dot-com bubble

Jeremy Grantham On U.S. Bonds, Stocks, And A Market Crash

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity may have noticed I retired the “Crash Prophets” page earlier this month (too much time to update). For those not familiar with this section, it’s where I compiled the investment activities/recommendations of “crash prophets” Dr. Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff (designation earned by being smart enough to spot the 2008 economic crisis and warning of future financial turbulence). Despite the retirement, I will continue to blog about the latest from these soothsayers.

And this morning I want to talk about Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (currently overseeing $74 billion in client assets). In case readers missed it, a couple of weeks ago Grantham, whose individual clients have included former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, took part in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The “crash prophet” discussed the booming U.S. stock market, a potential crash, and U.S. bonds. John Coumarianos wrote on the WSJ website on November 5:

With the S&P 500 up more than 15% this year, it may be time for a reality check. To that end, we spoke with Jeremy Grantham, co-founder and chief investment strategist at Boston-based money manager Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. and a noted spotter of market bubbles.

He thinks U.S. stocks and bonds will fail to generate inflation-beating returns over the next seven years, but he doesn’t see an imminent crash in share prices…

Mr. Grantham has already cemented his legend by arguing that U.S. stocks were overvalued in 2000 and again in 2007, anticipating the market’s two most-recent crashes. He also noted before the 2008-09 financial crisis that the relationship between home prices and income had become unglued, and said at least one large financial institution would fail.

By Mr. Grantham’s lights, U.S. stock prices are again high, with an overall Shiller price/earnings ratio (share price relative to the past decade of real average earnings) over 30, compared with its average of 16.8 since 1880. But profit margins also are unusually high, lending support to the high valuations, he says. And the Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping interest rates low supports share prices by making fixed-income investments less attractive as an alternative to stocks.

So this time, instead of a crash, stock valuations may take decades to revert to anywhere near the long-term average, Mr. Grantham says…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The actual interview proved insightful, with Grantham communicating his bullishness on foreign stocks. The exchange can be read in its entirety here on The Wall Street Journal website.

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

(Editor’s note: A qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. Christopher E. Hill, the creator/Editor of this blog, is 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 on the site.)

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Jeremy Grantham: ‘It May Well Be Necessary To Our Survival That We Become More Realistic’

Continuing yesterday’s discussion on investing, last night I finally got the chance to read the latest quarterly investment letter from “crash prophet” Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (currently oversees $104 billion in client assets). Here’s what December’s installment (covering the third quarter of 2015) consisted of. From “Give Me Only Good News!”:

I have noticed how hard it is to effectively pass on a warning for the same reason: No one wants to hear this bad news. So a while ago I came up with a list of propositions that are widely accepted by an educated business audience. They are widely accepted but totally wrong. It is my attempt to bring home how extreme is our preference for good news over accurate news. When you have run through this list you may be a little more aware of how dangerous our wishful thinking can be in investing and in the much more important fields of resource (especially food) limitations and the potentially life-threatening risks of climate damage. Wishful thinking and denial of unpleasant facts are simply not survival characteristics…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Grantham discussed those “propositions” and went on to conclude:

This is more or less the best I can do to prove the point. We in the U.S. have a broad and heavy bias away from unpleasant data. We are ready to be manipulated by vested interests in finance, economics, and climate change, whose interests might be better served by our believing optimistic stuff “that just ain’t so.” We are dealing today with important issues, one so important that it may affect the long-term viability of our global society and perhaps our species. It may well be necessary to our survival that we become more realistic, more willing to process the unpleasant, and, above all, less easily manipulated through our need for good news

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

While an interesting read, I was a little disappointed that Grantham (who’s individual clients have included former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry) didn’t talk about the following in his latest letter. From an August 9, 2015, post:

However, Grantham has now offered up a potential timeframe for a “major decline” in equities.

Robin Wigglesworth reported on the Financial Times (UK) website Thursday:

A well-known fund manager who foresaw the Japanese crash, the dotcom bubble and the global financial crisis has predicted that markets will be “ripe for a major decline” some time in 2016, potentially triggering government bankruptcies.

Jeremy Grantham , founder and chief investment strategist of GMO, a $118bn investment house based in Boston, expects the stock market to continue to march higher in the coming year, eventually sucking in retail investors and setting up a serious decline around the time of the US elections in late 2016.

