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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),

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)

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 as $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 super cycle. 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 chicken pox.

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 2008-9 stock market crash.

With both prices and volumes in a race to the bottom, the effect on profits was especially traumatic. Highly leveraged, smaller, undercapitalized firms have filed for bankruptcy in droves, such as the Western Australia-based Allmine Group (see http://www.allminegroup.com), a service provider.

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 standard 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 major commodity exporters themselves, like Chile (ECH), Brazil (EWZ), and Indonesia (IDX), are looking to come back big time.

As a result, western hedge funds are currently 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 on line, prices have peaked, drowning investors in red ink.

So a 1% rise in demand can trigger a price rise of 50% or more. There are not 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 super cycles 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.

 

 

 

 

 

May 24, 2018

Global Market Comments
May 24, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2018, ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND GLOBAL STRATEGY SEMINAR),
(ANNOUNCING THE MAD HEDGE TESTIMONIAL CONTEST),
(THE SECRET FED PLAN TO BUY GOLD),
(GLD), (GDX), (PALL), (PPLT)

End of the Commodity Super Cycle

When the Trade Alerts quit working. I stop sending them out. That?s my trading strategy right now. It?s as simple as that.

So when I received a dozen emails this morning asking if it is time to double up on Linn Energy (LINE), I shot back ?Not yet!? There is no point until oil puts in a convincing bottom, and that may be 2015 business.

Traders have been watching in complete awe the rapid decent the price of Linn Energy, which is emerging as the most despised asset of 2014, after commodity producer Russia (RSX).

But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the collapse of prices for the many commodities is part of a much larger, longer-term macro trend.

(LINN) is doing the best impersonation of a company going chapter 11 I have ever seen, without actually going through with it. Only last Thursday, it paid out a dividend, which at today?s low, works out to a mind numbing 30% yield.

I tried calling the company, but they aren?t picking up, as they are inundated with inquires from investors. Search the Internet, and you find absolutely nothing. What you do find are the following reasons not to buy Linn Energy today:

1) Falling oil revenue is causing Venezuela to go bankrupt.
2) Large layoffs have started in the US oil industry.
3) The Houston real estate industry has gone zero bid.
4) Midwestern banks are either calling in oil patch loans, or not renewing them.
5) Hedge Funds have gone catatonic, their hands tied until new investor funds come in during the New Year.
6) Every oil storage facility in the world is now filled to the brim, including many of the largest tankers.

Let me tell you how insanely cheap (LINN) has gotten. In 2009, when the financial system was imploding and the global economy was thought to be entering a prolonged Great Depression, oil dropped to $30, and (LINN) to $7.50. Today, the US economy is booming, interest rates are scraping the bottom, employment is at an eight year high, and (LINE) hit $9.70, down $70 in six months.

Go figure.

My colleague, Mad Day Trader, Jim Parker, says this could all end on Thursday, when the front month oil futures contract expires. It could.

It isn?t just the oil that is hurting. So are the rest of the precious and semi precious metals (SLV), (PPLT), (PALL), base metals (CU), (BHP), oil (USO), and food (CORN), (WEAT), (SOYB), (DBA).

Many senior hedge fund managers are now implementing strategies assuming that the commodity super cycle, which ran like a horse with the bit between its teeth for ten years, is over, done, and kaput.

Former George Soros partner, hedge fund legend Paul Tudor Jones, has been leading the intellectual charge since last year for this concept. Many major funds have joined him.

Launching at the end of 2001, when gold, silver, copper, iron ore, and other base metals, hit bottom after a 21 year bear market, it is looking like the sector reached a multi decade peak in 2011.

Commodities have long been a leading source of profits for investors of every persuasion. During the 1970?s, when president Richard Nixon took the US off of the gold standard and inflation soared into double digits, commodities were everybody?s best friend. Then, Federal Reserve governor, Paul Volker, killed them off en masse by raising the federal funds rate up to a nosebleed 18.5%.

Commodities died a long slow and painful death. I joined Morgan Stanley about that time with the mandate to build an international equities business from scratch. In those days, the most commonly traded foreign securities were gold stocks. For years, I watched long-suffering clients buy every dip until they no longer ceased to exist.

