Tops and Bottoms

 

More signs of top and bottoms. Andy Hall, legendary oil trader, otherwise known as “God” in the oil pits has finally thrown in the towel. According to Bloomberg, the long time oil bull was forced to liquidate his main hedge fund this week. The slump in oil has worn his investor’s patience thin as his main fund was down 30% in the first half of 2017. His latest letter stated that OPEC had lost control of the market and oil is stuck at $50 a barrel.

Tesla has had a similar effect on short sellers. According to S3 Partners Research short sellers have lost over $3.5 billion in the last 18 months trying to pick the top in Elon Musk’s Tesla. The massively overvalued stock has short sellers running for cover after its latest earnings release. A short squeeze has helped Tesla’s shares reach new heights. Short sellers are investors looking to profit from the fall of a security. They borrow stock and sell it hoping to see the stock fall in price when they can then buy it back at a lower level and profit from its fall. Tesla’s release of its latest earnings has short sellers competing with each other to cover their short and cut their losses.

Each of the above is noteworthy, in that, they show that moves have become extreme. The closing of funds show market bottoms. The closing of short positions show market tops. Keep an eye on oil and high valuation stocks.

We received word from different sources this week that cash allocations for investors are at historically low levels. The American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) reported in its latest survey that individuals are holding their lowest cash levels since 2000 and the end of the Internet Bubble. Bank of America reported in a survey of its High Net Worth clients that they too are at all time low levels of cash not seen since 2007. 2007 is another year that conjures up rather poor images for investors. We have high cash allocations in our clients’ accounts due to high valuation levels but from a statistical point of view we are stashing more of it into MM funds and short term bond funds as yields rise and cash savings rates come off of zero interest rates. This could be an indicator of a frothy market or just a statistical anomaly.

Based on Thursday night’s close the S&P 500 11 day closing range is the lowest in its 90 year history. 90 years! That’s a long time. Even with the news of North Korean missile launches and a Grand jury investigation of the sitting US President’s campaign the stock market has grown stagnant. The market has grown increasingly narrow in its ascent. The Dow Jones Industrials are up 2000 points so far in 2017. Over half of those gains have been provided by just 3 stocks – Bowing, McDonalds and Apple. While another Dow component, GE, is down 20% from its highs and entering its own bear market.

You may start to hear more about Dow Theory in the coming days. Dow Theory says that the Industrials and Transports need to move in concert. Transports are down 5% from their highs and trying to hold its 200 Day Moving Average while Industrials are hitting new all time highs. There is also a divergence between the Dow and the broader market as exemplified by the Russell 2000’s struggle to hold its 50 DMA while the Dow hits new highs. The signs of a top are showing but the trading algorithms will not let the market down. Algos flaw is that they promote virtuous and vicious cycles.  The higher the market goes the more algos buy. The more the market goes down the more they need to sell and the fewer bids there are.

Yet Two More Cautions – Jason Goepfert of SentimenTrader noted yet two more cautionary precedents. Wednesday marked the 7th straight daily gain for the Dow, and of course, a multi-year high. Remarkably, this is the 4th time in the past 200 days that the Dow has managed a streak like this, the most in its history. The last time it managed even three such streaks was in the summer of 1987, which led to a bit of trouble a couple of months later

8/3/17 Cashin’s Comments

Hat tip to Arthur Cashin for the above research from the very insightful Jason Goepfert. We couldn’t resist mentioning 1987 again. Sorry for the length of the blog this week. Things are starting to get interesting. We are dropping our oldest off at college this weekend. Wish us luck. Time flies. For now, the market refuses to break through resistance at 2475 on the S&P 500. We still see support at 2400. If they break through resistance then we are off to a new range of 2475-2550. The path of least resistance is higher for now but September/October loom.

If you are not currently receiving our blog by email you can sign up for free at https://terencereilly.wordpress.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  or check out our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/terencereilly/ .

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.

The Great Escape

It is a 10 year anniversary for us this week. This week marks 10 years since our move to Georgia. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the dawn of the financial crisis. Not a coincidence I assure you. Having traded through the Internet Bubble and watched Lucent Technologies, which was that bubbles’ “Darling” stock, trade from $79 to 79 cents we knew the real estate market would have also have to get as bad as it was good. And in 2006 -07 it was very good. We foresaw the real estate crisis and sold our house in New Jersey for an exorbitant price which according to Zillow it still has not climbed back to. As a side note, Lucent never got back to $79 either. We say this not to brag but as an investment lesson learned well. Trees do not grow to the sky. Know when to cut back on your risk.

