Posts

December 17, 2019

Global Market Comments
December 17, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA STRATEGY LUNCHEON)
(THE NEXT COMMODITY SUPER CYCLE HAS ALREADY STARTED)
(COPX), (GLD), (FCX), (BHP), (RIO), (SIL),
 (PPLT), (PALL), (GOLD), (ECH), (EWZ), (IDX)

The Next Commodity Supercycle Has Already Started

When I toured Australia a couple of years ago, I couldn’t help but notice a surprising number of fresh-faced young people driving luxury Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Porsches.

I remarked to my Aussie friend that there must be a lot of indulgent parents in The Lucky Country these days. “It’s not the parents who are buying these cars,” he remarked, “It’s the kids.”

He went on to explain that the mining boom had driven wages for skilled labor to spectacular levels. Workers in their early twenties could earn as much at $200,000 a year, with generous benefits.

The big resource companies flew them by private jet a thousand miles to remote locations where they toiled at four-week on, four-week off schedules.

This was creating social problems, as it is tough for parents to manage offspring who make more than they do.

It’s starting to look like we are on the eve of another great commodity boom, the start of a long-term supercycle. China, the world’s largest consumer of commodities, is currently stimulating its economy on multiple fronts, including generous corporate tax breaks and relaxed reserve requirements. Get a trigger like a settlement of its trade war with the US and it will be off to the races once more for the entire sector.

The last bear market in commodities was certainly punishing. From the 2011 peaks, copper (COPX) shed 65%, gold (GLD) gave back 47%, and iron ore was cut by 78%. One research house estimated that some $150 billion in resource projects in Australia were suspended or canceled.

Budgeted capital spending during 2012-2015 was slashed by a blood curdling 30%. Contract negotiations for price breaks demanded by end consumers broke out like a bad case of chickenpox.

The shellacking was reflected in the major producer shares, like BHP Billiton (BHP), Freeport McMoRan (FCX), and Rio Tinto (RIO), with prices down by half or more. Write-downs of asset values became epidemic at many of these firms.

The selloff was especially punishing for the gold miners, with lead firm Barrack Gold (GOLD) seeing its stock down by nearly 80% at one point, lower than the darkest days of the 2008-2009 stock market crash.

You also saw the bloodshed in the currencies of commodity-producing countries. The Australian dollar led the retreat, falling 30%. The South African Rand has also taken it on the nose, off 30%. In Canada, the Loonie got cooked.

The impact of China cannot be underestimated. In 2012, it consumed 11.7% of the planet’s oil, 40% of its copper, 46% of its iron ore, 46% of its aluminum, and 50% of its coal. It is much smaller than that today, with its annual growth rate dropping by more than half, from 13.7% to 6.6%.

The rise of emerging market standards of living will also provide a boost to hard asset prices. But as China goes, so does its satellite trading partners, who rely on the Middle Kingdom as their largest customer. Many are also major commodity exporters themselves, like Chile (ECH), Brazil (EWZ), and Indonesia (IDX), and are looking to come back big time.

As a result, western hedge funds will soon be moving money out of paper assets, like stocks and bonds, into hard ones, such as gold, silver (SIL), palladium (PALL),  platinum (PPLT), and copper.

A massive US stock market rally has sent managers in search of any investment that can’t be created with a printing press. Look at the best performing sectors this year and they are dominated by the commodity space.

The bulls may be right for as long as a decade, thanks to the cruel arithmetic of the commodities cycle. These are your classic textbook inelastic markets. Mines often take 10-15 years to progress from conception to production. Deposits need to be mapped, plans drafted, permits obtained, infrastructure built, capital raised, and bribes paid. By the time they come online, prices have peaked, drowning investors in red ink.

So a 1% rise in demand can trigger a price rise of 50% or more. There aren’t a lot of substitutes for iron ore. Hedge funds then throw gasoline on the fire with excess leverage and high-frequency trading. That gives us higher highs, to be followed by lower lows.

I am old enough to have lived through a couple of these cycles now, so it is all old news for me. The previous bull legs of supercycles ran from 1870-1913 and 1945-1973. The current one started for the whole range of commodities in 2016. Before that, it was down from seven years.

While the present one is short in terms of years, no one can deny how business cycles have been greatly accelerated by globalization and the Internet.

