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December 15, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 24

Case of the 0% junk-bond handle

Devoted to the observation of interest rates, this publication thought it had seen it all. It had not.

Income deficit

Animal spirits, we have. Employment, ditto. But interest income? Where the conservative saver turn for yield in a time of rising money-market rates.

Unhacked, unforked, unloved

If your best forecasts are the ones you are almost too ashamed to utter, this one is a guaranteed winner.

Epitome of the cycle

Every financial epoch has its avatar. For this epoch, we nominate a certain mammoth, leveraged, complex and speculative business a half world away. “The smartest guy in the room.”

Anyone for last year’s forecast?

What happens next year when President Xi has no one to impress?

December 1, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 23

Odds-on favorites finish last

Variations on the themes of "Goldilocks" and "rational exuberance" are the favored story lines for 2018. How might these cheerful narratives be confounded? Let us count the ways, starting with interest rates. What won't happen is what most people expect to happen (if that's clear).

Trigger points

The Third World branch of the everything bull market of 2017 hangs on the words of the volatile Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Bees to honey

The siren song of sensibly free money in the euro-denominated bond market tickles corporate eardrums all the way across the Atlantic.

Balance of power

Mr. Market smiles on leveraged food makers, scowls at their customers, the grocers. Could the opinionated gentleman have it backwards?

November 17, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 22

Interest rates for the long run

The oldest central bank is out with the longest continuous series of sovereign bond yields. Eight centuries of data prove that the times in which we live are more than interesting. Financially speaking, they are unique.

Changes in key interest rates

Changes in key interest rates since the early July 2016 lows.

About that dividend

The halving of General Electric Co.'s once-sacred dividend surprised few longtime Grant's readers. Paying out more than you operationally take in is more than a GE problem – more, in fact, than an American problem.

Back at you, Vietnam

America, like Vietnam, is "doing very, very well."

About this dividend

Financial leverage, bespoke accounting, a problematic dividend and more: the REIT in the Grant's crosshairs is as contemporary as taking a knee.

Founder's regret

Bitcoin, down by 29% and then up by 23% in a flash, is not so much a store of value as a source of excitement. "I find it so easy to lose money in situations I understand so much better."

Upholster your portfolio

All about a growing class of bonds that features high coupons and early call dates. How a "yield-to-worst" of minus 45 basis points turned into an annualized return of 8.8%.

The mirror image of 15%

A cyclical bookend to the once-shunned, long-dated Treasurys of 1981. Regardless of what central bankers say, interest rates are what they do, and rates are going up.

November 3, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 21

The Fed's selling. You're buying.

Who will step in to absorb the supply that looms with the Fed's pending pivot from helping the market to hindering it? Look no further than "Agg"-tracking bond mutual funds. Falling rates, lengthening durations, deepening complacency: "These are very strange days, indeed."

Not the FANGs

In this flyaway stock market, some sectors, still, are positively reviled. Unusual is a group in which the average price is down 90% from the peak and in which the average discount to replacement value is pushing 60%. Of babies and bath water.

Dog of the Dow

A 20-year compendium of a journalistic crusade against the most storied name in corporate America.

Attention, creditors!

Beware of the Toys 'R' Us effect.

Pay Me, Plc.

Debt begets debt, which begets defaults. Defaults beget debt collectors, which begets the debt (and the equity) of the debt collectors themselves. Behold the story of humanity in markets.

Making America grow again

No law says that fat years must follow the lean ones. Consider, still, the myriad green shoots.

How GE came to grief: a 20-year Grant's compendium

Grant's and GE go back a long way together.

October 20, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 20

Attack of the killer BBBs

Tomorrow’s fallen angels come thick and fast in the corporate bond market. Not quite junk, barely investment grade, is the flavor of the cycle. Creditors may be senior claimants in the capital structure, but they don’t stand at the head of the queue for corporate emoluments. Marking the wise words of Graham and Dodd.

Bridgewater correction

In which we set the record straight.

Sun shines

With respect to the shares of business-development companies—dividend-paying, non-bank providers of credit to leveraged corporations—Mr. Market seems to smell a rat. A shining light on a happy outlier in this time of disenchantment.

