Tag Archives: Fed funds

Stock Market Volatility Reflects Systemic Instability

The post-Christmas stock rally extended through Wednesday as the small-cap and tech stocks led the way, with the Russell 2000 up 14.3% and the Nasdaq up 12.5%. The SPX and Dow are up 10.4% and 10.1% respectively. During the stretch between December 26th and January 17th, the Russell 2000 index experienced only two down days.

Make no mistake, this is primarily a vicious short-covering and hedge fund algo momentum-chasing rally. It’s a classic bear market move with the most risky and most heavily shorted stocks experiencing the greatest percentage gains. But the rally has also been accompanied by declining volume. When abrupt rallies or sell-offs occur with declining volume, it’s a trait the conveys lack of buyer/seller-conviction. It also indicates a high probability that the move will soon reverse direction.

As you can see in the chart of the Nasdaq above, volume has been declining while the index has been going nearly vertical since January 3rd. This is not a healthy, sustainable move. The Nasdaq appears to have stalled at the 50 dma (yellow line). The three previous bounces all halted and reverse at key moving averages.

The global economy – this includes the U.S. economy – is slipping into what will turn out to be a worse economic contraction than the one that occurred between 2008-2011. As it turns out, during the past few weeks Central Banks  globally have increased the size their balance sheet collectively. This is the primary reason the U.S. stock market is pushing higher.

Official actions belie official propaganda – If the economy is doing well, the labor market is at “full employment” and the inflation rate is low, how come the Treasury Secretary convened the Plunge Protection team during the Christmas break plus Jerome Powell and other Fed officials have been softening their stance on monetary policy? Despite assurances that all is well, the behavior of policy-makers at the Fed and the White House reflects the onset of fear. Without question, the timing of the PPT meeting, the Powell speech and the highly rigged employment report was orchestrated with precision and with the intent to halt the sell-off and jawbone the market higher.

In truth, the economy is headed toward a severe recession and I’m certain the key officials at the Fed and White House are aware of this (perhaps not Trump but some of his advisors). I suspect that the Fed’s monetary policy will be reversed in 2019. Ultimately the market will figure out that it’s highly negative that the only “impulse” holding up the stock market is the Fed. For now the perma-bulls keep their head in the sand and pretend “to see” truth in the narrative that “the economy is booming.”

Both the economy and the stock market are in big trouble if the Fed has to do its best to “talk” the stock market higher. The extreme daily swings are symptomatic of a completely dysfunctional stock market. It’s a stock market struggling to find two-way price discovery in the face of constant attempts by those implementing monetary and fiscal policy to prevent the stock market from reflecting the truth.

The Fed and Trump are playing a dangerous game that is seducing investors, especially unsophisticated retail investors, to make tragic investing decisions. As an example, investors funneled nearly $2 billion into IEF, the iShares 7-10 year Treasury bond ETF, between Christmas and January 3rd. This was a “flight to safety” movement of capital triggered by the drop in stocks during December. Over the next three days, the ETF lost 1.3% of its value as January 4th was the largest 1-day percentage price decline in the ETF since November 2016 (when investors moved billions from bond funds to stock funds after Trump was elected).

No one knows for sure when the stock market will roll-over and head south again. But rest assured that it will. Cramer was on CNBC declaring that the “bear market” ended on Christmas Eve. It was not clear to me that anyone had declared a “bear market” in the stock market in the first place. But anyone who allocates their investment funds based on Cramer recommendations deserves the huge losses they suffer over time. Don’t forget – although the truth gets blurred in the smoke blown over time – those of us who were around back in the early 2000’s know the truth: Cramer blew up his hedge fund when the tech bubble popped. That’s how he ended up on CNBC. So consider the source…

The “bears” may be in brief hibernation, but will soon emerge from their den – While the market is still perversely infused with perma-bullishness, this latest rally is setting up an epic short-sell opportunity. I have my favorite names, which I share with my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers, and I try to dig up new ideas as often as possible. My latest home run was Vail Resorts (MTN), on which I bought puts and recommended shorting (including put ideas) in the December 2nd issue of my newsletter. MTN closed yesterday at $185, down 33.6% from my short-sell recommendation. To learn more about this newsletter, please click here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Powell Helium Pump

The stock market has gone “Roman Candle” since Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, gave a speech that was interpreted as a precursor to the Fed softening its stance on monetary policy.  Not that intermittent quarter-point Fed Funds rate nudges higher or a barely negligible decline in the Fed’s balance sheet should be considered “tight” money policy.