The famously bearish and often prescient money manager said this could trigger a “very different” type of crisis, because many governments had become considerably more indebted and much of the liabilities had shifted to the balance sheets of central banks.

Given that central banks were able to create money to recapitalise themselves, this “could be a crisis we could weather”, Mr Grantham said. “If not, then we’re talking the 1930s, where you have a chain-link of government defaults.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And from a May 4, 2015, post about his first quarter 2015 letter:

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)

Two things I’m dying to know from Mr. Grantham right now:

1. Does he still expect “the stock market to continue to march higher in the coming year, eventually sucking in retail investors and setting up a serious decline around the time of the US elections in late 2016”?

2. Does he/GMO “still believe that bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2250”? The S&P was really marching towards 2,250 for a while before the index went south.

You can read the latest Grantham letter over at the GMO website here (.pdf format).

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

(Editor’s note: A qualified professional should be consulted prior to making a financial decision based on material found in this weblog. If this recommended course of action is not pursued, then it must be understood that the decision is the reader’s and the reader’s alone. The creator/Editor of this blog is 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 contained herein.)

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Peter Schiff: ‘The Whole U.S. Economy Is One Gigantic Bubble At This Point’

Back to finance and investing matters. In 2012, “crash prophet” Peter Schiff predicted Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve would attempt to inflate another asset bubble to revive the U.S. economy.

The CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital underestimated how successful they would be- in terms of inflating multiple bubbles.

Schiff, who correctly called the housing bust and 2008 economic crisis, was on the phone with Free Talk Live discussing the student loan bubble last Sunday when he told listeners:

I think we have a much bigger bubble. The bubble in student loans is a small part of what’s actually going on. The government has managed to reflate the housing bubble, the stock market bubble, but we have a bond market bubble, a dollar bubble, a consumer loan bubble. The whole U.S. economy is one gigantic bubble at this point. That’s all we’ve got left. And that’s why interest rates have been at zero percent for almost seven years because the Fed is desperately trying to keep the air in these bubbles. It doesn’t want them to deflate. It doesn’t want to pop them. That’s why I don’t believe they’re actually planning on raising interest rates. I think they recognize that they cannot prick this bubble because it will be much worse than the bursting of the housing bubble or the dot-com bubble. But there is no avoiding this. The government has created this disaster and there’s no way around it. They’re just trying whatever they can to delay the inevitable. But because they’ve succeeded in delaying it, they’ve just made it much, much worse. It’s going to be a lot worse. So people really have to protect themselves from this. More so than I think in past crises…

Owning gold is one way to protect yourself. But people should also diversify. They shouldn’t only have gold. But they should definitely have some gold. But they should also invest internationally.


“The US Economy Is One Giant Bubble”
YouTube Video

Schiff later warned:

So there’s a lot, I think, that’s going to happen to really upend the status quo. And I think a lot people are going to go broke in this next crisis. And if you’re not prepared for it, you could suffer that fate. So I think it’s more important now, even than with the dot-com bubble or the housing bubble because this one is going to have much more profound consequences for typical Americans when it bursts. I think we’re going to see a big loss of value of the dollar, not just internationally and not just for tourists going to Europe. But as Americans try to buy things here in America. Things that they used to be able to afford are going to be completely unaffordable for the vast majority of Americans.

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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The ‘Fearmongers’ Will Get The Last Laugh

I haven’t had much to blog about recently when it comes to the “crash prophets”– Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff.

I have noticed one thing though. These individuals appear to be coming under a growing barrage of attacks in the mainstream media and elsewhere lately. Following them as I have for a number of years (anyone remember when I used to be the editor of Investorazzi.com, “Tracking The World’s Greatest Investors,” from 2008 to 2010?), the harsh atmosphere feels a lot like it did in the middle of the last decade, when these four were calling for the bottom to fall out of the housing and stock markets, the economy, and larger financial system- and were subsequently ridiculed for it.

We all know what happened next. And the initial pain could have been a hell of a lot worse if Washington and the Fed hadn’t papered up that debacle and kicked it down the road a few years into the future.

