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Why I?m Covering My Bond Shorts

I am going to bail on my (TBT) position at close to cost. For me, it is amazing that we got a 350-point rally in the Dow and ten-year Treasury bond yields only manage to eke out a gain from 1.68% to 1.72%.

I scoured the bond trading pits in Chicago yesterday, and the answer came back the same everywhere. Overwhelming Japanese buying is pushing up the prices of not just bonds, but all asset classes, including stocks, gold, silver, and even Apple. Not only that, the Japanese driven price dislocations are going to get worse before they get better.

Last month, the world was wringing its hands over the possible loss of quantitative easing. Instead of losing the program we had, we got a second one instead, of equal magnitude, about $85 billion a month. For that, you can thank the new government of Shinzo Abe and his appointment of hyper aggressive Haruhiko Kuroda as the new governor of the Bank of Japan. Think of Ben Bernanke cubed, as his easing program is three times greater than America?s on a per capita GDP basis.

As a result, there is a brand new ocean of liquidity sloshing around the world that doesn?t know where to go. Therefore, it is going everywhere. Japanese institutions are using the huge government bond-buying program in unload their holdings of Japanese government bonds (JGB?s) and replace them with much higher yielding, stronger currency denominated, US Treasuries.

The scary thing is what happens next time we get a selloff in stock prices. With the stock rally now six months old and May nearly upon us, this is not a wild and reckless assumption. You could easily get a surge in bond prices and a drop in yields to 1.50%. There are some outlier forecasts as low as 1.40%. You don?t want to be short any bonds in this potentially extreme situation.

You especially don?t want to wait out a return to sanity in the bond market if you own the (TBT), the 200% leveraged short Treasury bond ETF. Since you are short double the coupon of the long bond, that will cost you about 5% a year in negative interest carry. Add in the management fees and other expenses, and the cost of carry for this ETF comes to about 50 basis points a month. That is a big nut to cover in a negative interest rate world.

TLT 4-25-13

TBT 4-25-13

Wave - Silkscreen Looks Like We?re Getting Another Wave of Japanese Buyers

Get Ready for the Next Golden Age

I believe that the global economy is setting up for a new golden age reminiscent of the one the United States enjoyed during the 1950?s, and which I still remember fondly. This is not some pie in the sky prediction. It simply assumes a continuation of existing trends in demographics, technology, politics, and economics. The implications for your investment portfolio will be huge.

What I call ?intergenerational arbitrage? will be the principal impetus. The main reason that we are now enduring two ?lost decades? is that 80 million baby boomers are retiring to be followed by only 65 million ?Gen Xer?s?. When the majority of the population is in retirement mode, it means that there are fewer buyers of real estate, home appliances, and ?RISK ON? assets like equities, and more buyers of assisted living facilities, health care, and ?RISK OFF? assets like bonds. The net result of this is slower economic growth, higher budget deficits, a weak currency, and registered investment advisors who have distilled their practices down to only municipal bond sales.

Fast forward ten years when the reverse happens and the baby boomers are out of the economy, worried about whether their diapers get changed on time or if their favorite flavor of Ensure is in stock at the nursing home. That is when you have 65 million Gen Xer?s being chased by 85 million of the ?millennial? generation trying to buy their assets.

By then we will not have built new homes in appreciable numbers for 20 years and a severe scarcity of housing hits. Residential real estate prices will soar. Labor shortages will force wage hikes. The middle class standard of living will reverse a then 40-year decline. Annual GDP growth will return from the current subdued 2% rate to near the torrid 4% seen during the 1990?s.

The stock market rockets in this scenario. Share prices may rise gradually for the rest of the teens as long as growth stagnates. A 5% annual gain takes the Dow to 20,000 by 2020. After that, we could see the same fourfold return we saw during the Clinton administration, taking the Dow to 80,000 by 2030. Emerging stock markets (EEM) with much higher growth rates do far better.

This is not just a demographic story. The next 20 years should bring a fundamental restructuring of our energy infrastructure as well. The 100-year supply of natural gas (UNG) we have recently discovered through the new ?fracking? technology will finally make it to end users, replacing coal (KOL) and oil (USO). Fracking applied to oilfields is also unlocking vast new supplies. That?s why oil is now $70 a barrel in North Dakota versus $95 in Oklahoma 1,000 miles to the South.

