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?  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/big-picture-ray-dalio

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 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.

 

Published in: on May 13, 2017 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crackdown, Smackdown and Fever

Two areas of asset pricing that we always keep an eye on in an attempt to decipher the market’s next move are US Treasuries and the oil patch. Let’s take a look at the current oil market and the commodity sector. Falling oil prices indicate lessening demand and therefore a lagging economy. In a nasty selloff oil is now down 11% in the last 3 weeks. There are rumors of major oil focused hedge funds liquidating or taking all risk off of their books as the price of oil swiftly moves lower. All of this while copper takes a tumble too. A falling oil price (and copper for that matter) does not bode well for the economy, high yield stocks or the stock market. When we talk weak commodities our thoughts immediately turn to China. The recent selloff in the commodity sector is being linked to a tightening of monetary conditions in China. A crackdown by the Chinese government is leading to higher interest rates and a tightening of the money supply in an effort to deleverage the economy. That, in turn, leads to lower commodity prices as China is one of the world’s largest consumers of commodities. A slowdown in China needs to be on our radar.

We have also been seeing a drift lower in hard data on the US economy. This data has been dragging since the failure of Trump & Co. to repeal Obama Care the first time in March. It seems that the market is waiting on some good to come out of Washington DC. We should never count on anything to come out of Washington DC.

The market is stuck in consolidation mode. In spite of recent data on a slowing economy 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. That would mean we break out to the upside. There are lots of negatives about like weak US data, a Chinese slowdown and massive insider selling by US Corporate executives but the market refuses to break down. Many astute investors are warning about valuations in the market and are taking down risk.  They could be forced to chase the market higher adding fuel to the fire of animal spirits.

There is currently a massive speculative fervor in the crypto currencies like Bit Coin and Ethereum. A speculative fever has broken out and it is suspected that a lot of that money is coming out of China as capital controls are implemented and from Japan where a tax on investing in crypto currencies is going to be waived soon. Please approach with caution! This market is moving fast.

This may be a bit too inside baseball but the lack of volatility is important to watch. One of the most popular trades on the street over the last few years has been to sell volatility. Massive selling of volatility compresses the price of volatility, the numbers of players executing this strategy increases with the trade’s success and it brings in more and more investors to the trade. The word is that 95% of the float in VXX (Volatility ETN) is being used to short volatility. Ladies and gentlemen 30% would be large, but 95%!! The boat is listing to port as too many investors are in on this trade. This will explode violently in their faces. We don’t know when but it will. It always does. The risk parity trade and the selling of volatility combined with the reliance on passive investing ETF’s with High Frequency Trading market makers create a structural weakness in the market and will at some point create an opportunity for those with cash when the time comes. Forewarned is forearmed.

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.

Tension is Building and Heads Roll in Saudi Arabia

A recovery in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, would influence securities and commodities prices around the globe, said Stanley Druckenmiller. For instance, it would send German government bond prices lower, boost European exporters and lift the price of oil. Stanley Druckenmiller – BLOOMBERG 4/15/2015

I have included a link the whole Druckenmiller interview with Bloomberg. It is 45 minutes long but well worth the time. Druckenmiller is one of the greatest investors of our generation and he touches on topics including Central Bank policy, oil prices and the economy in China. Druckenmiller obviously believes that a recovery in China would have reverberations worldwide.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-15/druckenmiller-bets-on-market-surprise-with-china-boom-oil-rise

Central banks continue to dominate the conversation. Central banks in the US, Japan and Europe are buying up bond issuance and inflating asset prices. As long as central banks maintain current policy asset prices will continue to climb. A slow down in balance sheet growth would bring slower asset price growth much as it has in the United States since last October. Investors are nervous but policy is still accommodating. History has shown that markets do not turn on a dime on the first rate hike by the Federal Reserve. It is the second rate hike that begins to slow markets. Rest assured Fed officials have made it clear that they will catch markets when they fall. We may be in a period of subdued returns as markets show signs of slowing their ascent but not turning lower. We are long but have our guard up.