The managing director responsible for covering the copper industry was steadily moved to ever smaller offices, first near the elevators, then the men?s room, and finally out of the building completely. He retired early when the industry consolidated into just two companies, and there was no one left to cover. It was heartbreaking to watch. Warning: we could be in for a repeat.

After two decades of downsizing, rationalization, and bankruptcies, the supply of most commodities shrank to a shadow of its former self by 2000. Then, China suddenly showed up as a voracious consumer of everything. It was off to the races, and hedge fund managers were sent scurrying to look up long forgotten ticker symbols and futures contracts.

By then commodities promoters, especially the gold bugs, had become a pretty scruffy lot. They would show up at conferences with dirt under their fingernails, wearing threadbare shirts and suits that looked like they came from the Salvation Army. As prices steadily rose, the Brioni suits started making appearances, followed by Turnbull & Asser shirts and Gucci loafers.

There was a crucial aspect of the bull case for commodities that made it particularly compelling. While you can simply create more stocks and bonds by running a printing press, or these days, creating digital entries on excel spreadsheets, that is definitely not the case with commodities. To discover deposits, raise the capital, get permits and licenses, pay the bribes, build the infrastructure, and dig the mines and pits for most commodities, takes 5-15 years.

So while demand may soar, supply comes on at a snail pace. Because these markets were so illiquid, a 1% rise in demand would easily crease price hikes of 50%, 100%, and more. That is exactly what happened. Gold soared from $250 to $1,922. This is what a hedge fund manager will tell us is the perfect asymmetric trade. Silver rocketed from $2 to $50. Copper leapt from 80 cents a pound to $4.50. Everyone instantly became commodities experts. An underweight position in the sector left most managers in the dust.

Some 14 years later and now what are we seeing? Many of the gigantic projects that started showing up on drawing boards in 2001 are coming on stream. In the meantime, slowing economic growth in China means their appetite has become less than endless.

Supply and demand fell out of balance. The infinitesimal change in demand that delivered red-hot price gains in the 2000?s is now producing equally impressive price declines. And therein lies the problem. Click here for my piece on the mothballing of brand new Australian iron ore projects, ?BHP Cuts Bode Ill for the Global Economy?.

But this time it may be different. In my discussions with the senior Chinese leadership over the years, there has been one recurring theme. They would love to have America?s service economy.

I always tell them that they have a real beef with their ancient ancestors. When they migrated out of Africa 50,000 years ago, they stopped moving the people exactly where the natural resources aren?t. If they had only continued a little farther across the Bering Straights to North America, they would be drowning in resources, as we are in the US.

By upgrading their economy from a manufacturing, to a services based economy, the Chinese will substantially change the makeup of their GDP growth. Added value will come in the form of intellectual capital, which creates patents, trademarks, copyrights, and brands. The raw material is brainpower, which China already has plenty of.

There will no longer be any need to import massive amounts of commodities from abroad. If I am right, this would explain why prices for many commodities have fallen further that a Middle Kingdom economy growing at a 7.5% annual rate would suggest. This is the heart of the argument that the commodities super cycle is over.

If so, the implications for global assets prices are huge. It is great news for equities, especially for big commod
ity importing countries like the US, Japan, and Europe. This may be why we are seeing such straight line, one way moves up in global equity markets this year.

It is very bad news for commodity exporting countries, like Australia, South America, and the Middle East. This is why a large short position in the Australian dollar is a core position in Tudor-Jones? portfolio. Take a look at the chart for Aussie against the US dollar (FXA) since 2013, and it looks like it has come down with a severe case of Montezuma?s revenge.

The Aussie could hit 80 cents, and eventually 75 cents to the greenback before the crying ends. Australians better pay for their foreign vacations fast before prices go through the roof. It also explains why the route has carried on across such a broad, seemingly unconnected range of commodities.

In the end, my friend at Morgan Stanley had the last laugh.

When the commodity super cycle began, there was almost no one around still working who knew the industry as he did. He was hired by a big hedge fund and earned a $25 million performance bonus in the first year out. And he ended up with the biggest damn office in the whole company, a corner one with a spectacular view of midtown Manhattan.

He is now retired for good, working on his short game at Pebble Beach.

Good for you, John.

 

LINE 12-15-14

TNX 12-15-14

COPPER 3-21-14

FXA 12-15-14

GOLD 3-21-14

WTIC 12-12-14

 

Gold Coins

Not as Shiny as it Once Was