Trump Troubles

A roller coaster runs up and down spins around and around while finishing where you started and it probably cost you money. – Arthur Cashin

We all rode the rollercoaster this week.  While there was plenty of noise and bluster the market fell less than one half of one percent this week. We feel that the volatility in the market was more about the massive positioning of trader’s being short volatility and not as much about Trump. Trump is just the excuse. Could this be a warning shot across the bow in the crowded volatility trade? Perhaps. Be careful. We are entering a slow period for the market seasonally. There just aren’t as many players around during the summer months and moves could become more pronounced. I, for one, would welcome back some volatility. It keeps investors onsides.

Financials are very important to the bullishness of the US stock market. The yield curve is flattening. That means that the bond market sees the economy slowing and the prospect of higher rates on the long end decreasing. The Fed will not be able to continue to raise rates if the economy is faltering. Financials are probably the most important sector of the stock market. Without financials it is hard to get the index to extend higher. The market is pricing in a June rate hike but chances are diminishing that the Fed will be able to raise rates a third time in 2017. Trump’s troubles make a fiscal bump less likely. If you have followed our blog you know that we made the case that a Trump bump from fiscal stimulus would give the Fed cover to raise rates. If that gets lost in the swamp then it makes the Fed’s job a lot more difficult. Our next point of interest is the Fed’s balance sheet. They are making noise that shrinking it is becoming a priority. That will be a huge factor in 2018.

West Texas crude was able to hold its recent lows and was able to close this week above the psychologically important $50 a barrel level. It could be just a bounce off of the OPEC meeting and Russian compliance or we could be seeing more growth worldwide. Oil has a top on it as if crude goes higher as more shale players will come online capping the price of oil but it is worth watching as an indicator of growth around the world.

Given all that happened this week the market is still stuck in consolidation mode. Emerging markets and Europe have been the place to be but Brazil took a hard shot this week. Keep an eye on Brazil. Impeachment is a strong word. Given the very small sample of US Presidents that have been on the impeachment trail stock markets have not reacted negatively in the longer term based on the impeachment process. Having said that, impeachment is also not likely given that Republicans control the House, that is until the midterm elections in 2018.  It is hard to argue against the bull thesis as the market continues to hold its recent range of 2330-2400 on the S&P 500. Until we break decidedly below 2330 we hold on to the bullish thesis.

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.

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Published in: on May 20, 2017 at 8:24 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.

1987?

Most investors are primarily oriented toward return, how much they can make and pay little attention to risk, how much they can lose.”

— Seth Klarman

Every week I read Steve Blumenthal’s from CMG Capital Management’s letter On My Radar . It is an excellent source of insights and research that Steve’s puts out every week. I really admire Steve’s style, wit and ideas on the investing universe. This week he mentions a quote attributed to Seth Klarman. We read everything we see from or about Seth as he is an investing legend. The quote struck us this morning as we had conversations this week with two of our more aggressive clients. They are able to be aggressive because they push risk to the back of their minds and continue to push forward and focus on returns. They have both been very aggressive from the financial crisis in 2008 until this week. Coincidentally, both have backed off and are ready to take some risk off of the table. Anecdotal I know, but, I think that it does have some value as it seems that a wide swath of investors now see the market as fully valued. What does that mean? The second level of thinking tells us that the market, since the market has been able to hold an overvalued level it could have further to run. Investors have pulled some risk out waiting for markets to take a breather and give them a better entry point – which it has not. They may be pulled back in chasing prices higher. We believe the animal spirits still have control of this market. The Trump Trade is still moving forward. Could tax reform be the “sell the news” event?

Our biggest question outside a possible shutdown of the federal government is about inflation. No. Not North Korea. I think the media has pumped that one enough. Inflation is our focus as some reports indicate this week that wage inflation could be on the rise. Wage inflation here in the United States could keep the Fed raising rates even while the economy sputters. The yield curve continues to flatten which is not good news for the banks while oil seems to be holding below $50 a barrel. Neither is good news for the market and bad news for both sectors makes it harder for the overall market to rally. These are two huge sectors; percentage wise, for the market and their reluctance to rally makes it harder for the tide to lift other boats. It also makes the any rally narrower with the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google leading the charge.

French election results give the ECB and the Federal Reserve the green light to be more aggressive in tightening policy. Inflation is also a green light. The pressure is building on central banks to take away the punchbowl. North Korea has the media on edge but I am more worried about inflation and Congress shutting down the government. The market is counting on movement out of Washington on healthcare and tax reform. It is never a good idea to count on Washington.

