A couple of weeks ago I proposed the idea that the Fed’s efforts to stimulate a wealth effect in recent years could now be at risk of a reversal. There are growing signs that the ultra-wealthy in both Silicon Valley and on Wall Street are beginning to feel a bit of a pinch on their massive pocketbooks.
Maybe the best sign I’ve seen recently is in a new bond issue from Spotify. The company decided to issue debt rather than equity in order to avoid a down round that would be discouraging to the company’s equity investors. However, the terms of the deal are so onerous that it’s very possible it may hurt the company’s equity investors even more than a new equity offering would have. I would be hard pressed to find a better anecdotal symbol of the shift we are now seeing in risk appetites toward both startups and corporate debt.
Spotify bond deal is a clear sign of shifting risk appetites in both corp debt and Silicon Valley https://t.co/dYKl3Yjt0u
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 30, 2016
Certainly, Spotify is not alone in seeing pressure on its equity valuation. Most unicorns now find themselves in that unenviable position.
The average unicorn saw its valuation fall > 8% in Q1: https://t.co/ugAJNBbwli ht @MarathonWealth pic.twitter.com/uxKnIO0cLn
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 31, 2016
And their investors have to be feeling a bit less optimistic about their ability to realize their gains as prices begin to reverse and the public market begins to shun them like never before.
IPO failures soar to record high https://t.co/zVIuU12HGT pic.twitter.com/lnseoRdyad
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 31, 2016
This is only reinforcing the cycle of risk aversion in the sector.
Hedge Funds Pull Back in Silicon Valley as IPO Market Atrophies https://t.co/ZO94mtnxBX pic.twitter.com/PHRSmVYDR5
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 25, 2016
Even Google, it seems, is now succumbing to the broad change in sentiment.
Google has fallen out of love with robots and it’s a warning sign to all of its 'moonshots' https://t.co/xn72w4ZaDj pic.twitter.com/ky6kM01V2f
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 21, 2016
As I wrote in the earlier piece, this weakness in Silicon Valley appears to be taking a toll already on the high-end real estate market there. It’s probably only a matter of time before this is reflected in the broader real estate numbers.
Silicon Valley Residents Leave for Greener Grass, Cheaper Housing https://t.co/y1NzI6NoeY #RiseOfRest
— Steve Case (@SteveCase) March 18, 2016
The shut down of the IPO market not only hurts Silicon Valley, it hurts Wall Street, as well. And there’s another force working against these fat cats’ bank accounts: The market for mergers and acquisitions. Between the IPO and M&A markets, investment banking fees look to be hammered recently.
U.S. M&A Deal and Private Equity Activity Continue to Fall in February https://t.co/Jij7rjrx04 pic.twitter.com/Q36au8tEn3
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 22, 2016
In the prior piece, I highlighted the slowing market for high-end homes in the Hamptons as a reflection of this weakness on Wall Street and as a clear risk to the wealth effect. We are now seeing a very similar pattern in the city, as well.
Appetites wane for apartments on "Billionaires Row" in Manhattan https://t.co/YwjpFSK81p pic.twitter.com/AUrGEqGn6a
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) April 1, 2016
This sort of weakness is also showing up in high-end Miami condos that recently sold for as much as $850 per square foot. No longer.
Miami developers, seeing sharp drop in sales, inventory surge, take steps to avoid a ‘bloodbath’https://t.co/kQtxoCAPlQ
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 29, 2016
And that other financial capital across the pond is also starting to see its high-end real estate market begin to weaken in very similar fashion to the Hamptons and Manhattan.
Lenders are "freaking out" and raising loan costs for construction of London's luxury homes https://t.co/7YmZXsMrzF pic.twitter.com/xYMqu0qpcd
— Bloomberg (@business) March 29, 2016
As I wrote last time:
If the Fed’s efforts in recent years were primarily focused on creating a, “wealth effect,” to stimulate the economy, they should be increasingly concerned now to see these growing signs of a reverse, “wealth effect.” Because if the economy does operate from the top down, as this theory proposes, these could be very important leading indicators.
Is the Fed paying attention? I would guess so and this could be one reason why we recently saw one of the most dovish Fed meetings in history.