Category Archives: Precious Metals

Short All Retail, Especially Amazon

“Bubbles require ever more money to sustain them. Currently that’s not happening. A severe market selloff could come at any moment.”

The quote above is from Fred Hickey, who writes the The High-Tech Strategist newsletter. Mario Draghi, Chairman of the ECB, is under pressure to reduce the Central Banks’ asset purchases (it’s buying corporate bonds, including junk-rated bonds). Apparently some Dutcn legislators presented Draghi with a tulip in reference to the Dutch tulip mania in the 1630’s.

The Bank of Japan and the Chinese Government are working to reduce their money printing. The Fed is still buying mortgages but it seems determined to slowly tighten monetary policy. The problem faced by these Central Planners is that they’ve created a massive global Ponzi scheme that requires an increasing amount of liquidity (money printing + credit expansion) in order to sustain valuation levels. Once they slow down the liquidity spigot, all fiat currency- driven assets (except physical precious metals) are at risk of collapsing.

The Dow finished the week closing down 4 days in row to close essentially unchanged for week (up 9 pts). The SPX also was flat for the week (up 6 pts). It managed to squeak out a slight gain on Friday to avoid 4 consecutive down days. Both the Dow and SPX started out Friday with a big rally from Thursday’s close but faded over the last 2 hours of trading on no apparent news triggers. This for me is a possible indicator that the stock market losing energy.

Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY) was hammered Friday, down over 12%, as it badly missed earnings and revenue estimates. I presented BBBY as a short idea in the December 16th SSJ issue at $47.27. I hope some of you jumped on it then, as 4 days later it had closed at $41.38.

Amusingly, Jim Cramer, et al attributed BBBY’s lousy quarter to competition from AMZN. But nothing could be further from the truth. Its sales were up slightly from Q1 2016 and
its digital channel sales grew 20%. If anything, BBBY’s e-commerce business presents intensified competition for AMZN. Why? Because AMZN’s e-commerce operating margin is 0.3% vs. BBBY’s, which was 5.4% in Q1. BBBY has plenty room to go directly at AMZN on pricing.

BBBY’s net income dropped 39% vs. Q1 2016. The primary culprit was that BBBY lowered its free shipping threshold to $29 from $49. which in turn forced BBBY to absorb shipping costs on more orders. AMZN does not properly accrue the cost of its free shipping to its cost of sales (the SEC looks the other way on this one), burying the expense across the income
statement and balance sheet. But we know it has a reported 0.3% operating margin in e-commerce. The hit to BBBY’s operating margin, which declined 242 basis points (2.42%), gives us some insight about true cost inflicted on AMZN from its free shipping program.

My point here is that the overall retail environment is going to get more competitive and margins are going to decline even more. Companies like Walmart and BBBY have taken the gloves off and can afford to undercut AMZN across the board because they have significantly more room to cut prices and attack AMZN’s pricing and free shipping model without driving their operating margins down to zero. AMZN’s e-commerce profit margin, for all intents and purposes, is zero. The bottom line here is that retail in general remains a great sector to short.

I believe BBBY has a lot more downside and can still be shorted, with patience, for some nice gains:

The more interesting short is AMZN. About a month ago, right before completing the check-out process on AMZN, I received a message in which AMZN was offering a $5 shopping credit to fund a gift card with $100. Why is AMZN paying 5% to raise cash? It effectively is taking a 5% operating profit margin hit on the $100, because its overall e-commerce operating margin is essentially zero. And I discovered yesterday that AMZN was offering a $5 shopping credit to Prime members who opted for the slow shipping option rather than the 2-day shipping.

These cash-raising and cash-saving policies make no sense if AMZN is producing the billions in free cash flow as represented by Bezos (on a non-GAAP basis, of course). Something is very wrong beneath the surface. In fact, AMZN burns cash every quarter. I have demonstrated that in previous research I have produced. It’s a fact.

In the meantime, AMZN continues to be, along with TSLA, the greatest Ponzi scheme in history. Bernie Madoff is green with envy. The irony surrounding all of the analyst – and Jim Cramer – noise about AMZN is that its acquisition of Whole Foods makes it more vulnerable to competition. The idea that AMZN will now be a “grocery killer” is absurd. Just like the idea that it’s a retail killer. BBBY’s e-commerce grew at 20% year over year.

