Global Market Comments
April 8, 2020
(THE ULTRA BULL ARGUMENT FOR GOLD),
(GLD), (GDX), (GOLD), (SLV), (PALL), (PPLT)
SPECIAL GOLD ISSUE
Global Market Comments
April 8, 2020
(THE ULTRA BULL ARGUMENT FOR GOLD),
(GLD), (GDX), (GOLD), (SLV), (PALL), (PPLT)
SPECIAL GOLD ISSUE
With global stock markets in free fall and interest rates everywhere headed to zero, the outlook for gold has gone from strength to strength.
Shunned as the pariah of the financial markets for years, the yellow metal has suddenly become everyone’s favorite hedge.
Now that gold is back in fashion, how high can it really go?
The question begs your rapt attention, as the Coronavirus has suddenly unleashed a plethora of new positive fundamentals for the barbarous relic.
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 historically low 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 by gold 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 virus went pandemic as silver rocketed 8.6% and others like 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 last peaked in the summer of 2011 at $1,927 an ounce, 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.
Chart gold against the Shanghai index, and the similarity is striking, until negative interest rates became widespread in 2016.
In the meantime, gold supply/demand balance was changing dramatically.
While no one was looking, the average price of gold production soared from $5 in 1920 to $1,400 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.
Barrick Gold (GOLD), the world’s largest gold miner, 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 simply shut 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. So, supply disappeared.
I am constantly barraged with emails from gold bugs who 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 leapt 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 your attention 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 Krugerrands 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 real 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 and is slowly tricking down to minimum wage workers. When I visit open houses in my neighborhood in San Francisco, half the visitors are thirty-somethings 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.
I’ll be back playing gold 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!
Global Market Comments
January 10, 2020
(FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7 PERTH, AUSTRALIA STRATEGY LUNCHEON)
(JANUARY 8 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(VIX), (VXX), (TSLA), (SIL), (SLV),
(WPM), (RTN), (NOC), (LMT), (BA), (EEM)
Global Market Comments
January 6, 2019
2020 Annual Asset Class Review
A Global Vision
FOR PAID SUBSCRIBERS ONLY
(SPX), (QQQQ), (XLF), (XLE), (XLY),
(TLT), (TBT), (JNK), (PHB), (HYG), (PCY), (MUB), (HCP)
(FXE), (EUO), (FXC), (FXA), (YCS), (FXY), (CYB)
(FCX), (VALE), (AMLP), (USO), (UNG),
(GLD), (GDX), (SLV), (ITB), (LEN), (KBH), (PHM)
Global Market Comments
October 31, 2019
(WELCOME TO THE LAND OF ZEROS),
(TLT), (VIX), (GLD), (SLV), (FXY),
(A NOTE ON OPTIONS CALLED AWAY), (BA)
Jay Powell really showed his hand today with the press conference following his 25-basis point interest rate cut.
The Fed’s medium-term target rate is now zero. Take a 1.75% inflation rate, subtract a 1.75% overnight rate and you end up with a real interest rate of zero. The fact that we have real economic growth also at zero (1.75% GDP – 1.75% inflation) makes this easier to understand.
That means there will be no more interest rate cuts by the Fed for at least six more months. All interest rate risks are to the downside. There is no chance whatsoever of the Fed raising rates in the foreseeable future with a growth rate of 1.75%. It will also take a substantial fall in the inflation rate to get rates any lower than here.
That may happen if the economy keeps sliding slowly into recession. Net net, this is a positive for all risk assets, but not by much.
I regard every Fed day as a free economics lesson from a renown professor. Over the decades, I have learned to read through the code words, hints, and winks of the eye. It appears that the thickness of the briefcase no longer matters as it did during Greenspan. No one carries around paper anymore during the digital age.
I then have to weed through the hours of commentary that follows by former Fed governors, analysts, and talking heads and figure out who is right or wrong.
In the meantime, the “Curse of the Fed” is not dead yet. The ferocious selloffs that followed the last two Fed rate cuts didn’t start until the day or two after. That’s what the bond market certainly thinks, which rallied hard, a full two points, after the announcement.
All of this provides a road map for traders for the coming months.