Sickness in health

"It's very interesting," James Chanos told the Grant's assembled... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

Risk slumbers

"Volatility does not equal risk," Frank Brosens reminded the Grant's audience... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

Mr. Free Speech

"The Fight Is Real and the Cause Is Mighty" was what Marc Cohodes called his talk... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

Call it 'unmanaged'

Let's be done with the false dichotomy between "short-termist vs. long-termist," Paul Singer urged the Grant's audience. (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

Euphoria soon

Your editor, in conversation with Alan Greenspan. (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

'Japan is different'

"It took us 224 years to get to $10 trillion in debt," said Keith Anderson, referring to the gross public debt of the United States... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

'I'll tell you when'

First, Ed Hyman ticked off the immediate risks... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

Fees flop

The long-serving chairman of Protégé Partners, LLC, Jeffrey Tarrant has spent his career identifying tomorrow's investment stars... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

'Capacity to suffer'

Paula Volent, introduced the topic of debt into the panel discussion on endowment investing at the Grant's Fall Conference... (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

'Very, very different'

Jeremy Grantham debates Jim Grant. (GRANT'S CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHT)

FOMO alert!

The rapid rise in all things crypto – bitcoin is up by 31% in the first 17 days of October – is spreading that most powerful human emotion.

October 6, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 19

The face on the Wall Street milk carton

At major market inflection points, someone is revealed to have zigged when he should have zagged. Who might that someone be when today's credit-enhanced, central-bank infused, interest-rate-inflated updraft in asset prices runs its course?

See here, Mr. Buffett

Other bears can speak for themselves. As for us, we are not short the Declaration of Independence, the collected works of Mark Twain or blueberry pie. Our stock in trade is financial eyesores.

Preferred income

Now that the Fed's massive iceberg of a balance sheet is starting to melt, the search for yield becomes even more interesting. A kind word for a particular kind of options-laden preferred.

Past, present and future

Though world business activity is on the hop, the world's central banks create new credit as if they spied a recession. An American inflection point?

September 22, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 18

Meet the Carrefour S.A. senior unsecured 1-3/4s of 2022

The central banks of the West, rattling their interest rates, are hinting at a big change. Whither bond prices?

Bonds 'R' Us

Financial repression doesn't make us smarter.

Barrel roll

Dubious governance, environmental depredation, a stretched valuation and a vulnerable dividend – it's the very stock not to own, and the very dividend yield on which not to depend, on the eve of a recession.

'It's chaos'

Now that the running of the bears is over or ending, Mr. F. can resume the laborious business of running a leveraged retailer in the digital age.

Down the drain

Wild day-to-day gyrations aren't supposed to happen in respectable markets. Bitcoin – aspirationally a respectable world currency – is an exception.

September 8, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 17

Yanking the tablecloth slowly

The ocular evidence is still to come, but official predictions are in. Though quantitative easing was bullish, quantitative tightening will not be bearish.

Crypto 36,000

Craft currencies, fiat money, craft beer and gold bullion – argument holds no power against the locomotive force of a speculative mania.

For the contrary

The utility component of the S&P 500 is up, the energy component of the S&P is down. For your consideration: cheap and marginalized plays on a reversal of fortune.

Alpine money machine

Since July 19, shares of the Swiss National Bank have jumped by 57% in U.S. dollar terms. A clue as to what put them in orbit.

August 11, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 16

Concerning Mark Zuckerberg

Like Alexander the Great, the Facebook CEO has only one world to conquer. Then, again, unlike Alexander's world, Zuckerberg's market is both expandable and contractible. A meaningful community of the rich and liquid?

While algos slept

When low-vol turned high-vol for a certain sleepy dividend payer. Avalanche warning for the S&P 500.

'Dry powder'

What the staff of CalSTRS can learn from a free web download.

In your mind

Money of the mind is the fastest-growing monetary aggregate on Earth.

Hamptons confidential

Does Gary Cohn want to hibernate for two months at a time?

'A masterly manipulation'

"And still the applications are pouring in!"

Credit Creation • Cause & Effect

July 28, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 15

Seven singularities

An unzestful, low-volume and low-volatility affair, the post-crisis bull market seems to belong on a psychiatrist’s couch. We herein catalogue its singularities with a view to answering the always pertinent question: What to do with money besides enjoy it?


Grant’s keeps wondering, What does money have to do with it?

À la Modi

These pages remain bullish on the nation whose prime minister is – as they say in Mumbai – ever “Modi-fying” and modernizing.

Everyone loves Europe

When the investors pile into one side of a trade, markets tend to list to the other side.

Sprott Asset Management USA, Inc. - July 2017

In his July “Strategy Report,” Trey Reik, senior portfolio manager at Sprott Asset Management USA, considers questions from the gold guy’s point of view. His essay—a first-class exploration of the monetary aspects of the crypto-boom...

July 14, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 14

Fifty years in Wall Street

Markets are about the future, and the future is about change. Let’s see what the light of a half-century’s worth of birthday candles can shed on the past, the present and – if possible – the future.

