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Gold And Silver Are Feeling Frisky

I sourced the chart below from a blog called The Macro Tourist. I added the title and the two yellow trend lines. The chart shows the daily price of gold since the inception of the bull market in 2000-2001. Last Friday (March 8th) gold popped $12 +/- (depending on the time from which you measure). I mentioned to some colleagues that “gold may be starting something special.”

The price of gold retested the $1300 level last week.  Aggressive futures short-selling on the Comex took the price of gold below $1300 on Thursday last week. The price ambush failed to keep gold below $1300, as strong Indian demand and a growing expectation that the Fed will stop its balance sheet liquidation and eventually re-start QE.

A lot of current precious metals and mining stock investors were not around for the 2008-2011 bull run and even less were around for the 2001-2006 bull run. The move from January 2016 to July 2016 was a head-fake that was part of the long period of  consolidation shown in the chart above. Many of you have not experienced how much money can be made investing in junior mining stocks when a real bull move takes place.

The chart above shows how cheap gold is vs. the SPX. Similarly, the mining stocks in relation to the priceof gold are almost as cheap as they were in 2001 and the end of 2015. In 2016 the GDXJ ran 300% from January to July. But in 2008, the HUI ran from 150 to 300 in 60 days and then from 300 to well over 600 over the next 2 1/2 year. Many juniors increased in value 10-20x. The move from 2001-2006 provided the same type of excitement.

I believe the long period of consolidation in the precious metals sector is finally ending. While there’s always the possibility that it could drag on longer, the risk/reward for investing in the juniors right now is as highly skewed toward “reward,” as it was in 2001 and 2008. The market will not go straight up and there will be some gut-wrenching, manipulated sell-offs. But I believe patience will be rewarded. This means not going “all-in” all at once but wading in slowly over time.

A Debt-Riddled System That Is Hitting The Wall

An elevated level of corporate debt, along with the high level of U.S. government debt, is likely to mean that the U.S. economy is much more interest rate sensitive than it has been historically. – Robert Kaplan, President of the Dallas Fed

Fed officials always understate risks embedded in the system. Translated, the statement above implies the Fed is worried about the amount of debt accumulated in the U.S. economic system over the last 8 years. Kaplan specifically referenced the $6.2 trillion in corporate debt outstanding as a reason for the Fed to stop raising the Fed funds rate. Non-financial corporate debt as a percentage of GDP is now at a record high:

More eye-raising for me was the warning issued by the BIS (Bank for International Settlements – the global Central Bank for central banks). The BIS warned that the surging supply of corporate debt, specifically the amount of BBB-rated debt, has left the credit market vulnerable to a crash once the economic weakness triggers ratings downgrades. A large scale ratings downgrade of triple-B issuers to junk would cause an avalanche of selling from funds which can’t hold non-investment grade debt. This has the potential to seize-up the credit markets.

The BIS would not issue a warning like this unless it was already seeing troubling developments in the numbers to which it has access. Recall that leveraged loan ETFs plunged in value the last two months of 2018. Same with high yield bond ETFs, though the drop in leveraged bank loans was more troubling given their status as senior secured and ahead of junk bonds in the legal pecking order.

As you can see from the chart below, it looks like the value of senior leveraged bank loans may be headed south again:

Just like the stock market, fixed income prices rallied sharply after the Fed and the Trump Government acted to arrest the sell-off in the stock market in late December. But this was always a short-term “fix,” as economic fundamentals continued to deteriorate, perhaps at a hastened pace because of the Government shutdown. But neither the shut-down nor the trade war are the causes of the collapsing global economy.

More evidence the consumer is tapped out – Deutsche Bank wrote a report detailing signs that the average U.S. household is running up against its willingness and ability to assume more debt and monthly interest expense. I have been suggesting this was the case for a few months in SSJ. One indicator I thought was interesting is a chart showing that the average hours worked in sectors selling “big ticket” items is now declining (home furnishings, travel arrangement and reservation services and used car dealers).

Another chart showed that, based on regional Fed surveys of senior loan officers at banks, demand for credit cards, auto loans and personal loans is declining:

One of the reasons for the drop in loans is simply that the average consumer simply can not afford the monthly cost of taking on additional debt, especially higher-cost credit card and auto debtl. Just as significant is the fact that interest rates on these types of loans are rising quickly – i.e. the average credit card interest rate is now 17% vs 14% a year ago. Deutsche Bank omits to explain why the interest rate on these types of loans is rising much faster than the Fed funds.

