By Bryan Rich

May 13, 5:00 pm EST

As we discussed last week, the Chinese government will use the yuan to counterpunch tariffs.

They’ve now weakened the yuan by 3% since last month.

If China were to move the currency back to it’s pre-managed float levels (i.e. the peg, which stood at 8.27 against the dollar from the late 90s through 2005), that would be about a 20% devaluation in the yuan (to offset a 25% tariff).

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That’s unlikely.  It would set off a response from more of the trading partner universe (which has been quiet, and happy to let the U.S. do the fighting for them).  Will the Chinese government move it back above 7 (maybe mid 7s) yuan to the dollar? Likely.

And with that dynamic at work, and an outlook of a worsening economy, the Chinese people will use any means possible to get money out of China.

Remember, China forbids it’s citizens to move more than $50,000 out of the country per year.  The rich have gotten around that in the past through buying expensive foreign real estate, creative foreign investments, invoice schemes, even forcing employees to transfer money for them to foreign bank accounts.  But in 2017, China cracked down on the capital flow exodus.  And as we discussed last week, the Chinese then discovered Bitcoin.  The value skyrocketed from $1k to over $19k.  China cryptocurrency exchanges were said to account for 90% of global bitcoin trading.

But in late 2017, the Chinese government cracked down on Bitcoin — banning cryptocurrency exhanges. That set off the crash, from $19k to $3k.

Owning and buying Bitcoin in China is not banned – though it is more difficult now.  But we may now be seeing the effect of the Bitcoin futures market and off-exchange (peer-to-peer) trading as liquidity sources for Chinese citizens to respond to potential devaluation in the yuan.  Bitcoin is on the move, big-time — up 25% since Friday afternoon!

Here’s a look at that chart today …

What about stocks?  Stocks have now fallen over 5% from the highs.  That’s leaves the S&P 500 still up 13% year-to-date.  The Dow is up 9%.  Importantly, today we ran into a big technical level on the Dow– the 200-day moving average.  That level marks a 5.5% decline from the highs of the year in the Dow.  This is a level to buy, not sell. 

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By Bryan Rich

May 10, 5:00 pm EST

We end the week with continued stalemate on a trade deal.  Given that trade talks will continue (despite the tariff escalation), it’s not considered a “no deal.”  That’s a relative positive for markets.

As we discussed, as long as Trump will keep the door open, the Chinese will keep talking, and will (in the meantime) protect their exports by weakening the currency.  The yuan is now trading at its weakest level since early January, when trade talks were re-opened after a month long stalemate.

Now, let’s talk about the Uber IPO today …

It didn’t go well for Silicon Valley.  Uber started trading publicly below the range they expected, and instead of getting a huge opening day “lyft”, it traded down on the day.

We’ve talked quite a bit about the IPOs coming from the Silicon Valley hype machine.  Lyft got it all started, and here’s what that chart looks like now…

 

With this above chart in mind and the performance of Uber today, let’s revisit an excerpt from my note from last month …

Pro Perspectives – April 16, 2019

Lyft and Uber, dumping shares on the public at a combined $140 billion plus valuation, may mark the end to the Silicon Valley boom cycle.

As we know, Lyft was valued as high as $25 billion when it started trading publicly.  Some paid a $25 billion valuation for the privilege of owning a company that did a little over $2 billion in revenue, while losing almost a billion dollars — with slowing revenue growth and widening losses. It has now shed about $9 billion in market cap in thirteen days.

Uber is on deck.  Uber filed its S-1 this week.  In this public disclosure document, we find a company that has privately raised $24 billion, valued at $68 billion in the private market, that has been thought to float shares at as much as $120 billion valuation.  This is a company that (like Lyft) also with slowing revenue growth and widening losses.  Losses?  The S-1 shows a swing from $ 4 billion loss in 2017, to a near $1 billion profit in 2018.  But if we back out the a couple of unusual items (like the gain of a divestiture of some foreign businesses and an unrealized gain in an “investment”) the company lost $4.2 billion on $11 billion in revenue.

As we discussed last month, the hyper-growth valuations on these perceived hyper-growth companies, are unlikely to get hyper-growth at this stage.  That will be a problem for those taking the bait on the IPO.”

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By Bryan Rich

May 9, 5:00 pm EST

Yesterday we talked about the tool China will use to offset tariffs, if a deal does not materialize and the tariff penalty increases.

