September 6, 2019

Global Market Comments
September 6, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(INDU), (FXY), (FXB), (USO), (XLE), (TLT), (TBT),
(FB), (AMZN), (MSFT), (DIS), (WMT), (IWM), (TSLA), (ROKU), (UBER), (LYFT), (SLV), (SIL)

September 3, 2019

Global Market Comments
September 3, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SPY), (TLT), (FXB), (WMT), (USO), (XLE)

August 26, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 26, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:


(SPY), (TLT), (GOOGL), (FB), (DIS), MSFT), (WMT), (IWM)

August 19, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 19, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SPY), (TLT), (VIX), (VXX), (M),
(WMT), (FB), (AMZN), (GOOGL), (IWM)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or What a Roller Coaster Ride!

I like roller coasters. The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is tough to beat, the last operating wooden coaster in the United States. And I’ll always have fond memories of the Cyclone at Coney Island in New York.

I especially liked this week in the financial markets, which provided more profitable trading opportunities, both on the long and the short side, that any other week of the past decade.

Perhaps the highpoint was on Thursday when I was staring at my screens watching ten year US Treasury bond yields (TLT) bottom at a near historic 1.46%, and my own Mad Hedge Market Timing Index plunging to a lowly 19.

Impulsively, I covered the last of my short positions and started piling on longs in the FANGs. The next morning, the Dow Average opened up 300 points. But then, it’s easy to be bold and decisive when you’re up 30% on the year, compared to only 11% for the Dow Average.

And guess what? The best may be yet to come!

As long as the Volatility Index stays over $20, you will be able to print all the money you want with options spreads. I’m talking 10%-15% A MONTH!

All eyes are now on September 1 when the Chinese announce their own retaliation to our tariff increase. Will they target ag again? Or does the bond market (TLT) take the hit this time (the Chinese government owns $900 billion worth of our debt).

And now for the question that everyone is asking: How far will the stock market fall in this cycle. We have already plunged 10% from the highs on an intraday basis. Could we drop another 10% in this period of high anxiety? Certainly. However, I tend to think it will be less than that.

The initial market pop on Monday came when the new Chinese tariffs were delayed, from September 1 to December 15, on some items. Tell me who saw this one coming. The potential costs of the tariffs are hitting the US more than China. It was worth a 550-point rally in the Dow Average. In 50 years, I’ve never seen such blatant market manipulation.

Gold hit a new six-year high, with the collapse of the Argentine Peso a new factor. A poor election result drove the beleaguered currency down 15% in one day, a massive move.

Now you have to worry about what’s happening in China AND Argentina. For the first time in history, gold now has a positive yield versus the Europe and the Japanese Yen, which both offer negative interest rates.

Hong Kong is becoming a factor driving US markets down. If there is a repeat if the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre where thousands died, global markets could collapse. The hit to growth will be more than it currently can stand in its present weakened state.

Inflation is taking off, with Core Consumer Inflation for July coming in at a red hot 0.3%, delivering the strongest two-month price burst since 2006. If it keeps up, you can kiss those future interest rate cuts goodbye.

Germany is in recession. That is the only conclusion possible when you see Q2 at -0.1% growth and the economy still in free fall. The ZEW’s figures regarding Germany yesterday were nothing short of horrific as the Economic Sentiment Index fell to -44. When you damage China’s economy, it puts the rest of the world into recession. The global economy has become so interlinked, it can’t become undone without another great recession.

Bonds rates bottomed yesterday, at least for the short term, the intraday low for the ten-year US Treasury yield hitting 1.46%. Welcome to inversion land, where long term interest rates are below short-term ones. Confidence in the economy is melting like an Alaskan glacier. But with three more 25 basis point rate cuts to come, an eventual break below 1.0% is inevitable. Watch for stocks to remake half their recent losses.

