Commodities

     

 

 

Looming Currency and Liquidity Problems

The quarterly meeting of the Incrementum Advisory Board was held on January 11, approximately one month ago. A download link to a PDF document containing the full transcript including charts an be found at the end of this post. As always, a broad range of topics was discussed; although some time has passed since the meeting, all these issues remain relevant. Our comments below are taking developments that have taken place since then into account.

 

USD-CNY, the onshore exchange rate of the yuan vs. the USD. After years of relentless appreciation, the yuan topped in early 2014 and has weakened just as relentlessly ever since. The yuan’s top coincided with the beginning of the “tapering” of the Fed’s QE3 debt monetization program and the peak in China’s foreign exchange reserves at just below $4 trillion. There was practically no lead time involved, which is rare. Although the yuan is not convertible and therefore by definition a “manipulated currency” (is there a fiat currency that isn’t manipulated?), the assertion that China’s authorities are deliberately weakening the yuan is erroneous. The opposite is true: they are trying to keep it from falling or are at least trying to slow down its descent with every trick in the book (every intermittent phase of yuan strength since the beginning of the decline was triggered by intervention). Understandably so: due to the close correlation between the level of forex reserves and credit and money supply growth in China, a rapid depletion of reserves is likely to impact the country’s giant credit bubble. One of the moving parts in this equation are bank reserve requirements, which the PBoC essentially uses to control the extent of credit growth triggered by the accumulation of reserves (a.k.a. “sterilization”). These peaked at 21.5% in June 2011 and were since then lowered to 17% to keep domestic credit expansion going – click to enlarge.

 

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Is Stagflation a Potential Threat?

The Incrementum Fund held its quarterly advisory board meeting on October 3 (the transcript can be downloaded below). Our regular participants – the two fund managers Ronald Stoeferle and Mark Valek, advisory board members Jim Rickards, Frank Shostak and yours truly –  were joined by special guest Grant Williams this time. Many of our readers probably know Grant; he is the author of the bi-monthly newsletter “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…”, as well as one of the founders of Real Vision TV.

 

1-stagflationCharacteristics of stagflation: economic growth goes into reverse, but price inflation rises  anyway. This scenario was completely unexpected by the Keynesian consensus when it hit the economy in the 1970s. Keynesian theory ended up discredited for a while as a result. Not surprisingly though, as a theory that provides a “scientific” fig leaf for statism and interventionism, it has been resurrected since then. Today it once again is an important part of mainstream economic orthodoxy; the monetarist school has retained a certain degree of influence as well, but its policy prescriptions are just as misguided in our opinion.

 

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Erroneous Expectations

Many market observers are probably expecting crude oil prices to enter a seasonal uptrend due the beginning heating season. After all, the heating season in the Northern hemisphere means that energy consumption will rise.

 

barrels-of-oil-1200x900Crude oil – is the price of crude actually strengthening during the heating season? This is what most people would surely expect – but it turns out it isn’t true.

 

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Mining Stocks, Gold Prices and Commodity Price Trends

Gold has gone up >400% over the last 16 years. Ironically, it is hard to find a gold mining equity exhibiting similar performance. In retrospect, if one invested in gold, one not only made much better returns, one also took a relatively insignificant risk in comparison to owning equities—equities can go to zero while it is hard for a commodity to fall much below its cost of production. Moreover, depending on the jurisdiction, owning gold might have resulted in lower (or no) tax liabilities.

 

South DeepSouth Deep gold mine in South Africa

Photo via mining.com

 

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Do or Die

I think I speak for everyone involved if I say that it’s way past high time for this market to either breach the wall ahead of SPX 2150 or finally accept defeat and relieve itself to the downside. It’s become a war of attrition at this point as we have been suffering through this deadlock of a market for more than a year. And may I say – it’s getting not just boring but increasingly annoying.

 

the_wall_must_fall-1000x593The Wall…

Image credit: Home Box Office (HBO)

 

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Victims of the Boom-Bust Cycle

The world is drowning in steel – there is huge overcapacity in steel production worldwide. This is a direct result of the massive global credit expansion that has taken place over the past 15 years. Much of this capacity is located in China, but while the times were good, iron ore and steel production (and associated lines of production) was expanded everywhere else in the world as well.

 

steel-1Steel factory

Photo credit: Laurentiu Iordache

 

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Yellen Looms

We’ve got a bit of a double whammy going on today in that it’s the last session before the long weekend plus Yellen is scheduled to speak late in the day. So it’s probably fair to say that few of us are going to be doing much on the trading front and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of you are already on the way out.

 

hitting_the_roadOff we go…

 

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Pros and Cons

The recent rally in commodity prices has surprised many market participants and has greatly supported the stock market’s rebound. It has also made bulls out of a number of former stock market bears, as one of its side effects was to cause an improvement in market internals. But does the rally actually make sense?

 

bethlehem steelThe original Bethlehem Steel Works in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Photo via leggendaurbana.it

 

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Big Moves in Markets No-One is Paying Attention to

A lot of attention has been on equities and precious metals in the past week but the biggest movers right now are the softs [e.g. commodities like grains, oils, sugar, etc.).

 

wheat_field-1000x523We actually are in Kansas now, Dorothy!

Photo via agriculture.ks.gov

 

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A Fake Economy

AIKEN, South Carolina – Aiken is battened down. The wind is blowing hard… dark clouds race across the sky… trash bags tumble down the main street. “This is tornado weather,” said a local resident. “You better be ready to run.”

 

concept of rich and poorFrom poor to rich and back? Read on …

Photo credit: Enrique Ramos Lopez

 

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Money Printing and Price Inflation

Ten years back when the central banks around the western world—as elsewhere—were printing money with abandon, it was claimed by rational observers that this would lead to hyper-inflation. It was claimed that the best the central banks could do was to control short-term interest rates, surreptitiously expropriating the wealth of citizens.

Eventually the market had to find out, directly or indirectly, what was happening — as newly printed currency played havoc in the market — and prices in nominal terms would rise. Long-term yields on sovereign bonds were expected to sky-rocket, to account for increasing inflation.

 

800px-Salon_de_Madame_GeoffrinThe Age of Reason: Salon de Madame Goeffrin, a painting by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier, showing distinguished French thinkers of the Enlightenment gathered in one room.

 

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Why Should a Decline in Oil Prices be Bad?

The dramatic fall in the global price of oil is being cited by the financial press, government officials, and academia as the catalyst for the recent abysmal U.S. economic data which shows that the economy is, in all likelihood, sliding into a recession or worse.

 

Oil_cartoon_12.09.2014_largeOil prices in dire straits…

 

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