Not much is being made of the 10th Anniversary of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) but there has been a lot of consternation surrounding the Federal Reserve’s most recent decision and path going forward. If we have established that the growth in central bank balance sheets around the world has been responsible for the run up in asset prices it stands to reason that any shrinking of those balance sheets would diminish asset prices. Here is another timeless lesson of investing. Never fight the Fed. While the Fed has spent the last 10 years injecting liquidity into the system to pump up asset prices it is now talking about taking liquidity out – Quantitative Tightening (QT). Ironically, during our time on Wall Street the phrase QT was a questionable trade, an error that needed to be resolved and it usually cost you money. The question facing us now is the Federal Reserve making a questionable trade and will it cost you money?

The economy is growing, albeit slowing. That is due to the immense amount of debt on the United States balance sheet. This slow growth is now being met by a central bank that seeks to raise rates and shrink its own balance sheet. Now instead of a tailwind, the economy and markets are looking at a headwind. As we have written in prior posts, the Federal Reserve could have been acting since December with the impulse that more stimulative fiscal policy was going to come out of Washington, in the post election period. The new administration Trumpeted the advent of a new era with tax reform and deregulation at its forefront. The Fed sought to get ahead of the curve by applying tighter money policy. Well, Washington is at a standstill and has provided none of the above.

Is the Federal Reserve making the ultimate central banker mistake? Are they tightening into a slowdown? The bond market seems to think so. The yield curve is flattening which indicates that bond investors do not see inflation on the horizon and see subpar growth in the economy. Yet the stock market keeps chugging along. Who is right? Generally, we always go with the bond market.  We believe that the Fed is tightening due to financial conditions and not economic conditions. That is what the stock market is missing. As long as the market expects the Fed to stop tightening because of slowing economic conditions then the market will continue to rally and the Fed will continue raising rates. Someone is going to blink first.

We think that the animal spirits playbook is still alive. Markets have not broken down and still seem to be headed higher. Higher markets may force investors to chase it even higher.

The Federal Reserve’s thinking has two main problems. One is that the Fed believes in stock and not flow which means that the Fed believes a big balance sheet helps the market. We believe it is the flow that determines the direction of markets. Flow is the direction in which the Fed and policy are headed. The Fed also believes that the market will discount their talking points as they move towards QT. We believe that the market will change when the flow changes.

Oil continues to get pounded as it is down 20% from March highs even though things in the Middle East heat up. Oil may try to find a bottom here as oil production will slow below $40 a barrel, at least here in the US. Biotech has had a great week as investors rotate there as the pressure from Washington on that sector seems to have ebbed. Equities are still in the middle of what we anticipate to be the new range on the S&P 500. For now we see support at 2400 on the S&P 500 with 2475 providing resistance. Interest rates may have seen their interim low for awhile.

If you are not currently receiving our blog by email you can sign up for free at https://terencereilly.wordpress.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  or check out our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/terencereilly/ .

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

The Drive Higher

The big story this week was that the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) minutes were released from its last meeting. In those minutes it becomes clear that the FOMC is looking to reduce its balance sheet. Long time readers know that we feel that it was the increase in that balance sheet that helped greatly influence the stock market rally and raise prices of virtually all asset classes in the post crisis period. Any reduction in that balance sheet would logically have the opposite effect at some point. If the FOMC were to roll off its balance sheet the valuations of equity markets, driven higher due to easy money policies, may not be able to maintain their currently elevated plateau. Earnings alone will not be able to expand market multiples.

The bottom line is that the Fed needs more weapons to fight the next recession. The Fed must reduce its balance sheet before they raise rates further. If they begin to roll off the balance sheet it becomes another weapon for them to use because they can stop and start the process or move it faster or slower. If they remain static it is a liability and not an asset.

We have been pointing towards a looming crisis in the municipal finance area. The latest on our radar is the state of Connecticut. Connecticut’s largest moneymakers have been leaving town and sticking the state with the bill. Big earners know tax law and are incentivized to leave the state for greener pastures of low tax states like Florida. Atlas is shrugging. Courtesy of zero hedge comes the following.