Consumer Sentiment cratered in August from 97.0 estimated to 92.1. And that was before the stock market sold off. Consumer spending remains strong. The last time it was this strong was at the market top in 2008, the market top in 1999, and the market top in 1987.

July Housing Starts plunged 4.0%, to 1.191 million units as homebuilders move into recession mode. Not even record low-interest rates can get them to stick their necks out this time. Those that did last time got wiped out.

It’s been pedal to the metal all month with the Mad Hedge Trade Alert Service, with no less than 31 Trade Alerts going out so far. Some 18 or the last 19 round trips have been profitable, generating one of the biggest performance jumps in our 12-year history.

Since July 12, we have clocked a blistering 15.15% in profits or $15,150 for the model $100,000 trading portfolio.

My Global Trading Dispatch has hit a new all-time high of 330.65% and my year-to-date shot up to +30.51%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +34.20%. 

I have coined a blockbuster 12.18% so far in August. All of you people who just subscribed in June and July are looking like geniuses. My staff and I have been working to the point of exhaustion, but it’s worth it if I can print these kinds of numbers.

The coming week will be a snore on the data front. Believe it or not, it could be quiet.

On Monday, August 19, nothing of note is released.

On Tuesday, August 20 at 10:30 AM, we get API Crude Oil Stocks.

On Wednesday, August 21, at 10:00 the Existing Home Sales are published for July.

On Thursday, August 22 at 8:30 AM, the Weekly Jobless Claims are printed. The Jackson Hole conference of global central bankers and economists begins.

On Friday, August 23 at 8:30 AM the July New Home Sales are announced.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM.

As for me, I will be attending the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance vintage car show where I will be exhibiting my 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I, the best car ever made.

I don’t mind the wooden brakes, but it’s too bad they didn’t make adjustable seats in those days to fit my 6’4” frame. However, its price appreciation has been better than Apple’s (AAPL) which I bought as a fixer upper in England during the 1980s for $20,000. My average cost on Apple is a split adjusted 25 cents.

My Rolls will be shown alongside James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin which sold for $6.3 million, a 1939 Volkswagen Type 64 priced at more than $20 million, and a $13 million 1958 Ferrari 250 GT BBT.

And what am I doing next weekend? Taking the Boy Scouts to the Six Flags roller coaster farm in Vallejo.

Good luck and good trading.

John Thomas
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader








My Phantom I


1939 Volkswagen


1954 Ferrari

August 7, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 7, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(AMZN), (WMT), (M), (JWN), (KOL)

Why I Sold Short Macy’s

Sorry, the Trade Alert to sell short Macys’ (M) went out late yesterday. I was speaking to a retail expert and his list of things wrong with the marquee name was so long that I couldn’t get off the phone. New Yorkers are going to have to find something else to do on Thanksgiving Day than attend their famous parade.

His bottom line? Retail is in a death spiral from which it will never recover. Trying on clothes in a shopping mall will soon become a thing of the past, going the way of the buggy whip, black and white TV, and six-track tapes.

If you had to pick the biggest loser of our ongoing trade wars, which have just been ratcheted up in intensity, it would be the retail industry (XRT). Higher costs and tariffs can’t be passed on, minimum wages are rising in the big cities, lower selling prices are lower, and a massive inventory glut is NOT what money-making is all about.

The stocks have delivered as expected, providing one of the worst-performing sectors of 2019. Half of them probably won’t even make it until 2020.

In fact, Sears (S) and Macy’s (M) have announced more store closings nationwide. The overhead is killing them in a micro margin world.

So, I stopped at a Walmart (WMT) the other day on my way to Napa Valley to find out why.

I am not normally a customer of this establishment. But I was on my way to a meeting where a dozen red long-stem roses would prove useful. I happened to know you could get these for $10 a dozen at Walmart.

After I found my flowers, I browsed around the store to see what else they had for sale. The first thing I noticed was that half the employees were missing their front teeth.

