Tag Archives: stock bubble

Will Gold Continue Higher Despite Efforts To Keep It Capped?

“At the exact time that the one asset is supposed to defend against reckless Fed monetary policies should be going higher, it’s going the opposite way…and you’re telling me this isnt’ a  manipulated market?”

The current period reminds of 2008.  The price of gold was overtly manipulated lower ahead of the de facto collapse of the financial system. It’s highly probable the Central Banks are once again setting up the markets for another financial collapse, which is why it’s important for them to remove the dead canary from the coal mine before the worker bees see it.

Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke invited me to join him in a discussion about the large drop in the price of gold last week and why it points to official intervention in the gold market for the purpose of removing the warning signal a rising gold price transmits about the growing risk of financial and economic collapse.

You can click on the sound bar below or follow this link:  TF Metals Report to listen to our conversation.

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Larry Kudlow Wants A 50 b.p. Cut In Fed Funds – Why?

The stock market has been rising relentlessly since Christmas, riding on a crest of increasingly bearish economic reports. Maybe the hedge fund algos are anticipating that the Fed will soon start cutting rates. Data indicates foreigners and retail investors are pulling cash from U.S. stocks. This for me implies that the market is being pushed higher by hedge fund computer algos reacting to any bullish words that appear in news headlines. For example, this week Trump and Kudlow have opportunistically dropped “optimistic” reports connected to trade war negotiations which trigger an instantaneous spike up in stock futures.

“U.S. economy continues to weaken more sharply and quickly than widely acknowledged” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com, Bulletin Endition #5

The real economy continues to deteriorate, both globally and in the U.S. At some point the stock market is going to “catch down” to this reality.

The graphic above shows Citigroup’s Economic Data Change index. It measures data releases relative to their 1-yr history. A positive reading means data releases have been stronger than their year average. A negative reading means data releases have been worse than their 1-yr average. The index has been negative since the spring of 2018 and is currently well south of -200, its worst level since 2009.

The Treasury yield curve inversion continued to steepen last week. It blows my mind that mainstream media and Wall Street analysts continue to advise that it’s different this time. I would advise heeding the message in this chart:

I’m not sure how any analyst who expects to be taken seriously can look at the graphic above and try to explain that an inverted yield curve this time around is irrelevant. As you can see, the last two times the Treasury curve inverted to an extreme degree, the stock bubbles began to collapse shortly thereafter.

The data in the chart above is two weeks old. The current inversion is now nearly as extreme as the previous two extreme inversions. This is not to suggest that the stock market will go off the cliff next week. There’s typically a time-lag between when the yield curve inverts and when the stock market reacts to the reality reflected in an inverted curve. Prior to the great financial crisis, the yield curve began to invert in the summer of 2006. However, before the tech bubble popped, the yield curve inversion coincided with the crash in the Nasdaq.

Another chart that I believe reflects some of the information conveyed by the inverted yield curve is this graphic from the Fed showing personal interest payments. Just like in 2000 and 2008, households once again have taken on an unmanageable level of debt service expense:

Obviously the chart above is highly correlated with stock market tops…

The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence dropped in March, with the Present Situation index plunging to an 11-month low. It was the biggest monthly drop in the Present Situation index since April 2008. What’s interesting about this drop in confidence is that, historically, there’s been an extraordinarily high correlation between the directional movement in the S&P 500 and consumer confidence. The move in the stock market over the last three months would have suggested that consumer confidence should be soaring.

The Cass Freight Index for February declined for the third straight month. Even the perma-bullish publishers of the Cass newsletter expressed that the index “is beginning to give us cause for concern.” The chart of the index has literally fallen off a cliff. Meanwhile, the cost of shipping continues to rise. So much for the “no inflation” narrative. The Cass Index is, in general, considered a useful economic indicator. Perhaps this is why Kudlow wants an immediate cut in the Fed Funds rate?

FOMC Statement: Reading Between The Lines

“No more rate hikes period…rate cuts to begin sometime this spring…tapering the balance sheet taper starting in May…QT ends in September even though our balance sheet has only been reduced by roughly 10% of the amount of money we printed…Quantitative Easing  aka “money printing” to resume in October…our hidden dot plot shows that you should buy as much physical gold as you can afford and keep it as far away from any custodial safekeeping as possible.”

Just for the record, the Fed’s “Dot Plot” has to be one of the most idiotic props ever created for public consumption. It far exceeds the absurdity of the “flip chart” that Steve Liesman uses.

