We can’t predict the future – if it was actually possible fortune tellers would all win the lottery. They don’t, we can’t, and we aren’t going to try. However, this doesn’t stop the annual parade of Wall Street analysts from pegging 12-month price targets on the S&P 500 as if there was an actual science behind what is nothing more than a “WAG.” (Wild Ass Guess). In reality, all we can do is analyze what has happened in the past, weed through the noise of the present and try to discern the possible outcomes of the future.
The biggest single problem with Wall Street, both today and in the past, is the consistent disregard of the possibilities for unexpected, random events. In a 2010 study, by the McKinsey Group, they found that analysts have been persistently overly optimistic for 25 years. During the 25-year time frame, Wall Street analysts pegged earnings growth at 10-12% a year when in reality earnings grew at 6% which, as we have discussed in the past, is the growth rate of the economy.
Ed Yardeni published the two following charts which shows that analysts are always overly optimistic in their estimates.
Yields on the 10-year Treasury are up 50 basis points (bps, or 0.50%) since the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016 and nearly 100 bps from the July lows, as bonds sold off. This marks the fastest rise since the so-called “taper tantrum” in 2013, when expectations of an increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve triggered a bond selloff.
Whether the new administration’s policies lead to faster economic real growth (after inflation) is an open question. But they are almost certain to lead to faster nominal growth, which includes inflation. This is important because over the long term it is nominal growth that drives rates. Going back to 1962, nominal growth has explained roughly 35% of the variation in U.S. 10-year Treasury yields (see the accompanying chart). Roughly speaking, 10-year yields increase 50 bps for every one percentage point increase in nominal growth.
01. Lehman Brothers Bankruptcy
- Bankruptcy Date: 09/15/2008
- Assets: $691 billion
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was a global financial-services firm which, until declaring bankruptcy in 2008, participated in business in investment banking, equity and fixed-income sales, research and trading, investment management, private equity, and private banking. It was a primary dealer in the U.S. Treasury securities market.
Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 15, 2008. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is the largest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history with Lehman holding over $600 billion in assets. According to Bloomberg, reports filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) on September 16 indicated that J.P. Morgan provided Lehman Brothers with a total of $138 billion dollars in “Federal Reserve-backed advances.” The cash-advances by JPMorgan Chase were repaid by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for $87 billion on September 15 and $51 billion on September 16.
It was well known that Lehman, an Alabama cotton trader turned banking behemoth, was the biggest bankruptcy in US history. But nobody anticipated quite what would follow – a week that has become known on Wall Street as the great panic of 2008.
Assets under management by the world’s 500 biggest managers totaled $76.7 trillion at the end of 2015, down by 1.7% from a year earlier. North American firms’ assets decreased by 1.1% to $44 trillion, those managed by European firms, including managers in the U.K., fell by 3.3% to $25 trillion, and assets of Asian managers and rest of the world were down by 4% to $3.6 trillion. Only Japanese managers enjoyed an increase in assets last year, up 3.1% to $4 trillion.
Willis Towers Watson conducted the research in conjunction with Pensions & Investments. According to the study, the 78.3% of total assets that were actively managed declined by 2.8% in 2015, while passively managed assets fell by 5.5%. In 2014, passive assets grew by 28.1%. Traditional asset classes, which held the lion’s share of total assets last year, decreased by 7.1%. Equity accounted for 45.4% of the total 78.2%, and fixed income 32.8%.
Top 20 Managers
The study showed the top 20 managers’ share of total assets increased to 41.9% in 2015 from 41.6% even as their assets fell from $32.5 trillion to $32.1 trillion. Assets of the bottom 250 managers fell to 5.8% from 6% in 2014, and stood at $4.4 trillion. Twelve U.S. managers and eight based in Europe made up the top 20 list. The highest-ranking Japanese manager was Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings, in the 33rd spot. Independent asset managers held nine of the top 20 spots, followed by banks with eight and insurers with three. Developing country managers’ share of total assets fell from 3.4% in 2014 to 3.2% last year, with assets under management amounting to some $2.5 trillion.
Following are the world top 20 largest asset managers as of the end of 2015, according to the report.
