Category Archives: Housing Market

The Fake News Economy

The stock market is becoming increasingly disconnected from underlying main street reality. Corporate profits have been declining since the third quarter of 2018. However, pre-tax corporate profits have been declining since the Q3 2014 (this data is available on the St. Louis Fed FRED website). Real corporate profits (adjusted for CPI and including inventory write-downs and capex) are the lowest since the financial crisis. Remarkably, rather than the usual “hockey stick” forecasts, Wall St analysts have revised lower their consensus earnings estimates for the Dow Jones Industrials. In fact, per the chart above, I think you can say that Wall Street’s forward EPS estimates have gone off a cliff.

The “narrative” architects and fairytale spinners are desperately looking for evidence to fit their “consumer is still healthy/economy still fine” propaganda. But a look under “the hood,” starting with the employment report, reveals a reality that is in stark contrast to the manipulated headline numbers.

There’s no b.s. like the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The BLS publishes the monthly non-farm payroll report.  Predictably, the headline number reporting that 225k “jobs” created was well above the consensus forecast of 160k. But the benchmark revision removed 514,000 jobs reported to have been created between April 2018 and March 2019. This is visually what it looks like when 20% of the prior year’s job “growth” is erased:

The black line shows the number of jobs originally reported between April 2018 and March 2019. The light blue line shows the revised data. The two lines are lined up prior to April 2018 reflecting prior benchmark revisions, which is why they’re in sync. A large portion of the revision came from the BLS’ seasonal “adjustments” model over-estimating job creation related to consumer spending, primarily the retail sector and leisure/hospitality.

The benchmark revision does not apply to the current report, which is largely not credible. As an example, the BLS attributed 44,000 new jobs to construction. But the December construction spending report showed 0.2% decline from November. Private construction spending was 0.1% below November.

The total value of construction spending in 2019 was 0.3% below 2018. Private construction spending for the entire year in 2019 was 2.5% below 2018, with residential construction 4.7% below 2018. Removing construction inflation from the numbers, private residential construction spending in 2019 fell 8.8% from 2018 (per John Williams’ Shadowstats.com).

I glean three conclusions from the construction spending data. First, the BLS attribution for 44k new construction jobs in January is egregiously incorrect. No way construction firms are hiring with construction spending in decline. Recall I mentioned in the last issue (the Short Seller’s Journal) that Caterpillar’s CEO had forecast a further decline in residential construction spending in 2020.

Second, without the increase in Government spending, the decline in construction spending would have been worse. Third, per the CAT CEO’s outlook for lower residential spending in 2020 (and I’m certain his view is derived from residential construction equipment orders) it would seem that homebuilders are not backing their optimism per the homebuilder sentiment report with real money if they are planning to spend less in 2020 than they did in 2019.

Notwithstanding the BLS fantasy employment report this past Friday, here’s a good leading indicator of labor market weakness:

When businesses start reducing payroll to cut expenses in response to expected business weakness, the temp labor goes first. You’ll note that this data series went negative briefly in 2015,  but recovered somewhat. In all probability businesses responded to the Trump election hopium and the stimulative effect from Trump’s massive corporate tax cut. But businesses prematurely implemented expansion and capex spending and now they’re back to using cash for stock buybacks into which insiders are selling.

While December retail sales, released in mid-January, showed a 0.3% increase over November, ex-autos retail holiday spending was slightly better than expected. December retail sales not including autos increased 0.7%. However, if you exclude gasoline and auto sales, retail spending increased 0.5%. Auto sales took a hit in December (predictably) and gasoline price inflation boosted the headline number. Surprisingly, considering all of the hoopla in the mainstream financial media about “strong” online sales for the holidays, online sales only increased 0.2%.

Underlying the “good” holiday retail sales number, is a troubling reality. The Fed reported this past Friday (Feb 7th) that consumer credit soared by $22.1 billion in December ($15 billion was the consensus forecast). Most of that increase is attributable to credit card spending, which accounted for $12.6 billion of the $22 billion. This was the biggest one-month jump in credit card debt since 1998. Total consumer credit outstanding hit a record $4.2 trillion in December.

What makes this statistic even more troubling is the fact that credit card delinquency and default rates are starting to accelerate per the Discover Financial (DFS) data I presented in January 26th SSJ issue. PNC Bank (PNC) also reported rising credit delinquencies and charge-offs when it reported its Q4. Its stock tanked 7% over the next eight trading days. Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC – subprime auto loans) reported rising delinquencies, defaults and charge-offs on January 30th. It’s stock fell 8.1% the next day though it’s recouped about half of that loss through Friday (Feb 7th).