A Financial System Headed For A Collision With Debt

The retail sales report for December – delayed because of the Government shut-down – was released this morning. It showed the largest monthly drop since September 2009. Online sales plunged 3.9%, the steepest drop since November 2008. Not surprisingly, sporting goods/hobby/musical instruments/books plunged 4.9%. This is evidence that the average household has been forced to cut back discretionary spending to pay for food, shelter and debt service (mortgage, auto, credit card, student loans).

I had to laugh when Trump’s Cocaine Cowboy – masquerading as the Administration’s flagship “economist” – attributed the plunge in retail sales to a “glitch.” Yes, the “glitch” is that 7 million people are delinquent to seriously delinquent on their auto loan payments. I’d have to hazard a wild guess that these folks aren’t are not spending money on the latest i-Phone or a pair of high-end yoga pants.

Here’s the “glitch” to which Larry must be referring:

The chart above shows personal interest payments excluding mortgage debt. As you can see, the current non-mortgage personal interest burden is nearly 20% higher than it was just before the 2008 financial crisis. It’s roughly 75% higher than it was at the turn of the century. The middle class spending capacity is predicated on disposable income, savings, and borrowing capacity. Disposable income is shrinking, the savings rate is near an all-time low and many households are running out of capacity to support more household debt.

I found another “glitch” in the private sector sourced data, which is infinitely more reliable than the manipulated, propaganda-laced garbage spit out by Government agencies. The Conference Board’s measurement of consumer confidence plunged to 120.2 from 126.6 in January (December’s number was revised lower). Both the current and future expectations sub-indices plunged. Bond guru, Jeff Gundlach, commented that consumer future expectations relative to current conditions is a recessionary signal and this was one of the worst readings ever in that ratio.

This was the third straight month the index has declined after hitting 137.9 (an 18-yr high) in October. The 17.7 cumulative (12.8%) decline is the worst string of losses since October 2011 (back then the Fed was just finishing QE2 and prepping for QE3). The expectation for jobs was the largest contributor to the plunge in consumer confidence. Just 14.7% of the respondents are expecting more jobs in the next 6 months vs 22.7% in November. The 2-month drop in the Conference Board’s index was the steepest 2-month drop since 1968.

This report reflects a tapped-out consumer. It’s a great leading economic indicator because historically downturns in this report either coincide with a recession or occur a few months prior.

Further supporting my “glitch” thesis, mortgage purchase applications have dropped four weeks in row after a brief increase to start 2019. Last week purchase applications tanked 6% from the previous week. The previous week dropped 5% after two consecutive weeks of 2% drops. This plunge in mortgage purchase apps occurred as the 10yr Treasury rate – the benchmark rate for mortgage rates – fell to its lowest level in a year.

Previously we have been fed the fairy tale that housing sales were tanking because mortgage rates had climbed over the past year or that inventory was too low. Well, mortgage rates just dropped considerably since November and home sales are still declining. The inventory of existing and new homes is as high as it’s been in over a year. Why? Because of the rapidity with which number of households that can afford the cost of home ownership has diminished. The glitch is the record level of consumer debt.

The parabolic rise in stock prices since Christmas is nothing more than a bear market, short-covering squeeze triggered by direct official intervention in the markets in an attempt to prevent the stock market from collapsing. This is why Powell has reversed the Fed’s monetary policy stance more quickly than cock roaches scatter when the kitchen light is turned on. But when 7 million people are delinquent on their car loan and retail sales go straight off the cliff, we’re at the point at which stopping QT re-upping QE won’t work. The stock market will soon seek lower ground to catch down to reality. This “adjustment” in the stock market could occur more abruptly most expect.

As The Fed Reflates The Stock Bubble The Economy Crumbles

I get a kick out of these billionaires and centimillionaires, like Kyle Bass yesterday, who appear on financial television to look the viewer in the eye and tell them that economy is booming.  Kyle Bass doesn’t expect a mild recession until mid-2020. Hmmm – explain that rationale to the 78%+ households who are living paycheck to paycheck, bloated with a record level of debt and barely enough savings to cover a small emergency.

After dining on a lunch fit for Elizabethan royalty with Trump, Jerome Powell decided it was a good idea to make an attempt at reflating the stock bubble. After going vertical starting December 26th, the Dow had been moving sideways since January 18th, possibly getting ready to tip over. The FOMC took care of that with its policy directive on January 30th, two hours before the stock market closed. Notwithstanding the Fed’s efforts to reflate the stock bubble – or at least an attempt to prevent the stock market from succumbing to the gravity of deteriorating fundamentals – at some point the stock market is going to head south abruptly again. That might be the move that precipitates the renewal of money printing.