The interest rate charged on a loan reflects the “risk free” rate (Fed funds), the time value of money and – most important – the inherent risk associated with specific types of loans. Interest rates on credit cards and auto loans are rising to reflect the increased risk attached to these forms of credit – i.e. the rising delinquency and default rates.

Besides the rising cost of necessities, the average household is getting squeezed from higher interest payments on the record amount of household debt that has accumulated over the last 10 years. The chart below shows the year-over-year growth in household interest payments going back the 1960’s:

The aggregate household interest payment has soared at a 15% Y/Y rate. Interest payments as a share of total household spending have jumped to the highest level since the financial crisis. Virtually every prior time when interest payments spiked this much, a recession promptly followed.

Last but not least, as Treasury debt hits a new record every day, it was reported by the Treasury that the U.S. budget surplus in January, traditionally one of the only months of the year with a spending surplus because of tax receipt timing, was only $9 billion. This missed the consensus estimate of $25 billion and was far below the January 2018 surplus of $49 million. For the first 4 months of the Government’s fiscal year, the budget deficit was $310 billion, 77% higher than the $175.7 billion deficit for the same period last year.

The budget deficit will surely be much higher than the $1.2 trillion annualized rate recorded in the first four months of this FY. Federal interest expense hit a record high for the four-month period. Annualized, the projected $575 billion interest expense alone for FY 2019 would be more than the entire budget deficit in FY 2014.

Finally, the Deutsche Bank report showed two graphics showing the “current conditions” index for buying cars and homes for the top 33% of households by income. The index measures the intent to make a purchase. The current conditions index for car purchases was at its lowest since 2012. For home buying, the intent to purchase index was at its lowest since 2008.

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The commentary above is partially excerpted from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. This is a weekly subscription service which analyzes economic data and trends in support of ideas for shorting market sectors and individual stocks, including ideas for using options. You can learn more about this here: Short Seller’s Journal information

Ever Wonder Why No Bankers Go To Jail?

“The sovereign in the U.S. is supposed to be ‘We The People’- first three words in The Constitution. It’s not ‘We The People.’ The sovereign power of the U.S. is a criminal global banking cartel. Period. Full stop.”

“Criminal immunity is tantamount to Sovereignty. Any entity that has criminal immunity has Sovereign power. For example, you don’t need the Constitution to coin money and regulate the value thereof. You can simply counterfeit money and rig markets. And in fact, rigging markets is what they did.”

“Collateral Consequences.” It was a term introduced to the Executive branch of Government, which includes the Justice Department by Eric Holder during the Clinton Administration. This paved the way for Justice Department prosecutors to let bankers off the hook for obvious criminal behavior.

In a 1999 memo entitled “Bringing Criminal Charges Against Corporations” (section IX on page 9) written when Holder was deputy U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder argued that government officials could take into account “collateral consequences” when prosecuting corporate crimes. By this he meant prosecutors should take into account the effect prosecuting a corporation or corporate individual will have on “innocent third parties.” That principle right there gave the keys to to the kingdom to the banks. It also explains why the SEC is so reluctant to prosecute Elon Musk.

This “consider collateral consequences to innocent 3rd parties” is what led to the bailout of the banks in 2008 and the absence of any criminal prosecutions against bank executives despite the overwhelming evidence of culpability.  Oh by the way, Eric Holder just happened to be appointed Attorney General in 2009 by Obama to make sure that Section IX of Holder’s 1999 memo held up during the period of time when the banks and their CEO’s should have been held accountable and sent to jail.

My good friend an colleague, John Titus, is back and better than ever with the introduction of a new V-Log series called, “Mafiocracy,” The short intro is entertaining as well as informative, as John has taken his graphics and cinematics to new level:

Make sure to watch the prequels to Mafiocracy, which you can access here: John Titus – Best Evidence

Modern Monetary Insanity And The Three Stooges

James Kunstler summarized it perfectly. So rather than reinventing the wheel, here’s an excerpt from his Monday commentary:

Jerome Powell [was] wheeled out on CBS’s 60 Minutes Sunday night, like a cigar store Indian at an antique fair, so vividly sculpted and colorfully adorned you could almost imagine him saying something. Maybe it was an hallucination, but I heard him say that “the economy is in a good place,” and that “the outlook is a favorable one.” Point taken. Pull the truck up to the loading dock and fill it with Tesla shares! I also thought I heard “Inflation is muted.” That must have been the laugh line, since there is almost no single item in the supermarket that goes for under five bucks these days. But really, when was the last time you saw a cigar store Indian at Trader Joes? It took seventeen Federal Reserve math PhD’s to come up with that line, inflation is muted.

