January 25, 7:00 pm EST
Yesterday we talked about the commodities bull market and the move underway in natural gas.
That all continued today, thanks in part to a comment by the U.S. Treasury Secretary, saying “obviously a weaker dollar is good for us.” When the dollar goes down, commodities prices tend to go up, since they are largely priced in dollars. As such, commodities were the top performers of the day – beginning to gain more momentum at multi-year highs.
But as we’ve seen from this chart, this recovery in commodities, which has dramatically lagged in the reflation trade, has a long way to go.
While the markets reacted as if Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, was talking down the dollar, the dollar is already in a long-term bear market cycle.
Remember, we looked at this chart (below) of the long-term dollar cycles back in June…
And I said, “if we mark the top of the most recent cycle in early January, this bull cycle has matched the longest cycle in duration (at 8.8 years) and comes in just shy of the long-term average performance of the five complete cycles. The most recent bull cycle added 47%. The average change over a long-term cycle has been 56%. This all argues that the dollar bull cycle is over. And a weaker dollar is ahead. That should go over very well with the Trump administration.”
The dollar is down about 8% since then and is breaking down technically now.
The dollar index is now down 14% in this new bear cycle. And these are the early innings. Based on the dollar cycle, it has a long way to go, and should last for another 5 to 7 years.
So, this dollar outlook is further support for the case for a big run in commodities we’ve been discussing. And as we observed yesterday, in the case of Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the second largest producer of natural gas in the country, the commodities stocks are still extremely underpriced if this scenario for commodities plays out.
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March 13, 2017, 4:15pm EST Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr
This week will be a huge week for markets. Stocks continue to hover around record highs. Rates (the 10 year yield) sit at the highest level in three years.
This snapshot alone suggests a world that continues to believe that pro-growth policies “trump” all of the risks ahead. At the very least, it’s pricing in a world without disruptions. But disruptions look likely.
Here’s a look at stocks as we enter the week. Still in a 45 degree uptrend since the election.
But if we take a longer term look, this trendline looks pretty vulnerable to any surprise.
Let’s take a look at the disruptions risks:
There was a chance that the official execution of Brexit may have come as soon as tomorrow — the UK leaving the European Union by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. That looks unlikely now, but could come in the coming weeks. To this point the Bank of England has done a good job of responding and promoting stability which has led to financial markets pricing in an optimistic outcome.
We have the Fed on Wednesday. They will hike for the third time in the post-financial crisis era. We don’t know at what point higher interest rates, in this environment, might choke off growth that is coming from the fiscal side.
This next chart looks like rates might run to 3% on the 10-year. That would do a number on housing, IF tax reform and an infrastructure spend out of the White House come later than originally anticipated (which is the way it looks).
We also have the Bank of Japan and Bank of England meeting on rates this week. Let’s hope they have a very boring, staying the path, message. That would mean extremely stimulative policies for the foreseeable future 1) in the case of Japan, to continue to promote global liquidity and anchor global yields, and 2) in the case of the UK, to continue to promote stability in the face of uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Keep this in mind: The Bank of Japan’s big QE launch in 2013 is a huge reason the Fed was able to end QE in the first place, and start its path of normalization. The BOJ launched in April of 2013. Bernanke telegraphed “tapering” a month later. The Fed officially ended tapering on October 29, 2014. Stocks fell 10% into that official ending of Fed QE. On October 31, 2014 (two days later), the BOJ surprised the world with bigger, bolder QE (a QE2). Stocks rallied.
Finally, to end the week, we have a G-20 finance ministers meeting. This is where all of the trade and dollar rhetoric from the new administration will be front and center. So the news/event outlook looks like some waves should be ahead. But any dip in stocks would be a great buying opportunity.
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February 23, 2017, 4:30pm EST Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr
Yesterday we talked about the warning signal flashing from the German bond market. That continues today.
While global stocks and commodities are reflecting broad optimism about the new pro-growth government in the U.S., the yield on 2-year German government bonds is sending a negative message — it hit record lows yesterday, and again today — trading to negative 90 basis points. You pay almost 1% to loan the German government money for two years.
Here’s a longer term look at German yields, for perspective…
And here’s the divergence since the election between German and U.S. 2 year yields…
This divergence is partially driven by rising U.S. yields on optimism about the outlook, about inflationary policies, and about the Fed’s response. On the other hand, German yields have gone the other way because 1) the ECB is still outright buying government bonds through its QE program (bond prices go up, yields go down), and 2) capital flows into bonds, in search of safety, because a Trump win makes another populist vote in Europe more likely when the French elections role around in May.
So that bleed to new lows in the German 2-year yield sends a warning signal to global markets. Today we have a few more reasons to think this could be a signal that the optimism being priced into U.S. markets at the moment could take a breather here.
Trump’s Secretary of Treasury, Mnuchin, was doing his first rounds on financial TV this morning and gave us some guidance on a timeline for policies and impact. Most importantly, he says we’ll see limited impact from Trump policies in 2017, and that the growth impact won’t come until 2018.