The chart above shows CPI-adjusted retail sales (blue line) vs consumer credit outstanding (red line) for the last 5 years. CPI-adjusted retail sales declined slightly in 2019, which means “unit volume” declined slightly, while consumer credit continued to rise. Now imagine if a real inflation adjustment was applied to retail sales instead of the phony CPI. Real retail sales would show a decline in 2019. The chart above is not a “friend” of perma-bulls and economic fantasy promoters, which is probably why you will never see a chart like that in the mainstream financial media.

Target (TGT, $115) said its same-store-sales were up just 1.4% during the holidays vs 5.7% a year ago. Toy sales were flat, electronics sales were down 6% and home items sales were down 1% (apparel was up 5%, food/beverage up 3% and beauty items up 7%). Macy’s, Kohl’s and JC Penney all reported same-store-sales declines for the holiday period. Macy’s announced earlier this past week that it was going to cut 2,000 jobs and shutter 125 stores.

While it’s clear e-commerce is slowly taking market share from brick/mortar, the latter’s troubles are derived primarily from the deteriorating financial condition of the average household. A study released this past week from a survey taken in late November showed that nearly 70% of all respondents said they had less than $1,000 in savings.

The economy is contracting in most sectors. Any area of the economy that still has pulse is being driven by debt issuance.  Any media reports or official proclamations that the economy is “doing  well” are nothing more than fake news and propaganda.

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The commentary above is  excerpted from the February 9th is of the Short Seller’s Journal. Each weekly issue contains macro economic analysis, market analysis, and short ideas.  I  To learn more about this short-sell focused newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info

The Stock Market, Gold, Silver, Mining Stocks And Tesla

The stock market has become a powerful political and economic propaganda tool. It’s hard to dispute the idea that economy is not “in a good place” or “booming” when the Dow goes up 100 points or more everyday. Trump understands this and has been coercive in the Fed’s decision to loosen monetary policy and re-start the money printing press. Ironically, Trump tweeted this in 2012 (as sourced by northmantrader.com):

Make no mistake, the economy nearly every sector of the economy is contracting  except consumer spending and defense spending, both of which are being driven by record levels of consumer and Government debt.

Meanwhile, the precious metals sector is getting ready for another move higher and, according to Factset, currently 45% of all research analysts either have a sell or underweight (which is diplomatic “sell”). Silver Liberties invited me onto this podcast to have some fun and discuss these topics:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Tesla, Gold And Coronavirus – Fraud And Global Depression

To say the current stock market is in a bubble is an insult to the word “bubble.” Tesla experienced an insanely idiotic stock price move after reporting “shock and awe” headline numbers for revenue and EPS which “beat” estimates – estimates that had been lowered by analysts throughout 2019. But as always there’s plenty of dirt in the details which point to a reality that is far different than is represented by headline numbers and Tesla’s highly orchestrated earnings presentation.

There’s just no telling when this Electric Tulip will inevitably crash. But, as with any investment bubble the popping will happen suddenly and unexpectedly, when the bulls are convinced that the upside is limitless and the bears are in a state of terror.

Meanwhile, the physical gold market which underlies the complicated web of paper gold derivatives continues to push the gold price higher despite aggressive efforts by the western Central Bank and bullion bank price management team. In fact, data from the BIS indicates that the BIS had a heavy hand in the effort to cap the price-rise of gold during January using its physical gold swap and leasing transactions.

Paul at Silver Doctors invited me onto its podcast to discuss these issues

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Fake News And The “Healthy Economy” Myth

The “narrative” architects and fairytale spinners are desperately looking for evidence to fit their “consumer is still healthy / economy still fine” propaganda. The hype over strong holiday sales was premature if not fraudulent, as data-manipulators appear to have taken the growth in online holiday sales and projected it across the entire retail sales spectrum. I guess they overlooked the fact that online sales took market share from brick/mortar stores.

Despite the plethora of data showing that U.S. manufacturing was down last year, real retails sales are declining, restaurant traffic – including delivered food – has been contracting almost every month for two years and most households are over-bloated with debt, the Fed continues to insist that the economy is healthy with “sustainable moderate growth.” This is sheer and nonsense and the Fed knows it, which is why the Fed printed over $400 billion and tossed it at the financial system.

