by David Haggith, The Great Recession Blog:
If we don’t beat the establishment before the next downturn, we’re going to see the same bailouts and money printing we’ve seen before but on a deliriously insane level.
This is not me being a permabear. In fact, when the stock market didn’t plunge in the early summer as I predicted it would, I honored a bet I had been challenged to by a detractor who was understandably tired of permagloomers who are only right because they keep predicting a market crash until events finally turn their way.
Because I don’t do that sort of thing and because I believe strongly in the trends I lay out here, my promised I would apologize if I was wrong and put everything on the line by saying I might even stop writing this blog if I was wrong by much. Even though I still believed the market turn actually began on in the early summer with the breaking of the FAANG stocks (the market leaders) and even though I could have claimed “I only said ‘might,’” I gave the benefit of the doubt to the person I had bet against and stopped writing articles here or anywhere. The “might” was never intended as an escape clause, so I didn’t use it that way. It meant that it would depend on how far I was off. The last article here about how that turned out was titled “The End is Here. I Bet My Blog and Lost and Won.”
I noted that, while GDP rose (causing many to believe the economy was improving), I continued to believe the GDP bump and the market’s little rally were meaningless blips that would quickly give way. I also may have been the first anywhere to proclaim that the US housing market had peaked in May, as proof the economy was careening into a downturn. My one crow on a wire cawed at me for knowing nothing about real estate. (So, we’ll come back to that point in a moment.)
I noted also that automakers had all announced major terminations in their automobile lines, and that the retail apocalypse was continuing apace. All of these things were the exact industrial changes that I had been saying for well over a year would most likely be the first major cracks to show up in the economy. So, their appearance by midsummer satisfied the part of my bet that also said the economy would begin to break up seriously enough for everyone to start taking notice.
The largest point drop in the Dow’s history in January certainly satisfied another part of the predictions that had brought on my bet because I had said in that article back in the summer of seventeen that the stock market’s crash would likely take its first big leg down in January, 2018, followed by good sized bounce, followed by an even bigger and more definitive second leg down in “early summer.”
When the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google), which had led the market up throughout the entire recovery period, did break, I stated resolutely that the FAANGs were about to take the market down. However, the FAANGs decided to make a second run at a summit, which set my sole detractor into crowing about how his stocks would continue to rise to the far horizon because of the Almighty Trump. That all looks distant and faint in the rear-view mirror now!
I scoffed at my scoffer for thinking that bump would turn into proof of his notion that the stock market would rise beyond all the sunsets in the foreseeable future, but conceded with the following statement:
That latter market victory makes me permanently wrong about July being the NASDAQ’S final high before it enters a bear market because of the break in the FAANG stocks. That may be just a technicality if the NASDAQ fails to hold that high and falls. As it stands right now, though, I lose my bet. I could state that no one ever had the courage to take up the bet against me [by putting something at stake against what I had laid on the table][, so the bet’s off, but I won’t dodge out on that technicality either.
However, in numerous other respects my predictions as to what would dominate as the final word on 2018 were exactly on:
- Housing Collapse 2.0 started right on schedule, though it was not provable at that point, bt I was certain the turn was in, and we can see now that housing has gone downhill ever since.
- Retail Apocalypse for brick and mortar stores was continuing to grow worse.
- Carmageddon just starting to appear in the news with the termination of most US models (and now the closing of numerous factories).
- Federal deficits and debt blasting out of the stratosphere because tax cuts were not paying for themselves and Trump’s spending increases, as I said would be the case in 2018.
- Trump’s tariffs (easily foreseeable) just barely starting to press down on the economic brake pedal.
- All but one FAANG stock broken off at the gum line.
- Rising inflation that could press the Fed to continue in tightening mode. (Still a little at question, but it’s been leaning that way.)
- Emerging markets crashing all over the world.
- China’s stock market, whose failure badly damaged ours in 2015, now crashing … again.
- The end of globally synchronized harmonious growth being acknowledged by EVERYONE EVERYWHERE.
The spring article I was betting on contained most of those predictions while others I had written at the start of the year contained the rest. I summarized how it turned out with the following acclamation:
Talk about obvious cracks forming in the global economy this summer as I said they would! An economic ring of fire is breaking up in volcanic upheavals. So, I think I won that side of my bet; and I made the bet when the majority of market analysts were preening themselves over talk about “recovery” and “harmoniously synchronized global growth.” They thought those terms described what would be the overarching economic picture for this year. I thought otherwise.
Because I got more than 90% of it right, I offered this proviso in my concession, should the only respect by which I lost (no clear stock market crash in early summer) turn out to be a mere technicality in timing:
I may return … if and when reality crashes in around us enough that people become willing to listen to the warnings. It may be that the first part of my bet (the stock market’s demise) will catch up with me fairly soon. If it turns out that my prediction merely had a slight error in timing and the US stock market does plunge further while the US and global economies suffer much deeper losses, then my sole crow on the wire here (scoffer) will be picking lead shot out of his flesh as he watches the investments he crowed about fall apart all around him. His own investments will shoot him off the wire…. It will be hard to fault me for a minor error in timing if the Fed’s recovery falls into pieces and takes the stock market down with it within 2-3 months of my scheduled departure date for the market.
