Speculative Fervour – Shadow Boxing The Fed
There is something of a speaking-in-tongues fervour about the place recently. Bring back big hair, smelly armpits and the Doobie Brothers I say. We all need a little peace, love and skyrocketing oil prices. (If you want a 1973 vintage backtrack to this post – Jesus is Just Alright here.)
To distil a few themes from the cacophony:
1) When money is cheap, speculation is abundant. And it doesn’t get any cheaper than when the government is giving it away. The end is nigh when the suspension of disbelief can’t be sustained. That is when investors will want out – it’s every Ponzi scheme’s dilemma. We aren’t there yet.
2) Inflation is the destination, we just don’t know whether we will get there. The Fed will stop at nothing in their pursuit of inflation, but they can’t control where liquidity flows. They want wage inflation. They think by spurring asset price inflation it will lead to rising inflation expectations and then onto real incomes. The problem is that consumables may just explode in the meantime – what good is a few dollars saved on mortgage repayments when your cost of living has gone through the roof.
3) Corporate margin expansion has reached its peak. The majority of margin expansion since 2000 has come via the wage bill. Absent productivity gains, this is a finite trend. The Fed says they want wages to increase relative to everything. Labour winning over capital is not multiple friendly.
4) Last chance to buy cheap goods from China. It’s revalued the Yuan or cop tariffs. Either which way, the days of ridiculously cheap goods from China are near an end.
5) Commodities supercycle is likely to go parabolic. The flight from paper money to real assets has been gathering steam. With the financialisation of commodity derivatives, this trend can run to unprecedented extremes (for those not familiar with the term, it means ‘hasn’t happened before’). Should China ease credit again – which is a fair bet given the impending hit they will take on exports – capital investment will be sucking at the physical market at the same time. That sounds like a recipe for a party.