Tag Archives: QE

The Real Stock Market Is Declining

The major stock indices – the Dow, SPX and Nasdaq –  have wafted up to all-time highs on a cloud of Central Bank printed money.  Interestingly, most of the stocks in all three indices are below to well below their all-time highs.  Breadth of the move is shockingly thin.  Very few stocks are responsible for pushing the indices higher. The Dow’s move last Friday, for instance, was primarily attributable to AAPL (by far the biggest contributor), MSFT, HD, UTX and JPM. Of those, only AAPL, UTX and JPM hit their all-time high on Friday.  MSFT and HD were close.

Many of the Dow stocks are down significantly this year. If you find this hard to believe, run the 1yr charts of the 30 Dow stocks. I’m certain the same is true for the SPX and Naz.

Despite the appearance of the stock market moving higher, most of the stocks that make up the 2800 stocks on the NYSE are well below their all-time and/or YTD highs. There’s plenty of money to be made shorting stocks despite the headline, mainstream media and White House’s euphoria over the stock market’s performance. Moreover, short interest in the SPY ETF has plunged to a level that has, in the past, led to sharp sell-offs in the stock market.

And then there’s this, which is the best measure of the real rate of return stocks:

Over the past 52 weeks through November 6th, the S&P 500 has declined 10.5% when measured in terms of gold – i.e. real money.  Money printing at a rate in excess of real wealth output diminishes the marginal value of the currency.  Because the price of gold moves inversely with the inherent value of the dollar, the chart above reflects the effect of dollar devaluation on financial assets.

Thus,  the real upward movement of the stock market highly deceptive in terms of both the number of stocks in the NYSE participating in move higher and in terms of using real money to measure the price of stocks.

Sleepwalking Toward A Crisis – Got Gold?

“By sticking to the new orthodoxy of monetary policy and pretending that we have made the banking system safe, we are sleepwalking towards that crisis.” – Mervyn King, former head of the Bank of England in a lecture at the IMF’s recent annual meeting

The market levitates higher on phony economic data from the Government, Trump tweets, Fed money printing and hedge fund algorithms chasing headline and twitter sound bites. Currently the stock market, dulled by money printing and official interventions, could care less about economic reality and rising global systemic geopolitical and financial risk. Corporate headline earnings “beats” are considered bullish even if the earnings declined YoY or sequentially.

But for those who don’t have their head in the sand, clinging desperately to the “hope” offered by the misdirecting Orwellian propaganda, it’s difficult to ignore the message signaled by the legendary levels of insider selling.

Someone is not telling the truth – The Fed once again last week increased the size of both the overnight and “term” repo operations. Starting Thursday (Oct 24th) the overnight repos were increased from $75 billion to “at least” $120 billion and the term repos (2 week term) of “at least” $35 billion were extended to the end of November, with two “at least $45 billion” term repos thrown in for good measure. The Fed is also outright printing helicopter money for the banks at a rate of $60 billion per month (via “T-bill POMOs).

At the height of the last QE/money printing cycle, the Fed was doing $75 billion per month. So whatever the problem is behind the curtain, it’s already as large or larger than the 2008 crisis.

That escalated quickly – When the repo operations started in September, the Fed attributed the need to “relieve funding pressures.” At the time the public was fed the fairytale that corporations were pulling funds from money market funds to pay quarter-end taxes. Well, we’re over five weeks past that event and the repo operations have escalated in size and duration three times. Someone is not telling the truth…

The rapid increase in Fed money printing in just five weeks reflects serious problems developing in the global financial system. Actually, the problem is easy to identify:   At every level – government, corporate and household – the level of debt has become unsustainable, with not insignificant portions of that debt in non-performing status (seriously delinquent or in default). Thus, the Central Banks have had to resort to money printing to help the banks manage the rising level of distress on their balance sheet and to monetize the escalating rate of Treasury debt issuance.

The quote at the beginning is from the former head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King. King is warning that the global financial system is headed toward a crisis and that money printing ultimately won’t save it.  While it’s pretty obvious that a disaster waits on the horizon, when the former head of a big Central Bank delivers a message like that instead of Orwellian gobbledygook, the world should pay heed.  I would suggest that the Fed’s money printing signals that the risk of a crisis intensifies weekly.  Got Gold?

