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Why Are Exchange-Traded Funds Preparing For A ‘Liquidity Crisis’ And A ‘Market Meltdown’?

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainSome really weird things are happening in the financial world right now.  If you go back to 2008, there was lots of turmoil bubbling just underneath the surface during the months leading up to the great stock market crash in the second half of that year.  When Lehman Brothers finally did collapse, it was a total shock to most of the planet, but we later learned that their problems had been growing for a long time.  I believe that we are in a similar period right now, and the second half of this year promises to be quite chaotic.  Apparently, those that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in the entire world agree with me, because as you will see below they are quietly preparing for a “liquidity crisis” and a “market meltdown”.  About a month ago, I warned of an emerging “liquidity squeeze“, and now analysts all over the financial industry are talking about it.  Could it be possible that the next great financial crisis is right around the corner?

According to Reuters, the companies that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in existence are deeply concerned about what a lack of liquidity would mean for them during the next financial crash.  So right now they are quietly “bolstering bank credit lines” so that they will be better positioned for “a market meltdown”…

The biggest providers of exchange-traded funds, which have been funneling billions of investor dollars into some little-traded corners of the bond market, are bolstering bank credit lines for cash to tap in the event of a market meltdown.

Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust are among U.S. fund companies that have lined up new bank guarantees or expanded ones they already had, recent company filings show.

The measures come as the Federal Reserve and other U.S. regulators express concern about the ability of fund managers to withstand a wave of investor redemptions in the event of another financial crisis. They have pointed particularly to fixed-income ETFs, which tend to track less liquid markets such as high yield corporate bonds or bank loans.

So why are Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust all making these kinds of preparations right now?

Do they know something that the rest of us do not?

Over recent months, I have been writing about how so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes seem to be repeating once again in 2015.

One of the things that we would expect to see happen just before a major event would be for the “smart money” to rush out of long-term bonds and into short-term bonds and other more liquid assets.  This is something that had not been happening, but during the past couple of weeks there has been a major change.  All of a sudden, long-term yields have been spiking dramatically.  The following comes from Martin Armstrong

The amount of cash rushing around on the short-end is stunning. Yields are collapsing into negative territory and this is the same flight to quality we began to see at the peak in the crisis back in 2009. The big money is selling the 10 year or greater paper and everyone is rushing into the short-term. There is not enough paper around to satisfy the demands. Capital is unwilling to hold long-term even the 10 year maturities of governments including Germany. This is illustrating the crisis that is unfolding and there is a collapse in liquidity.

There is that word “liquidity” once again.  It is funny how that keeps popping up.

Here is a chart that shows what has been happening to the yield on 30 year U.S. Treasuries in 2015.  As you can see, there has been a big move recently…

30 Year Yield

And what this chart doesn’t show is that the yield on 30 year Treasuries shot up to about 3.08% on Wednesday.

Of course it isn’t just yields in the U.S. that are skyrocketing.  This is happening all over the globe, and many analysts are now openly wondering if the 76 trillion dollar global bond bubble is finally imploding.  For instance, just consider what Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid recently told the Telegraph

Financial regulations introduced since the crisis have required banks to hold more bonds, as quantitative easing schemes have meant central banks hold many on their own balance sheets, reducing the number available to trade on the open market.

Simultaneously, central banks have attempted to boost so-called “high money liquidity” with quantitative easing schemes and their close to zero interest rates. “What has become increasingly clear over the last couple of years is that the combination of high money liquidity and low trading liquidity creates air pockets,” said Mr Reid.

He continued: “It’s a worry that these events are occurring in relatively upbeat markets. I can’t helping thinking that when the next downturn hits the lack of liquidity in various markets is going to be chaotic. These increasingly regular liquidity issues we’re seeing might be a mild dress rehearsal.”

Those are sobering words.

And without a doubt, we are in the midst of a massive stock market bubble as well.  The chaos that is coming is not just going to affect bonds.  In fact, I believe that the greatest stock market crash in U.S. history is coming.

So when will it happen?

Well, Phoenix Capital Research seems to think that we have reached an extremely important turning point…

This is something of a last hurrah for stocks. We are now officially in May. And historically the period from May to November has been one of the worst periods for stocks from a seasonal perspective.

Moreover, the fundamentals are worsening dramatically for the markets. By the look of things, 2014 represented the first year in which corporate sales FELL since 2009. Sales track actual economic activity much more closely than earnings: either the money comes in or it isn’t. The fact that sales are falling indicates the economy is rolling over and the “recovery” has ended.