They will devalue their currency.

With a “no deal” potential outcome, there’s a lot of wealth in China looking for ways out.

In recent years, they have found a way out through Bitcoin.  And, no coincidence, Bitcoin is again on the move.

With that, let’s take a look at the timeline on Bitcoin…

The 2016-2017 ascent of Bitcoin coincided perfectly with the crackdown on capital flight in China.  In late 2016, with rapid expansion of credit in China, growing non-performing loans, a soft economy and the prospects of a Trump administration that could put pressure on China trade, capital was moving aggressively out of China.

That’s when the government stepped UP capital controls — restricting movement of capital out of China, from transfers to foreign investment.

Of course, resourceful Chinese still found ways to move money.  Among them, buying Bitcoin. And that’s when Bitcoin started to really move (from sub-$1,000 to over $19,000). China cryptocurrency exchanges were said to account for 90% of global bitcoin trading.

Chinese capital flows were confused for Silicon Valley genius.

But in late 2017, China cracked down on Bitcoin – with a total ban.  A few months later, Bitcoin futures launched, which gave hedge funds a liquid way to short the madness. Bitcoin topped the day the futures contract launched.

So, as Chinese officials visit the White House for a deal or no deal on trade, China has been moving their currency lower — and bitcoin has (again) been moving higher.  Perhaps the Chinese are finding new ways to buy Bitcoin.

If you haven’t signed up for my Billionaire’s Portfolio, don’t delay … we’ve just had another big exit in our portfolio, and we’ve replaced it with the favorite stock of the most revered investor in corporate America — it’s a stock with double potential.

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By Bryan Rich

May 8, 5:00 pm EST

We talked about China’s currency yesterday, as the key proxy on a U.S./China trade deal.

Let’s revisit some background and context on the whole trade negotiation.
China’s currency manipulation (i.e. weak currency policy) is at the core of the global trade imbalances that precipitated the global financial crisis.  With that, the currency is a key piece of the trade and structural reform demands from the Trump administration.

After using its currency to corner the world’s export markets for more than a decade, which led to China’s rise to a global economic power, you can see how China has been maneuvering to pacify currency tensions over the last decade:

 

(In the chart above, the falling line represents a strengthening yuan versus the U.S. dollar, and vice versa)
1) They slowly allowed the currency to climb (against the dollar) following threats of a big tariff on China from Graham and Schumer (yes, Schumer) back in 2005.
2) When the global economic crisis hit, they went back to a peg to protect their ability to export.
3) They went back to a slow crawl higher as tensions rose, and people began to believe the developed market economies might be passing the torch to China for economic leadership.
4) It became clear that China can’t grow fast enough in a world where developed market economies are struggling. So, they went back to weakening the currency to protect their ability to export.
5) They strengthened the yuan when Trump was elected to try to ward off a trade war.
6) Trump wasn’t placated and tariffs were launched. They weakened the currency with the idea that a threat of a big one-off devaluation in the currency might create some leverage.
7)  After trying to hold-out, it seemed clear earlier this year that they needed to get a deal done, as the economy continued to sink.  They walked the currency higher again – a signal that they are willing to make aggressive concessions to get a deal done.
But now, with a hard deadline and threat of a tariff escalation, the Chinese made one of the largest devaluations in the yuan in years (a warning shot).
Here’s a look at the chart going into the deadline …
If we get a no deal/ tariff escalation on Friday, we can expect the Chinese to continue weakening the yuan to offset some of the tariff burden.
So, tariffs have been a tool of retaliation for the U.S., to counter nearly three decades of currency manipulation by the Chinese.  If we don’t get reform, the Chinese will retaliate with … more currency manipulation.

If you haven’t signed up for my Billionaire’s Portfolio, don’t delay … we’ve just had another big exit in our portfolio, and we’ve replaced it with the favorite stock of the most revered investor in corporate America — it’s a stock with double potential.

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By Bryan Rich

May 7, 5:00 pm EST

As we get closer to the hard deadline on a U.S./China trade deal, markets are adjusting for the potential of a no deal/ tariff escalation.

What does that look like?  U.S. stocks are now off 2% from the highs of the year.  That still puts us up 15% year-to-date.

The bigger adjustment is coming in China.  As we discussed yesterday, China is in the position of weakness in these negotiations.  The U.S. economy is strong.  China’s economy has been very weak.  A more expensive and indefinite trade dispute puts downward pressure on both economies (and the global economy), but it puts the Chinese in dangerously slow economy — which becomes politically dangerous for the Chinese Communist Party.