The Santa Claus rally will start after the next dip sometime in November. Buy the dip and ride it until yearend. The Mad Hedge Market Timing Index at 75, the bond market (TLT), the Volatility Index (VIX) and the prices of gold (GLD), silver (SLV), and the Japanese yen (FXY) are all shouting this should happen sometime soon.
I hope this helps.
Global Market Comments
October 8, 2019
(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),
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.
Global Market Comments
September 6, 2019
(SEPTEMBER 4 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(INDU), (FXY), (FXB), (USO), (XLE), (TLT), (TBT),
(FB), (AMZN), (MSFT), (DIS), (WMT), (IWM), (TSLA), (ROKU), (UBER), (LYFT), (SLV), (SIL)
Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader September 4 Global Strategy Webinar broadcast from Silicon Valley with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!
Q: If Trump figures out the trade war will lose him the election; will he stop it?
A: Yes, and that is a risk that hovers over all short positions in the market at all times these days because stocks will soar (INDU) when the trade war ends. We now have 18 months of share appreciation that has been frustrated or deferred by the dispute with China. The problem is that the US economy is already sliding into recession and it may already be too late to turn it around.
Q: Do you see the British pound (FXB) dropping more on the Brexit turmoil? Do you think the UK will stay in the EU?
A: If the UK ends Brexit through an election, then the pound should recover from $1.19 all the way back up to $1.65 where it was before Brexit happened four years ago. If that does happen, it will be one of the biggest trades of the year anywhere in the world, going long the British pound. This is how I always anticipated it would end. I was in England for the Brexit vote and I was convinced that if they held the election the next day, it would have lost. The only reason it won was because nobody thought it would— a lot like our own 2016 election. That brings Britain back into the EEC, saves Europe, and has a positive impact on markets globally. So, this is a big deal. Not to do so would be economic suicide for Britain, and I think wiser heads will prevail.
Q: Do you think it’s a good idea for Saudi ARAMCO to go public in Japan as reports suggest?
A: When the Arabs want to get out of the oil business (USO), (XLE), you want to also. That’s what the sale of ARAMCO is all about. They’re going to get a $1 trillion or more valuation, raising $100 billion in cash. And guess who the biggest investors in alternative energy in California are? It’s Saudi Arabia. They see no future in oil, nor should you. This is why we’ve been negative on the sector all year. By the way, bankruptcies by frackers in the U.S. are at an all-time high, another indicator that low oil prices can’t be tolerated by the US industry for long.
Q: Is it time to buy the ProShares Ultra Short 20 year Plus Treasury Bond Fund (TBT)?
A: No, not yet; I think we’re going to break 1.33% — the all-time low yield for the (TLT) will probably be somewhere just below 1.00%. We probably won’t go to absolute zero because we still have a growing economy. The countries that already have negative interest rates have shrinking economies or are already in recession, like Germany or Great Britain can justify zero rates.
Q: Are you going to run all your existing positions into expiration?
A: I’m going to try to—it’s only 12 days to expiration, and we get to keep the full profit if we do. As long as the market is dead in the middle here, there are no other positions to put on, no extreme low to buy into or extreme high to sell into. It’s a question of letting this sort of nowhere-trend play out, but also there’s nothing else to buy, so there is no need to raise cash. So, we’re 60% invested now and we’re going to try running as many of those into expiration as we can. Looks like all the long technology positions are safe (FB), (AMZN), (MSFT), (DIS). The only thing we’re pressing here are the shorts in Walmart (WMT) and Russell 2000 (IWM).
Q: Do you think it’s a good idea for Tesla (TSLA) to build another Gigafactory in Shanghai, China during a trade war? Will this blow up in Elon’s face?
A: I don’t think so because the Chinese are desperate for the Tesla technology and they just gave Tesla an exemption on import duties on all parts that need to go there to build the cars. So, that’s a very positive development for Tesla and I believe the stock is up about $10 since that news came out.
Q: Will Roku (ROKU) ever pull back? Would you buy it up here?
