For years, nothing could slow the tsunami of junk debt. But suddenly, something happened, and investors in leveraged-loan mutual funds, where the crappiest junk debt accumulates, ran scared and started pulling their money out. Consequences were immediate.
It happened in 2000 and in 2007. With spectacular consequences. Now, it happened again. And hidden beneath the blue-chip highs, parts of the market are already crashing.
By now, this wondrous bull market constantly gets benchmarked against the dotcom bubble. It’s different this time, we’re told, even on NPR. But the wholesale destruction of financial assets has already started, one pocket at a time.
Q1 GDP growth is trending at a tepid 1.5%. But don’t worry. It’s the weather! Wall Street is predicting “escape velocity” for the fifth spring-summer in a row. Why? Because it’s already priced into the stock market!
For a while, rumor had it that banks weren’t lending, and that this was the reason the recovery has been so crummy. There was no demand for loans, and banks were too tight with their lending standards. Or so the story went.
Yield investors, driven to insanity by the Fed’s interest-rate repression, hold their noses and close their eyes to scrape up even the crappiest paper just to get a little extra yield. “On the way in, there’s insatiable demand.” Alas, “it’s going to be a disaster on the way out.”
Bernanke doesn’t regret any of the Fed’s actions, he said, except not explaining them to the people. They “really don’t understand why we did what we did,” he said. But there are a few people who do understand.
“Everyone’s skating on thin ice” – Partner at a Venture Capital firm.
Hidden in the IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report is a doozie of a chart. “Seek cover, implosion in sight,” it screams. It depicts the bubble in covenant-lite and second-lien loans, the same that helped blow up the banks in 2008. Only this time, they’re even worse.
Margin debt is a crummy predictor of a crash. But it has a bone-chilling habit of peaking right around the time stocks do crash. In the last fifteen years, it spiked three times: during the final throes of the bubbles that imploded in 2000 and 2007; and now.