June 29, 5:00 pm EST

Last week, we talked a lot about oil, as OPEC was meeting to deliberate on the status of their agreement to cut production.

While oil prices have been rising aggressively over the past year, the markets haven’t been paying a lot of attention — distracted by Trump watching.

But then Trump put it on the front burner, with another jab at OPEC on Twitter.  And the media and Wall Street began trying to deduce the OPEC outcome.  In the end, they misinterpreted.  OPEC’s agreement to go from overcutting to complyingwith the initial levels of production cuts, means they are still cutting.

So, the market is still undersupplied in a world where demand has proven to be underestimated.  That’s a formula for higher prices.

That’s what we’ve had for the past year, and that’s what we’ve gotten since OPEC’s official statement on Friday.  In my note last Friday, I said “the lack of enough action from OPEC may serve as a catalyst to push oil much higher from here.  That, of course, serves OPEC’s interests.”

Oil prices have exploded!  We’ve seen a $10 pop since Friday morning.  That’s 15% in a week.  And I suspect it’s going to keep going.

Remember, we’ve talked about the prospects for $100 oil this year.  Leigh Goehring, one of the best research-driven commodities investors on the planet has been telling us that since last year.  And he’s looking spot-on at the moment.

Bottom line:  This script is precisely what we’ve been talking about, here in my daily Pro Perspectives note, since the price of oil was in the $40s. We’ve talked about the prospects for a return to $80 oil, and maybe even as high as $100 oil.  And it looks more and more possible, given the surging demand and the supply shortfall.

How can you play it.  On this thesis for oil, in my Billionaire’s Portfolio, we added SPDR Oil and Gas ETF (symbol XOP) and Phillips 66 (symbol PSX) back when oil prices were deeply depressed (in 2016).  We followed the activism of policymakers (both central banks and OPEC).  And in the case of PSX, we also followed Warren Buffett.   

Both are up big, but have a lot more room to run. Oil and gas stocks (which comprise the XOP) have yet to reflect the supply shortfall in the oil market, much less the booming demand that is coming from an improving global economy (which many have underestimated).

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June 22, 5:00 pm EST

We’ve talked about the big OPEC decision this week, and the prospects for oil prices.

When we get a market that thinks they know the outcome, we get a market that begins leaning too hard in one direction.  And that creates an market outcome that can be asymmetric (i.e. lopsided).  That’s what we had today.

In this case, Trump’s verbal attacks on OPEC’s price manipulation generated a media frenzy surrounding the OPEC meeting.  And with the media swarming, the oil ministers seemed happy to oblige with commentary and pontification.  And that set expectations for the outcome.

And this morning, OPEC released their communique, but it was far from the clean production increase the market was looking for.  With that, we got this chart …

It went straight up.  Oil was up almost 6% on the day and nearing $70 again.  And this lack of enough action (as we should expect) from OPEC, to balance the oil market, may serve as a catalyst to push oil much higher from here (which serves OPEC’s interests).

And as we discussed yesterday, with high oil prices now squarely on the radar (for Trump, the media and the market), we may begin seeing oil prices weigh on stock prices.

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June 20, 5:00 pm EST

We’ve talked about the case for much higher oil prices since I started writing this daily note back in January of 2016. And we’ve since had a triple off of the February 2016 bottom.

The crash in oil prices from 2014 to 2016 was induced by OPEC as an effort to crush the competitive U.S. shale industry. While they nearly succeeded, these oil producing countries nearly killed their own economies in the process. So, in effort to drive oil prices higher, to salvage oil revenues, they had to flip the switch in late 2016, cutting production for the first time since 2008. And they did so, in a market that was already undersupplied. And in a world where demand has been underestimated, and growing.

So now, we’ve had this big recovery – nearly a round trip back to those 2014 levels.


The problem? The oil price crash was a threat to the global economy, as bankruptcies were lining up and deflationary forces were returning in the global economy. But now, current oil prices (and higher) are threatening to the recovery too, specifically the economic gains from fiscal stimulus.

And that’s on the wrong side of Trump. So, we’re seeing pressure on OPEC from the White House.


Will OPEC comply?

They are meeting now to determine whether or not they stick with current policy, or make an increase to production.