As such, here’s what Chinese stocks have done in the past eight days …

 

And, perhaps as a warning shot, China is starting to move their currency.

As we’ve discussed, China has used their currency (a weak currency) as the primary tool to achieve their extraordinary economic ascent over the past two decades — cornering the world’s export market.

We should expect, when their backs are against the wall, with a dim economic outlook, they will go back to weakening the yuan.  That’s what they have been doing since Trump’s tariff threat on Sunday.  They adjusted down the yuan yesterday by almost 1%.  That doesn’t sound like much, within China’s currency regime, it’s a big move.  We saw a one-off move like that once last year.  The other time was August of 2015, which led to fears that China might devalue the yuan. That set off a global market rout.

With the above said, China is sending Hui for the meetings that are scheduled to run Thursday and Friday.  Hui has been the point-man on trade negotiations.  His presence, in light of the tariff threats, give some encouragement that China has intentions to get a deal done.

If you haven’t signed up for my Billionaire’s Portfolio, don’t delay … we’ve just had another big exit in our portfolio, and we’ve replaced it with the favorite stock of the most revered investor in corporate America — it’s a stock with double potential.

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By Bryan Rich

May 6, 5:00 pm EST

Late last week, the White House floated the idea that a trade agreement with China could come by this coming Friday (May 10).

And then Trump did this yesterday …

 

Why would Trump risk complicating a deal, even more, by threatening China with a deadline/ tariff increase?  Because he has leverage.  He has a stock market near record highs, and a strong economy and the winds of ultra-easy global monetary policy at his back.

China, on the other hand, has an economy running in recession-like territory, with key data just (recently) bouncing from global financial crisis era levels.  And Chinese stocks, after soaring 34% since January 4th, have given back 12% from the highs, in just seven days.  And they’ve just fired a ton of fiscal and monetary policy bullets to stimulate the economy – which could be diluted by a more expensive and indefinite trade war.

So, Trump has a win-win going into the week.  If the threat works, he gets a deal done, and likely gives less to get it done.  If China backs off, stocks go down, and he gets the Fed’s rate cut he’s been looking for – stocks go back up.

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By Bryan Rich

May 3, 5:00 pm EST

If you are a regular reader of my daily notes, you’ll know we’ve been discussing the setup for positive surprises all year.

As we’re near the end of Q1 earnings season, clearly we’re getting it. With 78% of the companies in the S&P 500 now reported on Q1 earnings, 76% have beat earnings estimates.

And we’re getting positive surprises in the economic data.  We had a huge positive surprise for Q1 GDP this week.  And today we had a blow out jobs report.

There were 263k jobs added in April.  The market was expecting just 185k.  That gives us a 12-month average of 218k, well above pre-financial crisis average monthly job growth!  The unemployment number was 3.6% — the lowest since 1969.

Remember, we’ve been told all year long that we were headed for both earnings and economic recession.  It’s not happening.

Moreover, the two missing pieces of the economic recovery puzzle, have been productivity and wage growth.  And these pieces are emerging. Wage growth has been on the move for the past 18 months, now sustaining above 3%.   And we had a huge positive surprise in productivity this week.

With the above in mind, given the contrast of media narrative and reality, how are people getting it so wrong?   I suspect we are seeing plenty of people make the mistake of letting politics cloud their judgement on the economy and the outlook for stocks.

By Bryan Rich

May 2, 5:00 pm EST

We talked about the technical reversal signal in stocks that developed yesterday, following the Fed press conference.

Stocks continued lower today.  We’ve now had a quick 2% decline from the top.

And now we have this technical breakdown in oil as well (the break of the yellow trendline from the Dec lows). 

 

In the post-financial crisis world we live in, oil prices going down is generally representing a gloomier outlook on global growth and global demand.  Oil prices going up is good news — representing a hotter demand/hotter growth outlook.  And as you can see below, oil prices and stock prices have tended to move together. 

The recovery in oil prices has been almost in lock-step with the recovery in stocks (aggressively bouncing).  Crude is up 57% in four months.

Now, yesterday I asked the question:  Can stocks force the hand of the Fed, again (i.e. can lower stocks force a rate cut from the Fed)?

