November 3, 2008

Global Market Comments for November 3, 2008

1) First quiet day in the markets in two months. All is now on hold until after the election. An Obama win is already priced into the market, but the makeup of the House and Senate is not. McCain needs to pull an inside royal flush to win. LIBOR fell 45 bp last week and another 17 bp today down to 3.02%, meaning help is on the way. The spread still has 45 bp to go to hit the low for the year, which was 70 bp over Fed funds. Hang on!

2) With the election out of the way the next big date looming for the markets is November 15. The Bretton Woods II conference to reshape the international role of the dollar will be held. It is also the final day for notification for most hedge fund redemptions.

3) More than 20% of all US home mortgages are now under water. Goodbye to the home ATM! Conforming loans are now available at a 4.75% rate for 30 years, with 3% down, up to $720,000, with a FICO score of only 580!

4) The scariest costume I say on Halloween was a kid dressed up as a chart of the Down Jones Industrial Average. Amid the violence of October, it was easy to miss how momentous some of the moves were: the S&P 500 from 1,167 to 820, crude from $102 to $67, gold from $878 to $716, The euro from $1.42 to $1.22, Citibank (C) from $24 to $ 12, Hartford Insurance Group (HIG) from $45 to $10, and the emerging market ETF (EEM) from $36 to $ 18. Oh yes, the futures on a McCain win went from 45% to 15%.

5) If General Motors (GM) goes bankrupt, two million jobs will be lost by the time the ripple effects from suppliers and dealers are added in. If the merger with Chrysler goes through, only one million jobs will go. GM has become a giant HMO that makes cars as a sideline in its arts and crafts department. $8,000 of the cost of every GM car goes to health care costs. The equivalent figure at Toyota, which benefits from a national health care plan, is $180.

6) If you had any doubt that we are headed for a severe recession, look at the price of naphtha, cornerstone of the petrochemical industry, and the basic feedstock of plastics. The price has fallen 76% from $1,200 to $284/ton since July. Naphtha is now cheaper than crude for the first time ever, as panicky petrochemical companies dump inventories.

7) I stopped at an intersection on Sunday and found my car surrounded by an angry church group waving yellow ‘Yes on 8’ signs, the California anti gay marriage initiative. They screamed that if I voted ‘no’ on 8, I was raping my children. It’s time for this election to end.

October 31, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 31, 2008

The Sell in May and Go Away Season is Now Officially Over!!

1) The ‘sell at any price’ mentality is now broken as the steady improvement in short term liquidity salves investors’ nerves. The market is now pricing in a ‘U’ type recession with a prolonged recovery, not a quickie ‘V’ type recession. Day traders are looking for the Dow to trade in an 8,000 to 10,000 range for the foreseeable future as the glass flips back and forth from being half full to half empty. After this week’s global bout of euphoria (Tokyo was up 26%!), investors still have some sobering demons to deal with. The election will sharply increase capital gains taxes, deleveraging continues, the hedge fund industry is imploding, and the crisis in Detroit is getting worse. Oh yes, did I mention the recession?

2) The average daily range in the Dow this month has been 4%, more than double the previous record. There were only three days when the market moved less than 100 points. These are all classic signs of uncertainty, the bane of businesses.

3) The next forced seller in the markets is going to be the US Treasury, which has to sell bonds along the entire maturity range to fund the trillions of dollars in promises it has made. Short 30 year Treasury bonds, and stay short for the rest of your life.

4) University of Michigan consumer sentiment for October collapsed from 70.3 to 57.6. This indicator normally moves a couple of points a month. Consumer spending fell 0.3%, the biggest drop in four years. Watch out for October car sales. They are expected to be the lowest in 20 years.

5) There is a growing view that this month’s crash has permanently impaired equities as an asset class, and that we may lose an entire generation of investors. It didn’t pay to be a contrarian on the Titanic. The end result will be a lower PE multiple ranges for many years. My grandfather never bought a stock in his life. His relatives that did ended up living in his basement for the duration of the Great Depression. During my career, I watched the PE multiple for Japanese stocks go from 10 to 100 and then back to 10, where they stayed for years in the face of zero interest rates.

