4 Long / 2 Short Ideas For September Thursday, Sep 8 2011 

As the summer winds to a close, investors sift amongst the wreckage, and traders return to their desks, four opportunities stand out on the long side and two short ideas materialize. September can be a rough month for the markets and with the uncertainty of Congress returning to Washington, Europe moving closer to the precipice, and corporate America grinding to a halt, it looks as though market volatility is making itself comfortable.

4 Long / 2 Short Ideas For September

3 Currency ETFs to Play a Rising Dollar Tuesday, May 24 2011 

3 Currency ETFs to Play a Rising Dollar

Investors looking for a hedge against recent market weakness should consider these three ETF’s to play a rising dollar.

Storm Clouds Over Europe Advise Caution Tuesday, Apr 12 2011 

Storm Clouds Over Europe Advise Caution

Weber’s Bundesbank Resignation and the ECB Warns on Rates Sunday, Mar 13 2011 

The resignation of Axel Weber as president of the Bundesbank was a very curious move given recent events at the ECB. I say curious in that he may have improved his candidacy for ECB President with the move by distancing himself from the Merkel government or he may have placed himself as an opposition candidate if the Merkel government falls.

Weber was expected to be a strong candidate for ECB President but ran into headwinds from dovish ECB governors and internal ECB politics. With tax receipts running below expected levels in Greece, a new government in Ireland, and Portugese banks in trouble the dovish members are pressuring the ECB to hold the line while the Bundesbank is pushing for a rate increase to help relieve the pressure on an overheating economy before inflation takes hold.

Weber mentioned that he felt stymied as a lone inflation hawk which is in direct contrast to numerous hawkish statements made by Trichet. Trichet has long held that interest rates may rise later this year and the emergency measures were to be placed in a different category.

Today, Weber stated that he expects 3 hikes this year as the ECB seeks to normalize rates which seems as though the ECB has become more hawkish.

Where Weber may have improved his candidacy is that by distancing himself from Merkel’s government, which is facing a backlash from the German populace regarding Germany’s role in the European bailouts, and placing himself as a hawkish outsider in the event Merkel’s government falls.

Last week’s introductory statement by the ECB included the following message: “Strong vigilance is warranted with a view to containing upside risks to price stability. Overall, the Governing Council remains prepared to act in a firm and timely manner to ensure that upside risks to price stability over the medium term do not materialise. The continued firm anchoring of inflation expectations is of the essence.”

Two points to take from this message. The first is that the hawkish statement is in direct contrast to Weber’s statements upon leaving the Bundesbank.

The second is that the phrase ‘strong vigilance’ was last used right before the ECB started raising interest rates and the final sentence referring to the anchoring of inflation expectations is cyptic to say the least.

At the start of the year it appeared as though the ECB would be looking to raise rates in the third quarter to 2011 but inflationary trends in agriculture and commodities have forced the ECB to shift their hand and stay ahead of the curve.

Later in the statement, Trichet mentions that euro area HICP inflation has risen to 2.4% in February and that in order to stem the rise in HICP and avoid its transfer to more broad based inflation, expectations must be anchored to the 2% level.

This indicates that the ECB is ready to begin raising rates from its low level in order to try and stem inflationary concerns.

If as expected, Portugal accepts a bailout in the coming weeks and the ECB is able to successfully restructure Greece’s debt it will set the stage for the ECB to begin raising the benchmark rate.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.

Trichet and the ECB, Finalizing a Legacy Tuesday, Jan 18 2011 

On October 31, 2011 the tenure of ECB President Trichet will come do an end. In the coming months we will likely hear an increasing drumbeat of noise concerning who will replace Trichet and what policies the new leader of the ECB will embrace. In the meantime, it is likely that Trichet will use the remaining months to tie up loose ends regarding the PIIGS and set a potential course for his successor.

On January 13th, the ECB released its latest statement sending a hawkish tone to the markets and warning that if commodity prices continue to rise the ECB may have to step in a begin raising interest rates in an attempt to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.

During the press conference Trichet reminded the markets that in July of 2008 the ECB was faced with a difficult decision in the face of rising oil prices and not afraid to raise interest rates to maintain price stability..

As Trichet’s tenure as head of the ECB draws to a close we are likely to see him begin to tie up some loose ends so as not to burden the new President and allow him to start with a fresh plate.

This explains the recent push by Europe to get Portugal and Spain to accept bailouts. As noted in a fall speech Trichet warned the PIIGS that they cannot wait to get their respective houses in order and that it must be done quickly or else they risk being left behind.