Auction ear

Just how far is Detroit willing to go to support used-vehicle prices?

Viscous black yields

The honor of calling the bottom in oil we leave to others. Herewith a trio of picks which can thrive with or without a new bull market in crude.

A box unticked

It almost goes without saying that risk pops out of the place where you aren’t looking. What is the eastern azure hiding now?

Prelude to tumult

Low volatility is self-perpetuating---until one day when it isn’t.

June 30, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 13

Fearlessly facing the new abnormal

There's no going back to 2007, the chair might as well have announced.

Rates über alles

It's an interest-rate-centric world, even without real interest rates.

'A dangerous situation'

In the absence of price discovery, "we really don't know the price of credit," says the CEO of Deutsche Bank. Suggestions, Mario Draghi?

Reaching for customers

A certain subprime-lender-cum-retailer is front and center in this exploration of the mores of late-cycle American credit. How many checks can a mother write?

Food fight joined

Yes, we do know many other tickers besides this somewhat familiar one, though few whose share price is so evidently out of sync with the fast-breaking news.

Happy birthday, un-boom

Friday marks the eighth anniversary of the end of the Great Recession – and the start of a non-great expansion. Then, again, it's boomed in its way.

New rate on the block

Now all that remains is the work of transitioning $150 trillion or so financial contracts.

June 16, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 12

The apostasy of Jeremy Grantham

The oracle of mean reversion, anatomist of bubbles and prophet of climate change has changed his mind. Should we change ours, too?

'Further research' required

The whys and wherefores of radical monetary intervention as explained by a central banker to an audience consisting (evidently) of school children. Something lost in translation, we hope?

At donuts drawn

"False allegations," "misinformation" and a rocket fired by a Toronto law firm. It seems that someone spoke without permission to a certain financial analyst.

Two hips joined

With news of another positive print in GDP growth, the long-running Australian economic expansion sets a new world record for the greatest streak of unchecked prosperity in modern times. How a lucky country shackled itself to an unlucky one.

Heavy lifting in store

In the past three months, foreign central banks have resumed their purchase of Treasurys. Another impediment to a higher Fed funds rate and a steeper Treasury yield curve.

June 2, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 11

Rumblings from the great white north

What are the chances of Warren Buffett being wrong?

Ever higher

Proverbial--like "Bank of United States" or "Hindenburg"--will become the name of a certain encumbered Far Eastern property developer.

The Fed taketh away

President Trump's "double whammy."

Crisis without value

A shipwreck ought to be valued like a shipwreck.

To forgive is divine

How to square a strong jobs market and improving credit scores with a rise in bad debt?

The new J Capital report

A report from J Capital Research...

May 19, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 10

'I own tulips at 40 cents a bulb'

Bitcoin is on fire, other digital currencies are likewise making new highs and ICOs--initial coin offerings--are supplanting, in some small degree, the dearth of equity IPOs. Still, the question lingers: What's the wampum good for?

Bank sells dresses

Shrinkage is the corporate theme. In store count, share count and revenue count, less is the new more. In the absence of growth, apply more debt.

'No More Champagne'

There are innumerable books on how to manage your money. Here might be the best book on how to mismanage it.

Chinese Wallpaper

In China, too, April is the cruelest month.

Loaded for bear

Take every known principle of long-term investment success, negate those precepts and multiply the negative times leverage. Welcome to the world of the ultra-funds.

The story changed

A land of opportunity--for value investors, that is--loses its allure.

Monetary confidence meter

A short survey of the world's listed central banks. How many can you name?

May 5, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 09

Portfolio insurance of the 21st Century

As the economist famously said, stability breeds instability. Today's peace and quiet is inducing a kind of mass unconscious time migration back to 1987. We write to expose the newer strategies that mimic the portfolio insurance of yesteryear.

Spoiler alert

A massively oversubscribed, covenant-spare, yield-sparse, single-B-rated eurobond deal raises the question: Are you pleased with yourself now, Mario Draghi?

In the Bezos bullseye

The price revolution rages in the office and on the factory floor as well as in the home. Competition hots up, profit margins flatten while Mr. Market---Mr. Market, are you paying attention?

Blue-sky catastrophe

Serenity in the weather eerily mirrors serenity in the VIX. Your invitation to lever up in certain insurance-related securities? Beware of the man who insists, "Yes!"

Not for widows and orphans

There's one bank, at least, that can make money just by printing the stuff.

