This Week in Barrons – 8-11-2013
“To Taper, or NOT To Taper … that is the Question.”
The word on the street is that on September 18th we will see the Federal Reserve begin to taper (i.e. – to cut back on the amount of money that they’re printing to purchase U.S. Treasuries and toxic assets from banks). I will go on record as saying there is ‘nothing’ more important to your portfolio than whether they taper or not. This entire market/economy has been built on nothing but Fed money – pushed out to the 21 primary dealers – who in turn take large portions of that money and plow it right into the stock market. Our economy is experiencing ‘junkie growth’ not ‘organic growth’. Nowhere is the effect of the $85B per month as evident as in the stock market.
The stock market has risen dramatically since the Fed began printing in last November. Often a rising market equates to a strong economy, but (in this case) that is far from the truth. If you compare year-over-year S&P earnings, you will find that earnings have decreased 3%. This market is based upon a TRILLION dollars a year being printed, and jammed into it on a daily basis. The Fed has hinted for months now that they would like to ‘taper off’ the amount of money they print. Let’s look at both sides of the tapering argument.
Why would you ‘NOT’ taper?
- The economy stinks, as 78% of the jobs recovery is based upon part time, service workers. (FYI – Considering inflation, a person making minimum wage back in 1967 would be ‘wealthier’ than someone making $10/hour today.)
- U.S. savings rates are terrible. We’re presently saving at a 4.4% rate, and historically we’ve been closer to 6.7%. Europe is saving at a 12% rate, with Asia being north of 20%.
- Millions of individuals are trying to retire, but do not have the means.
- The Government is issuing record amounts of food stamps and disability checks.
- Government and Environmental red tape have effectively ruined the small businessman – the first 6 months of 2013 showed the smallest number of businesses created since WWII.
- Housing is crippled (with interest rates rising), and millions are still ‘upside down’ on their mortgages.
- Adding this all together, you come away with the idea that they cannot taper. If the Fed has injected TRILLIONS into the economy (in 5 years), and this is the best we have to show for it – then if they do not taper – they need to be ready for a fairly steep decline in the stock market and corresponding economic activity.
Therefore, at first blush, potentially all of this talk about tapering is simply fear mongering – in order that the DOW see 20K this year. In fact we’ve heard from the Fed on numerous occasions that when the data suggests enough strength, they would remove the accommodation. And it’s been this type of talk that has been effective in keeping the ‘excess froth’ out of the markets.
Why would you taper?
- #1 – The Fed would stop printing money if it has decided that the global economies are simply too corrupt and debt ridden to be saved, and it’s time to do a global ‘reset’.
- #2 – Or, with The Ben Bernanke leaving as head of the Fed next year, he could be willing to give the incoming head some ‘wiggle room’ to play with. For example, if they were to taper, and the economy / market sags, the new Fed head can then boost the QE right back up and make it look like a rescue.
- #3 – But let’s consider yet a different reason to taper:
For months the economic reports have been poor. In fact, in May the reports were so horrid that even the ultra-bulls were suggesting that the Fed couldn't be serious about tapering because the economy was so soggy. Those reports have somehow changed, in a big way. In the past few weeks I’ve seen some of the ‘prettiest’ economic reports I have in years. From manufacturing (ISM) – which was outrageously strong, to the trade deficit report – I’m seeing better reports all the way around. Something has changed, because the underlying data is still the same:
- Unemployment did drop to 7.4%, but virtually all of the new jobs created are minimum wage, part-time service work.
- GDP did increase by 1.7% last quarter – but only after completely changing the calculation – otherwise the number may not have been ‘positive’ at all.
So why in May were we falling off a cliff, and in July we’re the ‘Roaring 20’s’? Is the Fed using the ‘pretty data’ to justify tapering, and crush the market? Are they doing it to create ‘headroom’ for the next Fed head? Are they doing it for a ‘global reset’? What if they know that we're close to some real economic damage, and want to distance themselves from it? In other words, if you're a central banker – your ultimate goal is to remain in control, be king of the hill, and keep other bankers in a position of elitism. So, what happens if after all these TRILLIONS, the economy simply dies? We would blame the bankers. But what if they play the “We tried, but the Government wouldn’t help us card” – first?
Several times in the past year, The Ben Bernanke has said (to Congress) that he needed Congress and the Fed working together to help rebuild the economy. And all Congress did was to bicker and do nothing. Benji asked for some solid policy agreements from the administration, and got nothing. Could it be that the Fed is willing to tell everyone that: “We pushed as hard as we could. Congress hasn’t done a single thing to help us. They fought us all the way. We have to reduce our accommodation to remain solvent, keep inflation tame, and if the economy sags even further, it is Congress you have to blame".