Having cut costs to the bone and issued debt to buyback shares, we are likely at peak earnings as well. Thus far 90% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings. Year over year earnings are down 11.9%.

So sales are falling and earnings are falling… at a time when stocks are so overvalued that even the Fed admits it. This has all the makings of a serious market collapse. And smart investors are preparing now BEFORE it hits.

Personally, I have a really bad feeling about the second half of 2015.  Everything seems to be gearing up for a repeat of 2008 (or even worse).  Let’s hope that does not happen, but let’s not be willingly blind to the great storm on the horizon either.

And once the next great crisis does hit us, governments around the world will have a lot less “ammunition” to fight it than the last time around.  For example, the U.S. national debt has approximately doubled since the beginning of the last recession, and the Federal Reserve has already pushed interest rates down as far as they can.  Similar things could also be said about other governments all over the planet.  This is something that HSBC chief economist Stephen King recently pointed out in a 17 page report entitled “The world economy’s titanic problem”.  The following is a brief excerpt from that report

“Whereas previous recoveries have enabled monetary and fiscal policymakers to replenish their ammunition, this recovery — both in the US and elsewhere — has been distinguished by a persistent munitions shortage. This is a major problem. In all recessions since the 1970s, the US Fed funds rate has fallen by a minimum of 5 percentage points. That kind of traditional stimulus is now completely ruled out.”

For a long time, I have had a practice of ending my articles by urging people to get prepared.  But now time for preparing is rapidly running out.  My new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” was just released, but honestly my co-author and I should have had it out last year.  In the very small amount of time that we have left before the financial markets crash, the amount of “prepping” that people are going to be able to do will be fairly limited.

I am not just pointing to a single event.  Once the financial markets crash this time, I believe that there is not going to be any sort of a “recovery” like we experienced after 2008.  I believe that the long-term economic collapse that we have been experiencing will accelerate very greatly, and it will usher in a horrible period of time for the United States unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

So what do you think?

Could I be wrong?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Big Dogs On Wall Street Are Starting To Get Very Nervous

The Big Dogs On Wall Street Are Starting To Get Very Nervous - Photo by Elf at the English language WikipediaWhy are some of the biggest names in the corporate world unloading stock like there is no tomorrow, and why are some of the most prominent investors on Wall Street loudly warning about the possibility of a market crash?  Should we be alarmed that the big dogs on Wall Street are starting to get very nervous?  In a previous article, I got very excited about a report that indicated that corporate insiders were selling nine times more of their own shares than they were buying.  Well, according to a brand new Bloomberg article, insider sales of stock have outnumbered insider purchases of stock by a ratio of twelve to one over the past three months.  That is highly unusual.  And right now some of the most respected investors in the financial world are ringing the alarm bells.  Dennis Gartman says that it is time to “rush to the sidelines”, Seth Klarman is warning about “the un-abating risks of collapse”, and Doug Kass is proclaiming that “we’re headed for a sharp fall”.  So does all of this mean that a market crash is definitely on the way?  No, but when you combine all of this with the weak economic data constantly coming out of the U.S. and Europe, it certainly does not paint a pretty picture.

According to Bloomberg, it has been two years since we have seen insider sales of stock at this level.  And when insider sales of stock are this high, that usually means that the market is about to decline…

Corporate executives are taking advantage of near-record U.S. stock prices by selling shares in their companies at the fastest pace in two years.

There were about 12 stock-sale announcements over the past three months for every purchase by insiders at Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) companies, the highest ratio since January 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Pavilion Global Markets. Whenever the ratio exceeded 11 in the past, the benchmark index declined 5.9 percent on average in the next six months, according to Pavilion, a Montreal-based trading firm.

But it isn’t just the number of stock sales that is alarming.  Some of these insider transactions are absolutely huge.  Just check out these numbers

Among the biggest transactions last week were a $65.2 million sale by Google Inc.’s 39-year-old Chief Executive Officer Larry Page, a $40.1 million disposal by News Corp.’s 81- year-old Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and a $34.2 million sale from American Express Co. chief Kenneth Chenault, who is 61. Nolan Archibald, the 69-year-old chairman of Stanley Black & Decker Inc. who plans to leave his post next month, unloaded $29.7 million in shares last week and Amphenol Corp. Chairman Martin Hans Loeffler, 68, sold $27.5 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, 57, announced plans to sell as many as 3.2 million shares in the operator of the world’s most-popular search engine. The planned share sales, worth about $2.5 billion, represent about 42 percent of Schmidt’s holdings.

