Chart Update

     

 

 

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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Questions and Answers

A reader emailed us, to ask a few pointed questions. Paraphrasing, they are:

 

  1. Who cares if dollars are calculated in gold or gold is calculated in dollars? People care only if their purchasing power has grown.
  2. What is the basis good for? Is it just mathematical play for gold theorists? How does knowing the basis help your readers? Is it just a theoretical explanation of what has already happened?
  3. Prove that if someone has known the basis for the last four years, he has benefited.

 

Tell us about your crystal ball, oh great oracle. Is it any good? Can you divine the future for us and make us all rich? Quick? [PT]

 

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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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Known for Being Terrible

For the past few decades, Japan has been known for its stagnant economy, falling stock market, and most importantly its terrible demographics.

 

 

A chart of Japan’s much-bewailed demographic horror-show. Most people consider a declining population to be a bad thing due to the implications for assorted state-run pay-as-you-go Ponzi schemes, primarily those related to retirement. It is hard to be sympathetic, since it would have been possible to do something completely different from the outset. Even with respect to existing schemes, we don’t recall that anyone forced politicians to direct funds designated for funding social security claims to alternative uses at the time when these schemes still enjoyed a surfeit of revenues. Of course one has to be sympathetic to the future victims – those who paid in during their working lives and will end up getting stiffed. However, this is a problem that could be easily resolved by simply winding up the State in orderly insolvency proceedings prior to abolishing it. Most nation states have large amounts of assets at their disposal (e.g., they are often the by far largest land owners in the territories they control), which should suffice to cover the claims of creditors and to pay out the NPV of accumulated pension claims in lump sums. There is one way in which a declining population still has to be regarded as a drawback though. The market will so to speak have to function with fewer network nodes as the population shrinks. There will inevitably be a concomitant decline in distributed knowledge. Thus fewer ideas will occur to people and will be pursued; markets will become less efficient, the division of labor in the broadest sense will suffer a setback. Consider in this context that the market is the opposite of central economic planning in every way – the larger the network of people included in it, the better it will work for everyone. [PT] – click to enlarge.

 

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Reasons to Buy Gold

The price of gold went up $19, and the price of silver 42 cents. The price action occurred on Monday, Wednesday and Friday though so far, only the first two price jumps reversed. We promise to take a look at the intraday action on Friday.

 

File under “reasons to buy gold”: A famous photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson of a rather unruly queue in front of a bank in Shanghai in 1949 in the final days of Kuomintang rule. When it dawned on people that the communists couldn’t be stopped, they frantically tried exchange their government-issued paper money for gold. In preparation for its exodus to Taiwan, the Kuomintang regime had forced everyone to exchange their gold, silver and foreign exchange for a new paper currency, the Jingyuanquan in 1948 (“golden yuan”) which it promptly inflated with gay abandon, belying its name. It then tried to combat rising prices with price controls – a strategy that has reliably failed since at least the times of the Roman Empire. It reversed the policy a few months later, as even its main supporters became thoroughly fed up. The people in the picture above were among those who had clearly waited too long to take advantage of this policy reversal. [PT]

 

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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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Known and Unknown Anomalies

Readers are undoubtedly aware of one or another stock market anomaly, such as e.g. the frequently observed weakness in stock markets in the summer months, which the well-known saying “sell in May and go away” refers to. Apart from such widely known anomalies, there are many others though, which most investors have never heard of. These anomalies can be particularly interesting and profitable for investors – and there are several in the precious metals sector as well.  Today I am going to introduce one of those to you.

 

As Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense knew, there are things we know we know, things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t know we don’t know (unfortunately he neglected to consider that there are also things we think we know that just ain’t so, such as “Saddam has WMDs” – but let’s not digress). Anyway, Seasonax knows them all! [PT]

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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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Amassing Unproductive Debt

Last week, we discussed the marginal productivity of debt. This is how much each newly-borrowed dollar adds to GDP. And ever since the interest rate began its falling trend in 1981, marginal productivity of debt has tightly correlated with interest. The lower the interest rate, the less productive additional borrowing has in fact become.

 

Left: the first IKEA store located in Älmhult in Sweden, near the residence of the company’s founder (nowadays the store is a museum); right: a Task Rabbit car. Given the valuations at which TaskRabbit was able to raise funds recently, it is a good bet IKEA paid a small fortune to take it over (waiting for the QE-induced bubble to burst may have been cheaper). [PT]

 

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Precious Metals Supply and Demand Report

The price of gold dropped $24, and that of silver 60 cents this week. This is a far cry from Sep 8, when the price of silver hit $18.21. Since then, it’s been almost all downhill. What happened? Since the beginning of last month, the price of silver had been rising and at the basis along with it.

 

Spot silver, daily. The rally was quite sizable, but at the peak a divergence with the gold price emerged (gold exceeded its April high, while silver failed to do so). That is not always meaningful, but it is always a “heads-up”, particularly when prices have already trended for a while. Silver obviously remains stuck in a medium term trading range for now. The longer this continues, the more meaningful an eventual breakout in prices will be. [PT] – 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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Fundamental Developments

There were big moves in the metals markets this week. The price of gold was up an additional $21 and that of silver $0.30.

Will the dollar fall further?As always, we are interested in the fundamentals of supply and demand as measured by the basis. 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 (as of last week Friday) – click to enlarge.

 

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THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

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