Washington DC has become a Significant Risk to Investors’ Portfolios. Sunday, May 1 2011 

S&P’s warning on the US credit rating and the subsequent refusal to acknowledge the problem should give investors pause.

The inability to tackle the budget deficit and debt problem is causing the Dollar to selloff and head towards levels not seen since late 2009.

The US government continues to follow the thesis posited in my 2011 commentary. Instead of cutting spending, both parties in Congress are fighting to see how little they can cut.

As the debt ceiling deadline approaches, Republicans are being backed into a corner with media outlets calling for doom if the debt ceiling is not lifted and constituents screaming for spending cuts.

The recent FOMC statement highlights the problems coming out of Washington DC as Federal Reserve governors Charles Plosser and Richard Fisher made the following comments in recent speeches:

Richard Fisher’s comments from a speech on April 8th, 2011: http://www.dallasfed.org/news/speeches/fisher/2011/fs110408.cfm

Personally, I felt the liquidity needed to propel our economy forward was sufficient even before the FOMC opted last November to buy $600 billion in additional Treasuries on top of the committee’s pledge to replace the runoff of our $1.25 trillion mortgage-backed securities portfolio. I argued as much at the FOMC table. I considered the risk of deflation and of a double-dip recession to have receded into the rearview mirror.

Charles Plosser’s comments from a speech in Harrisburg, PA on April 1, 2011: http://www.philadelphiafed.org/publications/speeches/plosser/2011/04-01-11_harrisburg-regional-chamber.cfm

Some fear that the strong rise in commodity and energy prices will lead to a more general sustained inflation. Yet, at the end of the day, such price shocks don’t create sustained inflation, monetary policy does. If we look back to the lessons of the 1970s, we see that it is not the price of oil that caused the Great Inflation, but a monetary policy stance that was too accommodative. In an attempt to cushion the economy from the effects of higher oil prices, accommodative policy allowed the large increase in oil prices to be passed along in the form of general increases in prices, or greater inflation. As people and firms lost confidence that the central bank would keep inflation low, they began to expect higher inflation and those expectations influenced their decisions, making it that much harder to reverse the rise. Thus, it was accommodative monetary policy in response to high oil prices that caused the rise in general inflation, not the high oil prices per se. As much as we may wish it to be so, easing monetary policy cannot eliminate the real adjustments that businesses and households must make in the face of rising oil or commodity prices. These are lessons that we cannot forget.

Yet when it came time they voted to continue the same policies they spoke out against exposing them as doves rather than hawks. In contrast, Thomas Hoenig who spoke out against accommodative monetary policy not just in speeches but in FOMC statements as well.

We have the Democrats spending like drunken sailors, the Republicans paying lip service to the reason they were elected to Congress, and a Federal Reserve that cannot define how inflation is created.
At this time one should be reducing the leverage in their portfolios until the investment landscape becomes clear.

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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Gold Price and Gold Stocks – Get Ready for the Breakout Monday, Mar 21 2011 

Gold Price and Gold Stocks – Get Ready for the Breakout

2011 Investment Commentary – Part 2 of 3 Friday, Jan 7 2011 

EQUITY MARKETS

After two strong years equity markets are sitting in a slightly overbought status. Technical indicators are flashing ‘pause’ and sentiment indicators are in areas which usually precede a correction. Looking back over some historical indicators there is reason to be bullish for 2011.

We are currently within the sweet spot of the four year Presidential cycle for the equity markets as the 4th Quarter of Year 2 and the first 2 quarters of Year 3 have the best returns. This means that the current rally should last into April at the very least at which time investors should look to book some profits and take money off the table.

Overlaid on the Presidential cycle is the decennial cycle in which Years ending in 1 are mostly negative.

What may cause the current rally to run out of steam? The end of Bernanke’s QE2 in the second quarter of 2011.

Valuation metrics, while on the high side are still attractive. Global multinational firms are showing strong profits on the back of a weaker dollar and increased sales penetration in the BRIC countries. Both factors should continue to drive profit growth in 2011.

Every 3rd year of the Presidential Cycle since 1939 has been positive which makes it likely that 2011 is an up year as well.

CURRENCY

The US Dollar Index is currently in a trading range with 89 being the top and 70 being the bottom. More than likely the US Dollar Index will end the year higher and closer to the 89 level although a test of the 70 level is not out of the question.