After all, we are talking about timing the end of what has been, in the very least, the second-longest bull market in history. Some may say the longest. Two to three months is barely a rounding error on such a long-term event. Since everything else went exactly as I predicted right to the month, I think I can be excused if I say, “I’m not terminating seven years of work because of a rounding error when all the rest was right.”
And a rounding error it was.
How my bet was actually won
It turned out that second peak in the FAANG stock was indeed a mere blip. Since those heady days when Apple became the United States’ first trillion-dollar company, it has already lost a full third of its height! Since October 2nd, it has lost $364 billion in value and is still falling rapidly! Like Icarus, Apple had its fifteen minutes of glory in the trillion-dollar stratosphere and then fell back to earth. Collectively, the FAANGs have lost an entire Apple’s worth of value (over a trillion dollars) or about a quarter of their height since their August peak. The bigger they are, the harder they fall! It turns out that, if my crow bought and held the glittery FAANG stocks this year, he made nothing at all! And to think that during the summer, he was crowing about how rich and smart he was! He’s certainly fallen off his wire now, and his real estate is falling, too, whether he knows it yet or not.
If anyone still doubts the economy and stock market are crashing, here is a real tell: look at how the present year has gone in light of the fact that this was a year of record-level corporate tax breaks and individual tax breaks, such as the estate-tax revisions that disproportionately benefit the top 1% of our society. Look at how it has gone during a record streak of foreign profit repatriation at these low tax rates, which fueled record stock buybacks and dividends. Look at where it has gone with the additional help of regulation roll backs everywhere.
Where has it gone? Nowhere! We saw a brief spike in stocks in January, which immediately started to evaporate at the end of January and was gone by February. We saw stock market struggle mightily to recover that lost spike, just as I said it would try. Though the US stock market finally hit a new high by a mere shave in the late summer, it started to plunge in October back almost to February’s low. The major indices dropped below all of their moving averages, widely regarded as a major sign that stocks are transitioning into a bear market.
November attempted a recovery, which quickly failed. At the start of December, we saw President Trump back away from this much-feared threat of greater tariffs, a move that investors thought would cause the market to boil over. Instead, the Dow surged 600 points the day after the “agreement,” only to fall nearly 800 points the next day! (Partly because the agreement sounded like more frosting than cake.) The autobot traders were, as this site has warned would happen, rolling over themselves in a downhill run, kicking the legs out from under their competitors on the way downhill. All major indices plunged by more than 3%. As Zero Hedge noted, “Since the 1950s there have been exactly 3 years with a 3% down day in December: 1987, 2000, and 2008.” (One cannot resist noting that those December dates followed the most notorious October crashes in history.) In fact, the period from October to the present has been the worst stock-market performance for this period since the October crash of 2008!
The Onion referred to this fall’s market charts as the “Everest/Mariana Trench pattern.”
Consider some of the recent highlights:
- That same ugly day, the Dow transports took their biggest point drop in history. Transports are also considered more indicative of how the main economy is doing that other market sectors because transportation companies go down when businesses are not shipping as many goods and when people stop traveling because they cannot afford to.
- More significantly, the yield curve for two-year bonds over five-year bonds inverted for the first time since the the start of the Great Recession while the twos over tens hung within a quarter point of inversion. (An inversion of yield curves is considered one of the most reliable benchmark indicators of a coming recession. Financial stocks tanked more than most other sectors, getting swamped in their own bear market. City, Morgan Stanley, Regions Financial, Sun Trust, Citizens Financial, and Capital One are all down more than 20% from their last peak to name some of the bigger ones.) The plunge was attributed as being due to concern over failing housing and auto marketsbecause those crashing markets drove bank failures during the Great Recession.
- The S&P Regional Banking ETF hit a low not seen since Brexit last sent shivers through the banking community, and another loan ETF from Blackstone saw by far the largest one-day outflow in its history following many other bad days. (How long before loan-based funds have to go down into their basements to find enough furniture to chop up to heat the house? I say we are very near some death spirals.)
- The S&P 500 formed an ominous “death cross” for the first time during President Trump’s administration. (A death cross happens when the short-term fife-day moving average of a stock index falls beneath its longer-term 200-day moving average, which is seen as a pretty solid indicator that the market’s trend has reversed from upward to downward.)
- In keeping with that, the second week of December, historically and easy-breazy month for stocks beat all of the lousy weeks in October and November to become the largest weekly drop since the market fell of a cliff last winter … when I said it would.
- General Motors, saved by the last bailouts, announced it is shuttering plants all over the US, while both Ford and GM had announced at the end of summer that they would be discontinuing most of their car lines.
- Wage gains fell slack again, and the job market softened significantly.
And credit markets look just as bad:
“Our disposition towards equities has moved from buy-the-dip to sell-the-rally,” Cecchini was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg piece. “If I’m not constructive on the credit markets, then I won’t be constructive on the equity markets.” And no, he’s not constructive on credit.