If anything is true, it’s that BBBY, Walmart, Target and Kroger present intensified e-commerce competition for AMZN.  And all four of those companies can cut prices to compete and still turn an operating profit.  AMZN does not have that luxury. That’s probably why AMZN is encouraging Prime customers to take the slow shipment option with a $5 shopping credit.

Most of the above analysis is an excerpt from this week’s Short Seller’s Journal, released Sunday evening. I discussed strategies for shorting BBBY. I also discussed shorting Kinder Morgan (KMI) in the context of declining energy price and usage and included for subscribers a somewhat dated, in-depth research report on KMI which details with proof the Ponzi scheme set-up at KMI. You can get more details about the subscription, including a “handful” of back-issues here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.  (Note: new subscribers also get a copy of the somewhat-dated full AMZN research report I wrote).

Central Bank Intervention Slams Paper Gold

This isn’t some trader’s “fat finger” accidentally overloading the sell button and pressing “sell.” This is unadulterated BIS/ECB/BoE/Fed sponsored market intervention:

At 4:01 EST, a paper gold nuclear bomb was detonated in the Comex Globex computer system. The graph above is just the August “front month” paper gold contract on the Comex. In that contract 1.49 million ozs of paper gold were dumped into the Comex electronic trading system. Zerohedge is attributing 1.88 million ozs. That would include the selling in all of the paper gold contract months.

But that’s not the entire amount of the paper hit. There would have been a large amount of LBMA gold forward paper gold contracts dumped in correlation with the Comex paper avalanche. ZH attributes $2.2 billion in paper gold dumped.  But the real number including LBMA forwards dumped was much larger.

“The mysterious plunge has the market spooked,” says some idiot named Bob Habercorn from RJO. This was not “mysterious.” It was intentional – a shock and awe market intervention that was intended to “spook” the market. That quote is from a Bloomberg report full of fake news (caution, this article contains fake news:  LINK).

The article claims that China bought less from Hong Kong in May. In fact, the amount of gold exported from Switzerland to India and Hong Kong was up 39% from April, according to Platts. Furthermore, we have no clue how much gold moves into China through Beijing and Shanghai, numbers which are intentionally hidden from the world.

Here’s the reason that today was selected by the BIS et al to attack gold in the paper market in an effort to scare the crap out of the market:

the day was well chosen as the Muslim world including Turkey was closed for the end of Ramadan as was India which has the amiable habit of observing the holidays of religious minorities. – from John Brimelow’s Gold Jottings

Two of the largest buyers of physical gold in the world right now, India + Turkey, were closed for the observance of a religious holiday. And Shanghai closed for the day 31 minutes before the paper dump.

4:00 a.m. EST is one of the slowest, lowest volume trading periods during any 24 hour period. Why would a seller of a large number of contracts sell at that time of day, when the largest buyers of what is being sold are not in the market at the time of the sale?

If it were merely a “fat finger” – the fake news narrative – then the mistake would have been immediately corrected and the price would have quickly recovered.  Anyone who buys the “fat finger” story is either tragically ignorant or hopelessly naive.

When India returns tonight to the market, I would expect gold to get a strong bid.  Indians have a habit of buying a lot more physically deliverable gold than they might have otherwise when the western Central Banks put gold “on sale” by lowering the price in the paper market.  I suspect Turkey and China will increase their appetite as well.

The mining stocks per the HUI barely acknowledge the artificial price take-down.  The HUI is down less that 1%.  In the past, on a day when gold was taken down to this degree, the HUI would have dropped at least 4-5%.   It’s almost as if mining stock traders are laughing at the latest Central Bank antics.  I know I am…

Anti-Gold Propaganda Flares Up

Predictably, after the gold price has been pushed down in the paper market by the western Central Banks – primarily the Federal Reserve – negative propaganda to outright fake news proliferates.

