Author Archives: Pater Tenebrarum

     

 

 

An Astonishing Statistic

As the final FOMC announcement of the year approaches, we want to briefly return to the topic of how the meeting tends to affect the stock market from a statistical perspective. As long time readers may recall, the typical performance of the stock market in the trading days immediately ahead of FOMC announcements was quite remarkable in recent decades. We are referring to the Seaonax event study of the average (or seasonal) performance across a very large number of events, namely the past 160 monetary policy announcements and the 10 trading days surrounding them. It looks as follows:

 

We have highlighted the period of maximum profit over the past 20 years in dark gray, which is achieved over a holding period of  8 trading days and amounts to an average of 60 basis points. At first glance that may not look like much, but it actually works out to a 21.89 percent annualized gain, which exceeds the gain generated in the “rest of the time” by a vast margin. As the detailed returns in individual years at the bottom show, in some years particularly large gains were posted around FOMC meetings – these were as a rule associated with new cyclical bull markets just after the end of major bear markets. The largest losses were obviously primarily associated with bear market periods, but they are both much fewer in number than the gains and much smaller on average – click to enlarge.

 

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A Twitch of a Toe

In our recent update on credit spreads we proposed to use the seemingly deceased  Monty Python parrot Polly as a stand-in for the suspicion of creditors in today’s markets.  The question was whether Polly was indeed dead or merely in a deep coma. Depending on this, one should be able to gauge how powerful a miracle will be required to resurrect her.

 

Meet Polly. Is she alive?

 

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A Useful Infographic

When we last wrote more extensively about Bitcoin (see Parabolic Coin – evidently, it has become a lot more “parabolic” since then), we said we would soon return to the subject of Bitcoin and monetary theory in these pages. This long planned article was delayed for a number of reasons, one of which was that we realized that Keith Weiner’s series on the topic would give us a good opportunity to address some of the objections to Bitcoin’s fitness as a medium of exchange voiced by critics (we have kept the final three parts of Keith’s discussion in abeyance as well, we intend to publish these concurrently).

 

BTC was easily the best investment asset of 2017 (we may have overlooked some other “alt coins”, but in terms of market cap only the 6 – 10 largest cryptocurrencies look like serious contenders in this market). We should probably write more often about it, then you would e.g. have learned that we thought BCH (the post-fork younger brother of BTC) was likely to play catch-up at some point. We actually believe this particular valuation gap is likely to narrow further, and the same may well happen with DASH, another cryptocurrency with quite similar features (both BCH and DASH are lacking some of the legacy technical drawbacks of BTC). As an aside, we always had a certain minimum target for the coming gold bubble in mind which we never mentioned in public, because we felt it sounded silly. Usually we just recommend that people use their imagination, in the hope that their imagination is big enough. By now it probably sounds a lot less silly –  we will revisit this topic once gold has overcome certain technical hurdles – click to enlarge.

 

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Early Warning Signals in a Fragile System

[ed note: here is Part 1; if you have missed it, best go there and start reading from the beginning]

We recently received the following charts via email with a query whether they should worry stock market investors. They show two short term interest rates, namely the 2-year t-note yield and 3 month t-bill discount rate. Evidently the moves in short term rates over the past ~18 – 24 months were quite large, even if their absolute levels remain historically low.

 

Sizable moves higher in short term interest rates were recorded over the past two years. 2 year note yields only started moving up in mid 2016, but the surge in t-bill discount rates has been in train since late 2015 already. The moves in short term rates come from extremely low levels, but they are nevertheless quite noteworthy – click to enlarge.

 

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Incrementum Advisory Board Meeting Q4 2017 –  Special Guest Ben Hunt, Author and Editor of Epsilon Theory

The quarterly meeting of the Incrementum Fund’s Advisory Board took place on October 10 and we had the great pleasure to be joined by special guest Ben Hunt this time, who is probably known to many of our readers as the main author and editor of Epsilon Theory. He is also chief risk officer at investment management firm Salient Partners. As always, a transcript of the discussion is available for download below.

 

Ben Hunt, author of Epsilon Theory and chief risk officer of Salient Partners

 

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Introduction

Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute and our good friend Claudio Grass recently discussed a number of key issues, sharing their perspectives on important economic and geopolitical developments that are currently on the minds of many US and European citizens.

A video of the interview can be found at the end of this post. Claudio provided us with a written summary of the interview which we present below – we have added a few remarks in brackets (we strongly recommend checking the podcast out in its entirety –  there is a lot more than is covered by the summary).

 

Mark Thornton and Claudio Grass

Photo via mises.org

 

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Suspicion isn’t Merely Asleep – It is in a Coma (or Dead)

There is an old Monty Python skit about a parrot whose lack of movement and refusal to respond to prodding leads to an intense debate over what state it is in. Is it just sleeping, as the proprietor of the shop that sold it insists? A very tired parrot taking a really deep rest?