Since 1995, the US Geological Survey estimate of recoverable reserves has ballooned from 150 million barrels to 8 billion. OPEC?s share of global reserves is collapsing. This is all happening while automobile efficiencies are rapidly improving and the use of public transportation soars.? Mileage for the average US car has jumped from 23 to 24.7 miles per gallon in the last couple of years. Total gasoline consumption is now at a five year low.

OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves 2010

Alternative energy technologies will also contribute in an important way in states like California, accounting for 30% of total electric power generation. I now have an all electric garage, with a Nissan Leaf (NSANY) for local errands and a Tesla S-1 (TSLA) for longer trips, allowing me to disappear from the gasoline market completely. Millions will follow. The net result of all of this is lower energy prices for everyone.

It will also flip the US from a net importer to an exporter of energy, with hugely positive implications for America?s balance of payments. Eliminating our largest import and adding an important export is very dollar bullish for the long term. That sets up a multiyear short for the world?s big energy consuming currencies, especially the Japanese yen (FXY) and the Euro (FXE). A strong greenback further reinforces the bull case for stocks.

Accelerating technology will bring another continuing positive. Of course, it?s great to have new toys to play with on the weekends, send out Facebook photos to the family, and edit your own home videos. But at the enterprise level this is enabling speedy improvements in productivity that is filtering down to every business in the US.

This is why corporate earnings have been outperforming the economy as a whole by a large margin. Profit margins are at an all time high. Living near booming Silicon Valley, I can tell you that there are thousands of new technologies and business models that you have never heard of under development. When the winners emerge they will have a big cross-leveraged effect on economy.

New health care breakthroughs will make serious disease a thing of the past, which are also being spearheaded in the San Francisco Bay area. This is because the Golden State thumbed its nose at the federal government ten years ago when the stem cell research ban was implemented. It raised $3 billion through a bond issue to fund its own research, even though it couldn?t afford it.

I tell my kids they will never be afflicted by my maladies. When they get cancer in 40 years they will just go down to Wal-Mart and buy a bottle of cancer pills for $5, and it will be gone by Friday. What is this worth to the global economy? Oh, about $2 trillion a year, or 4% of GDP. Who is overwhelmingly in the driver?s seat on these innovations? The USA.

There is a political element to the new Golden Age as well. Gridlock in Washington can?t last forever. Eventually, one side or another will prevail with a clear majority. This will allow them to push through needed long-term structural reforms, the solution of which everyone agrees on now, but nobody wants to be blamed for. That means raising the retirement age from 66 to 70 where it belongs, and means-testing recipients. Billionaires don?t need the $30,156 annual supplement. Nor do I.

The ending of our foreign wars and the elimination of extravagant unneeded weapons systems cuts defense spending from $800 billion a year to $400 billion, or back to the 2000, pre-9/11 level. Guess what happens when we cut defense spending? So does everyone else.

I can tell you from personal experience that staying friendly with someone is far cheaper than blowing them up. A Pax Americana would ensue. That means China will have to defend its own oil supply, instead of relying on us to do it for them. That?s why they?re in the market for a second used aircraft carrier.

Medicare also needs to be reformed. How is it that the world?s most efficient economy has the least efficient health care system? This is going to be a decade long workout and I can?t guess how it will end. Raise the growth rate and trim back the government?s participation in the credit markets, and you make the numerous miracles above more likely.

The national debt comes under control, and we don?t end up like Greece. The long awaited Treasury bond (TLT) crash never happens. Ben Bernanke has already told us as much by indicating that the Federal Reserve may never unwind its massive $3.5 trillion in bond holdings.

Sure, this is all very long-term, over the horizon stuff. You can expect the financial markets to start discounting a few years hence, even though the main drivers won?t kick in for another decade. But some individual industries and companies will start to discount this rosy scenario now. Perhaps this is what the nonstop rally in stocks since November has been trying to tell us.