The latest smear-job comes from London-based Capital Economics by way of Kitco.com.   Some “analyst” – Simona Gambarini – with the job title, “commodity economist,” reports that “gold’s luck has run out” with the 25 basis point nudge in rates by the Fed.  She further explains that her predicted two more rate hikes will cause even more money to leave the gold market.

Hmmm…if Ms. Gambarini were a true  economist, she would have conducted enough thorough research of interest rates to know that every cycle in which the Fed raises the Funds rate is accompanied by a rise in the price of gold.  This is because the market perceives the Fed to be “behind the curve” on rising inflation, something to which several Fed heads have alluded.    In fact, the latest Fed rate hike, on balance, has lowered longer term interest rates, as I detailed here:  Has The Fed Really Raised Rates?

Furthermore, to which “gold market” is Ms. Gambarini referring?  There’s the fractional paper gold markets of NYC and London and the physical importation and bullion trading markets in the eastern hemisphere.   While she does indeed acknowledge the upswing in gold demand coming from India and China, she downplays its significance.  Currently India and China are importing more physical gold than at the same time last year.  Several other smaller markets have been actively importing significantly more gold now than at the same time last year (Turkey, for example).

Finally, Ms. Gambarini – unbelievably – states that “she sees less safe-haven demand supporting the market as geopolitical concerns have started to disappear.”  I don’t even know how to respond to that idiotic assertion considering that Russian and U.S. military jets are antagonistically engaged in the sky over the Middle East as I write this.  Either Ms. Gambarini is tragically incompetent at her chose profession or she is purposely propagating fake news.

If Ms. Gambarini was smart enough to do thorough research on the topic or was interested in reporting the truth, she explain that, at least 80% of the time, the gold price rises during Asian trading hours and falls during NYC/London hours, like today:

The mining stocks have been strong relative to the price of gold this week. My bet is that this reflects the likelihood that the latest price-takedown of gold in the paper market has run its course. The dramatic drop in Comex paper gold open interest, as well as a drop in the net short position of the Comex bullion banks and a drop in the net long position of the hedge funds (per the COT report), reinforces the signal transmitted by the mining stock this week.

Any flinch from the Fed in its alleged desire to tighten its monetary policy, or if a “spark” hits the growing geopolitical powder-keg in the Middle East, and gold will quickly shoot over $1300 on its way to much higher levels.

Oil, Gold and Bitcoin

The falling price of oil did not garner any mainstream financial media attention until today, when U.S. market participants woke up to see oil (both WTI and Brent) down nearly $2.  WTI briefly dropped below $43.   The falling price of oil reflects both supply and demand dynamics.  Demand at the margin is declining, reflecting a contraction in global economic activity which, I believe the data shows, is accelerating.   Supply, on the other hand, is rising quickly as U.S. oil producers – specifically distressed shale oil companies – crank out supply in order to generate the cash flow required to service the massive energy sector debt load.

I am quite surprised by the rapid fall of oil (WTI basis) from the $50 level, because I concluded earlier this year that the Fed was attempting to “pin” the price of oil to $50:

The graph above is a 5-yr weekly of the WTI continuous futures contract.  Oil bottomed out in early 2016 and had been trending laterally between the mid-$40’s and $55.  I read an analysis in early 2016 that concluded that junk-rated shale oil companies would implode if oil remained in the low $40’s or lower for an extended period of time.  Note that some of the TBTF banks who underwrote shale junk debt were stuck with unsyndicated senior bank debt (i.e. they were unable to find enough investors to relieve the banks of this financial nuclear waste).  Thus, the Fed has been working to keep the price of oil levitating in the high $40’s/low $50’s, in part, to prevent financial damage to the big banks who have big exposure to shale oil debt.

The problem for the Fed is that it can’t control the global supply of oil.  There’s too many players.  With oil pinned in that trading range, U.S. oil companies have been pumping out oil as quickly as possible.  The oil drilling rig count has risen for 22 weeks – Oilpro.com – the longest consecutive streak since 1987.  Rising production from the U.S. and elsewhere is keeping global stockpiles high, especially relative to demand.  As a result, you get chart of the price of oil that looks like the one above.  Oil is now well below both the 50/200 dma plus the RSI and MACD are pointing  straight south, indicating a high probability of lower prices for awhile.  Also, note the rising volume in conjunction with the falling price.  This is indicates that market participants have been and continues to be better sellers.

