My former employer, The Economist, once the ever-tolerant editor of my flabby, disjointed, and juvenile prose (Thanks Peter and Marjorie), has released its “Big Mac” index of international currency valuations.
Although initially launched as a joke three decades ago, I have followed it religiously and found it an amazingly accurate predictor of future economic success.
The index counts the cost of McDonald’s (MCD) premium sandwich around the world, ranging from $7.20 in Norway to $1.78 in Argentina, and comes up with a measure of currency under and over valuation.
What are its conclusions today? The Swiss franc (FXF), the Brazilian real, and the Euro (FXE) are overvalued, while the Hong Kong dollar, the Chinese Yuan (CYB), and the Thai baht are cheap.
I couldn’t agree more with many of these conclusions. It’s as if the august weekly publication was tapping The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader for ideas.
I am no longer the frequent consumer of Big Macs that I once was as my metabolism has slowed to such an extent that in eating one, you might as well tape it to my ass. Better to use it as an economic forecasting tool than a speedy lunch.
The Big Mac in Yen is Definitely Not a Buy
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.png00MHFTRhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMHFTR2019-07-05 02:04:412019-08-05 17:45:40Where The Economist "Big Mac" Index Finds Currency Value
Years ago, if you asked traders what one event would destroy financial markets, the answer was always the same: China dumping its $1 trillion US treasury bond hoard.
It looks like Armageddon is finally here.
Once again, the Chinese boycotted this week’s US Treasury bond auction.
With a no-show like this, you could be printing a 2.90% yield in a couple of weeks. It also helps a lot that the charts are outing in a major long term double top.
You may read the president’s punitive duties on Chinese solar panels as yet another attempt to crush California’s burgeoning solar installation industry. I took it for what it really was: a signal to double up my short in the US Treasury bond market.
For it looks like the Chinese finally got the memo. Exploding American deficits have become the number one driver of all asset classes, perhaps for the next decade.
Not only are American bonds about to fall dramatically in value, so is the US dollar (UUP) in which they are denominated. This creates a double negative hockey stick effect on their value for any foreign investor.
In fact, you can draw up an all assets class portfolio based on the assumption that the US government is now the new debt hog:
Stocks – buy inflation plays like Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and US Steel (X) Emerging Markets – Buy asset producers like Chile (ECH) Bonds – run a double short position in the (TLT) Foreign Exchange – buy the Euro (FXE), Yen (FXY), and Aussie (FXA) Commodities – Buy copper (CU) as an inflation hedge Energy – another inflation beneficiary (USO), (OXY) Precious Metals – entering a new bull market for gold (GLD) and silver (SLV)
Yes, all of sudden everything has become so simple, as if the fog has suddenly been lifted.
Focus on the US budget deficit which has soared from $450 billion a year ago to over $1 trillion today on its way to $2 trillion later this year, and every investment decision becomes a piece of cake.
This exponential growth of US government borrowing should take the US National Debt from $22 to $30 trillion over the next decade.
I have been dealing with the Chinese government for 45 years and have come to know them well. They never forget anything. They are still trying to get the West to atone for three Opium Wars that started 180 years ago.
Imagine how long it will take them to forget about washing machine duties?
By the way, if I look uncommonly thin in the photo below it’s because there was a famine raging in China during the Cultural Revolution in which 50 million died. You couldn’t find food to buy in the countryside for all the money in the world. This is when you find out that food has no substitutes. The Chinese government never owned up to it.
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Man-in-China-story-2-image-6.jpg225336Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-02-27 01:07:462019-07-09 04:06:37Why China’s US Treasury Dump Will Crush the Bond Market
Yesterday, I listed my Five Surprises of 2019 which will play out during the first half of the year prompting stocks to take another run at the highs, and then fail.
What if I’m wrong? I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy. What if instead, we get the opposite of my five surprises? This is what they would look like. And better yet, this is how financial markets would perform.
*The government shutdown goes on indefinitely throwing the US economy into recession.
*The Chinese trade war escalates, deepening the recession both here and in the Middle Kingdom.
*The House moves to impeach the president, ignoring domestic issues, driven by the younger winners of the last election.
*A hard Brexit goes through completely cutting Britain off from Europe.
*The Mueller investigation concludes that Trump is a Russian agent and is guilty of 20 felonies including capital treason.
*All of the above are HUGELY risk negative and will trigger a MONSTER STOCK SELLOFF.