Some new factors are weighing on miners that didn’t plague them in the past. Reregulation of the US banking system is forcing several large players, like JP Morgan (JPM) and Goldman Sachs (GS) to pull out of the industry. That impairs trading liquidity and widens spreads— developments that can only accelerate upside price moves.

The prospect of flat US interest rates is also attracting capital. That reduces the opportunity cost of staying in raw metals, which pay neither interest nor dividends.

The future is bright for the resource industry. While the gains in Chinese demand are smaller than they have been in the past, they are off of a much larger base. In 20 years, Chinese GDP has soared from $1 trillion to $10 trillion.

Some 20 million people a year are still moving from the countryside to the coastal cities in search of a better standard of living and improved prospects for their children.

That is the good news. The bad news is that it looks like the headaches of Australian parents of juvenile high earners may persist for a lot longer than they wish.

 

 

 

 

 

October 8, 2019

Global Market Comments
October 8, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(HOW TO GAIN AN ADVANTAGE WITH PARALLEL TRADING),
(GM), (F), (TM), (NSANY), (DDAIF), BMW (BMWYY), (VWAPY),
(PALL), (GS), (RSX), (EZA), (CAT), (CMI), (KMTUY),
(KODK), (SLV), (AAPL),

How to Gain an Advantage with Parallel Trading

One of the most fascinating things I learned when I first joined the equity trading desk at Morgan Stanley during the early 1980s was how to parallel trade.

A customer order would come in to buy a million shares of General Motors (GM) and what did the in-house proprietary trading book do immediately?

It loaded the boat with the shares of Ford Motors (F).

When I asked about this tactic, I was taken away to a quiet corner of the office and read the riot act.

“This is how you legally front run a customer,” I was told.

Buy (GM) in front of a customer order, and you will find yourself in Sing Sing shortly.

Ford (F), Toyota (TM), Nissan (NSANY), Daimler Benz (DDAIF), BMW (BMWYY), or Volkswagen (VWAPY), are no problem.

The logic here was very simple.

Perhaps the client completed an exhaustive piece of research concluding that (GM) earnings were about to rise.

Or maybe a client old boy network picked up some valuable insider information.

(GM) doesn’t do business in isolation. It has tens of thousands of parts suppliers for a start. While whatever is good for (GM) is good for America, it is GREAT for the auto industry.

So through buying (F) on the back of a (GM) might not only match the (GM) share performance, it might even exceed it.

This is known as a Primary Parallel Trade.

This understanding led me on a lifelong quest to understand Cross Asset Class Correlations, which continues to this day.

Whenever you buy one thing, you buy another related thing as well, which might do considerably better.

I eventually made friends with a senior trader at Salomon Brothers while they were attempting to recruit me to run their Japanese desk.

I asked if this kind of legal front running happened on their desk.

“Absolutely,” he responded. But he then took Cross Asset Class Correlations to a whole new level for me.

Not only did Salomons buy (F) in that situation, they also bought palladium (PALL).

I was puzzled. Why palladium?

Because palladium is the principal metal used in catalytic converters, which remove toxic emissions from car exhaust, and have been required for every U.S. manufactured car since 1975.

Lots of car sales, which the (GM) buying implied, ALSO meant lots of palladium buying.

And here’s the sweetener.

Palladium trading is relatively illiquid.

So, if you catch a surge in the price of this white metal, you would earn a multiple of what you would make on your boring old parallel (F) trade.

This is known in the trade as a Secondary Parallel Trade.

A few months later, Morgan Stanley sent me to an investment conference to represent the firm.

I was having lunch with a trader at Goldman Sachs (GS) who would later become a famous hedge fund manager and asked him about the (GM)-(F)-(PALL) trade.

He said I would be an IDIOT not to take advantage of such correlations. Then he one-upped me.

You can do a Tertiary Parallel Trade here through buying mining equipment companies such as Caterpillar (CAT), Cummins (CMI), and Komatsu (KMTUY).

Since this guy was one of the smartest traders I ever ran into, I asked him if there was such a thing as a Quaternary Parallel Trade.

He answered “Abso******lutely,” as was his way.

But the first thing he always did when searching for Quaternary Parallel Trades would be to buy the country ETF for the world’s largest supplier of the commodity in question.

In the case of palladium, that would be Russia (RSX) followed by South Africa (EZA), which together account for 74% of the world’s total production.

Since then, I have discovered hundreds of what I call Parallel Trading Chains, and have been actively making money off of them. So have you, you just haven’t realized it yet.

I could go on and on.