A: No, we recommended this thing last year at $40; it’s now up to $165, and up here it’s just wildly overbought, in chase territory. Of course, the reason that’s happening is that the big concern last year was Amazon wiping out Roku, yet they ultimately ended up partnering with Roku, and that’s worth about a 400% gain in the stock. You know the second you get into this, it’s over. There are just too many better fish to fry in the technology area.
Q: What happens if our existing Russell 2000 (IWM) September 2019 $153-$156 in-the-money vertical BEAR PUT spread Russell 2000 position closes between $156 and $153?
A: You lose money. You will get the Russell 2000 shares put to you, or sold to you at $153.00, which means you now own them, and you’ll get a big margin call from your broker for owning the extra shares. If ever it looks like we’re getting close to the strike price going into expiration, I come out precisely because of that risk. You don’t want random chance dictating whether you’re going to make money in your position or not going into expiration. If you’re worried about that, I would get out now and you can still come out with a nice profit. Or, you can always wait for another down day tomorrow.
Q: Is it time to get super aggressive shorting Lyft (LYFT) or Uber (UBER) when they openly admit that they won’t make a profit anytime in the near future?
A: The time to short Uber (UBER) and Lyft was at the IPO when the shares became available to sell. Down here I don’t really want to do very much. It’s late in the game and Uber’s down about one third from its IPO price. We begged people to stay away from this. It’s another example where they waited for the company to go ex-growth before it went public, but it didn’t leave anything for the public. It was a very badly mishandled IPO—it’s now at $31 against a $45 IPO price and was at a new all-time low just 2 days ago. You knew when they offered the drivers shares, the thing was in trouble. Sometime this will be a buy, but not yet. Go take a long nap first.
Q: Is the fact that rich people are hoarding cash a good indicator that a recession is approaching?
A: Yes, absolutely. Bonds yielding 1.45% is also an indication that the wealthy are hoarding cash from other investment and parking it in US treasury bonds. I went to the Pebble Beach Concourse d’ Elegance vintage car show a few weeks ago and all of the $10 million plus cars didn’t sell, only those priced below $100,000. That is always a good indicator that the wealthy are bailing ahead of a recession. If you can’t get a premium price for your vintage Ferrari, trouble is coming.
Q: Argentina just implemented currency controls; is this the start of a rolling currency crisis among emerging nations?
A: No, I believe the problems are unique to Argentina. They’ve adopted what is known as Modern Momentary Theory—i.e. borrowing and printing money like crazy. Unfortunately, this is unsustainable and results in a devalued currency, general instability, and the eventual hanging of their leaders from the nearest lamppost. This is exactly the same monetary policy that the Trump administration has been pursuing since he came into office. Eventually, it will lead to tears, ours, not his.
Q: Is the new all-electric Porsche Taycan a threat to Tesla?
A: No, it’s not. Their cheapest car is $150,000 and it gets one third less range than Tesla does. It’s really aimed at Porsche fanatics, and I doubt they will get outside their core market. In the meantime, Tesla has taken over the middle part of the electric market with the Model 3 at $37,000 a car. That’s where the money is, and Porsche will never get there.
Q: How will the US pull out of recession if the interest rates are at or below zero?
A: It won’t—that’s what a lot of economists are concerned about these days. With interest rates below zero, the Fed has lost its primary means to stimulate the economy. The only thing left to do is use creative means like feeding the economy with currency, which Europe has been doing for 10 years, and Japan for 30, with no results. That’s another reason to not allow rates to get back to zero—so we have tools to use when we go into a recession 12-24 months from now.
Q: What’s the best way to buy silver?
A: The ETF iShares Silver Trust (SLV) and, if you want to be aggressive, the silver miners with the Global X Silver Miners ETF (SIL).
Q: Have global central banks ruined the western economic system as we know it for future generations?
A: They may have—mostly by printing too much money in the last 10 years in order to get us out of recession. This hasn’t really worked for Europe or Japan, mind you, though who knows how much worse off they would be if they hadn’t. What it did do here is head off a Great Depression. If we go back to money printing in a big way, however, and it doesn’t work, we will not have prevented a Great Depression so much as pushed it back 10 or 15 years. That’s the great debate ongoing among economists, and it will eventually be settled by the marketplace.