If oil prices were to fall hard from here, then maybe.  Why?  The Fed is afraid of deflationary pressures.  And while they like to talk about their assessment of inflation, excluding the effects of volatile oil prices, they have a record of acting on monetary policy when oil prices are falling quickly — especially in this post-crisis environment where deflation has been a persistent threat throughout.  They acted in 2016, and they’ve acted in early 2019 — in both cases taking projected interest rate hikes off of the table.

But the case for another crash in oil prices isn’t there.  We continue to have supply cuts outside of the U.S. (OPEC and non-OPEC countries).  Trump has recently stepped up sanctions against Iran, with the goal of taking Iranian oil exports to zero.  That takes supply out of the market.  And the political crisis in Venezuela has created supply disruptions for the oil market.

The shale industry is expected to plug the supply gap.  As it stands, the shale industry may or may not be able to.  But keep in mind, oil demand has been estimated on what is (and has been) low expectations for the global economy.  If we’ve seen a bottom in China, it would set up for positive surprises in the global economy. And that means the supply necessary to meet global oil demand, would be underestimated.  With that, higher (if not much higher) oil prices  from here remain the higher probability scenario.

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By Bryan Rich

May 1, 5:00 pm EST

As we discussed yesterday, the interest rate market has been signaling that the Fed made a mistake in December, when it hiked rates one last time, into a stock market that was in a steep decline.

In today’s post-Fed meeting press conference with the Fed Chairman, markets were expecting signals from Jay Powell that they might be looking to take that hike back, if the current subdued inflation levels persisted.  But Powell was reluctant to give much of a leaning toward a cut.  In fact, he said the risks that precipitated their “pause” on the rate path (China and European growth, Brexit risks, and trade negoations), have been largely improving.  He’s right.  He said the economy was solid.  He’s right.

Still, stocks came off sharply into the close.

After today, you have to ask the question:  Can stocks force the hand of the Fed, again?  Remember, stocks fell 8% in just four trading days after the Fed’s December hike – penalizing a tone deaf Fed.  In a market that was already down 9% on the month, the slide was exacerbated by the further Fed tightening. 

That stock fallout soon led to a response from the U.S. Treasury, as Mnuchin called out to major banks and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (which includes the Fed) to “assure normal market operations.”  That put a bottom in stocks.  And within days of that, the three most powerful central bankers of the past ten years (Bernanke, Yellen and Powell) were backtracking on the Fed’s rate path — signaling a pause.  The Fed’s pivot has fueled a V-shaped recovery in stocks.

So, we’ve just come off of a four-month run in stocks that gave us a full recovery of the late 2018 losses — and a new record high in the S&P 500.  That was the best four month gain since 2010.  Now we enter May with this chart …

 

As you can see, with the decline this afternoon, the S&P 500 put in a key reversal signal — a bearish outside day.  That’s tough to ignore, given that we’ve had a 16% gain in stocks to open the first four months of the year. This signal may be enough to stop the momentum, for now, as we wait for the word on a China deal — which is now said to ‘possibly’ come by next Friday.

If you haven’t signed up for my Billionaire’s Portfolio, don’t delay … we’ve just had another big exit in our portfolio, and we’ve replaced it with the favorite stock of the most revered investor in corporate America — it’s a stock with double potential.

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By Bryan Rich

April 30, 5:00 pm EST

As we head into a Fed decision tomorrow, we’ve talked about the prospects of a Fed rate cut.  It’s highly unlikely.

It’s even more unlikely today, after Trump pushed for, not just a cut, but a full point cut …

 

Unfortunately, the influence Trump tried to wield late last year, is probably why the Fed hiked in December — just to prove to the world that they (the Fed) wouldn’t be politically influenced.

With that, we now have an economy growing at 3%+, stocks near record highs and subdued inflation.  And yet we have a ten-year yield at 2.5%.  It doesn’t fit.  The interest rate market is still sending the message that the December rate hike was a mistake.

With that, if we did get a cut by this summer, I suspect the interest rate market would adjust to reflect a more optimistic economic outlook.  By that, I mean, with a cut in the Fed funds rate, the long end of the yield curve (specifically, 10-year yields) would probably go UP not down –steepening the yield curve.

If you haven’t signed up for my Billionaire’s Portfolio, don’t delay … we’ve just had another big exit in our portfolio, and we’ve replaced it with the favorite stock of the most revered investor in corporate America — it’s a stock with double potential.

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