If you ever become puzzled or confused about a trade alert I am sending out (Why on earth is he doing THAT?), there is often a parallel trade in play.

Do this for decades as I have and you learn that some parallel trades break down and die. The cross relationships no longer function.

The best example I can think of is the photography/silver connection. When the photography business was booming, silver prices rose smartly.

Digital photography wiped out this trade, and silver-based film development is still only used by a handful of professionals and hobbyists.

Oh, and Eastman Kodak (KODK) went bankrupt in 2012.

However, it seems that whenever one Parallel Trading Chain disappears, many more replace it.

You could build chains a mile long simply based on how well Apple (AAPL) is doing.

And guess what? There is a new parallel trade in silver developing. For whenever someone builds a solar panel anywhere in the world, they are using a small amount of silver for the wiring. Build several tens of millions of solar panels and that can add up to quite a lot of silver.

What goes around comes around.

Suffice it to say that parallel trading is an incredibly useful trading strategy.

Ignore it at your peril.

 

 

 

July 30, 2019

Global Market Comments
July 30, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO INVESTING),
(TSLA), (BYND), (JPM)
(THE SECRET FED PLAN TO BUY GOLD),
(GLD), (GDX), (PALL), (PPLT),

The Secret Fed Plan to Buy Gold

The recent appointment of my old acquaintance, Judy Shelton, to the Fed places a monetary policy once considered impossible solidly on the table. For your see, Judy has long advocated that the US return to the gold standard.

If the American economy moves into the next recession with interest rates already near zero, the markets will take the rates for all interest-bearing securities well into negative numbers. This has already happened in Japan and Germany.

At that point, our central bank’s primary tool for stimulating US businesses will become utterly useless, ineffective, and impotent.

What else is in the tool bag?

How about large-scale purchases of Gold (GLD)?

You are probably as shocked as I am with this possibility. But there is a rock-solid logic to the plan. As solid as the vault at Fort Knox.

The idea is to create asset price inflation that will spread to the rest of the economy. It already did this with great success from 2009-2014 with quantitative easing, whereby almost every class of debt securities were Hoovered up by the government.

“QE on steroids”, to be implemented only after overnight rates go negative, would involve large scale purchases of not only gold, but stocks, government bonds, and exchange-traded funds as well.

If you think I’ve been smoking California’s largest cash export (it’s not the raisins), you would be in error. I should point out that the Japanese government is already pursuing QE to this extent, at least in terms of equity type investments and ETFs and already owns a substantial part of the Japanese stock market.

And, as the history buff that I am, I can tell you that it has been done in the US as well, with tremendous results.

If you thought that president Obama had it rough when he came into office in 2009 with the Great Recession on, it was nothing compared to what Franklin Delano Roosevelt inherited.

The country was in its fourth year of the Great Depression. US GDP had cratered by 43%, consumer prices crashed by 24%, the unemployment rate was 25%, and stock prices vaporized by 90%. Mass starvation loomed.

Drastic measures were called for.

FDR issued Executive Order 6102 banning private ownership of gold, ordering them to sell their holdings to the US Treasury at a lowly $20.67 an ounce.

He then urged congress to pass the Gold Reserve Act of 1934, which instantly revalued the government’s holdings at $35.00, an increase of 69.32%. These and other measures caused the value of America’s gold holdings to leap from $4 to $12 billion. That’s a lot of money in 1934 dollars, about $208 billion in today’s money.

Since the US was still on the gold standard back then, this triggered an instant dollar devaluation of more than 50%. The high gold price sucked in massive amounts of the yellow metal from abroad creating, you guessed it, inflation.

The government then borrowed massively against this artificially created wealth to fund the landscape altering infrastructure projects of the New Deal.

It worked.

During the following three years, the GDP skyrocketed by 48%, inflation eked out a 2% gain, the unemployment rate dropped to 18%, and stocks jumped by 80%. Happy days were here again.

Monetary conditions are remarkably similar today to the those that prevailed during the last government gold buying binge.

There has been a de facto currency war underway since 2009. The Fed started when it launched QE, and Japan, Europe, and China have followed. Blue-collar unemployment and underpayment is at a decades high. The need for a national infrastructure program is overwhelming.

However, in the 21st century version of such a gold policy, it is highly unlikely that we would see another gold ownership ban.

Instead, the Fed would most likely move into the physical gold market, sitting on the bid for years, much like it recently did in the Treasury bond market for five years. Gold prices would increase by a multiple of current levels.

