Archive for the ‘Asset Price Inflation’ Category
Financial Armageddon points to the Reuters article:
where he argues that deflation is the next big worry. I have to humbly disagree. Sort of.
I do agree that financial asset prices are due for a massive correction, but the economy is made of more than just financial assets. Financial assets will see deflation, but physical assets will see inflation.
During the “New Economy”, financial assets have soared in value and I believe, like Jeremy Grantham, that financial assets throughout the globe have experienced a bubble.
Like I’ve said in a comment or two on Panzner’s blog, during past corrections in the financial sector, China and India were absorbing inflationary pressures. That structural shift is what will make this time different. Today, China and India are net exporters of inflation and loose monetary policy in the US will create domestic inflationary pressures that have no where to go this time.
This is the rift I saw between physical and financial assets when David Richards asked me what I thought about the markets back in December of 2006. That rift has been partially corrected with the rise in commodity and energy prices since then, but I think there is a long way to go before things are neutral. As usual, things usually will not reach a nice equilibrium and stay there. Inertia will carry it through neutral and beyond. Significantly beyond.
Occasionally, I like to poke my nose in and see what my old comrades are up to over on NP. It seems the infamous thread is still alive and kicking.
However, it appears they are still talking about subprime. When are they going to realize that subprime was merely the first symptom of a massive global credit/asset bubble to surface? In economic terms, the dollar amount involved in any Treasury Dept bailout will be insignificant. However, when you multiply that amount by the insane leverage financial institutions have in, mostly off balance sheet, exposure, then things make more sense. Don’t be fooled. No policy maker cares about subprime borrowers. They are desperately trying to keep one, if not several major banks, afloat. Sorry Citigroup. The music has stopped.
Financial markets have a long way to go down still. The US economy will get whacked in a historical fashion, but we won’t be knocked out by any means. There are still strong sectors in our economy that will benefit from the coming “onshoring“. Pain is a good teacher and I, for one, will welcome the exorcism of complacency that is eminent.
I hope I’m giving enough disclaimers so that no one can possibly be fooled into thinking I actually know what I’m talking about, but I continue trying to absorb as much as I can as events unfold.
I know very little about financial statements and most of my comments on the subject of corporate leverage have been guided by simplistically thinking about basic human nature. For example, in this post
I stated (emphasis added in bold)
I’ve heard economists blabber about how strong corporate balance sheets are as they have decreased leverage since 2000-2001, but these same economists have absolutely no clue about CDOs and other avenues for off balance sheet implied leverage. In my opinion, the only thing holding default rates down was the availability of easy credit, not some increased sense of corporate responsibility. I think we will find that most corporations are more highly leveraged than balance sheets would suggest.
And in this comment, I said:
What you say about FAS 140 and particularly securitized mortgage products makes perfect sense. I don’t disagree, but my thinking is that there is something else less obvious related to FAS 140 (or at least off-balance sheet exposures) that will crop up once default rates pickup again. We’ll see. Like I said, I don’t have anything more to support the idea than basic human greed on the part of corporate executives during a period of easy credit.
Maybe I was looking in the wrong place, but my instinct may not have been too far off. Here is a very interesting article via Portfolio.com
Maybe instead of looking for sneaky off-balance sheet stuff, maybe it is right there in front of our eyes. “Fair value accounting” seems quite amenable to “asset price inflation”. If asset prices are inflated, this would make corporate leverage seem muted. A situation that could be quickly reversed. Hmm…