Or is it actually dead, as the customer who bought it asserts, offering the fact that it was nailed to its perch as prima facie evidence that what they are looking at is indeed, a late parrot, as deceased and expired as it can possibly be. We hereby submit that Polly, the “Norwegian Blue”, serves as a perfect stand-in for the risk perceptions of today’s corporate (and EM) bond buyers.

 

Polly, we hereby rename thee “The Suspicion of Creditors”.

 

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Switzerland: Far from Flawless, but still a Unique Country – An Interview with Claudio Grass

Our friend Claudio Grass has discussed Switzerland in these pages before, and on one of these occasions we added some background information on country’s truly unique political system (see “The People Against the Establishment” for  the details). People are generally aware that direct democracy in the form of frequent  referendums is a major characteristic of the Swiss system, but how many people know that the country’s executive is essentially modeled after the system established in the city states of ancient Greece?

 

The Sphinx observatory on Mt. Jungfraujoch in the awe-inspiring Swiss alps.

Photo credit: Jungfraubahnen

 

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A Big Reference Chart Collection

Our friends at Incrementum have created a special treat for gold aficionados, based on the 2017 “In Gold We Trust Report”. Not everybody has the time to read a 160 page report, even if it would be quite worthwhile to do so. As we always mention when it is published, it is a highly useful reference work, even if one doesn’t get around to reading all of it (and selective reading is always possible, aided by the table of contents at the beginning).

 

The performance of major asset classes since gold bottomed in July of 1999. Despite the stock market outperforming gold handily since 2011, it is still lagging behind quite a bit over the past two decades. So it is clear what one should rather have owned. As far as we are concerned, for a variety of reasons we do not believe that gold’s secular bull market is over just yet, despite the steep correction from 2011 – 2015 (or 2013 in terms of most non-dollar currencies). The beginning of the new uptrend (gold is already up about 25% from its low) is in many ways reminiscent of the beginning of the bull market, as it is a halting affair with many short term setbacks, accompanied by great skepticism. The current year is particularly remarkable, because gold had every reason to decline, but up until recently had actually outperformed every other major asset class (the stock market only managed to catch up with it very recently). Gold has begun to strengthen ever since the Fed’s rate hike campaign began – regular readers may recall that we expected this to happen and asked them to “bring it on”. This is counter-intuitive and the consensus certainly expected the exact opposite outcome. In reality it is both logical and telling. As an aside: if we had added the CRB to this chart, you would see that it has actually lost 3.2% since July of 1999. We refrained from adding it because the CRB does not properly depict the price performance of commodities. Its performance includes the futures roll-over effect, which leads to huge distortions over time. A spot price index looks completely different and would show a respectable gain in commodity prices since 1999 (and it should be obvious that with crude oil trading at $50 instead of $10 and copper nearly at $3 instead of 40 cents, etc., that commodities are generally definitely not cheaper than in 1999/2000). Unfortunately we couldn’t find such an index at stockcharts, so we decided to rather leave commodities out – click to enlarge.

 

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Anecdotal Flags are Waved

 

“If a shoeshine boy can predict where this market is going to go, then it’s no place for a man with a lot of money to lose.”

– Joseph Kennedy

 

It is actually a true story as far as we know – Joseph Kennedy, by all accounts an extremely shrewd businessman and investor (despite the fact that he had graduated in economics*), really did get his shoes shined on Wall Street one fine morning, and the shoe-shine boy, one Pat Bologna, asked him if he wanted a few stock tips. Kennedy was amused and intrigued and encouraged him to go ahead. Bologna wrote a few ticker symbols on a piece of paper, and when Kennedy later that day compared the list to the ticker tape, he realized that all the stocks on Bologna’s list had made strong gains. This happened a few months before the crash of 1929.

 

Joseph Kennedy in 1914, at age 25 – at the time reportedly “the youngest ever bank president in the US”

Photo credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

 

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Global Monetary Architecture

The quarterly Incrementum Advisory Board meeting was held last week (the full transcript is available for download below). Our regulars Dr. Frank Shostak and Jim Rickards were unable to attend this time, but we were joined by special guest Luke Gromen of research house “Forest for the Trees” (FFTT; readers will find free samples of the FFTT newsletter at the site and in case you want to find the link again later, we have recently added it to our blog roll). Below we add a few remarks on a topic Luke Gromen is paying a great deal of attention to.

 

Special guest Luke Gromen of FFTT.

 

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Étatiste Crackpottery

Shortly after we posted Jayant Bhandari’s recent article that inter alia discussed  the new complex GST (general sales tax) regime introduced in India by the Modi government (see “The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum” for details), we were contacted by Lakshminarayanan Kumaraapuram, a small businessman in Mumbai. He asked us whether we would be prepared to publish a comment he originally mailed to the prime minister’s “grievance portal”, so as to transform it into an open letter.

 

Let’s keep it simple… but not too simple. The chief surgeon gets ready to wield his scalpels and cleavers.

 

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