It would then borrow against its new gold holdings, plus the 4,176 metric tonnes worth $200 billion at today’s market prices already sitting in Fort Knox, to fund a multi trillion-dollar infrastructure-spending program.

Heaven knows we need it. Millions of blue-collar jobs would be created and inflation would come back from the dead.

Yes, this all sounds like a fantasy. But negative interest rates were considered an impossibility only years ago.

The Fed’s move on gold would be only one aspect of a multi-faceted package of desperate last ditch measures to extend economic growth into the future which I outlined in a previous research piece (click here for “What Happens When QE Fails” .

That’s assuming that the gold is still there. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin says he saw the gold himself during an inspection that took place of the last solar eclipse over Fort Knox in 2018. The door to the vault at Fort Knox had not been opened since September 23, 1974. But then Steve Mnuchin says a lot of things. Persistent urban legends and Internet rumors claim that the vault is actually empty or filled with fake steel bars painted gold.

 

 

 

The Next QE?

May 8, 2019

Global Market Comments
May 8, 2019
Fiat Lux

SPECIAL GOLD ISSUE

Featured Trade:
(THE ULTRA BULL ARGUMENT FOR GOLD),
(GLD), (GDX), (ABX), (SLV), (PALL), (PPLT)
(TESTIMONIAL)

The Ultra Bull Argument for Gold

Gold has become the ugly duckling during this bull market for stocks and bonds. However, that is not going to last.

Gold will eventually come back in fashion and when it does, how high could it really go?

The question begs your rapt attention as the possibility of Britain leaving the EC has suddenly unleashed a plethora of new positive fundamentals for the yellow metal.

It turns out that gold is THE deflationary asset to own. Who knew?

I was an unmitigated bear on the price of gold after it peaked in 2011. In recent years, the world has been obsessed with yields, chasing them down to historic levels across all asset classes.

But now that much of the world already has or is about to have negative interest rates, a bizarre new kind of mathematics applies to gold ownership.

Gold’s problem used to be that it yielded absolutely nothing, cost you money to store, and carried hefty transactions costs. That asset class didn’t fit anywhere in a yield-obsessed universe.

Now we have a horse of a different color.

Europeans wishing to put money in a bank have to pay for the privilege to do so. Place €1 million on deposit on an overnight account, and you will have only 996,000 Euros in a year. You just lost 40 basis points on your -0.40% negative interest rate.

With gold, you still earn zero, an extravagant return in this upside down world. All of a sudden, zero is a win.

For the first time in human history, that gives you a 40 basis point yield advantage over Euros. Similar numbers now apply to Japanese yen deposits as well.

As a result, the numbers are so compelling that it has sparked a new gold fever among hedge funds and European and Japanese individuals alike.

Websites purveying investment grade coins and bars crashed multiple times last week, due to overwhelming demand (I occasionally have the same problem). Some retailers have run out of stock.

And last week, the fever went pandemic as silver rocketed 14.28%, and others like Platinum (PPLT) and Palladium (PALL) were also frenetically bid.

So I’ll take this opportunity to review a short history of the gold market (GLD) for the young and the uninformed.

Since it peaked in the summer of 2011, the barbarous relic was beaten like the proverbial red-headed stepchild, dragging silver (SLV) down with it. It faced a perfect storm.

Gold was traditionally sought after as an inflation hedge. But with economic growth weak, wages stagnant, and much work still being outsourced abroad, deflation became rampant.

The biggest buyers of gold in the world, the Indians, have seen their purchasing power drop by half, thanks to the collapse of the rupee against the US dollar. The government increased taxes on gold in order to staunch precious capital outflows.

You could also blame the China slowdown for declining interest in the yellow metal which is now in its fifth year of falling economic growth.

Chart gold against the Shanghai index and the similarity is striking until negative interest rates became widespread in 2016.

The brief bid gold caught in 2015 over war fears in Syria, Ukraine, and then Iraq was worth an impressive $160 rise.

That is when the diplomats got involved and hostilities were at least delayed causing gold to roll over like the Bismarck.

In the meantime, the gold supply/demand balance was changing dramatically.

While no one was looking, the average price of gold production soared from $5 in 1920 to $1,300 today. Over the last 100 years, the price of producing gold has risen four times faster than the underlying metal.

It’s almost as if the gold mining industry is the only one in the world which sees real inflation since costs soared at a 15% annual rate for the past five years.