The Fed is thus unable to pin the price of oil to $50 on a sustainable basis.  Why? Because it has no control over the global supply and demand, which prevents control the price of oil for any meaningful period of time (just ask OPEC about that).  Similar to the Fed’s price-management of oil, the Fed has been keeping gold pinned under $1300 since early November in an effort to prevent a rising price of gold from undermining the dollar’s reserves status and signalling the escalating economic and financial distress in the U.S. This is despite rising demand for physical gold coming from numerous eastern hemisphere countries.  As long as the Fed (and western Central Banks) can continue delivering physical gold into the massive demand vortex in the eastern hemisphere, it can somewhat successfully manage the price.

Also similar to oil, the Fed has no control over the supply and demand of gold, except to the extent that the Fed/western Central Banks are still holding gold that can be leased out or custodial gold that can be hypothecated for the purpose of enabling a continuous flow of physically deliverable to gold the east.   But the difference between oil and gold is that the supply of mined gold is relatively fixed (and has been over a long period of time).  At some point the western Central Banks will run out of access to enough gold that can be delivered to buyers who paid to settle their purchases upfront.  At that point, the chart of the price of gold will look like the recent graph of Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.

This brings up a quick point about the cryptocurrencies.   When the U.S. blocked Iran’s access to the SWIFT trade settlement system, India began to pay for the oil it imports from Iran with gold.  These were very large-dollar transactions. We have yet to hear any reports of sovereign nations using Bitcoin or other cryptos for payment to settle trade agreements. For me, this highlights yet another difference between the use of gold as a currency vs the cryptos.  I want to make it clear that I’m not in the anti-cryptocurrency camp, but I do believe that, ultimately, precious metals (gold and silver) are much more functional as a form of money than the cryptos.   Bitcoin debuted for peer-to-peer transactions in 2009. Gold has functioned for this purpose for over 5,000 years.  My preference in this situation is to bet big on the form of money that has pedigree.

GDXJ: Myth vs. Reality

Many of you have contacted me about the sell-off in GDXJ and upcoming re-balancing that will occur at the end of this week (I think). First of all, thank you for your inquiries and please feel free to email me with questions/ideas. The only “dumb” question regarding gold, silver and mining shares is, “should I own any?”

First I wanted to highlight the difference between fact and “propaganda.” The propaganda has led many to believe that the rebalancing of the GDXJ has exerted undue pressure on the mining stocks as a whole and on the GDXJ components specifically. However, a simple graphic analysis differentiates fact from fiction:

The graph above compares GDXJ, the HUI (green line) and GDX (purple line) since the GDXJ rebalancing was announced to the market on April 17th. As you can see, over the time since the GDXJ rebalance was announced, GDXJ has performed in-line with rest of the sector. I was a bit surprised when I ran that chart. In fact, on a YTD basis, GDXJ’s rate of return is almost identical to that of the HUI and GDX:

So where does this leave us? The entire sector has moved lower since early February. Maybe this was in anticipation of the GDXJ rebalancing “whispers” and maybe not. Often the miners will be hit before a manipulated take-down of the gold price is implemented. That narrative fits the chart above as well.

It’s important to distinguish the difference between the propaganda and truth, because that’s where money can be made in the markets. The truth is that the sector has sold off after a nice move from the mid-December 2016 low. But I also believe that the market is setting up for another big move into the 3rd and 4th quarters. It may take all summer for this to materialize, but the economic, financial and geopolitical fundamentals, as they are unfolding, weigh heavily in favor of big move higher in the precious metals sector.

One other point I would like to make – something that you WILL NOT HEAR from Wall Street or from Rickards or from the financial media: since bottoming in mid-December, the HUI is up 14.7%, GDX up 16.1% and GDXJ up 15.3% vs the S&P 500 which is up 7.7%. The mining stocks, since bottoming in mid-December, have outperformed the S&P 500 over the same time period through today (June 15, 2017).