So why are all of these very prominent executives cashing out all of a sudden?

That is a very good question.

Meanwhile, some of the most respected names on Wall Street are warning that it is time to get out of the market.

For example, investor Dennis Gartman recently wrote that the game is “changing” and that it is time to “rush to the sidelines”…

“When tectonic plates in the earth’s crust shift earthquakes happen and when the tectonic plants shift beneath our feet in the capital markets margin calls take place. The tectonic plates have shifted and attention… very careful and very substantive attention… must be paid.

“Simply put, the game has changed and where we were playing a ‘game’ fueled by the monetary authorities and fueled by the urge on the part of participants to see and believe in rising ‘animal spirits’ as Lord Keynes referred to them we played bullishly of equities and of the EUR and of ‘risk assets’. Now, with the game changing, our tools have to change and so too our perspective.

“Where we were buyers of equities previously we must disdain them henceforth. Where we were sellers of Yen and US dollars we must buy them now. Where we had been long of gold in Yen terms, we must shift that and turn bullish of gold in EUR terms. Where we might have been ‘technically’ bullish of the EUR we must now be technically and fundamentally bearish of it. The game board has been flipped over; the game has changed… change with it or perish. We cannot be more blunt than that.”

That is a very ominous warning, but he is far from alone.  Just the other day, I wrote about how legendary investor Seth Klarman is warning that the collapse of the financial markets could happen at literally any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

Other big hitters on Wall Street are ringing the alarm bells as well.  For example, Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what he is seeing right now reminds him of the period just before the crash of 1987…

“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.”

And of course the “perma-bears” continue to warn that the months ahead are going to be very difficult.  For instance, “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber recently said that he “loves the high odds of a ‘big-time’ market crash“.

Another “perma-bear”, Nomura’s Bob Janjuah, is convinced that the stock market will experience one more huge spike before collapsing by up to 50%

I continue to believe that the S&P500 can trade up towards the 1575/1550 area, where we have, so far, a grand double top. I would not be surprised to see the S&P trade marginally through the 2007 all-time nominal high (the real high was of course seen over a decade ago – so much for equities as a long-term vehicle for wealth creation!). A weekly close at a new all-time high would I think lead to the final parabolic spike up which creates the kind of positioning extreme and leverage extreme needed to create the conditions for a 25% to 50% collapse in equities over the rest of 2013 and 2014, driven by real economy reality hitting home, and by policymaker failure/loss of faith in “their system”.

So are they right?

We will see.

At the same time that many of the big dogs are pulling their money out of the market, many smaller investors are rushing to put their money back in to the market.  The mainstream media continues to assure them that everything is wonderful and that this rally can last forever.

But it is important to keep in mind that the last time that Wall Street was this “euphoric” was right before the market crash in 2008.

So what should we be watching for?

As I have mentioned before, it is very important to watch the financial markets in Europe right now.

If they crash, the financial markets in the U.S. will probably crash too.

And the financial markets in Europe definitely have had a rough week.  Just check out what happened on Thursday.  The following is from a report by CNBC’s Bob Pisani

Italy, Germany, France, Spain, U.K., Greece, and Portugal all on track to log worst day since Feb. 4. European PMI numbers were disappointing, with all major countries except Germany reporting numbers below 50, indicating contraction.

What does this mean? It means Europe remains mired in recession: “The euro zone is on course to contract for a fourth consecutive quarter,” Markit, who provides the PMI data, said. A new insight is that France is now joining the weakness shown in periphery countries.

You’re giving me agita: Italy was the worst market, down 2.5 percent. The CEO of banking company, Intesa Sanpaolo, said Italy’s recession has been so bad it could cause a fifth of Italian companies to fail, noting that topline for those bottom fifth have been shrinking 35 to 45 percent. Italian elections are this weekend.

It wasn’t any better in Asia. The Shanghai Index had its worst day in over a year, closing down nearly three percent.

And the economic numbers coming out of the U.S. also continue to be quite depressing.

On Thursday, the Department of Labor announced that there were 362,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits during the week ending February 16th.  That was a sharp rise from a week earlier.

But I am not really concerned about that number yet.

When it rises above 400,000 and it stays there, then it will be time to officially become alarmed.

So what is the bottom line?

There are trouble signs on the horizon for the financial markets.  Nobody should panic right now, but things certainly do not look very promising for the remainder of the year.

Big Dog

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