The expectations have been set for an increase. But there is dissension in the ranks at OPEC. If they surprise markets and maintain current output (i.e. no increase), we could see oil move much higher, and quickly. That would throw a wrench in almost everything. Remember, Trump’s tough positioning has a lot to do with the leverage he gets from a strong economy. $100 oil would threaten the economic outlook, and change the face of trade negotiations and the geopolitical environment.

We will likely hear leaks on Friday and probably hear a decision from OPEC on Saturday.

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November 27, 2017, 4:30 pm EST

U.S. stocks printed new record highs again today, as numbers come in for the Black Friday period, which carries through Cyber Monday.

The National Retail Federation has projected about 4% growth in the number from last year, which is better than the past two years, but a bit softer than 2014, 2011 and 2010.

But it’s a safe bet we’ll see better than expected numbers before the shopping season is over. If we take the Atlanta Fed’s GDP forecast for the fourth quarter (which admittedly changes like the wind), we’re on pace to have the second hottest growth for the year, since the Great Recession. And, of course, consumers are in as healthy a position as they’ve been in a long time—housing prices are nearing pre–crisis levels, household net worth is on record highs, consumer credit is on record highs, but so is consumer credit worthiness.

Add to that: The stock market is at record highs. The unemployment rate is 4.1%. Inflation is low. Gas is cheap ($2.38), and stable. Mortgage rates are under 4%, and stable. And you can borrow money for five years at 2% to buy a car.

And then there’s the confidence the economy is improving and that a raise is coming (through tax cuts and a corporate tax cut which should ultimately drive wages higher). Here’s a look at the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index—at 17–year highs…


Later in the week we’ll hear from OPEC on their plans to extend their production cuts to keep the upward pressure on oil prices. We’ve talked about the case for an explosive move higher in oil prices, given the impact the oil price crash of last year has had on supply. Meanwhile demand has picked up, and OPEC has been cutting production into this scenario. As we sit about 20% higher in oil prices since OPEC announced its first production cut in eight years (last November), there are now some building voices for much higher oil prices as we head into this week’s meeting.



May 15, 2017, 4:00pm EST               Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr

BR caricatureLast week we discussed the building support for a next leg higher in commodities prices.  China is clearly a very important determinant in where commodities go. And with the news last week about cooperation between the Trump team and China, on trade, we may have the catalyst to get commodities moving higher again.​It just so happens that oil (the most traded commodity in the world) is rebounding too, on the catalyst of prospects of an OPEC extension to the production cuts they announced last November.​In fact, overnight, Saudi Arabia and Russia said they would do “whatever it takes” to cut supply (i.e. whatever it takes to get oil prices higher).  Oil was up big today on that news.When you hear these words spoken from policy-makers (those that can dictate outcomes), it should get everyone’s attention.  Those are the exact words uttered by ECB head Mario Draghi, that ended the bond market assault in Spain and Italy that were threatening the existence of the euro and euro zone.  The Spanish 10-year yield collapsed from 7.8% (unsustainable borrowing rate for the Spanish government, and threatening imminent default) to 1% over the next three years — and the ECB, while threatening to buy an unlimited amount of bonds to push those yields lower, didn’t have to buy a single bond.  It was the mere threat of ‘whatever it takes’ that did the trick.

may15 spain

​As for oil: From the depths of the oil price crash last year, remember, we discussed the prospects for a huge bounce.  Oil prices at $26 were threatening to undo the trillions of dollars of work central banks and governments had done to stabilize the global economy.  Central banks couldn’t let it happen.  After a series of coordinated responses (from the BOJ, China, ECB and the Fed), oil bottomed and quickly doubled.

Also at that time, two of the best oil traders in the world were calling the bottom and calling for $70-$80 oil by this year (Pierre Andurand and Andy Hall).  Another commodities king that called the bottom: Leigh Goehring.

Goehring, one of the best commodities investors on the planet, has also laid out the case for $100 oil by next year. He says he’s “wildly bullish” oil in his recent quarterly investor letter at his new fund, Goehring & Rozencwajg.

