Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Investors Getting Complacent Near Year's End

Investors continue to misread the massaged "official" statistics that overstate economic growth and understate both inflation and unemployment.  That's why they're less concerned about the possibility of the Fed tapering its quantitative easing program.  Well, folks need to get concerned about the stock market.  Equity valuations are so high that Dr. John Hussman estimates forward returns will underperform Treasuries.  He's not alone in suspecting the Greater Fool Theory is at large once again.

One black swan that could destabilize this market is the passage of an unadulterated Volcker Rule.  Big banks are already getting nervous that regulators will approve the Volcker Rule in a form that prevents them from disguising their proprietary trading as "portfolio hedging."  A flat-out ban on shenanigans could roil fixed-income derivatives as banks scramble to close out open positions.

I've stayed away from broad market ETFs since 2007.  The phantom gains investors have seen since 2009 don't make me feel like I've missed anything.  I'd rather take my chances finding underpriced individual stocks in the hard asset sector.  I say bring on the Volkcer Rule's hard-core disruption to banks' prop trading.  Getting them out of gambling to go cold turkey is welcome even if stock and bond markets crash.  Markets need transparent price discovery more than investors need unsustainable gains.