6) US gun sales are up 10% this year. Demand from hunters is weak because of high gas prices and poor weather. But they are being more than offset by NRA members buying weapons for home defense in advance of an Obama win, who they believe will bring in tighter gun controls.

October 31, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 31, 2008

The Sell in May and Go Away Season is Now Officially Over!!

1) The ‘sell at any price’ mentality is now broken as the steady improvement in short term liquidity salves investors’ nerves. The market is now pricing in a ‘U’ type recession with a prolonged recovery, not a quickie ‘V’ type recession. Day traders are looking for the Dow to trade in an 8,000 to 10,000 range for the foreseeable future as the glass flips back and forth from being half full to half empty. After this week’s global bout of euphoria (Tokyo was up 26%!), investors still have some sobering demons to deal with. The election will sharply increase capital gains taxes, deleveraging continues, the hedge fund industry is imploding, and the crisis in Detroit is getting worse. Oh yes, did I mention the recession?

2) The average daily range in the Dow this month has been 4%, more than double the previous record. There were only three days when the market moved less than 100 points. These are all classic signs of uncertainty, the bane of businesses.

3) The next forced seller in the markets is going to be the US Treasury, which has to sell bonds along the entire maturity range to fund the trillions of dollars in promises it has made. Short 30 year Treasury bonds, and stay short for the rest of your life.

4) University of Michigan consumer sentiment for October collapsed from 70.3 to 57.6. This indicator normally moves a couple of points a month. Consumer spending fell 0.3%, the biggest drop in four years. Watch out for October car sales. They are expected to be the lowest in 20 years.

5) There is a growing view that this month’s crash has permanently impaired equities as an asset class, and that we may lose an entire generation of investors. It didn’t pay to be a contrarian on the Titanic. The end result will be a lower PE multiple ranges for many years. My grandfather never bought a stock in his life. His relatives that did ended up living in his basement for the duration of the Great Depression. During my career, I watched the PE multiple for Japanese stocks go from 10 to 100 and then back to 10, where they stayed for years in the face of zero interest rates.

6) US gun sales are up 10% this year. Demand from hunters is weak because of high gas prices and poor weather. But they are being more than offset by NRA members buying weapons for home defense in advance of an Obama win, who they believe will bring in tighter gun controls.

October 30, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 30, 2008

1) Q3 GDP came in at -0.3%, the lowest in seven years, indicating that we are solidly in recession. Residential investment fell a gut wrenching -19.1%, while consumer spending is -2.2%, the biggest drop since 1980. Further revisions downward are expected. They don’t call this the dismal science for nothing. We’ve had 1929 already, and next year will be 1930. The big question is, can our great leaders keep us out of 1931 and 1932?

2) Buried amidst the tons of pork in the 400 page bail out bill was a huge increase in the tax credit for alternative energy, from $2,000 to 30% of the investment. Desperate home builders like Standard Pacific, Centex, Pulte, and Lennar are using this credit, which can be worth up to $7,500/unit, as a gimmick to help eat into their inventory glut by selling ‘Solar Homes’. These green buildings offer two way electric meters that automatically sell excess power generated back to PG&E, and cut the net monthly power bills to only $30. Great for homebuilders in sun drenched places like, well’?Stockton!

3) An amusing poll in Backpacker magazine says that Obama would provide the most support for national parks, but that McCain would be the most interesting person to wait out a storm in a tent with, and would certainly have the greatest chance of surviving being lost in the forest.

4) Exxon (XOM) Q3 profits came in at $14.8 billion, the largest in the history of any corporation. The stock has dropped from $96 to $55 since July. That was with crude peaking at $148. How will they do at $60?

5) The euro/yen cross has had an unbelievable move in the last two days, from ??111 to ??125, and was a major factor in the stock market rally. A year ago this cross was at ??165. Euro/yen is a great bellwether of risk taking by hedge funds, since they all fund in yen at effective 0% interest rates. It is the first sign that global deleveraging is reaching an end.

