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To Unleash or Not to Unleash, That is the Question…

LOVINGSTON, VIRGINIA –  Corporate earnings have been going down for nearly three years. They are now about 10% below the level set in the late summer of 2014. Why should stocks be so expensive?

 

Example of something that one should better not unleash. The probability that a win-lose proposition will develop upon meeting it seems high. It wins, because it gets to eat…

Image credit: Urs Hagen

 

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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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Chasing Entry Points

Something similar to the following has probably happened to you at some point: you want to buy a stock on a certain day and in order to time your entry, you start watching how it trades. Alas, the price rises and rises, and your patience begins to wear thin. Shouldn’t a correction set in soon and provide you with a more favorable buying opportunity?

 

Apple-Spotting – a five minute intraday chart showing the action in AAPL on February 1, 2017 – an example that illustrated the general principle discussed here quite well. We could of course have picked another stock or an index future, but AAPL was convenient on account of the earnings beat it announced on the preceding evening, which triggered relentless buying pressure over most of the trading day [PT] – click to enlarge.

 

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Awesome Forecasts and the Unknowable Future

Back in late 2013 I wrote a piece on human nature which was in part inspired by the bullish exuberance exhibited by a MarketWatch article predicting the DJIA at 20,000 in the near term future. Yesterday afternoon, a bit over three years later, that prediction actually became reality and I’m sure the author of that article as well as many other like minded traders popped some champagne in celebration of their awesome ability to predict the future.

 

A trader from the (near) future.

Image via tumblr.com

 

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A Shift in Expectations

When discussing the outlook for so-called “risk assets”, i.e., mainly stocks and corporate bonds (particularly low-grade bonds) and their counterparts on the “safe haven” end of the spectrum (such as gold and government bonds with strong ratings), one has to consider different time frames and the indicators applicable to these time frames. Since Donald Trump’s election victory, there have been sizable moves in stocks, gold and treasury bonds, as the election result has strongly boosted certain market expectations.

 

 

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A Soaring Market

On January 20 2017 Donald Trump will be sworn in as the new president of the United States. On the stock market his victory has triggered a lot of advance cheer already: the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by a sizable 7.80 percent between the election and the turn of the year.

 

Two big winners: the DJIA and Donald Trump – click to enlarge.

 

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Bad Monday

Some Monday mornings are better than others.  Others are worse than some.  For one Amazon employee, this past Monday morning was particularly bad.

No doubt, the poor fellow would have been better off he’d called in sick to work.  Such a simple decision would have saved him from extreme agony.  But, unfortunately, he showed up at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters and put on a public and painful display of madness.

 

jumpGood-bye cruel world! On this our planet, ignoring air friction, wind and other buoyancy-enhancing obstacles for the sake of this example, someone jumping off a building that is high enough will eventually attain a terminal velocity of 122 miles per hour. The acceleration is 32.2 feet per second², which is why one has to start from an appropriate height (a skydiver in a spread-eagle position will typically reach terminal velocity after about 12 seconds, traversing a distance of 1,483 feet). Jumping without a parachute may provide an especially pronounced adrenaline high, but is generally not advisable; more often than not it will be a one-off experience.

 

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Pre-Election Market Movers – Mr. Comey and the Trio Infernal

Before this Monday, the S&P 500 Index went down nine days in a row. While this was almost unprecedented (or in any case, a very rare event) the decline was quite small overall. The timing of the pullback and the subsequent strong rebound on Monday suggests that Mr. Comey’s letters to Congress regarding the FBI investigation into official emails by Hillary Clinton – which have found their way unto a computer owned by Anthony Weiner (the former husband of Clinton’s right-hand woman Huma Abedin) –  were the “trigger” for these moves.

 

comey-and-the-trio-infernalFBI chief Comey and the Trio Infernal: Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner and Hillary Clinton. Weiner is embroiled in a rather unsavory scandal – allegedly he has inter alia mailed pictures of his unclothed reproductive organs to a minor. The FBI has detected some 650,000 emails on his computer that seem to have come from Ms. Clinton’s private email server, which she in turn used in her official capacity as Secretary of State (her use of this device violated regulations and testified to her lack of sound judgment).

Image credit: Robyn Beck, Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

 

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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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Only Sell Stocks in Recessions?

We were recently made aware of an interview at Bloomberg, in which Tony Dwyer of Cannacord and Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research were quizzed on the recently announced utterly bizarre AT&T – Time Warner merger. We were actually quite surprised that AT&T wanted to buy the giant media turkey. Prior to the offer, TWX still traded 50% below the high it had reached 17 years ago.

 

1-twx-tThe merger of AT&T and TWX simply doesn’t appear to make much sense. It certainly is a symptom of loose monetary policy though – click to enlarge.

 

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So Far a Normal Correction

In last week’s update on the gold sector, we mentioned that there was a lot of negative sentiment detectable on an anecdotal basis. From a positioning perspective only the commitments of traders still appeared a bit stretched though, while from a technical perspective we felt that a pullback to the 200-day moving average in both gold and gold stocks shouldn’t be regarded as anything but a normal – and in this case actually long overdue – event.

 

1-goldGold has pulled back to its now rising 200 dma (the fact that it is rising differentiates this pullback from declines during the pre-2016 bear market period) – click to enlarge.

 

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Iffy Looking Charts

The stock market has held up quite well this year in the face of numerous developments that are usually regarded as negative (from declining earnings, to the Brexit, to a US presidential election that leaves a lot to be desired, to put it mildly). Of course, the market is never driven by the news – it is exactly the other way around. It is the market that actually writes the news. It may finally be time for a spanking though.

 

spankinggoodtimeTime for some old-fashioned disciplining… (a. D. 1891)

Photo credit: Littleton View Co.

 

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