Guest post by Peter Tchir.
State of the High Yield Market
The ETF’s and Closed End Funds are attracting a lot of attention. Redemptions and poor performance in the past few days have caught a lot of people’s attention. It also sounds like it is hitting traditional mutual funds. It is worth looking at.
Unmitigated Disaster in Closed End Funds
Here is the craziest closed end fund I know of. The PHK fund was down 26% since its peak but still trades at a premium of 27%. I have never understood why people pay such a premium for a fixed income fund, and never will. To me it is completely irrelevant what this fund does, except as a sentiment for the least thoughtful retail investors. We saw steep declines in other closed end funds. Most had been trading at premium and are back to about intrinsic value. With the leverage they use and small market cap I rarely follow them, but the size of the move is worth looking at.
Even the leveraged loan closed end funds got hit hard. They are still at a premium but seeing drops of 3% to 5%. That is far in excess of the two day drop of BKLN which has had a 1% drop. The leverage and premium explain a lot of that additional drop.
A few points on risk and size by Golem XIV.
People always say Follow the Money. You might do better to Follow the Risk.
Risk is the pollution created by the process of making money. So where you find people making one you will surely find them hiding the other. You’ll find both at the banks.
Banks have managed to convince the regulatory authorities – their regulatory authorities, and I use the word ‘their’ advisedly – to convinced them to count the creation and storing of risk as part of the banks contribution to the nation’s GDP. I wrote about how our governments count risk creation and storage of as part of the bank’s GVA (Gross Value Added) in What the Banks Contribute to GDP. Our government’s reasoning is that risk is an unavoidable by-product of the financial industry so the industry should get credit for dealing with the stuff. But imagine counting the creation and storage of radioactive waste as part of the value added of the nuclear industry? Would it not seem perverse to celebrate increases in the amount of waste being stored and see it as evidence of what a wonderful industry it was, rather than ask why they produced so much in the first place? Would it not seem odd to talk glowingly (sorry) of the increases in radiation levels being stored, and reward the industry accordingly, rather than ask if there might not be a safer, less radioactive way of generating power? It seems to me this is the situation we are in with banking.
People are obsessed with the Euromess and the Fiscal Cliff. What about Japan? A few reflections via Caixin Online.
Every time I come to Japan to attend a conference, I am reminded of what a depression looks like in the 21st century. This time is no different: shops are not busy, restaurant owners wait anxiously outside for customers and are usually disappointed, empty taxi cabs roam the streets. Two decades after its property bubble began to deflate, Japan remains mired in deflation and contraction.
The economic statistics tell the horror story best. Japan’s nominal GDP in 2011 was 9 percent lower than in 2007 and 2.5 percent lower than in 1992! In 1992, the national debt was only 20 percent of GDP. It is now 230 percent. Essentially, 200 percent of GDP in fiscal stimulus hasn’t turned the economy around.
The depression dynamic begins with declining incomes. People then spend less to cope. Shops and restaurants become emptier. The weak demand depresses business profitability and investment. The former depresses the stock market, and the latter labor income. Both pressure people to spend even less.
Few people pay attention to Japan’s problems nowadays. Financial markets pay a lot of attention to the United States’ economic problems. But its nominal GDP rose 7 percent between 2007 and 2011 and is likely to rise another 4 percent in 2012. Japan could at best achieve zero growth in nominal GDP in 2012. The performance gap between the United States and Japan is 20 percent in nominal GDP since 2007. America’s national debt has doubled since 2007 and reached 100 percent of GDP in 2012. Its trend isn’t sustainable either. But Japan’s debt problem is more advanced in depth. Its debt crisis should occur before the United States’.
Guest post by Azizonomics.
A number of economists and economics writers have considered the possibility of allowing the Federal Reserve to drop interest rates below zero in order to make holding onto money costlier and encouraging individuals and firms to spend, spend, spend.
Miles Kimball details one such plan:
The US Federal Reserve’s new determination to keep buying mortgage-backed securities until the economy gets better, better known as quantitative easing, is controversial. Although a few commentators don’t think the economy needs any more stimulus, many others are unnerved because the Fed is using untested tools. (For example, see Michael Snyder’s collection of “10 Shocking Quotes About What QE3 Is Going To Do To America.”) Normally the Fed simply lowers short-term interest rates (and in particular the federal funds rate at which banks lend to each other overnight) by purchasing three-month Treasury bills. But it has basically hit the floor on the federal funds rate. If the Fed could lower the federal funds rate as far as chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues wanted, it would be much less controversial. The monetary policy cognoscenti would be comfortable with a tool they know well, and those who don’t understand monetary policy as well would be more likely to trust that the Fed knew what it was doing. By contrast, buying large quantities of long-term government bonds or mortgage-backed securities is seen as exotic and threatening by monetary policy outsiders; and it gives monetary policy insiders the uneasy feeling that they don’t know their footing and could fall into some unexpected crevasse at any time.