Market is still stuck in an increasingly tighter range and the tension is building. The range in the S&P 500 is now 2040 -2120. Markets tend to break out the way that they came in. The odds are that it breaks out to the upside with 2200 as a target. The volume has been increasing on the downside of late but the market is holding its levels and its all important 200 day moving average. A sustained break below that area would bring out sellers but until then the trend is higher. While metrics have the market at historically high valuations we don’t see asset prices turning lower until central bank policy changes.

In our last blog post we told you to keep an eye on Saudi Arabian policies affecting the price of oil. Saudi Arabia replaced the head of its state-run oil company this week. We think that oil prices may benefit. Keep an eye on Saudi Arabia. Druckenmiller thinks China is recovering. We agree with Druckenmiller that the US Dollar will continue its recent trend and that may be a headwind for commodities but a recovery in China will take precedence. A Chinese recovery will benefit all commodities including oil, copper and gold.

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.

Investing in The Oil Patch

If there is one topic on clients minds it does seem to be the price of oil and investing in oil related stocks. We are cautious here. It seems that the volatility in this space is only beginning. Shale producers are the swing producers in the oil complex at this juncture. As a group shale producers are more nimble than other players in the oil complex. If shale producers are the swing producers then we may be in for a period of volatile energy prices. Shale producers in the United States will be more apt to bring on production and cut production swiftly. Larger national producers like Saudi Arabia and Mexico are less nimble in their approach and the larger national operations have dominated this landscape for decades. If the shale producers are in fact the swing producers then oil prices may be less stable going forward. That is if the shale producers survive the latest oil glut.

As for oil prices right now, in my trading experience bounces like the one we have seen off of the $40 level are usually seen in bear markets. Very sharp and very severe while usually short in duration. I am bullish in the longer term for investing in the oil complex as I have been for most of my career. The oil majors are diversified across the energy complex as well as internationally. They are large companies with solid balance sheets and pay larger than average dividends. As a long term investor what’s not to like? Time will tell but I think it will behoove one to be patient investing further in the oil patch.

By way of Arthur Cashin comes a very interesting perspective on the latest oil volatility and drop in prices. His good friend Jim Brown of Option Investor has an interesting thesis on crude storage capacity. Here is what he had to say this week.

 Oil inventories are at 80 year highs and global storage is filling up fast. Once available storage is at capacity the impact to oil prices is going to be dramatic. Crude inventories in the U.S. have risen over 30 million barrels in the last four weeks to 413 million barrels. That is an 8% rise in inventories in just four weeks and this can’t continue forever. According to the EIA the U.S. has 373 million barrels of storage capacity in various tank farms plus 70 million barrels at the Cushing Oklahoma futures delivery hub. Refineries have another 148 million barrels of capacity.

 Inventories normally rise until early May so there may be some trouble ahead.

 The world’s largest oil trading company Vitol said they expect a “dramatic build in oil inventories over the next few months.” If oil builds as we expect we could see a dramatic drop in prices. Most oil analysts believe the +20% spike in crude over the last two weeks was short covering and a new move lower is ahead.

Once land storage and tanker storage nears capacity, oil prices could turn ultra-volatile. 

Negative interest rates seem to be all the rage amongst central banks. It is a race to the bottom for currencies.  Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and the Euro Group all have negative interest rates.  In Denmark it is being reported that you can get a negative interest rate mortgage. The bank will pay you to take out a mortgage! No danger of a real estate bubble there.

The market broke out above the range the S&P 500 has been in since December. That put the bears and underinvested on the defensive forcing buyers into the market.  Negative news out of Europe on the Greek situation could knock bulls back but the range breakout has to be respected. Greece is down 4% overnight on rumors of No Deal. One little touched upon thesis for the equity markets here in the United States is that of a melt up. High equity valuations have major investors underinvested and expecting a pullback in pricing. A major run higher could be in store if the United States is perceived to be a safe haven with its strong currency and positive interest rates while the underinvested are forced to chase the market higher.  Investing is contingency planning. Consider all of the possibilities. May you live in interesting times.

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.