What you really had to love was Mr. Powell’s explanation for the record number of car owners in default on their monthly payments: “…not everybody is sharing in this widespread prosperity we have.”

And so it went on 60 Minutes on Sunday evening. I strongly recommend reading Kunstler’s entire essay:  Ides and Tides…The Fed and the FOMC are not mandated to set monetary policy to stabilize employment and inflation. The Fed’s role is to help the banks maximize profits. That’s it in a nutshell.

The best way to fight and protect yourself from the Fed’s mandate is to own physical gold. Phil Kennedy of Kennedy Financial invited Bill “Midas” Murphy and I to discuss the gold market and where it’s going from here:

Is Barrick Gold Signaling Peak Gold?

Barrick Gold’s hostile takeover offer for Newmont Mining likely signals “peak gold.” Barrick claims the shareholders would benefit from over US$7 billion in NPV of “real synergies.” These “synergies” would primarily be derived from proposed cost-savings by combing the Nevada operations of both companies. As it turns out, footnoted in Barrick’s presentation is the disclosure that the proposed $7 billion NPV represents the projected cash flow benefit of the merger over a 20-year period discounted at 5%.

If I were a NEM shareholder, my answer would be “no thanks.” First, it would be more
appropriate to use a 15-20% discount rate to better represent the probability that Barrick’s
projections over 20 years are even remotely accurate. Second, given the poor track record
over the last 20 years of Barrick’s management, I would be skeptical of any representations
and projections made by the Company. Barrick’s stock has substantially underperformed the  HUI index over the last 20 years. This is significant because Barrick carries a 13.8% weighting in the HUI. While some type of joint venture or merger of the two companies’ Nevada operations makes sense, I do not believe that Barrick will achieve the synergies as presented.

I believe Barrick’s move to buy Randgold and its attempt to acquire Newmont is a desperate attempt to accumulate as much gold reserves as possible to replace the depletion rate of Barrick’s reserves. The most cost effective way with the gold price at its current level to build a large gold resource base is to buy it. Acquiring Newmont would double Barrick’s  proven/probable reserve base and double its annual production.

In my opinion, Barrick’s acquisition of  Randgold and its attempt to acquire Newmont signals both “peak gold” and an outlook for a much higher gold price. There has not been a major gold deposit discovered in  several years. A five million oz discovery used to be considered “major.”  While I don’t know if this is still the case, a former Newmont geologist who now runs a junior mining company told me 10 years ago that NEM wouldn’t even consider a project unless the geologists thought it had a least 5 million ozs of gold.

Those days are probably over. It’s likely that Barrick’s management does not believe the Company has a major discovery to be made in its future. However, the strategy of buying large gold reserves does not make sense unless the Company believes that the depletion rate of gold in the ground is going to exceed the amount of gold found in new deposits going forward.  It also suggests that Barrick believes in the eventuality of a much higher gold price.

On another note, since August 12th, the price of gold has outperformed all of the major stock indices plus Tesla stock (TSLA):

If you are looking for ideas in junior mining stocks to take advantage of the coming bull move in the precious metals sector, try out the Mining Stock Journal:  Mining Stock Journal subscription information (there’s no minimum commitment beyond the first month).

Trump’s Trade War Tweets, Buybacks And A Short-Squeeze

Someone last week suggested that Trump sees the stock market as the barometer measuring the success of his Presidency. I think his behavior, tweets, press comments, etc with respect to the stock market validates that assertion.

The Dow trended lower all week last after Monday’s close. Whenever the stock market faded from an early run-up or began a rapid sell-off, a Trump tweet or press statement would pop up proclaiming that the trade war negotiations were “progressing.” It seems, though, this manipulation tonic is starting to lose strength. The index of stocks with large buyback programs actually finished the week lower. But the “most shorted” stock index closed higher on the week again. This is why the SPX, Naz and Russell outperformed the Dow this past week.

Market tops are a process – While I’m getting impatient for this market to rollover, market tops are a process. This chart certainly provides something to contemplate:

The chart above overlays the SPX from April 2018 to present on top of a chart of the SPX over a similar period in 1936-1937. The correlation is surprisingly high up to this point. No one can predict if the SPX will follow the same path for the rest of 2019 that it took in 1937, but the two periods of time have many economic, financial and geopolitical similarities. There’s certainly a case to be made that the current stock market might unfold in a manner that “rhymes” with the large decline that occurred in 1937.