Several of you have asked for ideas on the stocks in the GDXJ index that are “oversold” due to the rebalancing. As I’ve just demonstrated graphically and with ROR numbers, GDXJ has not really sold off since mid-April anymore than the larger-cap mining stocks in the HUI index and in GDX. Those are the numbers. I can’t make those up. It’s “narratives” that are fabricated.

Having said that, I did present two ideas in the Mining Stock Journal which happen to be in the GDXJ.  One is up 6% since May 4th – and it has a lot higher to move – and the other is up 20% since June 1st, with a lot more left in the move.

A subscriber told me yesterday that a well-known subscription service that costs $1500/year is promoting 3 ideas from GDXJ.  This is probably one of the services that is promoting the idea that the GDXJ has been hit unusually hard. I’ve shown above that idea is a false narrative.  The Mining Stock Journal is $20/month with no minimum commitment.  Subscriber turnover is exceptionally low for a reason.  You can find out more about it here:  MSJ Subscription Info.

Has The Fed Actually Raised Rates This Year?

The answer is debatable but it depends on, exactly, to which rates you are referring.  The Fed has “raised,” more like “nudged,” the Fed Funds target rate about 50 basis points (one-half of one percent) this year.  That is, the Fed’s “target rate” for the Fed Funds rate was raised slightly at the end of two of the four FOMC meetings this year from 50 to 75 basis points up to 1 – 1.25%.  Wow.

But this is just one out of many interest rate benchmarks in the financial system.  The 10-yr Treasury yield – which is a key funding benchmark for a wide range of credit instruments including mortgages, municipal and corporate bonds, has declined 30 basis points this year.  Thus, for certain borrowers, the Fed has effectively lowered the cost of borrowing (I’m ignoring the “credit spread” effect, which is issuer-specific).

Moreover, the spread between the 1-month Treasury Bill and the 10-yr Treasury has declined this year from 193 basis points to 125 basis points – a 68 basis point drop in the cost funding for borrowers who have access to the highly “engineered” derivative products that enable these borrowers to take advantage the shape of the yield curve in order to lower their cost of borrowing:

In the graph above, the top blue line is the yield on the 10-yr Treasury bond and the bottom line is the rate on the 1-month T-bill.  As you can see the spread between the two has narrowed considerably.

Thus, I would place the news reports that the Fed has “raised in rates” in the category of “Propaganda,” if not outright “Fake News.”

One has to wonder if the Fed’s motives in orchestrating that graph above are intentional. On the one hand it can make the superficial claim that it is raising rates for all the reasons stated in the vomit that is mistaken for words coming from Janet Yellen’s mouth;  but on the other hand, effectively, the Fed has managed to lower interest rates for a widespread cohort of longer term borrowers.

Furthermore, this illusion of “tighter” monetary policy serves the purpose of supporting the idea of a strong dollar and enabling a highly orchestrated – albeit temporary – manipulated hit on the gold price using paper gold derivatives.

To borrow a term from Jim Sinclair, the idea that the Fed has “raised rates” is nothing more than propaganda for the primary purpose of “MOPE” – Management Of Perception Economics.  On that count, I give the Fed an A+.

The Public Is Getting Pissed – Ignoring Rule Of Law

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”   – George Orwell

There’s a narrative here that the Government, the Fed, the Trump Administration, etc conveniently ignored.  Here’s the headline list this morning:

  • GM Extends Plant Shutdowns
  • 2nd Quarter GDP Hit As Inventories Tumble In April
  • Retail Sales Tumble Most Since January 2016
  • Pension Crisis Escalates
  • House Majority Whip Shot At Congressional Baseball Practice

Real Clear News reported that Representative De Santis stated to police that the shooter asked “whether Republicans or Dems were on the field before shooting.”  Fox News has confirmed  the report.

The public is getting pissed.  It is told daily, on no uncertain terms, by the White House that the economy is rapidly improving.  The Fed confirms that the economy is improving.  Wall Street chimes in confirming that “narrative.”