The latest figures showed that tax revenue from the state’s top 100 highest-paying taxpayers declined 45% from 2015 to 2016. The drop adds up to a $200 million revenue loss for Connecticut. Connecticut Tax Cut

Oil had a rough week but it did manage to crawl back and close higher on Friday. It failed to close above the critical $50 a barrel on West Texas Crude (WTI). Equities are breaking out of the range that they has been trapped in for the last 3 months. The range of 2330-2400 on the S&P 500 was broken this week as the market closed on Friday at the 2415 level. This breakout could extend to 2475 if it gets legs. For now, volume is low and the few big leaders are influencing the advance. Summer markets are more prone to sharp moves as investors head to the beach. Our main thesis still holds that the market heads higher post Donald Trump’s victory with a move much akin to 1987.

If you are not currently receiving our blog by email you can sign up for free at https://terencereilly.wordpress.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  or check out our LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/terencereilly/ .

 

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.

 

This House is Rocking

Janet Yellen seems petrified of scaring the market. We have news for her. At some point she will. It’s her job to take away the punchbowl when the party gets started and this house is rocking. The Federal Reserve uptick in interest rates, while widely telegraphed, still managed to surprise markets by it being couched in the most dovish way possible.

How did Janet Yellen do that? The Fed has been consistent in stating that 2% inflation was a target of theirs. In her latest press conference, Yellen made it clear that the 2% target is a target but not a “ceiling”. Additionally, her comment that the return to 2% inflation should be “sustained” made it clear to the market that the Fed is okay with letting the economy run a little hot.  Janet Yellen may have to talk back the market’s reaction this week from her dovish rate hike. The market reacted positively which we expected but we did not expect the extent of that positive reaction.

surprisingly, financial markets took the meeting as a large dovish surprise—the third-largest at an FOMC meeting since 2000 outside the financial crisis, based on the co-movement of different asset prices.” – Goldman’s Jan Hatzius 3/15/17

The risk is that the market and economy may overheat. There is also a risk that the Fed could throw cold water on it if Trump’s fiscal and tax objectives get bogged down in the swap which we think they already have. The Fed is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s a guessing game with imperfect information. The kind of decision a trader makes and not the kind that academics make well. The time is ripe for a policy error. Now whether that error takes the market higher or lower depends on the action of the Fed. Right now by portraying this rate hike as dovishly as they did the animal spirits in the market are taking things higher. Next week should tell us a lot more about how the market feels.

The Fed is boxed in. A canary in the coalmine, small-caps keep sagging. The Russell 2000 dipped into negative year-to-date territory on Tuesday morning. There was nary a mention of the debt ceiling that was reached this week. This is going to be a problem and, possibly, with the rancor in DC, it could become THE problem. The Treasury only has about one month’s cash on hand. Less than Google or Apple have on their books.

Yellen raised rates but couched it so dovishly the market rallied. She is afraid of a negative market reaction. She should be afraid of a positive market reaction as the real reason she raised rates was to cool off the market. Market seems ready to continue its running with the bulls as we suspected. This could be the last 10%. Caution. We are pressing the bets with our more aggressive clients but pulling back for our more risk averse.

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.

Published in: on March 18, 2017 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Back to the Future – 1987 and Trump

The Trump Rally continues as we expected. Given our thesis in our January Letter the possibility of a policy error by the Federal Reserve and/or the Trump Administration looks to be increasing. We believe that a policy error could set the stage for a substantial rally and then fall ala 1987. 1987 should not be looked at in fear but in anticipation of an opportunity. The table looks like it is getting set. Combine the clamor and excitement over deregulation and tax reform with a slow moving Fed and you have room for the Animal Spirits to run as investor euphoria takes hold. A 30% run from the lows before Election Day would put us squarely in Bubble territory as the S&P 500 would approach the 2750 area. A subsequent 30% retreat would bring us back to the 2000 area. Currently at 2367 on the S&P 500 one can see the potential for misstep by exiting one’s holdings completely and trying to time reentry. One solution is to dial back risk as you see markets rising and adding when the risk premium is more in your favor. Always make sure that you have the ability to buy when discounts come.

United States 10 year yields peaked at 2.6% in mid December and have been steadily falling back to the 2.3% level. We still think that the lows are in for the 10 year but the steady drip lower in yields has us concerned. The bond market is the much wiser brother of the stock market. The actions in the bond market have us thinking that investors see risk on the horizon. 2 year bond yields in Germany have reached new lows of negative (0.90%). NEGATIVE!! You buy the bonds and pay the government!