This is a function of what I call “peak gold.” They’re not making it anymore. Miners are increasingly being driven to higher risk, more expensive parts of the world to find the stuff.

You know those tires on heavy dump trucks? They now cost $200,000 each, and buyers face a three-year waiting list to buy one.

Barrack Gold (ABX) didn’t try to mine gold at 15,000 feet in the Andes, where freezing water is a major problem, because they like the fresh air.

What this means is that when the spot price of gold fell below the cost of production, miners will simply shout down their most marginal facilities, drying up supply. That has recently been happening on a large scale.

Barrick Gold, a client of the Mad Hedge Fund Trader, can still operate as older mines carry costs that go all the way down to $600 an ounce.

No one is going to want to supply the sparkly stuff at a loss. That should prevent gold from falling dramatically.

I am constantly barraged with emails from gold bugs whom passionately argue that their beloved metal is trading at a tiny fraction of its true value and that the barbaric relic is really worth $5,000, $10,000, or even $50,000 an ounce (GLD).

They claim the move in the yellow metal we are seeing now is only the beginning of a 30-fold rise in prices similar to what we saw from 1972 to 1979 when it leaped from $32 to $950.

So when the chart below popped up in my inbox showing the gold backing of the US monetary base, I felt obligated to pass it on to you to illustrate one of the intellectual arguments these people are using.

To match the gain seen since the 1936 monetary value peak of $35 an ounce, when the money supply was collapsing during the Great Depression, and the double top in 1979 when gold futures first tickled $950, this precious metal has to increase in value by 800% from the recent $1,050 low.  That would take our barbarous relic friend up to $8,400 an ounce.

To match the move from the $35/ounce, 1972 low to the $950/ounce, 1979 top in absolute dollar terms, we need to see another 27.14 times move to $28,497/ounce.

Have I gotten you interested yet?

I am long term bullish on gold, other precious metals, and virtually all commodities for that matter. But I am not that bullish. These figures make my own $2,300/ounce long-term prediction positively wimp-like by comparison.

The seven-year spike up in prices we saw in the seventies, which found me in a very long line in Johannesburg, South Africa to unload my own krugerands in 1979, was triggered by a number of one-off events that will never be repeated.

Some 40 years of unrequited demand was unleashed when Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard and decriminalized private ownership in 1972. Inflation then peaked around 20%. Newly enriched sellers of oil had a strong historical affinity with gold.

South Africa, the world’s largest gold producer, was then a boycotted international pariah and teetering on the edge of disaster. We are nowhere near the same geopolitical neighborhood today, and hence, my more subdued forecast.

But then again, I could be wrong.

In the end, gold may have to wait for a return of inflation to resume its push to new highs. The previous bear market in gold lasted 18 years, from 1980 to 1998, so don’t hold your breath.

What should we look for? The surprise that your friends get out of the blue pay increase, the largest component of the inflation calculation.

This is happening now in technology, but nowhere else. When I visit open houses in my neighborhood in San Francisco, half the visitors are thirtysomethings wearing hoodies offering to pay cash.

It could be a long wait for real inflation, possibly into the mid-2020s, when shocking wage hikes spread elsewhere.

You may have noticed that I have been playing gold from the long side virtually every month since it bottomed in January. I’ll be back in there again given a good low risk, high return entry point.

You’ll be the first to know when that happens.

As for the many investment advisor readers who have stayed long gold all along to hedge their clients’ other risk assets, good for you.

You’re finally learning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 20, 2019

Global Market Comments
February 20, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE NEXT COMMODITY SUPER CYCLE HAS ALREADY STARTED),
(COPX), (GLD), (FCX), (BHP), (RIO), (SIL),
 (PPLT), (PALL), (GOLD), (ECH), (EWZ), (IDX),
(WHY THE REAL ESTATE BOOM HAS A DECADE TO RUN),
(DHI), (LEN), (PHM), (ITB)

September 27, 2018

Global Market Comments
September 27, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(HOW TO GAIN AN ADVANTAGE WITH PARALLEL TRADING),
(GM), (F),
(TM), (NSANY), (DDAIF), BMW (BMWYY), (VWAPY),
(PALL), (GS), (RSX), (EZA), (CAT), (CMI), (KMTUY),
(KODK), (SLV), (AAPL),
(TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2018, MIAMI, FL,
GLOBAL STRATEGY LUNCHEON)