The public is told that the unemployment rate is under 5% and the labor market is tight.  But 95 million people in the working age population don’t have jobs.  They are not considered part of the “Labor Force” and have been removed from the statistics altogether by some BLS bureaucrat’s pencil eraser. To be sure, maybe 1/3 or even 1/2 of those people don’t want to work or need to work for some reason (wealthy, wealthy and lazy, inherited income, public assistance of some form, etc).  But 1/2 to 2/3’s of those people would like to find a job that doesn’t entail delivering pizza or washing dishes – in other words, jobs that pay to support a family.

A growing portion of the population understands the underlying truth about the economy that exists behind the propaganda and lies. And they are getting pissed. It’s become clear to anyone desperate enough in their fight to get by that the politicians, corporate elitists and Wall Street crooks are no longer beholden to Rule of Law.   The conclusion for the growing legion of desperate is obvious:  “why should we adhere to Rule of Law?”

At least this time the Deep State can’t shove the “it was ISIS” narrative down our collective gullets.

Gravity Rules: End Of The Bubble Is In Sight

“Even the intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd.

The quote above is from Ben Graham, considered to be the father of value investing. Graham followed the crowd in 1929 and lost a small fortune for himself and his investors. Graham collected his learning experience from that disaster and eventually wrote, “The Intelligent Investor,” which is considered to be the one of the best investment books ever written. Warren Buffet enrolled at Columbia to study under Graham. Graham’s teachings formed the foundation of modern money management theories. To this day it is considered the value investor’s “investment bible.”

Wall Street is incentivized to sell the idea that stocks only go up. When I started on the junk bond desk as a salesmen (before switching to trading), I was told my job was to “reach into the portfolio manager’s pocket and take as much money as you can from his pocket and put it into your pocket.”

Wall Street greed has been around as long as stocks have been trading (the NYSE was founded in 1792). But it’s hard to blame stockbrokers for the damaging effects of greed. Stock-peddlers are like well-paid psychologists. They take advantage of human greed. Without investor greed, the stock brokerage business would be considerably smaller than it is today.

A stock bubble can’t exist without investor greed. It starts with greed. It moves into the “bubble” phase when greed is consumed by hysteria. The U.S. stock market has moved into the “hysteria” stage. This would be the point at which the bubble has almost reached maximum inflation. The upward movement in stocks is dominated by a handful of the stocks that, for whatever reason, are moving higher at the fastest rate of levitation. The graphic on the next page shows visually what “bubble to hysteria” looks like.

I reached the conclusion the stock market has moved into the hysteria stage by spending time studying the “Five Horsemen” (AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, FB, MSFT) + TSLA. Even during periods of the trading day when the Dow and SPX are go red, most or all of those six stocks remain green, sometimes moving higher while the broad indices move lower. It’s incredible to watch real-time.

“It’s not to late to catch a ride on the FANG rally” was a headline seen on CNBC last week. This is the type of hysteria that is reflected in the media at bubble peaks.

In the image above (click to enlarge), the graph on the left is the NASDAQ index since the election (from Jesse’s Cafe Americain). The graph on the right is the price-path that occurred during the Dutch Tulip Bulb mania of the 1630’s. You can see that both graphs go vertical. The vertical stage is driven by hysteria in which investors are terrified of missing the next move higher. It also ends with a decline, the rate of which is typically stunning.

The push higher in stocks like AAPL and AMZN is irrational, but TSLA has been infected with outright hysteria.

The worse the news on Tesla gets, the more quickly the stock seems to move up in price. Early in the week last week, Triple-A (the Auto Club group) announced that it was going to raise the its insurance premiums on Tesla cars by as much as 30%. A highway loss data study revealed that Tesla’s vehicles have higher claim numbers and repair costs vs. other vehicles in Tesla’s category. The Tesla S model claims were said to be 46% greater than the average number of claims for similar vehicles. Servicing those claims cost twice as much. The X model car reported a 41% higher crash-rate than similar vehicles and cost 89% more to repair.

In addition, it was reported on Monday that Toyota had unloaded the last of its remaining stake in Tesla before the end of 2016. It marked the end of a collaboration between Tesla and Toyota that began in 2010. Toyota announced that it plans to release its own fleet of long-range mass produced electric vehicles by 2020. Despite this blow of negative news about Tesla, the stock powered up over 8% last week before a late-day sell-off in the 5 Horsemen + Tesla inflicted a $19 reversal in TSLA’s stock price from its high Friday to the close. My puts, the June 30th $317.50-strikes, traded from Friday from a low of $1.06 to close at $2.40 on the bid side.

