Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Rising (Central Bank) Tide Turns Everyone into a Genius

Until the system implodes--you're a genius.
So you've ridden the markets higher--stocks, housing, commercial real estate, bat guano, quatloos, you name it--everything you touch turns to gold. What can we say, bucko, other than you're a genius!
It's a market truism that rising tides lift all boats. But that's not the really important effect; what really matters is rising tides turn everyone into a genius--at least in their own minds.
Those of us who have been seduced by the Sirens' songs of hubris know from bitter experience how easy it is to confuse a rising tide with speculative genius. When everything you touch keeps going higher, the only possible cause is.... your hot hand, of course!
Stocks--I'm a genius! Housing--I'm a genius! Commercial real estate--yes, well, I suppose the evidence is overwhelming--it does seem I'm a genius.
The only thing better than buy and hold is buy the dips and hold--and use margin or whatever leverage you have to buy more before the price goes even higher.
What can we say other than: this is the strategy of geniuses. The proof is in the charts:
The S&P 500: margin to the hilt and buy every dip: genius!
Housing in Sweden, Toronto, Brooklyn, West L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Shanghai and every other blazing-hot market: borrow more from the shadow banking system, mortgage your house to the hilt, do whatever you have to do to get the down payment and buy another flat: pure genius!
Commercial real estate: everyone who jumped in with all four feet in mid-2009 forward: geniuses!
The source of our collective genius isn't an act of Nature--it's that good old pump inflating every asset bubble on the planet, central banks creating credit-money out of thin air and buying assets hand over fist: stocks, ETFs, bonds, mortgages, and so on.
Central banks have collectively purchased $1 trillion in assets year to date:
The Federal Reserve and the other central banks are playing the role of financial gods, intervening in the interactions of mere mortals to create the illusion of stability.
To this end, the Fed has created trillions of dollars and used this money to prop up delusional asset values (high) and destabilizing interest rates (low).
If we look at a decentralized financial system as a self-organizing ecosystem, we find that the strength of the system lies in the adaptability of the myriad organisms in its many micro-climates. The key strength of a decentralized financial ecosystem, i.e. one not organized as a top-down command economy, is the "genetic diversity" of its many participants. There is not just one dominant species in the ecosystem, but many interdependent species.
In a financial ecosystem, there is not one lender and one class of borrowers, but a huge diversity of lenders, borrowers, creditors and savers, and a wealth of interacting, inter-dependent enterprises.
A centrally planned financial ecosystem is a doomed system. The Fed is the equivalent of an ignorant, hubris-infused agency that seeks to "restore" an ecosystem by flooding it with water and unleashing a single predatory species raised in an unnatural, contrived "factory."
The Fed is wiping out diversity and thus the adaptability of the enterprises that survive its crude flooding and replication of a single predatory species.
The Fed is creating a sickly, vulnerable mono-culture of an economy, one dominated by financial predators which are themselves lacking in genetic diversity.
Just as agencies playing god further degrade the natural systems they claim to be "restoring" with ever-grander interventions, so too is the Fed destroying the U.S. economy with equivalent god-like meddling and ever-more grandiose, ever-more delusional interventions in what were once decentralized, self-organizing systems that naturally sought harmony and stability through the low-level churn of bad bets being written off and over-leveraged speculators going bankrupt.
Put another way: the Fed has taken the risks generated by predatory institutions and policies, and distributed it throughout the entire financial system. This distribution of risk in service of maintaining asset bubbles creates the illusion of stability, low risk and "sure thing" speculation.
Rather than let over-leveraged speculators and institutions reap the consequences of their excesses, the Fed (and other central banks) have loaded the entire system with risk.
Until the system implodes--you're a genius.
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