It’s really difficult to quantify how badly markets will behave given that this scenario amounts to five black swans landing simultaneously. However, we do have a recent benchmark with which to make comparisons, the 2008-2009 stock market crash and great recession. I’ll list off the damage report by asset class. I also include the exchange-traded fund you need to hedge yourself against Armageddon in each asset class.
*Stocks – Depending on how fast the above rolls out, you will see a stock market (SPY) collapse of Biblical proportions. You’ll easily unwind the Trump rally that started at a Dow Average of 18,000, down 25% from the current level, and off a gut-churning 9,000 points or 33% from the September top. The next support below is the 2015 low at 15,500, down 11,500 points, or 43% from the top. By comparison, during the 2008-2009 crash, we fell 52%. Everything falls and there is no safe place to hide. Buy the ProShares UltraShort S&P 500 bear ETF (SDS).
*Bonds – With the ten-year US Treasury yield peaking at 3.25% last summer, a buying panic would spill into the bond market. Inflation is nonexistent, we are running at only a 2.2% YOY rate now, so widespread deflation would rapidly swallow up the entire economy. In that case, all interest rates go to zero very quickly. The Fed cuts rates as fast as it can. Eventually, the ten-year yield drops to -0.40%, the bottom seen in Japanese and German debt three years ago. Buy the 2X short bond ETF (TBT) which will rocket to from $35 to $200.
*Foreign Exchange – With US interest rates going to zero, the US Dollar (UUP) gets the stuffing knocked out of it. The Euro soars from $1.10 to $1.60 last seen in 2010, and the Japanese yen (FXY) revisits Y80. Strong currencies then crush the economies of our largest trading partners. Their governments take their interest rates back to negative numbers to cool their own currencies. Cash becomes trash….globally.
Here’s the really ugly part about commodities. They are only just starting to crawl OUT of a seven-year bear market. To hit them with another price collapse now would devastate the industry. Producer bankruptcies would be widespread. The ags would get especially hard hit as they have already been pummeled by the trade war with China. Midwestern regional banks would get wiped out. Buy the DB Commodity Short ETN (DDP).
The price of oil (USO) is also just crawling back from a correction for the ages, down from $77 to $42 a barrel in only three months. Hit the sector with a recession now in the face of global overproduction and the 2009 low of $25 becomes a chip shot, and possibly much lower. Those who chased for yield with energy master limited partnerships will get flushed. Several smaller exploration and production companies will get destroyed. And gasoline drops to $1 a gallon. The Middle East collapses into a geopolitical nightmare and much of Texas files chapter 11. Buy the ProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (SCO).
Gold (GLD) initially rallies on the flight to safety bid that we have seen since September. However, if things get really bad, EVERYTHING gets sold, even the barbarous relic, as margin clerks are in the driver’s seat. You sell what you can, not what you want to, as liquidity becomes paramount. This is what took the yellow metal down to $900 an ounce in 2009. Buy the DB Gold Short ETN (DGZ).
Believe it or not, real estate doesn’t do all that bad in a worst-case scenario. It is perhaps the safest asset class around if a new crisis financial unfolds. For a start, interest rates at zero would provide a huge cushion. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill successfully prevented lenders returning to even a fraction of the leverage they used in the run-up to the last recession. We are about to enter a major demographic tailwind in housing as the Millennial generation become the predominant home buyers. I’ve never seen a housing slump in the face of a structural shortage. And homebuilder stocks (ITB) have already been discounting the next recession for the past year. A lot is already baked in the price.
Of course, it is highly unlikely that any of the above happens. Think of it all as what Albert Einstein called a “thought experiment.” But it is better to do the thinking now so you can do the trading later. There may not be time to do otherwise.
Be Careful, They Bite!
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/John-Thoms-Black-Swans-e1413901799656.jpg337400Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-01-15 08:06:042019-07-09 04:42:36Here’s the Worst-Case Scenario
Due to technical problems, I was unable to read your questions. However, I was able to get a print out after the fact.
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader January 9 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader.
Q: Is the bottom in for stocks?
A: It is for six months to a year. A price earnings multiple at 14X seems to be the line in the sand. The Christmas Eve massacre, which took us down to a (SPY) of $230, was the final capitulation bottom of the entire down move. We may try a few more retests of the lows on bad tweets or data points. But from here on, you’re trying to buy the dip. That’s why I cut my vacation short a week and issued eight emergency trade alerts, five for Global Trading Dispatch and three for the tech letter. By the way, I hope you appreciate those trade alerts because I had to call back staff from vacations in four different countries to get them done. But it was worth it. We’ve had the strongest start to a New Year in a decade, up 5.75%. We made back all our Q4 losses in two days!