The Fed is struggling to make the March meeting look Live. The Fed has proposed that they will raise rates three times in 2017 and that just might not be possible if they do not raise rates in March. We believe March is the first key to understanding where equity markets are headed. If the Federal Reserve drags their feet and does not raise rates at the March meeting equity markets could overheat. Fed officials will then be forced to overreact at later policy meetings as they get behind the curve. The time is ripe for a policy error and markets could react swiftly.

From our good friend and mentor Arthur Cashin’s Comments February 23, 2017.

Is The Past Prologue? Maybe We Should Hope Not – The ever vigilant Jason Goepfert at SentimenTrader combed his prodigious files to see how many times the Dow closed at record highs for nine straight days. Here’s what he discovered: The Dow climbed to its 9th straight record. Going back to 1897, the index has accomplished such a feat only 5 other times. The momentum persisted in the months ahead every time, with impressive returns. But when it ended, it led to 2 crashes, 1 bear market and 1 stretch of choppiness. The five instances were 1927; 1929; 1955; 1964 and 1987. Here’s how Jason summed up his review: Like many instances of massive momentum, however, when it stopped, it stopped hard. Two of them led up to the crash in 1929, one to the crash in 1987, one to the extended bear markets of the 1960- 1970s and the other a period of extended choppy price action. So a little something for everyone there.

Momentum is towards higher prices. Stocks are extremely overbought. The S&P 500 has not seen a close of up or down more than 1% in over 50 sessions. Complacency is high. Machines seem to be running the market. Right now we are wary of market structure and overreliance on ETF’s. Know what you own. Keep an eye on bonds both here and in Europe. Europe is bubbling again. What if Germany left the euro? Discuss.

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.

High and Rising

“Is Trump aggressive and thoughtful or aggressive and reckless?”

– Ray Dalio  Davos World Economic Forum 1/18/17

And we sit and we wait. How will Trump preside? The market and market players would have been more at ease with a Clinton presidency. She would have been easier to predict. Trump is different. He does not have years of governance or position papers in order for us to decipher his next move. Judging by his Inaugural Address, which will be forever known as the American Carnage speech, we can see that he intends to be aggressive and populist. The question remains is he going to be thoughtful in his aggressiveness or reckless? Is his aggressiveness just the first shot in a never ending negotiation? We get the feeling that everything Trump does is a negotiation and everything he says is a means to an end in that negotiation. Will it be a thoughtful negotiation or a reckless one? Businessmen like Trump tend to get their way and get it quickly. Let’s see how he feels after the first 100 days of getting bogged down in the swamp. What starts off thoughtful could become reckless.

If it feels as if we have been waiting two years for some resolution to the current market environment it’s because we have. With the exception of a one month rally that started on Election Night 2016 the stock market has gone nowhere since the ending of QE3 in late 2014. Central bank policy here in the US has been one of tightening and that has kept a clamp on equity pricing. It is with the possibility of an administration that would spend fiscally to stimulate the economy along with committing to tax reform and deregulation that the market has seen further fuel for the latest rise in equity prices.

If you haven’t read our Quarterly Letter the synopsis is that the combination of experimental central bank policy and the new administration’s stated goals raises the odds that we are going to have some sort of error in monetary and/or fiscal policy. Any policy error could resolve itself in one of two ways. If central banks drag their feet and raise rates too slowly then that policy error could insight animal spirits and drive equity valuations even higher, possibly to bubble like valuations. Raise rates too quickly and equity prices fall sharply. The current populist rhetoric has us thinking of the 1930’s. The 1930’s had tremendous rallies and stumbles in the stock market. Not to say that we will repeat the pattern of the 1930’s but things certainly rhyme with talk of income inequality, trade barriers and populist rhetoric.

Equity valuations are high and bond prices could be in bubble territory. We do not think equity prices are in bubble territory yet. We continue to lean away from bond like equities and more towards seeking value where we can find it. As for bonds, we believe the bottom to be in for yields in the 35 year bull market. Our duration is quite low and we look forward to rising bond yields as they will allow us to reinvest at higher yields.