Dow Average 1970-2012

Dow Average 1970-2012

US Profit Margin 1929 - Q2 2012

'57 T-Bird

Is Another American Golden Age Coming?

Buy Every Black Swan

At least that?s what Ben Bernanke thinks. He said as much in his press conference yesterday in the wake of the latest Fed statement. He might as well have waved a red Flag at a bull.

The central bank took the opportunity to downgrade its US growth forecasts going forward as a result of sequestration imposed government spending cuts. What is impressive is how minimal the impact will be, each year only pared back 0.1%. Armageddon, not! Here are the new GDP numbers:

2013? +2.55%
2014? +3.15%
2015? +3.30%

These are at the high end of most private sector predictions. Does Uncle Ben know something that he is not telling us? If the Fed is anywhere close to being right on these predictions, it justifies the meteoric rise in share prices we have seen so far this year. It also suggests we have more upside to go.

Let me throw out a theory here. Ben Bernanke is so fearful of repeating the Federal Reserve mistakes of 1938 that he is going to ere on the side of caution on the monetary easing front. That is when the government tightened too soon, triggering the second leg of the Great Depression and another 50% fall in the Dow average. He certainly is getting a free pass on the inflation front. When is the last time you heard of a worker getting a pay increase?

All of this paints an outlook for stocks that is pretty bullish. We could well continue on up for the rest of 2013, save for a 5%-10% correction in the summer. In the meantime, I added more longs to my model-trading portfolio this morning, using the Oracle (ORCL) inspired dip to tack on positions in United Continental Holdings (UAL) and Apple (AAPL).

By the way Ben, how much is a gallon of milk at the supermarket? Watch this space.

SPY 3-20-13

QQQ 3-20-13

TLT 3-20-13

AAPL 3-21-13

Ben Bernanke

Something on Your Mind, Ben?

When Sterilization is Not a Form of Birth Control

I received a flurry of inquires the other day when Ben Bernanke mentioned the word ?sterilization? in his recent congressional testimony. And he wasn?t giving advice to the country?s wayward teenaged girls, either.

Sterilization refers to a specific style of monetary policy. Sterilized policies seek to manipulate the money markets without changing the overall money supply. The Fed implemented just such a strategy in 2011 when they initiated their ?twist? policy. This involved buying 10, 20, and 30 Treasury bonds and selling short an equal amount of short-term Treasury bills.

The goal here was to force investors out of the safety of Treasury bonds and into riskier assets like stocks, commodities, and real estate. Given the market action since then, I?d say they succeeded wildly beyond their dreams.

Dollar for dollar there is no change in the Fed?s balance sheet when sterilized actions are undertaken, although there is a huge increase in the risk profile of their portfolio. A private institution would be insane to do this at this stage of the economic cycle, as the risk of capital loss is great. But governments are exempt from mark to market rules and can carry this paper at cost or par, whatever they want. That?s why we have a central bank.

The Fed is now running up against a unique problem. The twist program is so large that it is literally running out of short-term securities to sell. When this happens, they may well resort to 28-day repurchase agreements instead, which are essentially sales of short term paper out the back door. This is what Uncle Ben was attempting to explain to our congressional leaders, which I?m sure went straight over their heads.

The really interesting thing here is why Bernanke is suddenly interested in sterilization? These are the types of policies you pursue to head off inflation. With wages continuing to fall, it is difficult to see why this should be an issue.

Maybe he?s looking at the price of homes and the stock market instead, which have recently been going through the roof. Perhaps he?s looking several years down the road. The great challenge for the Federal Reserve from here will be unwinding their massive $3.5 trillion balance sheet it built up during the Great Recession, without triggering runaway price increases.

For an excellent explanation of the history of monetary sterilization, please click here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterilization_(economics).

TLT 3-20-13

JNK 3-20-13

PCY 3-20-13

MUB 3-20-13

Pills

No, Not This One

The Bond Crash Has Only Just Started

When I was a little kid in the early 1950?s, my grandfather used to endlessly rail against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The WWI veteran, who was mustard gassed in the trenches of France and was a lifetime, died in the wool Republican, said the former president was a dictator and a traitor to his class, who trampled the constitution with complete disregard. Hoover, Landon, and Dewey would have done much better jobs.