Another interesting indicator is the AAII Sentiment Survey. The AAII is the American Association of Individual Investors. The weekly survey measures the relative bullishness and bearishness of individual investors. Retail investor sentiment is considered a fairly reliable contrary indicator. Currently the bullishness is now over the 40% level and the bearish level is 20% (the rest are “neutral”) – a level of bullishness that has signaled a market top in the past. In contrast, a bullish level of 20% and a bearish level of 49% on December 13th was registered nine days before the stock market bottomed.

The highest the bullish sentiment level has reached in the last 5 months was 45% in the first week of October (25% bearish). The stock market entered a big decline on October 3rd. In isolation, this indicator may or may not be reliable. But given the number of other indicators associated with a market top, now would be a good time to take profits on any long positions you might have put on in the last 2 months. Given the deteriorating fundamentals of the economic and financial system, the probability that the market will rise a meaningful amount from here is quite low.

The “US Macro” index measures the difference between consensus expectation vs the actual number reported for a wide array of economic reports. As you can see, the stock market has dislocated from economic reality by a substantial margin. At some point, unless the economic reports begin to improve, the stock market will “catch down” to reality. How long it will take for this to occur is anyone’s guess, but it is likely that the “adjustment” will be abrupt.

Many indicators are reflecting a sharp fall-off in consumer demand. Wholesale inventories are soaring and the inventory to sales ratio is significantly higher than a year ago. The CEO of a logistics warehouse in California remarked in reference to the inventory stored in company warehouses, “in 30 years I’ve never seen anything like this.” This includes inventories of durables and non-durables targeted for domestic distribution.

Confirming the pile-up in manufactured goods relative to demand, the Cass Freight index has declined on a year-over-year basis two months in a row. The index had been rising each on month on an annual comparison basis since Trump took office.

Consumer sentiment is also falling. The latest U of Michigan consumer sentiment survey fell well below the Wall St consensus expectation, with some components falling to their lowest level since the 2016 election (recall that hope soared after the election). Apologists are blaming the trade war and the Government shutdown. However, historically there’s a near-100% correlation between the directional movement of the stock market and consumer sentiment. Any negative effect from the shutdown should have been offset by the sharp rally in the stock market. Contrary to the obligatory positive spin put on the data, the sentiment index likely reflects the fact that the average household has largely tapped out its ability to take on more debt in order to keep spending on anything above non-discretionary items.

Insider selling during February has accelerated. Insiders sold more shares in the first half of February relative to shares purchased than at any time in the last 10 years. The size and volume of insider stock sales the last three days of February – per SEC filings – was described by one analyst as “off the charts.” The Financial Times had an article discussing the fact that America’s CEOs are leaving their posts at the highest rate since 2008. It’s likely the departures reflect a bearish outlook by insiders both for business conditions and the stock market.

Homebuilders, despite the small rise in homebuilder optimism, must be sensing the fall-off in the economy and a decline the pool of potential new homebuyers. Housing starts in December dropped 11.2% from November. The decline would have been worse but November’s number was revised lower. The number reported for December was 14.4% below the consensus estimate. The numbers are SAAR (seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in case you were wondering about seasonality between November and December. But just to confirm, the December 2018 number was 11% below December 2017. Also, the Census Bureau releases the “unadjusted” monthly numbers, which showed a 12% drop in starts year-over-year.

Over the next several weeks there will be a lot of excuses for the deteriorating economic fundamentals:  trade war, Government shut-down, cold weather in January and February, low inventory in low-price homes, the dog ate my homework.

But the truth is that the average household in the U.S. is running up against debt limitations – the ability to take on and service additional debt.  Just one indicator of this is rising credit card and auto loan delinquencies.  The U.S. economy for the last 8 years has been primed and pump with printed money and debt.  Debt at every level of the system is at all time higher – both nominally and as a percentage of GDP.

The next round of QE, regardless of the scale, will do nothing to re-stimulate economic activity unless the money is used to re-set (i.e. pay-off) creditors on behalf of the debtors. This was how the last reset was engineered after the financial crisis but this time it will have to be a bailout in size that is multiples of the last one.

The stock market is beginning to rollover again, as the gravity of economic fundamentals begins to exert its “pull.”  I’m sure it won’t take long before we start to hear complaints about the hedge fund computer algos again.  But the best advice is to take your money off the table and get out of the way.

MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) Thoroughly Disemboweled

The best I can figure is that some very liberal, trust-fund Phd Sociologist professors at Bennington hooked with a group of radical Public Policy students from Harvard somewhere in a cabin in Vermont and did a group analysis of John Maynard Keynes’ “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” after ingesting copious quantities of LSD. From out of that drug-addled assemblage, MMT sprung to life in “socially correct” political circles in NYC and DC.

Short of that explanation for the current obsession with MMT – also known as “Magical Money Tree” –  among the elitist intellectual trust-fund liberal political class, I have a hard time explaining the enthusiasm for this comic book version of economics.

A good friend of mine, who happens to be highly intelligent and obsessive about research, is thoroughly confounded by the idea anyone in their right mind would consider MMT as a serious policy tool other than as a mechanism to accelerate the confiscation of wealth and liberties from the public.

The best I could offer is that legitimizing MMT with academic endorsements is a precursor to the next round of QE, which will have to be Weimar in scale.  Occam’s Razor applies here. It’s that simple.  A Government unable  slow down its spending deficit has no other means of paying its bills other than to raise taxes to a level that will trigger mass revolt or use its printing press.  You see where this is going…

Interestingly, a writer/analyst who springs from the left, and who otherwise I would have thought to have been a proponent of MMT, thoroughly explores and disembowels the concept.  You can literally sense the author’s struggle to find a use for MMT:

We have a private economy driven by exploitation, overwork, asset stripping, and ecological destruction. MMT has little or nothing on offer to fight any of this. The job guarantee is a contribution, though a flawed one, and it’s not at the core of the theory, which proceeds from the keystroke fantasy. That fantasy looks like a weak response to decades of anti-tax mania coming from the Right, which has left many liberals looking for an easy way out. It would be sad to see the socialist left, which looks stronger than it has in decades, fall for this snake oil. It’s a phantasm, a late-imperial fever dream, not a serious economic policy.

Ordinarily I would have briefly skimmed through this essay. But if you are making an effort to be open-minded and understand the genesis, history and follies of MMT, it’s worth spending the time to read this piece in its entirety – then you can have a good laugh:  Modern Monetary Theory Isn’t Helping by Doug Henwood

Modern Monetary Theory isn’t just an insult to one’s intelligence, it’s a complete affront to common sense.

Gold Is Historically Cheap To The Stock Market

“The monetary authorities running the paper-money schemes of the present are anxious to forestall significant rises in the paper price of gold, because such rises would diminish confidence in the lasting value of the paper money in use today.”Hugo Salinas Price

The price of gold was victimized by yet another raid on the Comex paper gold market on Friday. The pattern has been repetitive over the last 15-20 years:  hedge funds push the price of gold higher accumulating a massive net long position in gold futures while the Comex bullion banks feed their appetite, building up a mirror-image large net short position.

A raid is implemented typically on a Friday after the rest of the world has shut down for the weekend, the Comex banks begin bombing the Comex with paper, which in turn sets-off hedge fund stop-losses set while the market is moving higher. This triggers a “flush” of hedge fund long positions which the banks use to cover short positions, booking huge profits.

As evidence, the preliminary Comex open interest report based on Friday’s activity shows the gold contract o/i dropped 14,316 contracts. For the week, gold contract o/i is down over 26,000 contracts representing 2.9 million ozs of paper gold. This is 8x the amount of “registered” – available for delivery – gold in the Comex gold warehouse.  I call this “a Comex open interest liquidation raid” by the bullion banks.  When the CFTC finally releases a COT report to reflect Comex trading activity for this past week, it will likely show a large drop in the net short position of the banks and a concomitant large drop in the hedge fund net long position.

Trump was out flogging the Fed on Friday for holding the dollar up with interest rates – interest rates that the Emperor of DC has declared “too high.” This likely signals a political campaign to drive the dollar lower, which will be bullish for gold.

Trevor Hall and I discuss on our Mining Stock Daily podcast why we believe the current sell-off in the price of gold will lead to higher prices. I also present a couple junior mining stocks I believe will be acquired in the escalating wave of gold mining company M&A transactions (click on the image or HERE to listen to the podcast):

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You can learn more about the highly undervalued junior mining stocks mentioned in the podcast plus many more in the Mining Stock Journal:  Mining Stock Journal information

Tesla: Enron Status Secured

Elon Musk a has long track record of being long on promises and short on deliveries – literally and figuratively.  His motive, as has been self-professed repeatedly on Twitter,  is to torment short-sellers by driving the stock higher with fraudulent tweets.  But underlying Musk’s garish bravado and overtly fraudulent financial reports is a business operation that, by all indications, is slowly disintegrating.