I believe the Fed could be using ‘tapering’ as a scare tactic to force our Congress to actually do something. Maybe the plan is to cut QE, watch the markets fall and the economy stall, and then scream at Congress that they were warned.
Therefore the bottom line is: If they do some form of taper, it is because they have an agenda to promote, as everyone knows that the economy is not really strong enough to survive a taper. For gold and silver, if they taper – both metals could get hit fairly hard. But like stocks, if they don't taper, I could see September into October being very strong for the metals. If we do get a taper and the gold and silver markets take a huge hit, then I will be a buyer on the dip.
To quote a line from the old TV show Lost in Space: “Danger Will Robinson - Danger!” Right now the stock market is flashing warning signals. First and foremost is the argument whether to taper or not? The other elements brewing are technical in nature – called “Hindenburg” Omens. They are a group of technical factors (taken together) that often signal that something "bad" is coming. Such as:
- The daily number of NYSE new 52-week highs and the daily number of new 52-week lows are both greater than or equal to 2.8%.
- On the same day: the NYSE index is greater in value than it was 50 trading days ago, and the McClellan Oscillator is negative.
- And the number of new 52-week highs cannot be more than twice the number of new 52-week lows.
If you believe in stats, we find that within 40 days of a Hindenburg Omen there is a 77% chance of a 5% drop, a 41% chance of a panic sell off, and a 24% chance of a major stock market crash. There has never been a market crash without a Hindenburg Omen, but there have been many Hindenburg Omens that didn't produce any drops. The only reason to pay attention to this one – is that we’ve had 4 of them in the past week. Beyond this, technically we are forming a ‘megaphone’ pattern in the market – often called the ‘jaws of death.’ This pattern (if it holds) always resolves itself by the market crashing over 50%.
Adding up the size of the run up, the increased chances of a taper, the lousy technical indicators, and you have the ingredients for a market that is struggling to hold up. Unfortunately, we have 6 weeks of this ‘taper on, taper off’ argument to wade through before we ultimately find out their decision. Therefore, I expect an increase in volatility in the weeks ahead.
We’ve entered a time where the only thing that truly matters is the Fed and their printing press. Forget the talking heads on TV telling you how great things are, and how we don't need the Fed. Ask Detroit, Chicago, and countless other cities how they're doing. Ask the “new” food stamp recipients how they’re doing. I can’t see how this economy or market hold up if they start to taper. So if they taper, this is going to get very interesting, very quickly.
Many of you have written asking for a list of dividend stocks that I like. Frankly, high paying dividend stocks (over 6%) often scare me – because not many businesses have the ability to pay out that much of a dividend. And, when they invariably cut the dividend, then the stock gets hit due to increased selling. The dividend paying stocks that I like are often set up as trusts, REITS, and MLP’s.
- GOV (Government Properties Income Trust) – has a 7% dividend – and given they rent properties back to the U.S. Government – it’s the closest thing to guaranteed rent that I’ve ever found.
- VNR (Vanguard Natural Resources) – has a 9% dividend, and is another one of the safest dividend companies out there. They don’t do their own drilling or shipping, but rather piggyback onto existing projects.
- EPD (Enterprise Products Partners) – 4.5% dividend, and is one of the biggest dividend payers in the energy space. KMP (Kinder Morgan Energy Partners) is also up there – and they pay a 6.4% dividend.
- Finally, NTI (Northern Tier Energy LP) – has a 20% dividend – but it can be reduced significantly at the drop of a hat. The May payout was down 4% and the stock price was hit immediately. I think this one is best to buy after a huge decline.
This week we sold out of JNJ for a $4 gain, but were stopped out flat on MMM, TEX, SLW, LOW, POT and JBL. Look at the movement on BTU and ACI on Friday! Keep an eye on the energy / coal sector in the coming weeks – it could be used as a ‘safe haven’.
My current short-term holds are:
- FB – in at 25.61 (currently 38.55) - stop at 36.00,
- FCX – in at 28.47 (currently 31.70) – stop at entry,
- SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 13.69) – no stop
- GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 127.09) – no stop ($1,312.90 per physical ounce), AND
- SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 19.82) – no stop ($20.40 per physical ounce).
To follow me on Twitter and get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.
Please be safe out there! a
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