election would go from pretty good to even better.”

As I’ve highlighted on the “Crash Prophets” page, Jeremy Grantham has an incredible knack for identifying changes in the direction of the stock market. He also nailed the economic crisis late last decade. However, I don’t know how what kind of track record he has with correctly-calling the economic and housing cycles. I guess I’ll just have to see how these two pan out.

An update to the “7-Year Asset Class Real Return Forecasts” chart was also provided in “Are We the Stranded Asset?”, which can be viewed in its entirety on the GMO website here (.pdf format; starts p. 7).

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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