What was worse, FDR had run up such enormous debts during the Great Depression that not only my life would be ruined, so would my children?s lives. As a six year old, this disturbed me quite a lot, as it appeared that just out of diapers, my life was already pointless. Grandpa continued his ranting until a three pack a day Lucky Strike non-filter addiction finally killed him in 1977.

What my grandfather?s comments did do was spark in me a permanent interest in the government bond market, not only ours, but everyone else?s around the world. So what ever happened to the Roosevelt debt?

In short, it went to money heaven. And here I like to use the old movie analogy. Remember, when someone walks into a diner in those old black and white flicks? Check out the prices on the menu on the wall. It says ?Coffee: 5 cents, Hamburgers: 10 cents, Steak: 50 cents.?

That is where the Roosevelt debt went. By the time the 20 and 30 year Treasury bonds issued in the 1930?s came due, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam ?happened and the great inflation that followed. The purchasing power of the dollar cratered, falling roughly 90%, Coffee was now $1.00, a hamburger $2.00, and a Steak $10.00. The government, in effect, only had to pay back 10 cents on the dollar in terms of current purchasing power on whatever it borrowed in the thirties.

Who paid for this free lunch? Bond owners, who received, minimal, and often negative real, inflation adjusted returns on fixed income investments for three decades.

This is not a new thing. About 300 years ago, governments figured out there was easy money to be had by issuing paper money, borrowing massively, stimulating the local economy, and then repaying the debt in devalued currency. This is one of the main reasons why we have governments, and why they have grown so big. Unsurprisingly, France was the first, followed by England and every other major country.

The really fascinating thing about financial markets so far this year is that I see history repeating itself. Owners of bonds have had a terrible start, and things are about to get much worse.

The 30-year Treasury bond suffered a 3% loss in January. That means it has already lost its coupon for the year. Bondholders can expect to receive a long series of rude awakenings when they get their monthly statements. No wonder Bill Gross, the head of bond giant, PIMCO, says he expects to get ashes in his stocking for Christmas this year.

The scary thing is that we could be only six months into a new 30-year bear market for bonds that lasts all the way until 2042. This is certainly what the demographics are saying, which predicts an inflationary blow off in decades to come that could take Treasury yields to a nosebleed 18% high. That scenario has the leveraged short Treasury bond ETF (TBT), which has just leapt from $59 to $69, soaring all the way to $200.

Check out the chart below, and it is clear that the downtrend in long term Treasury bond yields going all the way back to April, 2011 is broken, and that we are now headed substantially up. The old resistance level at 1.95% now becomes support. That targets a new range for bonds of 1.90%-2.40%, possibly for the rest of 2013.

There is a lesson to be learned today from the demise of the Roosevelt debt. It tells us that the government should be borrowing as much as it can right now with the longest maturity possible at these ultra low interest rates, and spending it all.

If I were king of the world, I would borrow $5 trillion tomorrow and disburse it only in areas that create domestic US jobs. Not a penny should go to new social programs. Long-term capital investments should be the sole target. Here is my shopping list:

$1 trillion ? new Interstate freeway system
$1 trillion ? additional infrastructure repairs and maintenance
$1 trillion ? conversion of our transportation system to natural gas
$1 trillion ? construction of a rural broadband network
$1 trillion ? investment in R&D for everything

The projects above would create 5 million new jobs and end the present employment crisis. Who would pay for all of this? Today?s investors in government bonds, half of whom are foreigners, especially the Chinese and Japanese.

Whatever happened to my life? Was it ruined, as my grandfather predicted? Actually, I did pretty well, as did the rest of my generation, the baby boomers. My kids did OK too. Grandpa was always a better historian than a forecaster. But he did make a fortune in real estate, betting on the inflation that always follows borrowing binges.

TNX 2-13-13

TLT 2-13-13

TBT 2-13-13

Grandpa Thomas

Grandpa (Right) in 1916 Was a Better Historian Than Forecaster

The Muni Bond Myth

Have I seen this movie before? Four years ago, analysts were predicting default rates as high as 17% for Junk bonds in the wake of the financial meltdown, taking yields on individual issues up to 25%.

