“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”
From Grantham’s letter (emphasis ours):
The Fed’s negative real rates regime, designed to badger us into riskier investments in order to push up equity prices and grab a short-term wealth effect (that must be given back one day when least comfortable and least expected), has gone on for a long and, for me, boring time. This low interest rate period is serving, therefore, as a sneak preview of what a permanently lower rate regime might look like (although any permanently lower rates reflecting lower GDP growth would be by no means as low as these engineered rates that we are currently experiencing). So what are some of these effects? The artificially low T-Bill rates first work their way slowly up the curve. Next, the most obviously competitive type of equities – high yield stocks – begin to be bid up ahead of the rest of the market, as has happened. “I’ve just got to squeeze out some higher rates somewhere, anywhere,” is the pension fund plea. Then, this low rate competition begins to filter into other securities, historically sought after for their higher yields: higher-grade real estate, where the “cap rates” slowly fall; and, unfortunately, also forestry and farmland, mainly of the larger and more standard varieties that appeal to institutions, which show declines in their required yields, i.e., their prices rise. The longer the engineered rates stay below true market rates, the higher asset prices become until, yes, you’ve got it, corporate assets begin to sell way over replacement cost. Then, if the heart of capitalism is still beating at all, a long period of over-investment begins and returns are bid down and everything moves into balance, often helped along if asset prices get too high, as in 2000 and 2007, by a good healthy market crunch. (This strategy will be seen in future years as archetypical of the Greenspan-Bernanke era: badger and bully investors into taking more risk and eventually pushing assets – houses or stocks or both – far over replacement value, followed eventually, at long and hard-to- predict intervals, by exciting crashes. No way to run a ship, but it does produce an environment that contrarians like us, who can take a few licks, can thrive in.)
Blackstone’s top-man fears the “oblivious markets” are missing the point that nothing has been solved and that a “big battle between entitlement cuts and raising the debt ceiling” is coming.
Buiter explains: “Much of the improvement is driven by liquidity, unprecedentedly low safe nominal and real interest rates, an increasingly frantic ‘search for yield’, unrealistic expectations about what policy will be able to deliver and other forms of irrational optimism and exuberance.”