The U.S. Financial Crisis 2007-2008, The Global Financial Crisis (GFC for short) and the Great Recession 2008-2012 all seem to have become interchangable terms. I recently came across some journal notes I made at the peak of the crazy in 2008. The reason for the note timing was my thought was that we were going through an unprecedented time in financial history that would have clearly have a deleterious effect on the world at large. I had just read some diary excerpts from my great-great-grandmother Henrietta’s diary, written circa 1905-1908, which got me thinking I should get pen to paper in case this page of history was of interest in another 100 years.
4 September 2008
“Ruthless markets continue. Dow < 300, NASD < 65. Merrill Lynch has now taken write-downs equivalent to 25% of all of the money they have made since they came into existence.”
We all had little idea that we were in the relative early innings. The S&P which was at 1217 coming into September 2008 would eventually fall another 45%.
5 September 2008
“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably does not lead to anywhere.”
10 September 2008
“What a week! Sunday the Fed took over Fannie and Freddie Mac. Monday the Dow was up 300. Tuesday Lehman was down 45% and the Dow off 300. No trending markets to report.”
11 September 2008
“9-11 anniversary overshadowed by carnage in the financial markets today. Lehman sub $4 (was $17 on Monday). It does not look good for them.”
15 September 2008
“One of the most dramatic days in the history of the financial markets. Lehman Bros. files for bankruptcy, Ch. 11 late Sunday. Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch for $29 (1.8x book) in an all stock deal. Merrill Lynch closed at $17 on Friday past. Lehman to zero, incl. the pref I bought as a punt (oops). The risk reward was very good.”
17 September 2008
“This is getting comical, if it were not for the massive wealth destruction left in its wake. Last night the Fed took the reins of AIG, replacing management and taking an 80% stake in return for $85bln 2 year bridge loan at Libor + 8.5%. Wow. Yikes. Mommy.”
8 October 2008
“Quite a gap in my notes due to a new level of fear in the global markets. A truly scary time for all. No country or company is being spared here. Very glad to have my health, and to be young (relatively).
28 October 2008
“The smashing of dreams is not over. A wild month with everything cut in 1/2, read down 50%. The only currencies trading up are USD and JPY. USD/CAD from parity to 1.30. Trying to remain positive.”
Fast forward – 17 August 2016
The current relative lack of volatility in the financial markets, masked in large part to the continuing largesse of global central bankers, makes the perilous 2008-2009 lows seem further back in history than the scant 7+ years it has been. The 17-month equity bear market which ran from October 2007 – March 2009 resulted in a near 50% drawdown in the S&P, finally basing at an ominous 666 on March 6, 2009. The return over the ensuing 7.45 years to the present S&P level of 2178 is a 17.25% compounded annual return. Nobody knows where we go from here. The thumb on the scale from central banks makes traditional metrics all but useless in charting the future course. The financial outcome will likely come to be inextricably intertwined with geopolitical outcomes.
NIRP has been a certified global failure. The banks are in triage. Only the Canadian and Australian banks trade > 1.0 book. Both Bank of America and Citi trade < .6x book and they are expensive compared to the European banks which are further behind in their capital raising efforts (DB price to book 0.26x). Global insurers are in the waiting room and feeling ill. A concerted move by the Fed, the ECB and the MoF to 1% would do a lot more to cure the ills of the global markets than to use the little remaining runway they have on the false hope of fighting the ogre of deflation in their theoretically walled nation(s).
Trading based on global interest rate differentials is poppycock as the hedging methodology for global fixed income is 100% clear. FX is ALWAYS hedged in foreign fixed income as the the vol of the fx moves dominate the vol of the underlying bond returns. Those thinking UST are a buy because Bunds or JGB’s are yielding negative need to give their head a shake and look at the empirical evidence.
This relatively recent phenomenon (on a 100 year time line) of allowing the non-profit maximizing players (i.e. central banks) to call the shots for a prolonged period will end in tears for all involved. JCG