Credible measures of price inflation, like the John Williams Shadowstats.com Alternative measure, which shows the rate of inflation using the methodology in place in 1990, show inflation at 6%.  The Chapwood Index measures inflation using the cost of  500 items on which most Americans spend their after-tax income.  The index is calculated for major metro areas and has inflation averaging 10% (The John Williams measure which uses 1980 Government methodology also shows the current inflation at 10%).

Using the most lenient measure above – 6% current inflation – real interest rates are negative 3.5% (real rate of interest = Fed Funds – real inflation).  The “neutral” interest rate would reset the Fed Funds rate to 6%.  In other words, the Fed should be targeting a much higher Fed Funds rate.

So, if the economy is booming, as Trump exclaims daily while beating his chest  – and as echoed by the hand-puppets in the mainstream media – why is the Fed relaxing its stance on monetary policy?  The huge jump in employment, per the December jobs report, should have triggered an inter- FOMC meeting rate hike to prevent the economy from “over-heating.”

In truth, the economy is not “booming” and the employment report was outright fraudulent. The BLS revised lower several prior periods’ employment gains and shifted the gains into December. The revisions are not published until the annual benchmark revision, on which no one reports (other than John Williams). Not only will you never hear or read this fact from the mainstream financial media and Wall Street analysts, most if not all of them are likely unaware of the BLS recalculations.

The housing market is deteriorating quickly. Housing and all the related economic activity connected to homebuilding and home resales represents at least 20% of GDP. And the housing market is not going to improve anytime soon.  According to a survey by Fannie Mae, most Americans think it’s a bad time to buy a home even with the large decline in interest rates recently.

Several other mainstream measures of economic activity are showing rapid deterioration:  factor orders, industrial production, manufacturing, real retail sales, freight rates etc. Moreover, the average household is loaded up its eyeballs with debt of all flavors and is sitting on a near-record  low savings rate.  Corporate debt levels are at all-time highs.  In truth the economy is on the precipice of going into a tailspin.

The stock market is the only “evidence” to which Trump and the Fed can point as evidence that the economy is “strong.”  Unfortunately, over the last decade, the stock market has become an insidious propaganda tool, used and manipulated for political expediency.  The stock market can be loosely controlled by the Fed using monetary policy.

The stock market can be directly controlled by the Working Group on Financial Markets – a subsidiary of the Treasury mandated by a Reagan Executive Order in 1988 – using the Exchange Stabilization Fund. Note:  anyone who believes the Exchange Stabilization fund and the Working Group are conspiracy theories lacks knowledge of history and is ignorant of easily verifiable facts.

Trump referred to the stock market as a “big fat ugly bubble” in 2016 when he was running for President with the Dow at 17,000.  If it was a visually unaesthetic sight back then, what should it labelled now when it almost hit 27,000 in 2018?  Trump blamed the recent decline in stock prices on the Fed.  Worse, Trump has put inexorable political pressure on the Fed to loosen monetary policy and stop nudging rates higher.  Note that this debate never covers the topic of “relative valuation…”

The weekend before Christmas, after a gut-wrenching sell-off in the stock market, the Secretary of Treasury graciously interrupted his vacation in Mexico to place a call to a group of Wall Street bank CEOs to lobby for help with the stock market.  The Treasury Secretary is part of the Working Group on Financial Markets.  The call to the bank CEOs was choreographically followed-up by the stock market-friendly speech from Powell, who is also a member of the Working Group.