April 21, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 08

Sacred cows in the road

In trying to perfect the driverless car, Silicon Valley has invented an exciting new children’s game: “Throw the ball and watch the car stop.” No easy workaround for the problem of “deferential paralysis.” Hey, Uber: You’ll be paying the drivers for years to come.

Anyway, it’s bullish

America’s largest bank needs a copy editor.

Bots buy beans

Once upon a time, investors used machines. Nowadays, machines use investors. Herewith a speculation on the consequences of auto-investing, along with a revisit to a known Grant’s pick-not-to-click.

Happy Tax Day

Again, how many rate rises are on tap this year?

Long Shots, Inc.

Framed by a presidential musing, some deep out-of-the-money options on a change in the monetary climate. “I do like a low interest-rate policy, I must be honest with you.”

What could go wrong?

The Fed will start shrinking its balance sheet in 2017. Risk of collateral damage to toppy bond and stock markets? Put it out of your mind, counsel the mandarins.

April 7, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 07

Not much to look at

Symbol is substance at the Federal Reserve. Poring through its new financials, an analyst may wonder, "Is it broke?"

Cleanest dirty shirts

Small, illiquid and hairy are the opportunities that remain in junk bonds after an eight-year visitation of the yield-munching locusts.

Tightness on tap

What SpaceKnow can't see from the high heavens is the continued disruption of a certain short-term funding market. Why the volcano smokes.

Call a tow

Too many used cars spell slower sales of new cars. February brings traffic jams in dealer lots to rival the congestion last seen in 2009.

Financier Chris Christie

An opportunity to reflect on what makes the municipal market so confoundedly phlegmatic.

Derivatives become the underlying

The constant bid from passive investors delivered a remarkable calm in the just-ended quarter. Stormy weather to follow.

March 24, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 06

Price war for Warren Buffett

“There are just way too many assets chasing the sales,” says a man as wise—in this particular instance—as the Sage of Omaha himself. Ultra-low interest rates, high price/earnings ratios and credit markets fitted out with red carpets share the blame. No profits? No problem.

Excess lingers long

“The hedge fund isn’t an asset class. It is a compensation scheme.” It became an over-compensation scheme. Tracing the rise and ongoing pratfall of the modern-day hedge fund.

‘Yes, but’ they said

Bullishness dominated, though they did not quite monopolize, the day’s proceedings. A vision of 20 years on the investment equivalent of an exercise bicycle.

$1 billion a day

“Indexing doesn’t need any help. It is growing at an astonishing rate and, for someone who never intended to build a colossus, a kind of frightening rate.”

Rejoice, mediocrities!

Where in life can a sub-par performer achieve average results with a light tap on a computer key? Investment indexation, attested a preeminent active investor, is “incredible.”

The Age of Trump

The text of your editor’s early-morning remarks: “The Age of Trump will go down as the Age of the Consequences of Radical Monetary Policy.”

Whence D. Trump?

A long and a short for a Trump Market where “what has worked so well in investing will fade or stop working.”

Four letters unspoken

The word “gold” went unmentioned at the Plaza, except in the context of an unassailable rule for living: “Never stand in line to buy an asset.”

Last to first

Yes, buying low and selling high is hard to do, but there are ways. “Trailing three-year performance is very predictive.”

The great escape

To close the era of extraordinary monetary policy, the Federal Reserve must open its mind. “There is no wealth effect, only a wealth illusion.”

Narendra Reagan

A pair of stocks in a country poised on the brink of capitalist emergence.

Mentioned at the Plaza

Other investment ideas presented by our speakers at the Spring 2017 Grant’s conference.

Where’s that boom?

While the S&P 500 is near an all-time high, the much-vaunted wealth effect does not seem to be working its magic.

Undoing Extraordinary Monetary Policy

Remarks of Peter R. Fisher Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth *** Grant’s Interest Rate Observer Spring 2017 Conference New York, New York *** March 15, 2017

March 10, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 05

Scraping up inflation

American consumer prices registered a year-over-year rise of 3.6% in February, according to the Web-scraping inflation detectives of the Billion Prices Project. More inflation is what the central bankers say they want. Cue the Disney cartoon classic, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Risk-parity screenshot

Never--at least not since the time of the Napoleonic Wars--has the bond market served up anything like the gains that risk-parity portfolios have earned these recent decades. Is it so farfetched that something new and different awaits us all?

You only get par

Take a plunging VIX and a resurgent S&P. Add tight credit spreads, rock-bottom sovereign yields and a world-wide income famine. Voila: today's not so high-yield bond market. The worst of all fixed-income worlds.