As for their antagonists back then? Well, a particular line from “Grace” the school secretary in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off comes to mind when I think of their fate:

Well, makes you look like an ass is what he does, Ed.

These days, it’s an all-out assault again on Faber, Grantham, Rogers, and Schiff by the financial Pollyannas, emboldened by some positive economic/investment data in an overall lame recovery, historically-speaking. Case in point, a February 26 Yahoo! Finance article in which Jeff Macke wrote:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average made a fresh high, joining its cousin the S&P 500 and now we await the Nasdaq to push above 5,048. Instead of celebrating prosperity here’s what the media is likely to do which is the wrong attitude.

Trot out the usual cast of fearmongers to tell everyone why a biblical crisis is in our immediate future. This week it was Nobel Prize winning Yale Professor Robert Shiller…

I’m not picking on him. Quite the opposite. As fear mongers go Shiller is the best of them. The worst is probably Marc Faber who emerges from a cave in Switzerland periodically to call for “an 1987 level crash”. Faber started making that explicit prediction in spring of 2012 when he said the chances of a global recession that year or 2013 were 100%. He was wrong of course but that was a better call than his 2009 prediction that the U.S. would suffer hyperinflation levels only seen in Zimbabwe. For the record Zimbabwe experienced 231 million percent inflation that year. If Faber isn’t wrong on that call he is very, very, very early…

A couple of things came to mind reading Macke’s piece:

When did high stock prices become interchangeable for “prosperity”? I’d like to see the evidence demonstrating real economic prosperity and a booming stock market go hand-in-hand each and every time. Last I heard, the White House and the Fed were still on their knees praying this happens.
• Robert Shiller a “fearmonger”? If I’m not mistaken, didn’t Dr. Shiller spot both the dot-com bubble and the housing bubble? Fearmonger? Try a damned good economist. And a public servant for warning anyone who would listen about these financial debacles.
• “The worst is probably Marc Faber…” The same Dr. Faber that became well-known for advising clients to get out of the U.S. stock market one week before the October 1987 crash, for predicting the 2008 global financial crisis, for calling the March 2009 U.S. stock market bottom and subsequent rally, in addition to correctly-forecasting the rise of commodities, emerging markets, and China in the 2000s? Yeah, he’s the worst.

“But that was a better call than his 2009 prediction that the U.S. would suffer hyperinflation levels only seen in Zimbabwe. For the record Zimbabwe experienced 231 million percent inflation that year.” Did Dr. Faber predict Zimbabwe-like hyperinflation would strike the U.S. between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2009 (which seems to be insinuated by the inclusion of that second sentence), or did Faber make this forecast during 2009 that it would eventually occur here? I see the haters have latched on to the former. In which case, produce the evidence he said hyperinflation would strike the U.S. in that particular year.

You see, here are the problems with such attacks on Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, Peter Schiff, and others.

• First, the “crash prophets” have a pretty solid track record over time when it comes to making correct market/investment calls. Over the years I’ve read material by journalists confirming this. Plus, I’ve catalogued it on the “Crash Prophets” page. That being said, no one’s perfect, and bad calls happen once in a while.
• Second, unless specifically stated, since I started observing Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff a decade ago, I get the impression they take a long-term approach to many of their forecasts. Yet, the attacks often consist of trying to call the outcome of the ball game while it’s still in the early innings, so to speak. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard/read attempts to discredit these guys because something they predicted still hadn’t materialized. Perhaps it’s because the forecasted event is still unfolding?
• Third, investigating where and from whom the attacks are coming from often reveals the real motives behind the trash-talk. And many times, “where you stand depends on where you sit.” In other words, lots of obvious self-interest out there.

I expect attacks on Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, Peter Schiff, and other “crash prophets” to intensify as the nation’s “financial reckoning day” grows closer. It’s an evitable consequence of not donning rose-colored goggles and playing ball with the Pollyannas.

But like in the period of time after the housing crash, the “Panic of ’08,” and subsequent “Great Recession,” I’m pretty sure these esteemed investors/money managers will be having the last laugh.