The Fed Cranks Up Its Printing Press

“Like gold, U.S. dollars have value only to the extent that they are strictly limited in supply. But the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Helicopter Ben Bernanke’s address to the National Economic Club, 2002

It took the Fed more than 4 1/2 years to remove from the banking system just $750 billion of the $4.5 trillion in money it printed. The Fed stopped the removal process (“Quantitative Tightening”) at the beginning of September. But just 13 days later the Fed began adding liquidity back into the banking system via its repo operations. 42 days later, the Fed’s balance sheet has spiked up by $253 billion and is back over $4 trillion:

41% of that $253 billion ($104 billion) was put into the banking system in the last three days of this past week.

Apparently the repo/term repo operations were not enough.  On October 11th, the Fed announced that it was going to purchase at least $60 billion T-bills per month through at least the 2nd quarter of 2020.  The rationale was “in light of recent and expected increases in the Federal Reserves non-reserve liabilities” (link).  “Non-reserve liabilities” refers specifically to “currency in circulation.” The only way to increase currency in circulation is to create it. Thus, the above rationale is a decorative phrase for “money printing.”

The problems in the banking system targeted by the Fed’s money printing are likely getting worse by the day.  The Fed has now conducted three outright money printing operations since October 11th. Each operations has been progressively more over-subscribed. Today’s operation of $7.5 billion had nearly $6 of demand for every $1 printed and offered.

As I have asserted since the Fed’s repo operations commenced, the problem is significantly more profound than the “quarter-end liquidity” needs of corporations and banks. I suggested that the liquidity injection program would quickly increase in size and duration, ultimately morphing into permanent QE/balance sheet growth/money printing.

While some of the money being printed will be used absorb the massive amount of new Treasury issuance, the nexus of the problem is seeded in the big bank balance sheets and business operations. The problems leading up to the 2008 crisis were never fixed – just papered over. Furthermore, the legislation that was promoted to prevent a repeat of 2008 and protect the taxpayers was nothing more than window dressing which enabled the banks to hide their massive fee-generating recklessness (Dodd-Frank, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau).

The “Too Big To Fail” bank balance sheets collectively are close to double their size in 2008. A frighteningly large portion of these assets are sub-prime or near-sub-prime loans plus OTC derivatives that have been well-hidden off-balance-sheet. One of the regulatory initiatives put into effect in 2010 enabled banks to hide their total derivatives holdings behind a nebulous concept called “net derivatives exposure.” The “net” metric supposedly measures a bank’s unhedged net economic risk exposure, netting out off-setting hedges with counterparties.

But counterparty defaults were one of the key detonators of the 2008 financial melt-down. Unfortunately, Congress and the Fed have enabled the banks, after monetizing their catastrophic business decisions in 2008, to create a financial Frankenstein that is now financially apocalyptic in scale. The rapid escalation of the repo operations is evidence that the fuses on the various financial bombs have been lit.

Repo Operations, Money Printing, Gold And Mining Stocks

The Fed is printing money again – this time disguised as “repo operations” instead of “QE.” The price of gold and silver rallied over the summer anticipating an easier monetary policy. The economic problems and financial system excesses are two to three times larger than in 2008. This will necessitate a money printing/QE/balance sheet expansion operation that dwarfs the $4.5 trillion printed the first time around. Plus most of the money printed from 2009 to late 2014 is still in the banking system.

The scale of the inevitable money printing policy will not stimulate economic activity but it will act as rocket fuel for the precious metals market – gold, silver and mining stocks. Ten years of Central Bank money printing has pushed debt issuance, malinvestment, moral hazard and fraud to levels that well-exceed the levels when Lehman collapsed.

Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke invited me back onto his “Thursday Conversation” podcast to discuss the the Fed cranking back up its money printing machine and the implications for gold, silver and mining stocks. Click on the link above or the graphic below to listen:

***************

In the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, I review several junior mining stocks plus I recommend a larger cap silver/gold/lead/zinc producer that has been sold off irrationally and which will report great earnings in Q3 and Q4 vs the same quarters in 2018.

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

The Fed’s Money Printing Escalates

Last week the Fed announced that it was going to start buying $60 billion in T-Bills per month at least into Q2 2020.  The Fed will also rollover the proceeds as the T-Bill’s mature. The rationale was to address the decline in the “non-reserve” liabilities of the Fed.  So what are “non-reserve” liabilities?  Federal Reserve Notes.

The directive as written was “Fed Speak” which means that the Fed would print $60 billion per month for the next 4-6 to months cumulatively.  If it’s only 4 months, it means that the Fed will be printing at least a quarter trillion dollars which apparently will be become permanently part of the Fed’s balance sheet.