​Goehring argues that the IEA inventory numbers are flawed. He thinks oil the market is already over-supplied and is in a draw, as of May of last year.   With that, he thinks the OPEC cuts will ultimately exacerbate the deficit and send prices aggressively higher. He says “we remain ‘wildly’ bullish and believe that there is a very high probability of oil prices reaching triple digits in the first half of 2018.”
may15 opec

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November 30, 2016, 3:25pm EST

Over the past year we’ve talked a lot about the oil price bust and the threat it represented to the global economy.  And in past months, we’ve talked about the approaching OPEC meeting, where they had telegraphed a production cut – the first in eight years.  Still, not many were buying it.

Remember, it was OPEC created the oil price crash that started in November of 2014 when the Saudis refused a production cut.  Ultimately the price of oil fell to $26 a barrel (this past February).

Their strategy:  Kill off the emerging threat of the U.S. shale industry by forcing prices well below where they could produce profitably.  To an extent it worked.  More than 100 small oil related companies in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy over the past two years.

But it soon became evident that cheap oil threatened, not just the U.S. shale industry (which also turned out to threaten the global financial system and global economy), but it threatened the solvency of OPEC member countries (the proverbial shot in the foot).

The big fish, the Saudis, have lost significant revenue from the self-induced oil price plunge, starting the clock on an economic time bomb. They derive about 80% of their revenue from oil.  With that, they’ve run up their budget deficit to more than 15% of GDP in the oil bust environment.  For context, Greece, the well known walking dead member of the euro zone was running a budget deficit of 15% at worst levels back in 2009.

So OPEC members need (have to have) higher oil prices.  Time is working against them. With that, they followed through with a cut today.  Remember, back in the 80s when OPEC merely hinted at a production cut, oil jumped 50% in 24 hours.  Today it was up as much as 10% on the news. But this cut should put a floor under oil in the mid $40s, and lead to $60-$70 oil next year.

All of this said, given the increase in supply from bringing Iran production back online, and from increasing U.S. supply, no one should be cheering more for the pro-growth Trump economy to put a fire under demand than OPEC, especially Saudi Arabia.

Now, as we discussed this week, oil has been a huge drag on global inflation.  With that, the catalyst of a first OPEC cut in eight years driving oil prices higher could put the Fed and other global central banks in a very different position next year.

Consider where the world was just months ago, with downside risks reverting back to the depths of the economic crisis.  Now we have reason to believe oil could be significantly higher next year. That alone will run inflation significantly hotter (flipping the switch on the inflation outlook). Add to that, we have a pro-growth government with a trillion dollar fiscal package and tax cuts entering the mix.

As I said yesterday, we may find that the Fed will tell us in December that they are planning to move rates more like four times next year, instead of two.

The market is already telling us that the inflation switch has been flipped. Just four months ago, the 10 year yield was trading 1.32%, at new record lows.  And as of today, we have a 10-year at 2.40% — and that’s on about a 60 basis point runup since November 8th.

With that said, there has been a shot in the arm for sentiment over the past few weeks. That’s led to the bottoming in rates, bottoming in commodities and potential cheapening of valuations in stocks (given a higher growth outlook).  As a whole, that all becomes self-reinforcing for the better growth outlook story.

And that reduces a lot of threats.  But it creates a new threat: The threat of a collapse in bond prices, runaway in market interest rates.

But what could be the Fed’s best friend, to quell that threat?  Trump’s new Treasury Secretary said today that he thinks they will see companies repatriate as much as $1 trillion.  Much of that money will find a parking place in the biggest, most liquid market in the world:  The U.S. Treasury market.  That should support bonds, and keep the climb in interest rates tame.

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November 29, 2016, 5:15pm EST


Yesterday I talked about how an OPEC cut on oil production would/should accelerate the Fed’s plan for interest rate hikes next year.

Interestingly, the former Fed Chair himself, Ben Bernanke, wrote a post today on the internet talking about the Fed’s rate path and its quarterly projections (which we looked at yesterday).

Like his post in August, where he interpreted a shift in the Fed’s communications strategy for us, the media, which is always following the latest shiny object, didn’t pick up on it then, didn’t pick up on his message about the Bank of Japan’s actions in September, and has barely reported on his new post today (to this point).

When Bernanke speaks, for anyone that cares about the direction of markets, interest rates and the economy — we should all be listening.

