More Scary Numbers

By: John Rubino | Mon, Apr 6, 2015
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The list of things hitting cyclical peaks gets longer every day. Besides the nominal amounts (debt, derivatives, money supply) that are now at all-time highs, some "as a share of GDP" indicators are starting to say similar, very scary things:


Corporate profits

In a world of competition for scarce resources, corporations face some natural limits on how much they can earn. For one thing, if business is too profitable it attracts a deluge of new entrants who drive down margins -- and make stupid investments that screw things up for everyone -- thus causing a broad-based recession that craters corporate profits.

And when it's perceived that companies are taking too much (as when CEO salaries and executive stock options become obscenely generous compared to worker salaries), the other players, including government and labor, start grabbing what they see as their fair share. That's happening now with the higher minimum wage movement and government attempts to close offshore tax loopholes, among other things.

So corporate profits tend to be cyclical, rising as a share of GDP in good times and then plunging during recessions. The chart below has this number at a new record high. In other words, every time it has been anywhere close to today's level the result has been a nasty mean reversion.

Corporate profits percent GDP


Equities market value

If corporate profits are way up it makes sense that stock prices would be too. And they are: The value of US equities as a percentage of GDP is at the second highest level ever, below only the dot-com bubble peak. Again, not the kind of number that has in the past preceded good times.

Equities market cap percent GDP


Total securities valuation

But equities are only one part of the financial securities complex. Bonds are way up lately, which should also skew the data a bit. As Doug Noland put it in a recent Credit Bubble Bulletin:

"Total Securities" as a percentage of GDP is helpful for Bubble Analysis. After beginning the nineties at 173% of GDP, "Total Securities" ended the Bubble year 1999 at an unprecedented 341%. The bursting "tech" Bubble saw this ratio decline to 267% to end 2002. Mortgage finance Bubble reflation then pumped this ratio to a record 360% by the end of 2007. The Bubble burst and "Total Securities" ended 2008 at 297%. Six years of incredible monetary inflation had Total Securities ending 2014 at a record 417% of GDP.

Here's a chart built from Noland's figures showing the peaks and valleys of the past few cycles, culminating in today's all-time high:

Securities percent of gdp

The consistency of these trends implies that either this time is very, very different or a cyclical peak is close at hand.

 


 

John Rubino

Author: John Rubino

John Rubino
DollarCollapse.com

John Rubino

John Rubino edits DollarCollapse.com and has authored or co-authored five books, including The Money Bubble: What To Do Before It Pops, Clean Money: Picking Winners in the Green Tech Boom, The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It, and How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust. After earning a Finance MBA from New York University, he spent the 1980s on Wall Street, as a currency trader, equity analyst and junk bond analyst. During the 1990s he was a featured columnist with TheStreet.com and a frequent contributor to Individual Investor, Online Investor, and Consumers Digest, among many other publications. He now writes for CFA Magazine.

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