Chris Marcus – Arcadia Economics – and I discuss the truths underlying the U.S’ fake news economy:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Printed Money Blowing The Bubbles Even Bigger

The total US stock market valuation  at $33.9 trillion is 157.4% of the last reported GDP. It’s the highest market valuation ever. The more the policy-makers try to pump and jawbone the market higher, the worse the consequences will be on the downside when the rug is pulled out from under stocks. The trigger could be anything. Eventually the market will acknowledge and accept the fact that the economy is getting worse and earnings will continue to decline. But fundamental reality is just one of many possible catalysts that will cause a painful drop in the stock market.

For now the rising stock market is shaping the Wall Street narrative being  transmitted through the mainstream media that the economy is in good shape. Funny thing about that – the stock market is not the real economy. But this is:

To be sure, rising stock prices enhance the wealth and spending capacity of the top 1% who own stocks outside of their retirement funds. But that wealth does not “trickle down” to the average middle class household (everyone below the top 1% wealth demographic). Let’s look briefly at some facts.

I’ve been making the case for quite some time that freight shipping volume is a valuable tool by which to gauge the relative level of economic activity:

The Cass freight shipment volume index tanked nearly 8% YoY in December. This number includes the growth in online shopping fulfillment deliveries and would have been worse if online shopping was not taking market share from brick/mortar stores. The index has fallen to its December 2009 level, which is part of the time period that the NBER has declared the economy to be in a recession.

The Cass data is reinforced by the sharp decline in the Baltic Dry Index. The BDI measures global ocean freight shipment activity and is considered a leading indicator for global commodities and raw materials demand. This includes incoming/outgoing vessels to and from the U.S. Not only is the global economy, including the U.S. growing weaker, the IMF has slashed its global economic growth outlook for 2020 and 2021.

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index released Thursday showed a 0.3% drop vs the 0.2% decline expected. The index has now declined in five of the last six months of 2019. Without the large run-up in the stock market, the index would have fallen even more. Rising unemployment claims (hmmm…) were the largest contributor to the decline. YoY for December the index gained just 0.1% – the weakest YoY change since November 2009.

One of the false narratives being promoted by talking heads and Wall St. is the idea that the consumer is still strong. Wrong. Consumer spending over and above necessities is being driven by the easiest access to credit in my lifetime. Evidence of this is the rapid growth in auto, credit card and personal loans. And in fact more than a third of all households report using credit cards to make ends meet every month.

But as evidence of the deteriorating condition of the consumer’s financial health, Discover’s (DFS) stock plunged 11.1% on Friday despite “beating” earnings estimates. The dagger in Discover’s quarter was loan charge-offs, which jumped to 4% of the outstanding balance. This is the highest charge-off rate since DFS’ charge-off rate peaked at 5% during the financial crisis. Delinquency rates are also accelerating. On a YoY basis for Q4, 30+ day delinquencies were up 11% while 90+ day delinquencies jumped 13%. For credit card loans, 30+ day delinquencies were up 14% and 90+ day delinquencies soared 15%.

In fact, loan loss reserves are starting to rise at a double-digit rate at many banks and finance companies. The average consumer is stretched, a fact that shows up in the numbers that never get reported in the mainstream media or Wall Street. The last time bank financials evidence rising consumer borrowing distress like this was in late 2007. We know how that played out. This time around the bubbles are bigger, the fraud is better disguised and households and policy-makers are even less prepared for the inevitable.

This is why gold is up 24% since May 2019, outperforming the stock market and most other financialized or commodity investments. No, it has very little to do, if anything, with coronavirus fear. But it’s why the western Central Bank and bullion bank gold price managers are having a difficult time containing the rising price.

The Housing Bubble: They Keep Pushing The System Until It Breaks

The mortgage regulators are stretching the removal of mortgage qualifications to the limit in an effort to keep the housing party going. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) is recommending the removal of the DTI as a factor in qualified mortgage underwriting. Ironically, tighter mortgage finance regulations were the purpose for the formation of  the CPFB in the first place. Wash, rinse, repeat. I have no doubt the mortgage and housing market is headed for another catastrophe.

Note that Blackstone, one of the first companies to dive head first into the buy-to-rent market, recently dumped the rest of its shares in Invitation Homes – one of the large single family rental operators which Blackstone took public in 2017.

Phil Kennedy (Kennedy Financial) hosted Aaron Layman – one of the rare realtors willing to discuss the truth (Aaron Layman Properties), Jimmy Morrison – who produced “The Bubble,” an impressive film housing bubble/collapse – and me to discuss why the housing market will implode again – we also include a brief discussion of gold and silver and why the precious metals sector is going to a lot higher:

QE Madness: Is It Worse Now Than In 2008?