Keep an eye on Washington and on Twitter. In the next 100 days we may find out if Trump is going to be thoughtful or reckless. The idea of the return to the 1930’s does not make us feel warm and fuzzy but we believe that the pendulum swings to extremes and back again. A populist uprising is the natural evolution of globalization. It should be expected that once populism’s peak has been reached the pendulum will swing back but for the moment Trump and populism are in full swing.

If you would like to read more of our thoughts and a deeper dive into what we see coming in 2017 follow the link below to our website and our First Quarterly Letter of 2017.

http://blackthornasset.com/investment-philosophy/outlook-qtrly-letter/

 

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.

 

Bulletproof

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. – Herbert Stein American Economist

Herbert Stein was an American Economist who worked in several White House administrations and was, more famously, the father of the actor Ben Stein. (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – “Bueller? – Bueller?”) If Mr. Stein were still with us he might find his famous quote useful this week. What we had was another 5 days of trading and another 3% higher for the S&P 500. Investors continue to plow into financials, industrials and materials while moving away from bonds and bond like equities such as utilities and real estate. Investment professionals are afraid of being left in the dust and having clients see that their portfolios don’t include the latest outperformers so they are adding them at a heady clip. It is the time honored tradition called “Window Dressing”.

Trees don’t grow to the sky and what cannot continue – won’t. David Rosenberg from Gluskin Sheff was quick to note this week that Reagan’s honeymoon lasted 6 months and 6% before seeing the market fall 25% over the next two years in the face of a rising dollar and rising bond yields. Sound familiar?

Monetary policy has been responsible for the majority of the gains in the stock market since the crisis began in 2008. The Federal Reserve pulled forward returns in seeking to engage “animal spirits” in the stock market to raise valuations. The belief was that rising asset prices would help the economy by shoring up balance sheets with higher valuations and by engendering decision makers with the confidence that higher prices would bring. Fast forward 8 years and we are truly seeing “animal spirits”. Our overriding question over the last 8 years is what happens when the monetary policy accommodation rug gets pulled out from underneath the investor? A decrease in monetary accommodation here in the US will only send the US Dollar higher, decrease asset values, and exacerbate geopolitical uncertainty in emerging markets while increasing volatility in asset pricing around the globe. We are starting to see central bankers around the world attempt to withdraw accommodation. File this one under” be careful what you wish for”.

Two things are being bandied about as fact. One thesis that traders seem to be buying into is the “Inauguration Day Trade”. Traders believe, as proffered by Jeff Gundlach, that this rally will peak before Inauguration Day. The second is that bond yields in excess of 2.75% on the 10 year will cause stock prices to fall. Keep an eye on both the yield and the calendar.

Dow Theory kicked in on Wednesday. Transports are up almost 50% from their lows in January to eclipse the all time highs of late 2014. Up 17% in the last month!! This has all the earmarks of a blow off top and we may not be finished yet. We have speculated for some time that this would be how this bull market ended – Straight up in spectacular fashion. While we have been cautious on the valuations of this market for some time the missing ingredient to a top in the market has been investor euphoria. Well, the Trump win may have provided just that. Hang on tight.

Markets are overbought. Santa may have arrived early. January may see some reversal of fortune but it looks like the trade is in place for now. Out with bonds and bond like equities and in with financials, industrials and materials. Market continues to shrug off major geopolitical financial events at an ever faster pace. The Italian Referendum was shrugged off in minutes. Ego kills when it comes to investing. Bulls are feeling bulletproof.

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.

Published in: on December 10, 2016 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Shock Waves

 “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

What the heck was that? An unexpected Trump victory sent shock waves through markets this week. What was once up is now down and what was down is now up. You have probably heard various explanations to this weeks 5% rally in the stock market. Here is my take. While many predicted that markets would sell off 5-10% in light of a Trump victory traders took their hints from the Brexit vote back in June. After the Brexit vote markets sold off but then rallied furiously. So this time, traders never let them sell off. Thinking like an old floor trader we saw many investors get caught offside. When everyone is on the same side of the boat the exits get small.

As we have written before Wall Street is agnostic when it comes to the election. They just want to know which way to bet. They got it horribly wrong and that wrong-footedness contributed to the volatility that we saw this week. Longs needed to be sold and shorts bought. The deflation trade was sold and the inflation trade was bought. Bonds, REIT’s and utilities got pummeled while financial stocks and biotechnology ran higher reversing their courses from the past year.

