Faber: We are in a Gigantic Financial Asset Bubble
Marc Faber, publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, appeared on Bloomberg Television’s “Street Smart” yesterday to discuss the impact of Fed policy on the global economy and his predictions for 2014. As you could imagine, he is bearish.
Marc told Trish Regan and Adam Johnson that “we are in a gigantic financial asset bubble.” He has warned before that he believes the bubble could pop in a 1987-style crash.
While I see froth – think Tesla or Twitter or the mania surrounding Bitcoin – I don’t think equities today are anywhere near where they were in 1999, which truly was a bubble. Also see Marshall’s recent post on bubbles, which I think is a good one in terms of understanding the phenomenon.
Faber also spoke about Bitcoin, saying, “I prefer physical gold and silver, platinum to bitcoin. Bitcoin can have a lot of competition. Gold, silver, platinum — they have no competition. How do you value a bitcoin?… How do you value Netflix? Is it overpriced or underpriced? Is Tesla overpriced, underpriced?”
My own definition of a bubble is a two-standard deviation move – meaning that you enter bubble territory when the price moves to a level two standard deviations above the norm on a long-term valuation benchmark metric. I think of a bubble coming from the fact that price movements are never entirely independent of previous price movements. When prices are near long-term norms, the intertemporal dependence is not an overriding variable in price movement. However, as prices move away from trend – either above or below – previous price movements take on increasing importance. That’s why markets overshoot both to the upside and the downside.
Video and partial transcript below:
**SOURCE: BLOOMBERG TELEVISION**
Faber on the Fed and how far the ‘rubber band can be stretched’:
“We have to distinguish between the financial economy, the financial sector, and the economy of the well-to-do people that benefit from rising asset prices, from rising prices of wines, and paintings and art, and bonds, and equities, and high-end properties in the Hamptons and West 15 here in New York and so forth — and the average person, the typical household, the so-called ‘median household’, or the working class people. And the Fed’s policies have actually led to a lot of problems around the world in the sense that they’re not only responsible, but partly responsible that energy prices are where they are, they’re up from $10 or $12 in 1999 to now around $100 a barrel. Food prices are up and a lot of other prices are up. So on your income, energy prices have very little impact because you at Bloomberg – you, young man – you make so much money. But for the poor people, it has an impact. Some people in the lower income groups, they spend say 30% of their income on energy, transportation, and so forth, electricity and gasoline.”
On whether the Fed is creating a two-class system:
“Correct, largely. The problem is then that you have people like Bill de Blasio, they come in and say: ‘you know what’s the problem? All these rich guys. Because of these rich people, you are poor. They take advantage of you. So, let’s go and tax them.’ The IMF has come out with a paper in Europe that essentially the well-to-do people should pay a 10% wealth task — a one-time wealth tax. I can assure you, a one-time wealth tax, 10%, will become an every-year’s tax eventually.”
On how to help the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum:
“This is the point I’d like to make. All of these professors and academics at the Fed who never really worked in the private sector a single day in their lives, and write papers nobody reads and nobody’s is interested in. Why would they want not write about how you structure an economic system that lifts the standard of living of most people? You can’t lift everybody.”
“We had that in the 19th century in the U.S. because we had very small government at the time. The entire government — local, state federal — was less than 20% of the economy. Now it is close to 50% of the economy.”
On whether the government is spending too much money:
“The larger the government becomes, the less economic growth you have and the more crony capitalism and corruptions you have. Because big corporations — and especially the money printers, they’re the most powerful people in the world, they control the governments. The U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the government is one and the same. The Fed, they finance the Treasury, so the government can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then they finance transfer payments to essentially buy votes so you can get elected.”
“I prefer physical gold and silver, platinum to bitcoin. Bitcoin can have a lot of competition. Gold, silver, platinum — they have no competition. How do you value a bitcoin? I can value gold to some extent and compare say gold to the quantity of money that is floating around the world, to the wealth increase, and to the monetary base increase, to the credit increase, and so forth and so on, and to the production costs. So I have an idea of where gold should be. I’m not sure because prices overshoot. How do you value Netflix? Is it overpriced or underpriced? Is Tesla overpriced, underpriced?”
On interest rates:
“But one thing I wanted to show you and talk about because you said that lower interest rates help people. Well, if money trending helps everybody, then why does not everybody in the whole world always have zero interest rates? And everybody would be rich. You keep on printing money and you don’t need to work here, you don’t need to put on makeup. I could stay in bed the whole day and go drinking in the evenings. So, let’s just print money and be all happy. It doesn’t add up. One thing about the figures you showed: first of all, you live in New York. Do you really think that your cost-of-living increase is a 1.2% per annum? You really believe that? It doesn’t feel like more, it feels like five times more, or even ten times more.”
“Number two, by keeping interest rates at zero percent on the Fed fund rate — i want to emphasize that this is now going on in March of 2014 for five years. It is not something new. For five years this has happened. You penalize the income earners, the savers who save, your parents, why should your parents be forced to speculate in stocks and in real estate and everything under the sun?”
On his view of overvalued stocks, including Facebook:
“I think it is to a large extent a fad. People they go on Facebook – what they do is they put pictures on and the only people that watch these pictures are themselves. They all want to be stars. It is a very distractive kind of occupation. I can’t imagine that this would have a lot of value. I would rather own – I don’t own it because I think it is very highly priced – I would rather own a company like Alibaba or Amazon or Google, than Facebook, personally. This is my view. Other people have different views. That’s what makes the market. Some people are buying it and some people are selling it.”
On overall market valuation concerns:
“I think we are in a gigantic financial asset bubble. But it is interesting that that despite of all the money printing, bond yields didn’t go down. They bottomed out on July 25, 2012 at 1.43% on the 10-years. We went to over 3.0%. We’re now at 2.85% or something thereabout. But we’re up substantially. Now, this hasn’t had an impact on stocks yet. In fact, it pushed money into the stock market out of the bond market. But if the 10-years goes to say 3.5% to 4.0%, then the 30-year goes to close to 5.0%, the mortgage rates go to 6.0%. That will hit the economy very hard.”
“[The bubble] could burst before. It could burst any day. I think we are very stretched. Sentiment figures are very, very bullish. Everybody’s bullish. The reality is they’re very bullish because they think the economy will accelerate on the upside. But my view is very different. The global economy is slowing down, because the global economy’s largely emerging economies nowadays, and there’s no growth in exports in emerging economies, there’s no growth, in the local economies. So, I feel that the valuations are high, the corporate profits have been boosted largely because of the falling interest rates.”