Laddered oil play

Everyone is bullish on oil, though not so bullish as to lift the valuations of drillers whose survival depends on a $60 crude price. Nigeria on the cheap, the Arctic for a pittance. Widows and orphans, please avert your eyes.

Many happy returns

Whom to thank for the magnificent returns in the post-2009 stock market? We furnish a mailing address.

On the other hand, FOMC

A higher funds rate is all but in the books. What the central bankers may regret.

February 24, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 04

All about the headquarters

A pair of big, profitless, stockholder-defying American companies are building shiny new glass corporate offices with a common theme of sunshine. What the "fake moon landing guys" are demanding from Steve Mnuchin.

Disabled vehicles

For long-range worry, imagine a Detroit that produces not 17 million new vehicles a year but three or four million (who needs a car in the Age of Autonomy?). For a timelier set of concerns, observe today's falling used-car prices, decaying credit metrics and at-risk auto lease market.

White flag at Fortress

Last week, the first private alternative asset manager to go public became the first public alternative asset manager to declare its intention to go private--at less than one-half the 2007 IPO price. Could the business model use a tweak?

How long's 'secular'?

Only 43% of money managers believe in a future of persistently low growth and chronically droopy prices, just half as many as the year before. What ever happened to long-term investing?

So long for now

A favorite Grant's income play has progressed from reasonably cheap to fully valued. While there are better examples of excess in the beautiful Trump stock market, "fully valued" is the amber light of investment.

Making better facts

The Trump administration is casting a creative eye on more than the trade data. Not so easily amendable is the flattening trend in bank lending and Federal Reserve credit.

February 10, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 03

Bankers' White House koffee klatch

In the 91st month of a business expansion comes a push to liberate the banks to lend and their customers to borrow. A speculation on the consequences of the possible liberation of $2 trillion. "Larry did a great job for me. He managed a lot of my money."

Spin cycle

Ingenious humans can produce better products at lower prices. They can likewise transform low GAAP earnings into high non-GAAP earnings. Such intellects make their home at a certain iconic American manufacturer. But whither free cash flow?

When tongues lashed

Nowadays, Democrats and Republicans seem to hurl insults rather than arguments. Then, again, the delicate ears of the 21st-century partisans were never exposed to the blistering rhetoric of William Darrah Kelley (R., Pa.).

Mine disaster

We return to a low-cost, option-laden play on the mismanagement of the world's monetary system. So much potential, yet – in the moment – such disappointment. A speculation on lemonade.

Bid wanted, eh?

Credit constriction in China ripples far and even, even to the northern fringe of NAFTA-land.

January 27, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 02

‘DJT’ on the New York Stock Exchange

President Trump resembles a heavily shorted common stock. The analysts despise the ticker and the company it stands for, yet the shares go up and up. Rallying, too, are the battered shares of sea-going shippers, the administration’s anti-trade agenda notwithstanding. A theory of unscripted events.

Onward and upward

When you see colleague Evan Lorenz at the March 15 Grant’s Conference, kindly address him by his new title: Deputy Editor.

REIT numero uno

“Investors Bolt Mexico as Peso Enters Free Fall,” a Wall Street Journal headline of Jan. 11, is our journalistic call to arms, a 55.9% too-cheap peso our value observation. On a certain developing opportunity behind the projected Trumpian wall.

Not Joseph Schumpeter

Should a disrupting enterprise be more efficient than its targeted disruptees? Spotlight on the consequences of uber-cheap capital.

Changing places

In which we journalistically cover one short-sale candidate, propose another in its place. Since when did the technology industry become cycle-free?

Rah, rah, debt!

Now that the economic expansion is passing the 91-month pole, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York urges Mr. and Mrs. America to borrow more money against the collateral of their home equity. Live and don’t learn.

January 13, 2017, Vol. 35, No. 01

2017 in money -- a sneak preview

A vision of the next tumultuous 12 months in 140 characters or less. For Janet Yellen and Jared Kushner there’s good news, bad news—and good news all over again.

Sell a non sequitur

The asset-allocation votes are in for 2017, and the results are confounding. You can defend one big idea or the other big idea, but hardly both at once. What coal owes to Chinese speculators.

Horrible to bad

In investing, timing is said to be everything. In value investing in far-away places, solvency—in fact—is everything. Kind words for a pariah.

Luther the disrupter

Cometh the man (or the woman), cometh the hour. No worldwide web required.

Mushroom cloud parts

Returning to the scene of an error in judgment, we are bullish all over again. Why a lift is in store for the Earth’s heaviest naturally occurring element.

Smiling Contest

Rages a new bull market in equanimity.

Credit Creation • Cause & Effect

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