Relative Scarcity and Bubble Dynamics

There is widespread awareness about the relative scarcity of BTC compared to the ever-expanding fiat money supply, but it seems to us that the dynamics underlying their relationship are largely ignored. The scarcity argument underpins a lot of speculative activity in BTC and other cryptocurrencies – hence ignoring the related dynamics is probably not a very good idea.

 

One of the features of bitcoin people find enticing  – by no means the only one to be sure – is the fact that its supply is strictly limited (well, sort of – see our comment on “forks” further below). We have highlighted the currently circulating and the eventual total supply above. Keep in mind that the “free float” of BTC is even smaller: there are a number of very large wallets which apparently never trade, and quite few BTC have been lost forever – we are pretty sure that the UK resident who famously threw away an old hard disk drive that held his BTC wallet is not the only person who has disposed of his bitcoin in such a decidedly painful and unprofessional manner.

 

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The Wingsuit Test of 1912

Late last year press reports informed us that by October, the number of active accounts at US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase* had exceeded the number of accounts at Charles Schwab, one of the oldest US discount brokers, by 1.1 million. The report was dated November 27, by which time the number of accounts had just soared by another 1.6 million. We felt reminded of the final few weeks of China’s stock market bubble, which saw similarly stunning growth in retail brokerage accounts. We felt that these Johnnie-come-latelies would soon experience the financial equivalent of the infamous wingsuit test of 1912. Witness the sacrifice of a man ahead of his time:

 

Wingsuit pioneer Franz Reichelt fails to get past the proof of concept stage.

 

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Rydex Ratios Go Bonkers, Bears Are Dying Off

For many years we have heard that the poor polar bears were in danger of dying out due to global warming. A fake photograph of one of the magnificent creatures drifting aimlessly in the ocean on a break-away ice floe was reproduced thousands of times all over the internet. In the meantime it has turned out that polar bears are doing so well, they are considered a quite dangerous plague in some regions in Alaska. Alas, there is one species of bear that really is in danger of going extinct – only this one lives on Wall Street, or let us rather say, it vegetates on Wall Street these days.

Similar levels of complacency as were evident in  the AAII data were reflected in Rydex ratios, which streaked to fresh extremes in recent weeks. The bull/bear asset ratio reached an astonishing new all time high of nearly 36 at one point (i.e., bullish assets were 36 times larger than bearish assets), with bear assets crumbling to a new record low.

The leveraged Rydex ratio streaked to a new all time high of 18.70 right at the turn of the year (note: from 2001 to 2012 a leveraged ratio above 2 was actually considered “extreme”).

 

The pure Rydex bull/bear ratio and total Rydex bear assets. We have left our annotations unchanged since the last time we showed this chart, since we have nothing new to add to this. What is new is only that the ratio actually surged to 36 – which was more than double the level it hit at the peak of the tech mania in February/March 2000. That is quite incredible.

 

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The Mother of All Blow-Offs

We didn’t really plan on writing about investor sentiment again so soon, but last week a few articles in the financial press caught our eye and after reviewing the data, we thought it would be a good idea to post a brief update. When positioning and sentiment reach levels that were never seen before after the market has gone through a blow-off move for more than a year, it may well be that it means something for once.

 

Sloshed as we are…   a group of professional investors prepares for a day of hard work on Wall Street. The tedium of a market that goes up a little bit every day, day in day out, is taking its toll.

 

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Controlled Inflation

American consumers are not only feeling good.  They are feeling great. They are borrowing money – and spending it – like tomorrow will never come.

 

After an extended period of indulging in excessive moderation (left), the US consumer makes his innermost wishes known (right). [PT]

 

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The Vote Buying Mirror

Our readers are probably aware of the influence the US election cycle has on the stock market. After Donald Trump was elected president, a particularly strong rally in stock prices ensued.  Contrary to what many market participants seem to believe, trends in the stock market depend only to a negligible extent on whether a Republican or a Democrat wins the presidency. The market was e.g. just as strong under Democratic president Bill Clinton as it was under Republican president Ronald Reagan.

 

The mid terms specter.