The clothing offered was out of style and made of cheap material. It might as well have been the Chinese embassy. Most concerning, there was almost no one there, customers OR employees.

The Macy’s downsizing is only the latest evidence of a major change in the global economy that has been evolving over the last two decades.

However, it now appears we have reached both a tipping point and a point of no return. The future is happening faster than anyone thought possible. Call it the Death of Retail.

I remember the first purchases I made at Amazon 20 years ago. Even though I personally knew the founder, Jeff Bezos, from my Morgan Stanley days, the idea sounded so dubious that I made my initial purchases with a credit card with only a low $1,000 limit. That way, if the wheels fell off, my losses would be limited.

And how stupid was that name Amazon, anyway? At least, he didn’t call it “Yahoo” because it was already taken.

Today, I do almost all of my shopping at Amazon (AMZN). It saves me immense amounts of time while expanding my choices exponentially. And I don’t have to fight traffic, engage in the parking space wars, or wait in line to pay.

It can accommodate all of my requests, no matter how bizarre or esoteric. A WWII reproduction Army Air Corps canvas flight jacket in size XXL? No problem!

A used 42-inch Sub Zero refrigerator with a front-door icemaker and water dispenser? Have it there in two days, with free shipping at one fifth the $17,000 full retail price.

So I was not surprised when I learned this morning that Amazon accounted for 25% of all new online sales in 2018 in a market that is already growing at a breathtaking 20% YOY.

In 2000, after the great “Y2K” disaster that failed to show, I met with Bill Gates Sr. to discuss his foundation’s investments.

It turned out that they had liquidated their entire equity portfolio and placed all their money into bonds, a brilliant move coming mere months before the Dotcom bust and a 16-year bull market in fixed income.

Mr. Gates (another Eagle Scout) mentioned something fascinating to me. He said that unlike most other foundations their size, they hadn’t invested a dollar in commercial real estate.

It was his view that the US economy would move entirely online, everyone would work from home, emptying out city centers and rendering commuting unnecessary. Shopping malls would become low-rent climbing walls and paintball game centers.

Mr. Gates’ prediction may finally be occurring. Some counties in the San Francisco Bay area now see 25% of their workers telecommuting.

It is becoming common for staff to work Tuesday-Thursday at the office, and from home on Monday and Friday. Productivity increases. People are bending their jobs to fit their lifestyles. And oh yes, happy people work for less money in exchange for personal freedom, boosting profits.

The Mad Hedge Fund Trader itself may be a model for the future. We are entirely a virtual company with no office. Everyone works at home in four countries around the world. Oh, and we all use Amazon to do our shopping.

The downside to this is that whenever there is a snowstorm anywhere in the country, it affects our output. Two storms are a disaster, and at three, such as last winter, we grind to a virtual halt.

You may have noticed that I can work from anywhere and anytime (although sending a Trade Alert from the back of a camel in the Sahara Desert was a stretch), so was sending out an Alert while hanging on the cliff face of a Swiss Alp, but they both made money.

Moroccan cell coverage is better than ours, but the dromedary’s swaying movement made it hard to hit the keys.

The cost of global distribution is essentially zero. Profits go into a bonus pool shared by all. Oh, and we’re hiring, especially in marketing.

It is happening because the entire “bricks and mortar” industry is getting left behind by the march of history.

Sure, they have been pouring millions into online commerce and jazzed up websites. But they all seem to be poor imitations of Amazon with higher prices. It is all “Hour late and dollar short” stuff.

In the meantime, Amazon soared by 49% from December to the May high, and was one of the top performing stocks of 2018. There are now a cluster of Amazon analyst forecasts around the $3,000 mark.

And here is the bad news. Bricks and Mortar retailers are about to lose more of their lunch to Chinese Internet giant Alibaba (BABA), which is ramping up its US operations and is FOUR TIMES THE SIZE OF AMAZON!

There’s a good reason why you haven’t heard much from me about retailers. I made the decision 30 years ago never to touch the troubled sector.