Unequivocally, the “repo” operations by the Fed is “QE.” Well, let’s just call it what it is because “QE” was coined in place of “money printing.”  The socially correct posture to assume on Wall Street and in DC at the Fed is to label the current bout of money printing “repo operations.”  In fact, based on all of the underlying data I scour daily, let’s just cut to the chase and call this a de facto banking system bailout.

The technical details on why the “plumbing” in the banking system is getting “clogged” is mere surface analysis.  The underlying systemic problems are similar to the problems that pulled the rug out from under the financial system in 2008.  Bank assets, specifically subprime lending assets, are melting down again.

We’ve seen this movie before and the “regulators” were supposed to have blocked the banks from engaging in financial pornography. But, of course, just like teenagers who discover Pornhub, the greedy bankers undeterred by superficial legislation and an absence of independent regulatory oversight (every senior regulatory official has either worked on Wall Street or worked a law firms who get paid to keep Wall Street bankers out of jail) couldn’t help themselves.  CLO’s, 100% LTV lending, non-income verification consumer loans and OTC derivatives with orgasmic fees have re-emerged in full force.

As an example, Citibank is now sitting on top of nearly $1 trillion in credit default swaps – see this, which has the appropriate links:  Citibank CDS.   The article notes that:  “the New York Fed secretly hid from the public’s view that it had funneled $2.5 trillion (yes, trillion) to Citigroup and its trading units from December 2007 to at least July 21, 2010. That last information only became public after more than two years of court battles with the Fed.”

In the minutes released from the last FOMC meeting, the Fed is now discussing extending the money printing operations to April. Imagine that, what started as giving corporations a little help to pay quarterly taxes in September has morphed into and is on its way to half a trillion dollars of printed money handed over to the banks. Doesn’t seem strange that all the money created for corporate tax payments has not  found its way into the Treasury Department’s bank account? How do we know?  Because  a large portion of the money printed has financed new Treasury debt issuance.

Wall Street on Parade is making a motivated, if not valiant, effort to dredge up the truth with regard to to re-start of the Fed’s massive money printing operation. But I hope the Martens are not holding their breath on getting a response without an expensive legal battle:

On October 2, 2019 we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the New York Fed. We requested “emails or any other forms of written correspondence from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to JPMorgan Chase or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates containing any of the following words or phrases: ‘repo,’ ‘repurchase agreements,’ ‘overnight lending,’ or ‘reserves'”…

Our FOIA request was acknowledged by the New York Fed as received on October 2. We should have had a meaningful response on November 1. Instead, we received an email advising that we would not hear further from the New York Fed until December 5, 2019…Instead of the mandated 10-day extension that is allowed under law, we were given more than a month-long extension. On December 5, the New York Fed emailed us to say it was extending the time to respond to January 9. – Fed Balance Sheet Explosion

Make no mistake, the melt-up in the stock market, the majority of which is confined to just a handful of stocks – AAPL, MSFT plus a few insanely overvalued unicorn-type stocks (TSLA, SHOP, etc) – does not reflect a “booming economy.” Rather, it’s evidence that the financial and economic system is melting down beneath the propaganda.  With its bailout policies, the Fed has made a complete mess of the financial markets. And it’s worse this time  than it was in 2008.

Aside from some select shorts in stocks like TSLA and AAPL, buying gold and silver (physical bullion not paper derivatives – yes, GLD is a derivative) and mining stocks is the no-brainer trade of 2020.

The Truth Behind The “Repo” Non-QE QE Money Printing

“The Fed first tried to justify the loans by saying they were a short-term measure to stem a liquidity crisis. But the so-called “liquidity crisis” has not prevented the stock market from setting new highs since the loan operations began on September 17. And the short-term operation has been running every business day since that time and is currently scheduled to reach into next year or last permanently. A cumulative total of approximately $3 trillion in overnight and longer-term loans has been funneled to unnamed trading houses on Wall Street without either the Senate or House calling a hearing to examine what’s really going on.”Wall St On Parade

The analysis below is an excerpt from my November 24th issue of the Short Seller’s Journal

“Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of a cycle — and that is exactly what Credit Benchmark is finding, particularly in the industrial sector.” – Bloomberg News in reference to a report from Credit Benchmark on the deterioration in credit quality of the industrial sector globally.