Liquidity in the market vaporized, and huge volumes of unsold paper overhung the market. To me, this was an engraved invitation to come in and buy the junk bond ETF (JNK) at $18. Since then, the despised ETF has risen to $41, and with the hefty interest income, the total return has been over 160%. What was the actual realized default rate? It came in at less than 0.50%.

Fast forward to two years ago (has it been that long?). Bank research analyst Meredith Whitney predicted that the dire straits of state and local finances will trigger a collapse of the municipal bond market that will resemble the ?Sack of Rome.? She believed that total defaults could reach $100 billion. This cataclysmic forecast caused the main muni bond ETF (MUB) to plunge from $102 to $93. Oops! That turned out to be one of the worst calls in the history of the financial markets. But the fees she earned making such a bold prediction landed her on Fortune?s list of the wealthiest women in America.

I didn?t buy it for a second. States are looking at debt to GDP ratios of 4%, compared to 100% for the federal government. They are miles away from the 130% of GDP that triggered distressed refinancing?s by Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.

The default risk of muni paper is being vastly exaggerated. I have looked into several California issues and found them at the absolute top of the seniority scale in the state's obligations. Teachers will starve, police and firemen will go on strike, and there will be rioting in the streets before a single interest payment to bond holders is missed.

How many municipal defaults have we actually seen in the last 20 years? There have only been a few that I know of. The nearby City of Vallejo, where policemen earn $140,000 a year, is one of the worst run organizations on the planet. Orange County got its knickers in a twist betting their entire treasury on a complex derivatives strategy that they clearly didn't understand, sold by, guess who, Goldman Sachs (GS). The Harrisburg, PA saga continues. To find municipal defaults in any real numbers you have to go back 80 years to the Great Depression. My guess is that we will certainly see a rise in muni bond defaults. But it will be from two to only a dozen, not the hundreds that Whitney is forecasting.

Let me preface my call here by saying that I don?t know much about the muni bond market. It has long been a boring, quiet backwater of the debt markets. At Morgan Stanley, this is where you sent the new recruits with the 'C' average from a second tier school who you had to hire because his dad was a major client. I have spent most of my life working with top hedge funds, offshore institutions, and foreign governments for whom the tax advantages of owning munis have no value.

However, I do know how to use a calculator. Decent quality muni bonds now carry 3% yields. If you buy bonds from your local issuer, you can duck the city, state, and federal tax due on equivalent grade corporate paper. That gives you a pre tax yield of 6%. While the market has gotten a little thin, prices from here are going to get huge support from these coupons.

Since the tax advantages of these arcane instruments are highly local, sometimes depending on what neighborhood you live in, I suggest talking to a financial adviser to obtain some tailor made recommendations. There is no trade for me here. I just get irritated when conflicted analysts give bad advice to my readers and laugh all the way to the bank. Thought you should know.

There are two additional tail winds that munis may benefit from in 2013. No matter what anyone says, your taxes are going up. Balancing the budget without major revenue increases is a mathematical impossibility. That will increase the value of the tax-free aspect of munis. A serious bout of ?RISK OFF? that sends the Treasury market to a new all-time high, as I expect this summer, will cause munis to rise even further.

Perhaps the best way to play this area is through the Invesco High Yield Muni A Fund (ACTHX), which boasts a positively Olympian 5.56% tax-free yield.

MUB 2-12-13

JNK 2-12-13

TLT 2-12-13

Sculpture

This is Not the Muni Bond Market

Bonds are Breaking Down All Over

It looks like the Great Bond Reallocation of 2013 is real. The Treasury bond market is getting absolutely hammered this morning, the ten-year yield breaching 2.00%. That smashes the 1.40%-1.90% band, which has imprisoned the bond market for the past year.

The immediate trigger was the release of absolute blowout December durable goods figures this morning. They came in at a red hot 4.6%, versus an expected 2.0%. It is clear that companies are ramping up capital investment and hiring, now that the shackles of the presidential election, the fiscal cliff, and the debt ceiling crisis, have been thrown off. We?ll see the other shoe fall on Friday, when the January nonfarm payroll is released, which collapsing weekly jobless claims are predicting will be surging as well.