The graph below shows the price-path of TSLA’s stock since the election. Note that the graph looks very similar to the graphs of the NASDAQ/Tulip Bulb mania. In the 1800’s, writer Charles Mackay wrote a highly acclaimed book called, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” in which he presented his studies on crowd psychology and how it leads to financial manias, among other destructive events. The chart below reflects “crowd” madness as it applies to TSLA stock (the inset price-box from last Thursday morning) – click to enlarge:

While the NASDAQ has appreciated 22% since the election, TSLA’s stock, on deteriorating fundamentals, has shot up 191%. TSLA’s market cap now stands at nearly $61 billion. It burns over $1 billion per year in cash and its financials are riddled with what would have been considered accounting fraud 20 years ago. It sold 72.6 thousand cars in 2016. Compare this to GM, which has a market cap of $51 billion and sold over 3 million cars in 2016, and Ford, which has a market cap of $44 billion and sold 2.5 million cars in 2016.
To say that the action in TSLA’s stock price and its market cap is “insane” does not do justice to the word in “insane.” TSLA is the “poster child” for the mass hysteria that fuels investment bubbles. The problem with shorting TSLA is that the hedge funds are chasing its momentum higher, as investors as investors embrace the negative news events as a reason to pay more for the stock. As such, it’s hard to see a catalyst that will “correct” the price, like with retailers for instance. TSLA, along with AMZN, is one of the rare stocks which will continue levitating until it doesn’t – like a meteor that eventually burns out falls to earth.

In my opinion, the ride down will be worth the pain and blood-loss of sticking with a short bet on TSLA, which is why I continue to buy small quantities of put options that have been expiring worthless. I know at some point I’m going to catch a $100+ reversal in TSLA stock which will more than make-up for the small losses I’m enduring in the puts while I wait for that occurrence. Using puts protects me from the unknown magnitude of upside risk from shorting the stock. Plus, I don’t have make a “stop-loss” decision because I don’t have the theoretic “infinite upside” loss potential that I would face shorting the stock. With my loss capped, I can hang on to the puts through expiration. With a stock like TSLA, often a stop-loss exit is followed up by reversal to the downside, leaving the short-seller without a short position.

As we saw on Friday, TSLA stock can reverse to the downside quite abruptly and sharply. I can guarantee that some number of shorts covered as TSLA was soaring over $370, leaving them with no position when the stock reversed, closing at $357. I don’t want to recommend specific puts to use but I can recommend giving yourself at least four weeks of time. If I were putting on a new put position today, I would probably buy a very small quantity of the July 7th $340-strikes. If TSLA sells back to the $310 area before expiry, which could easily happen as $310 is where the last 2-week push up in price began, the puts would have an intrinsic value of $30. The current cost is about $10.

TSLA reminds me of Commerce One (CMRC), a B2B internet company that went from $10 to $600 in a very short period of time in late 1999 – 2000. It eventually went to $0. I shorted and covered small quantities of stock starting around $450. I was fortunate to have been short from the high $500’s when it finally topped out a $600. The volatility of this stock was extraordinary but persistence and “thick skin” paid off.

The above analysis and commentary is from the latest <ahref=”http://investmentresearchdynamics.com/short-sellers-journal/”>Short Seller’s Journal, in which I present a “Big Short” mortgage derivative stock that will eventually drop close to zero from it’s current price in the mid-teens.  You can find out more here:  Short Seller Journal info.

Orwell’s Theorem: The Opposite of Truth Is The Truth

All propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth. – George Orwell

A reader commented that the number of corporate lay-offs in America is escalating, yet the unemployment rate seems to keep going lower.  Part of the reason for this is that the 2008 collapse “cleansed” corporate america’s payrolls of a large number of workers who are eligible to file for unemployment benefits.