Europe will need a weaker Euro in order to help the PIIGS and refinance debt in 2011. That means a stronger US Dollar since the Euro makes up more than 50% of the US Dollar Index.

The problem with a weaker Euro is that it feeds the German export engine which pushes up German economic growth numbers which will increase calls for removing excess stimulus.

Germany has been experiencing an export boom and strong growth relative to the rest of Europe in 2010. France is experiencing strong consumer led growth as well on the backs of low interest rates. If the Euro were to begin depreciating economic growth in Germany would rise and when combined with the consumption led growth in France would begin to fan the inflationary flames across Europe.

The Dollar will continue to depreciate against most Asian and other EMEA countries. Since these countries are not part of the US Dollar Index the depreciation is invisible to those not watching the individual countries.

China will continue to encourage domestic firms to write overseas contracts in the Yuan instead of Dollars. This is a trend that started about 5 years ago and has been picking up speed. It is mostly off the radar but is important in that global firms, not just Chinese firms, are feeling more and more comfortable dealing in currencies other than the US Dollar.

HARD COMMODITIES

As we enter 2011 precious metals demand will continue to increase driven by the buildout of EMEA economies.

The easy money, however, has already been made in this cycle and investors would be well served to play the substitution effect as high commodity prices for precious metals such as Gold, Copper, Tin, and Platinum will force industrial users to switch to alternative and cheaper metals.

One particular example is Copper whose primary use in electrical wires and residential piping is well known. At $9,000 it becomes more effective for industrial users to substitute Aluminum in electrical wiring and PVC piping in residential pipes. Given the high inventories and lagging price for Aluminum versus Copper there is a good chance the Aluminum outperforms Copper in 2011.

This story should play out across the commodity spectrum as the year goes on.

It is a bit worrisome that so many investors are on one side of a trade, especially with respect to certain hard commodities. When this happens demand destruction and substitution begins to take effect causing a ripple effect across the commodity spectrum.

Gold and Silver should continue to see a flight from investors worldwide seeking a security marking another year of strong gains after a small correction in January.

Oil will continue to climb, moderately, on the back of a strengthening global economy.

Natural gas prices will be constrained my weather and strong production issues. While there may be a strong rally to start the year prices should fall back over the summer months.

FIXED INCOME

The fixed income bubble is continuing with the markets moving from consumer debt, whose debt bubble popped in 2008, to sovereign debt and eventually to corporate debt which will lead to a corporate recession preceded by a mergers and acquisition boom in which corporations lever up their balance sheets and put the enormous amounts of cash to work.

We are likely to see a move upward in fixed income yields as long as QE2 is in effect. Once QE2 ends however, traders will move back into the fixed income space creating a solid rally.

SOFT COMMODITIES

Agriculture will do the best amongst commodities. By agriculture I mean companies that actually grow and harvest their own crops.

The strong La Nina is still in effect and should remain so throughout the year. It will begin easing up shortly but return towards the end of the year.

This means a wetter than expected rust belt and drier than expected southeast and southwest in the United States.

In Asia this will likely mean a dryer than normal northern China and a wetter than normal Southeast Asia and Australia.

The Mount Merapi eruption will not have a major effect on Asian agriculture as the ash that was thrown up into the atmosphere was of a low sulfur content.

Green energy begins to heat up once again as the oil price moves higher.

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.

The Chinese, Thai, US Bond Markets, and the Equity Markets – Two Ships Passing in the Night? Thursday, Sep 30 2010 

Small investors have fled the stock market since the crash of 2008 seeking safer returns in fixed income despite yields on most US Treasuries below 1%. For the past 30 months investors have poured money in to fixed income investments seeking safety and stability after the 2008 market crash.1 This in turn has pushed yields down to unheard of levels and forced bond managers to chase yield.

Corporate investors have been coming to the market in size as well as signified by recent offerings by McDonalds, Oracle, and Microsoft.2 Corporations, whose balance sheets are already flush with cash are refinancing existing debt or looking to lever up with potential acquisitions on the horizon.

M&A activity is on the rise with corporate balance sheets flush with almost $3 trillion dollars in cash. Over the past few months, companies such as Intel and Unilever have made sizeable acquisitions while the commodity sector is heating up with BHP’s bid for Potash and Kinross’s takeover of Red Back. Even the healthcare sector is getting involved with Sanofi-Aventis pursuing Genzyme.