The PPT combo-punch jolted the hedge fund algos like a sonic boom.  The S&P 500 has shot up 10.8% in the ten trading days since Christmas.  It has clawed back 56% of the amount its decline between early September and Christmas Eve.

In reality, the speech was not a “put” because a “put” implies the installation of a safety net beneath the stock market to stop the descent. Rather, the speech should be called, “Powell’s Helium Pump.”  This is because the actions by Mnuchin and Powell were specifically crafted with the intent to drive the stock market higher.  It’s worked for a week, but will it work long term?  History resoundingly says, “no.”

Make no mistake, this nothing more than a temporary respite from what is going to be a brutal bear market.  The vertical move in stocks was triggered by official intervention. It has stimulated manic short-covering by the hedge fund computer algorithms and panic buying by obtuse retail investors.

Investors are not used to two-way price discovery in the stock market, which was removed by the Federal Reserve and the Government in late 2008.  Many money managers and retail investors were not around for the 2007-2009 bear market. Most were not around for the 2000 tech crash and very few were part of the 1987 stock crash.

The market’s Pied Pipers have already declared the resumption of the bull market, Dennis Gartman being among the most prominent.  More likely, at some point when it’s least expected, the bottom will once again fall away from the stock market and the various indices will head toward lower lows.

In the context of well-heeled Wall Street veterans, like Leon Cooperman, crying like babies about the hedge fund algos when the stock market was spiraling lower, I’m having difficulty finding anyone whining about the behavior of the computerized buy-programs with the stock market reaching for the moon.

Welcome To 2019: Declining Stocks, A Falling Dollar And Rising Gold / Silver Prices

The stock market has become the United States’ “sacred cow.” For some reason stock prices have become synonymous with economic growth and prosperity. In truth, the stock market is nothing more than a reflection of the inflation/currency devaluation caused by the Fed’s money printing and lascivious enablement of rampant credit creation. 99% of all households have not experienced the rising prosperity and wealth of the upper 1%. The Fed’s own wealth distribution statistics support this assertion.

It’s been amusing to watch Trump transition from tagging the previous Administration with creating a “big fat ugly stock bubble” – with the Dow at 17,000 – to threats of firing the Fed Chairman for “allowing” the stock market to decline, with the Dow falling from 26,000 to 23,000. If the stock market was big fat ugly bubble in 2016, what is it now?

If the Fed pulls back from its interest rate “nudges” and liquidity tightening policy, the dollar will sell-off, gold will elevate in price rapidly and the Trump Government will find it significantly more difficult to finance its massive deficit-spending fiscal policy. Welcome to 2019…

SBTV, produced by Silver Bullion in Singapore, invited me onto their podcast to discuss the Fed, the economy and, of course, gold and silver:

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If you are interested in ideas for taking advantage of the inevitable systemic reset that  will hit the U.S. financial and economic system, check out either of these newsletters:   Short Seller’s Journal  information and more about the Mining Stock Journal here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

The Tragically Flawed Fed Policies And The Eventual Reset Of The Gold Price

With gold showing good resiliency as it has tested the $1200 level successfully after enduring aggressive paper gold attacks during Comex floor trading hours, it’s only a matter of time before gold breaks out above $1220 and heads toward $1300. Gold has been under attack in the futures market this week as the world’s largest physical gold importer, China, has been closed all week for holiday observance. In addition, with financial market conditions stabilizing in India, the world second largest physical gold importer’s peak gold buying season resumed this week. When gold spikes over $1220, it will unleash an avalanche of short-covering by the hedge funds.

What will cause gold to spike up? There’s any number of potential “black swans” that could appear out of nowhere, but the at the root of it is the tragically flawed monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, along with the rest of the Central Banks globally…of course, the eastern hemisphere banks are buying gold hand-over-fist…

Chris Marcus invited me onto this StockPulse podcast to discuss the precious metals market and the factors that will trigger an eventual price-reset:

A Massive Bubble In Retail Stocks

Retail, especially the “concept” retailers, are going parabolic. It makes no sense given the declining rate of personal consumption, retail sales, etc. The kinkiest names like RH, RL and W are going up like the dot.com stocks went up in late 1999/early 2000. The move in these stocks reflects either mindless optimism or momentum-rampaging by hedge fund bots – or both. The hedge fund trading flow can turn on a dime and go the other way. I suspect this will happen and, as it does, squeeze even more mindless optimism out of the market.

