September 19, 2017, 6:00 pm EST              Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr

BR caricatureWith a Fed decision queued up for tomorrow, let’s take a look at how the rates picture has evolved this year.

The Fed has continued to act like speculators, placing bets on the prospects of fiscal stimulus and hotter growth. And they’ve proven not to be very good.

​Remember, they finally kicked off their rate “normalization” plan in December of 2015.  With things relatively stable globally, the slow U.S. recovery still on path, and with U.S. stocks near the record highs, they pulled the trigger on a 25 basis point hike in late 2015.  And they projected at that time to hike another four times over the coming year (2016).

​Stocks proceeded to slide by 13% over the next month.  Market interest rates (the 10 year yield) went down, not up, following the hike — and not by a little, but by a lot.  The 10 year yield fell from 2.33% to 1.53% over the next two months.  And by April, the Fed walked back on their big promises for a tightening campaign.  And the messaging began turning dark.  The Fed went from talking about four hikes in a year, to talking about the prospects of going to negative interest rates.

​That was until the U.S. elections.  Suddenly, the outlook for the global economy changed, with the idea that big fiscal stimulus could be coming.  So without any data justification for changing gears (for an institution that constantly beats the drum of “data dependence”), the Fed went right back to its hawkish mantra/ tightening game plan.

​With that, they hit the reset button in December, and went back to the old game plan.  They hiked in December.  They told us more were coming this year.  And, so far, they’ve hiked in March and June.

​Below is how the interest rate market has responded.  Rates have gone lower after each hike.  Just in the past couple of days have, however, we returned to levels (and slightly above) where we stood going into the June hike.

But if you believe in the growing prospects of policy execution, which we’ve been discussing, you have to think this behavior in market rates (going lower) are coming to an end (i.e. higher rates).

As I said, the Hurricanes represented a crisis that May Be The Turning Point For Trump.  This was an opportunity for the President to show leadership in a time people were looking for leadership.  And it was a chance for the public perception to begin to shift.  And it did. The bottom was marked in Trump pessimism.  And much needed policy execution has been kickstarted by the need for Congress to come together to get the debt ceiling raised and hurricane aid approved.  And I suspect that Trump’s address to the U.N. today will add further support to this building momentum of sentiment turnaround for the administration. With this, I would expect to hear a hawkish Fed tomorrow.

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March 8, 2017,3:45pm EST                                                                                       Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr

One of the best investors on the planet, David Tepper, was on CNBC this morning.  Let’s talk about how he sees the world and how he is positioned.

What I appreciate about Tepper:  He’s a common sense guy.

And his common sense view of the world happens to be in alignment with the view and themes we discuss here every day. So he agrees with me – another thing I appreciate about him.

As you know, Wall Street and the media are always good at overcomplicating the investment environment with their day-to-day hyper analysis.  Because of that, they tend to forge a path that moves further and further away from the simple realities of the big picture.  That’s actually good.  Because it creates opportunity for those that can avoid those distractions.

Right now, as we’ve discussed, the big picture is straight forward.  We have a President that wants deregulation, tax cuts and a big infrastructure spend.  And we have a Congress in place that can approve it. And this all comes at a time when the world has been in a decade long economic slog following the global financial crisis – in desperate need of growth.  With that, we have a Fed that still has rates at very, very low levels.  And the ECB and BOJ are still priming the pump with QE.

This is precisely Tepper’s view. He says the bowl is still full, i.e. the stimulus from the monetary policy side is still full, and now we get stimulus coming in from the fiscal side. What more could you ask for (my words) to pump up growth and asset prices, which will likely spill over into a pop in global growth. Still, people are underestimating it. And as he says, the Fed is underestimating it.

Are there risks? Yes. But the probability of growth, with the above in mind, well outweighs the probable downside scenarios. What about execution risk? Even if tax reform and infrastructure are slow to come, Tepper says deregulation is a done deal. It drives earnings and “animal spirits.”

He likes stocks. He likes European stocks. And I think he really likes Japanese stocks, but he stopped short of talking about it (my deduction).

Among the risks: Inflation picking up too fast, which would require the Fed to move faster, which could choke off growth (undo or neutralize fiscal stimulus).

This is why, among other reasons, Tepper’s favorite trade is short bonds. – i.e. higher interest rates. If he’s right and economic growth has a big pop, he wins. If the risk of hotter inflation materializes and rates move faster, he wins.

For context, this is the guy that literally changed global investing sentiment in late 2010 when he sat in front of a camera on CNBC, in a rare high profile TV interview (maybe first), when investing sentiment was all but destroyed by the global financial crisis and the various landmines that kept popping up.  Tepper said in a very confident voice that the Fed, by telegraphing a second round of QE, had just given us all a free put on stocks (i.e. the Fed is protected the downside, it’s a greenlight to buy stocks). For all of the market jockeys that were constantly focusing on the many problems in the world, that commentary from Tepper, for some reason, woke them up.

For perspective on Tepper: Here’s a guy that is probably the best investor in the modern era. He’s returned between 35%-40% annualized (before fees) for more than 20 years. He made $7.5 billion in 2009 betting on financial stocks that most people thought were going bankrupt. And he was telling everyone that what the Fed is doing will make ‘everything’ go up. It sparked, in 2010, what is known as the “Tepper rally” in stocks.

When Tepper speaks it’s often smart to listen. And he likes the Trump effect!

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