Let’s consider how that can impact where the Fed stands on their forecasts for monetary policy.
Remember, they spent the better part of 2016 walking back on the promises they had made for 4 rate hikes last year. And then, when they finally moved for thefirst time this past December, following the election and a rallying stock market, they reversed course on all of the dovish talk of the past months, and re-upped on another big rate hiking plan for 2017.
Though they don’t like to admit it, we can only assume that when they considered a massive fiscal stimulus package coming, like any human would, they became more bullish on the economy and more hawkish on the inflation outlook.
So now as Mnuchin tells us not to expect a growth impact from Trump policies until next year, maybe the Fed lays off the tightening rhetoric for a while.
With all of this in mind, another interesting dynamic in markets today, the Dow shrugged off some weakness early on to trade higher most of the day, posting another new record high. Meanwhile small caps diverged, trading weaker all day. And gold traded to the highest level since November 11. Remember this chart we’ve looked at, which looks like higher gold to come (a lower purple line), and lower yields.
This would all project a calming for the inflation outlook, which would be good for the health of markets. Among the biggest risk to Trumponomics is hot inflation, too fast, and a race higher in interest rates to chase it.
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January 19, 2017, 4:15pm EST
The Treasury Secretary nominee was being “grilled” by Congress today. I want to talk a bit about this hearing because it brings up the subject of the housing crisis. The who and the whys.
First, Mnuchin is a Wall Street guy. Even worse, he’s a hedge fund and Goldman Sachs guy. That’s like blood in the water for the sharks in Congress. They get to put on a show with live TV cameras in the room, publicly showing disgust for Mnuchin (and those like him), to cozy up the less informed segment of the country. And they get to project the blame for many things in life on the rich and their “bottom-line” business world.
This is a stark contrast to a decade ago. The media, especially, was in the business of making guys like this out to be super heroes. They wrote about them as mythical creatures – the world’s gene pool winners: the best and the brightest.
But times have changed.
In the hearing today, Mnuchin was accused of everything from tax evasion to unfairly kicking an 80-year old woman out of her house in Florida. Sounds like a really bad guy.
Though it appears that he had IRS compliant offshore accounts (not tax evasion, but tax compliant). And his company had purchased defaulted mortgages, claimed the collateral (the house) and sold the collateral for a profit.
So, just as you and me may take a tax deduction for our children, and just as an individual may sell his/her house for a profit, perhaps Mnuchin made rational financial decisions and followed the laws that were created by Congress.
So if we can’t blame Mnuchin and Goldman Sachs for nearly blowing up the global economy, who can we blame.
With all of the complexities of the housing bubble and the subsequent global financial crisis, it can seem like a web of deceit. But it all boils down to one simple actor. It wasn’t Wall Street. It wasn’t hedge funds. It wasn’t mortgage brokers. These entities were operating, in large part, from the natural force of economics: incentives.
It wasn’t even the government’s initiative to promote home ownership that led to the proliferation of mortgages being given to those that couldn’t afford them.
So who was the culprit?
It was the ratings agencies.
Housing prices were driven sky high by the availability of mortgages. Mortgages were made easily available because the demand to invest in mortgages, to fund those mortgages, was sky high.
But what drove that demand to such high levels?
When the mortgages were combined together in a package (securitized as a mix of good mortgages, and a lot of bad/higher yielding mortgages), they were bought, hand over fist, by the massive multi-trillion dollar pension industry, banks and insurance companies. Yes, the guys that are managing your pension funds, deposit accounts and insurance policies were gobbling up these mortgage securities as fast as they could, but ONLY because the ratings agencies were stamping them all with a top AAA rating. Who would encourage such a thing? Congress. In 1984 they passed a law making it okay for banks, pension funds and insurance companies to buy/treat high rated secondary mortgages like they would U.S. Treasuries.
So as investment managers, in the business of building the best performing risk-adjusted portfolio possible, and in direct competition with their peers, they couldn’t afford NOT to buy these securities. They came with the safest ratings, and with juicy returns. If you don’t buy these, you’re fired.
To put it all very simply, if these securities were not AAA rated, the pension funds would not have touched them (certainly not to the extent).
With that, if the there’s no appetite to fund the mortgages, the ultra-easy lending practices never happen, and housing prices never skyrocket on unwarranted and unsustainable demand. The housing bubble doesn’t build, doesn’t bust, and the financial crisis doesn’t happen.
That begs the question: Why did the ratings agencies give a top rating to a security that should have received a lower rating, if not much lower?
First, it’s important to understand that the ratings agencies get paid on the products they rate BY the institutions that create them. That’s right. That’s their revenue model. And only a group of these agencies are endorsed by the government, so that, in many cases, regulatory compliance on a financial product requires a rating from one of these endorsed agencies.
So as I watched the grilling session of Mnuchin today by Congress, these are the things that crossed my mind.
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