Let’s talk about some of the nuggets Bernanke has offered in recent months, to those that are listening, through simple blog posts.  And then we’ll look at what he said today.

Remember, this is the man with the most intimate knowledge of where the world has been over the past decade, what it’s vulnerable to, and what the probable outcomes look like for the global economy.  He advises one of the biggest hedge funds in the world, the biggest bond fund in the world and one of the most important central banks in the world (the BOJ), and clearly still has a lot of influence at the Fed.

Back in August he wrote a piece criticizing the Fed for being too optimistic in its projections for the path of interest rates. He said that the Fed’s forward guidance of the past two years has led to a tightening in financial conditions, which has led to weaker growth, lower market interest rates and lower inflation. In plain English, consumers and businesses start playing defense if they think rates are on course to be dramatically higher, and that leads to lower inflation and lower growth. The opposite of the Fed’s desired outcome.

With that, Bernanke thought they should be taking the opposite approach, and suggested it may already be underway at the Fed (i.e. they should underestimate future growth and the rate path, and therefore possibly stimulate economic activity with that message).

It just so happens that Yellen has been speaking from this script ever since.  They’ve ratcheted down expectations of the rate path, and in her more recent comments she’s said the Fed should let the economy run hot (to give it some momentum without bridling it with higher rates).

Then in September, after the BOJ surprised with some new wrinkles in their QE plan, Bernanke wrote a post emphasizing the importance of their new target of a zero yield on their 10 year government bond. The media and markets gave the BOJ’s move little attention.  It was as if Bernanke was acting as the communications director for the BOJ.

He posted that day saying that the BOJ’s new policy moves were effectively a bigger QE program. Instead of telling us the size of purchase, they’re telling us the price on which they will either or buy or sell to maintain. He said, if the market decides to dump Japanese government bonds, the BOJ could end up buying more (maybe a lot more) than their current 80 trillion yen a year.

Bernanke also called the move to peg rates, a stealth monetary financing of government spending (which can be a stealth debt monetization).  The market has indeed pushed bond prices lower since, which has pushed yields back above zero, and as Bernanke suggested, the BOJ is now in unlimited QE mode (buying unlimited amounts of bonds as long as the 10 year yield remains above a zero interest rate). That’s two for two for Bernanke interpreting for us, what looks like a complicated policy environment.

So what did he talk about today?  Today he criticized Fed members for sending confusing messages about monetary policy through their frequent speeches and interviews that take place between Fed meetings. But most importantly, he seemed to be setting the table for another 180 from the Fed on their economic projections at their December meeting.

Remember, they went from forecasting four hikes for 2016, to dialing it back dramatically just three months into the year.  Now, with the backdrop for a $1 trillion fiscal stimulus package finally coming down the pike, to relieve monetary policy, the outlook has changed for markets, and likely the Fed as well.

With that, Bernanke seems to be trying to give everyone a little heads up, to reduce the shock that may come from seeing a Fed path, in it’s coming December projections, that may/will likely show expectations of more aggressive rate hikes next year — perhaps projecting four hikes again for the year ahead (as they did into the close of last year).

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November 28, 2016, 4:45pm EST

With Thanksgiving behind us, we a few key events ahead for markets before we can put a bow on things and call it a year.

As things stand, the S&P 500 is up around 8%, right in line with the long term average return (less dividends).  Yields are around 2.3%.  That’s right about where we left off at the end of 2015 (following the Fed’s first move higher on rates since the crisis).

We may find a round trip for oil as well before the year it over.  On Wednesday, we’ll finally hear from OPEC on a production cut. Remember, it was late September when we were told that the Saudis were finally on board for a production cut, to get oil prices higher and to stop the bleeding in the oil revenue dependent OPEC economies.

As we’ve discussed, it was Saudi Arabia that blocked a cut on
Thanksgiving day evening two years ago.  And that sent oil into a spiral from $70 to as low as $26.  Importantly, cheap oil has not only represented a threat to global economic stability but it’s been deflationary.  The threat to stability and the deflationary pressure is what has kept the Fed on the sidelines, reversing course on their rate hike projections for this year, and then, conversely, becoming progressively more and more dovish since March.