Contrary to the official propaganda the economy must be in far worse shape than can be gleaned from the publicly available data if the Fed is willing to stop nudging rates higher a quarter of a point at a time and hint at the possibility of more money printing “if needed.” Remember, the Fed has access to much more detailed and accurate data than is made available to the public, including Wall Street. The Fed sees something in the numbers that sent them retreating abruptly and quickly from any attempt to tighten monetary policy.

For me, this graphic conveys the economic reality as well as any economic report:

The chart above shows the Wall Street analyst consensus earnings growth rate for each quarter in 2019. Over the last three months, the analyst consensus EPS forecast has been reduced 8% to almost no earnings growth expected in Q1 2019. Keep in mind that analyst forecasts are based on management “guidance.” The nearest next quarter always has the sharpest pencil applied to projections because corporate CFO’s have most of the numbers that go into “guidance.” As you can see, earnings growth rate projections have deteriorated precipitously for all four quarters. The little “U” turn in Q4 is the obligatory “hockey stick” of optimism forecast.

Perhaps one of the best “grass roots” fundamental indicators is the mood of small businesses, considered the back-bone of the U.S. economy. After hitting a peak reading of 120 in 2018, the Small Business Confidence Index fell of a cliff in January to 95. The index is compiled by Vistage Worldwide, which compiles a monthly survey of 765 small businesses. Just 14% expect the economy to improve this year and 36% expect it to get worse. For the first time since the 2016 election, small businesses were more pessimistic about their own financial prospects than they were a year earlier, including plans for hiring and investment.

The Vistage measure of small business “confidence” was reinforced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses confidence index which plunged to its lowest level since Trump elected. It seems the “hope” that was infused into the American psyche and which drove the stock market to nose-bleed valuation levels starting in November 2016 has leaked out of the bubble. The Fed will not be able to replace that hot air with money printing.

I would argue that small businesses are a reflection of the sentiment and financial condition of the average household, as these businesses are typically locally-based service and retail businesses. The sharp drop in confidence in small businesses correlates with the sharp drop in the Conference Board’s consumer confidence numbers.

The negative economic data flowing from the private sector thus reflects a much different reality than is represented by the sharp rally in the stock market since Christmas and the general level of the stock market. At some point, the stock market will “catch down” to reality. This move will likely occur just as abruptly and quickly as the rally of the last 6 weeks.

The Fed Blinked – Gold And Silver Are Going Higher

Price inflation has been badly misrepresented by CPI figures and have been averaging closer to about 8% annually since gold topped in Sept 2011. Since then the purchasing power of the dollar has declined by about 43%, so that in 2011 dollars the gold price is $740. No one seems to have noticed, leaving gold extremely cheap. – Alasdair Macleod, “Ten Factors To Look For In Gold In 2019

The following is an excerpt from the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, which included an analysis of a  highly undervalued, relatively new and unknown junior mining company advancing a gold-silver project in Mexico.

As I have suggested in the past (in more detail in the Short Seller’s Journal), the Fed is retreating quickly from rate hikes and balance sheet reduction (QT). The Fed deferred on raising rates at its FOMC meeting this week. What I found somewhat shocking, however, was the removal of reference to “further gradual rate increases.”

Perhaps more shocking was the reference to the possibility of re-starting the money printing press:  “…the Committee would be prepared to use its full range of tools, including altering the size and composition of its balance sheet, if future economic conditions were to warrant a more accommodative monetary policy…” That statement translated means, “we’ll have to print more money eventually.”

This should be extremely bullish for the precious metals sector. The only issue is the timing of the next big move higher. That depends on the degree to which the banks can continue controlling the price with gold and silver derivatives.  No one knows that answer, not even the banks. At some point, as occurred from 2008-2011, the western banks will be unable to suppress the natural price rise of gold/silver. That said, the Chinese and the Russians could pull the rug out from under the western manipulation if and when they want. That will happen eventually as well.

Alasdair Macleod wrote a brief and insightful essay from which I quoted and linked above describing key factors in 2019 that could push the price of gold significantly higher. Most of the factors are familiar, especially for subscribers to my Short Seller’s Journal. First and foremost will be the Fed, along with Central Banks globally,  reverting to easy monetary policy.

Notwithstanding official propaganda to the contrary, the U.S./global economy is rapidly slowing down. Many areas are contracting. Government spending deficits will soar as tax revenues fall behind the rate at which Government spending is increasing.

