The Broken Clocks’ Minute

The Broken Clocks’ Minute by Robert Gore – Straight Line Logic

Sometimes the reasons you’re wrong turn out to be the reasons you’re right.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Old Wall Street adage

Anyone who has consistently sounded cautionary or outright bearish notes during the last nine years of relentlessly rising equity markets has been cast aside. Wall Street is bipolar. You’re either right or wrong, and wrong doesn’t buy mansions and Maseratis. Like that broken clock, the so-called permabears have had a couple of minutes when they were right, far outweighed by those 1438 minutes when they were wrong.

Or maybe it’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s the last nine years that amounts to two minutes. In geologic time nine years isn’t even a nanosecond. Perhaps even on time periods scaled to human lifetimes and history, the last nine years will come to be seen as an evanescent flash that came and ignominiously went.

Markets don’t listen to reasons. They’re exercises in crowd psychology and crowds are emotional and capricious. That doesn’t mean that reason is a useless virtue in market analysis, quite the opposite. It’s reason that allows the few who are consistently successful to separate themselves from the crowd and capitalize on its emotion and caprice.

Reason identifies rising stock markets as one symptom of a sugar high global economy. Since 2009, staring into the abyss of debt implosion, central banks acting in concert have promoted furious debt expansion as the finger-in-the-dike remedy. Governments expanded their fiat (aka out of thin air) debt, and central banks monetized that debt with their own fiat debt. Not only did that create loanable reserves within the banking system—private debt fodder—it drove interest rates so low that yield-deprived investors were herded into the stock market. Borrowers won, savers lost.

The reason markets rose is also the reason they will fall. How can central banks exchanging fiat debt for governments’ fiat debt produce economic growth or anything else of lasting value? That metaphysical query pinpoints the artificiality of the expansion since 2009. That you can’t get something for nothing has not been repealed. The stock market has been the great and powerful Oz telling us not to pay attention to the fiat debt charade going on behind the curtain.

However, the expansion has been extraordinarily weak. It’s not clear that there has been any growth at all if you back out the debt necessary to produce what the government reports as growth. What is clear is that across developed country economies, each currency unit of debt is buying successively less growth and adding to an increasingly onerous debt burden.

Is a mechanic who warns that if you don’t don’t replace an engine part your car will break down a broken clock, simply because it may not break down this month? Is a doctor who warned that if you didn’t stop drinking your liver will fail a broken clock if it hasn’t failed yet? Objectively analyzing economies and equity markets hooked on rising levels of debt that generate diminishing returns, the conclusion is inescapable: this can’t work.

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Robert Gore

Robert Gore was born in 1958 in Livermore, California. He grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where both his parents worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His undergraduate education was at UCLA. He graduated in 1980 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a double major in economics and political science. He completed the JD/MBA program at UC Berkeley in 1984. He held part-time jobs throughout undergraduate and graduate school. He passed the bar exam and is an inactive member of the California Bar Association. Mr. Gore’s career in finance began in 1984 with a bank in San Francisco, trading municipal bonds. In 1985, he went to a Wall Street firm’s west coast municipal bond office in Los Angeles as a bond trader. He developed its block and institutional sales capabilities and after four years was promoted to manager of the region.