Bang!

2015 has certainly started with a bang. Seemingly, every day of trading has seen the range of the Dow Jones Industrials measured in hundreds of points.  It has become obvious to all that since the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) ended its purchases under Quantitative Easing (QE) back in October that Central Bank policy had the effect of suppressing volatility and supporting asset prices. We had the expectation that with the end of QE that bond prices would rally and stock prices would at least stall in their ascent and perhaps move lower. That has been the case so far in 2015.

Worrisome is the increase in the intensity of currency wars being promulgated by the various central banks around the world. Central banks are playing a game of beggar thy neighbor and wish to reduce their currency below their trading partners. All is well and good and may in fact help those first actors but watch out what comes next.  Trade wars. When those losing the currency game become trade warriors and enact tariffs and embargoes we will all be brushing up on our Smoot Hawley references. For those of you that do not remember. The Smoot Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 is what is blamed for really setting the Great Depression in stone. Keep an eye out for Smoot Hawley’s around the world. Trade wars may be next.

While the US Dollar is soaring to ever greater heights the price of Gold is rallying as well. Usually when the US Dollar is going higher Gold struggles as it is priced in US Dollars. If you live in Russia or China it takes more Rubles or Yuan to buy the same amount of gold. Gold is moving higher in the face of a rising US Dollar. Why is that? The world is trending towards deflation. Why is Gold rising? The currency wars we referenced. Gold is being seen as a currency. A currency that you cannot debase. It is a store of value. If you are in Russia and the Ruble is getting badly damaged move your money into NYC real estate or gold. A store of value. Keep your eyes on Gold.

Equity prices have been stuck in a trading range between 1980 and 2080 on the S&P 500 since early December. Most of the time markets tend to break out of those ranges the way that they came in. It is a 60/40 proposition that it breaks higher. The end of QE with margin debt at all time highs and sky-high equity valuations have the bulls on edge. The trend of higher asset prices since 2009 has any bears that are left standing on edge. High yield bonds may also be signaling lower equity prices. Anecdotally, it has gotten slightly easier to make money on the short side of this market lately. Watch the trading range. The 200 Day Moving Average on the S&P 500 of 1978 will be closely watched for support. Trend following bulls may move to the sidelines on any breach. Federal Reserve officials have been protecting the lower end of the range with public comments. Bears will cave quickly on any move above 2080. Watch for the break out.

2015 is looking like it is going to be the Year of Volatility. The US Dollar is very overextended to the upside and that boat is very crowded on the long side of the trade. Currency moves tend to stay in trend for extended periods. Be careful. Everyone thinks that the Dollar is headed higher. That usually spells trouble. Stay on your toes. Jeffrey Gundlach of Double Line Funds has said that if oil goes to $40 the US 10 Year may move to 1%. So far in 2015 he has been spot on.  Right now the US 10 Year is at 1.64%. The German 10 Year is at 0.34%. That makes 1.64% look downright enticing.

We sent out our Quarterly Letter earlier this month which takes a more in-depth look at our views on the investing landscape for 2015. If you are interested in receiving it just drop us a line at terry@blackthornasset.com .

I think we aspire less to foresee the future and more to be a great contingency planner… you can respond very fast to what’s happening because you thought through all the possibilities, – Lloyd  Blankfein

To learn more about us and Blackthorn Asset Management LLC visit our website at www.BlackthornAsset.com .

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

Disclosure: This blog is informational and is not a recommendation to buy or sell anything. If you are thinking about investing consider the risk. Everyone’s financial situation is different. Consult your financial advisor.

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