Q: Is the strong dollar play (UUP) over? Is it time to start buying Euro (FXE) and Yen (FXE)?
A: Yes, it is. The Fed flipping from hawk to dove sounds the death knell for the dollar. With the expansion of the yield spread between the buck and other currencies stopped dead in its tracks, a massive short covering rally will drive the currencies higher. That’s why I bought the Euro on Monday for the first time in more than a year (FXE). The Japanese yen where the biggest shorts has already moved too far, up 8%. That’s where hedge fund typically finance positions because yen yields have been at zero forever.
Q: How about the Aussie (FXA)? Do we have a shot now?
A: I think so. But the bigger driver with Aussie is the trade war with China. That said, I believe that will get resolved soon too unless Trump wants to run for reelection during a recession. The Aussie also has relatively high-interest rates so it should soar.
Q: Is the government shutdown starting to hurt the economy?
A: Yes, it is. Estimates on the damage the shutdown is doing range from 0.5% to 1% a week. That means at a minimum of 20-week shut down cuts 2019 GDP growth by 1%. If your assumption for growth this year is only 2%, that brings us perilously close to a recession. However, with the big stock market rally of the past week investors clearly believe the shutdown will be over in a week. Buy “Wall” stocks.
Q: What’s the biggest risk to the market now?
A: Companies announced great earnings in October and the stocks promptly collapsed. Q4 earnings start in a few weeks, except this time, the earnings will be smaller. The big one, Apple (AAPL) is reporting on January 29 and will be especially exciting since they already announced a major disappointment. If we get a repeat, you could get another meltdown in February just like we saw last year.
Q: Do you still like gold (GLD)?
A: I did in Q4 as a hedge for a collapsing stock market. Now that stocks are on fire again, I think gold and silver (SLV) will take a rest. You’re not going to get a serious move in gold until we see higher inflation and that is a while off.
Q: Is the bear market in commodities over?
A: I think so, with a flattening interest rate picture and a weakening dollar, the entire commodity complex is looking better. That includes copper (FCX), energy (USO), and the ags (SOYB). What do you buy in an expensive market? Cheap stuff, and all of these are at seven-year lows. I think people are ready to give paper assets a rest. All we need now for these to work is inflation. My cleaning lady just asked for a raise so there’s hope.
Q: The semiconductors have just had a good move. Is it time to get in?
A: You want to buy the semis, like Micron Technology (MU), NVIDIA (NVDA), and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) when they’ve just had a BAD move. Market conditions have improved, but not to the extent you want to buy the most volatile stocks in the market. That said, if we get another crushing move in February you might dip your toe in with some semis on capitulation day. If you want to buy semis in this environment, you might have a gambling addiction.
Q: If the Fed has stopped raising rates, are you still bearish on the (TLT) and bullish on the (TBT)?
A: I think what governor Jay Powell’s dovish comments will do is put bonds in a six-month range, say 2.45%-3.0% in yield. All of my future bond alerts will trade around those levels. In the option world, we will be setting up a short strangle, betting that interest rates don’t move out of this range for a while. In that case, our two bond positions will be OK, with the nearest money one expiring in only seven trading days.
Q: Is it too late to get into biotech (BIIB)?
A: No, along with technology, biotech will be one of the two leading sectors in the entire market for the next ten years. However, me being an eternal cheapskate, I want to get in again on a decent dip. This is the industry that will cure cancer over the next decade and that will be worth a trillion dollars in profits.
Q: You’ve kept us out of Tesla (TSLA) for a couple of years. Is it time to go back in?
A: I think I would. If production can ramp up from 7,000 to 10,000 a week, the stock should do the same. The ten-year view for this stock is that it goes from today’s $330 to $2,500. That said, this is a notorious trading stock so it is very important to buy it on a dip. Wait for the next tweet from Elon Musk.
Q: If we enter a bear market in May 2019, what would be the appropriate long-term investments at that time?
A: Nothing beats cash, especially now that you are actually getting paid something decent. You can find cash equivalents now yielding all the way up to 4%. In a bear market, stocks either go down a lot, or a whole lot, so there is nothing worth keeping. The only reason to stay in is to avoid a monster tax bill (my cost on Apple is 25 cents) or you still work for the company.
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/John-Thomas-bear.png402291Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2019-01-10 01:07:202019-07-09 04:42:55January 9 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A