Going forward the street is betting on US dollar trades and less on globalization of trade. They also see inflation coming back with the Republicans running fiscal deficits and increasing spending on infrastructure while controlling both Houses of Congress and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Market internals tell us that something is amiss. While markets ran up 450 points after FBI Director Comey cleared Hilary Clinton and what seemed to be her path to the White House markets rallied 500 points when Trump sailed to victory. Also, declining stocks have been higher than advancing stocks while the market hits new highs. According to Arthur Cashin at the NYSE the market saw the largest number of simultaneous new highs and new lows in nearly 50 years. Not a sign of strength.

We believe that the path going forward is to continue to follow the aftermath of Brexit on British markets. While a honeymoon period is to be expected we believe that, as has been the case in Britain, as the honeymoon ends equity markets will begin to consolidate their gains post election and gravitate towards their lows of election night. Market closed on Friday at 2164 on the S&P 500. For now, resistance is at 2170 and then 2190. Market is now overbought and should take a breather here. Lots to come in the next month with the forming of a Trump Cabinet, an Italian referendum that could spell further problems for the EU and a likely rate increase here in the United States.

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.

Published in: on November 12, 2016 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

You’ve Got Mail

Just when I thought I was out. They pull me back in.

 – Michael Corleone Godfather III

Was it Michael Corleone or James Comey Director of the FBI? Comey has to be thinking the same as the Godfather as Anthony Weiner’s emails have pulled Comey back into the Clinton investigation and thrown the election and markets for a loop. The S&P 500 was holding support above the 2130 level that we spoke of last week until the explosive news of a reopening of the Clinton email investigation hit the tape on Friday. Markets closed under 2130 for the second time triggering Jeffrey Gundlach’s warning. Monday is going to be a very important day for the short term direction of the market.

Mega mergers are not typically seen as very good for markets. In fact they usually serve as a warning post and signs of a potential top. We were served up with the news of three merger/takeovers last Monday morning. The largest being the ATT Time Warner deal. The AOL Time Warner deal served as the warning bell at the top of the 2000 bull market and the subsequent tech crash. When large companies have squeezed the last drop of growth out of their companies and the business cycle is near the top the playbook calls for buying growth. At the end of the business cycle the only thing left to do is acquire the growth that is not obtainable organically. ATT has recently seen a slowdown in the growth of subscribers. Is this the Hail Mary Pass for ATT? The AOL Time Warner merger is now studied in business classes as the classic failed mega merger. How will history see the ATT Time Warner merger? Better we suspect but sometimes they do ring bells at the top.

As far as the technicals go the 50 Day Moving Average (DMA) on the S&P 500 is now declining. Also, the last two weeks have seen market swoons instead of rallies at the end of the market day. Both serve as warning signs for a tired market. We are entering, which is historically, the best part of the year for stocks. The election and the Federal Reserve may have something to say about that. We are now staring at an election in chaos and a Federal Reserve committee meeting in December where they have all but promised the market that they will raise rates. Will they still raise rates if Trump wins and markets swoon? 2130 is being tested. Pass or fail?

The S&P 500 has now closed below its 100 day moving average for the third straight week. If 2130 fails then the next real level of support is the always critical 200 day moving average at 2078 on the S&P 500.

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.

The Greatest Game

 

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening – and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” – Arnold Palmer

 

My great passions, besides my family, are golf and investing. They are very similar in their nature. As Mr. Palmer so eloquently stated both games are maddening but perhaps that is why they are so rewarding and satisfying. We enjoy that both games seem simple but are frustratingly complex and it is in conquering their complexity that we find such satisfaction.

The 3rd Quarter of 2016 was maddening as the entire quarter was spent watching and waiting for some sort of resolution to market direction. While investors and hedge fund managers went off to the beach, the market, with the exception of the first two weeks in July, looked like it went off to the beach as well. The S&P 500 was up 3.5% in the first two weeks of July and that is where it closed for the quarter.  Much like a duck it was about what was going on under the surface that counted.

The pressure in the market continues to build as the market stays range bound between 18,000 and 18,500 on the Dow Jones Industrials. The pressure, if you listen to the media, is increasingly blamed on the election but it is the course of central banker policy that should hold your attention. The election is merely a sideshow. Central bankers, while publicly stating that negative interest rates are working, are finding that negative interest rates in Japan and Europe are having serious consequences. The pressure is mounting on central bankers to claw back higher interest rates without disturbing the animal spirits of the market place which would knock down asset prices while hindering confidence in the recovery.