20. Northern Trust Asset Management, U.S.: $875 billion Read more »
The world is awash with $152 trillion dollars of debt, according to the IMF, an all-time high which sits at more than double the balance at the start of this century. This debt mountain, as of 2015, represents 225 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), up from 200 percent in 2002 and signifies the extent to which increases in borrowing have outpaced economic growth during the period. While the Washington D.C.-based organization emphasized that there is no exact science to knowing how much debt is too much, it has urged governments in certain countries to tackle excessive private debt levels.
How much money exists in the world? Strangely enough, there are multiple answers to this question, and the amount of money that exists changes depending on how we define it. The more abstract definition of money we use, the higher the number is. In this data visualization of the world’s total money supply, we wanted to not only compare the different definitions of money, but to also show powerful context for this information. That’s why we’ve also added in recognizable benchmarks such as the wealth of the richest people in the world, the market capitalizations of the largest publicly-traded companies, the value of all stock markets, and the total of all global debt.
The end result is a hierarchy of information that ranges from some of the smallest markets (Bitcoin = $5 billion, Silver above-ground stock = $14 billion) to the world’s largest markets (Derivatives on a notional contract basis = somewhere in the range of $630 trillion to $1.2 quadrillion). In between those benchmarks is the total of the world’s money, depending on how it is defined. This includes the global supply of all coinage and banknotes ($5 trillion), the above-ground gold supply ($7.8 trillion), the narrow money supply ($28.6 trillion), and the broad money supply ($80.9 trillion). All figures are in the equivalent of US dollars.
The UN calculates that there are more than 7 billion living humans on Earth, yet 200 years ago we numbered less than 1 billion. Recent estimates suggest that 6.5 percent of all people ever born are alive right now. This is the most conspicuous fact about world population growth: for thousands of years, population grew only slowly, but in recent centuries it has jumped dramatically. Between 1900 and 2000 the increase in world population was three times greater than the entire previous history of humanity– an increase from 1.5 to 6.1 billion in just 100 years.
A picture of world population in the very long-run fits the pattern of exponential growth (when a population grows exponentially the rate of growth is proportional to the size of the population). Yet an empirical observation of how growth rates have developed in the course of the last century reveals that this pattern no longer holds. The annual rate of population growth has recently been going down. A long historical period of accelerated growth has thus come to an end; the annual world population growth rate peaked in 1962, at around 2.1%, and has come down to almost half since.
Based on these observations, world history can be divided into three periods marked by distinct trends in population growth. The first period (pre-modernity) was a very long age of very slow population growth. The second period, beginning with the onset of modernity (with rising standards of living and improving health) and lasting until 1962, had an increasing rate of growth. Now that period is over, and the third part of the story has begun; the population growth rate is falling and will likely continue to fall, leading to an end of growth towards the end of this century.
In order to study how the world population changes over time it is useful to focus on the rate of change (rather than just levels). The following visualization presents the annual population growth rate, superimposed on the total world population, for the period 1750-2010 (plus projections up to 2100). This is the period in history when population growth changed most drastically. Before 1800 the world population growth rate never exceeded 0.5%, while in the course of the first fifty years of the 20th century it went from 0.8% to 2.1% – the highest annual growth rate in history, recorded in 1962. After this point, it has been systematically going down with projections estimating an annual rate of growth of 0.06% for 2100. Since the rate of growth corresponds to the slope of the line tracing the total world population over time, this means that under these projections we should expect an inflection in growth around the year 2100. In other words, under the assumption that the population growth rate will continue falling more or less at the current pace, population will stop growing before the end of this century.
“Individual investors who hold common stocks directly pay a tremendous performance penalty for active trading. Of 66,465 households with accounts at a large discount broker during 1991 to 1996, those that trade most earn an annual return of 11.4 percent, while the market returns 17.9 percent. The average household earns an annual return of 16.4 percent, tilts its common stock investment toward high-beta, small, value stocks, and turns over 75 percent of its portfolio annually. Overconfidence can explain high trading levels and the resulting poor performance of individual investors. Our central message is that trading is hazardous to your wealth.
The white bar represents the net annualized geometric mean return for February 1991 through January 1997 for individual investor quintiles based on monthly turnover, the average individual investor, and the S&P 500. Read more »