Credit Benchmark offers data/analytic services which provide forward-looking insights into the credit quality and liquidity of companies and sectors globally.  Credit deterioration is a typical symptom of the end of an economic cycle. Credit Benchmark also noted last week that U.S. high-yield corporate credit quality has been crumbling since early 2019.

High yield debt sits below and props up leveraged loans held by banks, pension funds and CLO (collateralized loan obligations) Trusts. Leveraged loan credit quality is also declining, with many loan issues trading well below par and a not insignificant portion trading at distressed levels. Banks have been stuck with a lot of leveraged loans that were underwritten with the hope of sticking them in CLO investment structures. But big investors have been pulling away from CLO’s since mid-summer.

A CLO is a type of collateralized debt obligation. An investment trust is set-up and structured into tranches in order of “safeness,” with credit ratings assigned to each tranche ranging from AAA down to the “residual” or mezzanine/equity layer. Each tranche is sliced into bonds which are sold to investors, primarily institutional and wealthy investors, who invest in the various tranches of the CLO based on relative appetite for risk. Typically hedge funds and/or the underwriter of the CLO will provide funding for the mezzanine/equity layer.

Leveraged loans underwritten by Wall Street are pooled together and the interest and amortization payments are used to fund the interest and amortization payments of each layer of the trust. Each tranche receives successively higher rates of return to compensate for the level of risk. In addition each tranche is amortized based on seniority. If and when enough loans in the trust default and cash collected by the CLO trust is insufficient to pay off all of the tranches, the losses are assigned in reverse order from bottom to top. During the financial crisis, losses spread into the highest-rated tranches.

Invariably, as yield-starved investors grab for anything with a higher yield than is available from relatively riskless fixed income investments like Treasuries, agency debt (FNM/FRE) and high-grade corporate bonds, the underwriting standards of leveraged loans deteriorate. Wall Street requires loan product to feed the beast in order to continue raking in fat fees connected to this business. And, as you might have guessed, Wall Street opportunistically offers credit default derivative “insurance” products structured around the CLO trusts.

As I’ve detailed previously, credit rating downgrades in leveraged loans are mounting as the level of distress in the asset class rises. CLO’s purchase roughly 75% of all leveraged loans underwritten. In theory, CLO trusts are “over-collateralized” to account for a certain level of loan default and to ensure the top tranche receives the highest credit rating possible. But it would appear that many of these CLO trusts are starting to incur losses at the lowest tranches. This fact is reflected in the rececent performance of CLO bonds since June. As an example, through June, double-BB rated CLO bonds threw off a 10% ROR (interest payments and bond price appreciation). But by the end of October, this 10% ROR was wiped out, meaning the value of the bonds has fallen 10% since June including 5% alone in October.

The chart above plots the SPX vs an index of “generic” CLO triple-B rated bonds. The negative divergence of the CLO bonds reflects the escalating degree of distress in leveraged loans, which are underlying collateral funding the CLO trusts.

I am certain that part of the reason the Fed has had to start bailing out the banking system with its not-QE QE repo operations is connected to the rapid deterioration in the CLO/leveraged loan market. Chunks of thes CLO’s and leveraged loans are sitting on bank balance sheets.

The 2008 financial crisis was primarily triggered by the collapse of collateralized subprime mortgage CDO’s (these were the securities featured in “The Big Short”). I believe – and I’m not alone in this view – that CLO’s will cause the same type of systemic damage . The CLO market is roughly $680 billion just in the U.S. That was about the same size as the subprime mortgage market by 2008. Including the offshore market, the global leveraged loan market is now $1 trillion, doubling in size since 2010.

Most people think of the Fed when they hear the term “repo.” But the repo market primarily is funded by banks and money market funds. CLO bonds have been used as repo collateral for several years. As the credit quality of this asset class declines, banks are less interested in participating in repo market funding transactions to avoid the rising probability of suffering a counterparty default from use of CLO collateral, thereby reducing liquidity in the repo market.

In addition, many banks have been stuck with leveraged loans that could not be offloaded onto investors or CLO trusts. This inability to off-load loans into CLO’s started this past summer when the largest investor in CLO’s, a large Japanese bank, began to pull away from the CLO market. As the value of these loans declines, banks are forced to increase the amount of capital required to maintain reserve ratios – another reason for the Fed repo market intervention.

As the global economy, including the U.S. economy notwithstanding the insistence to the contrary by the Fed and Trump, continues to contract it’s quite probable that CLOs/leveraged loans will begin to melt-down Chernobyl-style. Referring back to the SPX/CLO bond price chart above, in my view there’s no coincidence that the Fed’s intervention in the repo market commenced at about the same time the triple-B CLO bonds began to take a dive. That price decline is even more pronounced for the tranches with ratings below triple-BBB.