Deutsche Bank and Interest Rates

Of late, central bankers in Europe have also come face to face with another dilemma and that is the market is attacking the stock price of Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank (DB). The market has begun speculating that Germany’s largest bank and perhaps the world’s most systemically important bank could be in trouble. While we don’ think Deutsche Bank is on the brink of failure attention must be paid. When Wall Street senses weakness they feed upon it. The market has a way of cleaving the weak antelope from the herd. Financial firms’ biggest asset is confidence in the institution itself. A bank is only as good as its promise that it will deliver on its obligations. If there is no confidence in the institution then it is no longer viable and money will flow away from it. A bank run is not always logical.

Markets are going to push Deutsche Bank, possibly to their limit. Markets have a way of fleshing out the weak players. Traders will get into to a position where they will profit from a fall in Deutsche Bank’s stock. It has been this way since the dawn of Wall Street. You could call them parasites but as speculators they perform a function. They keep the system honest and flesh out the weak hands. That is what capitalism is. We have seen it over and over again. This can be seen in the failure of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and probably most clearly in the failure of Long Term Capital Management.

(In 1998, Long Term Capital Management was THE hot hedge fund full of famous Wall Street traders and Nobel Prize winners. They made increasingly larger bets that put them in hot water.  Traders around the Street got wind of their problems and garnered insights into Long Term’s worsening positions and bet against them until Long Term had to capitulate and be bailed out by the big banks.)

One of the biggest issues surrounding Deutsche Bank and the European banking system is the unintended consequences of negative interest rate policy. The current negative interest rate environment is curtailing bank profitability. By trying to save the European economy European Central Bank (ECB) officials are putting the solvency of their banking/insurance sectors and pension funds at risk.

From a macro perspective we see that not only can central banks no longer lower interest rates they must raise them to enable banks to make profits and heal their balance sheets. Danielle DiMartino Booth is a former advisor to Federal Reserve of Dallas President Richard Fisher and is now President of Money Strong and serves as a consultant on worldwide central banking. Here is what Danielle had to say on the current interest rate environment.

In a reversal of economic fortunes, today’s economy is in desperate need of higher rather than lower interest rates, of a normalization of policy to put a floor under the bloodletting in pensions, insurance companies and among retirees worldwide. – Danielle Martino Booth Fed http://dimartinobooth.com/the-overlords-of-finance/

Central banks are currently trying to keep zombie companies and banks from failing. They are not allowing capitalism and its creative destruction component to function. The capitalist system is designed and needs to allow weaker hands to fail and the system to heal and become stronger. That has been what is missing since the dawn of this crisis – The allowance of failure. The politics of it are not palatable. The system is weakened because of it. At some point authorities must allow creative destruction or we will end up in an endless series of crises and become like Japan with low growth and stagnation for decades. The piper must be paid. Pain must be felt. Could we be at the beginning of that realization? Rates must be allowed to rise so banks can make money and repair their balance sheets. Central banks may be forced to raise rates.

Do we think that Deutsche Bank is going to fail? No. The legal settlements will not be as high as the headline grabbing amounts suggested so far. The bank does have sufficient liquidity at the moment but bank runs are bank runs and if one begins for Deutsche Bank there is never enough capital. Bank runs are panics and cannot be reasoned with.  We look at the macro risks and opportunities. We believe that there has to be a Plan B in effect and the German government will step in if Deutsche Bank begins to fail. A lack of confidence in Deutsche Bank and a lower stock price will deny them the ability to raise more capital. Either the governments will have to back off and allow them to operate under less stringent capital measures or Germany may have to step in and take a large stake in the world’s largest derivative dealer. The contagion risks are too high worldwide. What we see from a macro perspective is that the ECB will have to back off its pledge of negative interest rates as the unintended negative consequences are too high. Banks need positive rates and a steeper yield curve to make money. You cannot have your banks fail. They are the plumbing of the economic system. If Deutsche Bank fails then Credit Suisse is next and so on. The dominoes fall. Central bank leaders need to make it easier for banks to generate profits and negative rates are killing banks.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-29/run-begins-deutsche-bank-hedge-fund-clients-cut-collateral-exposure

