Chart Update

     

 

 

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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You Actually Can Eat Gold, But Its Nutritional Value is Dubious

“You can’t eat gold.” The enemies of gold often unleash this little zinger, as if it dismisses the idea of owning gold and indeed the whole gold standard. It is a fact, you cannot eat gold. However, it dismisses nothing.

 

Over-the-top garnish: Gold leaf-laced donut (reportedly costs $100), gold-laced cakes, sushi roll with gold leaf (according to Japanese lore, eating it is supposed to bring luck), gold-cake eater in Dubai. Nutritional value of the gold leaf is zero, but at least it isn’t toxic. So yes, one can eat gold, but it won’t relieve hunger pangs. We would like to point out here that absolutely no-one is trying to eat bank note-laced cakes. [PT]

 

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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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Running From “Risk-Free” to Not So Risk-Free Debt 

The price of gold blipped $13 last week, while the price of silver was unchanged. Speaking of interest rates and central planning by central banks, we note that in mid-2016, a correction (counter-trend move to the main trend) began in 10-year bond yields.

 

10-year treasury note yield vs. 10-year German Bund yield over the past decade [PT]

 

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A Surprise Rout in the Bond Market

At the time of writing, the stock market is recovering from a fairly steep (by recent standards) intraday sell-off. We have no idea where it will close, but we would argue that even a recovery into the close won’t alter the status of today’s action – it is a typical warning shot. Here is what makes the sell-off unique:

 

30 year bond and 10-year note yields have broken out from a lengthy consolidation pattern. This has actually surprised us, as we felt that the large speculative net short position in bonds and notes was prone to trigger a short covering rally. Alas, the opposite has happened.

 

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The Most Comprehensive Collection of Charts Relevant to Gold is Here

Our friends from Incrementum (a European asset management company) have just released the annual “In Gold We Trust” chart book, which collects a wealth of statistics and charts relevant to gold, with extensive annotations. Many of these charts cannot be found anywhere else. The chart book is an excellent reference work for anyone interested in the gold market and financial markets in general. A download link for the chart book can be found at the end of this post.

 

Turn of the tides: monetary expansion becomes monetary contraction

 

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Hammering the Spread

The price of gold fell nine bucks last week. However, the price of silver shot up 33 cents. Our central planners of credit (i.e., the Fed) raised short-term interest rates, and threatened to do it again in December. Meanwhile, the stock market continues to act as if investors do not understand the concepts of marginal debtor, zombie corporation, and net present value.

 

The Federal Reserve – carefully inching forward to Bustville

 

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Speculators vs. Arbitrageurs

The price of gold rose six bucks, and the price of silver rose 26 cents last week. Before we look at the graphs, we want to address a reader question. This week, someone asked about how we calculate the Monetary Metals  fundamental gold price.

 

The theoretical fundamental gold price (black line) vs. the market price for gold since late 2015. Worth noting: most of the time, the fundamental price is leading the market price; whenever the gap between the two prices was very large in the past, the market price would more often than not catch up with the fundamental price. Recent exceptions to this rule of thumb occurred in mid and late 2016, when market prices first rose and then fell and the fundamental price followed their lead, and again this year, when a big surge in the fundamental price failed to lead to a rally in market prices (however, on this occasion the fundamental price corrected quite sharply before an accelerated decline in market prices took hold). Since early July the gap between these two prices has gradually widened again and has become quite sizable. It remains to be seen whether the fundamental price will work as a leading indicator this time. As noted above, in the long term it tends to lead in most cases. [PT]

 

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A Rebound Gets Underway – Will It Have Legs?

Ever since the gold indexes have broken below the shelf of support that has held them aloft since late 2016 (around 165-170 points in the HUI Index), the sector was not much to write home about, to put it mildly. Precious metals stocks will continue to battle the headwinds of institutional tax loss selling until the end of October, to be followed by the not-quite-as-strong headwinds of individual tax loss selling in the final weeks of the calendar year – a fairly regularly recurring script in recent years. Nevertheless, recent developments make it worthwhile to take another look at the situation. Here is a daily chart of the HUI:

 

The HUI daily, plus two proxies for gold investors shortly after looking at their end-of-August statements. As the annotation indicates, one reason to take a closer look is the recent strong divergence between prices and momentum oscillators such as RSI and MACD. But that is not the only thing that is of interest.

 

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A Lengthy Non-Confirmation

As we have frequently pointed out in recent months, since beginning to rise from the lows of the sharp but brief downturn after the late January blow-off high, the US stock market is bereft of uniformity. Instead, an uncommonly lengthy non-confirmation between the the strongest indexes and the broad market has been established.

The chart below illustrates the situation – it compares the performance of the DJIA (still no new high since January, although it has come close), the NDX (one of the best-performing indexes, along with the Russell 2000/ RUT) and the NYA (our proxy for the broad market):

 

DJIA vs. NDX vs. NYA – this rather glaring and very lengthy divergence is a symptom of a narrowing market. The vast bulk of the uptrend in benchmarks such as the S&P 500 was due to the surge in the “FAANG” stocks (FB, AAPL, AMZN, NFLX, GOOGL) – but even this group of stocks is no longer in uniform tracking mode, as FB has fallen out of bed and NFLX and even GOOGL have begun to look wobbly lately. File under interesting trivia: AMZN and AAPL, the two strongest stocks of the group, reached their highest closing levels to date on September 4, the day after Labor Day  (the year-to-date closing high in the NDX was recorded on August 29). In 1929, Labor Day fell on September 2 and the DJIA topped out on September 3.

 

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