I did this when I realized that management never knew beforehand which of their products would succeed, and which would bomb, and therefore were constantly clueless about future earnings.

The business for them was an endless roll of the dice. That is a proposition in which I was unwilling to invest. There were always better trades.

I confess that I had to look up the ticker symbols for this story as I never use them.

You will no doubt be enticed to buy retail stocks as the deal of the century by the talking heads on TV, Internet research, and maybe even your own brokers, citing how “cheap” they are.

Never confuse a low stock price with “cheap.”

It will be much like buying the coal industry (KOL) a few years ago, another industry headed for the dustbin of history. That was when “cheap” was on its way to zero for almost every company.

So the next time someone recommends that you buy retail stocks, you should probably lie down and take a long nap first. When you awaken, hopefully the temptation will be gone.

Or better yet, go shopping at Amazon. The deals are to die for.

To read “An Evening with Bill Gates Sr.”, please click here. 




August 5, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 5, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

($INDU), (SPY), (TLT), (IWM), (WMT), (FXB)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or Taking the Elevator Down

It is often said the markets take the escalator up and the elevator down. A thousand Dow points in three days? That’s like taking the elevator down from the 101st floor of the Empire State Building down to the basement in one shot.

Welcome to your new $30 billion tax, or about $90 per American per year. That will be the effect of the new 10% tariff increase on $300 billion worth of goods imported from China. Unfortunately, this comes on top of an existing $210 per American, bring the total bill due from the China trade war to $300 per person.

Clearly, the Chinese think they can get a better deal from the next president and are inclined to wait it out. This has been my base case since the trade war started 18 months ago.

It was one of the most frenetic, emotion-charged, and violent weeks of the year, with almost daily wild swings on a daily basis. This is the environment where hedge funds and newsletters like this one earn their pay.

The July Nonfarm Payroll Report came in at 164,000, keeping the headline unemployment report to 3.7%. Average hourly earnings grew by a hot 3.2% YOY. The previous two months were revised down by 41,000. Overall, it was a disappointing report.

Manufacturing has been especially weak all year, adding only 16,000 jobs in July and averaging 8,000 jobs a month all year. The headline charge into the services economy continues. Retail lost 3,600, the sixth consecutive monthly decline. The strength was in Professional Services, up 31,000, Health Care at 30,000, and Social Assistance at 20,000.

The broader U-6 “discouraged worker” structural unemployment rate dropped from 7.2% to 7.0%, a new cycle low.

The British Pound (FXB) crashed by 1%, as the harsh reality of a hard Brexit looms. That’s because Boris Johnson, the pro Brexit activist, was named UK prime minister and filled his cabinet with anti-EC doormats. It virtually guarantees a recession there and will act as an additional drag on the US economy.

The end result may be a “Disunited Kingdom”, with Scotland declaring independence in order to stay in the EC, and Northern Ireland splitting off to create a united Emerald Island. The stock market there will crater and the pound will go to parity against the greenback.

Home Price Gains are Still Shrinking, from a 3.5% to a 3.4% annual gain in May, according to the S&P Corelogic Case Shiller National Home Price Index. The Median Home Price hit a new high of $285,700. That can’t buy you a parking space in San Francisco. This is removing a major leg from the economy.

Las Vegas saw the biggest increase at 6.4%, followed by Phoenix at 5.7% and Tampa at 5.1%. Shrinking price gains in the face of falling interest rates is a classic pre-recessionary indicator.

Apple hurdled a low bar, with an upward forward guidance delivering a 5% pop in the stock. Revenues rose 1% to $53.8 billion, while profits dropped 7%. The future looks bright on the eve of 5G iPhones. Hardware drops to less than half of sales for the first time. Services revenues jump to 21% of the total.

China is still a drag. Amazingly, Apple only bought $17 billion worth of its own stock last quarter against a commitment of $100 billion. So why are analyst “BUY” ratings at a decade low? Maybe it’s because threats of retaliation in the China trade war are hanging over Apple like a sword of Damocles.