Cash flows into equity mutual funds and ETF?s for January have already exceeded $55 billion, and will easily close out the month as the largest in history. Yet, the move has been so fast, going up virtually every day this year, that many investors have been left on the sidelines.

Much of this money is coming from cash accounts that were topped up during the tax loss selling at the end of 2012. But there is no doubt that a major chunk is now coming out of bonds. That is what the market is screaming at us loud and clear today.

I don?t expect an immediate bond market crash here. We?ll more likely see a move up to a new trading band of $1.90%-$2.50%. So there is plenty of time to trim back positions. But the long build up here is so gargantuan, it could take 20-30 years to unwind, as it did last time, from 1948. The message here is that you should be slamming every bond market rally for the rest of 2013.

I am posting yesterday?s yields from a range of high yield instruments so I can look back on my own website in five years and see how insanely low they once were.

(TLT) ? 2.66% iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF

(MUB) ? 2.89% iShares S&P National AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF

(LQD)? - 3.83% iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF

(HCN) ? 4.70% Health Care REIT, Inc.

(AMJ) ? 5.35% JP Morgan Alerian MLP Index ETN

(JNK) ? 6.78% SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF

TNX 1-25-13

TLT 1-25-13

Trade Alert Service Blasts to New All Time High

The Trade Alert Service of the Mad Hedge Fund Trader posted a new all time high today, pushing its two-year return up to 66%. The Dow average booked a miniscule 12% gain during the same time period. The industry beating record was achieved on the back of a spectacular January, which so far had earned readers a mind blowing 10.92% profit.

Right after the January 2 opening, I shot out Trade Alerts urging readers to take maximum long positions in the S&P 500 (SPY) and the Russell 2000 small cap index (IWM). Later, I piled on longs in copper producer Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and American Insurance Group (AIG). I balanced these out with aggressive short positions in the Treasury bond market (TLT), and the Japanese yen (FXY), (YCS). Only my position in Apple (AAPL) has cost me money this year.

After grinding around just short of the previous top for four tedious and painful months, the breakout was certainly welcome news for many. Once I wracked up an unprecedented 25 consecutive profitable trades over the summer, things went wobbly. The Fed unleashed an early, surprise, pre election QE3. Then inventors stopped drinking the Apple (AAPL) Kool Aide en masse. The extent of the tax loss selling after the Obama win was also a bit of a shocker. Maybe I should take longer vacations.

Then the ?aha? moment came. I concluded at the end of November that the multiple political crises facing us were nothing more than hot air. This meant the risk markets were poised to launch multi month bull runs to new all time highs, and I positioned myself, and my followers, accordingly. In the end, that is exactly what we got.

Global Trading Dispatch, my highly innovative and successful trade-mentoring program, earned a net return for readers of 40.17% in 2011 and 14.87% in 2012. The service includes my Trade Alert Service, daily newsletter, real-time trading portfolio, an enormous trading idea database, and live biweekly strategy webinars. To subscribe, please go to my website at www.madhedgefundtrader.com, find the ?Global Trading Dispatch? box on the right, and click on the lime green ?SUBSCRIBE NOW? button.

FCX 1-22-13

AIG 1-22-13

TLT1-22-13

Trade Alert Service

QE3 Blows Out Bears.

The big surprise today was not that the Federal Reserve launched QE3, but the extent of it. ?For a start, they moved the ?low interest rate? target out to mid-2015. ?They left the commitment to bond-buying open-ended. ?The first-year commitment came in at $480 billion, in-line with previous efforts.

Reading the statement from the Open Market Committee, you can?t imagine a more aggressive posture to stimulate the economy. ?You have to wonder how bad the data that we haven?t seen yet is, not just here, but in Europe and Asia as well. The big question now is: ?Will it make any difference??

Asset markets certainly bought the ?RISK ON? story hook, line, and sinker in the wake of the Fed action. ?Gold leapt $30, the Dow soared 200 points, the dollar (UUP) was crushed, the Australian dollar (FXA) rocketed a full penny (ouch!), and junk bonds (HYG) caught a new bid at all-time highs. ?The real puzzler was the Treasury bond market, which saw the (TLT) fall 2 ? points. ?I guess this is because the new Fed buying will be focused on mortgage-backed securities at the expense of Treasuries.

