Michael Lewitt is one of the most provocative writers I know. He consistently gives me something to chew on with his monthly letter. How he comes up with all those quotes (usually from sources I have never read but should have) amazes me. He has a unique view of the markets as he run Collateralized Debt Obligation funds and really understand the nitty-gritty of the bond and credit markets.
His work is subscription only, but he has graciously allowed me to use his latest piece as this week’s Outside the Box. For those interested in subscribing, you can go to his website at www.hcmmarketletter.com.
And if you haven’t already voted in the US, then do so. I am somewhat of a political junkie. My normal election night routine is stay up watching the various news channels, “Tivoing” what I am not watching so I can skip the commercials and watch at least three channels. Sadly, I will be getting on a plane Tuesday late afternoon to London so will not know what happens until I get to my hotel. Some quick news feed and then onto the office of Variant Perception where my co-author Jonathan Tepper and I will bury ourselves for four days finishing the book.
Your hoping the Rangers can pull it out analyst,
As readers know, I was in Europe a few weeks ago, making a LOT of presentations. My London-based partners seem to feel that an hour or two of down time is wasted and only for sissies. I learn as much as I impart, and come away with lots of interesting information. Every now and then I learn something that gets into the category of what in the wide, wide world of (multiple expletives deleted) economics is going on? Subprime was like that when I first read about it. Could you really design CDOs that were so patently absurd and then sell them to the Europeans and Asians? Turns out you could.
Last week, Niels Jensen (head of Absolute Return Partners) and I were talking with a variety of pension funds. They started telling us about this thing called Solvency II. Outside the arcane world of European pension funds and insurance companies, it is not on the radar screen of most people. But it may be one of the more explosive problems in our future. Cutting to the chase, the new rules require insurance companies and pension funds to buy more bonds to match their liabilities. But as yields go down they are required to buy yet MORE bonds and then yields go down some more. And so on. The possibility of serious defaults by these same pension funds in the wake of these new rules (setting aside whether it makes sense to actually require pension funds to set aside enough assets to pay their obligations) is all too real. And more pervasive than we now think.
Niels, in his latest Absolute Return Letter, wrote up what we learned, and it is Today’s Outside the Box. Wonder why yields in Europe are falling? Read on.
“I am not sure if policy makers understand how potentially dangerous this situation is. We are on the road to insolvency. And, even if pension providers manage to stay solvent, future generations of retirees are likely to run into serious financial difficulties as their retirement savings earn next to nothing, because our political leaders forced new rules on the industry, the implications of which they did not grasp.”
I know, I am just a bundle of fun. But this really is stuff we should be aware of. And tomorrow I am off to discuss this and more (with some serious play time thrown in) at the Barefoot Ranch Symposium. Enjoy your week!
Your ready for some R&R analyst,
One of my favorite analysts is Albert Edwards of Societe Generale in London. Acerbic, witty and brilliant. Emphasis on brilliant. The fact that he is a Doppelganger for James Montier (who long time readers are well acquainted with) is a coincidence (or he would say vice versa). I only kind of have permission to forward this note to you, but better to ask forgiveness… So, this week he is our Outside the Box. And a short but good one he is.
I am in Amsterdam and it is late, but deadlines have no time line. Tomorrow more work on the book. It is getting close to the end. Most books are finished when the authors quit in disgust. How many edits can you do? I am close.
I wonder late at night, with maybe a few too many glasses of wine, why I feel like a book is so much more than an e-letter. Really? The last ten years of what I have written are on the archives. Good (ok, sometimes really good) is there. But some are an embarrassment. What was I thinking?
But somehow in my Old World brain, a book is more than a weekly letter. It is somehow more permanent than an "online" letter. Which may be archived forever. The book is "paper" and may be around for a few years. But the online version is here for a long time.
I know that is stupid. Really I do. But what is a 61 year old mind to do? A strange world we live in.
It is really time to hit the send button. More than you know! The conversation tonight has been too deep!
Your working on Labor Day analyst,
I am in Minnesota this morning doing a speech, but do have a very good candidate for this week’s Outside the Box. Tony Boeckh just published a piece by George Magnus on demographics and the markets that I think is very thought-provoking. Demographics is something I think about a lot and you should too. I will let Tony do the introduction of George.
Have a good week. My goal is to write this Friday’s letter a little early so that I can get in some fishing time. And when you look at today’s ISM number, look past the headline number, which is just fine, and look at the weakness in the leading indicators. New orders declined by 5 points to 53.5, its lowest level since June 2009. Also, imports slowed noticeably, which is a bad omen for domestic demand. Overall, the ISM index suggests that real GDP and factory output slowed early this quarter.
Your concerned about the lack of growth analyst,