Chris Marcus invited me onto this Arcadia Economics podcast to discuss probably reasons why the Fed has ramped up its money printing operations despite explaining a month ago that it was only temporary to address quarter-end issues:

***************

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

Fed Balance Sheet Expansion, Unicorns, Unintended Consequences and Gold

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) – the Central Bank of Central Banks – released two reports on “unconventional policy tools” – e.g. QE/money printing and interest rate suppression. It concluded that the extreme Central Bank interference since 2008 has had a negative impact on the way in which financial markets function.

While Jerome Powell and his “Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” at the Fed prefer to use the term “balance sheet growth” in reference to money printing, the big-thinkers at the BIS call it UMPT (Unconventional Monetary Policy Tools).”

“Last month’s spike in short-term US borrowing costs was just the latest in a series of market shocks that have fueled investors’ suspicions that this radical monetary policy is having an impact on how financial markets function.” (Financial Times)

“Moral Hazard” is defined as the “lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences.” In economics (real economics, not the Keynesian psycho-babble of the current era) this would refer to the egregious misallocation of investment capital caused by the unfettered creation of fiat currency injected into the global financial system.

Additionally, unprecedented permissiveness by the regulators, who are charged with enforcing laws originally established to prevent or at least contain the escalating financial fraud that accompanies asset bubbles, further enables and accelerates the formation and inflation of investment bubbles.

The BIS report of course neglected to discuss the extreme moral hazard engendered by the trillions in money printing. The “unicorn” IPOs are the direct evidence of this. The extreme  overvaluation of the equity in the ones that have sold stock into the public markets reflects the complete disregard of historically accepted tools and guidelines used for business model appraisal and financial valuation analysis. “But it’s different this time.”

The losses racked up by these companies, the ones with public equity plus the ones yet to be IPO’d, will aggregate well into the $100’s billions, possibly trillions before this era dies. A journalist from The Atlantic, in an article titled “WeWork and The Great Unicorn Delusion,” correctly asserted that “most [of these companies] have never announced, and may never achieve, a profit.” But he lost me when he asserts that these companies are “extraordinary businesses with billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of thousands, even tens of millions, of satisfied global customers.”

Quite frankly, the business model of almost every Silicon Valley unicorn is predicated on building revenues and gaining market share by selling products and services for a significant discount to the all-in cost of production and fulfillment.

Every single unicorn IPO’d over the last several years that I have evaluated is not only highly unprofitable, but also burns legendary amounts of cash. Of course there are “millions of satisfied customers” globally – the unicorn business model functions in a way that is the equivalent of selling $1 bills for 75 cents.

The more relevant proposition is that, in all probability, many of these companies would have never  spawned if the Central Banks had not inflated the global money supply well in excess of real economic growth generated by the global economy.

I find it difficult, if not impossible, to refer to these appallingly unsustainable businesses models as “extraordinary” when in fact most if not all of them are nothing more than the product of the extreme moral hazard created by the Central Banks’ printing presses running overtime.

The economic losses incurred by the Silicon Valley unicorns are funded by the “private equity” funds which have managed to harness a significant share of the cash flowing from Central Bank money-spigots and transmitted through the primary dealer banks into the financial system. Little noticed is the fact that since 2014, roughly $1.3 trillion has drained out of the banks’ excess reserve account at the Fed and disappeared into the financial system’s “black hole.”

The 2008 Great Financial Crisis – which was a de facto financial system collapse until money printing bailed out banks and reckless investors – was fueled by the easy monetary and credit policies of Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. Those policies stimulated huge mortgage, housing and general stock market bubbles. The unintended consequences bankrupted a large swathe of households and banks.

But that decade’s reckless Central Bank policies pale in comparison to the current era of unfettered money printing cranked up by Ben Bernanke (recall that he was affectionately called “Helicopter Ben”). The ensuing widespread asset bubbles have fomented into a financial Frankenstein that has broken free from its chains as evidenced by the sudden implementation of the Fed’s repo program, which has yet to be accompanied by a credible explanation.

Jerome Powell yesterday (October 8th) asserted in a speech that “balance sheet expansion is not Quantitative Easing.”  But make no mistake, the repo operations function as emergency room triage until the Fed and the Treasury Department formalize another round of money printing, or QE or whatever you want to call it. At this point it is nothing more than a game of Orwellian semantics.

