The Cash Bubble

SP:SPX   S&P 500 Index
History repeats itself, and we should learn from it, however sometimes history is so far away that it spans generations before we're able to grasp the experience first hand.
We hear about 1929, but we can't imagine what it was to survive the struggle, we hear about the pandemics during the 20's, same deal, we have heard about recessions, and those who went through the big recession of 2008 triggered by the immobiliary crisis know better, some veterans from the dot com bubble, others from the Black monday in 87, and probably very few from earlier crisis. But I don't think anybody has gone through a halt in the economy due to a pandemic at the level we witnessed in 2020.
Let's put it in context, 2020 was an election year, the incumbent government was losing the battle against the pandemic and the halt in the economy. He had the support of the congress and the wallet at his will, the former President Trump flooded the market with freshly printed dollars in an attempt to reignite the economy as soon as possible, and let's say, it worked for the purpose of reactivating the economy and not having to wait for a painful period of a lengthy recovery, however this created an unprecedented scenario, a huge flood of dollars to the market. The biggest cash inflow ever in the history of the world. The M1 metric went to $7.2T, to put it in perspective, since the 60's this has been oscillating in the $480B to $580B in the 70's when Nixon cancelled the convertibility of the Gold and Paul Volcker had to apply unprecedented meassures to fight the stagflation that followed after the dollar became fiat currency. The M1 increased 120% from its 60's level, the increase after the housing bubble burst went from $668B to $1.5T, approximately 225%. After the COVID halt it went from $1.5T to $7.25 T, an increase of 485%, inedit scenario in the history of the United States.

The crisis sent the price of oil in the market of futures to a negative value, something that has never been seen, the unemployment reached record levels, the SP500 index fell to a range close to that when Trump became president, wiping off the rally that started shortly after that event, the inflation didn't react immediately, since this is a lagging indicator that reacts to the economy growth, and the access to currency.
The amount of printed fiat currency flooding the market created the immediate wanted effect, the economy jumpstart that put everybody to work and reignited the economic machinery, the unemployment started to go down, the inflation ticked up, still within range, the price of gold ticked up, the price of oil started to recover, also within range. However we witnessed shortly after that the inflation was not stabilizing, we witnessed the traffic jam at the ports of entry to the United States, lines and lines of cargo ships waiting to unload at the ports of entry, stuck there just idling. The news blamed the Evergreen ship that blocked the Suez Canal, and affected the distribution lines, but the truth was an excessive demand of products from the Pacific producers that overwhelmed the existing port infrastructure. This was the root reason that affected the production lines in the US and contributed to a galloping inflation. Also, during the recovery cycle, let's remember that one commodity in high demand is oil, since the world moves on it. We saw unprecedented gas prices at the pump. Presidents don't have the power to increase or decrease the prices of gas, that is pure supply/demand, but they can be blamed for increases or take the credit for decreases. In a high demand environment, oil goes along the demand cycle, that is why in a recovery environment the oil prices go higher. Let's remember in the 70's during the stagflation period oil was a highly valued commodity and people were making large lines to load gas. The prices were upticking fast and the media blamed the arab world for it, but it was mere propaganda, what really happened it was just an economy running freely on cash and jacking up the prices.
The Trump administration was at the peak of the economic cycle that started in 2009, with low inflation, full employment, low gas prices. After the pandemic the variables changed, the economy went to a sudden halt world wide, and in a desperate attempt to keep the presidency the administration authorized the humongous cash flow in an attempt to prevent the negative effects of the economy to affect the election. At the end Trump lost the election. The economy continued its extremely fast paced recovery path and it overshoot. The Fed chairman was purposely in "Denial" regarding inflation, neglecting it and calling it "transitory", which was more of a Greenspan "laissez faire" economic policy, let the wild animals in their "irrational exuberance" take over and later on we'll pick up the pieces and start the recovery process. This is how we got here now.

Where do we go from here?, that is an interesting question, the flood of cash should have been made in a way that there was a recovery but not a rampant inflation, however this would have taken longer and the previous administration was not willing to wait. We have an amount of cash that the economy hasn't been able to absorb. Money is supported basically by the productivity, the working force, the commercial transactions, but there must be a correspondence so the economic variables are kept in check. The GDP vs the M1 is still at an outstanding level. The inflation is heading to the 2-2.5% goal, we're still at full employment, which basically puts us in what the fed have been calling a "soft landing". Will it be?? I suppose initially it will, but we risk facing the same scenario that happened during the stagflation in the 70's, Paul Volcker had a big dilemma, he increased the interest rates, but the inflation was completely out of control, people noticed they could buy an asset and basically turn around and sell it at a higher price, and they still found a buyer. Houses were on the rise, the agriculture also participated of the inflation benefits, farmers could buy a tractor, use it and resell it at a higher price. People in New York City were waiting in line before the jewelries opened so they could buy gold, and sell it later at a higher price. When Volcker decreased the interest rates after the message he sent was of stability and it backfired and inflation was reignited.

Taking a look at the SPX in the long run, we see there is a negative momentum divergence forming after it reached the All Time High (ATH). The indicators signal a downturn, that could possibly happen after the interest rates reach its pivot, the inflation is at the Fed Goals, unemployment goes beyond the full employment level and the economy shows signs of stalling.
Bubbles happen all the time, we enjoy the ride until they burst. We're in a new bubble, the Cash Bubble. The cash should be enough to allow the economy to support it having a healthy inflation level of 2%, as defined by the Fed targets. If there is too much cash and the economy is not able to support it, it will dilute automatically until the economy growth catches up. For decades the ratio of M1 to GDP has been between 9% and 18% as we can see in the chart. After the cash flood it peaked to 85% and currently it is at 68%. I don't think the problem is far from over, even if we reach the 2% inflation target. The challenge for the Fed now is to keep the interest rates low for longer without stalling the economy. It is rumored that the Fed will pause the interest rate hike for their September FOMC meeting. It is expected considering the recent increases have been in the 1/4 of a point followed by a pause. If the pause is prolonged, the inflation reaches its 2-2.5% target and the unemployment is kept within the 4-5% range then the fed can call it a "Soft Landing" up to this point which could be a telegraphed signal to start reducing the interest rates, and the financial market may anticipate this pivot to create a bear market and shake the tree to dislocate and reallocate assets at a discount using all the big cash flood out there. Next year is a presidential election year, and not making it a priority has happened before. During the Volcker's period, he didn't mind pulling the rug on Carter. The Fed does what it has to do.

"What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world."
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

Patterns repeat because human nature hasn't changed for thousands of years.
~ Jesse Livermore.


Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country.
William Greider. January, 1989

How the economic machinery works. by Ray Dalio.

Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order by Ray Dalio.


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