It took only three words to kill Wall Street. Confusion reigns. “Mid Cycle Adjustment” was how Fed governor Jay Powell described Wednesday’s 25 basis point interest rate cut, the first in 12 years, absolutely what the market didn’t want to hear. That implies that the Fed is “one and done,” and that there will be no more interest rate cuts in this economic cycle.

The president added insult to injury piling abuse on his own appointee, further eroding confidence in the independence of the Fed. A truly data dependent Fed wouldn’t have budged last week.

Bonds soared on “one and done.” Higher rates for longer give a new lease on life for the fixed income markets everywhere. Since 2008, major central bank balance sheets have exploded from $3 trillion to $16 trillion, and there is nowhere better for this mountain of money to go but the ten-year US Treasury bond.

Yields have smashed the four-year low at 1.82% and are headed to 1.40% by yearend. The market is wildly overbought for now on the back of an instant three-point rally, so keep buying those dips. Next up is the century low in rates.

Oil crashed 8% on increased global recession fears, in the worst plunge in four years and one of the biggest swan dives in history. The strong dollar doesn’t help either. I have recommended that investors avoid energy like the plague all year and it has worked like a charm. Long term, it’s going out of business anyway, so I don’t even want to trade it here.

Retailers got destroyed on the China news, with stocks down 6%-12% across the board. Best Buy (BBY) did a 12% swan dive. This will be the stick that broke the camel’s back for a lot of retailers already hanging on by their fingernails. Some 42% of US apparel, 69% of footwear, and 84% of accessories come from China.

Squeezed by Amazon on one side and administration China policies on the other, this will spell the death of retail. It looks like we’re going to have to go barefoot this winter. Thank goodness there’s global warming. The death spiral was further confirmed by the weak jobs figures in retail this morning.

I went into the week 100% in cash, giving me the dry powder to pursue the short side aggressively. I always tell followers that cash is a position, that it has option value, and this was a classic example of how well that can work.

The second I heard about the China tariff increase, I went pedal to the metal and increased my shorts from 0% to 40%, against 60% cash. My current shorts include the S&P 500 (SPY), US Treasury bonds (TLT), the Russel 2000 (IWM), and the giant retailer (WMT).

I see August as the best short selling opportunity of the year. I put out my first shorts the day after the Fed rate cut. My Global Trading Dispatch has hit a new all-time high of 320.30% and my year-to-date shot up at +20.16%. A robust earned a robust 1.83% so far in August, and 4.78% since I went back into the market from Zermatt, Switzerland three weeks ago.  

My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +33.13%.  My Mad Hedge Market Timing Index saw one of the sharpest declines in its history, plunging from 65 to 23 on only two days. We could even be back to “BUY” territory by the end of next week.

The coming week will be a feeble one on the data front. Believe it or not, it could be a quiet week.

On Monday, August 5 at 2:00 PM, the July ISM Non-Manufacturing PMI is out.

On Tuesday, August 6 at 2:00 PM, the June JOLTS Jobs Openings report is published.

On Wednesday, August 7, at 8:30 AM, June Consumer Credit is released.

On Thursday, August 8 at 8:30 AM, the Weekly Jobless Claims are printed.

On Friday, August 9 at 8:30 AM, July Core Purchasing Price Index is printed, an inflation indicator.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM.

As for me, believe it or not, I have not been to the beach this year. As a native Californian, that is near high treason. So I am loading up the old Tesla with an ice chest, boogie boards, and kids and headed to nearby Stinson Beach in Marin County. I’m going early to beat the traffic and will take my usual short cuts I learned while living there eons ago.

Surf’s up!

Good luck and good trading.

John Thomas
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader









July 29, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 29, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SCHW), (FB), (SQ), (WMT), (AMZN), (FFIDX), (BOX)