If you’re curious as why the price of gold has risen 37% since the end of May, look to the events unfolding at the Fed and in the banking system. Just like in late October 2008, the price-action in gold is sending a loud alarm that is no longer containable with manipulative efforts in the paper derivative gold market. Eventually the Government’s Working Group on Financial Markets will be helpless in coaxing the hedge fund trading robots to help hold up the stock market.

***********

The commentary above is an excerpt from the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal (Sunday). I’ll be reviewing several unicorn short ideas over the next several issues. To learn more about this short-sell focused newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info

Fed Delivers More QE “Light” And Gold Responds

On October 4th, as I expected would happen, the Fed announced that it was extending its overnight and term repo operations out to November 26th (the November 12th two-week term repo matures on the 26th).

The Fed added 7 more 2-week  “term repos, ” plus a 6-day “term repo,” with the next three operations upped to $45 billion. It extended the overnight repos until at least November 4th.  Well then, I guess the “end of quarter” temporary liquidity issue with corporate tax payments was not the problem.

Follow the money -The Fed’s repo operation extension further validates the analysis in my last post in which I made the case that an escalation in the non-performance of bank assets (loan delinquencies and defaults and derivatives), caused by contracting economic activity, has created a liquidity void in the banking system that is being “plugged” by the Fed. The Fed’s balance sheet has increased $186 billion since August 28th.

Not only did the Fed end “QT” (balance sheet reduction) two months earlier than originally planned in January, the Fed has effectively reversed in the last 5 weeks all of the QT that occurred since March 28th.

The evolution of Orwellian propaganda terminology for “money printing” has been quite amusing. It seems that the Fed has subtly inserted the phrase “balance sheet growth” into its lexicon. While Jerome Powell referenced “organic balance sheet growth” in his press circus after the last FOMC meeting,  expect that it will be considered politically/socially incorrect to use “QE” or “money printing” instead of “balance sheet growth” in reference to this de facto banking system bailout.

Meanwhile,  thank the Fed for providing the amount of money printing/currency devaluation needed to offset China’s absence from the physical gold market for the last week:

Given the technical set-up in gold plus the enormity of the Comex bank/commercial short position in paper gold, many gold market participants, including me, expected a much bigger price-attack on gold during Golden Week than has occurred. In fact, gold has held up well, with the December future testing and holding $1500 three times in the last week. Business activity in China, including gold and silver trading, resumes tonight.

The Fed’s QE Light program will likely transition into outright permanent money printing before the end of 2019. The November meeting is scheduled for the end of this month (Oct 29-30). But I doubt the Fed will turn its repo money printing into permanent money printing – aka “POMO” or “balance sheet growth” – until the December FOMC meeting (Dec 10-11).

With More Money Printing Coming (“QE”) Gold, Silver And Miners Will Soar

It would be difficult to find a chart with a  more bullish set-up than that of GDX unless it was a chart of the imminent move higher in the U.S. dollar money supply:

The Fed was unable to move the Fed funds rate within 50% of the long term average “normalized” level. It was also unable to unwind little more than 20% of the money it printed under Bernanke and Yellen, despite Bernanke’s insistence that the $4.5 trillion printed and injected into the banking system was “temporary.”  Not only was the first series of QE operations not temporary, the Fed is preparing to re-start its printing press.

I believe we are very close to a major shift in investor sentiment, as investors lose faith in the Central Banks’ ability to control the markets with monetary policy. As you can see from the chart above, we experienced just a “whiff” of the type action we can expect in the precious metals sector as reality ushers in true price discovery in the markets.

I can tell the sentiment is not getting frothy in the precious metals sector when several people, subscribers and others, have expressed disappointment in the rate of return for the mining stocks. From May 30th thru the start of Labor Day weekend, gold rose 15.3% and silver climbed 32.3%. Over the same period of time, GDX rose 43.7%. Call me old fashioned, but I can remember when 43.7% over a two or three year period of time was considered a great return on stocks (this was before the tech bubble).

Where I really see disappointment expressed is with the junior exploration micro-cap stocks. Although some have been stuck in mud, many have doubled or tripled. One example is Discovery Metals (AYYBF, DSV.V), which ran from 17 cents to as high as 52 cents this summer. Based on today’s closing price, it’s more than doubled since May 30th. Many of the other stocks I feature in my  Mining Stock Journal newsletter provided double-digit percentage returns this summer and some have doubled or tripled.