The cost of gasoline has to be hammering disposable income for most households. On top of this is the rising cost of monthly debt service for the average household.  Non-essential consumerism is dying on a vine.

Fundamentally the retail sector is not recovering. If anything, the economic variables which support retail sales are deteriorating. I think some of the shares caught a bid on better than expected earnings derived from the one-time bump in GAAP non-cash income from the tax law changes reported by numerous companies in Q1. I just don’t see how it’s possible, given the negative wage, consumption, credit and retail sales reports that the sector has “recovered.”

In just the last eight trading days, XRT has outperformed both the Dow and S&P 500 by a significant margin. It has all indications of a blow-off top in process. You can see that, with industry fundamentals deteriorating, XRT’s current level now exceeds the top it hit at the end of January, which is when the stock market drop began. The RSI has run back into “overbought” status.

Some of the “kinkiest” retail concept stocks, like Lululemon (LULU), Five Below (FIVE) and Restoration Hardware (RH), soared after reporting the customary, well-orchestrated GAAP/non-GAAP earnings “beat.”  Of course, RH’s revenues declined year over year for the quarter it just reported.  But it used debt plus cash generated from reducing inventories to buyback $1 billion worth of shares in the last 12 months.  Yes, of course, insiders greedily sold shares into the buybacks. (Note: If insiders were working for shareholders other than themselves, companies would pay large, one-time special dividends to ALL shareholders rather than buyback shares to goose the stock price)

The retail stocks are setting up a great opportunity for bears like me to make a lot of money shorting the most egregiously overvalued shares in the sector.  Timing is always an issue.  But complacency has enveloped the stock market once again, as hedge funds have settled back to aggressively shorting volatility.

It won’t take much to tip the market over again.  Only this time around I expect the low-close of February 8th (2,581 on the SPX) to be exceeded to the downside by a considerable margin.

The above commentary was partially excerpted from the the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.  It’s not easy shorting the market right now – for now – but there have been plenty of short-term opportunities to “scalp” stocks using short term puts. I cover both short term trading ideas and long term positioning ideas.  You can learn more  about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

More Evidence That The Fed And Big Banks Collude?

Should this surprise anyone?

An interesting study by a Phd candidate at the University of Chicago is being released which shows a statistically high incidence in taxi trips between the NY Fed and big NY banks clustered around FOMC meetings:

Mr. Finer writes that “highly statistically significant patterns in New York City yellow taxi rides suggest that opportunities for information flow between individuals present at the New York Fed and individuals present at major commercial banks increase around” meetings of the interest-rate setting FOMC.

“Their geography, timing and passenger counts are consistent with an increase in planned meetings causally linked to the incidence of monetary-policy activities,” he wrote. “I find highly statistically significant evidence of increases in meetings at the New York Fed late at night and in off-site meetings during typical lunch hours,” which is suggestive of “informal or discreet communication.”

“As reported by the Wall St. Journal, but curiously absent from Fox Business reporting – both organizations are owned by Rupert Murdoch – Mr. Finer used government-provided GPS coordinates, vehicle information and other travel data to track taxi traffic between the addresses of the New York Fed and major banks. His research pointed to increased traffic between the destinations around lunch and late evening hours, which suggested informal meetings were taking place, Mr. Finer wrote in his paper. He found elevated numbers of rides around Federal Open Market Committee meetings, with most of them coming after the gathering.” (WSJ)

This should not surprise anyone. It actually makes sense. The Fed is owned by the Too Big Too Fail banks and, without question, have an inordinate amount of influence on Fed policy.

You can read the entire article here: Increase in Fed/NY Bank Meetings Around FOMC Meetings.

