Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter Bear Markets Start Off 2016

Investors are watching wealth evaporate in the first month of 2016. Major market indexes are down and the CBOE's volatility measure is up. Sleepwalking to easy wealth is no longer the order of the day. Hard winters come with howling winds. Serious macroeconomic headwinds are howling at markets.

Did you think markets would go up forever? Think again. A few decades of consumer overindulgence left developed countries with bloated debt loads. Central bank stimulus was the co-dependent enabler that encouraged consumers, businesses, and governments to load up on cheap credit. Try digging out from under an unmanageable debt load. It's like digging out of a winter snowdrift.

China's economic fictions are now laid bare. Forget the forged official numbers. Australia's declining metal exports to China are real enough. The obvious Chinese recession will become a depression as state-owned funds liquidate shadow holdings and real estate creditors throw urban speculators out of their apartments. The only possible remaining stimulus in a Fourth Turning Crisis era is military spending. Expect Beijing's mandarins to ramp up militarism after a few years of bear market pain become unbearable for China's former middle class.

Live bears hibernate through the winter. Bear markets wake up whenever they feel the urge. Winter is coming, according to people who quote the Game of Thrones saga. Investors' winter is already here.