Posts

The GameStop conundrum

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This week we saw a huge play come to its climax. For a while the retail investor community at r/wallstreetbets (WSB) on Reddit has been pumping several stocks that have been targeted by short sellers (mostly in the form of big hedge funds). GameStop ( GME ) was among the most prominent ones (others include AMC , BB , BBBY , NOK , etc.). The pump was done on the aforementioned subreddit, spilling over onto other social media platforms like Twitter where many retail investors, bystanders, billionaire businessmen, and even celebrities have joined in to push the stocks up in the massive short squeeze against the short sellers.  Why has this caught so much attention? The motivation of the WSB community was driven by the fact that many short positions in these companies were overleveraged. GME  for example had a short interest at 140% of its float . This means that there was more demand for borrowing stocks to be sold short than the number of stocks in circulation ( this article explains t

Again no inflation? Velocity of money and the E-P ratio reexamined

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A lot of investors are wondering when exactly can we expect inflation to hit our economies? An economist's answer - only in the long run.  This bad joke is turning out to be true. Despite the huge, unprecedented (sic!) rise in money supply over the past year, it is unlikely we will experience a rapid increase in inflation over the coming two years. Why is this so?  Let's start with a fascinating development on the money markets. Velocity of money , that important indicator derived from Fisher's quantitative theory of money (MV=PQ) measuring the circulation of money in the economy (how fast goods are bought and sold), became detached from the real economy approximated by the employment-population (EP) ratio.  For those new to the blog, I have been particularly fond of tracking these two indicators, and for a very good reason - I find them a realistic portrayal of the situation in the real economy. The velocity of money has, thus far, been a great indicator of economic activ

The corporate debt bubble: CLOs and company bankruptcies

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In addition to monetary and fiscal bubbles , another potential issue that could be exacerbated by a prolonged period of low interest rates are rising corporate debt levels of publicly listed nonfinancial companies. Total corporate debt of such companies has already reached historical highs by surpassing $10 trillion in Q1 2020 , and is likely to keep growing in the months to come. Adding to this another 5.5 trillion of corporate debt from SMEs and other non-listed companies the total corporate debt size in the US is now at 73% of GDP . This is still lower than household debt in 2009 which reached almost 100% of GDP, and with lower rates of growth. However, corporate debt will keep on rising – as it did during the 2009 crisis – as a necessary consequence of the pandemic and increasing risk exposure of many companies. Leveraged loan market and CLOs About $1.4 trillion of that market (also at historical highs) is comprised of leveraged loans , which include all loans securitized in someth

Monetary and fiscal bubbles after COVID

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In the previous blog I analyzed the stunning divergence between the markets and the real economy. I emphasized three particular reasons for why this is happening: (1) huge monetary and fiscal stimuli that started the V-shaped rebound on the markets in March; (2) exuberant (and by all means irrational) expectations driven primarily by the so-called retail investors (the subject of one of my next blogs), and (3) the asymmetry between firms driving the market (the top 5 big tech firms) vs the unlisted SMEs laying people off and declaring bankruptcies.  In this blog I will touch upon the potential instabilities of the first effect: the monetary and fiscal stimuli.  While the stimuli were designed to calm the market panic back in March, its continuation - particularly from the Fed - is creating massive instabilities elsewhere. Specifically, there is ample evidence of a growing monetary bubble , unavoidable fiscal instabilities due to rising debts and deficits, and even a potential corpora

Riding on a high: why is the market hitting records in a recession?

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The US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the official tracker of the US business cycle, declared that the recession in the country started in February 2020 . According to NBER February was the peak of the business cycle as jobs already started disappearing (even though the huge COVID-driven unemployment claim spikes didn’t happen until mid-March ). Over the next month and a half over 42 million Americans found themselves out of work. The official unemployment rate shot up to 14.7% in April (it was 3.5% in February), and has declined back to 10.2% in July, as a more encouraging sign of a recovery driven by business re-openings. Due to the effects of COVID-19 the uncertainty in the economy is still huge, and is still the biggest it has ever been according to the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index . Almost every graph we see during the pandemic has a label “unprecedented” attached to it; we are usually looking at a very steep exponential curve facing up (for unemployment, unce