 

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Fundamental Developments

In this New Year’s holiday shortened week, the price of gold moved up again, another $16 and silver another 29 cents. Or we should rather say the dollar moved down 0.03mg gold and 0.03 grams silver. It will make those who borrow to short the dollar happy…

 

Let’s take a look at the only true picture of the supply and demand fundamentals for the metals. But first, here are the charts of the prices of gold and silver, and the gold-silver ratio.

 

Gold and silver prices in USD terms – click to enlarge.

 

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Onward Toward Default

People are hard to please these days.  Clients, customers, and cohorts – the whole lot.  They’re quick to point out your faults and flaws, even if they’re guilty of the same derelictions.

 

The age-old art of assigning blame – in this case complemented by firm knowledge of the proper way to prosperity (see lower right corner). Jack Lew not only sees the future with perfect clarity these days, he also seems to have spent his time as treasury secretary garnering plenty of “not guilty of anything/ had absolutely nothing to do with it/ innocent as the snow is white/ just a job title, doesn’t mean a thing” points. All the bad stuff related to public debt and deficits clearly happened before and/or after him, or in other words, he dindu nuffin’ . Similar to the discoverers of the way to prosperity of yore, he does however not only know these days what ought to be done, but also what is going to happen. His timing on the former issue may be a bit off, but then again, nobody’s perfect. With regard to the latter, he should definitely try his hand at stock market trading given his new-found powers of perfect foresight. [PT]

 

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A New Year of Symbiotic Disharmony

The New Year is nearly here. The slate’s been wiped clean. New hopes, new dreams, and new fantasies, are all within reach. Today is the day to make a double-fisted grab for them. Without question, 2018 will be the year in which everything happens exactly as it should. Some things you will be able to control, others will be well beyond your control.

 

How new years generally work… [PT]

 

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Cycles and Sentiment

Another recurring pattern consists of the seasonally strong period in gold around the turn of the year, which is bisected by a mid to late December interim low in the gold price. An additional boost can be expected in January and Feburary from the strong seasonal uptrend in silver and platinum group metals as well (to see the seasonal PGM charts, scroll down to our addendum to this recent article by Dimitri Speck).

 

10 tola cast bar made in Switzerland for Asian markets.

 

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Repeating Patterns and Positioning

A noteworthy confluence of patterns in gold and gold stocks is in evidence this year. At the close of trading on December 26, the HUI Index has given a (tentative) buy signal by completing a unique chart pattern, which is why we decided to briefly discuss the situation. As usual, things are not as straightforward and simple as they would ideally be, but there is always an element of uncertainty – one has to accept that as a given. Let us look at a chart illustrating one of said patterns:

 

This chart shows the gold price, the weekly net hedger position in gold futures (the inverse of the net speculative position), with the Fed’s December rate hikes in 2015, 2016 and 2017 highlighted by red vertical lines. Keep in mind that the December 2015 hike was the start of the current rate hike campaign. In the weeks leading up to it, the gold market was in the grip of a bearish hysteria, just as it approached a major lateral support level. Nearly every day Bloomberg, Reuters and other mainstream financial media published articles by “experts” no-one had ever heard of before (or since!), along with reports from analysts working for various well-known investment banks, all of whom stridently insisted that the beginning rate hike cycle was going to be the most bearish thing that could possibly befall the gold market, and that a further collapse in prices was nearly certain to coincide with it. Not surprisingly, the exact opposite has happened. You were definitely not surprised if you were reading this blog at the time – see for instance “Gold and the Federal Funds Rate”. As we pointed out therein: “[The] guessers at SocGen might actually have improved their statistical odds a bit if they had said “now that the Fed is hiking rates, gold prices should rise”. As noted in the chart annotation, in all three years gold prices declined into a December low, seemingly driven by fear of the coming rate hike and then proceeded to rally in a typical “buy the news” scenario. The declines tended to lower net speculative long positions to levels conducive to a renewed advance. So far the gold price lows coinciding with these rate hikes are increasing by approximately $100 per year. We expect this uptrend to accelerate noticeably once the rate hike campaign is unceremoniously thrown overboard. ETA: sometime next year, the precise timing depends on when the asset bubble peaks and reverses – the clock is ticking on that – click to enlarge.