Musk has ushered in the long-awaited introduction of the $35,000 Model 3 with a tweet two days earlier aimed at pushing the stock higher to squeeze short-sellers. Musk’s highly questionable tweet tactic drove the stock price up $21 over two days. The stock did a $10 belly-flop when the Model 3 announcement hit the tape, accompanied by an announcement that Tesla was cutting the size of the workforce for the 3rd time this year and would transition the sales operation to online-only.

While Musk spends an inordinate amount of time scheming to squeeze short-sellers, Tesla’s business operations and financial flexibility is getting squeezed by reality. All Ponzi scheme’s eventually fall prey to the laws of economics. Musk’s Ponzi has been proliferated by a financial system flooded with printed money  and by a Government that no longer applies the Rule of Law to billionaires with the ability to buy protection from regulatory enforcement.

Arcadia Economics‘ Chris Marcus and I spent some time on Wednesday discussing the similarities between Tesla and Enron and Elon Musk and Bernie Madoff:

The Stock Market Is Back In Idiot-Mode Again

I don’t know if it was the intent of the Fed, but Jerome Powell has managed to trigger a rush into stocks more frenzied than the one that engulfed the last days of the dot.com/techbubble. The vertical ascent since Christmas in the Dow/SPX is unprecedented on a percentage basis over an 8-week period of time. All sense of logic, sound analysis and fear of risk has disappeared. I don’t know how much longer this move will last, but it will likely be followed by a spectacular reversal.

What I can say with 100% certainty is that the stock market continues to dislocate from economic reality. This is a situation that will be corrected sooner or later, with the stock market re-pricing significantly lower to a level that better reflects the deterioration in both the global and U.S. economy.

A perfect example of this is housing starts, which were released today for December and showed an 11.2% drop from November. The better comparison is the 11% plunge from December 2017, as “seasonal [statistical] adjustments” are used to obfuscate the real data trends month to month. The year/year comp is somewhat “cleansed” from “seasonal” manipulation adjustments.

The mainstream media is already putting a positive spin the starts number by explaining that permits rose. A permit is not indicative of a future start. Homebuilders have been loading up on land, as tends to happen at the end of housing cycles. A permit is a cheap “option” to initiate a start if the market picks up. In fact, starts should be increasing right now. It takes 3-5 months to build the average priced new home. If homebuilders truly thought that the market was going to improve, housing starts should be increasing in November/December in anticipation of peak selling season in June.

Funny thing about the housing starts commentary.  Most homebuilders are sitting on a record level of inventory.  An example is LGI Homes, which just reported this morning.  LGI’s  year-end inventory soared 34% from year-end 2017.  The Company financed most of this with debt.  Home closings for 2018 were up 11% but decelerated during the year and new orders were down in January 2019 vs 2018.  Given the big jump in existing home inventory during the 2nd half of 2018, it’s safe to say that most homebuilders will likely try to work off existing inventory before starting new homes in excess of what is sold.

The housing market and all the related economic activity connected to building, selling, and financing home sales represents  20-25% of the GDP.  Inflating the money supply and dropping interest rates is not a valid method of stimulating economic activity when most households are over-burdened with debt, living paycheck to paycheck and depleting savings just to remain on the gerbil wheel.

Notwithstanding the propaganda coming from policy makers, Wall Street and the hand-puppet mainstream media, the economy is sinking.  The current spike in the stock market is nothing more than a rabid bear market rally of historic proportions. The stock market is not trading higher on fundamentals or hedge funds plowing investment capital back into the market (away from algo-based momentum trading).

According to data tracked by Goldman Sachs, hedge fund exposure to the stock market is well below levels registered during the last 18 months. As it turns out, corporate stock buybacks and short-covering are driving stocks higher. Buybacks YTD are tracking 91% higher than the same period last year. Short interest in the S&P 500 is now at the lowest level since 2007. The stocks that have performed the best since Christmas are the most heavily shorted stocks.

We’re not hearing anymore whining about the hedge fund computers dictating the direction of the market as was commonplace during the December sell-off. But when this market rolls over and rips in reverse, the Leon Cooperman’s of the world will be spilling tears all over the Wall Street Journal and CNBC complaining about hedge fund algos driving stocks lower. Funny thing, that…

The commentary above is partially excerpted from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. This is a weekly subscription service which analyzes economic data and trends in support of ideas for shorting market sectors and individual stocks, including ideas for using options. You can learn more about this here: Short Seller’s Journal information.