By getting Spain and Portugal out of the way early in 2011, Trichet can turn his full attention to a very pressing matter, rising inflationary pressures.

Italy will become a wildcard if Burlusconi cannot hold onto power. If the Italian government falls then there will likely be pressure by the ECB and the market to accept reforms or a bailout.

December 2010 ECB inflation came in at 2.2%, slightly higher than the 2% upper band. Recent pressures in the agricultural and commodities sectors indicate that inflation may be stubborn and stay above the 2% level for most of 2011. In that case, Trichet may choose to end his term with a rate hike in order to get ahead of the inflation curve and set the course for hi successor.

During the press conference Trichet noted a clear difference between the building inflationary pressures and problems at the sovereign level by remarking that both areas are separate and distinct risks.

Rising commodity prices fuel inflation risk as consumers purchasing power is eroded through higher prices which in turn translates into rising wages.

The problems at the sovereign level fuel sovereign risk as governments are forced to pay higher rates in order to finance new debt and refinance existing debt.

The question yet to be asked is who will replace Trichet as head of the ECB?

The French are concerned as Trichet is the only French member of the council and his departure represents a loss of decision making power over interest rates.

Right now the ECB council is composed of representatives from France (Trichet), Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Portugal. We may see an olive branch extended to France for support of a hawkish candidate by offering them the position currently held by Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, the representative from Austria, when she retires in May of 2011.

Late last year the French began to court the head of the Italian Central Bank as a possible successor in contrast to the head of the German Bundesbank who is a leading candidate.

One needs to ask themselves what favors the Germans asked for in return for their bailing out of Ireland and if the recent large purchases of debt by Japan and China were a negotiating ploy.

Whomever takes the reigns of the ECB following Trichet will be watched closely by the market as a hawk would indicate a continuation of the policies and the potential for interest rate increases. A dove would indicate a break with the policies of Trichet and an indication that interest rates are likely to remain low for some time into the future.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.

2011 Investment Commentary Part 1 of 3 Monday, Jan 3 2011 

The problem with making a year long commentary is that things can change which throws off your initial theory. That was the main problem with my forecast as Bernanke decided to launch QE2 amidst criticism from global central banks. This put a floor under the market and lit the fuse for the rally in equities and commodities.

So what happens in 2011 and how does that affect investment portfolios? From my chair looking out over the world here is what I see happening based on current events.

This is the first of three parts. The first will focus on global regional commentary. The second will focus on investment areas and the third will tie the first two together.

EUROPE

Europe will be marked with a growing divergence between the economically strong countries like Germany and France and the PIIGS. As the year progresses expect Spain and Portugal to accept programs similar to Ireland and Greece.

Current chairman Trichet’s term ends on October 31, 2011 and there will likely be an internal tug of war between the PIIGS who would want a dove and Germany and France who will be pushing for a hawk.

In September, Trichet made some criptic comments in a speech saying that the problematic countries need to get their collective houses in order soon or risk being left behind.

Germany’s exports will continue to carry Eurozone growth in 2011. If the Euro begins to decline versus the US Dollar and global currencies we may begin to see inflationary problems as the year goes on with Germany possibly pressing the ECB to removing some excess credit.

This will provide the new ECB President with his first and possibly most important test. Will he be an inflationary hawk with a nod to removing some excess credit measures and attempting to get ahead of the inflationary curve or acquiesce to the PIIGS who will need a time to heal their sovereign balance sheets.

Europe will survive intact helped in part by their current account surpluses.

ASIA

Inflation will begin to turn its ugly head as 2011 goes on. Right now Asian central banks have begun a tightening cycle aimed at removing excess credit and attempting to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.

Unlike the late 1990’s Asian economies are on a much better footing to fight inflation with significant excess reserves, low debt ratios, and a willingness to move ahead of the inflationary curve.

One significant fly in the ointment is not coming from China but Australia, whose interest rate increases are slowing the Australian economy almost to the point of a recession. The ripples here will likely be limited to Australia and New Zealand.

Japan will continue to muddle along economically. This may upset market participants as many people have bet on some sort of crisis but Japan has continued on this path for more than a decade now. One area which may help economic growth is the Japan-Thailand FTA in which Japan has begun to outsource low end production to Thailand which is then exported to Japan where final assembly and export to the world takes place. Benefits from this FTA should become apparent as the year goes on.

The key for Japan will be a rise in exports combined with lower public spending. While this may continue to hold back economic growth a retraction in the public sector would be good for the Japanese economy long-term.

India and China will lead the rate raising cycle with increases of at least 100 bps expected across the board.