Even the Federal Reserve is jumping into the bond market by taking principal repayments and expiring mortgage paper and investing the proceeds in US Treasuries.

Overseas, China just issued 50 year bonds and Thailand is considering a 50 year issue as well. This is good news for their respective local bond markets as long dated bond issues increase market liquidity and signify investor confidence.

But as the tide of cash rolls into the market there are investors pulling out. Last week the Chinese government announced that over the past year they have decreased their holdings in US Treasuries by $100 billion dollars while being active purchasers of European and Japanese debt.3 The Chinese may be diversifying their bond holdings much in the same way the Federal Reserve is swapping mortgage debt for US Treasuries or they may be opting to sell before the yields begin to rise.

As a contrarian investor, this is one sign that the bond market is in process of making a top while the stock market may be putting in a bottom. With the stock market currently showing weakness, bond managers chasing yield, and stocks in large cap companies yielding sometimes twice their current bond offerings, investors should look for value rather than chase a trade.

Even with the 2003 tax cuts on capital gains and dividends for the highest tax brackets ready to expire the risk/return ratio is becoming heavily weighted on the side of equities. Small investors would be best served investing in high quality blue chip equities with solid dividend yields that can provide a decent income stream over the coming years.

Any pullbacks during the final quarter of 2010 should be met with buying by small investors looking to chase dividend rather than bond yield.

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.

Why I am Bearish on Financial Stocks Friday, Aug 28 2009 

After seeing quite a large rally from the March lows the market appears to be extended and indicators (stocks above 200 day moving average, market PE, bullish/bearish %’s) are signaling some rough seas ahead. While stock could conceivably move higher there are a few reasons why I am bearish at the present time.

Harkening back to 2007, I would like to give credit and thanks to Credit Suisse for the following graph.

As one can see the initial tsunami of bad loans has receded and financial stocks have been licking their wounds and repairing their balance sheets but we are at the beginning of the second wave. This second wave of option reset mortgages will do more damage because of the already weakened state of banks.

The relaxing of mark to market rules has helped repair balance sheets but there will continue to be problems throughout 2010 and into 2011 until the 2nd wave of resets recede.

As the resets continue, non-performing loans continue to rise, causing additional strain on an already weakened banking sector. It is unlikely that we will see a significant drop off in non-performing loans until the bulk of the option resets are completed.

Bank failures continue on a weekly basis with the problems being felt mainly by small and medium sized institutions. Some larger weakened institutions have succumbed to the pressure as well. Recent comments that the FDIC may need additional capital should sound a warning bell across the financial space.

While the housing data has been bullish due to buyers assistance programs, one needs to keep in mind that the reported figures are month-over-month data, not year-over-year. As we get into the fall and winter months the MoM figures will decrease as seasonal patterns take place.

Housing inventories continue at a high level, with many homes being taken off market and rented until the selling climate improves. As we continue through the resets, it is likely that inventories stay high until the potential overhang from option and agency ARM’s clears. Any spurt in new home construction will slow the housing inventories from being worked off in a timely manner.

Retail sales numbers continue to be disappointing, although we are entering a period where comparisons will be much easier. The year over year data shows a 9.4% decline in June and an 8.3% decline in July. Again the YoY data is more telling than the MoM data.

High levels of unemployment will constrain spending and GDP growth into 2010 and later. Government stimulus programs will provide the necessary counterbalance to weakness in consumer spending helping to guide the economy through this difficult period.

This is not an approval for the governments polices but one needs to note that a similar path is followed in every recession. The authors problem lies in the wasteful programs and high deficit levels that state and federal governments carried coming into the recession which only exacerbates the problem going forward. Spending that is targeted at areas to provide future growth is preferred over the construction of dog parks.

So while global economies are likely to come out of the recession without much problem (Japan will be an exception) GDP growth in the US is likely to be below normal levels.

Inventory restocking will give a bump to GDP growth in the coming quarter as will government stimulus programs. This combination will set the stage for renewed consumer and business confidence in the coming years but first we will need to get through the a possible double dip recession in 2010.

So while the market itself may move higher I see better value and higher upsides in the precious metals and agriculture sectors where there are some very interesting values globally. Quite often the best values are off the beaten path.

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.