[biiwii comment: trying to ignore the imagery conjured up by the title, Mike… :-( ]
I feel like I am falling behind in my articles and commenting on other articles that people have recently written about inflation. After years – literally, years – in which almost no one wrote anything about inflation, suddenly everyone wants to opine on the new shiny object they just found. At the same time, interest in the solutions that we offer – investment strategies, consulting, bespoke inflation hedges, etc – has abruptly picked up, so it feels like the demand for these articles is rising at the same time that my time to write them is shrinking…
But I try.
I want to quickly respond to an article that came out over the weekend, by widely-read author John Mauldin. I’ve corresponded over the years from time to time about inflation, especially when he got way out on the crazy-person “CPI is made up” conspiracy theory limb. To be fair, I think he considers me the crazy person, which is why he’s never referred to me as the inflation expert in his articles. C’est la vie.
In October 2006, the Communist Party of China unveiled a landmark new policy aimed at easing social and societal unrest in the country. The Chinese leadership would strive for a “harmonious society”, reaching this goal no later than 2020. As one of the final works for 16th Party Congress convened in 2002, it would stand as the template for how the 17th Party Congress would attempt to rule.
A year later, in October 2007, Communist Party leader Hu Jintao built further upon that foundation, stressing harmony if in the background of all the Party’s major initiatives. In many ways, he said, the Chinese were fortunate in being given the opportunity to address any issues from the position “of this new historical point.” Rapid economic expansion had radically transformed the country.
Economic strength increased substantially. The economy sustained steady and rapid growth. The GDP expanded by an annual average of over 10%. Economic performance improved significantly, national revenue rose markedly year by year, and prices were basically stable. Efforts to build a new socialist countryside yielded solid results, and development among regions became more balanced.
The key pieces of the harmonious society were to be democracy, rule of law, equality, and environmental stewardship.
If you need to know what to look for here, you can peruse some of the color on today’s closely-watched hearing here, but basically, it’s the same old thing.
People want clues about the outlook and about how fiscal stimulus plays into the committee’s decision calculus and about inflation and, ultimately, about whether we’re likely to get four rate hikes this year.
Powell needs to learn the art of obfuscation and fine-tune his skills at employing euphemisms in the service of not sounding too dovish or too hawkish. Basically, he needs to master the art of using a whole bunch of words to say nothing.
Well speaking of a whole bunch of words, his testimony is out. Here are some (seemingly hawkish) bullet points :
POWELL: SOME HEADWINDS FACING U.S. ECONOMY ARE NOW TAILWINDS
POWELL SEES FURTHER GRADUAL RATE HIKES, OUTLOOK REMAINS STRONG
POWELL: U.S. ECONOMIC OUTLOOK STRONG, INFLATION TO RISE TO 2%
POWELL: FOMC SEES RISKS ROUGHLY BALANCED, MONITORING INFLATION
A July 2013 See-It-Market post outlined the three steps required for a trend change. The S&P 500 recently broke the downward-sloping trendline below (step 1), made a higher low relative to the previous low (step 2), and went on to print a higher high (step 3). The completion of these three steps tells us the odds of the correction low being in place have improved.
Here’s why our mountainous $67 trillionof public and private debt matters. To wit, it has caused the historic relationship between trends on main street and Wall Street to go absolutely haywire.
A week or so back, they reported January industrial production at 107.24, which was only a tad higher than it had been three years earlier in November 2014 (106.61), and just 1.8% above where it had been at the pre-crisis peak way back in November 2007 (105.33). If you cotton to CAGRs, that’s a microscopic 0.18% per annum growth rate over the course of a full decade, and during the third longest business cycle expansion in history, to boot.
By contrast, the S&P 500 at the January 26th peak (2873) was up by 84% from its November 2007 level (1560). And let us make haste to squeeze out the inflation component so as to conform on an apples-to-apples basis that sizzling gain with the volume-driven industrial production index. As it happened, the GDP deflator rose by 17% over the same period, so in real terms the S&P 500 is up by 58%.
And that’s not from the horrid March 2009 bottom, but from the tippy-top of the “goldilocks” stock market fantasy a year before the roof fell in. Accordingly, the question at hand already has the benefit of the doubt factored in: Namely, how can the stock market rise by 58% from the dubious pre-crisis high, while the industrial economy has only expanded by 1.8%?
Yes indeed ladies and gentlemen, it’s that wonderful time of the year again and in time-honoured style IKN offers up its traditional turkey and stuffing PDAC Bingo Card for your edification and enjoyment at the big Toronto bash next week. As always, instructions are simplicity incarnate:
1) Print off your copy
2) Walk around PDAC next week and when you overhear one of the phrases, cross it off.
3) As soon as you fill your card, send it in to IKN Nerve Centre for your fabulous prize*.
So without further ado, here’s the 2018 edition of PDAC Bingo:
Vote early and often!
Morgan Stanley Goes Rogue, Is Bullish On Bonds Because Frankly, Consensus Is ‘Usually Wrong’
As you know, the ongoing debate about where 10Y yields are heading and about what the bond selloff presages for equities is, well, it’s ongoing.
And when I say “ongoing” I mean it’s devolved into a veritable obsession. Over the weekend, Goldman “stress tested” the economy for the impact of a rate shock that would theoretically drive 10Y yields to 4.5% by the end of the year. That note came a week (give or take) after they upped their year-end forecast for 10Y yields to 3.25%. Other banks have followed suit.
Part of Goldman’s stress test involved projecting a 20-25% decline in U.S. equities, a precipitous dive that would feed through to the real economy by way of tighter financial conditions.
One thing to note about this whole debate is that last year, consensus was also overwhelmingly bearish USTs and we all know how that turned out. So it’s at least worth considering whether everyone might be wrong.
“Pershing Gold Begins Preliminary Construction Activities at Relief Canyon”
…to start the guffaws and yoks. Seriously folks, what the blinking flip is a “preliminary construction activity”? Carrying some sacks of concrete over to a site? Putting the kettle on to make some tea before getting down to business? Putting on overalls? Ah wait, it’s this:
“On February 13, 2018, Ames Construction began initial land clearing in preparation for potential construction at Relief Canyon, including future heap leach pads, haul roads and waste rock storage facilities.”
We then get a photo of this preliminary construction activity and it turns out to be…
Divergent: It’s Dalio (And Asness) Versus Everyone Else as Money Flows to Europe Stocks (Fed Tightening As ECB Maintains Accommodating?)
Money is following to European stocks as jitters struck the US stock markets and The Federal Reserve continues to slowly normalize its monetary policy.
(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Ray Dalio has $18.45 billion in bets against Europe’s biggest stocks. Most of the rest of the investing world is headed in the other direction.
U.S. stocks lost $9.7 billion in investment so far this month while Eurozone shares have gained $3.2 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Peers of Dalio’s firm, Bridgewater Associates, are mostly wagering that Eurozone equities will rise.
“I’m surprised. That’s a big bet. Dalio and his team are very confident,” said Rick Herman, managing director of asset allocation who helps oversee about $30 billion at BB&T Institutional Investment Advisors Inc. “That’s definitely out of consensus. European stocks are cheaper, and they also have stronger earnings growth.”
Dalio has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, so his big short position, especially when other hedge funds are betting in the opposite direction, could be seen in that context.