 

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+.

Gold & Silver Soar After The Fed’s Clown Show

Stocks rally as the Fed once again shows how clueless they are at trying to manage the economy. – from @Stalingrad & Poorski

The Federal Reserve’s FOMC predictably nudged the Fed Funds rate up 25 basis points (one quarter of one percent) to set its “target” Fed Funds rate level at .75%-1%.   Nine of the faux-economists voted in favor of and one, Minneapolis Fed’s Neil Kashkari, voted against the meaningless rate hike.

Or is it meaningless?  Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Neil Kashkari was one of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretaries when the Government made the decision to bail out Wall Street’s biggest banks with nearly $1 trillion in taxpayer money.   It was also when the Fed dropped the Fed Funds rate from about 5% to near-zero percent.  Despite Yellen’s official stance that  the economy is expanding and the labor market is “tight” (with 37% of the working age population not considered part of the Labor Force – a little more than 94 million people) Kashkari voted against the tiny bump in interest rates.  This is likely because he is fully aware of risk to the banking system – perched catastrophically on hundreds of trillions in debt and derivatives – of moving interest rates higher.

The Fed’s goal is to “normalize” interest rates.  The financial media and Wall Street analysts embrace and discuss this idea of “normalized” interest rates but never define exactly what that means.  For the better part of the Fed’s existence, the “rule of thumb” was that long term rates (e.g. the 10-yr Treasury rate) should be about 3% above the rate of inflation.  And the Fed Funds rates should be equal to or slightly above the rate of inflation.

Using the Government’s highly rigged CPI index, it implies the Fed Funds rate would be “normalized” at approximately 2.7% and the 10-yr bond around 6% based on Wednesday’s CPI report.  Currently the Fed Funds rate is 3/4 – 1% and the 10-yr is 2.5%.  Of course, since the early 1970’s, the CPI calculation has been continuously reconstructed in order to hide the true rate of price inflation.  For instance, the current CPI index does not properly account for the rising cost of housing, education, healthcare and automobiles.

John Williams’ of Shadowstat.com  keeps track of price inflation using the methodology used by the Government to calculate the CPI in 1990 and 1980.  Using just the 1990 methodology, the rate of price inflation is 6.3%.  This would imply that a “normalized” Fed Funds rate would be around 6.5% and the 10-yr bond yield should be around 9.5%.    So much for this idea of “normalizing” interest rates.  Using the Government’s 1980 CPI methodology, Williams calculates that the stated CPI would be 10.3%.

Most of the hyperinflated money supply has been directed into stocks, bonds and real estate. But based on the cost of a basket of groceries, healthcare and housing alone, price inflation is accelerating.    If the Fed were to “normalize” interest rates at 6.3%, it would crash the financial and economic system.  In other words, the Fed is powerless to  use monetary policy in order to promote price stability, which is one of its mandates.

In today’s episode of the Shadow of Truth, we discuss the insanity that has gripped the markets as symbolized by the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meetings:

IRD On Kennedy Financial: Janet Yellen Is A Complete Embarrassment

Predictably, the FOMC once again fell flat on its face with regard to its continuous threats over the last month to hike rates. Despite the politically motivated rhetoric about the strengthening economy and tight labor market flowing from Yellen’s pie-hole, the fact that the Fed is afraid to raise rates just one-quarter of one percent tells us all we need to know about the true condition of the economy.

If I didn’t despise the fact that Yellen has been an incompetent political hack originally inserted into the Federal Reserve system as a political tool since her first tenure as an economist at the Fed in 1978, I would almost feel sorry for her. But the fact that she can stand in front of the public and read off of a sheet of paper scripted with lies about the state of the economy forces me to despise her as much as I despise the entirety of Washington, DC

This analysis of Yellen underscores my view that Yellen is either tragically corrupt or catastrophically stupid:  How Yellen Rationalizes Financial Bubbles

Phil and John Kennedy invited onto their podcast show to discuss the FOMC, Yellen, Gold, Deutsche Bank and some other timely topics:

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