Discount retailer Loehmann’s did what other retailers – and a large number of other junk-rated companies – will do once the Fed allows a sense of reality into the markets: it filed for bankruptcy. Investors had refused to fund further losses.
Municipal bond investors, a conservative bunch eager to avoid rollercoasters and cliffhangers, are getting frazzled. Bankruptcies and the Fed’s taper cacophony are a toxic mix. So they’re bailing out of muni bond funds at record rate. Losses are mounting. And so are the fears.
“It’s like you’re at a party and the keg is beginning to float. When do you leave the party? Where do you go?”
A “positive spiral effect?” Lenders are closing their eyes, sales are soaring, risks are piling up, auto loan balances jumped 15% in 12 months to an all-time high, and repossessions in the subprime segment more than doubled.
One of the few rebellious Fed heads, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, fired a salvo when testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. He hit Wall Street risks covered by implicit government guarantees in the size of America’s GDP.
Stock market bubbles – they allow investors to make the mostest the fastest – don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in a context. But this time, the context is different. Very different.
Individual investors have a unique opportunity now to buy sewer bonds – yup, that’s where they belong – issued by a bankrupt county to pay off holders of defaulted sewer bonds who’ll get a fashionable haircut as part of the deal – a deal made in bond-bubble heaven.
A new era has dawned: there is now a consensus that this is a stock market bubble. We’re back where we were during the last bubble, or the one before it. How do I know it’s not just some intrepid souls on the bleeding edge who are claiming this, but a consensus?
Sign of trouble: A wealth manager told me some of his elderly clients were now coming into his office, and they’d say, “My kids tell me that I can make 25% a year with stocks.” How much were they were willing to lose? “Nothing,” they’d say.
“It’s a great time to sell,” mused a pension fund investment officer. And Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, is doing exactly that, feverishly, relentlessly, hand over fist, at peak valuations, cashing out. What does that mean for the rest of us?