I believe the pullback in the sector this month is a necessary and healthy technical correction, with some help from the price management squad, that will lead to higher highs sometime between now and year-end. Certainly investor sentiment, from the metrics I see daily, are far from exuberant, which is bullish.

 

Inching Toward The Cliff – Why Gold Is Soaring

The global economy is headed uncontrollably toward the proverbial cliff. Although the Central Banks will once again attempt to defer this reality with more money printing and currency devaluation, systemic collapse is fait accompli.

Gold and silver are behaving in a way I have not observed in over 18 years of active participation in the precious metals sector. It’s quite possible that the is being driven by the physical gold and silver markets, with the banks losing manipulative control over precious metals prices using derivatives.

Silver Doctors invited me to discuss a global economy headed for economic and financial disaster; we also discuss the likely reintroduction of gold into the global monetary system:

***************

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

When The Stock Market Reversal Happens, It Will Be A Whopper

“They may try to run this poor thing straight up and over a cliff. Recall the 2000 top was in March but they briefly ran it back in Sep 00. Ditto in Oct 07. When warning signs are ignored, the endings are abrupt. Maintain safety nets, but don’t assume stupidity has limits.” – John Hussman

Before I saw that quote from Hussman on Twitter, I was contemplating how the trading patterns this year in bond and precious metals markets remind of the way they were trading in 2008 before the financial system de facto collapsed.  Similarly,  the tech stocks right now remind me of the blow-off top that occurred in tech stocks in January/February 2000 just before the Nasdaq collapsed. Whether intentional or not, the Fed has quickly re-inflated the tech bubble that was punctured in September 2018.

Semiconductor stock bubble – The tech bubble in the late 1990’s was led by the semiconductor sector and the dot.coms. 98% of the dot.coms taken public during that time are no longer around. The semiconductor industry is “hyper”-cyclical. It has a beta of 11 vs. the economy. Right now the global economy is in melt-down mode. Just ask the IMF, BIS and World Bank. The Fed and Trump have recklessly reflated the stock bubble that led to the all-time high in the stock market. The semiconductors closed at an all-time high on Friday. It’s sheer insanity given that industry fundamentals are melting down.

The semiconductors seem to be the most responsive to trade war headlines that promote optimism. But the stock prices of these companies have completely disconnected from reality. Every possible consumer-driven end-user product market that uses semiconductors is contracting. As an example, Samsung warned on Thursday that it’s Q1 profit would be down 60% from Q1 2018, citing declines in prices for memory chips and lower demand from OEMs for screens, like the OLED display that Samsung makes for Apple’s iPhone.

Samsung’s inventory is now twice the size of two of its primary competitors. One of those competitors is Micron (MU – $41.72), which admitted that its inventory had soared to 137 days and was on its way to 150+ days in the current quarter. The slashing of capex by chip manufacturers has barely begun.

Semiconductor sales fell 7.3% in February from January and 10.6% from February. Globally semiconductor sales fell across all major categories and across all regional markets (not just China) in February. In North America, chip sales were down 12.9% from January and 22.9% from February 2018 (vs. down 7.8% in February in China sequentially from January and down 8.5% from Feb 2017).

The trade war has nothing do with the sales crash in the chip industry. And the “green shoots” seen in the “blip” in China’s PMI which ignited the stock market last Monday is not confirmed by the PMI data coming from Japan and South Korea, two of China’s largest trading partners. In short, when semiconductor stocks reverse from this insane run higher, they will literally rip in reverse. DRAM average selling prices (ASP) plunged over 20% in Q1 2019. The ASP is projected to drop another 15-20% in Q2 and a further 10% drop in Q3. So much for the 2nd half “recovery” that several chip company CEO’s saw in their crystal ball during the latest quarters’ conference calls (Micron, Lam Research, etc).

Inventories of all categories of semiconductors are extremely high because the demand for the end-user products (smartphones, autos, electronics) is plummeting, which means the inventory of those products is soaring as end-user demand contracts. The best news is for shorts looking for contrarian signals is that Cramer has been on his CNBC show recently pounding the table on chip stocks. This can only mean that his Wall Street sources are trying to move big blocks of stock out of their best institutional clients.

******************

The commentary above is an excerpt from my latest Short Seller’s Journal.  In that issue I present a detail rationale with data to explain why the U.S. economy is tanking and I provide several stocks to short, along with put option suggestions and capital management advice.  You can learn more about this weekly newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

“Man, this is high-value newsletter.  Especially for me.” – Subscriber “Scott” from Michigan