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Jim Cook

 

RUNAWAY SOCIAL SYMPATHY

Every once in a while I switch the TV channel from Fox to CNBC to see what the liberals are saying.  After listening awhile I get a deep sense of hopelessness and foreboding for our country.  The most important thing for the left is giving money to people.  They are happy to see the growth of food stamps, disability payments, housing subsidies, free healthcare and all the other welfare benefits.  They utterly fail to see the damage it is doing to the recipients.  Whole cities that once flourished have deteriorated into rotting eyesores populated with shambling hulks of chemically dependent drones.  These people are no longer employable.  They have become incompetent and helpless and the liberals can’t see that it’s their doing.

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The Best of Jim Cook Archive

 
Best of Doug Noland
August 11, 2009
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Doug Noland

The stock market has become illustrative of what we might experience in the way of Monetary Disorder. Speculation has returned with a vengeance, galloping blindly ahead of fledgling little greenish shoots. Those of the bullish persuasion contend that the marketplace is, as it should, simply discounting a rosy future. I would counter that problematic market dynamics have taken over, with prices increasingly disconnected from reality. In short, the market is in the midst of one major short squeeze.

There are myriad risks associated with the government’s unprecedented market interventions. Likely not well appreciated, policymaker actions have forced the destabilizing unwind of huge positions created to hedge against systemic risk (as well as to profit from bearish bets). This reversal of various bear positions has created enormous buying power, especially in the securities of companies (and sectors) most exposed to the Credit downturn. The reversal of bets in the Credit default swap (and bond) market has certainly played a role. Surging junk bond and stock prices have fed one another, as the highly leveraged and vulnerable companies provide phenomenal market returns. The markets are today throwing "money" at the weak and leveraged.

The resulting outperformance of fundamentally weak companies spurred short covering more generally, creating a dynamic whereby heavily shorted stocks became about the best performing sector in the equities market. This dynamic put significant pressure on so-called market neutral strategies that have proliferated over the past few years. The strategy of attempting to own the good companies and short bad ones is faltering, likely causing a flow out of these strategies - and a self-reinforcing unwind of positions. The “bad” stock soar and the “good” ones languish.

There’s nothing like a short squeeze panic to get the markets’ speculative juices flowing. Many will say all’s just fine and dandy – let the fun and games continue! My retort is that the stock market is indicative of the current dysfunctional financial backdrop. At the end of the day, the financial system must be capable of effectively allocating finance and real resources throughout the economy. I would argue that this is not possible for a system that congenitally misprices risk and distorts financial asset prices. Today’s stock market will inherently finance mainly speculative Bubbles and fragility. And the core systemic problem, the maladjusted "Bubble economy," well, the financial backdrop only worsens the situation.

I have great confidence that government finance Bubble dynamics ensure ongoing distortions in the markets’ pricing of risk and, as well, a continued misallocation of resources (financial and real). And it is increasingly clear that the stock market is embroiled in this problematic dynamic. But that is a dilemma for another day, as surging stocks fan optimism and risk embracement – not to mention forcing many into the stock market with both nostrils plugged. And speculative equities and Credit markets will spur increased economic output in the short-run.

Everything has been extraordinary; the boom, the bust, policymaker interventions, and now the bear market rally. I wish I could see some mechanism in the works that will help kick our system’s addiction to easy Credit and commence the inevitable process of economic adjustment and restructuring. Instead, I see confirmation everywhere that policy and market dynamics are working in concert to sustain the existing financial and economic structure. I have huge doubts it will work and no doubt about the risks of failure.

Doug Noland is a market strategist at Prudent Bear Funds. Their website is www.prudentbear.com