LATIN AMERICA

Argentina remains the wild card for South America. South America is undergoing an incredible economic growth story built upon the economies of Brazil, Chile, and Peru.

Central banks across the region will continue on a rate tightening cycle in an attempt to stay ahead of the inflationary curve.

Argentina remains a huge political risk with elections in 2011 with inflation already out of control.

NORTH AMERICA

In Canada, a combination of the H.SI implementation and high consumer debt levels will put a cap on the economic recovery. This is very good for the long-term.

Canada is ahead of the Federal Reserve with respect to interest rates. Baby steps are being taken to let the air out of the bubble and it is likely this will continue as 2011 goes on. We will likely see a couple of rate increases as the Bank of Canada would like to normalize interest rates but is very cognizant of the high debt levels and slow economic recovery. The divergent economic policy relative to the United States will continue.

No interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve until mid 2012 at the earliest and more than likely a slow incremental rate increase policy will begin in 2013.

Not until the mortgage resets have made their way through the system will the Federal Reserve entertain the thought of raising interest rates.

There is a tremendous aversion by consumers in the US to leveraging up. If you were foreclosed on and went back to renting it is unlikely that you have 20% for a downpayment after losing a house purchased with no downpayment.

We will continue to see problems and the grey market overhang will continue to depress prices.

There will be isolated pockets for growth but that is more driven by vulture buying.

Economic growth in the US will be higher than this year but lower than 4% with building inflationary pressures in the food and oil markets.

US POLITICS

The rush of voters to elect new candidates to Washington has changed the political landscape. Never before has the country experienced a split Congress with a Democratic President.

The question will be how closely will they move to cut spending when a strong proportion of the American public is against cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Defense and how quickly will the public turn on them when the spending is less than expected.

Right now the 2012 Presidential race has yet to kick into gear but as the year goes on the drumbeat from candidates canvassing Iowa will pick up and grab more and more of the headlines.

Expect lots of bluster and backpeddling from the new Congress. Notice how they are already going back on the earmarks promise before taking office. That will be something major to consider for the 2012 election.

Good economic growth will help tax receipts but I do not see any strong impetus to get spending under control. A great way to slow economic growth and help the Federal Reserve put off increasing interest rates (this creates new problem) would be to combine an increase in tax receipts through lower capital gains, dividend, and overseas profit repatriation tax rates with decreased spending. That would show the world that we are taking our budget deficit problem seriously.

If that happened as businesses and employment began to gain traction the government would be creating a drag to ensure we do not grow to fast and let inflation get out of control.

BTW, I am not a Keynesian. The above policy just makes sense to me at this point in time.

Disclaimer
Communications are intended solely for informational purposes. Statements made should not be construed as an endorsement, either expressed or implied. This article and the author is not responsible for typographic errors or other inaccuracies in the content. This article may not be reproduced without credit or permission from the author. We believe the information contained herein to be accurate and reliable. However, errors may occasionally occur. Therefore, all information and materials are provided “AS IS” without any warranty of any kind. Past results are not indicative of future results.
PAST RESULTS ARE NOT INDICATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. THERE IS RISK OF LOSS AS WELL AS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GAIN WHEN INVESTING IN THE STOCK, BOND, AND DERIVATIVE MARKETS. WHEN CONSIDERING ANY TYPE OF INVESTMENT, INCLUDING HEDGE FUNDS, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER VARIOUS RISKS INCLUDING THE FACT THAT SOME PRODUCTS: OFTEN ENGAGE IN LEVERAGING AND OTHER SPECULATIVE INVESTMENT PRACTICES THAT MAY INCREASE THE RISK OF INVESTMENT LOSS, CAN BE ILLIQUID, ARE NOT REQUIRED TO PROVIDE PERIODIC PRICING OR VALUATION INFORMATION TO INVESTORS, MAY INVOLVE COMPLEX TAX STRUCTURES AND DELAYS IN DISTRIBUTING IMPORTANT TAX INFORMATION, ARE NOT SUBJECT TO THE SAME REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS AS MUTUAL FUNDS, OFTEN CHARGE HIGH FEES, AND IN MANY CASES THE UNDERLYING INVESTMENTS ARE NOT TRANSPARENT AND ARE KNOWN ONLY TO THE INVESTMENT MANAGER.
Before making any type of investment, one should consult with an investment professional to consider whether the investment is appropriate for the individuals risk profile. This is not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to purchase any of the securities listed here. I will not be held liable or responsible for any losses or damages, monetary or otherwise that result from the content of this article.

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