Mario Gabelli made mention that a 1987 style event could happen again this year. We do not disagree. We believe the market structure is in place that could lead to a moment where markets collapse quickly and temporarily. We believe it will be an opportunity for courageous investors but it will also be quick as there is a still a lot of money sloshing around markets looking for a home. Market is still stuck in its range for now between 2330 – 2400 on the S&P 500. Our thesis since last October has been a Triumph win followed by a 30% rally with an equivalent selloff in the fall of 2017 much like 1987. Markets are still following that script.

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 April 29, 2017 at 6:16 am  Leave a Comment  
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Behind Closed Doors

Known for being press shy, unlike some hedge fund managers, Paul Tudor Jones broke onto the trading scene with a splash by calling the 1987 stock market crash just days before it happened. So it was big news this week when it was revealed that Paul Tudor Jones, at a closed door meeting this week at Goldman Sachs, said that the Federal Reserve should be freaked out by this one “terrifying chart”. The chart in question also happens to be Warren Buffett’s primary indicator of market valuations.

It makes for good headlines but we have to say we have followed this chart for years and it is not a very good timing indicator for market corrections. However, it is a very good guide to the valuation of the overall market here in the Unites States and it is quite high. Market s can stay irrational longer than you can remain solvent betting against them. Interest rates and ballooning central bank balance sheets have pushed asset prices around the world to new heights.

It remains to be considered that IF central banks ever stop buying or, god forbid sell, then markets should fall. More interestingly, Jones said that the catalyst to the market fall will be risk parity funds. A bit inside baseball but, basically, the explosion of risk parity funds is based on momentum. The lower the market goes the more risk parity funds will have to sell equities. It could exacerbate any run in the market just as it has on the upside. :

We have been weighing in on the active vs. passive debate in the last few weeks as we feel that we have reached an inflection point. We believe that the pendulum swings back when it reaches extremes and we believe that we may be at that point. Think of it like this.  If everyone is invested 100% in ETF’s, passive management, then wouldn’t it be prudent to employ an active allocation to try and capture what inefficiencies are created by blindly piling en masse into ETF’s. We have been vocal proponents of the benefits of passive management but the pendulum may have swung too far and more evidence, however anecdotal, was presented this week by the creation of an ETF for ETF’s. An exchange traded fund (ETF) was created this week to follow the companies that benefit from the growth in the ETF industry. Maybe sometimes they do ring a bell. Time for more research.

Congress has been closed so the Trump Reflation obsession was put on hold and investors and media grew obsessed with geopolitical concerns with a spotlight on the French elections and North Korea.  Rates are falling while gold is rising. Fear is rising as some are reaching for protection in what is known as the “fear trade”. A move to gold and US Treasuries is the usually accompaniment when fear rises, especially in light of geopolitical concerns. Investors have become a bit more defensive. We may see rates rise and gold fall when Congress gets back into session.

Last 30 minutes of trading thesis has been inconclusive so far. No definitive pattern yet. Market seems to be in a consolidation pattern. The market seems to be digesting its gains and gathering itself before a move to a higher summit. Markets do not top out like this – spending weeks at a given level. The odds are that markets, when leaving a consolidation phase, move in the direction in which they came in.

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 April 22, 2017 at 6:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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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.

Trump Train or Bulldozer?

All eyes are on Trump and Washington DC as the Trump Train rolls through our capital. Trump has been even more aggressive in using Executive Orders and in speaking to foreign leaders than most suspected and that has the Street on edge. Maybe we need to rename the Trump Train to the Trump Bulldozer. While most eyes are on Trump we are increasingly focused on the Fed. The Fed must attempt to act in concert with the President and his fiscal policy to avoid overheating or stalling the economy but good luck to them anticipating his next move. The Fed has made noise in recent weeks that perhaps it could shrink the size of its portfolio. The Fed has been consistent, in that, there was an inherent belief at the Eccles Building that the Fed did not need to shrink its balance sheet and that doing so would be the last maneuver in its process of normalizing rates. Ben Bernanke, former Fed Chairman, took the time out to explain in his blog why that is simply not a good idea. Could it be that politics are playing a role at the Fed?

…best approach is to allow a passive runoff of maturing assets, without attempting to vary the pace of rundown for policy purposes. However, even with such a cautious approach, the effects of initiating a reduction in the Fed’s balance sheet are uncertain. Accordingly, it would be prudent not to initiate that process until the short-term interest rate is safely away from the effective lower bound. 

