There has been a symphony of calls for American investors to plow their money into European stocks. So, net inflows into European equity funds have set records, driven by euphoria about a presumed recovery. Equities soared. But turns out, reality has bad breath.
I used to be a stock trader. There. I’ve admitted it. I feel better. I claimed it was a “profession” but it was really an obsession.
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.
How can anyone look at this without concern? Many portfolio managers are riding the wave but are prepared to dump their investments at the first alarm – then, who is going to buy?
“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?
Brokers, financial advisors, and wealth managers are a recalcitrant bunch, suddenly, after having gotten their manicured fingers burned on a few super-hyped IPOs, and now they just refuse to get exuberant about the Twitter IPO. At least that’s what they indicated in a survey. But individual investors, well, that’s another story.
Stocks balloon, we’re incessantly told, because revenues are rising due to great products, ingenious strategies, or brilliant marketing; and because earnings are rising due to, well, if not rising revenues, then cost cutting, moving production overseas, squeezing suppliers…. But what if revenues sag and earnings plunge, not for a bad-hair quarter, but for years, and the stock still balloons?
Earnings estimates for Q3 have been crashing for a year. On October 1, 2012, our brilliant Wall Street analysts estimated that they’d leap 15.9%. As of Friday, these brilliant analysts have chopped their forecasts for the same brilliant quarter down to a measly growth of 2.1%. Stagnation! Now they’re hyping how companies are beating these crummy forecasts!
The Wall Street machinery was back in business thanks to the Fed’s policies, David Stockman writes. When Extended Stay America exited bankruptcy, its new owner was, well, Blackstone – which had done the LBO. To underscore that speculators had returned to the scene of the strangulation, as it were, its partner in the deal was John Paulson’s hedge fund.
I’m not picking on IBM. I’m almost sure they have some decent products. So they had a crummy quarter – the sixth quarter in a row of sales declines. And their hardware sales in China have collapsed since Snowden’s revelations about the NSA and its collaboration with American tech companies. But in one area, IBM excels: its hocus-pocus machine.