6) The steady thaw in the overnight credit markets is accelerating and will soon spread to other asset classes. It’s making last week’s bottom in global markets look more solid.

October 30, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 30, 2008

1) Q3 GDP came in at -0.3%, the lowest in seven years, indicating that we are solidly in recession. Residential investment fell a gut wrenching -19.1%, while consumer spending is -2.2%, the biggest drop since 1980. Further revisions downward are expected. They don’t call this the dismal science for nothing. We’ve had 1929 already, and next year will be 1930. The big question is, can our great leaders keep us out of 1931 and 1932?

2) Buried amidst the tons of pork in the 400 page bail out bill was a huge increase in the tax credit for alternative energy, from $2,000 to 30% of the investment. Desperate home builders like Standard Pacific, Centex, Pulte, and Lennar are using this credit, which can be worth up to $7,500/unit, as a gimmick to help eat into their inventory glut by selling ‘Solar Homes’. These green buildings offer two way electric meters that automatically sell excess power generated back to PG&E, and cut the net monthly power bills to only $30. Great for homebuilders in sun drenched places like, well’?Stockton!

3) An amusing poll in Backpacker magazine says that Obama would provide the most support for national parks, but that McCain would be the most interesting person to wait out a storm in a tent with, and would certainly have the greatest chance of surviving being lost in the forest.

4) Exxon (XOM) Q3 profits came in at $14.8 billion, the largest in the history of any corporation. The stock has dropped from $96 to $55 since July. That was with crude peaking at $148. How will they do at $60?

5) The euro/yen cross has had an unbelievable move in the last two days, from ??111 to ??125, and was a major factor in the stock market rally. A year ago this cross was at ??165. Euro/yen is a great bellwether of risk taking by hedge funds, since they all fund in yen at effective 0% interest rates. It is the first sign that global deleveraging is reaching an end.

6) The steady thaw in the overnight credit markets is accelerating and will soon spread to other asset classes. It’s making last week’s bottom in global markets look more solid.

October 29, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 29, 2008

1) The Fed cut rates by 0.50% to 1%, justifying yesterday’s monster stock rally. But doesn’t 1% sound familiar? Isn’t that the rate that Greenspan targeted that planted the seeds of the current crisis? Beware of the unintended consequences!

2) On Monday, when the commercial paper market reopened, Treasury bought $61 billion in paper, ten times the normal volume in that market. M1 is now growing at a red hot 20% rate. A tidal wave of money is hitting the financial system. LIBOR has fallen every day for three weeks, and 30 T-bill rates have made it all the back up to 0.45%. But as the Japanese learned in the nineties, you can make all of the money in the world available, but there will be no takers without business confidence. It’s like pushing on a string. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him lend. Am I mixing metaphors here? Faith in the future, which Treasury secretary Hank Paulson managed to destroy in a mere week, could take years to rebuild.

3) The S&P Case-Shiller home price index for August produced its usual horrific result, showing a 16.8% decline for the 20 largest home markets. Only Cleveland and Boston where up marginally. If you add in closing and carrying costs, every buyer of real estate since 2000 is now underwater.

4) Sweden announced a $200 billion bail out package to rescue its banks for the second time in two decades. Iceland raised its key interest rate to 18% to defend the kroner. ??Every day a new country drops like a piece of rotten fruit off the credit tree.

5) More than 90% of the world’s economic growth in 2009 will occur in emerging markets, with the largest portion coming from China. The average growth rate is expected to be 5%. The US and Europe are expected to show no growth at all. Many emerging markets with huge reserves are going into this recession in better shape than the US. In China the savings rate is 40%, compared to zero here.

October 29, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 29, 2008

1) The Fed cut rates by 0.50% to 1%, justifying yesterday’s monster stock rally. But doesn’t 1% sound familiar? Isn’t that the rate that Greenspan targeted that planted the seeds of the current crisis? Beware of the unintended consequences!

2) On Monday, when the commercial paper market reopened, Treasury bought $61 billion in paper, ten times the normal volume in that market. M1 is now growing at a red hot 20% rate. A tidal wave of money is hitting the financial system. LIBOR has fallen every day for three weeks, and 30 T-bill rates have made it all the back up to 0.45%. But as the Japanese learned in the nineties, you can make all of the money in the world available, but there will be no takers without business confidence. It’s like pushing on a string. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him lend. Am I mixing metaphors here? Faith in the future, which Treasury secretary Hank Paulson managed to destroy in a mere week, could take years to rebuild.

3) The S&P Case-Shiller home price index for August produced its usual horrific result, showing a 16.8% decline for the 20 largest home markets. Only Cleveland and Boston where up marginally. If you add in closing and carrying costs, every buyer of real estate since 2000 is now underwater.

4) Sweden announced a $200 billion bail out package to rescue its banks for the second time in two decades. Iceland raised its key interest rate to 18% to defend the kroner. ??Every day a new country drops like a piece of rotten fruit off the credit tree.

5) More than 90% of the world’s economic growth in 2009 will occur in emerging markets, with the largest portion coming from China. The average growth rate is expected to be 5%. The US and Europe are expected to show no growth at all. Many emerging markets with huge reserves are going into this recession in better shape than the US. In China the savings rate is 40%, compared to zero here.

October 28, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 28, 2008

1) All the recent trends reversed today on imminent Fed and ECB rate cuts. The Dow soared 900, crude and commodities popped, while the dollar and Treasuries sold off. The yen short I strongly recommended yesterday at ??92/$ fell back to ??97/$. The VIX fell back from 80% to only 66%. Please see last Friday’s ‘strategy call of the decade’ warning of an imminent sharp recovery in stocks. Looks like we will be in an 8,000 to 10,000 range in the Dow for a while, which will define the bottom of this bear market.

2) I was looking at homes in Stockton over the weekend, the foreclosure capital of the world. I was offered an FHA loan at a 30 year fixed rate, 3% down, requiring a credit score of only 650. That works out to a monthly payment of $2,000/month on a 3,500 square foot home brand new out of the box. The bad news is that it is in Stockton.

3) A disastrous unwind of a pairs trade gone wrong has inadvertently caused Volkswagen’s market cap to shoot up to $303 billion, making it the world’s largest company. Figuring the company was overvalued, hedge funds shorted Volkswagen and went long Porsche. The trade accounted for 12% of VW’s float. A surprise increase in margin requirements forced everyone to come out of this trade ad once, creating a gigantic short squeeze that drove VW’s stock from ???200 to ???665 in just two days. This is a perfect example of what happens when too many big hedge funds bunch up in a single stock, and is why I never do pairs trades.

4) Consumer confidence for September produced a record fall from 61% to 38%. We knew it was going to be bad, but this is off the charts bad. It was the largest month on month drop to the lowest absolute level in history.

5) After being suspended for a week, the Icelandic kroner opened for trading today and promptly fell 50%. Watch for great vacation packages to this fascinating but newly impoverished Nordic country. Great for girl watching, sardines, spa treatments and puffin watching.

6) You know times are tough when Howdy Doody dies. E. Roger Muir, the star behind the NBC fifties children’s’ show we all grew up on, was 89. The last four decades had been kind of slow for him. Howdy Doody ran for president against Truman in 1948. Buffalo Bob mourns.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

‘Control everything. Own nothing’, John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company.

October 28, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 28, 2008

1) All the recent trends reversed today on imminent Fed and ECB rate cuts. The Dow soared 900, crude and commodities popped, while the dollar and Treasuries sold off. The yen short I strongly recommended yesterday at ??92/$ fell back to ??97/$. The VIX fell back from 80% to only 66%. Please see last Friday’s ‘strategy call of the decade’ warning of an imminent sharp recovery in stocks. Looks like we will be in an 8,000 to 10,000 range in the Dow for a while, which will define the bottom of this bear market.

2) I was looking at homes in Stockton over the weekend, the foreclosure capital of the world. I was offered an FHA loan at a 30 year fixed rate, 3% down, requiring a credit score of only 650. That works out to a monthly payment of $2,000/month on a 3,500 square foot home brand new out of the box. The bad news is that it is in Stockton.

3) A disastrous unwind of a pairs trade gone wrong has inadvertently caused Volkswagen’s market cap to shoot up to $303 billion, making it the world’s largest company. Figuring the company was overvalued, hedge funds shorted Volkswagen and went long Porsche. The trade accounted for 12% of VW’s float. A surprise increase in margin requirements forced everyone to come out of this trade ad once, creating a gigantic short squeeze that drove VW’s stock from ???200 to ???665 in just two days. This is a perfect example of what happens when too many big hedge funds bunch up in a single stock, and is why I never do pairs trades.

4) Consumer confidence for September produced a record fall from 61% to 38%. We knew it was going to be bad, but this is off the charts bad. It was the largest month on month drop to the lowest absolute level in history.

5) After being suspended for a week, the Icelandic kroner opened for trading today and promptly fell 50%. Watch for great vacation packages to this fascinating but newly impoverished Nordic country. Great for girl watching, sardines, spa treatments and puffin watching.

6) You know times are tough when Howdy Doody dies. E. Roger Muir, the star behind the NBC fifties children’s’ show we all grew up on, was 89. The last four decades had been kind of slow for him. Howdy Doody ran for president against Truman in 1948. Buffalo Bob mourns.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

‘Control everything. Own nothing’, John D. Rockefeller, founder of the Standard Oil Company.

October 27, 2008

Global Market Comments for October 27, 2008

1) Another Asia melt down hit the markets. Hong Kong was down 12% to 11,000. Japan was down 6.4%, hitting a new 24 year low. The euro made it to $1.23. Iceland’s stock market is now down 90% from its top. The Great Global Deleverage continues. Futures markets are increasing margin requirements. Prime brokers are increasing collateral requirements from 10% to 30%. This is all happening while hedge funds and mutual funds are seeing record redemptions. Fear is rampant. October has so far shown the worst stock market loss since 1938, down 25%. It all adds up to: ‘Sell!’

2) From 1929 to 1932 US Steel (X) crashed 91% from $262 to $22. It took a decline in US GDP of 70% and a factory utilization rate of only 12% to knock the stock down that much. In the past five months the same exact stock fell 85% from $196 to $30, and that is while Steel’s capacity utilization rate has stayed at 100% and is facing a GDP decline of only 5-7%.?? X and many other stocks have already discounted a depression that isn’t going to happen. X was one of the most widely own stocks by hedge funds looking for a commodity play. Something is wrong with this picture.

3) I expect the Fed to cut interest rates from 1.5% to 1% on Wednesday. Rates will likely stay there for a couple of years. The commercial paper market reopened today with a government guaranteed rate of 2.88%. The Treasury is flooding the system with liquidity there, taking on all comers.

4) Bookies in Ireland are giving ten to one odds on a McCain win. The weekend polls show Obama ahead 53% to 40%. Democrats are looking at their biggest non incumbent win since 1932. Echoes of The USS Potomac.

5) Great headline in Barron’s over the weekend: ‘Can a Horror Movie Have a Happy Ending?’ The loss in market value of global equities in the past year has been $20 trillion, $12 trillion from the US alone. Real estate and commodities may have been another $20 trillion. Mind boggling numbers of Great Depression proportions.

6) The lobster market has collapsed. Dockside prices in New England have fallen 50% from $4.40/lb to $2.20/lb in the past year and is now cheaper than baloney. The export business has seized up because of the inability to obtain letters of credit, and domestic demand has plummeted. Communities are holding lobster bakes to eat up excess inventory and help distressed fishermen. A sign of the times.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

‘It could be structured by cows and we would still rate it’, a Moody’s staffer.