Learning From Other People’s Mistakes is Cheaper

One benefit of hindsight is that it imparts a cheap superiority over the past blunders of others.  We certainly make more mistakes than we’d care to admit.  Why not look down our nose and acquire some lessons learned from the mistakes of others?

 

Bitcoin, weekly. The late 2017 peak is completely obvious in hindsight… [PT]

 

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Money Supply Growth Continues to Falter

Ostensibly the stock market has rallied because the Fed promised to maintain an easy monetary policy. To be sure, interest rate hikes have been put on hold for the time being and the balance sheet contraction (a.k.a.“quantitative tightening”) will be terminated much earlier than originally envisaged. And yet, the year-on-year growth rate of the true broad money supply keeps declining noticeably.

 

The year-on-year growth rates of US TMS-2 (broad true money supply) and the narrow money aggregate M1. Y/y growth of TMS-2 has declined to a new 12-year low as of March 2019. For some background on the calculation of TMS-2 see Michael Pollaro’s excellent summary at Forbes.

 

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Investors are Oblivious to the Market’s Downside Potential

This is a brief update on a number of sentiment/positioning indicators we have frequently discussed in these pages in the past. In this missive our focus is exclusively on indicators that are of medium to long-term relevance to prospective stock market returns. Such indicators are not really useful for the purpose of market timing –  instead they are telling us something about the likely duration and severity of the bust that will follow on the heels of the current market mania. The first chart is an update of the current situation in RYDEX funds. Despite their small size, these funds have always represented a quite accurate microcosm of general market sentiment.

 

A RYDEX overview: RYDEX money market fund assets have recently declined to new all time lows; the pure non-leveraged bull-bear fund ratio is back above 29 (i.e., bull funds assets are more then 29 times larger than bear fund assets). At the top of the tech mania in early March 2000, this ratio peaked at roughly 17. Lastly, the amount of assets in RYDEX bear funds demonstrates that bears remain extremely discouraged. It is fair to say that at this stage almost no-one expects that the market could suffer a serious slump.

 

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Is Silver Hard of Hearing?

The price of gold inched down, but the price of silver footed down (if we may be permitted a little humor that may not make sense to metric system people). For the gold-silver ratio to be this high, it means one of two things. It could be that speculators are avoiding the monetary metals and metal stackers are depressed. Or that something is going on in the economy, to drive demand for the metals in different directions.

 

As a rule the gold silver ratio acts as a proxy for credit spreads – this is attributable to the fact that silver prices are partly driven by the metal’s large industrial demand component (by contrast, the vast bulk of gold demand consists of monetary or investment demand; industrial and fabrication demand in the gold market are negligible by comparison). In the chart above we compare the gold-silver ratio to the IEF-JNK ratio, which serves as a proxy for corporate credit spreads (note: “unadjusted” means that only prices are compared, not total returns – interest payments received by holders of IEF and JNK are not included). An interesting divergence has emerged since the 2014-2016 oil patch mini-bust – while the gold-silver ratio is streaking to new highs, the IEF-JNK ratio has established a lower high in late 2018. We believe this is mainly due to the massive distortion of credit markets in the wake of the QE and ZIRP/NIRP policies pursued by the world’s largest central banks. One of these markets is wrong and it is a good bet that the market that has been manipulated by central bank interventions is the one that is giving a false signal. [PT]

 

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Unsolicited Advice to Fed Chair Powell

American businesses over the past decade have taken a most unsettling turn.  According to research from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, as of November 2018, non-financial corporate debt has grown to more than $9.1 trillion [ed note: this number refers to securitized debt and business loans, other corporate liabilities would add an additional $11 trillion for a total of $20.5 trillion].

 

US non-financial corporate debt takes flight – the post 2008 crisis trajectory is breath-taking, to say the least [PT]

 

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Boom Times Compared

It has become abundantly clear by now that the late 2018 swoon was not yet the beginning of the end of the stock market bubble – at least not right away. While money supply growth continues to decelerate, the technical underpinnings of the rally from the late December low were actually quite strong – in particular, new highs in the cumulative NYSE A/D line indicate that it was broad-based.

 

Cumulative NYSE A/D line vs. SPX – normally the A/D line tends to deteriorate before the market peaks, as the advance narrows and fewer and fewer stocks participate in the rally. This did in fact happen shortly before the early October top.

 

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Earnings Lottery

Shareholders are are probably asking themselves every quarter how the earnings of companies in their portfolios will turn out. Whether they will beat or miss analyst expectations often seems akin to a lottery.

 

The beatings will continue until morale improves… [PT]

 

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A Worrisome Trend

If you read gold analysis much, you will come across two ideas. One, inflation so-called (rising consumer prices) is not only running much higher than the official statistic, but is about to really start skyrocketing. Two, buy gold because gold will hedge it. That is, the price of gold will go up as fast, or faster, than the price of gold.

 

CPI monthly since 1914, annualized rate of change. In recent years CPI was relatively tame despite a vast increase in the money supply. However, relative prices in the economy were massively distorted as a result of the latter – and this is driving ever larger boom-bust cycles. [PT]

 

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A Growing Gap

The first quarter of 2019 is over and done.  But before we say good riddance.  Some reflection is in order.  To this we offer two discrete metrics.  Gross domestic product and government debt.