You can see in this graphic from the Fed last December (2015) after they decided to hike for the first time coming out of the crisis period.

nov28 fed
Source: Fed

The majority view from Fed members was an expectation that the Fed funds rate would be about 1.375% at this point in th year (2016).  As we know, it hasn’t happened.  As of two months ago, the Fed was expecting rates to be at just 1.00% by the end next year.

This makes this week’s OPEC decision even more important, given the market’s and Fed’s expectations on the path of monetary policy at this point.

If OPEC does as they’ve indicated they will do this week, by announcing the first production cut in oil in eight years, it could send the price of oil back to levels of two years ago — when the oil price bust was started that Thanksgiving day.  That’s $70.

And $70 oil would play a huge role in where rates go next year, in the U.S., and in Europe and Japan.  The inflationary pressures of $70 oil could put the Fed back on a path to hike three to four times in the coming year (as they intended coming into 2016).  And it could create the beginning of taper talk in Europe and Japan.

If we consider that possibility, it makes for a remarkably dramatic change in the global economic outlook in just five weeks (since the Nov 8 election).  As Paul Tudor Jones, one of the great macro traders of all-time, has said: “the very best money is made at the market turns. Everyone says you get killed trying to pick tops and bottoms and you make all your money by playing the trend in the middle. Well for twelve years I have been missing the meat in the middle but I have made a lot of money at tops and bottoms.”  An OPEC move should cement the top in bonds.

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November 22, 2016, 7:30pm EST

Stocks continue to new highs today.  But with the holiday approaching, the big focus is oil.  It was two years ago on Thanksgiving day evening that the Saudis blocked a move by their fellow OPEC members to cut production, to put a floor under oil prices around $70.  Oil plunged in a thin market and never looked back.

Of course, we traded as low as $26 earlier this year.  That proved to be the bottom in that OPEC rigged oil price bust, which was intended to crush the competitive U.S. shale industry.

It worked.  The emerging shale industry was brought to its knees and we’ve seen plenty of bankruptcies as a result. But OPEC countries have been hurt badly too, taking a huge hit to their oil revenues.  That put some heavily oil dependent economies on default watch. So it finally became clear that cheap oil was a big net negative, not just for the U.S. economy, but for the global economy.  The risk of continued fallout in the oil industry was a direct threat to the financial system and, therefore, a risk to another global economic crisis.

With that, we head into next week’s official OPEC meeting with expectations set for a first production cut in eight years.  And we have the below chart, which would suggest that we could see oil back in the $70 area next year.

In 1986, the mere hint of an OPEC policy move sent oil up 50% in just 24 hours. They’ve more than hinted this time around, but the markets remain skeptical.  That skepticism should serve to exacerbate the speed and magnitude of a move higher if they follow through.

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September 28, 2016, 4:30pm EST

Oil popped over $3 from the lows of the day (as much as 7%) on news OPEC has agreed to a production cut.

We’ve talked a lot throughout the year about the price of oil.  When it collapsed to the $20s, it put the entire energy industry on bankruptcy watch.

Of course, oil bounced sharply from those lows of February as central banks stepped in with a coordinated response to stabilize confidence. Not so coincidentally, oil bottomed the same day the Bank of Japan intervened in the currency markets.

The oil price bust all started back in November of 2014, the evening of Thanksgiving Day, when OPEC pulled the rug out from under the oil market by vowing not to make production cuts, in an attempt to crush the nascent shale industry.  At that time, oil was trading around $73.

You can see in this chart, it never saw that price again.

sept 28 crude 20 yr

OPEC was successful in heavily damaging the U.S. shale industry through low oil prices, but it has damaged OPEC countries, too.

What will the news of an agreement on a production cut mean?

A policy shift from OPEC can be very powerful.  In 1986, the mere hint of an OPEC policy move sent oil up 50% in just 24 hours.  And as we discussed earlier in the year, the relationship between the price of oil and stocks this year has been tight.  At times, stocks have traded almost tick for tick with oil.

Take a look at this chart.

sept 28 crude v stocks

An oil price back in the $60s would be a catalyst for a big run in stocks into the year end. For a stock market that has been rudderless surrounding a confused Fed and an important election, this oil news could kick it into gear.

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