The Labor Force is derived from the number of people employed + the number of people looking for work.  To continue receiving jobless benefits during the defined period in which fired workers can receive them, they have to demonstrate that they are looking for work.  Ergo, they are considered part of the Labor Force.  Once the jobless benefits expire, they are removed from the Labor Force unless an enterprising Census Bureau pollster happens to get one on the phone and they answer “yes” when asked if they are/were actively looking for work.   Those who do not qualify for jobless benefits more often than not are removed from the Labor Force tally.  This is why, last month for example, over 600,000 people were removed from the Labor Force.

Reducing the Labor Force de facto reduces the unemployment rate.  Thus, there’s an inverse relationship between layoffs and the unemployment rate.  It’s an Orwellian utopia for the elitists.

Today’s stock market is a great example of the “opposite of truth is the truth” theorem.   It was reported by Moody’s that credit card charge-offs have risen at to their highest rate since 2009 – LINK.  This means that defaults are rising at an even faster rate, as finance companies use accounting gimmicks to defer actual charge-offs as long as possible.  A debt that is charged-off has probably been in non-pay status for at least 9-12 months.

The same story has been developing in auto loans. The 60+ day delinquency rate for subprime auto loans is at 4.51%, just 0.18% below the peak level hit in 2008. The 60+ day delinquency rate for prime auto loans is 0.54%, just 0.28% below the 2008 peak. In terms of outright defaults, subprime auto debt is just a shade under 12%, which is about 2.5% below its 2008 peak. Prime loans are defaulting at a 1.52% rate, about 200 basis points (2%) below the 2008 peak. However, judging from the rise in the 60+ day delinquency rate, I would expect the rate of default on prime auto loans to rise quickly this year.

Now here’s the kicker: In Q3 2008 there was $800 billion in auto loans outstanding. Currently there’s $1.2 trillion, or 50% more. In other words, we’re not in crisis mode yet and the delinquency/default rates on subprime auto debt is near the levels at which it peaked in 2008. These numbers are going to get a lot worse this year and the amount of debt involved is 50% greater. But the real problem will be, once again, the derivatives connected to this debt. It would be a mistake to expect that this problem will not begin to show up in the mortgage market.

Amusingly, the narrative pitched by Wall Street and the sock-puppet financial media analysts is that the credit underwriting standards have only recently been “skewed” toward sub-prime. This is an outright fairytale that is accepted as truth (see Orwell’s Theorem). The issuance of credit to the general population has been skewed toward sub-prime since 2008. It’s the underwriting standards that were loosened.

The definition of non-sub-prime was broadened considerably after 2008.  Many borrowers considered sub-prime prior to 2008 were considered “prime” after 2008. The FHA was the first to pounce on this band-wagon, as it’s 3% down-payment mortgage program enabled the FHA to go from a 2% market share 2008 to a 20% market share of the mortgage market.

Capital One is a good proxy for lower quality credit card and auto loan issuance. While Experian reports an overall default of 3.3% on credit cards, COF reported a 5.14% charge-off rate for its domestically issued credit cards. COF’s Q1 2017 charge-off rate is up 48 basis points (0.48%) from Q4 2016 and up 100 basis points (1%) from Q1 2016. The charge-off rate alone increased at an increasing rate at Capital One over the last 4 quarters. This means the true delinquency rates are likely surging at even higher rates. This would explain why COF is down 17% since March 1st despite a 2.1% rise in the S&P 500 during the same time-period.

To circle back to Orwell’s Theorem, today the S&P 500 is hitting a new record high. But rather than the FANGs + APPL driving the move, the push higher is attributable to a jump in the financial sector. This is despite the fact that there were several news reports released in the last 24 hours which should have triggered another sell-off in the financial sector. Because  the stock market has become a primary propaganda tool, it’s likely that the Fed/Plunge Protection Team was in the market pushing the financials higher in order to “communicate” the message that the negative news connected to the sector is good news.  Afer all, look at the performance of the financials today!

Days like today are great opportunities to set-up shorts. Most (not all) of the ideas presented in the Short Seller’s Journal this year have been/are winners.  As an example Sears (SHLD) is down 39% since it was presented on April 2nd.   I’ll present two great short ideas in the financial sector plus a retailer in the next issue.  You can learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  SSJ Info.