Author Archives: Pater Tenebrarum

     

 

 

The Seasonal Trend Inversion Continues

By now it has been pretty well telegraphed that the Fed will likely announce that it is going to end its “automatic 25 bps rate hike every quarter” policy and replace it with some sort of “incoming data dependent” version. Normally one would expect this to constitute a “buy the news” event, especially in view of the recent sharp decline in the stock market. However, there are still a few problems with this idea –  the chart below illustrates one of them.

 

The eerie, almost perfect inversion of the usual seasonal mid-term election pattern continues unabated – and even though we have pointed this out for quite some time, we are also a bit surprised by how persistent this phenomenon has been.

 

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Worldwide Liquidity Drought – Money Supply Growth Slows Everywhere

This is a brief update on money supply growth trends in the most important currency areas outside the US (namely the euro area, Japan and China)  as announced in in our recent update on US money supply growth (see “Federal Punch Bowl Removal Agency” for the details).

 

Nobody likes a drought. This collage illustrates why.

 

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US Money Supply and Credit Growth Continue to Slow Down

Not to belabor the obvious too much, but in light of the recent sharp rebound, the stock market “panic window” is almost certainly closed for this year.* It was interesting that an admission by Mr. Powell that the central planners have not the foggiest idea about the future which their policy is aiming to influence was taken as an “excuse” to drive up stock prices. Powell’s speech was regarded as dovish. If it actually was, then it was a really bad idea to buy stocks because of it.

 

Jerome Powell: a new species of US central banker – a seemingly normal human being in public that transforms into the dollar-dissolving vampire bat Ptenochirus Iagori Powelli when it believes it is unobserved.

 

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The Mighty Gartman

Investment newsletter writer Dennis Gartman (a.k.a. “the Commodities King”) has been a target of ridicule at Zerohedge for a long time. His pompous style of writing and his uncanny ability to frequently make perfectly mistimed short term market calls have made him an easy target.* It would be quite ironic if a so far quite good recommendation he made last week were to turn into the call of a lifetime (see ZH: “Gartman: ‘We Are Officially Recommending Shorting This Rally'”).

 

A little collage devoted to the Commodity King. It is easy to see how he ended up being made fun of. Actually, by now he has garnered a quite sizable fan community at Zerohedge and other web sites that report on his frequently ill-timed flip-flops (often announced with great conviction). However, a major call on the stock market he recently made seems to have been perfectly timed.

 

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Crony Capitalism vs. Free Markets

Many of our readers are probably aware of the excellent work our friend Jonathan Tepper does for Variant Perception (VP)*****, a financial research boutique that really does bring a unique perspective to the table*. Jonathan (with co-author Denise Hearn) has just added a new book to his résumé, which is going to be released on 12 November: The Myth of Capitalism (MoC) – Monopolies and the Death of Competition** (a link to the official site is at the end of this post).

 

Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn: The Myth of Capitalism, an excellent plea for more competition and free markets.

 

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Economic Man Threatens to Leave You Alone if Elected

This one is mainly for readers residing in that glorious water source for California commonly known as Colorado. In case you are not aware of it yet, Roger “Economic Man” Barris, an occasional contributor to this site, is running for Congress in Colorado on a Libertarian Party ticket. We will briefly explain why you should vote for Roger, but first two pictures:

 

Roger Barris, Libertarian Party candidate for the House of Representatives, 2nd district.

 

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Just a Little Avalanche or an Implosion?

A few years ago, we briefly discussed the dynamics of sand piles in these pages, which are a special field of study in mathematics and physics (mathematically inclined readers can take a look at two papers on the subject here:”Driving Sandpiles to Criticality and Beyond “ (PDF) and  ‘Games on Line Graphs and Sand Piles “(PDF) – unfortunately two other studies that used to be available have in the meantime disappeared from the inter-tubes).

 

Waiting to crumble: a giant sand dune in the Namib desert.

 

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Smug Central Planners

Looking back at the past decade, it would be easy to conclude that central planners have good reason to be smug. After all, the Earth is still turning. The “GFC” did not sink us, instead we were promptly gifted the biggest bubble of all time –  in everything, to boot. We like to refer to it as the GBEB (“Great Bernanke Echo Bubble”) in order to make sure its chief architect is not forgotten.

 

Naturally, we were premature in calling for the pompes funèbres and the grave diggers in order to inter the GBEB in late March, but the revival in US markets was a muted one and the funeral rites certainly continued in numerous emerging markets.

Image credit: Sharon Hatley

 

 

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A Chirp from the Deep Level Mines

Back in late 2015 and early 2016, we wrote about a leading indicator for gold stocks, namely the sub-sector of marginal – and hence highly leveraged to the gold price – South African gold stocks. Our example du jour at the time was Harmony Gold (HMY) (see “Marginal Producer Takes Off” and “The Canary in the Gold Mine” for the details).

 

Mining engineer equipped with bio-sensor

Photo credit: Hulton Archive

 

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A Quick Look at a few Technical Yardsticks and Comparisons

We went through numerous charts and data over the weekend to provide a snapshot of where market currently stands. This is in context with our idea that sudden downturns in the form of mini-crashes are likely to happen with very little advance warning, mainly due to market structure issues (the vast increase in systematic trading strategies) and the unique post “QE” environment.

 

Bad hair can be dangerous! Shock-haired Pete and his bro Suck-a-thumb have been traditionally used to get children in Germany and eventually across all of Europe to behave by traumatizing them with some of the most frightening horror stories ever thought up. Everybody in Europe knows these characters, and everybody was scared out of his wits by these stories as a child.

 

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A Well-Established Tradition

Seemingly out of the blue, equities suffered a few bad hair days recently. As regular readers know, we have long argued that one should expect corrections in the form of mini-crashes to strike with very little advance warning, due to issues related to market structure and the unique post “QE” environment. Credit spreads are traditionally a fairly reliable early warning indicator for stocks and the economy (and incidentally for gold as well). Here is a chart of US high yield spreads – currently they indicate that nothing is amiss:

 

As this chart shows, credit spreads do as a rule warn of impending problems for the stock market, the economy or both. Not every surge in spreads is followed by a bear market or a recession, but some sort of market upheaval is usually in the cards. Since the stock market normally peaks before the economy weakens sufficiently for a recession to be declared, the warnings prior to market tops are often subtle – usually all one gets is a confirmed breakout over initial resistance levels, at which time yields will still be quite low. At the moment credit spreads suggest that nothing untoward is expected to occur for as far as the eye can see (a.k.a. the near future). Will something intrude on that enviable and stress-free combination of Nirvana, Goldilocks and the Land of Cockaigne, where everything seems possible, especially good things? Will Santa Claus remain a permanent fixture of the junk bond and stock markets, handing out gifts to all those prepared to spice up their portfolios with bonds bereft of covenants and light in yield, triple-digit P/E stocks, or even CUBE stocks (=completely unburdened by ‘E’)? Perhaps Fisher’s permanent plateau has materialized 90 years later than originally envisaged, but we don’t think so.

 

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Federal Reserve Credit Contracts Further

We last wrote in July about the beginning contraction in outstanding Fed credit, repatriation inflows, reverse repos, and commercial and industrial lending growth, and how the interplay between these drivers has affected the growth rate of the true broad US money supply TMS-2 (the details can be seen here: “The Liquidity Drain Becomes Serious” and “A Scramble for Capital”).

 

The Fed has clearly changed course under Jerome Powell – for now, anyway.

 

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