 Saudi Issues – Oil

 

The other issue that has had our attention all summer is the lingering dissension among OPEC members and talks to tighten oil supply. Saudi Arabia is the 800 lb gorilla in the oil markets and without a definitive commitment on Saudi Arabia’s part no supply cut will have any effect.  A younger generation has taken control in Saudi Arabia and has been attempting a different tack in managing its foreign policy and economy. This has led them to attempt a change in their oil policy. The Saudi’s have been trying to drive prices lower in order to maintain market share and perhaps drive Russian and United States policy in their favor. The continued oversupply of oil markets has had the effect of dragging down oil prices but the outcome may have been too painful for the Saudi’s to handle. Things in the Kingdom have gotten much worse for the rulers as social issues mount. The Saudi Arabian government was forced to tap the international bond market for the first time in decades in order to fund a large budget deficit approaching 16% of GDP.  Currently their stock market is tumbling and the default risk of Saudi Arabia is rising in world markets.

Efforts to manage the fallout from cheap oil gathered steam over the past two weeks. Policy makers have suspended bonuses and trimmed allowances for government employees. Ministers’ salaries were cut by 20 percent. The central bank also said it’s injecting about 20 billion riyals ($5.3 billion) into the banking system to ease a cash crunch.

Austerity will help Saudis reduce a budget deficit that reached 16 percent of gross domestic product last year

 

The benchmark Tadawul All Share Index is down 18.5 percent this year, the third-worst performer among more than 90 global indexes tracked by Bloomberg. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has climbed 15.4 percent.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-05/saudi-arabia-s-post-oil-plan-off-to-a-rough-start-in-year-one

Current Saudi policy of over production is not working and the latest negotiations among OPEC nations may be the royal family admitting defeat and enabling a fundamental change in policy. The Saudi’s’ must constrict production in order to raise prices which will entail them taking the brunt of production cuts.  By agreeing to those terms perhaps they can elevate the price of oil. Higher oil prices will bring greater supply especially above $55 a barrel here in the United States but the capitulation of the Saudi’s could indicate a broader policy reform that over time will help support oil prices.

Bubble in Central Bank Policy

High interest rates are going to encourage savings, and I think we desperately need savings. Take a widow: they don’t know what to do with the money. There is no way they can do anything with it unless they go into stocks. I think forced equity investing creates the bubble.”

When asked who do you blame for this mess, the legendary hedge fund investor had one name: Janet Yellen, who Robertson says “is unwilling to see the American public taking pain at all and because of that I think she is creating a serious bubble where serious pain is going to come.”- Julian Robertson Bloomberg 9/28/2016

 

We could be on the cusp of real change in how investors are maneuvering especially in reaction to higher interest rates. Because of low interest rates investors, and in particular retirees, have been forced into buying ever higher priced income producers. Those income producers, such as real estate and utilities, have become overpriced in historical terms. We are looking to pull back from those areas of the market. In addition, low volatility strategies are seeing increased downside risk due to leverage, risk parity strategies and the current correlation of stocks and bonds.

The Saudi’s are indicating a change of heart on production numbers as things in the kingdom are getting rough. Whether or not they will be able to get production numbers down is another story. We think that the major gains for the 30 year bond market are behind us but we do not see interest rates heading much higher in the near future. The Fed is too afraid to rattle markets and they will raise rates even slower than most think.

 

While we can make the case for markets to fall the fact remains that we are in a binary environment and stocks could sharply rise as well. Although we think that risks continue to be tilted to the downside. In making the case for higher stock prices we note that professional investors are under invested and under performing. According to Goldman Sachs only 16% of Large Cap money managers are beating their benchmarks. There are some very high levels of cash at mutual funds and under performing managers will be looking to protect their jobs. Also, central bank policy may be forced into buying riskier assets to continue to forestall another crisis. That means they may be forced to buy equities as the Swiss and Japanese have already begun to do. If under invested under performing mutual funds begin to chase the market and inflation begins to move higher central banks will be reluctant to take away the punch bowl.

The election could roil markets but we think that a rate rise from the Federal Reserve in December is the more likely suspect to press markets. If that is the case we could be in for a replay of late 2015 and early 2016.

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 CEO of Goldman Sachs

 

5845 Ettington Drive

Suwanee, Georgia 30024

678-696-1087

Terry@BlackthornAsset.com