Yes, we saw the housing market hit a peak in May. Sales have gradually deteriorated around the country ever since. Now, even The Wall Street Journal claims the housing market has peaked. On in four homes across the nation are having to reduce prices as pending home sales revert back to where they were four years ago. (But you certainly read that first on this blog way back in the early summer when my sole detractor here said I didn’t understand anything about real estate.)
So, everything now clearly looks like the late-summer stock-market spike was nothing more than a flash of fool’s gold in the pan. It has clearly become a worried marketplace ever since.
As Bloomberg notes, Ned Davis Research – which groups various asset classes into eight big buckets, from bonds to US and international stocks to commodities- finds that not a single one of them is on track to post a return this year of more than 5%, a phenomenon last observed in 1972. (Zero Hedge)
In fact, 2018 stands as the worst year for assets across the board (if it ends where it stands right now) in almost half a century. Now how does that add up to anything but some seriously diminishing returns if you weigh results like that against some of the greatest tax stimulus efforts any nation has ever taken? We’ve returned to near-record federal deficits, due to tax breaks that do not appear to be expanding the economy at all coupled with massive spending increases; and, yet, we already see GDP declining the very quarter after it jumped up. GDP went for the 4s in the second quarter to the 3s in the third quarter, and is now projected by the Fed to end up in the 2s this quarter! Didn’t I say last summer that the 4 print for the second quarter would turn out to be an anomaly, driven by one-time tax repatriation and inventory stocking in prep for the Trump Tariffs and that the 3rd quarter would get some continued benefit from those same factors, though most of the overstocking to avoid tariffs would happen in the first half of the quarter. After that, I said GDP would drop some more. 2018 is ending up to be the year of mega-MAGA-stimulus that fully became a bridge to nowhere that same year.
And if you think things are getting ugly in the US, take a vacation from it all in France, or enjoy a little British Brexit brunch!
Having laid my blog down over the stock market as I said I would, pardon me for taking a victory lap when the market turned out to do everything I said it would this year, albeit with a little three-month delay in its newfound race to the bottom. (And note that I’ve been long and patient in waiting to assess this turn before claiming my victory, but we are now at the point where many normally bullish analysts agree that the bull is dying and for the very reasons that I said it would — and I did say fall would be by far worse than summer.)
Of course, we usually get a Santa-Clause rally from here to the end of the year as investors push back from their computers to start their vacations, confident they can count on Santa to deliver so they don’t have to watch their computers night and day. If the usual rally occurs, don’t sigh in relief because it may just make January all the rougher when Santa takes his well-earned Hawaiian vacation and investors’ egg-nog laced vision starts to see reality straight again. Rudolf and his gang will be bucking some swift headwinds, and I think Santa’s going to be flipping cartwheels in the snow as the wind knocks him off his feet. Yule-tide Investors may be closing the year with eyes as red as Rudolf’s nose from chasing between the egg nog and their computers on an hourly basis.
Make me return
With all of that said, another reason I stopped publishing articles on this blog was that the blog never made more than enough to cover its hosting and registration costs in all of those seven years. After I posted my last article, some devoted readers said they would gladly pay a subscription to keep the site running (or a donation). I’d rather go with donations than required subscriptions because the purpose of the site is to enlighten as many people as possible as to why the recovery is going to fail, when, and how badly it is going to fail so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes when that inevitable failure happens.
Others said they would volunteer some help. One particular reader, Kim Asadourian, has already stepped forward in a big way, saying she would help create an even better site by editing news links in a sidebar that will post the headlines of the day that best show the developing trends. I think she has a good eye for that, and I’ll work with her to make sure the article links posted really relate to the most important economic trends to keep an eye on. She has also offered to help with fundraising through her social contacts and with her own gift of support as the first and with some other campaign assistance. With this article, I’m checking to see if there are enough others who value this site at the level she does to bring it back to publishing.
It has done well for readership in the past, averaging about 20,000 unique readers each time an article is published and sometimes approaching 100,000. However, most people use ad blockers, and most of the rest don’t click on ads, so advertising at pennies per click brought in a mere trickle of revenue. It takes me, at least, a thousand hours a year to keep the articles coming and the site up and running, and that is a lot of time to donate for free for so many years. I can’t keep doing that. So, if we can get some more volunteer assistance (particularly of skilled IT help) and some donors to help me sustain this effort, we’ll relaunch.
The time is right to beat the establishment
The other thing I have been looking for, if I am going to relaunch the site is a time when people are ready to listen. Denial — an unwillingness to believe the Fed’s recovery plans cannot work or to believe nothing has been fixed even though it clearly has not — has been the biggest obstacle my articles have faced. People believe what they want to believe, and certainly don’t read what they don’t want to hear. They want to believe housing prices and stocks will rise forever and to believe that wealth can be created over caverns of debt. I identified that challenge right from the first post on this blog seven years ago with the following opening statement in October, 2011: