For many, one of the most surprising impacts of the administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports announced today has been a rocketing bond market.
Since the December $116 low, the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) has jumped by a staggering $16 points, the largest move up so far in years.
The tariffs are a highly regressive tax that will hit consumers hard in the pocketbook, thus reducing their purchasing power.
It will dramatically slow US economic growth. If the trade war escalates, and it almost certainly will, it could shrink US GDP by as much as 1% a year. A weaker economy means less demand for money, lower interest rates, and higher bond prices.
There is no political view here. This is just basic economics.
And while there has been a lot of hand-wringing over the prospect of China dumping its $1.1 trillion in American bond holdings, it is unlikely to take action here.
The Beijing government isn’t going to do anything to damage the value of its own investments. The only time it actually does sell US bonds is to support its own currency, the renminbi, in the foreign exchange markets.
What it CAN do is to boycott new Treasury bond purchases, which it already has been doing for the past year.
The tariffs also raise a lot of uncertainty about the future of business in the United States. Companies are definitely not going to increase capital spending if they believe a depression is coming, which the last serious trade war during the 1930s greatly exacerbated.
While stocks despise uncertainty, bonds absolutely love it.
Those of you who are short the bond market through the ProShares Ultra Short 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT) have a particular problem that is often ignored.
The cost of carry of this fund is now more than 5% (two times the 2.10% coupon plus management fees and expenses). Thus, long-term holders have to see interest rates rise by more than 5% a year just to break even. The (TBT) can be a great trade, but a money-losing investment.
The Chinese, which have been studying the American economic and political systems very carefully for decades, will be particularly clever in its retaliation. And you thought all those Chinese tourists were over here just to buy our Levi’s?
It will target Republican districts with a laser focus, and those in particular who supported Donald Trump. It wants to make its measures especially hurt for those who started this trade war in the first place.
First on the chopping block: soybeans, which are almost entirely produced in red states. In 2016, the last full year for which data is available, the US sold $15 billion worth of soybeans to China. Which are the largest soybean producing states? Iowa followed by Minnesota.
A major American export is aircraft, some $131 billion in 2017, and China is overwhelmingly the largest buyer. The Middle Kingdom needs to purchase 1,000 aircraft over the next 10 years to accommodate its burgeoning middle class. It will be easy to shift some of these orders to Europe’s Airbus Industries.
This is why the shares of Boeing (BA) have been slaughtered recently, down some 13.5% from the top. While Boeing planes are assembled in Washington state, they draw on parts suppliers in all 50 states.
Guess what the biggest selling foreign car in China is? The General Motors (GM) Buick which saw more than 400,000 in sales last year. I have to tell you that it is hilarious to see my mom’s car driven up to the Great Wall of China. Where are these cars assembled? Michigan and China.
The global trading system is an intricate, finally balanced system that has taken hundreds of years to evolve. Take out one small piece, and the entire structure falls down upon your head.
This is something the administration is about to find out.
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/China-chart-photo-2.jpg282400MHFTRhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMHFTR2019-07-05 02:02:302019-08-05 17:45:34Why US Bonds Love Chinese Tariffs
Whatever the market is drinking right now, I’ll take some of that stuff. If you could bottle it and sell it, you’d be rich. Certainly, the Viagra business would go broke.
To see the Dow average only give up 7% in response to the worst trade war in a century is nothing less than stunning. To see it then make half of that back in the next four days is even more amazing. But then, that is the world we live in now.
When the stock market shrugs off the causes of the last great depression like it’s nothing, you have to reexamine the root causes of the bull market. It’s all about the Fed, the Fed, the Fed.
Our August central bank’s decision to cancel all interest rate rises for a year provided a major tailwind for share prices at the end of 2018. The ending of quantitative tightening six months early injected the steroids, some $50 billion in new cash for the economy per month.
We now have a free Fed put option on share prices. Even if we did enter another 4,500-point swan dive, most now believe that the Fed will counter with more interest rate cuts, thanks to extreme pressure from Washington. A high stock market is seen as crucial to winning the 2020 presidential election.
Furthermore, permabulls are poo-pooing the threat to the US economy the China (FXI) trade war presents. Some $500 billion in Chinese exports barely dent the $21.3 trillion US GDP. It’s not even a lot for China, amounting to 3.7% of their $13.4 trillion GDP, or so the argument goes.
Here’s the problem with that logic. The lack of a $5 part from China can ground the manufacture of $30 million aircraft when there are no domestic alternatives. Similarly, millions of small online businesses, mostly based in the Midwest, couldn’t survive a 25% price increase in the cost of their inventory.
As for the Chinese, while trade with us is only 3.7% of their economy, it most likely accounts for 90% of their profits. That’s why the Chinese yuan (CYB) has recently been in free fall in a desperate attempt to offset punitive tariffs with a substantially cheaper currency.
The market will figure out all of this eventually on a delayed basis and probably in a few months when slowing economic growth becomes undeniable. However, the answer for now is NOT YET!
Markets can be dumb, poor sighted, and mostly deaf animals. It takes them a while to see the obvious. One of the problems with seeing things before the rest of the world does, I can be early on trades, and that can translate into losing money. So, I have to be cautious here.
When that happens, I revert to an approach I call “Trading devoid of the thought process.” When prices are high, I sell. When they are low, I buy. All other information is noise. And I keep my size small and stop out of losers lightning fast. That’s how I managed to eke out a modest 0.63% profit so far this month, despite horrendous trading conditions.
You have to trade the market you have, not what it should be, or what you wish you had. It goes without saying that the Mad Hedge Market Timing Index become an incredibly valuable tool in such conditions.
It was a volatile week, to say the least.
China retaliated, raising tariffs on US goods, ratcheting up the trade war. US markets were crushed with the Dow average down 720 intraday and Chinese plays like Apple (AAPL) and Boeing (BA) especially hard hit.
China tariffs are to cost US households $500 each in rising import costs. Don’t point at me! I buy all American with my Tesla (TSLA).
The China tariffs delivered the largest tax increases in history, some $72 billion according to US Treasury figures. With Walmart (WMT) already issuing warnings on coming price hikes, we should sit up and take notice. It is a highly regressive tax hike, with the poorest hardest hit.
The Atlanta Fed already axed growth prospects for Q2, from 3.2% to 1.1%. This trade war is getting expensive. No wonder stocks have been in a swan dive.
US Retail Sales cratered in March while Industrial Production was off 0.5%. Why is the data suddenly turning recessionary? It isn’t even reflecting the escalated trade war yet.
European auto tariff delay boosted markets in one of the administration’s daily attempts to manipulate the stock market and guarantee support of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania during the next presidential election. All government decisions are now political all the time.
Weekly Jobless Claims plunged by 16,000 to 212,000. Have you noticed how dumb support staff have recently become? I have started asking workers how long they have been at their jobs and the average so far is three months. No one knows anything. This is what a full employment economy gets you.
Four oil tankers were attacked at the Saudi port of Fujairah, sending oil soaring. America’s “two war” strategy may be put to the test, with the US attacking Iran and North Korea simultaneously.
Bitcoin topped 8,000, on a massive “RISK OFF” trade, now double its December low. The cryptocurrency is clearly replacing gold as the fear trade.
The Mad Hedge Fund Trader managed to blast through to a new all-time high last week.
Global Trading Dispatch closed the week up 16.35% year to date and is up 0.63% so far in May. My trailing one-year rose to +20.19%. We jumped in and out of short positions in bonds (TLT) for a small profit, and our tech positions appreciated.
The Mad Hedge Technology Letter did OK, making some good money with a long position in Intuit (INTU) but stopping out for a small loss in Alphabet (GOOGL).
Some 10 out of 13 Mad Hedge Technology Letter round trips have been profitable this year.
My nine and a half year profit jumped to +316.49%.The average annualized return popped to +33.21%. With the markets incredibly and dangerously volatile, I am now 80% in cash with Global Trading Dispatch and 80% cash in the Mad Hedge Tech Letter.
I’ll wait until the markets retest the bottom end of the recent range before considering another long position.
The coming week will see only one report of any real importance, the Fed Minutes on Wednesday afternoon. Q1 earnings are almost done.
On Monday, May 20 at 8:30 AM, the April Chicago Fed National Activity Index is out.
On Tuesday, May 21, 10:00 AM EST, the April Existing Home Sales is released. Home Depot (HD) announces earnings.
On Wednesday, May 22 at 2:00 PM, the minutes of the last FOMC Meeting are published. Lowes (LOW) announces earnings.
On Thursday, May 16 at 23 AM, Weekly Jobless Claims are published. Intuit (INTU) announces earnings.
On Friday, May 24 at 8:30 AM, April Durable Goods is announced.
As for me, I’ll be taking a carload of Boy Scouts to volunteer at the Oakland Food Bank to help distribute food to the poor and the homeless. Despite living in the richest and highest paid urban area in the world, some 20% of the population now lives on handouts, including many public employees and members of the military. It truly is a have, or have-not economy.
Good luck and good trading.
John Thomas CEO & Publisher The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/john-thomas-3.png816612Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-05-20 02:02:272019-07-09 03:43:34The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or I’ll Take Some of That!
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader May 15 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!
Q: Where are we with Microsoft (MSFT)?
A: I think Microsoft is really trying to bottom here. It’s only giving up $8 from its recent high, that’s why I went long yesterday, and you can be hyper-conservative and only do the June $110-$115 vertical bull call spread like I did. That will bring in a 13.68% profit in 28 trading days, which these days is pretty good. This morning would have been a great entry point for that spread if you couldn’t get it yesterday.
Q: How will tariffs affect Apple (AAPL) when they hit?
A: The price of your iPhone goes up $140—that calculation has already been done. All of Apple’s iPhones are made in China, something like 220 million a year. There’s no way that can be moved, they need a million people for the production of these phones. It took them 20 years to build that facility and production capacity; it would take them 20 years to move it and it couldn’t be done anywhere else in the world. So, that’s why Apple led the charge on the downside and that’s why it will lead the charge to the upside on any trade war resolution.
Q: How bad is the trade war going to get?
A: The market is betting now by only going down 1,400 Dow points it will be resolved on June 28th in Osaka. If that doesn’t happen it could get a lot worse. It could get down to my down 2,250-point target, and if it continues much beyond that, then we’ll get the whole full 4,500 points and be back at December lows. After that, you’re really looking at a global recession, a global depression, and ultimately nearing 18,000 in Dow, the 2016 low.
Q: Will global trade wars force US Treasuries down to around 2.10% on the ten year?
A: Yes. Again, the question is how bad will it get? If we resolve the trade war in six weeks, treasuries will probably double bottom here at around a 2.33% yield. If we go beyond that, then 2.10% is a chip shot and we go into a real live recession. The truth is no one knows anything, and we really don’t have any influence over what happens.
Q: How will equities digest and increase in European tariffs for cars?
A: It would completely demolish the European economy—especially that of Germany (EWG) which has 50% of its economy dependent on exports (primarily cars) and mostly to the U.S. And if we wipe out our biggest customer, Europe, then that would spill over here very quickly. Anybody who sells to Europe—like all the big Tech companies—would get slaughtered in that situation.
Q: Is it time to buy the Volatility Index (VIX)?
A: It’s too late to buy (VIX) now. I don’t want to touch it until we get down to that $12-$13 handle again because the time decay on this is enormous. Time decay is more than 50% a year, so your timing has to be perfect with trading any (VIX) products, whether it’s the (VXX), the (VIX) futures, the (VIX) options, or so on. There are countless people shorting (VIX) here, and they will short it all the way down to $12 again.
Q: What should I do about Boeing at this point?
A: We went long, got out, took our profit and caught this rally up to $400 a share. Then (BA) gave it up and it broke down. It’s a really tempting long here. Along with Apple, Boeing has the largest value of exports to China of any company. They have orders for hundreds of airlines from China, so they are an easy target, especially if there is a ramp up in the intensity of the trade war. That said, something like a June $270-$300 vertical bull call spread is very tempting, especially with elevated volatility up here, so I’m watching that very closely. We’re looking for the recertification of the 737 MAX bounce which could happen in the next few weeks; if that does happen it should rally at least back up to 380.
Q: Are your moving averages simple or exponential?
A: I just use the simple. I find that the simpler a concept is, the more people can understand it, and the more people buy it; that’s why I always try to keep everything simple and leave the algorithms for the computers.
Q: What stocks are insulated from a US/China trade war?
A: None. When the whole market goes risk off, people sell everything. Remember that an overwhelming portion of the market is now indexed with passive investment funds, so they just go straight risk on/risk off. It makes no difference what the fundamentals are, it makes no difference who has a lot of Chinese business or a little—everyone gets hit and everyone will get boosted when the trade war ends. There is no place to hide except cash, which is why I went 100% cash going into this. People seem to forget that cash has option value and having a lot of cash going into one of these situations is actually worth a lot of money in terms of opportunities.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on Uber’s (UBER) bad performance?
A: Yes, the whole sector was wildly overvalued, but no one knew that until they brought it to market and found out the real supply and demand for the issue. The smartest company of the year has to be Lyft (LYFT), which got a nice valuation by doing their issue first and keeping it small. So, they kind of rained on Uber’s parade; at one point, Uber was down 25% from their IPO price. That’s awful.
Q: Is Trump forcing the Fed to drop rates with all this tariff threat?
A: Yes, and if you remember, Trump really ramped up the attacks on the Fed in December. And my bet is at the first sign the trade talks were in trouble, they wanted to lower rates to offset the hit to the U.S. economy. There was no economic reason to suddenly demand huge interest rate cuts last December other than a falling stock market. The tariffs amount to a $72 billion tax increase on the American consumer, felt mostly at the low end, and that is terrible for the economy in that it reduces purchasing power by exactly that much.
Q: Would you buy the dollar as a safe haven trade?
A: No, I would not. The dollar may actually go down some more, especially with the collapse in our interest rates and European interest rates bottoming at negative levels. The best thing in the world in a high-risk environment like this is cash—don’t try to get clever and buy something you think will outperform. You could be disappointed.
Q: Why is healthcare (XLV) behaving so badly?
A: You don’t want to get into political football ahead of an election. That said, they’re already so cheap that any kind of recovery could very well take healthcare up big, especially on an individual company basis. This is a sector where individual stock selection is crucial.
Q: Would you buy deep in the money calls on PayPal (PYPL)?
A: Yes, I would. Wait for a down day. Today we’re up slightly, but if we have a weak afternoon and a weak opening tomorrow morning, that would be a good time to add more longs in technology. PayPal is absolutely at the top of the list, as are names like Adobe (ADBE) and Alphabet (GOOGL).
Q: Should I be buying LEAPS in this environment?
A: No; a LEAP is a one-year long term deep out-of-the-money call spread. That was a great December bottom trade. The people who bought leaps then made huge fortunes. We’re too high here to consider leaps for the main market unless it’s for something that’s just been bombed out, like a Tesla (TSLA) or a Boeing (BA), where you had big drops—then I would look at LEAPS for the super decimated stocks. But the rest of the market is still too high for thinking about leaps. Wait a couple of months and we may get back to those December lows.
Q: What happened to your May 10th bear market call?
A: Actually, it’s kind of looking good. It’s looking in fact like the market topped on May 2nd. If saner heads prevail, the trade war will end (or at least we’ll get a fake agreement) and the market will go to a new high. If not, then that May 10th target forecast I made two years ago IS the final top.
Q: You’re saying today we’re at a bottom?
A: We’re at a bottom for a short-term trade with a June 21st target. That was the expiration date of the options spreads I did this week. Whether this is the final bottom in the whole down move for a longer term, no one has any idea, even if they try to say differently. This is totally dependent on political developments.
Q: What do you have to say about Lockheed Martin (LMT)?
A: This sector usually does well with a wartime background. Expect that to continue for the foreseeable future. But at a certain point, the defense stocks which have had fantastic runs under Trump will start to discount a democratic win in the next election. If that does happen, defense will get slaughtered. I would be using any future strength to sell out of the whole defense area. Peace could be fatal to this sector.
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/unit-sales.png591899Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-05-17 02:04:382019-07-09 03:43:41May 15 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A
In summarizing the global financial system today, I recall the classic fifties James Dean movie, Rebel Without a Cause. Two cars are racing towards a cliff and the chicken has to bail out first. But the chicken gets his jacket sleeve stuck on a door knob, and his car dives over the cliff and crashes and burns.
Thus, here we are entranced by the world’s two largest economies in a race towards a cliff, but this time, it’s an economic one. Will rational minds prevail, or will our leaders miscalculate and plunge the world into a Great Depression? In other words, will the crashing car land on us?