At some point, the Government will plead with the Fed to help finance Treasury issuance (this will occur in the EU, Japan and China as well), creating another acceleration in monetary inflation/currency devaluation. This will act as a transmission mechanism to inflate the dollar price of gold. Smart investors understanding this dynamic, and who have the financial resources, will move dollars out of financial assets and into gold. See 2008-2011 for an example of this process.

Gold has outperformed almost every major asset class since 2000:

Gold has outperformed most other assets since 2000 because Central Banks globally began to implement extreme monetary policies in response to the global stock market crash in 2000 led by tech stocks. As John Hathaway, manager of the Tocqueville gold fund, describes it, “gold has been a winning strategy since monetary policy became unhinged nearly two decades ago.”

In addition to the fiscal and monetary policies implemented globally in response to deteriorating economic and financial conditions, Alasdair identifies four factors directly affecting the price of gold this year.

One factor not widely perceived or understood by the markets is the gradual and methodical shift away from using the U.S. dollar for trade and as a reserve asset by Russia and China. It’s clear that both countries are swapping dollar reserves for gold and conducting an increasing percentage of bi-lateral trade with their trading partners in each country’s sovereign currency.

As an aside, gold has been soaring in most currencies besides the dollar. At some point, this shift away from using the dollar as a reserve currency will remove the “safe haven asset” status of the dollar, causing a considerable decline in the dollar vs global currencies. Concomitantly, the dollar price of gold will soar.

Another factor identified by Macleod is price inflation: “price inflation has been badly misrepresented by CPI figures and has been averaging closer to about 8% annually since gold topped in Sept 2011. Since then the purchasing power of the dollar has declined by about 43%, so that in 2011 dollars the gold price is $740. No one seems to have noticed, leaving gold extremely cheap.”

In my view, the price inflation factor as it affects investor attitudes toward gold will be a “slowly then suddenly” process. Investors and the population in general tend to move in herds. Currently the headline Government CPI is accepted and discussed as reported. At some point,  a large contingent of mainstream institutional investors will decide the Government’s measurement of inflation is wrong and will begin to buy gold and silver. The masses will soon follow. We saw this dynamic leading up to the parabolic move by gold in 1979-1980.

The third factor is “monetary inflation.” Most people think of price when they see the term “inflation.” But the true economic definition of “inflation” is the rate of growth in the money supply in excess of the rate of growth in economic (wealth) output. This in essence reduces the value of each dollar. Think about it terms of an increasing amount of dollars made available to chase a fixed supply of goods and services. That’s the monetary inflation that causes “price” inflation. Rising prices are the manifestation of monetary inflation.

As discussed at the beginning, at some point the Fed will be forced to re-start the printing press or face the consequences of a rapid economic and financial collapse.  Macleod points out that “these are exactly the conditions faced by the German government between 1918 and 1923, and the likely response by the Fed will be the same. Print money to fund government deficits.”  Recall that the policies used by the Weimar Government eventually led to hyper price inflation. The hyperinflation did not occur until the early 1920’s. But the policies leading to this condition began in 1914, when Germany World War 1 started and Germany’s huge war debt began to pile up. This is strikingly similar to the huge U.S. Government debt outstanding currently.

The final factor mentioned by Macleod is simply, “Gold is massively under-owned in the West.” By 1980, institutional investors on average held 5% of their assets in gold. Currently the percentage allocation to gold (or fake gold like GLD) is well under 1%. All it would take for a massive price reset  in gold and silver is for institutions to allocate 1-2% of their assets to gold. I believe eventually that allocation percentage will move back to 3-5%, which will drive the price of gold well over $2000/oz.

There Are Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics and The Employment Report

Last month the Government’s Bureau of Lies And Statistics served up an employment report purporting 312,000 new jobs in December. This despite massive seasonal retail lay-offs in the latter half of the month.  The BLS happily counts those jobs when hired in October but forgets to remove them when are dismissed at the end of the holiday shopping season.    As John Williams (Shadow Government Statistics), the 312,000 jobs were created by re-doing the spreadsheets for prior months’ jobs reports:

Surging December payrolls were a reporting fraud, a canard, no more than massive prior-period revisions “recalculation of seasonal factors” that shifted growth from past months into the October 2018 to December 2018 time-frame, without showing the headline downside revisions to the earlier months from which the growth was borrowed

The same re-calc’ing of the spreadsheets created the 304,000 pop in jobs, December’s 312,000 print revised down to 222,000, with the jobs shifted into January’s number. But no one looks at the revisions, besides a handful of tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists.