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

(Editor’s note: 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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Robert Shiller: ‘I’m Thinking Of Getting Out Of The United States Somewhat’

The second topic from earlier this week I’ll be revisiting tonight is Robert Shiller. The Nobel Prize-winning economist was on CNBC’s Squawk Box TV show Wednesday and talked equities (among other things) with Becky Quick, Andrew Ross Sorkin, and Brian Sullivan. From their exchange:

SHILLER: The things that is really striking- and maybe not today- is the low-level, long-term interest rates. It is just stunning how low they have gotten. Recently, the 30-year TIPS real rate was at half-a-percent. That’s incredible for 30 years. And that is pushing the stock market up. But it’s not the kind of euphoria that we saw notably in 2000.
SORKIN: What percentage do you have in equities?
SHILLER: It’s about half.
SORKIN: Half?
SHILLER: Yeah.
SORKIN: Have you changed it recently? Will you change it?
SHILLER: Yeah. I’m thinking of getting out of the United States somewhat.
SORKIN: You are?
SHILLER: Yeah. I think Europe is so much cheaper.
SORKIN: And you’d buy big multinationals based in Europe? You’d buy smaller companies in Europe? What would you do?
SHILLER: Well, what I have done is I’ve invested in Italy indexes. Spain index.
SORKIN: Are you hedging currency?
SHILLER: No, I’m not.


“Shiller: Europe so much cheaper than US”
CNBC Video

The Yale professor talked about exiting his U.S. stock positions not too long ago. I blogged on December 10, 2014:

Dr. Shiller appeared on CNBC Tuesday morning and told viewers the following when asked what he’s doing with his own money:

I worry about valuation in the stock market. And I’ve been wondering if I should pull out. But I have not. And in fact I’m still thinking that even at the CAPE ratio of 27, the expected return is still higher than you expect to get on either housing, on real estate, or fixed income. So it still seems like- I feel a little trepidation because I know my own indicator is looking kind of scary. I wouldn’t over go into the market, but I wouldn’t be completely out either.

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

(Editor’s note: 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)

Dr. Shiller’s latest book (revision, actually)…

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Peter Schiff: Buy Gold, Silver To Prepare For Bursting Of This ‘Much Bigger Bubble’ Than Housing, Dot-Com

The first installment of Peter Schiff’s Gold Videocast for the new year is out on YouTube. And Euro Pacific Capital’s Schiff recapped gold’s performance in 2014 and shared his outlook for the precious metal- along with silver- in 2015. He told viewers:

I think the sentiment situation, the markets, the technicals, are really poised for a very, very big year up in the precious metals in gold and silver for 2015. And nobody is expecting this. We had the sentiment completely in the opposite direction. All the bears were piled onto the same side of the boat. And now it turns out that they got it wrong. And I think they’re going to have to scramble to get to the other side as this illusion rapidly fades. Again, I’ve said this many times, that I’ve never seen a bigger disconnect in the markets- the stock market, the currency market, the precious metal market- between reality and perception. What everybody believes is wrong. And soon, these widely-held beliefs are going to be questioned in a major way and then abandoned. Just like they were with the housing market and subprime when that bubble burst. And just like they were with in dot-com market when that bubble burst. Except that this is a much bigger bubble, and the damage and the fallout on the financial markets will be much greater when this bursts. And therefore, it’s that much more important that investors be properly prepared. And part of that preparation is owning gold and silver.


“State of the Gold Market 2015: Exclusive Forecast & Charts”
YouTube Video

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

(Editor’s note: 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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Robert Shiller: ‘I Am Most Worried About The Boom In The U.S. Stock Market’

I’ve been following Yale economics professor, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, and 2013 Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller for a number of years now.

While his academic and professional achievements are impressive, I like the fact that this “crash prophet” correctly called the late 90s dot-com bubble and housing bubble of a few years ago.

These days, Dr. Shiller is worried about U.S. stocks once more. Madeline Chambers reported on Reuters.com this morning:

An American who won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said.

“I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Our economy is still weak and vulnerable.”

My thoughts exactly- though I wish it weren’t so.

While Dr. Shiller doesn’t say U.S. stocks are in a bubble, I wonder if he wouldn’t consider them relatively “frothy”?

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

(Editor’s note: 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.)

Source:

Chambers, Madeline. “Nobel Prize economist warns of U.S. stock market bubble.” Reuters. 1 Dec. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/01/us-economy-shiller-idUSBRE9B009620131201). 1 Dec. 2013.

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