To be sure, CLO’s are not the only financial wildfire outbreak targeted by the Fed’s money printing, but I would wager a healthy amount of gold coins that distress in the CLO market is one of the primary troubles right now. And the problem is magnified when you take into account the credit default swap transactions “wrapped around” these CLO trusts. These derivative trades also require an increasing amount of collateral as CLO tranche distress escalates.

To accompany the above analysis in my Short Seller’s Journal, I presented some ideas for expressing a bearish view based on the the eventual collapse in the CLO/leveraged loan market. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

An Unavoidable Global Debt Implosion

“[Whatever] the repo failure involved, it is likely to prove a watershed moment, causing US bankers to more widely consider their exposure to counterparty risk and risky loans, particularly leveraged loans and their collateralised form in CLOs. a new banking crisis is not only in the making, for which the repo problem serves as an early warning, but it could escalate quite rapidly.” Alasdair Macleod, “The Ghost of Failed Bank Returns”

The delinquency and default rate on consumer and corporate debt is rising. This creates funding gaps and cash flow shortfalls at banks. In a fractional banking system, banks only have to put up $1 of reserve for every $9 of money loaned. When the value of the loans declines because of non-performance, it requires capital – cash liquidity – to make up the shortfall in debt service payments received by the banks. In simple terms, the banks are staring at a systemic “margin call.”

To be sure, the current repo funding shortfall may subside. But it will not fix the underlying causes (Deutsche Bank, CLO Trusts, subprime debt, consumer debt, derivatives), which are likely leading up to another round of what happened in 2008 – only worse this time.

Chris Marcus of  Arcadia Economics  invited me to discuss my thoughts on the meaning behind the sudden need for the Fed to inject $10’s of billions into the overnight bank lending system:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Everything Is Worse Now Than In 2007

Does anyone seriously believe that in the next global recession equity markets will not collapse? Do market participants really believe fiscal stimulus and helicopter money will save us from a gut-wrenching global bust that will make 2008 look like a picnic? Has the longest US economic cycle in history beguiled investors into soporific complacency? I hope not. – Albert Edwards, Market Strategist at Societe Generale

Friday’s 625 point plunge in the Dow capped off another volatile week. Three of the top 20 largest one-day point declines in the Dow have occurred during this month. Remarkably, the Dow has managed to hold the 200 dma 5 times in August. The SPX similarly has managed to hold an imaginary support line at 2,847, about 40 SPX points above the 200 dma. The Russell 2000 index looks like death warmed-over and it’s obvious that large funds are unloading their exposure to the riskier small-cap stocks.

The randomness of unforeseen events causing sudden market sell-offs is starting to occur with greater frequency. Friday’s sell-off was triggered by disappointment with Jerome Powell’s speech at Jackson Hole followed by an escalation of the trade war between China and Trump. Given the response of the stock market to the day’s news events, I’m certain no one was expecting a less than dovish speech by the Fed Head at J-Hole or the firing of trade war shots.

It’s laughable that the stock market soars and plunges based on whether or not the Fed will cut rates, and by how much, at its next meeting. At this point, only stocks and bonds will respond positively to the anticipation of more artificial Central Bank stimulus. And the positive response by stocks will be brief.

Morgan Stanley published a table of 21 key global and U.S. economic indices – ranging from the Market Global PMI manufacturing index to the Goldman Sachs US financial conditions index – and compared the current index levels to the same indices in September 2007. Every single economic index was worse now than back in late 2007. September 2007 was the first time the Fed cut rates after a cycle of rate hikes.

But there’s a problem just comparing a large sample of economic indices back then and now. By the time the Fed started to take rates down again in 2007, it had hiked the Fed funds rate 425 basis points from 1% to 5.25%. This time, of course, the Fed started at zero and managed to push the Fed funds rate up only 250 basis points to 2.5%. Not only is the economy in worse shape now than at the beginning of the prior financial crisis but the Fed funds rates is less than 50% as high as it was previously.  For me this underscores that fact that everything is worse now than in 2007.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. Each issue contains economic and market analysis short sell ideas based on fundamental analysis, including ideas for using puts and calls to express a short view. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal Information.

Thanks Dave for the TREE recommendation. I covered in the high $200’s for a very profitable trade after it cracked finally – subscriber “Daniel”