 

US nominal GDP vs total federal debt (in millions of USD) – government debt has exceeded  total economic output for the first time in Q4 2012 and since then its relative growth trajectory has increased – and it seems the gap is set to widen further. [PT]

 

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Digital Asset Rush

The only part of our April Fools article yesterday that was not said with tongue firmly planted in cheek was the gold and silver price action (though framed it in the common dollar-centric parlance, being April Fools):

 

“Gold went down $21, while silver dropped about 1/3 of a dollar. Not quite a heavy metal brick in free fall, but close enough.”

 

Bitcoin, hourly – a sudden yen for BTC breaks out among the punters. [PT]

 

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A Gentle Nudge

The America we thought we knew – the country we learned about in grade school – vanished long ago.  In truth, it was gone well before we stepped foot in our first classroom.  But America’s myths and legends remain.

 

The Wild Bunch… where are their stetsons? Contrary to myth, cowboys rarely sported a stetson. They wore bowler hats instead. The stetson only became available in 1865 and wasn’t really considered fashionable before the turn of the century. [Myth buster PT]

 

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Maurice Jackson of Proven and Probable Interviews Jayant Bhandari

Maurice Jackson of Proven & Probable has just conducted another interview with Jayant Bhandari, who is known to long-time readers as a frequent guest author on this site.

 

Jayant Bhandari

 

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Most read in the last 20 days:

  • As the Madness Turns
      A Growing Gap The first quarter of 2019 is over and done.  But before we say good riddance.  Some reflection is in order.  To this we offer two discrete metrics.  Gross domestic product and government debt.   US nominal GDP vs total federal debt (in millions of USD) – government debt has exceeded  total economic output for the first time in Q4 2012 and since then its relative growth trajectory has increased – and it seems the gap is set to widen further....
  • Bitcoin Jumps as Ordered -  Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Digital Asset Rush The only part of our April Fools article yesterday that was not said with tongue firmly planted in cheek was the gold and silver price action (though framed it in the common dollar-centric parlance, being April Fools):   “Gold went down $21, while silver dropped about 1/3 of a dollar. Not quite a heavy metal brick in free fall, but close enough.”   Bitcoin, hourly – a sudden yen for BTC breaks out among the punters. [PT]   It also...
  • A Trip Down Memory Lane – 1928-1929 vs. 2018-2019
      Boom Times Compared It has become abundantly clear by now that the late 2018 swoon was not yet the beginning of the end of the stock market bubble – at least not right away. While money supply growth continues to decelerate, the technical underpinnings of the rally from the late December low were actually quite strong – in particular, new highs in the cumulative NYSE A/D line indicate that it was broad-based.   Cumulative NYSE A/D line vs. SPX – normally the A/D line...
  • Debt Growth and Capital Consumption - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      A Worrisome Trend If you read gold analysis much, you will come across two ideas. One, inflation so-called (rising consumer prices) is not only running much higher than the official statistic, but is about to really start skyrocketing. Two, buy gold because gold will hedge it. That is, the price of gold will go up as fast, or faster, than the price of gold.   CPI monthly since 1914, annualized rate of change. In recent years CPI was relatively tame despite a vast increase in the...
  • Unsolicited Advice to Fed Chair Powell
      Unsolicited Advice to Fed Chair Powell American businesses over the past decade have taken a most unsettling turn.  According to research from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, as of November 2018, non-financial corporate debt has grown to more than $9.1 trillion [ed note: this number refers to securitized debt and business loans, other corporate liabilities would add an additional $11 trillion for a total of $20.5 trillion].   US non-financial corporate...
  • Long Term Stock Market Sentiment Remains as Lopsided as Ever 
      Investors are Oblivious to the Market's Downside Potential This is a brief update on a number of sentiment/positioning indicators we have frequently discussed in these pages in the past. In this missive our focus is exclusively on indicators that are of medium to long-term relevance to prospective stock market returns. Such indicators are not really useful for the purpose of market timing -  instead they are telling us something about the likely duration and severity of the bust that...
  • The Liquidity Drought Gets Worse
      Money Supply Growth Continues to Falter Ostensibly the stock market has rallied because the Fed promised to maintain an easy monetary policy. To be sure, interest rate hikes have been put on hold for the time being and the balance sheet contraction (a.k.a.“quantitative tightening”) will be terminated much earlier than originally envisaged. And yet, the year-on-year growth rate of the true broad money supply keeps declining noticeably.   The year-on-year growth rates of...
  • The Effect of Earnings Season on Seasonal Price Patterns
      Earnings Lottery Shareholders are are probably asking themselves every quarter how the earnings of companies in their portfolios will turn out. Whether they will beat or miss analyst expectations often seems akin to a lottery.   The beatings will continue until morale improves... [PT]   However, what is not akin to a lottery are the seasonal trends of corporate earnings and stock prices. Thus breweries will usually report stronger quarterly earnings after the...
  • The Gold-Silver Ratio Continues to Rise - Precious Metals Supply and Demand
      Is Silver Hard of Hearing? The price of gold inched down, but the price of silver footed down (if we may be permitted a little humor that may not make sense to metric system people). For the gold-silver ratio to be this high, it means one of two things. It could be that speculators are avoiding the monetary metals and metal stackers are depressed. Or that something is going on in the economy, to drive demand for the metals in different directions.   As a rule the gold silver...
  • What Were They Thinking?
      Learning From Other People's Mistakes is Cheaper One benefit of hindsight is that it imparts a cheap superiority over the past blunders of others.  We certainly make more mistakes than we’d care to admit.  Why not look down our nose and acquire some lessons learned from the mistakes of others?   Bitcoin, weekly. The late 2017 peak is completely obvious in hindsight... [PT]   A simple record of the collective delusions from the past can be quickly garnered from...

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