Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Irrational Exuberance, Part II or Squared to the Power of X

Talk about irrational exuberance, the term applied to stock market speculation by the liar-crook-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan back in the heady days of the internet revolution of 1996 (actually, December 5, 1996), when the "esteemed" Chairman uttered:
Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past. But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?

While Greenspan was a few years ahead of his time - the great dotcom bust occurred in 2000 - his warning to speculative investments was not well-heeded then, just as today, practically anybody not predicting unlimited growth potential and stocks soaring to new levels is routinely given short shrift by the establishment Wall Street press. But suppose someone were to look at the past three-and-a-half weeks (or, extrapolating out to the past three-and-a-half years)and say something to the effect:
Let me get this straight. The hopes of the US stock market are pinned to perpetual zero interest rates at home and hope that a collective of mostly bankrupt European nations will cobble together a lending facility designed to keep certain mostly Southern European governments from defaulting on their massive debts by bailing out banks and then borrowing even more hundreds of billions of euros from them. That sends stocks ten to twelve per cent higher over the course of the past three-and-a-half weeks and we haven't even seen details of the plan. I would call that either wishful thinking, a complete fake-out or irrational exuberance squared and to the power of X, X being the number of idiots who believe issuance of more debt will solve a problem that began because of excessive debt.

Perhaps the imagined quotation is not quite as erudite or economically succinct as Greenspan's more famous lines, but the message is very clear, nonetheless and it is exactly how the Europeans plan to solve their various deep and myriad problems with finance. Most of the known world is so heavily indebted - spilt between governments, banks and businesses and individual households - that most should be barred from going further into debt. Fortunately for most Americans, this is exactly the case, as banks have not lent to anybody or anything besides the most creditworthy since the financial calamities of 2008. The mega-banks' own fears of their own imminent demise forced them into tighter lending standards after they realized (too late, though, since they are bankers, after all, they should have known better) that the trillions of dollars in mortgage loans made to people without adequate credit, jobs or income might just default and spread the contagion of massive debt default throughout the banking system.

Let's face it, they knew exactly what they were doing, peddling s&*t securities, disguised as top-shelf, AAA credit risk, by bundling together all of the garbage sub-prime, alt-A and payday loan-type mortgage junk into massive tranches of mortgage-backed securities and selling them to whomever came up with the cash. The bankers didn't really care that they would implode the system, knowing full well that their well-paid lackeys, aka bought-and-paid-for elected representatives of the US Congress and the Presidency would not allow them to fail. Besides, they had already absconded with billions of dollars in fees and other payments from the unsuspecting suckers they swindled.

Of course, this is now ancient history, as none of the bankers have gone to jail, nor even been investigated, much less tried for their egregious crimes. Instead we have the little show of insider trading by a couple of immigrants, Raj Rajaratnam (already indicted, tried and sentenced) and Rajat Gupta (indicted today on five counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud) to act as fall guys for the white, Wall Street elite.

Both are (were) rich, important and notably non-white and not natural-born American citizens. Rajaratnam was born in Sri Lanka and is of Tamil descent. Gupta was born in India. The message is clear. White guys who commit white collar crimes walk free. All others can, and likely will, be used as fall guys, protecting the brotherhood of the saintly banker elite. These guys may do jail time, but it won't be tough. Rajaratnam is already appealing his conviction and 11-year sentence, a process that could take years. Meanwhile, he's still free, at least until November 28. That's the date the judge set for him to surrender to authorities. Place your wagers on whether "Raj" flees the country or is admitted to a hospital. He suffers from multiple health issues, including diabetes.

It's pretty clear that these dark-skinned fellows are just actors in a well-scripted play that goeswell outside the bounds of traditional jurisprudence. Steal a car or a sell a dime bag of grass and justice will be meted out swiftly and surely. Steal billions of dollars and walk away.

So, expecting Wall Street to respond properly to the current European stupidity is just another example of the absurdity of economics, circa. 2011. Greece is already half-way to default, with Italy, Belgium and Spain close behind. Portugal and Ireland have lost their sovereignty to the international banking cartel, the citizens of those countries reduced to nothing more than indentured debt slaves. France teeters on the precipice of recession and the whole bunch will probably take down Germany - the only semi-stable country on the continent - with the lot.

All of that adds up to a buying frenzy of US stocks. If this isn't the most cockeyed, woeful example of irrational exuberance ever seen, I challenge anybody to make sense of it all. The contagion from the eventual failure of the Euro will spread like wildfire around the globe, affecting everything we buy, sell or touch. But until then, buy stocks, You can always sell them just before the next market crash.

Dow 11,869.04, +162.42 (1.39%)
NASDAQ 2,650.67, +12.25 (0.46%)
S&P 500 1,242.00, +12.95 (1.05%)
NYSE Composite 7,506.15, +105.33 (1.42%)
NASDAQ Volume 2,153,615,250
NYSE Volume 4,873,521,000
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4346-1278
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 87-52
WTI crude oil: 90.92, -2.25
Gold: 1,723.50, +23.10
Silver: 33.31, +0.26

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