I knew that if they were to do anything, it would be aimed at the residential real estate market, which has been a thorn in their side for the last five years. ?The reason we have 1.5% growth instead of 3% is real estate. Real estate is the missing 1.5%.

But what will be the impact? ?Some $480 billion of buying of mortgage-backed securities over the next 12 months will lower the 30 year conventional mortgage from the current 3.70%. ?But all that will do is enable those who refinanced for the last two years in a row to do so a third time. Those who are underwater on their mortgages and have only negative equity to offer banks as collateral will remain shut out. ?This will generate a big payday for mortgage brokers, but won?t trigger any net new home-buying which the economy desperately needs.

The harsh reality for the housing market is that the demographic headwind of downsizing baby boomers is so ferocious that the Fed is unable to piss against it. Here is the problem:

*80 million baby boomers are trying to sell houses to 65 million Gen Xer?s who earn half as much

*6 million homes are late or in default on payments

*An additional shadow inventory of 15 million units overhangs the market owned by frustrated sellers

*Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in receivership, which account for? 95% of US home mortgages.? Each needs $100 billion in new capital. Good luck getting that out of a deadlocked congress

*The home mortgage deduction a big target in any tax revamp. The government would gain $250 billion in revenues in such a move

*The best case scenario for real estate is that we bump along a bottom for 5 years. The worst case is that we go down another 20% when a recession hits in 2013.

It could be that 95% of the new QE3 is already in the market, and that the markets will roll over once the initial headlines and ?feel good? factor wears off. ?With the markets discounting this action for nearly four months, this could be one of the greatest ?buy the rumor, sell the news? opportunities of all time.

Whatever the case, I am not inclined to chase risk assets up here. Anyway, I am now so far ahead of my performance benchmarks for the year that I can?t even see them on a clear day.

 

Is That My Benchmark Out There?

Watch Out for the Coming Risk Reversal

It is a fact of life that markets get overstretched. Think of pulling on a rubber band too hard, or loading too many paddlers at one end of a canoe. Whatever the metaphor, the outcome is always unpleasant and sometimes disastrous.

Take a look at the charts below and you can see how extended markets have become. Stocks (DIA), (QQQ), (IWM) have reached the top of decade and a half trading ranges. Bonds (TLT), (LQD) are at three month lows, and yields have seen the sharpest back up in over a year.

In the meantime, the non-confirmations of these trends are a dime a dozen. Every trader?s handbook says that you unload risk assets like crazy whenever you see the volatility index (VIX) trade in the low teens for this long. The Shanghai Index ($SSEC), representative of the part of the world that generates 75% of the world?s corporate profits, hit a new four year low last night. Copper (CU) doesn?t believe in this risk rally for a nanosecond. Nor is the Australian dollar (FXA) signaling that happy days are here again.

I am betting that when the whales come back from their vacations in Southampton, Portofino, or the South of France, they are going to have a heart attack when they see the current prices of risk assets. A big loud ?SELL? may be the consequence of a homecoming. A Jackson Hole confab of central bankers that delivers no substantial headlines next week could also deliver the trigger for a sell off.

You may have noticed that European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, has come down with a case of verbal diarrhea this summer. His pro-bailout comments have been coming hot and heavy. When the continent?s leaders return from their extended six week vacations, it will be time to put up or shut up. The final nail in this coffin could be A Federal Reserve that develops lockjaw instead of announcing QE3 at their September 12-13 meeting of the Open Market Committee.

To me, it all adds up to a correction of at least 5%, or 70 points in the S&P 500, down to 1,350. I?m not looking for anything more dramatic than that in the run up to the presidential election. I am setting up my bear put spreads to reach their maximum point of profitability in the face of such a modest setback. A dream come true for the bears would be a retest of the May lows at 1,266, however unlikely that may be.

For the real crash, you?ll have to wait for 2013 when a recession almost certainly ensues. Stay tuned to this letter as to exactly when that will begin.

?The Real Crash Isn?t Coming Until 2013