…the FOMC may still ultimately agree that the optimal balance sheet need not be radically smaller than its current level. If so, then the process of shrinking the balance sheet need not be rapid or urgently begun.  Ben Bernanke

 Why is the Fed now talking about shrinking its balance sheet and not raising rates? We would like to see more consistency from the Fed. They have insinuated that three rates hikes are due this year. After taking a pass on raising rates this week and not setting the table for one in March the market is now pricing in just two rate hikes. The first rate hike is due in June and the second in December. If you have not read our Quarterly Letter you can take a peak for a further discussion on the topic. The short version is, if the Fed raises rates too slowly Trump’s policies may overheat the stock market which is at already historical valuations.

 If Fed Speak can’t jawbone a March rate hike back onto the table, policymakers will have precious little room for error to make good on their promised three rate increases for the remainder of the year. Danielle DiMartino Booth

February is the worst performing month in the October – May period but investors are heavily loaded up on equities regardless.  By way of Arthur Cashin , here are the widely followed Jason Goepfert’s notes on the market’s latest gyrations or lack thereof.

 After spurting to a new all-time high in late January, the S&P 500 has had a daily change of less than 0.1% for five of the six sessions since then. That’s almost unprecedented, but there have been times when it has contracted into an extremely tight range after a breakout. Several of those have occurred in just the past few years, and all of them preceded a tough slog for stocks over the medium-term. Hedge funds are betting that the rally continues. Exposure to stocks among macro hedge funds is estimated to be the highest since July 2015 and the 4th-highest in the past decade. The three other times it got this high, stocks struggled as the funds reduced exposure and eventually went short.

Stocks have stalled. Investors are heavily exposed to equities. February is not the best month for equities so investors aren’t expecting much. The market has a way of surprising you. Could the market finally be ready to make a move? Investors seem to be heavily tilted to the rally side of the boat.

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.

 

Buckle Up

In the 1st Quarter of 2017 it will mark 8 years of the bull. Valuations are elevated to say the least but new policies from the White House and Republicans may give another boost to the market. A new resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can introduce risk to the market. A new leader in the Executive Office may prefer to take a recession or market rout early on in their term in order to blame the other guy. But this new leader seems to be unlike any other we have ever seen. In the short term moving into Q1 we think that there may be some buyer’s remorse on the Trump win. Not in relation to Trump (we are agnostic politically in terms of making investment returns) but in relation to getting those policies of decreased regulation, lower taxes and the repatriation of funds actually passed. The Supreme Court may have to come first.

January could find some bumps in the road but once a bull market gets this far we expect it to end in spectacular fashion. Two years come to mind that took place in a rising interest rate environment – 1981 and 1987. In 1981 Ronald Reagan came into the Oval Office with great expectations and saw stock prices up 5% in the first quarter of his Presidency.The market then fell over 19% in Reagan’s first nine months in office. While this does rhyme somewhat with the Trump Rally the landscape was very different in 1981. Although 1981 was a period of rising interest rates we saw a nation that was struggling with a 14 year bear market and an economy that was treading water with Fed Fund rates in the early teens and rising. 1981 was an environment of low valuations and high interest rates which is just the opposite of what we have today.

A year that might have more significance would be 1987. At the dawn of 1987 share prices had appreciated more than 100% from the lows put in 5 years earlier and the year began with a bang. The Dow Jones would be up 35% by August of that year. While the Federal Reserve was raising rates euphoria ran wild on Wall Street with seemingly daily mergers creating wealth for shareholders. “Animal Spirits” of a rising stock market took hold and shares ran higher with investors fearing that they were being left behind and easy money was being made on Wall Street. 2017 could bring something very similar. Investors are anxious as valuations are historically elevated and, while not wanting to take on added risk, there is a fear of being left behind. According to Sir John Templeton bull markets die in euphoria. We are at the point where we think this market is close to euphoria and it being more likely that this bull move ends with a bang and not with a whimper. While valuations have us cautious and protecting against negative shocks to the system what we could see is a shocking move higher.  

In Jeremy Grantham’s work on bubbles he postulated in June of last year that the market could run up to close to 3000 on the S&P 500 before breaking under the weight of excessive bubble – like valuations. That would be about 30% from here.

This week it became evident that Trump’s win could give rise to policies that would provide the Fed the cover that it needs to be more aggressive in raising rates. In their first post election meeting Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are predicted 3 interest rates hikes in 2017 rather than the 2 expected previously. While we all know the Fed is notoriously inept at predicting anything its current projections show a more aggressive hawkishness from its previous stance. This could help normalize interest rates into the range of 2-5% that the Fed prefers. This would be healthy from a longer term perspective and give the Federal Reserve ammunition should another crisis arise but it may produce some bumps in the road near term. We think that this normalization would be a net positive by giving business owners more confidence and more impetus to invest in their organizations which in the long term would be supportive to jobs and the economy.  