 

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Remarkable and Extraordinary Growth

Good cheer has arrived at precisely the perfect moment. You can really see it. Record stock prices, stout economic growth, and a GOP tax reform bill to boot. Has there ever been a more flawless week leading up to Christmas?

 

Here’s what really happened: the government’s minions confiscated everything Santa had on him when he crossed the border and then added it to GDP. You know how it is… if something feels too good to be true… [PT]

 

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  • Punch-Drunk Investors & Extinct Bears, Part 1
      The Mother of All Blow-Offs We didn't really plan on writing about investor sentiment again so soon, but last week a few articles in the financial press caught our eye and after reviewing the data, we thought it would be a good idea to post a brief update. When positioning and sentiment reach levels that were never seen before after the market has gone through a blow-off move for more than a year, it may well be that it means something for once.   Sloshed as we are...   a...
  • Why You Should Embrace the Twilight of the Debt Bubble Age
      Onward Toward Default People are hard to please these days.  Clients, customers, and cohorts – the whole lot.  They’re quick to point out your faults and flaws, even if they’re guilty of the same derelictions.   The age-old art of assigning blame – in this case complemented by firm knowledge of the proper way to prosperity (see lower right corner). Jack Lew not only sees the future with perfect clarity these days, he also seems to have spent his time as treasury...
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      Fundamental Developments In this New Year’s holiday shortened week, the price of gold moved up again, another $16 and silver another 29 cents. Or we should rather say the dollar moved down 0.03mg gold and 0.03 grams silver. It will make those who borrow to short the dollar happy...   Let’s take a look at the only true picture of the supply and demand fundamentals for the metals. But first, here are the charts of the prices of gold and silver, and the gold-silver...
  • As the Controlled Inflation Scheme Rolls On
      Controlled Inflation American consumers are not only feeling good.  They are feeling great. They are borrowing money – and spending it – like tomorrow will never come.   After an extended period of indulging in excessive moderation (left), the US consumer makes his innermost wishes known (right). [PT]   On Monday the Federal Reserve released its latest report of consumer credit outstanding.  According to the Fed’s bean counters, U.S. consumers racked...
  • Punch-Drunk Investors & Extinct Bears, Part 2
      Rydex Ratios Go Bonkers, Bears Are Dying Off For many years we have heard that the poor polar bears were in danger of dying out due to global warming. A fake photograph of one of the magnificent creatures drifting aimlessly in the ocean on a break-away ice floe was reproduced thousands of times all over the internet. In the meantime it has turned out that polar bears are doing so well, they are considered a quite dangerous plague in some regions in Alaska. Alas, there is one species of...
  • 2018: The Weakest Year in the Presidential Election Cycle Has Begun
      The Vote Buying Mirror Our readers are probably aware of the influence the US election cycle has on the stock market. After Donald Trump was elected president, a particularly strong rally in stock prices ensued.  Contrary to what many market participants seem to believe, trends in the stock market depend only to a negligible extent on whether a Republican or a Democrat wins the presidency. The market was e.g. just as strong under Democratic president Bill Clinton as it was under...
  • Cryptonite
      The Wingsuit Test of 1912 Late last year press reports informed us that by October, the number of active accounts at US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase* had exceeded the number of accounts at Charles Schwab, one of the oldest US discount brokers, by 1.1 million. The report was dated November 27, by which time the number of accounts had just soared by another 1.6 million. We felt reminded of the final few weeks of China's stock market bubble, which saw similarly stunning growth in retail...
  • Cryptonite 2
      Relative Scarcity and Bubble Dynamics There is widespread awareness about the relative scarcity of BTC compared to the ever-expanding fiat money supply, but it seems to us that the dynamics underlying their relationship are largely ignored. The scarcity argument underpins a lot of speculative activity in BTC and other cryptocurrencies – hence ignoring the related dynamics is probably not a very good idea.   One of the features of bitcoin people find enticing  - by no...

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