That’s what happened during the 1930s when after the 1929 stock market crash lead to tit for tat tariffs that eliminated economic growth for a decade. It was only after the massive defense spending of WWII that the slump ended. This time the script is playing out exactly the same way.
Certainly, the stock market believes in the rosier scenario. The Dow average only fell 1,278 points last week. In a real “NO DEAL” case, it would have given up the full 4,500 points it gained since December.
A prolonged trade war until the next election would take us well into a recession and back to down the 18,000 that prevailed before the last presidential election.
For the short term, the S&P 500 (SPY) is clearly gunning for the 200-day moving average at $275. That would take us down 6.78% from the recent high. I have been using soybean prices (SOYB) as an indicator of China trade negotiation success. It hit a seven-year low this morning.
It’s all about trade talks all the time now and nobody has the slightest idea of what is coming next. So, I’ll sit back and wait until the Volatility Index (VIX) hits $30, or the (SPY) drops to $275 before entertaining another trade alert. Until then, I’ll maintain my 100% cash position.
I reach all these conclusions after two days of solid sleep, recovering from four days of bacchanalia at the SALT conference in Las Vegas. I’ll write more about this when the market stops crashing long enough for me to write it up.
Long term followers of this letter are laughing because they recall that two years ago I predicted that the next bear market would start precisely on May 10 at 4:00 PM EST. That estimate was arrived at by an intricate calculation of the timing of a coming yield curve inversion and recession.
The S&P 500 (SPY) hit an all-time high of $295 on May 2 at 4:00 PM EST, seven trading days early. Who knew that it would be a Tweet that did it?
Uber went public last week, likely at an $82 billion valuation which sucked $10 billion out of the market. Not helping was a stock market crash and an Uber driver’s strike that spread from the US to London. After car operating expenses are taken out, drivers only net a paltry $5 an hour.
The Fed warned about high stock prices, and business borrowing is at an all-time high just two days before the market dumped. Maybe we should listen to our central bank?
US Job Openings soared in March, by a stunning 346,000 to 7.5 million. This is what tops look like.
Bonds exploded to the upside on stock market panic, as the world stampedes to “RISK OFF.” There’s a great (TLT) short sale setting up here, but not quite yet.
The US trade deficit hit a five-year low in March, down 16.2% to $20.7 billion. This is due to a big 23.7% jump in US exports to China, thanks to China’s massive economic stimulus program, not ours. But at what cost?
The Mad Hedge Fund Trader dumped its last position Monday morning and, as a result, was completely up 50 basis points on the week. You may have noticed that I have been stopping out of positions must faster than usual recently and now you know the reason why.
Global Trading Dispatch closed the week up 14.59% year to date and is down -1.13% so far in May. My trailing one-year retreated to +18.96%.
Mad Hedge Technology Letter gave back some ground with two new very short-term positions in Intuit (INTU) and Google (GOOG) which expire on Friday
Some 11 out of 13 Mad Hedge Technology Letter round trips have been profitable this year.
My nine and a half year profit rose slightly to +314.73%. With the markets in free fall, I am now 100% in cash with Global Trading Dispatch and 80% cash in the Mad Hedge Tech Letter. I’ll wait until the markets find their new range and then jump in on the long side.
The coming week will be pretty boring on the data front.
On Monday, May 13 at 11:00 AM, the April Survey of Consumer Sentiment is announced.
On Tuesday, May 14, 6:00 AM EST, the NFIB Small Business Index is out.
On Wednesday, May 15 at 8:30 AM, March Retail Sales are released
On Thursday, May 16 at 8:30 AM, Weekly Jobless Claims are published. March Housing Starts to come out at the same time.
On Friday, May 17 at 10:00 AM, March Consumer Sentiment is printed.
As for me, I will be flying back from Las Vegas over the weekend having attended the SALT conference and my own Mad Hedge Fund Trader strategy luncheon. The highlight of the week was listening to Woodstock veterans Credence Clearwater Revival. I’ll write more about it next week.
Good luck and good trading.
John Thomas CEO & Publisher The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader
You Can’t Do Enough Research
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.png00Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-05-13 11:03:222019-07-09 03:44:07The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or a Game of Chicken