“We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” confessed Andy Haldane, Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England. The bursting of that bubble was a risk he felt “acutely.” He saw “a disorderly reversion” as the “biggest risk to global financial stability.” Seatbelts are being fastened; the clicks can be heard around the world.
Contributed by Don Quijones: Steppenwolf’s The Pusher, the opening song for the 1969 movie, Easy Rider, was about dealers who “push” tainted drugs on unsuspecting users. The pusher “don’t care if you live or if you die,” it goes. Similarly, Spanish banks pushed investment products called preferentes on unsuspecting clients.
Junk bonds had a phenomenal run. With each truckload of money that the Fed delivered to the markets, valuations soared and yields plunged. Desperate investors, mauled by the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policy, took on risks no questions asked. But suddenly the feeding frenzy turned into a brutal rout – a harbinger of things to come in other markets.
This is so bad, it’s almost funny. It happened May 31, at the end of the month, Friday afternoon, when no one was supposed to pay attention, minutes before the close of the stock market, when volume had died down to a trickle, and when the move was guaranteed to produce huge results.
The good old days are back. Those days when money grew on trees: home prices jumped 10.9% year over year, based on data through March 2013. The usual suspects: Phoenix soared 22.5%, San Francisco 22.2%, Las Vegas 20.6%. You can’t lose money in real estate. I’m already hearing it again.
No one accused Apple of having violated US tax laws. The Senate hearings merely exposed how Apple is dodging income taxes by doing what multinationals do: taking advantage of handouts and loopholes that Congress hands them. Now it turns out that much of the discussion was based on a fairytale.
During their second term, Presidents become obsessed with “legacy.” One of the yardsticks to measure success is the stock market. Many people can relate to it. Retirement depends on it. It’s mentioned even on NPR several times a day. Outside of a few shorts, everyone wants it to go up. But President Obama must now be biting his fingernails down to the quick.
The last big thing was green tech – from wave-power generators to the smart grid. Hyped in the bipartisan stimulus bill, it promised gobs of jobs, billions in revenues, and untold riches. Private investors plowed in billions too. It ended up in a massive pileup of capital destruction. Fatalities were everywhere.
The Dow and S&P 500 are stumbling like drunken but determined sailors from one all-time high to the next, despite lousy employment and economic data, and declining corporate revenues. Bonds have done the same, and their 100-year graph has assumed the terrifying shape of open crocodile jaws, worse even than in 1999 and 2007.
On paper, Apple has no reason to borrow. Last time it issued bonds was in 1996 when it flirted with bankruptcy and absolutely had to get its hands on some moolah. After Steve Jobs returned in 1997, Apple wisely stayed away from Wall Street and did its own thing. But that era is over. And a new era is dawning upon the icon: Wall-Street engineering.