My good friend and colleague, John Titus of Best Evidence videos wrote a scathing commentary on the nefarious Labor Force Participation Rate metric, which allegedly rose in January:

The labor force participation rate ticked up this month, from 63.1% last month to 63.2% this month. Great news, right? Umm, not unless shameless fraud designed to mask an economy headed for a depression is good news. The fraud in this case arises from the blatant manipulation of the two data points underlying the participation rate.

The participation rate is simply the number of people in the labor force divided by the working age population (the latter of which is called the civilian non-institutional population). Stated differently, the participation rate is the percentage of working age people who are working or looking for work. So the labor force is slightly larger than the straight-up number of workers because it includes workers PLUS anyone who’s looked for work in that last 4 weeks.

All three numbers—the participation rate, the labor force. and the working age population—are reported each month. But only the participation rate gets any media attention (and precious little at that). This month, as noted, the participation rate ticked up 01% as noted.

What’s curious, though, is that the labor force itself ticked down slightly, by 11,000 workers. For the participation rate to tick up, then, in the teeth of a shrinking labor force, means that the working age population had to have declined quite a bit. And that’s what’s weird—populations tend to increase, relentlessly so.

Indeed over the last 60 years (720 months), the working age population has ticked down only 8 times. And guess what? By far the largest two declines occurred recently—this month and in January 2017 (when Trump was inaugurated). In both cases, the working age population supposedly shrank by 650,000 people! Holy shit! Neither Wyoming nor Vermont have 650,000 people in total, much less 650,000 working age people. Did the media miss a couple of huge meteor hits?

The gloves are off now when it comes to fraudulent data manipulation, as the powers that be will do flat-out anything to disguise the gangrenous cadaver that is the U.S. economy. Sadly, the rot is concentrated among young people. who are now taking on huge amounts of educational debt—debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy—that would more properly be called welfare. This situation cannot sustain itself for very long, and won’t.

Basically all of our country’s ills are due to a monetary system predicated on fraudulent interest-bearing debt. Jefferson is rolling in his grave. I plan to go into this and a lot more when I re-launch my Youtube channel with an enhanced vlog-style format.

Note, IRD highly recommends John Titus’ previous podcasts, which you can view here:  BEST EVIDENCE VIDEO’S

The Stock Market Would Crash Without Central Bank Support

The mis-pricing of money and credit has also driven a terrible misallocation of capital and kept unproductive zombie debtors alive for too long. Saxo Bank, “Beware The Global Policy Panic”

“Mis-pricing of money and credit” refers to the ability of the Fed to control interest rates and money supply.  Humans with character flaws and conflicting motivations performing a role that is best left to a free market.   After the market’s attempt in December to re-introduce two-way price discovery to the stock stock market, the Fed appears ready to fold on its “interest rate and balance sheet normalization” policy, whatever “normalization is supposed to mean.

Tesla is the perfect example of terribly misallocated capital enabling the transitory survival of a defective business model. Access to cheap, easy capital has enabled Elon Musk to defer the eventual fate of the Company for several years. But as the equity and credit markets become considerably less tolerant, companies with extreme financial and operational flaws are exposed, followed by a stock price price that plummets.

The Stock Market Would Crash Without Central Bank Support – A few weeks after Fed head, Jerome Powell, hinted that the Fed may hold off on more rate hikes, an article in the Wall St. Journal suggested that the Fed was considering halting its “Quantitative Tightening” program far sooner than expected, leaving the Fed’s balance sheet significantly a significantly higher level it’s original “normalization” plan.

But “normalization” in the context of leaving the Fed’s balance sheet significantly larger than its size when the financial crisis hit – $800 billion – simply means leaving a substantial amount of the money printed from “QE” in the financial system. This is a subtle acknowledgment by the Einsteins at the Fed that the U.S. economic and financial system would seize up without massive support by the Fed in the form of money printing.

I suggested in the January 13th issue of my Short Seller’s Journal that the Fed would likely halt QT: “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. They’ll first announce halting QT. That should be bad news because of the implications about the true condition of the economy. But the hedge fund algos and retail day-trader zombies will buy that announcement. We will sell into that spike. Ultimately the market will sell-off when comes to understand that the last remaining prop in the stock market is the Fed.”

Little did I realize when I wrote that two weeks ago that the Fed would hint at halting QT less than two weeks later.

When this fails to re-stimulate economic activity, the Fed will eventually resume printing money. Assuming the report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday is true, this is a continuation of the “mis-pricing” of money credit alluded to above by Saxo Bank. Moreover, it reflects a Central Bank in panic mode in response to the recent attempt by the stock market to re-price significantly lower to a level that reflected economic reality.

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.