US Treasury rates on the 10 year are hovering around 2.6% as they seemingly stabilized this week. As far as equities go investors kept their wallet on their hip this week and did not drive the market into further overbought territory. There is some angst over the end of the year and the memory of the last several January’s which saw equities move lower. We expect investors are ready and willing to buy the next dip. That dip will probably not be pronounced and may provide kindling for the animal spirits to drive the market higher in 2017.   

Chinese may be struggling as they saw had debt and currency issues this week. Their currency is falling rapidly as they try to maintain control. China’s economy and their relationship with the US is shaping up to be THE story of 2017.The Saudi’s still wish to see a higher oil price at least until the Aramco IPO gets floated in 2017. They will try and keep oil stable and rising until then. Watch the Aramco IPO for clues as to oil’s direction. Markets are still overbought and Santa has not even arrived yet. Market pundits are seemingly all calling for a low return year. What you expect is not usually what you get when it comes to the stock market. When everyone is leaning one way we lean the other. We see volatility coming back and some wide swings up and down. Buckle up.   

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  
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The Trump Rally Meets The Swamp

The Trump Rally while rooted in ideology and investment theory is not necessarily rooted in reality. While tax reforms, reduced regulation and fiscal stimulus could make for a powerful combination stoking the economy and inflation it is not certain this combination will actually happen and if it does happen it will not happen for some time. Expectations are running a bit too high and this is still Washington DC after all. The roots of the Trump Rally are bound to get stuck in the mud of the Swamp.

Interest rates and the US dollar are rising which can be a dangerous combination. The market can rally with rising interest rates and we believe that it is healthy for interest rates to rise from here and that low interest rates were actually inhibiting growth in the economy. Some semblance of higher interest rates are good for the economy. But for the stock market the current high level of valuations were predicated on TINA (There Is No Alternative). At some point, bonds, real estate or other asset classes become an alternative. The high levels of asset valuations were predicated on low interest rates as all investments are evaluated versus the risk free rate of the 10 year Treasury. A rising ten year means that models may have priced assets too richly.

As you know we follow certain financial leaders and Jeff Gundlach at DoubleLine is one we find most open with his thoughts. Gundlach is on record saying that the 10 year could go to 6% in the next 4 or 5 years. We are of the same thought although not as drastic. In the near term we believe that yields have gone too far too fast along with equities in the post Trump win world. Gundlach spoke to Reuters this week and caused markets to pause as he said much the same. Gundlach feels that the bond selloff has seen its low for now and stocks will take a breather before Inauguration Day. After he spoke bonds rallied and stocks fell. Evidently we are not the only ones listening intently to Gundlach’s views.

Another one of our favorite investing legends is Stanley Druckenmiller. He spoke this week at the Robin Hood Conference in NYC. Druckenmiller does Gundlach one better. He believes that the yield on the 10 year will rise to over 6% in the next year or two!! Druckenmiller is shorting the Euro and the Yen and he believes that if the 10 year rises above 3% then the stock market could see a 10% correction. Let’s face it. The stock market can face a 10% correction if someone sneezes in the Middle East.  A 10% correction is not something to be feared but anticipated. I think that the real takeaway is that at some point the yield on the 10 year becomes more enticing to investors than being in the stock market. The pendulum will swing and bonds will usually give you the correct signals. Keep an eye on the 10 year for hints as what stocks will do.

This Sunday’s referendum in Italy is the markets next boogeyman. Journalist and pundits are predicting the next great financial calamity if there is a “No” vote in Italy. Where have we heard this before? Italy has had 67 governments formed in the last 70 years. Why should 2017 be any different? We don’t mean to diminish the battle that is going on with bad loans at some of Italy’s biggest banks but somehow after seeing the predictions that Brexit would be bad for markets and Trump would be bad for markets we have a hard time believing the next great financial calamity follows the next populist regime change. The Italian Referendum should be another interesting vote. It might be time to become familiar with the name – Beppe Grillo.

Market is working off its collective over bought and oversold conditions. The 10 year closed Friday at 2.39% and should see resistance at the 2.5% level. Stocks have relieved some of their overbought condition but the Trump Rally is seeing some buyer’s remorse at 2200 on the S&P 500. Keep an eye on Italy this weekend.

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