Gradual Squeeze

Local governments are in serious trouble as we are now seeing in Puerto Rico and Connecticut. High taxes, capital flight and pension obligations are going to meet the new order. We see technology and social changes on the horizon that continue to cut out the middle man and the ultimate middle man is government. Driverless cars? No more speeding tickets, DUI’s, parking tickets and lower drug arrests from stopped vehicles. All bring in less revenue for your local and state government. About seven years ago Meredith Whitney offered that muni defaults would begin to rise. She was laughed out of the building.

Ray Dalio is CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. Ray takes into account not just the numbers as his theories about investing are more all encompassing about where we are in the cycles of debt and the economy while taking into account social and political factors. In his latest blog post on LinkedIn he had this to say on the current environment. We have taken Ray’s thoughts and applied them to muni bond investing. Time to think about a gradual squeeze in muni’s and rising default rates?

At the same time, the longer-term picture is concerning because we have a lot of debt and a lot of non-debt obligations (pensions, healthcare entitlements, social security, etc.) coming due, which will increasingly create a “squeeze”; this squeeze will come gradually, not as a shock, and will hurt those who are now most in distress the hardest.

Central banks’ powers to rectify these problems are more limited than normal, which adds to the downside risks. Central banks’ powers to ease are less than normal because they have limited abilities to lower interest rates from where they are and because increased QE would be less effective than normal with risk premiums where they are. Similarly, effective fiscal policy help is more elusive because of political fragmentation.

Wells Fargo’s unauthorized account scandal is growing. It is now estimated that they created over 3.5 million accounts. If you are still with a traditional broker and not a fiduciary you should ask yourself, “Why?”

Commodities continue to have a rough go of it. Iron ore, copper, and rubber are all well off of their highs with iron ore down 20% and rubber down 30%. The tightening of money in China is having a chilling effect on commodity prices around the globe. West Texas Crude (WTI) rose about 3% on the week but is still under the crucial $50 a barrel mark. Keep an eye on oil for clues about the economy and stock market. The Saudi’s are looking to IPO their precious Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, and are going to want oil prices higher in order to get more money into their treasury. The Iranians and the Russians may try and pump more oil in order to push prices lower as their interests run counter to the Saudi’s. OPEC meets on May 25th. Oil has been on a roller coaster in 2017 and we do not think that the second half of the year will be any different.

The market is still stuck in consolidation mode. The S&P 500’s leadership continues to help pull the index higher while the amount of stocks above their 50 day moving average drops from 80% to 50%. Things are getting narrow at the top. This could be another sign that investors should be adding active management back into their portfolio. Stock trends continue as Hong Kong, England, Brazil, Japan, and the US all continue to consolidate gains or head higher. China? Not so much. Hard to argue against the bull thesis as the market continue to hold gains or plow higher. We think a southern neighbor could be the next leading stock market.

We still expect the market to break out of its recent range to the upside and in favor of the bulls. More often than not when a market consolidates a major move it breaks out of that pattern the same way that it came into it. It’s all about momentum and the animal spirits of the market.

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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  or check out our LinkedIn page at .


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.


Published in: on May 13, 2017 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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